March 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | Amnesia | The Apartments | Banyan | Bile | Bracket | Kyf Brewer | Brilliantine | Cagney and Lacee | Ken Clinger and Lawrence Salvatore | The Cranes | The Crowd | Martin Denny | dEUS | Dinosaur Jr | Farflung | Gabo | The Ghost Riders/Shane Faubert | The Gigolo Aunts| Go! Dog! Go! | Habitual Sex Offenders | The Hang Ups | Idaho | Jane Jensen | KCRW Rare On Air 3 | Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins | Lazlo Bane | The London Suede | Lost Highway (Soundtrack) | Marilyn Manson | Morcheeba | New Bomb Turks | Robin O'Brien | Pedro the Lion | Poster Children | Archer Prewitt | Quasi | Rasputina | Redd Kross | Regurgitator | 60 Ft Dolls | Screw 32 | Sting | Sugar Plant | Superhorse | Sweet Vine | They Might Be Giants | Tugboat Annie | U2 | The Van Pelt | Various Artists & Ray Carmen | Vasoline Tuner | Veruca Salt | Xysma |


AMNESIA - Cherry Flavor Night Time (CD, Supreme Recordings/Island, Pop/rock)
Thick semi-psychedelic pop that tends to delve into excess. This is the latest project of Brad Laner, formerly of the band Medicine. On his latest batch of recordings, Brad proves to be somewhat of a musical chameleon...seemingly coming up with one great melody after another out of thin air. The tunes are what definitely make this band appealing...along with Brad's cool vocals. I wish the arrangements had not been so busy on these tunes, because they're strong enough to stand on their own without all the excess baggage. Taken as a whole, however, this is a very gripping batch of tunes that definitely stands up to many repeated listenings. Faves: "Internal," "Drained," "Homing," and "Cherry Flavor Night Time." ( the way...the CD title was taken from the cold medicine!) (Rating: 4)

THE APARTMENTS - The Evening Visits & Drift (CDs, Hot/TRG, Pop)
These are both re-releases. The Evening Visits was originally released on Rough Trade Records in 1985, while Drift came out in 1992 (it was initially only released in Australia and France). Though this band has apparently been well-received in France, they have yet to receive the same critical attention in the United States. Peter Milton Riley, the main songwriter/vocalist, recalls early to mid-period David Bowie at times, mainly because of his vocal style. The tasteful string arrangements on these guitar-based pop tunes are what push them over the edge for me...along with the pensive lyrics and moody melodies. You can't ever be sure, but I'd bet American radio and pop fans will be much more eager to embrace The Apartments the second time around. Nice, emotional music that has a strange, serious quality to it. This makes me feel like it's 1973 again for some reason... (Rating: 4)

BANYAN - Banyan (CD, CyberOctave, Weird mix of styles)
Is it trance? Techno? Trip hop? Maybe it's electronic...or even space music.... No, I've got it...this is jazz, isn't it? Is that one band playing, or is it two now? What happened to the rhythm? For a minute I was getting into the groove, but now all I hear is electronic noise. These are all my first reactions to the new CD from Banyan, the project of drummer Stephen Perkins (who normally plays drums for Porno For Pyros). The only band I can think of to compare this to is the Grassy Knoll, another band that merges so many styles that it becomes difficult to separate them. Despite the fact that this disc is a confusing listen, there's an odd thread of continuity that keeps it from being a mere grab bag of song snippets. This one's a big mouthful, but if you give this one a chance I think you might go NUTS over it. I know I did... (Rating: 5)

BILE - Biledegradable (CD, Energy, Techno/industrial)
I've been enjoying Bile for quite some time now, so it confuses me as to why they haven't caught on in a bigger way. After all, they've got that harsh, nasty industrial sound that everyone seems to be into...and their live shows are GREAT. Despite these facts, this cool band is still an obscurity only being seen and heard by a select few. Biledegradable is more accessible than past Bile releases. The band even covers the tune "My Generation," with some rather odd results. By the third tune ("Degradable") however , the accessibility begins to diminish and that harsh, discordant sound of old takes over. "The Phantom God" is probably my favorite track this time, simply because it pushes the limits of what the band is capable of. (Readers should be aware that this CD was actually all recorded by Bile leader Krztoff). Fun stuff for sure, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the next Bile show...AS ALWAYS. (Rating: 5)

BRACKET - "E" is for Everything (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock/pop)
While we're all eagerly awaiting a new full-length from Bracket, Fat Wreck Chords make the wise decision to release this compilation CD of almost everything the band recorded for their label (before being signed to Caroline). I already had most of these tunes on vinyl singles, but it sure is nice having them on one easy-to-listen-to disc. After hearing these early tunes, I just have to wonder...has Bracket ever recorded a BAD tune? If so, I haven't heard it. Marty, Ray, Zack, and Larry are quite simply the best power pop/punk band on the planet. Sinfully catchy music that I can never get enough of. Ten shop stopping tunes, including "Hermit," "2RAK005," "WWF" (possibly my favorite Bracket tune ever), "Talk Show," "Eating Pie," and "Warren's Song Pt. 3." Pick up ANYTHING this band has put out and you WILL NOT be let down. YEAH!!! (Rating: 6)

