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August 2002 Reviews by

 The Action
Seana Carmody


Comment Piece
Counting Crows
Duke Fame

Einstein's Sister
Drew Emmitt

The Forms
The Full of Shits

El Gato
Vincent Gallo
Gregor Samsa
Jack Hayter
The Hellacopters

The Hextalls
In Exile
Toby Keith

Lucid Nation
Carolyn Mark and the Room-Mates

The Mushroom River Band
Nashville Pussy

Orange Goblin
The Numb Ones

Andrea Perry
Kimberly Rew
Sixty Watt Shaman
Sloppy Ball Pudding

The Sock Angels
Sonic Youth

Ringo Starr
The Telescopes

Ten Grand
Trust Company

The Visible Men
The Warm Guns
Wretch Like Me
Michael Zapruder

*Top Picks


August 2002 Comment Piece: We Bark At You

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The Action - Rolled Gold (Reissue CD, Reaction / Parasol, Pop/rock)
For every Beatles or Elvis Presley...there are hundreds of other artists who are just as talented but who are overlooked. The Action are an example of this. Realizing slight success in Britain in the 1960s, this group obviously never received the attention they deserved. This batch of demonstration recordings created in the 1960s were never released at all until 1998 when a British label called Dig The Fuzz convinced the band that the lost tunes deserved to be heard. This is one of those true treasures from the vaults, as this music rivals some of the best artists from the sixties. Interestingly, George Martin produced the band's first five singles (but they weren't that well received at the time). The tunes on Rolled Gold sound dated...but that is actually a great deal of the appeal. These guys were doing lots of things right. The songwriting is top notch and the playing is spirited and enthusiastic. Fans of sixties pop will most likely thrill to the sounds of "Come Around, " "Strange Roads," "Little Boy," and "In My Dream." This release is interesting for another reason. It also marks the beginning of a new music label (Reaction) formed by Ric Menck (of Velvet Crush) and Geoff Merritt (the owner of Parasol Records). The label was specifically formed for the purpose of reissuing lost nuggets like this. Should be an intriguing endeavor... (Rating: 5)

Seana Carmody - Struts & Shocks (CD, Kimchee, Pop)
Folks who followed the underground rock scene of the 1990s may remember Seana Carmody as the lead singer of Swirlies. Later in the 1990s Carmody was also a member of the critically acclaimed Syrup USA, a more pop-oriented endeavor that eventually fell apart in 1998. It took her a few years to pull it all back together, but Carmody has now written and recorded her first solo album. Struts & Shocks is a strong effort, combining progressive tendencies with stylish melodic pop. The tunes on this album possess a slight haunting quality that sounds like anything but generic girlie pop. Carmody's tendency to combine obtuse chords with unpredictable melody lines is interesting and, at times, somewhat peculiar. Her signature vocals have never sounded better. This is a strong album from a lady who has been scampering around the fringes of rock music for some time now. Perhaps this will be the one to kick her career into high gear. Ten tracks, including "Rocket Out of Time," "Sidewalk," "Deirdre," and "Stay Awake." Nice stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Christiansen - Forensics Brothers and Sisters! (CD, Revelation, Hard rock)
Exciting and unusual hard rock. Louisville, Kentucky's Christiansen drive a hard and heavy wagon all the way home on their debut album for Revelation. There's a subtle funky current running through this band's hard rock music that we find particularly appealing. The band consists of Brad Magers (bass), Terry Campbell (drums), Brandon Bondehagen (vocals, guitar), and Robby Scott (guitar). These guys have known each other since they were kids which may explain their tightness and familiarity with one another. Intense tunes like "Portable Museums" and "The Era of Murder by Simulation" demonstrate the band's intense ability to drive their point home. Smart, wild, and intense. (Rating: 4+++)

Counting Crows - Hard Candy (CD, Geffen, Pop)
Wanna know a little secret? Until we jammed this little CD into our player, to our knowledge we had never even HEARD a song by Counting Crows before. Just goes to show you how far we have purposely buried out heads in the sand (!). But because the band seems to have such a large and diehard audience, however, we were fully prepared to HATE this disc. You can color us surprised because some of this stuff isn't half bad. Oh sure it's a slick and safe ride all the way through...but these gentlemen actually come up with some catchy little tunes and flesh them out nicely with polished and professional arrangements and slick backing vocals. No, this wouldn't be our top pick of the month or anything...but for those folks out there who like that good ol' hummable and comfortable FM radio rock that came out in the 1980s, these guys are obviously filling the bill. (Rating: 4)

Duke Fame - Regrets (CD, Geeves, Pop/rock)
This Atlanta-based band took its name from a character in the legendary This Is Spinal Tap film. Regrets is the band's debut CD, and it contains a wealth of impressive material. Duke Fame songs remind us of very early David Bowie (particularly in the vocal department). The band's lo-fi recordings help the listener to focus on the words and melodies...both of which are the group's strongest traits. At this early stage of the game, these guys probably need to get a little more tight and focused...but the important thing is that they have that certain unexplainable quality that makes a band great. While this is a good album...we feel that these guys are capable of producing something truly incredible. We're not rating this disc because we feel it would be misleading to potential listeners as well as the band themselves...but we can state with confidence that the songwriting skills that are demonstrated here are wonderfully cool... (Not Rated)

Einstein's Sister - Humble Creatures (CD, Yummy Pop Tunes, Pop)
A songwriting...DUO? Seems you hardly ever hear about such a thing anymore. Einstein's Sister features the impressively strong songwriting duo of Bill Douglas and Kerry Tucker. Mr. Douglas and Mr. Tucker's music is reminiscent of early Squeeze and early Elvis Costello. The vocals are direct and right up front in the mix throughout all eleven tracks on Humble Creatures. The songs feature clever interplay between guitars and keys, and the hearty rhythm section of Andrew Brock and Marty Reyhons holds things steadily in place. The band is rounded out by Steven Volk on guitars and vocals. If you loved the first three Squeeze albums (like we did), there's a good chance you're going to feel very comfortable with the music of Einstein's Sister. Quality cuts like "Dandelion Heart," "This Won't Be Home Someday," and "Come On Pariah" are instantly infectious. (Rating: 4++)

