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December 2003 Reviews by

 Eric Anders
Azure Ray

Brass Castle
Garth Brooks

Comment Piece/Poem
Commissioner of Sewers: William S. Burroughs*
Sheryl Crow
Electronic Barnacle Island
Enemy Love*
Michael Jackson
Damien Jurado
Katrina and the Waves
Toby Keith
Les Baton Rouge
The Little Killers
Craig Marshall

The Movies

The Sanitary Napkins
Tijuana Strip Club

Hank Williams Jr.

*Top Picks


December 2003 Comment Piece:
A Poem.


If Americould it would,
But American't so it won't.
Say "Hurrah and Hurray"
For the country that spawned a billion mindless sheep...
Sheep that can't do anything
But walk in their goddamn sleep.

Even though it would very much like to...

American't stop the hatred,
American't control the world, and
American't control the thoughts of its own goddamn citizens.

If Americould it would,
But American't...
So it won't.


Eric Anders - Not At One (CD, Baggage Room, Soft pop)
Thoughtful mid-tempo pop featuring super smooth vocals and nice rolling melodies. Eric Anders' debut album is indeed a very strong effort...featuring melodic highs that would take artists several years to achieve. The tunes are centered around acoustic guitar and are sometimes reminiscent of some of Donovan's later material (this is particularly true on the title track). The tunes feature arrangements that are an absolute match for the material. Anders' pensive, introspective approach to music is refreshing and impressively genuine. Like most great CDs, Not At One gets better the more you spin it. Anders is certain to become a quick favorite among fans of soft pop. His music is honest and, above all, memorable. Twelve clean cuts including "Leave You Doubtful," "Loveless Lame," and "Say Goodbye Again." (Rating: 5)

Azure Ray - Hold On Love (CD, Saddle Creek, Soft pop)
Our favorite female due of the twenty-first century returns...with their most accessible album yet. Azure Ray fans need not worry, however, as the duo has neither sold out nor discarded their original concept. Hold On Love is somewhat of a departure for these young ladies in that several of the tunes feature more traditional arrangements than normal as well as drums. But who can blame Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor for wanting to expand their sound just a bit...so that it might appeal to more folks? Their earlier releases were so stark and sad that they were (unfortunately) playing to a very small and limited audience. Thankfully, the girls have combined their new, more upbeat approach with enough songs retaining their original sound...to create an album that successfully blends the old with the new. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this duo...their music sounds not unlike a more orchestrated Lisa Germano. The duo writes tunes with incredibly strong melodies...and their silky smooth vocals are about as good as it gets in this hemisphere. Hold On Love is full of the absorbing, meticulously arranged compositions that we have come to expect from Fink and Taylor. Just as was the case with the duo's previous releases, there is not a bad cut on this album. Particularly strong cuts include "New Resolution," "We Are Mice," "Sea of Doubts," and "These White Lights Will Bend to Make Blue." Once again, Azure Ray comes up with an absolute must have. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Bleach - Astronomy (CD, Tooth and Nail, Rock/pop)
Nice upbeat loud catchy pop. The five guys in Bleach play with a furious conviction that recalls early Joe Jackson. The band's music is loud...but they never let their songs get lost in volume. While the tunes on Astronomy rock like hell, they are chock full of interesting melodic hooks and killer arrangements that make them instantly addictive. This, the band's fifth album, ought to be the one to kick them into the mainstream. Far from being generic rockers, these guys are extraordinarily smart and creative. And their music gets better with repeated spins. There are mountains of influences happening here...but while the band draws its sound from a wide variety of sources, the end result is rather unique and powerful. Eleven tunes...and there's not a bad apple in the apple patch. Top picks: "Get Up," "Plan To Pull Through," "Nineteen," "Moving On." Rather exceptional stuff indeed... (Rating: 5+)