KYF BREWER - Me and My Big Mouth (CD, Risk, Rock/pop)
Good ol' basic rock and roll with no filler. Instead of going for gimmicks and studio tricks, Kyf Brewer instead simply delivers good music. Together with co-songwriter Jumpin' Dave Woodworth, Kyf comes up with some very hummable, catchy tunes. "Tight Purple Gitup," the opening track, is a really cool rave up rock number that doesn't sound unlike early Beatles. The rock stuff sounds great, but I think it's the mellower tracks that really show what this man can do with his voice ("The Curious Decline of Miss Iris Tgaux"). Combining good melodies with some very tasteful musical arrangements, this is a very listenable CD that has a great deal of commercial potential... (Rating: 3)

BRILLIANTINE - Vainglory (CD, Hep-Cat, Pop)
I knew this would be good before I even put it in my player for two reasons: (1) this is a set of solo recordings by Dave Derby, and (2) it's on the Hep-Cat label. Dave is the brains behind the critically acclaimed Dambuilders, a band that has never received the attention they deserve. Mr. Derby recorded these tunes on 4-track in Massachusetts and New York...and the results are pretty amazing. The songs are much poppier than the times sounding very much like the Beach Boys (!?) or even early Eno. Dave is an accomplished songwriter, musician, arranger...and his vocals KICK ASS. These home recordings sound better than the final product put out by most bands. Most 4-track releases end up being novelties. This one's different, shedding more light on a fellow with a shitload of talent. Top picks: "Goodbye to St. Bishop's Park," "Your Star Might Fade," "Moving Forward," and "Control Le Freak." (Rating: 5)

CAGNEY AND LACEE - Six Feet of Chain (CD, No. 6, Pop)
Though they call themselves Cagney and Lacee, this is actually the duo of Dean Warcham (of Luna fame) and his wife Claudia Silver. They recorded this collection of cover tunes in their living room. These are basic, sparse versions of some fairly eclectic songs. Included are "Be Mine" (a recent Martin Rev tune, Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You," a couple of tunes by Lee Hazlewood, and tmy favorite...Karen Black's "Memphis" (from the movie Nashville). In all honesty, this is not something I would listen to over and over again, but it is an interesting collection that certainly held my attention. (Rating: 3)

KEN CLINGER AND LAWRENCE SALVATORE - Serci Panjon (Independent cassette, Pop)
Underground home tapers Ken Clinger and Lawrence Salvatore, each already proficient in their own recording projects, combine their talents with some excellent results. Ken's electronic keyboards blend well with Lawrence's vocals (which still remind me very much of Russell Mael). Both of these guys are from the school of thought that home taping is something that takes skill and time to create...and this collection of tunes obviously required a great deal of work. The keyboards often have an orchestral sound to them, and Lawrence's vocals sound particularly good with this sort of instrumentation. These guys really stand out in a world where there are far too many people churning out bad independent cassettes for purely egotistical reasons. Top picks: "Once Heard, Never Forgotten," "Little Little," "Eyedrops," and "We Just Wanna Get High." You will not find this in stores. Write to Lawrence at 211 South Hebbard St., Joliet, IL 60433-1308 or Ken at Bovine Productions, 311 Stratford Ave., #2, Pittsburgh, PA 15232-1108. (Rating: 5)

THE CRANES - Population Four (CD, Dedicated, Pop) (Live performance, March 7, 1997)
The Cranes are a band that takes getting used to. The group is led by the brother and sister team of Alison and Jim Shaw. Alison's vocals are so peculiar that your first reaction may be negative, but give this group a chance because they write some absolutely beautiful, moody pop tunes. Population Four, the band's latest CD, contains a good deal of soft, acoustic based material as well as more upbeat stuff. After listening to the entire disc, I prefer the band's softer like "Tangled Up" and "Stalk" have an odd twist that makes them sound better with repeated listenings. Seeing the band play live recently, I became aware of what a large following they have (I don't tend to follow radio airplay and things of that nature). By the time The Cranes came out, they had a very devoted audience at the stage that was very familiar with their material. Alison is an odd girl. She's very small, and wears her hair in such a way that it looks like a tangled mass of dog fur. Jim is much more subdued, letting his sister be the main focal point of the band. This particular show was the first of a string of concerts to promote the new CD, so that's where a good deal of the material came from. The band very accurately reproduced their recorded sound in concert. After being exposed to the new CD and show, Alison's vocals don't bother now...and I can appreciate the band more than ever. (Rating: 4)

THE CROWD - Letter Bomb (CD, Flipside, Punk/pop)
More pop than punk, The Crowd remind me of the Dickies. They play straightforward pop/punk with almost bubblegum-like songs, and they're tight. To play as aggressively as they do, this band's songs are amazingly catchy. You can understand most of the words, and there are some very catchy chorus melodies in many of the tunes. The Crowd has a sound that is very reminiscent of 1976-1979 punk, all the way from those charged up guitars to the gutsy vocals and hypnotic beat. This band sounds like they would be particularly fun live. (Rating: 4)

