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October 2002 Reviews by

 All-Time Quarterback
Analogue II

The Beautiful Mistake
The Berzerker
Charity Empressa
Jill Cohn
Comment Piece
Conjure One
Crimson Sweet

Jim Dickinson
Dressed In Black

Echo Is Your Love

The Fairline Parkway
The Graves Brothers Deluxe
Col. Bruce Hampton
Halo Friendlies
Darren Hanlon
ill lit
The Last Drop
The Lone Pigeon
Lonesome Brothers

Mean Red Spiders

Metal Machine

Ramsey Midwood
The Mighty Rime
Mr. Forky

My Dad Is Dead

One Man Army
The Paper Chase

Queens of the Stone Age
Les Sans Culottes

Lisbeth Scott
The Sights
David Singer
Swan Dive

Tangerine Dream
Xiu Xiu

*Top Picks


October 2002 Comment Piece:
A Solution for the Ailing Goddamn Music Industry

With all the goddamn business executives in the music industry quack-quack-QUACKING about loss of revenues and how to stay afloat with all of those EVIL music fans who copy CDs...what they have failed to overlook is an OBVIOUS SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. Here's our idea. Since we all KNOW that these little mass-produced plastic CDs cost almost NOTHING to produce...why not REDUCE THE COST to FIVE BUCKS per CD...? Everyone knows the goddamn things are overpriced. Second...and MORE importantly...if new CDs only cost $5.00...we'd be willing to BET that 90% of everyone out there wouldn't be running around copying the damn things because it would be CHEAPER and EASIER to buy the real thing. Worried about LOST REVENUE? Make up for it by selling discs DIRECT TO THE PUBLIC via the Internet...instead of using the outdated mode of goddamn RETAIL STORES. Then add even MORE revenue by selling MP3 files ONLINE. Of course IN THE REAL WORLD our ideas will NEVER get used...because they offer a simple, viable, and effective solution to the goddamn problem. Think about it, Gertrude. Now raise your fist high in the air and yell, "Hell YEAH!"

All-Time Quarterback - All-Time Quarterback (CD, Barsuk, Pop)
All-Time Quarterback was the side project of Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard way back in 1999. He recorded this batch of solo material at that time because he felt it didn't fit in with the tunes he was writing for the band. The result was two limited-edition releases...a self-titled CD and a cassette titled Envelope Sessions. This CD combines the best releases from the two (plus a couple of bonus tracks and a video). This is surprisingly good stuff...especially when you consider that it was recorded on four-tracks. Actually the limited number of tracks seems to work in Gibbard's favor here...because the melodies and songs don't get cluttered with unnecessary ingredients. Nice melodic stuff like "Dinner at Eight in the Suburbs," "Cleveland," "Factory Direct," and "Underwater" will be welcome new tunes for DCFC fans...as well as any other fans of lo-fi pop who like their music without all the excesses of big studios. Barsuk will follow this up with a CD reissue of Death Cab For Cutie's first cassette only release (You Can Play These Songs With Chords). (Rating: 4+++)

Analogue II - Oh Perfect Masters (CD, Rubric, Progressive)
More puzzling progressive music from Chapel Hill's Analogue II (formerly known as Analogue...the name was changed because the band line-up changed slightly). Though the band has morphed somewhat...the music still retains the slightly offkilter sound that characterized the first two Analogue discs. We really respect those artists in the world who make music without giving a damn if they ever get any money or fame from it. The folks in Analogue II obviously aren't motivated by money and fame. Instead, they seem driven by a desire to create music that doesn't sound like anyone else and that also conveys true feelings and emotions. Oh Perfect Masters contains a wealth of puzzling compositions. For the most part, this band plays their instruments in unconventional ways. Instead of using formulas and familiar chords, these folks combine all kinds of unorthodox melody lines and chords to create a different sort of progressive rock music. Strange stuff...that evokes moods...and gently prods the brain... (Rating: 4+++)

Aroah - No Podemos Ser Amigos (Spanish import CD, Acuarela, Obtuse pop)
The artists on Spain's most innovative underground music label (Acuarela) is now being spread across the United States by the fine folks with exquisite taste at Darla (who just happen to be a great little label themselves). We were particularly pleased to receive this CD, because we were mighty impressed with the debut EP that we had previously reviewed by Aroah. Aroah is an enchanting young lady who sings half of her music in English and half in Spanish. She had already set a fire burning in the minds of reviewers and underground music fans...and this album is going to solidify her already firm fan base. If there are two words that surely describe this album...they are "sincere" and "unpretentious." Aroah writes and sings from her heart. Her music is uncluttered...using only essential instruments and simple arrangements to get her point across. The sometimes stark sound works wonderfully with her style of writing...making No Podemos Ser Amigos (which means We Can't Be Friends"in English) an absolute MUST HAVE. Beautiful tracks like "Myriam, La Primera," "Happiness Avoids Me," and "Tell Noah About the Rain" will sound great decades from now. Truly beautiful stuff. (Rating: 5+++)

The Beautiful Mistake - Light a Match, For I Deserve To Burn (CD, The Militia Group, Rock/pop)
In a rare turn of events, here we have a band whose name actually matches their sound. Combining harsh rock with determined pop sensibilities, The Beautiful Mistake make music that bites hard while still retaining a strong melodic thread. This Riverside, California quartet has a big thick sound that was captured in remarkable style by producer Ed Rose, who has worked with The Anniversary, The Casket Lottery, and others. Listening to this album is like listening to four bands at once, as these four guys seem completely comfortable playing several styles of music...often simultaneously. Though the idea may be a bit unsettling and/or confusing at first, after a couple of spins the familiar elements buzz through the brain...meaning that The Beautiful Mistake have left a permanent impression. While some of the harsh screaming may scare pop fans away...and some of the pop elements may scare off the serious headbangers...those who can accept both worlds will be rewarded. Top picks: "Stabbing Backwards," "Silence," "For A Friend." (Rating: 4++)

