Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 538 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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  • C
  • C.O. Jones (2)
  • c.t.z.n.
  • C-Rayz Walz
  • C17H19N03
  • Cabinessence
  • Caboto
  • Cadillac Tramps (2)
  • Caesura
  • Cain Marko
  • Chris Cairns
  • Cairo
  • Cala Vento
  • Caledonia
  • Calexico (4)
  • Calibos
  • Califone
  • California Guitar Trio (3)
  • Marian Call
  • Call Me Lightning
  • Calliope (4)
  • Robert Calvert
  • Camarosmith
  • Camber (5)
  • The Campbells
  • Can
  • Cancer
  • The Cancer Conspiracy
  • Candidate
  • Candiru
  • David Candy
  • Candy Planet
  • The Candy Snatchers
  • The Candyskins
  • Canister
  • Canned Heat (2)
  • Cannibal Corpse (3)
  • Cannibal Ox
  • Caitlin Canty
  • Joey Cape
  • Cape Snow
  • Capillary Action
  • Capitol Eye
  • Capitol K
  • The Capitol Years (2)
  • Capsize 7 (3)
  • The Capstan Shafts (8)
  • The Capsules (2)
  • Captain Bringdown and the Buzzkillers
  • Captain Jack
  • Captives' Dance
  • Car 44
  • Carbon
  • Carcass (2)
  • Cardia
  • Cardinal
  • Cardinal Woolsey
  • Caribbean Jazz Project
  • Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros
  • Caroline (2)
  • !Carlos! (3)
  • Carnival of Shame
  • Neko Case & Her Boyfriends
  • Peter Case (2)
  • Johnny Cash (2)
  • Cash Audio (formerly Cash Money) (3)
  • Cashes Rivers
  • Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (2)
  • Casper and the Cookies
  • Casper Fandango and his Tiny Sick Tears
  • The Casting Out
  • Jorge Castro
  • The Casualties (2)
  • Cat-A-Tac
  • Catch 22
  • Catcher
  • Catchpenny (2)
  • Cathedral (4)
  • Caural (3)
  • Cause for Alarm (3)
  • Caustic Casanova
  • Caustic Resin (2)
  • Cavalier King
  • Cave Canem
  • Cave Penny (2)
  • Cavity
  • Cellophane (2)
  • Cement
  • Cemetary (3)
  • Center of the Sun
  • Lisa Cerbone
  • Cerce
  • Cerebral Fix
  • Eugene Chadbourne & Evan S. Johns
  • Paul Chain
  • Don Chambers and Goat
  • Dolph Chaney
  • Channing Cope
  • Chaos U.K. (3)
  • Marshall Chapman
  • Michelle Chappel
  • Charade
  • Charlatans U.K.
  • Charlene
  • Charles the Osprey
  • Charlotte's Webb
  • Charm Particles
  • Charming Hostess
  • Charnel House
  • Chase Ave.
  • Chastain (2)
  • David T. Chastain (2)
  • Chavez
  • Check Engine
  • Cheeky Monkey
  • Cheer-Accident (5)
  • Chelsea (2)
  • Chemical People (3)
  • Chemlab (2)
  • Cher U.K. (2)
  • Cherubs (3)
  • Chester Copperpot
  • Chestnut Station
  • Chevelle
  • Chevy Heston (3)
  • Rita Chiarelli
  • Chic Gamine
  • Chicken Dog
  • Chicken Hawks (2)
  • Chicklet
  • Chikmountain
  • Child Bite
  • Children on Stun
  • Childress
  • Chill E.B.
  • Chimera (2)
  • China Drum
  • The Chinese Stars (2)
  • The Chinkees
  • Chixdiggit
  • Chocolate Horse
  • Chode
  • Choking Ahogo
  • Chola
  • Chosen
  • The Chris and Joylene Show
  • Little John Chrisley
  • Christ Analogue
  • Christdriver
  • Daniel Christian
  • Christian Death (3)
  • Christiansen (2)
  • Christie Front Drive/Boys Life
  • Daniel Christopherson
  • Christov
  • Chroma Key (2)
  • Chrome (3)
  • Chrome Sparks
  • Chromelodeon
  • Chuckanut Drive (2)
  • Chumbawamba
  • Chune
  • Chune/Garden Variety
  • Chupa Cabra
  • The Churchills
  • Churn
  • Cianide (2)
  • Joey Cigainero
  • The Cinch (2)
  • Cinnamon
  • Circle 9/Noel the Coward
  • Circle of Dust (5)
  • Circle of Force
  • Circus of Pain
  • Circus of Pain
  • Cirrus
  • Cities (2)
  • Citizen Fish (4)
  • Citizens' Utilities
  • CIV (2)
  • Civil Tones
  • Stephen Clair (2)
  • Clair de Lune (2)
  • Clambake
  • Allen Clapp
  • Clare Quilty
  • Carrie Clark
  • Chris Clark
  • Tom Clark and the High Action Boys
  • Gilby Clarke
  • Claudia Malibu (2)
  • Clawhammer
  • Claws of Paradise
  • Andrew "Dice" Clay
  • Clay People (4)
  • Cleveland Bound Death Sentence
  • Click.
  • The Clinic
  • Michelle T. Clinton
  • Clock DVA
  • Clock Hands Strangle
  • Clockhammer
  • Closer
  • Cloud Cult
  • Cloud Party
  • Clouds Forming Crowns (2)
  • Clyde
  • Colleen Coadic (3)
  • Coal Chamber
  • The Coal Porters
  • Coalesce
  • Coastal (2)
  • Coax
  • Cobra Killer
  • Cock E.S.P.
  • Cock Sparrer
  • The Cocker Spaniels
  • Cockeyed Ghost (2)
  • Cody Cods
  • Dennis Coffey
  • Coffin Break
  • Coffinberry
  • The Cogs
  • James Cohen
  • Cold Memory
  • Cold Sides
  • Coldsnap-9
  • Cole
  • Richie Cole with Brass
  • James Coleman
  • John Wesley Coleman III
  • Coletta
  • Buddy Collette
  • Collide (2)
  • Gerald Collier (2)
  • Dale Collins (6)
  • Jim Collins
  • Colony of Watts
  • The Color Turning
  • Colorwall
  • Colossamite (2)
  • Colour Revolt
  • The Comas
  • Combatdrug
  • Comecon (2)
  • Mike Comfort
  • Command V
  • Commander Venus
  • Common Ground
  • Common Rider
  • Company of Snakes
  • The Company Stores
  • Condo
  • Conflict (elektro)
  • Conflict (punk)
  • Confront James
  • Conglomerate
  • The Congos
  • Bobby Conn (2)
  • The Connection
  • Chris Connelly
  • Jim Connolly
  • Mary Connolly
  • Justin Connor
  • Loren MazzaCane Connors (2)
  • Consolidated (2)
  • Consumed
  • Contagion
  • Contra Guerra
  • Contraption
  • Controlled Bleeding
  • Converge
  • Convulse (2)
  • Cookie Galore (2)
  • Cool Serbia
  • The Coots
  • Coph Nia
  • CopperShot
  • Peter Cor
  • Coral
  • Cordero (2)
  • Cords (3)
  • Core 22
  • The Corn Sisters
  • Corner Suns
  • Hugh Cornwell
  • Coroner (2)
  • Coronet Blue
  • Corporal Blossom
  • Corporate Avenger
  • Corporate MF
  • Corpus Delicti
  • Corsicana
  • Corvus Corvax
  • Larry Coryell Tom Coster Steve Smith
  • Cosmologic Syntaxis
  • Cotillion
  • Chris Cotton
  • Cotton Mather (2)
  • Couch of Eureka
  • Cougars
  • Count Raven
  • Count the Stars
  • Country Club & the Porn Horns
  • Wayne/Jayne County (3)
  • The Coup
  • Cousin Dale
  • Coven
  • Covenant (5)
  • The Cowards
  • Cowboy Indian Bear
  • Cowboys International
  • RJ Cowdery
  • Mike Coykendall
  • Kevin Coyne
  • Coyol
  • Crab Daddy
  • Crack Up
  • Cracker (2)
  • Cradle of Filth
  • The Cramps
  • Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders
  • Craw (6)
  • Crayon Theatrical
  • Crayonblack (2)
  • Crazy Eyes
  • Crazy Mary (2)
  • Helios Creed (2)
  • Creedle (4)
  • Creeper
  • Cretins (2)
  • Cribabi
  • Crimeny
  • Criminal Hygiene
  • The Criminals (3)
  • Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
  • The Cripples
  • Critters Buggin
  • Cro-Mags (2)
  • Crocodile Shop
  • Crooked Cowboy and the Freshwater Indians
  • Crooked Roads
  • Crooked Saws
  • Cross Fade
  • Cross My Heart (2)
  • Crossbreed
  • Rob Crow (2)
  • Crowbar
  • Crowd Company
  • Crown Heights
  • Crown Point
  • Crucifer
  • Crucifixion
  • Cruiserweight
  • The Crumbs (2)
  • Crunt
  • Crush Kill Destroy
  • Crushed Out
  • Crushed Stars
  • Crust
  • Crustaceans
  • Cruxshadows (2)
  • Cryptic Cremation
  • Gabor Csupo
  • Cub (2)
  • Cub/Potatomen
  • Cubanate
  • Cubic Feet
  • Cubik & Origami
  • The Cubists
  • Cucumbers
  • The Cult
  • Cult Junk Cafe
  • Cult of the Lost Cause
  • Culture Queer (2)
  • Curious Ritual
  • Curl Up and Die
  • Currer Bell
  • Curse of Lono (2)
  • Cursive
  • Curtains for You
  • Beth Custer
  • Custom Made Scare
  • Cutters
  • Cy Dune
  • Cyanotype
  • Cyclone Temple
  • Cynic

  • C
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    C might stand for the Czech Republic, home base for these boys. Or it might stand for "champs." These boys play instrumental post-rock like few others.

    And even before I saw the reference on the sleeve, I thought of Del Rey, one of the great, oft-overlooked instrumental bands. These guys incorporate that signature ringing guitar tone often enough, though C likes to veer in plenty of other directions as well.

    So much so that Sonic Youth and (early) Don Cab (also listed on the sleeve) are completely accurate comparisons...both in style and quality. The songs on this album lurch and stagger from sound to sound, but the underlying strength is present throughout.

    I really dig the way C cycles through ideas. Give each notion its due, and then move on. Proof, I suppose, that there's always something new under the headphones, after all--even if it is largely a sly re-examination of the past. Most exciting.

    C.O. Jones
    Dreams of Suckcess
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Rather competently executed grungy stuff (though with a very clean lead guitar sound). While not updating the style much, C.O. Jones certainly has a handle on this sound.

    The songwriting fits the grooves, and the playing is very good. The production left a solid, but not overwhelming sound. All pluses, in my book.

    But, see, I've heard this before. No, the band isn't ripping anyone off, but they're sticking to the main avenues. Considering that these guys are all still teenagers, there's plenty of time to explore more unusual musical styles.

    C.O. Jones won't make a mark playing precisely this sort of music, but the band is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Way too much talent to ignore.

    Wreckuiem for the Legatines
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Still meandering around the Pearl Jam style of grunge, C.O. Jones sounds like it is slowly finding its own signature sound. There is a definite evolution from the first disc I heard.

    To start with, more consistent songwriting. I suppose the easiest way to explain it is that the songs conform to type a bit better, but that's not all. When other influences are brought in, they compliment what is already here, instead of totally taking parts of songs.

    The sound is still really clean, very well done. Hey, like I said before, these boys have all the tools (they are boys, none of them yet 20, I believe) to really go far. If they keep improving like this...

    Well, who knows. There is talent galore here, whether it is realized with this project or bands to come. It's always nice to get a fresh glimpse of the future.

    c.t.z.n (featuring B. Hill)
    Japan as the 51st State of the U.S.A. CD5
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Not unlike the Atomic Soul Experiences singles in the somwhat workmanlike electronic beats, c.t.z.n. also manages to craft a catchy little tune, overlaid with somewhat more overtly aggressive lyric content.

    The song speculates on the possibilities of Japan becoming a part of the U.S. This is as much a satire on the attraction for America shared by younger Japanese as a comment on the Japanese political state.

    The point made is that Japan is the 51st state, in reality, if not in title. This is presented in integrated, instrumental and vocal-only tracks. An odd way to kick out the ideas, but it works. You can dance, contemplate, or both. Why not?

    C-Rayz Walz
    Year of the Beast
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #265, June 2005

    I've always been a sucker for politically-conscious hip hop, which is one reason why I've always been a fan of Def Jux. I'm also a big fan of collage-style production, especially when it sounds organic. RJD2, for instance. C-Rayz Walz comes hard with both on this, his first album since 2003's Ravipops (The Substance).

    The songs are all over the map. Some are serious explorations, and others are obviously bits of fun. C-Rayz Walz trips all through it, his voice at once impressive and yet containing element of everyman as well. Approachable greatness. Gotta love that.

    The sound is full and round. This is music that exists outside of the rhymes. Music that has a mind of its own. Music that complements the lyrical flow. That's the sort of thing that really impresses me.

    Fall into this world and you might not want to leave. The lush beats and thick rhymes are quickly addictive. Yep, just another winner for Def Jux. Like you thought it would be a dud.

    Terra Damnata
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    First, a note about the sponsors: Fifth Colvmn.

    Many of you are no doubt familiar with Chemlab (If not, then you should consider getting educated). Fifth Colvmn licensed Burn Out to Metal Blade, but the new one stays home. These folks are purveyors of some fine industrial works. Okay, now the review of this band.

    Weird ass name, no doubt about it. and C17... lives up to that with meandering experimental fare. Nuance and subtlety are the tool here, supplanting usual suspects speed, distortion and volume.

    No, these folk are perfectly willing to spend 8 minutes (or longer) to weave a complex musical web that isn't ambient by a long shot, but certainly will throw those expecting a Skinny Puppy or Pigface-like take on electronic music.

    Kinda reminds me of early In the Nursery. Snippets don't do it justice; a full listen is required. And anyway, this band doesn't speak in bits and pieces; it uses big words and sentences with impeccable structure.

    Completely impressive. C17... has a good grasp on composition and structure, and is not afraid to challenge to listener. Always a good thing. Those with patience will be rewarded.

    Naked Friends
    (Spark and Shine)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    Named for a song on Smile, Cabinessence inhabits a musical world just a few years down the road. Think mid-70s, somewhere between T. Rex and Nick Lowe. Which isn't a bad spot to be, really.

    The boys also tip a hat toward Gram Parsons, though there's a fair bit too much funk in the bass to call even the rootsiest piece here anything close to country. More along the lines of Lowe's Cowboy Outfit, I suppose. Though there are more than a few Band-y moments.

    The production is spot on, lending a fine ringing sound to the songs. The music has the washed-out feel of the color in an Altman 70s movie. That hint of restraint adds a ton of depth.

    Quite the lovely album. The pieces are engaging, if somewhat elegiac. The scene they set is utterly compelling. The sun may be setting, but it provides one hell of a view.

    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Caboto is four guys from Italy who have decided to take noise pop to its logical jazz fusion extreme. Indeed, these songs are almost completely jazz in construction and playing style, though the band itself is a standard rock combo in composition.

    Not entirely unlike that Iceburn tried to do before it obliterated itself, I guess, though Caboto does well without using too many "jazz" instruments (there is some trumpet on one piece, and an accordion does wander around a bit--though you'd hardly call an accordion a "jazz" instrument).

    The result is a sound that feels familiar without actually being so. Fans of Tortoise, the Sea and Cake or High Llamas will appreciate some of the "high pop" moments, while June of 44 fans will probably appreciate the sometimes manic interplay between the guitar, keyboards, bass and drums.

    And, yes, jazz fusion and prog fans will find some bits they like as well. Of course, by mixing all of these sounds so stylishly, Caboto may well alienate fans at the same time. That's the risk of going out on a limb and crafting a clever take on an innovative sound. Me, I'm just surfing the multitudes of lines. Great stuff.

    Cadillac Tramps
    Tombstone Radio
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #20, 9/15/92

    Imagine rockabilly filtered through concrete. Well, not too much of the country part of rockabilly, but you get the idea. Real hard rockin'. I can only imagine what these boys are like live, but the show must be amazing. The songs on Tombstone Radio have a live feeling like I haven't heard in a long time.

    A real bad drunk. You know, when it's midnight, you realize you've already gone through a bottle of Tequila and are halfway through something you don't even recognize. This is that very moment. You can only go down. But what a high.

    This compares well to Sugar Shack (recently reviewed right here) and the good Rev. Horton Heat, although it really doesn't sound like either at all. No, the Cadillac Tramps are uniquely themselves, and they rock my world.

    It's Allright
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/30/94

    Due to an unfortunate reading habit, I caught an article in Newsweek that talked about the resurgence of bar bands. Like NRBQ and Los Lobos. Um, okay. I like Los Lobos a lot, but give me the Cadillac Tramps and decent brew any day.

    A couple of summers ago they were wandering around with Sister Double Happiness, and I missed it (I was working two jobs and did an A&A issue that week). Needless to say, I was rather pissed.

    It's a simple formula: basic chords, basic beats, basic melodies and angst. A big ol' glass of angst, with chaser of bitterness. Sure, the Tramps owe a debt to punk for the attitude, but they exhibit a real love for the basic rock and roll that brings out the best in a 25-cent; draw. And the best part: you don't have to be drunk to appreciate them. Just turn up the stereo.

    More Specific Less Pacific
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Speaking of points along the noise pop fusion continuum, here's Caesura. Sounding much like early June of 44, what with some wonderfully squalling guitars and blistering rhythm work, this trio hacks away incessantly. Sometimes they really connect.

    Actually, most of the songs here are tight, focused and brilliant. Unlike most bands who ply these waters, Caesura specializes in short bursts of energy, songs that would seem to be fragmentary except for the depth of ideas within them.

    The sound is raw, almost to the point of bleeding. The only things that keep these pieces from cutting their way through the plastic on the CD are the simple (and vaguely rounded) sounds of the guitar and bass. Almost no effects--most of the time--which keeps the overall feel just this side of utterly abrasive.

    Which isn't to say these pieces are pleasant. There are plenty of lines for the intellectual listener to follow, but Caesura specializes in emotional and physical response. This music gets the blood flowing, cranking the heart more and more until it seems it just might not be able to handle the strain. Then the album is done. Finally comes the junkie's dilemma: Risk physical depletion or ignore the jones. Me? I hit repeat.

    Cain Marko
    At Sea EP
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    The latest short release from this Grand Rapids band. These boys must've grown up listening to the Bosstones, Pegboy and Shipping News--just for starters. While the songs tend to to take on modestly serious themes (not to mention the occasional math-y guitar line), I get the feeling that Cain Marko shows are awesome goodness.

    There's just that little bit of party hearty in the gang harmonies and anthemic choruses. The band sometimes sounds like it's going in three directions at once, but these songs always come together by the end.

    And yes, they're fun. The energy of this stuff is amazing. And if my review doesn't sell you, go to the web site. This release is $2, but all the old stuff is free. Check it out for yourself. I don't think you will be disappointed.

    Chris Cairns
    Runaway Train
    (FireHeart Productions)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    I don't get many bluegrass albums in the mail, and it's a shame. I love the stuff. There's something about the frenzied--yet technically perfect--banjo and mandolin picking and raucous shouts that speaks directly to my soul.

    But Cairns shows off many more sides of the sound than that. His songs take on all tempos and subjects. He even throws in a gospel quarter for good measure. Cairns is a fine songwriter, and he plays a nice banjo (and rhythm guitar), but most importantly he creates wide open spaces for his compatriots on fiddle and mandolin and such.

    That's the nice thing about bluegrass, and acoustic music in general. There's plenty of room for every player to shine without overshadowing anyone. The sound on this album is immaculate--there's none of that tinny "authentic acoustic" sound that I just hate. Rather, the tones here are rich and full. Which is, after all, truly authentic.

    If I had to quibble, I do wish Cairns would relax and let loose a bit more. There's plenty of energy on this album, but I need a bit more to send me into the stratosphere. Still, this is a fine collection by any standard. And, for the record, I'd love to hear lots more in the future.

    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Well, that's who Cairo certainly wants to be. The Trevor Horn-produced version, not the original. Keyboards ascendant, melodies twisted among the vocals and guitars.

    And long songs. "Ruins at Avalon's Gate" checks in at 22:35. My.

    The production is lush, but it follows the musical lead and is not too technical. Sure, these guys are playing pretty complicated fare, but they string it together well, and nothing sounds jumbled or contrived.

    I've said before that I'm not a big fan of this sort of music, but I like this disc. Cairo knows how to flesh out simple musical ideas and turn them into the progressive sound favored by the band. Each songs has at its heart only a couple real melodic ideas, and thus nothing is too complicated. The soul comes through.

    Cala Vento
    Fruto Panorama
    reviewed 2/27/17

    Almost everything I can find about this band is in Spanish, which is fine by me. It gives me a chance to argue with my boys about proper translation. As near as I can tell, this duo is from Spain (BCore is in Barcelona), and they play some pretty outstanding guitar and drum indie pop.

    To reiterate: (largely) non-distorted guitar and drums. And some raggedy harmonies. That's it. A simple recipe, and one that any manner of folks mess up all the time. Cala Vento uses those simple bones to create a relative avalanche of sound. There are the occasional string overdubs and maybe some bass here and there, but the simple structure remains.

    The songs themselves are almost impossibly infectious. It's not necessary to understand Spanish to get what's going on here. Passion and joy roll off this album in sheets.

    This album starts off with the shimmer of a sunny afternoon, and it doesn't really let go of that feel. There are the requisite ups and downs, but happiness is not optional. It's a requirement.

    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    A pleasant mishmash of pop styles, noisy ethereal stuff, if you like. The vocals alternately lilt and growl, and the music morphs to fit the mood of each particular song.

    The songs themselves don't follow strict construction rules, instead generally meandering about and finding a good place to alight for the moment. I wish the writing was a bit more disciplined (that would help eliminate some of the more egregious musical tangents), but this loopy style has plenty of its own charm.

    Ultimately, the songs just don't quite click for me. There are lots of nice moments, but Caledonia just hasn't quite settled on what it wants to play, and that indecisiveness leaves the songs lacking that final defining moment.

    A work in progress, most definitely. There's plenty of potential, but not quite enough craft. More live shows ought to work out the songwriting kinks, and once that gets more settled, who knows?

    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    The three members of Calexico are better known for their session and tour work with lots of famous people. Here, the sound is spare and the musical inspiration is all over the map. There are plenty of Spanish guitar bits and lots of generic American West spookiness (is that a genre? I don't think so...).

    Kinda like a more conceptual Palace. The playing and singing is tight, but the songwriting has an ethereal quality that is hard to place, except that Will Oldham and also Smog came immediately to mind.

    The stuff was recorded in a home studio, and so the sound can be horrific at times, but that's exactly what the music needs. This is not arena shaking music. It's not even living room shaking music. It's thought wave shaking music.

    The best kind of music defies full description, and Calexico has achieved that standard. A timeless album that quickly works itself into your subconscious, where all sorts of damage will most certainly be done.

    The Black Light
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    Another ride in the American Outback with Calexico. As heard through the ears of a European cinematographer. No Sergio Leone jokes, please. Though this music would be right at home if A Fistful of Dollars had any sense of irony whatsoever.

    Joey Burns and John Convertino, collectively known as Calexico, found enough time off from their usual gigs (Barbara Manning, Victoria Williams, Giant Sand and others) to record this puppy late last year. The sound is much fuller than the first disc, but as the music was already rather wide-ranging, not much could be improved in that area.

    A great ride. Goofy, yeah, but also breathtaking. The better facilities didn't spoil the boys, who have made a better sounding album that still manages to be as inventive as its predecessor.

    Calexico is one of those projects that some people instinctively understand. The music has a way of worming into my head and then instructing certaiPezzgic and follow along. Lunatic notions become the norm, and my mind meanders and bounds like a pebble down a mountain stream. Pretty damned cool.

    Hot Rail
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    There's just something infectious about what Calexico plays. Usually it's a country song in a Mexican groove, or perhaps a Parisian torch song done in western swing with mariachi-style trumpets in back. No matter what John Convertino and Joey Burns throw into the pot, it simmers out as a stew that can't be licked up fast enough.

    Not that this is all happy music, mind you. There are cold, lonely nights out in the desert as well. But even so, the sound is irresistible. The disc just rollicks on and on, with the hope that the good times never end.

    Those expecting some experimental byways won't be disappointed. There are a couple of lengthy mood pieces with plenty of space for interpretation. But even these are more than accessible to the more mainstream listener.

