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50 Foot Wave - “Golden Ocean” CD 11/37:35
This is Kristin Hersh of the Throwing Muses’ new band, and you know it right from the get-go. One listen to this record is like an instant time-warp back to the late 80’s/early 90’s of “college rock” nostalgia. A follow up to their self-titled EP released last year, I would imagine most long-time Muses fans would be happy with this recording. It’s full of pounding-drums-and-guitar fury that would put most punk rock to shame nowadays. Jake
@ www.50footwave.com

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A Frames - “Black Forest” CD 14/34:32
Seattle’s A Frames practice robotic agro noise rock with the intensity of a martial art. These guys were obviously influenced by the Amphetamine Reptile Records sound of the 90’s, Shellac, Six Finger Satellite (minus the synthesizers), and scary thoughts of robots and the future. The A Frames lays a thorough beating on its influences, adding a malaise of industrial noise and a damn-near Cramps-like danceability on some tracks - minus the sex. Granted, one would have to really grasp for the beat beneath the apocalyptic rumblings and crashings. But it’s there, and the line between dancing and destruction in this setting is razor thin to begin with. Xtain
@ www.subpop.com

A-Sides - “Hello, Hello” CD 11/43:56
Actually the full name of this CD is “Hello, Hello or The Misadventures of the Lion from the Future and Kevin”. Oooookay. Meanwhile though, and I realize this may sound a bit psychotic, imagine an ‘80s version of The Cyrkle, and you may have some idea of how this pop-laden band is leaning. The production values are pure Beach Boys lush, and the sound is mid-early pop rock. You can tell their hearts are really into this, which increases my opinion of them, and also elevates their sound to a sometimes fever pitch. If you are into wall-of-sound pop, with a ‘70s-‘80s perspective, complete with tons of harmonies, you may want give them a listen. RBF
@ www.prisonjazz.com

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Against All Authority/Common Rider - split CD 8/18:47
AAA give us three solidly blazing punkers, and one throwback to their ska roots that’s less-than-stellar (surprising since they are/were one of the few bands that were capable of doing good things with that much-abused genre). CR tracks are outtakes that are better than many a band’s “real/released” product, with some tinges of ska but mostly mid-tempo punk tuneage. David
@ www.hopelessrecords.com

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Akudama - “Flying Over Morning” CD 14/51:20
Is it me or are these arty bands sounding more and more generic? A bit of jangled and sharp-edged guitar, a lot of dissonant and minor keys, and vocals that are, well, let’s say lax. Songs can be esoteric and cryptic, but in this case, it’s love angst. Used to be called college radio rock, but it’s getting same-old same-old, which makes it harder when, as in this case, the band obviously has talent and knows its chops, but, well, so? RBF
@ www.endlessrecordings.com

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All Star Assassins - "Funeral Sex Army" CD 11/26:20
A pretty fun Canadian snotty pop punk band, straight out of the Weasel/Queers school of pop punk, featuring a former member of the Hextalls. The songs are catchy, appropriately guitar buzzy for the genre, and they've got decent snarly vocals with some backgrounds as well. The genre certainly feels like it's played out at this point, as we're well past the heyday of bands like Green Day (not withstanding their great American Idiot release, but that's a grown up Green Day there), MTX, and the rest of the Lookout clan, but this band is among those that can renew the faith. Solid, fast, punk as heck, a worthy Ramones cover (Slug) and worth the purchase price if you miss the good old days of what; 15 years ago? Steve
@ www.freewebs.com/allstarassassins

American Static - “Soundtrack of the Struggle” CD 13/33:00
Yep, just as I thought! Street style hardcore from a group of guys that carry the torch for the scene, the meaning and the ideals that sometimes get pushed behind once the punk bands get recognition or are compared to Good Charlotte or something. American Static get it right and this is a fine and dandy anthem-strewn record that should get the pit going and the mohawks flowing. Oh yeah, and lots of tattoos and beer as well. But…that’s a given! Anyway, beyond all of the trapping of the usual crusty punk moniker, Soundtrack of the Struggle is like hearing a throwback from late 80s hardcore and straight edge sweat (yet, the kids here swill the suds!) which gave me a warm feeling deep inside my metal loving belly and got me turning the volume knob up a notch from each song to each head punch. Songs like “Independence”, “Youth” and “Hooligan” would make the dads in Rancid go “Holy crap for crap!” That’s right. Its punk bitch! Mark
@ Street Anthem, PMB #218, 1530 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

An Angle - “…And Take Off With a Grain of Salt” CD 11/53:25
It really is annoying when the lyrics are printed in the booklet way too small to read without a microscope, never mind a magnifying glass, just to be arty. You may think that I digress, but my point for mentioning this topic is because this whole CD is an example of artistic minimalism, complete with quirky melodies and vocals. While reminiscent of early solo Jonathan Richman, a lot of that sense of fun is somewhat lacking, despite the moments such as when they leave in the studio conversations before the song. RBF
@ www.drivethrurecords.com

Andrew Sandoval - “What’s It All About?” CD 11/36:16
I did a little digging on the internet (you know, looked at Allmusic) to get some background info on this guy - apparently, he has been one of the major forces behind all of the great reissues that Rhino has put out over the last few years - so for that, thanks Andrew. But as for his music, it just doesn’t strike me as being that good. It’s not bad either, just a little too drab, or something, I can’t quite place my finger on it...all the pieces are there for good music, but it just doesn’t add up right. Apparently I’m in the minority though, as most reviews I’ve seen of the guy have been pretty damn positive, including reviews of other folks who’ve written for this mag. That said, if you like that chamber pop sound, you might like this, but I ain’t promising anything...I’ve been wrong before, but that doesn’t mean that I am now. Jake
@ www.andrewsandoval.com

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Anti-Pasti - “The Last Call…” CD 29/63:54
Here’s the clearest example I can think of proving that musical tastes can change over time. When this band first emerged, I bought their records and saw them live but was decidedly unimpressed, so much so that my friend Terry Nelson - one of the first punk DJs in Chicago - and I even recorded a satirical anti-Anti-Pasti song which we played on the radio. Yet here it is, fourteen years after the 1981 release of this LP, and it sounds really friggin’ good. Maybe it was because I was then enamored of thrash punk, and these guys sounded kind of stodgy, whereas now that I’m over that phase and am listening to them without perceptual blinkers I can really appreciate their crunchy guitar sound and pounding mid-tempo beats. So allow me to admit that I was wrong and recommend that you pick up this CD, which not only contains the original album but also bonus single tracks. Jeff
@ www.captainoi.com

Apocalypse Wow! - s/t CD 13/17:11
Finally a fucking band that’s got it right. Someone has released a political punk record that has a sense of humor and doesn’t pander to angsty crybaby political emos, and artlessly mindless anarcho-screamos. This cadre of radicals, who go by the names T-ball, Scott and Shahboz, have somehow smashed crash & bash hardcore and slamming noisecore together into a stick of dynamite concealed in a tiny plastic container. There’s nothing straight up about it as it bleeds one sub-genre into another, fleshy vocals bleeding all over concrete chords. They are mostly high-speed merchants ramming against the oppression of heavy metal (dig this great title: “Slaves to the Metal Horde”) and other brands of fascism. The songs are curt and the tone is caustic, but there is a sense of ironic awareness built into the danger. I could pick apart each song and describe its finer points, but this is a record to be heard. Don’t know how well distributed this will be, but find somewhere and pass it around. Anthony
@ No Label Records, P.O. Box 1946, Venice, CA 90294

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Atlantic Manor - “Special is Dead” CD 11/37:41
Recorded “gorilla” [sic] style with no rehearsal, this quartet plods their way Portsmith Symphonia-style in a flat landscape, led by R. Sell, whose vocals are as bleak as the music. To call the song topics “angst-ridden” is like calling chronic depression “having a bad day.” Songs titles include “Depression Drama”, “Death in Spring”, “Into the Black”, and “Black Eye”. Though there is a rare rave-up, mostly it’s like walking knee deep in the big muddy. Yet, it is hard not to pay attention to this, being as strong as the sound remains. One aspect I find worthy of note is that at least two songs sound like Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Plus, there are two more songs on the CD than listed on the package. RBF
@ www.atlanticmanor.com

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Babyland - "The Finger" CD 12/51:28
I love Babyland. One of the more fun live shows I've ever seen. Instead of drums, one of the two band members actually beats on a bunch of different sized pipes with different implements for beating. Amazing and fun. Industrial music isn't generally my thing, but this is dance music. Seriously dance music. Punk rock dance music. Stop reading this now. Go dance. Sharon
@ www.babyland.info

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Bakelite - s/t CD 11/25:46
I knew I would love this band when I saw they had a song titled "Dewey Decimal System". OK, maybe it's not fair to bring my profession into my reviewing, but clearly these guys were after my little librarian heart. Electro post-pop synth dance music makes me happy when it's done well and I love the low-fi sound of this album. I think the thing that separates a good electro album from a not-so-good one for me is not the keyboards and not the drums but the use of other noises. And Bakelite does it well. There is a perfect loudness and aggressive that makes me want to move. It's almost industrial. And isn't that the point? P.S. Dewey Decimal System is a great song (but not the best on the album)! Sharon
@ www.scratchrecords.com

Baseball Furies - “Let It Be” CD 11/27:32
Yep, the Furies are back, swiping an album title from somewhere (I think it was Laibach) and unleashing punk with a dissimilar disregard for polite society. If not quite the fireball their last record was, it’s still smokin’ enough to guarantee time in my player for some time to come. David
@ www.bigneckrecords.com

Beatnik Termites - "Girl Crazy!" CD 9/19:55
Some things never change, and it's a reassuring feeling knowing that the Beatnik Termites are still cranking out pop punk songs full of buzzy guitars, handclaps, perky songs about girls after 15 plus years of releases. Man, am I getting that old that I've been listening to them for that long? Yeesh, at least I haven't grown so old that I can't still enjoy a perky Beach Boys influenced pop punk band full of catchy choruses and melodies. Tons of great harmonies, handclaps on almost every song, and nine songs that could easily be on any Ramones release. It's been awhile since they've put anything out, and this is an absolute top notch return to form. Steve
@ www.insubordinationrecords.com

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Bettie Serveert - “Attagirl” CD 12/48:47
It’s pleasing to see this record finally receive its US release. Dutch rockers Bettie Serveert burst onto the college radio scene in 1992 with Palomine, a stunning collection of guitar pop songs that received rave reviews, and has been unable to pull even with that effort since. Understandably so; records like Palomine don’t come around that often. However, this is certainly the band’s best effort since that record, and the creative palette is stretched further than the five records in-between combined. Chalk it up to maturity and all of the members pursuing individual efforts recently, the band sounds more interesting and ambitious than it has since, well, 1992. The additions of sampling, beats, and keyboards are subtle touches, but stand out more knowing that the band isn’t trying to recreate the past so much as put something new out there using the same vision and talent. Xtain
@ www.mintyfresh.com

Blatant Finger - “Moving Forward” CD
Aah, the instantly recognizable sound of bush league, Orange Co.-modeled street/roots punk, although this was recorded in “Ohi” instead of “Cali”, for what it’s worth. “Down In Flames” is pleasantly gritty and “Drinkin’ w/ Number 3” is an attempt at some kind of rock-a-billy, but the rest of this is too blatantly obvious with no pay-off. Tom Barrett’s voice rides the same kind of hoarse as Mike Ness WAY TOO MUCH. Not as wretched as a band like Broken Bottles, but one good song out of fourteen would not make your momma proud. Anthony
@ www.roadtoruindistro.com

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Blood - “False Gestures for a Devious Public” CD 21/68:07
Oi!, what a great record this is, even though it’s not really an Oi record at all. When Mel first asked me if I wanted to review this disc, for the life of me I just couldn’t place it in my mind (even though I once owned it). Perhaps I’m just getting senile, because after one listen it’s hard it imagine how I could have ever forgotten it. It contains a shitload of blistering punk tracks with gruff lead and singalong background vocals, booming drums, and definite metallic guitar stylings. On top of that, it has satirical, overtly anti-religious themes that caused quite a flap, the types of themes which I reckon are all the more called for in this era of growing religious fanaticism. When you add in the bishop’s miter worn by singer Cardinal Jesus Hate, the Blood appear as the precursors of the great Turbonegro, which can’t be a bad thing. Contains the original LP plus bonus single tracks. Jeff
@ www.captainoi.com

Blood Soaked Hands - “Churchfolk & Sinners” CD 6/12:21
Ahem… this entire platter clocks in at just past 12 minutes and there are about three minutes worth of usable material. Upon hearing the first strains of “Ernesto’s Fury” I’m thinkin’, uh, not bad, especially with the taut vocals by Elysia Moon. After a few more bars the joy is over. A few moments of “Abused” provide the only other enjoyment. By the time they reach “Dressed In Black”, a lightweight LA punk jerk-off, I’m ready for a “bad motherfuckin’ 40 oz.” Anthony
@ www.volumediskrecords.com

Bosch - “Havin’ Fun, Soundin’ Good” CD 8/25:30
If you have trouble finding this CD, look for it under their old name, Hieronymus Bosch, because it’s worth the search (and despite the literary reference, it was smart to shorten the name). This power trio mixes many interesting elements into a fine blend. Starting with a surf inspired instrumental, they follow their paces for the rest through garage, ‘60s punk, and Beatles-flavored pop. There’s some killer tunes here, like “Metronome” and “Timetables”. RBF
@ www.hbosch.net

Brain Failure - “American Dreamer” CD 16/42:05
More streetpunk straight outta Beijing, their first “domestic” full-lengther if I’m remembering correctly. Granted you could argue that there isn’t anything here that’ll stretch or radically alter the boundaries of said genre, but overall it’s still a solid slab of streetpunk that at least remembers to inject some energy into the proceedings (which is more than more than a few of their brethren, no matter which country they reside in). David
@ www.thorprecords.com

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Bristle - “30 Blasts From The Past” CD 30/65:17
Complete ‘92-’97 discography of little known Seattle trio. Rudimentary and raw but not overly distorted punk; rooted in Ramones/D.O.A. Simple, pounding songs that rework well-worn soil, but occasionally stray from convention and try to offer a melody or an unexpected progression (“Respect”, “Your Unreal” (their spelling), “Sabbath”, “Judgment Day.”) Not the worst muzak of it’s kind, but pretty darn dull after 30 songs. Anthony
@ www.rodentpopsicle.com

Bruce Lee Band - "Beautiful World" CD 6/15:05
Led by former Skankin' Pickle frontman Mike "Bruce Lee" Park and backed by the RX Bandits, the Bruce Lee Band's "objective was to release songs that were very SKA in every way, shape, and form". I guess ska to these guys means wimpy, average, and unoriginal. Miles
@ www.asianmanrecords.com

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Built Like Alaska - “Autumnland” CD 14/49:34
It is easiest to compare this Oakdale, CA quintet to another California Central Valley band, namely Grandaddy, especially given that Sweat of the Alps is the label run by the aforementioned best-known Modesto band in the world. The organ and keys are there, as are the frail vocals that highlight the well-paced rock numbers. This band, however, is more willing to turn up the volume and let the fuzzed-out guitars do the talking. A well-balanced approach that is likely to get even better in the future. Xtain
@ www.futurefarmer.com

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C. Aarme - s/t CD 15/25:56
“The Swedish militia of punk rock”, or so they claim. It’s frantic post-HC with old skool overtones that draws from Wire, for example, and they wield some of the same sonic tools as other heavies (NoMeansNo - but they don’t go to that extreme, as if anyone else could), pairing the songs down to one to minute blasts of raucous energy compressed into little germs that stick to you as they fly out of the speakers. The pent up violence and tensile strength in terse songs like “Gasmask”, “Visions”, “O’Neill Oh No” and “What’s the Problem Mussolini?” make for one taut slap in the kisser after another. This is the kind of punk that still holds a miniscule corner off the commercial radar where many disparate elements can coalesce like nowhere else in music. Maybe that’s going too far since this band is now on Epitaph in the states. People who make this kind of music generally don’t get played on Razor 102 or Lazer 104, or whatever other Clear Channel clone controls the town you’re in right now (except maybe for the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, who appear to have plateaued after breaking through the artificial alternative rock barrier). Enjoy this for what it is before they put out the big American record. Anthony
@ www.carcrashrecords.com

Carpettes - “The Best of…” CD 21/64:55
The Carpettes were a fine British punk band from ’77-’81 that wrote lots of really terrific songs with loud guitars and great hooks, and this collection contains a superb mixture of 7” and LP tracks. Their first two singles were released on the great Small Wonder label, and it was in fact the Carpettes that did a killer paean to that label on their second 45, although it had originally been given away as a promo at a gig. After recording tracks for John Peel’s radio show and changing line-ups, they released two albums and various singles with a more Mod-ish feel on the Beggar’s Banquet label, including classic poppy punk tracks such as “Frustration Paradise”, “I Don’t Mean It”, and “Nothing Ever Changes”. This is the type of stuff that sounds just as good today as it did when it was first released, a sure sign of intrinsic quality. Sadly, the days when even relatively minor underground groups were this good are largely gone. Listen and learn how it should be done, mofos. Jeff
@ www.demon.co.uk/cherryred