MARTIN DENNY - Hypnotique & Exotica Vol. III (CD, Scamp, Exotic instrumental)
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm boy. This sounds REEEEEEEAAAAAAAL nice. For those who don't know Martin Denny, this fellow recorded some absolutely stunning instrumental stuff during the fifties and sixties that caught America's attention because it gave the listener the feeling of traveling to far away exotic places. Denny was fond of using bird calls, xylophones, human voices, and all kinds of weird percussion to produce his environmental pieces. Hypnotique (originally, and more appropriately, titled Poppy Fields) is probably my favorite recording EVER by Mr. Denny. This is superior to many of the modern ambient/trance bands out there, simply because of the imagination and care that went into creating these tunes. Exotica Vol. III is more of the addicting exotic easy listening music that is impossible to get enough of. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Actually, you can't go wrong by picking up ANYTHING that bears the Scamp label... (Rating: 6)

dEUS - In a Bar, Under the Sea (CD, Island, Peculiar rock/pop)
I had heard a couple of prior releases by dEUS that I was really impressed with, but the band has really outdone themselves with this CD. Whereas a lot of bands try (and succeed) at sounding really, really the end, there's really no substance. dEUS is most certainly a band that is not only weird but very, very listenable and intriguing...and you'll find it very difficult to find comparisons for them. The best way I can describe this band's sound is to say they sound something like listening to the stereo and watching television simultaneously. This is probably due to the subtle yet distinct schizophrenic qualities of the music (as well as those CREEPY, DISTORTED vocals). Sometimes soft and poppy, other times raw and obtuse, and yet other times moody and peculiar, this Belgian band is proof that you CAN be artsy and still sound GODDAMN GREAT. This disc is one to be played again and again and again...and you'll STILL hear stuff you missed the last time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

DINOSAUR JR - Hand It Over (CD, Reprise, Rock)
Dinosaur Jr is a band that is an acquired taste. When I first heard this band many moons ago, I absolutely HATED them. Nowadays I end up playing their stuff to death. Frontman J Mascis has a voice that slurs, barely stays on the note half the time, and is sometimes so caught up in a wash of guitars that you can barely understand the words. These things said, I can't quite determine why I love this man's vocals so much. It could be that he writes damn good songs....or it could be that Mr. Mascis can make his guitar actually seem to talk. My reaction to the latest CD? Possibly my favorite disc ever from this band, because there's more variety than on previous discs. Twelve tunes...all of them killer...and the standout tunes for me are "I Don't Think," "Can't We Move This," and "Gettin Rough." This is one to play into the ground. (Rating: 5)

FARFLUNG - The Raven That Ate the Moon (CD, Flipside, Psychedelic rock)
Space rock in the grand tradition of early Hawkwind. Don't expect this band to jump out and grab you immediately. The opening track goes on for several minutes with nothing but random percussion and echoes, then the band slowly builds a rhythmic framework for their onslaught of synthesizer madness. Farflung may just be the best space rock band around at this point, because they aren't afraid to play their riff rock completely into the ground to get their point across. Their songs are drenched in so much psychedelia that you won't even need drugs to get off. This is the best release yet from this psychologically challenging five-piece band. Trippy, trippy, trippy, trippy, TRIPPY. Top picks: "The Raven That Ate the Moon," "Sonic Evaporation," "Candied Electronic Atmospheres," and "The Way the Sky Is (It's Not a Bad Dream)." (Rating: 6)

GABO - Gabolerius (CD, Long Haul, Pop)
Well-written, well-arranged, well-produced pop music with wonderful melodies. Gabo is basically the remains of the band Last Tribe who put out a CD out on Energy Records a while back. I liked Last Tribe's CD, but this is superior in many ways. This set of songs was recorded by Rick Dobbelaer and Dave Ramie with some friends helping out. I'm not sure whether these guys are just more creative out of the confines of a band setup or whether the material is just stronger, but whatever the case...Gabolerius contains some excellent pop music. Rick and Dave do a lot of overdubs and layering with their music, and it works because it all supports some really catchy tunes. The vocals on this disc are particularly interesting. A lot of work obviously went into making this, yet the music comes across sounding fresh and energetic. Top picks: "Who's To Blame," "Move Along," and "Behind the Plow." You may have trouble finding this in stores. If so, e-mail 'em at (Rating: 4)

THE GHOST RIDERS/SHANE FAUBERT - A Pig Pop Sampler (Cassette, Pop! Prod., Pop)
This independently-produced cassette features eight tunes by The Ghost Riders and eleven tunes by Shane Faubert. The Ghost Riders play smooth pop music with a slight country tinge. The band's stripped-down, basic style of writing and playing is very refreshing and inviting...particularly on tracks like "Goodbye to Greatness" and "Try to Believe." Shane Faubert's music is in the same general vein, but more home grown. Shane not only writes some killer tunes, but his voice is KILLER. "Ophelia" is probably my favorite tune here, with it's floating, ultra-hummable Harry Chapin-like melody. This cassette is available by mail order only for $3.00 from Pop! Productions, P.O. Box 8864, Canton, OH 44711-8864. (Rating: 4)

THE GIGOLO AUNTS - Learn to Play Guitar (CD EP, Wicked Disc, Pop/rock)
Can you believe it? This is the first recording I've heard from the Gigolo Aunts...but I've been wanting to hear more ever since I caught this band open up for Love Spit Love a couple of years ago. They were amazing, churning out one great song after another. I was immediately impressed, even though I had never even heard any of their music before. It's probably these guys' ability to write songs that you'd swear you've heard before that is their biggest draw. There's an odd familiarity to the music, yet the band still comes off sounding totally sincere and original. I've got one BIG PROBLEM with this CD though...only SIX tunes? I want more. Lots more. The Gigolo Aunts are GREAT. Includes "Kinda Girl," "Wishing You the Worst," "Sway" (you've GOTTA hear this one!), "Sloe," "Rocking Chair," and "The Sun Will Rise Again." (Rating: 5)

