September 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | Alice the Goon | Baby Bird | Big Sue | The Bottle Rockets | Grace Braun | Citizen's Utilities | Al Comet | Cravin' Melon | Dead Voices On Air Versus Not Breathing | Delta Haymax | Dianogah | Doktor Kosmos | Chris Dye | The Dambuilders | Garageland | Lili Haydn | Heaven Deconstruction | Hoarse | Kenny Howes | Ida | Incantation | Insulated | The Interpreters | Chris Knox | Lab Report | Life of Agony | Little Red Rocket | Little Sue | Love American Style | The Maid Ups | Grant McLennan | Mount Pilot | Namanax | Ninner Poosie | One Left | Photek | Phylr | Pigface | Pineal Ventana | rex | RHAG | Scumtron | P. F. Sloan | Spectrum | Stereolab | Subarachnoid Space | Symposium | Talk Show | Testament | Mike Watt | The Weaklings | Paul Weller | WIG


ALICE THE GOON - I Love Popeye (CD, TVtunes, Pop)
I guess anyone can get a record contract nowadays. If Alice the Goon isn't proof of the fact, I don't know who is. You may remember this ugly bitch from her earlier career as an actress on the popular Popeye cartoon series. Well, she hasn't progressed much since then. This full-length disc contains twelve remixes of the tune "I Love Popeye." There's "I Love Popeye (Dub Mix)", "I Love Popeye (Dance Mix)", "I Love Popeye (Techno Mix)", "I Love Popeye (Olive Has A Yeast Infection Mix)," "I Love Popeye (Even Though He's a Bisexual Mix)"... Get the idea? Alice is a one toon goon for sure. Some things never change. She's still DUMB as HELL. (Rating: 1)

BABY BIRD - The Greatest Hits (Double CD, Baby Bird/TAG, Rock/pop)
Interesting. Verrrrrry interesting. Stephen Jones records over 400 songs in his home studio under the name Big Bird. Then one evening he and a pal sift through the tunes and choose 80 to release on five albums. The albums actually sell and generate enough attention that Stephen forms a "real" band and records a "real" album...which yields four hit singles in the U.K. That success is probably what made an American record company decide to release this compilation of tunes from the first five Baby Bird albums. But whatever the case, I'm just glad someone decided to release this here. Mr. Jones' music is damn good. And instead of sticking to just one style of music, he goes all over the place. Over the course of these 20 tunes we have techno rock, rock, pop, soft male vocal, and experimental stuff...and almost every tune works well. Hearing a double CD from an artist I'd never heard before was somewhat overwhelming...but this guy's so good that it takes no effort at all to get into his world. Particularly good are the soft tracks ("Losing My Hair," "Saturday," "Failed Old Singer"). Look for great things ahead from this talented, unique man. (Rating: 4)

BIG SUE - Big Sue (CD, Paw paw, Ticket)
Large, big, medium, extra-large, and tiny. Pickin' up paw paws, put 'em in your bonnet. Big Sue packs her barnhole with rashes and panics, and lactates a ninner. Pootie on the ninner. (Rating: 1)

THE BOTTLE ROCKETS - 24 Hours A Day (CD, Atlantic, Country/pop/rock)
I have mixed feelings about the Bottle Rockets these days. I was nuts about the band's last CD, but when I saw them in concert they didn't quite cut it. Slipping the band's new CD into my player, I was instantly impressed with tunes like "Kit Kat Clock" (GREAT tune), "When I Was Dumb," and "Things You Didnt' Know". However, other tunes lost me completely ("24 Hours A Day", ""Smokin' 100s Alone", "Dohack Joe"). When this band is good, they are exceptional and completely entertaining. But they do have some clunkers so you have to be willing to skip through tracks to get to the good stuff. I'd like to see the Bottle Rockets become more focused and leave the so-so stuff behind...because they're obviously able to write exceptional tunes. (Rating: 3)

GRACE BRAUN - It Won't Hurt (CD, Slow River, Folk/country)
This is pretty damned cool. Grace Braun, formerly of the band DQE, took a couple of years to revisit her musical roots in Kentucky...and came up with a CD of mountain music that is surprisingly heartfelt and real. I liked the DQE thing, but it sounds to me as if Ms. Braun has matured a great deal as an artist...and I definitely prefer her new style. It Won't Hurt is an interesting, curious mix of the old and the new. The lyrics are smart, yet simple. The instrumentation is acoustic, including fiddles, dobros, and pedal steel guitars. This CD could have easily been pretentious and self-conscious, considering the idea behind it. Instead, it turned out intriguing and clever. Grace is a smart and talented young lady, unafraid to head in her own unique direction...despite the effect that it might have on her marketability. I like that. A lot. Neat. (Rating: 4)

AL COMET - Comet (CD, Mutant Sound System, Electronic)
Al Comet is an alias for Alain Monod, who runs the samplers for The Young Gods. (Seeing as how both he and Franz Treichler have both released solo CDs, I hope this does not mean a possible breakup for The Young Gods!) As might be expected, this disc is heavy on the samples. Sometimes the compositions border on dance or techno (when rhythms are present) other times the music becomes a peculiar drone similar in some ways to electronic experimenters like Panasonic. This disc is chock full of surprises...and you can never be exactly sure if that's a new song beginning or if your washing machine has gone on the blink. A fun if not somewhat peculiar listen... (Rating: 4)