Brass Castle - Get On Fire (CD, Drazzig, Rock)
Brass Castle is a refreshing blast of air. Instead of relying on studio tricks or a dumb image in order to gain an audience...these two guys are facing the world solely based on their purely raw and magnetic talent. The band is the duo of Chris Strawn and Christian Gordy. They wrote all the songs on Get On Fire...and what mighty fine songs these be are. This album features fourteen absolutely kickass little rockers with more power than most bands with twice as many members (or more). The playing is extremely tight and furious...and the vocals have a nervous yelping crazy quality that is most effective. The best word to describe this album is...EXPLOSIVE. Brass Castle is easily one of the most credible and real sounding hard rock bands we have heard this year. Crazy cuts include "Hamlet," "Due It," "Pelican Bay," and "Get On Fire." You have to hear the guitars and drums on this album to believe. Killer stuff...extremely spontaneous. (Rating: 5)

Garth Brooks - My Face Looks Like the Rectum of a Pig (CD, RCD, Country)
Country pop superstar Garth Brooks has always had a really bad face. On his new album, he finally confronts the issue head on. The album begins with the tune "I Should Wear Tight Jeans Over My Head Because It Is Identical To My Rear End Anyway"...an upbeat hummable tune that is certain to please Garth's fans. Next up is "Michael Jackson Won't Have Sex With Me Because I'm Too Old and Ugly." Strangely, the tune features little ghetto children laughing and singing in the background while Brooks farts blood into the microphone. Midway through the album, Garth finally decides to talk about his feminine side in the tune "I'm An Artificial Sissy Cowboy in Love With The Taste of My Own Goddamn Semen." The song is confusing, yet highly wonderful. In fact, everything Garth does on this album is highly wonderful. Our favorite track is, "Crystal Speed and PCP, What They Do To Me." Garth's drug abuse has never been widely known about before, but now it will be. In the tune, Garth states, When I snort speed it feels just great...as long as I mix it with LSD and hairspray...my asshole is sore because Michael worked with it...but now I want pot...then I'll eat my own snot...my tiny little dick is a worthless old trot. It seems odd that Brooks chose to put a photo of one of his turds on the CD itself...although, in a way, it seems appropriate. Garth is a genius that the world loves because people are too stupid to know any better. This is a GREAT CD that gets worse the more you let it get better. (Rating: 1)

CKY - Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild: The Video Album (Double DVD, Island / Hoffman Entertainment, Rock)
What a major disappointment. CKY is one of the best hard rock bands of the twenty-first century...but this DVD is nothing but a waste of time and money. Being such big fans of this band's music...we were, admittedly, expecting a lot. What we got...was NOTHING. The first DVD consists of alternating segments. First the band talks about their video (snore...) and then the video shows. Apparently the band is attempting to be shocking and funny...but the videos are anything BUT. All the mugging in front of the camera doesn't work AT ALL. And all the stereotypical rock band shit is trite and boring. The only segment worth watching is the animated video...and even it isn't all that great. When we popped in DVD number two and realized there was going to be some concert footage we thought...ALL RIGHT! But "all right" it isn't...because the DVD is ruined by the fact that all the footage is diced, spliced, and filled with so many unnecessary effects...that you never really get to see the band play a full song without interruption. And the sound quality...is BAD. This sucker simply ain't worth your bucks. Save your money and buy the band's CDs. They absolutely ROCK. Unfortunately, at least for the time being, CKY needs to stay OUT of the video business. This is a real CRUMMY LETDOWN. C'mon guys...we KNOW you can do BETTER than this...!!! (Rating: 1)

Commissioner of Sewers - William S. Burroughs (DVD, Screen Edge, Interview/spoken word)
We have been fans of William S. Burroughs for years...but this DVD increased our awareness of the man as well as opened up some new windows into his personality. While many dismiss Burroughs' writing because it is too obtuse and nonsensical for the average reader...in actuality, the man truly was a genius of sorts. The interview segments on this DVD make this point obvious and clear. Although his writing was insane and off-the-wall...when interviewed, Burroughs came across as an amazingly clear-headed individual with definite thoughts on life and the world...and his thoughts made an awful lot of sense. Interspersed with the interview segments are clips of Burroughs reading from his works. These segments feature various film clips running in the background while Burroughs reads his strangely compelling and bizarre text. The overall effect is rather chilling and surreal. While we are not big fans of spoken word projects (the understatement of the year...), in this particular case the spoken word segments work wonderfully. In addition, different film clips are included in which Burroughs made brief acting appearances in some major motion pictures. If you're not familiar with the man, this DVD will serve as an excellent introduction. If you're already a fan...well then, you probably already have a copy of this. Highly recommended for folks who don't need to be spoon fed. (Rating: 5+++)

