July 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | Amber Asylum | The Call | Camus | Ray Carmen | Chopper One | Claw Hammer | Wayne/Jayne County | The Days of the New | Down By Law | Faceless | French Noodles | Gajoob | Galactic Cowboys | Greg Garing | Geezer | Godflesh | GWAR | Tom Hanks | The Hippycrickets | The Honeydogs | Hovercraft | Ken Ishii | Richard Julian | Kelly Deal 6000 | Phoebe Legere | Madder Rose | Massy Baw | Edwin McCain | Bil McRackin | Olive | 'O' Rang | Orange Hat | Outrageous Cherry | Poptopia | Radar Bros. | Reservoir | S.H.E. | Ron Sexsmith | Sister Machine Gun | Size 14 | Spiritualized | Thought Industry | Two Dollar Pistols | Vaporhead | Tom Vedvik | The Vents | The Wellwater Conspiracy


AMBER ASYLUM - The Natural Philosophy of Love (CD, Release, Ambient pop)
Whew. This is INCREDIBLE!!! What a breath of fresh air after hearing too many rock bands that all sound the same. Amber Asylum is led by an enchanting lady named Kris Force, whose vocals bring to mind Curved Air and early Kate Bush. Musically, however, Amber Asylum is much more in line with current difficult rock artists like Rasputina. The Natural Philosophy of Love contains seven lengthy pieces of progressive, classical influenced, ambient pop. Dreamy, surreal, experimental...these compositions are both thought provoking and challenging. Spooky, moody stuff that's certain to make your friends ask "What the hell IS that?" A definite MUST HAVE!!! (Rating: 6)

THE CALL - The Best of the Call (CD, Warner Resound, Pop/rock)
Even though I hate most ultra-commercial sounding groups, The Call was an exception...probably because a friend dragged me to one of their concerts many years ago. The band put on a GREAT show. During their heyday, The Call always seemed to be on the brink of huge success...but they never quite made it on a really big scale. What sold me on this band, and still does, is songwriter/leader Michael Been. Live, this guy is absolutely MAGNETIC. And if there's a rarity in music, it's people with REAL stage presence. This CD celebrates the fact that the band is back together by offering a collection of some of The Call's more well known tunes. If I hadn't seen the band, I would probably hate this CD. But having seen them, it's obvious they have something REAL to offer. Solid. (Rating: 4)

CAMUS - Sins of the Father (CD, Pop, Atlantic)
For shameless pop music, this sounds pretty damned good. Camus sounds something like a cross between Bob Dylan and Mitch Easter. There's no denying that this guy has a knack for writing radio hits (whether radio plays the hits is another matter). Cool graphics and photos complete the package, making Sins of the Father an enjoyable experience. We particularly like "U Who." (Not Rated)

RAY CARMEN - Too Old For Angst (Cassette, Pop! Productions, Pop)
Possibly the best release yet from long time home taper Ray Carmen...and that's saying something, considering the quantity and quality of music this man has put out over the years. Too Old For Angst features eleven tracks that delve into varied styles of pop music. Probably my favorite here is "Monster," a beautiful, thought-provoking acoustic piece Ray co-wrote with Ken Clinger (another legendary home taper). The real surprise this time around is "Ugly and Slouchy," in which Ray proves he's also a competent bluegrass (!?!) musician. This cassette is an obscure delight. If you don't order it by mail or copy it from a friend, you'll probably never heard this music. Take my word for it, this guy's stuff is worth the effort of obtaining it. You can contact Ray at Pop! Productions, P.O. Box 8864, Canton, OH 44711-8864...or e-mail him at ab704@acorn.net. (Rating: 5)

CHOPPER ONE - Now Playing (CD, Restless, Pop)
Extremely clean, melodic, sing songy pop. Lots of bands end up being annoying in their pathetic attempts to be cute. Chopper One try to be cute...and for some reason it works. If you like happy pop in the vein of Fountains of Wayne (or even Fuzzy), then this is the band for you. Chopper One is fronted by Jason Cropper, one of the original members of Weezer (he left after the first album was released). Several of the tunes on this CD are downright exhilerating ("Touch My Fuzz" and "Cantankerous" are good examples), while other are simply upbeat and fun. You can tell by listening to this that these folks are excited by what they're doing. Their passion and energy comes through loud and clear...making Now Playing one of the better pop releases I've heard this year. (Rating: 4)

