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Aberfeldy – “Young Forever” CD 12/37:01
Yeah, it’s another “chamber pop” or “twee pop” or “mellow ass pop” band from Scotland… there must be something in the water over there. On their debut release, Aberfeldy shows a bit of an ear for the catchy song but they aren’t quite there yet. Obviously, with the likes of Belle & Sebastian, The Delgados, and Camera Obscura hailing from the same land, you’re going to be held to a little higher standard than most pop bands. It’s entirely possible they’ll be just as good someday, but they need more work. Great cover art though, some of the best I’ve seen in ages. Jake
@ www.aberfelfys.com

Action Action – “Don’t Cut Your Fabric to This Year’s Fashion” CD13/50:25
Synth-driven tunes rub shoulders with and eventually get overwhelmed by nu-emo leftovers. Don’t be fooled by the “wave” trappings; though said sound shows up full force on the first song and here and there elsewhere, these lads actually keep one foot and two toes in the realm of MTV nu-emo-rock, as if they’re keeping their options open just in case that Yeah Yeah Yeahs thang doesn’t last. The title of the aforementioned tune (“This Year’s Fashion”) says it all. David
@ www.victoryrecords.com

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Arsons - "Bridges Down" CD 15/37:25
Featuring some former members of Token Entry, Warzone and Grey Area, this NY area hardcore band has toned down the "hard" on this release a bit, bringing a more melodic sound to the disc. They channel bands like the Bouncing Souls or Lifetime on this, playing a steady brand of melodic punk that has plenty of energy but never gets sugary for a second. It makes it accessible, and keeps it far away from the cookie cutter crap that you see on MTV or think of when you hear the term "melodic hardcore". Great guitar work on this sets it apart from lots of other bands as well, and although it was apparently recorded on shoestring, the sound is really "big". Pretty typical stuff on the lyrics, as you might be able to tell from song titles like "Incendiary Action" and "Truth and Insincerity" but what the heck; you can't have everything. One of the better melodicore discs I've heard in awhile. Steve
@ www.matwrecords.com

Atomic 7 – “En Hillbilly Caliente” CD 17/34:37
Not so much a “surf” band but more of an instro-based outfit with a wider musical range; think of a modern-day Ventures (with a better sense of quality control) and you wouldn’t be too far off. Not to say that surf is absent from their sound, just that it’s mixed in among the other ingredients (Mancini, desert, even a hillbilly tinge on “Devil’s Mittens”). If they don’t quite have the wicked edge of, say, Link Wray, they do manage some good tunes such as “The Wreck of the Dick Family” and “So Long Happy Days” (not to mention some of the best song titles in the biz). David
@ www.mintrecs.com

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Bamboo Kids – s/t CD 11/38:15
This is pretty run-of-the-mill classic punk revivalist stuff; not bad just nothing special. There are a couple of instances where I’ll hear a hint of The Exploding Hearts, but I think that might just be some wishful thinking on my part. These kids are from New York, and are but youngsters…this stuff shows promise but it’s not there yet. Maybe another album or two down the road and they’ll have the sound nailed. That said, although I have no basis to rest upon, something about this CD makes me think they would be a great, fun live band. Maybe they’ll roll out this way sometime and I can put that hypothesis to test. Jake
@ www.thebambookids.com

Bermuda Triangle Service – “High Swan Dive” CD 9/43:59
It’s not often that group can come right out of the gate sounding this good, this professional, this polished, all of their own merit – but that is exactly what we have with Bermuda Triangle Service. This three piece, led by Cynthia Wiggington – who has played with such greats as Richard Buckner, Alejandro Escavedo, and the Mekons – have given San Francisco a fresh shot of alt-country that doesn’t sound too much like anything else but is instantly recognizable at the same time. According to the band’s press sheet, Wiggington started writing these songs while “sequestered on a tropical island”, which might explain the strains of Hawaiian or Caribbean music that give that make the overall sound of this record particularly unique. Fans of Carolyn Marks, Neko Case, Tift Merritt and that lot would probably enjoy this, even if it doesn’t sound too much like it per se. Definitely worth checking out if you like strong songwriting with a little twang and maybe a little hula thrown in. Jake
@ www.bermudatriangleservice.com

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Big In Japan - "Who Needs A Heart Anyway?" CD 11/35:49
The second full length from these Reno power popsters, who have been working on this off and on for three years. Guitarist and vocalist Zac Damon spends some time on other projects, such as his work with Common Rider and Squirtgun, but he's really at his best producing some fine early Costello-ish power pop that mixes in plenty of punk energy. Songs like "Trial and Error" would fit right into "Armed Forces", full of nice guitar work and nice rhythm work from new band members Matt Mayhall on drums and Zac Brandner on bass. Lyrically, although there are a few songs about relationships, it doesn't dominate the record, and just about anyone with a yen for intelligent songwriting that has energy, brains, and plenty of punk mixed in their pop basket should like this. Steve
@ www.insubordinationrecords.com

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Bill Laswell – “ROIR Dub Sessions” CD 4/46:17
Dub is reggae for uber stoners. It goes beyond the realm of laid back and feisty beats with a revolution attitude. This stuff is waaaay laid back, usually no vocals and so bass heavy you’d swear the bongwater was vibrating as you played the album. Bill Laswell has done several Dub albums and this is a 4-song collection of some stuff from his past. They transcend into the light and eternal but do not deviate from the initial intent as some tunes gone Dub might hint towards. The first tune is you’re A-Typical Dub groove: Weedy incantations of rhythm and bliss that only Jah could come close to. The second is more of a mix of Indian (what with the use of tablas), Arabian sounds and even a hint of jazz, but never deviating from the Dub weight. The third is almost a hip-hop song gone space age and my favorite on this disc. The last is equally amazing yet completely different. Gone are the sub woofer drives and heady sounds, this one moves in a more organic and spiritual manner with guitar work and vocals by an Ethiopian songstress. Together they form what Laswell calls “Sacred Systems: Book of Entrance, chapters 2, 3 and the Book of Exit”. They all form a common thread yet are completely independent from one another, yet totally bound together. You’ll see. Or hear. Either one. The ganja is optional…yet somehow welcome. Mark
@ www.roir-usa.com

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Billy Childish – “The Genius of…” CD 31/75:45
Another day, another Billy Childish-related release, this time featuring BC live with Thee Milkshakes, Headcoats, and Headcoatees (different periods and different clubs, natch). It probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that he doesn’t sound radically different in ’93 from how he did in ’84, cranking out his patented brand of garage-punk that put (the)Medway(sound) on the map. The real treat is when the Headcoatees come out to vocalize on a few tunes (including “Wild Man”) before Billy retakes the mike for a slamming rendition of “Action Time Vision”. Sound quality’s obviously not exactly SACD-quality, but if you’ve followed him this far you should be used to it by now; at least it’s not sub-mud-lo-fi either (and you can at least be sure there wasn’t too much, heh heh, “post-production” done either). David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Boat – “Treble Hooks” CD 12/42:45
Shimmering dreamy pop, made without a lot of distortion or volume. In contrast, it’s very clean and clear, with laidback, lazy sounding vocals. It’s not overwhelmingly catchy, but nice and friendly to listen to. Like something very familiar. The songs all blend together to make a good album, but there isn’t really anything that could be called a “stand out” track. Xtian
@ www.snowgloberecords.com

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Books on Tape – “The Business End” CD 9/39:17
Todd Drootin is a self-proclaimed “beatpunk” – an electronic music programmer with indie/punk sensibilities. Making this claim while laying beats behind reality shows on MTV may draw raised eyebrows and ire from some folks, but once that hurdle is cleared it’s obvious he has quite a talent for making unconventional electronica that creates a solid groove and occasionally a pure “get your ass on the floor” beat. Even better is the fact that he actually crafts songs with interesting parts and textures – not just streams of dance beats. His sampling techniques are top-notch, and he combines this with effects that create sounds that you’ve never heard before – at least certainly not in the context of electronic music. Xtian
@ www.greydayproductions.com

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Brandon L. Butler – “Killer on the Road” CD 10/38:09
OK, I’m not ashamed to admit the only reason I grabbed this CD to review is because I wasn’t paying much attention and thought it was a solo record from Bernard Butler of Suede. I should not pay attention more often though, because this record is great. Turns out I should have known who this lad was though – Brandon Butler was the front man for two of the mid-90s emo greats Boy’s Life and The Farewell Bend, and then went on to form Canyon with some of his former band mates. Those Canyon discs are great, and this release falls pretty much under that same sound - a little more rootsy/country if anything else, and sparser in instrumentation (it is a solo record after all). It doesn’t hurt either that the album was produced by Brendan Canty, because the man not only lends instantaneous cred to anything he touches but he does a great job behind the boards Jake
@ www.gernblandsten.com/