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Champion - “Promises Kept” CD 12/23:36
Classic-style straight edge HC that puts to shame most of the new HC delinquents that can’t find their way around a guitar amp. Tighter than a mosquito’s ass, they dispense with the fascistic metal bullshit that often accompanies this stuff. The title track sounds like a throwback to Uniform Choice (duh!) and there’s no let up as they blast off from there, pounding every song into dust, each in its own way, and wrapping up every one in under three minutes. Sweet. Anthony
@ www.bridge9.com

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Charles Douglas - “Statecraft” CD 16/45:53
Douglas’ previous full-length “The Lives of Charles Douglas” drew many comparisons to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, which was not surprising because VU drummer Maureen Tucker produced and played drums on the record. This time around, Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago lends his skills, and the results definitely bear his stamp. Go figure. Douglas is like a songwriting sponge, albeit one with talent for composing disaffected rock tunes ala Reed or Jonathan Richman (Modern Lovers) with a little more edge and manic immediacy. Xtain
@ www.indieonline.com

Chixdiggit - "Pink Razors" CD 15/54:14
A band I've always liked a lot more on record than live (I've never gotten into their act of yacking with the audience; just takes away from the music in my opinion, but some people love it), it seems like forever since they've released anything. Not much has changed,. They still have that Ramones three chord pop punk thing down pat, and as always they use humorous lyrics to get their point across. The title refers to the day a girl moves in and you're surrounded by pink razors, and as always they've got a bunch of songs about girls on the disc. They're a band that doesn't change much from disc to disc, so if you like 'em, you'll like this. If not, this isn't going to change you mind. The disc ends with a 27 minute track where they talk about all the songs on the disc; kinda like a director's commentary track of a DVD...kinda cool, actually. Steve
@ www.fatwreck.com

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Chris Stamey Experience - "A Question of Temperature" CD 15/56:14
The guy doesn't put out a new record in 10 years, then two in a period of 8 months? Stamey's obviously got a lot of stuff aching to get out of his system, and he finishes the job off on this release. The first was all original material, this also contains some new songs, but also covers of bands like Television, the Yardbirds, and even a re-recording of his classic "Summer Sun" among other older Stamey tunes released here. Helped out by friends like Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan among others. It certainly has it's moments, like on the rockin' version of the Yardbirds' "Shape of Things to Come" or on "Venus", where Stamey does a nice Yo La Tengo "Fakebook" style version. There's a political tone to the songs Stamey chose to, even among his own songs ("Desperate Man" and "Sleepless Nights Again" both fit the bill) and thee disc also has a P.S.A. for getting out an voting. Do I dig this? Not totally; the best hooks are actually on the P.S.A., and a couple of the re-recorded Stamey tunes are pretty raw, but frankly, just having Stamey back and performing is a good thing, and his upcoming reunion with the dB's is going to much anticipated in my house. Fans should be happy with this for sure. Steve
@ www.yeproc.com

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Client - “City” CD 13/47:52
More than simply influenced by 80’s synth pop, this British duo is a tribute band to that era. These two ladies do not audibly put any new touches on the genre, save for rougher bass, and a darker, colder atmospheric quality. The image and aesthetic are updated with a look of anonymous urbanity, furthering the shadiness. Xtain
@ www.mute.com

Clouds Forming Crowns - “Clouds Forming Crowns” CD 16/43:16
Guided By Voices alumnus Tim Tobias teams up with his brother Todd, producer of GBV’s last 3 albums. Being a former member of GBV doesn’t really say much - Pollard has shuffled the lineup repeatedly and maintained a constant and un-deviated output. Tobias’ 5-year stint ended in 2003, and though the current members who have been disbanded seem exhausted, Tobias has wasted little time in getting back to the studio with his own songwriting. The result of this brotherly collaboration is a good record, definitely on the GBV plane, but skewed in the direction of classic rock. Unlike GBV, these guys aren’t pinned down by expectations created from albums they made 10 years. However, also unlike GBV, the songwriting isn’t quite as catchy or unique. It’s a standardized indie-veteran rock record that has some peaks (“Minus Drivers” and “Wish Hound”). Xtain
@ www.tobias-music.com

Come Arounds - “What Goes Around” CD 14/29:12
Ah, the sounds of summer. This be surf-pop, not instrumentals as practiced by Dick Dale and company, but rather an update of the sounds that used to be found on the likes of Pebbles Vol. 4, songs to crank on the car radio on your way to the beach. Doesn’t quite reach the heights of the aforementioned works, but overall a solid platter indeed. Nice use of female backing (and some lead) vox as well. David
@ www.thecomearounds.com

Comets On Fire - “Blue Cathedral” CD 8/44:25
Or We’ve Got an Echoplex And We’re Gonna Use It. More swirling mind-melting madness to assault your cerebral membrane, though they effectively demonstrate they can delve into less-ear-damaging but no less-mindtwisting psych-folk territory without conjuring up images of hobbits and stale bongwater. This is what “heavy psych” should have been way back when instead of simply making the world safe for the likes of Deep Purple, et al. A tour with (a fully-staffed) Acid Mothers Temple would definitely melt more than a few minds. David
@ www.subpop.com

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Complicated Shirt - “Strigine” CD 10/32:26
The first time I heard the black metal granddaddy’s Venom, I thought for sure their album, “Welcome To Hell” was recorded in a bathroom. An EVIL bathroom! But now that I’ve heard Complicated Shirt and this here record, I know for a FACT that this was recorded in a bathroom or some hallway or stinky basement that’s all haunted and stuff. I mean, wow, if the music weren’t any good, I’d say no way. It’s like the guys here made their release sound as if they had one microphone in the “studio” and just hit play on the four, um, 1 1/2 track and just went for it. The thing is, the music reminds me of very early Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth so in a sense I got into it because I remember being all young and stupid and thinking that albums with little or no production value was cool, and it is! It just depends on what you do with it. Complicated Shirt have taken that notion of no budget, no studio and no kidding to a new level and let us all in on the fact that even matty haired kids in flannel shirts dig Venom and go, “yeah, but what if we did that yet without the Satan stuff?” They did. And my hands are in the applause mode right now as we speak for them! Mark
@ www.complicatedshirt.com

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Cramps - “Nazibilly Werwoelfen” CD 7/26:23
An is-it-or-is-it-not-legit reissue of the NW 10 inch boot, now on metallic disc for your renewed listening pleasure. Not quite sure of the vintage (apparently it’s from 1979, but you never know for sure on these things), but they are caught on a good night. Remarkably good sound (considering its bootleg origins) even if from the crackle it was most likely mastered from a “vinyl source”. Ghoulabilly at its finest. David
@ errrr….

Cribs - s/t CD 12/35:45
Produced at the legendary Toerag studios in London, this garage trio does the new rage garage of bands like the Vines and the Strokes in efficient fashion, but there's nothing earthshaking here; if anything it's almost too pleasant a listen. You keep waiting for the explosion of punkiness to pop out, but it just never happens. For some songs, like the jangly "You & I", it works perfectly, it's by far the best song the CD, with some fun lead guitar work and melodies. And you think that they're going to break out on the next song, "Things You Should Be Knowing", as it starts off with a cresendo of noisy guitars, but then it falls flat, in that "we want to be like the Strokes" but they're trying way too hard way. I'm probably making this sound worse than it is; it's actually half way decent, and I really do like a couple of the songs on this, but in the end, there aren't enough really good moments to outweigh the bland tracks. Steve
@ www.wichita-recordings.com

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Crooked Fingers - “Dignity and Shame” CD 12/50:01
I may not be the most unbiased person to review this CD, seeing as how the Archers of Loaf are probably my favorite band ever and I get ecstatic every time I get a chance to see Eric Bachman play. Given that, it’s no wonder that I loved this album...so let me put it in context with the other Crooked Fingers releases: this is just as good as “Bring on the Snakes”, Better than “Red Devil Dawn”, but not quite as good as their first self-titled album. That is to say, in the pantheon of Crooked Fingers releases, it’s damn good and measures up with the best. Like all previous efforts the first and most important thing you get from the record is that Bachman’s terrific, deep voice and fabulous songwriting skills continue to get better with age. Like the last album, this one portrays a rock group with a slight interest in the mariachi, with horns peppering a few songs. There also is the addition of female vocals by an Australian lass named Lara Meyerattken, who adds a nice extra dimension to the otherwise manly proceedings. This is a damn fine record, and will most likely be one of my favorites to come out in all of 2005. Jake
@ www.mergerecords.com

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Damien Jurado - “On My Way to Absence” CD 12/41:33
I’m assuming that since this is Damien Jurado’s sixth proper album (plus numerous EPs and whatnot), you’ve probably already made up your mind as to whether you like the guy or not. Me, I’m a pretty big fan, never miss a chance to see that gentle giant play a live show if I can help it, and love pretty much every album he’s put out. This is no exception; and while not the strongest material he’s put out, it still stands up to most of it. In some ways it resembles the “rock” album he did a couple of years back called “I Break Chairs”, but there are also a few acoustic dirges scattered in there - my favorites of his catalog. In typical Jurado fashion, there’s a duet with Rosie Thomas, but there are also a couple of tracks where Eric Bachman of Crooked Fingers/Archers of Loaf lends a helping hand. I would certainly recommend this to fans and most other folks wouldn’t be disappointed either...but if you’re looking for a good starting point on this fine singer-songwriter check out “Rehearsals for Departure”, one of my favorite records of all time. Jake
@ www.secretlycanadian.com

Damwells - "Bastards of the Beat" CD 13/39:00
How charming, a Brooklyn band without the pretension of most of the Brooklyn scene, and with all the talent. Every song on this album is lovely, although there is a bit of consistency lacking. Alt-country is perhaps the best label for the music, and with an ex-Whikseytown member the influence of that genre is apparent. But they are a bit schizophrenic and some songs are pure pop, with others bordering on post-rock. This band is on tour for most of the year, and I suggest taking in a show after learning the album enough to sing along. Sharon
@ no address

Dead Meadow - “Feathers” CD 9/56:54
On their second release for Matador, Washington DC’s Dead Meadow have turned up the Pink Floyd and turned down the Black Sabbath in an effort to create the most perfect pot-smoking album ever. They may have succeeded...I don’t even smoke weed, but I can’t think of a more perfect accompaniment than this. This is a fantastic album that should not only appeal to their long-time fan base, but may even bring new tokers into the fold. I could even see the psychedelic hippies getting into this, although it may be too slow to achieve that true whirling dervish spinning thing they do. But Phish broke up and none of them have jobs, so they gotta find something new to do. Jake
@ www.deadmeadow.com

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Decemberists - “Picaresque” CD 11/51:07
The presentation looks like Joan of Arc, and the musical complexity and storytelling is compelling. It has lots of peaks and valleys, and operetta show-tune numbers that are quite ambitious. The Decemberists spare no guest musician with skills to add, including an assortment of strings and brass. This album is superbly colorful and creative, though at times seems long-winded to the point of waning one’s interest. On the flipside, this band isn’t afraid to develop a song and give it the attention and patience that most bands only spend their epitaph. The Decemberists observe this practice on every song. Xtain
@ www.killrockstars.com

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Destroyer - “Notorious Lightning and Other Works” CD 6/27:27
Although it is only titled as a Destroyer release, it should be noted that in reality this album is Dan Bejar with Frog Eyes as his backing band, producing some sort of indie rock super group that might possibly be much better than either of the original bands involved. I can’t say that I’m a huge Frog Eyes fan, but this material makes me want to revisit their catalog even if they didn’t write it; and as for Bejar/Destroyer, I nearly burned a hole in my copy of “Streethawk: A Seduction” when it came out I loved it so much, and this might actually be better. All six of these tracks were previously available on his last album “Your Blues”, but not like this they weren’t; the opening track “Notorious Lightning” is a sprawling, beautiful mess and easily one of my favorite songs I’ve heard from anyone all year. The full, live band sound really fleshes out Bejar’s songs much better than the synth instrumentation that he has been experimenting with lately, and hopefully he continues down this road. This record is easily an early contender for one of the best records of the year, and it just gets better every time I listen to it. Jake
@ www.mergerecords.com

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Dexateens - “Red Dust Rising” CD 11/43:21
Not the garage rock you’d expect from this label, but more like the post-Byrds country rock (albeit a less sedate version of same) that eventually involved into “Southern Rock”. Unlike most bands trading in similar wares however this group manages to be more rock than “rawk”. If you’ve been lusting for something in said genre that doesn’t give you “Freebird” flashbacks, you should be able to get into this. David
@ www.estrus.com

Digby - "Falling Up" CD 12/54:51
Hailing form Louisville, KY, this is Digby's coming out party, with a dozen fun power pop hook filled tunes. This is technically their second full length, with 7 of the songs on this coming from their self released "Go Digby"; but chances are you've never heard that, so it'll all be new to you. There's a slight southern flavor to a few of the songs; on "One Hundred Percent Free" you can hear the twang in singer Paul Moeller's voice, and the guitars occasionally have a little pedal steel feel, but overall it's the power pop and Brit Pop hooks that catch you. With some keyboards here and there that will remind you of the Cars and songs that are infectious as hell, the lyrics are generally about relationships, but they have a mature attitude about them, rarely falling into a boy loves girl or boy gets dumped by girl trap. With the occasional bluesy riff and ballad thrown in, you're left with a solid mix of material that will keep you hooked. A fine debut, and I'm looking forward to hearing more. Steve
@ www.toucancove.com

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Dipleg - The Symphony Without Love” CD 8/38:10
Whoa: Japanese scream-core gone emo rock. This album and band kinda threw me for a loop I’ll tell ya. I mean, it’s annoying to have some kid scream at you anyway in a language you can understand, but to have some dude from Japan do the same was even more confusing and daunting and I kept having to lower the sound a bit through each song because, damn, what’s all the shouting about? Beyond that, the music is quite pretty and does a good job of flowing and trellising about…, but it’s just the screaming vocals I had a way hard time with. If they were to ditch their singer and get someone who could actually sing and carry a tune they might make it big, even over here. But for now just imagine that you have a mighty button that says “Vocals Off” on it and you press it and then this album kicks major ass. Good thumping noise rock, but overtly noisy because the dude just won’t SHUT UP! Mark
@ I’ve Come For Your Children, 252 Barker Rd, Nashville, TN, 37214

Diplomats of Solid Sound - “Destination…Get Down!” CD 12/35:56
Vintage instrumental house party soul, possessing glints of garage rock and jazz. Not as funky as The Meters or danceable as Booker T and the MGs, but still filling the niche quite nicely, more like The Ventures. The recording is squeaky clean, and could possibly benefit from rougher, nastier production to give it more life. Xtain
@ www.thediplomats.org

Disorder - “Kamikaze: The Album” CD 16/38:52
It’s the return of Disorder, featuring tunes recorded “at various studios in early 21st century” with different lineups and (wildly) varying sound quality (I’d be exaggerating if I said that some tracks would actually make a hardened collector of live Discharge product blush, but not by much). Some tracks (such as “Kamikaze”) show them to be as powerful as ever but the sub-bootleg SQ in spots doesn’t exactly help their cause. Still good to see signs of life in them though. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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DMBQ - “The Essential Sounds From the Far East” CD 10/47:36
Otherwise known as Dynamite Master Blues Quartet, these lads-and-lass from Japan crank out a righteous wah-wah-laden noise that can be likened to the spazzy younger siblings of High Rise, jumping up and down on the bed with the broom-as-guitar in hand while the Hendrix and Blue Cheer records blare from distorto-speakers, (the folks forgot to fill those Ritalin prescriptions, thank goodness.). Far freaking out indeed. David
@ www.estrus.com

Dressy Bessy - "Electrified" CD 12/39:30
Kindercore Records may be dead and gone, but thankfully its former roster of 60's-tinged pop bands are still carrying on the candy-coated torch. Denver's Dressy Bessy live in a groovy world of pastel flowers and and kaleidoscope eyes, where jangly guitars and chattering tambourines make the perfect backdrop for Tammy Ealom's girlish vocals. Their latest release is quintessential Dressy Bessy: cute, catchy, and with just the right amount of rock attitude to spare the listener from a bout of sweet, sweet nausea. Miles
@ www.dressybessy.com

Drool Brothers - “Kasio Montigo” CD 14/58:51
To put it bluntly, this CD is one of the worst things to happen to me in some time. I would be willing to go on record as it having the worst album cover ever..., and I know you’re not supposed to “judge a book by its cover” but we all do it anyways, so get off your high horse. I then scan the track list..., songs titled “Itchy Turtleneck”, “Le Funky Sweat”, and “Dry Hump” lead me to believe that I’m going to be dealing with terrible novelty music, and that it is. Frankly, the album art is so bad the music could never match it, but that’s not for lack of trying - it really is terrible. In trying to think of something to compare this to, I’m really strapped for examples..., but the gist of it all seems to be a bunch of jokesters playing white boy funk mixed with mid-90s commercial radio pap, the sort of crap that would probably go over well at a drunken frat house party. Oh yeah, and their label is called Barfing Glitter Records, so they have that going for them too. Jake
@ www.droolbrothers.com

