December 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | Abunai! | A.F.I. | Ancient | ApolloFourForty | Atari Teenage Riot | Baby Bird | Lucille Ball | Blue Mountain | David Bowie | Chaos UK | The Cootees | Craw | The Dead Milkmen | Entombed | Fat | Fly | Forrest | Full Moon Bay | The Gravy | Hum | Jesus Christ | Joy Electric | Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook | Deanna Kirk | Komputer | Laika | The Last of the International Playboys | Bill Laswell | Life of Agony | Love Spit Love | Marcy Playground | Modest Mouse | Music For TV Dinners | The Moog Cookbook | Mumble and Peg | The Murmurs | The Mysteries of Life | Frank Pahl | Pain | People | Phoenix Thunderstone | Physical Fatness | A Don Piper Situation | Recoil | Save Ferris | Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band | Shreds | Six Going On Seven | Patti Smith | The Soloman Grundy's | Source Direct | Spiritualized | Stereolab | The Vibrators | The Wannadies | White Noise | Zannah

*Additional Items Received*


ABUNAI! - Universal Mind Decoder (Import CD, Camera Obscura, Experimental/rock)
Experimental rockers Abunai! rock and digress/regress all over the place on their latest release. The band hails from Boston, and their name is taken from the Japanese warning cry which translates to "Look out!" The band combines droning rock, samples, and more into a weird hodge podge of blurry musical chaos. This CD is available on the Australian Camera Obscura label. I don't know if there are plans for a domestic release... (Not Rated)

A.F.I. - Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes (CD, Nitro, Rock)
The title of this CD immediately caught my attention. Geez...if only more people would follow THAT rule! A.F.I. play hard, kickass rock and roll with no frills. Frenetic beats, snazzy guitar licks, raspy vocals... This band isn't really hardcore nor are they simply a rock band. Instead, their music lies somewhere in between the two spheres. Call it "frantic rock" or "melodic hardcore" or whatever...but whatever you call it, this stuff sho'duz ROCK. (Not Rated)

ANCIENT - Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends (CD, Metal Blade, Dark gothic heavy metal)
I like this band's image. They look mean and evil in a ridiculous kind of way, and I get the impression they have a sense of humor about what they're doing (unlike so many of those oh-so-frightening Satanic bands out there who takes themselves so goddamn seriously). This is Ancient's debut for the Metal Blade label, and they have also added a couple of new members (including an interestingly trashy lady named Erichte who looks GREAT in publicity photos). Fun vampire rock, featuring tunes like "Mad Blood Scenario" and "The Draining." From the looks of things, I'd bet Ancient put on a fun show! (Not Rated)

APOLLOFOURFORTY - Electro Glide in Blue (CD, Sony, Techno/electronic)
Contrary to popular belief, all techno bands do NOT sound the same. Case in point: Britain's ApolloFourForty. This collective manipulates sounds in an extraordinarily original fashion...creating highly charged tunes that are so technical in nature that the overall sound is nothing short of overwhelming. "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Dub," the first single from the album, is based on the guitar intro from Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love"...but these folks present their intrepretation in an entirely new light. Instead of going for one sound, these folks create tunes that range from space techno to trip hop to dub...and everywhere in between. A must for fans of techno and dance music... (Rating: 5)

ATARI TEENAGE RIOT (Live performance, December 18, 1997)
Hmmmm... I'm really into the whole abrasive electronic thrash music thing, so I was expecting quite a show from Atari Teenage Riot. For various reasons, this just wasn't an "on" night for this band. Playing their explosive rap/techno/electronic chaos to a half packed club, the band's blinding strobes flashed during the entire show. During the first number, technical problems arose that hampered the band's first few tunes. Once those problems were worked out, things improved. This band obviously has some people hooked...a few dozen folks up front went nuts. The folks in this band do have good stage presence. I liked the white male and white female lead singers, but it was the black fellow who really stole the show. Another drawback to this particular performance was that the P.A. was pumped up so loud that there was a great deal of much so that it was virtually impossible to understand any of the band's lyrics whatsoever. Unfortunate, as I got the impression that the words are probably an integral part of what these people are about. I wasn't real turned on by this show but I'm certainly not discounting this band. I have the feeling their shows are generally much, MUCH better than this particular night would suggest... (Not Rated)

BABY BIRD - Ugly Beautiful (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Megaproductive home taper Stephen Jones (a.k.a. Baby Bird) is back, this time with his first full-length recorded in a professional studio with a real band. How has the music changed? Well, it's slicker to be sure...and in a way, some of the things that made his home recordings so clever and unique are missing. But even though he's chosen to go commercial, Stephen's songs are still strong...and these studio recordings show just what a great voice the guy has (something that wasn't so apparent on his home recordings). Not one, but FOUR, of the tunes on this CD have been hits in the United Kingdom ("Goodnight," "Candy Girl," "Cornership," "You're Gorgeous"). My personal favorite is "Jesus Is My Girlfriend." Dramatic pop with a difference, and the lyrics are still confusing and obtuse... (Rating: 4)

LUCILLE BALL - I'm Still Not Dead (CD, Lamberdaw, Skin pop)
Lucille Ball once again paws up from the grave to nudge a little skin pop out from under her bleeding cuticles. Watch and listen and she scratches and claws for that one final laugh...that final, lasting guffaw that will make her feel as if she didn't actually become a hilarious satire of her earlier self. Poor Lucy. When the final curtain fell, nobody cared in the least. Who's laughing now? Why, only the martyr in her lawsuit... (Rating: 1)

