June 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | Amorphis | Ashtrayhead | Banco de Gaia | Michael Bolton | Baby Chaos | Barry Black | Brad | Cake Like | Phil Collins | Daviess County Panthers | Ani Difranco | The Drugs | The Element 79 | Euphone | God's Property | The Great Brain | The Hang Ups | Hannah Cranna | Happy Ending | Harper Fragment | The Headnecks | The Hectics | Hurl | Lida Husik | Jack Drag | Jeremy | The Misfits | Mollies Revenge | The Notwist | Madeleine Peyroux | Pop Under the Surface | Poster Children | Pounder | Primus | Reef | Salt | Michael Shelley | Smoking Popes | Jill Sobule | Spasm | Spawn Sex | Robin Spielberg | Splinter Test | Sterling UK | Iggy and the Stooges | Supreme Dicks | That Dog | Amon Tobin | Transmisia | Varnaline | The VO5


AMORPHIS - My Kantele (CD, Relapse, Rock)
This Finnish band has metamorphosed. Originally a metal act, the band's latest EP features progressive rock not unlike early Genesis around the period of Foxtrot (before Phil Collins began trying to sing, and before Peter Gabriel left and became an asshole). This is complex, heavily arranged, epic rock music that definitely brings to mind the mid-seventies. The band does a damn good job of playing this style of music. So good, in fact, that if this were a full-length we'd have given it a "4"...or maybe even a "5." An interesting band executing good ideas in a convincing manner... (Rating: 3)

ASHTRAYHEAD - Ashtrayhead (CD, Invisible, Techno/rock)
What some folks won't do for attention. Seemingly taking his lead from G.G. Allin, Ashtrayhead is a real character. Apparently, the guy runs around naked with his body painted white and has 200 Marlboro cigarettes surgically implanted in his head. How's that for a gimmick? Actually, Mr. Ashtrayhead's music isn't as inaccessible and unlistenable as his image might suggest. These tunes are basic mid-tempo techno tunes that wouldn't sound particularly out of place on college radio. This is one of those CDs that is a nice listen, but ultimately the gimmick just makes me want to catch this guy's live show just to see what the hell he's like in person. (Rating: 3)

BANCO DE GAIA - Big Men Cry (CD, Mammoth/Planet Dog, Electronic)
Another completely satisfying disc from Toby Marks (the man who is Banco de Gaia). This time around, Toby's compositions combine elements of world music, jazz, ambient, trance, and more to create a heady, trippy listen. Probably what makes these tunes most appealing is that they're not overproduced. Because it is very easy and affordable to do anything and everything with music production nowadays, unfortunately most people do just that. It is those few artists who know the meaning of restraint that receive the highest ratings here in babysueland these days. Seven lengthy tunes including "Drippy," "Drunk As A Monk," and "One Billion Miles Out." It'd sure be interesting to hear Toby team up with Steve Hillage for a recording session some day... (Rating: 4)

MICHAEL BOLTON - The Fart of Love (CD, Smith, Radio pop)
Isn't Michael Bolton sexy? Geez, what a COOL haircut! And that voice...it's so smooth that words just can't describe it. No wonder so many people support this incredibly talented man. He's so genuine...so sincere. And it's so obvious that he's not just doing it for the money. He really cares about his art and the people who hear his music. Isn't it neat that there are so many great superstars in the world? And isn't it even neater that there are so many people in the world who are ready and willing to make folks like Michael Bolton even richer than they already are? Gosh, everything really is neat and cool...isn't it? (Rating: 1)

BABY CHAOS - Love Your Self Abuse (CD, Atlantic, Rock/pop)
This is the second full-length release from Scotland's Baby Chaos. The band plays sweaty pop/punk with convincing aggression and energy. This CD has that slick, big studio sound that tends to make even the most original bands sound generic. That said, this CD has some entertaining tracks on it. Cuts like "She's in Pain" and "Try Hard to be Psychic" are genuinely enjoyable. There are a great number of bands playing this style of music at present. These guys could either kick me up to a "5" or down to a "2" depending on their live show... (Rating: 3)

BARRY BLACK - Tragic Animal Stories (CD, Alias, Instrumental/eclectic)
What?!? A CD that just doesn't sound like the others? What?!? A band that doesn't ape others...but rather follows its own unique muse? What?!? A musical style that is hard to describe or explain? Barry Black is not a solo artist. Instead, it is the side/solo project of Eric Bachmann whose "other" band is Archers of Loaf (a band that I must admit I'm not familiar with). Tragic Animal Stories is a confusing listen. At times it sounds like improvisational jazz, at other times it sounds like the soundtrack to a movie, and at other times it sounds like a band practicing. Whatever this CD is or is not, it's a refreshing change of pace from too many CDs that all tend to blur together. This one stands out big time, simply because it's challenging and at the same time very easy to listen to. Bachmann was aided in his vision by a variety of different musicians. Overall, this is a very cohesive (and at times experimental) outing from a man who is not afraid to release the unexpected. Superb. (Rating: 5)