CLAW HAMMER (Live performance, June 25, 1997)
Los Angeles based Claw Hammer is one of the best live bands around. Watching the band play, you may get the feeling that you've just stuck your finger into an electrical outlet. These guys play fast, furious, nervous, and LOUD. Lead vocalist Jon Wahl has amazing stage presence and a voice that has to be heard to be believed (sort of like Captain Beefheart on speed). Robert Walther (bass), Christopher Bagarozzi (guitar), and Bob Lee (drums) complete the picture. These four guys put out so much energy and noise during a performance that you will be blown away. The music? Acid rock, hard rock, jazz, noise, chaos, heavy metal...the songs are obtuse and crazy and they just go ALL OVER the place. The one thing this back lacks is commercial appeal. Their sound is so foreign and odd that most of my friends can't take it. Hell, even I have to admit it's hard to discern one song from another because they're so damn STRANGE. I like a challenge, however, and this band is both challenging and...above all...very, VERY unique. Catch 'em wherever and whenever they play. These guys definitely KICK ASS!!! (Rating: 5)

Wayne/Jayne County is an artist who, for some reason, never received the recognition he/she deserves. Exploding out of the same New York scene that spawned financially successful acts like Blondie, the Ramones, Television, and the Talking Heads, Wayne/Jayne just never made it big. I would say the reason is that he/she might have been too outrageous, but David Bowie wasn't suffering at the time. I think what probably kept most folks away (and still does) was that this act was (and is) just so damn trashy. Classics like "Fuck Off" and "Man Enough To Be A Woman" were simply ahead of their time. I'm glad someone has seen fit to re-release this classic material. It ROCKS. (Rating: 4)

DAYS OF THE NEW - Days of the New (CD, Outpost, Pop)
The Days of the New manage to combine just about every element that I dislike about rock music. Folky R.E.M.-like guitars and extremely affected, irritating vocals combine to create a sound that I want to get as far away from as possible... (Rating: 2)

DOWN BY LAW - Last of the Sharpshooters (CD, Epitaph, Rock)
Loud, simple, and direct. At least two of them are very uncommon among rock bands. Down By Law, however, possess all three. No icing hiding the cake inside, and no hidden agendas. Dave Smalley, Sam Williams, and Angry John DiMambro are at your door...poised to rock your home in the very best tradition of early Jam. The song titles are as simple and direct as the music: "USA Today," "Call To Arms," "Concrete Times," "The Cool Crowd" (great damn song titles). This band is sounding MIGHTY good on Last of the Sharpshooters. Could they be Epitaph's coolest band? (Rating: 6)

FACELESS - Faceless (CD, Mutant Sound System/Paradigm, Dub/electronic)
This British duo creates somewhat passive electronic dub music that borders on easy listening. Thomas Albrighton and Alistair Cormack lay down subtle dub rhythms and then overlay very soothing, trippy electronic soundscapes over the top. The result is something like elevator music gone wrong. These compositions remind me of Scorn, but these tunes don't have that frightening quality that Mick Harris is known for. Light, airy, and moody...this CD is easy on the mind and body. (Rating: 4)

FRENCH NOODLES - Oodles of Poodles (CD, La Duboit, Jazz)
Why are French people pretentious and obnoxious? We may never know why...but French Noodles are yet another example of how musically inept the French are. The Noodles lazy doodle down the pipe and wet their tampons in the dust, griping and pawing at the devil's apron strings. The result? Sixteen paw paw tunes, raping the bottom of your goddamn fish panties. Le suave? Non, la droit. Et la shite. (Rating: 1)