Brandon Wiard – “Painting a Burning Building” CD/12/49:29
This CD is tracked in two parts. It’s basically an album, plus an EP, though there is no indication that they were recorded separately or meant to be taken as such. The first nine songs are thoughtful high-powered pop numbers. Ypsilanti, Michigan native Wiard (pronounced “Wired”) has a talent for pensive, heart-rendered lyrics, and the music follows suit. On some tracks the music does border on trite, calling to mind 90’s alternative top 40 bands such as The Gin Blossoms. Then, the last 3 tracks of the disc go in a completely different direction. Wiard gets strange, broadening his instrumental range to include strings, horns, electronic beats, samples, strange lyrics and verbal ruminating, and more. The tracks are collages broken down into segments that call to mind the Fiery Furnaces, and they really stand out as being the best part of the disc. After hearing the creativity and surprise at the end it’s hard to go back and listen to the earlier tracks without thinking that they still sound good, but unadventurous. This is worth a listen just for the final 20 minutes of the disc. Xtian
@ www.brandonwiard.com

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Bugs Eat Books – “Ghosts of Leaves” CD 12/40:35
I’ve often purported that nothing good ever came out of Florida, but these guys aren’t half bad. They certainly reflect the Elephant 6 sound that has come to typify most pop acts coming out lately, but that isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s enjoyable to listen to. Mostly they remind me of Beulah minus the horns, and I love those horns, so that may be what’s keeping Bugs Eat Books from being “great” instead of just “good”. Fans of good-time pop music might like it though, I certainly wasn’t disappointed or anything. Jake
@ www.bumblebear.com/bugs/ MP3 download

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Camera Obscura – “Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi” CD 12/47:52
After the success of their first proper US release “Underachievers Please Try Harder”, Merge decided to re-release the group’s first album here in the states; and thankfully so, as this release was otherwise somewhat tough to come by. The comparisons to Belle & Sebastian come hard and fast when reading about this band, and it’s not without reason – they’re from the same town, Stuart Murdoch produced this album, and he even played guitar on one of the songs – and most importantly, they sound a whole damn lot alike. Somehow it never comes across as a rip-off though, and more as an “influenced by”; and to be quite honest, lately I’ve preferred Camera Obscura to their mentors anyway. Fans of wistful twee-pop are in for a real treat if they didn’t hear this album the first time around…highly recommended. Jake
@ www.camera-obscura.net

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Carnival – “The Carnival” CD 15/43:34
This album originally came out in 1969 but has been mercifully re-released and remastered for us here in the 21st century. The Carnival is beyond what you might hear in some Austin Powers flick or imagine what it would be like to lounge in a one piece orange swimsuit (men and women) on the beaches of some Caribbean island with a sticky drink in one hand, decorated with umbrellas and monkeys and stuff, while the young kids of today play in the sand with a liquid sky and tangerine dreams dancing in their heads. This is what it would be like if ABBA sucked down too much acid and headed out for Rio and met Guy Lombardo on the plane, which entailed in some kind of holy trinity of realizations and inspirations. Honestly…The Carnival kicks major ass in the realm that it almost annoys but placed in the right context can be the most effective way to get the punchbowl rolling and the clothes to come off of those who utter the term “Gee, isn’t it a bit warm in here?” I stuck this CD in my computer and the genre it came under was “New Age”. Bullpucky! Yanni and John Tesh couldn’t even come close to this kind of organic, psychedelic, silly ass bliss, not here, not now…not ever! Oh they may try but they will fail when one has to actually manhandle a tambourine and shake it like a nervous Partridge kid after 3 shots of espresso. Your picnics, summertime afternoons, happy hours, sweet lovemaking and bonghits will never be the same once this album is put on and played exceedingly loud. Sure, it’s kind of Disneyland but hey…that’s the good ol’ US of fxxking A man. Now let me see you conga, bitch! Mark
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Castanets – “Cathedral” CD 11/33:26
More modern “folk” music to fill your flavor-of-the-month quota, this time outta San Diego. From what I can understand, the core of the group is a young guy by the name of Raymond Raposa, who got a bunch of folks from other famous SD bands (Pinback, Rocket from the Crypt, Tristeza) to help him round out the band and finish the album. Although not generally my type of music, this sounded pretty good to me from the get-go, kinda like Will Oldham run through a Twin Peaks filter of some sort. There is a lot of strange percussion, clanging and banging like a grumpy thunderstorm, and is often used as a segue way between tracks to keep things flowing smoothly. I think this record has the ability to appeal to both the freak flag folk fiends and regular music fans as well. Good first effort for sure. Jake
@ www.asthmatickitty.com MP3 Download

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Cinema – s/t CD 6/27:11
A rather nice name for a collection of six rather generic California dude-rock-sounding songs. The guitars and drums are too busy and the vocals are constantly straining for a sound that's just a bit too aggressive to be very pleasant or even fun. Pam
@ www.thecinemasounds.com

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Clinic – “Winchester Cathedral” CD 12/32:45
If you’ve heard a previous Clinic album, then you should know that their new album “Winchester Cathedral” doesn’t really veer very far from the course they set forth in their previous two albums “Internal Wrangler” and “Walking with Thee”. But it’s still some of the most intriguing and original stuff being put out these days by a band so close to the mainstream. The Gang of Four, Wire, and Suicide still seem fitting (and thankfully so), but the description of them as having “garage rock-like tendencies” doesn’t really hold up on this album as much; they’ve replaced many of the more upbeat numbers with something a bit more mellow and reverential, almost as if they were writing church music (possibly for the cathedral that the album is named after?), but never quite breaking free of the mold that makes the band so distinctive and instantly recognizable. Clinic may not be for everyone, but you’ll not find another group anywhere else in rock-n-roll that utilizes the melodica as well as they do – what more could you possibly want? Jake
@ www.cliniconline.org/

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Clouseaux – “Lagoon!” CD 12/38:05
How much more space could you possibly clear out in on the CD rack for moody atmospheric party music, and tiki music at that? If you can do it, make room for one more. Clouseaux. It combines the most fun of the sounds of Martin Denny, Henri Mancini, and Les Baxter. The horns and drums and even the vocals (that are strictly limited to atmospheric whooos and ahhhs) take you to a different state of mind, but it's not a desert island. This isn't quite the exotica of sweet and cheery theme party's with watered down drinks. From the tongue drum and flugelhorn to the congas, bongos and vibraphones, this is some of the best, and it goes with a skinny suit and scotch and water. Pam
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

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Colossal – “Welcome the Problems” CD 10/41:23
This Chicago band contains ex-members of Smoking Popes, Tuesday, and Duvall, and shows that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree (or maybe that you cannot escape your past?). Colossal’s debut disc finds serene sounds in jagged math-influenced rock, reminiscent of old Midwest bands like Seam, and more recent bands like American Football. Everything sounds right here – even the occasional trumpet lines and noodly guitar don’t sound out of place or piss you off. One thing this band does that makes its sound 100% better is choosing to sing with disaffected vocals instead of screaming, which is more common in this style. I doubt a vocal cord was strained during the recording. It puts the focus on the music, the arrangements and guitar interplay, and coalesces nicely to create a style that’s not being done by a lot of bands right now. Xtian
@ www.asianmanrecords.com

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Comas – “Conductor” CD 11/44:02 +DVD
I find that I'm often initially the most resistant to the albums that I like the most. I'm suspicious of the albums that charm me the first time that I hear them. So when I found that I was really enjoying "Conductor" midway through I started giving the album more intense scrutiny. There is a diversity of sound so that "Moonrainbow" goes to alt-country, and "Tonight on the WB" and "invisible drugs" are maxed-out fuzz rock, while "The science of your mind" would fit in comfortable on a Radiohead playlist. This diversity could be the Comas fault, but in truth, the collection comes together as a great, hip pop/rock CD. As a bonus, the CD comes with a DVD of “Conductor: The Movie”. It is pretentious, yes, but it's also kinda cool with seamless videos for the album and cameos from Michelle Williams of Dawson's Creek fame. Pam
@ www.redeyeusa.com

Coyote – “Insides” CD 4/18:04
The debut release from Philadelphia’s Coyote was conceived in a basement, but upon listen you might think it was put together somewhere more sinister. Perhaps a crawlspace that leads to a dusty chamber or dungeon that’s been empty since the 1800’s. No, they aren’t goth. Goths would shit themselves if they ever saw a dungeon that wasn’t a part of a club with a $12 cover in the Manhattan’s East Village. This is less showy, and more real and unnerving. These guys are building a newer variation of a sound that can be traced back to the dark psychedelia of crazy ol’ Arthur Brown 35 years ago, and more recently worked over by people like Tom Waits and The Black Heart Procession. Piano and organ led, fuzzed out, dark rock without the roll. The vocals howl away like a madman twitching and swaying behind the keys (the keys player HAS to be the one singing, anything else would be unimaginable). “Sharing Your Soul with the Group” is practically a funeral dirge, and it’s great. This is a side project, but all these guys should quit their other bands and explore the possibilities of this one. Xtian
@ www.birdmanrecords.com

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Craig’s Brother – “E.p.idemic” CD 5/17:35
The record label’s website describes this band as having “…an uncanny ability to detect trends before they happen.” That’s great if you’re sitting in the MTV boardroom or Tommy Hilfiger, but doesn’t that seem a bit insulting to anybody who actually wants to listen to quality music and not feel like they’re just another sheep in the herd? “It’s okay, stick with us, you’ll be 3 months ahead of the trend curve!” Well… great. But it sounds like a lot of other indie punk/emo bands out there, so exactly what trend is being anticipated? This EP does stand out from the pack in some ways – strong vocals and good songwriting – and you can tell from the first listen that the band has been together for a long time (by indie rock standards). It has a cohesive, focused sound many of their contemporaries lack. Xtian
@ www.takeoverrecords.com

