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January 2005 Reviews by

The Adored
Alva Star

Anubian Lights

Steve Barton

Ian Brown*
Carl Henry Brueggen
The Buckners
The Butthole Sniffers

The Chinch Bugs
Comment Piece

Crash Kelly
Andy Creeggan

Dead Boys

Mark Dignam
The Ditty Twisters


Echo Is Your Love
The Exit
The Flatmates
Rosco Gordon
db Harris and His Men of Action
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell*
I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business

The Innocence Mission

Tiff Jimber

The Lassie Foundation

Frank Lenz*

Manda and the Marbles

The Methadones
The Mild Laxative Effects
R. Stevie Moore*
Morex Optimo
Outrageous Cherry*
Corrina Repp

Sauna Kings*
Say Hello
Pete Schlegel
S'cool Girls

Frank Sinatra
David Singer & The Sweet Science

Spires That in the Sunset Rise

Trembling Blue Stars
The Tsunami Floods


The Two Tears
The Watchers
The Wedding Present*

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


January 2005 Comment Piece:
Dying in Vain

Do you ever wonder why everyone always claims that every single person who dies DOES NOT DIE IN VAIN...? It's a rather silly concept, but everyone seems to embrace it universally because...well, it just sounds good. And initially it does sound good, doesn't it? But...it is really true...?

Take for example, the firemen who entered the World Trade Center right before it collapsed and smushed them into mush. Everyone and their grandmother has made it very clear that they believe those firemen DID NOT die in vain. But didn't they...or DID they?

Hmmm...let's see... A group of blue collar men in their freaked out confusion incorrectly assess a situation...and it costs them their lives. They made an irrational choice...and they didn't save anyones' lives OR keep them big ol' buildings from falling down. We don't know about you but...in our minds...it sure sounds like them brave firemen MOST DEFINITELY died in vain. Yup...it sure seems that way, don't it?

Now...how about all them American soldiers who are losing their lives every day in order to preserve American freedom. Are they dying in vain...or not?

First of all, they chose to enlist in the armed services. Hmmm...that don't seem so smart now, does it...? And then...once they get over there in that screwed up foreign country and they don't really know what they're doing...they end up getting blown to pieces. Does it seem...just maybe...that EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN ONE OF THEM SOLDIERS is dying in vain...? Well of course they are. To assume otherwise would be just plain foolish.

People don't want to face the truth. They want to believe in lies. They want to believe in fanciful, imaginary daydreams about the way things OUGHT to be...rather than the way they ARE.

The truth may hurt...but which is better. To actually see things they way they REALLY ARE...or to see things in the muted shadows of make believe?

The world isn't pretty...and we shouldn't pretend that it is.

Every single person who dies...dies for no goddamn reason at all.

Although we don't like to admit it...all of our lives truly are pointless and meaningless.

And so are our deaths.

Happy New Year to EVERYONE! 2005 is going to be SUPER FUN and REALLY NEAT!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Adored - The Adored (CD EP, V2, Pop/rock)
Cool upbeat power pop. This is the debut disc from Los Angeles-based The Adored. The four gentlemen in this band are obviously influenced by bands like The Jam, The Sex Pistols, and The Buzzcocks (Pete Shelley even lends vocals to two tracks on the disc). Los Angeles seems to be spawning some damn cool bands lately...and The Adored can definitely be filed in the cool folder. The tunes on this EP are short, simple, and direct...injected with catchy melodies...and full of fat punchy guitars. Cool hummable cuts include "TV Riot," "She's A Boy," and "Sex Is In Fashion." Neat stuff... (Rating: 5)

Alva Star - Escalator (CD, Princess, Pop/rock)
Excellent progressive pop/rock. Minnesota's Alva Star is a four man band with top-notch songs and the precise ability to record them with unique style. The band consists of John Hermanson, Darren Jackson, Erik Appelwick, and Ian Prince. These four men play perplexingly catchy music that is difficult to describe. Although they are doing the same thing that millions of other bands are doing...their music stands out because of the focused execution. Instead of playing the same old tired chords, these gentlemen manage to interject their own personalities into their music...and in doing so have created an astoundingly pleasing collection of tunes. Sometimes reminiscent of Neil Finn and John Vanderslice, the songs on this album are smooth and pleasant...yet the arrangements feature subtle nuances that give them strange undercurrents. Escalator is an extraordinarily intelligent batch of tunes that gets better with each and every spin. Cool mental popsters include "Escalator," "Cold Calculated," "The Level," "Curtain Drops," and "Get Behind Me." Superb. (Rating: 5++)

Anubian Lights - Phantascope (CD, RhythmBank Entertainment, Dance/pop)
A virtually seamless combination of artistic integrity and commercial accessibility. Mixing ideas from bands like The B-52's, Missing Persons, and Kraftwerk, the folks in Anubian Lights have come up with an intoxicating sound. The band is the trio of Tommy Grenas, Len Del Rio, and Adele Bertei (the band was originally the duo of Grenas and Del Rio until Bertei joined them in 2002). The first track on this album to grab our ears was the seductive and understated "Bhajan"...a groovy dance track with a slight Middle Eastern flair. "Way Gone Man" could easily have been an unreleased Missing Persons track. "New Wildlife" effectively combines African sounds with traditional jazz. "Shine" is a trippy dance through electronic manipulation. "Ultraviolet" features a beautiful melody wrapped in beautiful harmonies and peculiar synthesizers. Phantascope is a great album for dancing...or tuning to a cool groove on a Tuesday afternoon. This trio is doing everything right. (Rating: 5)

Babyland - The Finger (CD, Mattress, Industrial/electronic/rock/pop/punk)
The gentlemen in Babyland remain true to their vision...releasing what is perhaps their strongest album yet. 1990s industrial rock seemed to die a slow and painless death...leaving very few bands today that are willing to tread in the forbidden territory. Released on the band's own Mattress label, The Finger features more intense music that is fueled by anxiety, paranoia, and and rage. Interestingly, this album features some amazingly catchy tunes that are extremely danceable. But diehard Babyland fans need not worry...these fellows have not lost their edge or their wild vision. Crazy industrial drumming combines with thick synthesizers and masculine vocals to create a whirlwind of intense sound. Provocative tunes include "Loss Leader," "Defeated," "Nowadays," "The Obvious," and "Nativity." Never before has a Babyland release sounded so tight and focused. Groovy, harsh, throbbing, eclectic rockers for thinkers... (Rating: 5+++)

Steve Barton - Charm Offensive (CD, Conqueroo, Pop/rock)
Back in the 1980s, Steve Barton had his most famous hit with the tune "Everywhere That I'm Not" by his band Translator. The song was a knockout. An ultra-catchy melody combined with super smart lyrics, the tune slipped into the charts under the guise of "new wave"...although the song was really a straightforward power pop tune. The band dissolved into oblivion. Many years later, Barton returns with his first U.S. solo release...Charm Offensive. Listening to these tunes, it seems almost impossible that a middle-aged fellow is making this music. Barton's sound and approach are as fresh and energetic as ever...brimming to the edges with hooks and great guitar riffs. Produced by the legendary Ed Stasium, Offensive plays like a non-stop string of classic hits. There are plenty of superb Barton-penned tracks like "When You're Gone," "Monument," "Tina Finds the Silences," and "Hold A Shadow Down"...but also included is a surprisingly unusual cover of The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" (the tune is rendered almost unrecognizable). Cool energized music from a man whose music sounds anything but dated... (Rating: 5+)

Bassholes - Bassholes (CD, Dead Canary, Rock)
The Bassholes are back...with more of their dirty, nasty, raw rock. The band is the duo consisting of Don Howland (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Bim Thomas (drums). The band's blues-drenched minimalistic rock is quite similar to The Flat Duo Jets. Howland's songs are genuine and authentic. His songs are passionate and memorable...and his vocals sound wonderfully unrehearsed. In addition to originals, the duo also covers tunes by Blind Willie McTell, Lew Lewis, and John Entwistle. Begun in Columbus, Ohio in 1992...this duo shows no signs of letting up. While Howland continues his day job teaching school...he fortunately still manages to find time to devote to the Bassholes. Cool credible tracks include "Blackbird," "Caravan Man," "Shortening," and "Dingleberry Jam." In a world full of fakers, these guys stand out. They truly are the real thing. (Rating: 5+)