The Berzerker - Dissimulate (CD, Earache, Death metal)
Just how unlistenable and abrasive can death metal music be...? After giving Dissimulate a spin...we think that Australia's The Berzerker may have just raised the stakes. This band's main objective seems to be to alienate as many people as possible and then...for those few with the balls and/or ovaries to actually give a listen...their plan is to leave them all blind, deaf, and dumb. In all honestly, we cannot remember having heard a death metal band that hits quite as hard as these guys do. There is very little musically that listeners may recognize. Things like rhythm and melody are so thickly mutated into a violent blur that it becomes very difficult to tell exactly WHAT'S going on here...?!? Of course, in the world of death metal...the main idea seems to be to try and outdo the others. The Berzerker have done just that. This could ONLY be recommended for those sick and depraved enough to want the most hostile and abrasive music on the planet. Can you take it? We SURE as HELL can...! Odd cuts include "Failure," "The Principles and Practices of Embalming," and "Corporal Jigsore Quandary." Totally RAW and VICIOUS. (Rating: 4++)

Charity Empressa - The Skin of Whippets (CD, Velvet Blue Music, Atmospheric pop)
For this outing, Charity Empressa is Eric Campuzano and Frank Lenz. Mr. Campuzano is best known for his work with the classic pop band The Lassie Foundation. In an unusual career move (much like Brian Eno and/or David Bowie), Eric opted to part ways with conventional pop...and instead go the less obvious route of writing and recording heady and hypnotic atmospheric drone pieces. Any doubts we had about the change were blown to smithereens by the first Charity Empressa album. This EP picks up where the debut left off. These compositions are tranquil, repetitive, soothing, and very cerebral. There are still a few lingering pop elements present...but they are slightly smothered and obviously obtuse. When you're on the brink of stardom, it takes a mighty big man to stand up and walk off in a totally different direction. We admire that. This is a wonderful seven track disc chock full of the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. When we listen to this music...we feel as if we are dreaming. What could be better than that? After all, dreams are always better than reality. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED LISTENING. (Rating: 6)

Jill Cohn - Window to the Wise (Independently released CD, Soft pop)
Although she may not be as well known as the biggies in the world of female singer/songwriters...Jill Cohn most certainly has the skills...and particular the voice...to blow the others off the map. This slick and smooth collection of inviting tunes was, incredibly, independently produced and released. This is testament to the fact that artists no longer need record companies in order to record and sell their music...and succeed on their own terms. The beautifully flowing tunes on Window to the Wise present a young lady who is blessed with an uncanny ability to write sweeping melodies and execute them perfectly. If this album doesn't kick off this lady's career BIG TIME...then something is terribly wrong in the music industry. (Well actually we already know that there is...so we'll just hope that Cohn is an exception to the rule and that she does get noticed for her amazing talent and skill.) Soft, sincere, delicate, and inviting...this album is a fresh reminder of just how good music can be. Superb cuts include "Calm," "Oneness," "Do or Die," and "Longing." Excellent. (Rating: 5+)

Conjure One - Conjure One (CD, Nettwerk, Gothic/electro)
Conjure One is the latest project created by Rhys Fulber (formerly of Front Line Assembly and Delerium). Fulber's newest endeavor is a bit different from his former incarnations in that the bulk of the stuff on this disc could be described as world music. The compositions are lush, elaborately arranged, and center around subtle electronic rhythms. Influences from all over the globe creep in and out of these tracks. Guest vocalists include Sinead O'Connor, Poe, Chemda, and Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo. For our own tastes, this album is just a tad glossy and slick...but considering how nicely the disc spins, that's a minor point of contention. Eleven heady tracks including "Damascus," "Manic Star," and "Make A Wish." (Rating: 4+++)

Crimson Sweet - Livin' in Strut (CD, On/On Switch, Rock)
This band instantly caught our attention by charging out of the gate with an interesting cover of Silverhead's "Hello New York." We also liked the fact that in their publicity photo two of the three band members appeared to be experiencing an extreme overdose of something. Crimson Sweet is "Electric" Al Huckabee (drums), Polly Watson (guitar, vocals), and Robbie Kongress (bass). The three play a hard rocking, fuzzy, attitude-fueled brand of rock that we associate with 1970s glam and punk rock. The fury and intensity of the playing on this album is impressive. These folks play with a sort of wild abandon that is missing in many bands. The playing is tight and intense...and Ms. Watson has a great vocal style that makes this band's tunes really kick. Cock rockers include "Still Glistening," "No Hot On Cold," "White Heart," and "Sad Walk at Knifepoint." A great big adrenaline rush. (Rating: 4+++)

Demons - Stockholm Slump (CD, Gearhead, Rock)
Hell YEAH!!! Stockholm's Demons play rock and roll like it NEVER went out of style. While their appearance might lead one to believe the band plays rockabilly, nothing could be FURTHER from the TRUTH. These guys play adrenaline-fueled hard rock like there ain't no tomorrow. They're loud...they're energetic...and they belt out rock with an intensity that'll have your frilly panties blown off in no time FLAT. The tunes on Stockholm Slump are big ol' hairy bastard rockers that'll put hair on your neck and slap you back into the field of REALITY. No sissy fluff here...these four guys are the REAL THING. If you like rock played without frills and with extra spunkified energy, you'll be hard pressed to do better than this. Our favorite cuts include "Blackballed," "Devil In Me," "Gang Green Eyes," and "Suburban Kid." (Rating: 5)

Jim Dickinson - Free Beer Tomorrow (CD, Artemis, Barroom pop)
You may not know the name Jim Dickinson...but chances are you have almost certainly heard his work somewhere before. Dickinson is somewhat of a legend in the music community...having contributed to and having been a part of some legendary works. No need to list specific names here...but take our word for it, he's worked with some "biggies." Interestingly, this is the first studio recording from Mr. Dickinson in 30 years (!!!). The compositions on Free Beer Tomorrow remind us in many ways of Tom Waits...except Dickinson's music has a more masculine backbone running through it. The man's a real growler. His voice sounds like its coming straight from his gut. The tunes are bluesy pop with a bit of ragtime. This great big ol' guy surely deserves a hit at this point in his career. This album contains ten tracks, all of which hit the target dead on. Our favorite is "Asshole." Great stuff...well written, executed, and produced. (Rating: 5++)