Drew Emitt - Freedom Ride (CD, Compass, Bluegrass/pop)
Pleasing upbeat bluegrass-fueled pop music. Drew Emitt, lead singer for the band Leftover Salmon, has his hands all over the place these days. In addition to recording with his band he's also found the time to record Freedom Ride, a solid and impressive debut solo album. The man is talented in all directions at once...playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo, harmonica, flute, and electric guitar. Mr. Emitt's music has a nice homegrown sound that is accentuated by a nice, slick production style. The title track features John Cowan (lead singer with the New Grass Revival). Other impressive guests lend their talents to these compositions, making this album a nice slice of genuine Americana played straight from the heart (which is, of course, good for the soul). Our favorite cuts are "Solid Ground," "If You're Ever In Oklahoma," and "Memories of Mother and Dad." (Rating: 4++)

F - F (CD, Morticia, Pop/rock)
First there was the man named E (Mark Everett of Eels)...and now we have the man named F (whose Los Angeles band shares the same name). The names may be similar, but the music is worlds apart. The music of F recalls the heyday of 1980s techno pop in the grand style of New Order, The Cure, and The Psychedelic Furs. The band's slightly dark pop tunes are based around keyboards and synthesizers...and feature catchy melodies. We particularly dig the tune "Christine at Tower Sunset" (which is also available on a limited edition red vinyl single). This is a young band seemingly in the process of finding their exact niche and sound. As a result, there's some fine tuning that is bound to happen over the next few months. But from what we hear initially, the guys in F are doing a lot of things right. Good stuff. (Rating: 4)

The Forms - Icarus (CD, Three Spheres, Rock)
Obtuse rock that sounds something like a cross between Drive Like Jehu and XTC. But that only hints at the tip of the iceberg, as the three guys that make up The Forms are actually going off in many directions at once...while simultaneously providing a swirling and inventive dose of slightly experimental rock with a difference. Produced by Steve Albini, this album contains a wealth of sweeping, articulate, heady, and intelligent rock music. What actually separates this band apart from the others is the vocalist. This guy can sing circles around your average alternative rock singer. The melodies are strange...yet familiar enough to latch onto. The band swerves in and out of very soft passages but provides plenty of loud moments where things almost seem like they're going to go out of control (but don't). The restrained chaos of the songs on Icarus is refreshing and unique. Another HUGE plus in the band's favor is that they opted to present photographs on the cover and booklet. The band's faces and names are nowhere to be seen. They apparently opted to present interesting images rather than plaster their own images all over their album. Very SMART move. The Forms are a really cool band off to a mesmerizing start. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 5++)

The Full of Shits - We're Only As Full As The People We Hang Out With (CD, Burped and Floated, Retard folk)
Goddamn it all to hell...how we HATE the new "retard folk" movement! All those pretentious messed up people in coffee houses who think that it's cool and hip to play and sing when it just sounds REAL BAD. But the phony business pussies and law-headed dicks just EAT IT UP while they sip their dribble and flirt with their ugly motivation. Everyone who goes anywhere is a mussyhead, and that's just what The Full of Shits are capitalizing on. They know that the contorted faces of real people contain poison and hatred, so they scour it up inside their big bright pans and make it function like a branded planet of toast. This CD is the first full-length by the "band." It is so wonderful that we want you to know how TERRIBLE it is. We listened to the first cut ("Gotta Squeeze Out") and then pressed the STOP button. Then we took the disc and set it on fire. As we watched it burn we put lotion all over our pretty snouts and grinned real big and heavy. Hey, we don't have to listen to ANYTHING we don't want to and we don't have to LIKE anything if we don't want to. As for The Full of Shits, we doubt that there's anything left to tell you about them anyway... (Rating: 1)

El Gato - We're Birds (CD, Motherload Music, Pop/rock)
Highly melodic pop covered with plenty of thick, fuzzy guitars. This Denton, Texas-based band plays timeless pop that will never sound old or dated. We're Birds is chocked up to the max with superb melodies and clever songwriting. The band's personal and effective lyrics (written by vocalist John Vineyard) are the icing on the cake. In many cases lyrics can make or break a band...and in this case, the words to the music add that extra ooomph that really packs a major punch. There's a lot to digest here. The band presents no less than fourteen tracks, and each one is a keeper. There's a lot more depth here than we are accustomed to hearing in pop music. Our initial favorites are "Wonderlost," "Pianos On Crutches," "Midnight Beach Theme," and "Dolphin With Legs." Smart, creative, hummable, and unique. Recommended. (Rating: 5)

Vincent Gallo - Recordings of Music for Film (British import CD, Warp, Instrumental/soundtrack)
Vincent Gallo has been recording and composing music since the 1970s. This CD is a collection of recordings that he made to accompany the films The Way It Is, Buffalo '66, Downtown '81, and If You Feel Froggy, Jump. Containing a whopping 29 tracks in all, Recordings of Music For Film stands squarely on its own as a strong piece of work. All of the tracks here were transferred from the original analog tapes and, as a result, the songs have a wonderfully inviting organic sound. Some of the sparser tracks are reminiscent of Brian Eno while other cuts could almost be considered modern classical pieces. Gallo wrote and recorded all of the tracks himself between 1979 and 1998. Forgetting that these cuts were recorded for film, one can easily use this for mood music...after dinner music...or for something to play during that introspective period when you're trying to sort things out in your brain. Lovely stuff. Our favorites are "The Way It Is Waltz," "Drowning In Brown," "A Wet Cleaner," and "Brown 69." (Rating: 5++)