Ian Brown - Solarized (CD, Koch, Pop)
The Stone Roses may be no more...but that matters little, as Ian Brown's solo albums continue to satisfy his fans. We've been impressed by Brown's work before but never more so than now...as Solarized just may be his strongest album yet. Combining the best elements of pop with thick technology...Brown presents a collection of tunes that are polished, smooth, and ultimately danceable. The lead track ("Longsight M13") is soothing and trippy...and sounds almost exactly like Steve Hillage (?!?). Brown's smooth vocals have never sounded better as he treks his way through twelve wonderfully slick cuts. The lyrics are exceptional throughout. The songs feature thick arrangements that most definitely add to the flavor. Few commercial artists can compete with tracks like "Time Is My Everything," "Upside Down," "Home Is Where The Heart Is," and "Happy Ever After." Solarized is...a resounding success. Ian Brown just keeps getting better with every passing year. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Carl Henry Brueggen - Idler (Independently released CD EP, Bossa Nova/Brazilian/instrumental), Cinzano & Cocaine (Independently released CD EP, Bossa Nova/Brazilian/instrumental)
We don't normally review older releases...but in the case of these two EPs we had to make an exception. Chicago-based guitarist Carl Henry Brueggen writes and records absolutely incredible...and authentic...bossa nova instrumentals that truly do sound like the real thing. Brueggen's recording sessions are big deal affairs. On each of these EPs, nine or more players were incorporated into the proceedings. As such, the music is highly polished and has an infectious thick sound. Idler (released in 2002) is the more complex of the two discs...featuring three tunes that could very easily be incorporated into a film soundtrack (the title track is eerily soothing and rather complex). Cinzano & Cocaine (released in 2001) is slightly more subtle...yet ultimately danceable. In addition to the title track, the disc also features "Sea-Sprite Hula" and "Teen Jackpot." Bossa nova fans are in for a real treat soon...Brueggen will be releasing an all new album in early 2005. We can't WAIT... (Rating: 5+)

The Buckners - See You In Court (Independently released CD EP, Pop)
Considering how many cliches these guys use in their music, you'd expect them to suck. But this is most definitely not the case (!). The Buckners are a wonderfully exciting band. Playing pop music in the purest sense of the word, these guys write wonderfully infectious tunes that just sound great. Direct guitar-driven cuts include "Here Comes Your Boyfriend," "Jumpin' Around," and "Confident." Excellent pop played with infectious energy. A band to keep en eye on. Cool stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

The Butthole Sniffers - Butthole Maximum Potty Bitty Pork (CD, France Indicate, Fart rock)
Butthole Maximum Potty Bitty Pork...? Is this supposed to mean something...? This band's publicity photo depicts them rocking inside the belly of a rotting pig corpse. The band members are covered with blood and feces and laughing up a storm. It's a good gimmick and it gives a good indication of the music inside. The Butthole Sniffers sniff butts and record them. They record them good. They record them bad. They record them all with an Irish lad. They tally high. They tally low. They tally up with a "fee fie fo." And when they've done all they can do. They do some more and bake some stew. Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar goddamn sugar goddamn sugar goddamn sugar. Everything sweet is sour again in the fragrant showers of positive bugsy. Have a nekkid dance with the trouble you're having and get a good party smock. The drugs you take are equal to the drugs you make. This equals sunshine. Sunshine and BEER. (Rating: 1+)

The Chinch Bugs - Infestation (CD, Edible, Pop)
If intent is everything, then the Minneapolis-based band The Chinch Bugs most certainly have what it takes to make it. Featuring previous members of the band The Sandwiches, the quartet plays happily sloppy pop music with an adventurous spirit. Three girls and one guy...and some really good tongue-in-cheek tunes make Infestation a happy romp through indie-pop territory. Sometimes funny, sometimes catchy, and sometimes peculiar, you can tell by listening to these tunes that these folks had a great time recording this album. The band keeps things simple as they pound out ten cool numbers. Our favorites are "Illin'," "Some People Are Dumb," "Joking Around" (a particularly great tune), "Never Get Sober," and "My Last Mistake." Some tunes are simply fulfilling...while others are incredibly well-constructed and ultimately catchy. These folks most certainly have their hearts in the right places. Pure feelgood music played with sincerity and style. (Rating: 4+++)

Crash Kelly - Penny Pills (CD, Liquor and Poker Music, Rock)
The Liquor and Poker Music label is one of the best. Virtually every artist on the label rocks like holy Hell. The label now adds Crash Kelly to their already impressive roster. The band was formed by Canadian Sean Kelly, who acted as a supporting musician for other artists for many years. In 2002 Kelly decided it was time to strike out on his own and Crash Kelly was born. This band sounds something like a cross between RATT and T. Rex (definite 1970s influences throughout the album). The tunes are basically pop, but they are embraced by thoroughly engaging guitars. Kelly and company provide a hard punch, but never at the expense of melodies and song structures. These catchy songs are peppered with tasty guitar licks throughout that are reminiscent of Joe Perry. Penny Pills is an engaging experience, featuring hot cuts like "She Gets Away," "You Don't Know," and "Since You've Been Gone." Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Andy Creeggan - Andiwork II (CD, Bongo Beat, Instrumental/jazz/eclectic)
Andy Creeggan was once a member of Barenaked Ladies...but don't hold that against him. He left the band early on (after they released their second album) to study music...and to pursue a completely different career path. Instead of making music for money, Creeggan opted instead to create music out of sheer artistic passion. This, his second solo album, is a curious collection of compositions that range from moody instrumentals to soft jazz. Creeggan's arrangements are impressive. He incorporates a wide variety of instruments and sounds into his pieces...giving them strange atmospheric qualities. Andiwork II is a nice flowing body of work. The pieces are soothing and strangely curious. The only track that doesn't work is the thirteenth cut ("With Dad") that seems out of place and interrupts the flow. In addition to releasing solo albums, Andy also records and tours with his brother Jim Creeggan, bassist for Barenaked Ladies (they perform under the name The Brothers Creeggan). (Rating: 4++++)

Dead Boys - Live! at CBGB's 1977 (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Rock)
This disc defines...for the first time on DVD...the legend of the Dead Boys. Filmed in 1977 at CBGB's in color with three cameras rolling, this disc documents the band at the height of their brief but highly influential career. This is the original line up consisting of Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero, Johnny Blitz, and Jeff Magnum. Despite some technical flaws which are to be expected (a few black outs, some minor sound problems), this is...overall...an amazingly great looking and sounding footage. Director Rod Swenson did a fantastic job restoring the material. Bators is a real bad boy...drooling spit and beer...pouring beer down his trousers...crawling around like a crazed insect...and looking generally insane and mental. The rest of the band rocks hard...while a small but devoted audience (most of whom have cameras) follow their every move. The band pushes extra hard on "I Need Lunch" and "Ain't Nothin' To Do." The Dead Boys only drew relatively small crowds even when they were a sellable act. Just like The Ramones, at the height of their career their following was relatively small. It was only decades later that every rock band in the world began proclaiming the Ramones and the Dead Boys as major influences. In addition to the ten concert tracks from 1977, this DVD also includes interviews, a 1977 promotional clip, and an odd track from Steel Tips (which is sorta sad, but still interesting). A mindblowing reminder that the Dead Boys were true punks... (Rating: 5)

D:FUSE - Begin (CD, System Recordings, Electronic/dance)
Texas-based D:FUSE has traveled the world writing and recording the tunes for his debut album Begin. The album is a smooth, polished collection of dance tunes that combine sounds and ideas from the 1970s with modern technological sounds of the twenty first century. D:FUSE combines elements of trance and electronica to create danceable music that offers many surprises. Writing and recording with a variety of artists including Blueletter, Peter Lorimer, Mark Horwood, JES, and more...this young man covers a great deal of territory in a relatively short period of time. This album is a good example of what dance music should sound like when it is conceived and created with the right intent. Groovy, trippy cuts include "Everything With You," "Indecision," "A Light Less Broken," and "Letter to a Friend." Excellent material. (Rating: 5)

Mark Dignam - Box Heart Man (CD, Times Beach, Pop)
Ireland's Mark Dignam now calls Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania his home. After making an initial splash in his home country, he decided he need to see more of the world and that he wanted to reach more people with his music. Dignam's music is intriguing because it seems to symbolize how similar Irish and Americana pop now sound to one another. This young man's songs contain themes that are universal to all people. Each song title on Box Heart Man consists of a single word: "Divine," "Hope," "Ghosts," "Kindred"... The tunes are embraced by effective guitars and sparse arrangements...allowing the listener to concentrate on Dignam's introspective lyrics. Heartfelt and sincere, this collection of tunes truly strikes emotional chords. (Rating: 4++++)