GO! DOG! GO! - Glad To Be Unhappy (CD, Risk/Ichiban, Rock)
Kinda like the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones mixed with Captain Beefheart and Capsize 7...but not really. Go! Dog! Go! is an interesting quartet, combining elements of rock, ska, thrash, and jazz into a jolting mass of energy and (sometimes) chaos. The band consists of Eric Beetner (lead vocal, guitar), Tim Christopher (drums), Craig Smith (bass), and Tim Boyd (saxophone). The odd interplay of saxophone with the other instruments is certainly what makes this band stand out from the pack. Tim's drumming certainly packs a big punch...actually, the whole band packs a big punch, and Eric is one believable screamer. Extremely upbeat and revved up to the max, this band is a big ball of chaotic energy that's both fun and interesting. (Rating: 4)

HABITUAL SEX OFFENDERS - Cracked Rear Entry (CD EP, Chicken Ranch, Rock)
Nice, sloppy rock music that reminds me in some ways of Sloppy Seconds and the New York Dolls (except they're actually noisier than either of those bands). This Ruston, Louisiana band's stripped down approach to rock is simple and direct, and their songs are diverse. Best tunes: "I Drink, She Drives" and "Lurch." From the sound of this, I'd bet the Habitual Sex Offenders put on a good live show... (Rating: 3)

THE HANG UPS - So We Go (CD, Restless/Clean, Pop)
The Hang Ups don't put out music very often, but when they do...LOOK OUT. I was crazy about this band's debut disc (He's After Me) when it came out, but that was YEARS ago. Well, these Minneapolis popsters are finally back, and sounding better then ever. These guys create some of the most seamless, pure, hummable pop you're likely to find anywhere...and the arrangements are nothing short of breathtaking. How could you not love tunes like "Top of Morning," "Walkin' Around," "So We Go," "Sitting in My Room," "I'm in the Picture," or "Greyhound Bus"? These songs will sound just as good ten years from now, for the simple reason that this band's songs have real substance. If you're into dreamy pop music and mind-blowing vocal harmonies, you owe it to yourself to give this disc a listen. Not unlike Matthew Sweet or at times even The Shame Idols, this band is so good it gives me the chills. I have no doubt this will be one of my most played CDs of the year...EASILY. (Rating: 6)

IDAHO - The Forbidden EP (CD EP, Buzz, Pop)
Is anyone out there paying attention? Jeff Martin (who is Idaho) has been putting out absolutely incredible music for several years now...and it somehow seems to escape any sort of mass market whatsoever. Jeff started Idaho as a one man recording project, then later it became a full band. For this EP, he has returned to his original concept...playing virtually all the instruments and handling production on this EP. The results? Possibly the best batch of Idaho tunes yet...and that's really saying something. In the space of five tunes, this guy creates a stronger mood and emotion than most musicians ever could. The songs are "The Thick and the Thin," "Hold Everything," "Goldenseal," "Apricots to Armagnac," and "Bass Crawl." Incredible, beautiful guitars and subdued, pensive vocals...this is a MUST HAVE from a man whose music just keeps getting better and better. (Rating: 6)

JANE JENSEN - Comic Book Whore (CD, Interscope, Pop/rock)
This is Jane Jensen's first solo CD. She used to be in the band Oxygiene 23. This is heavily produced riff music with a great deal of the vocals being stream-of-consciousness speak/singing. Some tracks sound pretty good ("More Than I Can"), while others just don't seem to click for some reason ("Cowboy," "Highway 90"). Jane's music contains a lot of elements that are very popular in music these days, but for some reason it just doesn't seem to have any real soul or spirit in it. Not bad, but this just leaves me feeling rather cold and ambivalent... (Rating: 2)

KCRW Rare On Air - Volume 3 (CD, Mammoth, Various artists)
Okay, okay, various artists compilations aren't the most interesting thing in the world...generally (that's my personal opinion anyway). Some are certainly better than others however, and this CD is one of the better live/various artists CDs I've heard in awhile. Why? Well, it's a combination of excellent sound quality mixed with a superb selection of artists that includes Patti Smith doing an absolutely stunning acoustic version of "Dancing Barefoot" that can't be found elsewhere. Other standout tracks by Ben Folds Five, Stereolab, Tindersticks, Luna, and Me'shell Ndegeocello complete the picture. This Los Angeles radio station makes me wish there was something comparable in Atlanta, where many of the best artists never make it on their tours... Whine, whine, bitch, bitch... (Rating: 4)

MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS - Half Alive in Hollywood (Double CD, Immune, Jazz/rock)
Mike Keneally is a guitarist's guitarist. They guy is such a natural that it sounds as if he was born with a guitar in his hands...and this is particularly true on his latest double CD. During the course of these two discs, Mike and his pals whiz through a whole slew of obtuse music...and by the end you get the feeling they could probably just keep playing to infinity. Both discs were recorded live with very little overdubbing. Disc One was recorded in 1995 at in the recording studio at the Musician's Institute in Hollywood. Disc Two was recorded live on a concert stage at the same location. Mr. Keneally's ability to create different sounds with his guitar is nothing short of amazing. I'm generally not fond of live discs, but these discs are impressive... (Rating: 4)

LAZLO BANE - 11 Transistor (CD, Geffen, Pop/rock)
I was already enjoying the sound of Lazlo Bane's latest CD when I happened to browze over the press release. Demo recordings? These are DEMO recordings? It can't BE! Yup, it's true...but you may have trouble believing it too when you hear this CD. This Boston based quartet's music is lush and full of great vocal harmonies...and they produced the whole damn thing in their own studio. This is particularly impressive because the production on this is better than most stuff I hear done in professional studios. Truly catchy tunes, too. Standaout tracks: "Flea Market Girl," "Buttercup," "Sleep," and "Overkill." This band does not use gimmicks or dress stupid. They simply write and play some really uplifting, enjoyable music. Nice. (Rating: 4)