GAJOOB (Magazine, Issue #10)
Bryan Baker has been publishing Gajoob for many years now, but he's really outdone himself with Issue #10. Gajoob is the best source of information around for DIY home tapers and their followers. This magazine contains an incredible amount of information...and Mr. Baker knows his stuff inside and out. In addition to the excellent articles and reviews, the magazine also contains a CD that features the cream of the crop in the world of home tapers. If you can't find it in stores, write to: Gajoob, P.O. Box 3201, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. On the web at www.utw.com/~gajoob. E-mail: gajoob@utw.com. (Rating: 6)

GALACTIC COWBOYS - The Horse That Bud Bought (CD, Metal Blade, Rock/pop)
Wow!!! Galactic Cowboys are EXCELLENT! The band plays music that is similar to mid-period Utopia with one MAJOR difference. Whereas Utopia never really fulfilled their promise to provide perfect pop, Galactic Cowboys make the dream a reality. This band absolutely pulses with vibrant energy, and their songs are TOP NOTCH. The ultra-rocker "Tilt-A-Whirl" opens the disc and sets the perfect mood. From there, the band takes off on such classics as "Evin Twin" (fuckin' KILLER tune!), "Oregon," "Ribbon," "You've Changed," "My Life" and more. The band is led by singer/songwriters Ben Huggins and Monty Colvin...who both pen great tunes (along with help from band members Wally Farkas and Alan Doss). Monty Colvin's tunes in particular are unforgettable pop experiences. Add in great vocals, mind bending guitars, and superb arrangements and what do you get? A near PERFECT band. This is goddamn GREAT. (Rating: 6)

GREG GARING - Alone (CD, Revolution, Pop)
Greg Garing is a major musical force with the obvious potential to become a big, BIG star. I opted not to rate this disc, because it seemed misleading. It would have received a "3" or "4"...which might lead you to believe that this is a mediocre disc. Far from the truth. Mr. Garing writes and records country-tinged pop/rock music that is damn near astounding. On the good tunes ("Safe Within Your Arms", "Say What You Mean", "Dream Too Real To Hold", "How the Road Unwinds") he definitely gets a resounding "6". Other tunes didn't grab me for some reason ("My Love Is Real", "Alone," "Walk Away From Me")...but that does nothing to detract from the fact that Greg Garing sings up a storm and has the potential to sell millions... (Not Rated)

GEEZER - Black Science (CD, TVT, Rock)
I approached this CD with serious reservations. After all, when musicians who were once in BIG rock bands from the past start new projects...they usually SUCK. I'm pleased to report that this is not the case with Geezer, the latest band led by ex-Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. Instead of reinventing Sabbath or jumping on the latest trendy bandwagon, Mr. Butler and pals churn out some damn likable rock music...and Geezer can still play the HELL out of a bass guitar. Very listenable stuff. I particularly like "Mysterons." (Not Rated)

GODFLESH - Love and Hate In Dub (CD, Earache, Dub/industrial/electronic)
Birmingham, England's industrial pioneers Godflesh are back again...this time reinventing their Songs of Love and Hate album. Everything I've heard by this band has surprised me in one way or another, and Love and Hate In Dub is no exception. These guys seem intent on deconstructing the whole idea of what music is based on, but inevitably the music they produce is almost always ultimately listenable. This is mostly cold and isolated material with vocals that have a definite disturbed quality to them. This isn't for everyone, but then it doesn't even attempt to be. If you're into peculiar industrial music, check out "Wake," "Sterile Prophet," or "Time, Death and Wastefulness." Highly recommended for techno/industrial listeners. (Rating: 4)