Earlimart - “Treble & Tremble” CD 13/42:42
This absolutely beautiful CD is quite reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie at their most beautiful transatlantic moments. An Elliott Smith like quiet voice sings soothing whispers of sadness and love over mellow but beautiful music. An album that'll remind you of many others in your collection, but that clearly stands on its own. Sharon
@ www.palmpictures.com

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Easterly - s/t CD 14/49:59
Originally released on the Not Lame label, this Japanese import adds four tracks. Easterly lead singer and songwriter Noah Hall brings a lot to the table; the songs remind me a lot of some of the Pernice Brothers or Teenage Fanclub, and Hall has a silky smooth voice. Some of the songs have a lush arrangement ("Only So Much" would be a perfect match for the third Big Star LP) with rich harmonies, others are more straightforward power pop numbers; neither style treads new ground, but it's all so perfectly executed that you can't help but like this release. The bonus tracks consist of a couple of remixes that bring the lead guitars a little more to the front (a good thing, and it's on these songs that the Pernice comparison hits home) and a couple of additional tracks. A great effort, and I can't wait for more from this band. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

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Elvis Presley - “Good Rockin’ Tonight” CD 6/20:36
A tad misleading, this be: not a retrospective or release of “new” material, but instead you get two former Stray Cats (hint: Brian ain’t among them) and a Swing Cat redoing music underneath the vocals of Elvis. Tried to give this a chance, but aside from the obvious difference in SQ between E’s vox (and guitar) and the modern-day instruments (not saying you have to make it ultra lo-fi, but a bit more grit could have helped) making this seem even more like a novelty, the new backing is too rote to really add anything and reaches bar band hackery by the fourth song. Long before the CD ends one can’t help but wonder what, say, Alec Empire (who’s no stranger to “utilizing” the vox of E) or Harry Pussy could have done with a similar concept. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

Emperor X - “Central Hug/Friendarmy/Fractal Dunes” CD 11/38:29
There isn’t an explanation as to why this disc needs three different titles, but Emperor X (Chad Matheny) scratches at least that many surfaces in this release. Running down the list of styles would at least include indie, electronica, post-folk, and lo-fi rock. It’s essentially a trip to the underground musical thrift store with Attention Deficit Disorder, resulting in anarchic bedroom pop. Matheny’s already been diagnosed in the court of public musical opinion. Xtain
@ www.discomariscos.com

Ensign - “Love the Music, Hate the Kids” CD 20/45:41
It begins with ripping (or riffing) off of Bad Brains from their brilliant album “I Against” I and proceeds to go into the snotty, “cleverer than you” punk rock to which I’ve had my fill of but these guys are pretty good. Then it hit me…this is a cover record. I mean, duh!, no wonder it started out with a Bad Brains tune. Then there was this Dag Nasty ditty I recognized and went “hey man…what’s going on here?” Then I read the inside sleeve and was shown the doofus of my ways. These guys do tribute to such bands as Bad Religion, Descendents, The Dwarves, Husker Du and many others with fun aplomb. So instead of me going on about the originality of the band and the songwriting brilliance, I’ll just stop here and say that four guys from Jersey in a decent hardcore band got a bunch of tracks together and released them for our listening pleasure. Why not man? I would… Mark
@ www.blackoutrecords.com

Eternity’s Children - “From Us Unto You: Original Singles Collection” CD 23/58:52
Rev-Ola is back again with more reissue goodness - this time it is the soothing sounds of Eternity’s Children. Like me, you’ve probably never even heard of these cats, but there is a good chance you have heard of Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen, two of the pioneers behind much of the good psychedelic soft rock that was being made in the mid-to-late 60s; they were also responsible for this group, and were in fact their first production if I am to believe what the press sheet tells me. The Children themselves came from Mississippi, were once called the Phantoms, and played with the likes of Charlie Rich as his backing band from time to time. They added folk singer Linda Lawley and changed their name, got signed to A&M, but never quite made it on the charts in any significant way. Which is a shame, because this is some pretty good boogie/psych soft rock..., lots of vocal harmonies, a touch of twang, and would sound right at home on a tour with Strawberry Alarm Clock (which actually happened in 1967). There’s also a few tracks that make me think of some of Kenny Rogers output at times, but that is probably just me. Is this a lost classic? Probably not, but it is a good listen especially for folks who enjoy the late 60’s sunshine pop music. Jake
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Eternity's Children - s/t CD 20/53:12
Lots of people have been waiting for a good re-issue of Eternity's Children's self-titled debut LP, due both to the involvement of Millennium's Curt Boettcher as co-producer and an increased interest in the sunshine pop genre as a whole. It's a good record, with the tone set by the opening track "Again Again". It's a interesting song, with some moody (for the genre) parts to the melody and singing, and there are a couple of other tracks that have a similar outlook, especially when the keyboards take a little dirge like quality. There are more than a couple of tracks that get a little too breezy and well, sunshiny; lacking enough variety to be anything more than background fluff. With three guys and a gal, you'd expect a few more female vocal songs, but the only one that Linda Lawley really steps up on is "Your World", which is too bad; she's got a nice smokey voice and the group would have benefited from using her as a lead a bit more. It's a fine disc and fans of the genre will definitely enjoy it. You even get both stereo and mono mixes for each song. Steve
@ www.revola.co.uk

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Even - “Downpayment on Future Glories (1995-2003)” CD 13/51:34
While this release may cover the collected works of this Australian band from the last few years (“Downpayment” is their first US issue) it sounds more heavy Mersey Beat colluding with the production values of the 1980s than anything else. One can hear a Liverpudlian influence right from the start, but they bring a rock wall-of-sound to the table. Not really a bad cut here, though it feels like they never got out of the ‘80s, never mind the ‘60s influence. Their love-song to nee David Jones, “Bowie in my Dreams”, says a lot. Their later material has a bit more electronica and glam behind them and their production became more elaborate, but they also manage to keep their eyes on where they want to be. RBF
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

Fabulous Disaster - "I'm A Mess" CD 6/11:46
This female punk trio (down from a four piece on the recording at least, although live they still play as a quartet) from San Francisco gets more raw on this release; with a few more screams and rough and tough production than I was expecting, since their last record had a more melodic sound. Don't get me wrong; I still love this band; they've just turned their sound slightly inside out to sound more riot grrl on at least the opening track "Suck It Up". It sets the stage for six blazing punk songs, and it does get more melodic as disc moves through the next couple of tracks before getting back to a hardcore punk sound. They manage to shift between styles easily without losing any of their punch, and cover Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" as a perfect closing number. My only complaint is I wish there were about five more cuts on this! More, please... Steve
@ www.rodentpopsicle.com

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Fairways - "This Is Farewell" CD 13/39:14
It's nice to get a final release from the Fairways, who produced one of the sweetest indie pop discs of 2000 in "Is Everything Alright". Simple instrumentation with attention to detail and great vocals were their watchword, and they brought back memories of many a Sarah band. They only released a couple of other EPs after that, disappointing a huge fan base that kept wanting more. This is their final release, and it compiles demos for an unfinished 2nd full length, and some of the tracks from the singles. I can't tell you just how fantastic it is to hear some of the songs, especially some of the demos from the never released full length. Such breezy fun indie pop isn't done much these days, and songs like "The Back of Her Hand" and "Catch That Man" sound so wonderful in these simple demos. Mixed in with the demos are the singles tracks; it's kind of too bad they didn't put the demos all together so one could get a better sense of what the album might have sounded like, but maybe that was done intentionally since this is meant to be a farewell disc, rather than a proper album. In fact, the final two tracks, "Goodbye California" and "This is Farewell" (one demo, one b-side from their first single on Matinee) signal the final sendoff for this great band. Beautiful all the way around; and a band that will be deeply missed. Steve
@ www.indiepages.com/matinee

Faux Fox - “Black Glove Or White Glove” CD 7/27:36
Does anyone remember a New York synth band that was on EMI circa 79-80 called Our Daughters Wedding? There is a song entitled “Star 80” on this retro-computerized record that doesn’t hold the same gravitas as ODW but sure as Hell sounds exactly like what I would suspect one of their demos sounded like. This trio of wannabe-stylin’, keyboard-wielding, trip-hoppin’ disco doorknobs harbor good intentions but only a few so-so songs. It’s all been done to death: Suicide, Human League, Ultravox. With the exception of the final track, “Crystal Castles”, which deconstructs itself into minimalist percussion, they sound a fair dinkum like the TV movie version of their forebears. “Smart Set” and “Katie Is A Fascist” (great title) both seem like they’re trying too hard to sound vintage. At least “…Castles” derives itself from a less loopy synthetic groove than most of the rest. Just another band of fanboys who will, most likely, remain fanboys. Anthony
@ www.fauxfox.com

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Flogging Molly - “Within a Mile of Home” CD 15/52:14
Dave and compatriots return, still melding Irish Music with the fire of punk (or is it the other way around); while the Pogues comparisons will probably continue as long as they utilize similar instruments, they’ve pretty much settled into their “own” sound. If it doesn’t quite make the same impact of the last couple of rekkids (not all the songs are quite up to snuff), you’ll still find yourself doing a jig at times. Newcomers might be better served by “Drunken Lullabies” but overall, not bad for a Fastway survivor (believe it or not). David
@ www.sideonedummy.com

For Against - “Echelons” CD 9/39:40
Reissue of the debut 1987 album from this American (Lincoln, Nebraska, actually) atmo-rock outfit (some folks used to label this “dream pop”, but if so they be unsettling dreams indeed). Elements of pre-Pornography Cure (without the feeling - or as much anyway - of impending doom) and Chameleons (without quite the epic sweeping feel) can be found within, though these folks stamp(ed) enough of their own personality here so you don’t find yourself playing “spot-the-influence”. Glad this is seeing the light of day once again. David
@ www.words-on-music.com

For The Worse - “The Chaos Continues” CD 18/20:47
What kind of name is For The Worse? (Has anyone noticed how the quality of band names has been steadily declining since the early 90s?) The singer of this rattletrap HC band does his best to pop a vein while the band shoehorns 18 songs into 20 minutes. “Reverse The Curse” is snot-nosed garage punk, “Shit Out Of Luck” punches the accelerator, “Overpriviliged” explodes the garage, “TV Zombies” does some blitzkrieg Japanese riffing, and the hits just keep on comin’. A respite from the hordes of awful HC zombie bands that pervade the underground. Now, do something about that stupid name. Anthony
@ www.bridge9.com

Four Letter Word - “Like Moths To A Flame” CD 12/40:37
The first album in six years from these progressive punks. If you’ve heard them you know they can sound a lot like Bad Religion, just check “Careful What You Wish For” and “Trial And Era” (even the title sounds like something Graffin might come up with). “Semi-Detached” clears it’s throat more forcefully, pulling up some Brit-punk fungi in the process. They also splash around in the kiddie pool on “Johnny Foreigner” while becoming the ten thousandth band to rip off Social Distortion. They bully their way through “Crisis O Faith” and wind up where they began, at the beginning of their record collections. Anthony
@ www.thenewestindustry.com

Foxymorons - "Hesitation Eyes" CD 12/43:52
Their first two CDs on the AmPop label are criminally overlooked gems of indie pop, and I hope this one won't suffer a similar fate. David Dewese and Jerry James make up the duo, and although the CD opens with a track that features both guitar and piano, the rest mostly continues in the stripped down guitar pop vein as their previous releases. Dewese and James trade off songwriting and singing chores, each track brings something different to the table; the opener "Harvard Hands" has the aforementioned keyboards, and while many of the songs have a darker element to the lyrics, the simple melodies often provide a counterpoint; they hook you, then tell you an interesting story. A couple of songs will bring back the Big Star/power pop comparisons, especially the perky and more amped "Everything Changes", but it just serves to show you how good these guys are. It's amazing that they can put together such a cohesive sound by taping bits and pieces and mailing them to each other, then recording more and repeating the process, but they do. I'm hopeful this won't fall through the cracks like their two previous efforts. Steve
@ www.heatstrokerecords.com

Frog Eyes - “The Folded Palm” CD 13/34:22
The rancid marshmallow organ plays as we step over the putrid bubblegum mushrooms, bloody cherry icicles drip from piss-stained ceilings, while oily guitars seep into the brain. This is one of those abstract expressionist post-post-rock records that gives one pause. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. There’s more than a bit of influence peddling, so it may take a few meetings to gain trust. The word cinematic comes to mind in the way the loose and wild drifter friends from the circus come to pay a visit and they have their instruments with them. The sparkly sounds playing against the guitars on “The Oscillator’s Hum” or the moaning sounds in the background of “Ice On The Trail” add an impressionistic sonic coloration that is like a coy melody hiding behind pants-down ribald slang rock. There’s a burnished woodsy hue that fades in and out; a slow, dingy anti-melody that winds around sparse drums crammed into the closet. Keenly abstruse rock music such as this can confound your mind with fits of indescribable instrumental interplay that corrupt one another. A lot bands throw so much chaos out you just succumb. But can they write songs? Even lyrically, I could offer the following stanza from “Ship Destroyer” as an example of the confusion I’m speaking of: “Oh oh so where’s the bird’s bird creature gone - he would have surely joined me in song: oh where the glittering passages rise, rise, rise like a heart despised (free from the tendrils of companionship it ascends)… all my friends ain’t got no speakers (we live in quiet rooms); everybody talks but nobody is a preacher” Such nonsense leaves the mind reeling, one is unsure of whether this is total over-indulgent horse shit or freakily-inspired genius. Ah, fuck it, the truth is almost always somewhere in the middle. You just may have to find it yourself. Anthony
@ www.absolutelykosher.com

Goldenboy - "Right Kind of Wrong" CD 10/
Pop punk from Norway; it's got all the requisite hooks and harmonies you'd expect in the genre; good production, and some better than average songwriting. It's comparable in places to the first Weezer album, and of course takes references from Green Day, Blink 182, and other SoCal pop punk of the late 90's. The vocals get a little buried at times, and it's certainly nothing earth shattering or innovative, but they've got some decent songs here that veer from the standard formula with interesting breaks. It's a decent effort; it won't change anyone's mind about whether they dig the pop punk thing, but it does show that there are still some true believers out there who are willing to tinker with the genre and put together a solid record. Steve
@ www.fastmusic.com

Green Chair - “Michelangelo” CD 11/32:11
I had high hopes for this lo-fi trio, but my hopes were dashed when the un-finished nature of the songs came to the fore. Amateurish, slack, pedestrian, those things are all fine if you have real heart and write drop dead great songs, or if you have an appealing personality trait that carries the tunes, but that is not the case here. This set of songs is not totally unappealing, but if you have to wait out two and a half minutes of filler to reach the one catchy bar in a song it gets old quickly. They never rise above a mildly annoying intensity level. They jangle off into a corner like the singer at the party alone with his guitar. The simple, straightforward acoustic “Apocrypha Song” is the only thing that made a dent in the air. On a lot of these songs singer Chuck Keller gets just plain flat out-of-tune, and not in a good way like East River Pipe or Damien Jurado. At some point you say to your friend at the party, ‘nudge me when it’s over and we’ll go get some coffee…’ Anthony
@ Prison Jazz Records, 431 Birch St., Scranton, PA 18505

Grimble Grumble - “Leaves Leader” CD 8/39:42
According to their accompanying press release, Grimble Grumble named their band after a gnome in a Pink Floyd song. I can get behind that, more bands should be named after imaginary gnomes, elves, gremlins, what have you. Not unlike their namesakes, this quartet practice in the art of “space rock” or whatever you want to call it. This album is sometimes inspired and sometimes repetitive, but the good stuff outweighs the bad I’d have to say. At their softer moments they recall Yo La Tengo, and this is probably my favorite parts of the album. Jake
@ www.grimblegrumble.com

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Guitar Wolf - “Loverock” CD 17/48:29
More of GW’s patented brand of raucous rock-n-roll, with all levels in the red and no let up on the gas pedal. It’s probably a cliché by now to mention how GW are more faithful to the original (dare I say, “true”) spirit of rock-n-roll than any number of “revivalist” bands you can name (If one is anal enough to bitch about them not tweaking or “progressing” on their formula (like inserting some “Unplugged” bits or a gospel choir) then said person can go elsewhere; this suits the rest of us just fine. David
@ www.narnackrecords.com

H. P. Lovecraft - “Dreams in the Witch House” CD 23/76:35
This compilation contains all of the material released by this Chicago-area psychedelic band on the Philips label, including their first and second albums and non-LP single tracks. H. P. Lovecraft, named after the brilliant American horror writer who specialized in stories about ghastly other-dimensional beings crossing over into our world, was a group that included Jerry McGeorge from the Shadows of Knight. But they were far removed from the belligerent garage punk of the Shadows, and indeed were so eclectic that one could positively love some of their songs whilst absolutely hating others - only the distinctive lead vocals and harmonies indicate that they were all produced by the same group. Their debut LP contains one stunning organ-based psych number (“Wayfaring Stranger”), a decent rocker (“The Drifter”), and an appealingly atmospheric ballad (“The White Ship”), but is otherwise rather lightweight and disappointing. Their second album, which was recorded after they had returned from touring the West Coast, is quite a bit “heavier,” maaan, in both the guitars and effects, although it too is eclectic and uneven. “Spin, Spin, Spin” is very cool, but by far their best song is the bonus single track “It’s All Over for You,” a astonishingly good folk rocker that should have been a monster radio hit. Jeff
@ www.revola.co.uk