Dragpipe - Music for the Last Day of Your Life (CD, Interscope, Harsh rock)
Abrasive hard rock with a harsh and brittle sound. This six-man New Jersey band pulls out all the stops on the appropriately titled Music for the Last Day of Your Life. The band plays with the firey intensity of explosives while vocalist Jai Diablo spits and spews out lyrics with a definite distrust for humanity. The thick, super macho sound on this album is attributed to producer Dave Sardy who has also worked with Slayer and Nine Inch Nails. The band's guitarists create a thick wall of sound that sounds like China being fisted under the ocean and chewed to slouchy bits. Not for the weak or faint of heart, Dragpipe is a band that is effectively pushing things to the limit while presenting credible and highly entertaining hard rock. Top picks: "Puller," "Quest in Time," "Fountain of Pain." (Rating: 4+++)

Dressed In Black - A Tribute to Johnny Cash (CD, Dualtone, Country/pop)
This is a very entertaining various artists collection covering the songs of the mighty Johnny Cash. What impresses us most about this collection is the absence of modern, alternative artists. (Don't you just HATE it when tributes to great artists of the past include modern, overly trendy acts doing super cutesy--and sickening--covers of great standards?) That certainly AIN'T a problem here. Dressed In Black presents track after track that all do justice to the originals. Artists on the album include Hank Williams III, Rodney Crowell, Billy Burnette, Rosie Flores, Damon Bramblett, Chris Knight, and TONS more. Featuring a total of 18 tracks in all, this album covers a lot of ground within the space of an hour. We tip our hat to the folks at Dualtone for coming up with a tribute album that truly IS a tribute. Plenty of great stuff here, this album will surely provide many hours of entertainment... (Rating: 5)

Echo Is Your Love - 8 Hours (CD, Stickfigure, Obtuse frightening art rock)
Death metal bands could learn a lesson or two from the folks in Echo Is Your Love. The music on 8 Hours is about five hundred times more intense and frightening than any of the big-hairy-guy-blow-out-your-brains-metal-bands out there. These folks are approaching music from a unique perspective. There is most definitely something disturbing about the overall sound here. But rather than constantly clobbering you on the head with their intensity...these folks drift along in a puzzling sort of way and then...just when you aren't expecting it...they pull out all the stops and blast you in the face FULL THROTTLE. It is difficult to describe the violent intensity of a tune like "Useless Spells U-S-E-L-E-S-S"...or "Practical Darwinism." We aren't exactly sure what's going on here...but we know instinctually that this band has something that other bands don't have. There is a strange uniqueness here that is compelling and astounding. And the band's style of playing is hypnotic and absolutely wild. Echo Is Your Love do not sound like any other band we can think of. Something like Yoko Ono meets Gang of Four meets Sonic Youth...but not really anything like any of the three at all... Very far out and eccentric...this band is only recommended for folks who want seriously disturbed and dangerously mind-bending stuff... WHEW...!!! (Rating: 5++)

Empress - Stateside Sessions: Drum & Bass Vol. 2 (CD, Topaz, Electronic/drum and bass)
DJ Empress is on a career surge as her spinning skills are reaching folks on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. This enchanting young lady takes great care in selecting her tracks...and this is more than obvious on the mesmerizing and dance-inducing album Stateside Sessions: Drum & Bass Vol. 2. Empress grabs and mixes tracks by artists such as Polar, Ecco & Sabotage, Juju, SKC, Stakka & Skynet, and Kaos. These names may not be familiar to the casual listener, but folks into cutting edge drum and bass would consider these essential artists. If you don't feel like heading out to a club tonight...spinning this l'il baby on your stereo is the next best thing. Featuring a whopping seventeen cuts, this album is a nosedive into the world of modern trippy techno music... (Rating: 4+++)

Escapade - Rule #3 (CD, Submergence, Instrumental/jazz/progressive)
This New York based band plays an unpredictable style of progressive music that might best be described as space jazz. The band incorporates a wide array of instruments and sounds into their lengthy compositions...which makes for some mighty trippy instrumental progressive rock music. But don't think Escapade is a trip back into the 1970s...the band's music definitely has a modern twist (although they throw in plenty of heady sounds that would make Hawkwind proud). Some songs seemingly have direction...while others run right off the map into drone and noise territory. For our own taste, the stranger this band's music gets...the better we like it. The appropriately titled "A Symphony of Sirens" (the opening track) is particularly appealing, and goes way off the deep end by mid-song...leaving the listener in a state of suspended animation. Other puzzling cuts include "Mysterious Utterances" and "And Then All Silence Was Crushed." This is great mood music...for those times when you're in a really tripped out frame of mind. Wild and slightly soothing in a bizarre sort of way, Rule #3 is a mind bending experience all the way. (Rating: 5)

The Fairline Parkway - S/T (CD, Lazyline Media, Soft pop)
Super soft moody pop. The Fairline Parkway sound something like Donovan if he had started making music in the twenty-first century. The band is actually the duo of Zachary Okun and Raj Gadhia. The obviously titled S/T has all the ingredients of great home recorded pop. Okun and Gadhia present seemingly loose compositions that are held together by some marvelously subtle melodies...and vocals that will make your heart melt. The breathy, almost whispered vocal approach works wonders for this band's strange style of light progressive pop. Accidents are left in the mix, giving the impression that overall intent took precedence over trying to get things exactly right. If you ever liked the aforementioned Donovan...but want something a bit more mature sounding...chances are that you will go apeshit over The Fairline Parkway. Top picks: "Street," "Epilepsy," "We Can Walk," "Threadbare." Cool and heady stuff. (Rating: 5)

The Graves Brothers Deluxe - Gonna Happen To You (CD, Unsafe At Any Speed, Skewed, esoteric pop/rock)
Featuring ex-members of Thin White Rope, Game Theory, Granfaloon Bus, Warm Wires, and more...we knew that this project had to be interesting at the very least. As usual (heh heh heh...), we were right. Gonna Happen To You is an unpredictable collection of esoteric tunes coming at the listener from a variety of angles. Sprinting out of the gate with the spooky and obtuse "Electrical," this outfit immediately caught our attention. This band's compositions tread on that fine line where experimentation meets accessibility. With all the chances they take, it's amazing that the music comes off as listenable as it does. But listenable it is...and MORE. This is a wildly mixed up bag of goodies. Basically, we love the entire album...but particular standout cuts include the previously mentioned "Electrical" as well as "Right as Rain," "Deadbeat Heart," "Raw Stinking Beauty," and "Backlog Love." The Graves Brothers Deluxe is a band to keep an eye on for SURE... (Rating: 5)