GWAR (Live performance, June 27, 1997)
There are few live bands that I can recommend without reservation. GWAR most certainly is one of the few. The band's live concert is like no other. They go to extremes to please their audience, and folks LOVE 'em. Seeing the band play live for the second time, I began to understand why people enjoy GWAR concerts so much. It's like being a kid again. Puppet shows, getting sprayed with water, screaming, loud noise...it really is just like being a child again (and believe me, the majority of the folks at this concert behaved like small children). When I initially heard the band was playing at a small venue (?!?) near my home, I kept wondering how in HELL the band was going to pull off their show on such a small stage. Basically, this was an extremely pared down GWAR show. There were the usual Neanderthal costumes, bizarre puppets, and spewing of fake blood and piss on the audience...but the band obviously could not do what they do on a large stage. As a result (and this is rare when I recommend this), it is best to see GWAR perform in a large, rather than small, concert hall. I was shocked that the band returned to do their encore WITHOUT costumes ("It's too fucking hot for costumes!"), particularly since this was the high point of the show. Whether you like the music or not is irrelevant. Everyone needs to see this band perform at least once. (Rating: 4)

TOM HANKS - I Think I'm So Cute (CD, Total truth, Spoken Word)
Let's take a test. Answer this question: Do you think Tom Hanks is cute? If you answered "no" to this question, you're okay. If you answered "yes," then you are an ignorant asshole. Here's another question: Would Tom Hanks be more cute if he were dead? If you answered "yes" to this question, you're okay. If you answered "no," then you are a piece of shit. Now...just answer "yes" to the following questions. Do you think it would be funny if Tom Hanks was killed in a horrible automobile accident? How about if he got AIDS and died a slow, painful death? That'd be even better, wouldn't it? Sure it would. You KNOW it would... (Rating: 1)

THE HIPPYCRICKETS - Inconceivable!!! (CD, No Tomorrow, Pop)
The Hippycrickets have a really nice, slick, pure pop sound...and word is quickly spreading about their music. The band's songs are in the same general vein as Material Issue or even The Records at times. Guitar chords ring loud and clear as cool harmonies glide by overhead. Standout tracks include "How Can I?," "Just Friends," and "I Guess You'll Never Know." The band recorded and released this themselves, which is amazing considering the sound quality on these cool tunes. If you can't find it, contact 'em at No Tomorrow Records, P.O. Box 80722, Atlanta, GA 30366. E-mail: hippycrickets@mindspring.com. (Rating: 4)

THE HONEYDOGS - Seen a Ghost (CD, Mercury, Pop)
Nice, simple, unpretentious pop from Minneapolis' The Honeydogs. This band has a slick, commercial sound with a slight country influence. It's not the most original sound in the world, but I don't think that's what these guys are shooting for. Fourteen upbeat fun tunes. Nice. (Rating: 3)

HOVERCRAFT (Live performance, July 17, 1997)
Hovercraft's live show is a mind blowing experience. The band plays swirling, experimental, heady, droning rock music at an EXTREMELY loud volume...all the while projecting various images onto a large screen behind them. The mixture of mostly atonal, powerful instrumentals with peculiar visuals is a real treat indeed...and I would highly recommend checking out this band in concert. There were some other variables that made this show somewhat unnerving, however. First of all, I didn't realize it until the day of the show but apparently the bass player is the wife of some guy in Pearl Jam (how exciting...yawn). I definitely got the impression that this was why most folks came to the show. To make matters worse, there was some dumb rumor going around that the Pearl Jam guy might make a guest appearance. Secondly, Hovercraft brought along their own opening band (this was in addition to two opening bands that were already scheduled). This meant that the audience had to wait through THREE opening bands...on a Thursday night...to hear them play. While I enjoyed this concert, these other variables did tend to wear my nerves thin. Still, the band was a real trip and is one of the better "noise" bands out there... (Not Rated)

KEN ISHII - Jelly Tones (CD, The Medicine Label, Dance/electronic)
If you think all dance music sounds the same, you're wrong. If you think most dance music sounds the same...you're right. This CD was previously released overseas back in 1995, but this is the first time it's been released in America. The U.S. version contains two extra tracks ("Overlap" and "Echo Exit"). Ken Ishii creates interesting, somewhat ambient dance music with a difference. Instead of ego layering everything to death like most electronic dance artists, Mr. Ishii chooses to keep things relatively simple. Apparently he's already legendary in Japan. Will he receive the same notoriety in the U.S.? Who knows...seeing how stupid Americans are. Hats off to The Medicine Label for making this available here. Excellent stuff. (Not Rated)