The Ditty Twisters - Pinata Baby (CD, Dirty Girl, Pop)
Entertaining. Simply entertaining...and a whole lotta goddamn FUN. Portland's The Ditty Twisters return with yet another infectious, upbeat collection of tunes. Following the band's well-received debut album (Vicodin Saturday Night), Pinata Baby is another collection of cool upbeat rockers. You don't have to think to enjoy this band's music...but a sense of humor is mandatory. Despite the fact that the band is still very much dwelling in the undercurrents of rock, their music could very easily be appreciated by a mass audience if they were marketed right. The only obstacle might be the lyrics, which may be a bit too intelligent for the average listener to comprehend (i.e., "you just screwed a smart chick"..."the devil just pooped his pants"). Punchy guitars and driving rhythms support top-notch female vocals with real attitude. This band is a pure feelgood experience...and they most certainly aim to please. Pinata Baby is another great album from a band with the right idea about virtually everything. (Rating: 5+)

Downtown - Downtown (CD, Coup de Grace, Progressive pop/electronic)
Downtown is the duo of Robert Kaeding and Eric Brendo. After hanging around in New York City for many months recording and playing the club circuit, these fellows were eventually discovered by Flood and Alan Moulder (who have produced Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and My Bloody Valentine, to name a few...). Accordingly, Kaeding and Brendo's Downtown became instantaneously hip. But their quick jump to fame was not unwarranted. These guys are good...damn good. Their music is a blend of a wide variety of artists...including but not limited to Pink Floyd (the duo is heavily influenced by Roger Waters), The Beatles, and Spiritualized. Rarely has a debut album sounded this good. These guys have a big, polished sound...but their tunes sound anything but calculated. Rolling by like ocean waves, these tunes feature modern day electronics that combine seamlessly with classic pop melodies. These guys are bound to be making major waves in the world of music for decades to come. Twelve incredible cuts here including "Twilight," "Nowhere to Hide" (wow!), "In Your Arms," and "Stay Too Long." Utterly fantastic...and highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Dumbwaiters - Musick (CD, Fiani, Progressive pop)
Florida has produced an impressive slew of credible new bands over the past few years. Add Dumbwaiters to the growing list of credible Florida rockers. The band seems to be in a constant state of flux...changing their sound and their style of music almost constantly. Musick is a dizzying collection of modern pop songs that curve and swerve all over the place. The band combines energetic rhythms with searing guitars, dreamy keyboards, and incredible vocals to create a thick wall of modern pop madness. This album is something of an assault on the senses. There's a lot going on at once here and yet--amazingly--the melodies and song structures manage to shine thoroughly clearly. Instead of following the path others have charted, these guys are doing things their own way. Ten incredible rockers here including "Wow," "Icons (Too Many People)," and "Emergency." Incredible stuff played with furious intent. (Rating: 5)

Echo Is Your Love - Paper Cut Eye (CD, If Society, Obtuse art rock)
The third full-length album from Finland's Echo Is Your Love. This band's music is fashionably out-of-synch with what is currently popular in the world of modern music. Writing and recording quirky and inventive tunes that are often unpredictable, these folks have a sound and style that is all their own. The band sounds something like early B-52's, Yoko Ono, The Red Aunts, Shonen Knife, and Throbbing Gristle...if all parties were heavily medicated. But that doesn't adequately describe the overall vibe going on here...because this band's music is frighteningly complex and often times rather surreal. Combining jagged rock, blaring noise, and odd bits of modern classical music...these folks never cease to surprise and entertain. The female vocalist has incredible presence...drawing the listener in closer and closer with each and every syllable she mumbles, utters, and yelps. Fun and obtuse in an artistic sense...these folks provide yet another enlightening experience. (Rating: 5+)

The Exit - Home For An Island (CD, Some, Pop/rock)
Despite the fact that they are on an independent label, the guys in The Exit play accessible music that--with the right marketing--could easily please millions of people. The band's music is highly reminiscent of early material from The Police (before Sting turned into a vomit-filled turd). Combining elements of rock, pop, and ska...these guys play a brand of hard pop that would not have sounded out of place on 1980s FM radio stations. Home For An Island is a slick and polished effort...yet it doesn't come across sounding pretentious or overly calculated. The band's thick and meaty guitars combine with propulsive rhythms to create music for the mind and body. Smart songs and determined tight playing create a thick and effective collection of modern rock tunes. Cool keepers include "Don't Push," "Home For An Island," "Back to the Rebels," "Darlin," and "Already Gone." (Rating: 5)

The Flatmates - Love and Death (The Flatmates 86-89) (CD, Clairecords, Pop)
Recorded between July 1986 and November 1989, the tunes on this CD were originally intended for an album which was to be released on London Records. The project never materialized and these tracks were sadly left on the shelf...until now. Britain's The Flatmates were sadly out of step with other bands in their country in the late eighties. The band has a great deal more in common with American pop bands from the 1990s to the present. Using a basic setup of guitar, bass, and drums...the band's main focus was on writing great pop tunes. Love and Death features nineteen shimmering underground classics...bursting at the seams with integrity. Lead vocalist Deb Haynes is one of the best female vocalists we have ever heard...and songwriter Martin Whitehead could write circles around most songwriters. Had this band been given the proper push by the proper people...they could have been hugely successful. Things being as they are (the great ones rarely see much success)...the band has enjoyed increased popularity since their demise among various hipsters. The Flatmates were a real treat...and are thankfully now receiving some long-overdue attention. Love and Death sheds more light on these folks who were obviously ahead of their time... (Rating: 5+)

Rosco Gordon - No Dark in America (CD, Dualtone, Pop/R&B/soul)
Known mainly for rhythm and blues hits in the 1950s, Rosco Gordon passed away in 2002...which was a great loss to the music community. Mr. Gordon completed this album just a month before his death. No Dark in America features new renditions of old favorites as well as new compositions. Few artists weathered the decades as well as Gordon. Listening to these tracks, it seems almost impossible that this man was already well into his seventies. Gordon's last R&B-influenced pop tunes sound just as good as they did when he first hit the scene. This man was a real character. Early in his career (before animal rights activists came alone), Rosco would deprive his chicken of water and then give it whiskey just before he went on stage so that the chicken would act real crazy for the audience. What a hoot! It is sad indeed that this man is no longer with us...but at least he had a great time during his last few months recording this, his final album. What better way to leave than on an up note...? Fifteen Rosco originals here including "No Dark in America," "I Am the One," "Are You Mine?", and "Now You're Gone." (Rating: 5+)

db Harris and His Men of Action - Contagious Heartache (CD, Nighttime, Country/pop)
Anyone who ever loved the music of The Mavericks, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly is sure to get a big ol' mighty kick out of db Harris and His Men of Action. Playing great, upbeat, melodic pop music like the 1950s never left...these guys play kickass tunes with integrity and style. Driving the music are db Harris' superbly delivered vocals. This man can truly sing up a storm. Contagious Heartache features eleven instantly addictive tracks which feature some truly mindbending arrangements. This album is a totally upbeat experience...featuring modern classics like "Girls Gone Wild!", "Back to My Guitar," "One More Time," "Men of Action Theme Song," and "She's a Dreamer." Pure feelgood music. A direct HIT. (Rating: 5)