BRAD - Interiors (CD, Epic, Southern rock/folk/blues)
Don't let that opening track fool you. Brad is NOT an alternative rock group...even though "Secret Girl" would lead you to think otherwise. The opener is good, but it's on the other tunes where this group really shines. They have a varied sound that reminds me at times of the Guess Who, Lee Michaels (particularly on "The Day Brings"), and even Neil Young. The songs on Interiors are simple and heartfelt. Particularly entertaining is the Cat Stevens-like "The Day Brings." Some of this is a little schmaltzy, but at other times there's some real inspiration here. This band successfully merges accessibility with craft. (Rating: 3)

CAKE LIKE - Bruiser Queen (CD, Vapor, Peculiar pop)
Wow. If I hadn't read the name on the disc, I would've never recognized this female trio. After all, on their debut disc released in 1993 (Delicious) they could barely play their instruments...and I felt it was nothing more than a novelty. Over the course of the past few years, these ladies have definitely gotten their chops together on their latest...a very unusual and satisfying CD. Not only can they really play nowadays, but their songs are greatly improved. And they're odd. In fact, the only other band I can think of to compare them to is the Raincoats...not so much because the two sound similar, as much as because both groups sound so UNLIKE anyone else. That's a big compliment in today's world where way too many groups sound just alike. Songs like "Wendy," "Lorraine's New Car," and "Franchise" are not only peculiar...they possess some undefinable quality that makes them sound goddamn incredible. People who take chances win in the end. Accordingly, Cake Like rules. (Rating: 6)

PHIL COLLINS - Homely Runt (CD, Pacifics, Pathetic pop)
"I have to hunt and hunt," sings Phil Collins on his latest CD..."'cause I'm a homely little runt." Well, we have to give the man points for honesty, don't we? No...we don't. We don't because we'd rather slam this jerk. Why do so many people like him? Because people are IDIOTS. DUMB idiots. Dumb, STUPID idiots. Dumb, stupid, ANNOYING, RETARDED idiots. Dumb, stupid, annoying, retarded, WORTHLESS, CRAPPY idiots. Dumb, stupid, annoying, retarded, worthless, crappy idiots...and they just don't know any better. Eat it up, assholes. Enjoy eating the shit that is being fed to you... (Rating: 1)

DAVIESS COUNTY PANTHERS - Je N'aime Pas Beaucoup Ma Gamelle (CD, Sonic Bubblegum, Rock)
Though Daviess County Panthers are based in Boston, they recorded this batch of tunes with Steve Albini in Chicago. This is the band's debut full-length, and it is impressive. Lead singer Suzette Fontaine is a curious vocalist. She sings, she coughs, she growls, but most of all...she gets her message across with her mouth. Musically, this is somewhat haphazard, jagged, skewed rock music. The mix of peculiar guitar arrangements with Ms. Fontaine's experimental vocal technique is an acquired taste (i.e., you may not get into this the first time you hear it). Probably the greatest compliment I can give this band is that I can't really figure out who they sound like...and in this day and age, that's saying something. The title? If we are to believe the press release (sometimes they lie), the English translation is "I Do Not Like My Waterbowl Very Much." My suggestion? Get a NEW waterbowl.. Fun stuff. Recommended. (Rating: 4)

ANI DIFRANCO - Living In Clip (Double CD, Righteous Babe, Rolk/pop)
Ani Difranco is an amazing woman. She's talented, prolific, dynamic, and a workaholic as well. I appreciate Ms. Difranco in the same way that I appreciate Madonna. Though I'm not so crazy about Madonna's music (although I do find it listenable), as an individual I admire her in a really big way. The same is true for Ani Defranco. The music on this double CD isn't necessarily would I would normally listen to...but it's obvious that this lady knows how to deliver in concert. And from the sound of the fans in the background, you can tell this lady has them spellbound. This lengthy release includes 31 tunes culled from shows all over the U.S. Interestingly, Ani's success is a rarity in that she has become a big star without the aid of a major label...and she's done it all on her own terms. Whatever you like or dislike about this young lady, you have to admit that she has that "spark" or peculiar quality that sets her apart from the rest. This lady seems poised for even greater success in the future. She's on FIRE. (Rating: 4)

THE DRUGS - The Drugs (CD, Ng, Rock/pop)
Fun stuff! The Drugs sound as if they've been very influenced by Redd Kross and the Beatles. The band plays basic guitar driven pop/rock that is characterized first and foremost by very strong melodies and exceptional vocals. But what pushes this one over the top for me are the SUPER COOL guitars. These guys know how to use volume, feedback, and effects in just the right way so that the songs sound cerebral and heady...while the band is flailing and banging away like holy hell. Our initial top faves are "Let It Go Away," "Burn Alive," "Never Too Late," and "Heroin Sunday." If it's simple, pure, DRIVING rock/pop music you're looking for, I would highly recommend this CD. Though the band is from Atlanta, you'd NEVER know it from the listening to them. Killer! (Rating: 5)

THE ELEMENT 79 - Dig Out! (CD EP, 360 Twist!, Garage rock)
Fun, authentic guitar rock! Though Dig Out! contains only eight tunes, this band gets their message across loud and clear. "The Creeper," the lead instrumental, sets the pace...followed by the assaultive "Walk On By" (no, not THAT "Walk On By"). From there, the band just goes off...sounding like they're having a hell of a time playing music they love. (They're obviously fond of sixties garage rock.) Lacking any sort of pretentiousness whatsoever, these three guys are for REAL. (Rating: 4)

