The Acid Jazz Test | Dave Allen & the Elastic Purejoy | A Ten O'Clock Scholar | Beatrice Nine | Breast Warts | Ray Carmen | Ray Carmen & Ken Clinger | Charm Farm | Chemical Brothers | The City of Lost Children Soundtrack | Ken Clinger and Lawrence Salvatore | The Cocktails | Crazy Alice | Dimbulb | Drill | Elysian Fields | Fleming & John | Fuzzy | Gas Huffer | Giant Sand | Gigantaur | Global Communication | Grass Records Compilation | Hardhop+Trypno | Hi-Standard | Hooker Diesel | Local H | Low | Mariner Nine | Kathy McCarty | The McRackins | Mensclub | Milk | The Mistakes | Mr. Holland's Opus Soundtrack | Napalm Death | Ninja Tune USA | Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook | The Obvious | Omatic | Orange Hat | The Original Sins | The Pastels | Radio Oddyssey | Rust | Salt | Lawrence Salvatore | Semisonic | Sepultura | Shiv | The Sojourners | Spacetime Continuum | Super 5 Thor | Dan Susnara | 13 Engines | That Dog | This is Megalomania | Throttle | Van Gogh's Daughter | Varnaline | Von LMO | Wasted Time | The Wedding Present | Weeping Tile | The Why Store | The Wrens | Xavier |
= VERY GOOD
THE ACID JAZZ TEST - Part 4 (CD, Moonshine, Acid jazz)
Moonshine just keeps churning out those great compilation CDs. Are we up to volume 4 already with the Acid Jazz Test series? I guess so. My, how time flies when you're having fun. This time around, the tunes seem to be a bit more soul-influenced. If you haven't checked out the acid jazz scene, this is an excellent primer. The disc includes Jhelisa, Sound Assembly, A One, Toledo, Chop Shop, and more. Cool stuff that you can either pay close attention to or use as pleasantly stimulating background music.
DAVE ALLEN & THE ELASTIC PUREJOY - The Clutter of Pop (Advance CD, Schizophonic/World Domination, Pop/rock)
COOL!!! Dave Allen, former founding member of Gang of Four, Shriekback, and Low Pop Suicide records his second solo album...and it knocks the kittens off any of his former bands! You might expect that this would be some highly polished, big-money studio project but nothing could be further from the truth. This collection of GREAT pop tunes has all the sincerity and charm of a home recording, yet the quality of the recording is excellent. This is the first solo release I have heard from this man, and it is also the first thing I've heard on the Schizophonic record label. What a refreshing change from most of what's being released lately. This man's originality shines through like a giant light coming down from heaven. I highly recommend this. This'll most likely end up being one of my top favorites for the year!
A TEN O'CLOCK SCHOLAR - Quietest (Advance cassette, Grass, Rock)
Noisy, peculiar rock music. A Ten O'Clock Scholar are guitar maniacs, pushing things to the limits with their sonic experiments throughout most of this extremely harsh music release. If there's any word that does NOT describe this, it is "quietest." Unlike many bands that simply flail away into infinity, there is an actual method to the madness of this band's recorded work. If you don't like noisy bands, then you will certainly want to avoid this release. If you like it hard and angular, though, then you'll most likely get a BIG charge out of songs like "Hooded Figure at the Foot of My Bed," "Shoeshine Boy," or "Autobots Vs. Decepticons." Defying any sort of commercial appeal, this Dayton, OH band stretches boundaries...and in doing so, tends to stretch the listener's mind as well. Get ready to be BLOWN AWAY...
BEATRICE NINE - Little Stars Hung Upside Down (CD, Zero Hour, Rock)
A very earthy, yet somewhat cerebral rock band. Beatrice Nine really excel in their arrangements, which range from very simple to very intricate and inspired. The band's tunes range from loud to soft, but I definitely prefer the softer tunes. The louder ones often sound like many other bands, but the softer ones are really original and a real turn on... Favorite tune: "The Squishy and the Squeaky."
BREAST WARTS - It Was the Breast of Times, It Was the Warts of Times (CD, Cannon Drop, Rock)
The cover of this will scare most people away (fortunately). The photo of a beautiful woman's breasts literally covered with horrible warts is difficult to look at, but not nearly as difficult as the music on the CD is to listen to. Though this is a full-length disc, the Breast Warts only present one tune...but it's a LONG one, lasting well over an hour. Tedious? Yes. Annoying? Yes. Microphone? Yes. Panty raid? Yes. Japanese? Yes. Tick tock tick? Yes. Whoosh whoosh doopie? Yes. Fancy? No, not so much. Pass on this band. After all, who needs breast warts anyway???
RAY CARMEN - Accidentally On Purpose (Cassette EP, Pop! Prod., Pop)
One of my top favorite home tapers is back with some of the best tunes I've heard from him yet. Ray Carmen is a thought-provoking, thoughtful songwriter...always managing to come up with way, WAY above average melodies. Plus, the guy has an incredible voice and knack for understated arrangements. Four incredible little tunes, but my favorite has got to be the introspective "Monster," with it's soft, soothing tone. The B-side of this cassette includes four tracks that Ray recorded with Ken Clinger, another well-known cassette artist. You won't find this in stores, so write and get this tape...NOW! Contact: Pop! Productions, P.O. Box 8864, Canton, OH 44711-8864.