BLUE MOUNTAIN - Homegrown (CD, Roadrunner, Country pop/rock)
Can bands make it in the nineties based solely on talent? Blue Mountain may be a contender to either prove or disprove the theory. The band writes good, solid homegrown tunes and then effortlessly plays them in such a tight and direct fashion that it's almost impossible NOT to enjoy them. And they have a big sound, which is particularly impressive because they're just a threesome. There's a slight country sound to the band's music that may turn some folks off, but it's that particular trait that actually makes the music so endearing. The dual male/female harmonies are impeccable...and I can vouch for these folks' live show. They're big fun, and have a great deal of stage presence. (Not Rated)

DAVID BOWIE - I'm Afraid of Americans (CD EP, Virgin, Pop)
This CD features six remixes of David Bowie's tune I'm Afraid of Americans by Trent Reznor, Keith Hillebrandt, Dave Ogilvle, Charlie Clouser, and Photek. I never heard Bowie's last album in its entirety, so I can't compare this EP. These remixes find Mr. Bowie in fine form, something many of us wouldn't have expected after a series of lackluster releases a few years back. David's new direction suits him well, and it's nice to see him mixing with fresh new artists instead of hanging out with all the boring old farts of the world. (Not Rated)

CHAOS UK - The Morning After The Night Before (CD, Cleopatra, Punk rock)
This is a batch of new recordings from the English punk band Chaos UK. The band sounds angry and possessed, as is evidenced by tunes like "Fuck the Neighbors," "Take Me Back to San Clemente," "Finger Up Bum," and "Vegetable Soup." These recordings have a nice, fat sound...the rhythm section pumps like a farm pig...and those gritty vocals just make you wanna slaughter up a nice suburban family and then masturbate all over the top of 'em. If you're looking for an all-out assault that still retains odd items like structure and melody, check this one out. Not for the faint of heart, these guys haven't forgotten how to kick some mean ass... (Rating: 5)

THE COOTEES - Let's Play House! (CD, Tooth & Nail, Pop/rock)
Cute but not cutesy, The Cootees play straight-from-the-hip bubblegum pop rock with an inventive flair for melody. The band keeps things simple on Let's Play House!, an album that is chock full of catchy little ditties like "Shut Up," "What You Hate," "Jocks Don't Like Us," and "Now the Beach Sucks." This ought to appeal to fans of The Dickies or The McRackins. (Like the McRackins and the Ramones, each band member's last name is "Cootee.") Snotty pop rock played with passion, and a definite sense of humor throughout. Eighteen tunes sure to make you smile and froth. Those cool Tooth & Nail folks sure know how to pick 'em. (Rating: 4)

CRAW - Map, Monitor, Surge (CD, Cambodia, Obtuse hard rock)
The third full-length release from this confusing, difficult band. Produced by Steve Albini and Bill Korecky, this release is as much of a brain blowout as previous Craw releases. That is to say, this band is one wild chaotic power never know in what direction they will go from second to second. The overall effect is like hearing a blend of several different violent bands...or like experiencing schizophrenia...or whatever...I dunno...sheesh. This band is difficult to describe, better simply to experience their music. I hope to one day catch Craw live, because I have the feeling they're a real mindfuck in concert. For the time being, I can only imagine what tunes like "I Disagree (And Here's Why" and "Parasitic Dad Evades Biocops" must be like in concert. Ah... (Rating: 5)

THE DEAD MILKMEN - Death Rides a Pale Cow (The Ultimate Collection) (CD, Restless, Rock)
Though the band is no more, their legacy lives on. This is the first greatest hits package by the infamous Dead Milkmen. It features a whole slew of the band's best known tunes ("Tiny Town," "Bitchin' Camaro") as well as two previously unreleased tunes ("Milkmen Stomp," "Labor Day"). Although this band always had a sense of humor, they were also pretty goddamned clever in the areas of songwriting and arrangements... This disc offers a fun overview of the band's career. (Not Rated)

ENTOMBED - To Ride, Shoot Straught, and Speak the Truth! (CD, Threeman, Hard rock)
There are few bands who can unleash such a violent onslaught of sound like Sweden's Entombed. To say the band is loud and harsh doesn't even begin to get the point across. This is not death or speed metal. It's pure rock and roll played with conviction and sheer power...and the vocals will have you running for the nearest Soviet coffee shop. Entombed is certainly too much for most folks to handle. This is only recommended for folks who like extremely loud, mind numbing rock music. Our top faves are "Lights Out" and "Damn Deal Done." Turn it up and throw your mind away. This one CRANKS! (Rating: 5)

FAT - Fat (CD, DV8/A&M, Rock)
Well's a band with a name that fits the sound. This British band (now relocated to the U.S.) has a funky fat sound that is dense and extremely rhythmic. Despite the thick sound and heavy production, the band still maintains a pop sensibility about what they're doing...incorporating catchy melodies and really good guitar riffs. This band probably made the right move by coming to the States...their sound is certainly more American than British. I like Fat. Their music rocks, yet it's very easy to liisten to. Very consistent CD with twelve tunes including "Dog," "Numb," "In The Head," "Alright, Already," and "Whatever." (Not Rated)