Gregor Samsa - Gregor Samsa (CD EP, Iodine Recordings, Atmospheric pop)
The first thing that caught our attention about this disc was the packaging. Both the CD and the inserts are transparent. Someone did a wonderful job with the graphics. In this case the packaging gives potential listeners a good idea of what the music sounds like. Gregor Samsa is a quintet based in Richmond, Virginia that produces lush and heady atmospheric progressive pop. In some ways, the music of Gregor Samsa sounds like a more orchestrated version of Low...but that comparison only gives a hint of what this band is really all about. The band's haunting, strange compositions methodically creep along until they permanently invade the listener's consciousness and take up residence. Can't wait to hear a full-length from these folks... (Rating: 5)

Jack Hayter - Practical Wireless (CD, Absolutely Kosher, Pop)
Intriguing music that combines various elements from artists such as Bob Dylan, Roy Harper, Tom Waits, and even David Bowie. Jack Hayter is a member of the British group Hefner who have had a good deal of success in the past couple of years. It was actually Hefner lead singer Darren Haymen who convinced Mr. Hayter to record a solo album (Haymen recorded and produced Practical Wireless). Wise decision, as this is an impressive and highly entertaining album that is chock full of memorable tunes. Hayter's understated vocal style is engaging and subtle and yet somehow demands attention. (He occasionally sounds like a cross between the previously mentioned Roy Harper and Richard Butler.) Presenting some of the best introspective folk-inspired pop we have heard in some time, Mr. Hayter is an instant talent to be reckoned with. Twelve cuts here including "Blind Man's Fog," "Another Girl Another Planet," "No Spondulicks," and "Narrow Skies." RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 5++)

The Hellacopters - Cream of the Crap! (CD, Gearhead, Rock)
Rock and roll hell raisers all the way, The Hellacopters are a true crowd pleaser. The band's instant aggression in the form of a hard assault rock is abrasive, tight, and very, very LOUD. These Stockholm-based wildmen have had increasing success over the past couple of years...and Cream of the Crap! is a good example of why their success continues to grow. To be a collection non-album tunes, this album is stronger than most bands' "real" albums. The band writes most of their own material here but throw in a good number of cover tunes as well. Most notable is their explosive version of "Gimme Shelter"...which makes the Rolling Stones version sound like kiddie music. Our top favorites here are "Thanks for Nothing," "1995," and the intense frenzy of "Tilt City." Rock and roll played the way it SHOULD be played. Once again, these guys KICK ASS. (Rating: 5)

The Hextalls - Call It A Career (CD, Shredder, Hard pop)
Goofy punk rock with loose vocals. The Queers meet The Pooh Sticks...?!? (Not Rated)

In Exile - Hangin' By A Thread (CD, Deep Space, Pop/rock)
In Exile is the extraordinary one man band consisting of Keni Fink. Mr. Fink apparently has his hands and feet in all kinds of projects all the time...and yet he still manages to find time to write and record a whopping eighteen track CD entirely by himself. Hangin' By A Thread is a monumental undertaking for a solo musician. The songs are smart, succinct, sometimes goofy, and memorable....and the playing and singing are top notch. Lots of cool tunes here, but our favorites are "Love To You," "Dark of the Morning," "Wander," and "Big Mistake." We'd sure like to hear Mr. Fink re-mix these tunes with real drums. That would add the extra punch that would really make this music soar. (Rating: 4+)

Toby Keith - Unleashed (CD, Dreamworks Nashville, Country/pop)
Toby Keith's last album (Pull My Chain) was one of the best country/pop albums ever recorded. It was so good, in fact, that it put Mr. Keith in an awkward situation...which was to follow it up with something as good or better. Pull My Chain worked on all levels, coming off as a flawless string of upbeat hits. The public...and reviewers like us...ate it up. That album threw Toby into the spotlight, winning numerous awards for his obvious artistic achievement. Although it contains a wealth of good tunes, Unleashed is not as great as its predecessor. The album begins with a political tone of revenge in "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." Although the song certainly echoes the sentiments of a great many Americans, we have to admit that we just don't like the lyrics. Mr. Keith has built a solid reputation by writing cool romantic tunes, upbeat pop, and slightly raunchy rock. To put it simply, this tune falls flat on its face. Thankfully, the rest of the album is full of the kinda stuff we have come to know and love. Of particular interest are "Who's Your Daddy?," "It's All Good," "Losing My Touch," "Beer For My Horses" (a duet with Willie Nelson), and our favorite, "Huckleberry." Of course, we don't know this big ol' sexy guy...but we'd be willing to bet that Keith's new super celebrity status is beginning to catch up with him. In our humble opinion, Toby's time would be better spent focusing on his music...and distancing himself from the effects that superstardom has on his art. No, success hasn't spoiled him yet...but there are slight indications on Unleashed that this may be starting to happen. Several of the tunes here sound dangerously similar to tunes on Pull My Chain. Don't get us wrong, this is a damn fine album (if you skip the "American" cut)...but Toby's going to have to get himself back on track if he's going to continue to evolve and thrive as an artist. All of our complaints are secondary to the fact that this is, basically, another great album. We just hope the next one...is even BETTER. (Rating: 5)

Lambs - Random Radio (CD, Devil Doll, Hard rock)
Hell YEAH! Finland's Lambs play with a fury intensity that'll have you throbbing and sweating buckets in mere SECONDS. These three guys have a mission...to send their listeners into a smoking rock and roll euphoria. The songs are basic and simple and the band members play with a true sense of style and obvious intent. The band consists of A. Lindholm (guitar, vocals), Hautsi Drums (cymbals and percussion), and Tommy L. (bass and vocals). Lindholm's got an Iggy-like growl that'll bring the dead to their knees...while the rhythm section hammers away like midnight will never completely peel all the way off. This is one BADASS little trio...cranking out cool rockers like "Down and Under," "Cut You Loose," "Leave It All," and "Leave Your Life." Ultra cool stuff, played with ten tons of adrenaline... (Rating: 4+++)