Sheryl Crow - The Very Best of Sheryl Crow (CD, A&M, Pop)
Obviously released for holiday consumption, The Very Best of Sheryl Crow is just that...the most familiar and catchy songs Sheryl Crow has recorded...all jammed onto one juicy compact platter. While many music fans seem to despise and/or vent jealousy over Crow's ultra-successful career...over time, we have come to really appreciate this talented middle-aged lady's work. Her music is super smooth and ultimately catchy...doesn't require too much thought...and it makes for some simply wonderful driving music (particularly with the windows rolled all the way down). The Very Best of... contains seventeen cool cuts including "All I Wanna Do," "Soak Up the Sun," "Light In Your Eyes," and "A Change Would Do You Good." Includes the bonus track "The First Cut is the Deepest (Country Version)." If you want all the best, here it is. Though she may be something of a media whore, Sheryl Crow still appears to have the talent to sustain her career over the long run. (Rating: 5)

Drugmoney - Mtn Cty Jnk (CD, Hybrid Recordings / LLC & Sugarjet), Rock/pop)
Instantly gripping rock/pop without any filler. Rarely do we hear rock bands coming out of Ashville, North Carolina...so perhaps there is a fertile and fantastic underground scene happening there. If Drugmoney is any indication, that may very well be the case. Mnt Cty Jnk is a refreshing blast of sincere, genuine, and wonderfully melodic tunes that are charged up and intelligent. Bandleader Fisher Meehan has such a strong presence that his presence literally leaks through your speakers right into your living space. This album contains excellent rockers that are counterbalanced by some absolutely lovely soft numbers. Some of the melodies remind us of The Young Fresh Fellows, Guided By Voices, and even The Move. In addition to Meehan, the band includes Bill Reynolds (bass), Mike Rhodes (drums), and Tyler Ramsey (lap steel, keyboards). Drugmoney is, without a doubt, one of the most refreshing and completely enthusiastic rock bands around. Very few bands can emit positive vibes like these guys do...and there are definitely few vocalists who can transmit the kind of power found inside the soul of Fisher Meehan. Excellent meaty cuts include "I Know," "Small Thinking," "Anyway," "D.M.D.," and "Beautiful." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

[babysue® Plug: For years we have been being turned onto some of the best unknown stuff around from the fine folks at Good Cop PR. You can visit their web site and see what bands they are working with...and, almost always, find some of the best up-and-coming artists on the planet. These folks have SUPERB taste. Follow their lead and you can't go wrong.]

Electronic Barnacle Island - deeply faulted area resembling an upright deck of cards (CD, KiraKira, Electronic/instrumental)
This release is neither commercial nor accessible...could you have guessed from the title...? Electronic Barnacle Island is the one man project consisting of Aaron Noel. deeply faulted area resembling an upright deck of cards is a cool, flowing album featuring eight dreamy tracks that almost seem to fade from one to the next...like a series of conscious dreams. What first caught our attention about this album is that Noel is not using the usual predictable canned sounds that one is accustomed to hearing. He chooses his sounds wisely...and then leaves plenty of space in his compositions to allow the real ideas to soak in. Some of the tracks have a rather stark naked sound...leaving a great deal to the imagination of the listener. Quite creative in very subtle ways...this album presents a young electronic artist using technology to his advantage...while still appealing to the artistic needs of his listeners. Well constructed thought pieces include "Mortal Hood Clip," "Chance To Be Hollow," and "Tender Snap Compartment." Great stuff...! (Rating: 5)