Col. Bruce Hampton and the Late Bronze Age - Outside Looking Out (CD, Terminus, Progressive rock/pop), Isles of Langerhan (CD, Terminus, Progressive rock/pop)
These two albums were originally released on vinyl in 1980 and 1982. This is the first time that they have been issued on CD. Both have been remastered and include bonus tracks. Col. Bruce Hampton has been somewhat of an icon around in the Southeastern United States for decades. His oddball approach to rock music and his trademark raspy vocals are instantly identifiable. Many have compared his work to Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. Both of these albums are well produced and we are certain that we appreciate this man's vocals and overall presence. As has always been the case, however, we are baffled about exactly how we feel about Bruce Hampton's songs. Is he a genius? Or not a genius? We honestly aren't sure...and perhaps that is a very GOOD thing... In any event, these two albums were obviously worthy of the top-notch reissue treatment they have received here. Interesting stuff. (Not Rated)

Halo Friendlies - Get Real (CD, Tooth and Nail, Pop/rock)
This is the first all-girl group (that we are aware of) that has been signed to the Tooth and Nail label. Halo Friendlies play upbeat and highly melodic pop rock that is centered around fuzzy guitars and clean vocals. The band's sound is unmistakably similar to The Go-Gos...from the songwriting right on through to the vocals. Instead of re-writing Go-Gos tunes, however, these four young ladies utilize their inspiration in positive ways. The proof of the positive pop is evident in tunes like "Sellout," "I'm All Eyes," "Run Away," and "Unsaid Goodbyes." If you feel, as we do, that The Go-Go's were basically one album affair (everything after their debut was a disappointment)...then there is a very good chance that you will get off on the refreshing sounds of Halo Friendlies. (Rating: 4++)

Darren Hanlon - Hello Stranger (CD, Drive-In, Pop)
Nice, subtle, understated pop music that relies heavily on melodies and lyrics. Darren Hanlon's style of writing reminds us of Billy Bragg and also Daniel Treacy (the wonderful unknown brain behind the Television Personalities). Hanlon has a way of choosing ideas for songs that are not your average fare. Probably the main strength of Hello Stranger is that fact that Darren has the good sense to leave open space in his tunes. These compositions sound somewhat sparse...yet the material is so strong that the listener doesn't get the feeling that there is anything missing. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Upon repeated listenings, these tunes seem deeper and more fulfilling. This album won't clobber you over the head...but will instead enter your consciousness before you even know what has happened... (Rating: 4+++)

ill lit - WACMusic (CD, Badman, Pop)
Strange yet familiar sounding offbeat pop music. ill lit is the duo of D. Ahearn and M. Moser. These guys combine elements of pure pop with country with ambient soundscapes and beatbox beats to produce a strange sort of pop music that still retains human elements like melody and song structures. What impresses us most about these fellows' approach is how subtly they utilize all the varied elements in their music. While the arrangements are, for the most part, unconventional...the vocals are very straightforward and normal. The harmony vocals are exceptional. In a world in which pop bands are notorious for overworking and overproducing their music to death....WACMusic comes off like a fresh dose of cool new medicine. Plenty of top notch compositions here. Neat cuts like "Diner Girls," "Beating the Daylights Out of my Nightlife" (gotta love that title), "Endlessley," and "Other People's Wives" make this album refreshing and real. (Rating: 5)

Lanterna - Sands (CD, Badman, Instrumental/progressive)
More mellow, heady, atmospheric, and beautiful instrumental compositions from Lanterna. This band is the project of Henry Frayne, a fellow who has an uncanny gift for writing and recording pastoral soundscapes that are effective and slightly surreal. Sands picks up where the last Lanterna album (Elm Street) left off. These lengthy compositions combine a wide array of sounds and instruments to create music that is slightly classical, slightly modern classical, slightly ambient, and even has slight touches of jazz splattered about. This music seems to serve the same purpose as Brian Eno's ambient releases...except the music was made to be noticed rather than ignored. After playing this several times we still aren't quite sure what we have experienced...but we are certain that the album made us feel good while it was playing. Mature and consistent throughout, Sands is another fantastic body of work from a man who truly knows what he is doing. Pleasant cuts include "West Side Highway," "Early August," and "Lonely Grey." Beautiful stuff... (Rating: 5++)

The Last Drop - Where Were You Living A Year From Now? (CD, The Music Cartel, Hard rock)
Hard and heavy, heady progressive rock played with a vengeance. Unlike other hard rock bands, however, the guys in The Last Drop are not afraid to lower the volume occasionally and experiment. This band is probably known to most folks as one of the original group of bands on the Rise Above Records label (which also included the legendary Orange Goblin and Electric Wizard). The tunes on the humorously titled Where Were You Living A Year From Now? are surprisingly intelligent. You never know exactly in which direction this trio will head with their music...but there's some strange urgent force that pulls the listener in for a total experience without hesitation. The band features a kickass drummer...an unstoppable bass player...and a vocalist who can really pump the mustard bottle with his turkey boots. Perhaps destined initially to be a cult band, these guys actually possess the skills and chops necessary to rise above the medium in which they are currently experimenting. A wild ball of fur. We particularly like "The Cheese On Toast Experience" and "Drummed Out of the Brownies." (Rating: 4++)