THE LONDON SUEDE - Coming Up (CD, Columbia, Pop)
This group obviously has a strong following in their home country. Coming Up entered the U.K. sales charts at #1. Impressive indeed. I've never been a big fan of The London Suede, and this release doesn't do much to change my opinion. These guys write some damn good songs...but they're so incredibly overproduced that they tend to turn into processed cheese. The overly glossy production tends to make the band sound generic...and much more like a sellable entity than some guys having fun playing music. No, I don't hate this...I just wish someone in the studio knew the meaning of restraint. There are elements of this band's music that I like, it's just hard to find them in all the clutter. (Rating: 3)

LOST HIGHWAY - Lost Highway Soundtrack (CD, Nothing/Interscope, Soundtrack)
This is the latest film from producer David Lynch, who needs no introduction. This collection of music was created and compiled by superstar Trent Reznor. This is a rare case where a soundtrack CD actually holds its own, and makes for some great listening whether you see the film or not. The disc contains tracks by David Bowie, Mr. Reznor himself, Angelo Badalamenti, The Smashing Pumpkins, Barry Adamson, Lou Reed, Marilyn Manson, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Rammstein, and the bonus...a new Nine Inch Nails track ("The Perfect Drug"). Amazingly, this odd combination of tracks flows by quite times giving you the feeling that you are headed down...a lost highway, of all things. With 23 tracks on one CD, this disc not only offers quality but quantity as well... (Rating: 4)

MARILYN MANSON - Puppy Songs and Fairy Doll Music (CD, Something, Toddler pop)
Just when you think you've heard it all... Shock rocker Marilyn Manson is going to really piss off parents this time. His latest CD is a collection of sing-song nursery rhymes intended for three year olds. Interestingly, Mr. Manson's voice is rather well suited for this style of music. The instrumentation is basic piano with horns, and if you didn't know who was singing you'd swear it was Barney. These tunes have no hint of satire or irony in them whasoever, and if conservative parents didn't know who was singing they'd probably be dying to buy this disc for their toddlers. Top picks: "Tap Dancing With Mr. Tomato," "One, Two, I See You," "How Much Is That Window In The Puppy Dog?" and "I Like Being Friends With You." (Rating: 2)

MORCHEEBA (Live performance, March 20, 1997)
If you aren't familiar with Morcheeba, I highly recommend their latest CD on Discovery Records (Who Can You Trust?). This British trio plays very subtle, sensual, foxy dub pop that just gets better and better the more you listen to it. It is certainly a feather in the band's hat that they were awarded the opportunity to open for the band Live on their recent tour (tickets for the Atlanta show sold out in six minutes). In concert, Morcheeba were just as hypnotic and groovin' as on their CD. The band provided a solid backbeat while lead singer Skye Edwards politely stole the show. Skye has a silky smooth voice that just pulls you in, and she has a great deal of stage presence as well. For me, "Trigger Hippie" was the highlight of the show (even though I got the feeling most folks weren't even familiar with the tune). I'm not sure if this is the effect the band is shooting for, but they certainly manage to give the listener the feeling of transcending to a higher plane. (Perhaps that explains the name?) The band very accurately reproduced their recorded sound in concert, and created a really great vibe for those who happened to be paying attention. With everything they have going for them, you'd think the audience would've been blown away by Morcheeba...right? WRONG. Yes, the crowd did seem to like them...but they were so intent on seeing the band Live that they couldn't really be bothered. It's a pity, really, because in a perfect world bands like Live would be opening up for Morcheeba. But then, the world isn't it? I hope the next time I see this band it will be in a club where the crowd is there specifically to see them play. (Rating: 5)

NEW BOMB TURKS (Live performance, March 7, 1997)
I liked this band's recorded work, but after seeing this show I LOVE 'em. Playing off-kilter, crazed, hyper punk like there's no tomorrow, this is one band that ROCKS. Watching the show, I kept trying to figure out who band band reminded me of...several came to mind, including the Stooges, Rolling Stones, New York Dolls, Woggles, and Gas Huffer. The lead singer is one of the best frontmen around, messing with the audience during the entire show. He jumped on people, danced with them, took off their hats and glasses and wore them, pinched the bass players' ass, screamed his lungs out, and worked people up into such a frenzy that it got just plain WEIRD. Honest to God, this is one fellow who was born to perform...and he gave 100% the whole time. The band? They're tight, tight, TIGHT...playing hyped-up speed punk so fast that it left my head spinning. If you're looking for a night of charged up, wild entertainment these guys can't be beat. New Bomb Turks are certainly one of the most entertaining live bands around. (Rating: 5)

ROBIN O'BRIEN - Tree of Life (Independent cassette, Moody pop)
Home taping artist Robin O'Brien is taking a different approach from most home tapers. Instead of noisy garage rock or underground pop, Robin creates dreamy, atmospheric tunes that drift by like clouds on a sunny day. Using acoustic guitars and keyboards, her music is very trance-like...and her voice is extremely soothing and harkens back to folk singers of the sixties. This collection of tunes is actually quite beautiful, and much more focused than your average fare. As an additional note to gossip mongers, Robin has just tied the knot with another legendary home taper...Don Campau. Small world, huh? (Rating: 4)