Enemy Love - Enemy Love (CD EP, DietStrychnineRecords, Odd pop/rock)
The guys in Enemy Love have started off on unbelievably strong foundation with their debut EP. Produced by Thom Monahan (easily one of the most gifted producers on Earth), this EP features four peculiar pop masterpieces. "Weekender" is a wonderfully warped sounding alternative rocker with surreal guitars, thumpy rhythms, and soaring vocals...a rather powerful cut. "We Are All God's People" follows...quickly making it clear that Enemy Love is not just another generic loud rock band. The tune is a beautiful moody piece featuring spectacular vocals and a absorbing melody. Our possible favorite is "Into the Sun," which is difficult to describe...so we won't even try. The EP ends with "She Don't Make Me Run," a strangely compelling...if not somewhat noisy...rocker. This band's music reminds us of Lilys in some ways (who Monahan has also produced). When this EP stopped spinning...we found ourselves feeling very hungry for MORE. Hopefully these guys will stay on the track they're on...because if they do...their debut album is gonna be HEAVEN ON EARTH. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++)

HIM - Razorblade Romance (CD, Universal, Rock/pop)
Funny...for a band called HIM...the band members look more like "HERS"(!). But hey, in the world of rock...transvestites have always been hip, which may help to explain the success of HIM. Formed in 1995, the band calls their sound "love metal"...which is actually a rather appropriate name for the style of music they play. The songs are loud and chock full of loud guitars...but the vocals are rather feminine and sensitive. Something like a cross between Black Sabbath and Queen...without really sound much like either. For a band with such a strong visual appeal...the guys in HIM actually write some rather impressive tunes. And, surprisingly, their songs are rather accessible overall. Razorblade Romance is a fun, catchy album...featuring a wealth of creamy cuts like "Your Sweet Six Six Six," "Join Me In Death," "Resurrection," and "Death Is In Love With Us." (Rating: 4+++)

Michael Jackson - Thank Heaven For Little Boys (CD, BMC, Noseless pop)
Michael Jackson finally lets the cat out of the bag...with a fresh dose of love and tenderness sincere enough to make the whole world cry lots of big tears. Jackson has been accused of many things...but he has done SO MUCH MORE than he has ever been accused of. Poor Michael! He is so misunderstood...so unfairly criticized...and so very GODDAMN NOSELESS. Children the world over have discussed the way Michael's penis looks and have come to the conclusion that--as long as he buys them toys and lets them come to visit his amusement park--they really don't MIND being molested anyway. After all, you have to GIVE in order to RECEIVE. But onto the current CD... Thank Heaven For Little Boys shows the whiter side of Michael's music, giving his career a boost that will make it possible for him to hire more legal experts. Elizabeth Taylor makes a guest appearance on the opening cut "The Old White Bitch That Still Stands By My Side." Hearing Michael and Elizabeth sing together is something like eating aspirin while riding a broken roller coaster. Garth Brooks joins Jackson on the title tune, finally coming clean with his own peculiar addiction for young poodle dandy. The album closes with the tender and moving "I Can't Find My Nose," in which Michael goes into detail about a horrifying dream he had where his nose disappeared altogether. Before you accuse Michael Jackson, give his new CD a listen...and THEN accuse him. Everyone likes taking shots at cheap hustlers...and Michael is proving that he is nothing more than an ANGEL in HEAVEN. (Not Rated)

Jim Jacobi - Get Out!!! (Independently released CD, Rock)
Other bands may come and go...but Jim Jacobi lives on forever. The former Crap Detectors leader continues in his mission to provide credible intense garage rock...and this is right up there with his best releases. Get Out!!! is the fifteenth (!) album from Jacobi. While other musicians come and go...often forgetting their original intent and/or neglecting the needs of their audience...Jim just keeps on truckin' with as much verve and gusto as when he began. On this album a variety of pals offer assistance: Carole Zacek, Fuzzy, Charlie Burton, Butch Berman, Dave Boye, Dr. Dave Fowler, Phil Shoemaker, Dave Robel, Brad Kreiger, and Craig Kingery (whew!). Jacobi's sense of humor remains intact, as is evidenced by the lyrics on tunes like "Get Out," "Life Got in the Way," "Equine Fecal Funk," and "House Hunting for Billy Bacon." Another excellent release from one of rock's great underrated heros. (Rating: 5)