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Cramps – “How to Make a Monster” 2XCD 46/143:51
Collection of demo/live material unearthed from the vault, enabling Cramps fans to put some of their long-suffering boots to rest and feast on these instead. First CD exhumes various demo tracks, ranging from the very first (pre-Miriam) rehearsal in ’76 to rehearsals and demos laid down in 1988 (other tracks date from ’76, ’81, and an ’82 session with Gun Club drummer Terry Graham). Sound quality resembles goo goo muck at times but still managed to be listenable, and no matter what the date they’re fairly consistent in giving up the ghoulabilly. Second CD features two vintage live shows; the first at Max’s Kansas City in ‘77 is okay, but it’s the second show (captured almost exactly a year later at CBGB) is where things really come alive (of course it helps that the SQ improves a few notches). Throw in a thick detail-filled booklet (including some droolable pix) and you have a treat for true ghouls everywhere. David
@ www.vengeancerecords.com
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Daniel Johnston and Friends - "Discovered Covered" 2XCD
This is a nice concept: have a whole boatload of folks cover their favorite Johnston tune on one disc, with the original versions on another. If for nothings else, it's interesting to see how much those paying tribute bend his work to fit their personal musical ethic. In Tom Waits' eccentric paws, "King Kong" may as well be one of his own, for instance. Good source material, and strong, too: Gordon Gano, Jad Fair with Teenage Fan Club, Beck, M.Ward, Guster, all choice and nobody messes with them too terribly badly. I'm particularly captivated by E.'s shimmery take on "Living Life". On the whole not as good as Kathy McCarty's original Johnston tribute disc from a decade or so ago, but tasty all the same. And as you might expect, the original versions are a hoot. MLH
@ www.gammonrecords.com

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Darediablo – “Twenty Paces” CD 11/35:07
What happened to these guys…where is the edge? Not that this is a bad record at all, I enjoyed most of it, but the metal-oriented rock that they showed in their earlier releases has been contorted into something much more prog-rock-like. They cranked their signature organ sound way up on this one, and the results sound like a long-haired kid born of Uriah Heap and Procol Harum and a big brother named Rush. If you’re already a fan, approach with caution: maybe it’s just me but the difference in sound is quite surprising. As for anyone else, if you seek instrumental prog-rock that is light on the wankery and heavy on the keys, you’ve come to the right place. Jake
@ www.southern.com

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Delgados – “Universal Audio” CD 11/48:11
Only a half a dozen albums have really stood out for me in the last two years and at the top of that list is the Delgados’ “Hate”. With Dave Friedman producing, the sound was so big and so outrageously full that the sound, with a solid base of really good sounds that listening to the album borders on emotional larceny. The follow up, “Universal Audio” is stripped-down, and almost acoustic sounding in comparison though these tracks are just as complex as their predecessors. “Girls of Valor” is a brilliant pop song, and then we hear the chorus, sung by Alun Woodward and echoed in the minor key by Emma Pollock’s sweet and haunting voice. Pollock’s voice is the instrumental gem of the group. Her slightly feathery tone manages to sound delicate without  being weak. Valor is followed up by two songs that finish the album on such a strong note that they rival the tracks on “Hate”. I have to admit in being initially disappointed that they had taken away the strings that stole my heart, but the songs are no return to the Delgoados generic alt-rock beginning (those interested should start listening with The Great Eastern). Rather, by taking away the strings, we are left with what had previously been masked and is now left to hear, a CD full of exceptional songs. Pam
@ www.chemikal.co.uk

Detonations – “Static Vision” CD 11/33:10
Some folks been complaining that this disc doesn’t capture them at their live best, but if they’re even better live than here then I’m definitely getting tix next time they come to town. Post-Ig with a tinge of seminal west coast punk thrown in for good measure (back when Ig and a select few others were all that good-minded folks had to choose from). Some tracks do sound like they’re better experienced in a live setting, but overall a fine platter indeed. David
@ www.alive-totalenergy.com

Donkeys – “Television Anarchy” 2XCD 32/106:59
Detour has done it again – released another classic British neo-Mod/power pop/pop punk band whose songs are long overdue for reissue. In this case it’s the Donkeys from Manchester, who blew out of the box with one of the greatest ever punky pop blasts, “What I Want.” It would be almost impossible for any group to outdo a track with such an amazing guitar riff and fab chorus, and the band never did manage to surpass it. Even so, they released lots of other guitar-heavy pop gems (like “No Way” and “Don’t Go”) on a series of fine 45s, all of which are included on disc 1 of this set. Disc 2 contains all unreleased material, mostly from the studio, which tends to be rawer and somewhat punkier but is also quite fetching at times. Very cool. Jeff
@ www.detour-records.co.uk

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Embrooks – “Yellow Glass Perspections” CD 12/47:11
From this, the Embrooks’ third LP, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, they followed up their moody ‘60’s garage-style debut with a second album filled with feedback-laden neo-freakbeat. “Yellow Glass…” continues along in the latter vein. Along with still more killer freakbeat originals (such as “Happy Fickle Girl” and “Emilia Burrows”) and covers (“Children of Tomorrow” and “Fear of Flying”), there are also Britpsych tracks with loud-as-fuck guitars (“Back in My Mind” and “The Time was Wrong”), some rather less appealing “heavy” power trio numbers (“The Twisted Musings…”), various combinations thereof (“Nothing’s Gonna Work”), and a couple of oddities. Almost everything on here really rocks, and the guitar work is both ear-splitting and mind-bending. The freakbeat revival has begun, but for some strange reason no one else has yet jumped on the bandwagon. Jeff
@ www.munster-records.com

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Ends – “Concrete Disappointment” CD 11/33:11
Hey, who says people from Texas can’t sing with a British accent? If Robert Pollard, born and raised in Ohio, can pull off Paul McCartney impressions, then The Ends should be allowed to sound as much like The Clash as they like. The songs are very catchy and good, especially the second track “Workin’ on Some Feeling”. For some reason I never mind when a younger band apes a classic group as long as the music is still enjoyable, and this very much is. To their credit, it doesn’t all sound like The Clash; there is a bit of Mott The Hoople floating around in there as well. Jake
@ www.theends.com MP3 Download

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Fabienne Delsol - "No Time for Sorrows" CD 13/31:56
The lead singer from the Bristols takes a solo turn on this release, and the tone of this disc is not too different than her efforts with the Bristols. Very 60's, only with less of a garage bent than her work with the Bristols; Delsol sounds more like a 60's throwback to the days of Joe Meek style girl group stuff on this disc of originals and covers. Once again produced by the Toe Rag Studio gang and Liam Watson, the songs and production, with Delsol's sweet sultry vocals and occasional loungy twists mixed in, give you a sense of being right in Meek's studio half of the time, yet many of the songs retain a rockier garage feel. Eight covers and five originals make up the disc, including a cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Laisse Tomber Les Filles" and The Gerry and the Pacemakers tune "I'll Wait For You", among others. Get your go-go boots out and hit the dance floor with this disc, I can guarantee a fun time at your next party if you do. Steve
@ www.damagedgoods.co.uk

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Faster Pussycat – “Faster Remixes” CD 13/67:42
The time of hair metal, or at least the fun boys down on the Sunset Strip in tight pants looking prettier than their dates or groupies, has long come to a close and most of us in the rock/metal community are perfectly at ease with this. It was fine and dandy while it lasted but c’mon on now, it dragged on a bit too long and began to self-parody itself after a while. Some of the bands and “artists” from this era are trying to make a comeback: i.e. Axel Rose, Warrant, Great White, Motley Crue, etc, but it’s just not working is it? No. So in the vein of their brethren trying to grasp one last breath of life in their aging bodies wrought with drug and drink despair, the forgotten Faster Pussycat have returned with a remix album of some of their past hits. Turns out that frontman Taime Downe got way turned on to the whole industrial scene after the demise of “sleaze pop” and what you get here is a syncopated anthem to tunes of the heyday but done with heavy beats and electro scribbles to make the whole piece and project confusing and kind of annoying. Now don’t get me wrong, I used to love, LOVE, the whole dirt ‘n dirty hair metal that was established as an MTV staple for so many years in the 80s, but Faster Remixes left me kind of giggling in the end and turning my attention to other things, like the future of real metal and the fact that the old boys can’t let go of glory past and sink themselves into something else. Maybe opening up a fruit stand or taking over the family real estate business. I don’t know. If you’re a diehard fan of Faster Pussycat then check this out, otherwise…eh. Mark
@ www.lemonrecordings.co.uk

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Four Eyes - "Rock & Role Playing" CD 14/32:56
OK, I better get this off my chest before I do this review. I’ve never once played Dungeons and Dragons, but I did once do a full season of Strat-O-Matic baseball, and when I say full season, I mean 24 teams, 162 games, kept stats, the whole nine yards. And I did it solitaire. It took two years. How geeky is that?!? From Sacramento, these guys are pop punk rock with goofy songs about "Deathrace 2000" and rock and roll Martians, and will take you back to some lonely, forsaken place in your childhood (ok, I’m not kidding anyone, adulthood too) and give you a good laugh with punk rock energy. Lots of humor in the lyrics, fun slightly off key singing, these guys sort of remind me of why I liked the Lillingtons so much when they came out. No pretension, just a lot of fun punk energy and goofiness. Steve
@ www.plasticidolrecords.com