RICHARD JULIAN - Richard Julian (CD, Blackbird Recording Co., Pop)
Nice homegrown pop music without gimmicks, tricks, or glitz. Richard Julian garnered a good bit of attention recently when he toured with Suzanne Vega as the opening act on her tour. This is a solid debut CD recorded at the infamous Bearsville studio in Woodstock, New York and it features a wealth of top notch musicians. Interestingly, my favorite track on the CD is "Siberia"...a funky track with nice horn arrangements and Richard singing in an odd falsetto. Also of note are "Sick Sick Love" and "Bottom of the Sea." This disc ought to fare well on commercial radio, as the tunes are accessible, melodic, and catchy. (Rating: 4)

KELLY DEAL 6000 (Live performance, June 28, 1997)
Kelly Deal, formerly of the Breeders, has a new band and she's out on the road. During this particular performance, Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear...and that's virtually all anyone wanted to talk about. "He bit off his EAR!" they yelled over and over. There was not a person around who was not caught up in the chaos of the ear biting thing. The weather outside was balmy, and there was just a sprizzle of mist in the air. A calm night indeed, considering there were pride filled idiots all over the city...crawling the streets, begging for acceptance. Meanwhile, Kelly sang on...and the band played on as well. Ms. Deal seems like she'd be a fun person to hang out with... (Not Rated)

PHOEBE LEGERE - Last Tango in Bubbleland (CD, Random, Pop)
Move over Madonna...you've got competition. I had heard the name before, but I'd never seen or heard Phoebe Legere until now. Wow. This lady looks...and sounds...AMAZING. I complain so much about music made with lots of money but very little substance. Ms. Legere is living proof you CAN create lush, commercial music and make it sound GREAT. This disc is chock full of potential singles that DJs will probably be wondering which to play first. If "Amazing Love" isn't a hit on some scale, I will be VERY surprised. Nice, slick, and soothing. This lady is sexy, talented, and TRIPPY! (Rating: 5)

MADDER ROSE - Tragic Magic (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Very slick stuff. New York's Madder Rose have softened their sound over the years, nowadays opting for a soothing, moody pop sound (the band's early material was more rock oriented). Not only has the group softened their sound, they've also added a good deal more variety in this music on Tragic Magic...coming up with some cool surprises like "Peter and Victor." Interestingly, on some of the new tunes the band seems like they're shooting for commercial success...while on others they seem to be defying it. A long time favorite among critics, Madder Rose have changed their sound somewhat...but not their intent. (Rating: 4)

MASSY BAW - You Can't Stand To See Me Baw (CD, Tootles, Ratty bishop)
After hearing all the hype, I was expecting something halfway decent from Massy Baw. After all, it isn't often when a three month old infant tops the charts in Australia. I'd like to offer some kind words for this wurfliss little baby, but I cannot tell a lie. This child needs to die. Or be cooked in a pie. My oh my oh my. (Rating: 1)

EDWIN McCAIN - Misguided Roses (CD, Lava/Atlantic, Pop/rock)
South Carolina native Edwin McCain has a knack for writing home grown, accessible pop tunes. Edwin relocated to Nashville to work with producers Matt Rollings and Kenny Greenberg to make Misguided Roses. These songs are pleasant and easy to listen to. They are also very, VERY radio friendly (which is neither a bad or a good thing). A bit overly glossy, yet still a good listen... (Rating: 3)

BIL McRACKIN - I Am the Eggman (CD, Shredder, Rock)
Canada's The McRackins just may be the most prolific band EVER. Since January 1995, the band has released an astounding 150 tunes (6 full length albums, 5 singles, two EPs, various split singles with other bands, and tracks on 25 compilation albums). If you think that's something, consider this...everything I've heard by the band ROCKS! Yup...they manage to maintain both quantity AND quality. I Am the Eggman is the first solo venture by Bil McRackin, who plays everything on this CD with the exception of drums...played by original drummer Tommy McRackin. This is basically more of the same...rip roarin', buzzsaw guitar rock that fits somewhere nicely between the Ramones and the Buzzcocks. My faves this time around are "Tears You Cried," "Crush On You," "Pawn Shop Love Story," "Got You On My Brain," and "Come On Over." Though this is a solo CD, it actually sounds like every other McRackin release...which means, GET HOLD OF IT!!! Funny, upbeat, solid, and manic...and COOL as HELL. (Rating: 6)