Ledenhed - The Small Bang! (Independently released CD, Skewed pop)
We sure were pleased as punch to open up the package to find a new album from Ledenhed. This unique fellow (Allen Cholach) instantly caught our attention with his debut album (Central Nervous System). The Small Bang! picks up where Ledenhed's debut album left off. This album is actually more fully realized, features slicker production, and more focused songwriting. We can still hear traces of Donovan in this fellow's music, which is most appealing...but the music itself is a strange mix of progressive pop, straightforward pop, electronica, and folk. Ledenhed sums up his music as "hi-res, lo-fi, mid-brow, psych-pop"...and that may just be the best descriptive term for it. Whatever it is, it tends to hit the target dead center. We get the impression from listening to this CD that this man is writing first and foremost out of his pure love of creating and recording music. The sincerity seems to ooze out of every composition on this album. As was the case with the first CD, the vocals are absolutely wonderful. The ideas presented are inviting and ever-so-slightly surreal. Our favorite track is the wonderfully swirling "Open," which features a cool, upbeat message. This guy is talented enough to become a big famous superstar...but our guess is that he probably prefers creating valid music over cranking out generic slop for a mindless large audience. Superb stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Lone Pigeon - Concubine Rice (CD, Domino, Pop)
This is a difficult one to review. The Lone Pigeon is Gordon Anderson...a founding member of The Beta Band (which was originally known as The Pigeons). Anderson was forced to quit the band because of mental illness. The snippets and tunes on Concubine Rice are fragments of this man's talent. The reason this album is difficult to review is because the compositions are actually home recorded (?) demos...and some are only partial fragments of songs. Overall, this sounds something like Harry Nilsson might've sounded when he was doodling around at home (?!?). There are, without a doubt, moments of brilliance here...but they do take a bit of searching, as this is not a conventional album by any means. We're not rating this disc...but interested parties (particularly folks into early Beta Band material) would be advised to check this out... (Not Rated)

Lonesome Brothers - Pony Tales (CD, Captivating Music, Country/pop)
One day Ray Mason and his friends at Captivating Music will be megastars. But until that time, you can be one of the folks "in the know" enjoying their infectious brand of home-produced and self-released music. Lonesome Brothers is a project Mr. Mason started with his pal Jim Armenti. The two write and play country pop that comes straight from the heart. If there is a single word that best describes this band's sound it is most surely "unpretentious." The tunes on Pony Tales are uncluttered and highly melodic. It's no wonder that the band's songs have already been covered by a wide range of other artists. We particularly dig "Dumbstruck at the Dumpster." These guys truly have "forced a reckon to be sounded with" (taken from their own press release...HEH HEH HEH!). Great stuff. Well written, well executed... (Rating: 5)

Manitoba - Start Breaking My Heart (CD, Domino, Electronica)
Manitoba is the cool one-man recording project consisting of Dan Snaith. If you've become numb from listening to electronic artists whose music is a generic blur of computer-driven beats...Mr. Snaith's music will be a refreshing change of pace. Dan is a mathematician by day and recording artist by night...so this may help to explain some of the odd time signatures in his music. While some of the rhythms may have a computerized feel...the melodic instruments in Snaith's music have a calming organic sound that is strangely appealing. Cool heady stuff...includes obtusely titled tracks like "People Eating Fruit," "Children Play Well Together," "James' Second Haircut," and "Tits and Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend." (Rating: 4++)

Mean Red Spiders - Still Life Fast Moving (CD, Teenage USA Recordings, Pop)
Toronto's Mean Red Spiders continue in their mission to provide noisy drone rock with a soft underbelly. Still Life Fast Moving is the band's third full-length album...and it is possibly their most fully realized effort to date. The album effectively balances the band's soft pop with their experimental and sometimes noisy brand of drone rock. Like their previous recordings, these tunes get better with repeated listenings. On the surface the music may at first not seem that far out of the ordinary...but after five, ten, or twenty spins the intricacies of the music and subtle production tricks sink in. The band's vocalist still reminds us of Dominique Durand (of Ivy)...but the music is far and away very, very different...combining strange elements from all sorts of progressive and experimental rocks bands from the past few decades. Strange in a provocative sort of way, these folks are getting better all the time. Top picks: "First and Only," "My Soul To Keep," "Awkward Over Coffee." (Rating: 5+)

Melochrome - This Is Motion (CD, Loose Thread, Jazz/ambient/soft pop/electronic)
Soft, moody, jazzy, reflective soft pop music threaded together by segments of improvisation. Melochrome consists of Pramod Tummala, Thomas Stanley, Darlene Poole, and Justin Mayer. The four combine hearts and minds to create some wonderfully atmospheric pop that is lush and strangely wonderful. This Is Motion is the band's third full-length album, and it's a keeper. Wonderfully organic tunes like "So We're Finally Moving On," "Catalina Girls," and "Music For Motion" present a band that is heady and thoughtful. They retain their integrity and heart throughout every track here. Nice and soothing, this is perfect music for a slow rainy afternoon... (Rating: 5)

Melomane - Resolvo (CD, Organizer, Pop)
Melomane is led by a Paris-born San Diego-raised gentleman named Pierre de Gaillande. Gaillande and company present a thoroughly mature and compelling batch of progressive pop tunes on Resolvo. The tunes feature wonderfully winding melodies...and Gaillande's utterly fantastic vocals carry the music to a heavenly level. This fellow's tunes are difficult to describe...and we can think of few comparisons to adequately explain what it sounds like. We played this CD over and over and over and over...and it just keeps getting BETTER with each and every listen. That is the mark of a truly credible collection of tunes...repeatability. The band incorporates guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, and more into a cool progressive soft pop sound that is almost impossible to dislike. Particular favorites include "Fireflies," "All the Northern Birds," "Lazy Southern Song," and the unbelievable beautiful "Stay Awake." This is a truly satisfying album. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 5+++)

Metal Machine - Kinked Slinky (CD, Sanity Check Music, Rock)
Cool groove rock. Metal Machine is the duo of BLUE and Terry Miller. And though the two recorded Kinked Slinky by themselves, don't think this sounds like a wimpy two-man-band studio project. Metal Machine sounds like a full band...with super groovy bass lines, thick and nasty fuzz guitars, and badass vocals that kick the whole thing into overdrive. This album contains a wealth of slightly funky smart rock. Well written and well executed. Our favorite cuts include "Slide," "Bring Down the House," "Hippy Girl," and "Isolation Blvd." (Rating: 4+++)