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Frickin’ A – “Big Egos… No Ideas” CD 10/39:54
If the guys in this band have big egos, I have no idea why. First, this is one of the worst band names I have ever seen. Second, a band should know it is in artistic peril when the best track on its album is a no-frills, non-ironic cover of “Jessie’s Girl”. The rest of the tracks are frat boy dormitory rocker schlock with a chintzy sense of humor, and about as bad as music can possibly be. The sound of four grown men trying to be cute. Xtian
@ www.frickina.com

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Fuzzbubble - s/t CD 21/78:36
This is a reissue of an album that was first released in 2000, now with 11 bonus tracks (one unreleased song and demos of 10 songs on the original release of the album). This is a fun release, with plenty of glammy hard rock mixed in with some huge power pop melodies. With help from the like of the late Eddie Kurdziel from Red Kross, as well as Susannah Hoffs of the Bangles and former Jellyfish member Roger Manning, the singing at times sounds like a less tortured Kurt Cobain (nothing grunge here though, it's just in the vocal tones, because this is all POP!). Musically, the toe tapping never stops, with plenty of songs that rock as hard as anything Cheap Trick ever did. The demos of the songs are basically slightly toned down (read: less produced) versions of the songs than were released on the original disc; not sure how necessary they were to release, but they make a nice counterpoint on occasion to the songs in their heavier format. This was a fun release when it came out, and it's lost none of its charm or punch since then. Another great import from the Wizzard In Vinyl label out of Japan. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

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Galaxie 500 – “Uncollected” CD 14/54:43
Galaxie 500 are considered one of the most underappreciated bands of their era, and I can’t really argue with that; I find I under-appreciate them myself. They are one of those groups that I enjoy listening to if I hear them randomly, but rarely yearn to put them on and listen to of my own volition. This CD is a collection of random b-sides, covers and rarities otherwise only available if you bought the box set the band released some time back. Although lacking in the continuity you get from a proper album, the material here is just as strong as anything else they have put out. Particularly strong is their cover of the Young Marble Giant’s “Final Day”, yet another group that has never received their due. This disc would make a welcome addition for fans or just those curious about this great pop group. Jake
@ www.fullofwishes.info/galaxie/

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Greenlawn Abbey – “Greenlawn Abbey” CD 12/31:19
Intelligent Midwestern garage rock that pays homage to the old school, but is larger and louder. The band has a great sound: its definitely rockin’ out, but not in the blistering feedback and bleeding eardrum way. You would actually want this band to play in your bar or basement because it won’t send people running for the doors. It’s a coherent blend of rock, garage, punk and pop. It has a little something for everybody. All 4 guys share vocal duties and actually sing. You can tell these four guys aren’t trained to sing or harmonize, but you can also tell that they’ve been playing old garage rock records in their bedrooms since hit puberty and they know what it’s supposed to sound like. The songs contain basic catchy riffs, but not so simple as to be insulting. A great debut release. Xtian
@ www.diaphragmrecords.com MP3 Download

Heavenly States – “King Epiphany” CD 3/12:36
This two song EP (with a strange, long, empty dead space in the middle) is a teaser for the band’s upcoming full-length, and appears to be an indication that it will be a record you will want to hear. This is moody rock, akin to something folks used to call alternative, but with a forcible drive that is proudly post-punk. The band utilizes piano and violin – not as token appearances, mind you. They are an integral part of the sound. Both songs are timely anti-war songs lyric-wise, kudos to the band for thoughtful protest songs in a genre that isn’t big on touching that kind of subject. Xtian
@ www.bariarecords.com

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Hey Mike! – “Embrace Your Hooks” CD 5/16:24
Hey Mike’s! first EP has a very conventional, no-surprises feel to it. The band excels at power-hook driven rock with a geeky edge, and standard California pop punk leanings – a complete mish-mash of youthful influences. There is currently a glut of young, aspiring bands that sound like this, but this is one of the better ones that I have heard. We’ll get a better idea of what Hey Mike! is all about when its full-length is released later this year. Xtian
@ www.takeoverrecords.com

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Icicles - "A Hundred Patterns" CD 11/35:18
Geez, I want to like this, I really do. It should be right up my alley; nice harmonies, guitar pop with a few keys thrown in, female singer, and a hint of twee. Thing is, all I can think of when I listen to this is 10,000 Maniacs. Maybe it's lead singer Gretchen DeVault's voice, which has a bit of a reedy quality that doesn't really do much for me, or some of the lyrics, which seem a little banal in places. The songs are decent, but there aren't any big hooks that really grab me either. Maybe if the songs had a little more wreckless abandon I could get into this a little more. Their first EP was more of a dancy popfest, and I know bands want to grow and change, but why move in a direction that sounds more generic? I'm being harsh, because it's not a bad disc and it's starting to grow on me. I just wish it didn't have to. Steve
@ www.microindie.com
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Jabbers - "American Standard” CD 12/35:23
Jonesing for pottymouthed garage raunch inna GG Allin stylee? Look no further than this mob, former backup band to the undearly departed reprobate GG hisself. Supercharged, fueled on nitro, too much cheap beer and Jagermeister, this is a slab of punkrock palaver that just can't keep it in its pants. Good guest spots on here from Jeff Dahl and Joe of the Queers only up the ante. MLH
@ www.steelcagerecords.com

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Kitty Kat Dirt Nap - "I Am A Robot, I Am Talking Like A Robot, I Am A Robot" CD 9/33:43
A decent release that has some new wave hooks provided by the keyboards, and some nifty and inventive songwriting here and there. I love some of the song titles; there's a lot of tongue in cheek stuff going on here on songs like "Getting Caught Enjoying Phil Collins" and "Hold Me Closer Tony Danza". On songs that keyboardist Robyn Montella does backing vocals on, the songs take on a solid indie pop punk feel, although the organ gets a little too much treatment from time to time. Also, primary singer Adam Eckoff gets very emo screamy at times, and it really takes away from some of the material. But they are a band that has potential, as heard from the opening track "(If I Had A Purse I Would Carry) Breath Mints (In It Too) (ok, some of the song titles are just silly...) and a couple of other songs. Once they hone in on a particular style (hopefully it's the more indie pop stuff!), then I think they'll grow into a very very good band. Steve
@ www.wonkavisionmagazine.com

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Language of Flowers – “Songs About You” CD12/52:49
On VH1 they're already starting to show the "I love the 90s." Considering that the 90s were five years ago, isn't it a bit early for nostalgia? Language of Flowers alt-rock sound could very well fit in with the soundtrack for the "I love the 90s" The guitar sound, along with the absurdly long intro, of "Where you belong" is directly lifted from the Cure’s long descent into long and boring intros. The peppy and kind of jangly, spacey sound is reminiscent of so many 90s bands. Unfortunately, the lyrics are uninspiring, and the songs are mediocre, and it's too early to bring back a sound that we haven't forgotten. Pam
@ www.shelflife.com MP3 Download
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Last Burning Embers - "Lessons In Redemption” CD 12/54:54 
Are you sure these guys are from New York City? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear this trio came fullbore out of early Nineties Britain. Ah yes, McGee, Swervedriver, the brave new shoegazing world, fuzzy choruses of washed out guitar, now pummeling now stuttering rhythms, earnestly moaned vocals. These guys have learned their lessons well and throw it all into the postmillennial future-perfect. And yes, for what it's worth, that is Jack Rabid behind the drum kit, proving sans doute he is as eloquent a drummer as he is a music scribe and subcultural commentator. All this and a perfectly glowering cover of The Wipers' "Nothing Left to Lose". MLH
@ www.pinkfrostrecords.com

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Leonard Cohen - "Dear Heather” CD 13/71:34
The common conception of Leonard Cohen's music has always been that it appeals to only depressive types. I for one can attest to this being completely false - why, I used to have a roommate who was clinically depressed, and he always used to blast Santana records at all hours. He was also manic, which manifested itself in him pacing up and down the main hallway for hours until there were actual holes worn down to the bare floor where he'd paced. He also used to...huh? Oh sorry, I thought this was Vice Magazine. Anyway, this is another disc of the aging groaner's plaintive and rather tuneful, if truth be told, ruminations on love, life and romance. He even throws in a version of "Tennessee Waltz". A mere seventy years old, and isn't he a great man? Well done, Len. (scattered applause) MLH
@ www.sonymusic.com

Mando Diao – “Hurricane Bar” CD 14/50:51
Jesus Christ, enough already with the resurge of “garage rock” bands. These guys aren’t even that bad, sounding like a less interesting version of The Libertines that has listened to Nuggets a few too many times…but at this point I’ve heard so many so-so bands that sound just like this I find it hard to care anymore. I’m sure with the right exposure and airplay, they could be big stars – easy, accessible sound, good looking Swedish guys…this will either rocket up the charts or be cut-out bin, but I don’t see a lot of middle ground for an act like this. Apparently they toured with Jet, which seems like a perfect match. I’m still confused as to why this is on Mute though…Jake
@ www.mando-diao.com