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Half-Handed Cloud - “Thy Is a Word & Feet Need Lamps” CD 16/29:28
John Ringhofer is a weird dude in the best possible way, and slowly crowning himself the crown prince of short, quirky pop songs (we all know Robert Pollard is the king and no one is even close to challenging that position). This album is like the holy grail of nutty non-bothersome-to-secular-folk jesus rock. Ringhofer being the main man and player of a thousand different instruments, as well as a part of Sufjan Stevens band; Stevens plays on the album as well, in a fair bit of turnabout; and the album was mixed by label mate Daniel “Danielson Famile” Smith..., that’s a lot of god-lovin’ folks, and it would all creep me the hell out if they weren’t all such damn great musicians and songwriters. I don’t even know how to describe the music - think of the quirkiest pop songs you’ve ever heard, add a half dozen kid’s toy instruments on top of it, make the lyrics about the old testament, and you’re kinda close. I like it a lot, but it may not be for everyone. Jake
@ www.asthmatickitty.com

Hawaii Mud Bombers - "Mondo Primo" CD 13/36:52
This is how the pop punk/surf/power pop thing was meant to be done. Another band from the great Scandinavian school of power pop that includes the Yum Yums and others, the Hawaii Mud Bombers incorporate make and female vocals and mixes a punchy Ramones punk beat and Barracudas surf riff to some great skinny tie power pop hooks. It's most reminiscent of the first Undertones LP in a lot of ways; simple lyrics, speedy pop that stays within its boundaries, and absolutely zero pretension. Bands like this don't come around that often, and they're always criminally underrated because what they do is so simple. But what gets lost in the simplicity is the perfect execution. A must for fans of any music genre, because I don't know anyone that can't use the kind of pop that puts this wide a smile on your face. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in.vinyl.com

Heavenly States - "Black Comet" CD 12/38:41
Nice rock and roll from this Oakland guitar/drums/violin trio. The singer's got a grizzly voice and shouts a lot, which will mean constant comparisons to the Replacements (which is not too far off). They've got a violinist who plays on almost every song, which will mean at least one drunk dude at every show yelling for "Devil Went Down to Georgia". Major props for being the first American rock band to play in Libya after the government recently lifted its travel ban. Miles
@ www.theheavenlystates.com

Heikki - “2” CD 12/43:45
This Swedish duo features Maria Eriksson from The Concretes and Jari Haapalainen from The Bear Quartet, and they play upbeat jangly-pop and indie-folk the sorts of which will probably be a hit with the kids. As for me personally, I dunno..., something is missing. The first track is pretty great but I quickly lost interest thereafter for some reason. The upbeat numbers are certainly the more engaging ones as far as I can tell; I think it is particularly the folky numbers that have my mind wandering. Fans of Viva Voce, The Fruitbats, and probably even Erikkson’s other band The Concretes would probably enjoy this the most. Jake
@ www.magicmarkerrecords.com

Hellogoodbye - s/t CD 6/22:02
Not your older sister’s twee synth-disco punk, if that’s what yer thinkin’. These goofballs, guided by head goof Forrest Kline, are an unruly gang of little TMBGs jamming emo-style with keybds. “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn” is like Sebadoh on a skateboard slamming into Ween; toss in Weezer on crank and you’ve got “Call N’ Return.” Add Jimmy Eat World who might be hanging around on “Bonnie Taylor Shakedown.” Despite referencing all those others, this has its own queer sound. It bounces all over, a snatch of guitar or a sample loop here or there, working it over and over. There’s an unpleasant hollerin’diatribe entitled “Jesse Buy Nothing… Go To Prom Anyways” and a second version of “Bonny Taylor…” that’s turns the tag line into a little hyper-beat poem with a vocal filtered through a vocoder. Rather strange, and that’s alright. Anthony
@ www.drivethrurecords.com

Holy Fire - "The Holy Fire" CD 6/19:05
For a band that's been together for hardly a year, this is pretty impressive. They're confident, the members play well together, the recording quality is professional, and the My Bloody Valentine-meets-math-rock sound is intriguing, though not extremely unique. But other than the fact that they're a young band that belies their age, I'm just not blown away. Maybe it's due to the mere average songwriting, or this nagging suspicion that I could find an exact replica of each member's individual parts somewhere in my CD collection. Of course, they'll probably blow up to be the next Bloc Party, and in a year's time their faces will be emblazoned on every indie rock magazine from here to Sweden, but this disc is just not doing it for me. Miles
@ www.theholyfireband.com

Interpol - “Antics” CD 10/41:39
Some tweaks here and there, but they don’t wander too far from the shimmering post-punk (as in Chameleons & Joy Division, not Wire/Gang of Four) sound of their debut, even if more of their own personality is beginning to develop. This particular release is more consistent but a bit more muted in overall impact (highs aren’t as high, lows aren’t as low, no real depths but nothing in the way of soaring heights either). Still, if not sufficiently better or different enough to be the breakout one would think they needed, at least it’s not the Second Album crash-n-burn it could have been either. As long as they don’t try to go all “dance-punk” on us…. David
@ www.matadorrecords.com

Invitation - “The Skin of Light” CD 6/49:01
This Invitation, who I could find nearly no information about, is a two piece out of New York City playing mellow indie rock, or at least I guess that’s how you would classify it. It reminds me of bits of the Rachels and bits of Glenn Branca with whispery, delicate vocals on top. Not bad, not great, just kinda there... good background music for me, but it seems tobe of good quality and I’m sure there are folks out there who will love this. Jake
@ thisinvitation@hotmail.com

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Iron & Wine - “Woman King” CD 6/23:58
More hushed folksy music from the new Cat Stevens of our generation, Sam Beam. If you are at all familiar with his recordings, especially his last full-length “Our Endless Numbered Days”, then you have a good idea as to what this sounds like. Although not physically a continuation of those recording sessions, they certainly are in spirit, utilizing much of the same staff (specifically, Sam’s sister Sarah returns for her beautiful backing vocal duties). If you like those recordings them you will not be disappointed here, or at least I wasn’t. Jake
@ www.subpop.com

Jane Anchor - “Second Wave” CD 11/44:49
Very pretty mainstream alt sounds; led by former Moped vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Kara Lafty, this mixed-gendered quad vies for the radio market while still trying to stay edgy, which lead them to some production slickness. But, thankfully, they approach their music with a minimal amount of modern pop to keep them from overly sweetening their sharpness. RBF
@ www.lark-lane.com

January Taxi - “Keep Quiet, They Might Hear Us” CD 7/25:58
A few dudes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee have come out and made some decent sounds and quips in the entire indie and emo style catalog, but without being annoying or trite. The January Taxi have enough moxie and even a tough skin to impress the hardest fan of the hardest music yet keep the sad clowns and teenage girls happy. They can mix good driving beats, an almost late 80s throwback at times, then stick it to you with sawing guitars and a voice that carries the music to the level it deserves. I enjoyed this album over a cup of coffee and reading over some Mad Libs I did last night with some totally inebriated heads from England and it made the sun and thunder in my head seem so much brighter. There are melodies here, standards and an appeal that I can only say will have a wider aspect if you pick this up and give it a whirl. Until then…nyah nyah nyah!…I got the album before you did. Mark
@ www.vacantcagerecords.com

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Jarboe - “Thirteen Masks” CD 17/79:50
Unlike some other peculiar female New York City performance artist-types who gained notice in the underground music scene during the 80’s, Jarboe has a remarkable voice to match the presentation. It is physically penetrating, and permeated by the darkness and oddity of her work, both with her most highly acclaimed band Swans, and solo. This is a reissue of her first solo record from 1991, before Swans put out what could be considered their best stab at college radio-friendly work, but after Swans’ most bludgeoningly filthy dirges had been toned down. This record is a departure from the recognizable calamity of Swans, and runs through a variety of musical styles from trance-intelligent dance music, to new age acoustic, to pagan rock, all infused with her personality. One of a series of four Jarboe re-releases for your enjoyment. Xtain
@ www.atavistic.com

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Je Ne Sais Quoi - “We Make Beginnings” CD 10/36:58
Yet another group of retro rockers coming out of Sweden, but at least this time it’s fairly interesting and entertaining. They play a dancey new-wave/post punk thing, with a tinge of soul thrown in. For comparisons, you have to look no further than their home shores and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, but without the heavy political discourse and socialist leanings (as much as anyone Swedish can not have socialist leanings, which is probably pretty hard given their government, but that’s a discussion for a different day). There may also be a touch of Les Savy Fav and Pretty Girls Make Graves floating in there as well. They aren’t breaking any new ground, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable record and fairly catchy. Recommended. Jake
@ www.cilla.com/tjnsq

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Jennifer Gentle - “Valende” CD 10/44:25
This Italian duo not only decided to name their band after a Syd Barrett song, but figured they might as well go ahead and sound a bit like him as well. And if you’re going for comparisons, might as well throw in some 13th Floor Elevators, solo Roky Erickson and maybe even a touch of Elf Power/Elephant 6 influence. Their third release and first for Sub Pop, this is a pretty damn good record that just gets stronger with age, like old gym socks. Except they don’t make me vomit like the thought of old gym socks do, they make me get happy. And if you are one of those fetishists who get happy from vomiting, I don’t wanna hear about it, you weirdo. Jake
@ www.subpop.com

Jens Lekman - "When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog" CD 11/41:19
This Swedish songwriter is all the rage on the indie pop scene right now, and this disc shows off why. Wry lyrics (the booklet has one single line from each song, two on a page, and that alone will totally pull you into some of the songs, like when I saw "Yeah, I got busted so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.") usually about a love coming or going. The songs fill your ears with a wide variety of styles, you instantly think Magnetic Fields, Jonathan Richman, and Belle and Sebastian. You go in one instant from a little bossa nova horn infected tune "Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa" to an a cappella number (love the finger snaps in the background!) on "Do You Remember the Riots" to a song full of life (and more horns) in the vein of the Left Banke via Morrissey on "You Are the Light". Lekman has actually charted as high as number 2 in his home country of Sweden, and it such a shame that he'll never even get a whiff of that kind of success here, because this is one of the ebst discs I've heard in a long time. Steve
@ www.secretlycanadian.com

Jesu - s/t CD 8/74:29
Debut full-length from Justin Broderick’s (Godflesh, et al) new project. He almost seems to be going Shoegazer on us, mixing the trademark heaviness of his past projects with the (non-saccharine) melody and atmospherics of said genre (though if you’re worried that he’s gone all “baggy” on us such tracks as the crunching post-metal of “Man/Woman” should be enough to reassure). Not to insult G-flesh fans but based on this evidence Jesu could be JB’s most promising venture yet; if nothing else it’s already yielded rewards with this release. David
@ www.hydrahead.com

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Joe and Bing - "Daybreak" CD 15/46:14
As stated in a previous review of product from this otherwise topnotch, Cherry Red-affiliated pop salvage empire: sometimes their efforts bring forth gems, others not so aurally opulent by comparison. This is a collection of music by two mid-60's college puddins from NY State who clearly thought they were the next Paul and Artie, or at least Chad and Jeremy. (Would you believe David and Jonathan?) They managed to be confident enough of this illusion to rope in as orchestral arranger one Eumir Deodato, this way before his brief moment in the 70's spotlight with his disco take on 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' (aka the 2001 theme). Maybe I'm being unduly unfair, as their however briefly trendy, twin-harmonised folky pop isn't necessarily bad; just serviceable and not especially memorable. MLH
@ www.revola.co.uk

Joe Jitsu - "Start It Up" CD 11/26:11
Pretty generic pop punk stuff here; a band definitely influenced by the Screeching Weasel/Queers axis of pop punk, with some of the snarl of those two bands. About half the songs are fairly mid-tempo, while others are speedy Ramones style punk. Lots of lyrics about girls, break ups, and more than a little anger at times, although it doesn't always come through since the vocals are a little buried and the singer's voice doesn't carry over the guitars. The songs are decent, but like I said at the opening of the review, fairly generic; a hundred bands could do this kind of stuff. They do it pretty well though, so fans of the genre might want to investigate this, especially if you were a fan of the Mutant Pop label. Steve
@ www.listen.to/topfiverecords

John Doe - “Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet” CD 11/31:01
Is it wrong that my favorite thing John Doe has ever done is the co-star job in the film “Roadside Prophets” with Adam Horovitz? Not that I dislike his music, I just don’t find it terribly exciting either. Much like his output with X, this new album by him has a couple of ear-catchers but is mostly forgettable as far as I’m concerned. A number of folks help out on the disc, including Neko Case (his duet track with her, “Hwy 5”, is the highlight of the album), Grant Lee Phillips, Dave Alvin, Smokey Hormel, Kristen Hersh, and even his 16-year-old daughter, Veronica Jane (who has a decent voice). A fairly uneventful adult-contemporary folk record that will no doubt please the fans and keep the rest of us wondering what the catch is. Jake
@ www.yeproc.com

Jukebox Zeros - “Welcome To Rutsville” CD 6/19:12
“Static, Static” is a likable juke joint punk opener, but things degenerate from there. The other songs sputter and misfire like mediocre roadsters at a show full of superstud hot rods. They close with a cement solid cover of Iggy Pop and James Williamson’s “Kill City”, and that’s all that saves this from total forget-ability. Anthony
@ www.jukeboxzeros.com

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Julie Doiron - “Goodnight Nobody” CD 12/41:21
Back in 2002, Canadian singer songwriter Julie Doiron released “Desormais”, and the sheer volume of it stopped everything. Not because it was loud, though. Because it was so quiet, sparse, and sad that it was necessary to stop what you were doing and listen closely. It was sung entirely in French, but even without a lick of understanding the lyrics it was still heartbreaking and affecting. This record is in English, and less sparse (she has a backing band on most of the tracks), but whatever made her so forlorn has not subsided. Listeners are the better for it, because it is another great record. For very particular moods. Most accurately: alone with somebody else in the room. Xtain
@ www.jagjaguwar.com

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Kanda - “All the Good Meetings Are Taken” CD 11/25:36
The laptop electro-pop sound of New York City relocated to Portland. Though it is almost entirely electro and synth, the results are not quite as computer-heavy sounding as most of Kanda’s modern day peers. The duo also utilizes some guitar to bring it some indie-rock appeal, and occasionally toys add to the playfulness. Electropop outfits are getting to be fairly common, but I would take Kanda over most of what’s out there. Xtain
@ www.boptart.com

Karmella’s Game - “What He Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Him” CD 5/21:02
About half a track into this CD I realized that Karmella’s Game sounds just like the Anniversary’s first record with a bit more crunchy, overproduced guitars. It’s the sort of thing I would have been nuts for 10 years ago when I was listening to Ashes and Split Lip and The Get Up Kids all the time, but right now it isn’t doing so much for me. I bet the kids where these guys are from go nuts for them though, and the shows are probably pretty fun. So while I can’t personally recommend, as I don’t think I would listen to it, anyone into the synth-pop type of emo would probably really enjoy this. Jake
@ http://speedbumponline.com

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Kawaii - "If it Shines, We Have It" CD 13/36:10
A synth-duo from Norway, Kawaii is sweet and melancholy with boy/girl vocals and pretty pop sounds. Not quite experimental and not quite catchy, I'm not exactly sure where it fits. Almost Magnetic Fields, but not as haunting. Almost Postal Service, but not as dancable. The album was apparently recorded entirely in a tiny kitchen, just so ya know. Sharon
@ www.shelflife.com

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Keith Colley - “Bird Doggin’” CD 13/32:08
This cat was one of those guys who managed to run with the big dogs without ever actually being known himself. The scene was LA in the early sixties, where there were apparently tons of songwriters trying to make a dent in the market, which Colley managed to do. This disc is the “publishing demos cut”, which I take to mean it’s a disc of songs sent out to various producers to showcase his songwriting abilty for use with their acts. But the thing is, his works is just as strong as most anyone who might have actually gone on and recorded one of his songs. A number of big-time folks play on this disc - Glen Campbell, Seals & Crofts, Jerry Fuller, and more. This is by no means the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard, but if you’re into that early 60’s crooner style you could do lot worse. Jake
@ www.revola.co.uk

Kelly's Heels - "Dig In!" CD 18/59:01
A compilation from this British band that takes pieces of their first couple of full lengths, some additional unreleased songs and a couple of other tracks. The band does some of the best 60's inspired jangle power pop that I've heard in awhile. There are plenty Beatles listening points, but the songs are more revved up with the guitars way out front and gutsy vocals (with a little bit of George Harrison flair by lead singer Bob Kelly) with more energy and oomph than you often hear in the genre. They remind me a lot of the Blow Pops, a great lost power pop band from the early 90's that put out a couple of terrific releases on Get Hip, or a punchier Squeeze. I can never get enough of handclaps, jangly lead guitar work, and great melodic pop hooks that stick in your brain for days on end. OK, enough writing...time to run out and find more of their stuff! Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