OLIVE - Extra Virgin (CD, RCA, Dance/pop)
This group is a big hit in England...so they'll probably flop here in the United States. That's how it usually works, anyway. Olive have already had a number one hit overseas with the tune "You're Not Alone", which is included on this CD. I'm always confused as to why so many dance bands feel they have to play so fast. After all, slow dancing is the best...expecially when you're with the right person. Olive's dance music is actually more a mix of pop and dub...the music is seductive, somewhat spacey, and sensual...in the same general veing as Morcheeba. Extra Virgin is a refreshing release from a band that knows the use of restraint. Very cool indeed... (Rating: 5)

'O' RANG - Fields and Waves (CD, HitIt! Recordings, Electronic/ambient/experimental)
Neat. 'O' Rang is the duo of Lee Harris and Paul Webb, who were once in a band called Talk Talk a few years ago. Instead of continuing to slop pop, these guys are now creating atmospheric soundscapes that can either be listened to closely or played in the background as mood music. From listening to the appropriately titled Fields and Waves, it becomes obvious that these guys have a firm grasp on technology. More important, however, is the fact that they don't get carried away with it and alienate the rest of the world. These oddly constructed tunes never reduce themselves to mere knob trickery. Instead, Lee and Paul give the listener an easy and pleasing ride. Mostly ambient and sometimes spacey art pop, these guys don't sound like everyone else... (Rating: 4)

ORANGE HAT - "Entropy"/"Humpty Dumpty" (Vinyl 45, Independent, Pop)
Mind altering graphics grace the sleeve of this neat vinyl single...wild 3-D visuals that'll have your mind reeling. The music has the same effect on me. Orange Hat play very hummable, radio friendly pop music that is amazingly unpretentious. "Entropy" is a neat riff pop number, while "Humpty Dumpty" is softer, and reminds me in some ways of Lee Michaels. Overall, this is very, very, VERY cool. Contact: Orange Hat, P.O. Box 1242, Decatur, GA 30031-1242. Web site: www.mindspring.com/~jnesmith. (Rating: 5)

OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY - Nothing's Gonna Cheer You Up (CD, Third Gear, Pop)
Many bands sound as if they are influenced by the sixties. Outrageous Cherry sound as if their music was actually recorded in the sixties (maybe it was?). Yup, this band's throwback sound is so authentic that it makes me wonder in what decade this was actually recorded! On their latest CD, this Detroit band comes up with nothing but winners. Simple, direct little pop numbers that aren't hampered by overproduction. There's a slight psychedelic edge to some of the tunes, but most of them are more like bubblegum (yeah!). The more I listen to this, the more of an impression it makes. Likely to be overlooked by the masses, this CD is well worth seeking out. (Rating: 5)

POPTOPIA - Power Pop Classics of the 70s, 80s, & 90s (CDs, Rhino, Pop)
These are actually three separate CDs. Together they combine such a wealth of classic pop that it would be virtually impossible to try and go into detail about this mind blowing collection. Though I'm not normally into compilations, how could anyone NOT be blown away by a collection that includes the Raspberries, Badfinger, The Records, Let's Active, The Pursuit of Happiness, Gigolo Aunts, Red Kross, and about a zillion other pop wonders? Yup, this is one big dose of unforgettable pop that oughta have you singing along for the next decade. If you're unfamiliar with the world of power pop, this is THE place to start. (Not Rated)