RAY CARMEN & KEN CLINGER - Hopes & Fears (Cassette, Pop! Prod., Pop)
Throw two extraordinarily talented home tapers together and what do you get? Answer: An end product that's twice as good as you might imagine. Ray Carmen and Ken Clinger collaborated on the recording and songwriting on this cassette, which is of very high quality for a home-recorded project. They even cover a couple of Beatles tunes here. This tape is nop notch and highly recommended for anyone into underground pop music...that unfortunately may never reach the general public. Contact: Pop! Productions, P.O. Box 8864, Canton, OH 44711-8864.
CHARM FARM - Pervert (CD, Mercury, Pop/rock)
Hmmm...this one won't actually be released until April 1996, but someone sent the advances out early, early, EARLY. Detroit's Charm Farm have some good things going for them in terms of songs and lyrics. For some reason, though, this disc comes off sounding somewhat uneven. For every good song, there's one that just doesn't seem to work. The title song is definitely my favorite here. This band has some good ideas, but it just seems like they haven't quite gelled yet. Perhaps the next release will be more cohesive...
CHEMICAL BROTHERS - Loops of Fury EP (CD EP, Astralwerks, Techno/dance)
The Chemical Brothers certainly have the right name for their band. This reminds me of so many drug-filled evenings at loud public places where folks are so screwed up that they don't know WHAT'S going on. And at those kind of places, this is the type of music you usually hear. Hearing this sort of thing outside of its element is rather odd. This isn't music to be played at home. This is DANCE music, and it is best heard in a club or at a lively party. The Chemical Brothers have caught on, and for good reason. People like to feel that they're on something.
THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD, Point/Polygram, Soundtrack)
This has to be the best soundtrack CD I've heard in years. For starters, the music here was composed by Angelo Badalamenti and it is performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Not bad, eh? As an added bonus, there's a beautiful tune called "Who Will Take My Dreams Away?" which features the always haunting and dramatic Marianne Faithfull. This music is eerie and strange, like a colorful childhood dream with something strange and unknown lurking in the shadows. The orchestra's performance is flawless, and the production on this CD is state-of-the-art. If you're into the soundtrack thing, or even if you aren't, this is an incredible disc that you won't want to miss.
KEN CLINGER AND LAWRENCE SALVATORE - Ambient Mix 5 (Independent cassette, Instrumental)
Very well-executed home-produced instrumental music. This collaboration by home-taping legends Ken Clinger and Lawrence Salvatore is soothing and spacey. Not unlike mid-period Eno collaborations, this cassette won't blow you over the instant you hear it. Instead, the melody lines gradually creep into your consciousness and grow on you over time. I haven't received many home-produced instrumental projects that are this soothing and natural. Contact Lawrence Salvatore at 211 South Hebbard St., Joliet, IN 60433-1308. Nice and smoooooooth...
THE COCKTAILS - The Cocktails (CD, Carrot Top, Soft pop)
DAMN!!! Looks like I MISSED OUT! Before I ever even knew they existed, this band has already come and gone (they played their last show this past New Year's eve). Better late than never, I suppose, and I'm mighty glad to have in my hands the band's final release. The band hailed from Chicago, but the sound is anything BUT urban. These fellows play soothing, soft, introspective music where everything is understated and calm. In some ways, these guys' approach reminds me of the Scud Mountain Boys (another soft band that I'm totally NUTS about). Utilizing guitars, basses, mellotrons, pianos, vibraphones, organs, bells, and a wide variety of other instrumentation, these fellows make music that is both intelligent and deeply rewarding. This is worth seeking out. Stunning and brilliant.
CRAZY ALICE - Best Damn Chicken in the Fair (Advance cassette, Catapult, Rock)
Pure hyper rock bliss. This band is a whirlwind of energy, offering fifteen tunes on this kickass collection of tunes. This is Crazy Alice's third full-length release, but it serves as an introduction for me. Basically, all of the tunes here hit right on target, something that's pretty rare in the world of recorded music. Of particular interest are "The Dullard," "Paper Straw," and "The Girl Who'll Save the World." The last two tracks ("Infected" and "Hospital Bed") were recorded live on WMBR's Pipeline radio show. This is set to be released late January 1996, so look for it. Cool stuff indeed.
DIMBULB - Trip Hammers (CD, Anti-Music, Hard rock)
Damn. This is some NOISY, AGGRESSIVE stuff here. The humorously titled Dimbulb play like their lives are depending on it with each and every tune. Although they play with tons of harsh intensity, however, you can still discern the basic idea of what's going on in the band's music. This is basic, guitar rock with cool buzzsaw guitars and vocals that just barely manage to creep above the grinding wall of power. My fave tunes here are "New Deal" and "Warmers," but hell...they all pretty much are cool. If you can't find it in stores, write to Anti-Music at P.O. Box 20178, Ferndale, MI 48220. Good stuff that's sure to only be heard by a chosen few...
DRILL - Drill (CD, A & M, Rock)
Did someone fart? Ooops, sorry. I mistook the sound of Drill for the smell of a bad fart. This is pure fluff, masquerading as hard rock music. Actually, the music sounds okay....but let's take that female lead singer out and flog her. This sucks.
ELYSIAN FIELDS - Elysian Fields EP (CD, Radioactive, Soft pop)
Moody, soft pop music from a band I've never heard of before now. I usually don't lift information from press releases and publicity letters, but in this case I think the letter that accompanied this disc says it best: "Hailing from New York's lower east side, Elysian Fields delivers sensual, lounge-influenced music that reminds the listener of a sultry Greenwich Village Summer night." How could I top that? This is nice stuff, and the band's lead vocalist Jennifer Charles has a really cool voice that really makes this stuff work. Four songs, and they all sound good...