Lewis - Even So (CD, Deep Elm, Pop)
Lewis is an intriguing band. Taking their name from their fondness for C. S. Lewis, these fellows are making music their own way...creating strange and mesmerizing musical masterpieces that range from moody and provocative to aggressive and loud. In a world full of bands who are either constantly way too loud or incredibly samey and soft all the time...it is pleasing to find a band that effectively treads in both territories. Even better yet, the soft and loud sides of Lewis don't really remind us of anyone else in particular. Instead of wearing their influences on their sleeves, these guys seem to be tapping into some sort of internal power that is uniquely their own. Even So is chock full of modern progressive rock that rivals anything. Strangely hypnotic tunes include "Returning to the Scene of the Crime," "Counting Backwards," and the title track... (Rating: 5++)

Lily - Running From the Sky (Independently released CD, Acoustic pop)
Lily Holbrook is an unusual newcomer on the underground music scene. You always hear about guys who start out as street performers...but how many ladies get their start that way? Lily began performing on the streets of Boston...and the positive response prompted her to push her career to the next level. Her devotion and skills have now culminated with the release of her first album, Running From the Sky. Ms. Holbrook's music has a strange quality that makes it sound as if it were recorded at some distant time in the past. It is just slightly reminiscent of some of Donovan's early material...or even a more restrained and controlled Rasputina. Lily's acoustic guitar based compositions feature intriguing arrangements and thoughtful lyrics...but it is this young lady's personality and spirit that make her music so special and unique. Throughout all nine tracks on this album, Lily Holbrooks comes across as a sincere and real human being...expressing herself with her genuine abilities and inventive mind. Her vocals are nothing short of fantastic. We particularly like "The Snow," "Slipping," and "Dandelion." Don't be turned off by the strange (?) cartoon cover art. This lady is a serious new artist with a great deal to offer the world. (Rating: 5)

Logh - Every Time a Bell Rings An Angel Gets His Wings (CD, Deep Elm, Pop)
Cool moody pop music. We can't describe this band any better than the talented writer who wrote the band's press release. It states: "Every Time a Bell Rings An Angel Gets His Wings flirts with lo-fi elements--lightly brushed snares, subtle guitar strumming, droning bass lines and wispy, aching vocals--but with more range, expression and genuine feeling than most bands can muster. Capturing the precise timing for every little tone and whisper, Logh's debut is incredibly well performed and overflowing with desperate beauty." Hoping that the band and the label will forgive us for lifting their words and including them in our review, we can honestly say that we are literally blown away by this album. The band's heady, super intelligent pop music is anchored in strange chords and unexpected melodic twists...but the overall tone is very laid back and brilliant. In many ways, the music of Logh reminds us of a more progressive version of The Hang Ups. The guitars are lovely and just slightly peculiar. The band is super tight...yet they come across sounding very sincere and comfortable with themselves. It's difficult to tell what these tunes are about ("Yellow Lights Mean Slow Down, Not Speed Up," "The Bastards Have Landed")...but when the music sounds this wonderful...who CARES? An astounding, beautiful, and moving album. These guys are doing everything RIGHT. (Rating: 5+++)

Lucid Nation - Tacoma Ballet (Double CD, Brain Floss, Rock)
This is a big ol' whopping double CD set chock full of experimental noise and loose, out-of-control, sassy rock music. The members of this band have either played with or were in bands such as Hole, Unseen Force, L7, Debbie Harry, and others. Singer Tamra Spivey is definitely the focal point here. Her loose and intense vocals remind us in many ways of Johnny Rotten. She's got attitude in a bucket and enough balls and guts to spit out whatever she feels like with a cool and convincing urgency. What we find most appealing about this two hour album is the overall spontaneity. (Reminds us of some of the crazy, off-the-wall stuff that was coming out in the drug-crazed 1970s...) This stuff certainly isn't going to appeal to everyone...but the folks who dig it are going to REALLY dig it. Definitely a word of mouth act at the moment, we could see BIG things happening for Lucid Nation if they can keep their momentum. It's hard to pick favorites here, but cuts you may find amusing and/or entertaining include "Happy Accident," "Everyone' s Got An Area," "Mr. Slow," and "Universal Application." Rolling Stones fans will likely be horribly offended by the odd cover of "Happy"... (Rating: 4+++)

Carolyn Mark and the Room-Mates - Terrible Hostess (CD, Mint, Pop)
Carolyn Mark already had us in the palm of her hands from the moment we heard her debut album Party Girl. The exciting news here is that Terrible Hostess is even better. Featuring country, pop, swing, and ballads galore, this album is chock full of impressive upbeat music that perfectly showcases Ms. Mark's vocal abilities. What probably impresses us most about the way this young lady sings is that she isn't too perfect. There are slight ragged edges in her style of singing that make Carolyn a much more engaging performer than we normally hear out there in the world. The players and the arrangements on this album are right on target 100% of the time. Carolyn Mark is one of those outstanding and unbelievable talents temporarily playing to relatively small audiences. Get in on the ground floor now. This girl is amazing and captivating.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Our favorite tracks are "Fuzzy Slippers," "Chumpville," "Dirty Little Secret," and "Country In The City." (Rating: 5+++)

Maserati - The Language of Cities (CD, Kindercore, Instrumental)
Intriguing improvisational instrumentals. The three I's work in this band's favor, making The Language of Cities flow by like a cool stream down the side of a mountain. In many ways, the compositions on this album could be considered jazz. The musicians obviously feed off one another and let their instincts take them where things occur naturally. The album begins with the creeping and methodical "Ambassador of Cinema" and then proceeds to wind its way through a peculiar path of unexpected musical terrain. Maserati share a great deal in common with label-mates Japancakes. Both bands play a modern style of progressive jazz rock that is not rooted in any one specific genre. Moody and sometimes slightly surreal...this band is charting their own cool territory...letting their music go wherever it takes them. Eight tracks, including "Ambassador of Cinema," "Keep It Gold," and "There Will Always Be Someone Behind You." (Rating: 5)