    In short, Calexico seems to have effortlessly bridged the gap between avant-garde and commercially-appealing music. There's plenty here for fans of all stripes, without condescending to anyone. A most impressive achievement.

    Even My Sure Things Fall Through EP
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    A few odds and ends from this Arizona duo. B-sides, unreleased tracks, remixes and some videos (which can be viewed on Mac or PC). An EP bursting at the seams, really.

    Another skip along the arty southwestern road Calexico has been treading for years. Frothy and enjoyable, but with enough serious overtones to keep the mind engaged as well.

    About what might be expected, I suppose. The pieces don't fit together quite as well as the stuff generally does on the albums, but they're not supposed to. This set is about collecting the debris. Mighty fine debris, I might add.

    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Vaguely loopy emo. In the modern style, which means there are a few melodic enhancers, particularly in the lead guitar. The pieces sound kinda light in the pocket at first, but there is an underlying depth.

    It's not in the vocals or lyrics, though. Those are fine, mind you, but not earthshattering. Nope, Calibos just gets cooking every once in a while. It's the band thing. Where the three pieces get together and simply transcend the basic emo trio sound.

    The disc sounds good, too. A dully sharp sound (how's that for a moronic oxymoron?) that blends the instruments just enough to create the illusion of a larger band. Part of that is also the interaction, of course. But the knob guy deserves a hand.

    What seemed slight at first really blossomed into something cool. Calibos just bounds. That's all. Bounding around and about. Like a sunny day in an isolated meadow.

    Califone EP
    (Road Cone)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Streamofconsciousness poetry, both musical and lyrical. Kinda like if Neil Young took to a few Palace songs and utilized all the latest machinery, including drum machines.

    But not in a Beck way, if that's where you think I'm going. This isn't poppy stuff. There's a rural blues sound to the guitar licks, and the drum machine (when it appears) doesn't get in the way. Rather, it just provides the proper heartbeat.

    Vaguely experimental in melody and beat usage, but not overly so. Califone is out to redefine sonic conventions, certainly, but not in such as way as to confuse or overly titillate. This is just simply cool music.

    And sometimes, that's all it takes. The creativity in ferment here is astonishing. Way too much to take in with just a whiff.

    California Guitar Trio
    Rocks the West
    (Discipline Global Mobile)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    The trio is Bert Lams, Paul Richards and Hideyo Moriya. They get occasional help from Tony Levin on bass and Bill Janssen on sax. They play their own pieces and those of others--including Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," Ellington's "Caravan" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." To say the trio has a wide repertoire is understanding the matter considerably.

    While this live set falls prey to the "tin guitar" sound that seems to plague most recent high-quality acoustic guitar recordings, the sound is good enough to distinguish between the players. Their individual styles and tones are apparent. So I'm willing to overlook my other sound quibbles.

    While obviously classically trained, the members prove themselves most proficient in adopting whatever style is necessary to play the song right. The rousing rendition of "Misirlou" is proof of that. Always technically precise, but also most expressive.

    Sure, this is paradise for the guitarist's guitarist. The playing is exquisite. But there's just as much here for a casual fan, someone who likes to hear good music presented in a somewhat unusual format. You know, most songs weren't written for three guitars. But it works so well here, you'll be asking "why not?" when the disc runs dry.

    (Inner Knot)
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams are outstanding guitarists. They jump from Beethoven to the Floyd without a moment's hesitation, and they even dig out an old Krokodil piece (with Bonnie "Prince" Billy singing). There is a novelty factor--especially on "Freebird," what with BPB singing on that one, too--but the playing is undeniably brilliant and the arrangements perfectly entrancing. Kinda like kettle corn. You know too much is bad for you, but you scarf down the whole bag anyway.

    (Inner Knot)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    A twentieth-anniversary celebration, both for CGT and HST (Hubble Space Telescope), this collection of originals is less crowd-pleasing than previous albums (which often featured covers of dinosaur rock chestnuts). But artistically, it works much better. On some pieces, Lams, Richards and Moriya round out their sound with percussion, bass and some strings. But as usual, the most stunning moments come when three guitars work together to create otherworldly sounds. A bit more abstract than most CGT releases, but the best I've heard. Wowsers.

    Marian Call
    Something Fierce 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    A whole passel of songs in the key of folky pop. Marian Call has one of those voices that settles right into this vaguely showy and goofy world. Yes, these are stylings, but they're styled very nicely.

    Call veers a bit closer to the mannered folk than orchestrated pop, but that might simply be because of budgetary concerns. Or maybe not, as she deftly proves that banjo and trumpet blend quite nicely.

    Both the music and lyrics trend toward the clever, which does elicit the occasional groan. Such are the pitfalls of this sound. I can live with it. And with 19 songs to choose from, I found plenty to adore.

    Yeah, I think I might have edited this down to a single CD, but Call crowdsourced this, and she might have been beholden a bit to her benefactors. That's cool. On the whole, more is better. Quite the bowl of fun.

    Call Me Lightning
    The Trouble We're In
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    I'm beginning to think there's a trend toward prog-influenced hardcore. In truth, Call Me Lightning is hardcore in attitude only, but the devastation these songs leave in their wake has all the hallmarks of a massive attack.

    Unlike the Alison Ranger album reviewed above, the sound on this disc is exceptionally clean and sharp. The general songwriting conventions and musical ambition are similar, but Call Me Lightning lies much closer to latter-day Guns N' Roses than, say, the Ex.

    Which isn't to say that these boys are sell-outs. Rather, they simply prefer to have all the trappings of a commercial rock sound and still stick to their wacko indie music rantings. Hey, as long as it works, right? Well, it works. Amazingly well.

    Yes, this is precisely the sort of adrenaline-pushing, intellect-tickling music that makes me shoot first and clean up later. I'm a sucker for blistering tunes that, oh, by the way, are skillfully crafted and far deeper than mere epidermis. And I'm pretty sure that there are at least a couple more people out there whose taste agrees with mine. Call Me Lightning is most satisfying.

    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    Loosely-recorded ethereal pop, with a sound that seems to be merely floating out of the speaker. Not what I expected from Thick. But that's cool with me.

    Melodically, Calliope has obviously spent years listening to brooding UK pop, from the Smiths to My Bloody Valentine. Everything seems to be just tinged with a minor key. That little feeling that tells you something isn't quite right.

    Not precisely my cup of tea, but Calliope pulls the trick off pretty well. There aren't that many overlays, so the simple, pretty sound can emanate from your stereo and not be cut off by something jarring.

    A cool (slightly psychedelic) pop disc. What's not to like?

    Train of Thought (remix) 7"
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    I got a full-length from these folks a while back (self-titled, on Thick), and the ethereal pop stuff was alternately cool and annoying. I remember liking the disc in general.

    The a-side is a remix of a song from that album. The song is reduced to a beat and vocals, with lots of things tossed in just under the level of average hearing. Nice and subtle, perfectly beautiful. It would make a great track for some intense, slow-motion part of a movie. Three minutes of this song and interspersed slow-motion shots... I shoulda gone to film school.

    But then I would never have heard this. The flip is "1:40 a.m.". It's as sly and understated as the remix, but without the beat. Yes, I know a lot of people who just wouldn't sit still long enough to appreciate something like this. If I had been drinking a few cokes before I reviewed it, who know?

    But I do like it. This is cool stuff that doesn't insult your intelligence. It challenges the listener to really get into the sound. A very good thing.

    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Meandering, occasionally maddening pop stuff. To call this introspective would be a horrific understatement. Calliope is so far underneath its own skin it's swimming in ... well, I think I'm taking that little metaphor a bit too far. Nonetheless, I hope you get my point.

    The melodies are disjointed, but they are sweet. You've just got to let them express themselves in their own time. Calliope cannot be rushed to do anything, especially when it comes to tying a song together. A couple of pieces here don't click until the very last thought is expressed.

    It sure helps to be able to float along with the flow. Impatient listeners will give up long before the good stuff arrives. Sometimes the moment of epiphany comes after the song is done. All of a sudden, it makes sense.

    I like challenging music. Calliope doesn't pander to ignorant listeners with short attention spans. Rather, these songs reward those who like to think about the music they hear. Dive in headfirst and let the experience move you.

    Sounds Like Circles Feel
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Calliope is all about fusion. Fusion of rock, jazz, funk, electronica, hip-hop and a few other sounds I can't quite put my finger on just yet. The result is an arresting set of low-key moody rockers. You know, lounge music for music snobs.

    Hey, I think that might be a catchphrase or something. Readers from a few years back might recall the derision I heaped upon most "lounge" acts, and so they've probably already picked up on my distinction. This is lounge done well, or perhaps more accurately, mellow mood rock for moderns.

    Wow, the hits just keep on coming. What Calliope does better than most is find a solid groove and then chill. The songs don't really go anywhere, but damn, they sound good. And the little stylistic and instrumental decorations about the edges subtly burnish the sound. Just enough to make my smile grow eight miles wide.

    Cool. As in cool. You know, cool. Very cool. Am I repeating myself? Maybe, but Calliope deserves as much praise as I can wring from my increasingly meager pen. Everything else written here is mush.

    Robert Calvert
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    While it seems most any British guitarist of importance in the last twenty years can claim to have passed through either Hawkwind or King Crimson, Robert Calvert does deserve the appellation "ex-Hawkwind".
    And this 1984 recording is an industrial extension of what Hawkwind has been doing for the past twenty-plus years.

    Certainly not listener-friendly, FREQ relates a picture of Great Britain in the early eighties, from the miners strike to the IRA to Margaret Thatcher's stodgy ass. And don't forget the music. The U.K. was sending us the new wave at the time. While very sterile and electronic, FREQ is still a perfect counterpart to the pop revolution of the time. You see, this record has soul.

    He cared, about the environment, about labor, about the poor schmucks who have to go in and clean up after the Irish bombers.

    Toss in 1980's single "Lord of the Hornets" (with fellow Hawkwind veteran Lemmy helping out), and you have a rather nice package.

    (Dead Teenager)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    The further evolution of Zeke, in a manner of speaking. In any case, these Seattle boys (including a couple of ex-Zekesters) take that nice, fuzzy stoner rock and give it a serious kick in the ass.

    The songs run almost three minutes apiece, epic by Zeke standards, but they fly by with all the fury of an April tornado. There's a big whoosh and then everything is blown to bits.

    To my ear, Camarosmith gets back to the basic core of rock and roll: loud guitars, bashing drums and kick-ass bass lines. If you've got all that, why do you need anything else?

    Got me. Camaosmith certainly qualifies as a guilty pleasure, but I'm gonna indulge myself as much as possible. Dive into the sludge and cavort to your heart's content.

    Hollowed-Out 7"
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    A couple shots of emo-core, with a nice nod to midtempo pop. I've heard it before, but Camber does a nice take on the form.

    "Hollowed-Out" is rather pretty, with the usual dreary lyrics. I particularly like the lead guitar line, which had a habit of surprising me.

    The flip, "Question Marks", is much more intense, with some of the throbbing rhythm work found with Jawbox and the like. The groove is great, and all the pieces fit together very well. Once again the lead line wends its way all over the map in an impressive way.

    Both are good songs, though I give the nod to the b-side. A solid effort all around.

    Beautiful Charade
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    I thought the stuff on the 7-inch was well-constructed and generally nicely performed. There was a question in my head, though, as to whether or not the songs suffered from so much contemplation.

    See, it's not supposed to sound like you're trying. At least, that's always been my theory. Still, Camber does such a fine job of crafting the emo-core (and talk about a genre where planning and painstaking effort are key), I can't get too hacked.

    The songs are gorgeous, and there is not one hair out of place. This is really a supreme production job by John Agnello. A solid piece of work all the way around. I'm not sure if punksters are ready for this kind of pinpoint precision, but then, that would be their loss.

    I liked this more and more as I listened. Patience is a virtue when it comes to this sort of music, and Camber shows more than enough.

    Anyway, I've Been There
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Another glistening foray into the emo realms. Camber is one of the more adventurous emo bands around, and this disc shows off many moods and feels. Bone-jarringly raucous, soft and tender, light and poppy, strident and terse. It's all here.

    And Camber does it even while maintaining a definite band sound. Sure, the songs range all over the map, but they still stay true to some notion of a true Camber. A rough, and impressive, trick.

    Even the production manages to change feels to suit the songs, though once again, there is a vaguely ragged quality that runs throughout. Sorta lo-fi, but it sharpens right up in the power pop moments. There folks know what they're doing.

    Simply knocked dead solid stiff once again. It just takes a taste of Camber to get completely knocked out. I'm already there, my friends, and this disc is only further proof.

    split 7" with Kid Brother Collective
    (Doom Nibbler)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Hey, I just reviewed the new Camber disc, and I was utterly knocked out. This split is with Kid Brother Collective, a band out of Flint, Mich.

    A typical Camber song: Raucous, complex and completely involving. The guys just have a way of drawing folks into their sound. Me, in any case. "The Long Goodbye" is fabulous.

    Kid Brother Collective's "Sketches of Spain" (not the jazz song) is somewhat more subdued, leading with a spare guitar line before bringing on the fuzz. In that way, it's a bit more by-the-book, but both the musical and lyrical ideas are intriguing. More than enough to make up for a somewhat generic emo song construction.

    Two solid (hell, much better than that) pieces. A most worthy seven-inch.

    Wake Up and Be Happy
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Further redefining the emo universe (or perhaps proving once and for all that emo isn't a sound, but rather a state of mind), Camber blazes forth with an album that is more catchy art rock (how's that for an oxymoron?) than anything else.

    Not so noodly as Radiohead, of course, but this puppy has its proggy moments. The sound retains that comfy punkish fuzz, but what lies behind that scrim is decidedly ambitious and complicated.

    And it all sounds so good. Camber still likes to bash out songs, no matter how involved they have become (and let's be fair; the guys never wrote a straight three-chord piece). That attitude extends to the production sound, which is tailored for aggression. Aggressive ideas as well as playing.

    Ambition is a great thing in a band, as long as it doesn't lead to pretentiousness. Camber easily stays on the hang-loose side of that divide. These guys don't hit you over the head with their brilliance. They let the music do the talking. And it says volumes, believe me.

    split EP with Brandtson, Seven Storey
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    One song from Brandtson, three from Camber and two from Seven Storey. Very punchy stuff, though it's interesting that the Brandtson stuff sounds a bit more cerebral than usual, while the (quite similar) Camber pieces sound much more off the cuff. Must be my expectations of the band in question.

    I'm not sure if there's really a theme to this set, other than really fine songs by great bands (well, Seven Storey is a one-man affair, but still). While each band did its recording separately, the sound achieved by each is startlingly similar to the others. I don't know if this intentional, but it sure does aid continuity.

    A great introduction to these three great acts. Fans will certainly want to hear this stuff, but this is the sort of release that brings in new admirers in exponential numbers. Simply outstanding.

    The Campbells
    The Inside of Out There
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    Largely the work of one J. Campbell, who seems intent on defining americana as broadly as possible.

    So you've got some Byrds (both with and without Gram Parsons), a dash of Love, more than a passing glance at Big Star and the fuzzy, epochal sweep of BJM. This is his third release, and it sure sounds like the kid from Gillette, Wyoming, has figured out what he wants to do.

    One song might be spacey, but the next is just as likely to be an intimate romp. Campbell has full command of his arsenal, and each of these songs radiates confidence. They are simply a joy to hear.

    It's rare to pick up an album, fall in love and then do it all over again as each song rolls by. The songs here are impeccable and played with an irresistible energy. One of the best I've heard in ages.

    Sacrilege remix double CD
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    I have no idea what the originals sound like, but these remixes are more than impressive. Sure, with names like Brian Eno, A Guy Called Gerald, Sonic Youth, Pete Shelley and the Orb bounding about, there's bound to be some good stuff.

    And that there is, from noise to electronica to ambient to the utterly indescribable. Like I said, I can't compare these with Can's original versions, but what I hear is rather astonishing.

    The sheer diversity of the moods and sounds on these two discs is strong enough to impress just about anyone. Add in some inspired sampling and creative editing, and you get this very tasty treat.

    Don't expect anything ordinary, and you'll be rewarded. There is a large amount of experimentation on these discs, and most it pays off in wondrous ways. Now I've got to dig up the Can albums and figure out just what the hell I missed.

    Sins of Mankind
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    The playing is by far their best. But I must say the spark of excitement is not there for me. Much like the Disincarnate album, I just can't get into it.

    And that's probably too bad for me. There is nothing wrong with the music (and like I said, the playing is great). It just seems a little calculated, a little dull.

    A lot of you like this, and that's perfectly fine by me. I simply cannot get emotionally involved, and to be honest, music that doesn't move me cannot get my support.

    The Cancer Conspiracy
    The Audio Medium
    (Big Wheel Recreation)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Three guys. Drums, bass, guitars (oh, and a little sax and keys thrown in when necessary). Compositions. Not songs. Compositions.

    I like it when people push the limits of music like this. And it's not that the Cancer Conspiracy is going where no band has gone before. Plenty of musicians have fused rock, jazz and classical ideas into something cool. These boys take that tradition and run freely.

    And so there are prog moments, noise moments, grunge moments, cool moments, bop moments, symphonic moments. You name it, it's probably here.

    Oh, yeah, this is a rock album. Let's not make any bones about that. The Cancer Conspiracy is a rock band, after all. There's just a whole lotta stuff goin' on within that whole "rock" thing. That's what the greats do, after all.

    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Candidate play that peculiarly British sort of neo-folk, stuff that rolls with the roots and still manages to drop in the occasional modern pop convention as well. The fusion is seamless; the songs are intricately-crafted gems.

    The songs here are inspired by The Wicker Man, a movie I've heard of but have never seen. This album makes me want to drop what I'm doing (writing reviews is hard work, folks) and go rent the puppy. Inspired? I sure am.

    The sound is lush and full, giving the acoustic guitars plenty of room to round out, and enveloping everything else in an organic blanket. This music is connected to the earth in ways that I can't begin to explain. And I'm guessing that's intentional.

    Simply a breathtaking experience. I wasn't familiar with Candidate before hearing this disc, but now I am similarly inspired to haul in the band's earlier works. You'd be surprised how rarely that happens to me. This album is simply unforgettable.

    Unloved and Weeded Out
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    At once really catchy and grotesquely offensive. I don't think I've heard anything this cool in some time. Matt from Relapse warned me I might like this...

    Okay, okay, so he was right. And a few of you progressive types out there in radioland have picked up on this as well. Which is good, because the godfathers of industrial have all descended from the mountaintop and entered major-label (and mediocre release) hell. Time for nee blood to kick some life into the genre.

    Great music for an S & M session. You could watch the welts grow as you writhe to the beat. Not many people dare record (or release) intense efforts like this. The world would be a much better place if folks did.

    Truly an act of extreme depravity. And I love it.

    David Candy
    Play Power
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    The liners say, "Ian Svenonious plays David Candy." And the album comes off as some kind of performance art, an intensely earnest interpretation of 60s psychedelic party pop sung by a smarmy singer.

    I'll say this: The disc never gets boring. Weird? Often. Especially when "David Candy" goes off on spoken-word rambles. There's a 19-minute piece called "Diary of a Genius" that seems to take this whole concept to the edge.

    I admire the artistic purity of the vision behind this album. Full-bore creativity focused like a laser on some of the more self-indulgent music of the century. I'm not sure people are supposed to "like" this.

    More like "dig" it, man. And I don't. Not exactly. While I think Svenonious succeeds in bringing David Candy to life, I'm not sure why he did it in the first place. Maybe I'm looking for something that's just not here. Maybe I should just be happy with what I can hear. I dunno.

    Candy Planet
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Alt pop in the later Camper Van style, with Laura Arias' vocals kinda oozing about. Pleasant, without any guilt.

    Nothing stunning or jarring, just simple pop music with the odd jangly guitar break. Like earlier Transvision Vamp, I guess. Though not as pretentious or silly.

    I'm really struggling here. I like the disc well enough, and I can't find any real problems. But I also can't get into rave mode. Something's missing, and I can't place it. This isn't overly generic or dull, and some of the hooks are really great. But still...

    I can think of many better albums, but popheads will probably bliss out over this one. Wish I could explain myself better. That would really help.

    The Candy Snatchers
    Human Zoo!
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Whiskey-soaked punks a-blazin', right in the middle of that awesome Humpers/New Bomb Turks territory. Always one step from being out-of-control, but always, always a wonderful blaze of color. Punk rock is all about letting loose, and the Candy Snatchers haven't seen their restraints in ages.

    Simple, bar-ready tunes, distortion on max, vocals set to full howl and tempo kicked through the roof. Oof. An utterly addictive adrenaline rush, with hooks. Impossible to resist.

    Recorded with a great live sound. Very few overdubs, I'm guessing. If they're there, I'm even more impressed. This disc sounds thrown-together, in the best sense. Loosey-goosey tunes ripped off like chunks of meat, swallowed whole.

    Naw, I didn't absolutely love this or anything. I mean, fookin' hell (way too many Irish novels recently). Does it make sense? Does it have to? All you've got to do is turn this up to get the proper dosage. And I promise it will do you well.

    The Candyskins
    Death of a Minor TV Celebrity
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Dreamy power pop from across the sea. With the advent of Semisonic and the full-fledged popular acceptance of pop music (at least for the moment), the Candyskins sound like they're ready for the big time.

    Thoroughly punchy production kicks the tunes out one right after another, though this power is somewhat offset by languid pacing within even the uptempo songs. You know, like the Posies without sounding much like the Posies. I've got a feeling I'm just not making myself clear at all...

    What this does sound like is Semisonic, without cribbing excessively (can you really steal anything when it comes to power pop?). And since Semisonic does its best to sound like a Britpop band, I guess it's only fitting that a Brit band comes along to lay proper claim to the sound.

    One of a million doing it, I know, but the Candyskins do it well. The songs are delicately written and then bashed out with a certain fury. A number of sonic paradoxes, all of which makes for good music. Which is what anyone will find on this disc.

    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Dark, mechanical fare. Growling vocals rasping over edgy guitars and gothic rhythm tracks. A gloaming, pulsating mass of goo from the netherworlds.

    Perhaps I'm overstating, but I think not. The music is very simple, and it works very well. The creepy effect comes from the sparse arrangements as well as the doomy lyrics. Many folks get too excited and wrap music like this up into an overorchestrated mess, but Canister is right on track.

    Less is often more, as in evidence here. The lean songs are strengthened by a rather organic production sound. While this is drum machine industrial fare, Canister manages to sound very much like a live act. This music is a living beast.

    An excellent production, particularly for a self-released disc. These folks know what they're doing.

    Canned Heat
    Boogie 2000
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    The producer's notes say that Canned Heat never got enough credit for bringing real blooze 'n' boogie to the white masses. That's probably true, and despite a sometimes heavy hand in the engineer's booth, this disc is a decent case in point.

    This disc kicks off with two great songs, "Wait and See" and "Last Man," two tunes which cause spontaneous blistering. In particular, "Last Man" sizzles. It's fiery boogie and angry lyrics exemplify the sound.

    After that, Canned Heat kicks back. The album really begins to drag, and while the songs are competent, they are not inspired. Not like the first two tunes, in any case. Hell, it's amazing enough that something called Canned Heat (no original members are left, though a couple members have been with the band for more than 30 years) put out an album with a couple good songs.

    Which is what this is. Yeah, the rest of the disc is perfectly fine, certainly better than filler, but not particularly memorable. Still, "Last Man" is up on my list of good songs of the year. That counts for something.

    1967-1976 The Boogie House Tapes 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    There's a guy in Belgium named Walter de Paduwa who likes to collect all sorts of boogie recordings. Tapes, vinyl and probably even CDs these days. Folks call him Dr. Boogie. Anyway, the good doctor has a cache of Canned Heat live tapes, radio and TV appearances and studio outtakes from the time when the band was fairly well-known, and this collection culls some of the better performances from those tapes.

    Listening to this stuff, I'm just amazed that Canned Heat earned any mainstream acclaim at all. It's not that the playing is horrible. Just the opposite: These white boys sure know how to play the blues. But they arrived at the one time in American pop history that blues proficiency could translate to mass appeal, even if only for a couple of years.

    The energy levels and sound quality do jump around as the collection jumps from tape to tape. In that way, consistency is lacking. On the other hand, this is the time when the band had the ability and confidence to really give the blues their due. There are too many amazing moments here to mention.

    If you ever wondered how it was that Canned Heat achieved legendary status, these tapes oughta help. Not so much a document as a personal mix tape, this set does Canned Heat right.