FLY - Bombthreat: Before She Blows (CD, Kneeling Elephant, Pop/rock)
The debut CD for the new Kneeling Elephant label is a good if not uneven experience. Los Angeles based Fly is a band with talent...but at least on this CD, the tunes are hit and miss. When the band hits target on tunes like "Nothing Will Replace" and "Deadline Love", they display a sense of melody and lyrics that is startlingly keen. On the rockier tunes, however, the band begins to sound generic ("The Big Mistake," "Dastardly Bastard"). Also, I could've done with less of the distorted vocal effect...particularly since singer Johnny has a good voice that can stand on its own. This band's next release just might be a knockout... (Rating: 3)

FORREST - On Fire! (CD, World Talent, Blues)
Yeah...yeah...YEAH! These guys are GOOD. If you think white guys can't play the blues, think again. These four fellows play completely believable, straightforward blues music and they're damn tight on their instruments. These songs come from the heart and soul...but underneath it all the band has major balls and can get downright crazy at times. Plus, if they want they can rock ("123 Rock"). This is drainkin' music to be sure, although you sho' don't haztuch draink tuh in-JOYZ it. Raise hell, fellas. RAISE HELL!!! (Rating: 4)

FULL MOON BAY - Back Into the Night (CD, Hudson Valley, Acoustic pop)
Very nice, slick, smooth acoustic guitar based pop music with intricate arrangements. I'd have to warn folks into weird and alternative stuff to steer clear of this...not because it isn't excellent sounding stuff, but because most folks are too closed minded to appreciate anything outside of their one, small sphere. Personally, I find this to be a refreshing change of pace from too many artists trying so desperately hard to gain attention that they end up looking and sounding stupid. These folks are surviving on pure skill and talent...and they're offering something that folks want. Twelve relaxing pop tunes including "Paradise," "Can't Go Home Again," "Give Me The Sun," and "Back Into the Night." (Not Rated)

THE GRAVY - Hangman's Pop (CD, Q Division, Pop)
This Boston-based pop band has a big, big, BIG sound. The tunes are catchy, the vocals are on target, and the guitars are so fat that they seem to be bursting through the speakers. The band is extremely inventive with their use of studio tricks to enhance their songs ("Noise"). Though I usually complain when bands go crazy in the studio, occasionally a band comes along who knows what they're doing...and it works. The Gravy is one of those cases. Their songs are basically good in the first place, but their overusage of studio tricks enhances their music. Heavy, hard, catchy, and melodic...this is a band that's doing all the right things the right way. (Rating: 4)

HUM - Downward Is Heavenward (CD, RCA, Pop)
Dense, thick, somewhat droning pop from Champaign, Illinois' Hum. This is the band's second full-length on RCA (their first two were released on the Poster Children's 12-Inch label). The band's trademark seems to be electric guitars competing for the spotlight. While rhythms are constant and vocals are somewhat under control, the guitars go completely nutso. While I like what this band is doing, the thick production does tend to detract from the songs at times. That said, this is basically entertaining stuff that obviously took a great deal of time and effort... (Rating: 3)

JESUS CHRIST (Religious leader)
How does one go about reviewing the Son of God? Athiests want a scathing review, while Christians probably expect biting satire. Jesus Christ is a figure that I have found fascinating for a long, long time. Whether he existed or not is beside the's what he stands for that matters. Hey, the guy had great hair plus a good beard. All things considered...Jesus (whether a concept or a real human being) deserves credit.

JOY ELECTRIC - Robot Rock (CD, BEC Recordings, Pop)
HERE a band playing seventies analog synthesizers, THERE a band playing seventies analog synthesizers...EVERYWHERE a band playing seventies analog synthesizers. Something to bear in mind, however, is that Joy Electric was doing it BEFORE IT WAS COOL. Yup, Ronnie Martin has been producing absolutely stellar electronic pop using seventies analog synthesizers for several years now. Once again this amazing fellow has outdone himself. Robot Rock has an even bigger sound than previous Joy Electric releases. Mr. Martin incorporates goofy electronics into bubblegum pop tunes and then layers heavenly, breathy vocals over the top to create sonic confections like the world has never known. Okay, he IS playing to a select crowd. Folks who can't take his sweet synthesized sound are the ones missing out. This man is smart, talented, and most importantly...he's playing a style of music that stands alone in this big ugly world. On this release, Ronnie collaborates with partner Jeff Cloud. Our initial faves are "Sugar Rush," "I'm Your Boy," "Forever Is A Place," and "Strawberry Heart." Dangerously catchy stuff. GO RONNIE GO! (Rating: 6)

NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN & MICHAEL BROOK - Remixed (CD, Real World, World music)
If you're thinking that this disc is an attempt to cash in on the recent death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, think again. This collection of remixes was begun way before Khan's death, and only by coincidence was it just completed when he died of a heart attack in London. These remixed, densely produced tracks offer interesting insight...particularly where rhythms are concerned. Some of these tunes now almost sound like drum and bass pieces, while others come across sounding like trance or ambient music. It's those haunting vocals that are the trademark here, however, making this a chilling reminder of a rising star who was yanked from our world before his time... (Rating: 4)

DEANNA KIRK - Where Are You Now (CD, The Blackbird Recording Company, Female vocalist/pop)
More than anyone else, Deanna Kirk's voice is oddly reminiscent of one of my all-time favorites...Mary Hopkins. She has a crystal clear voice that is somehow oddly sincere and passionate. With her latest release (her second full-length), Ms. Kirk has won my heart and enthusiastic support. Her haunting, beautiful tunes are not only well thought out, but they offer her own personal insight in a way that is unique and completely believable. After just one listen I can honestly say that this is one of the strongest female vocalist CDs I have heard in a long, long time. Though there's obviously some big money behind these recordings, it only enhances the qualities of an artist who obviously has a lot to say. Twelve tunes, including "Where Are You Now," "No Ghosts Allowed," "Not The One," "Carousel," and "Ballad of the Small Cafe." A thoroughly entertaining CD. (Rating: 6)