Damien Jurado - Holding His Breath (CD EP, Acuarela, Soft pop/folk)
A very beautiful five-song EP from Seattle's Damien Jurado. Jurado sounds not unlike a more folky and subdued Hayden. His tunes are based around an acoustic guitar...played with calculated restraint. What we find most appealing about the tunes on Holding His Breath are the vocals. Jurado has a deep soulful voice that sounds not unlike an early Neil Young. His tunes are reflective and poignant...and the nuances of the playing are not apparent until several spins later. Backing Jurado are Eric Fisher, Josh Golden, and Andy Myers. Includes "I Am the Greatest of All Liars," "Oh Death Art With Me," "Big Let Down," "Now You're Swimming," and "Butcher's Boy." Amazingly effective material. (Rating: 5)

Katrina and the Waves - The Original Recordings 1983-1984 (CD & DVD, Bongo Beat, Pop/rock)
Long before the rest of the world was aware of their existence...in 1983 and 1984 the Canadian music audience was treated to two vinyl albums by a then unknown UK band named Katrina and the Waves. Two albums were released in Canada and received a very positive response. Soon afterward the band was picked up by a major label...and their sound was (sadly) altered drastically. As a result, the band's first two albums have remained virtually unheard for the past 20 years. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Bongo Beat, everyone can finally hear what a great little band Katrina and the Waves really were. This packages includes a CD (featuring the first two albums plus bonus tracks), a DVD of a live 1983 performance, and a thick and detailed glossy booklet. The band that the rest of the world heard was, admittedly, a slick and overly processed formula unit that was entertaining at best. But like so many bands, Katrina and company were at the best when they begun...and this set offers pure proof of that fact. Most people will be surprised at how punchy and cool Katrina and her band were in their infancy. More than any other band that comes to mind, much of the material here reminds us of Fanny (?!?). The songs are simple and uncluttered...and Katrina's voice sounds absolutely fantastic. It seems sad that the band will most likely always be known for the processed version of their tune "Walking On Sunshine"...because so much of the material contained on this CD is infinitely superior (even the original recording of "Sunshine" sounds light years better). Katrina and the Waves are an excellent example of a band that was way, way, WAY better before their sound was altered to draw a larger audience. This is a wonderful little piece of history that is sure to entertain virtually all fans of 1980s pop/rock. Killer cuts include "Dancing Street," "Machine Gun Smith," "Maniac House," "Mexico," and "The Sun Won't Shine." (Rating: 5+)

Toby Keith - Shock'N Y'all (CD, Dreamworks Nashville, Country/pop)
Country superstar Toby Keith seemed to fall slightly off the tracks with his last album (Unleashed). Thankfully, Shock'N Y'all finds Mr. Keith and friends once again in fine form. And even though some of the material on Shock'N Y'all is still a bit overly patriotic and political...the album is still a mighty fine collection of addictive tunes from the man who just might be the most talented male country vocalist of the past several years. Opening with the instantly satisfying laidback choruses of "I Love This Bar," one can't help but fall in love with this big ol' macho feller's schtick. In an interesting career move, Keith has now tapped into the minds and spirits of the same folks who used to crowd into Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts in droves (i.e., big bellied guys with beards and loose drunk chicks). Trucks, beer, women, patriotism...these are the things that Toby sings about...and these are most likely the most important things in many of his fans' lives. While some might find these ideas shallow material for songwriting...in the world of reality, blue collar folks need a spokesman just like everyone else. And there are plenty of juicy tracks here to whet the appetites of Keith's growing legion of blue collar fans..."Whiskey Girl," "Time For Me To Ride," "Don't Leave, I Think I Love You," "Nights I Can't Remember, Friends I'll Never Forget." Keith's voice sounds better than ever and he continues to enlist the help of co-writers Scotty Emerick and Chuck Cannon, and producer James Stroud. Interestingly, the last two cuts (the "bus songs") show just how effective Keith and Emerick are at reaching their fans in concert. Folks who think Toby is stupid are way, way off base. This man is about as smart as they come in the world of country music. The difference between him and most other country artists...is that he isn't afraid to speak his mind. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Les Baton Rouge - My Body - The Pistol (CD, Elevator Music, Rock)
The band Les Baton Rouge is not from Baton Rouge...they are from Portugal. This quartet's sound is highly derivative of U.S. punk and new wave bands from the early 1970s...and they even look the part...complete fishnet, leather jackets, and cool shades. The focal point of the band is female vocalist Suspira Franklyn....a young lady with a decidedly schizophrenic approach to singing (she sounds something like a more spastic and vicious Lene Lovich). Her conviction and excitement are an integral part of the Les Baton Rouge sound. The band also includes James Jacket (guitar, backing vocals), Peter Shamble (bass, backing vocals), and Corrine Dumas (drums, backing vocals). Produced by Tim Kerr, My Body - The Pistol features some great attitude-drenched rockers like "Chloe Yurtz," "Venus Girdle," "Women in Control," and "Speaks Through My Body." Seems odd that Portugal should produce a band that sounds more authentic than most modern American punk bands (?!?). A great big ball of pumped up fun, these folks are obviously creating music for all the right reasons. (Rating: 4+++)