FLEMING & JOHN - Delusions of Grandeur (Advance cassette, Universal, Pop)
Really slick, slightly odd pop duo featuring a female vocalist with a voice that's UNBELIEVABLE. Yep, Fleming McWilliams is one of those ladies with a voice that will probably make her a big, big, BIG star. Not only are the vocals exceptional, the songs on this debut are excellent as well. Ben Folds (who plays drums on this release) probably sums up the duo's sound best: "Fleming & John are the Carpenters of the 90s with Led Zeppelin's rhythm section." This is debut release on Universal. What a way to launch a label! This is great stuff...
FUZZY - Electric Juices (Advance cassette, TAG, Pop/rock)
Fuzzy is one of the all-time best pop/rock bands I have ever heard. The band's debut CD had me frothing at the mouth but on this, their second full-length release, the band has REALLY outdone themselves. Pure pop/rock shooting straight from the hip with melodies that make you feel like you're soaring straight up into pop heaven. Vocal harmonies that can't be beat, minimal guitar playing that sounds JUST RIGHT... Jeez, I could go on and on and on... Not only is this band's recorded work some of the very BEST around, they put one HELL of a great show. The main thing I look for in a band is sincerity...and Fuzzy are DRIPPING WET with pure and genuine sincerity. This will certainly end up being one of my favorite releases of 1996. It's so good that it gives me chills. Honest. Wow...
GAS HUFFER - The Inhuman Ordeal of Special Agent Gas Huffer (CD, Epitaph, Rock)
Gas Huffer is a band that truly rocks out. Listening to their latest CD, I'm surprised to realize how much this band reminds me of the New York Dolls. In fact, I guess Gas Huffer has always sounded like the Dolls...but I just never noticed it before (I still think the lead singer sounds like Martin Mull!). I saw these guys in concert a while back, and they literally blew me away. The new disc is just as good as the last, which was just as good as the last, etc. Once again the band has put out a comic book to coincide with their music release, showing they can do a lot more than just play music. If you've never heard 'em before, this is as good a place to start as any. If you already know Gas Huffer, then you already know to pick this up immediately. Pure F-U-N!!!
GIANT SAND - BBQ (CD, Koch, Rock)
Giant Sand is a band that almost consistently defies categorization. In today's world, that's saying a lot. The last couple of things I heard by this band almost sounded like some practice session that was accidentally released to the public. This, the new "live" CD, has a very similar feel to it. Most of this was recorded live on WFMU's live show, and it certainly catches the spontaneity of that performance. If you're looking for polished, commercial music then you need to stay far, FAR away from this band. If, however, you are open enough to hear some real music without all the effects and polish associated with recording in a big studio, then this may just be the thing for you. Hell, I know I like it...A LOT.
GIGANTAUR - Gigantaur EP (CD EP, World Domination, Pop)
Gigantaur is a new band formed from former members of the Australian group Sea Stories. Based on the five songs presented on this EP, this band comes across as pure and simple. They write some good songs, and I like the interplay between the male and female vocals. With only five songs to base an opinion on though, I don't really have a strong opinion yet. I'll wait for a full-length before making any further judgment...
GLOBAL COMMUNICATION - Remotion (CD, Hitit!, Electronic)
One of my favorite electronic outfits out there. While most people use synthesizers for masturbation and excursions into bad ego trips, Global Communication use their resources to create beautiful, vibrant landscapes full of natural sounds and thick textures. I was nuts about this band's last release (76:14), but this one sounds even better. Don't be fooled by the orange and pink cover of this CD, this is NOT techno noodling dribble (say THAT five times fast). Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton's songs almost sound like modern classical pieces, and I bet we'll still be listening to them for years to come (unlike 99% of the "trance" artists out there). Slobber, slobber, drool, drool. Am I getting the message across that I love this. I love this a great deal. This is smooooooooooooth and coooooooool...
GRASS RECORDS - Score Some Grass (CD, Grass, Various Artists)
I have long admired music that I've heard on the Grass label, so I'm pleased as punch that I'm now on the label's mailing list. This is the first disc I've received from 'em, and it contains a whole SLEW of great artists...most of which I'd never heard before. The disc includes tunes from the Wrens, Omatic, Pollen, Half Hour To Go (this is my favorite band on the disc), Loomis, A Ten O'Clock Scholar, and Wasted Time. A whole lot of goddamn rockin' fun...and now I can't wait to hear full-lengths from some of these thoroughly enjoyable bands...
HARDHOP+TRYPNO - Hardhop+Trypno (CD, Moonshine, Electronic/dance)
Mmmmm... This here is some SPACEY shit! If you're into cool electronics and dance music, you'll want to check out this compilation CD. Ten groups are featured, including Eboman, Philadelphia Bluntz, Fatboy Slim, Zen Cowboys, Mr. Funkster, and more. Most of these tunes have a really funky somewhat-disco beat to them, but the stuff that's laid over the rhythm is what's so interesting. This is state-of-the-art dance music for sure, with enough clever studio tricks to last most folks a lifetime. This is heady music that ought to please the pants off club kids. Heady, yes, but I like it too! Groove on, baby, groove on...
HI-STANDARD - Growing Up (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock)
Fourteen short, loud, frenetic tunes that are to-the-point and punchy as SHIT. Hi-Standard has definite similarities to Bad Religion not only in the overall sound of the band but in terms of songwriting as well. Probably the most surprising thing about this band is that they are Japanese. However, you'd NEVER know it from listening to this music. These guys are definitely in tune with American rock music and, interestingly, they seem to play it better than many bands on our own shores. If they play anywhere near here, you can bet I'll be at the show. This is pure high-energy FUN.