KOMPUTER - The World of Tomorrow (CD, Mute, Electronic)
It's odd. With so much state-of-the-art equipment at everyone's disposal of late, there seems to be a growing movement toward recreating the electronic sounds of the past. Few groups have been as successful as Komputer at doing this. Obviously influenced a great deal by Kraftwerk, these three folks keep their music simple. These thirteen tracks flow by quite nicely...almost verging on easy listening at times. Standout tracks include "The World of Tomorrow," "Bill Gates," "The Perfect Pop Band," and "Motopia." Enjoyable in an peculiar, retrospective sort of way. (Rating: 5)

LAIKA - Sounds of the Satellites (CD, Too Pure/Sire, Dub/pop)
Nice, smooth kinda dub-influenced pop music with a very sexy sounding female vocalist. The band relies heavily on the use of effects to achieve their spacey sound. Laika is the duo of Margaret Fiedler (previously with the band Moonshake) and producer/engineer Guy Fixsen (who has worked with a whole slew of artists). The best thing about this band is that they aren't going for one particular sound. Instead, they merge a whole slew of ideas from different genres...creating a very trippy collection of modern pop tunes. Includes "Prairie Dog," "Almost Sleeping," "Martinis On The Moon," and much more... (Not Rated)

THE LAST OF THE INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOYS - Vegas Jazz and Latin Lounge (CD, Main Squeeze, Lounge)
Despite the fact that the lounge/jazz/swing revival has gotten out of hand, the music can still be valid and enjoyable when presented in the right fashion. And believe me, these handsome fellows are doing it right. Instead of simply jumping on the goddamn bandwagon, this group of nine men is smart and inventive enough to inject their own unique energy into a genre that can sometimes be pretentious. As a result, they have come up with a CD that is both enjoyable in a retrospective kind of way, while still sounding fresh and new. Fourteen sexy tunes including "I Want My Old Life Back," "Pas the Cous Cous," and "Lance Chance to Dance." (Rating: 5)

BILL LASWELL - Sacred System: Chapter Two (CD, ROIR, Dub/jazz)
I went nutty putty over Bill Laswell's last Sacred System it comes as no surprise to Mr. Nasty Pock that the second in the series is just as good as the first. Though he's primarily known as a producer, Mr. Laswell once again proves that his true talents can best be heard in his own artistic creations. The guy is a master at coming up with sexy, moody instrumental pieces that'll make you wanna groove across the carpet with the greasiest mouse. This cinematic soundpiece is presented in four parts, each so groovy that you'll be throwing juice on the ceiling by mid-disc. If you're into the whole dub/ambient/trance/electronic thing...this is a MUST HAVE CD for certain. Trust the baby on this one. (Please trust me? Please? Pleeeeease???) A MAJOR KICKER! (Rating: 6)

LIFE OF AGONY - Soul Searching Sun (CD, Roadrunner, Rock/pop)
Tired of the same old radio slop? Are the Smashing Pumpkins getting on your nerves, despite the fact that you still like their basic sound? If you're into accessible alternative radio rock, you're gonna really get off on the latest release from Life of Agony. This band has been around since 1993, slowly honing their instantly identifiable sound. They're not overly harsh, but they're no softies either. These fellows know how to combine good solid melodies with harsh yet intelligent arrangements, and yet still remain radio friendly. This is a band with the potential to be BIG (if they're not big already, that is). Thirteen kickass numbers including "Hope," "Weeds," "Angry Tree," and "Hemophiliac In Me." (Rating: 4)

LOVE SPIT LOVE - Trysome Eatone (CD, Maverick/Warner Bros., Pop/rock)
I am always impressed by musical artists who can withstand the pressures of success and continue to create credible, good music. This is probably because there are so few folks who can weather the pressures of critical acclaim. Richard Butler's integrity is still intact, judging by the latest release from his current band Love Spit Love. Some songs are better than others (which was always the case with Psychedelic Furs albums), usual...the good songs are really, REALLY good. Tunes like "Long, Long Time," "Believe," "Fall On Tears" (the single), "All God's Children," and "November 5" are both memorable and haunting...and Mr. Butler's vocals sound better than ever. I'm not sure why, but while listening to this it occurred to me that Richard and Marianne Faithful ought to record an album together. After all...they're two of the best raspy vocalists out there... (Rating: 5)

MARCY PLAYGROUND - Marcy Playground (CD, Capitol, Rock/pop)
Named after a playground at a school for hippies, Marcy Playground is a thinking man's pop band. The band's upbeat tunes...and particularly the tricky guitar playing...doesn't really sound like other bands currently on the horizon. Lead singer/songwriter John Wozniak has a clean voice that rings solid on virtually every tune. The guy's also got a knack for interesting lyrics. Instead of the usual dance/love dribble, this fellow uses unusual topics as the steppingstones for his catchy tunes ("Saint Joe on the School Bus," "Opium," "One More Suicide"). This is slick, yes...but slick in a very good kinda way... (Rating: 4)