    Cannibal Corpse
    Tomb of the Mutilated
    (Metal Blade-Relativity)
    reviewed in issue #20, 9/15/92

    Music: out of control

    Vocals: completely unrecognizable

    Verdict: must be the new Cannibal Corpse

    Yes, one of the most popular death metal bands in the world has returned with another album. The cover is almost tasteful compared to their previous efforts, and the music is slowed down a bit. I recognize the vocals as such, but enunciation is not a CC priority.

    I have never really grooved on these guys, but ay fool can recognize popularity. CC have gotten better (by my standards, anyway) and that should be recognized. You're gonna play this no matter what I say, so go on ahead.

    Hammer Smashed Face EP
    (Metal Blade-RED)
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    I'd really hate to accuse the guys of it, but Cannibal Corpse exhibits real musical growth and sophistication here.

    I know, all of you are used to death metal as fast and slurpy as it comes, but I detect real signs of a little doom influence coming in, and until the end of "Hammer", I didn't hear that alto scream I thought only a steer becoming that way could make.

    Due to ignorance and a bad memory (I was told before this came out), I don't know who did "The Exorcist" first, so I can't compare it to the original. But this version is nice. Ditto the Sabbath cover.

    While I don't think we'll be hearing any keyboards soon, this EP does bode well for Cannibal Corpse's (dare I say it?) creative future.

    The Bleeding
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94 Having gone about as many records as a traditional death metal band can, Cannibal Corpse decide to follow Slayer, Morbid Angel and a few others by slowing things down a lot.

    Sure, there's a good deal of double-bass drum work, but the vocals remain subdued, with very little of the CC "yap-yap-yap, yap-yap-yap-yap-yap" trademark style.

    Actually, I hear a bunch of later-day Slayer in this record. And while I like that more than earlier Cannibal Corpse, I wish the guys had stuck to their guns, or at least tried to "mature" in a unique way. Feeding your old sound Seconal usually will not attract more listeners, and old fans just might get turned off. Oh well.

    See also Six Feet Under.

    Cannibal Ox
    F Word 12"
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Remixed by RJD2, this single from The Cold Vein contains clean, dirty and instrumental versions. Cannibal Ox streams his rhymes out as they fall from consciousness, but he still flows with the grooves.

    This remix gives the song a cool feel (I haven't heard the original, so I can't compare the two), though still decidedly insistent. The song slowly creeps up on you, finally laying on the full trip after a suitable buildup.

    Even so, there's nothing bombastic here. Just a smooth ride. And a most invigorating one at that.

    Caitlin Canty Reckless Skyline
    reviewed 3/27/15

    Modern roots music has almost too many influences to keep the sound grounded in one genre. Some folks like to use the term "americana," but that catch-all is really to indistinct to be descriptive. Which then makes it that much harder to characterize Caitlin Canty.

    She's just as comfortable spinning soft-spoken singer-songwriter rambles as she is laying down some serious guitar licks and grinding down the rock. Her most obvious influence is Neil Young (she even covers "Unknown Legend" on this set, but "Southern Man" is her composition, not Young's), so much so that she seems intent on channeling just about every phase of his career on one album.

    Canty is much more at ease with the blues than Young, giving them a bit of the Led Zep fuzz treatment. And after dipping her toes into those waters, she's happy to veer back into more contemplative fare. The entire album is a lot like that, whipsawing from one feel to another, with only Canty's voice to tie everything together.

    Strictly speaking, this isn't roots music, or americana or whatever. It's Caitlin Canty music. She seems at home with whatever song she's spinning, which eases the potentially jarring diversity of the sounds. Very few artists can shift gears like this, and even fewer can do so successfully. Canty is a curious and inventive songwriter, and she doesn't seem to have any limits to her explorations.

    This album exudes confidence. Caitlin Canty is an artist who may not know exactly where she's going, but she sounds like she's sure she's gonna make it.

    Joey Cape
    (and Tony Sly)
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    The frontmen for No Use for a Name (Tony Sly) and Lagwagon (Joey Cape) strip away the electric guitars and plunk down simpler versions of their songs. Well, sort of.

    Sly's six pieces (each guy recorded five old songs and one new one) are just him and his guitar, with a little keyboard and percussion here and there. Not stripped down, though. The guitar has an astonishing amount of echo to it, and ubiquitous producer Ryan Greene multitracked both the guitar parts and the vocals. All that's missing is the rest of the band. I'm not sure this stuff is better than NUFAN, but it is still interesting.

    Cape's tracks are even more adventurous. For starters, he's brought in a number of his Bad Astronaut cohorts to play strings, banjo, piano and whatever else needed to be done. And while the five "old" songs here were originally done by Lagwagon, these tracks are steeped in that proggy, art-punk Bad Astronaut vibe. Which is just fine by me.

    Acoustic? Well... let's just say two talented guys decided to goof around. And they goofed in most excellent ways. This isn't punk music, but it's good music. In the end, nothing else matters.

    Cape Snow
    Cape Snow
    (Burst & Bloom)
    reviewed 8/31/15

    The origin story is almost as charming as the luminous result: Bree Scanlon sang songs into her iPhone, and Dylan Metrano and Guy Capecelatro III of Tiger Saw wrote music to fit. A few more folks were called in to fill out the sound, Scanlon recorded her vocals in a more traditional way and here's the result.

    Sounds a lot like the vague lounge country-rock of the 70s--filtered through a millennial indie rock crucible. Mostly lounge, actually, with more than a bit of Bacharachian arrangement going on. Imagine a more diffuse Aimee Mann, I suppose. Scanlon's vocals are fuller and lusher than the music that accompanies them, and that suits these songs just fine. In the end, this album is all about her voice, and it carries the day.

    Which is a compliment--not a complaint--about the music and production. The whole is served by Metrano and Capecelatro's restraint. When you have something this beautiful, you don't need to put on makeup by the trowel.

    There's no way of telling if this collaboration will bear any more fruit. But if this is a solitary effort, it stands alone quite nicely. With any luck, the new old gang will get together again and thrill us even more.

    Capillary Action
    (Pangaea Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    If the Fucking Champs are the, um, champs of instrumental geek hard rock, then Capillary Action is the champ of instrumental geek rock. Incorporating elements of math and all sorts of other abstract post-rock movements, these songs trip merrily along, their lines intersecting where they can have the largest impact.

    What's somewhat unusual here is the use of organ. Most bands of this sort want to keep their sound clean and clear, and an organ certainly does muddy up the works. But that's exactly what gives these songs their humanity. They are geeky, but with a certain charm as well.

    And unlike some plyers of these waters, Capillary Action makes sure that its lines incorporate a modicum of melody and structure. These songs aren't all about a wild field trip to the frontal lobes--though you may pack your bags, if you wish.

    A gentle take on a sound I truly adore. I'm a big fan of music that makes me think, and these boys have enough ideas to keep me occupied for months. A solid set.

    Capitol Eye
    Mood Swingz
    (77 Records)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Alright, so the rap/metal/hardcore sound has been around for a while. And there are plenty of popular players out there. Indeed, even mainstream hip-hop is beginning to trend heavier. But Capitol Eye brings the goods from both the riffage and the rhymin' sides.

    The themes are familiar: Gangsta bangin', rollin' for action, life on the streets, and some garden variety misogyny (though not nearly as severe as most). The thing is, this mix of styles has the potential for extreme catchiness. And Capitol Eye has plugged into that, creating irrepressible choruses and flamin' riffola.

    There's a level of complexity here that puts the boys above the rest. Instead of taking small pieces of different styles and melding them to a fairly redundant core, Capitol Eye has instead fused the best elements of hip-hop, hardcore rage, latin grooves and more. The songs aren't one dumb trip after another, but instead come across as revelation after revelation.

    A blistering shot into the sides of the big boys. Bands like Capitol Eye are the future. These guys may be too good for mainstream acceptance, but those in the know will appreciate the fine work heard here.

    Capitol K
    Island Row
    (XL-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Yet another of the Beggars Banquet UK special imports, Capitol K plies its pop seas with a collage rudder. These songs are meticulously assembled piece by piece, and yet the final sound is anything but mechanical.

    Rather, there are joyous grooves in these bouncy songs. No, the band (well, Kristian Craig Robinson, who is Capitol K) is careful to make sure that the songs come together, no matter how goofy or warped the elements may be.

    And trust me, there are plenty of strange moments. Robinson is a fan of minor keys and blue notes, and he uses his samples and loops to further those interests. There's a wide range of emotion within this album, and Robinson is a master of controlling the mood.

    Now, it's impossible to get past the fact that this is an album of craft. Robinson doesn't hide his seams, but rather revels in them. He uses dissonance and uneven segues to complete his thoughts. Not the easiest thing to do, but a task that seems to have been achieved effortlessly. A most impressive set.

    The Capitol Years
    Meet Yr Acres
    (Full Frame-Poor Poor)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    This disc has that obsessive "one-man" sound to it. All of the playing credits go to someone called "Shai, son of Eli," so I'm thinking my instincts are pretty solid.

    Basically, The Capitol Years channels that thick, anthemic rock of the mid-to-late 60s. Stonesey, Whoish kinda stuff. And there's just not the give-and-take of a band. One hand seems to be controlling these songs, and that hand doesn't know when to ease off the pedal.

    For better and worse. The idiosyncrasies (particularly in the use of strummed guitar) pile up quickly, and the way I hear this, either you're gonna dig it or just run away screaming. There's no middle ground. I like such bold statements. I like them better when they really hit home.

    And the Capitol Years strikes me right between the eyes. Must be my kinda madness. I'll let this throttle my ears any day.

    Let Them Drink
    (Burn and Shiver)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Yes, these boys do have a bit of the garage basher in them, but what we have here is more finely-crafted pop, replete with sculpted harmonies and tight, yet wandering, hooks. Something like the Beatles meets the Who, with some distortion on the side.

    No, this album isn't that good. I've never heard the band that could live up to that description. I was just trying to give an idea of feel. And the Capitol Years truly do evoke the melancholy spirit of the late 60s. I somehow doubt that this ennui is pharmaceutical in nature, but it's there nonetheless.

    And damn, does it sound good. There are moments right out of Sgt. Peppers or Abbey Road, especially when a lead guitar line echoes out across an electric piano chord. The Capitol Years have been working this material for some time. Despite their occasional whipsaw approach to songwriting (entire songs within songs at times), the transitions are flawless.

    This is the sort of album that would give my dad a serious case of deja vu. You can decide if that's a good thing or not. Me, I like it. Quite an accomplishment in sound.

    Capsize 7
    Cudge 7"
    (Pig Zen's Pace)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    Yeah, there are semblances to other NC pop acts like Superchunk and Polvo, but this is a little heavier than those folk usually get.

    A nifty trick of addictive rhythms with the occasional guitar buzz attack at the chorus, so you know to bang your heads at the right time, I suppose.

    I must admit I thought this approach was cool when I heard Poster Children for the first time, but it's starting to wear on me. To these guys's credit, however, they wrote two good songs and present them rather nicely on this cool slab.

    Combining that odd psychedelic scream movement and the post-punk riffola that bands like Girls Against Boys make so attractive, Capsize 7 are awful accomplished for such a release as this. A good granola fix.

    Subgenius 7"
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    A few years back, this band's "Cudge" 7" really blew me away. I heard their album some time later (Caroline sent it to my brothers--the Lies guys--but not to me) and got a little bummed. I thought it was good, but it didn't blow me away.

    And this strikes me the same way. The music seems almost a little too complicated, almost like the band is working too hard to make great music. And the lyrics are not nearly as sharp as on that long-ago single. I will say that I like the instrumental b-side better, and perhaps the band should work a little more on making the words and lyrical melody fit the music a bit better.

    As a college-pop band in the style of Archers of Loaf or (what used to be) Treepeople, Capsize 7 fulfills all the technical requirements of competence. The soul is what seems to be lacking. I hope inspiration is just a moment away.

    (Pig Zen Space)
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    Almost 17 years ago, I got a 7" from Capsize 7. One of the songs was "Scout." I still love that song. And I loved the way Capsize 7 worked the whole mid-90s indie rock thing. And then, after a couple singles, an album on Caroline and a self-released EP, Capsize 7 disappeared. With an album in the can.

    Of course, musicians move on. These days, Joe Taylor is half of Blag'ard. But he, too, liked Capsize 7. And because he was the band's guitarist, he was able to (finally) release the long-lost second Capsize 7 full-length.

    This is it. Fourteen-year-old music that sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Or tomorrow. Yeah, I know, some folks simply imprint on a sound and never let go. I'll cop to that. But this is simply amazing stuff. Capsize 7 didn't cheese out enough to attract a mass audience, but folks who fondly remember bands like Arcwelder and the like will surely find a (large) place in their hearts for this.

    Yes, we are talking nostalgia. Nostalgia for damned good music. I'm not saying folks don't make music like this today...no, I think I will. People don't make music quite like this today, and that's just fine. But Capsize 7 had something, and thankfully we now have thirteen more excellent examples of that awesomeness. It's never too late to release good music.

    The Capstan Shafts
    Ample Tribes for Sullen King Pounder EP
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    Hey, hey, the levels are pegged. Pegged! Really, man, buy better mikes. Or maybe don't record into an old Walkman. Or simply set the levels correctly.

    Okay, that's out of my system. It's actually kinda interesting how badly recorded this is. Clunky roots-inflected rock tunes aren't especially meant to sound this freakin' distorted (even ol' Neil Young would blanch if he heard this), but apart from being distracting, the weird production (I think it might even have been intentional) doesn't destroy the power of the songs. They're purty damned good.

    Enough to make me want to hear more, anyway. The Capstan Shafts aren't exactly breaking new ground (except in the sound, perhaps), but the songs are solid and the rollicking feel of the playing is most engaging. Fun, if way too fuzzy.

    Her Chapbook Called "Tiny Grey Radio" EP
    reviewed in issue #258, October 2004

    I think this is a later set of songs than the ones I reviewed last issue. Kinda hard to tell, but that's my guess. The songs are exceptionally short (the seven tracks here can't even make it to 11 minutes total), but the same clunky, charming songwriting is present. The production is still pretty bad (there's no need to peg the levels on acoustic songs), but the talent shines through nonetheless.

    Sealcull Rebellion EP
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Another set of fine jangly songs (six in all) played with skill and verve. The recording is marginally better--only the vocals are seriously distorted this time out. I suppose this lo-fi, pin-the-needles approach is intentional (by now, Dean Wells ought to have heard about it enough to change if he wanted), though I think a slightly less contrast-ridden sound would better flesh out his wonderful songs.

    Unreconstructed Lo-Fi Whore EP
    (Ladder the Christmas Monkey Records)
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    Yet another set of songs from Dean Wells, recorded in the offhanded style described in the title. I suppose it's fair to say he means the stuff to sound like this. Anyway, these songs might well be his best yet--and with his prodigious output, that's hard to believe. It's kind like if Uncle Tupelo had decided to combine country music and Sonic Youth, as opposed to country and the 'Mats. And that's purty durned cool. One of these days, Wells ought to cull the best of these EPs and put out a monster album.

    The Night Shrine of Well-Groomed Lawns EP
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Yet another installment in the progression that is the Capstan Shafts. The levels aren't mashed in the red here, but then, the songs are much more fragmentary. As Dean Wells's work becomes t hat much more conventionally listenable, the songs themselves get stranger. Still, few folks can tap into a primal vein as well as this.

    The Sun Don't Get Things Done (Without a Little Help from Everyone) EP
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Dean Wells is one prolific guy. I think I've said that before. He crafts scads of these lo-fi gems, and while I still must protest that even a modicum of studio expertise would make all the difference, I can't complain about the writing or the performances. I wonder when he'll run out of gas.

    The Sleeved and Granddaughters of the Blacklist
    Euridice Proudhon
    reviewed in issue #275, June 2006

    Two full-length efforts from Dean Wells and whoever else might be part of the Capstan Shafts. Wells is a somewhat mysterious figure, cranking out an EP every month or two (you can scour my archives to find any number of reviews in the last year) in handmade envolopes to trolls of the underground like me. The songs are short (generally limited to two minutes or less), but there are many more tracks than usual on these two albums.

    Blacklist contains 20 songs, and the sound is very similar to prvious efforts: lo-fi to the extreme. I will say, though, that the levels aren't quite as pegged as usual, so there isn't quite so much distortion around the edges. That lets the songs work a bit more of their charm. I like that, myself.

    As for Euridice, well, it only makes sense that if Wells were to associate with a label, it would be one like Kittridge that specializes in artists who have lengthy self-released catalogs. The mastering is much better--this stuff is hardly lo-fi. The songs jump out from the speakers...and they really benefit from the treatment. A lot of folks reference GBV when talking about Capstan Shafts, but the sonic improvement here puts me in more of a Brian Jonestown Massacre mood.

    The Kittridge album is superior, if only for the better sound. I've always thought Wells's songs were great, and Euridice proves it. Sometimes you really do have to hear what you're missing to appreciate the difference. And boy, were we missing a lot.

    The Megafauna Undermined (Slight)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Another month, another 20 songs on yet another record label. Is Dean Wells really recording more than a dozen songs a month, or has he just holed himself up for years and is just now letting loose the floodgates? Anyway, these songs seem to be a bit looser than previous, with slightly better production than most of the self-released stuff--but not quite as sharp as the Kittridge album. The mystifying legend continues.

    The Capsules
    Someone for Everyone
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    At first, I thought the name of this album was Something for Everyone. Which wouldn't be right. The Capsules play a repetitive form of pop music that is a delight to my ears but just might piss off someone with less, shall we say, eclectic taste.

    Remember My Bloody Valentine before Loveless? Something like that. The production sticks to the background, allowing Julie Shields's astonishingly voice to ring out and carry the show. I suppose there's a Galaxie 500 feel to this puppy as well, but the Capsules are a bit more varied in their approach.

    Still, the slow to mid-tempo songs move along with a light grace, and there is something of a minimalist approach to the arrangements. This is a trio, and it sounds like one. The Capsules make very little effort to disguise their numbers, but that's cool. Let the songs speak for themselves.

    Let them sing, I should say. Let Shields sing and sing and sing. These pieces play to her strengths, and she's got a few. Quite an entrancing album.

    Northern Lights & Southern Skies
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    Dreamy, burble-driven electro-pop. Julie Shields applies the vocals with a fine ethereal gauze, and the music slips nicely into its grooves.

    Pretty much standard issue, but of the highest quality. There's no shame in completely defining a sound. The Capsules don't find anything new in these mines, but their finish is first rate.

    And lovely, too. Pretty is as pretty does, and these songs weave their enchantments with ease. The sound is just sharp enough to leave a mark.

    Simply enjoyable. I don't have a whole lot more to offer than that, but it's more than enough for me.

    Captain Bringdown and the Buzzkillers
    Feel Good Tunes EP
    (Hairball 8)
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    Solid ska tuneage. Captain Bringdown and company stray from the punk-ska formula every now and again, but every song ends up in power skank mode by the end. And that's fine with me. These folks provide plenty of tasty hooks.

    I guess that's the trick with most anything. After all, this formula hasn't been particularly altered since the days of OpIvy--though the production sound has improved 1000 percent, of course. Not that such a thing makes the music any better, of course.

    But I digress. These are, indeed, feel good tunes. Six tight, well-constructed punk ska pieces played with skill and aplomb. Could I pick these folks out of a lineup? Maybe, maybe not. Still, solid songwriting is nothing to sneeze at. Plenty of fun.

    Captain Jack
    Nowhere Fast
    (Fall Records)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Ooh, sounds like indie rock. You know, the stuff that crashed through from college radio into the mainstream for about two seconds in the late 80s. A reliance on the backbeat and excessively fuzzy lead guitar lines. Oh yeah, and a decidedly atonal singer.

    Don't think I'm slaggin'. That's just the style. I'm simply describing. Indie rock had one thing going for it: An almost vicious energy. Even when the songs trend toward midtempo there's a live line somewhere.

    Captain Jack carries on well enough. I mean, I've heard this stuff a thousand times before, and this trio is a bit faceless. Even when the guys branch out into a little ska or something, they don't really make much of an impression.

    And that's my final take, really. Captain Jack is a pleasant enough band, the sorta thing I wouldn't mind hearing warm up for a national act at the local club. But the songs here just don't rise above that. Nothing wrong with simple aspirations, certainly. Captain Jack needs to find some distinctive qualities if it wants to really move forward.

    Captives' Dance
    When I Walk CD5
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Cheap 'n' sleazy metal. Very much Crue-influenced, though the female vocals do add a twist. There's a cool energy running through the stuff, I just wish the songs themselves matched the effort.

    The riffage is derivative, and the songs themselves just aren't inspired. They're fast and loud, but there's nothing here to really latch onto. These songs almost sound like parodies.

    I know they're not meant that way. But like Heshie on "the Sopranos" said, "There's a hit, and there's not a hit. This is not a hit." I can't even begin to suggest where to begin. I'd be more inclined to start over.

    Car 44
    Platinum Holes
    (Thirsty Ear)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    I was just talking about Hammerbox with the Carrie Akre review, and now here's Car 44, which continues in the same tradition. The sound is poppier and somewhat less heavy, but boy, does this stuff move.

    There's something about this style of uptempo rock fronted by an alto-voiced woman that just screams "rock and roll!" Of course, the assembled parts are just one piece. The songs have to work as well.

    These do. I did want a bit of a rougher edge on the sound (sometimes the guitars seem to shy away from the forefront), but Dahna Rowe's vocals are always front and center. Right where they should be.

    Okay, there are moments where Car 44 tries to "make a statement," a couple of overwritten songs that try to prove that this great music isn't an accident. Hey guys, this stuff has to remain simple to work. Start layering too much stuff on top and you lose the fire that drives the engine. For the most part, Car 44 is revving high.

    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Lilting, hesitant pop music. Reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band. David Flick's vocals are a dead ringer (he even gets the Eddie Vedder references down pat), and the band is pretty much the same sort of thing.

    Which leads to the obvious question. Why? Sure, Dave Matthews Band is monstrously huge, but can you really score big by copiously copying a style like that?

    Well, yeah. Ask Candlebox. Ask Stone Temple Pilots. Ask Alanis Morissette. Of course straight out theft is profitable. But the music, the music just has no life. It's well-played, and generally enthusiastically so, but this is far too close to the real thing. We've not talking about an influence here. That was back up the road a ways.

    Sure, bands learn how to play by imitating others. Cover band work, etc., is great for building up chops. But not for recording. Not for posterity. Not here.

    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    There are those who refer to Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies of Sickness as the most brutal things they have ever heard.

    Heartwork cannot be confused with those discs (actually, in the U.S. they wee originally released on one disc). Because Jeff Walker and pals have decided to try and take death metal to the masses and still stick to some of the roots.

    This is the most vicious thing I've ever heard distributed by a major label. And when compared to other folk who are trying to do this sort of death metal, Carcass blows them away.

    A few folk have told me they think this album sucks. Obviously not too many, because Carcass almost passed over Sepultura to debut at #1 (#2 ain't bad). But to those of you who don't like the new direction (and it's not that new), compare this to the last Napalm Death album, or even the new Entombed. And tell me what you think.

    Still masters of their domain.

    reviewed in issue #110, 5/27/96

    The final output (excluding the forthcoming rarities album) from this new-legendary band, which sees Jeff Walker's final evolution into a new-age Lemmy.

    Anyone who has seen the band live knows exactly what I'm talking about. Nothing wrong with emulating one of the more influential bassists in loud music history. And this album finds more melodic guitar lines and bouncy bass licks than any previous Carcass album.

    The songs trend shorter again (finally), and the construction is definitely more in the punk/metal vein of the NWOBHM in general (and Motorhead in particular). Hey, ever think you'd be listening to a catchy Carcass album? Whoa, man...

    Old fans will not be amused, I'm sure. This is light years away from Reek of Putrefaction, and the production is at once dirtier and far more commercial than on Heartwork. Kinda weird that Carcass may actually enjoy widespread success in the US after it has broken up. Not completely unheard of, of course, but still.

    I'm still not sure I like this as a Carcass album. Like many old fans, I'm locked in to an idea of the band as a real innovator, with vicious guitars licks that keep going and going and that thrashing bass attack that doesn't let up. On the other hand, I can't deny that this is one of the more powerful albums I've heard this year. Every song has that indescribable "it" that makes tunes catchy and irresistible.

    fine. This is the album Motorhead has been trying to record for the last ten years. If Walker, Steer and company can handle that, then so can I.

    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Hoo boy, these Cardia boys are sure their songs are damned important. This album is just drenched in that dramatic "you are now listening to the greatest band in the world" sound. And, well, Cardia isn't quite up to that billing.

    But the boys are pretty good. Good enough to pique my interest despite my general aversion to such over-the-top pretentiousness. There are plenty of layers to peel, and as I get closer and closer to the core sound, the more impressed I get. Underneath the late 80s U2 vibe lies a vibrant heart.