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Mendoza Line – “Fortune” CD 13/48:57
I always want to love this band, I really do. They’re southern, they’re named after an obscure baseball rule, they’re twangy: all the makings of a great band in my book. But somehow, the pieces never quite add up. Not that they are a bad band, and they have their shining moments, but overall I find that their sound jumps around a bit too much, and what usually sticks with me in the end were the bits that I didn’t like. One song will be a mellow rock number ala Wilco, the next track will sound like Neko Case, and then there will be a jangly rock number (these are my favorite and what I personally think they excel at). If you’re already a fan, this record seems to be more of the same and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, enter at ye own risk. Jake
@ www.bar-none.com

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Menomena – “I Am the Fun Blame Monster!” CD 9/44:26
Let’s be honest here: I only picked this CD up because of its elaborate packaging. The disc comes in the back of flip book, and a damn thick flip book at that. I can’t imagine what it cost to make these, but I’m going to guess no one is going to be making any money off of this. My general impression over the years from reviewing CDs is a fancy package is usually just camouflage for a crappy product, so I was pleased upon first hearing this Menomena record that it was actually pretty damn good. It would appear that the detail that went into creating their book CD case is a good example of the dedication and time they are willing to spend on their music as well; they create layers upon layers of catchy hooks, mellow rock, and glitch pop/electronica that sounds like so much you already know and love all mashed together. I can hear elements of Boards of Canada, Dave Friedman-era Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips, South, Snow Patrol, and DJ Shadow all over their music, just to name a few. I highly recommend checking this out if you’re a fan of any of those groups, if you can find it…I have no idea what the distribution on this CD will be, or if the flip book is just with a few of them, but it is certainly unique enough to keep your eyes out for. Jake
@ www.menomena.com/

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Monorail – “A Whole New City” CD 6/22:58
A pretty standard indie rock excursion by today’s standards. Stabbing guitars and adolescent energy lead the band. But it doesn’t sound like the band has yet decided where it is going. Some of the songs have a composed, bottled-up and about to burst vibe (sometimes it does burst), while others are more obnoxious and feature everyone screaming two feet away from the microphones. Then there is an awful instrumental dance track called “The Club”. Just plain awful and unnecessary. Is taking a shot at making a rockout dance track a prerequisite for indie rock bands now, just so they can find out if they can do it? Xtian
@ www.monorailband.com

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Monster Movie – “To the Moon” CD 11/ 36:55
Formed by ex-Slowdive member Christian Savill, Monster Movie's second effort is definitely different than Savill's Slowdive days, though it occasionally gets fuzzy, these songs are happier with, more of a pop sensibility. Yet "Too the Moon" is not quite shoegazer either. There's definitely much more song to speak of than in any of Slowdive's works.  Melodies are clear, and songs are concise (most radio length!) but there is still plenty of the wandering sound, the songs just don't wander off the radar, as was the case of Savill's preceding band. While Monster Movies isn't a by-the-numbers shoe-gazer outfit (hints of keyboards and more open tempos pop up sporadically), it still builds upon that foundation. Pam
@ www.clairecords.com

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Moonbabies – “The Orange Billboard” CD 11/48:23
The perfect pop song should end with you wanting another verse. It should end before it wears out its welcome. The Swedish duo of Ola Frick and Carina Johansson have done an extensive study of the perfect pop song with two full albums prior to "the Orange Billboard" and it shows. "Crime o'the Moon" is so nearly perfect it seems to have been concocted by some secret formula for addictiveness of which only the Swedes are in possession. That said, not all the songs could be as good as "Crime" (a few could have been cut out) but so many come close, with just the right mix of synthesizers in the background, each guitar chord designed to complement, not to overwhelm. Pam
@ www.parasol.com

Mooney Suzuki – “Alive & Amplified” CD 10/43:23
I’m not sure where to start with this one…let me get this out of the way first: it’s not a terrible record, despite its flaws, but it’s certainly not great. But there are so many things wrong here; I don’t even know where to begin. The gist of it being that the Mooney Suzuki has decided to do whatever possible to make it to the big top. This involves getting on a major label, writing one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard (“Loose ‘n’ Juicy”), having some fake Santana art for the album, and getting the Matrix to produce. Yes, the same folks behind Avril Lavigne and the new Liz Phair stuff. The mind boggling part of all this might be that it seems this garage rock shtick was played out a year or two ago, so I’m surprised the label went for it, but whatever. If you like straight-forward 70’s rock you could do worse I suppose. Jake
@ http://themooneysuzuki.com/

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Mud – “Use Your Imagination” CD 13/44:49
The entire period between 1969 and 1976 was a kind of wasteland for real rock’n’roll, with the exception of the Stooges, the MC5, the NY Dolls, Alice Cooper, the Hollywood Brats, a handful of underground proto-punk and pop bands, and various purveyors of glam rock. Fortunately, Cherry Red (in its 7t’s series) and a couple of other labels are now beginning to systematically release material from the UK glam vaults, including this Mud collection. If you can overlook Mud’s ugly mugs and tacky “gay” clothing styles – something that’s admittedly rather hard to do – you’ll find some drum-heavy anthemic pop pounders with irresistible choruses (such as “R U Man Enough” and “Don’t Knock It”), great rockers (“L’L’Lucy” and “Hair of the Dog”), rockabilly-tinged tunes (“She’s Got the Devil in Her Eyes”), and several real turkeys (“Show Me You’re a Woman”). Unabashedly commercial and fey, but nevertheless perversely appealing. Jeff
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Muffs - "Really Really Happy" CD 17/42:46
This one's a bit of a disappointment. I've loved just about every other Muffs release, but this one is just flat in places. I think some of the problems come from the fact that this is their first release in five years, so they've got as lot of material, and at 17 songs, there's just a little too much here. These songs bring out an older, more mellow Kim and the band, and although the more pop style might be well suited to other bands, the Muffs are better served with their more rockin' Ramones via garage material, which generally suits Kim Shattuck's voice a little better. Sure, there are still some good songs on here, such as the highly melodic "A Little Luxury" and the opening track "Freak Out"; but if I want to listen to some Muffs songs; I'll likely go with an earlier release. Or you can just load up a few choice tunes and hit those, since when they're good, they're very good. Steve
@ www.fivefoottworecords.com

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Naz Nomad & the Nightmares – “Give Daddy the Knife, Cindy” CD 12/28:44
I don’t recall exactly what the circumstances surrounding its recording were, but this is an early ‘80’s album recorded by the be-wigged Damned under a pseudonym. Basically, like David Bowie, XTC (using the pseudonym the Dukes of Stratosphere), and the Ramones, it’s yet another example of bands paying homage to their favorite songs or groups from the ‘60s, in this case the Isley Brothers/Human Beinz, the Litter, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Kim Fowley, the Electric Prunes, the MC5, etc. And as per usual some of the covers turn out lame, whereas others are fine and dandy (e.g., the Seeds’ “The Wind Blows Your Hair,” “She Lied,” and “I Can’t Stand Your Love, Goodbye”). There are also a couple of cool ‘60’s-style originals at the very end. Jeff
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

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Nikki Sudden - "Treasure Island” CD 14/74:40
What with the whole Pirates of Caribbean thing on the wane, it may not have been the most opportune time for our Nicholas to drape his latest disc in Johnny Depp-via-Keef Richards trappings. But then, Sudden's heartfelt, white russian-soaked and quite rocking ditties have always existed in their own time, regardless of current trends. Here is yet another slab of Stonesy houserocking fun and aching folk balladry, with surprise help from Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan - guys who know this Main Street turf and know it well, in other words. All told, a good backdrop for getting your Jack Sparrow on. MLH
@ www.nikkisudden.com

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Nomo – “Nomo” CD 10/46:09
Sounds like the world music community has a block party in downtown Detroit and decides to let young, talented musicians get their groove on and provide the sound. The composer and arranger of all this booty-shakin’ goodness is Elliot Bergman, who will be a household name in the world music and jazz communities in about 10 or 15 years when his accolades stack up and he hits his stride. And if that stride is any better than this then we’re in for a big treat. Bergman has put together 17 musicians in stunning arrangements that blend afro-pop, soul, freak-jazz, and latin and organic dance grooves in an eclectic but unmistakably awesome parade of nonstop energy. Bergman’s ensemble has it all – a six piece brass section, four percussionists (including a Ghanaian master drummer), guitar, bass, and an assortment of keys – and the talent is used to the maximum potential. Xtian
@ www.nomomusic.com

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Palomar – “Palomar III: Revenge of Palomar” CD 14/37:29
Now that’s good pop music. On their third album, this quartet of New Yorkers has created a fine slab of ear-catching fare that manages to get stuck in your head after only one listen. Combine Velocity Girl and Dressy Bessy and you have an idea what they sound like, or maybe Henry’s Dress but without all that fuzz. Not unlike godheads Guided By Voices, Palomar don’t fuck around when it comes to writing songs – 14 tracks in just 37 minutes makes for some short, sweet, compact pop. Leave them wanting more, they say, and so they did. Jake
@ www.palomarnyc.com/ MP3 Download