MODEST MOUSE - The Lonesome Crowded West (CD, Up, Rock)
The second full-length release from Issaquah, Washington's Modest Mouse finds the band sounding as peculiar as ever. The band may just be to the nineties what Television were to the seventies. These three guys manage to create a new, unique sound using only guitars and drums (nothing short of astounding, given the number of bands using these same instruments). Not only that, the rhythms and overall sound are unique. That is to say, you can always tell you're listening to a Modest Mouse song after just a couple of bars of music. The songs and sound (and particularly those obtuse vocals) are that unique. Once again, the band bites off a mighty chunk... If you aren't worn out and exhausted by the opening tune ("Teeth Like God's Shoeshine"), then the rest of the disc will do you in. These guys are young (they're all in their early twenties), yet they're treading in territory way, WAY beyond their years. One of the most relevant bands of the nineties. (Rating: 6)

MUSIC FOR TV DINNERS - The '60s (CD, Scamp, Various artists)
The second in the Music For TV Dinners series, this is another MUST HAVE disc from the fine folks at Scamp. This disc features sixteen tunes from a variety of artists such as Syd Dale, James Clarke, Alan Hawkshaw, Laurie Johnson and more. These tunes are light and playful and effectively recreate the basic feel of the sixties in your very own living room. This disc is certain to delight both young and old alike. After could you NOT like tunes like "Pop Promotion" and "Convenience Shopping"? Simultaneously silly and intriguing. Compiled and annotated by Joseph Lanza. (Rating: 6)

THE MOOG COOKBOOK - Ye Olde Space Bande (CD, Restless, Synthesizer cover tunes)
Roger Manning, Jr. and Brian Kehew cover a bunch of tunes using old analog synthesizers. Ten tunes, including "Born To Be Wild," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Ziggy Stardust," and "Hotel California." Guest appearances by Mark Mothersbaugh, Wayne Kramer, E, Charlotte Caffey, Michael Penn, and Lyle Workman. (Not Rated)

MUMBLE & PEG - Wondering in Volume (CD, Vaccination, Folk/pop/rock) HERE'S one that doesn't sound like the rest. Not really folk, nor pop, nor rock necessaily...Mumble & Peg is a haphazard trip into experimental folk (for lack of a better word). The trio is led by singer/songwriter Erik Carter...whose music and voice can sound like a thousand different folks all at once. The guy's got a knack for writing a good tune, and he's not afraid to take chances. Musical arrangements prance wildly all over the place...pulling in strings, guitars, and whatever else might get each song idea across. Don't let the word "folk" scare you away from this one. Despite the fact that these tunes are based around acoustic guitars, they are eerily strange pieces that are extremely imaginative and peculiar. Eleven tunes, including "Breathing," "Water Talk," "Major Label Hate Mail," and "Castle Talk." Great stuff! (Rating: 5)

THE MURMURS - Pristine Smut (CD, MCA, Pop)
EEEEEeeeeeeeeyyyyyyYYYYYUK!!! Who signed these "women" to a "record label"? And who "told" them they can "write" songs? If the "photo" on the back cover doesn't make you want to "shoot" and "kill" them, then the "music" on the CD will. And what about those "vocals"? These ignorant bitches sound like they want to be "accepted" in the worst kind of way. Don't fall for their schtick. This is money-in-the-pocket pop to be certain...created by "pretty" young ladies pushing fake sincerity to make a buck. Is all this too much to remember? Let's keep things simple. The Murmurs "SUCK." (Rating: 1)

THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE - Anonymous Tip (CD EP, Flat Earth, Pop)
For the unintiated, The Mysteries of Life are led by the husband and wife team of Jake Smith and Freda Love (former members of the band Antenna). On their latest EP, the band offers more homegrown, melodic guitar based pop music that is heavy on melodies and driven by simple rhythms. "New Kind of Love" is the standout track here, with its interesting violin track and funky overall feel. Also interesting is the folky ballad "Let It Slip," with its stripped down approach and sound. (Not Rated)

FRANK PAHL - In Cahoots (CD, Vaccination, Weird hodge podge)
Sheesh...what kind of music this is? Is music what is obtuse, off of wall, difficult to consume. Is music what present surprise with each tune. And what about guest artist? What is to say...Eugene Chadbourne, Renaldo and the Loaf...and more of others. First song made for thinking of Appalachian music...but then go off on tangent. Frank Pahl having other band what is call Only A Mother. This CD not for everyone. Too weird for average schmuck. But instead of just weird for sake of weird, these tune have actual melodic flair what make stand out. Not know who this sound like...but vocal at time remind of Harry Nilsson. Whole slew of obtuse song, include "Wisconsin," "Emotional Thumbs," "Jack," "The Value of Slacks," and "Jesus Don't Want Me." EXTREMELY ESOTERIC...and very, VERY coooooooool. (Rating: 5)

PAIN - Wonderful Beef (CD, Birdcage/PCM, Pop)
More hyper pop with traces of ska from Alabama's Pain. This band has been going at it for some time now...regularly releasing good music and steadily developing a fan base by doing a lot of touring. This is a perfect example where dedication and hard work have paid off for these folks. They're still doing what they started out doing...but now they're better at it. Wonderful Beef contains plenty of good tunes, and the band's sense of humor remains intact. Thirteen tunes including "In a Band," "The Man Upstairs," and "Suckerpunch." You can check out the band's web site at (Rating: 5)

PEOPLE (Type of thing)
People are the worst thing that has ever happened to the earth. They are stupid. They smell. They are ugly. They carry diseases. They lie. They cheat. They rape. They steal. They have no style, no substance, no idea of what is going on anywhere. They think they are achieving so much, yet they really achieve nothing at all. Sometimes they even write things that aren't true. Whatever the race, whatever the color, whatever the sexual orienation...all people deserve to have terrible things happen to them. In fact, the only good thing about people is imagining the multitude of misfortunes that can be bestowed upon them. Hey people, everywhere...everyone! We hate your guts! We wish the very worst for your pathetic little lives! Have a shitty holiday season. Why? Well, because you DESERVE it...of course! (Rating: 1)