Petra Haden and Bill Frisell - Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (Advance CD, Sovereign Artists, Soft lush pop)
Wow...what a great collection of music. Vocalist Petra Haden hooks up with guitar god Bill Frisell...and the two present (mostly) covers of tunes by everyone from Elliot Smith and George Gershwin to Tom Waits and Stevie Wonder. Not surprisingly, the results are astounding. When the average musician records cover tunes...you can pretty much guess it's nothing more than an unbearable ego trip. Haden and Frisell not only do these tunes justice...but in many cases, they actually surpass the originals. Subtle and lush...these songs were recorded with incredible attention to detail. The nuances of the music are lovely and remarkable. Haden's vocals are smooth...and her vocal layering has to be heard to be believed. Frisell's guitar work is, as always, mind altering. In addition to the cover tunes, the duo also presents two originals: "The Quiet Room" (by Haden) and "Throughout" (by Frisell). This album is truly a match made in heaven. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business - I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business (CD, Drive-Thru, Pop/rock)
I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business is the oddly titled solo project of Ace Enders, who is best known as a member of The Early Novembers. Young Enders (who was only 22 years of age at the time this album was released) writes tunes well beyond his years. Instead of the usual aimless alternative slamming, this man's tunes actually say something. The songs on this album range from soft pensive pop to mid-tempo rockers. What struck us most about these cuts are the lyrics. Smart and personal, this fellow seems to be working this out in his head by writing songs. And that is, in a sense, one of the most sincere motivations to write music. Up to this point, Enders' music has connected mostly with young listeners...but if he were given the right push, his music could actually appeal to just about anyone. Fifteen cuts of sincere underground pop...several of which have no names (?). Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Innocence Mission - Now the Day is Over (CD, Badman, Soft pop)
Such incredibly beautiful music. The Innocence Mission was already a top favorite in babysueland. Now the Day is Over matches the exceedingly high standard that the duo has set for themselves. The album is a collection of tunes that vocalist Karen Peris is fond of singing to her children. Husband Don Peris' provides beautifully inspired guitar playing and also mixed and recorded the tracks. Perusing the tracks, one might wonder how anyone on earth could provide interesting takes on overheated songs like "Over the Rainbow," "Moon River," and "Edelweiss"...but that would be an incorrect assumption. Mr. and Mrs. Peris take on the task...and the results are astounding. Beginning with the truly magical sounds of "Stay Awake," these softly sung lullabies are to be appreciated by everyone...young and old alike. Without a doubt, Karen Peris has one of the most magical and perfect voices ever recorded. Her sincerity and love of music are obvious. Getting to hear these songs personally sung to them, our bet is that the Peris' kids are going to grow up to be some very special folks indeed. This thirteen track album is flawless. Highly recommended for anyone who ever loved Mary Hopkin...or anyone who is into truly lovely music... (Rating: 5+++)

Jarboe - Anhedoniac (CD, Atavistic, Progressive)
This is the third Jarboe reissue from the folks at Atavistic. Just as was the case with the first two, Anhedoniac is given the royal treatment. Instead of churning out a mere generic reissue of an obscure release (which was originally only available as a limited edition pressing in 1998), the label completely remastered the songs, added three bonus tracks, and included a lavish 16-page booklet. Anhedoniac is even less accessible than Jarboe's first two albums...and that is really saying something. The album is a stark and eclectic trip through the mind of a woman who refuses to follow conventional methods. As a result, it would be difficult to recommend it to everyone. For those with an adventurous spirit...and those who are already familiar with Jarboe's offbeat creative slant...this is another bizarre audio journey that is highly recommended. Includes "The Cage," "Mississippi," "Burnt," "Under Will," "I'm A Killer" and more. Eerie and cryptic. (Rating: 5)

Tiff Jimber - Obstacles (CD, Cormac, Pop)
Tiff Jimber is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who is making things happen for herself on her own terms. Obstacles is her second self-released album. Featuring ten intelligent piano pop compositions, Jimber's music might be best described as sounding something like a cross between Ben Folds, Kate Bush, and Vanessa Carlton. This album features Tiff at an early stage of her career. While she is already quite focused and can sing up a storm, this young lady's music is just a tad rough around the edges...and that only serves to make it more appealing than it would be already. Jimber's songs feature reflective personal lyrics and, in many instances, wonderful thick layers of overdubbed vocals. The slightly playful feeling of the melodies is balanced by the honest and reflective lyrics. Jimber is off to a great start with her career. Cool cuts include "You Were Always There," "Doin' Fine," "So What," and "Gone." Exceptional stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Kash - Beauty Is Everywhere / Kash (CD, Sickroom, Hard rock)
This CD collects tunes from both of the band's previous EPs: Beauty Is Everywhere (2002) and Kash (1999). This is the first time the band's music has been released in the United States...but don't expect to see them on Oprah anytime soon. Kash is a very unusual band. Based in Turin, Italy...these guys play spastic, brutal music that goes in all directions at once. On first listen, the band's tunes may sound improvised and spontaneous...but in actuality, their songs are rather articulate and well planned out. The overall mood is slightly schizophrenic. At times the sound consists of nothing more than a guitar and voice..while at other times the band blares out sound with frightening intensity. If you can't quite figure out what is going on...that just may be what the band is shooting for. They make music that is most certainly difficult to categorize. Bizarre tunes include "Beauty Is Everywhere (In The Mucca)," "Father of the Repetition," "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," and "Il Senso Dell'orgia." Truly odd stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Kreator - Enemy of God (CD, SPV USA, Metal/thrash)
Reigning kings of thrash metal for over 20 years, Germany's Kreator show no signs of letting up. Enemy of God is another blistering addition to the band's mind-altering catalog. Featuring crunchy, crushing guitars and thundering rhythms, the band's progressive heavy rock retains its menacing qualities...creating a thick wall of sound that could kill. What sets these guys apart from the masses is the fact that they can honestly and truly play their instruments. These guys don't merely turn all the way up and flail. Their songs have real, identifiable structures...and the instrumentals are increasingly complex. By playing hard and retaining their tight-as-nails approach...these gentlemen will no doubt remain on the cutting edge of modern metal music. Twelve tracks here including "Impossible Brutality," "World Anarchy," "Voices of the Dead," and "The Ancient Plague." Killer stuff. (Rating: 5)

The Lassie Foundation - Face Your Fun (CD, Northern, Pop)
Face Your Fun reflects somewhat of a career turn for The Lassie Foundation. In the past, the band's cerebral pop was an almost purely artistic endeavor. Face Your Fun seems to reflect the band's desire for more commercial success. The tunes on this album are much more accessible and could be more easily digested by the average pop fan. While we remain steadfast fans of this band, this is not our favorite Lassie Foundation release...mainly because some of the songs sound like calculated attempts to write hits. But while this may or may not be the case, there are still some absolute gems to be found on this album. Beginning on the awkward footing of "Don't Stop Your Heart," the album takes a while to get get going. "Sunset" is just a bit too obvious. The band begins to head in the right direction on "You're Just Lucky"...but it isn't until "Blow It Away" that things really get going. Peak tunes include the beautifully melodic tracks "Face Your Fun," "We Are the Kings," "What the Beat Is For," and "Eye of the Pirate." About a third of the tunes on this album just don't work so well...but the other two thirds are absolutely fantastic. So...while this might not be the band's best batch of tunes...they still possess the magic that has made them such an entertaining act to follow. So...while we'll surely spin the hell out of some of these tracks, we'll ultimately be waiting on the tips of our toes for the next album... (Rating: 5)

Frank Lenz - Conquest Slaughter (CD, Velvet Blue Music, Pop)
Renaissance man Frank Lenz is already a legend among fans of underground pop. Having worked with a mindblowing array of artists (including Starflyer 59, Pedro the Lion, Map, Lassie Foundation, and Pony Express), Lenz has most certainly already carved a niche for himself in the annals of musical history. But while he has, up to this point, been best known for his work with other bands...Conquest Slaughter may very well cause him to be recognized--first and foremost--for his own recorded work. Frank's second album hits the target dead center...providing a wealth of genuinely sincere tunes. He caresses his vocals with wonderfully understated arrangements...allowing the listener to focus on the melodies and lyrics. The album has already been praised to pieces by several reviewers and for good reason. This disc features great tunes that get better with each and every spin. Great pop tunes like "The Man With the Curse on His Head," "Race Observer," "Circus Cat," and "Jesus Take Care of Your Body" should please just about any true pop fanatic. Absolutely killer material... (Rating: 5+++)

LN - Dirt Floor Hotel Part 1 (CD, Velvet Blue Music, Soft reflective pop)
The sixth release from Bellevue, Ohio's LN. The band continues in their mission to provide soft, pensive, reflective, minimalistic pop music with a difference. True to the press release which accompanied this disc, LN is similar to great underground bands like Low, Idaho, and the Red House Painters. The gentlemen in LN do a lot with a little. Produced by the band, Dirt Floor Hotel Part 1 is a soft and dreamy spin...chock full of well-written tunes. Lead vocalist and main songwriter Gary Murray provides the guiding light. His subtle tunes and incredibly effective vocals are the centerpiece of the LN sound. Rounding out the band are Nathan Abel, Dalton Brand, Casey Vansickle, and Matt Dunlavey. All of the band members show great restraint in their playing...using only the bare essentials necessary in order to get the point across. Not only do the band's tunes feature fantastic melodies...but the lyrics are truly exceptional. Eleven killer cuts here including "Nerves Left Exposed," "Modern Day Hobo," and "Slow Train to Hell." Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Magnapop - Mouthfeel (CD, Daemon, Pop/rock)
We were big fans of Linda Hopper from the moment we first heard her 1980s band Oh, OK. Sadly, Oh OK disappeared before they made a really big mark on the world. But thankfully Hopper continued on with the band Magnapop. The band hasn't been heard from in a while, but now Hopper and co-songwriter/guitarist Ruthie Morris have returned with a new line-up...and more great pop songs. Rounding out the band are Scott Rowe on bass and vocals and Brian Fletcher on drums. Mouthfeel finds Magnapop in fine form and staying true to their initial focus...which is to provide highly melodic power pop with a difference. The new rhythm section adds extra punch to the proceedings. Lots of heady, instantly addictive cuts here...but our initial favorites are "We're Faded," "Pretend I'm There," "Smile 4U," "Think For Yourself," "Stick To Me," and "Pilgrim's Prayer." The folks in Magnapop deserve more attention than they have yet received. Perhaps Mouthfeel will be the album to bump the band up to the next level. These folks deserve to make it. They are good. Damn good...! (Rating: 5+)