The Little Killers - The Little Killers (CD, Crypt, Garage rock)
Great minimalistic garage rock that should appeal to anyone who enjoyed early Stooges or even The Cramps. This little trio plays rock and roll down and dirty...without trying to clean up their act or polish their sound. The result is a raw and revved up affair with plenty of flailing guitars and propulsive rhythms. The female rhythm section in this band can blow away most of the guys...these chicks really know how to KICK (!). The Little Killers are loud and cocky...and yet their songs are surprisingly catchy and melodic. Listening to this disc...makes it clear that these folks are obviously a BLAST in concert. Lots of GREAT energy here...a big ol' ball of slightly clumsy FUN. Twelve kickass numbers including "Volume," "Butterfingers," "Pucker Up," and "Choppin' Block." (Rating: 5)

Craig Marshall - Popular Crimes (CD, Big Ticket, Pop)
While there is always an overabundance of pop being created on this dear ol' planet...there are relatively few pop songwriters who can truly strike a chord in the hearts of their listeners. Craig Marshall is indeed one of those rare artists whose music is so genuinely effective and real...that one can't help but be helplessly pulled into his world. Former frontman for the Lucky Strikes, this is Marshall's first solo album. More than any other artist, Craig's tunes...and particularly his vocals...recall Badfinger's Pete Ham. Melodies are the most important element here, with vocals and instruments being used as supporting elements. The tunes on Popular Crimes are instantly effective and memorable...sneaking into your consciousness...and taking up permanent residence. With so many pop bands competing for attention...but offering very little substance...it can be a very tedious process wading through the massive stacks of pop CDs that fill our office suite. Popular Crimes is an instant standout...providing just what we like best...good and effective pop music that we just can't get out of our heads. Catchy keepers include "Desperately" (wow!), "Only Breaking Love" (another wow!) "I Like Saturday Night," and "Popular Crime." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Marvelkind - Conquering the Universe Chorus Verse (Independently released CD, Electronic pop/rock)
Marvelkind is something of a modern day Devo with a more abrasive, updated sound. The band's electronic music is counterbalanced by their very strong visual image...and yet their songs are surprisingly strong given the medium they are working in. The band released their first EP in 1998 (produced by David Baker) to a very favorite response and then toured the states to promote the disc. Afterward the band created their own home studio and recorded Conquering the Universe Chorus Verse. Particularly considering this was an independently produced project, the quality of these recordings is impressive. The band combines cool electronics with fuzz guitars and thumpy rhythms, all of which are used to support catchy and inventive pop tunes. Smart, upbeat compositions include "We Don't Need to Belong," "Plug In The Drug Machine," "Same Mistake," and "Cherry Wine." The lyrics are particularly intriguing. (Rating: 4+++)