    One which is willing to take chances. More chances than the producer here allowed to creep out, but hey, there's hope for the future. These songs are quite well-written--witty as well as finely tunesmithed.

    Like I said, good enough for me to overlook that glitzy, excessively overbearing finish. I'd advise the boys to strip off a couple layers and allow the brilliance of their songs to shine. As it is, though, they just might get the attention they so obviously desire.

    (Fire Records)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    Eighteen years ago, Cardinal released its debut. Critic types loved it. I never heard it, but I have heard of it. That's the way it is with Cardinal. So anyway, folks kept talking about that first album and twelve years later (six years ago), it was re-issued. And still not many people noticed.

    So now Cardinal has put together a second album (eighteen years is certainly not the longest time period between first and second albums, but it's up there). And my guess is that no one will notice, even though there's plenty here to recommend.

    This sort of chamber pop has been done to death, but the subtle songs on this album are intriguing. Perhaps I put too much stock in perplexity, but I like having to think about my music.

    I can't believe how backhanded I'm getting here, and I like the album. There are some interesting side trips in these songs, and I liked the journey. Just don't expect to be overwhelmed. That's not these boys's bag at all.

    Cardinal Woolsey
    Paralyzed with Happiness
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Big fans of the dbs, Chris Stamey (yes, I know...) and all that. Pop licks that rev between acid and joyous, but always dripping with emotion.

    For an album that was obviously produced on a shoestring budget, Cardinal Woolsey (Kris Woolsey and friends) managed to create a wildly lush sound. Strings and horns in the right spots, playing point-counterpoint with the melodic ideas. This is even more difficult than it sounds.

    Not to stereotype or anything, but this is not the sound of a band from the greater NYC area. Cardinal Woolsey sounds like an Athens (Ga.) pop band (Matthew Sweet and Uncle Green also come to mind). These are hardly bad influences, I might note.

    Nerves stripped bare, emotions laid flat on the table. All with simply awesome pop songwriting surrounding the whole mess. I don't know if these folk have been doing this consistently or if this is a lucky shot in the dark. That wouldn't make much difference, anyway.

    Easily one of the best pop albums I've heard since Secaucus. In a completely different style, of course. I can't imagine a future without this disc getting played a lot. Simple as that.

    Caribbean Jazz Project
    Caribbean Jazz Project
    (Heads Up)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    When putting together a band of this name, the urge to break out the cheez factor and make an album for silly tourists to buy might have been pretty big.

    But the Caribbean Jazz Project does a nice job of walking the line between and amongst the various musical legacies its name implies. And while most of the rhythms (samba and others) are more South American than Caribbean in origin (to be really technical), quibbling gets you nowhere. Yeah, this is something your mom might like, but then, you might just dig it, too. The playing is great (particularly the sax and clarinet of Paquito D'Rivera) and while not terribly adventurous, the band still rips out quite a few nice moments.

    Easy listening that's not annoying. I can dig that.

    Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros
    Bad Out There
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    If you've been listening to recent Bob Dylan, you know the man has been steeping his sound in the blues, even while retaining his own remarkable feel for American music. Frank Carillo does much the same thing here. He's a bit more Tom Petty than Dylan, perhaps, but he sure knows how to rock out the blues.

    And not in that dreadful, ponderous white-boy blues style that is just far too tiresome. Most folks would probably through Carillo in Americana, that alt.alt.country catchall category. And while I wouldn't argue--these songs use rock and roots rather than blue conventions--I still say Carillo's heart is in the blues.

    Much like Americana icon Whiskeytown (when there was such a thing, of course), Carillo infuses his songs with so much feeling and blue atmosphere that it's hard to imagine these songs existing without the likes of Muddy Waters and Leadbelly.

    Simply lovely. In a kinda depressing, are-you-sure-it'll-be-alright? kinda way. Carillo makes good music. Call it what you want; I'll be listening to this puppy many more times.

    Where's My Love? CD5
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    Two songs, and a remix of the title track. That's it. And that's more than enough to fall for Caroline.

    Rising from the world of homespun laptop pop, this professionally-produced short set artfully transposes the minimalist world of personal electronic music into one that somehow manages to sound sleek, efficient and otherworldly.

    And yes, Caroline's voice has a lot to do with that last bit. Her take on ethereal vocals has steel underpinnings. There's no doubt about the strength that lies behind these songs. The future cannot come soon enough for my ears.

    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    And now, the album. My review of Caroline's "Where's My Love" single last year is one of the most accessed files on my site. Apparently lots of people were taken by her deceptively fragile voice and unusual way with words and went to extreme lengths (such as reading A&A) to learn more about her.

    The album opens incredibly slowly. Caroline (Lufkin) has put together some really great electronic backing tracks, but those first three songs are languid to the point of somnambulism. The voice is still there, but man, it's easy to drift off. And then I get it: That's what I'm supposed to do.

    Not fall asleep, of course, but simply fall into a trance. So by the time we get to "Where's My Love" it's almost like the sun rising. And, indeed, after that Caroline really starts to come on. If you've managed to fall under her spell, the songs that follow slide down the throat like Galliano Jello shots. Ewww, maybe that's not the best simile. Sorry.

    Still, as the album kicks into overdrive (as such), it's easy to understand why the album starts so slowly. Without that early introspection, there would be no counterpoint to the "kickin'" side of things. The single was great. This album is even greater. Better than I thought possible.

    Amy Armageddon
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    A west-coast version of Superchunk, with alternately heavier and peppier takes on the Chapel Hill juggernaut. I know, Superchunk didn't originate these riffs, either, but that's my most recent reference. And, Jesus, this sounds a lot like them folk.

    Now, to complete that comparison, !Carlos! also has a nose for awesome gritty pop anthems. Okay, so the sound has most certainly been appropriated (hell, you can hear the Pixies in here, too), I've gotta admit, !Carlos! does the job well. And whenever you hear a young band cranking out stuff like this, you have to be impressed.

    A little more experimentation and progression should move the band out of this "sounds like" phase and into it own realm. When that happens, !Carlos! has the talent to go anywhere and do whatever it wants. And I'll be right there, cheering my ass off.

    Family Tree 7"
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Carlos! (I can't make the upside-down exclamation point work right) is a pretty great band, and these tracks are two of my favorites from Amy Armageddon, the band's album.

    But I can't hear a difference between the tracks on the 7" and the album, and I'm kinda mystified. Yeah, this hearkens back to the old days of 7" single releases and the Top 40, but past that I'm not sure why this has been released.

    Of course, if you've never heard the band, then this is a fine introduction. If you like heavy pop, I'd suggest you buy the full-length. But if you want a taste before you jump in, then perhaps this is the score for you.

    Bigger Teeth
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    A nice evolution of sound this time out. Sure, !Carlos! is still trafficking in punk pop anthems, but I hear as much here from 7 Seconds and even some of that old-style Big Star stuff. Obviously, there are still some faint echoes of Superchunk, but this sond is much fuller and more complete.

    The songs are much more thought-out and crafted than before, but all that attention hasn't stripped the raw greatness from the music. Joy and pain, the ecstasy and the agony, all that is amplified and not hindered by this attention to detail.

    A true step forward. Even the production is much more assured. I'll admit that the sounds here are much more in step with current trends than the debut, but I'd like to think it's a happy coincidence. If not, well, then I guess I'm pleased the band moved forward.

    A solid pop album that covers the bases and then some. Lots of creative work within the form here, plenty to explore. Tightened up, but still impressive.

    Carnival of Shame
    Happy Alcoholidays 7"
    (Burnin' Records)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    The 7" would been enough, but I also found a copy of their new album, too. I hope you folks burned that Holiday sampler into the ground, 'cause it's a lot of fun.

    And so is the album. The neo-Elvine vocal stylings are choice when juxtaposed with the pop-hard core sound generated by the band (and me using pop simply means these boys have a fine sense of melody and song construction - it's no insult. Bad Religion is pop-hard core, too.).

    If tunes like "Passionate Evening," "Vigilante Penetration," "Daddy Lives" and "Black Girls" don't give you that lovin' feelin', then you are one cold bastard. Blast this and be happy.

    Neko Case & Her Boyfriends
    The Virginian
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    The idea of a member of Maow putting out a fairly traditional "old fashioned" country album isn't as weird as some might think. First, Maow's odd mix of rockabilly and punk isn't all that far from this stuff, and Case certainly has the voice to pull off this labor of love.

    And, anyway, the songs are much punchier than the Hank Williams and Patsy Cline stuff Case seems to have been aiming at replicating. Sounds a lot like the Flat Duo Jets (who Case identifies in the liners as her favorite band), and that's always a compliment coming from me.

    Projects like this always walk a thin line between slavish devotion and parody. Case manages to keep a firm foothold on the wire and make sit across the chasm with everyone still intact. Not many current country fans would dig this, but that's the point, after all.

    The unrestrained performances and one-take sound really help keep this album rolling along. Much more coherent than Maow, and in that way perhaps a better album, too. Well done.

    See also Maow.

    Peter Case
    Full Service No Waiting
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    As a member of the Plimsouls, Case helped reshape the sound of pop music, even if not many folks noticed at the time. His subsequent career has followed much the same path: intriguing and innovative tuns that a relative few have bothered to hear.

    Too bad, because songwriters like Case don't come along very often. Painfully direct lyrics which celebrate or excoriate life, depending on the whim of the moment. The instrumentation is extensive (fiddles, organ, harmonica and more alongside the general acoustic guitar, bass and drums), but the feel folksy. Case spins his voice smooth or raspy dependent on need, and the songs themselves quickly take flight under their own power.

    A carefully constructed album by a great craftsman. But even with all the detail, the music is loose and inviting. A soul cry can be a sonnet or a scream. Case may be a creature of craft, but his performance packs an emotional whallop.

    There are good albums and there are great albums. This one is at the top of the great list. I'm gonna be listening to this puppy for years to come. As should everyone else.

    Flying Saucer Blues
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Why Vanguard didn't ship this disc out to Sugar Hill (a recently-acquired label that houses such folks as James McMurtry, not the erstwhile rap label), I don't know. Since his 80s pop days, Case has increasingly leaned toward the roots singer-songwriter style, and that's a perfect fit for Sugar Hill.

    Oh well, at least this album is out there somewhere. The writing here is stronger than on Full Service No Waiting, and that's saying something. The songs rely on Case's acoustic guitar and his voice, but the window dressing is nice as well.

    That sound never gets overbearing, nor does it ever threaten to overshadow either Case's voice or his writing. A sparse, loose feel is what is called for, and that's just what he got here.

    Top to bottom, these are great songs. The performances are loose and relaxed, and as a result the tunes just roll off the disc. Start anywhere in here; there's no way to go wrong.

    Johnny Cash
    American Recordings
    (American Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Not to say "I told you so," but I've been rather aware of the growing "Johnny Cash is cool" movement for quite a few years now. Why, in the past three years at least six bands have covered old Cash tunes. At my old station, we played a "classic album" every Sunday night. When I suggested Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits, everyone said, "Oh, wow, yeah!"

    Everyone is amazed that Rick Rubin, of all people, should produce such a sparse album. Of course, Rubin would be most familiar with Cash's early sixties work, and while there isn't any boom-chicka-boom drumming, it still carries into his guitar work.

    Perhaps the pipes are a little worn, but that makes for some really spooky moments. And while you might laugh at Motley Crue's silly theatrical imagery, when Johnny says he shot her twice and she was dead, you believe him. Because his voice is so earnest and real.

    This is perhaps the darkest critics' album celebre since Lou Reed's New York. It seems the national music media need a catharsis every now and then. American Recordings just might work for you, too.

    reviewed in Money Whore issue #10, 12/2/96

    This album hasn't garnered the acclaim of American Recordings, and the difference is obvious from the get-go. Johnny got himself a backing band (whose day job is playing arenas with the name Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and there isn't a moment on this outing that gets as down and out as the highest moment on the last album.

    Alright, so Johnny's not dredging the deeps, searching for the spirit of redemption. Hey, you don't need to do that all the time. This set samples songwriters as diverse as Beck and Hal David (back to back, coincidentally), with more special guests than a Cannonball Run movie.

    Is it wrong for Johnny Cash to record a fairly happy, somewhat bashing album? Hell, this is the man that perfected boom-chicka-boom, and there's plenty of that archetypal backbeat in evidence here. Perhaps not as emotionally wrenching as its predecessor, Unchained still packs a wallop. And is damned fun to boot.

    It's nice to hear Johnny let loose and give a few whoops. This album deserves much better than it's gotten. If you have any feeling for old-time country music (when it went by the name of rock and roll), then this puppy is all wrapped up and waiting.

    Cash Audio
    (released under the name Cash Money)
    Black Hearts and Broken Wills
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Anyone who has had any relations with Touch and Go over the past few years knows Scott Giampino. As a label flunky, that is. Oh, he did some of the drumming on last year's Kill Donut outing, but I'm mostly used to "Now, you'll print these tour dates if I send them, right?"

    John Humphrey is better known musically, mostly as guitarist for that meanstreak band called God & Texas. His riffage hurts people.

    So they get together on a low-budget country grunge thing (and, really, it doesn't sound a damned thing like that, but get off my back) and ply a few songs for the masses. Guitar and drums only, but they don't sound anything like Flat Duo Jets.

    Confused? Good. So am I. My head hurts and I'm not sure if it has to do with the music (my #1 theory) or the stuff that I've been drinking (I thought it was Dr. Pepper, but there's been some chewy stuff floating to the surface the last couple of minutes; bad things, I think).

    Back to square one. I like this stuff. Not in any sort of outlandish way, but in a "you know, if Johnny Cash can do Soundgarden, I guess it only makes sense for Skin Yard to do Lynyrd Skynyrd." Or something like that.

    (released under the name Cash Money)
    Halos of Smoke and Fire
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    The cover may say "Hi-Fi Blues", but most every song on this album was recorded live to two-track, with the volume slides pinned to the top. Heavily distorted, throbbing examination of just what it means to dig the blues.

    For the uninitiated, the main components are John Humphrey (best known, I guess, for his guitar hacking with God & Texas) and Scott Giampino (best known for sending me lots of cool stuff from Touch and Go, and also a fine drummer in the John Bonham style). You might think that the sound would turn out thin or otherwise not as full as, say, a band with a bass player. Well, for one, Humphrey generally sticks to the lower three strings, and anyway, the fuzz-factor (angry stuff, not any of that pop fizz) is completely overloaded.

    Yes, this is the blues, and while Cash Money works its ass off to stay true to the olden days, current recording technology and modern equipment (mikes and the like, not computers, mind you) do help to produce the low, crashing wail that is a Cash Money trademark.

    Wild music, pure and simple. The way good ol' rock and roll should be flayed. Yeah, you can hear nods to a couple newer bands (Mule and particularly the Laughing Hyenas), but that comes from a sharing of influences (listed in the liners as Johnny Cash, Freddie King, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and Elvis Presley. Inclusive.). Thick, mean and utterly intense, Cash Money embodies rock and roll possessed by the spirit of the blues.

    Green Bullet
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Adding a full-time harmonica player and changing the name (something about a lawsuit from the Cash Money record label), the rechristened Cash Audio lurches back on the scene.

    The blues are still ragged, but David Passow's wailing on the harmonica lends a totally new direction to the chaos. I like that, myself. These guys are loose. Real damned loose. That's not to say they can't play; that would be a lie. But the focus is on making the music make sense, no matter how anarchic it might get.

    That's really the trick, see, to get off-track just enough to convey some emotion while still making music that's recognizable to the average folks. Cash Audio gets way off track (and nicely so), and doesn't quite get back. I figure that's okay by these guys.

    (Warning: Racial stereotyping ahead!) Most white guy blues bands are too focused on either power or technical prowess. Cash Audio certainly doesn't shy away from either, but the most attention is paid to the music itself. Yeah, here it's down and dirty (grimy, really), but hell, where else would you want the guys to be?

    Cashes Rivers
    Cashes Rivers
    (Aqui Estamos)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Yet another of those one-man bands with a name that is not the name of the artist. As is common with this species, the music is intricate, eccentric and often breathtaking. I don't know what it is about folks who refuse to record under their own names, but that extra level of detachment does seem to add a layer or few of quality.

    Or maybe it's just that "Cashes Rivers" sounds cooler than Matthew Garcia. I dunno. In any case, Garcia plays an epochal style of jangle pop. He dumps all sorts of sounds on top of this simple core, but more extra instruments than noise or samples or such. A kick-ass riff at an unexpected moment, for example. Or simply an extra guitar when an extra bit of ringing would be nice.

    I love the sound Garcia gets here. It's full, but rounded enough to provide a lush backing to his songs. The sharp edges are in the lyrics. These songs sound as fresh and tossed off as Matthew Sweet's stuff, though Garcia's songs do have a bit more polish.

    Quite a remarkable album. I haven't heard anything this self-possessed in a while. Matthew Garcia can call himself anything he likes as long as he makes albums like this.

    Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
    Advance Base Battery Life
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    This compilation of assorted tracks from 2004 to 2007 is easily the most diverse set from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. That's not saying a lot, as each "regular" album has tended to wander through a particular corner of the laptop universe. Nonetheless, odds and ends packages are often dull. This is anything but.

    The collection is a real hodgepodge, and it includes such nuggets as a completely fuzzed-out rendition of "Born in the U.S.A." and "White Corolla" (just Google it, if you don't know already). The sonic jumping about works well.

    You do have to have an appreciation for the laptop creation process, of course. Casiotone is much more adventurous than most of its contemporaries, but don't pick up this disc expecting oceans of sound. I think it's great, but the sound is what it is.

    I love Superchunk, but I always go back to Tossing Seeds, its first "singles" (vinyl releases, anyway) compilation. I think the same may be true here. This set provides as full a picture of the band as any album. Very fine.

    Vs. Children
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Further proof that last month's oddities collection is the strongest album by this most intriguing band. These songs do range over a fairly wide territory, but this set is definitely rooted in a particular feel. There are a number of stunners, "Natural Light" principal among them. Excellent work, as always.

    Casper and the Cookies
    Modern Silence
    (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Three people. Eighteen tracks. Miles and miles of conceptual pop soundscape. An eternity of possibilities.

    Reminds me a lot of art pop-era Mekons, though with a bit more of a proggy kitchen sink approach. Some of these songs are naked ideas without much exposition whatsoever. They're arresting and ear-popping, but not exactly fully-formed.

    That's okay, though. After all, you have to throw pasta on the wall to know if it's really done. The studio additions to the sound give a lot of these pieces something of a post-modern Chinn-Chapman (y'know, the Sweet and all) sound. Something very much mid-70s and yet altogether today as well.

    Those contrasts are part of what make this album so exciting. Casper and the Cookies range at least as far afield as bands like the Wrens, and if their writing and execution aren't quite up to that standard, they're getting awfully close. Skin bracing.

    Casper Fandango and His Tiny Sick Tears
    How's Your Hand?
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Pretty much the musings of Jason NeSmith (apparently not the Jason Nesmith--the son of Michael Nesmith--from Kill for Thrills and other projects), with a little help from his friends.

    Though there are moments when I wonder. This is the sort of loopy and downright strange pop music that I might imagine coming from the offspring of the one talented Monkee. But enough musing on that. Let's get down and dirty.

    The songs don't fit together. NeSmith doesn't like to play the same song twice, and there is very little continuity in the album. Even so, the set holds together, if only by the sense of absurdity propagated by most of these songs. They don't always make sense. And so, of course, it is much easier to understand the whole.

    There are three covers: "Tenderness" (General Public), "Sport (the Odd Boy)" (The Bonzo Dog Band--a 60s troupe of loonies that included Neil Innes) and "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for the Hand in the Snow)" (Yoko Ono). Do you get the concept yet? There is no concept. Only a desire to take music to places it hasn't been. At least, spots it hasn't visited in a while.

    The Casting Out
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    This one immediately brought me back to some old school Victory records bands...like Boysetsfire. I always liked that side of the hardcore universe, even if Boysetsfire cheesed out a bit by the end.

    Turns out that singer Nathan Gray was the singer for Boysetsfire. Small world, man. The Casting Out is somewhat leaner in sound, and there's a wee bit of irony in the lyrics. I guess old punks don't die, they just discover the humor in the futility of human existence.

    Or something like that. The songs trend a bit more toward the whole anthemic side, but there's still plenty of angst. The sound is sharp, but not metallic, Just dull enough to warm my ears.

    A fun trip down memory lane, one made even better with new songs. Not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, the Casting Out simply plays good music. Keep smilin' and turn it up.

    Jorge Castro
    Sin Titulo #2
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Public Eyesore sent me a passel of discs. They're all great. I'll be reviewing a couple of them each issue until I finally run out (when you review a limited number of albums a month, you've got to pace yourself).

    In any case, I think even the non-Spanish speakers in the audience can translate the title. Castro is an electronic artist who specializes in that somewhat forgotten realm of the ambient. There is but one track here, a long and involved trip through Castro's mind.

    Long, but never dull. Castro isn't aggressive with his music, but he sure knows how to light a fire under some great ideas. Within the context he's set up, Castro introduces a multitude of thoughts. He's careful to give each one full expression before adding it to the ether and unveiling the next beauty.

    Patience is required, sure, but boy is it rewarded. Castro's hand is steady, and his mind is alive. The trance caused by this disc isn't to be missed.

    The Casualties
    Die Hards
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Old school. And I mean, spiked and colored hair, buzzsaw riffola and hoarsely shouted gang vocals old school. The kinda stuff that stiff-necked parents love to hate.

    Except that the kids who grew up on this stuff are parents today. Ah well. The Casualties don't try to go anywhere with this sound. They're most agreeable to the notion of simply continuing a tradition.

    They do so very well. The adrenaline never flags, and the blistering lyrics follow in the best traditions. A big cup brimming with vitriol.

    Nothing complicated or sophisticated. Just two fingers straight up punk rock (yes, I stole that; sue me). Ride it as far as you dare.

    On the Front Line
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    Political punk is back with a vengeance, and the Casualties seem to be saying, "Yer damned right!" This album starts off blistering and then just ratchets up the pressure. There's little subtlety to be found, and that's most appropriate. We hardly live in subtle times.

    The songs themselves are breakneck mini-apocalypses, with speed and riffage far outweighing melody and structure. That's cool, though. The energy is simply overwhelming.

    The production is professional--and that's also a good thing. With songs this fast and loud, it helps to be able to tell the guitar from the bass. But the songs don't come off with some preprocessed shine; they simply sound good.

    The Casualties don't play complicated songs. They don't sing about moral quandaries. The vision presented here is black and white, noise or silence. Sometimes, that's exactly what we need.

    Past Lies and Former Lives
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    If there were such a thing as rock-steady pop, this would be it. Cat-A-Tac rips off one tuneful, rhythmic midtempo popster after another. They're all different. And they're all pretty good.

    Reminds me a bit of that Canadian band Pluto, who put out a great album on Mint in 1995 and a so-so major label effort a year later. Some friends compared those folks to Everclear. I didn't hear it then, and I don't hear that comparison here. But I put that in there just for full disclosure.

    There's a nice buzz to the guitars and some fine work in the hooks. Vaguely atonal, but that hint of drone just makes these song that much more hypnotic. My head was bobbing from the first beat.

    And, yeah, that made all the difference. The sound isn't the most sophisticated in the world, but these folks have a knack for making the ordinary extraordinarily catchy. Pretty isn't the right word. Addictive might be.

    Catch 22
    Alone in a Crowd
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    The latest Voodoo Glow Skulls album makes fun of the "death" of skacore. Still, it's odd that Victory would pick this time to dig into a bag of Bosstones-style fare.

    Catch 22 is pleasant enough. There's nothing wrong with these party anthems (I'm speaking more of the sound than the lyrics, which are generally somewhat serious), but this sound has been done to death. And this album doesn't bring much new life to the table.

    Everything is spot on: The playing, the horn arrangements, even the writing is dead solid. But there's no wrinkle here, no new idea to get excited about. Just pretty much the same old same old, even if it is done real well.

    I feel kinda bad about this, but I just can't get excited here. It's not that the stuff is bad (no matter how much I say this I can't say it enough), but simply that I've heard it before. Lots. And so I've developed an immunity. Bummer.

    reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Much like Grief Society (which is my connection for this disc as well), Catcher is a British band that prefers to play a more Americanized sort of rock music. With something amiss, some defect in the genetic code which gives the band a distinctive feel.

    'Cause this is fuzz-pop, pure and simple, but just a bit faster than I usually hear. And with the odd chord change (a little Clash-y, perhaps a little Cure-ific at times) that makes all the difference in the world.