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Paulson – “Variations” CD 10/37:32
The American music scene is seeing the emergence of a type of band that almost doesn’t sound right when it rolls off the tongue: “post-emo”. It’s true. Now that the three-letter word is a four-letter word and the underground has got whatever the hell caused emo out of its collective system, skinny white guys in hooded sweatshirts and skate shoes have to move on. And moving on sooner rather than later will be smoother if all these young men would ascend to something similar to this sound. Paulson certainly has the emo spirit remaining in its bones, and still subscribes to the audio shock therapy approach to songwriting (loud/soft/louder). But it has also embraced some more redeeming dynamics from the schools of jazz, math rock, and synth that provide it with a life of its own. Xtian
@ www.initialrecords.com

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Pipas – “Bitter Club” CD 6/11:46
"Mental" the first song on Pipas’ CD starts right where their October 2002 album “A Cat Escaped” left off. Lupe Nunez-Fernandez's voice is light and fragile and charming with just a bit of monotone blasé for sophistication that keeps the vocals from being cloying. Most of the other tracks with the exception of the delightful "Jean C," a sweet and close to perfect love song, are too short with quick and annoying drum machine. It's hard to tell if they’re leaning to a more electronic (and boring) sound. A new full-length album is due in January should solve the puzzle. Pam
@ www.indiepages.com/matinee

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Rappresaglia - "Sopravvissuto" CD 13/41:17
Decent melodic punk out of Italy. Hell, the more I listen, the more I like it! They mix up the lyrics between Italian and English, which makes it even more interesting, although you never really get the sense of what they are singing about. Except of course when they are singing "C'mon c'com, live young and die young". Or "we are living undreground". Or something like that. At least what's usually in English are the singalong choruses, which makes it more accessible, and in general, who listens to the lyrics on stuff like this anyway. Not too far off from Ramones "Animal Boy" era material, with a little ska hook here and there, plenty of gruff vocals and enough melody to hang your hat on. Fun. Steve
@ www.tuberecords.it

Raw Power – “The Hit List” CD 32/59:32
Oh my gawd, I was so happy to be sent this disc for review! Raw Power was one of my all-time favorite bands in the 80s, when I was immersed in skateboarding, hardcore, speedmetal and D&D. That’s right…don’t hate on the D&D man. Anyway, this band hails/hailed from Italy and used forcible tactics of metal and punk to usher in the era of “crossover” which (duh) was the fuse of the two styles and harnessed a new genre and both factions were never the same. Their first release was “Screams From The Gutter” and was nearly impossible to find in a small California coastal town, but when our little cabal heard the rapid beats, heavy guitars and the heavily accented vocals we were hooked. I think we started a pit in Dave’s bedroom as we took a break from this adventure we were halfway through. There was also “Wop Hour” (my favorite!) and “After Your Brain”, which were equally as brutal and noisy. You get what I am getting at here right? These guys rule, or at least ruled, the hardcore scene for quite a while and if you ever owned a record by them or are like me and lost them all then this disc is highly recommended because it spans their entire career in the underground. By the way, if you ever come across a Raw Power album titled “Mine To Kill” with the initials MRW on the back sleeve could you please return it to me? I’d really appreciate it. That album kills man. Thanks. Mark
@ www.suddendeath.com

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Reddy Teddy – “Teddy Boy” 2XCD 40/154:22
An early- to mid-‘70’s band featuring underground Boston-area guitar legend Matthew Mackenzie, who at one time or another played with other local luminaries such as Willie Alexander and the Taxi Boys (a band containing members of the Real Kids). As with many inveterate rockers, Mackenzie never found the degree of success or recognition he deserved, but this release goes a long way toward filling in the historical record and thereby honoring him posthumously. Disc 1 features studio and a couple of live Reddy Teddy tracks, which generally showcase a pre-punk but appealingly stripped-down, guitar-based rock sound with occasional ‘60s and glam influences (as, e.g., on “Catbird Queen” and “Novelty Shoes”). Disc 2 contains a few additional (albeit weaker) Reddy Teddy songs along with various earlier and later Mackenzie recordings (e.g., with another band called the Roosters), which also generally feature tough guitar work and an authentic r’n’r sensibility. A rough-hewn gem that somehow fell between the cracks. Jeff
@ www.notlame.com

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Reeve Oliver – “Reeve Oliver” CD 11/46:18
Jimmy Eat World meets Weezer at a mall in San Diego. They fight about whose sound is more original. They do the usual mall things: ice cream at Baskin Robbins, up and down the escalators, etc. Then they get married and have a predictable love child. Reeve Oliver is born, writing swell, catchy guitar pop numbers with SoCal flavor. RO is destined for things like local notoriety, opening for The Ataris, the Vans Warped Tour (which has incredibly become it’s own genre that propagates itself), baggy shorts, trucker caps, the works. Xtian
@ www.themilitiagroup.com

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River City Rebels - "Hate To Be Loved” CD 12/46:53
Times come and go, but the glam metal stomp goes on forever...peroxided, tattooed and wearing nothing that could even approach being natural fabric, this bunch of bad mamajamas kick up quite the post-Dollsian ruckus. Actually at times they could even be a match for anything Radio Birdman or similar Detroit-besotted Aussies scared up back in their prime time. Balanced out somewhat with a few goldhearted acoustic tearjerkers, this is liquored up, lacquered up raunch in excelsis. MLH
@ www.victoryrecords.com

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Rockin' Horse - "Yes It Is" CD 18/57:58
Another fun reissue on the Rev-Ola label; this band featured English songwriter Jimmy Campbell, who was a fairly popular artist in England, and Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats. What you get on this one disc that compiles the band releases is an interesting, although sometimes uneven, approach to rock that incorporates Campbell's often melancholy lyrics with huge doses of Merseybeat melody. On the songs that Kinsley is credit as the main songwriter, the Beatles influences are impossible to miss; their first single and opening track of the disc, "Biggest Gossip In Town", would have been a huge hit in the early to mid-sixties; a definite early Beatles sound over some great hooks. Unfortunately, it came about six years too late. Although other songs on the record also fit into some era of the Beatles ("Don't You Ever Think I Cry" would have been a nice fit on "Let It Be", for instance), the songs in general don't hold up to close listening scrutiny. They certainly had several strong songs, a somewhat bleak lyrical take on love and relationships, but in some ways, they sounds like they were aping what they thought would make a hit. And that's fine, what band doesn't want success, right? It just kinda leaves you wanting to pull out a Beatles record. Steve
@ www.revola.co.uk

Shikari – “Shikari 1999-2003” CD 19/39:18
Violent-sounding political hardcore straight out of Holland. The guitars are nothing short of thick and brutal and are supported by blast beat drumming and screaming that will make your eyes bloodshot. Whether the band is pounding away at breakneck pace or dropping into the occasional vicious breakdown, it sounds caustic – like the soundtrack to being attacked by wild dogs. The band is also creative, throwing together lots of different parts and changes. So even though it is always in assault mode, you feel it from different angles and can’t pretend like you know what’s going to happen next. Don’t be misled by the title of the record. This is a compilation of singles and 10”s, but the band is still together. Xtian
@ www.level-plane.com

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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – “Of Natural History” CD 11/71:50
SGM is not for the weak of heart. Those that love the band tend to love it to excess. It's easy to appreciate the theatrical antics of the live show, but it takes another type altogether to really be able to appreciate the music. In fact it's hard to make it through so much dense noise to pick out the vocals or the violin. I have to admit that the material is just too dense for me to wiggle through. I'm more a fan of their elaborate and intricate graphic design. Pam
@ www.webofmimicry.com
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Small World - "Seaside Town In The Rain" CD 3/12:50 
This trio was apparently one of the more well regarded among the batch of British, neo-Mod bands that flourished in the wake of The Jam and stuff like the Quadrophenia movie, back round the turn of the Eighties. Evidently they felt they still had stuff to say and fans to hear it, so they got back together again recently, with this fine and all too brief CD being the result. Slashing Rickenbackers, laconic and tuneful Cockney-brushed vocals, the occasional parp of trumpet, observant and somewhat humorous lyrics about being stuck in Britghton on the off-season. Dust off your parkas and rev up. MLH
@ www.smallworld.co.uk

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Son, Ambulance – “Key” CD 13/ 54:46
Joe Knapp's voice sound parts of Bright Eyes, part David Bowie. At times soft, it often mimics Conor Oberst's straining warble and David Bowie's reaching power, particularly in "Case of you/Wrinkle, Wrinkle." Joe Knapp's songs are neither as wandering and obtuse and Bright Eyes, nor as direct as Bowies. While the rippling piano songs are welcoming, over the course of the nearly one hour album, it gets a bit boring. Most listeners wouldn't make it to the giant 70s "Glitter Angel". With a little restraint, Son, Ambulance could be great next time around. Pam
@ www.saddle-creek.com MP3 Download

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Sonic Surf City - "Best of the Rest - Anthology Vol. 2" CD 23/52:48
This band started in the late 80's and ran until the late 90's, and probably influenced a ton of other great Swedish and Norwegian bands that came in their wake, like the Yum Yums, Hawaii Mud Bombers, and the Travoltas. Mixing male and female lead vocals, they produced song after song of great power pop punk, complete with a few surf riffs, plenty of Ramones energy and hools and harmonies galore. The subject matter isn't anything earthshaking, as you can tell from song titles like "Sha Na Na Na", "Let's Make Love", "Surf On" and the like, but would you want fantastic pop songs talking about serious crap like war and politics? Hell no, these are the perfect songs for getting away from all the day to day crap everyone deals with; they take you to a sunny beach, driving on a warm summer night with your girl cuddled up close, or whatever else you might want to do for fun. Aces, and I wish they were still around, because I can't get enough of this stuff. Steve
@ www.notomorrowrecords.com