PEDRO THE LION - Whole E.P. (CD EP, Tooth & Nail, Moody pop)
Songwriter David Bazan began his career in punk bands in Seattle, but eventually settled into writing melodic rock/pop. This sounds something like Joe Christmas minus all the crazy guitar solos. This band's songs are very simple, with the main focus being melodies and arrangements that are very basic. Pedro the Lion may get lost in a sea of too many rock bands currently playing this sort of music at the moment, but they're good. There aren't that many bands around with really good tunes who know the meaning of restraint. I look forward to hearing a full-length from these guys... (Rating: 3)

Poster Children are certainly one of my favorite bands ever. They are the ultimate mix of accessibility and inaccessibility. The songs are hummable, yet noisy. The music is familiar, yet very different. The opening track on RTFM sets the mood for the disc. "Black Dog" (no, not the Led Zeppelin tune) enters like a lamb, and leaves like a lion. From there the band just lashes out one great tune after another. For pure power and pop music passion, there aren't many bands that can top the Poster Children. Possibly what sets these folks apart from almost every band around is that all four members are so in synch with one another that they actually all become one force...creating a power surge that is overwhelming and downright incredible. As usual, there's not a bad tune here...but my initial favorites are "0 For 1," "Music of America," "Dream Small," "King of the Hill," "Attack," and "Afterglow" (gee...that's most of the tunes, isn't it?). By the way, if this band ever plays in your city you MUST see them. They are one of the BEST LIVE BANDS EVER. The last time I saw 'em, I couldn't stop dancing for the entire set. These folks ROCK OUT in a BIG way! (Rating: 6)

ARCHER PREWITT - In the Sun (CD, Carrot Top, Pop)
If the name Archer Prewitt doesn't ring a bell, he was one of the founders of The Cocktails...a brilliant yet vastly under-recognized group. If The Cocktails doesn't ring a bell either, it doesn't matter because you needn't be familiar with them to appreciate Mr. Prewitt's exquisite new CD. In the Sun is chock full of hypnotic pop tunes. If there is one word that best describes this music it would be "unpretentious." These subtle yet enchaning songs are very easy to listen to, yet there are nuances to the music that grow on you with repeated listenings. Although all the songs are excellent, my initial faves are "Good Man," "Rush Hour," "Let Me Fade Away," and "In the Sun." The arrangements on this CD are particularly exceptional. (Rating: 5)

QUASI - R & B Transmogrification (CD, Up, Pop)
Somewhat droning pop music characterized by fuzzy guitars and cheesy keyboards. Quasi is the side project of Sam Coomes (from the band Heatmiser) and drummer Janet Weiss (from the band Sleater-Kinney). The couple recorded this batch of tunes in a basement studio, and did an excellent job of producing their tunes. I like the tradeoff between the male and female vocals, and the couple comes up with some very likable tunes ("In the First Place" and "Ghost vs. Vampire" in particular). This disc does contain some weaker material that you have to wade through to get to the good stuff. If you don't mind doing that, you can find some choice tunes on this CD. (Rating: 3)

RASPUTINA (Live performance, March 7, 1997)
One of my most played CDs of the past several months has been Thanks For the Ether by Rasputina. For those who aren't familiar with the name, Rasputina is three female cellists. Led by the continually perplexing Melora Creager, this musical outfit is like no other...flawlessly combining elements of various musical styles. After listening to the band's CD repeatedly, I wasn't quite sure how Rasputina would come across in a live performance. Well, I'm happy to report that they met and far exceeded my expectations. The concert wasn't so much a visual thing as much as it was completely's the kind of thing that you actually need to see to believe. Ms. Creager plays cello and sings in such a manner that you'd swear she was under hypnosis. This enchanting woman who looks so peculiar in her publicity photos is actually an incredibly beautiful lady with a breathtaking amount of stage presence. The dreadlocked drummer added just the right punch to the tunes, often adding rhythms that aren't in the recorded versions to make them work better in the context of a rock club. Rasputina played every tune I wanted to hear, and there wasn't a single moment that these girls did not seem to have the audience under their spell. After seeing this show, I can honestly say that Rasputina is one of the most important musical outfits of the nineties, and Melora Creager is a woman to watch. She's one of a kind, that's for certain...with creativity and talent that far surpass what one normally finds in rock musicians. This concert was one of the best musical performances I have ever witnessed...period. (Rating: 6)

REDD KROSS - Show World (CD, Mercury, Rock/pop)
They don't put out CDs very often, but when they do you can always bet that it'll be the cream of the crop where pop/rock music is concerned. Brothers Jeffrey and Steven McDonald write some of the most uplifting, catchy, completely KILLER pop tunes on the planet. Their past three CDs have been some of my favorite things ever recorded (Phaseshifter, Third Eye, and Neurotica). Though Show World took a little longer to grow on me, this is certainly as good as anything Redd Kross have put out. This CD has more of a live sound than previous discs, with less overdubs and production tricks. Brimming to the top with out-of-site, soaring pop melodies, the McDonald brothers never cease to amaze me with their ability to write great tunes. Particular standout tracks this time around are "Pretty Please Me," "You Lied Again," "Mess Around," "One Chord Progression," "Ugly Town," and "Get Out of Myself." This is ESSENTIAL for all fans of power pop. (Rating: 6)