    Plus, unlike the American ideal (epitomized by the ALL sound propagated endlessly by Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton), the bass is way down in the mix here. That's a Britpop trademark, and the hybrid is quite stunning.

    The sort of album which will make doctrinaire fans a bit queasy, I'm afraid, but which also excites me endlessly. I'll linger a while longer, thank you.

    Little Shut Up
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    These guys are serious. The music has that hardcore "alternative" feel, and the songs tackle heavy emotional targets.

    It's all done fairly well, but without much of a spark. There has been some serious work done in the songwriting department, and the playing is immaculate. But in the big effort to sound good, Catchpenny has kept itself from sounding great.

    A little calculation has to be sacrificed in order to make an emotional impact. Sludge it up a bit guys, miss a fingering or two. Stop singing like the guys in Devo or Tool. A little humanity would help.

    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    I thought the last stuff I heard from these guys sounded a bit too calculated. Well, consider that problem solved. This album is loose and free, just enhancing the already-solid songwriting.

    Now, this complex pop sound may be a bit too dense for some of today's pop heads, but I think the guys have really found a sound here. Sometimes my criticisms aren't founded. But these guys listened to what people much more influential than me said, and this time they obviously made a concerted effort to find a live sound in the studio.

    Rough edges suit this sound quite well. And Catchpenny certainly has found a groove here. The guitar lines mesh easily, and the rhythm section drives the truck without grinding the gears.

    Wow. This is a real improvement. The potential has really expanded. I'm definitely taking notice.

    The Ethereal Mirror
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    More of the Earache catch-up; from now on, only the newest from those folk.

    I liked Cathedral a long time ago, back when no major label in its right mind would even touch them. Of course, they didn't sound like Black Sabbath back then; they had their own style, closer to the Napalm Death genesis of the band.

    I had heard a few things about this that were disconcerting, and most fell true. An awful lot of cheese and very little substance. It is a nice driving record with all those retread riffs, but if I want laughable lyrics, I'll go to the source and pop in the Sabs.

    Once upon a time a band called Cathedral was a neat doom-death band. Then someone said if they started to sound completely like Black Sabbath they would make lots of money. Now they're just waiting for the check.

    Cosmic Requiem EP
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    Not that long ago, Cathedral was an interesting band. The songs weren't dreadfully dull and uninspired. The Ethereal Mirror wasn't a masterpiece, but it wasn't anywhere near this awful.

    A missal of four songs, each competing for the title of most masterfully mundane. The only thing of minor interest is the fourth track, which reprises Black Sabbath AND Led Zeppelin. Hmmm... will Kingdom Come see a revival soon?

    Hopefully the upcoming full-length will make up for this just plain terrible disc. These nasty EPs don't necessarily mean anything.

    The Carnival Bizarre
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    Oh, so this is the new Black Sabbath album. Forbidden was just a bad joke.

    Well, Tony Iommi does guest on "Utopian Blaster", but I don't think anyone would ever mistake Lee Dorian's vocals for Ozzy or Dio or anyone like that. He's kinda hoary. This is not a bad thing.

    Let me get this off my chest: this stuff is not even close to being original or terribly creative or anything like that. Just so you understand my next statements.

    The Carnival Bizarre is also about the best driving music I've heard in some time (I said the same thing about The Ethereal Mirror, as I remember). Dave Patchett's art is becoming as much a metal icon as Derek Rigg's wonderful visions of 'ead(die). All told, a simply great package that tons of which folks should partake.

    I still like the earlier Cathedral better. But this is where the band is now, and The Carnival Bizarre is about as good an album of this sort as I've heard. Period.

    Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) CD5
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    An expanded (extra spoken intro) of "Hopkins", a couple covers ("Fire"--not the Doors song-- and an instrumental, "Copper Sunset") that, due to my lack of musical knowledge, I cannot identify and two new tracks.

    "Hopkins" is one of the better tracks off the album, but excepting the longer intro, nothing new here. I can't put my finger on "Fire", but I still can't locate it. And "Copper Sunset" is basically an elongated moody guitar solo. Not bad, not great. These two tracks did nothing for me.

    The two tracks are "Purple Wonderland" and "The Devil's Summit." "Purple" is a nicely bouncy trip, with just a hint of the Sabs in the chorus. Pretty cool. "Devil's Summit" might best be described as what happens when Cathedral decides it wants to do the JBs. Lee Dorian tries to get on with his own bad self, and the song is so awful (performance and writing), well, it's just damned funny. Nice to know the guys have a sense of humor.

    Stars on My Ceiling
    (Chocolate Industries)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    It is my firm conviction that the ability of DJs to create full arrays of sound using sampling, sequencers, drum machines, synthesizers and the like has been highly underrated by a lot of folks. It's as if the mere use of technology somehow takes the soul out of art. There's a similar argument going on these days in the (painting) art world concerning the possible use of lenses and other aids by the Dutch Masters, and I stand firmly on the side of the folks who say it's the end result that matters.

    Caural isn't just a technology-driven outfit, but there's no way the sounds on this disc could have been created using old cut-and-paste methods. The splices couldn't have been this smooth, this seamless.

    I'm sure plenty of folks will toss this right into the trip-hop pile, and that's not an unfair association. There are plenty of creative side trips and spacey grooves to be had here. But I hear more. The title of the album is revealing. I think Caural wanted to create an entire universe of sound.

    The folks came pretty durn close, too. From the first instant, the sound transported me to another realm, one with inverted laws of physics. Where the sky lies beneath the feet. I had to let go to truly grasp the full ideas expressed by this disc. And in that way, I guess, this album is one fine trip.

    Remembering Today
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Fabulous cut-and-paste (electronic style, of course) combined with stellar beatwork. I know, I've said as much about Caural in the past, but this album puts a fine shine on past glories.

    Yes, digging an album like this does require some ability in the area of abstract thought. Goes without saying. But come on. There are so many interesting ideas meandering in and out of focus here, how can anyone get bored?

    Stupid question, I know. Philistines rule the world. Whatever. Those who jam to the likes of PreFuse 73 probably already know Caural well. Perhaps the rest of the world ought to get better acquainted.

    Just so damned...pretty, I guess. In an occasionally dissonant, sometimes in-your-face kinda way. I suppose this isn't the easiest album to like, but it's real easy to love.

    Mirrors for Eyes
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    See what I wrote above? Double for Caural. The beats are much dirtier, the songs are somewhat flightier, and the need for patience is identical. Caural has a bit more of a track record, but that doesn't make this stuff any more mainstream.

    Still, I can hear a bit more "crossover" potential in this stuff. By not being so overtly aggressive, Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a Caural) leaves the door open a crack further. Plus, he adheres closer to pop song construction--within his interpretation of such, anyway.

    The grungy sound here really completes the package for me. Most of the fuzz comes in the lowest beats, but it's really effective. Something to luxuriate in, for sure.

    As are the songs here. Despite their lofty ambitions, these songs are best enjoyed with a relatively blank mind. Just let the wonderment drift past your ears and you, too, will be enlightened. And if you're not, well, you'd better start looking for your prefrontal lobes.

    Cause for Alarm
    split EP
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    God only knows why Warzone consented to this. Cause for Alarm plays old school thrash hardcore like nobody's business, shredding through the pretentious multitudes with vicious lyrics and ace playing. Its four tracks are among the better hardcore performances I've heard this year.

    And then comes Warzone's four-song contribution. This is the best I've heard the band in some time, which isn't saying much. The playing is sloppy (and the production leaves stuff so muddy it's hard to tell at times anyway) and the lyrics are typical Warzone.

    Your cash is warranted for Cause for Alarm. Ignore the Warzone half, and you'll be pleased.

    Cause for Alarm
    Cheaters and the Cheated
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Quite a while back I heard an EP these boys split with Warzone. Cause for Alarm's energy and creativity (at least with the hardcore milieu) blew the geezers away.

    This disc presents 11 reasons why folks should pay attention. Okay, so the boys lose the groove more often than a dull needle, running through unnecessary tempo and stylistic changes within songs. That is a hardcore hallmark, and I guess we have to live with it.

    The guitars utilize many different sounds, and the songs themselves are well-crafted (probably a bit too much). Cause for Alarm continues to impress, even if there is work to be done. If the guys can make their songs a bit more coherent, well, a classic album could be the result.

    Still, a good album. One that shows a ton of potential. Nothing to make me strike Cause for Alarm from the list of comers.

    Nothing Ever Dies 1982-1999
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    A kinda retrospective-oddities-etc. set. I think there's probably room for a more complete reckoning, though this does check in at 21 songs and 71 minutes. What this collection does do is provide an interesting snapshot of how hardcore has changed over the last 20 years.

    The first tracks could almost be NWOBHM. They're lean and vaguely melodic. Almost immediately, however, Cause for Alarm shifted to a heavier (and somewhat oxymoronically) less metallic attack.

    As the years wore on, the sound in the studio stayed heavy, but cleaned up a bit. Still by no means metal, Cause for Alarm really came into its own, showing what a little experimentation can do for a great hardcore sound.

    Like I said, this probably doesn't do the band justice. But I'm not complaining. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. And what you get here is a solid, uncompromising portrait of a classic hardcore band.

    Caustic Casanova
    (Retro Futurist)
    reviewed 9/24/15

    When I dumped this album into my iTunes, the genre read "metal." Unlike some folks, that didn't bother me at all. I thought the name was a bit twee for a metal act, but I'm a couple decades past my prime as a music reviewer, so what the hell.

    Turns out the name is just about perfect. Caustic Casanova is a three-piece power indie rock band from the wilds of D.C. Imagine a proggy version of Superchunk or the Nineteen Forty-Fives (complete with songs that might clock in at nine or twelve minutes), and you're pretty much there. Since these folks hail from inside the Beltway, J. Robbins is their house producer. And yes, it wouldn't be wrong to add Jawbox to those influences listed above.

    So. . .awesome, really. The rhythms are straight indie rock, with a tendency toward the Weddoes. The guitars aren't quite psychedelically fuzzy, but they're definitely not metal clean. And the dual vocals of Stefanie Zaneker and Francis Berenger are enthralling. Unison male and female vocals is one of those elements that is simply intoxicating to me. CC usually uses that trick on the hooks, but it bleeds into the verses on occasion. Enough to excite; infrequent enough to be a treat.

    And the power. CC crosses just about every genre in existence in its quest for a unique sound. And I think it's fair to say that has been accomplished. I've never seen the band live (a situation I'll have to rectify soon), but I can envision a setlist that might include "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "The Trooper," "Slack Motherfucker" and "Surprise, You're Dead." And maybe a really twisted version of "Yours Is No Disgrace."

    Despite the definite geezerage such covers might indicate, CC is fully modern. No one plays songs like this. Nobody. And the sheer glee evident within leaves tingles. The future might not be wretched after all. It just might kick some serious ass.

    Caustic Resin
    Body Love Body Hate
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    All you folks who are tired of gratuitous female flesh on record covers can glory in this release. The inside picture has the three (male) members of the band playing cards in a shower. Completely nude. Special note to parents: there is at least one penis in plain view. Circumcised.

    The music? Glorious noise. None of it seems to make much sense and I kinda prefer it that way. Things are quiet, loud, in and out of tune (though mostly out). In a way it could be compared to that pop psychedelia stuff (like Engine Kid), but I like what they do with it.

    This is more aggressive and less calculating. Actually, if this was planned at all I would be rather shocked. Sometimes things are much better that way.

    The Medicine Is All Gone
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    I haven't heard anything from these guys since 1993, a C/Z album called Body Love Body Hate. The funny thing is, not much has changed. The songs are still plodding, cacophonous rambles which somehow manage to be strangely beguiling. Rampant pop excess in all its forms, and yet it still sounds great.

    Accidental music, if you ask me. Oh, I'm sure Caustic Resin plans these things like a motherfucker, but the songs sound like they just kinda popped out of the monitors some rainy day. Without much effort or forethought. A very good attribute.

    With some humor. Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" is appended to the end of one song ("Mysteries of..."), though the song becomes recognizable only after some attentive listening. Post-apocalyptic pop can do that to even the most famous of guitar anthems.

    A complete and utter mess. Precisely why Caustic Resin is so damned impressive.

    Cavalier King
    The Sun Revolutions
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    By and large, Cavalier King is Chris Taylor. He uses a wide-ranging pastiche of "alternative" sounds of the past 25 years to fuel his music. It's easy to pick out bits and pieces of the Mekons, U2, Blondie, Radiohead and many more. Which is fine by me. The more important question is how well Taylor uses this conglomeration of ideas to fully express his own.

    Damned well, I'd say. He throws so much into each song that it would be really hard to say he's ripping anyone off in particular. All music is an expression of what has come before, and while Cavalier King may stretch that maxim slightly, the results are excellent.

    The key is in the arrangements. This stuff could be some sort of bizarre mess, and it's not. Rather, what's here is a collection of grandiose, slightly off-kilter anthems. not exactly warped, but not normal, either.

    Kinda like where I put my head most days. This is one of those albums that should sound better on the 20th listen. There's a lot here to explore.

    Cave Canem
    Wishing Well 7"
    (American Dog)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    Nice, fuzzy bass and cool harmonies. Geez, this is a nice band to cuddle up with. And that's not an insult, either. "Wishing Well" is a great song. A little in the pop psychedelic arena, but enough otherwise (hints of country-rock, actually) to warrant notice. Great guitar work.

    The flip side is just as nice, with more conventional construction and great delivery. Kate Heim's vocals convey a great range of feeling.

    By the way, this is not a band you'd hear on a typical hard rock broadcast, but if you're willing to take a chance, do it. Take notice, folks.

    Cave Penny
    I Want You II 7"
    (Post Pagan Creations)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    Sludgy rhythm guitar, distorted vocals and a nice Van Halen-esque touch to the lead work. And just when I was getting used to those dichotomies, the sound turned to some morose U2 ballad thing.

    Whoa. And that was just the a-side. The flip ("Pressure") has an odd psychedelic pop feel, with more of that U2 vibe.

    Man, I really liked the way this started. And then it was like another band was inserted onto the slab in a pressing mistake. I still want to know what the band really sounds like.

    Salamander Smile
    (Post Pagan Creations)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    These guys move from mellow to raucous in the skip of a beat, and then back again just fer the hell of it. Okay. So they like to keep things interesting.

    The general mode for the band is a moody Mother Love Bone kinda sound. When I reviewed the single, I compared this to U2. That wasn't completely off the mark, I suppose, but a whole album of the stuff has led me to this more correct comparison. Anthem after anthem, with very linear guitar work and not much focus at all on riff work (rhythm guitar just plays bland chords to advance the composition).

    I like that Cave Penny tries to change up its sound more often than not. I don't think this works all the time, and when the sound stays static things get dull. The writing is competent, and the production is really slick, which is the right way to go with this sound. As an incentive, they guys sent me a couple bottles of Cave Penny homebrew ale; I haven't tasted them yet, but I like the idea.

    There is enough creativity wandering around this disc to make me very interested in where Cave Penny goes from here. Salamander Smile is not a very good CD by any account, but these folks are trying to achieve something great, and you gotta like that. I know it's cliche and not terribly helpful at the moment, but my big advice is to just work at the stuff more. With more work and live playing, Cave Penny could do something amazing next time out.


    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    I accidentally listened to the Daisycutter side first (it's not like there are any clear markings or anything--I had to read the vinyl etchings). Daisycutter deals in sludge, cutting the mess with samples and some other weird stuff that simply happens by. The song was a bit dirge-like, and I'm not sure why. Let's just say I didn't like it.

    Cavity, though, does the same thing, only better. The music moves just a bit faster, and the absurd rant that is laid over the music is just coherent enough to be amusing. Excessive use of the word "motherfucker" that borders on language abuse. So right there we're in good company.

    I figure I'd like some other stuff that Daisycutter does; this song just didn't appeal to me. But the Cavity was damned exciting. They split the rating, but this slab is worth checking out if you're into the unusual.

    Cellophane EP
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    If you needed any other indication that big rock was on its way back, Cellophane closes the case.

    There's been a pretty big buzz going around about these guys, and it rather surprised me to find this disc with no label attached. The sound hearkens back to that "post-metal" sound embodied by such diverse acts as Warrior Soul and Jane's Addiction (the Triple X days). Very loud, with lots of extra touches.

    And a few modern nods to metalcore, electronica and the industrial side of things. Good enough, but the way this has been assembled, I can smell some serious professional marketing advice in the background. Just a bit too slick to win me over completely.

    But still decent enough to impress me. This is a band with some serious commercial potential. The only problem is that its members already know this.

    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    When I heard the Cellophane "self-released" EP earlier this year, I wasn't terribly knocked out. The stuff sounded far too calculated and didn't take many risks.

    This album is able to convey more depth and feeling, and sounds a lot better. Yes, it is still BIG rock, in that whole early nineties "post-metal" sound. Touches of glam interspersed with drawn-out lines and just enough easy dissonance to take the sheen off. I liked this sorta thing when it was at its most popular (when Queensryche was still recording good albums), and Cellophane does satisfy a particular craving.

    The songwriting is still the best part of the package. The playing is good enough, though hiding behind Howard Benson's excessive production. While the hand behind this disc has a better ear for quality, there's still too much. Cellophane could stand to lose a layer or two.

    On the whole, though, a good album. The sort of disc that just might inspire an army of fans. The potential is so ripe I can smell it from a mile away.

    (Dutch East India)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    This could be called Chuck Mosley's new project. You know, original lead singer with Faith No More and then a short stint with Bad Brains. The other guys sorta fell together, but what comes out is a real band sound.

    Rock was once rock AND roll. This album has a lot of roll to it. It simply flows. The vocals are mixed way down, giving a real emphasis to the music.

    And good music, too. Somewhere between the funkier side of FNM and the aggression of BB. And a lot of other stuff, too.

    And when they sound funky, the sparse and slightly fuzzy production makes it sound authentic. None of that shiny RHCP stuff that leaves a taste of plastic in your mouth. Just a nice flow.

    That's what it is about Cement. This stuff is catchy, but it also has the ring of truth. There is no calculation, just devotion. A real find.

    Godless Beauty
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    If death metal were a seventies thing, this would be perhaps the ultimate album. The first song opens up with a sped-up version of the "Barracuda" riff-and it sounds really great!

    There are more elements of doom in here than their last album as well. This is such a departure, I'm not sure if growth is exactly the right term, but change definitely is.

    Accessible, certainly. Heavy, without doubt. I think I'm starting to sound like Benedick, so I'll quit. This should be hard enough to keep their old fans, and certainly pleasant enough to pick up many new, more commercial, outlets.

    Just because it sounds infectious doesn't mean it sucks; I put forth Tiamat and Disembowelment as examples of that. This deserves a full cranking of the volume.

    Black Vanity
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    This album marks the debut of Cemetary as a post-death metal band. Sure, a few years back, Cemetary was solidly in, but the transition begun with Godless Beauty is finished on Black Vanity, and there's no looking back.

    The standard in this nebulous world of doom/death metal is still Tiamat's Clouds, but Cemetary makes a strong statement with this album. And since what was left of Tiamat has moved on, well, Cemetary just might take the crown.

    Quite honestly, many parts of this album are downright gorgeous, mostly due to fine guitar work. The keyboards, when used, are complimentary and not excessive.

    The tunes are written to be dramatic and rather anthemic, but the work is good and it sounds great. Cemetary has crafted a fine disc.

    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    For some reason, I always get the new Cemetary at the same time as the new Edge of Sanity. And while Cemetary is one of my favorite bands and an acknowledged purveyor of fine European metal, Edge of Sanity is one of the all-time greats. Almost anyone suffers in comparison.

    Which is too bad, because Cemetary has crafted its finest work yet. Yeah, this is light years away from its death metal roots. Indeed, Cemetary has taken on more than a few Americanisms (nods to both grunge and industrial metal) and wound them into that addictive heavy Eurometal doom sound Hypocrisy and Sentenced have been moving toward of late.

    A simply gorgeous-sounding album. And I'm afraid my reproduction of the album cover cannot do that piece of work justice, either. No, this isn't quite as good as the Edge of Sanity, but it's damned fine. Cemetary has never disappointed, and this album moves the band even further along the legends trail.

    Center of the Sun
    Machine Gun
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    The production is definitely shoegazey, but the songs whipsaw from incoherence to anthemic with assurance. In other words, these folks play what they want to play, and then overlay it with a modestly lo-fi mastering job. I prefer the songs with structure, but I do admire the way the band wanders the earth.

    Lisa Cerbone
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    It would be damned easy to throw Lisa Cerbone into that whole girlie pop thing (you know, Jewel and her ilk). Superficial, but easy. Cerbone's voice isn't what I'd call exceptionally strong or powerful, and she has a bad habit of singing somewhat out of her range. And the music isn't terribly challenging.

    With these drawbacks, however, Cerbone has managed to find a somewhat trippy pop sound, more like the Moon Seven Times. When the (uncredited) guitar kicks into a line, Cerbone knows how to play along with her voice. Nice interplay, even if it is rather artificial.

    A good enough pop album. Cerbone doesn't mess around much with the music, but her lyrics are fairly insightful and affecting. She doesn't dance around with many niceties, but prefers to shoot from the hip. A nice approach. No "Fuck and Run", obviously, but then no pabulum, either. Intriguing.

    Cerce EP
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/28/13

    Some lovely noise. The doomy riffage and powderkeg rhythms combine for a furiously roiling stew. Lots of music is called "extreme." Cerce actually fits the bill.

    Cerebral Fix
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    You know, not every death metal band would be happy with a member posing in a KLF t-shirt. But there it is on drummer Kev Frost, in black and white. Of course, Cerebral Fix are an anomaly. I can't make out whether or not the band is Christian (maybe it's one of those U2 things), but the lyrics are amazingly eco-sensitive and biblical-related.

    But all of that is secondary to the riffs involved here. This is a far cry from their last album, which I recently discovered hiding in a corner at the station. Way cool is the only way to describe Bastards.

    Tracks to swear by: "Descent into the Unconscious," "Sphereborn," "Middle Third (mono-Culture) I" and of the last three, which I think are covers, but I have no idea who did them first. Clue me in!

    Eugene Chadbourne and Evan S. Johns
    Terror Has Some Strange Kinfolk
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    First off: this is not a "metal" album. There isn't hint of metal on it. If all you listen to is metal, go slap the new Vince Neil CD in yer discer.

    One could write a million words on their "Achey Rakey Heart" (which is a more country version than the original, despite some really wild guitar work), but I won't.

    Many of you probably at least spun through the recent re-issue of Johns's first album on cd, and so you have an idea of what to expect. So you thought.

    Quite simply an amazing assembly of sound. I haven't heard country music like this since Shockabilly (what a great band). Chadbourne and Johns focus more on acoustic instruments, but everything is flying off and yet still manages to return to the center.

    Terror is a world where music like this doesn't exist. While you may not seg a lot of this into Disincarnate, there has to be a place for artists who create truly original sounds. And the songs are often really funny to boot.

    See also Evan Johns & the H-Bombs.

    Paul Chain
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    So you're a self-described "polinstrumentist". You sing in such a way that your label has to say "The language used by Paul Chain does not exist. It's purely phonetic." You want to make an album that brings to mind all the good and bad parts of the Black Sabbath legacy. Who do you call to put in a couple guest vocal shots?

    The guy whose band has profited the most from the Sab rehash game, Lee Dorrian. Of course. Dorrian's lyrics are much easier to understand (and they're listed in the notes, too). And how could you mistake that growl for anyone else?

    Not terrible, but still just a pale shade compared to the original. The production is pretty weak, so even the fattest riffs sound drained and thin. I've heard much better, even in the rehash circles.

    Don Chambers and Goat
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    The disc opens with apocalyptic americana a la 16 Horsepower. The album somewhat ripens into a slightly more optimistic key, but Chambers and Goat (what a moniker!) never let the listener get comfy.

    Indeed, these songs retain a remarkable surface tension in the lyrics. Chambers generally adds resonance with some sort of musical dissonance, and sometimes he doesn't quite resolve either issue. Some problems can't be resolved. I think Chambers is pretty clear about that.

    What's he's also quite clear about is his vision for the scope and sound of this album. Each successive song seems to stretch further and further in hopes of finding some greater truth. Again, not all problems can be resolved, but Chambers quest is compelling.

    This album sounds great on first listen, and then subsequent spins reveal layer upon layer of subtext. I'm gonna be finding something new five years from now. That's the sort of attention to detail that creates a classic.

    Dolph Chaney
    New Bird
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Chaney "semi-produced" this tape, and that lack of sophistication does lead to some sound problems. Chaney plays a somewhat tortured version of mellow pop, but it is very hard to hear some of the overlaid music (I know theres some electric guitar and possibly keyboards). Still, I get the gist.