Kimya Dawson - “Hidden Vagenda” CD 14/51:07
New York City’s favorite bizarre-anti-folk hipsters The Moldy Peaches experienced a rapid rise in popularity a few years back that is inexplicable in hindsight. They wore animal suits and dressed as Robin Hood and Elvis, to name a few of their antics. And, even stranger, were the lyrics. Not weird strange - hilarious strange (look them up yourself, to only list one or two does the band no justice). However, no sooner than they were playing festivals Kimya Dawson decided to shed the bunny suit (seriously) and work solo for a while. Her latest solo work is normal by comparison. The sound is still punky folk, and there is also less sound-bit and effects experimentation on this record. The lyrics are more clever and less shocking and/or funny, and quite sing-songy. You can practically imagine her singing these songs to a room of six and seven year olds, all enjoying it but wondering what the hell the tattooed and dreadlocked woman with the guitar is singing about. Often, an adult listener might wonder the same thing. “Hidden Vagenda” simply shows a little maturity, and the best songs on the record (“It’s Been Raining” and “Moving On” - both fantastic songs) wouldn’t be immediately recognizable if not for her voice. Xtain
@ www.krecs.com

Lambs - s/t LP
My first thought is that this is not your typical release for In the Red - something about the “power trio” Lamps is much, much too dirty and seedy to fit in with the typical garage rock fare that this label provides. I can’t say that they are anything great, but certainly get bonus points for making me feel like I need to bath after listening to their album. I would imagine this would go over well with the folks who follow No Doctors and The Coachwhips and all that. Jake
@ www.intheredrecords.com/pages/lamps.html

Lars Fredericksen and the Bastards - "Viking" CD 16/44:27
East Bay-nurtured hubris and ego will get you every time, and this CD is certainly proof positive of that. This really doesn't any different from anything that Fredrickson has done in the context of Rancid, save for maybe the odd hiphop ranting dropped in as a nod in the direction of Oaktown. That said, it's quality work with a head of steam and a belly of Everclear that will play well with the Mohawk-and-studs cognoscenti. Nifty take on the Blasters' classic "Marie Marie" for a change-up, too. Noting how much Lars' crew like to genuflect at the altar of the Clash, though, I must say: I fail to recall Strummer and Jones ever needing to adorn their LP sleeves with photos of women that even the producers of Girls Gone Wild would pass on for being too, how you say, common? MLH
@ www.hellcat.com

LCD Soundsystem - s/t 2XCD 159:03
After a series of buzz-generating indie works, LCD’s debut album proper (a.k.a. Disc 1) finds LCD at their post-indie booty shaking best (“Daft Punk”) and not-so-booty-shaking worst (“Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up”). The best parts come when you’re too busy grooving to play the self-congratulational game of “spot-the-swipe” (okay, Phil Oakley vox here, Fall rip there…). Decent overall if not totally managing to bridge the gap between Hype and Reality. Of course, the collection of indie-era releases on disc 2 will probably sweeten the pot for ya. David
@ www.emimusic.info

Le Tigre - “This Island” CD 13/42:54
Oh dear. This could have/should have been their “Breakout” release, winning new converts and burying the disbelievers once and for all; instead they stumbled and stumbled badly. Mix together weak beats, half-baked concepts, and a crash-and-burn cover of “I’m So Excited” and you have one of the biggest disappointments of the year. And yes I’d be saying the same thing if they were still on Mr. Lady instead of… David
@ www.universalrecords.com

Lisa Mychols - "In This City" CD 6/17:03
It's a shame that Mychols is so unknown, because he's a great talent. Having worked with bands like the Wondermints, the Masticators, and other power pop groups, Mychols has been a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist on some great songs. These six tunes each have a little different feel, ranging from straight up power pop, Spector-ish girl group material, and there is a great cover of Lou Reed's "I'll Be Your Mirror". Mixing keyboards, the occasional handclaps, and a bunch of catchy melodies, the songs will hook you in with their variety and rockin' hooks. Mychols has a strong voice as well that punches over the music in all the right places. Fave tunes on this are the late Beatles sounding "Lyin' (In Front of Me)", and the punchy power pop of "Times Two" and "In This City". Top notch stuff for sure. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

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Low - “The Great Destroyer” CD 13/52:48
What you’ve been hearing about this record - that it is more “upbeat” or “poppier” - are somewhat true. With Dave Fridmann of Mercury Rev manning the decks and even contributing quite a bit to the record, it certainly seems that the production has jumped up a notch; overall it seems much denser and crisper than previous Low releases. And there are a lot of catchy songs; “California” and “Step” were pretty much instantly all-time favorites of the band’s catalog; and while nothing on here resembles a pop song as it’s classically understood, compared to the band’s historical albums it would certainly register as a more upbeat record, at least in tempo…the lyrics aren’t going to talk you down off that ledge if you are intent on jumping. I would be surprised if any diehard old Low fans are turned off by this, because it is truly a great release, probably the best thing to come out so far in this young year; and it may even win over some new fans, possibly even some who had already made up their mind about this band. Jake
@ www.chairkickers.com

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M83 - “Before the Dawn Heals Us” CD 15/61:14
It’s been two albums now and I still don’t know what to think of this French duo. It’s one of things where it has to catch your ear just right...sometimes it sounds awesome, other times, overwrought and cheesy. But this pretty well sums up my feelings on synth-rock as a whole. I’m at a loss as to how to describe what they sound like; I try to imagine it as rock music that Boards of Canada or Matmos or Air would make. Maybe it’s the cover photo, but something about this very much feels like it would be the soundtrack to a Michael Mann film. Certainly, if you liked the last record I don’t see anything here that should turn you off this go-around. Maybe by the time the next record comes out I’ll be able to figure out if I actually like this or not, but right now I’m just confused. Jake
@ www.ilovem83.com

Macha - “Forget Tomorrow” CD 13/47:36
I dunno what happened to the old Macha, which I wasn’t crazy about, but it was certainly better than this. They used to be in the same vein as some of Tortoise, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Idyll Swords, etc, but now they sound like second-rate Girls vs. Boys or something in that style of boring electro-rock. There’s nothing atrocious or particularly offensive about this record; it’s just a weak, forgettable effort that really undermines why a band as good as Bedhead would have ever wasted their time recording an album with these cats in the first place. Jake
@ www.jetsetrecords.com

Malkovich - s/t CD 10/16:37
How can something so heavy be so boring? Snooze fest screamo metal for kids with limited attention spans I guess, which ain’t me. What kind of band plays this kind of music and then puts a cuddly bear on the front cover of their CD? Crazy people, that’s who. Jake
@ www.coalition-records.com

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Mando Diao - “Hurricane Bar” CD 17/50:51
This Swedish quintet has made quite a splash overseas, but is still waiting for its big break stateside. The sound on this disc could most easily be compared to The Strokes, but Mando Diao show more range and capability of writing different types of songs without stylistic departure, more akin to the skill level of a rock band such as Oasis. These guys have got a good sense of how to write youthful rock songs and instill them with the kind of pop sass that bed-headed European bands tend to have. This disc opens strong, particularly with the opening track “Cut the Rope”, “Annie’s Angle”, and the single “Clean Town”. Plus, given the fact that these guys are only in their mid-20’s and have been together for seven years and counting, even better records are still likely to come. Xtain
@ www.mute.com

Marlboro Chorus - “Youth Medium” CD 10/33:07
Hailing from Boston, Marlboro Chorus has a sound that is part soft rock, part art, and all intelligent. The lyrics resemble poetry, but remain accessible, dealing not just with love, but passion. And passion is an accurate word to use when discussing this band: where they lack in originality of style, they definitely compensate with heart. RBF
@ www.futureappletree.com

Mary Timony - "Ex Hex" CD 11/46:52
This is the third solo album from former Helium singer/guitarist Mary Timony. It's pretty reminiscent of Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, with speak/sing vocals, brash guitar work, dissonant scales, no real melodies, etc. The style is dated, but she's talented enough to make another go at it sound somewhat interesting. Miles
@ www.marytimony.com

MDC - “Magnus Dominus Corpus” CD 18/38:41
Dave returns, with an unexpected fire to them this time around (the fact that three of the original four members are around might have something to do with it). Along with the not-unexpected lyrical concerns (using irreverence instead of preachiness to hit their targets) you also get a poignant tribute to the late Tim Yo and a not-so-poignant anti-tribute to Ian Stuart (and I not alone in thinking that “Girls Like You Make Me Queer” is actually a shout-out to Gary Floyd?). Not quite a classic but definitely their best since “Millions of Dead Christians”. The original. David
@ www.suddendeath.com

Mice - "For Almost Ever Scooter" CD 16/53:38
By the mid-80's, power pop was about as out of vogue as ever. Alternative radio was starting to spring up, but it was dominated by the Smiths, the Cure...lots of British bands that were great and utilized guitars and melody, but not the simple songs and harmonies of earlier bands like the Jam or early punk bands. The Mice came out of Cleveland and brought a simple formula to the table, a guitar/bass/drums trio that took a straightforward approach to singing and writing songs. A few short years later, Material Issue would take a similar approach and liven up the power pop scene with their first LP, "International Pop Overthrow", get signed to a major label and have some catchy songs hit the radio. Such success eluded The Mice, and their one full length was lost until now, unless you wanted to pay big eBay bucks for it. The first six songs are from the "For Almost Ever" EP, the rest are from the "Scooter" LP that was released in England only, and there isn't a clunker in the batch. Great guitars and singing by Bill Fox lead the way on these songs, which are one part early Who guitars and rhythm, another part Beatles harmony, and all parts full of energy. The original masters had been lost for most of these songs, so there was a little re-mixing done, and Doug Gilliard provided a new lead guitar track for one song, and it all sounds great. Songs range in subject matter; you've got the obligatory song named for a girl, "Felicia" (which has hit a few power pop comps over the years), a terrific rip on the U.S. in "Not Proud Of the U.S.A", and the disc ends with a nice lo-fi charmer in "Carolina". This is an essential disc for fans of power pop and pop punk; heck it's essential period. Steve
@ www.scatrecords.com

Microphones - “Live in Japan” CD
This disc features Phil Elverum scaling things down from 2003’s “Mount Eerie” (on which he played just about everything), and getting back to the simple form of acoustic guitar and voice. Only a few tracks feature additional instrumentation. These eleven unreleased songs have an honest sound that is refreshing at a time when everybody wants to be the next big “ironic” thing on the West Coast. It could most easily be compared to fellow K Records artist Kyle Field (Little Wings), and in fact, Field accompanies Elverum on several tracks along with K head honcho Calvin Johnson. The opening track “Great Ghosts” is the best song I’ve heard from Elverum, hands down. Xtain
@ www.krecords.com

Midget Jesus - “’Evil’ution” CD 15/58:03
Everything about Midget Jesus’ CD package concerning this Boston band screams hardcore, but it ends up being some okay bar rock with some edge: sometimes alt, sometimes pop, but lots and lots of emo. The sound is bit muffled, but the songs come through. The style is a bit rough and I haven’t made up my mind if it works for or against them. There are definitely some areas I’d like to smooth them out (a little in the studio and have someone tune the guitars a bit better), and in other places, I’d like to rough them up a little (in style). Ain’t nothin’ “evil” about this emo sound. RBF
@ www.tascorecords.com

Minus Story - “Heaven and Hell” CD 5/21:47
Let me say this first and foremost: Minus Story performs a cover of The Misfits “Hybrid Moments” on this disc, one of my favorite songs of all time, and the cover is pretty great, and therefore this CD gets a big thumbs up from me. The rest of the material is good too, a jangly mellow pop mess with lots of different instrumentation and whiny-yet-not-irritating vocals. I know the Elephant 6/”listened to a lot of Beach Boys” comparisons are a dime a dozen, but I don’t really know what else to say about it, as it certainly fits. Jagjaguwar keeps bringing the hits lately; this is just more of it. Jake
@ http://jagjaguwar.com

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Mirrors - “A Green Dream” CD 14/51:43
Birdman seems to think pretty highly of Greg Ashley, as they are dead set on releasing everything the guy has a hand in. Apparently The Mirrors are his band from his younger days, but you can easily see how the music on this disc has melded into what we know now as Gris Gris as well as his solo work. Certainly, fans of his other work should check this out; additionally anyone who goes in for bands getting the trendy comparisons of Syd Barrett/13th Floor Elevators/Skip Spence/et al may well be pleased with what they find here. Jake
@ www.birdmanrecords.com

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Moaners - “Dark Snack” CD 12/31:21
Melissa Swingle, of the roots band Trailer Bride, puts her ass out there as the centerpiece of this guitar-drums duo, which also includes Laura King. Her rhythm guitar sound is warm but dulled by not enough treble in the mix on the first two tracks. Her weak, off-key vocals are shaky at times and one can arguably ask, ‘can she carry an entire record this way?’ On “Terrier” they rev up the guitar sound a little and get a girlie snarl going, along with a mean left hook, as Melissa’s disses you with “…you’re no great dane, you’re a terrier…ruff.” This is loose, suburban basement rock more than anything else. And I’m so glad we’ve moved away from comparing every single quasi-feminist, female-based outfit to the riot grrls and K&K. I guess I just did, sorry. “Oh Christy” is a great song and rocks in a sleazy, Xanax-bluesy, NYC noise-rock kinda way, then they get lost again out on Long Island with the go nowhere “Water.” On the last song, “Chasing The Moon,” Melissa’s plays the bowed saw, which is her trademark in Trailer Bride, and the slow, spooky jangle is way too short at 1:40. She should have broken out the saw a little earlier and given a few more of these songs the treatment. Anthony
@ www.yeproc.com

Momus - “Otto Spooky” CD 15/69:59
Quite honestly, I don’t even know how to go about reviewing this new record by Momus or any of his stuff for that matter. His ability to genre-jump between electronica, twee pop, world music, delicate singer/songwriter fare, et al - and to do it well - makes him categorically tough to pigeon-hole. I’m not the biggest fan, but I can certainly appreciate talent when I hear it; and while I won’t be putting this record on all the time to listen to it, I can certainly understand why someone would. I know I should probably put some “RIYL” bands here, but where do you start when one song sounds like Trembling Blue Stars, the next sounds like Cornelius, so on and etcetera, but rarely do two songs sound the same? Originality makes for a heck of a listening party, but it really makes things hard on crappy writers like myself. Jake
@ www.imomus.com/

Nagisa Ni Te - “The Same as a Flower” CD 9/50:43
Third “domestic” (read: American) release from this Japanese male/female duo. Aside from a couple of tracks that sound like they escaped from the Lost in Translation soundtrack this is pretty much light psych-folk, albeit not “light” as in “poppy” or “lightweight” but airy or daydreamish and deceptively delicate (I’d almost use the word “Mellow” if the 70s hadn’t made said term a deadly insult), with male and female vox. It almost sounds like they’re strumming out in a field on a sunny day (again, without the hippie connotations). Not something that’ll attach itself to you immediately, but definitely something that reward repeat listenings. David
@ www.jagjaguwar.com

Nightingales - “Pigs on Purpose“ CD 19/59:57
A much welcome reissue of the 1982 debut album from the Nightingales, with single sides from 1981 and 1983 tacked on for good measure. The archetype for the much-beloved 80s UK indie sound that sent many a listener’s heart a-flutterin’; shambling, witty, biting both musically and lyrically (it wouldn’t be too hard to pass off “Under the Lash” as a long-lost Josef K track), with not a few Fall records probably in their respective collections. Not hard to see the evolutionary chain between the Prefects (their previous incarnation) and this. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

NOFX - “The Greatest Songs Ever Written By Us” CD 27/61:35
Yep, it’s the greatest hits from NOFX (mainly from their pre-political daze). You probably know already if you’re into their patented (and oft-copied) brand of melodicore, but for the most part the material on here holds up surprisingly well (especially after all the damage that’s been done to said subgenre by copycats with MTV airplay in their eyes). With only one unreleased song its appeal to those who already possess their entire oeuvre might be limited, but if haven’t taken the plunge yet and their imitators haven’t scared you off you might find yourself digging this. David
@ www.epitaph.com

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Okkervil River - “Sleep and Wake-Up Songs” CD 5/22:01
Primary songwriter Will Sheff and Okkervil River have now fully developed the sound that came so far on 2003’s “Down the River of Golden Dreams”; psychedelia-tinged folk pop made for roaming and reflecting. This five song CD is a placeholder for the upcoming full-length record, and it picks up right there on the aforementioned river, in calmer waters. All five songs are soft, intimate, and memorable. Xtain
@ www.jagjaguwar.com