The Movies - In One Era Out the Other (CD, Gern Blandsten, Pop)
Very subtle, very effective. Featuring ex-members of The Vehicle Birth and Pines of Nowhere...The Movies sound very little like either. In One Era Out the Other is a rather peculiar album featuring sparse arrangements and laidback songwriting. The tunes features traditional instruments...tend to be moody and slightly droning...and the vocals have an odd spooky quality. Movies tunes are not catchy and easy. Instead, the band is playing from their own peculiar perspective...sounding very much unlike other current underground bands. The compositions on this album bear a strange resemblance to some of the earlier and more experimental new wave bands of the 1970s...yet the music is anything but cutesy and clever. This disc is difficult to describe to say the least. Yet the more we hear it....the better it sounds. Ten cuts including "Right Equipment," "Scary Footsteps," "Autograph, " and "Midnight Bloody Murder." (Rating: 4++)

Refree - Nones (CD, Acuarela, Soft pop)
Nones...is a beautiful, meticulously crafted, and truly inspired album. The band is the project of Raul Fernandez, a journalist and active member of the Spanish independent music scene. This album features absorbing and inventive classic soft pop...all played with traditional instruments. Fernandez has a super smooth voice that is made even more refreshing by the fact that he sings all of his songs in Spanish. Influences seem to sprout from all over the place...making it difficult to pinpoint exactly who this young songwriter sounds like. But no matter what the song or type of music...every composition on this album is presented with a determined style and focus. There is an exotic thread running through Nones that makes it truly stand out from the pack. Every song here is a keeper. Particularly strong cuts include "Los Soldats Perdus," "Inventario," "Padres y Nones," Palabras Mayores," and "Refree i l'Astroleg." Superb stuff well outside the boundaries of conventional pop music....yet instantly accessible just the same. Extraordinary...and highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Retconned - Game Sounds (CD, Stickfigure / Volume One, Electronic pop)
Retconned is the solo project created by Jonathan Lukens, who now resides in Brooklyn, New York. More than any other album, Game Sounds reminds us of John Foxx's Metamatic (a 1970s album most people have probably never even heard). The vintage electronics are sparse and cold...and Lukens' vocals sound as if they were recorded off the cuff. In some ways, Game Sounds comes off like a batch of demo recordings...and that is, perhaps, exactly their appeal. In a world where most electronic artists are doing way too much with technology...Lukens shows that you can achieve just as much by doing less. Fourteen odd compositions here including "Capacity," "Endless Summer," "Coptography," and "Postcard." Peculiar yet absorbing. (Rating: 4+++)

The Sanitary Napkins - Goddamn Our Stupid F*cking Vaginas (CD, Dapple-Dry, Eclectic plant rock)
The Sanitary Napkins hail from Ottawa, Ontario in Kansas...and they have longer snort hair than their daddy's peepers ever did. The band consists of four napkins: Dry, Super Dry, Extended Messy Complications, and Extra Bloody Day. If you think The Sanitary Napkins are a joke band, you will always be wrong about everything. But then, you usually are wrong about everything anyway...aren't you? Tell us, please...why are you stupid? Do you like being stupid? Does the world seem to treat you unfairly...while other people seem to have it made every single goddamn day of their goddamn lives? The Sanitary Napkins claim to help ladies in heat by absorbing their embarrassing pussy liquid from farting out all over the floor while they are involved in important conversations. To that degree, the band is a success. They have sopped up more blood than panties and bras all combined. But the production on this disc is somewhat troublesome because of...because of the way...oh, who cares...? The whole point here is that you can't make a donkey drink water even if the donkey is very, very thirsty. So if you back into someone and then can't find your keys...the lesson is that the keys were probably never there to begin with anyway. So go ahead and do your goddamn drugs, drink yourselves into oblivion, and engage in filthy little sex acts with one another. There's about as much hope for you in the future as there is for your goddamn stupid children. The moral for the day? Cheap napkins will always be cheap napkins...no matter how you fold them. (Rating: 1)