Spits – “19 Million A.C.” CD 19/43:17
The robotic Ramones dip into the vaults, unleashing tracks from the “19 Million A.C.” seven inch as well as various odds, sods, and unreleased tracks. Could have used some more volts here and there, but they manage to spit (er….) out some solid tunes here. Nice take of the Dicks chestnut “Kill From the Heart” as well. David
@ www.dirtnaprecs.com

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Steve Tooks’ Horns – “The All New Adventures of…” CD 12:48:08
The Horns were an obscure mid-‘70’s band featuring psychedelic troubadour Steven Peregrin Took (yup, a name adopted from a Hobbit!), earlier a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex and contributor to Twink’s “Think Pink” album, and two lads who later joined former Hawkwind saxophonist Nik Turner in Inner City Unit. Should anyone care? Maybe, if you’d like to hear a handful of fairly rockin’ Free- and/or T Rex-style tracks with snooty vocals (such as “It’s Over,” “Too Bad,” and “Average Man”) and a more plaintive, boozed-soaked number with acoustic guitars (“Woman I Need”). These songs are very good indeed, and to them are added a couple of great Horns songs recorded after Took’s premature death by his bandmates (“Too Bad” again and “Ooh My Heart”), an amazing homage to Took by Judge Trev (“Mountain Range”), a Took interview, and some re-worked versions with – ugh! – actual horns (which are best forgotten). Jeff
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Superfallingstars - "Swimming Across the Sounds" CD 10/24:26
This is a good one; a fun indie pop record that crosses into the pop punk territory of bands like the Mr. T Experience. The songs are mostly crunchy jangle-fests, fast paced with fun lyrics about love and love lost and the production is equal part lo-fi garage and indie pop naivete. I'm immediately reminded of bands like Tallulah Gosh on the speedier numbers (only with male vocals) crossed with the Galactic Heroes (missing some of the offbeat instrumentation). They've got a great mix of influences, yet take the sound and make it their own. They've got a couple of different singers; one sounds like the guy from the Crash Test Dummies, and on a couple of tracks it just doesn't quite fit the song styles, but on other songs you've got Billie Joe Armstrong lite; missing some of the widely aped vocal inflections. And that's a good thing. The disc ends with one of the better covers of a Smiths song ("Please, Please Please...") I've heard in a long while. Lots of fun. Steve
@ www.skippingstones.com

Swing Ding Amigos – “The Mongolita Chronicles” CD/22/23:51
Energetic blasts of noisy punk rock chaos from Tucson, in A.D.D. sized spurts (average song length: 1:05). The sound quality is nasty, but not low-fi or poorly recorded. It’s just the band mastering its craft. The lyrics of the songs primarily concern trivial matters of the lowbrow nature: drinking, women, drinking, and raising hell, but they also make some strange, stream of drugged-consciousness mystical connections that will necessitate checking the lyric sheet (“Waiting for the sun to come to end the ghost fuck ride”, or “your radiation’s got me peeling like a viper in the sun”). The lyrics also belt out memorable lines such as “I want to see you motherfuckers do the smurf”, and a lot of references to wanting to see girls “shake it”. Listeners won’t get bored with this disc, that’s for sure. On the flipside, there’s barely enough time to hook into songs because they’re over in a flash. Xtian
@ www.rocknrollpurgatory.com
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Tegan And Sara - "So Jealous” CD 13/73:34 
Just heard recently of a new social protest group in New York City giving out copies of quality rock CDs to people who wanted to exchange their copies of the latest Ashlee Simpson moneyspinner. I hope that this was one of the discs they were providing those unfortunate souls. Canadian femme duo churning out a batch of postmodern, quasi-edgy goodness, much better food for the musically bereft than 90 percent of the pop moppets strutting their gymtoned wares on teen TV. And on Neil Young's label, too, clearly giving back to his great white Northern compatriots. MLH
@ www.vaporrecords.com

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Telescopes – “ ‘#’ Untitled Second” CD 13/48:22
This is a re-release of the second Telescopes album, originally out on Creation Records but somehow lost in the shuffle until now. Recorded in late 91-early 92, it sounds dated in the same way a lot of the shoegazery stuff at the time sounds, but for the most part you might think this is the new up-an-coming hipster group that’s listened to a lot of Yo La Tengo and old Lilys. I’ve never been a huge fan, but this is pretty good stuff; anyone who is a fan of this sort of stuff should most certainly check it out. Jake
@ www.revola.co.uk

The Explosion – “Red Tape EP” CD 3/7:41
What happened to these guys? When “No Revolution” was released in 2000 it sounded like the kids had set the club on fire and decided to play out front. It was one of the most honest recordings of the entire year, a slice of youthful punk rock at a time when the mainstream thought a debate about the merits of 98 Degrees vs. The Backstreet Boys contained some sort of futuristic validity. The Explosion toured, sounded good, and kids listened. The band rested on this release as long as possible, and makes a long-awaited return with a record that sounds like it could have been hatched by any jackass at Virgin Records who thinks he has a grip on punk rock in a seller’s market. This EP contains a few of those tracks. It’s a disappointment more than anything, because it’s not necessarily a terrible record. It appears that kids still like it, but know what you’re getting into: the sound is pure pedestrian punk rock packaged for a Hot Topic alterna-store near you. Xtian
@ www.theexplosion.net

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Thee Butchers Orchestra – “Stop Talking About Music Let’s Celebrate That Shit” CD 13/42:10
An absolute blast of a record. These guys channel Iggy Pop and take him back to the juke joint to drink some hooch and later on scrog in an inoperable Chevy. Straight swinging rock n’ roll with the balls out of the pants. In fact, everything out of the pants, the shirt, the skirt, the blouse, butt naked because it’s too hot to keep anything on except the skivvies. This is primal, hip-shakin’ rock from out behind the woodshed. Except in this case, the woodshed is located in Sao Paolo, Brazil. You can tell this band is from one of the biggest, filthiest, most dangerous and exciting cities on the planet because it sure has that tone. It’s like a ride from South America up through the alleys of Detroit and down for afterhours at Memphis joints that have never been chronicled by the public. Xtian
@ www.voodoorhythm.com

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Thrills – “Let’s Bottle Bohemia” CD 10/35:19
No sophomore slump here – this new Thrills record is just as good if not better than their debut…I’ve been listening to it a ton since I got it. With poppy hooks like they have, how can you not? Even if the album was crap, I’d be tempted to rate it well based solely on the fact that they have a song called “Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?”, and it’s a damn good song at that. Not much else to say really: if you liked the last album, this should be right up your alley; if you’ve never heard them before and like catchy Beach Boys and Byrds-inspired pop music, get thee self to a record store post haste. If you can give me a better band from Ireland channeling sunny California pop music, I’ll take it – but for now, I’ll stick with The Thrills. Jake
@ www.thethrills.com/

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Toilet Boys – “The Early Years” CD 15/34:30
Ah yes, the good ol’ Toilet Boys. How can you not love these guys? Er…I mean, dudes and Miss Guy that is. From the bowels of New York and the rock fused, Tranny induced club called the Squeezebox came a band that was not only punk but also glam, dirt and peep show all rolled into one. Their songs can go from fast to easy but never deviating from the use of guitars as weapons and the strutting Miss Guy who is more beautiful than most prime time model/actresses with a voice that deceives his/her look. What we have here is a great retrospective of their illustrious career and a needed inclusion to all who think Gary Glitter was fab, or KISS is the only one who can totally ignite their guitars or even those who consider punk completely dead. “Punk” is in the eye of the beholder and if you ever laid eyes or ears on the Toilet Boys you know that it just took form as a many headed beast but those who carry the torch for the original intent of the scene will emerge and take you by the hand to that promise land of gutter glamour and freedom from the known. Plus this band is immensely fun and that’s the best part about it and them all together. If you don’t find yourself turning the volume up with each tune and considering buying those sparkly platform shoes then something must be wrong with you. Because that’s what I did. Oh wait… Mark
@ www.toiletboys.com

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Tommy Keene - "Drowning" CD 20/67:08
This disc proves it; Tommy Keene can write a great pop song with the best of them. All the song are previously unreleased or from relatively obscure compilations, but they are far from throwaways. Taken from a 15 year time period, including tracks meant for the major label release "Songs from the Film" all the way through his latest effort "The Merry Go Round Broke Down", and they make you yearn for more Keene releases, since it's obvious he's got the material to put out more records than he does. The opener, "Drowning", is a track that didn't make two records, but it's as good as any Keene work; full of great guitar work and hooks. It just keeps going from there, with song after song of material that would fit anywhere on a regular Keene release. Depending on the time frame of the recording, you'll hear a song that has a little added jangle, such as "Karl Marx", which takes a look at what Keene supposed was a double life that he led, or an electronic drum kit. There are also a couple of demos with just Keene and guitar, but even those are fun listens. Keene gives a little history behind the songs in the liner notes, and this is something that any fan of one of the most underrated power pop musicians of the last 20 years will love. Steve
@ www.notlame.com