    As you might expect, I can't really give a definitive opinion on the music. I simply can't hear it very well. What I do hear isn't anything exciting, though it sounds like Chaney at least can put together a fair approximation of a pop tune.His lyrics are extremely personal, which is easily the best part of the tape. And on "Ocean", he abandons the lite approach and lets loose, howling over a rather unstructured electric guitar riff. As untrammelled angst, well, this song is quite impressive.

    And in the quieter moments, Chaney is able to communicate very effectively. He's not a great singer, he's not a great songwriter and he's certainly no great producer, but raw honesty goes a long way. I doubt he'll ever make "the big time", but this tape exhibits more courage than I've heard in quite a while.

    Channing Cope
    Sugar in Our Blood
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    The music is very similar to the bands I've reviewed above, but the presentation couldn't be more different. Channing Cope adheres to that whole post-prog, post-rock, math rock kinda axis, spinning songs that don't so much progress as evolve, but the sound is soft and inviting. A very jazz way to do this kinda thing.

    And you know, it's just as satisfying. Channing Cope invests more energy in finding cool melodic lines than selling them to the audience (that would be the math speaking, I guess), but man, what lines! The thoughts expressed in the tangents and curves of these songs would need thousands of words to explain properly.

    The more I hear of this sound, the more I like it. Kinda like listening to Stanley Jordan cruise through modern rock theory. Hey, when something works, stick with it, right?

    And boy does this work. Yes, the sound is much more commercially viable than that on the albums above, but that's not the reason these boys use it. They sound like this because this is the sound of Channing Cope. And it's a damned good sound at that.

    Chaos U.K.
    One Hundred Percent Two Fingers in the Air Punk Rock
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    I'm not sure what the title of the album means, but that's what it says. What it sounds like is sloppy punk more intent on making noise than music.

    And I'm often in favor of such things, except that for some weird reason I smell a distinct lack of talent trying to rip off other less-talented but more famous people.

    It's not absolutely horrible, but of the punk records reviewed in this issue, this is the worst of the lot. The lyrics are more stupid than funny and everything just seems to leave this acrid taste in my mouth.

    I still wish I could figure out what the hell the title means. If I could do that, maybe I could figure out the rest of this.

    Live in Japan
    (Creative Man-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    I've never been a fan, but if I were, I still wouldn't plunk down the cash for this.

    Like the Exploited disc, the production is sub-bootleg. You can't even hear the guitars (except as a very low background rumble when no one else is playing, or when there is a lead break). The only prominent feature (again) is the vocals.

    As I can hear, these are pretty faithful run-throughs of the songs, but it's almost impossible to tell.

    Judging by the sound quality of the two discs in this series I've heard, I'd say stay away. Far away. The only reason three-year-old tapes like this are dredged up is for cash. Don't blame the band; blame whoever runs Creative Man.

    The Morning After the Night Before
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Now that there's money to be had in the punk game, Chaos U.K. has hit the studio and crapped out a "comeback" disc.

    The sound is positively horrific. And then there's the weird narration which wanders throughout the disc. I think it's supposed to be funny, but it doesn't work for me.

    This sort of music really needs to be cranked up in both the speed and sound categories. But much too often, tunes sound like muffled dirges. The odd nice bit like "Take Me to San Clemente" gets drowned out by most of the rest.

    All too predictable. I'm kinda bummed that this didn't even have that old "one hundred percent two fingers in the air" (yes, I understand the saying now) sentiment.

    Marshall Chapman
    Love Slave
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    It takes balls to start off an album with such a slow, drawling song as "Leaving Loachapoka". The second track, "Guns R Us", a real rip on nasty Republican types, is catchier and probably would grab the casual listener much quicker. But then, Marshall Chapman has the songwriting and performing skills to pull off such a rough trick.

    She plumbs the vagaries of the whole country-folk-blues panoply, wrestling eccentricity out of straightforward melodies and simple charm out of overwrought self-exposition.

    Um, if that made any sense, that is.

    For something arriving on Jimmy Buffet's boutique label, I'm damned impressed. Well, impressed period. Chapman has her finger on a real musical pulse, one that doesn't respect silly ideas like labels and mass acceptance. If you're looking for a disc that all falls into place, go somewhere else. Chapman has no use for minute-to-minute coherence. But her overall vision is astonishingly acute.

    Michelle Chappel
    Infinity + 1, Man
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Chappel is also known as Dr. Michelle Millis, once a psychology professor. For the past few years, she's been pursuing a music career, garnering awards from the Billboard International Song Contests, getting some songs in an indie movie and generally working the industry side of things.

    And that's where the music is. Chappel morphs through a variety of the more popular "chick rock" (if you can come up with a better term, send it to me ASAP) acts. The reviews in the press kit included references to Jewel, Tori Amos, Alanis and many others.

    As you might guess, the sound is tres commercial, and good enough to make it. Chappel first released this album in South Africa (her husband--who is also her manager--is from there), and it did well. So now on to work the Americans.

    I don't particularly like overly glossy rock music, no matter who does it. But Chappel has the personality and the songwriting ability to hit it big. She just needs the big cash push in the right direction.

    UnEarthed EP
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Boy, if someone looked at this week's set of discs, they'd think there was a real metal resurgence. Charade sounds a lot like Winger, Enuff Z'nuff and such bands that had the occasional good song, but wore badly.

    Maybe I was wrong at the end of the Accept review; perhaps now is the time for stuff like this to break out. I'm not too sure. Charade has some nice guitar licks, but Ralph Magerkurth's voice is simply not suited to the upper reaches of the range dictated by the band. Not that this has stopped anyone else, but I'm not a fan of strained vocals.

    The production is very good for a self-released disc. A lot of time (and some cash, I'd guess) went into making UnEarthed sound this good. I just wish the music matched up.

    Simply too many musical cliches. "Nothings Changed" (sic) could have been recorded by Great White, Slaughter or any number of bands. Of course, them folks sold lots of records. And maybe that time has come again. I'm out of the prognostication business.

    The Charlatans UK
    Melting Pot
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    Perfect timing, really. Brit pop is as big in the U.S. as it's been since Duran Duran, and the Charlatans haven't put out a new album in a while. Why not a singles compilation?

    Not a really a Greatest Hits, as the band hasn't seen much U.S. chart success. Oh, the kids at the colleges love them, but that sort of fame just isn't enough to justify full-scale touring over here.

    Personally, I dismissed the band early on as another Manchester kinda thing, riding the fame of such trendoids as EMF, Jesus Jones and the Farm. Stupid motherfucker that I am, I didn't begin paying attention to the Charlatans until a couple years ago. This disc serves to point out even more that I've missed.

    Good pop, in many shades. Like longstanding contemporaries Blur, the Charlatans have melded their sounds to fit the times, all the while maintaining a quality approach. Perhaps this disc will help give this band its due on this side of the divide.

    (SharkAttack! Music)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Imagine New Order as an emo band. Perhaps this seems like a radical concept to you. Not to the boys of Charlene. These songs are stripped down to their essentials, which are then processed through a decidedly low-end technology filter.

    And when I say "low-end," I'm not talking about the astonishing lack of clarity in the treble range. I mean the equipment sounds like it's been through WWs I and II and maybe Vietnam just for kicks. Which is cool. Because you don't want shiny techno accompaniment to songs like these. You want fuzzy, barely comprehensible bits of distortion.

    Anyway, when all that comes together, these guys really do sound like an emo version of New Order. That's a tribute to the songwriting craft. When the core is this tight, you can spin off all sorts of tangents and still your songs make sense. Indeed, the sum can be greater than the parts.

    Not beautiful. Not pretty. Not even particularly cute. Charlene works hard to put mud on its face, and that just what these songs needed. Someone had to think of making music like this at some point. I'm just glad that it turned out this well.

    Charlotte's Webb
    Skeletons of South Street
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Good production that yields a tight guitar sound, but the music is heavily borrowed from the Testament/Overkill school, with nods to the current metal-core scene. The samples are nice, but they are used as introductions and not in any sort of intricate fashion.

    These folk have chops, but they still need to find their own sound.

    Sit Down for Staying EP
    (Child Star)
    reviewed in issue #258, October 2004

    All good things come around again, and as I've been noting for more than a year, the late-80s psychedelic pop sound is back in a big way. The difference this time is that it doesn't take a magician (and tens of thousands of dollars) to make your album sound like Loveless. Technology is a beautiful thing. Of course, you still have to write some good songs.

    And Charmparticles does exactly that. These pieces do have a bit of the meander in them, but they fuzz out nicely, and when the clouds of distortion descend, the thunder and lightning is impressive. Most importantly, the studio processing aids, rather than detracts from, the songs themselves.

    Exceedingly crafted, but I think that's almost a must with this stuff. You use the distortion and other studio work to help blend in a spontaneous feel. As was done here. Most impressive.

    Charming Hostess
    (Vaccination Records)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    The music relies on percussion, bass and fiddle (with the odd horn or guitar), with tight vocal work from a number of vocalists. The songs come from Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria and elsewhere. Sung in the original language, whatever that might be. There are American folks songs, some original pieces and even a Residents cover. Perhaps you understand now.

    Maybe not. The only band I can think of that comes even close to the musical polymathy of Charming Hostess is Japonize Elephants, but the Elephants are a lot more jokey. The ace musicianship and wide-ranging influences do provide some important common strengths.

    No matter how varied and involved the music is, the real strength here is the vocal work, which often utilizes three or more melodic and harmonic lines, lines which don't necessarily coincide with what the band is doing at that moment.

    On the surface, perhaps, Charming Hostess comes off as a simple purveyor of folk (in the wider sense) songs. That this music sounds so attractive and easy is a tribute to the outstanding arrangement and performance. This deserves a hundred "Wow!"s.

    Charnel House
    From Birth to Burial
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    A bare-bones version of classic death metal, with a lot more bounce and groove in the riffage. Charnel House has a knack for finding some really great guitar lines and rhythms.

    Unfortunately, the band also feels the need to break up the grooves with speed breaks. Another classic style, I admit, but it has always struck me as lazy songwriting. There is a way to merge the two ideas, even within one song. Just requires deft transitions.

    Charnel Horse hasn't found those. Still, I do like many of the pieces I hear here. And I also think the relatively restrained sound (it's still loud, but you can hear all of the individual instruments) works very well with the band's style.

    Good stuff. Just needs a little work, especially between the song segments. There's a lot here to like. If Charnel Horse can spin a tighter web around its various styles, then it will really be hard to resist.

    Chase Ave.
    Chase Ave. EP
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Hard to say precisely why this really bugs me. I listened to almost the whole EP even before I began typing (which is unusual; I normally have some idea of what's going on before that). But I couldn't make up my mind. Do I dig this? Do I not?

    Chase Ave. plays through various pop forms, almost always coming back with a vaguely hooky chorus. But not the sort of hook that can set. Blunt. No catch. And that's good. And it's not so good.

    What I don't like is the sometimes awkward song construction. When the guys lose track of what they're trying to accomplish, the music can come close to stopping in the middle of a song. This might be artistic intention, but it doesn't sound like that to me. It sounds like folks who haven't quite mastered songwriting.

    And yet, the playing, the wails, the overall spirit of the project is inspiring. Thus my dilemma, I can usually decide fairly quickly (particularly with pop music) whether or not the stuff works for me. I can't do that here. There's an allure I cannot fathom; somewhere inside of Chase Ave.'s sound is a nugget of gold. I just can't quite figure out what it is.

    Sick Society
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    Well, David Chastain has found another female lead singer (and guitarist) who wants nothing more than to sound just like Ronnie Dio. Or maybe it's Chastain who modulates her vocals so they sound that way. Who knows?

    As usual, Chastain is about two years behind the curve in metal trends, and while this album has the expected immaculate Chastain production touch, that same touch leaves the music sounding somewhat sterile.

    As a technical guitarist and producer, David Chastain can take a seat among the big boys. But he simply has not shown the creativity and imagination to write music that is anything but ordinary. Sick Society is much more mundane than anything else.

    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    The same line-up as the last album, with the addition of Kevin Kekes on bass. Not like David Chastain didn't have a little to do with those parts, anyway.

    As ever, Chastain cranks out power metal with macho female vocals. French sounds a lot better on this album than Sick Society, though I can't really say why. The production in general isn't quite so self-conscious, leaving room for the band to really play.

    And, of course, we get David Chastain's trademark guitar lines. You've heard them all before, really, but he twists up conventions just enough to be original. I quite liked his solo instrumental album, where he took quite a few chances. Here, it's the same old same old. Competent and reasonably amusing. But not terribly compelling.

    Not many folks are making "metal" these days. Chastain has never wavered from that standard, and Dementia keeps him solidly in the fold. Okay, so the songs are too long, there isn't much in the way of original thought and I get a nagging sense of deja vu. All told, the stuff still sounds amazingly good, even if common sense directs me otherwise.

    In other words, a typical Chastain album. You get exactly what you expect.

    David T. Chastain
    Next Planet Please
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Yes, I know this is a bit dated, but the Leviathan folks wanted me to give my thoughts, and so I shall.

    The difference between this disc and the average Shrapnel instrumental guitar album (where most folks who make music like this) is the production and talent. David Chastain is one of the best guitarists around. I feel that he is not exactly sure how to best express this talent, but talent he has.

    And this disc much better showcases his skill and songwriting ability than his Chastain efforts. Chastain has always been a very technical player, and playing this sort of guitar fusion (MIDI, effects and lots of overdubs) masks the lack of emotion that can be heard in his more mundane compositions. After all, when you play stuff like this, skill is what folks like to hear.

    Well, not me. But then, my feelings about most instrumental guitar albums is well known among my readers. And the odd thing is, in this more technical genre, Chastain sounds like he really is feeling what he is playing. A big step forward.

    Fans of this sort of music will lap this up with their tongues, and other folks like me will even be quite interested. A good set.

    Acoustic Visions
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    I've found David Chastain's solo work to be more adventurous and interesting than his most recent Chastain work. He only has to live up to his own ideas, instead of some preconceived notion of the group.

    On this disc, he launches into an exploration of the wide range of sounds and emotions possible on acoustic guitars. He even tries his hand at some classical pieces. Some conclusions can be reached.

    Chastain is a great rock guitarist. He is, at best, an average classical guitarist. I know, the playing is tough, but those fretting squeals shouldn't be there. Also, the production has left the guitar with that somewhat tinny sound that has characterized many recent big label acoustic bits. I think I first noticed it on the Tesla acoustic thing, but even Eric Clapton's Unplugged suffered from this unfortunate engineering.

    The songs are good, and what the playing lacks in technique it makes up in passion. I've got to give Chastain credit for walking out along the ledge. He may slip from time to time, but he comes through this in relatively good shape.

    Rick Chavez
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Almost all Rick Chavez. He wrote the songs and plays all the guitars, keyboards and assorted midi programming. A couple family members drop in on a couple tracks, but that's it. This is a one-man deal.

    The sound is easy-listening Latin jazz. That's really the best way I can put it. This is the kinda music that people put on their voicemail systems. It's not bad for that kinda thing, really, but I prefer stuff with more edge.

    A lot more edge, to be honest. Chavez is a nice guitar player, fluid and fairly expressive, but he's really not venturing out into unique territory. I keep getting the feeling I've heard these songs before. It's not that he's ripping anyone of. Just that he's sticking to safe ground.

    Really, this isn't my thing. Chavez can play. I just wish he played a little closer to the fire, that's all.

    Check Engine
    Check Engine
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    There's something about using a sax as a lead melodic instrument that really appeals to me. Iceburn did real well playing guitar and sax off each other, and Blue Meanies also use horns and guitar counterplay to fine effect.

    Check Engine moves in the noise fusion (my new term for the whole June of 44-Shipping News-Don Cab sorta sound) circles. And since there's already a heavy jazz influence in the song consttruction, the sax seems even more appropriate.

    What it does, however, is bring an entirely new sonic level to the sound. I'm not used to hearing anything in that range, and now there's this piercing wail. Damn, but it pretties up the picture. These guys play off each other as well as anyone I've heard recently, and the songs spin together with centripetal force.

    Okay, so some folks might say this is just more noodling around. I like that, myself. Not surprising when you consider this outfit contains remnants of Sweep the Leg Johnny and Big'N. In fact, when I think about it, I'd have been bummed if Check Engine didn't blow me away. As you can see, it has.

    Cheeky Monkey
    Four Arms to Hold You
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Cheeky Monkey is but two people, Michael Shelley and Francis McDonald. The story as related in the bio is that Shelley heard some singles McDonald put out on his own label. Luckily, as McDonald has played with such acts as Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, Eugenius and most recently BMX Bandits, he's a fairly well-known guy. The two begin to correspond, and in short order began writing songs over transatlantic phone lines.

    Luckily (and this part doesn't exactly seem like coincidence), both are currently recording for Big Deal. Now, what album wouldn't love to put out an album that features two of its artists. Can you say supergroup? Well, luckily, Big Deal didn't. But the result of three days of frantic recording in Scotland has turned out a rather cheery sounding disc.

    Not that the lyrics reflect this happy veneer. In the finest pop tradition, there are completely bizarre tunes, like the rockabilly-style raver "Chase Each Other Around the Room" which sounds a lot like the George Michael tune "Faith" with S&M lyrics and surfpop harmonies. Really.

    The music is pure confectionery, whipped up into the most appealing shapes. The lyrics sometimes slip into that territory as well, but I'm not gonna quibble. This is fun stuff. Sure, there are definite references to Big Star (as on just about any album released by Big Deal) and the pantheon of pop greats, but why whine? Breezy and refreshing, Cheeky Monkey is a collaboration that lives up to at least the sum of its parts.

    Not a Food
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    There's this odd thing that folks call the "Chicago noise pop set" or something similar. Among the current members of Cheer-Accident (there have been a few over time) are Thymme Jones (Yona-Kit, Brise-Glace and at times Gastr del Sol) and Dylan Posa (Brise-Glace, Flying Luttenbachers). The "other" members (such a slight; sorry) are Phil Bonnet and Jeff Libersher, who are the folks that provide the great guitar work throughout.

    Certainly not easy music. Cheer-Accident thrills in dissonance and odd chord changes, yet it is still at hear a pop band. This sort of thing is just taking pop to a whole new extreme (one that I like very much).

    Simply glorious noisy pop music. Much of this sounds like a celebration that music is being made at all (as opposed to rank chaotic blu├╝rgings), and I, for one, share in the joy. Cheer-Accident does not make music for the masses, but if you want to tap into a dirty pop vibe, I haven't heard this album's equal in a while.

    Enduring the American Dream
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Further explorations into the dark world of lo-fi consciousness. Cheer-Accident has an astonishing line-up of musicians, and when their performances are combined with some of the more creative tape loops in existence, the results are fairly shattering.

    The most amazing part is how normal all this sounds. Running the gamut from ambient to pop, with all sorts of stops in between, Cheer- Accident uses sound to make music. Not easy, but mesmerizing when done correctly.

    And there is little doubt of that here. The sonic constructions (and occasional songs) convey more thought than the average band can squeeze into 10 albums. This is complicated, heady fare that refuses to compromise.

    Yeah, so I'm a sucker for anything unusual. Cheer-Accident takes off from a mass of sound and rises to a level nearly unheard of among musical acts. Experimental, sure, but wondrously accommodating.

    Gumballhead the Cat comic book and soundtrack CD
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    I can't really say if this is what might be described as "the new Cheer-Accident album" or if it is, as the cover says, merely a soundtrack to the enclosed comic book. Skin Graft specializes in this sort of thing, and I think I've already spent too long pondering my silly question.

    I mean, what we have here is more than an hour of new Cheer Accident music. And a nice comic book. The set is packaged as a seven-inch might be, which might post some display problems for record stores, but since there are only four stores left that would even think to sell anything such as this, well, I guess it doesn't matter.

    Right. Cheer Accident. A Chicago-based semi-collective which features (on this outing) Jamie Fillmore, Thymme Jones, Jeff Libersher and Kyle Bruckmann (Bruckmann has the dreaded "with" appellation attached to his name, whatever that means). These guys like to play highly-deconstructed rock music, but somehow they make it sound almost accessible. Almost.

    Mostly instrumental fare, which isn't unheard of for these boys. After all, this is a soundtrack. Anyway, if you know Cheer-Accident, then this set of songs won't disappoint. And if you're in the mood for some pleasantly warped takes on the future of music (not to mention a cool, snarky comic book), well, you could do a lot worse than this. Let the grooves blast their way into your brain. In no time at all, they'll have you living right.

    Introducing Lemon
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    Okay, so this is the new Cheer-Accident album. Last month's comic book soundtrack thingy was way cool, but this here's the goods.

    The goods in that every song comes as a complete surprise. Well, I suppose anyone who knows the band expects the unexpected, but past that, you know? There's prog, pop, rock, funk, jazz and plenty of goofiness. Oh, and I think I heard some sitar in there somewhere. Of course.

    Albini engineered (duh), which means the sound is pretty darn near exquisite. Some bands don't know how to use his talents, but Cheer-Accident is precisely the sort of band that Albini knows how to handle. Creativity begets creativity.

    Um, yeah, like I said. This is the new Cheer-Accident album. It's fucking amazing. Sorry if I can't be more specific, but I've really got to get back to the headphones. There's way too much going on here to pick it all up in the first hundred listens.

    What Sequel?
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    Best known for adventurous music that often ventures into unknown territory, Cheer-Accident occasionally ventures into traditional forms, if not exactly traditional songs. One or two an album, on average. Seems to me the guys simply like to do as many things as possible.

    The Why Album came out 12 years ago, and it was the band's first set of meticulously-crafted (sort-of) pop songs. Still weird as hell, mind you, but pop nonetheless. And now we get What Sequel?, which is also chock full of seriously off-kilter songs wedged into the pop form.

    Not exactly like the Red Krayola...well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it sounds more like Yes. Yes playing Sly and the Family Stone. And those are the more accessible songs. Fans need not worry; the major labels will not be knocking down any doors. But then, they never have been.

    Which is my backhanded way of saying that this stuff is, of course, amazing. The boys never compromise, no matter what kind of stuff they play. This album may be somewhat more coherent and contain slightly more melody than the average Cheer-Accident effort, but rest assured, the rigorous ideas are as plentiful as ever.

    Saturday Night Sunday Morning
    reviewed 6/25/15

    The history of Chelsea spans almost 40 years, and during that time members of Generation X, Buzzcocks, the Alarm and other more famous Brit bands have wandered onto the stage with singer Gene October. To expect that this album would be forward-looking would have been foolish. But I certainly didn't expect such a solid roots punk primer, either.

    This isn't the sonic destruction of late 70s/early 80s SoCal punk. This is much more in the Clash/Pistols/Police vein of muscular, tuneful punk. Indeed, fans of the first two Motley Crue albums, Hanoi Rocks, Billy Idol (duh) and other punk-influenced hard rock outfits will also find plenty to enjoy. It goes without saying that the less historically-informed Rancid fans will say things like, "This is such a rip-off!"

    This is something of a "greatest lineups" effort, allowing members from different eras to write together for the first time (or at least the first time in a long time). That might be the reason these songs have a vitality that is usually missing from retread reunions. Or maybe the secret is that these guys are having a hell of a lot of fun.

    While interesting as an artifact, the simple truth is that this album is a complete blast. It's not fresh, and the revolution ended a long time ago. Gene and the boys found a pocket of joy, and they managed to commit it to tape (figuratively speaking, of course).

    I have no idea how the kids will take this one. Mine like it, but they have an unusually wide musical education. My guess is that old farts like me will turn this up to 11, and the young guys in beards will start screaming, "Turn that racket down!" There's really only one appropriate response to that sort of codswallop, of course:

    "Two fingers straight up atcha, motherfucker!"

    Anthology Vol. 1
    reviewed 1/28/16

    Americans might know Chelsea best as the band that spawned Generation X (a.k.a. Billy Idol's platform to fame). The band hit it big in England with the single "Right to Work," which appeared in the movie Jubilee. If any of that rings a bell for you, then you're much more of an Anglophile than me.

    After the rest of the band left to form Gen X, singer Gene October recruited more members. Chelsea's line-up kept shifting, with October the only regular member. This set collects Chelsea's first three U.K. albums, Chelsea (1979), Alternative Hits (1980) and Evacuate (1982).

    Chelsea must have been pretty flush after the success of "Right to Work," as Chelsea is a clean, crisp well-produced set. Soundwise, it rivals London Calling. The songwriting is more pedestrian, which could be one reason Chelsea never went over the top. And that's okay. This is a working man's punk. Nothing posh here.