PHOENIX THUNDERSTONE - Stained Glass Trash (CD, Scratchie, Rock/pop)
Does helping a drag queen masturbate during a concert help to further a band's career? That's up to you, depending on how you react to the sometimes controversial Phoenix Thunderstone. The band rocks, that's for sure...but they also know how to calm down enough to deliver straightforward pop ("Gypsy Moth"). It's that unclean, unshaven raunch rock that's most appealing, however ("Stained Kiss of Trash," "Unclean Love," "Midnight Piss")...and fortunately, that's the bulk of what the band presents on this, their second full-length. My favorite is the closing track ("Wreck On The Highway"), with it's eerie, meandering melody and distant harmonica... (Rating: 4)

PHYSICAL FATNESS - Fat Music Vol. III (CD, FatWreckChords, Various artists)
If you want good, heavy, macho rock music, it's not so difficult to find. Just locate any CD that bears the FatWreckChords label, and your testicles and/or vagina will be throbbing and frothing within about 90 fat goddamn seconds. And if you're unfamiliar with the overweight label's roster there's no better place to start than Physical Fatness, the latest installment in their legendary various artists series. Propulsive, melodic rock seethes from every groove, as top notchers like NOFX, Snuff, Hi-Standard, Lagwagon, Bracket, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes (and more) rock out like there's no tomorrow. Heavy, catchy, fun bands galore. (Rating: 5)

A DON PIPER SITUATION - A Don Piper Situation (CD EP, Scrimshaw, Pop)
I can't confirm whether the story is true or not, but it sure makes for good copy. Austin's Don Piper was "hired" by Oasis to act as a ghost writer and come up with tunes for them...and then the whole thing turned sour, eventually ending up with Don and Liam Gallagher having a spitting contest to determine who would get to keep the songs. Don won the contest, Oasis got mad, Capitol signed Don, and then Scrimshaw stepped in to release the demos of the tunes in question that Capitol was afraid to release. Now...about those songs... Yup, they're good. Damn good. The guy's got a way with melodies, and his vocals are smoooooooOOOOOTH. Capitol will be releasing a new full-length from Mr. Piper in 1998, which will probably cause some real waves. Get in on something before it becomes something, and hear those controversial five tunes... (Rating: 4)

RECOIL - Unsound Methods (CD, Reprise, Electronc/dub/pop)
Pretty cool stuff. Recoil is Alan Wilder's new project. Alan was formerly a member of Depeche Mode, a band that never really pushed my power buttons. Based upon this CD, I'd say that Mr. Wilder made the right to choice to leave his former band. His solo stuff is much better. These tunes are somewhat basic dub-based electronic pop music. Four different vocalist are featured throughout the course of the album (Siobhan Lynch, Maggie Estep, Douglas McCarthy, and Hildia Campbell). Recorded from 1995 though 1997, the disc features nine trippy tunes with a heavy emphasis on production. This may not appeal fo Depeche Mode fans, because it is directed at a very different group of listeners... (Rating: 4)

SAVE FERRIS - It Means Everything (CD, Starpool/Sony, Ska/pop)
Ska is a tedious phenomenon in which nearly all bands sound the same and very few possess any identifiable traits to make them stand apart from the crowd. Though this is usually the case, it is not ALWAYS the case. Save Ferris is a ska band that does not sound like all the rest, in large part because the band features a FEMALE vocalist. (This is the first time I've heard a ska band with female vocals!) Not only that, the band is actually more of a pop band than a ska band (though they do use that monotonous rhythm). Sure, I'd like to hear 'em drop the ska and delve into the pop since they're such good songwriters. But this is THEIR band (not mine), so I'll just have to give 'em points for standing out in a field where so few doth shine. La dee dah. (Rating: 3)

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND - Trouble Is... (CD, Revolution, Blues rock)
I'm gawn tezz yuh wutt... I'ze duh fuss pussun tuh ad-mit dat I'ze doan noze dat mush 'bowt blooz rawk. Me, I'ze awe-ways bin wunnuh dem fellerz datz in-tuh pop 'n rawk 'n lektroniks 'n speruh-mintuh sheeyut. Evun doe...I sho duz noze wutt I laks win I hee-yuhz it, an' I rekkin I be gettin muh kix outah dis noo ceedee by thuh Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band (hayull...I kin evun SPAY-yul dare naam rite!). Diz iz awe-THIN-tikk blooz rawk, an' dis Shepherd feller iz jass TWENNIE YEER OLE! Dat he dis yung an' kin play dis way-yull be purty uh-MAY-zin. Duh bay-yun be frum Loozy-yanner, and day's foe REE-yuh. Mas-KYU-lin 'n raw, dissiz duh kinda stuff tuh draink' I bet dis bay-yunds fanz duz sum SEER-yus drainkin'! Reee-yuh niiiiiice... (Rating: 4)

SHREDS - Volume 4: American Underground '96 (CD, Shredder, Various Artists), Volume 5: American Underground Early 90s (CD, Shredder, Various Artists)
With so many vinyl singles being released, why should you spend all your time pawing through them to find the good stuff...when the folks at Shredder will do the work for you? Yup, though I'm usually not keen on various artists compilations, Shredder has done such a fine job with these two that they are surely worthy of your attention (and certainly worthy of a review here). Each of these two CDs present sixteen tunes by bands that you probably never even knew existed. Artists include The Oxymorons!, Sweet Things, Moto, Honeyrider, Planet Seven, All About Chad...and many more too numerous to mention here. An easy trip trough the sometimes frustrating world of playing 7" vinyl records... (Rating: 4)