The Mushroom River Band - Simsalabim (CD, MeteorCity, Hard rock)
Great screamer rock fueled by punk-like ideals and throttled up to the max with big hairy energy. The Mushroom River Band play a brand of revved up riff-driven harsh stoner rock that'll have you bashing your head into the walls in no time flat. This band literally plays like there's no tomorrow...and their sound is topped off by an intense vocalist named Spice (formerly of the band Spiritual Beggars). The guitars are in constant overdrive...and once these guys get going they don't let up for a moment. Punchy macho cuts like "Bugs," "My Vote Is Blank," and "Proud of Being Cool" make this one big nasty ball of raunchy fun that should appeal to old and young alike. We absolutely LOVE the artwork on the back cover featuring a wizard who has apparently just gotten some cute little bunnies so drunk and high they they can't even stand up. Loud, funny, and HARD. (Rating: 5)

Nashville Pussy - Say Something Nasty (CD, Artemis, Rock)
Nashville Pussy is one badass, ass-kickin', rock and roll machine. Fronted by one of the sexiest men in rock history, this band continues in their mission to conquer and control the trashy underground clubs of America. Blaine Cartwright's vocals have never sounded better. His nasty growl sounds something like a cross between early Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart. Jeremy Thompson and new bass player KatieLynn Campbell do a HELL of a job keeping the beat throbbing like hell while sexy goddess Ruyter Suys slaps out meaty guitar riffs like she's ready to give birth to hamsters. The song titles say it all: "Gonna Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Outta Your Drunk Daddy," "Keep On F*ckin'," "Keep Them Things Away From Me," "Let's Get the Hell Outta Here"... HELL YEAH!!! This band truly has it all. Image, sound, songs, style... Rarely has all-out rock and roll ever sounded better. This baby's a complete and total HIT. (Rating: 6)

Orange Goblin - Coup de Grace (CD, The Music Cartel, Hard rock)
Ear splitting hard rock music with an extreme meaty dose of heavy masculinity. Coming across sounding something like a cross between early Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols, these guys have a real knack for ripping and roaring their way through some truly unforgettable rock and roll nuggets. Nasty big ol' badass guitars drive these tunes home while intense screamer Ben Ward pushes everything within his grasp to the limit and BEYOND. There's no holding back as the band belts their way through such crowd pleasers as "Your World Will Hate This" and "Getting High On The Bad Times." As an added bonus, the album was produced by Scott Reeder and features guest vocals by John Garcia (both of the highly acclaimed Kyuss). Extra heavy metallic punk/grunge for those who really and TRULY want to ROCK THEIR WORLD. This one could very well become a CLASSIC. Coup de Grace is one HELL of a rockin' album. (Rating: 5+++)

Narrowcasting - ...Current or the Tide (Russian import CD, Samogon, Pop)
We unfortunately rarely receive music from Russian artists. Narrowcasting is an obscure delight and was recorded under severe budget restrictions. And yet the music and ideas come across crystal clear. The folks in this underground band play music that is something like a cross between Hayden, Neil Young, and, perhaps most of all, Varnaline. Strangely, the music has an Americana sort of sound...pop music written around guitars...with plaintive and sincere vocals that are genuine and real. This is a surprisingly mature batch of tunes from a group of folks who are obviously creating music for the pure love of doing so. Great tunes like "...Current or the Tide," "Paris Air Show," and "Foreign Corresponding" make this album a curiously unique listen. Includes an unusual cover of Alex Chilton's "Blue Moon." You will most likely NEVER find this anywhere (!), so we would suggest visiting the artists' web site... (Rating: 4++)

Nickelback - Curb (CD, Roadrunner, Hard rock)
Due to their intense worldwide success over the past few years, the guys in Nickelback and the Roadrunner label have re-released the band's debut album entitled Curb. This album is certain to please band's fans as well as bring more runners into the pack. Far from being an early photograph of a band looking for a sound and image, Curb presents a very tight and very heavy band who found their focus early in their career. Nasty guitar riffs and growling husky vocals tower over a super macho rhythm section to create mind-bending heavy rock for the thinking listener. In some ways, the tunes on this album sound like a strange merging of death metal with Southern redneck rock. What sets these guys apart from many other ultra hard bands is that fact that the vocalist really can sing...and the tunes really do have memorable melodies. A solid album from start to finish, Curb will be a real treat for anyone wanting to crank it up REALLY loud and do whatever might come naturally. Top picks: "Little Friend," "Where?," "Window Shopper," "I Don't Have." (Rating: 5+)

The Numb Ones (Burned out boring people kind of things)
To Hell with THE NUMB ONES. All those burned out, tired, know-it-all jerks out there who have BEEN there, DONE that, and who have SEEN IT ALL. Poor numb ones! They are not just numb...they are also DUMB. For you see, dear readers, numbness is in the mind of the beholder. So...all those who feel they have nothing new to experience really DO NOT have anything new to experience...and therefore DO NOT DESERVE to have anything to experience AT ALL. The mind is a powerful thing to waste. Obviously, virtually everyone is wasting away. To all the numb...the dumb...and the humble...do yourselves a favor and overdose on something lethal. If you weren't around it wouldn't make a difference anyway. So take a dive, jump off the deep end...and STOP RUINING EVERYTHING FOR THE REST OF US WHO STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR. (Rating: 1)