HOOKER DIESEL - Hooker Diesel, U.S.A. (CD, SwampGas, Rock)
The debut from Hooker Diesel has a very nice "live" feel to it. Thirteen tunes, and the band manages to come up with some good tunes with exceptional guitar playing throughout. Instead of playing one style of music, these guys jump around quite a bit, experimenting with everything from loud blaring rock to softer, almost poppy stuff. This is a damn fine debut, but even moreso I get the impression listening to this that these folks have even better stuff in 'em in the future. The best track for me is "Alice Meatyard," a psychedelic acoustic guitar-based number that warrants repeated listenings.
LOCAL H - As Good As Dead (Advance cassette, Island, Rock)
Wow. I really like this release better than the last thing I heard by Local H. Usually I like underproduced stuff better than highly produced releases, but in this case the exact opposite is true. Whereas the last batch of tunes I heard from these guys was raw, raw, RAW...this time around the songs are filled with studio tricks and everythings sounds really polished. In addition, the duo's sense of humor really comes across this time. "High-Fiving Motherfucker" is a VERY funny tune. Hailing from Zion, Illinois, these two guys really rock out on this, their latest release. I have a feeling that this one's going to do a lot more for these guys than their batch of tunes did. It sure won me over! Most of these songs are a blinding white light of power and energy. Goddamn RIGHT!
LOW - Transmission EP (CD EP, Vernon Yard, Slow pop/rock)
Low just may be the SLOWEST band on the planet. Now you may think that sounds like a bad thing, but in reality it's a very good thing. This band's music is soft yet powerful, and their last full-length sent me into HEAVEN. On their latest EP, the band covers the Joy Division tune "Transmission" (why is it that Joy Division covers are always better than the original versions?) and they also present four new tunes of their own. It's going to be very interesting to see where Low goes in the future. This is a very talented band with a very different approach to music. Will they retain their artistic integrity or make drastic changes in their music to make it more accessible? Only time will tell...
MARINER NINE - The Shallow End of the Gene Pool (CD, Meltdown, Rock)
Y'know...this Meltdown label is really starting to attract my attention, and probably a lot of other folks as well. After all, they seem to pull completely great unknown bands out of a hat. I particularly like Mariner Nine, because they sound like hundreds of other bands. Yet, if you listen closely, there's a ton of originality in what they're doing. Yeah...I'm sure a ton of jaded rock critics will say that this is the same old shit. But they're probably not really listening. Give this one a listen and see if you don't come away really liking some of the tunes. Yeah, I'm hooked. Nice stuff guys. Real niiiiiiiiiiiiiice...
KATHY McCARTY - Sorry Entertainer EP (CD EP, Bar/None, Pop/rock)
I was truly blown away by Kathy McCarty's first solo full-length release, and her new EP has the same effect. Though this time around we're not treated to nearly as much new stuff ("Sorry Entertainer" and "Rocket Ship" are both taken from the last CD), the new tunes are excellent. Kathy has a voice that you won't soon forget, and the arrangements in her music are always spectacular. On this EP, we're treated to more interpretations of songs by Daniel Johnston as well as an unreleased tune by Kathy's previous band, Glass Eye. I'm so knocked out by this lady that I'd probably recommend getting anything she does. Why? Talent, my friend. Pure and sheer talent.
THE MCRACKINS - In On The Yolk! (CD, Shredder, Pop/punk/rock)
An upbeat, truly fun band that just keeps getting better and better. The McRackins are one tight little ball of kickass power pop/punk energy...and they're addicting as hell. The band's approach is similar in style to the Dickies, yet they are anything but retrospective. Combining a frenetic rhythm section, buzzsaw guitars, and exceptional vocals...the band plays at blinding speeds, yet they never forsake their emphasis on lyrics and melodies. This is the best release I've heard so far from this cool band... Available for $9.00 by writing to Subterranean Mailorder, P.O. Box 2530, Berkeley, CA 94702. Get it now!!!
MENSCLUB - Comin' To Take You Away (CD, Bar/None, Rock)
Mensclub rock out big time. You gotta love these guys. They play with such devil-may-care attitude that you just get sucked into what they're doing. Their press release states that they are "not sexist, just remarkably sexy." Sounds good to me! This Bay area group sounds like they came straight out of the early seventies, yet they don't sound like they're a retro band at all. Looking for an energy pill? These guys serve up twelve fine energized rockers on this CD, with a heavy emphasis on inventive guitar licks that often sound like Nazz. Cool stuff, and a shitload of fun.
MILK - So Many Dynamos (CD, Spanish Fly, Rock)
Milk is one fantastic band. I was totally knocked out by the band's last CD, and I'm pleased to report that the latest one has the same effect on me. Whereas way too many bands try way too hard to sound incredibly weird and strange, Milk's oddness is subtle. Though this disc seems somewhat more accessible than the last, the traits that drew me in initially still remain. The band combines slightly odd rhythms with some absolutely spectacular words and melodies, and they play with such passion that it makes my head swim. Milk consists of three guys: Jeremy Grosser, Brett Gross, and Christian Nielson. But don't expect three-piece power pop or alternative rock. This band's music somehow far exceeds the limitations of those styles of music, and the end result is a sound that is unique and unto itself. Check out "Graduation Day" or "You Must Be Saved." This will surely be one of the best discs of 1996, once again proving that the Spanish Fly label is putting out some of the best stuff around. This is fucking GREAT!!!