EUPHONE - Euphone (CD, Hefty, Jazz/instrumental/varied)
This is one COOL compact disc. Most likely destined to be a fanatical favorite among only a very small group of people, Chicago's Ryan Rapsys is destined for great things. Hell, the guy's only 22 years old, yet he's already recorded a full-length release that beats the pants of most folks twice (or even three times) his age. How does he do it? Well, instead of copying every formula and gimmick in the book in attempt to be the "next big thing" (like most stupid musicians), Ryan simply goes off on his own tangent writing some truly amazing, dreamy compositions. The results are pretty damn amazing. The music is mainly driven by percussion, but also features a variety of other instruments. Ryan recorded six of these nine tracks alone and had friends help on the remaining three. I won't tire of this disc anytime soon. This is simple, good stuff that'll stand the test of time. Try and get your hands on this. It's worth (gasp) PAYING for... (Rating: 6)

GOD'S PROPERTY - God's Property From Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation (CD, Interscope, Gospel/hip-hop)
Can you say "Gimmick"? Sure you can. Now...can you say "Terrible"? Go on, say it. I know you can. Now...can you say "Obnoxious, trite, and annoying"? There, that's good. You're doing fine. Now...can you say "This wouldn've been a great CD without the hip-hop angle screwing everything up because gospel music can stand on its own without having to be revamped and updated"? Sure you can. Now...can you say "End of review because we're wasting valuable space here"? That's VERY good! You've learned a LOT today! Now...class (and CD) completely DISS-missed. (Rating: 2)

THE GREAT BRAIN - Algorithm (CD, Throwrug, Noisy hard rock)
Whew. I had to listen to this one several times for things to sink in. The Great Brain is a very noisy yet cerebral band from Chicago. Who do they sound like? Beats me (although I'd put 'em in the same general category as Shoegazer). The band is extremely uncommercial, obtuse, noisy, violent...and just downright strange. Interestingly enough, the stranger the band gets...the better they sound. This is particularly apparent on the tunes "Eigenvector" and "Strawberry Flan." This isn't quite hardcore, yet definitely not heavy metal...and it's certainly not just a bunch of folks making random noise. This is a challenging band, and their music is not an easy listen. If you like it loud, weird, skewed, and chaotic...check 'em out. Most likely destined to cult status because of the extremely limited audience they're playing for, The Great Brain are most definitely not afraid to take LOTS of risks... (Rating: 5)

THE HANG UPS (Live performance, June 17, 1997)
In this day and age, subtlety is rare. Most groups and artists try WAY TOO HARD to be really weird and different. The Hang Ups are the epitome of subtlety. This Minneapolis band plays smooth, extremely melodic pop that sounds as if it was created in Heaven. The band's latest CD (So We Go) is certainly one of the strongest CDs released this year. In concert the band accurately reproduces their recorded sound in concert...creating a sound so dense and rich that you'd swear there were more than four musicians on stage (those harmony vocals to die for could have something to do with this). This is NOT a visual band. These four guys' main intent is simply to reproduce their songs in a concert setting, and BOY...can they pull it off. I suppose I just assumed (mistake!) that the club would be jammed with people, seeing as how The Hang Ups are one of the very BEST bands around at this point in time. WRONG. To my surprise, only a small handful of folks were at the club. But hey...it WAS a Tuesday night...plus folks in Atlanta just aren't going to support ANY band that isn't on the cover of some big, schamltzy national music magazine. No matter. What does matter is that this band, both in their recorded sound and live performance, is one of the best pop bands around. Combining elements of The Shoes, The Beatles, and even The Feelies, these four guys are COOL AS HELL. Don't miss out if they come to your town. And be certain to get the new CD. It'll make you see stars. (Rating: 6)

HANNAH CRANNA - Hannah Cranna (CD, Big Deal, Pop)
Named after a New England witch, Hannah Cranna's sound is anything BUT demonic or satanic. Instead, the band plays a very pleasant, ultimately melodic blend of pop music with a slight country flavor. Produced by ex-Badfinger Joey Molland, you can sure hear this man's influence on the disc...particularly in some of the guitar work. This Connecticut-based band's sound doesn't pound you over the head with originality or make you want to get up and go nuts. Instead, these four guys use subtlety to get their songs across....and some of these songs sound DAMN good. Particular faves around our plush offices are "The Hardest Day," "Crazy Little Thing," "It's a Lie," and "Five Wasted Years." Grooving with sincerity and simple arrangements, this band's second CD is a winner. Cool. (Rating: 5)

HAPPY ENDING - Smile For the Camera (CD, Suburban Poser, Pop)
Well executed D.I.Y. project from this Connecticut-based band. Happy Ending play basic guitar pop, with slightly ragged edges. The best thing about this CD is that you can tell the folks had a hell of a time making it. Smile For the Camera is an enjoyable listen from a band that sounds like they're still in the formative stages of finding their sound...yet they manage to come up with some cool surprises ("Surfing On Mars"). And you've gotta hand it to a band with enough guts to cover "A Day In the Life"... Contact: Surburban Poser Records, P.O. Box 225, Wallingford, CT 06492 (e-mail: hhoffman@wesleyan.edu). (Rating: 2)