RADAR BROS. (Live performance, June 28, 1997)
Radar Bros. is a fantastic musical trio. I was already nuts about their latest CD before seeing them play live. After seeing these three guys play, I came up with an accurate way to describe the music. Radar Bros. sound very much like a combination of Low and Pink Floyd. It was amazing how well the band reproduced their recorded sound live, and Jim's lead vocals were impeccable. Thick guitars, superb bass grooves, and perfect harmonies made this show very impressive. Though a bit more variety with tempos might be in order for this band in the future, they remain one of the most talented acts out there. And I have the feeling they're only gonna get better... (Not Rated)

RESERVOIR - Pink Machine (CD, Zero Hour, Moody pop)
What to say about this one. Not much time to consider, seeing how there are dozens more CDs waiting to be reviewed. The latest from Reservoir (Jud Ehrbar) reminds me in many ways of Eno's Another Green World...sometimes in sound, other times by general nature. These somewhat ambient, droning pop tunes are hard to pinpoint. Only after several listens did this disc began to make an impact. Just as is the case with his other band (Space Needle), the best thing about Reservoir is that you just don't know quite what to make of it. Confusion is a good thing. (Rating: 5)

S.H.E. - 3's a Charm (CD, Interscope, R&B/pop)
S.H.E. stands for "soul, heart, energy"...and boy does that describe this female trio. These three sisters (Tyren, Jania, and Jaimee) are no strangers to show business. Prior to forming this group, these girls have appeareded in commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Barbie, and McDonalds (honest!). They've also sung with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. Not surprisingly, this is a strong and seasoned CD. These girls' harmonies are right on, and the thick vocals fit these danceable R&B tunes like a glove. True, the overall sound here reeks of money, money, MONEY...but these songs still sound like they're coming from the heart... (Rating: 3)

RON SEXSMITH - Other Songs (CD, Interscope, Pop)
Simple. Thoughtful. Catchy. Melodic. Soothing. Unforgettable. It's rare when a CD comes through our headquarters that makes such an instant impact. His name and look (he kinda resembles Marc Bolan) might make you think otherwise, but Ron Sexsmith is one of the best...and least pretentious songwriters...to come around in a long time. This is the second full-length from this cool Canadian singer. If these songs bring anyone to mind, it most certainly is the softer side of Ray Davies. Subtlety is the key word here for these folky pop masterpieces. These soft songs are simple and extraordinarly direct and heartfelt. This is a superb collection of tunes from a man who is nothing short of...incredible. Highly recommended. (Rating: 6)

SISTER MACHINE GUN - Metropolis (CD, TVT, Industrial/rock)
There are too many industrial bands. But then, there are also too many rock bands...and too many country bands... While there are too many bands in general, there is always a shortage of quality bands...bands who stand out from the crowd because of their sound or intent. In the world of industrial music, Sister Machine are unique. And they're much more creative than your average industrial morons. While they can, at times, sound cold and distant...they can also sound funky and accessible. Metrpolis, the band's fourth album, is full of surprises...particularly "Admit" and "Bitter End." Another fave around our suite is "Living Without You"...which surprisingly could be a big radio hit (?!!). Rating: 5

SIZE 14 - Size 14 (CD, Volcano Recordings, Pop)
Good. I like it. Simple, bubblegummy pop with a real who cares attitude. Lots of influences...all of them clean, pure, power pop bands. Size 14 tunes are hummable and memorable. I could see this band rating a "5" or a "6" with their next release if they can keep this up. Fun. (Rating: 3)

SPIRITUALIZED - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (CD, Arista, Ethereal pop)
Wow. This band just keeps getting better and better. Spiritualized play a strange, droning, cool brand of pop in the same general vein as Mercury Rev. Already a favorite among critics, this band isn't likely to be a commercial success. Their tunes are too heady, thoughtful, and intriguing to garner much radio play. Despite this, the band has gained a very devoted following thus far through word of mouth. Probably the best thing about the latest CD is that it is full of surprises. Every time you think you have the band pegged, they go off on another tangent. Superb, psychedelic, esoteric...and downright curious. This is poppier than previous releases, and ultimately superior as well. Yes... (Rating: 5)