THE MISTAKES - The Mistakes (CD, Immune, Rock/jazz)
An all-star band made up of Henry Kaiser, Mike Keneally, Prairie Prince, and Andy West. Usually an all-star lineup adds spells one thing: U-N-L-I-S-T-E-N-A-B-L-E. In this case, however, the result of the four creative minds spells G-R-E-A-T. These four guys are tight as holy hell, and they bounce and collide off each other in some really unusual and unpredictable ways. Some of this sounds like Frank Zappa outtakes, and other parts sound like pure modern jazz. Either way, these four guys have come up with a really great disc containing over 73 minutes of tunes! Sheesh!
MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD, A & M/Polydor, Soundtrack-Various Artists)
Nice collection of tunes featuring both soul and pop music. Quite a treat, including a wide array of artists including Len Barry, The Toys, Spencer Davis Group, Stevie Wonder, and even John Lennon among others. If you're into soundtracks and various artist stuff, check this out. I like the fact that the folks who put this together included some old (as well as new) tunes...
NAPALM DEATH - Diatribes (CD, Earache, Hard rock)
Wow. I've liked Napalm Death before, but this just may be their best EVER. There's probably no other band in the world that can make such urgy, horrifying music sound so darn beautiful. No one else has that death/metal voice thing down better than lead vocalist Barney Greenway, that's for certain. The man growls, snarls, screams, and sounds like he is Satan reincarnated. Meanwhile, the band plays blinding, ultra-high speed progressive rock that is nervous and WILD. Whereas there are lots of hard rock bands that simply turn up the volume, Napalm Death uses the medium to invent new styles of music, always managing to shift in and out of various moods effortlessly. This is not easy to listen to...it does take repeated listenings. This band's psychedelic side is starting to show, and I just hope it's a sign of things to come...
NINJA TUNE USA - If Ya Can't Stand Da Beatz, Git Outta Da Kitchen (CD, Ninja Tune USA/Domestic, Jazz/Trip-Hop/Various artists)
Cool, cool, COOL double CD compilation from a label I'd never heard before now. This compliation is chock full of groovy, cool tunes from a whole slew of great artists, including Frunki Porcini, DJ Food, Coldcut, Hedfunk, and a whole lot more! Most of these tunes are very trippy, yet they have a somewhat serene quality to them. A lot of this sounds very much like acid jazz, except its more heady than that. This collection ought to please folks who are into trance and dub music. Looking for something just right to play at your next party that'll put folks into exactly the right frame of mind? This is the kind of stuff that sounds good whether you're on drugs or not. A great compilation that is worth seeking out. This one'll be getting loads of airplay on my stereo for sure. Yeah...
NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN & MICHAEL BROOK - Night Song (CD, Realworld/Caroline, Progressive Asian pop)
As the world's most self-absorbed music reviewer, I love it when I receive something that sounds NOTHING like the rest. That's certainly the way to describe Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This cool fellow hails from Pakistan, and he has a KILLER vocal style that is absorbing and very unique and unto itself. The tunes on this CD range from traditional Asian to strangely hypnotic world music...and it ALL works. After hearing way too many heavy metal and alternative pop bands, this is one of the most refreshing things I've been hit with lately. The arrangements on this one will make your head swim. I particularly love "Sweet Pain," one of the more incredible pieces of music around. All I can say is WOW. Get hold of this!
THE OBVIOUS - Detached (CD, Grindstone, Rock)
Punchy, somewhat redneck sounding rock music. While much of this disc sounds pretty good, I have to admit that this band sounds like a great many others I have heard in the past few years. Even though, these guys have some really good ideas particularly instrumentally, and they sound extremely tight. I've heard that this band is killer in concert, so I'll reserve further judgment until I see 'em. After all, there have been many cases where a live show has changed my mind TOTALLY on a band...
OMATIC - Dog Years (Advance CD, Grass, Rock)
There's noisy good and there's noisy bad. Omatic is noisy good. Or good and noisy, depending on how you look at it. This is Michelle Bodine's new band (you may remember her from the mind-bending Braniac). Raunchy girl rock/pop with LOUD guitars and lots of attitude. Some of this reminds me of the louder side of Zuzu's Petals, and other stuff sounds like Mommy punk. My favorite tune is the looney, somewhat out-of-tune sounding "Lead Sled," with its almost Waitress-like vocals. This is an interesting new band that I'll be on the lookout for on the club circuit...
ORANGE HAT - Pterodactyl Universe (Cassette, Independent release, Pop/rock)
This band is from...Lithonia, Georgia??? From the wacky, pure pop sound of Orange Hat you'd sure never know it. This extremely high-quality independent release is a blast of fresh air. These guys have a sense of humor about what they're doing, coming up with odd pop tunes like "Hosin For Dodie" (a song of lust for Dodie from My Three Sons, no less...). Excellent songs, astounding arrangements, exceptional vocal harmonies, and an upbeat, energetic approach are what make this group stand out from the pack. Eighteen tunes here...and they're interspersed with some clever studio stuff... Overall, great fun indeed...and the cover art is cool as SHIT!
THE ORIGINAL SINS - Bethlehem (CD, Bar/None, Pop)
I just can't get enough of the great stuff on the Bar/None label. The label is one of those that you can almost always count on for excellent music. This advance CD from The Original Sins is an interesting brand of country-tinged pop music with urgent vocals and very simple arrangements. Because the band doesn't overproduce and overplay, their tunes manage to stand well on their own...because they simply don't need crutches. Sometimes reminiscent of the softer side of the Replacements, this band has an original sound that is inviting and memorable. My favorite tune is "Wish I Was Here." Really good stuff.