Manda and the Marbles - Angels With Dirty Faces (CD, Sick House, Rock/power pop)
Anyone who ever loved 1980s girlie pop will most likely go nuts over Manda and the Marbles. The band follows up their 2002 album More Seduction with an even more energized collection of catchy cuts. Integrating musical elements from bands like Blondie and The Go-Go's, Manda writes songs that are instantly catchy. Her vocals are seductive and inviting. Backing up Manda are Joe A. Damage (guitar), Mark Slak (drums), and Elias Dubok (keyboards). Manda and her band keep things simple. Instead of muddying their songs with unnecessary clutter, they deliver the goods with direct simplicity. Angels With Dirty Faces spins like a "best of" collection. Each and every song hits the target dead center...but particular standouts include "Ode To Rock," "Lipstick," "Boys Will Be Boys," and "Let Them Talk." This album could easily catapult the band into mainstream culture... (Rating: 5+)

The Methadones - Not Economically Viable (CD, Thick, Rock)
The Methadones third full-length release blends elements from 1970s bands like The Ramones and The Dickies...while the vocalist sounds something like a very young Mark Mothersbaugh. Featuring cover art which consists of a large bar code covered with generic pig-headed businessmen trotting off to work with their briefcases...Not Economically Viable is a pure blast of power pop energy. There are no gimmicks here. The band prefers to keep things simple, playing their straightforward buzzsaw tunes without unnecessary overdubs or frills. Guitarist/lead vocalist Dan Schafer comes up with a whopping batch of feelgood tunes. Particular standouts include "Bored of Television," "What Went Wrong," "Transistor Radio," and "Straight Up Pop Song" (which seems to sum up the band's overall stand on music). If you're tired of bands that require too much thought and wimpy popsters who don't know how to pack a punch...The Methadones may just be the jolt of adrenaline you've been looking for. This band KICKS ASS. (Rating: 5+)

The Mild Laxative Effects - Down the Drain With Constipation (CD, Paythron, Pussy boogie)
Here's another goddamn CD from another goddamn band that don't matter NONE. The Mild Laxative Effects. Ha. What a funny name. They sing about constipation and they call their music "pussy boogie." How unique and cool. We're bored with this. We're just burned out old homo reviewers and we don't have no reaction to nothing anymore. In fact, we're just about as boring and clever as The Mild Laxative Effects. Do yourself a favor. Do and don't buy their CD. Actually and in fact, do and don't buy just about anything. Life isn't worth living anyway. Stop going to your job and stop eating. Maybe that'll have some effect on something...but then again, maybe not. In the end, it just don't matter anyway. Damn it all. Damn it all to goddamn hell. (Rating: 1)

Mirrors - Another Nail in the Remodeled Coffin (CD reissue, ROIR, Rock)
Funny, spontaneous, and clever. Originally released on the ill-fated Blankety-Blank Record label (under the title Another Nail in the Coffin), this album finally receives a proper reissue courtesy of the fine folks at ROIR...complete with a wealth of previously unreleased bonus tracks. Mirrors was Jamie Klimek (guitars, vocals), Paul Marotta (bass, keyboards), and Paul Laurence (drums). The band recorded all of this material under somewhat rushed circumstances, trying to record as much material as they could given their allotted amount of studio time. As such, these recordings probably sound very much like the band when they played live. The liner notes (provided by Klimek) give plenty of hilarious insight into the history of the band. Part of what makes Mirrors tunes so appealing are the unrehearsed vocals. Jamie sings in such a way that it sounds like he has just written and learned the songs...making the band sound slightly similar to The Television Personalities. Slightly uneven in the best sort of way, the songs on this CD are always entertaining...and sometimes totally brilliant. Featuring an overwhelming number of tracks (26 to be exact), this is a wonderful collection of tunes from a band that should've been famous...but never were. Perhaps this CD will change all of that. Mirrors are long overdue for their fifteen minutes of fame... (Rating: 5)

R. Stevie Moore - Save R. Stevie (Independently released CD, Obtuse pop)
Home recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore is one of the most consistently devoted songwriters of all time. The man has written so many songs and released so many albums over the years that in all likelihood even he can no longer keep track. Of course, anyone can write tons of songs...but there are few individuals who can...by doing so...provide so many brilliant moments. Save R. Stevie finds Mr. Moore in superb form. Released Octobermoore 2004, the album proves that this man has yet to hit the prime of his career. There's a lot to digest here. Twenty songs total. Here are some highlights "See More Glass" is an excellent example of why we love R. Stevie's music. This lilting, poignant tune can stand up to some of the very best classics. The vocals are delivered with true sincerity and are...exceptional. A very complex tune that is incredibly imaginative and memorable. "He's a Devil in His Own Hometown" sounds like it could have been written by Stephen Foster (???). If recorded in a traditional studio, "She Broke Both Our Hearts" could easily become a country standard. The crazy oddball "All Time Low" (which sounds like David Bowie at times). The acoustic "Damsel In This Dress" is simultaneously spastic and soothing...a really strange sounding track. The hilariously annoying "Part of the Problematic" (and no, there is nothing wrong with your CD player...that is how the track is supposed to sound). "Gaptooth," sung with a harmonica and nothing else, is outrageously funny...as Moore himself sings as if he has a gap tooth (haw!). "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is perplexingly normal sounding (recalling early Martin Mull). The album closes with another show stopper...the eloquent "Cause We've Ended As Lovers"...which features yet another beautiful gliding melody. The lyrics to this tune are particularly reflective and genuine. In addition to releasing this CD in 2004, Moore also released Conscientious Objector and The Yung and Moore Show (with Yukio Yung). Talk about prolific... All Moore albums...are pure artistic creations crafted with love by a man who never fails to please his fans. Outstanding. (Rating: 5+++)

R. Stevie Moore - Far Out (Independently released CD, Obtuse pop)
Yet another outstanding collection of unique tunes. R. Stevie Moore keeps pumpin' 'em out...twenty completely clever cuts appear on Far Out. The album features more Moore originals...plus songs he co-wrote with others...and even a few cover tunes. The album begins with with the piano pop sound of "Stuart's Party"...a great little song that sounds oddly familiar. Moore then charges into the ultra-catchy Beatles-esque "What Do I Do For The Rest Of My Life?/Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus" (co-written with Steinberg). This two-part song is delivered with the usual expected directness...and even includes an oddly out-of-place Middle Eastern break. The vocal overdubs are incredible. "Junk Media/Far Out (My Life's Been)" is a pure Moore classic...giving the listener the feeling of riding the waves. The song is cool, uplifting, and features a killer melody. The most unique feature is, of course, Moore's unmistakable voice. The cascading keyboards in "Don't Let Me Go To The Dogs (baroque)" seem strangely out of place...and yet somehow the song sounds completely comfortable in its own space. "Hug Me In Times Square?," a rare live track, shows what a magnetic personality Moore has...holding his audience firmly within his grasp. Hilarious stuff. The album concludes with the sparkling melody of "See More Glass" (by Steinberg) and a super goofy unnamed twentieth track. Far Out, like most R. Stevie Moore albums, wanders all over the place...before finally coming to a close. This stuff isn't for everyone...nor does it try to be. Moore is a true artist...and Far Out offers more proof of that fact. (Rating: 5+)