HARPER FRAGMENT - Divid (Independent cassette, Ambient)
Together since 1990, Harper Fragment is the duo of Scott Burland and Robert Johnson. These guys produce nice, hypnotic ambient music in their home studio. My favorite side of the tape is the first side, and my favorite musical segments are the ones with little or no vocals. These guys use lots of reverb and effects to make the sounds on these compositions sound very distant and peculiar. This is pretty damned good for a home-produced release. You can contact these guys at P.O. Box 54956, Atlanta, GA 30308. (Rating: 3)

THE HEADNECKS - Plutonium Chickenshack (Independently released CD, Rock)
Real get down and dirty rock and roll played with balls and conviction. Columbia, South Carolina's The Headnecks play extremely credible, high energy rock music that'll rock your world. For a self released CD, this masculine batch of tunes is amazingly well written, crafted, and played. The band's redneck influenced rock music is sometimes funny as hell ("Cornbread, Rolls or Mixed?," "Hygienic Panties") and at other times just plain heavy ("Down"). The band features a super tight rhythm section, fat guitars, and really macho vocals. The sum of the parts is one bad ass rock band that I have a feeling would be a real treat live. Despite a couple of weak tracks, overall this CD rocks as hard as anything you're likely to hear on a major label. Cool shit. (Rating: 4)

THE HECTICS - Everything I Need (CD, 360 Twist!, Rock)
Good garage rock featuring above average female vocals. The Hectics are not unlike the Red Aunts. They're loud, their songs are short and to the point, and they've got attitude to spare. The band's sense of humor is apparent on tunes like "Everything I Need" and "When You Die." The Hectics' stripped down, simple approach to their music is refreshing and entertaining...and they're smart enough to realize the importance of brevity. Everything I Need is a damn enjoyable CD. This is one of those bands that might bump their rating up to a "6" with their live show...cuz from the sound of this, I'd bet these folks KICK ASS in concert. (Rating: 3)

HURL - Not A Memory (CD, My Pal God/Peas Kor, Rock)
Infinitely more enjoyable than a kitten's vagina. Pittsburgh's Hurl is back with another great batch of music. Because this band's music is so abstract in nature, it is probably unlikely that they will be "the next big thing." Pity that's the way things work, however...because Hurl is so much better than your average band. These guys take an interesting approach in that the vocals seem to take a back seat to the instrumental stuff going on...and instrumentally, they come up with some rather obtuse and challenging material. These tunes are not catchy, nor do they have hooks in the usual sense of the word. Instead, Hurl songs are more like good paintings...the closer you pay attention, the more you get out of them. This band sounds great whether they're playing loud or soft. This is worth seeking out. If you can't find it in stores, e-mail 'em at jsolomon@tezcat.com. (Rating: 5)

LIDA HUSIK - Fly Stereophonic (CD, Alias, Ethereal pop)
Cooooooooooooool. Lida Husik's been around for some time now, recording her own brand of unique, dreamy pop music. Fly Stereophonic is her most cohesive, entertaining CD yet. This disc features a wide array of musical influences, and they're all tied together by Lida's unique vocal style (which on this particular disc brings to mind Karen Carpenter at times...honest!). Ms. Husik is fond of layering her breathy, sensuous vocals and she's damn good at it. The songs sound nothing whatsoever like Carpenters songs, however. Lida writes complex, challenging tunes that are easy on the ears...yet these aurally challenging compositions often go off on unexpected tangents. There's really not a bad track on this disc, and it definitely gets better with repeated listenings. Lida Husik is not like all the other female artists fighting for your attention...simply because she's talented as HELL. (Rating: 6)

JACK DRAG - Unisex Headwave (CD, Devil's Weed, Hep-Cat)
You'd think from the cover and name of Unisex Headwave that this would be pure alternative pop/rock...but it's not. Instead, Jack Drag play a heady, somewhat psychedelic brand of pop music that's sometimes hazy and surreal and at other times pensive and peculiar. These tunes are just slighty meandering and droning, and I get the feeling that is just the effect the band wanted. Most interesting here are the adventurous guitar sounds...instead of just playing straight rhythm guitar, bandleader John Dragonetti mangles and mutates the sound of his guitar to create some damn interesting sounds. I like this...and it certainly has me anxious to hear the band's A&M debut coming in early 1998. (Rating: 3)

JEREMY - Solid Rock (CD, JAM, Pop)
All right! Jeremy is a rare find...a totally mindblowing underground pop songwriter. Though Solid Rock was released in 1995, it only now made its way to my mailbox. Jeremy plays all instruments with the exception of Dave Dietrich on drums and percussion. These tunes remind me of Apples in Stereo at times, but only slightly. There's definitely a really cool sixties influence going on here as Jeremy delivers surprisingly solid tunes like "Solid Rock," "Hard to Hide the Pain," "I Want To Stay With You," and "Breaking My Heart." Not only can this guy write great tunes, but he's got the vocal harmony thing down...and he can play the HELL out of a guitar! If you like British Invasion stuff, sixties pop, seventies power pop...or if you just like great music, you will want to check this out. Jeremy has released a whole SLEW of discs on his own record label (plus he distrubutes discs by other artists as well). If you can't find this in stores, contact JAM Records at 3424 Wedgewood Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. An obscure delight! (Rating: 5)