CRAVIN' MELON - Red Clay Harvest (CD, Mercury, Pop)
Crass and commercial, yes...but this CD is still a good listen. South Carolina's Cravin' Melon recorded this in Los Angeles, and they've already got a Top 25 tune from the disc ("Come Undone"). This is not unlike the Guess Who at times (the vocals remind me somewhat of Burton Cummings). Ultimately the guitar work is what I like the best because they give the tunes a bit of a country flavor. This isn't something I could listen to repeatedly, but it's certainly pleasant... (Rating: 3)

DEAD VOICES ON AIR VERSUS NOT BREATHING - A Fire in the Bronx Zoo (CD, Invisible, Electronic)
Okay, okay. So this does sound like something went wrong at the factory... And so this IS another in the increasingly large number of CDs that presents noise as music... And so the Invisible label DOES put out lots of CDs that sound similar to this... My inevitable response WHAT? If it's good, it's good. And, to put it bluntly, I like noise when it is presented as music. This "band" is actually the duo of Mark Spybey and David Wright. The two come up with compositions that range from scarey to uneasy. This is cold, alienated stuff. It's not for everyone, but that's not the point. This is music to create a mood. It succeeds. (Not Rated)

DELTA HAYMAX - Delta Haymax (CD, Tooth & Nail, Pop)
Cool, cool, cool, cool, COOL. When I hear music from most teenage bands, I'm often disappointed. In the case of Delta Haymax, I am amazed and totally blown away. These three youngsters hail from Olympia and Seattle, and what a GREAT disc they've recorded. The band plays simple pop that is mind blowing in its subtlety. Instead of thick layering of vocals and instruments, this band proves that...if you write good tunes...that you do not need all the clutter. The music is in the same general category as The Hang Ups, and the vocals bring to mind Harper's Bizarre. It's those great melodies that ultimately make this band a winner, however....and this damn disc is chock full of melodies that'll be sticking in my head for some time to come. Fourteen killer tunes, with the standout tracks being "I Try," "Hearbreakers Hearts," "I Never Said I Was," and "Time Machine." I still have trouble believing these folks are as young as they are...because they are so incredibly talented and...(gulp!) SINCERE. (Rating: 6)

CITIZENS' UTILITIES - No More Medicine (CD, Mute, Pop/rock)
I liked the last disc I heard from this Seattle band...but this release leaves that one in the dust. No More Medicine is an odd hodge podge of pop, rock, and country tinged tunes. The songwriting is way, way, WAY above average...and the vocal harmonies have to be heard to be believed. The only other band that I can compare this to is The Hang Ups...but there are a great many differences between the two bands. Citizens' Utilities is not a band that can be easily pegged. This is certainly one of those rare cases where the band is more concerned with creating good music than projecting a goddamn image. From start to finish, this disc contains nothing but GREAT tunes. Check out "She Taught Me Everything There Is To Know About Poultry" or "Anytime/Anywhere." Timeless music from a band that seems to know exactly what they're doing...and they're doing all the RIGHT things... This KICKS! (Rating: 5)

DIANOGAH - As Seen From Above (CD, Ohiogold, Bass guitar rock)
I've always had a thing for bands that rely solely on bass guitar...even though I rarely receive CDs by such bands. Ohio's Dianogah is an exceptional band, and the trio achieves their objectives using only two bass guitars and a drum set. While this might be limiting for some bands, for these guys it is simply a diving board for some rather obtuse and intriguing music. To be sure, this stuff is only going to appeal to a limited audience...simply because the sound is not what you normally hear from most traditional rock bands. The instrumentals cuts are definitely the standouts here. This is a CD that I will hold onto and play for friends. You aren't likely to hear it on commercial radio or see it on MTV...all the more reason to get hold of this. Quite cool. (Rating: 4)

DOKTOR KOSMOS - Cocktail (CD, Minty Fresh, Electronic pop)
Doktor Kosmos is the entertaining keyboardist who played with Komeda on their 1997 U.S. The Komeda connection automatically gave this CD bonus points before I even put it in my player. I'm not disappointed. This is the second full-length release from Doktor Kosmos, and the first to be recorded in English. The good docktor plays simple, somewhat silly pop music that sounds as if it might have been recorded entirely using Casio keyboards. The simplicity of the music combined with the sparse lyrics sounds somewhat gooofy without sounding stupid. There's not enough lighthearted music in the world. This is about as fluffy as you can get without going too far. Sixteen totally fun tunes including "Do You Remember?", "Holiday," "Porno-person", "Legalize It. Now", and "Techno-mania." Crazy fun. (Rating: 4)

CHRIS DYE - 11 Strings 4 Tracks and the Truth (CD, Richter, Folky pop)
It is discs like this that make me glad I review music, because otherwise I would probably not be aware of things like this. Chris Dye was originally in the band Dashboard Prophets, who only recorded one album before disbanding. Not long afterward, Chris recorded this introspective batch of tunes in his living room on a four track recorder. What you hear is what you get. These simple, honest tunes remind me of early Rick Springfield (whose early work I have always felt was underappreciated). You might think just a voice and a guitar would be boring after a song or two...but that's not the case here. Mr. Dye writes memorable tunes with great melodies. Seems as if he made the right choice to go solo, because this damn CD has made quite a deep impression on the little baby. (Rating: 4)