R. Stevie Moore - Conscientious Objector (Independently released Double CD, Obtuse pop)
Beginning with the odd show tune strains of "Monitor," you know immediately that you're in for yet another jarring double disc extravaganza of R. Stevie Moore madness. The album only officially gets into real song mode with "Article (I Miss Krys)"...a peculiar track which mixes spastic rock music with a sweet bubblegummy chorus. "Take Back" is an excellent subtle tune and showcases the intriguing satisfaction of Mr. Moore's guitar picking. "Subjectivity" is a real surprise...sounds like an underground hit (?). "Social Studies" is yet another weird country song...these lyrics are particularly puzzling. A song about developing friendship? Hmmm... Actually, there are so many tunes on this whopping double disc set...51 tracks in all (!)...that it is difficult to take them all in. The thing you must remember about Moore's albums is that he takes chances...lots of chances. As a result, anything can happen. It's like listening to an audio collage that documents a man's life. Unlike other artists whose music results in an instantaneous, spontaneous reaction....Moore's music takes several spins to sink in. The are lots of nuances and subtleties that you won't "get" at first. Conscientious Objector is an intense body of work that would take most folks years to create...yet R. Stevie Moore recorded it in a few months. We highly recommend everything that this criminally overlooked underground artist releases... (Rating: 5)

Morex Optimo - Beast of Reflection (CD, Broken Hill Music, Progressive pop/rock)
This is a case where the name most definitely fits the band. Imagine mixing Henry Cow and John Vanderslice with David Bowie and Captain Beefheart (?!?)...and you might begin to have a slight idea of what the band Morex Optimo sounds like. Art rockers in the coolest sense of the word, these folks are playing music that truly does not sound like anyone else out there. Many bands could make the claim that their music is unique and different...but how many of those bands actually record music that is credible...? Songs are what make the difference...and there are plenty of absolutely killer tunes to be found on Beast of Reflection. The folks in this band use jagged arrangements and peculiar instrumental phrasings to flesh out their songs. The vocals are slightly subdued and indifferent...yet they fit the music perfectly (the doubled-tracked vocals work wonderfully). Some musical segments are sparse and nervous...while others are rather thick, dark, and intense. Obtuse and peculiar...this is an album for thinking listeners. Cool and curious cuts include "Burkina Faso," "The Exactly Commensurate Abattoir," "Kosmonaut," "Exhaust," and "Wild Over." Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Outrageous Cherry - Why Don't We Talk About Something Else (CD EP, Rainbow Quartz, Pop)
Continuing in their mission to play homage to 1960s AM radio, the folks in Outrageous Cherry have come up with yet another stellar collection of tunes. The title track will easily take you back forty years...to a time when bright, cheerful, simple bubblegum music ruled the airwaves. That song, along with "Detroit Blackout", will be featured on the band's next album (Our Love Will Change the World). The remaining cuts ("My Suspicious Midwest," "Don't Worry," "Eternity Changed Her Mind") are unique to this EP. This band is driven by the songwriting skills of Matthew Smith. This man writes sinfully catchy melodies. We have yet to hear anything from Outrageous Cherry that we have not loved... (Rating: 5+)

Outrageous Cherry - Our Love Will Change the World (CD, Rainbow Quartz, Pop)
Well whaddaya know? Before we could even publish our review of the band's last EP (above), the new album appeared in the mail. Not surprisingly, Our Love Will Change the World is yet another tasty pop treat. In addition to the killer title track of the previous EP ("Why Don't We Talk About Something Else"), this album features eleven more snazzy numbers. Sinfully upbeat, this album is a delightful feelgood experience.This disc is recommended for anyone who yearns for the wonderful days when AM radio ruled the world...or for those who missed that time period completely and would like to experience what it was really like. Top notch cuts include "Pretty Girls Go Insane," "Unless," "Trouble Girl," and "You're A Reflection of Infinite Chaos." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Plat - Compulsion (CD, Unschooled, Instrumental/electronic/improvisation)
Cool, somewhat atmospheric, and purposely accidental. Plat is Iceland's duo of Arnar Helgi Adalsteinsson and Vilhjalmur Paisson. The compositions on Compulsion sound slightly similar to The Lemon of Pink...except more fluid and experimental. Adalsteinsson and Paisson take the unusual approach of recording everything they play (!)...opting to finalize the recording by adding additional layers later. The result is an organic journey through modern electronic territory. There are no vocals...only strange and dreamy sounds that blend in and out of the mix. The rhythms sound foreign and strange, yet...they are totally appropriate for this style of music. By refusing to adopt familiar methods drilled into the ground by others, the guys in Plat are inventing their own cool brand of instrumental music. Heady and trippy...these tunes will give you a genuine and instant high. Soothing...yet mental. Recommended for fans of The Grassy Knoll. Wonderful stuff. (Rating: 5+++)

Corrina Repp - I Take On Your Days (CD, Hush, Soft pop)
We weren't so sure at first...but after spinning I Take On Your Days several times we finally realized that we loved this album. Corrina Repp does a lot using very little. Her sparsely arranged tunes are reflective and personal...at times recalling the music of Azure Ray and early Suzanne Vega. Repp picks and strums her guitar softly while delivering intriguing lyrics...as collaborator Keith Schreiner (of Dahlia) adds wonderfully effective electronics. The combination of the two artists' perspectives adds up to a spellbinding collection of compositions. The album is effective from start to finish...featuring soft mind-altering tunes like "Lost At Sea," "You Almost Made It Out, But You Turned Around" (a particularly interesting cut), "Finally," and "I'll Be Seeing You." Repp's music is unlike other female artists. She truly follows her own inner voice...allowing her to create music that is unique, highly rewarding, and hypnotic. Excellent. (Rating: 5+)

Sandycoates - Melody Memory (CD EP, Antenna Farm, Soft pop)
Sandycoates is the solo project created by Greg Moore (of the Moore Brothers). What stands out most about this home-recorded project are the vocals. Moore has overdubbed his vocals over and over again to create some wonderfully beautiful multi-tracked effects. Dreamy and subtle, these six tunes flow by like puffy clouds in the sky. Moore's ability to turn a tune combines with his heavenly vocals...and the results are impressive indeed. Top picks: "Air and I," "Another Snowman," "Here By You." (Rating: 4++++)

Sauna Kings - Waiting for the Sun (CD, Pinksock, Electronic)
What first caught our attention about the compositions on Waiting for the Sun were the rhythms. Instead of the same predictable generic electronic rhythms that make so many electronic artists rather boring, we were hit with peculiar, jagged beats that were strange and jerky. Rather than sounding like computer-generated junk, the tunes on this album sound as if they were generated by machines or even robots. The sounds are unfamiliar...and they are layered with unusual intent. The vocals are difficult to describe. The vocalist speaks, mumbles, and incorporates stream-of-consciousness dialogue into the pieces. Sauna Kings is the duo of Trztn from New York City and Electro-Atomu from Koln, Germany. These two gentlemen are providing smart electronic music that is not only unique and peculiar...but thoroughly entertaining as well. Slightly surreal and offbeat, Waiting for the Sun is what modern electronics ought to sound like. Creative cuts include "Loveswept," "Snow and Fire," "Simply Impossible," and "Crashed." An amazing spin. (Rating: 5+++)

Say Hello - Say Hello (CD EP, Drive-Thru, Rock)
Previously only available at the band's concerts and on the label's web site, this EP was finally officially released due to impressive demand (over 350,000 downloads). Say Hello consists of four young Huntington Beach gents who play fuzzed out guitar rock infused with free-flowing synthesizers. While the live band is a four-piece, these tunes were written and recorded entirely by singer/songwriter Forrest Kline...but the songs are so punchy that you'd swear a full band is playing. No screaming here atonal noise here...this is poppy stuff with muscle. Six tunes brimming with memorable melodies and intelligent arrangements. Cool cuts include "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn," "Call N' Return," and "Bonnie Taylor Shakedown." (Rating: 5)

Pete Schlegel - Strong Stuff (CD, Country/pop)
Pete Schlegel comes from the old school of country music...when artists recorded songs written by seasoned songwriters rather than writing the material themselves. Strong Stuff is an appropriate title for this collection of tunes, many of which were penned by well-known artists. Ohio native Schlegel doesn't pull any punches. He delivers his tunes in a direct fashion with no unnecessary fodder added. His deep voice and unhurried style seem perfectly suited for the tunes he chooses. This album features plenty of could-be hits...including "Leavin' Ain't As Easy As It Sounds," "Short For Gone," "Gotta Get To Her Before My Reputation," and "Liquor To Like Her." Good stuff played with integrity. (Rating: 4+++)