SIX GOING ON SEVEN - Self-Made Mess (CD, Some, Rock/pop)
Hard jangley rock/pop with vocals that range from breathy to out of control screaming. This band isn't simply playing formulas...just when you think you have them pegged, they go off on an unexpected tangent. Six Going On Seven's most unique trait is that they play powerful music without the use of fuzzed out, blaring guitars. Yeah, they're loud and abrasive at times...but the guitars are clean and vibrant. The lack of feedback and fuzz is are the instrumental passages, which almost verge on jazz at times. Good stuff, presented in an interesting fashion. My faves here are "Sexy Like the Titanic" and "Getaway Car." (Rating: 4)

PATTI SMITH (Live performance, December 20, 1997)
You change. I change. Times change. People change. Before I begin this review, let me first state that Patti Smith's latest album (Peace and Noise) is one of her strongest. Whereas most musical artists who resurface two decades later are embarrasing and pathetic, Ms. Smith's talent is still intact. That said, this was a very disappointing concert. Patti's backing band just did not have any energy...they seemed to be just going through the motions. The pauses between songs were too long, too many songs had false starts, and the choice of guest vocalists was wrong, wrong, WRONG... Of course, the venue didn't help. The concert hall where this event took place is one of those that caters to boring old safe fart groups from the past... I found it particularly confusing (given that this was a rather lackluster performance) that the majority of the audience seemed to be hanging on every note...every word...almost as if they were waiting for something to happen. (It never did.) As pot smoke filtered through the crowd of hippies too brain dead to embrace exciting new artists (which are everywhere), Patti and her bandmates hashed out enough tunes to make the folks who had shelled out the $20 to see the show feel justified. Though Patti Smith was one of the great icons of the seventies, she still has the pipes and ideas to make great music. This is obvious from her latest CD. Based upon this particular performance, however, I would have to say that she just doesn't have that spark that once made her concerts so compelling... (Not Rated)

THE SOLOMAN GRUNDY'S - The Andy Bucket (CD, Casa de Ricardo, Pop)
Really nice, simple rock/pop from this Milwaukee quartet. The band writes strong material, and the instrumentation is juuuuuuuuust right. Add in passive spoken/sung vocals, and the sum of the parts is not unlike The Feelies (the band even tips their hat to the band with "Cop A Feelie"). These people seem very sincere in what they're doing, and the music is simply enjoyable. You can check out their web site at (Not Rated)

SOURCE DIRECT - Controlled Developments (CD EP, Astralwerks, Drum and bass)
Source Direct is a duo consisting of Jim Baker and Phil Aslet. Both are 20 years old, and hail from St. Albans, England. On this EP, Jim and Phil prove that they can come up with some incredibly trippy, cool electronic sounds. The drum beats are somewhat of a drawback, however, as they tend to sound somewhat canned and generic. Still, these fellows obviously know what they're doing... I'd like to hear them work with more developed rhythms...or else just drop them altogether. Whatever the case, this is still a nice solid electronic disc. (Rating: 3)

SPIRITUALIZED (Live performance, December 10, 1997)
I hope that one day Spiritualized will opt to cover the song "Blinded By The Light." Returning to Atlanta for the third time (I believe), Spiritualized left a permanent impression on a crowd of fans in a small, tightly-packed rock club. This band's music is something like a cross between Phillip Glass, Hawkwind, and Pink Floyd. It would be hard to gauge much about the stage presence or personalities of the musicians as the audience was bombarded almost constantly with strobes and high-intensity lights during the show. The lighting was so intense, in fact, that after awhile it became numbing. You would think that all the flashing lights and loud psychedelic droning would cause an audience to jump up and down and go crazy...but not in this case. Instead, the audience reacted to Spiritualized the same way that deers react to car headlights...THEY FROZE. I can't remember when I've seen an audience remain almost completely still for the duration of a 90 minute concert. People didn't mill about, they didn't talk, they didn't dance... Hell, they didn't even buy drinks (!). They simply stood mesmerized while Spiritualized performed their magic and flashed their lights. The band mainly played stuff from their latest highly acclaimed CD, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (one of the best CDs of 1997). Whatever this band is or isn't doing, their show and music have created an extremely devoted and continually growing fan base. They're smart...they're innovative...they're blinding...and they may just be to the nineties what the Grateful Dead were to the sixties... (Rating: 5)

STEREOLAB (Live performance, December 5, 1997)
Stereolab's latest CD (Dots and Loops) was already one of my favorite releases of the year, so I was anticipating seeing the band in concert. It's odd that this band has gained as much attention as they have, particularly since the music is so obtuse and peculiar (they sound something like a cross between Komeda and early Eno). Even more surprising to me was the fact that the band's Atlanta concert got so much exposure (they were the lead article in almost every magazine and newspaper in town). So how was the show? For me personally, a resounding success. I left loving Stereolab even more. The band very accurately reproduced their recorded sound, but it was their light show that really left the biggest impression. For most of the show, the band either played under strobes or abstract images that passed over the stage. The lighting fit the music perfectly, creating an evening of psychedelic droning trance pop like I have never seen or heard before. The band members seemed somewhat awkward on stage, but even that seemed okay considering that the music itself is so awkward. Now for the interesting part... While the show was ultra cool and creative, I would have to say that Stereolab probably lost half of the folks in the sold out concert hall. Why? Well, probably because their music is just so damn odd. Folks in Atlanta are used to rock and roll shows. They want to whoop and holler and dance. While all the media exposure did manage to pack the hall, I think most people simply didn't know how to react to Stereolab. Even though, there were certainly some diehard fans there who were completely mesmerized. Though they're getting a shitload of exposure, this band is simply not for everyone. At this point, their music seems mostly appreciated by a select few people who are able to realize and comprehend it when something truly different and unique comes their way... (Rating: 6)