THE MISFITS - American Psycho (CD, Geffen, Rock)
Whoa Mommy! Can you believe it? Though I've known about this band for a long time, this is the first CD that's come my way for review. Now I know what all the fuss is about. The Misfits play in-your-face rock like there's no tomorrow. They've got balls, they've got an exceptionally strong image, and...above all...they've got some mighty powerful songs. The graphics and packaging are probably what draw folks to this band initially...but it's the music in the end that must make the fans go wild at the shows. If you're looking for pure, simple rock and roll, this band's for you. The gimmicks only support a solid base of writing and playing. Seventeen asskicking tunes that oughta have the kids in the pits doing serious damange to one another... (Rating: 4)

MOLLIES REVENGE - Every Dirty Word (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Hmmm...what's that terrible smell? Did the cat forget to use her litter box again? Or did I forget to throw out expired food in the refrigerator? Did I forget to flush the toilet? Nope, it's none of the above. It's...Mollies Revenge, and it's a very bad smell indeed. "Alternarock" in the worst sense of the word, this is total crap. And hey...how about lead singer Yvette's ULTRA WEIRD shaved head and PIERCED face? Isn't she SHOCKING and SUBVERSIVE? The sound is bad, and the look is pathetic. Most likely this band will be a huge commercial success. (Rating: 1)

THE NOTWIST - 12 (Double CD, Zero Hour, Rock)
I had previously heard an EP by this German band that I was very impressed with. 12 is even more impressive. If I had to lump this band in a category with another band, it was have to be dEUS. Both bands are treading in their own unique territory...preferring to create their own sound and identity rather than copy others. In the case of The Notwist, the idea works amazingly well. The band creates moody, slightly spacey music that is not only unique but thought provoking as well. My top faves here are "Torture Day," "Puzzle," "My Faults," and "Noah"...but in actuality, all the band's songs are excellent. My only complaint with this release is that it was released as a double CD set...when the music would've easily fit onto one disc. That's a minor bitch, however, considering the excellent quality of the music... (Rating: 5)

MADELEINE PEYROUX - Dreamland (CD, Atlantic, Female vocalist)
Madeleine Peyroux KICKS ASS!!! Please note, however, that she manages to kick ass without the use of (a) volume, (b) weird clothes, (c) samplers, (d) piercings, (e) tatoos, or (f) producers Steve Albini or Trent Reznor. Instead of trying to beat the listener over the head like many pop artists, Ms. Peyroux simply sings like there's no tomorrow. And sing she can. This lady's voice is the BEST. Dreamland will take you back in time...to a time when male and female vocalists were all the rage. Madeleine notes Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith as influences for this disc. Though most of the tunes are covers, Madeleine includes some originals as well. She's a damn good writer and lyricist. If you like the quieter side of the Squirrel Nut Zippers...or if you just appreciate the great female vocalists of the thirties and fourties...you're gonna go APESHIT over this one. Personally, I'm blown away. Expect BIG THINGS from this extraordinary lady. (Rating: 6)

POP UNDER THE SURFACE -Volume One (Various artists) (Import CD, Yesterday Girl, Pop)
This is an amazingly cohesive collection of underground tunes compiled by Sweden's new Yesterday Girl label. Even though the disc features no less than 25 (!) artists, the basic flow works. Though almost all the tracks are entertaining, the initial standouts are Martin Luther Lennon, The Grip Weeds, Bill Retoff, The Beatifics (already a fave among critics), The Richards, and The Hippycrickets (there are too many good bands to list 'em all here). Overall, however, I'd say the real gem is Jeremy's "I'm Flying"...a soaring pop tune from one of America's coolest home tapers...and it's unavailable anywhere else. This CD is a cool listen because it features a whole slew of underground pop aritsts who aren't getting heard on a large scale. The good news? The label has already begun work on Volume Two. (Contact: Yesterday Girl, Grusasgrand 162, 4 tr, 121 30 Enskededalen, Sweden. E-mail: stefan@matteusskolan.stockholm.se) (Rating: 5)

POSTER CHILDREN (Live performance, May 30, 1997)
When IS this band going to be recognized by a larger audience? Illinois rockers Poster Children outdo just about every other band on the planet in terms of songwriting, arrangements, imagination, and pure skill...yet they remain an odd obscurity, coveted and idolized by only a small group of followers. Perhaps they're too smart for the punks...yet too obtuse, noisy, and peculiar for the "alternarockers". I wonder if, in the end, being on a major label has hurt this band... After all, their music is much too smart and cerebral to ever be embraced on a large scale. And they're obviously not just doing it for the money...or they would've given up long ago. Whatever the case...these folks ROCKED ATLANTA like there's no tomorrow at their most recent show...playing for an enthusiastic group of rabid fans. The current show is polished and rehearsed, yet the band was in tune with the audience and gladly honored requests...playing favorites old and new for a horde of dancing fools. Particular highlights during this show included "21st Century" and "Not Like You." (Every tune was a highlight if you wanna know the truth...) This band should be raking in BIG bucks. But then, we must remember that the pathetic retards of the world would rather support second rate posers like U2 or Live...y'know, people who really NEED our money... Anyway...Poster Children deserve a good, solid hit off their latest album (RTFM). There are TONS of great tunes on the new CD that oughta make college radio go NUTS. C'mon folks...pay attention. Poster Children are smart, ultimately nerdy, too entertaining for words, and completely unique. This is most certainly one of the most overlooked bands of the decade!!! MOMMY!!!! (Rating: 6)