THE PASTELS - Mobile Safari (CD, Up, Pop/rock)
Purely sincere and genuine, the Pastels are a group that have an incredible ability to write good songs and also to show restraint when it comes to recording them. The group's latest CD includes more true musical gems that will stay in my CD player for many months to come. All the tunes stand out, but my particular favorites are "Exploration Team," "Mandarin," "Token Collecting," and "Worlds of Possibilities." If you're sick of pre-processed music from too many bands that all sound the same, check this band out. They're real folks making real music...and they keep getting better and better. This is a GREAT goddamn CD.
RADIO ODDYSSEY - WRAS 88.5 FM Presents (CD, Ichiban, Various artists/live)
Really nice collection of live tunes from various artists and bands culled from WRAS's live radio broadcasts. This CD marks the 25th anniversary of this most influential station that has made such a dramatic impact on the city of Atlanta for the past quarter of a century. This CD and the anniversary couldn't come at a better time, as the station seems to be peaking quality-wise. After suffering a couple of years of somewhat lame programming, WRAS is now kicking with more life than ever before. Artists on this disc include The Chrome Cranks, Soul Coughing, Lisa Germano, The Wedding Present, and many more. Nineteen tracks in all. Yeah!
RUST - Bar Chord Ritual (CD, Atlantic, Rock)
On their latest CD, this San Diego band manages to come up with some decent tunes that are pleasant, yet they sound very similar to lots of other bands I've heard over the past few years. The production is clean and impressive, but the main meat--the songs--just don't push me over the edge for some reason. I think these guys have the potential to come up with something good in the future, but for the time being I have serious reservations...
SALT - Auscultate (Advance cassette, Island, Rock)
Great name for a band, but better yet...great band! This Swedish trio won me over immediately with the opening track to this release. Entitled "Impro," it's a jagged, skewed piece that is completely uncommercial. Sure, things do get more accessible from that point forward, but this group still has a harsh edge that draws you in...and most of these tunes get better the more you listen to them. The lead vocalist has a really killer, butch sounding voice that puts most other female vocalists to shame. From the sounds of the tunes here, it sounds like this little band would be a fireball of energy in concert. This one's worth checking out if you're into the hard rock thing. I particularly like "Beauty."
LAWRENCE SALVATORE - Lawrence of Euphoria (Independent cassette, Pop)
Funny how people always seem to think that the world of home taping is vastly different than the world of commercial music. It's not really. It's just a matter of size. One release gets heard by a dozen folks perhaps, while the other gets heard by a billion. One thing both worlds have in common is bad music. There's too much of it being made, and nowhere could this be truer than with home tapers. That's why this cassette made my ears perk up instantly. This virtually unknown man is TALENTED...and really inspired. Sounding something like a more electronic early Sparks, Lawrence milks a lot out of his 4-track recorder and he knows how to write a good melody. Lawrence prefers to trade music with others, which is truly the best way to operate. Whether you trade or buy it, though, you should contact this fellow at 211 South Hebbard St., Joliet, IN 60433-1308. Especially recommended for Sparks fans...
SEMISONIC - Great Divide (CD, MCA, Pop/rock)
A pop masterpiece. Each song on this CD could stand on its own as a really great single. The Twin Cities' Semisonic was formed from the ashes of Trip Shakespeare, and what a formation this one is. Each of this band's songs is distinctly different from the rest. These three guys are not alternative noisemakers. Instead, they are talented craftsmen...cleverly weaving their infectious melodies amidst peculiar arrangements and top-notch vocal harmonies. The whole is a heady trip through a cool and upbeat pop wonderland, giving the listener the feeling of walking on clouds. Top picks: "If I Run," "Delicious," "Across the Great Divide," "Temptation," "The Prize," and "I Feel For You." This band sounds like so many I've heard before, yet they are still wildly original and hard to pigeonhole.
SEPULTURA - Roots (CD, Roadrunner, Death/metal)
Hmmm... Here are some of the song titles: "Roots Bloody Roots," "Spit," "Cut Throat," and "Dictatorshit." Something tells me that these fellows just aren't very happy at all. Of course, this band isn't going to appeal to anyone except a select group of folks...that is, folks into death/metal and totally hostile and angry music. I can always use a little hate in my life, so it doesn't surprise me that I like the latest Sepultura CD. It's as brutal as anything I've heard them do, and this time the production is (an appropriate word here) KILLER. Baby wanna bang head? Then baby throw down rattle, put in new CD by angry band. Now baby happy. Happy, happy, happy...
SHIV - Flayed and Ashamed (CD, Thirsty Ear, Rock)
Hard, harsh, loud, and ballsy. Shiv play like they've really got something to say, and the only way they can get it out is by crashing, banging, thrashing, and screaming like Hell. Fortunately, the band is able to exert their anxiety in a very likable way, always managing to hold things together...just barely...from shattering into tiny pieces. Similar in style to Boys Life, this band is spontaneous and energetic, and their tunes are well above your average fare. Worth checking out.