Operation S - s/t CD 14/33:04
A couple of former No-Talents (including Cecilia) and (current?) Les Terribles get together inserting some vintage punk/wave tinges (including some decidedly non-toxic keyboards) to the ol’ garage. Fans of their old outfits (or Cecilia et Ses Ennuis for that matter) might be surprised, but overall this is a worthwhile offering. Besides, only someone who still uses the term “freedom fries” could resist their French-language cover of X-Ray Spex’s “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”. David
@ www.brokenrekids.com

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Outbreak - “You Make Us Sick” CD 15/15:21
Super-short bursts that ricochet from the old school HC of Dead Kennedys to ripcore and screamo. Ryan O’Connor’s vox are throaty, harsh and above average. The pounding thrash of “No One Cares” kind of sums up the predicament so many bands like this find themselves in. All this intense raging amounts to a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, and the bottom line is no one really gives a shit. Those who enjoy bands like Some Girls will find a home here. Anthony
@ www.bridge9.com

Peter Case - “Who’s Gonna Go Your Cooked Mile?” CD 16/71:06
If you’ve been nagged by the question what Peter Case has been doing since his days with the Nerves (original version of “Hanging on the Telephone”) and the Plimsouls, well, this is a retrospective of his recordings over the past 10 years or so (with two new songs). While his 80s influence has made its mark on his sound, he has definitely grown and pushed into varied styles, including acoustic and singer-songwriter. With a sometimes gravely voice, his songs always seem to ring true of its convictions, with life observations from happy to bitter. While this collection has a wide range and is a fun overview, I really liked the stripped down material best, such as when he plays live (like the title track), or “Spell of Wheels” and “Gone”, when it’s mostly him and a guitar wailing. Case’s song “A Million Miles Away” is also here, which was later covered by the Flamin’ Groovies. Occasionally it falls into the John Mellencamp milieu, but it’s never trapped there. Point is that this is a fine collected works of an underrated artist. RBF
@ www.vanguardrecords.com

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Pitty Sing - s/t CD 14/55:55
New Wave rules! How come no one else has thought to try and rehash this much-maligned genre? The possibilities are endless! I’m getting in on this on the ground floor, before it gets huge...huge I say!!! So, yeah, this is more 80’s rehash...if you like OMD, Erasure, or anything that sounds like it would have fit on one of those “Brat Pack” films, you’ll probably be happy with this, but you’ve probably already surmised that I didn’t go for it. It has radio friendly written all over it, so don’t be surprised if this starts getting airplay all of the sudden...which is probably what the band is shooting for. Eh, it’s better than having to hear Hillary Duff or Ashlee Simpson I guess. Jake
@ www.pittysing.com/

Plain White T's - "All That We Needed" CD 13/40:20
OK, just how many bands do we need that take the old Green Day formula, tone it down some, add some lyrics about alienation and love lost and smooth out all of the rough edges with slick production? I say "no more!" Between bands like New Found Glory, The Ataris, and dozens more of their ilk, we have more than enough; it's time to start some sort of "eradicate the faux emo band" society. The music on this is pleasant enough, but every emotion is stripped clean on the songs, and I'm sure that's not what they intended. It's one thing to market yourself as a pop band and put out stuff like this; and even at that it's missing some of the good hooks and creative songwriting a good pop band has. But I think they're trying to hit the "punk-MTV" generation, and if that's the case, they should just pack it in now, because there have to be enough of those bands already, right? Steve
@ www.fearlessrecords.com

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Pohgoh - "All Along" CD 19/71:49
This album is just painful. Bland, light rock from a college band with no sense of songwriting and/or melody, fronted by a female singer who wouldn't have made it past the first auditions of American Idol. The only solace is the fact that this talentless band broke up back in 1998. But somehow, enough people made enough requests to convince this band to re-release their entire crappy output on one CD. Who are you people, and why do you hate the rest of us? Miles
@ www.newgranada.com

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Point Line Plane - “Smoke Signals” CD 9/31:59
Not to be all “when I was a kid things were better blah blah blah”, but I really liked the old Point Line Plane stuff a lot better. Now I dunno if it was adding a third member or just “growth” as an artist, but something is missing from this newest release. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still decent, just not balls-out awesome like the older material (especially that split release with The Planet The that I bought off of them a couple years back at a show). In a lot of ways, this just sounds like a new Liars record, and I like the Liars, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for I guess. Too much production is one of the biggest problems, these cats were one of the few bands that actually sound better the dirtier it is. Great album art though. Jake
@ www.skingraftrecords.com

Prozacs - "Monsters Night Out" CD 7/15:24
Pretty standard three chord stuff from this quartet that has the Ramones/Queers sound down pretty well. With a song title like "Facelift" (yeah, the chorus is "she needs a facelift right now") you pretty much know what you're getting, some snotty lyrics over a solid punk pop beat. The rest of the CD follows that pattern pretty closely, there are a couple of songs that are a little more towards the bubblegummy side of pop punk, like "Cupid's Revenge", and a couple of others that might be a bit more Misfits influenced, like the crunchier "You Don't Know". It's that mix gives this disc enough variety to hold your attention a little more than your standard pop punk band, and I wouldn't mind hearing more of this band down the line. Steve
@ www.cheapskaterecords.com

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Rat Cat Hogan - “We’re Bicoastal” CD 13/28:44
Mostly Herbert Bergel with help from others, including label president Robbie Skrocki on drums, Bergel tells the slice-of-life fables of average people through some fanciful and occasionally jazz-influenced minimalism. Most of the tales contain conversations, some real and some imagined, and most end up on a surprising notion. Bergel’s vocals are not classically beautiful, but his glimpses run from the (purposefully) mundane-ness of life to (purposefully) shocking. His songwriting style reminds me of Paul Simon’s “America”. RBF
@ www.skyrockirecords.com

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Razorlight - “Up All Night” CD 12/42:32
Well, this may be a left-handed compliment, but Razorlight is actually better than most of what I’ve heard from major label pop alt signings of late. Some of this CD is actually good, like “Rock and Roll Lies” and “In the City” (not the Jam song). While I really have no desire to necessarily go out and see them, hearing their CD is certainly fine. RBF
@ www.universalrecords.com

Riot Squad - “The Complete Punk Collection” CD 21/56:17
Well, here’s another oldie but goodie. This particular Riot Squad was a British streetpunk band dating from the early 80s, and was perhaps most famous for the anthem “Fuck the Tories”. Stylistically, they had the typical punk sound from that era, in that their characteristically fast tempos and piledriving punk rhythm section was offset by shouted Exploited-type vocals and pointedly anti-social themes, but they had a raw, trebly sound instead of the chunkier, heavier one sported by their contemporaries. Nor, alas, did they produce lots of memorable tunes. Still, it’s yer old-style “two fingers in the air” punk, laddie, and who can forget their cheeky record title, “I’m OK - Fuck You”. Jeff
@ www.cherryred.co.uk/anagram

Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends - s/t CD 20/49:25
A classic album reissued by Rev-ola, this is California pop at its finest. Roger Nichols is probably best known as a songwriter, having penned numerous hits for the Carpenters and a few other performers, but he also performed songs as well. Originally released in 1968, this record teams up Nichols with fellow songwriter Tony Asher (who worked with Brian Wilson on “Pet Sounds”, this album coming just after that one), and it’s just as good as you might expect given the pedigree of those involved. Nichols had Murray and Melinda MacLeod help him in performing these melodies, and the ensuing result is some of the best harmonious sunshine pop/easy listening I’ve heard in a quite some time. Van Dyke Parks and Randy Newman also had a hand in this album, as if you need more pop legends mixed into this bag. A lost gem, sure, but highly worth checking out. Jake
@ www.revola.co.uk

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Rosetta Stone - "Retrospective Roller 1977-79" CD 23/61:37
Maybe it was down to the 'creative differences' most musicians use as an out from a successful band. Maybe he'd had enough of his bandmates' secret carousing and car wrecks, and the constant sexual advances from fans and management alike (all judiciously hushed up in the teenybop press, natch). Whatever the reason: in 1977, with their U.K. fame peaked, the States resisting their Tartan charms and oblivious to the punk juggernaut aimed at doing them in, Ian Mitchell felt compelled to leave the Bay City Rollers' sinking ship to form Rosetta Stone. This CD comprises pretty much the Stone's entire recorded output of two albums and a handful of singles tracks. Funnily enough, they doesn't come off as sounding that much different from the band Mitchell left. Which is actually a good thing, if you're a fan of the sort of stomping, chanting, fizzy and on occasion, even surprisingly punchy powerpop the Rollers traded in. (It was certainly good enough for four mooks from Forest Hills to try to emulate, in a little tune called "Blitzkrieg Bop".) Two specific comments: first, did Mitchell and co. honestly think they'd get over on their potential pre-teen fanbase by doing an admittedly catchy song about a prostitute ("Judy Judy Judy")? And second, for fans of the more cheddary aspects of 70's rock, it don't get much more so than the stupefying, cringe-inducing, state-of-disco-synth encrusted version of "Sunshine Of Your Love" found here. MLH
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

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Rudi - “The Radio Sessions, 1979-1981” CD 18/49:03
Here’s a real find, the Japanese CD reissue of a batch of relatively obscure radio sessions by the great northern Irish pop punk band Rudi. If you like raw punky guitars, great lead vocals and harmonies, and fine pop songwriting, you’ll love this disc. Not only does it contain a bunch of killer originals (such as “Excitement”), but also some amazing covers (such as their punked-out version of the Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy”). When you recall that Rudi was not a “major” band from that era, and that many of the songs herein were never actually released, it again makes you realize just how fecund and brilliant the punk epoch of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was, musically speaking, and just how lame the current period is by comparison, with its profusion of lame, wholly generic pop punk groups. Jeff
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

Say Bok Gwai - s/t CD 30/31:47
What exactly is the point of putting out a record like this? The duo of Alex Yeung and Andre Custodio employ guitar and drums to produce their own patented brand of generic “noise” rock., a genre that is so splintered it makes Sybil look completely well-adjusted, and I can’t tell you if they’re serious. Are they sincerely giving us everything they’ve got or are they maybe holding back, like the joke’s on us? Let me just say they are not The Boredoms… they are not Mt. Shasta… Hell, they’re not even K177. They wail and grumble about things like $8 sandwiches. They make unnatural guitar noises but the short non-songs are just excuses to not have to actually try writing a song. They seem to have a framework and an attempted theme but the drift of the whole project is not good. Just another sticky, overcooked Ramen-noodle variety pack. Anthony
@ www.monkeykingrecords.com

Say Hi To Your Mom - "Ferocious Mopes" CD 12/35:38
What's up with bedroom recording artists and their obsession with robots and insects? It's creepy. On Say Hi To Your Mom (aka Eric Elbogen)'s third release, the Brooklyn based songwriter offers more smart indie-pop about android lovers, robotic marionettes, and mosquitoes in the stucco (put their by... robots?). It's pretty obvious that Elbogen doesn't get out much, but he's got a real gift for converting his strange paranoia and fantasies into clever, quirky lyrics. Musically, Say Hi... is akin to a less mopey Sparklehorse, best appreciated locked away in your bedroom where the subdued melodies and restrained drumming won't get swallowed up into the background. Definitely worth checking out. Miles
@ www.sayhitoyourmom.com

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Shoplifting - s/t CD 4/15:46
Shoplifting, made up of a good chunk of folks from the Chromatics and Soiled Doves, may have put out a short-player, but it packs the wallop of most folks’ full lengths. I dunno exactly how to describe it, but the sound is like the perfect mesh of everything that was great about both the Pacific Northwest and Washington DC in the early 90’s, but it doesn’t sound dated. While I was listening to this I could totally envision this band opening up for Nation of Ulysses or Bikini Kill on some tour back in the day. The whole effort is clangy and messy and punk, but you could totally dance to it, if that’s your bag. Jake
@ www.killrockstars.com

Shortstack - s/t CD 13/42:37
You know how sometimes you see a CD and you hope and expect it to sound a certain way, and then it ends up totally different? Well, as it turns out, this band Shortstack is not about pancakes nor is it a tribute to Too $hort. Sadly, it is just a bunch of ho-hum alt-country songs with copious amounts of slide guitar. Normally I love me some slide guitar, the more the better, but for some reason it’s just not working here..., I have a hunch it’s the singer’s voice that I’m really not getting along with but the slide just stands out so much more. As a plus in their column, they do end the album with an uncredited cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” but it’s a little bit of the “too little too late” syndrome, as I’m pretty well turned off before I ever get there. Fans of twangy generic country that sounds like most other twangy generic country, I believe you’ve found a new favorite band. Jake
@ www.planariainc.com

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Singapore Sling - "Life is Killing My Rock 'N' Roll" CD 12/51:22
My Bloody Valentine meets Swervedriver meets JAMC meets Interpol, this Icelandic band knows how to bring the dark rock to the broken hearted. Their first album was promising, and their sophomore effort is a better version of the same great music. Screamy guitars, fuzzy drums, and shoegazing happy sadness. An album for the bruised. An album to bruise you. Sharon
@ www.stinkyrecords.com

Sixteens - “Fendi” CD 4/25:00
Granted you could throw the, um, 80’s influenced tag at them, but this local (Bay Area) bunch takes their cues not from the Valley Girl soundtrack or the angular/jagged sounds of Gang of Four and the No Wave crew, but rather the proto-Darkwave sounds of Factrix (who have a tribute to them here) and early Tuxedomoon (the black-cover pre-album releases). Think crispy chilly atmospherics and searing synths put to ominous uses. If not quite up to vintage T-moon levels yet, they still manage to provide a pretty good slab of death disco here. David
@ www.hungryeyerecords.com

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Skygreen Leopards - “Life and Love in Sparrow’s Meadow” CD 11/34:20
You’ve seen these two guys before. Maybe they were walking on the side of the road (but not hitchhiking), sleeping on the beach, making noise two campsites over, hanging out at an Appalachian coffeehouse, or something like that. This is just two guys from the middle of nowhere, who lost their shit somewhere along the path of normalcy. They take traditional folk music and make it sound stranger than the average psilocybin-fueled adventure. The Skygreen Leopards stick to the tried and true instruments of the trade: acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, and flutes - all instruments that do not require amplification, and write songs with titles such as “Belle of the Woodsman’s Autumn Ball”. There’s an underlying theme here having something to do with a giant squirrel, Moses, birds, the Garden of Eden, and love, but it’s hard to put the whole thing together. Give it a try. Xtain
@ www.jagjaguwar.com

Sleepykid - "Monday Morning Smile" CD 10/27:31
Definitely a bit of a departure for the Get Hip label on this baby; you're expecting to hear lots of garage beats and a little raunch when you plug this one in the CD player, but it starts off with a British psych feel that is more reminiscent of the Zombies than anything else. It continues along in this vein, with keyboards playing a key part in some of the songs, with hints of "Norwegian Wood" Beatles era on "Rise and Shine", a home recorded style that fits perfectly with a song like the GBV influenced "Cast Away" and "Sunday Smile". The guitars really bring home a few of the songs, like on the languid pacing of "I'd Tell You", where they roll over the top of Andrej Cutunic's punchy vocals. This is a great disc that really picks up where a band like Guided By Voices left off, with powerful melodies and influences that run across the board without sounding like copycats. It's a must for fans of some of the bands I've mentioned, I guarantee you'll like it. Steve
@ www.gethip.com

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Slomo Rabbit Kick - "Hortatory Examinations" CD 5/14:34
This short CD is quirky. I thought it would be hated because the first song is that sorta strange music off-key male vocals thing that I'm just sick of. But then it continues on with fun poppy girl-boy trade-off good times. Still a little off-key but when a cute girl voice is giving you some "wu-oh-oh" type lyrics it's hard to care. Not the highest quality recording, it's rare that I would like an indie rock album if it was better recorded and mastered, but this is almost too lo-fi for what it's trying to pull off. It'll be interesting to see what they put out next. Sharon
@ www.slomorabbitkick.com

Sluts Of Trust - “We Are All Sluts Of Trust” CD 10/37:25
Another 2-piece (U.K) guitar/drums thrill rock band that toys with a little noise. Songwriter/guitarist John McFarlane exhibits some imagination with pretty wild songs like “That’s Right…”, “Piece Of You” and “Tighter Than The Night” that worm around between PIL and The Fall. They even resembled French Kicks on one song. John’s vocals echo the singer from Hunters & Collectors, and that’s not a knock at all. The guitar jerks from spangly syncopation to wiry jangle and then wobbly noise. Too bad there are only a few brief moments that might really bum the neighbors or confuse the squareheads. “Meanwhile In Rocksville” unearths the decaying corpse of The Membranes atonal skronk but it only lasts a few seconds. Damn. Like most good things in life, over too soon. Anthony
@ www.chemikal.co.uk

Smoke Or Fire - “Above The City” CD 12/24:04
Stepping away from what makes the beer flow, Fat has signed an actual (tightly wound, semi-angular) punk band. They fire off C+ quality, not quite blistering, two minute rockets of spit and guitar. “California’s Burning” is a compilation tape keeper and “Loving, Self-loathing” is tough, but the scratchy vocals get a little smey sounding. Definitely better than having to hear Lagwagon for the millionth time. Anthony
@ www.fatwreck.com