    Alternative Hits contains a reworked version of "Right to Work" (perhaps rights issues kept it off of Chelsea?), and the album as a whole is much more rough-hewn. Evacuate, which appears to have garnered the greatest critical acclaim of any Chelsea album, goes back to a cleaner sound. And I'll concur; it's the best of the lot here. Each album also contains a number of demos and live cuts that serve as "bonus" tracks. They're not necessary, but they do shade in the edges of the picture.

    I really enjoyed last year's album (Saturday Night Sunday Morning), and this set helps to fill in the gaps. Chelsea's greatest attribute might well be the perseverance of Gene October, and that sort of "can do" attitude what has always served punk rock best. There may not be many true gems here, but these albums are solid representations of the British punk scene of the time, and they stand well on their own. Good stuff.

    If you're so inclined, there are two more volumes of the Chelsea Anthology--already released in the U.K. and forthcoming in the U.S. They're interesting as academic examinations of the commercialization and musical progression of punk music (October is clearly attentive to trends, though he tends to stick to what he does best), but this first set is the best of the bunch. Punk music may have evolved over the years, but in the end the energy and rawness of punk are what satisfy best. This set has those attributes in spades. Two fingers straight up, for sure.

    Chemical People
    Let It Go CD5
    reviewed in issue #11, 4/15/92

    Your first taste of the new sound of Chemical People. Now, my station got serviced with Soundtracks instead of this, and I must say I don't mind one bit. If you haven't gotten that yet, call Ron up and ask him why.

    But back to this single. This would have competed for Top 40 space back in the mid-seventies when cool riffs and horns were all the rage. Not to call this retro-nuevo or anything like that. I like it a ton. Very reminiscent of other power-pop bands like the Young Fresh Fellows, the Connells and stuff like that.

    On the flip, I like the acoustic version of "Mid Air" better than the actual album version. Dig in.

    Chemical People
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Relying more on traditional rock constructions rather than the pop-punk stylings they're known for, Chemical People still do not disappoint.

    Guests galore help out remaining members Dave Naz(worthy) and Ed Urlik, including Robert Hecker, Brett Gurewitz, Jay Bentley and Lisa Poole. I think you know those folks. If not, look it up.

    Oh, the music. Wandering more into Young Fresh Fellows territory, complete with a few horns, this is a change. Some of the fans at the station like it, some don't. But change is good, especially when it sounds like this.

    Arpeggio Motorcade
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Dave Nazworthy and Ed Urlik back once again, with Dave Landry taking on drum chores. It's kinda funny. When pop punk hit the big time, so few people remembered that Chemical People had been knee-deep in the stuff for ages. I hadn't heard much from the band (or the folks at Cruz/SST/whatever) in a long while, so this disc is a welcome catch-me-up.

    And I am a bit behind the time. Since I got this disc from a nice person on the web who runs a t-shirt shop (who also happens to have the initials D.N.), obviously the transfer time is a bit excessive. Now that I've spun my story, let's talk tunes.

    Well, this is a Chemical People album. Sounds like the band I've known and loved for ages. Not much different. Same style. Same sound. Same everything. And, well, that makes me happy enough.

    Punk pop that covers all the bases. While often kicking out some funny stuff (there was that porno Soundtracks project, just fer starters), Naz and Urlik are just as adept at crafting songs with affecting lyrics. Arpeggio Motorcade has a nice range. Like I said. Some things don't change. And I don't really think they should.

    Burnout at the Hydrogen Bar
    (Fifth Colvmn-Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Their tracks on the Assimilation 12" appealed to me, so it's rather nice to get the full CD.

    User-friendly industrial dance stuff. Dancing is easy. Moshing would be a snap. I've always found music like this comes in handy at other times as well...

    If you don't get my drift, too bad. I know that everyone is releasing an industrial album these days, but this is the real thing. Quietly Metal Blade has scored rights to great albums by Malhavoc, Skrew and Thought Industry, and now this. High quality.

    A fine use of the guitar wanders around. Not as prevalent as God Is LSD, but enough to get me going. The whole thing, actually, is enough to get me going.

    East Side Militia
    (Fifth Colvmn-Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    At long last, the long-promised new Chemlab album. Raging beats, accessible tunes and the attitude that is almost unmatched anywhere. Nice of Dylan and Jared to get this put together.

    William Tucker, who was most recently heard on the Final Cut album, supplies most of the guitar work, and the slightly more analog feel to that element is more than welcome. Just another master touch.

    Perhaps even better than Burnout..., which is one of my favorite albums. Some folks know just how to make music, and that feel shows here. As the album skips around from mood to mood, I get more impressed.

    This makes two awesome industrial dance albums in two issues from Fifth Colvmn. Yes, I know who runs the joint. Impeccable musical taste combined with real talent is pretty hard to beat. Another fine disc from the Chemlab boys, one that can only help propagate the legend.

    See also Various Artists/Assimilation.

    Cher U.K.
    She's a Weird Little Snack
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    When I saw Cher live, it was a real heavy, fuzzy punk band. On this disc, all that veneer is pulled back and some real decent songwriting skills are displayed.

    I still think this was produced a little weakly. It doesn't have to be as heavy as live or anything, but there could have been some bass, at least. Songs like "Leper Love", a great rant, call for some heaviness to back up the emotion contained. It's just not there.

    Certainly an interesting album worth catching. Seems to me it could have been a lot more.

    Go-Go Fish
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Back years ago when I lived in Kansas City, I saw these folk many more times than once. Every show was wildly different, but the one unifying factor was the distortion level on the bass.

    I never saw Cher (or Cherr, or some of the other moniker mutations before the "U.K." made everything official) as a punk band really, but Jake and Brent at RdB did, and so their first disc rather surprised me.

    The production there left the songs a little weak, stripped of their power. But there is lots of good news here.

    The bass is back, and the songs are much better than She's a Weird Little Snack. It's like the god of inspiration waved his wand over the band.

    If you need a reason to play every song on this disc, go no further than track #2, "Go-Go". It's positively infectious, and it also will rock your nipples off. DO NOT PASS GO(-GO).

    Sorry. Bad joke. But really, don't miss this disc.

    (Trance Syndicate-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Gorgeous, in a sick, grungy kinda way. This is one of those all-night, kick out the jams, oh my God is my head gonna hurt tomorrow drunks. Just put down on vinyl, not your gullet.

    Strange, but I recall a statement I made about Texas bands somewhere else in this issue. Still stands here. Solid instrumental work combined with the vocal contortions of somebody (they won't admit who sang), this rocks in the purest sense. While few sixteen-year-olds will be cramming this in their jam boxes, lots of us more enlightened folk will be.

    Heroin Man
    (Trance Syndicate)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Well, the usual Trance band emphasis on bass and drums is here, but with such preponderance you wonder why these guys aren't up in Minneapolis recording for AmRep.

    A scatological reference is calling out to me, and I'll oblige: the Cherubs are like one of those prostate cancer-indicating seriously bloody shits. There is no way to derive pleasure from the Cherubs. You must assume the position and wait for the worst. Don't worry, it'll come.

    Truly evil music, much more so than any death metal I've heard. After all, this is an honest-to-god hammer blow to the genitals. It doesn't get any meaner than this.

    Short of Popular
    (Trance Syndicate)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Known mostly for propagating the typical Trance sound (plodding yet steady rhythms and caterwauling guitars and vocals), the Cherubs fully satisfy that craving here, managing to drop in just enough accessibility to possibly widen their fan base.

    Cause, damnit, once you cut through the veneer of distortion and mayhem, some this stuff is actually catchy. Crunchy chords mixed with just enough pop song construction to keep listeners on the same page.

    Alright, the vocals are still hollered in a somewhat annoying screechy style, and if you don't make it through the first layer, this sounds like the Jesus Lizard put into a blender. But hell, man, what do you want?

    I'd have settled for less, and I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality shown on this disc. Probably still a bit out there for the masses, but then, who isn't in these days?

    Chester Copperpot
    Poems & Short Stories
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Or simply cool pop music from a bunch of Swedes who sound like they grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

    These folks must have suckled on such ace acts as Young Fresh Fellows, Treepeople and the Posies. The band's pop sense is unerring; these guys know how to write a hook and not beat it to death. A really nice trick.

    Sure, this is your basic garage pop thing. Nothing that particularly transcends the genre, but fuckin' 'ell it rocks! Far too exciting to dismiss, and as the disc keeps rolling, the cool tunes pop out one after the other. Oof.

    Wish I could say more, but Chester Copperpot is a pop band, pure and simple. They do it well. The guys are Swedish. What else can I say?

    Chestnut Station
    In Your Living Room
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Rian Murphy gathered a few friends together and put together an album of soulful 60s pop covers. Well, not all 60s and not all pop (there's a Hoyt Axton song, fer instance), but that's the style. And, of course, these aren't exactly songs you know by heart.

    The album was recorded in a sort of faux-live setting by Steve Albini. The band itself is tight, and the guys knock the songs stiff. Just a wonderful live vibe going on.

    Alright, so the concept is a little contrived. The guys work a little hard to sell some of the sillier pieces, I'll grant you. But damn, when the grooves get working (which is most of the time), this stuff is almost impossible to put down.

    Not that any of this is terribly surprising. This project fits right into Murphy's obsessive musical nature, and he certainly knows plenty of folks who can play. Throw off your shoes and kick up your heels.

    Point #1
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    The most commercial-sounding album I've heard from a Chicago noise band. It's like Chevelle took the rhythmic attack of Jesus Lizard and fused it to the carcass of over-the-top grungeland.

    Which has its good bits. Albini produced, so you know the guitars sound fucking great. The vocals, as ever, are lost, but that doesn't matter much. They're kinda wheedling, like if (and I hate to use this reference, but it must be done) Eddie Vedder dropped the heroin shakes from his voice. Just so my ass stays out of court, I'm not implying Vedder does any form of illegal substance. It just sounds like he does.

    Whatever. Chevelle's best moments are easily the instrumental bits. The guitar and bass have a nice interplay, as long as there is no singing. But eventually, the overkill kicks in and everything fades to grey.

    Just too commercial (and way too grungy) for my tastes. Chevelle has gone for the big kill (when the top Albini credits listed in the press notes are Nirvana and Bush, I guess I shoulda known), and who knows, it might get there. I'd bet no, but then, I'm not a betting man.

    Chevy Heston
    Chevy Heston
    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Imagine Perry Farrell trying to croon Sheryl Crow songs. Or something like that.

    Of course, Chevy Heston doesn't steal its songs from 70s cheese like Crow does, and therein lies the charm. Sure, the words are pretty pretentious at times, and the drums seem to be stuck on the same syncopation, but you keep moving along.

    As does Chevy Heston. This isn't a masterwork by any stretch of the imagination, but the band has some interesting ideas, and you have to admit this stuff is amazingly unique for belonging to the same area of music that is trendy these days. A worthwhile spin.

    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Eighteen song fragments coming in at just over a half hour. Chevy Heston moves well past its (Chevy Heston is the name of the band and also serves as the nom de plume of main songwriters Matt Martin and Chic Curtis) sometimes-cheesy previous disc with an effort that does its level best to discuss everything that is wrong with America.

    The words "cock" and "pussy" frequent the "song" titles, and the subject matter is not pretty. The pieces just roll along, and the whole album is linked like one song. Yes, there is a concept going on.

    Musically, Chevy Heston rolls all over the pop landscape, stopping to smell sweetness just once in a while. On this album, the band sticks with dissonance.

    With real stunning results. If you can bear the stare, then dig into this disc. This stuff is intense and rather disturbing. Not where I thought Chevy Heston would be, but I'm happy to meet it there.

    Come to Sterilized
    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    This time, 27 song fragments that once again tell a pretty ugly story. The music, though, is still exquisite.

    A little fuzzier than last time out, Matt and Zephan have collected a few extra musicians to help with the effort. The sound is a bit more full, which is an easy improvement.

    The general songwriting remains a strong point. Meandering all over the pop landscape, the core of the band (Matt Martin and Zephan Courtney) has an unerring eye for kernels of greatness. With only three songs longer than two minutes, the pieces have been collected and assembled with the greatest of care. The thing flows almost seamlessly as the concept lurches toward the apocalypse.

    I've never been able to understand precisely how Chevy Heston works, or how the folks manage to craft such astonishing music. I can only appreciate.

    Rita Chiarelli
    Breakfast at Midnight
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    I'm always appreciative of blues artists who write their own material. I'm even more appreciative when that material is original and not derivative. I'm most appreciate when that original material is damn good. Rita Chiarelli makes me most appreciative.

    The songs sound like they were recorded in one take (though I know they probably weren't). There's just this loose, live feel to the album. A lot of that has to do with Chiarelli's expansive songwriting style, with a fair amount of credit going to the extensive instrumentation. It's not every blues album that includes harp, organ, mandolin, accordion, dobro and piano. It's not unusual to hear these on blues albums, mind you. You just don't normally hear all of them on one disc.

    Chiarelli's strong, smoky voice also colors these songs most impressively. This is how the blues should feel. They don't need to be overblown or produced to the point of oblivion. They should sound natural, like life itself.

    I've only heard a couple of albums from this label, and I've been mighty impressed by both. Chiarelli's expansive take on the blues confidently takes listeners on a scenic tour. She incorporates rock, jazz, folk and country elements without sacrificing the soul of the blues. Completely entrancing.

    Chic Gamine
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/17/13

    In one way, this is just another Canadian pop album. Except that Chic Gamine blends 60s girl groups, 90s girl groups and an indie rock backbeat. Largely composed of a capella harmonies and drums, with the occasional bass and guitar line thrown in, these songs are instantly seductive. This is one of the early favorites for album of the year.

    Chicken Dog
    Trick Stitches
    (Sin Klub)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Sorta like what Buzzov*en might sound like if they listened to more Nugent (or even Lynyrd Skynyrd, like the boys in Eyehategod). Unfortunately, the production is pretty weak (I wish I could really hear what was going on).

    I like what I can make out. This is pretty unusual noisy stuff. It would be nice to cut through the production fog and find the original music.
    Chicken Dog really blows my socks off (even if I'm not wearing them at the moment). This is a cool album. Find it.

    The Chicken Hawks
    Siouxicide City
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Basic basic. Punk rawk as played by four exceedingly unattractive people. Lots of sexual references, lots of fast and furious guitar playing (and flailing, really). This is not an exercise is finely crafted music.

    No, it's amped up rockin' blooze with a punk heart. Why else record songs with titles like "Bad Bitch Boogie", "Stick It In" and (my favorite) "Fuck Minneapolis"? I can't answer that.

    Oh, and ever so sloppy. Hollered vocals, slap-happy bass work and a lead guitar which kinda shorts out from time to time. This sounds like a live album, though it was recorded in a studio. Needless to say, no overdubs.

    Charming, in the same way that a cute girl's puke is when you're completely fucked up. The next morning, well, the room's gonna smell awful. But at that moment, you can only love her more.

    Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    The blues ain't nothin' but a state of mind. At least, that's what the Chicken Hawks hope most people think. Because these fine people do play the blues. They play the hell out of them.

    Some might say blues run screaming from these folks, but I won't. I'm all for folks who crash and wail and just tar and feather the blues. As long as the spirit is right. You gotta have that certain something.

    Most of what the Chicken Hawks have is an unfailing belief that loads of energy will sell any song. The writing is crude, and the playing is rarely spectacular. The sound is raw, ragged and generally mean to boot. And that's a compliment.

    One of them hard rockin' blues outfits that probably plays until the last patron has passed out. I've dug these folks in the past, and this album simply cements my liking. Quality? Maybe not. But what a rush!

    Indian Summer
    (Satellite Records)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    Chicklet is a duo from Toronto with a California record deal. Julie Park is the main songwriter, and she and Daniel Barida share the musical duties. Park sings a lot more than Barida. I'm not sure how all this works out live, but that really doesn't matter here.

    Nope. What matters is how the music sounds on this disc, and it sounds great. Park has one of those strong-yet-ethereal voices, the kind that can achieve that bell-ringing tone when it really gets going. She likes to write fairly unnuanced songs, and those compliment her voice quite nicely.

    Bascially, each song has a nice beat, a solid riff and the vocals (Barida's vocals, when they come, are strangely similar to Park's). A simple construction set, and it works. Don't make something good more complicated than it needs to be. Just let it ride.

    Nothing spectacular, I guess, but Chicklet sure does know how to make some ace pop songs. It sounds effortless on this album, but man, putting together an album this good just isn't that easy. I'm more than impressed.

    Porn on the Cob
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Random bits of guitar squeegee, samples, electronic wheezing and plenty of distortion, all thrown together in moderately coherent fashion. Moderately meaning that it is possible to distinguish between songs, if not what's actually in them.

    I know I'm in the utter minority here, but I really dig chaotic rumblings like this. Does Chikmountain make sense? C'mon, look at the band's name. Of course it doesn't.

    And that's a lot of the point. There's noise galore, with just enough of a guiding hand to set the scene correctly. Chikmountain simply rumbles forth in a vaguely ominous tone, obivious to whatever else might be in the way.

    The squalls are heavy and intense, but weathering the storm is the whole trick. I can't say that I heard any overarching intent, though as anyone knows that isn't necessary. I simply had a good time riding the waves.

    Child Bite
    The Living Breathing Organ Summer
    (Joyful Noise/Forge Again Records)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Fusing many of the unconventional alternative sounds of the upper midwest (no wave, Chicago-style post rock, a penchant for using keyboards as rhythm instruments, Naked Raygun-esque gang harmonies, etc.), Child Bite sounds like the bastard offspring of my college days. And yet, it sounds like the music of tomorrow as well.

    Many of these trends were so forward-thinking in their times that they, too, still sound futuristic. But a fair amount of credit must be given to Child Bite, which picks and chooses the finest morsels of its inspirations and then runs the entire mess through a finely-honed music grinder.

    It's fair to say that no other band sounds remotely like these guys. And few are as good. The energy level is astounding, which simply ramps up the creative ferment to a boil. Child Bite seems to want to lay waste to the concept of modern music. Know something? It has.

    These folks have been doing this for a while, and this album is the latest (and finest) example of what happens when talented people get into a groove. Discord and harmony, sax and synth...Child Bite tries out about every combination imaginable, and everything is exceedingly palatable. Thrilling.

    Children on Stun
    Tourniquets of Loves Desire
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    The big danger with goth music is that all of the excesses can cancel each other out. All of the weepiness is wiped out by a fast beat, or emotional lyrics turned bland by weak guitar work.

    Throughout much of this album, I get the feeling something's wrong. I can't pinpoint any cause, but it just feels like there's something missing or left out.

    Almost like too much work was put into creating this work. I think a live recording of Children on Stun would be quite good, but for some reason things here got fucked up in the mix. Too bad.

    Two-Fisted Dongus 7"
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Somehow, this just doesn't sound real. While the playing is competent, the instruments sound like toys somehow. And the lyrics are either incredibly dumb or just too surreal for me to really understand.

    And yet I like this. Childress' take on pop music is at once childish and aggressive (or perhaps that makes sense). And the sound just keeps wrapping itself around my ear, making me smile. I hate it when that happens.

    Chill E.B.
    Born Suspicious
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    What? A rap record from A.T.? C'mon, where do you think the Disposable Heroes came from?

    And as for the Bay-area rap scene, how about Paris, Digital Underground, etc.? West coast rap means more than N.W.A. (in all its current forms) and Ice-T.

    Chill E.B. has a heavy, pronounced delivery, like many hard-core rappers. But he uses his mind instead of "motherfucker" every other word. The messages are generally positive, and they certainly aren't gangsta tales.

    But many songs seem to fade just as they are getting going, like he's just putting snippets of a full-length.

    What's here is very good. I just wish there was more.

    Earth Loop
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    A generally ballsier and more creative approach to the "we've got a woman who sings in that ethereal, wispy style" band. And from Northern Ireland, to boot.

    Kinda like crossing My Bloody Valentine with the Moon Seven Times and a bit of the Magnapop. The focus here isn't entirely on the somewhat cliche style of singing, but also on some seriously cool music behind the operation. In fact, I like what the band does much more than Eileen Henry's voice.

    Yeah, it drags at points. What's the point of having a spooky singer if you don't waste a couple songs cloying to that sound? But for the most part Chimera manages to break free from the silly stereotypes.

    Not a brilliant record by any account, but amusing enough. Folks into this sort of thing (if you remember, say, the Millions or even--gakk--the Sundays) might get off to extremes. Chimera is way past that stuff. But no pronouncements of ecstasy from me. I prefer to just float along.

    Catch Me remix EP
    (Grass-Wind Up)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Radio-only, so if you want to find this sucker, keep looking in the used bins. Philip Steir and Land of the Loops take on "Catch Me", each with vocals and an instrumental track.

    Steir gives the tune an almost-ambient feel, with just enough punch to drive folks onto the dance floor. A good, ethereal rendition of the song.

    Land of the Loops is much more over-the-top, with a full-bore Spectoresque wall of sound production laid onto the basic tracks. Instead of a simple instrumental, though, Land of the Loops second take is a dub mix that pretty much totally rearranges the song into an almost unrecognizable groove. Not bad, but it's been done.

    The main problem is that the song itself is not much better than middling fare. There was better stuff on the album to cull for a single. Oh well.

    China Drum
    Self Made Maniac
    (Mantra-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    The sort of sound and concept that Chumbawamba abandoned on the way to worldwide fame. Punk-tinged up-tempo pop music with thoughtful lyrics, sensitive stuff shouted out with abandon.

    Actually, this stuff is quite well-produced, but the anger and pain can easily be heard in Adam Lee's insistent vocals. Brit pop, with enough American references to possibly appeal to a few kids over here. I'm afraid the lyrics are probably a bit too involved for passive listening, but this is only a comment on potential commercial success, not actual quality.

    And China Drum is just fine there. In fact, all the songs are appropriately textured without excess, catchy tunes that still manage to convey a sense of outrage. A lot like the Clash, really, in substance if not in style. Let's get real: Folks don't give a damn about the lyrics. China Drum's music is utterly addictive, shiny enough to get some mainstream attention even while the quality will appeal to more demanding connoisseurs of pop.

    The more I listen to this album, the more I like it. This one has a shot at entering my personal canon.

    The Chinese Stars
    Turbo Mattress "weaponized CD"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    The "weaponized" bit simply means that the CD has been cut into the shape of a four-cornered Chinese throwing star. This means that you can't put it into your carousel CD player (my first choice) or, most likely, your computer (my second choice). I also tried to put it on a sliding-tray player, and it didn't work. But, like any audio junkie, I've got an ancient portable CD player, the kind where you snap the disc right on the motor. Worked like a charm.

    So here's the thing. The Chinese Stars are Craig Kureck and Eric Paul of Arab on Radar and Richard Ivan Pelletier of Six Finger Satellite. There is also a certain Paul Vieira, of whom the press sheet says nothing. So I won't. Anyway, if the previous band names mean nothing to you (and you've never heard of Skin Graft Records, for that matter), go on to the next review. Because what I say in the next paragraph just won't apply to you.

    If necessary, buy a CD player which will play this. I think you can get something down at the Best Buy for forty bucks that will do the trick. But man, does this puppy wail. This is the distillation of no wave into its most powerful, vaguely coherent parts. These are primal wails of insight and anguish. This shit smokes.

    Right. And if all else fails, you can sacrifice your cat with the CD. So it's got that going for it as well.

    Heaven on Speed Dial
    (Anchor Brain)
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    More noise, more snot-nosed attitude. I mean, I think the Chinese Stars have pretty much defined themselves by now. Think no-wave with an infectious rhythm section. More specifically, think Brainiac with more whine and less melody. Either way, it's highly effective for neutering cats in your garage or simply scaring the bejesus out of the local rugrats. Oh so tasty.

    The Chinkees
    ...Are Coming!
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    The "house band" for Asian Man (or, perhaps, the reason for the label's existence). Not unlike the situation with Bad Religion and Epitaph, say, 10 years ago. Musicwise, basic punk pop with a ska kicker in the rhythm section. Strictly speaking, not really ska (somewhere between Elvis Costello and later Madness), but tight, tuneful songs with some wry messages.

    Yeah, plenty of it concerns life for Asians who have become Americans. Not a militant message, just a notion that folks are folks, without nearly as many differences as we seem to see.

    And really, the songs are wonderful. Great hooks, and that light ska backbeat lending a mellow color. Big smiles, fine fare. Irresistible, really.

    Hey, if this is the flagship act for Asian Man, it certainly carries the standard well. First rate all the way. Insightful, incisive and fun. Hard to argue with that.

    From Scene to Shining Scene
    (Honest Don's(
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Chixdiggit fits right in to the Honest Don's stable. Peppy, uptempo pop punk. You know, like the Replacements on Prozac.