Pendletones - Move Along (CD, Torpedo, Pop)
Wonderfully upbeat music that combines the very best elements of 1960s and 1970s pop. This Swedish quintet sounds nothing like other Swedish acts that we have heard. The band's music has much more in common with American and British artists. Pop fans will find themselves instantly swooning over the soaring melodies cruising through the veins of Move Along. Unlike most pop bands, Pendletons feature three singer/songwriters: Erik Hallmer, Lars Gustavsson, and Kristoffer Jonzon. Any of these three individuals could easily be fronting a band by themselves...but they made the industrious and wise decision to combine their talents. In this case, the sum of the parts is even stronger the the individual units. This album is chock full of unforgettable tunes, extraordinary lyrics, and harmony vocals certain to knock off even the tightest of socks. Mind blowing cuts like "Move Along," "The Perfume That You Wear," "Someone Like Me," and "I Wish" are nothing short of...fantastic. (Rating: 5+++)

Andrea Perry - Two (CD, Trust Issue, Pop)
Absolutely lovely and creative pop music from Andrea Perry. Two was recorded "above Jeffrey's restaurant in Austin, Texas." She may be an obscure, self-produced artist...but Andrea Perry possesses a wide variety of skills and talent that make her music extremely entertaining and worthwhile. On this album, Andrea plays bass, guitar, keys, and handles all the vocals. In fact, the only instrument she doesn't play is the drum set (more than adequately handled by the mysteriously credited SearCH). We have rarely heard a female instrumentalist who matches the true creative spirit of this young lady. Her songs are wonderfully spirited...her playing tight and inventive...and her vocals are nothing short of astounding. While the influences present in her music are many...we are hard pressed to think of any single artist that Perry sounds like (?!?). A fine effort, featuring timeless tunes such as "Bursting Through the Clouds," "I Think of Nothing," "You Broke the Spell" (wow!), and "Across the Water." Outstanding. (Rating: 5)

Kimberly Rew - Great Central Revisited (CD, Bongo Beat, Pop)
The name Kimberly Rew may not be familiar to you...but we'd be willing to bet that you've heard of the Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves. Mr. Rew was a pivotal member of both bands. He also, on occasion, releases solo albums. Great Central Revisited is a great album. Charging out of the gate with the Mitch Easter-ish "Life Itself," this man instantly proves that his best days are far from numbered. Rew's 1960s AM radio sounding pop is refreshingly upbeat and positive and his vocals are perfect. "English Road," the second cut, could very well have been culled from a Young Fresh Fellows album. The tune is remarkably catchy and well arranged. The low key, provocative sound of "Screaming Lord Sutch" is both poignant and just slightly odd. We find the clever wordplay in "Sick of Hearing About Your Drugs" to be particularly appealing. Kimberly Rew is an ultra-talented individual whose current creations should not be judged based upon what he has done in the past. This is a wonderfully relevant and superbly produced pop album that is certain to entertain and delight virtually any fan of great pop music... (Rating: 5+++)

Saso - My Brain Hurts (CD Single, Melted Snow, Pop)
This underground British act is a good example of why we review music. For you see...if we weren't writers, we probably wouldn't even know about this unique band. More than just a pop band, the folks in Saso are approaching their work at almost every angle with an artistic edge. The listener never actually sees the band members...yet their love of what they are doing is obvious. This CD single features two versions of the tune "My Brain Hurts" (taken from the band's last album entitled The Big Hug)...plus it includes two new tracks ("Turn Your Back" and "Beer Monster"). The band included a beautiful designed booklet with the disc entitled "Correspondence.01"...thus titled because it contains snippets from various correspondents layered with beautiful photographs and altered images. This little baby is limited to a run of 500 copies...so you'd be best advised to click your little mouse puppy on the band's web page (link above) and get hold of a copy before they're all gone. These folks are...fantastic and ultra-creative. (Rating: 5+++)

Sinisstar - Future Shock (CD, Geffen, Industrial rock/pop)
What a funny looking group of drag queens! They're probably striving to look ultra weird and evil, but take our word for it. These men are drag queen rock musicians ALL THE WAY. But there ain't nothing wrong with that when you can play and sing as well as these young men. The music has a slightly hard edge, but Sinisstar is basically a very loud pop band. Sure, they throw in some ultra-naughty words to keep things spicy...but basically these gentlemen are playing for a very young audience...kids who are still in the initial stages of parental rebellion. But back to the songs. Actually, there are quite a few standout cuts on this album. We like the catchy chorus of "White Noise" and the nasty sound of "Do It." Definitely marketed toward the kiddies, if the guys in Sinisstar could lighten up on their image a bit...they could actually attract a much wider audience... (Rating: 3+++)

Sixty Watt Shaman - Reason To Live (CD, Spitfire, Rock)
More excellent hard rock from Sixty Watt Shaman. Reason To Live is a great, heady dose of smart loud rock played with intense energy. Some sources have defined the band's sound as "soul metal"...which is actually a rather precise way of summing up their sound. These guys are loud as hell...but they never forsake songs or playing for the pure sake of turning up the volume. The guitars are loud, hard, and metallic...and the band's vocalist is one of the most intense in living memory. The man's screams and growls sound something like a Southern rock bear from the 1970s who has just turned onto black metal. Although there are slightly bluesy threads running through these guys' music, make no mistake about it. These guys' main intent is to ROCK. And rock hard they do throughout all sixteen mind-bending cuts on this album. Fans of Nashville Pussy would do well to check out Sixty Watt Shaman. Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Sloppy Ball Pudding (Goddamn pudding and balls kind of mixed up thing)
All hail the buckets and bowls full of SLOPPY BALL PUDDING. The pudding is moist and tender...and seeps over the edges of the containers that cannot contain it. The pudding is moody. It jiggles and slops around corners. The aroma makes little gender animals claw and sniffle as it roams around the edges of the painted forest and blips. Two small couriers patched the saxophone tenders as they branched their way into the deeper end of the pudding. But before they could reach it they were taxed out of their shelter by Andy and Alexandria. The only way to eat Sloppy Ball Pudding is to slap it on the end of one finger and wipe in on your lips. It then becomes possible to lick and slurp it all the way in with ease. Two fingers and a moist patty later...and you'll find yourself driving in ugly ol' Disneyland. Pack it up, baby. You're not going to choir practice TONIGHT. (Rating: 2)