THE DAMBUILDERS - Against the Stars (CD, East West/Elektra, Progressive pop)
The Dambuilders have long been one of my favorite bands. Despite the fact that they churn out progressive, heady pop that is vastly superior to most everything out there...they still remain an obscure delight. This is particularly true with the band's latest CD, Against the Stars. Recorded in drummer Kevin March's basement and produced by guitarist Eric Masunaga, the disc is testament to the fact that home recording is the way to go. The disc is brimming with vibrant energy and imagination. Never has the band sounded so accessible (check out "Burn This Bridge" and "You'll Never Know"). Yet, even with their increasingly accessible sound, there's still something offbeat and peculiar about the songs. Vocalists Dave Derby and Joan Wasser have never sounded better. The only thing that may stand in the way of this band reaching greater heights (financially anyway) is that they seem to be sitting on that fine line in between the world of commercial and alternative radio. That is, they may be too weird for the commercial stations...and yet too normal for the alternative market. Whatever the case...the band continues to be an artistic success as is evidenced by such mind blowing tunes as "Digitize," "Discopolis," "Break Up With Your Boyfriend," and "Wished On the Wrong Star." In a perfect world these folks would have a Top Ten hit off this CD. (Rating: 6)

(Live performance, August 27, 1997)
Playing in a small club in Atlanta shortly after the release of their new CD, the Dambuilders were obviously disappointed with the small turnout for their show. Understandably so, as Atlanta is a stupid city where people always support the wrong groups. The band did start off a little shakey, and the audience was slow to warm up as well. Several songs into the set, however, things clicked and these four musicians lit the place on fire with their energy and enthusiasm. Particular highlights of this show were the soft, moody "You'll Never Know" (beautiful stuff) and "I Was Wrong" (this would make a great single). The folks in this band are normal looking folks, and for this they get major bonus points. Mr. Derby looks more like a fellow who might be working in the men's suits department at Macy's than a singer in a rock band. Though I got the impression this was an off night for the band, they still put forth a great deal of energy and concentration for a small audience...the true sign of a great band. I highly recommend these folks' CDs and live shows. The Dambuilders are one of the most original and entertaining bands currently on the horizon. (Rating: 5)

GARAGELAND - Last Exit to Garageland (CD, Foodchain, Pop)
Another cool pop band from New Zealand. The identifying trademarks of this band are odd, liquid guitars and peculiar lyrics. Garageland had an amazing string of four #1 hits in their native country before relocating to London in search of bigger fame and fortune. The band's weird pop is interesting enough, but it's on the more straightforward tunes where they really shine. "Beelines To Heaven" is the standout track for me, because there's nothing weird about it at all. It's a shamlessly simple pop tune that is instantly likable and catchy. This band does not sound like all the rest. They come off original and unique seemingly without even trying. Nice. (Rating: 4)

LILI HAYDN - Lili (CD, Atlantic, Rock/classical)
Interesting. Though you may not know her name (it didn't ring a bell with me), you have already most likely heard the violin work of Lili Haydn. This young lady, once in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has played with No Doubt, Tom Petty, Porno For Pyros, Spinal Tap...and that's just the beginning. This is Lili's debut solo release, and it's an interesting mix of rock and classical music. Much of the disc is Kate Bush-like pop with a heavy emphasis on violin and cello. The piece that really pushed me over the edge was "Wants Deep," the closing number. It's a lonely, wandering violin and piano piece that is straight classical. And it's a beauty. For a debut, this is a heavy release. Ms. Haydn is most certainly an artist with even greater things ahead of her... (Rating: 4)

HEAVEN DECONSTRUCTION - Heaven Deconstruction (CD, Mutant Sound System, Ambient/electronic)
This is a side project by The Young Gods' Franz Treichler. The Young Gods have long been one of my favorite undergrounds because they have a sound and vision that is highly unique and at times extremely disturbing. Heaven Deconstruction possesses these same qualities. Instead of the near violent nature of his other band's music, here we have dreamy, surreal, ambient pieces without vocals. Accordingly, this disc will not appeal to everyone (including, most likely, many Young Gods fans). Personally, I really go for ambient electronic stuff when it's done right...and this disc definitely fits in that category. These compositions are obtuse, peculiar, and thought provoking. Recommended only for folks who like music that's really out there... (Rating: 6)

HOARSE - Happens Twice (CD, RCA/BMG, Rock)
Straightforward rock music with hoarse vocals (thus the name?). This is basic guitar/bass/drums rock music with a nice urgent feel to it. While these tunes sound fine, they do have that generic nineties sound that is all too common nowadays. This may just be the result of one person trying to review way too much music, I don't know. Whatever the case, this is good...but it doesn't really stand out from the pack. (Rating: 3)

KENNY HOWES - Second Album (CD, Albert Ayler's Jukebox, Pop)
I already knew this fellow's name as the keyboardist for Orange Hat. Kenny Howes' second full-length solo CD is a big dose of highly melodic, energized pop music. The tunes here are basic, simple numbers with just the right touch of studio gloss. Some of the tunes sound like good British invasion ("Have A Groovy Time"), while others are straight pop ("Thought You'd Never Go"). If the tunes don't pull you into this guy's music, the vocals will (particularly the harmonies). There are more than a few Beatles influences ("Pin You Down", "She May Call You Up Tonight"). If you're looking for an obscure pop sensation who is virtually unknown despite obvious talent and credibility, you owe it to yourself to give this disc a listen. Mr. Howes plays all instruments except for drums (which are played by Kelly Shane). This reminds me of Roy Wood at times. Thumbs up, up, UP... (Rating: 5)