Ramsey Midwood - Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant (CD, Vanguard, Bluesy Americana)
Although this is his debut album, you can expect to hear a lot more about Ramsey Midwood in the very near future. Any artist who begins their first album with an acapella tune ("Dreary Life") that sounds as if it was recorded in the 1930s is obviously deserving of attention. Although reviewers have already compared Midwood's music to Tom Waits and Bob Dylan...this just gives a hint of where this man is coming from. The tunes on Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant sound as if Mr. Midwood wrote them while sitting on his front porch in the summertime. And we mean that as a compliment...because this obviously reflects a love of music and an ability to convey feelings and emotions through music. We find Ramsey's rough vocal style most appealing. It sounds as if the vocals were recorded on the first take (although we don't know that for a fact). Sturdy, bluesy, homegrown Americana pop with a truly authentic feel. Classy tracks include "Dreary Life," "Mohawk River," "Alligator's Lament," and "Fisherman's Friend." (Rating: 5)

The Mighty Rime - The Mighty Rime (CD, Caulfield, Pop)
The Mighty Rime is the latest project of Kerry McDonald who some may remember as a former member of the band Christie Front. This album is a mighty tasty trip into the world of McDonald's head. This man has a sound and style that are unique and instantly identifiable. Recorded at Robert Schneider's Petsounds studio, these compositions possess a nice home-recorded feel while still sounding quite polished and natural. We particularly like McDonald's vocal style. His strange, slightly urgent vocals are double tracked...reminding us just a tad of Doug Martsch. What draws us into this album the most, however, are the stellar melodies present throughout. Mr. McDonald is presenting what might be termed alternative rock...but that term is limiting, as his songwriting abilities reach far and beyond the genre. Slightly trippy tunes like "Rio Grande," "Breathing Paint," and "Shoals of Herring" had us immediately spinning this disc over and over and OVER. Great stuff from a fellow who is bound to be making big waves in the very near future... (Rating: 5)

Monotrona - Hawkeye & Firebird (CD, Menlo Park Recordings, Frantic oddball electronic pop/rock)
You never know WHAT to expect from the extremely wild and far out folks at Menlo Park Recordings. Even though this CD is weird as Hell...it's still about ten times more accessible than the stuff the label normally releases. Personally, we recommend virtually everything that Menlo Park puts out. They release material they believe in...even if it has little or no commercial appeal whatsoever. We like that. We like that VERY MUCH. We also really like Monotrona. Monotrona is a slightly goofy, multi-talented lady living in New York City who has a unique approach to making music. Her music could be described as punk electronica. For this album, she sings entirely in Korean...even though she herself is NOT Korean. The artwork is fantastic...and fits the music perfectly. Word has it that Monotrona shows are visually astounding. After hearing this CD, we don't doubt it. This album sounds something like a modern day nervous and electrified Lene Lovich if she had gotten her toes stuck in an electric socket and started snorting speed. Hard to describe this artist...so let's just say that she's way OUT there somewhere...somewhere where other artists dare not go... (Rating: 5)

Mr. Forky - Mr. Forky (CD, Fang, Pop)
Josh Miesmer is Mr. Forky. This guy is good. Damn good. Especially for an unknown singer/songwriter/musician. Miesmer's intelligent pop music is not restricted by the usual boundaries. His melodies are unpredictable and complex...yet the listener is never bombarded with too much at once. Not only is the material on this album exceptionally strong...but the vocals are absolutely top-notch. Not surprisingly, this album was produced by underground megastar Kenny Siegel (of Johnny Society fame). In addition, Siegel even co-wrote four of the fourteen compositions here. This is not easy pop music The choruses aren't mindless and repetitive. You won't feel as if you've heard it all before. The tracks are thoughtful and smart lyric-based pieces that are instantly memorable and entertaining...while never regressing into self-absorbed slop. This may not be easy to get your hands on...so we would suggest going to the label web site (link above) for information on obtaining a copy of this disc. Well worth the time and trouble to search out, this project was created out of love for the music...and the end result is absorbing, unique, and solid. Great songs include "Time Machine," "Confidence in Movement," "Frustration Hole," "Final Days," and "The Blame." Recommended listening. (Rating: 5+)

Murderdolls - Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls (CD, Roadrunner, Hard rock)
Visually similar to Marilyn Manson and musically something like a cross between Nashville Pussy, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls...these guys are quite a trip. The band name and image both rock...five guys in black leather who call themselves Murderdolls. The songs are what you might expect...songs about murder...lots of cursing...loud guitars and harsh vocals...just the kinda thing that drives parents up the wall. And that is probably exactly what fuels most of the young listeners who are bound to love Murderdolls. If you're looking for a band that the older generation will genuinely DESPISE...just pick a band that looks and sounds like this. In actuality, we get the impression that these guys probably have a good sense of humor and aren't really all that evil and bad. They're just putting on a show for the kiddie boosters. Truth be known, the band writes some damn good tunes...almost a little bubblegummy at times, which we dig (of course...). Our favorites here are "Love at First Fright," "Die My Bride," and "Dressed to Depress." Simultaneously funny and violent, Murderdolls are a band for youngsters who get off on loud longhaired guys in leather. Pretty neat. (Rating: 4+++)

My Dad Is Dead - The Engine of Commerce (CD, Vital Cog, Pop)
After a decade of two, most artists either lose their focus or shift their priorities in such a way that they become a shadow of their former selves...losing everyone altogether in the transition. Mark Edwards...the one-man-band who calls himself My Dad Is Dead...is an exception to the rule. Fifteen years plus after beginning his band...Edwards remains true to his muse...writing and recording subtle underground pop. His vocals have always reminded us of John Cale...and that comparison holds true for The Engine of Commerce. This album was four years' in the making. Edwards plays and sings everything himself on all sixteen cuts. The album has a nice underproduced (i.e., sparse) sound that is hardly characteristic of an artist who has been recording this long. Plenty of heady tunes like "All We Want," "In Command," "On My Way," and "Memory of Your Kiss" make this album as entertaining as anything we have heard from My Dad Is Dead. Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