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Smoosh - “She Like Electric” CD 14/31:47
This Seattle duo takes “all ages” to the next level. At 10 and 12 years old, they may not even be able to get into an all ages show without a raised eyebrow or two. However, these two sisters are not a novelty act, and have stumbled onto the scene with a 14 song CD featuring well-written songs for any age, but especially notable in this case. It’s just drums and keyboards, but they’re not trying to be ironic or chintzy. It’s just pop goodness, completely unspoiled, effortless, and without a single bit of teen angst (at least for another year or two). They’re not musical prodigies or anything, but if this fails to bring a smile to your face then you should probably check yourself into the no fun hotel. Or, as Asya and Chloe say on what will prove to be their trademark track, “Rad”: “I don’t care…maybe you should be a little happier.” Xtain
@ www.smoosh.com

Something About Vampires and Sluts - "We Break Our Own Hearts" CD 11/38:50
Wow. This album makes me want to dance and fall in love. The Cure, but sexier. The Faint, but less pretentious. The first track, "Can't Be Wrong", belongs playing at every party and every dance club in every city. This album belongs on the shelf of every dancing hipster, teenage misfit, and 80s reminiscent 30-something. Sharon
@ www.morphius.com

Spoon - “Gimme Fiction” CD 11/43:48
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, all the way from Austin, Texas via the late 1970’s - disco Spoon. It’s been a gradual change and not one that really upsets me or anything like that, but over the years this band has slowly morphed from the electrified-acoustic guitar sounds that dominated their early work into a dance-beat band with very little guitar at all. In actuality, there are guitars on the album, it’s just that unless you are really paying attention to them they don’t really stand out. If I saw this description on paper I probably wouldn’t even want to listen to this record, but in actuality I’m really digging this new album and their new sound. I’m sure some fans will be disgruntled as usual, but aren’t some fans always pissed with any new album? Jake
@ www.spoontheband.com

Staggers - “The Sights, The Sounds, The Fear and The Pain” CD 13/42:54
Obscure TX punk old timers that play polished parking lot rock with more hooks than a pirate convention. Several songs that are outrageously catchy, “Last Man On Earth”, “Oblivion” “Primeval.” It’s an amalgam of oi, street punk, 60s basement rock, puke rock, south o’ the border rock, whatever, it’s all that and none of that. Included are three bonus videos and several acoustic songs. Not as straight-laced as some of their peers, there’s a humorous Alex Cox spaghetti western motif. Oops. Okay, that’s enough… I’ve used the word ‘motif’. Show over... go away. Anthony
@ www.hauntedtownrecords.com

Stilettos - “Making History by Repeating It” CD 13/26:12
First off, no it’s not those Stilettos, the ones you’re thinking of. No, these are some Netherlands cats playing fast-n-furious rock that would surely be popular with the tattooed biker/rockabilly camp. Fans of old Social Distortion, New Bomb Turks or any number of mid-90s Estrus bands should take note. Although not generally my bag, this is pretty decent stuff, worth a few listens..., there’s even a cover of Frampton on the album. All of their songs are right to the point and never overstay their welcome, which probably seems obvious when you note there are 13 songs in less than 30 minutes. Jake
@ www.stilettos.nl

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Stiv Bators - “Disconnected” CD 14/40:46
Reissue of Stiv’s first solo disc, in which he and his cohorts give the cover treatment to various 60s garage tunes. Mind you, this isn’t the usual punk destructo/novelty run-throughs but rather a reverent (or at least as reverent as Stivvie could get) stroll though the (garage) punk of an earlier era that works quite well. Good liner notes from Frank Sesich as well. This time around the bonus tracks include alternative takes, a live track, and a crank call. David
@ www.bomp.com

Sunset Valley - “Goldbank 78 Stack” CD 12/42:12
Sunset Valley seems like they would be a blast live. Their sound is a bit raucous, but in a controlled way that screams, “hear us play.” While they also have trappings of “the way of the jangle and minor keys”, they play with them more than using them like a crutch. Plus, they write some decent hooks. RBF
@ www.sunsetvalley.net

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Suzy and Los Quattro - s/t CD 11/32:37
This Spanish band has quite a few things going for it; a great female front person, some excellent musicians from the punk scene in Spain, and the ability to write some incredibly catchy songs. This Japan-only release compiles some singles, a five song EP, and a couple of other tracks. They're not a "punk" band by any stretch; the songs are pure power pop and they sound like a female fronted Yum Yums. Pure pop rules the tunes, but it's done with some great energy, guitars up front and blazing. Suzy Chain's voice isn't quite as strong as I'd like; it gets buried a bit sometimes behind the music, but overall, the material on this is great. Lots of covers; they do two Adverts songs with TV Smith, there's "We're Not Going to Take It" from Twisted Sister, and a really nice cover of Phil Seymour's "Baby It's You". I definitely dig this band, as any self-respecting power pop fan should. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

Sweatmaster - “Song with No Words” CD 8/16:52
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even going to review this CD because the band name is so terrible...I was expecting white boy funk or something. Turns out they are Finnish, so maybe the name isn’t as dumb over there...anyways, the reason I actually did take this to listen to is because of the covers. Of the eight songs on the CD, six are covers. The two Sweatmaster tracks at the first are pretty non-descript garage rock rehash, nothing to complain about but pretty forgettable. As for the covers, nothing special there either but I applaud them on their choices...tracks by The Misfits, Minor Threat, The Modern Lovers, Money Mark (probably the best track on the disc), The Wipers, and Music Machine. I love cover songs, so they get points for that; and nothing on here is terrible either...but I have a feeling I’ll forget all about this as soon as I stop listening. Jake
@ www.badafro.dk

Sweet Poison - "Yesterday's Sweethearts" CD 11/31:02
Formerly known as The Riot Squad, this band from Belgium does the street punk thing pretty well, sounding a lot like Social Distortion on some of the more mid tempo tracks. What separates them from the pack is guitarist Kim Bostijn, who contributes some keyboard parts, as well as singing back up vocals on a number of the tracks. Her voice adds an extra punch to the songs, and on some songs the piano adds a plaintive plea, such as at the end of "Among the Angels". They do a cover of the Misfits' "Where Eagles Dare", and overall it's a decent disc. I do have to say that without the addition of the occasional keyboard work and Kim's occasional vocals, they'd just be another street punk band, so be forewarned on that; it certainly won't be something anyone will play over and over again, but it's enjoyable enough for the street set. Steve
@ www.streetanthemrecords.com

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Tan Sleeve - "Bad From Both Sides" CD 13/43:52
2004 release from the duo of Lane Steinberg and Steve Barry. Reminiscent of the Beatles in parts, they are doing what they have always done best: baroque soft-pop in the mold of the Bacharach/David songwriting team, only with some of the smoother edges taken away. Utilizing keyboard/acoustic guitar-led arrangements with a full complement of musicians, the songs often bring to mind XTC on some of the jauntier numbers as well. Steinberg's vocals are sweet and when you take songs with that breezy 60's feel and mix it with the vocals, you've got a really nice, pop album with a few light Beatles-psych touches and plenty of variation to keep you hooked in. Steve
@ www.busstoplabel.com

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "Shake the Sheets" CD 11/39:58
Lookout has had all kinds of problems over the last few years, ranging form putting out new bands that stink to having a large number of back catalog artists pull their releases from the label, but the one thing they got right was hooking up with Ted Leo. This is his third full length for the label, and each new effort tightens up the songwriting just a bit. Recording as a three piece on this effort, some songs have the more simplistic style of the Clash on a song with staccato guitar punches like "The Angel's Share", while in general, the band now sounds more like Leo's previous band, Chisel. A few more nods to mod sounds of the late 70's and less to Thin Lizzy, a few more power trio hooks, and certainly a few more songs that sound very similar to the one you heard the song before. Leo still has a way with words, like on the opening track "Me and Mia" ("Do you believe in something beautiful? / Then get up and be it."), and he's definitely headed into some Billy Bragg territory lyrically (plenty of political punches are thrown), and it's 10 times better than 99% of what's out there, but the sameness of some of the material takes the edge off just a bit. Still a great artist and a great disc, just a tad disappointing this time around because I've come to expect so much each and every time around. Steve
@ www.lookoutrecords.com

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Telepathic Butterflies - "Songs From A Second Wave" CD 13/43:09
Their second full length, this Canadian band does the melodic power pop thing, and does it pretty well. Sonically sounding like a cross between Guided by Voices, the Kinks, maybe a tad of 60's psych pop thrown into the mix, this group manages to get a huge sound of shimmery pop from the traditional guitar/bass/drum trio. The disc has a nice flow to it; with songs occasionally blending into each other to keep you engaged if the spiffy hooks don't do it on their own. Lyrically, the bounciness of the songs is offset by lyrics that often are about longing for the freedom of youth and wishing for simpler times. It's a very lovely disc that sounds unique despite the obvious influences; maybe it's the slightly lo-fi production that doesn't strip away too much of the power, much like earlier Velvet Crush releases. It's a disc I've come back to often, and I enjoy more with each listen. Steve
@ www.rainbowquartz.com

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The Now - “Here Come the Now” CD 18/58:11
And the obscure late ‘70’s punk hits from the vault keep on comin’, courtesy of Japan’s cool Wizzard on Vinyl records. The Now were a British punk group who released two 7” records, the “Development Corporations/Why?” and the “Into the 80’s/9 O’Clock” singles, both of which appear on this CD reissue along with lots of other unreleased material. The first of those 7”ers was a shambling, amateurish affair that nevertheless held a surprising appeal, due mainly to its primitive sound, earnest social critique, and the background vocals on “Why?”. The band had grown tighter by the time their relatively well-recorded second 45 was released, but it was infused with the same infectious teen enthusiasm as their debut. The unreleased stuff sounds every bit as cool, even though the band reformed in 2001 to add some guitar overdubs to and thereby amp up a few of their late 70’s demos. Jeff
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

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The Robot Ate Me - “On Vacation” 2XCD
Let me get this off of my chest to start: while thematically I can understand the desire for an artist to put this on two discs, it still drives me batty that the whole album is barely 40 minutes long but it is on 2 CDs..., it’s like a double EP album or something. That said, the music is actually pretty damn fantastic. I have been a fan of The Robot Ate Me for since I heard the first record “They Ate Themselves”, and as great as that debut was it pales in comparison to this record. The kitchen sink instrumentation will get this band compared to any number of Elephant 6 groups, the melancholy and despair will make you think of Grandaddy, and the overall sound probably fits best with the Microphones. The first disc is the quirky kid brother, full of references to genocide and Hitler and god knows what else…the whole thing sounds as if the singer of The Robot Ate Me were being backed from an optigon (which may be the case as he lives in the same town, San Diego, where Optigonally Yours is from). The second disc is a much more heartbreaking and personal outing, with less screwball instrumentation and more heart-on-sleeves musicianship (minus the obvious “emo”ness that sort of description draws up). I highly recommend this record, one of the best things I’ve heard all year. Jake
@ www.therobotateme.com

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They Might Be Giants - "The Spine" CD 16/35:55
I've been dancing around my house to They Might Be Giants for longer than almost any group with the exception of the Beatles. And John and John are still making music that makes you want to dance around the house. Still the same incredibly intelligent nonsense that almost makes sense. Still the occasional deeply moving song. Still the same crazily appealing whiny voice. If you loved They Might Be Giants you will still love They Might Be Giants. I'm just not sure that I need any more They Might Be Giants albums in my life. I think I'm OK with Apollo 18 being the final word from these fine boys. Sharon
@ www.theymightbegiants.com

This Providence - “Our World’s Divorce” CD11/56:25
At first glance I didn’t catch the (God ) reference implied by this band’s name. They’re not overt Christian rock per se. The songs are more veiled (or shrouded). The first song, “Well Versed In The Ways Of The World,” opens the door to a platter full of efficient, punchy emo-light love songs to God. They incorporate enough changes to keep it all from being one-dimensional, shifting gears, using acoustic mixes, stomping pedals. They’re capable of wandering off on a quick instrumental tangent and not getting totally lost, but even with that the songs tend to become somewhat indistinguishable from one another since the strained vocals never change. None of these songs suck, but how many will necessarily warrant a return trip? Anthony
@ Rocketstar Recordings, P.O. Box 54108, Redondo, WA 90054

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Tokyo Ska Orchestra - “Ska Me Crazy” CD 15/59:29
Retrospective of this long-time Japanese ska outfit. If mere mention of said genre is enough to curdle your blood nowadays, it worth mentioning that at least it sounds like this outfit’s influences extend beyond the Mighty Mighty (Crap Crap) Bosstones. The ska emitting from this disc sound closer to the bands that popped up between the “second” and “third” generations before the latter succeeded in homogenizing an entire genre into mediocrity. Sometimes they succeed in incorporating non-ska elements into their music, sometimes they, er, don’t (as the crapactular “Natty Parade” painfully demonstrates). If it isn’t quite the breath of fresh air that the genre desperately needs, it might remind you why maybe, just maybe, you liked this thing called “ska” in the first place. Comes with two videos as well. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Towers of Hanoi - s/t CD 4/14:42
Dramatic vocals over frenetic rock, Towers of Hanoi is modern classic rock. If you love Jefferson Airplane you will love this album, as Rachel Ryder's voice has the soul and timbre of Grace Slick, especially on the opening track. It's this voice that differentiates this album from millions of bands playing fine, but not outstanding rock n' roll. Sharon
@ www.baracudasound.com

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Travoltas - "The High School Reunion" CD 11/39:26
This band is a bit of an enigma to me. They've got a ton of hooks, a very smooth power pop sound that takes a touch of Ramones and surf, and good vocals with solid harmonies. This is their fourth or fifth full length, and the problem is that they've started to sound very formulaic, and even when they aren't they just don't have the energy that songs and sounds like this should breed in bucketfuls. I've liked their other releases, and since they've added some keyboards, they've made their sound a little more unique, but it's all just a tad too damn smooth for me to really sink my teeth into. Here's an example; they do a very straight up cover of "Major Tom". Fine, decent song. But there is absolutely nothing that differentiates it from the original, and it makes you wonder "What's the point?" Kinda like the rest of the CD. Steve
@ www.fastmusic.com
Troubled Hubble - "Making Beds in a Burning House" CD 13/45:48
Any band that puts this much thought into their music gets an automatic high-five. From the most intricate guitar melodies down to the most minor rhythm catch, you get the sense that Troubled Hubble have spent the better years of their lives confined to their practice studio, constantly reworking every little piece until it shone. And they are as happy as clams to do it. Think of a more up-beat Dismemberment Plan, with a similar enunciated vocal style, college-band smarts, and lyrics that run on into multiple paragraphs. Pat
@ www.troubledhubble.com

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Troy Taroy - “Employee of the Month” CD 12/34:59
Slightly off kilter, this soft rock band has the harmonics and melodies to make this interesting. There’s some harmonies and jazzy influence, and that all helps. So does a Who/Townsend-like sense of humor, such as on a couple of the better cuts, “Policeman” and “Scullery Maid”. They also do a nice cover of that soul chestnut, “They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play).” RBF
@ www.troytaroy.com

Twinkles - "Belle Epoque" CD 12/34:00
A fun Italian punk band that fits into the Queers family of pop punk, with some definite references to power pop via The Records. The second song "You're A Poseur" breaks into a some street chant choruses, and it's got a nice retro sound to the production that has me also thinking about the Vibrators, Buzzcocks and other late 70's bands. It's got plenty of singalong choruses, guitars that run over every song with a good sense of urgency. The lyrics leave a little to be desired, with some choruses running too long and leaving a phrase like "stupid bitch" stick in your head just a little too long, but overall, it'll remind you of some of the fun pop punk of the late 70's. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

U.S. Christmas - “Bad Heart Bull” CD 8/42:14
Even though I dislike the term “stoner rock” as much as most of the bands that get classified in that genre, I’m not smart enough to think of a better group to lump U.S. Christmas with. This album, their second full length, is quite a leap from their first in both the songwriting and recording departments. The mix sounds much cleaner this time around, and you can really hear all the little nuances that have been muddled somewhat in the past. Texturally, you have to love a band that has a guy playing theramin nearly full time. If you can imagine the Neil Young soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”, a little bit of Hawkwind, some racket that sounds like it belongs in a 1950’s sci-fi movie, and a smidge of southern rock, you have the general idea here. Jake
@ www.uschristmas.net

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Varukers - “Punk Singles 1981-1985” CD 24/47:46
Date on this reads 1996, but perhaps this is a reissue (if so, does this mean we’ll get to see them “(insert label here) Punk Single Collections” once again?). With their single/12” tracks compiled onto one handy disc we get to see the progression (singles-wise) of the V-folk. Starting off as another young outfit with more promise than most, they eventually became a powerhouse that launched a thousand pits worldwide. The last few tracks, while decent, signify their entering a rough patch that would last for a while. Still, there’s some fine vintage UKHC here, and if you currently have a few holes in your collection (it’s not like you can walk down and pick up, say, “Die for Your Government” for a few quid nowadays) this will definitely fill them up. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Vocoder - "The Collapsed Stars EP" CD 5/18:21
From New Zealand and on the Aussie Popboomerang label, this three piece does a nifty job on these five song; lots of guitars, energy and the feel of axe-wielding (meaning it has plenty of balls), decent hooks, and bits and pieces of a Buzzcocks feel, minus some of the speed. The last track (well, sort of, there is the obligatory hidden at the end of the track song...totally unnecessary drivel) , "This Is Where I Belong", also takes a few hints in the opening notes from some 60's Spector influences, and turns it into a good rockin' number with harmonies not heard on the earlier tracks. Lots of promise for the future on this, and I'd love to hear the full length. Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