IDA - Ten Small Paces (CD, Simple Machines, Soft pop)
With most CDs I can make snap judgements after just one listen. I had to listen to Ida's CD several times...and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. The band plays soft pop, but their brand of pop differs from song to song. The music is, for the most part, hypnotic...and the vocals are soft and introspective. The band features male and female lead vocals that always fit the tunes perfectly. Interestingly, Ida cover Eno's "Golden Hours"...with startlingly good results. This is one of those bands with songs that aren't easily pegged or categorized...and they write some exceptional stuff. Our favorites on this disc are "Hilot," "Fallen Arrow," "Shoe-In," "Drunk Aviator," and "Dream Date." A band that is not like the others. Neat. (Rating: 4)

INCANTATION (Live performance, August 21, 1997)
I know a couple of fellows who are going to have serious neck problems in a few years. Death metal rockers Incantation brought their assaultive, incredibly loud show to Atlanta and played for only a few fans on an off night at one of Atlanta's best nightclubs (The Somber Reptile). This band is different than your normal death metal band for a couple of reasons. First, they are a trio. Two guitars and drums. Believe me, you don't miss the bass guitar one bit. These guys have a big, FAT sound. Two, they are possibly the best hairslingers around at this point in time. From start to finish, the guitarists threw their hair like there was no tomorrow. But what amazed me the most is that they could actually play quite complicated songs while doing the slinging. The lead vocalist has extremely long, beautiful hair that would make most women envious. The extraordinarily long sound check seemed kind of ridiculous in a way, seeing as how once the band began playing everything was a loud roar (a loud, GOOD roar however). I always find it odd at this kind of concert how serious everyone is. I laughed a great deal during this show (out of sheer enjoyment), but every other person I saw that night had a face of stone. Whatever the case...Incantation is a band with drive, talent, and energy. Catch 'em live. They entertain. (Not Rated)

INSULATED - Fence (CD, Frozen Hound, Rock)
Good modern rock with more variety than you normally find in an indie rock band. California's Insulated present thirteen cool tunes that bring to mind a whole slew of bands including Duran Duran, U2, and even The Cure. The trio not only writes good songs, but their ability to come up with unusual arrangements is impressive indeed. There are several songs that ought to become very popular on the college radio circuit (particularly "Find Your Sugar" and "Thread"). This is a pleasant listen from a band with a lot of potential... (Not Rated)

THE INTERPRETERS - Back in the U.S.S.A. (CD, Volcano, Rock/pop)
YEAH!!! The bio, photo, CD, and name of this band didn't impress me...but the music DEFINITELY does! The Interpreters have a hard pop sound that is instantly likable and ultimately different. Though they're a trio, you'd never know it from the music. What I like best about this band is that their songs are short and to the point. All but 4 of the 16 tracks clock in at LESS than 3 minutes...and there's a definite bubblegum sound to most of the tunes. As soon as they blow one tune past you, the next one comes whizzing past like lightning. Sometimes the vocals remind me of Milk 'n Cookies (one of my favorite obscurities from long ago). Though the band is from New Jersey, this CD was recorded in London. Appropriate, since many of the tunes have a definite British influence. This is total rip-roaring FUN!!! (Rating: 5)

CHRIS KNOX - Yes!!! (CD, Flying Nun, Pop/rock)
Australia's Chris Knox is an interesting character. The guy seems to be a workaholic and he is prolific beyond a shadow of a doubt. Just as with his past releases, Chris' latest disc reminds me very much of Eno's first couple of albums. Minimal pop tunes that are slightly offbeat...even the vocals remind me of early Eno. While I admire Chris' music, there is something about his image and public persona that doesn't hit me right in the same way that I have problems with Robyn Hitchcock. Both fellows...while very talented...seem to be trying awfully hard to come off as unusual and weird people. This could just be my perception, who knows...but for some reason this bothers me. Even with this minor complaint, I find Chris' music pleasant and enjoyable...and this may just be his finest effort yet. Fourteen keen tunes. Neat. (Rating: 4)

LAB REPORT - Excision (CD, Invisible, Electronic)
The more I hear on the Invisible label, the more I believe this is one of the strangest record labels in existence today (second only, perhaps, to the Realization Recordings label). Lab Report is more padding for my theory...a theory that may take years to uncover. The sine waves pass by, then grasp onto more tightly wound synthesized intensity...gnawing at the brain of the listener. Things dissolve, then slowly resolve, then dissolve once again. I'm wondering why the band didn't choose the name Lab Experiment. Tick tock, tick tock...weird organs. Underwater. Drowning. Dreaming. Hallucinating. No air. Death. Vision going, going, gone. What music this is? Is music what is not music. Is music what make confuse. Maybe not meant to understand. Guh, guh guh bluh? Tetta botta botta nap. Filt blin mer chawpuh blass. Nrrrrrrr...KETTLE? Kettle get HOT. Too hot. (Rating: 6)

LIFE OF AGONY - Soul Searching Sun (CD, Roadrunner, Rock)
Way above average epic rock. There's one part of me that hates arena rock, yet another part that says it can be okay if done the right way. Life of Agony play accessible music that could fit within the format of either hard rock or Top 40 commercial radio. Now I know that may turn some folks off, but keep an open mind. There are ways of staying within the boundaries of accessibility and still maintaining credibility. Songs like "Hope," "My Mind Is Dangerous," "Heroin Dreams," and "Desire" are way, WAY better than most of what you hear on the radio lately. This is the third full-length from this Brooklyn band. This thing rocks. Really. (Not Rated)