S'cool Girls - The S'cool Girls EP (CD EP, Aeronaut / Intravenous, Pop/rock)
Imagine mixing Tommy James, Milk'n'Cookies, Redd Kross, early David Bowie, Sweet, and Gary Glitter together and throwing them into Los Angeles in the twenty-first century....and you might have some idea of what S'cool Girls are all about. Nothing heavy or difficult here...just groovy, danceable rock music that oughta drive teenager girls W-I-L-D. Many may find the tunes on this EP extremely uncool...mainly because the music is so derivative of 1970s glitter rock. But that would be missing the point, because the fellows in S'cool Girls are just out to have fun...and in doing so, they are hoping to transmit their contagious energy to others. These six tunes are cool upbeat rockers with a bubblegummy edge. No screaming...no bad noise...no overproduction...just clean hummable tunes. Groovy rockers include "Rock 'n' Roll Discotek," "Put Up or Shut Up, " "The Groover" (not the T. Rex tune), and "California Groupie Girls." S'cool Girls are definitely a band on the rise. We expect that their next full-length will be absolutely KILLER. (Rating: 5+)

Frank Sinatra - The Frank Sinatra Show with Ella Fitzgerald (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Variety show)
Taped on December 10, 1959, this DVD presents The Frank Sinatra Show in its entirety as it was originally aired (complete with campy Timex commercials). It is refreshing seeing Sinatra perform at such a young age (before he became a caricature of himself in later years). Frank's a real charmer in this show which was filmed in Palm Springs. Guests on the show include The Hi-Lo's, Hermoine Gingold, Peter Lawford, Juliet Prowse (who Frank was dating during the filming), and Red Norvo...but the woman who steals the show is (not surprisingly)...Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was a true charmer, and her rendition of "There's a Lull in My Life" is so beautiful that it will almost certainly bring tears to your eyes. The Hi-Lo's provide some unbelievable four part harmonies on "Love Walked Right In"...and even perform one number with Sinatra ("I'll Never Smile Again"). Some of the bits are just too corny for words...particularly the segments featuring Gingold and Lawford (truly cheesy stuff which will no doubt appeal to drag queens)...but this is, overall, an enlightening glimpse of what television entertainment was really like in the late fifties. Releases like this are what make Music Video Distributors such a wonderful presence in the world... (Rating: 5+)

David Singer & The Sweet Science - The Starns Burn Out (Independently released CD, Pop)
After releasing two well-received albums on the Deep Elm label, underground popster David Singer makes the unusual decision to strike out on his own. While Singer's name might not be familiar to most people, he quickly made quite a name for himself in underground music circles arouind the globe based almost entirely upon his pure talent for writing great tunes. Unlike most unknown songwriters, David's music is refreshingly accessible and easy on the ears. This man writes classic pop tunes that feature soaring melodies and wonderfully effective arrangements. His songs sound something like a cross between Ben Folds and Randy Newman. The Starns Burn Out features ten decidedly effective tracks, many of which...if given the right push...could become mighty big hits. Will this be the album to thrust David into the spotlight...or will he remain in relative obscurity while continuing to provide quality music for those who are willing to seek him out? This superb album features killer cuts like "Social Studies," "Thanks for Nothing," "Bad Babysitter," and "Can I See You Tonight?" Favorite lyric: People are so f*cking stupid. Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

SNMNMNM - As Best As We Can (CD, Unschooled, Pop)
Hmmm...just try to pronounce this one (?!?). Sounding something like a cross between Apples in Stereo and Fountains of Wayne, the guys in SNMNMNM write and play cool hummable pop with a difference. Based in the fertile, creative cradle of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, these four fellows layer their tunes with electric guitars, accordions, trombones, trumpets, and even an amplified tuba. But before you start barfing and thinking this is a Chicago-like band, think again. These folks use their horns as subtle support instruments...often rendering them virtually unrecognizable in the total mix. Despite the fact that some of the methods are unorthodox, the tunes on As Best As We Can are surprisingly accessible and easy on the ears. Cool cuts include "The Ski Team!", "Plans!", "Indian Nation!", and "Why Ray Hates Track 5." Smart stuff, well-executed... (Rating: 5)

Spires That in the Sunset Rise - Spires That in the Sunset Rise (CD, Graveface, Obtuse/esoteric/experimental)
Ahhhhhh...such a refreshing change from the average disc in the stacks. Spires That in the Sunset Rise is a three girl group whose music is decidedly unconventional. Virtually all elements of the music sound unfamiliar. The instruments are skewed and untraditional...and the vocals are peculiar and sometimes wildly crazed. This trio seems fond of injecting their tunes with random sounds...which sometimes makes the music sound like a child's playroom that has gone mad. Some may find this music hard to digest. You can't just slap the disc in and let it spin in the background. In order to appreciate this music, you must focus on what is happening and try to understand it. As such, you most certainly will not find this CD in the bins at Wal-Mart or Best Buys. Haunting and slightly crazy...this music extends in all directions...leaving the listener confused and bewildered. Very strange music indeed... (Rating: 5)

Trembling Blue Stars - The Seven Autumn Flowers (CD, Bar/None, Soft pop)
Atmospheric melodic pop with occasional haunting qualities. The Seven Autumn Flowers is the first new studio album to be released from London's Trembling Blue Stars in three years. This, the American edition, contains four bonus tracks ("A Beginning of a Kind," "Open Skies," "Hurry Home Through the Crowds," "One Wish Granted") which were previously only available as import-only B-sides. After opening in a peculiar manner with the tune "Helen Reddy" (one of two tunes featuring lead vocals by backing vocalist Beth Arzy), the album then returns to a more familiar format with songwriter Bobby Wratten's soft, soothing vocals. His tunes are sensitive, subtle and honest...and his lyrics seem genuinely heartfelt. The Seven Autumn Flowers may seem a bit overly serious at times, but the overall mood is laidback and just slightly cerebral. Much of the album is reminiscent of British pop music from the 1980s. Thick swirling tunes include "Moonlight On Snow, " "The Sea Is So Quiet," and "Kensington Gardens." (Rating: 5+)

The Tsunami Floods (Another boring news item kind of thing)
Goodness sakes alive...yet another natural disaster strikes...and, as usual, everyone OVERREACTS. A little water never hurt anyone. For the folks caught up in the Tsunami Floods, it's just another reason to whine and ask for money. If all of those poor "victims" are so hungry and have nowhere to go, why don't they go to a restaurant and order something or go to a motel and get a damn room? Supposedly over 150,000 people have lost their lives. In the big scheme of things, that's not so many. And besides, they all look and act exactly alike anyway...so it's not as if they're irreplaceable. So if a few of them die...is anyone really going to notice...? Consider all the money that is being poured into the affected areas. Just what do you think is going to happen to all of that money? Those people are going to use it to buy computers, CDs, DVDs, hot tubs, and other luxury items that they don't really need. Don't fall for this phony, inflated disaster. It's just another scheme invented by our government to "guilt" us into paying our taxes. Floods are so silly...they never really hurt anyone...EVER. You know how we're always told year after year how each and every one of us is UNIQUE and DIFFERENT...? When you look at thousands of rotting naked bodies all piled on top of one another...it sure don't SEEM that way...DO IT? (Rating: 1)

Turbine - Don't Mind If I Should (Independently released CD, Bluegrass/acoustic pop)
Spontaneous and genuine music that comes straight from the soul. Turbine is Jeremy Hilliard and Ryan Rightmire...two young men who can play and sing like Hell. Recorded in two days, Don't Mind If I Should captures the pure energy and excitement of two guys who really have their act together. Rightmire provides the base for the proceedings with his firey acoustic guitar playing while both fellows interject leads in between vocals. Hilliard is lightning fast on electric guitar and Rightmire plays harmonica like he's running from the law. If you're thinking that this sounds like dull and generic folky bluegrass music, think again. These guys are so tight and focused that it is definitely easy to forget that there are only two people involved in this project. After pawing through several hundred super hip and cool CDs from bands who are supposedly modern and progressive...Don't Mind If I Should came as a welcome surprise. Organic and reflective music that hits the target. (Rating: 5)

Tussle - Kling Klang (CD, Troubleman Unlimited, Dance)
Cool hypnotic dance music that sounds different. If you think all dance bands sound alike, you probably haven't heard San Francisco's Tussle. The band's bare bones dance tracks rely on dual drummers and a single bass line...while random sounds float in and out of the mix. The result is a dreamy, heady, and intoxicating mix of rhythms and sounds. The heavy emphasis on rhythms is what makes this band so appealing. There are no vocals and no lyrics. The band simply gets into a groove and stays there...pounding their rhythms gently yet thoroughly into the brains of their listeners. It's such a simple idea...yet it works marvelously. Addictive cuts include "Here It Comes," "Decompression," "Moon Tempo," and "Tight Jeans." Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