Wanderlust - "Lust and Found" 2XCD 26/85:49
A two disc set from this Pennsylvania band; the band released on full length on RCA, but naturally the record buying public never knew about it because a power pop band never gets the kind of publicity from a major that they deserve, and that was that, aside for a release on the Not Lame label in 1998. The release is split up into two parts, one are songs recorded prior to the major label release of 1995, the other has songs toward the end to the band's life. There are some terrific tracks on the early disc, with guitars punching the air like a prizefighter constantly jabbing at an opponent. Highlights are "Mission Bell" with it's reverb guitars, "Where Has Your Lover Gone", which has a great breezy melody with some Searchers like vocals and guitar and a great backing vocal. The second disc of later material takes the guitars down a notch, so it doesn't resonate as well with me, but the songs are still nice pop tunes, and it definitely has it's moments. "Train of Thought" is a nice piece of jangle pop that reminds you of the DB's, and "Possessions" is another fine piece in a similar vein. It's a fine set, and helps chronicle a band that was overlooked and probably under appreciated even by their fans. Steve
@ www.notlame.com

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Watershed - “The Fifth of July” CD 11/32:15
Usually when the production on a recording is as slick as this one, it’ll turn me right off, but I have to say, these guys are pretty damn good. Sort of borderline alt/pop, they hit every note with a bash, and never let up the reins. Each song has its own catch, and they remain consistent with their pop drive. Columbus, Ohio can be proud, and college radio…watch out! RBF
@ www.idolrecords.com

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We're From Japan/Andi Camp - "You Are the Vehicle" split CD 5/23:59
I knew of Andi Camp from her work with SF Bay Area band Ribbon Fix; she elaborately hand packaged each and every one of their CDs, did a little emo-ish thing, and were good, but fairly disposable. Ribbon Fix broke up in 1999 or 2000 (I worked with one of the members of the band for awhile, I think he wanted to hit the "I'm fucked up Replacements gone country alt-roots rock thing) and I never heard anything by Camp again until this release. Camp plays piano on her two tracks on this, and also sings. The songs are terrific; there will be inevitable Tori Amos comparisons, but these songs rock harder than anything Amos has done in a long time, even though Camp's only other accompaniment is a drummer. She's got a breathy voice, which on some would be annoying or sound affected, but it works here. We're From Japan does the instrumental rock thing; their two songs are simple indie rock songs that get progressively more stuck into your head as the pacing and energy pick up pace as you move deeper into the songs. Camp and We're From Japan come together for the final track, which is a brilliant rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire". The songs brings Camp's vocals to the fore, and the playing on the song by We're From Japan is achingly beautiful and the perfect compliment to Camp's voice. I'll take that cover over the original by a long shot, and that should say something. Great stuff, and oh yeah, great hand done packaging once again. Steve
@ Grafton Records, 5152 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR 97211

Wedding Present - “Take Fountain” CD 10/47:38
Like so many bands these days, David Gedge & company have decided to make the proverbial comeback; but unlike most of the reunion tours of late, this one has actually produced a pretty worthwhile album. “Take Fountain” will probably never make any hardcore Weddoe’s top album list, but it is certainly not an embarrassment. The opening track alone “Interstate 5”, is possibly one of the best songs of the year; it merges from the typical sounds you might expect from these cats into a Calexico/spaghetti western song a smoothly as a baby’s rumpus. It is bands and albums such as this one that remind you where folks such as The Wrens and Earlimart come from, and how important of a role the Weddoes have played in the underground music scene. You can write these guys off as “has-beens” if you’d like, but it would make you a damn fool. Jake
@ www.westnet.com/weddoes/

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Weegs - “Meat the Weegs” CD 12/45:52
The Weegs finally grace us with a full-length release. Yeah you can definitely place them in darkwavepunk scene, though this release reminds one more of a funhouse at an abandoned carnival, where folks like the Screamers had set up the décor and all the faces in the mirrors are distorted (amusing, until you release the figure in front of you is moving its arm while your own arm is staying still…). Very tasty indeed. David
@ www.hungryeyerecords.com

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Wet Confetti - "This is So Illegal (Do it Fast)" CD 10/35:17
Wet Confetti's Alberta Coon has the voice of a young Kim Gordon and it definitely makes the album reminiscent of early Sonic Youth's more melodic tracks. Daniel Grazzini, who also sings on the album, has a more classically pretty voice, making his tracks a little less grating. Overall a good no-wave rock album. Vocals prominent over a full and complicated post-rock sound. A Portland band worth watching. Sharon
@ www.wetconfetti.com

Winter in Alaska - “Innocence We’ve Lost” CD
I think you could safely file this under the “New Emo” category - they sound like one of those bands from those Deep Elm comps that are all angsty and have long names. Actually, they were one of those bands on those Deep Elm comps now that I think about it..., my first instinct was that these guys sound like they really want to be Rainer Maria but with an electro-rock backbone ala National Skyline or the ever trendy Postal Service. I have no doubt that somewhere out there in the landscape of college campuses these cats will be a big hit, but not in my house. Jake
@ www.winterinalaska.net/

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Witchfynde - “Give ‘Em Hell” CD 10/49:33
Originally released in 1980, “Give ‘Em Hell” was the definitive release for this British metal quartet who found themselves standing hazily between black metal outfits such as Venom, and more mainstream metal acts such as Judas Priest. Being betwixt these burgeoning styles before metal had truly crossed over into commercial viability actually had a negative effect on Witchfynde’s success and recognition. Its satanic leanings and presentation were too controversial for the mainstream, and the sound lacked the claws to truly grip the love of the era’s black metallions. A couple of dreadful record deals put the final nail in the coffin for this band. 25 years later, Witchfynde’s grim vision of progressive metal may find more of an audience than it did at the time of its release. Xtain
@ www.lemonrecordings.co.uk

Woven Hand - "Consider the Birds" CD 10/41:27
The first solo effort of Denver-based David Eugene Edwards, member of 16 Horsepower, this album is beautiful and haunting. He channels the greats here: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Bono in his young days and even Johnny Cash. But then there's this ethereal vocal effect going on reminiscent of the darker Brit pop (Echo and the Bunnymen's darker albums or Pulp's Jarvis Cocker). Among the better of the indie/alt-country/folk albums that seem to be in abundance right now. I hesitate to even compare it to anything else in those categories, but I'm not sure where else to put it. Filled with literary and biblical references, this album feels huge and dramatic (without crossing into melodrama). Sharon
@ no address

ZZZZ - “Palm Reader” CD 8/37:52
Somehow this sounds like the missing link between the Nuggets box set and prog-rock. Formed from former members of Sweep the Leg Johnny, but you would have figured that out from the first note. The album retains some of Sweep’s proggy/math rock nature, but in a much darker form - as if their whole songbook were run through some sort of Pleasure Forever filter. Lots of droning keyboards, female vocals to match those of Steve Sostak, and overall a bit more accessible and “pop” than you might expect. I like this, and the more I listen the more it grows on me. On a downer note though, their press release also informed me that Sostak’s other band, Check Engine, are also broken up - drats. Jake
@ www.polyvinylrecords.com

V/A - “A Houseguest’s Wish” CD 19/61:19
For its 25th anniversary a buncha folks (including Flying Saucer Attack, Typewriter, and a previously-released Lush) get together and cover Wire’s “Outdoor Miner”. Granted, the concept might sound a tad dubious in an era where “tributes” are a dime a dozen (and usually worth as much), but this actually works quite well. That the song stands up under a variety of interpretations (dream-pop, shoegazer, acoustic, relatively-straightforward, etc.) is as much a testimony to the song and the writing skills of its composers as much as the interpreters (or at least the compilers) having a clue. A fave of the issue. David
@ www.words-on-music.com

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V/A - “Anti War” CD 23/64:20
Subtitled “Anarcho-Punk Compilation Vol.1”, this collection features tracks culled from various records, compilations, and demos (the last two the only places some of these groups ever appeared recordings-wise) showcasing the political punk from the days of yore (i.e. the 80s). Not only do you get (relative) names like Zounds and Dirt, but such worthy folk as Anti-System, A-Heads, and Sanction get to see the light of day once again. Sad to say quite a bit of the subject material is more relevant than ever. Still, bring on volumes 2 through 10! David
@ www.overgroundrecords.co.uk

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V/A - “Anti-State: Anarcho-Punk Compilation volume 2” CD 21/68:20
Somehow I missed the first disc in this series, but this second one is spot on. It features a bunch of “anarcho-punk” groups from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, some of which are well-known (e.g., the Subhumans, the Amebix, Chumbawamba) and several of which are fairly obscure. I was really worried that too much of this might be closer to thrash (“hardcore”) than classic punk rock and that it would sound dated thematically, but fortunately that proved not to be the case (probably because the folks at Overground have good taste). In short, if you want to hear some fine examples of powerful, politically-oriented punk from this era, as opposed to ultra-fast Discharge-style clones, look no further. Jeff
@ www.overgroundrecords.co.uk

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V/A - “Bubble Pop: 20 UK Pop Oddities, 1972-1976” CD 20/55:25
Yet another RPM label entry into the glam-era sweepstakes. Unlike some of the others, however, this one contains items from the idiosyncratic UK label and therefore lacks stylistic continuity. So one encounters a kind of mixed bag that ranges from instrumentals with strange Bonzo Dog Band-type talkovers (Jonathan King) to anthemic glam (Ricky Wilde’s “Teen Wave”, Redhead) to proto pop-punk blasts (Bunk Dogger) to bubblegum (Simon Turner) to reggae (Flannelcat) to miscellaneous pop ditties (Sparky, Clive Kennedy) to English folk (Brandon) to outright novelties (Bubblerock’s acoustic-orchestral-banjo accompanied cover of “Satisfaction”, Big Pig with Little Parker, Shag). Precisely because of this diversity, it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying everything on here - except perhaps the UK label honchos themselves. Jeff
@ www.rpmrecords.co.uk

V/A - “Everything Comes and Goes” CD 9/40:26
Yep it’s another Black Sabbath Tribute, though with folks like Matmos, Ruins, and Four Tet on board you know this probably won’t be your father’s Sabbath. Instead of the expected metal folks closing their eyes and pretending REALLY HARD that they’re Ozzy and co., you get more, ahem, non-traditional (but not irreverent) approaches with country, e-music, hyper-prog, and other such reinterpretations on display. Usually this might give one pause but the overall success rate here is actually pretty high (despite what you might think of the concept of a Country Sabbath, the Harvey Curtis Trio manage to pull it off) even if it isn’t totally free of what sound like “eh” toss-offs. (If anything, said tracks make one wonder what folks like Locust, Melt-Banana, or even 6 Organs of Admittance could have brought to the table) Overall okay, which at this point is considerably above the norm for these tribute thangs. David
@ www.temporaryresidence.com

V/A - “Exotic Beatles” CD 26/61:54
Reissue of Pt. 1 of a series of Beatles covers collections, though the criteria for inclusion differs somewhat from that for your usual Fleetwood Mac/Van Halen tribute. Despite the title the series goes beyond the expected loungecore faves (though don’t worry, William Shatner DOES make an appearance here) so you have foreign-language (including Latin spoken-word) renditions (some surprisingly faithful) rubbing shoulders with reggae. Not to worry though; you do get your fair share of sitars, vocalists attempting to swing (and, in such cases actually succeeding), and, er, John Otway. The title is a tad misleading since one might expect more exotica-tinged covers than what actually appears here (loungecore’s not dead mate!) but overall a tasty treat indeed. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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V/A - "It Was 40 Years Ago Today - A Tribute To The Beatles" 2XCD
OK, another Beatles tribute. I know that's what you're saying, don't lie, I can tell when your face gets red like that. What makes this one different is that most of the bands on here chose to cover lesser known (is there such a thing?) songs; or maybe it's just what Bullseye head honcho chose to use on this set (there is a third disc floating around for people who did an early order of the set...I'm guessing that has more of the "hits" on it). Either way, you don't get the typical "She Loves You" and "Yesterday" covers, which is fine by me, since that stuff has been covered to death. It's heavier on later material, and showcases some innovative takes on songs we've all heard any number of times. Some of the bands and people on here include Spongetones, Bill Lloyd, Dave Rave, Andrew Gold, and Walter Clevenger and the Dairy Kings. No real household names, but they're all members of the current crop of pop artists that labels like Not Lame focus on, and with good reason. Strong musicianship comes out on many tracks and these are bands whose original material usually has a pretty heavy Beatles influence, so they're well equipped to perform the task. Rave's take on "Here Comes the Sun" and Gold's version of "Lady Madonna" could almost be mistaken for the originals, others, like Al Kooper's bluesy "Eleanor Rigby", are very unique without taking away from the original feeling of the song. Personal faves include The Oohs "You're Gonna Lose That Girl", "Geoff Gibbons' "I Need You", a jangly verion of "And Your Bird Can Sing" by Bob Segarini and Greg Godovitz, the Lolas, ""Good Morning, Good Morning", and "Hey Bulldog" by the Lackloves. As tribute discs go, it's top notch; an unexpected good time will be had by all who give it a shot. Steve
@ www.bullseyecanada.com

V/A - “Out of Nowhere: The White Whale Story, Volume 2” CD 25/62:27
This is the second compilation of “less commercially-successful” material that appeared between 1965 and 1971 on this particular LA-based label, which is perhaps best known for releasing the Turtles’ early albums. Like volume 1, this new collection is a mixed bag that features some stellar garage, psych, and pop tracks alongside some rather forgettable and deservedly “less-successful” material. Among the best tracks are the Odyssey’s slice of garage psychedelia, “Little Girl, Little Boy”; the Answer’s killer pubescent, fuzzed-out, punky folk-rocker, “I’ll Be In” (which previously appeared, if memory serves, on a volume in Tim Warren’s “Teenage Shutdown” series) and their even more amazing moody, harp-wailing “Why You Smile”; the Clique’s bubblegum popster “Superman”; and the Rainy Daze’s rockin’ “Make Me Laugh”. Most of the rest can best be characterized as pleasant, radio-friendly pop, the dregs of which are by Walter Scott, Dobie Gray, and Kenny O’Dell. Great sound quality, as per usual for Rev-Ola. Jeff
@ www.revola.co.uk

V/A - "Planet of the Popboomerang" 2XCD 46/151:16
The Aussie label Popboomerang has released a number of great power pop discs over the last few years, mostly from Australian bands, but they've also put out a few great compilations. This is the second U.S. versus the World two disc set of pop bands that they've released, and both will expose you to a ton of great bands that you've probably never heard before. The first disc has the bands from outside the U.S, and there are quite a few winners, including the power pop effort of the Oranges from Japan, and Shiner 22 from Denmark. After that, there's a breezy pop tune from Go You Huskies that has some great female/male vocals traded off on the leads. It's just keeps going from there; with a few other gems kicked in my Milli Davis from Australia, Aussie pop guru Michael Carpenter, a sweet ballad in an Elliot Smith vein by Tamas Wells, and the always perky and cruchy Kelly's Heels out of England. The U.S. disc opens with Jam Records head man Jeremy doing the National Anthem in a Hendrix style guitar only instrumental. From there is kicks out the jams with power poppers the Lolas, a tune from the defunct Spinning Jennies, a brilliant piece of 60's Who style power pop by Brad Harvey, and an excellent Velvet Crush like tune from Chris Richards. It's a great showcase for artists who are keeping power pop and Beatles/Beach Boys influenced music alive and well; anyone will find several new artists to check out from this. Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

V/A - "Substitution Mass Confusion - A Tribute to the Cars" CD 21/76:57
Another rockin' tribute, this time to a band who I have to admit that I dismissed at the time they were out. I don't know why I wasn't more into them; maybe it was the ubiquitous nature of the band. I should have loved them, the catchy songs, great guitars... maybe it was the little artsy vibe they gave off that put me in the "they're a crappy new wave band" camp. Hearing a bunch of bands reinterpret their music has given me a new appreciation of their song though, and that's something a good tribute should do. Some of the performers here include Jason Falkner, Damone, Bleu, Gigolo Aunts, Jon Auer, and The Bravery. Each one does a little write up on why the Cars mean something to them (usually some kinda funny high school memory), and all the hits are here. In particular, I like Falkner's interpretation of "Touch and Go", The Millions' huge guitars on "You're All I've Got Tonight", and Chris Von Sneidern's acoustic take on "Drive". But the whole thing is fun, and will make you do two things; pull out the original versions, and get you to check out some of the other bands, and that's what a good tribute should do. Steve
@ www.notlame.com

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