THE VIBRATORS - We Vibrate-The Best Of (CD, Cleopatra, Punk/rock)
The Cleopatra label continues with its punk rerelease series with this cool compilation of the "best of" the Vibrators. I went absolutely NUTS over this band's first album when it was released in the seventies. Amazingly enough, the tunes have held up very well over time...and it'd be hard to gauge, but I'd bet a whole slew of folks were influenced by this very simple yet uniquely powerful band. This one's crammed with no less than sixteen Vibrators classics including "We Vibrate" (the band's first single), "Baby Baby," "London Girls," "She's Bringing You Down," and "Amphetamine Blue." Several of these tracks were rerecorded in 1991. I wonder why? In most cases, the originals sound better. The Vibrators sound GREAT in digital stereo (despite the varying sound quality). (Rating: 4)

THE WANNADIES - The Wannadies (CD, RCA, Pop)
I'm not sure if this Swedish pop band's music sounds somewhat generic or whether I listen to so many pop bands lately that they all tend to blur into a pile of meaningless plop. Despite the fact that my initial reaction isn't one of excitement and admiration for the most unique band I'ver ever heard, I have to admit that The Wannadies are entertaining. The louder bits do sometimes tend to blur into that "alternative rock recorded digitally" mush...but there are still upbeat, good intentions beneath it all. Good. (Rating: 3)

WHITE NOISE - White Noise (CD, City of Angels, Various artists/techno)
This CD features a variety of artists who have gained notoriety on the City of Angels label over the past couple of years. This compilation is chock full of dance crazy techno music from Uberzone, Mekon, The Crystal Method, Hardknox, Monkey Mafia and more. Ten revved up dance tunes destined to become classics on the club circuit... (Not Rated)

ZANNAH - Zannah's Angelight (CD, In-Sight!/Access, Angelic disco)
This slick, light angelic dance music is highly commercial in sound. Not unlike Madonna at times, this artist seems very concerned with reaching a large number of folks with her music. Nothing wrong with that...but it sometimes can have the effect of making an artist's music sound generic. Zannah was Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer for several years, so that could have had some effect on her work. Crystal clear sound and vocals that are as clear as bells. (Not Rated)


Anyface - Infinitude (CD, Independent, Rock)
Aphex Twin
- Come To Daddy (CD, comWarp/Sire, Hardcore techno)
The Beatles
- Major Popper's Lovely Acid Drop Penny (Import CD, Labrael, Pop)
Boymerang - Balance of the Force (CD, Astralwerks, Electronic)
Brand New Unit - Diddley Squat (CD, Creative Man, Hard rock)
Kacy Crowley - Anchorless (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Disengage - Teeth, Heart and Tail (CD, Cambodia)
DuValby Bros. - The Sleepytime Medicine Band (CD, Cambodia, Rock)
EQ (Magazine, November 1997 issue)
Factsheet Five (Magazine, Issue No. 62)
Funkdoobiest - The Troubleshooters (CD, RCA/BMG, Hip hop)
Gemini Six - Playland For the Heartless (CD, Velvet Street, Pop)
God Dethroned - The Grand Grimoire (CD, Metal Blade, Death metal)
Grandmommy - We Don't Want To Be Associated With babysue! (CD, Won't, Closed minded pop)
The Jackal - Music From and Inspired By... (CD, MCA, Various artists)
Japan Punk Kills You! - Japan Punk Kills You! (CD, AmPop, Various artists)
Keyboard (Magazine, January 1998)
Man Will Surrender - Man Will Surrender (CD, Revolution, Rock/pop)
Holly McNarland - Stuff (CD, Revolution, Pop)
The New York Hangover (Newspaper, November 1997)
NuZion Big Band - Hallelujah! (CD, Third Eye, Jazz)
One Way System - Leave Me Alone (CD EP, Cleopatra, Hard rock)
David Poe - David Poe (CD, Epic, Pop)
Pro Sound News (Magazine, November 1997)
Pry - High Wire Act (CD, Some, Rock)
Punk Life
(Zine, No Issue Number)
Shelter - Beyond Planet Earth (CD, Roadrunner, Rock)
Stanleybirch - Social Security (CD EP, Sportboy, Rock)
Stereolab - Return of the Martians (CD, Carleen, Pop)
Barbara Streisand - Honk Me With Your Paw's Neutral Bar (French CD, La Creau, Female Vocalist)
Dan Susnara - Thus and Zem (Independent cassette, Pop)
Toadmortons - Beware Mortons Murder Mile (CD, Future Farmer, Pop)
Transister - Transister (CD, Interscope, Pop)
TripleFastAction - Cattlemen Don't (CD, Deep Elm, Rock/pop)
Frank Zappa - Why I Finally Married Samantha Stevens (Import Bootleg CD, Phantag, Rock)
Zombie Zine (Zine, October 1997 Surprise Issue)

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