The Sock Angels - The Sock Angels (CD, Year of the Tiger, Soft pop)
Slow and slightly stark soft pop music. The Sock Angels is the one-man band consisting of Daniel Moriarty. This Minneapolis-based multi-talented artist spent several years playing in other bands before retreating to his bedroom to create The Sock Angels. All of the material on this self-titled album was recorded on an 8-track and then mixed down on a Macintosh G3. As a result, the sound quality is slick...but not too slick. Mr. Moriarty's songwriting style reminds us of Sparklehorse (a band that we admire a great deal). The songs are basic and stripped down...based around an acoustic guitar...and feature ultra-cool fragile vocals that pull it all together. Really nice stuff, we particularly dig all the open space left in these compositions which allows the listener to concentrate on the melodies and lyrics. Top picks: "Into the Blue," "There Can Be No Peace," "Heavenly," "Touched by Grace." (Rating: 4+++)

Sonic Youth - Murray Street (CD, Geffen, Pop/rock)
Many Sonic Youth fans may feel that the band has passed their prime and is now merely treading water. We feel the opposite. At the height of the band's popularity (when everyone and their grandmother was singing their praises) we were left scratching our heads...wondering what all the fuss was about. Now that the band has changed their sound and general direction...we are more impressed. Murray Street is the band's second album in a trilogy of releases about the cultural history of Lower Manhattan. The moody, restrained quality of most of the cuts on this album is inviting. Sure, there are still moments where things get a bit noisy...but the band never quite goes out of control. Some tracks work better than others, but that has always been the case with Sonic Youth albums. Our favorites are "The Empty Page," "Disconnection Notice," "Plastic Sun," and "Sympathy for the Strawberry." (Rating: 4+++)

Ringo Starr - And His New All-Starr Band (CD, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Pop)
Now that John and George are dead, Ringo Starr easily proves that he is the only remaining Beatle with anything worthwhile to offer. This live album recorded in August 2001 at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago proves that the world's least likely superstar drummer can still make it happen. Actually...and in fact...we find many of these recordings to be superior to the originals ("Photograph" and "Act Naturally" have NEVER sounded this good). Ringo is backed by a truly impressive superstar band consisting of Sheila E., Roger Hodgson, Ian Hunter, Howard Jones, and Greg Lake. Rather than simply churn out a bunch of his own hits, however, Ringo has the integrity and good sense to also let his bandmates shine. And shine they do...as well-known hits by Supertramp, Mott The Hoople, and more creep into the evening's repertoire. Usually revival bands have us running for the hills...but in the case, the musicians come across sounding so genuine and sincere that you can't help but be drawn into their consciousness. An excellent live album from a great little drummer. (Rating: 5)

The Telescopes - Third Wave (CD, Double Agent, Abstract pop)
Hypnotic, strange, and unpredictable pop music. Begun in 1988 (and initially recording for the Creation label), The Telescopes have blipped in and out of the public consciousness. They finally regrouped permanently in 2000 and began recording Third Wave. The band is fronted by Stephen Lawrie (vocals, guitar) and Joanna Doran (vocals, guitar) but also includes David Fitzgerald (guitar), Robert Brooks (bass), and Dominic Dillon (drums). The band's oddball tendencies may very well be more appetizing to fans now than when they began. Many songs on this album have discernible melodies and/or lyrics...but these are merged and blurred with a variety of shifting sounds and waves of noise that prevent the music from ever sounding too accessible. The peculiar nature of this band's material will prevent them from ever gaining a large audience...but that's probably not what they're after anyway. This is music created for the pure sake of creating music. The band focuses on artistic integrity while de-emphasizing the need or desire to become hugely famous or successful. New York's Double Agent label gets bonus points for making this available in the United States. Although it may be difficult to believe, The Telescopes really don't sound like any other act that we can think of at the moment. (Rating: 5++)

Ten Grand - The Comprehensive List of Everyone Who Has Ever Done Anything Wrong To Us (CD, Sickroom, Progressive hard rock)
Weird, intense, trippy stuff. If you think the band Ten Grand is just another quartet intent on blaring out harsh noise, think again. Upon closer inspection the intricacies and bizarre nuances of the band's music begin to sink in. This strangely titled album begins with the first few tunes "tied together" by a computer repeating the names of folks who have apparently done the band wrong. Strange concept, but the tunes themselves are even stranger. The band's lead singer does everything from scream, screech, whisper, yelp, and (almost) sing normally at times. The music ranges from guitar assault to heady and experimental progressive rock that is difficult to describe. Suffice to say, this band's material is so obtuse that they're going to alienate a lot of potential listeners...and that's probably exactly the point of it all. We find the peculiar nature of this album to be strangely appealing and satisfying. Sure wish MORE bands were willing to take as many chances as Ten Grand (!). Eleven captivating tracks including "The Face I Make While You're Crying," "Grave? Shovel! Let's Go," and "It Ain't A Party Unless You're Doing It With Someone Else in the Bathroom." (Rating: 5)

Trust Company - The Lonely Position of Neutral (CD, Geffen, Metal/rock/grunge/thrash/pop)
Thick and intense power rock quartet with a slight pop sensibility. Trust Company sounds something like an obtuse cross between Helmet and early Smashing Pumpkins. The band has a dense, hard hitting sound...but the vocals are frequently breathy and restrained. The band seems to enjoy dipping and diving in and out of harsh and soft modes frequently...often several times within the space of a single song. The merging of ultra-harsh and breathy soft vocals takes a bit of getting used to...but once the band's sound becomes familiar the music is actually rather entertaining and likable. Our own position is that we could stand a bit more of the band's pop side...and a little less of their death metal schtick. But hey...that's a minor point overall. Good tunes like "Hover," "Figure," "Deeper Into You," and "Take It All" are just the kinda thing kids love. (Rating: 4)