REGURGITATOR - Tu-Plang...Kon-Uauk (CD, Reprise, Rock/funk/techno)
Weird band. Very weird band. Australia's latest export is one odd ball of wax. Regurgitator seem intent on confusing the listener by throwing so many obtuse elements into their music that it becomes almost impossible to know what's really going on. In the end, however, this peculiar collage effect ends up being the band's greatest strength. You never know WHAT the next song is going to sound like. And any band who starts off their CD with a song titled "I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am" HAS to be doing something right (and it's an EXCELLENT song, by the way). Other song titles are more peculiar: "Kong Foo Sing," "Miffy's Simplicity," "Young Bodies Heal Quickly." If there ever was a band that chose the right name, Regurgitator is it. This band sucks in a wide array of music and spits it back at the listener with guts and attitude. This band may only be a hit with reviewers because of the intense confusing factor, but they've got my vote for sure. (Rating: 4)

60 FT DOLLS - The Big 3 (CD, Geffen, Punk/pop)
Did you ever wish Paul Weller had never quit the Jam...and had never veered off into that awful soul pop slop? If so, you may find relief in the 60 Ft Dolls. This trio sounds very, VERY British...and their songs sound very much like early Jam. The band consists of songwriters Richard Parfitt (vocals, guitar) and Mike Cole (vocals, bass), along with drummer Carl Bevan. From the gripping opener "Happy Shopper" through the closing "Buzz," these fellows pay homage to the aforementioned Jam as well as bands like the Who and Mott the Hoople. Not content to just play straightforward three chord rock, these guys throw in lots of unexpected curves into their music. I found the lead guitar lines in "Streamlined" particularly pleasing. Instead of just thrashing away into oblivion, these lads use their brash energy to create some truly memorable music. This is a bunch of fun, and one of the better British bands I've heard lately... (Rating: 5)

SCREW 32 - Under the Influence of Bad People (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock)
These guys play rock in the grand tradition of Bad Religion...ultra-fast rock music played with an almost bubblegum-like quality bubbling under the surface. Probably what I like best about this band are the extremely punchy guitars and throbbing rhythms. Just when you think you have these guys pegged, they come along with something unexpected like "Black Marker." Screw 32 come across sounding very unpretentious. They don't have a "look" and they don't use gimmicks. Instead, they just pull some good rockin' tunes out of their pockets and DELIVER. Fun. (Rating: 4)

STING (Musician/actor)
No, this isn't a review of Sting's latest CD or even his latest film. Instead, this is a review of Sting himself. Everything this man does SUCKS. Plus, he's ugly. REAL ugly. And he has no talent. Crappy tunes, bad acting, a shitty voice... In the end, however, I don't blame Sting for what he does. The man is just taking advantage of docile, easily-led people who don't have the initiative or drive to find good things in the they take whatever the media shoves down their pathetic little throats. Sting wouldn't be a star if it weren't for all the idiots supporting him. All I can say is...if you support this repugnant little shrimp, then you are a retarded moron. (Rating: Can you guess?)

SUGAR PLANT - After After Hours (CD, World Domination, Moody pop)
Japan's answer to Low. Shin'ichi Ogawa and Chinatsu Shoyama (along with some help from friends) create soft, moody pop that's very, VERY calm. Though the basic sound is similar to Low, Sugar Plant's songs are much more produced and semi-psychedelic. These folks add just the right amount of effects to their vocals and instruments to produce a very dreamy overall sound that will give you the feeling that you're floating over the ocean. Japan is producing a wealth of great talent lately, and Sugar Plant are certainly at the top of my list of favorites. This extremely consistent CD contains soothing aural pleasures like "A Guide," "#4," "Here Rain Comes," "I Hate Morning," and "Freezy." With so many Japanese bands playing fast, furious, and noisy, Sugar Plant is a refreshing change...and they're possibly the best "soft core" band I've heard yet. (Rating: 5)

SUPERHORSE (Live performance, March 12, 1997)
I was curious to see and hear this band, because Superhorse (not Sparklehorse!) is the "other" band led by Keith Kozel and Kevin Rose (of Gam fame). I guess my main reaction to this band is how completey different it is from Gam. Whereas Gam is an exercise in excess (frantic playing, experimental vocals, and visual effects galore), Superhorse is an experiment in accessibility and restraint...which is unusual, since the band has seven members (!). This particular night Superhorse opened up for Moe Tucker (uh...what band did she used to play in?). Superhorse music is basic riff rock that wavers between pop, rock, metal, and punk...and the guys have a big "wall of guitars" sound. The band has several songs that could easily make it on the college radio charts. I was particularly impressed with the minimal, heavy-hitting backbeat provided by Jim Reed. This guy really knows how to pound a drum kit. While the experimental, choatic nature of Gam is more appealing, I still got a mighty big kick out of Superhorse's show. Savannah, Georgia is a hotbed of talent and creativity...and this band is more proof of that fact. (Rating: 4)

SWEET VINE - Sweet Vine (CD, Columbia, Pop/rock)
Though Sweet Vine hail from Sacramento, California, you'd swear this band is from Georgia or even Alabama. These five guys play southern fried pop/rock that's heavy on melody and has a definite blues edge to it. The band is tight, and Hans Eberbach's vocals are just right for this style of music. The punchy rhythm section provides a solid foundation for some interesting guitar/organ arrangements. The band's sound is certainly derivative of a variety of seventies bands, but it sounds like they're putting their hearts into what they're doing...and that counts for a lot. Best tracks: "Candy For Fools," "Three Times Denied," and "First Time." (Rating: 3)