THE SOJOURNERS - Pretty As A Picture (CD, Junior's Motel, Pop/rock)
Really nice, polished pop/rock with songs that alternate with male and female vocals. Songs are what matters, and that's where these folks excell. Out of all ten songs on this CD, there's not one clunker in the bunch. Although all the songs are good, I particularly like "Living Like A King" and "The Hurtin' Game." Guitars that chime, great vocal harmonies, and an excellent rhythm section are but a few of the reasons that I go for this music. If you can't find it in stores, e-mail these folks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPACETIME CONTINUUM - Emit Ecaps (CD, Astralwerks, Electronic)
Cool electronic spacey shit. Of course, if you hate that type fo music then you're gonna ABHORE this. If, however, you're into things like the Orb or Future Sound of London, this is a band you'll want to check out. Creating an electronic landscape that sounds like the soundtrack for interplanetary space travel, there are special effects galore on this grand CD. It plays well in the background, but you can also listen to this stuff and really get something out of it. There aren't many folks who are really creative in the world of electronic music. This one stands out. Ten trippy tunes.
SUPER 5 THOR - Ford (CD, Echostatic/Space Baby, Pop/rock)
Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!!! Super 5 Thor reminds me very much of Starflyer 59...one of the coolest and most unknown bands out there. Somewhat droning, airy, psychedelic, acid-drenched pop music that comes off like a breath of fresh air amidst the continuing onslaught of "alternative bands" with no real talent or songwriting skills. After hearing this band, I can honestly recommend that you pick up just about ANYTHING with the "Echostatic/Space Baby" label on it...because you can almost always count on this label's releases to be exceptional and/or incredible. Not only are the tunes on this disc WAY above par, the packaging (as usual) is EXCELLENT. The sleeve is more like an album cover than a CD cover. Let's all join together to GET RID OF THOSE OBNOXIOUS JEWEL BOXES!!! I highly recommned this CD to folks into heady, surreal pop. This is just like having a good dream... Maybe BETTER. Ah...
DAN SUSNARA - Idyllic (Cassette, Independent, Pop)
This independently-produced six-song cassette reminds me very much of late seventies/early-eighties clever pop produced by bands like 10CC. Dan definitely has an affinity for mind-altering substances as reflected in the tunes "Positive and Negative Aspects of Brain Cell Loss" and "Gimme the Girl With the Sinsemilla Eyes". Combining excellent melodies with way-above-average home taping techniques, Mr. Susnara comes up with some really cool tunes that are well-executed and intriguing. The tape is $4.00 by writing to Dan at 7806 S. Kilpatrick, Chicago, IL 60652.
13 ENGINES - Conquistador (CD, Nettwerk, Rock/pop)
I sure was glad to receive this CD in the mail. I heard one release from this cool Canadian band a few years back, and it always stuck with me because the band wrote such catchy, great tunes. Well, I'm happy to report that the band is playing the same style of music but now the songs are even BETTER. These guys play pure pop music with exceptional melodies and a vocalist that is too good to be believed. Hearing this makes me wonder why this band hasn't had bigger success in the U.S. Oh, wait, I forgot. They write good songs. That ought to alienate almost everyone (pardon the sarcasm). This band still reminds me in many ways of the Records, because of the excellent guitar playing and super-hummable melodies. Thirteen tunes here, and there's not a sour grape in the bunch. I sure hope they tour the states, because I'd go apeshit to see these guys play live. This is a highly recommended CD that most likely will be overlooked by most folks, but hopefully that won't be you. This is a totally KILLER band!!!
THAT DOG - Totally Crushed Out! (CD, Geffen, Pop/rock)
This is definitely one of those bands that I don't really want to like, yet I have to admit that I really do enjoy their music. I'm not quite sure why I feel like this, except to say that at times the band comes across as being very calculated, seemingly trying to appeal to the alternative market just a tad too much. But hey...when things work, they WORK. And never has this band sounded better than on their latest CD. Smooth, kicky female vocals combine with some odd yet accessible arrangements and the result is an infectious journey through some quite unusual pop territory. The production is slick, slick, SLICK...yet these songs still manage to sound very different from a lot of what I hear lately. A job well done. Yeah, I like 'em. I like 'em a LOT.
THIS IS MEGALOMANIA - 14 Original Hits by the Original Artists (CD, Megalomania, Various artists)
This CD represents a variety of artists who have recently recorded at Atlanta's Megalomania studio. This one is a must specifically for the tune "Morbid Curiosity" by The Velvet Overkill 5, a happy singalong song about a young girl's fascination with violent accidents. The tune is poppy, catchy, and an absolute gem that I find myself singing over and over again. Also of note on this disc is the tune "Film" by Nancy Drew Blood, the notorious song about getting revenge on a cashier for ringing up the wrong price on a roll of film. Both of these tunes are priceless. My second favorite artist on this disc is the Ultravixen Experience, producer Kevin Morrison's acid-jazz band. Of particular note is the tune "For the Love of a Creole Woman," which sounds somewhat like Pink Floyd. As is the case with all various artists compilations, some tunes here are better than others...but the good ones are REALLY good, making this a unique underground item worthy or your attention.
THROTTLE - Throttle (CD, TeePee, Hard rock)
If you don't think you can use "hard rock" and "intelligent" in the same sentence, check out Throttle. This band has a hard, hard approach yet they are also clever, inventive, and yes, even intelligent. This CD is full of creative guitar playing and crashing, bashing drums that'll knock your booties off. But it's this band's songs...tight, creative, moody...that make this CD such a pleasure to listen to. Though Throttle is only a duo, they have a very BIG sound. The vocals have enough angst and anxiety to satisfy the worst of you out there. My favorite tune is "Shoot Out," with its odd speak/sing vocals. This is a COOL CD for folks into harsh rock.