The Two Tears - Enjoy Yourself (CD, Bent Rail Foundation, Pop/rock)
The Two Tears is the latest project spearheaded by Kerry Davis who is probably best known as one of the founding members of the Red Aunts. The Aunts were possibly the hardest rocking female band of the 1990s...playing frenzied rock with dizzying intensity. The band unfortunately broke up at the peak of their career...with splintered band members heading in different directions. Enjoy Yourself is the debut album from The Two Tears. Davis' jagged, peculiar tunes continue to entertain and mesmerizing. Whereas most female artists sound very much like one another, Kerry is decidedly different and unique. There are few recognizable formulas...and the vocals range from sassy to downright peculiar. Her guitar playing is particularly refreshing. Instead of generic riffs...Kerry uses her guitar to inject her tunes with strange and unusual sounds. This album is not an easy listen. It requires patience and concentration. With a little effort, however...the listener is treated to a wild, killer ride. Some of the songs are reminiscent of Ill Ease. Fabulous tunes include "Wiggle Like A Worm," "Too Late," "Shit F*cking Job," and "How Long Do I Have To Be The Light In Your Dark World?" Smart and unusual stuff... (Rating: 5+)

Vixen - Vixen (CD, EMI, Rock), Rev It Up (CD, EMI, Rock)
At long last, EMI reissues the first two Vixen albums. The band's first self-titled album was released in 1988 and received a great deal of national attention...spawning the intensely popular single "Edge of a Broken Heart." Two years later Rev It Up was released, and met with the same positive reaction. While Vixen was an obviously calculated act (four beautiful ladies who could really sing and play), their music was actually as credible as any male bands of the period. By providing accessible hard rock music that could be consumed by the masses, these ladies managed to carve quite a niche for themselves in rock history. While most folks only know Vixen hits, the band's best material includes lesser known tracks like "I Want You To Rock Me," "Love Made Me," "Streets In Paradise," and "Wrecking Ball." This is a band that was obviously ahead of its time. These two albums were long overdue for reissue...and these remastered editions sound just great... (Rating: 4++++)

The Watchers - The Dunes Phase (CD EP, Gern Blandsten, Pop/rock/dance)
Reviewers are falling all over themselves over The Watchers...and for good reason. The band's music not only defies description (which could be said about many bands)...but it is also highly danceable and addictive. Combining elements from a big ol' slew of bands from the past to the present...including (but not limited to) Gang of Four, David Bowie, and early Talking Heads (before David Byrne turned into a pile of shit)...these folks have create an intoxicating, odd musical stew. Odd arrangements glide over steady, slightly jerky rhythms...creating peculiar music that is almost impossible not to dance to. This little EP is a pure, rocking good time...featuring "To The Rooftops," "Mono Mano" (this one is so good it HURTS...), "The Sway," "Badge Said Go," "Blik 'Em," "Sway (Belmont Ave. Mix)," and "Mono Dub." Excellent stuff indeed...!!! (Rating: 5+)

The Wedding Present - Take Fountain (CD, Manifesto, Pop/rock)
The Wedding Present returns...with an ultimately satisfying collection of magnificent songs. After taking a breather from the band for several years to pursue a more pop-oriented approach with his band Cinerama, David Gedge finally decided to revive The Wedding Present...in part because Cinerama was becoming a harder rocking band. Take Fountain seems to be a comfortable merging of the sound of both bands. The album rocks harder than Cinerama...yet is more poppy than earlier Wedding Present releases. Gedge is one of those people who--no matter what he does--always creates quality music. This album features some of his strongest songs ever, and should please fans of both bands. Fantastic pop tunes include "Interstate 5," "Always the Quiet One," "Don't Touch That Dial," and "Perfect Blue." After making music for so many years, you'd think Gedge would have burned out...but instead, the exact opposite is true. Take Fountain proves that this man's best music may yet lie in the years to come. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Additional Items Received:

Phyllis Addison - Seven gifts
Bernard Allison - Higher Power
Always The Runner - Always The Runner
Angel - A gift from an angel
An Angle - ...and take it with a grain of salt
Architects - Keys to the building
Atomic Swindlers - Coming out electric
Avoidance Theory - The shape of trees
Axis of Justice - Concert series volume 1
John T. Baker - Rough skeleton
Bassholes - Broke chamber music
Bermuda Triangle Service - High swan dive
Alan Bernhoft - Mrs. sippy bone
Brian Jonestown Massacre - Tepid peppermint wonderland: A retrospective
Buddy - Buddy
Built Like Alaska - Autumnland
Call and Response - Tiger Teeth EP
The Capstan Shafts - Hope gets wheels
Cardinal Trait - You already know
The Charity Stripe - Islands
Ettison Clio - This is for the blue collars
Colleen Coadic - You feel this good
The Coma Recovery - Man ascend
The Cops - Why kids go wrong
Culture Queer - Supersize it under pontius pilate
Demon's Claws - Demon's Claws
Denison Marrs - Denison Marrs
Destroyalldreamers - A coeur leger sommeil sanglant
Devolver - Life science
Diamond Nights - So fantastic 12"
Die Monita Batss - Girls of war
The Dirty Pictures - Shuttin' out the world
Dixon R. Doll, Jr. - Ten years
Martin Dory - The vanishing act
Dufus - Ball of design
The Dumb Shits - We think we're really something
The Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 - Free
Faux Fox - Cusp of the precipice
Five Star Dive - Stuck Between These Lines
Fudgie & Fufu - Vampire viking volume V
Fudgie & Fufu - Hot Karl
Fudgie & Fufu - Bukakke
G-Spot - Come here, go away
Early Greyhound - Earl Greyhound
Jennifer Getz - Makin' history
Gratitude - You're invited
Greenlight Promise - In a mirror that lied the truth
Guaranteed Katch - In a sumptuous brown gravy
Guinea Pig - Guinea Pig
Guitar Wolf - Rock N roll etiquette
John Guliak - 7 stories & 13 songs
Gym Class Heroes - The papercut EP
Halifax - A writer's reference
Hatestick - Appleseed LP
Heaven Is A Hotel - Heaven Is A Hotel
Hedaya - This is where I keep it
Home Grown - When it all comes down
Hyperbubble - Solid pop
Isidore - Isidore
It's a Team Mint Xmas Vol. 2 (VA)
Jet By Day - The vulture
Saul Kaye - Doctor's orders
Kerbloki - Poisonous plants
Julie Larson - Wakening
Last Amanda - Last Amanda
Liquid Blue - Supernova
Little Brazil - You and me
The Makers - Stripped
David Martin - King David's throne
Maximo Park - Apply some pressure
McEnroe - Disenfranchised 2 / Pip Skid - Funny Farm 2
Midnight Laserbeam - A death in the discotecque
Craig Morgan - That's what I love about sunday
My Morning Jacket - ch1
My Morning Jacket - ch2
Narnack Records Is... - A fist-first sampler of new music
Mortimer Nelson - Poor player
The Newbees - Songs from a dilapidated apartment
Jon Oliva's Pain - 'Tage Mahal
One Star Hotel - Good morning, West Gordon
OneTrueThing - Finally...
KevOz - Into Orbit
KevOz - Canvas
KevOz - A Sampler
KevOz - Lakefront
Sonia Pagan - Sonia Pagan
Papercuts - Mockingbird
Parker & Lily - The low lows
The Reason - Ravenna
Chris Robertson - Here we are
The Gena Rowlands Band - La merde et les etoiles
Mark Sandman - Sandbox
Dan Sartain, David Hickox, and Brad Davis - "Who's Sorry Now?" b/w "This is How They Beat You Down" (vinyl 45)
Selfmadesoul - I am what I believe
Shesus - Ruined it for you
Shock Therapy - Oblivion
Skating Club - The unfound sound
Slunt - Slunt
Kelly Snyder - Oxygen
Joe Songwriter - Perfectly imperfect
The Chris Stamey Experience - A question of temperature
Stars Look Down - Stars Look Down
Street Dogs - Back to the world
Sunsets and Silhouettes (VA)
Theramin - We were gladiators
The Tiny - Close enough
They Sang as They Slew - Get well
Toothpick - Time travellin' couch
Tristania - Ashes
The Vanished - Favorite scar
Ryan Vanorsdel - Humility is beautiful
The Volcanics - Nothin' for you
We Versus the Shark - Ruin everything!
The Worderer - I Represent!!
Yep Roc Records - Flip flop
Mark Zero - A travelin' man

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