THOUGHT INDUSTRY - Black Umbrella (CD, Metal Blade, Progressive pop/rock)
Cooooooool CD. This is the fourth album from Thought Industry, but it's the first thing I've heard. My first reaction to this band is that they really do not sound like other bands...and while they certainly have an edge at times, they're not afraid to let their soft side show. The vocalist reminds me at times of the vocalist from Greenslade (whew...blast from the past) or even Andy Bown. The songs on Black Umbrella are just a bit quirky and peculiar, and the band spices up their songs with some very inventive musical twists. Though this disc took a couple of listens to sink in, it quickly became obvious that these songs will hold up to many repeated listenings. These folks are consistent too. While all the songs are strong, our faves are "Blue," "Bitter," "Edward Smith," and "24 Hrs. Ago I Could Breath/Dec. 11th." Seriously GREAT stuff! (Rating: 5)

TWO DOLLAR PISTOLS - On Down the Track (CD, Scrimshaw, Country)
Yeah!!! The Two Dollar Pistols are the REAL thing. This is the first release on the newly renamed Scrimshaw label, formerly the underground fave label Hep-Cat. The gripping voice on these tunes belongs to John Howie who turned in his drumsticks to play guitar and write songs. John obviously made the right choice, 'cause he sure knows how to turn a melody. On Down the Track is chock full of tunes about lost love and drinkin'. Though you'd swear this was recorded in Nashville, John and his band recorded this is North Carolina (where the band also resides). Twelve top notch tunes including "Bring the Heartbreak," "Haven't Found the Time," "She's Gone, Gone, Gone," and "I've Let Myself Down (Again)." After hearing too many rock bands that all sound alike, this is as refreshing as a cool mountain stream... (Rating: 5)

VAPORHEAD - Vaporhead (CD, Paradigm, Rock)
Extremely direct, hard-hitting pop/punk rock with very catchy choruses. From the sound of this disc, I'd bet that this New York band is a big blast of fun live. They're got TONS of energy, and they keep their songs simple. The basic sound is like a mixture of Treep Chick and Dusker Hu...fat guitars, gutsy vocals, and an explosive rhythm section. Vaporhead = FUN. (Rating: 3)

TOM VEDVIK - Sutra Spin (CD, CyperOctave/Virgin, Ambient/pop)
Relaxing. Verrrrrrrrrrrry relaxing. Hypnotic. Verrrrrrrrrry hypnotic. Soothing. Verrrrrrrrrry soothing. Dreamy. Verrrrrrrrrrrrry dreamy. Tom Vedvick's second release is a very relaxing, hypnotic, soothing, dreamy listen. Want some good mood music? This is REALLY good...like when a friend jumps from behind a corner to scare you. Damn. Damn, damn, damn... (Rating: 4)

THE VENTS - Venus Again (CD, Way Cool/MCA, Rock/pop)
Nice, catchy pop rock that combines elements from a wide variety of artists including the Beatles, Redd Kross, early David Bowie, and even Mott the Hoople. This is good for a debut. Strong songs, and nice vocal harmonies abound throughout. Actually, this batch of tunes was recorded by two guys (Devin Powers and Jimmy Sage). The other two band members (Shawn Rorie and Pat Wilsey) joined the band after the CD had already been recorded. Venus Again is a nice throwback to the days of seventies rock music, with a sound that is updated for the nineties. (Rating: 3)

THE WELLWATER CONSPIRACY - Declaration of Conformity (CD, Third Gear, Pop)
Great low-fi pop! I don't know much about this band. Their press release read like science fiction prose. No matter. This band's music is KILLER...and they don't really sound like any other bands. The Wellwater Conspiracy could be lumped into the garage rock category (they like fuzzy guitars), but that wouldn't really do them justice because they're much more clever than that. The tunes on Declaration of Conformity have a definite sixties sound to them...but they often go off on unexpected tangents. These fourteen tunes are HIGHLY entertaining...which isn't too surprising, seeing as how this CD is on the Third Gear label. We're particularly crazy about "Sandy"...which reminded us of Shonen Knife even before the Japanese lyrics began (!?!). (Rating: 5)

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