LITTLE RED ROCKET - Who Did You Pay? (CD, Tim/Kerr, Pop)
WAY excellent girl pop, for SURE! We like, we like, WE LIKE! Two girls, two guys...with a sound that is very much like a softer, slower Fuzzy (one of my favorite overlooked bands of the nineties). Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink are backed by the male rhythm section of Louis Shefano (drums) and Greg Nobles (bass). Maria and Orenda write killer tunes...and their vocals have to be heard to be believed. This is NOT alternative noise crap or novelty sap. This is well-written, well-executed music that ought to appeal to a wide range of people of all types and all ages. At times it seems as if the last thing the world needs is yet ANOTHER goddamn pop band...that is, until something like Little Red Rocket comes along. This is totally memorable and...GREAT. Get it! Pay money for it even! (Rating: 5)

LITTLE SUE - Chimneys & Fishes (CD, Cravedog, Country/pop)
No, this is NOT a fake review. Little Sue is a real singer/songwriter based in Portland. From the sound of these tunes, I'd say that Sue is a strikingly sincere and genuine lady. Her tunes are plaintive and real. Her voice is unaffected and personal. Her lyrics are simple and easy to relate to. This CD is most likely destined to be an obscurity...simply because it's on a small label. But it's good...DAMN good. This isn't a flash in the pan artist. This woman's got talent, style, and substance. Thirteen cool tunes including "Whiskey Hat," "Princess," "Willow Tree," and "Mercury." (Rating: 5)

LOVE AMERICAN STYLE - Undo (CD, Osygen/BMG, Rock/pop)
You may have seen a CD by Smashing Orange floating in the cheapie bins during the past few months. For one reason or another (whether it was poor marketing or simply a name that was too similar to another very popular band), the band flopped despite the fact that the music was good. Rob Montejo, the leader and vocalist for Smashing Orange, threw in the towel and formed a new...and even better band...Love American Style. The music is pure pop all the way with a sound that reminds me in many ways of Charlatans U.K. The band comes up with nice grooves, good melodies (even better vocals), and above all some melodies that grab you and stay with you. Some of the tunes are so radio friendly that you wanna hate 'em...butcha just can't for some reason ("Easy" is a good example). Overall, this is a strangely listenable...and very commercial...CD from a band that's started out with a bang! Rating: 5)

THE MAID UPS - Float Yer Flat Poosie (CD, Inner Tube, Skating rink bubblegum)
Every child who skates is asking to be beaten up and made a mockery of. That is what skating has always been about. The Maid Ups know this, and they're not about to be caught with their aprons around their ankles. "Sprock and jump! Sprock and jump!" shouts the pouting midget, scratching at his rear end in confusion. Some of the bark falls off by itself, the rest is peeled away. The barren wood reveals tension that withers and blows in the dusk of a buddy walk. A book falls to the floor, open to page one. See spots. See spots run together. Jane likes to see spots run together. Jimmy watches the spots run down Jane's face onto her blouse. A tear falls from the left side of his cheek and he whispers, "Float Yer Flat Poosie." The Maid Ups were made up so that there would be a bad review to break up the monotony of all the positive reviews. Therefore, they HAVE to be bad. (Rating: 1)

GRANT McLENNAN - In Your Brightest Ray (CD, Beggars Banquet, Pop)
Release a CD by the Go-Betweens and people will buy it up like hotcakes and radio stations will play the HELL out of it. Release a CD by Grant McLennan and you can expect few sales and little or no airplay...even though the music is basically the same (!). Well, hats off to the folks at Beggars Banquet for releasing this CD anyway...because Mr. McLennan writes and records GREAT music. His pensive, soft pop music is genuine and thought provoking...and the man is CONSISTENT. He may never be a commercial success on his own, but more importantly he's an artistic success. And here in babysueland, that's what matters most. This is possibly his best yet. (Rating: 5)

MOUNT PILOT - Help Wanted, Love Needed, Caretaker (CD, Doolittle, Rock/pop)
Nice unpretentious home grown rock/pop without frills or gimmicks. Mount Pilot hail from Chicago, but their sound reminds me more of bands from the South. What I like best about this band is that they're not jumping on any particular bandwagon...and their arrangements are nice (really good guitars!). Although this disc sounds good, I have to admit there's not a lot to separate it from the rest of the continually growing stack of music to be reviewed in babysueland. It bothers me that good releases like this get such a so-so rating simply because of the volume of music I'm reviewing...but that is the case nevertheless. This is the kind of disc that might make a deeper impression if I had more time to listen to it...but I don't. Hell, there are dozens and dozens and DOZENS of CDs that I still have to listen to this week. Forgive me guys, 'cause I know there's an audience for what you're doing and you've obviously got talent... (Rating: 3)

NAMANAX - Audiotronic (CD, Release, Electronic noise)
Cool, cool, cool, cool, COOL!!! If there's one thing I like, it is spaced out, ambient electronic noise...and this Pennsylvania band is one of the best I've heard. The "tunes" (I put that in quotes because some folks may argue that these are not actually songs) are obtuse electronic experiments. There are no beats, melodies to speak of, or song structures. Instead, these folks simply go off with their synthesizers...creating otherwordly compositions that will give you the feeling that you are traveling through space. This is some of the most hallucinogenic music I have heard for sure. I wouldn't recommend this for everyone simply because it is so far out there. Personally, however, I think this KICKS ASS! (Rating: 6)