POUNDER - E6 (CD EP, Invisible, Droning psychedelia)
Though I know it gets on some folks' nerves to describe bands by saying they "sound like a cross between Band A and Band B," I think such comparisons can give people an impression of how a band sounds. That said, I'll use the formula to describe Pounder. This band (the duo of Eric Pounder and David Marine) sounds very much like a cross between Low and Hawkwind. Slow, droning, psychedelic tunes that possess both subtlety and experimentation. If you're not into the droning thing, you probably won't go for this. If you are, you'll find E6 a very nice, somewhat ambient, listen. (Rating: 3)

PRIMUS - Brown Album (CD, Interscope, Obtuse rock)
Though I get the impression that the main chunk of their audience consists of rebellious teenage boys at the brink of puberty, I am proud to admit that I really get off on Primus. Always have, probably always will. Whatever you can say about this band, you have to admit that they have carved their own unique niche in the world of music. Brown Album continues to define that niche, by providing more of the jagged, nonsensical, weird compositions the band is known for. Interestingly, this entire disc was recorded using nothing but analog equipment. That Les Claypool...what in the world are we going to do with him? While everyone else is going digital, he goes off in the complete opposite direction. The humorously titled Brown Album is a big chunk to chew on, as is the case with all Primus albums. Fifteen bizarre tracks. My initial faves are "Fisticuffs," "Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread," "The Chastizing of Renegade," and "Arnie." There's never been anyone like 'em, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Primus is one of the true originals in the world of popular music. (Rating: 6)

REEF - Glow (CD, Epic, Hard rock)
I opted to review this CD not so much because I like it, but because this band is really good at what they do. Though Reef is a British band, you'd never EVER know it. The band sounds more like Aerosmith than anyone else...mainly due to high-intensity vocalist Gary Stringer. Believe me, this guy's got the pipes for this kinda stuff. It's rare when a screamer can come across this believable...but this guy does, and with style to boot. The music? Basic ballsy, hard rock music with a lot of studio gloss. Interestingly, this CD entered the British charts at #1...and apparently the fans overseas are going WILD over this band's live shows. They may not be the most original sounding band in the world, but Reef seem to know what they're doing...and they're doing it extremely well. For that, these guys deserve credit. (Rating: 3)

SALT - Delay Me Down and Make Me Wah Wah (CD, Meltdown, Rock)
What a hilarious name for a CD. I liked this band's last full-length CD on Island (Auscultate), but this new CD on Meltdown is better. Salt hail from Sweden, but their sound is more American than Swedish. This disc contains twelve tracks that include six new tracks and various other B-sides and unreleased tracks. I think the reason I like this disc better than the last is that there is less polish, and many of the songs have simpler arrangements. For proof of what this band is capable of, check out "Less Assured"...a completely knockout tune. This band continues to grow on me, and after hearing this I regret having missed their last show in my home town. (Rating: 4)

MICHAEL SHELLEY - Half Empty (CD, Big Deal, Pop)
Kinda like a cross between Chris Stamey and They Might Be Giants. Originally a disc jockey at New Jersey's WFMU, Michael Shelley has become an instantly successful recording artist. For good cause. The guy's got a good, solid songwriting style, and he's intelligent enough not to muddy his tunes with busy arrangements. This'll only appeal to pop fans, as this CD contains nothing but hummable pure pop. If pop's your bag, though, you're gonna wanna check this guy out. He's good, with real talent, and some damn good tunes (our fave is "Think With Your Heart"). A good listen from an exceptional up and coming artist. (Rating: 4)

SMOKING POPES - Destination Failure (Advance cassette, Capitol, Pop)
This is a band with a great deal of potential. They write some damn good songs...and Destination Failure has a wealth of way above average tunes on it. The music is basic guitar pop that doesn't sound unlike the Smiths at times. Instead of going for a thick layered sound, the Smoking Popes keep their arrangements simple. That could be because, with such strong material, they don't need to cover up anything. The band even does a cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...so you know their hearts are in the right place. The only thing that keeps this one from getting a higher rating with me is lead singer Josh Caterer's vocals. He's a good singer, but he has one style and that's it. After eighteen songs, I yearn for more variety in the vocal department. Still, this is enjoyable stuff and as I mentioned earlier, the band has good songs... (Rating: 3)

JILL SOBULE - Happy Town (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Hats off to Jill Sobule, who proves once again that you can be accessible, commercial, and still be GOOD. The three rarely meet in the world of music, but Happy Town is a nice exception to the rule. The first track ("Bitter") is a good example. Within the context of a very pop sounding song, Jill sings "I don't want to be bitter like you." Such sarcasm...but it's sung so damn NICELY. This disc has a wealth of nice, upbeat, highly produced pop that ought to please a wide variety of people. It'll be interesting to see where this talented lady goes next with her career. She could have easily chosen the path of producing bad crap (which is what the public wants), but instead she's chosen to take chances. Neat. (Rating: 4)