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Varukers – “Murder” CD 19/44:02
Reissue of the Varukers’ 1996 (?) album, along with bonus tracks from “Nothing’s Changed” from around the same period. Said rekkids found the crew cranking out that ol’ raging whiplash-inducing hardcore (wot, you expected them to go emo on us?) and warming the hearts of all good spike-haired children everywhere. Not the breath of fresh air they used to be way back when, but they managed to climb out of the doldrums they had slid into, injecting some much-needed intensity into the proceedings, and reminding us why folks worldwide were writing their names on leather jackets in the first place. Nice cover of UK Subs’ “I Live in a Car” as well. David
@ www.rodentpopsicle.com

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Violettes – s/t CD 12/54.07
I give a fighting chance to any band that hails from my hometown of Minneapolis. The Violettes sound like My Bloody Valentine just came back from their band's three-month field trip to an ashram. It's impressive that the foursome could produce such thick and sensual sound and even more astounding that in all that lush eastern sound of guitars competing with sitars and flutes and percussion that there are so many songs and that they each retain their own separate and individual identities. Sarah Khan's high and airy voice with an edge of Siouxsie is at home in the soundscape. The eastern foray may be a bit of a cliché, but it's done very well. Pam
@ www.theviolettes.com MP3 Download

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Viva Voce – “The Heat Can Melt Your Brain” CD 10/37:36
Looks like husband-and-wife musical pairings are the new brother-and-sister (perhaps the same thing in some states, but let’s not go there). Arcade Fire, The Rosebuds, White Stripes and now Viva Voce have all shown us that you can have your cake and eat it too, whatever that means. This duo has crafted a fantastic album of bedroom pop, but unlike most of their contemporaries they have made less sound like more; this is decidedly not lo-fi. They sound like the mating of Papas Fritas and Beck…fans of Elephant 6 stuff won’t be disappointed; I know I’m not. Truly good pop bands are few and far between, so don’t miss out on this one. Jake
@ www.vivavoce.com/ MP3 Download

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Windmills – “Now is Then” CD 11/32:48
”Now is Then” is filled with lovely, straight forward songs embellished by singer Roy Thirlwall’s rich and mellow voice, reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen. The band has been prodigiously busy since starting in 1999. This release is their third full length album, they’ve also released a couple of EPs. The band seems to have a small but faithful group of followers and with more releases like this one, their fan base can only grow. Pam
@ www.indiepages.com/matinee
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Young Snakes – “The Young Snakes Featuring Aimee Mann” CD 14/46:28
Yep it’s AM’s early band, back in her pre-Til Tuesday/solo days. They seemed to be more into aping the UK post-post-punk (if a somewhat water-down version of same) than the nu-wave of the Cars (at least based on this evidence; don’t know what they presented to the record company executives). Granted demo/rehearsal/live (well, it’s supposed to be an “unreleased album” but that’s what they sound like to me) tracks aren’t the best way to judge a group but if we go with what’s on display here these folks fell smack-dab in the “also-rans” category, with neither decent songs or a compelling sound to call their own (let’s just say Aimee had yet to come into her own as a vocalist and leave it at that). Not to say this isn’t of Historical Interest, but if you-know-who weren’t in the band chances aren’t too good this would have seen the light of day. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

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Zinedines - "Take Me Take Me" CD 12/38:54
Decent enough neo-psych pop tunes on this debut US full length from this Spanish band; they conjure up images of Teenage Fanclub on their more straightforward pop songs, while others use a mix of retro Beatles White Album era sounds with a sitar and full on harmonies added to your standard guitar, bass, keyboard instrumentation. The songs are sung in English, and will remind you of anyone from the Beatles and the Zombies on some tracks to the more jangly 60's sounds of the Byrds on others. The guitars are definitely the main feature instrumentally, but when you add some of the other elements of the band, you get a new and innovative feel that other bands covering this ground often fail to do. There are a number of Spanish bands that have that 60's neo-psych feel to them, and this one is probably the most pop sounding of them. Steve
@ www.rainbowquartz.com

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V/A – “Heart So Cold” CD 18/45:28
Yet another collection of obscure early- to mid-‘60’s bands, this one emanating from the cold winter climes of upstate New York. Like most such regional compilations, it’s a mixed bag stylistically. At times it’s amazingly raw and rockin’, as Wild Bill Kennedy & the Twilighters demonstrate on their 1964 ode to Rollerland, a local venue. The tracks are divided between fine material with a pre-British Invasion sound, such as Mike & the Ravens’ “Goodbye to Mary Jane”; Beatles-influenced cuts like the Thunderbolts’ “There Was I”; fuzz punkers like the Falcons’ “I Gotta See Her”; and early ‘60’s instrumentals like the Montereys’ “Sun Set.” Although aficionados of only certain styles may be a bit disappointed due to the variety, the overall quality level here is impressively high. Jeff
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “How Soon Is Now? The Songs of the Smiths by…” CD 12/42:09
Compilations are a tricky business, and compilation cover records even trickier. What’s more, trying to tackle the Smiths or Morrissey is liable to lose you more fans than gain, considering the fickle and protective nature of these fans. You can count me as one of them. I approached this disc cautiously – skeptical that anyone could possibly do their songs justice, but interested in what these bands came up with. For the most part, they didn’t come up with much good. Nothing on here really stands out as awful, nor is any one thing outstanding – mostly it just drifts aimlessly in a sea of pointlessness. There are a couple of decent tracks here though – Hundred Reasons do a faithful rendition of “How Soon Is Now?” with a little shoegaze shimmer thrown in; Yourcodenameis: Milo rock out “Death of a Disco Dancer”; and probably the best of the bunch is Cursive performing “Frankly Mr Shankly”, and it sounds like a Cursive song with Smiths lyrics. Other than that, there’s nothing much here to really recommend. Jake
@ www.sorepointrecords.com/

V/A - "Romantic and Square is Hip and Aware" CD 12/40:28
A tribute disc to the Smiths by artists on the Matinee label, this falls flat for me for the most part. It's too bad, because I dig most of the bands on this, and I love the Smiths; you'd think it would be a match made in heaven. But in an effort to make the songs "their own", they take the songs on this disc and for the most part, either butcher them, or take the steam out. The disc opens with the Pines doing "Ask", and it's a mellow acoustic version, which takes all the muscle out of the song. The same thing happens to a electro-pop version of "Panic" by The Guild League; I kept waiting for it to kick up the volume and anger, but it never does. There are several others that just don't work. On a good note, the Lucksmiths, with help from Karen Morcombe on vocals, does a great version of "There Is A Light..."; they get the emotion right while taking the song to a more acoustic version, which sounds magnificent. "Please Please Please (Let Me get What I Want), done in a nice straight up version by Slipslide is another solid number. If you don't mind taking a few songs on the go with you on your Ipod, then it worth a listen. Steve
@ www.indiepages.com/matinee

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V/A – “Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough” CD 16/67:11
This tribute to Junior Kimbrough has got to be the closest I’ve ever seen to a perfect tribute album. There are no bad tracks on here; even the Pete Yorn song is pretty good! Also contributing to the release are Iggy and the Stooges, Spiritualized, Mark Lanegan, Fiery Furnaces, Entrance featuring Cat Power, The Ponys, Jack Oblivian, Jim White, Black Keys, and more. I highly recommend this release as not only a great tribute album but a great album altogether. Jake
@ www.fatpossum.com/

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V/A – “Sunsets and Silhouettes” CD 18/65:40
Pop mixes are a dime a dozen, and unfortunately this one doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Good tracks by Mark Gardener, The Sixth Great Lake, The Voyces and Camera Obscura (an acoustic version of an already available song), but the rest of it is pretty hum-drum at best. There’s nothing really crappy on here though; so if you really like pop music you might discover something new on here that didn’t catch my ear. Otherwise, it’s a pass. Jake
@ www.plantingseedsrecords.com

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V/A – “The Rough Trade Field Guide to Music Volume One” CD 14/45:10
This is a label sampler for Rough Trade America, not to be confused with those awesome Rough Trade mixes that come out on occasion. This features their current roster of bands, or at least seven of them: two tracks each by The Fiery Furnaces, Wolfman (feat. Peter Doherty of The Libertines), Aberfeldy, Bubbley Kaur (which I believe was recorded with Cornershop), Hal, Art Brut, and Eastern Lane. Not a bad track here really, and I’d heard some of it before; but I was particularly impressed with the tracks by Hal and Wolfman, making me want to track down more by both of these entertainers. As far as label samplers go, this a keeper. Jake
@ www.roughtradeamerica.com

V/A – “We Ain’t Housewife Material” CD 20/53:25
Collection of all/mostly-femme outfits, specializing in garage, punk, rock (not always punk rock), and a few hybrids thereof and beyond, with folks from Europe, Japan, and the US making noize. A few of the bands disappoint or are outright crap, but if you don’t necessarily get the cream of the crop here it’s still a solid enough compilation, with goodies from the likes of Dirty Burds, Candyrag, Astro Babies, Elvis McMan, and Red Bacteria Vacuum. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

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