One Man Army - Rumors and Headlines (CD, BYO, Rock)
Anthemic punk rock. One Man Army is the trio of Jack Dalrymple (guitar, vocals), Heiko Schrepel (bass, vocals), and Chip Hanna (drums, vocals). The three write and perform gutsy loud punk rock that sounds very much like stuff coming out of Great Britain in the 1970s. The songs are simple and to-the-point...the guitars loud and in-your-face..and the vocals are full of snotty attitude. The band's overall aggressive approach is balanced nicely by the fact that they write good memorable tunes. This is their third full-length and will probably be the one to push them into the big leagues. One Man Army is a touring monster. Their hard work and determination is paying off. A great many writers and reviewers are singing their praises. This band should appeal to folks who enjoyed The Clash before they hit it big...or even The Sex Pistols...although these guys are much more poppy than either of those bands. We could use a few less extra vocal tracks in the choruses of the tunes but hey...in the big scheme of things that's a minor gripe. Good gritty rock. (Rating: 4+)

The Paper Chase - Hide the Kitchen Knives (CD, Beatville, Rock)
Obtuse and unpredictable yelper rock. Just as was the case with the last Paper Chase album (the perplexing Cntrl-Alt-Delete-U), Hide the Kitchen Knives is yet another winding journey into the world of John Congleton's peculiar style of rock. The guitars are liquid and fluid...the rhythms somewhat jerky and uncomfortable...and those trademark yelping vocals remain intact throughout. Congleton is fond of using samples in his music and making good use of unconventional song structures. Considering how abstract much of this music is, we find it surprising that this album comes across sounding as accessible as it does (!). Too far out for the mainstream, this band is stretching its own limits and finding its own niche in the process. Plenty to digest here, including "I Did A Terrible Thing," "Sleep With the Fishes," and "Out Come the Knives." Different and just slightly alarming... (Rating: 5)

Pfeuti - Pigeon Post (CD, Oh!Tonito, Jazz)
Pfeuti is a band unlike any other we have heard in the past few years. While there are hundreds of Japanese bands playing surf, rockabilly, punk, and pop...how many have you heard who play freeform jazz that ranges from traditional to experimental? Strange but true, Tokyo's Pfeuti play authentic jazz music that sounds as good as some of the legendary stuff from the fifties. But what is interesting is that these tunes strangely flow back and forth from the 1950s to the present...pulling the listener through a series of strange evolutions along the way. Heady and strangely ambient sound effects blend in and out of the mix...making for an overall strange sound like we haven't heard before. The best part is that it all blends together seamlessly to create an inviting collection of compositions that is likely to blow your mind. Groovy tracks like "Surgeons Daughter," "Blind Man Plan," and "Pigeon Post" had us immediately reaching to hit that play button again...and again...and AGAIN. Highly recommended listening. (Rating: 6)

Pluxus - European Onion (British import CD, Rocket Girl, Electronic/instrumental)
Unusual and slightly goofy electronic instrumentals. The curiously-titled Pluxus is a Swedish quartet whose music is produced entirely on electronic instruments. The music has a strange casio-like quality that is simple and somewhat childlike. Rather than trying to blow the listener away with state-of-the-art techniques, these folks seem content to entertain with simplicity. The tunes on European Onion are sparse and upbeat...featuring tons of blips and bleeps, swirls and blurbs...all created to tickle the ear of the listener and, ultimately, to make for some damn fine listening. We can't read the song titles (they're all in Swedish!)...but our particular favorites here are tracks number one, four, six, and nine. You aren't likely to find this in your local music shop, so click on one or both of the links above. Nice, simple, heady, and just a teeny bit trippy. (Rating: 4+++)

Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf (CD, Interscope, Rock)
Of all the semi-big time rock bands out there...Queens of the Stone Age are surely one of the best. The band teeters on that fine line between underground strangeness and mainstream monster rock Their music is definitely cutting edge...but they retain plenty of identifiable musical elements to create tunes that can be listened to and enjoyed. What makes the band stand out most is the fact that they can really play their instruments like WELL. Bandleaders Nick Oliveri and Josh Homme are an unlikely pair. Oliveri provides all the elements that the moshing bald headbangers want...while Homme keeps compositional elements firmly intact. We like both sides of the coin...but we definitely prefer Homme's more melodic angle. These guys are getting some well deserved comments in high places. One writer for Britain's New Musical Express said they were "2002's greatest living rock band." One thing is for certain. Songs for the Deaf is the band's most solid and consistent album yet. Our favorite cuts on this classic album include "No One Knows," "First It Giveth," "Hangin' Tree," and "Gonna Leave You." (Rating: 5++)

Les Sans Culottes - Faux Realism (CD, Aeronaut, French pop)
Cool French pop with plenty of tricky twists. The tunes on Faux Realism range from straightforward pop to new wave rock...something like a cross between Serge Gainesbourg and The B-52s. Though the band sings in French, they are based in New York City...injecting a much needed shot in the arm to folks in the Big Apple. Les Sans Culottes (the name translates to "those wet undergarments") are happy and upbeat...while never sounding phony or overly sweet. Probably destined for cult status because they sing in a foreign language, these folks provide plenty of upbeat hummable treats on this album. Our favorites are "Sa Sabine," "Ecole de Merde," "Apollinaire," and "Funky Peripherique." Cool stuff...! (Rating: 4+++)

Riot - Through the Storm (CD, Metal Blade, Rock)
Good arena rock featuring exceptional choir-like vocals and killer guitars. Riot has been around for a while...a very LONG while. The band was begun in Mark Reale's basement way back in 1976. For a dinosaur band, Riot still retains a freshness and sense of urgency that is missing in most bands who continue for decades. The band's big sound is characterized by vocals that are reminiscent of Uriah Heep, a thick rhythm section, and heady guitars that remind us of Bill Nelson at times. But of course songs are what matter most...and Through the Storm is chock full of high-calibre tunes. In addition to Riot originals, the band also covers UFO's "Only You Can Rock Me" and The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." You have to admire bands who can provide good quality material over the course of such a long career. And these guys are doing just that. Good stuff. (Rating: 4)

Lisbeth Scott - Dove (CD, Zone, Soft pop)
Self-produced and self-released on her own music label, this is the third full-length release from Venice, California's Lisbeth Scott. Three years' worth of effort, time, and expense went into the making of this project...and Ms. Scott enlisted the help of some rather impressive artists. Lisbeth has a smooth and emotive style of singing that is very much in keeping with the times. The arrangements on this album are heady and slick...but there is a certain airy feeling to the overall sound that is appealing. The music is a blend of pop, folk, and world music. Interestingly, it is the last track...the stark, simple title track...that impressed us the most. (Rating: 4)