SPASM - Smear (CD, Invisible, Electronic/experimental)
Noise as music. A few years ago, there weren't that many people making noise as music. Whether we like it or not, the medium has now become VERY popular. With the advent of inexpensive multitrack digital recording gear, it is now possible for people to do things that were never even possible before. While most of my pals don't care for it, I really get into the whole noise music thing. Particularly when the artist is as perplexing and inventive as Smear. This "band" consists of Mark Spybey, Eric Pounder, Martin Atkins, and Curse Mackey. The "songs" consist of odd fragments and pieces that Atkins lifted from four hours of the band's abstract recording process. The "CD" as a whole is one big psychedelic mess...blurred noises, odd rhythms, distorted vocals, nightmarish noise... If you don't mind your electronic music going WAY off the deep end, check this one out. Controlled, symphonic chaos. (Rating: 5)

SPAWN SEX (Live performance, May 30, 1997)
While a few dozen alternative music zombies turned out to see the latest bands the major labels were supporting at a club next door, Chattanooga, Tennessee's Spawn Sex were rocking the ROOF off a small Mexican fast food restaurant on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The band plays fast, furious, and they have a definite sense of humor about what they're doing. Most importantly, they realize how important audience participation can be in a show and they use it. I caught part of this band while standing behind the "stage" (there really was no stage)...looking at them through panes of glass in a garage door...so that only added to the spontaneity of the show. This is a band with something to say. They've already got a dedicated following of folks who are listening... (Rating: 5)

ROBIN SPIELBERG - In the Arms of the Wind (CD, North Star, Piano/instrumental)
I've reviewed several prior releases by this enchanting pianist, and her latest is as good or better than any of her previous CDs. Robin Spielberg is a female pianist with a difference. Instead of trying to impress the listener with complicated pieces and speed, Robin simply lets her ideas and emotions flow from her brain through her fingers...and the results are always damned near magical. Most importantly, however, is that this music comes across sounding completely sincere...and I get the feeling that Ms. Speilberg plays mainly out of her love for her music. On In the Arms of the Wind, a variety of different instruments are included in the arrangements (cello, fiddle, flute, oboe, guitar, and more). The additional instruments support rather than add clutter the tunes...due to the sophisticated, thoughtful arrangements. For nice relaxing piano instrumentals, you won't do much better than this. Twelve dreamy tunes. Sooooooooo niiiiiiice... (Rating: 5)

SPLINTER TEST - Electric Newspaper. Issue Four. (CD, Invisible, Human voice)
This is a very interesting CD, yet the idea is extremely simple. Genesis P-Orridge, Larry Thrasher and pals simply connected a string of human voice samples together to create this CD. The voices are not manipulated, combined with music, or layered. Throughout the entire disc, all you hear is a few seconds of different people speaking...one after another. Some are famous voices, some are obscure. The overall feeling I get listening to this is confusion. This CD is living proof that, just like animals, people simply like to make noise with their mouths. Whether the words actually have meaning is irrelevant. Some of the sampled sentences and phrases seem poignant, while others seem competely stupid. Hey...that's just like REAL PEOPLE, isn't it? With all the CDs I've heard in my life, it seems odd that I haven't heard this one done before. Whatever this disc is, it's a very ODD listen. This is one I'll be sharing with my friends, for sure... Very puzzling. (Rating: 5)

STERLING UK - Monsterlingo (CD, Mantra/Beggars Banquet, Pop/rock)
Sort of like the Charlatans UK (but not as meandering and with a harder edge) or even the Psychedelic Furs (but not as...psychedelic). Though I've long admired British rock music, the past few years have been somewhat disappointing...because most British bands seem to have a samey, canned sound that is both generic and annoying. As a result, Sterling UK is a breath of fresh air because their sound is a bit more genuine and real. The other aspect of this music that appeals to me are the simple arrangements that don't clutter up the tunes... And speaking of tunes, this band writes some enjoyable stuff. Up here in the clouds, we're particularly enjoying "Intravenous" and "Three Hand Man." Though this band does have a sound that is not unlike hundreds of others, they still manage to come off sounding fresh and vital. (Rating: 4)

IGGY AND THE STOOGES - Raw Power (CD, Columbia, Rock)
There aren't many things that people can agree on...but over the years virtually everyone seemed to agree that the original mix of Raw Power wasn't so good. The sound of the band was blurry and muddled, and ol' Iggy's voice was way too loud. That said, it is surprising that it took this long for someone to put out a new, improved remix of this underground favorite. So...is there a difference? You betcha. Whereas the original sounded flat, this one BITES...and SNARLS...and finally the true spirit of the songs comes into focus. As is usually the case when anyone remixes recordings made so long ago, the sound quality is just not going to sound totally sharp and clear. But clarity and control wasn't what the Stooges were about anyway. The band thrived on brutal energy, alienation, distortion, and general violent tendencies. If you never heard it in the first place, here's your chance. If you loved the original, you'll love the new disc even more. Classic tunes like "Search and Destroy," "Gimme Danger," "Penetration," and "Death Trip" can never be duplicated. This is the REAL THING. (Rating: 5)