NINNER POOSIE - Who Bosses Lucy's Ninner Poosie? (CD, Ragatag, Bubblegum)
Ain't nobody seen nuffin lak Ninner Poosie. This is thing what run wild, cause agitation and rumble to happening. You think you lost out cuz you not qualified, but ain't nobody that ain't seen Lucy thing. Wash up drain toys and flush out minnow target. Deep down inside, all damn ninners crash and drool at paws...cashing and figuring on how to check in without plow. Hassie chalk up another one for her nekkid, stinky poosie. Her father cannot control her, and her mother cannot control her father. Patch and panic, scratch and scrawl...Ninner Poosie is nuffin at all. Completely wurfliss. (Rating: 1)

ONE LEFT - The Nature of the Beast (CD, Independent, Moody pop)
Whew. This is mighty good for an independent release. This band's songs sound like a peculiar cross between Cockney Rebel and Bob Dylan (more the former than the latter, thank God). The melodies...and particularly the phrasing and vocals...on this CD are way, way, WAY above average. And instead of some noisy alternative crap, this band presents music that would not be out of place at all on commercial radio. As an added plus, the lyrics are smart and insightful. Overall, this is a truly exceptional disc from this Washington, D.C. based band. You probably won't find this in stores, so contact 'em at or at 5163 Fulton St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20016. (Not Rated)

PHOTEK - Modus Operandi (CD, Astralwerks, Drum and bass)
It's almost unfair to label this music as drum and bass, because it might lead you to believe that this sounds like the tidal wave of generic computer dreck that lands in that category. How about if we say that this is what drum and bass music OUGHT to sound like? Photek (it's one guy) writes some seriously challenging electronic music that is characterized by creative, unusual rhythms and some very spacey, eerie electronics. It's almost as if Mick Harris decided to do a drum and bass record... It's odd. So many folks have so much technology at their fingertips, and all they can do is churn out generic crap. I guess that's why folks like Photek stand out. Real talent is like a sore thumb. (Rating: 4)

PHYLR - Contra La Puerta (CD, Invisible, Electronic)
Nice, heavily orchestrated electronic music that has an odd modern classical feel to it. Phylr (I'm wondering if this is really supposed to be pronounced "filler"?) is actually J. F. Coleman, who spent several years collaborating with the band Cop Shoot Cop. This is his debut CD. Some of the bass sounds on this one will give your speakers a run for their money. Mr. Coleman doesn't just have one sound. He merges noise with orchestra like passages with all kinds of other stuff to create a surprising amount of moods. Within the space of eleven tunes, this guy gets more ideas across than many bands over the course of their entire careers. This is well thought out, inventive, and mesmerizing. Kinda like a movie soundtrack, but a lot more gripping. It make the baby say, "ME LIKE!" (Rating: 5)

PIGFACE - A New High In Low (Double CD, Invisible, Collage/electronic)
Whew. Pigface sure chew off a mouthful with this double disc set. The tunes range from dub to pop to experimental to ambient to...just about anything you can imagine and more. It used to be that bands had an identifiable "sound" or "image". This band (like many other modern electronic bands) seem to defy categorization with each release. This music is certainly not for everyone. If you're not into the whole techno/noise/trippy electronic thing, then you'll wanna skip over this one entirely. For folks into this kinda thing (which I am), these discs are a challenging listen... Disc One contains what might be somewhat similar to actual songs. Disc Two goes off the deeper end of musical choas, with only three pieces offered. As an added bonus, the set comes in a really cool package...including a booklet of credits and photos. Neat. (Rating: 4)

PINEAL VENTANA - Breath As You Might (CD, Altered/Ichiban, Progressive rock)
My, my, my, my, oh my. Southern rock sure ain't what it used tuh be. Hell, these summuhbishes ain't even got no hot gee-tarr likks in thar sawngs thatcha kin unnerstann! Lissen up buddy...these days these damn yungsters'll just make a heapin' whop o' noise, throw it on tape, an' give 'er a name. And that's maw-durn myu-sikk. Ya'll knows that now..ain't cha? To top it all off, instead ovvuh man thars sum crazee female hollerin over thuh music. Weird, weird, weird. Yup, from whar I kum frum this here'd be called noise. But nowadays they uh kawlin' it maw-durn myu-sikk. I reckin' the oddest part 'bout all this is that the more I hear it, the better it sounds. Kinda like when my maw used ta yelled at me. At first it was annoyin', but later I kinda lakked it. Yup, these weirdos is probably about the best Atlanta's got to offer nowadays. Noisey, droney, experimentally. Don't matter whutcha call it, it sure as Hell beats the pants offuh me. An' I kinda lakk thayat... (Rating: 5)

rex - 3 (CD, Southern, Soft pop)
The more I hear by rex, the more I like them. The band plays soft, somewhat progressive soft pop music that is about as uncontrived as you can get. It's not soft's not's just three guys playing some damn nice sounding soothing pop music that gets better the more you hear it. This is the band's third full length CD, and it contains some of the band's best tunes yet. "Gathered" is almost radio friendly. Other tunes like "Jet" and "Other James" are moody and peculiar, and may alienate some people... rex remind me of several bands and artists (including Neil Young and Low) without really sounding like any of them. The band's intertwining guitar work (reminiscent of Television) is particularly exceptional...making 3 an intriguing listen. This band is likely to fall through the cracks because they aren't into gimmicks and making stupid noise. You may even find their CDs in the cheapie bins because they're not "hip" or "cool" yet. If you do, GRAB 'em. Really good stuff. (Rating: 5)