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - Then: The Earlier Years (Double CD, Restless, Pop)
This double CD set is going to make They Might Be Giants fanatics very happy. These CDs contain the band's first two albums (They Might Be Giants and Lincoln) as well as EP B-sides and a whole SLEW of bonus tracks...72 songs in all! Not only that, the set includes a nifty booklet with notes from the band as well as cool art and lyrics to all the songs. Whereas most fans of this band seem to feel that these early recordings were the band's strongest stuff (which they may be), I prefer their newer material...but what do I know? I didn't really start listening to the band until recently. This set has certainly been targeted toward a specific audience...folks who are already fans of the Giants, and those folks are going to get more than their money's worth with this one. This is certainly an interesting listen and sheds interesting light on the early recordings of two very talented men: John Flansburgh and John Linnell. (Rating: 4)

TUGBOAT ANNIE - Wake Up and Disappear (CD, Big Top, Rock/pop)
Thick rock pop with vocals that remind me of Richard Butler. This Boston band is heavy on guitars and pleading vocals, and most of the songs have a sense of urgency. While the rockers are enjoyable, the band comes off best when they relax and just let it happen ("745," "Push It Over Into Space"). I could've stood a little more variety in the areas of song structure and vocal stylings but hey...these guys came up with a very listenable disc and that's a GOOD thing. (Rating: 3)

U2 - Pop (CD, Island, Pop/rock)
One of the most overrated bands in the world is back. I liked U2's first album (Boy) when it came out, but after seeing them play live the lead singer really got on my nerves and I lost interest. Now, many years later, the singer (the name purposely escapes me) is more annoying than ever...and the public just eats his shit up. It's a shame, really, because the other fellows in the band create some interesting, dynamic music. If the vocals were removed from this CD, I'd give it a high rating. That being impossible, my only reaction is that I want this goddamn thing OUT of my CD player...NOW. (Rating: 1)

THE VAN PELT - Sultans of Sentiment (CD, Gern Blandsten, Pop/rock)
I could either describe this band as Television on downers or Low on speed. I guess it depends on which way you listen to it. The Van Pelt create moody pop with intricate guitar playing and spoken/sung vocals. This is not, I repeat, NOT a band that will knock your socks off the minute you hear them. The music grows on you. There are not a lot of hummable catchy things to latch onto, although the band has a droning sort of quality that becomes hypnotic the closer you listen. The song titles are as perplexing as the music: "Nanzen Kills a Cat," "My Bouts With Pouncing," "Don't Make Me Walk My Own Log" (this is probably my favorite tune on the disc). The Van Pelt also remind me of Modest Mouse at times... (Rating: 4)

VARIOUS ARTISTS & RAY CARMEN - Pop! Productions 1987-1997 (Cassette, Pop! Producations, Various artists)
Has it been...TEN YEARS already? Canton, Ohio resident Ray Carmen is not only a staunch supporter of independently-produced music, he's also one of the best home tapers there is. The compilation cassette spotlights what Pop! has been about for the past decade. Side one features atmosfear, Ken Clinger, Don Campau, Rich Arithmetic, Lawrence Salvatore, James St. Vrrain, R. Stevie Moore, Ghost Rockets, Shane Faubert, and Mayhem Steamroller while side two features several of Ray's tunes. Ultimate fun...and an excellent overview of the ever-flowing river of music from Pop! Productions (send $4.00 to P.O. Box 8864, Canton, OH 44711-8864). (Rating: 5)

VASOLINE TUNER - Beyond Repair (CD, T.O.N., Rock/jazz)
Interesting jazz rock fusion. Sorty funky, sorta spacey, sorta off the wall...this is one band that doesn't mind blending their instruments together in some very bizarre ways. But it's those strange vocals that I really like best about Vasoline Tuner. The vocalist whispers, sings, and speaks in a very peculiar manner...and it works just perfectly with the music. Even though I can't understand most of the lyrics, the song titles give me the distinct impression that these guys have a genuine sense of humor ("Pharmacy," "Waiting For Granny to Die," "What's So Special About Your Pussy?" and "Homo in a Wheelchair"). With so many bands out there that sound way too similar to one another, Vasoline Tuner is a refreshing breath of fresh air. This is the kind of thing that you probably won't hear on the radio, so you are now one of the lucky few who knows about it by word of mouth. This is both interesting and very, very entertaining. (Rating: 5)

VERUCA SALT - Eight Arms to Hold You (CD, Geffen, Rock)
For pure rock energy, there are few girl bands who can touch Veruca Salt. Let's face it...most girl groups either play thrash music or pop music...not all out ROCK. Their ability to play ballsy rock music with as much hairy muscle as the guys is probably what makes these girls so unique. Not only do they have that masculine punch, they also write some damn good tunes. Check out "Volcano Girls," "Don't Make Me Prove It," "Awesome," or "Venus Man Trap." Interestingly, the tunes on this CD could just as easily chart on commercial radio stations as well as the college radio market. This is one big ball of charged up fun. I can't wait to see these ladies play live. I bet they drive the guys WILD. (Rating: 5)

XYSMA - Lotto (CD, Relapse, Hard rock)
Jesus Christ. If you think hard rock is tired and boring, you'd better give Xysma a listen. This band kicks ASS. Possibly the best band I've ever heard to come out of Finland, these guys have a big fat punchy sound and a vocalist who must be one of the most convincing hard rock singers out there. Probably what really pushes this band over the edge is the fact that they don't just make noise. Underneath all the harsh energy, they write some KILLER tunes (for instant proof, check out "Do'n'Do" or "Shoes"). This is one band that really does have a different, identifiable sound. And from the sound of this CD, I'll be jumping at the chance to hear 'em play live. With a name like Xysma, you might now know what to expect. After hearing the music, you may feel the exact same way. This is certainly one of the best hard rock CDs of the year so far. (Rating: 5)

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