VAN GOGH'S DAUGHTER - Shove (CD, Hollywood, Rock/pop)
Van Gogh's Daughter is a DAMN fine sounding all-girl band. Not only do these girls have the chops to play their instruments, but their songs are great as well. Two songs in particular ("Through the Eyes of Julie" and "Struggle and Sting") stand out as ultra-catchy pop tunes that stick in my head like glue. The band is spearheaded by two singer/songwriters named Jane Woodman and Paige Weber. Both of these girls have excellent voices, but it is their songs that make this band so enjoyable and refreshing. This ought to go over BIG on college radio...
VARNALINE - Man of Sin (CD, Zero Hour, Rock/pop)
Although Varnaline is now a band, when this CD was recorded it was a one-man-band thing consisting of Anders Parker. The opening track, "The Hammer Goes Down," is pure genius...but so are several other tracks on this disc. The tunes here have a definite home-make quality to them, which makes the music come across sounding very sincere and genuine. Mr. Parker comes across as a down-to-earth fellow on these tunes. Both his music and musical arrangements are much better than most of what's out there. Especially good vocals. I'll be curious to hear how the entire band sounds...
VON LMO - Red Resistor (CD, Variant, Rock/noise)
Don't let the song listing on this CD fool you. Though there are only four tunes ("Mass Destruction," "Flying Saucer 88," "X + Z = 0," and "Atomic Sound"), this is quite a lengthy CD. Recorded live in the studio, this is chaotic noise that is certainly not easy to listen to. Similar in many ways to Hawkwind, this band is extremely droning and heavy on the spaced-out noise, seemingly to defy any sort of commercial appeal. For some reason, this is much better than your average noise release however, possibly because the musicianship is tight and the noise is inventive and overly abrasive. This may also appeal to fans of Skinny Puppy. Not for everybody, but I don't think that's the point here...
WASTED TIME - When It Was Fun (Advance cassette, Grass, Rock)
Punk is alive and well with Long Island's Wasted Time. Still in their teens, this band creates an impressive wall of sound with a super tight rhythm section and buzzsaw guitars pushed into overdrive. This band's greatest strength is their simplicity. Instead of showing off with annoying lead guitars and dumb posturing, these guys play in-your-face with no frills. After all, who needs frills and gimmicks when you've got good songs? In the same general vein as Bracket, this band's music simply puts the listener in a good frame of mind. Favorite tunes: "Heathcliff," "Shut-Up!," "Why's the World," "Sick N' Tired," and "Buckle Up." This ought to appeal to fans of Green Day.
THE WEDDING PRESENT - Miniplus (CD EP, Cooking Vinyl, Rock)
One of my favorite bands of the past few years, the Wedding Present is one of those bands that truly has their own sound and style. The band's music is an interesting blend of hard energy combined with a definite pop sound that is both unique and very appealing. This little EP contains no less than nine tracks, with several of the tunes focusing on car themes. Though some die-hard fans claim that this band has already passed their prime, I feel that the new stuff is better than the early stuff. That again holds true with the tunes here, that are right up there with the band's best recorded work. Highly recommended. In fact, I highly recommend ANYTHING by the Wedding Present. Yeah...
WEEPING TILE - Cold Snap (CD, TAG, Pop/folk)
This Canadian quartet consists of two sisters and two guys. This is the kind of thing that you hear on the radio and say to yourself, "That's pleasant." The musicianship is tight, and the production is excellent. The sisters in Weeping Tile are rather good songwriters, and their vocal harmonies are right on key. This is one of those cases where, despite all the good qualities about the band, progressive folk/pop that sounds similar to the Indigo Girls is just not my cup of tea. If that's what you're into, you may very well go for this...
THE WHY STORE - The Why Store (Advance CD, MCA, Rock/pop)
Interesting. By the second song on this disc, I was almost ready to not even review this. But then the third track ("Nobody") provided just the right break, and it really pulled me into this band's music. Some of these songs could pass for southern rock, but other stuff comes at you from some weird angles (I particularly like the guitar work). This is a case where you either like the vocalist or you don't, because he has one of those immediately identifiable voices. Is that how people from Indiana really sound? I suppose the most interesting variable here is that from the sound of this, I'd say there's a good chance this might be a very, VERY successful band. They just have that hummable FM radio quality that seems to please so many folks. This doesn't dust my nuts exactly the way I like 'em dusted, but it's better than aspirin.
THE WRENS - Secaucus (Advance CD, Grass, Rock/pop)
Jesus Christ. If you like angular, melodic pop music with clearcut melodies and hooks galore, you absolutely must check out this band. Though I've heard of them for some time, this is the first full-length I've heard by these guys and all I can say is...WOW. Stepping in and out of enough musical territories to blow your mind away, the Wrens sometimes sound like the Move, at other times very early XTC, and at other times too many other bands to mention. But they somehow never sound like they're copying other bands. And talk about getting your money's worth...this CD includes nineteen tracks, which by itself would not be all that impressive. But ALL nineteen are pure pop treats, heads above most of the current pop crop. This is one of the most inspired things I've heard in some time. And it gets better the more you listen to it.
XAVIER - The X Factor (CD, Interscope, Dance/pop)
Funky, funky, FUNKY. This is some slick, commercial stuff...so be forewarned. Folks into pure alternative music are gonna HATE this, but the general population may have a totally different opinion. This is pure feelgood music, so lighthearted and accessible that it may scare some folks away. But hey...I've never had a problem with easy listening pop, and as a result I can play this in the background and get off on it just fine. Plus...I can even play it when my friends are over to drive them CRAZY. Friends...who needs 'em anyway???