RHAG - Life Goes On (CD, Tractor Beam, Improvised spoken word/dub/jazz/electronic)
Interesting idea. Seventy year old Roy Henry Alexander Gover (RHAG) likes to go off saying/singing whatever he feels like to music he finds on FM radio. For this CD, however, Fan Modine came up with music (to avoid copyright violations) to which Roy does basically the same thing. Interesting idea, with varying results. I like Roy's art better, judging from some of his paintings that are reproduced elsewhere on the CD. Probably the most noteworthy aspect of this CD is that is the debut disc for the new Tractor Beam label. This is a label to keep an eye on because it was begun by Daniel Efram who was formerly the label manager for Zero Hour...and who was responsible for bringing such cool artists as Varnaline and Space Needle to the attention of many. Look for upcoming Tractor Beam releases, 'cuz they're likely to be quite good... (Rating: 3)

SCRUMTRON - A Tribute to Merzbow (CD, Mute, Noise)
This one might just take difficult listening to another level. I have long been a fan of noise as music, but this one tests even my abilities as a listener. This tribute to Japanese electronic recording artist Merzbow (Masami Akita) is sure to make you think there is something wrong with your stereo. No ambient stuff here. No melodies. No themes. No nothing...except harsh, deconstructed fragments of grating noise. It would be hard for me to recommend this to anyone really, because I think there are so few people who could derive any sort of pleasure from hearing it. An interesting array of artists remix Merzbow tunes...Panasonic, Autechre, Jim O'Rourke, Bernard Gunter, Russel Haswell and even Merzbow himself. I can't believe anyone would pay money for this. It's trash...pure and complete TRASH. And you KNOW how I like trash... (Rating: 5)

P. F. SLOAN - (Still on the) Eve of Destruction (CD, All the Best, Pop)
Obscure yet infamous artist P. F. back? Most folks will remember this fellow for his two big hits "Eve of Destruction" and "Secret Agent Man" in the sixties. Mr. Sloan has been virtually hiding out ever since, with the exception of one comeback album in the eighties. It's rather interesting indeed that members of The Posies and The Fresh Young Fellows play on the disc. Admittedly, the schmaltz element is rather high on this CD...but the tunes are well thought out and memorable. The only minus for me is that the disc contains remakes of the aforementioned hits...a big NO-NO here in babysueland. After all, the guy can obviously still write great why redo the old ones? It's still all quite interesting...and it'll be even more interesting to see if this disc flips or flops... (Not Rated)

SPECTRUM - Forever Alien (CD, Reprise, Electronic drone pop)
Once upon a time there was a British band called Spacemen 3. Despite the fact that the band had a limited following during its existence, it has become somewhat legendary over the past few years. The band is no more, but its splintered pieces have produced the always mesmerizing Spiritualized (led by Jason Pierce), and now...Spectrum, the project of Pete Kember (also known as Sonic Boom). Mr. Kember has openly admitted that his agenda is "taking drugs to make music to take drugs to". Well, whatever...(!) The important thing to remember here is that this damn fellow can write and recrod some DAMN spacey pop stuff. These tunes are actually more like "pop drones" with analog synthesizers going haywire in the background. Kinda like a cross between Hawkwind and Joy Electric, this CD is a weird, trippy listen... Very, VERY different. (Rating: 5)

STEREOLAB - Dots and Loops (CD, Elektra, Pop/muzak)
Despite the fact that this band is hip, trendy, and very popular with all the wrong people...I absolutely LOVE their music. Usually the aforementioned traits make me despise bands because they are usually not worthy of all the goopy adulation from all those retarded music fans out there. In the case of Stereolab, the praise is justified. I've only heard a couple of the badn's releases prior to this, but so far this one is easily my favorite. What kind of music is it? An odd hybrid of sixties pop, muzak, soft pop, and moody electronics. Instead of being retrospective in a shitty kinda way, however, this group looks back to the past with a definite eye on the present and future. Spacey, moody pieces like "Miss Modular," "Prisoner of Mars," and "Ticker Tape of the Unconscious" are spectacular in their subtlety. This ought to please diehard fans and also bring the group even MORE (potentially obnoxious hipster) followers than they already have. This KICKS ASS! (Rating: 6)

SUBARACHNOID SPACE - Namanax (CD, Release, Space rock)
Far out. Droning, spacey, improvisational noise/rock that is certain to leave most listeners far behind in a distant galaxy. This is not a bad thing. Personally, I like challenging music and folks who push the boundaries of what music can be. Subarachnoid Space certainly destroy some boundaries on their mission to create odd space rock. The band is the project of Mason Jones (formerly of Trance), and this disc was produced by infamous guitarist James Potkin. If you want words, melodies, or the usual things one normally finds on a compact disc, you'll want to skip this over entirely. If you're into spaced out, improvisational noise...grab hold of this. Kinda like early Pink Floyd or Hawkwind but a lot more psychedelic and abstract. Whewwwwww... (Rating: 4)