The Sights - Got What We Want (CD, Fall of Rome, Pop/rock)
Already a favorite among reviewers across the country, The Sights are going to blow everyone away with this album. Got What We Want is a mindblowing collection of frenzied, head-expanding pop music that will revive your senses and stay permanently embedded in your consciousness. This is a "hit" record in the truest sense of the word. All of the tunes are direct hits. The energetic performances on this album present a trio (actually now a quartet) who have just hit their prime. The band consists of guitarist/vocalist/main songwriter Eddie Baranek, drummer Dave Shettler, bassist Mark Leahey, and organist Nate Cavalieri. Baranek combines the best elements of pop/rock from the 1960s on through to the present...and makes them his own. This band's tunes possess a jolt that is sadly missing from many of today's popular bands. Songs like "Don't Want You Back," "Sorry Revisited," "Last Chance," and "Nobody" will be spinning repeatedly in the minds and CD players of pop fans worldwide. Expect to hear a LOT about these guys in the very near future...as they are definitely a cut above the rest. Superb. (Rating: 5+)

David Singer & The Sweet Science - Civil Wars (CD, Deep Elm, Pop)
David Singer's music sounds something like a cross between John Lennon, Randy Newman, and Ben Folds. If that sounds enticing...that's because his music most definitely is. We were blown away by this man's last album and Civil Wars is just as good. At least up to this point, Mr. Singer has yet to find a sizable audience...and that is most likely due to the fact that his songs are so extremely understated. Most folks probably just aren't paying attention. He doesn't look strange, wear odd clothes, scream like an idiot, or come across like a circus store freak. Instead, Singer comes across as an average fellow who just happens to have a fascinating talent for writing spectacular melodies. The introspective tunes on this album are deceptively mature and well-realized. There is no filler here, every song is a keeper. Get in on the ground floor...while others ignore...the inherent entertainment value here. GREAT stuff... (Rating: 5)

Smoo - Traffic In My Soul (Swiss import CD, SmooSound, Electronica/ambient/dub)
Wonderfully creative electronic music with tons of trippy sounds bleeding in and out of the mix. This one-man-band is a heady and mind expanding experience. Some tracks are instrumentals while others contain a vocal track or two. Nice slick production and fantastic cover art complete this package...making Traffic In My Soul a mighty tasty treat for fans of modern electronica with a difference. Slightly trippy and surreal. Top picks: "What's Impossible," "Outside the Body," "Analogue Slowmotion," "1-Minute-Trip." (Rating: 5)

Swan Dive - June (CD, Compass, Pop)
Swan Dive is the super smooth Nashville-based pop duo of Bill McMain and Holly Felder. Mr. McMain writes and co-writes the tunes and Ms. Felder sings. Mr. McMain has some rather impressive songwriting partners. Co-writers on this album include Marshall Crenshaw, Jill Sobule, and Gary Clark (!). Swan Dive tunes are slick, melodic pop characterized by snazzy arrangements and thick harmony vocals that would've made Karen Carpenters proud. This is pure feelgood music. There are no weird noises...no abstract artistic tendencies...no harsh guitar noise...just good solid songs and extremely slick recordings (courtesy of producer Brad Jones). Felder has an incredible voice...and McMain makes good use of it throughout all thirteen tracks. June was originally released in Summer 2001 in Japan. The Compass Records release is a remastered version and includes two bonus tracks ("Girl On A Wire - Sexy Element Remix" and "Katydids - Remix by Peace Negotiator"). This album is a nice positive listening experience. Reminds us a great deal of the Carpenters...and believe us, that is a MAJOR compliment (!!!). (Rating: 5)

Tangerine Dream - Inferno (German Import CD, TDI Music, Electronic)
Tangerine Dream is the band that keeps on running...long after other bands have completely run out of power. We are almost always amazed by anything that Edgar Froese is involved in...and Inferno is no exception. This is a live album, but don't let that scare you away. The sound quality is excellent throughout. This album is, as would be expected, highly influenced by classical music. Interestingly, this marks the first time since the 1970s that the band has utilized the talents of a live drummer. This elaboration production took place on October 7, 2001 at the St. Marien zu Bernau Cathedral. The show featured musicians Edgar Froese, his son Jerome Froese, and Iris Kulterer (percussion). No less than seven vocalists appeared wearing extravagant masks and costumes...and the number of technical personnel is mind boggling (we'd bet the lights were AMAZING...). A massive undertaking, Edgar's vision in this production comes across crystal clear. Our only regret is that we were not present to witness this incredible event. To our knowledge, this CD is currently available only as a German import. Well worth the price, this music is magical and virtually perfect... (Rating: 5)

Wondermints - Mind If We Make Love To You (Advance CD, Smile, Pop)
Melodic, well-produced, upbeat pop music. This band has been highly touted by underground pop fanatics worldwide. Mind If We Make Love To You explains what all the fuss is about. This trio has developed a highly stylized and commercial sound that has a great deal in common with bands like the Beach Boys and 10CC. Slick harmony vocals glide over intricate instrumentation...but the band has just enough of a rock and roll bite to keep things from sounding too sweet. There's a definite 1970s sound to most of the pop tunes on this album...but the modern production techniques bring the focus into the present. It'll be interesting to see whether The Wondermints hit the mainstream...or, like most good pop bands, continue to thrive in relative obscurity. Our favorite cuts here are "On The Run," "Ride," "Out of Mind," and "So Nice." Well balanced and serene. (Rating: 4++)

Xiu Xiu - Chapel of the Chimes (CD EP, Absolutely Kosher, Esoteric/abstract/art/noise)
Many bands claim they are original and that they are charting new territory. While the claims are generally false, they are both absolutely true in the case of the exponentially bizarre Xiu Xiu. Actually and in fact, this band's music will most likely leave music fans sitting in the dark. The strange quality of the compositions...is distant and oblique...and many would even argue that some of the stuff on this EP is not even music. Probing the world in their own offbeat manner, San Jose's Xiu Xiu are treading the path of most resistance. Though their fan base may be small, they are obviously intent on making a name for themselves by not sounding like anyone else. Truly strange stuff. We can't decide WHAT to make of this...?!? (Not Rated)

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