The Visible Men - In Socks Mode (CD, Dang'n'Dung, Pop)
Well produced melodic piano pop with excellent melodies. The band consists of Dustin Lanker (a fine pianist and excellent vocalist) and Dan Schmid (bass player extraordinaire). In some ways the music on this album is reminiscent of Ben Folds...but only slightly. What will probably cause the biggest reaction to this band are the song titles and lyrics. With tunes like "Blow Shit Up," "Semen Factory," and "King Shit" a lot of people are probably going to assume the band is a joke. Rest assured these songs are not jokes. They are very well thought out and feature some superb arrangements...and the production is SLICK. The lyrics...while slightly absurd at times...actually convey some real thoughts and ideas that just might cause the listener to think for a minute or two. Ooops...almost forgot to mention in passing that Mr. Lanker and Mr. Schmid are also in the band Cherry Poppin' Daddies...but that fact matters little, as this bears little or no resemblance to the music produced by that "other" band... (Rating: 4++)

Vortis - File Under: Agitainment (CD, Thick, Hard rock)
Whoa. Guess we'll have to leave it to a 59-year-old philosophy professor to knock rock and roll back where it belongs...?!? Yup, believe it or not, Vortis lead vocalist Michael Weinstein is a philosophy professor who is just about to hit the big six OH. But...an old fart he AIN'T. This guy has a lot more spirit and guts than musicians one THIRD his age. What we like best about Mr. Weinstein is that he ain't afraid to offend people. Most people probably don't care like him for the simple fact that he is so loose with his lyrics. The overall sound and idea of this band reminds us in many ways of Austin's legendary Pocket Fishrmen. The band is smart and tight...but their sense of humor overrides everything else. Much more than a mere "gimmick" band...Vortis is out to prove that grown men can sometimes beat kids at their own game... (Rating: 4+++)

The Warm Guns - Blown Away (CD, Zircon Skye, Rock/pop)
Blown Away is a surprisingly mature debut album. The Warm Guns is a band fronted by a man named Rex Monday. True to the label's press release, Monday's sound is very much like a merging of The Beatles and David Bowie. (At times he sounds so much like one or the other than you almost think you're listening to unreleased recordings unearthed from a vault.) Some of Monday's guitar playing even bears an eerie resemblance to Bill Nelson. References aside, this is a strong album that stands on its own...full of smart songs with thoughtful lyrics...and impeccable arrangements. Our favorite cuts here are "The Taoist Wheel," "The Elephant Pig," and "Lexa Beaulieu." Although it matters little in the big scheme of things, some may find it interesting that Mr. Monday is paralyzed from the waist down. This situation has obviously not harmed or hurt this gentleman's creative spirit. A fine album. (Rating: 4+++)

Wretch Like Me - I Am Become Death (CD, Owned and Operated Recordings, Rock)
Talk about perseverance. This band has really been through the mill...and they have SURVIVED (or at least 2/5 survived anyway...). The history of the band is not as important as the fact that these four gentlemen provide some really great hard rock with smart intensity. On this album, original members Abe Brennan (vocals) and Trevor Lanigan (guitar) are joined by David Klein ("Rhythm Nazi") and John Hernandez ("Tennis Shoes in the Dryer"...???). The tunes on I Am Become Death range from in-your-face hard rock to modern progressive metal/pop. These guys do a lot more than just blow off random steam. Unlike many loud rock bands these guys pay a great deal of attention to things like song composition and instrumental arrangements. Brennan's vocals bring it all home. His husky, masculine voice pulls everything together nicely. Hot cuts like "Another Reason To Hate Easter," "The Greatest Love That Never Was," and "I Am the Goat" make this album a nice dose of heavy semi-psychedelia... (Rating: 5)

Michael Zapruder - This is a Beautiful Town (CD, Explorable Oriole, Pop)
We always dig it when we come across an artist whose main concern is writing songs above all else. Michael Zapruder is such an artist. And This is a Beautiful Town is one big tasty album. Mr. Zapruder has a beautiful deep voice that reminds us of Ron Sexsmith and Mark Everett (of Eels fame). The songs, however, are pure Zapruder. This entire album was crafted around some piano and vocal tracks that Michael recorded at Neil Young's Broken Arrow Ranch. The initial tracks were taken to New York where they were fleshed out and completed. The music ranges from pensive to poignant to thoughtful to uplifting...and back again. But what drives these tunes are, of course, Mr. Zapruder's melodies and voice. Astounding and beautiful compositions like "Little Ship Bluebell," "Diamond Line," "This is a Sinecure," and the title track are sure to be on a great many playlists for many years to come. An instant classic, This is a Beautiful Town is refreshing, genuine, and pure. This guy will be a major player in one realm or another. Great stuff. (Rating: 5++)

Zeromancer - Eurotrash (CD, Cleopatra, Industrial/techno/dance/pop)
The guys in Zeromancer are very, very, VERY concerned with their image and appearance...so if that sort of thing turns you off then you'll probably HATE what these guys are doing. In our mind music comes first. Despite the fact that there's a lot of clothing and hair dye in this equation...these fellows' music is actually quite strong. The band's industrial/techno/dance schtick is sparked by some surprisingly catchy melodies. They've already had a good deal of success overseas...and now they're looking to transfer that success to the U.S.A. Our guess is that these fellows have listened to Nine Inch Nails a great deal over the past few years. The basic sound and style is very similar. The band's techno-driven anthemic pop tunes should appeal to club kids, so don't be surprised if you start seeing these fellows' mugs splattered all over the place... (Rating: 3++)

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