SYMPOSIUM - Symposium (CD EP, Red Ant, Pop/rock)
The next Oasis? Britain's hype machine seems to be operating on overdrive for Symposium. Lots of big name music papers are heralding the band as the next big thing and the "best live band in Britain". Unfortunately, megahype usually has a negative effect on me. I do, in fact, rather like the five tunes on this band's EP. It features the band's three British singles and two B-sides. Though it's not exactly the most original sound in the world, the tunes are hummable and pleasant power pop. Perhaps the live show lives up to the hype, I dunno. For the time being, I'd say I like this band...but I'd have to hear or see more to have a much stronger opinion. (Rating: 3)

TALK SHOW - Talk Show (CD, Atlantic, Rock/pop)
Hard-edged noisy rock/pop with good vocals. I liked this CD instantly...which surprised me when I read the press release. Talk Show is a new band formed by Dave Coutts (formerly with Ten Inch Men)'s the odd part... three ex-members of Stone Temple Pilos (yeeeeeeecccchhhh!). Even though I couldn't STAND the "Pilots"...this band rocks! These four scraggley, handsome men create some very nice, cerebral music that sounds British at times...yet the music is still distinctly American. I guess the closest comparison I can think of for this band is Cheap Trick. Twelve rockin' tunes, including "Ring Twice," "Hello Hello," "Wash Me Down," and "Fill the Fields." (Not Rated)

TESTAMENT (Live performance, September 6, 1997)
The publicist for Testament called me a couple of days before this show and said that no one else in Atlanta would cover this show, and asked if I would. I wasn't that familiar with the band, but the publicist said that they were one of the best heavy metal bands around. Man, was she ever telling the truth! These guys put on a GREAT show!!! In fact, this just might have been one of the top ten best heavy metal/hard rock shows I have ever seen. Why? First, these guys play their BALLS off...and it's not just noise, there are actually songs underneath all the chaos. Secondly, it was obvious that these men enjoy what they are doing. The band fed off the audience, which fed off the band, etc. It wasn't guys playing FOR an audience...they were playing WITH them. Third, and most importantly, the band had a definite sense of humor about what they were doing. So much so, in fact, that the lead singer looked like he was about to burst out laughing whenever he wasn't singing. He kept sticking his tongue out at the audience, screwing with people's heads, and all the while sporting a most contagious grin. Yup, in concert Testament DELIVER...BIG TIME. Most heavy metal bands are ultimately just posers with big hair and big amps. These guys are the REAL thing. I had a BLAST at this show. Testament receive my biggest compliment...they are actually worth PAYING to see. And believe me, it is RARE when I say that... (Rating: 6)

MIKE WATT - Contemplating the Engine Room (CD, Columbia, Rock)
Despite the fact that he's ultra cool and hip, Mike Watt always seems to rise above his legend and create some damn fine music. This is again true on Contemplating the Engine Room. This CD has a somewhat country/homegrown sound to it that is very appealing. As always, those bass lines are gripping and hypnotic. Guitarist Nels Cline adds some great atmosphere to these tunes, and drummer Steve Hodges is right on the mark on every cut. Fifteen tunes, with our favorites being "Red Bluff," "Black Gang Coffee," "Fireman Hurley," and "Wrapped Around the Screw." Masculine music that sounds mighty genuine. The one thing I want to know is...what band did Mr. Watt used to play in? What band was it??? (Not Rated)

THE WEAKLINGS - Remarkably Good (CD, Crane Mountain/Beloved, Pop/rock)
Skewed, jagged pop rock. Sometimes loud, sometimes soft...these folks throw enough variety into their music to keep things interesting. Good harmonies. The band consists of Dan Jordan (guitar, vocal), Evan Julligan (bass, vocal), and Matt Burke (drums). From the sound of this disc, I'd bet these guys put on a fun show... (Not Rated)

PAUL WELLER - Heavy Soul (CD, Island, Pop/soul/rock)
Though I hate to admit that I'm guilty of it, I sometimes hold onto the past. Such is the case with Paul Weller. I was so enamored with The Jam that when Mr. Weller took off on his soul music thing, I couldn't deal with it. My favorite power pop/punkster...gone wimpy? I wrote the guy off, and haven't really wanted to listen to his music for many years. When this CD arrived in the mail, I almost tossed it aside...but instead decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did. For some reason, I can now accept and like this music. It could be that there's a harder edge to many of these tunes, or it could just be that I've gotten over my stupid little bad attitude. Whatever the case, Heavy Soul has some meat on it. The disc was recorded in several different studios, and some of these tunes COOK. Oddly, it's some of the softer numbers that I like best ("Up In Suzes' Room" and "Driving Nowhere" in particular). This is more pop/rock oriented than the tunes I had heard on the radio over the past few years. Glad I gave this talented man another chance. He deserves it. I admit it. I was wrong. (Not Rated)

WIG - Wireland (CD, Island, Rock)
Good screamer rock. WIG remind me at times of Echo and the Bunnymen, at other times of Jane's Addiction, and at other times of U2 (but we'll forgive them for that). The sound is somewhat reminiscent of seventies rock with a definite touch of nineties technology. It took a few songs for this band to make an impression on me, but they ultimately do because they have a moody style and they don't just have one sound. The heavy reliance on echo and spacey effects works well with these tunes. WIG is a band that stands a good chance of becoming big. Whether that's a good thing or not is debatable...but they've sure got the potential... (Not Rated)


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