SUPREME DICKS - This is Not a Dick E.P. (CD EP, Runt, Experimental/noise)
Though I have only heard one prior CD from this obscure band, it has remained in my CD collection for a long time because it is so different from everything else. Supreme Dicks is one hard band to figure because they don't seem concerned with either song structure or any sort of commercial success whatsoever. The band's spooky, surreal pieces are confusing, psychedelic, accidental, spontaneous, and bizarre. They've been an underground favorite for some time now...and if they keep producing music like this they will probably never make it commercially. No matter. I have the feeling that these folks aren't doing it for the money or fame anyway. With tunes like "Summertime (Childhood's Impossible Now)" and "Marks Phone Call Form Orgoneland", it is doubtful that the Dicks will be topping the charts anytime soon. Pick up anything you can find by this band. They're obtuse and completely STRANGE. (Rating: 6)

THAT DOG - Retreat From the Sun (CD, Geffen, Pop)
This group has come a long way in a very short time. This CD is going to add a lot of fuel to the flame if my guess is correct. Compulsively clean popsters That Dog don't clutter their songs with noise, chaos, and garbage. Instead, the group's hummable radio pop is about as squeaky clean as you can get with your clothes on. Are they good? You betcha. It's like the perfect mixture of nineties girl group pop with a slight alternaock sound. The camps are widely divided over this band. Their fans love 'em, while other folks just hate 'em. Why? Probably because they've chosen to take such a solid stance with their music. But it WORKS. Hell...why try to figure things out? This is some great soundin' shit that sounds nice on my goddamn CD player. "Cowboy Hat" is a particularly cool tune. Neat. (Rating: 4)

AMON TOBIN - Bricolage (CD, Ninja Tune, Instrumental/eclectic)
This is a VERY cool CD indeed. Amon Tobin experiments with a wide variety of musical styles, but he combines them all so seamlessly that the overall effect is hypnotic and beautiful. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Tobin has put out several releases over the past couple of years...but this is the first I've gotten hold of. How to label this? Is it ambient? Yes. It is bass and drums? Yes, in a way. Is it jazz? Uh...certainly. Is it experimental? Hell yes. Probably the best way of describing this would be to say that this could be the soundtrack to accompany your dreams. Peculiar rhythms...accidental sounds...sounds that seem to appear from nowhere...this man is not afraid to experiment with his music. Likely to appeal to a wide spectrum of people, Bricolage is simultaneously challenging and relaxing. A cool collage for progressive listeners. (Rating: 5)

TRANSMISIA - Frigid Prose (CD, Invisible, Techno/electronic)
Welcome to Uneasy Listening 101. In our class today, we will be listening to musical artists whose main intent is to make the listener feel uneasy. The artist may achieve his objective in many ways...by using harsh, choatic noise...by screaming unintelligible words...or by distorting the music so as to make the hair on the back of the listeners' necks stand on end. Oops...back to reality. Originally recorded in 1993, this collection of tunes by Transmisia has been re-interpreted and remixed by none other than the always puzzling Mick Harris (of Scorn). I never head the original versions of these songs, so I can't compare the new and old...but the new versions certainly do make me feel uneasy. And that's a very GOOD thing. (Rating: 4)

VARNALINE - Varnaline (CD, Zero Hour, Rock)
Varnaline is an excellent band, yet still virtually unknown. This is probably the most accessible release yet from this band, although it is hardly calculated or commercial sounding. These three guys aren't trying to be punk, pop, alternative, or unusual. They just seem intent on creating their own spellbinding music...and they've become damn good at it. There's a very slight country slant to some of the pop tunes on this CD, but the music isn't really country or pop. Melancholy, plaintiff words graze over clear green pastures...as oddly hypnotic rhythms drive the scene. Particularly interesting here is the piano based Really Can't Say, which harkens back to the softer side of Lee Michaels. The band is fond of putting photos of lions (and horses, etc.) on their covers instead of themselves. Egos still intact. Major bonus points. Hats off, guys. This is fucking GREAT. (Rating: 6)

THE VO5 (Live performance, June 13, 1997)
Weird coincidence. The VO5 (lyrically the most morbid band in the Southeast) just happened to be playing a concert at a small club on Friday the 13th the same night that a crew was shooting a segment for the upcoming Scream II film in the parking lot outside the club (!?!). The VO5 is a five piece pop band that evolved from the remnants of Nancy Drew Blood, who achieved instant regional success a couple of years ago with the tune "Film." These girls have come a long way since their first public performance (which was the last time I caught the band). Whereas they started out on shaky footing and could barely play their instruments, nowadays these three ladies (plus a male drummer and guitarist) churn out some steady grooves...playing with a great deal more skill and confidence than in the early days. The VO5's main draw is their songs. They write good material, and they keep their arrangements simple and direct. Not only has this band progressed ability-wise, but they've also become more accessible (as is evidenced by local radio airplay of their music). The band has a full-length CD coming out shortly, which ought to increase their steadily growing fan base... (Not rated)

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