Tijuana Strip Club - Sparklers and Bottlerockets (CD, Foggydog, Pop)
An exceptionally strong independently produced project, Sparklers and Bottlerockets is unique...and its sublety is powerful. This San Francisco-based quartet consists of Vince Littleton (drums), Randy Cordero (vocals, guitar), James Terris (keys, loops), and Kevin Witte (bass). True to the claim of the press release, these fellows' music does bear a resemblance to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits...but Tijuana Strip Club is anything but a copy band. They use their influences as a diving board to create their own unique sound...writing moody and effective compositions that have a slightly spooky and somewhat sensual vibe. The sound quality is truly impressive...rivaling the production of any major label release we have heard this year. The vocals are superb. These gentlemen know what they're doing...and they know how to use technology to get their message across (rather than bury their songs underneath too many layers of crap...which is how many bands ruin their music lately...!). This album contains fifteen crisp, clear, melodic songs that feature some wonderfully subtle electronics which really make the tunes shine. Lots of great cuts here...including "Turnstile," "Hate the Sound of Rain," "No Evidence," and "Outline of a Man." Cool and effective./ (Rating: 5+)

Tryst - Kids of Big Stars (CD, MH Records, Soft pop)
Tryst is an intriguing up-and-coming four-piece soft pop band based in New York. The band began in 1998 and has been slowly developing a devoted audience ever since. The band consists of Tim Cohan, Ellen Highstone, Sam McIlvain, and Elisa Chiusano. True to the claim of the press release that accompanied this disc, Tryst is coming from the same general vein as bands like Belle and Sebastian. Kids of Big Stars features soft, smooth, melodic pop with simple arrangements and a generally laidback approach. The band incorporates subtleties into their material that makes the material hold up to many repeated listenings. The material on this album comes across clearly and possesses a cool genuine quality that makes it truly appealing. While it may take a few spins to set in, the time spent is well worth it. The vocals are particularly appealing. Ten cool cuts including "Spin My Wheels," "Jayne Wright," "Telephone Kisses," and "Crush." (Rating: 4+++)

Hank Williams Jr. - I'm One of You (CD, Curb, Country/rock/pop)
Kicking off with a killer cover of Jerry Reed's "Amos Mosely," Hank Williams Jr. makes it clear that he's gonna be truckin' on for many years to come. While not a member of the modern country brigade, Williams can kick up dirt as good or better than the new kids in town. In fact, on this album Hank proves he's much more of a shitkicker rebel than Toby Keith...and he's the real thing. Unlike Keith, however, Hank prefers to present mostly cover tunes...only including a couple of original compositions. But that makes little difference, because when you deliver material the way Williams does...it don't matter WHO writes the damn tunes (!). Hank's super husky voice sounds absolutely killer. Anyone who can cover "Games People Play" (a very tired song that has been redone way too many times)...and manage to make it WORK...deserves MAJOR bonus points. I'm One of You is a thoroughly entertaining addition to Williams' already impressive catalog. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Zeke - Zeke You!: The DVD (DVD, Dead Teenager, Rock)
Jesus God Almighty...this is such a REFRESHING change from your average rock DVD...!!! We are so goddamn tired of all those super slick rock videos featuring twenty shots of the band all cut and pasted together with fifty different effects added in for (bad) flavor...while hundreds of big busted women strut and saunter in front of the camera. Just as is the case with recorded music, with video...in most cases...less is BETTER. But apparently few folks working in video feel the same way we do. How delighted we were, then, to pop in this collection of Zeke's live concert footage. In most cases here, the band is shot with a SINGLE camera...and the sound quality sounds virtually JUST LIKE it does when you are in a club (slightly distorted and way too loud...). The end result...? Instead of feeling like you're seeing the work of twenty videographers gussying up the picture...you get the impression that you are actually IN a small rock club with Zeke really watching them play (!). And what a live band these guys were/are...! Instead of mugging for the camera and trying to act cool, these four guys simply turn all the way up and play like HOLY HELL. At some points the band plays so hard that it almost HURTS to watch them. Much of the footage is very funny indeed...and caused us to laugh out loud more than once. The DVD ends with the band's "final" concert in May 2002 in London (which must've been a really wild show). But, of course, the band (minus one member) has now reformed...meaning there may very well be many more crazy Zeke shows for years to come. This is a true standout in the world of rock video...and we're hoping more folks will try to match the bar being set by the fine folks at Dead Teenager. When you're talking about underground rock and punk music...the last thing we want to see is PROCESSED GODDAMN CHEESE (!). Gritty and raw, this DVD KICKS. A great and entertaining disc... (Rating: 5)

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