    See, I'm trying real hard to avoid Ramones references when I review bands like this. And anyway, Chixdiggit are really much more tuneful. Indeed, the refrains are almost too sweet for my ears.

    But that nice, ragged punk riffage saves the day. Rollicking tunes, silly lyrics and candy in the middle. Not bad for four boys from Calgary.

    There's also a CD-ROM, but since I have a Mac, it doesn't work on my machine. C'mon dudes, there are ways around these issues. Oh well. That doesn't dim my enjoyment of the music. Cheap and easy, but it goes down so smoothly. Just waiting on the tummyache.

    The Chocolate Horse
    reviewed in issue #329, August 2011

    Jason Snell is the songwriter for this collection of folks centered around Cincinnati, but this is absolutely a band effort.

    In part, this is because Snell writes simple songs in that old-school indie rock style. His bandmates flesh out the sound and create something fuller and more adventurous than the bones that I hear.

    Sure, there's more than a bit of the Whigs in the sound, but there are plenty of moments that sound reminiscent of a now-ancient scene just a bit further down the Ohio. Sometimes, the sound gets almost too conceptual. Almost, but not quite.

    What is apparent is that these folks like making music with each other. The interplay on this album is impressive. These songs sound like they just fell together. It's amazing what hard work, great skill and teamwork can accomplish. Fine stuff.

    Plays Tunes the Young People Will Enjoy
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    From the info I've read on these guys, their live shows would be much more interesting than what they put down in the studio. While being fairly amusing while improvising helps your road rep, it tends to sound a little dumb recorded.

    This is certainly strange stuff performed with gusto, but it lacks that something to really turn me on. I would love to catch their act, though.

    Choking Ahogo
    Radars and Maps
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    A fine little three-piece, Choking Ahogo plays fine little rock songs. Nothing complicated or particularly unusual. Except, of course, that the stuff is really good.

    There are few distinguishing marks. I guess the easiest way to describe the sound would be to call it muscular, refined indie rock kinda stuff. There's a nice bit of heft in the guitars, and the production is subtle and of a remarkably high quality.

    Little things stand out, like the way the instruments are blended in the mix. Each is distinct, but there's still a nice bit of blending as well. This doesn't sound like much, but you'd surprised how hard it is to accomplish.

    The same goes for the songwriting, which takes on a number of different ideas and manages to make them all sound like Choking Ahogo. Again, this is a subtle trick, but the end result is a real winner of an album. A lot of little things add up to something great here.

    Groove the Nation
    (Freedom Zone)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    I'm gonna mention this here: You can "buy" this album for free. You pay Freedom Zone $1.75 for shipping and handling and you get this album. Yeah, it's one of those dot com startup things, but hey, who sez you can't take advantage?

    The question is, do you want it? Well, Chola plays in a jazzy groove rock style, with scat-rap vocals and some scratching. Imagine the Brand New Heavies and Infectious Grooves getting together to play some extended jams.

    No, I mean it. This tasty melange is rather hard to put down. I'm not even a big fan of the two bands I listed above. So maybe they're not quite right. What this does remind me of is a band called Bootsauce. Put out a couple of albums some 10 years ago or so. The first one was great. The second wasn't. That band disappeared.

    I hope Chola doesn't. This is great party music. Hard to imagine anyone not getting at least a little happy when this puppy comes on. These guys truly know how to find and keep the groove.

    The Alternative
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    God, I remember when stuff like this ruled the airwaves.

    Like Ratt, Cinderella, Dokken and all the other bands recycling Aerosmith, AC/DC and Judas Priest. Chosen have tapped into the pulse of 80s glam metal, and they do a pretty decent job of recreating the sound.

    Of course, while the stuff is catchy, it's also as flimsy as rice paper. All bluster and no substance.

    The alternative? Um, I'm not sure precisely to what, but I like this for what it is: cheesy, catchy crap. It's fun, and I'll forget it tomorrow. But I enjoyed myself while the disc played.

    The Chris and Joylene Show
    A Family Portrait split CD with Pupa's Window
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Two Baltimore bands sharing one drummer (who doesn't normally play with either, if I read the liners right). And it's kinda hard to call Pupa's Window a "band," since Michael Nestor pretty much does everything (except, you know, the drums).

    The Chris and Joylene Show play pleasantly involved music, fine pop songs that tend to spin around a particular theme. Not quite so complex as, say, Floating Opera (an obscure reference, but what the hell), but good enough. Light tunes with just enough kick to satisfy my wandering mind.

    I love Pupa's Window. It is precisely my sort of geeky laptop pop. Too clever by half and melodic to the point of being cloying, there's just something addictive about these songs. Very cool.

    A good split. These bands contrast well with each other, and the combined contributions make for a fun album. Quite nice now that the winter is finally threatening to make itself scarce.

    Little John Chrisley
    Little John Chrisley
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Plenty of hot (and some cool) blues showcasing the wondrous harp talent of Little John Chrisley.

    A member of Howling Iguanas and a veteran of the blues circuit for years, Chrisley has quite a resume for a guy younger than I am (24).

    But us guys born in Rochester have to stick together, anyway. With stellar side men like Aynsley Dunbar on drums, Chrisley's band can really smoke when things get cooking. And on the slower numbers, such as "Disappointed", Chrisley and the rest of the group show some real skill.

    This is not cliche-ridden white boy wanking blues. Chrisley has tapped a real vein and put out an album of Chicago-style houserockin' blues that almost anyone would envy. The guitars don't overwhelm, and as noted earlier, the harp playing is exquisite.

    Absolutely no reason to miss this one. I hope Chrisley never loses the blues.

    Christ Analogue
    In Radiant Decay
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    The focus is on the music, as the vocals are almost throwaway at times. Unfortunately, Christ Analogue has very little new ideas to bring to the cold wave (or is it cybercore? I get so confused) table.

    Yeah, the execution is fine, with a solid production job providing the requisite sound. But even there, nothing new is happening. I've heard these songs before, it seems, and I've heard them done better. This is just a middling rehash.

    Maybe I'm just in a bad mood or something. But this just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps the inevitable has happened and the stable of talent for this sound has been utterly depleted. Or maybe this album just doesn't measure up. Whatever. In the end, the analysis is the same: no spark.

    Everything Burns
    (Profane Existence)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    With a throbbing Godflesh-meets-AmRep sound, Christdriver bridges the electronic/punk divide with astonishing ease. The songs are basically hardcore rants, with lots of weird noise disturbances around the edges. And the occasional bit of spoken word wisdom.

    The production leaves everything just a bit too muddy for my taste. but then I have a feeling that's the style the band wanted. Christdriver makes its ultimate statement in the assimilation of the musical styles; the tunes aren't the greatest, but the accomplishment is huge.

    Boy, if I could rig up a Buzzov*en-Fear Factory-Christdriver show. That would be something. Sonic violence for the ages.

    Alright, so the masses will run screaming. I think that's the whole point.

    Daniel Christian
    Hold Your Breath
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    There is a template for solid-rockin' americana, and Daniel Christian follows it closely. And while his ardor for that formula can lead to an occasional stumble, by and large Christian fills in the lines with style.

    Think Jackson Browne with a fuller, more modern sound. Christian's voice is an unremarkable instrument, but he tailors his songs well and makes all the parts fit nicely.

    Craft never quite overcomes passion, which is what saves this album. It's safe to say that there's nothing wrong with any of these songs. Often enough, there's something very good.

    A stylish spin through a style that has become very popular with the singer-songwriter crowd. Christian's writing is superb, and almost works himself to death shining these songs up until they blaze. Sometimes working too hard is exactly the right thing to do.

    Christian Death
    Jesus Points the Bone at You?
     (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    A collection of singles from 1986-1991. It rather sounds like that, but when you consider the period historically, this does seem to be a spot ahead of its time.

    I've never been a real fan, and this doesn't help a whole lot. But since most of their albums are very difficult to find, this serves as a good introduction to perhaps the first band to merge goth and industrial sounds, even if they don't do it well some of the time.

    Then you get to the other side, a decidedly Cure-like sound that really annoys me. But you have to remember - they are trying to make a living.

    The Rage of Angels
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    Back for one last gasp, Rozz and Eva O. have borrowed the use of their old moniker (forsaking for the moment Shadow Project) and have cranked out another Christian Death album.

    Through myriad line-ups, one thing has been constant: I haven't liked the band. Something about the overwhelming sense of self-importance and unabated self-indulgence just bugged me.

    It continues here. Rage isn't so much dreadful as just not compelling. There are some nice moments in the structure, but in all it just doesn't come together for me. And that's too bad, because for once the production is quite good and the playing pretty decent as well. I suppose I'm just not a fan of silly pomposity.

    Death in Detroit
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Four remixes of "Panic in Detroit", and one remix each of "Figurative Theater", "Venus in Furs", "Skeleton Kiss" and "Spiritual Cramp".
    The best of the bunch are Rosetta Stone's mondo-goth reworking of "Panic" and "Figurative Theater", given teeth by Jürgen Engler and Chris Lietz.

    VThe rest are alright (Len Del Rio's "Panic" is actually pretty good) but not much to write home about. Just another piece of product schlepped out.

    Forensics Brothers and Sisters! EP
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Of late, most of what I've heard from Revelation has been decidedly toward the extreme range of hardcore. Christiansen lies somewhere between emo and noise pop. Which is, indeed, a very fine place to weigh anchor.

    Not only that, either. Christiansen has a good handle on this sound. Crunchy, vaguely disjointed and filled to the rim with great guitar lines. There's just enough of an anthemic tilt to these pieces to lend a certain lurch, that kinda half-stumble which is most attractive.

    At times lovely and at times utterly stark raving mean, Christiansen makes the most of its time. These six songs (and a "secret" bonus track) are more than enough to whet my appetite.

    Stylish Nihilists
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    Christiansen's strident buzzsaw prog approach sounds just like the early days of emo--back before it was called that, of course. But there's a strong Jawbox feel to this album. And that's a good thing, really. Because few bands moved a sound further than that D.C. quartet.

    Christiansen constantly pushes its songs to achieve more than they really can. There's a desperate anthemic feel to these clunky pieces, which often leaves a limping or lurching impression. I think that's exactly what these guys want. There's so much passion and force that the music is almost squeezed into introspection by willpower alone.

    Sometimes old school is a good place to be. And when you can take those classic nuggets and forge something even more beautiful, well, you've done your job as an artist. These boys have impressed from the first song I heard. This album is no different.

    In fact, I think this is easily the band's most complete effort. The writing is so dense, so thick with ideas and implied thought that it's impossible to work through everything at once. Listen again, and you'll hear an even better album. Masterful.

    Christie Front Drive
    Boys Life
    split 10" EP
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Christie Front Drive hails from Denver; a CD of previously released 7" and EP tracks will be coming out soon from Caulfield (the cool Omaha label). Boys Life has a (very good) disc out on Crank! and a track on the Red Decibel KC Misery compilation. Obviously, that band resides somewhere in the greater Kansas City area. Both bands play something the label calls emo-core (something that I've always called "post-punk pop", as I really hate adding -core to everything).

    As previously noted, the Christie Front Drive tunes are right in that Jawbox sorta area, perhaps a bit more introspective. Very nice moody pop songs.

    Boys Life kicks it a little heavier once the songs get moving, but the three songs here are decidedly lower-key than the recent album. This is not a bad thing. I got a real Engine Kid feel from a couple of these tracks. And now that I've come around to that sorta thing, that should be taken as a real compliment.

    A nice set of six tunes from two bands with loads of potential. Keep your eyes open; both of these groups could flash before your eyes soon enough.

    Daniel Christopherson
    One Zillion Guitars
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Daniel Christopherson is a guitar teacher. He operates things called the Zillion Guitar clinics. In the liners he has a page that's titled "Power chords are fun." Indeed they are. You can play most Judas Priest using the instructions on that page (trust me; I learned that much years ago).

    I kinda like the idea of how Christopherson teaches guitar. He seems to emphasize the fun rather than strict technique. If you really want to get technical, I'm sure he can help. But why not teach kids (and adults) to have fun on the guitar?

    Ah, well, that's the part of this endeavor that I like. Unfortunately, I've also got to say a few things about the music. Christopherson is a talented guitarist. But instrumental guitar albums are tough beasts to tame (Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have struggled mightily with the form), and Christopherson hasn't really done the job here. The songs are awash in keyboards that don't really add much, and the songs don't do much other than providing a platform for showing off his admirable skills.

    But, hey, you've gotta play what you've gotta play. I can hear the talent, but I'm just not a big fan of this sort of project. Guitars can make wonderful sounds, but they aren't a substitute for a voice. And that's how these songs are set up, with the guitar taking up the vocal track. There's just not enough complexity. Oh well. Still gotta say, I like the idea behind this. Music should be fun.

    't Leven & Werk van Pilske Donders
    (Brabant Lowlife/Beats Broke)
    reviewed 5/16/16

    With the exception of the odd "fuck," I have no idea what Christov is rapping about. I don't know Dutch, and despite what a couple of my friends say, it's not that close to English.

    On the other hand, I recognize the beats immediately. It's like a time machine back to mid-90s New York. Christov is obviously telling stories, and I think they're not exactly nice ones. The title of the album translates as "The Life and Work of Pilske Donders," though that doesn't exactly shed much light on the subject matter.

    So let the music do the talking. Christov spits out his rhymes in full throat-clearing form, and while that might have more than a little to do with the difficulty of making Dutch even remotely rhythmic, it also adds to the general menace of the sound. These are songs of a world that is breaking down.

    Maybe this is pedestrian. Well, maybe the rhymes are pedestrian. You'll have to ask someone who speaks Dutch. The beats and delivery are sublime. I'll leave the translating to others (and no, Google's translations aren't any good, either) and simply blast this sucker. A work that is full of life.

    Chroma Key
    Dead Air for Radios
    (Fight Evil)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Rather pretentiously assembled music. The songs utilize a number of different sound sources (the usual instruments plus samples and some odd and ends) in an attempt to really say something. Yes, this disc is full of serious statements.

    And Chroma Key is successful, for the most part. The sound itself is hard to describe, though if you think of Sting's first album and just expand it exponentially, you might get a picture. The mood is generally somber, but the orchestrations are intricate and involved. I guess the style is somewhere in that pop realm, though it often veers into industrial territory.

    And, like I said, pretentious as hell. That only means that the band has to make that arrogance pay off. It does, almost always. There are a couple clunker moments, but I'm highly impressed. There's something big going on here.

    Yeah, it is a mainstream sorta project. The kind of thing that kids will go "whoa" when they hear. While I'm impressed, I'm not rapturous. Still, Chroma Key justifies its arrogance sound with a very solid album. The statement has been made.

    You Go Now
    (Fight Evil)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Moving ever-further away from Dream Theater (in body and music), Kevin Moore's second effort as Chroma Key sounds much more assured. He's now comfortable in the prog-electronic universe (huge dollops of the Floyd, King Crimson and Aphex Twin), and his songs simply sing.

    Now that he's settled his writing into this style, of course, Moore is taking fewer chances. But I think the trade-off is worth it; these much more understated songs have more than twice the power of the material on Dead Air for Radios.

    Just when it sounds like Moore is getting a bit too settled, he veers in a slightly different direction. Nothing abrupt, nothing too angular, but a subtle shift in ideas. Given the atmospheric groove of the disc, that's more than fitting.

    A much more satisfying album. Yeah, Moore has stepped away from the edge, but not enough to bring him into the mainstream. Rather, Chroma Key has simply feathered its nest with intriguing thoughts. Bed down and you'll hear what I mean.

    3rd from the Sun
    Into the Eyes of the Zombie King
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    For those not in the know, Chrome was the band where the world first got to know Helios Creed, and when he was with the band, Chrome put out some of the first punk-industrial-goth-whatever music in existence.

    But Creed left soon after 3rd... (the first seven tracks on this disc), and you hear the results on Eyes (tracks 8-15). The albums are only a couple of years apart (1982 and 1984), but the absence of Creed's guitar (and more eclectic songwriting direction) had left Chrome sounding like a lot of other cheesy goth bands (like the ascending Love and Rockets, except that L&R had more guitar).

    3rd from the Sun is a classic, and Into the Eyes of the Zombie King is not. Simple as that. I'm not saying Helios Creed is a far better artist than Damon Edge, but when the two worked together (and forged a vision neither could conceive himself) the result was far superior.

    There is no good reason these albums were combined here, but they do show off perfectly the early and later days of Chrome.

    Retro Transmission
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Now that old collaborator Damon Edge has died, Helios Creed comes back and tries on the Chrome mantle for the first time in ages. And since he was the real creative genius of the band in the first place, this is the first satisfying Chrome album in quite a while.

    Mostly because it sounds an awful lot like a Helios Creed album. Those are always good for wild trips into a depraved musical imagination, and sometimes some truly great music, period. While replete with the self-indulgence that characterizes Creed's work, this album still manages to resurrect the Chrome ideal even as it cranks forward into the future.

    What I wanted to hear was that wonderful, crazed guitar sound that has made Creed famous. The first time it arrived was in "More Space", the fourth track, and then it fully populated the subconscious of the most excessive track, "Retro Trans Mission" (almost a title track). I don't think anyone has ever harness as much nuance in processed feedback as Creed.

    Entirely satisfying, even if the Chrome formula almost always leaves something to be desired. Creed has proved that the past is the future, replicating the old Chrome sound and making it positively modern.

    Chrome Flashback/Chrome Live--The Best Of 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    An unwieldy title, and even messier set. Well, just an enlarged version of those old-fashioned greatest hits albums. You know, the ones which included a few fucked-up "live" versions of great songs, just so you'd have to go back and buy all the albums anyway.

    For those who don't know, Chrome sprung from the loins of Helios Creed and Damon Edge. Something of an industrial space juggernaut a good decade ahead of its time. Some really amazing stuff, at least until Creed took off to fulfill his own destiny.

    And most of this set are those Creed and Edge recordings. Now, Edge died in 1995, and since then Creed has put together a new version of Chrome and begun touring as such. The first disc is the early stuff, and the second is the latter day live material. I think. The liners aren't particularly helpful. In any case, the live songs on the second disc match up well with the performances on the first.

    In other words, even the live material is pretty good. I'd suggest going back and buying the albums themselves, mind you, but this set is a good introduction to the original space-industrial complex.

    Chrome Sparks
    Sparks EP
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/10/13

    Geeky, inventive, experimental chill-out electronic fare. These pieces do require some patience, but there's a lot hiding behind the initial buzz. A receptive mind is a happy mind.

    In the Year 20XX...
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Damn, I think this set of reviews might end up being some sort of 70s tribute. In a good way, which isn't exactly something I ever expected to hear myself saying. Nonetheless, Chromelodeon channels 70s prog cheese excess into four songs of epic grace and power.

    Not unlike a sci fi-nerd version of the Fucking Champs, these boys play synth-drenched mini-operas full of martial beats and sweeping melodies. This stuff is so excessive that it comes almost all the way back to the mainstream.

    Yeah, the stuff is silly, but I think the eight members of the band know that. They're just having fun. And that's why this album soars. There's no pretension to be fond anywhere. Just a few folks getting as loopy and geeked-out as possible.

    So by now you oughta know if Chromelodeon might be your bag. If you dig music made on a grand scale, I haven't heard better stuff in ages. I haven't had an album thrill me and make me laugh out loud in sheer bliss in ages. Quite the package.

    Chuckanut Drive
    The Crooked Mile Home
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    A few guys from Washington state who play nicely punchy country songs. More country than Americana--if you're familiar with Blue Earth-era Jayhawks, these guys are in the same ballpark. Well, kinda, anyway.

    I'm not trying to qualify that, really, except to say that these boys have a real nice feel for what they're doing, and there's no reason to tar them with a "sounds like" tag. They are themselves. These songs are more than strong enough to stand alone.

    Good singing and stellar guitar work. The rest is very nice, but those two elements really sell the stuff for me. There's a fine back porch feel to the arrangements and production, though the sound is sharp enough to shift focus when necessary. That's a sweet combination.

    And the writing is top notch. These songs tell a raft of great stories through the eyes of some compelling characters. This disc will stay in my car all summer, and probably for a good deal longer after that.

    Fidelity Grange
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    I loved their album from last year (The Crooked Mile Home), and this one picks up right where that left off. Ramblin', rollickin' and occasionally rockin' country songs. Some horns, some organ plenty of harmonizin'. And some really great songs.

    Two albums, and every song is a keeper. These guys cycle through so many sounds (from Tom Petty to the Band to the Gram Parsons to a wee bit of the Big Star) it seems impossible that they could possibly master each one. Perhaps the secret is taking those influences and melding them to some semblance of a well-defined band sound.

    And these boys hail from the west coast (albeit upper northwest), to boot. I've been hearing a lot of stuff from this side of the tracks originating from out that way. It has a different feel than the (largely) midwestern and east coast renditions of americana that I'm a bit more used to hearing. Somewhat rougher and a little more emotionally raw. I like it.

    Two years, two albums, two winners. I don't know how far these guys are venturing from Bellingham, but I'll be in the front row if they ever stop by inside the Beltway. Excellent stuff.

    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    They may be from Leeds originally, but Chumbawamba has decided to go back to Manchester. And since the only thing to expect from this band is the unexpected, why not? The tunes are high on sugar overdose, both in beats and choruses. There's some artistic noodling amongst the shiny surface, and the result lies somewhere between Stereolab and Jesus Jones.

    Because once you get past the waves of hooks at the center of each song, there is a lot of interesting stuff weaving about underneath. The band isn't afraid of outright theft, and since the folks are such accomplished shoplifters, there's plenty of references to decipher. Maybe this is what Negativland would sound like if it totally sold out.

    Alright, so I'm working too hard with that one. Chumbawamba is utterly pop, though there is a rumble of subversion beneath the glitter. And the stuff is so immaculately presented, I really can't complain.

    Utterly addictive. Highly creative and completely accessible. An almost impossible combination, and yet here it is. It would probably help to have something of an affinity for Britpop, but that's not required. Chumbawamba translates well.

    Big Hat, No Cattle
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    At first, it sounds like minimalist pop, the kind that them kids who just about orgasm when a stranger drops a small piece of paper in their mouth really dig.

    Good tripping music, in other words (this explanation provided because some nice folks may not get that oblique reference). Songs that take a long time to get somewhere, and occasionally they don't even get that far. I have a very low tolerance for this sort of thing, because I am really a plot-driven kinda guy.

    Luckily, Chune shrugs off this minimalist cloak after the intro to each song. Yeah, the tunes are long, but the overall sound is much closer to (slow) modern punk pop. Distortion, jangly riffs and walls of noise. Not to overdo the Superchunk thing, but a lot of this reminds me of Foolish or either of the Portastatic albums. Shit that I love.

    I have no idea why the songs are so damned long. I could edit the things into a more coherent form. But that's why I'm not an artist: I'd fuck up the good stuff. I have to admit I enjoyed the ride here. And it's not bad tripping music.

    Garden Variety
    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    This 7" features two pop bands. Pop in the barest sense, of course.

    Chune drops "Duel Rectums" into the party, and it's a pretty noisy tuns about the nastiness of teenage pregnancy. Or something like that. By the end of the song everything is nicely incoherent.

    "Stickler" comes from Garden Variety, and while it does follow some sort of regular song construction, it's still nicely vicious. Compare to Rocket FTC, Gnome or many other great, noisy, pop acts.

    Chupa Cabra
    Flake-Out King EP
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    It wouldn't be too hard to accuse these guys of whipping out the usual strident "alternative" chords and playing for a major deal. But that would be really wrong. Chupa Cabra is way too nuanced to get boxed into that situation.

    What I mean is that the band does follow something of the throb groove sound that is reasonably popular (something in the guitar, really), but there's a ton going on. The bass refuses to play things safe, and the drummer often enough has some auxiliary percussion clicking about as well.

    Now, these songs do have that "I am important, damnit!" feel to them. An anthemic bent, to be sure. But, well, the band follows through. The songs are good. They do say something. They are impressive. There, um, is something important going on.

    And all with a fine buzzsaw sound which leaves the ears ringing for a while after the assault. I'm afraid I haven't done a particularly good job of describing what all this sounds like, but sometimes the good stuff defies labels. Usually, the good stuff defies labels.

    The Churchills
    The Odds of Winning
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    Grabbing as many cool pop ideas as they can, the Churchills have the stylings and feel of a globetrotting band. There's a little Kiwipop, a chunk of emo, a bit of the Britpop and just enough raggedy roots to dust up the final product.

    All that probably has something to do with how these guys got their songs placed in places like the TV show "Scrubs"--and their t-shirt on "The Sopranos." The songs are awfully perky (a nice confluence of the Brit and Kiwi, I'd say) without getting saccharine. Many times, the boys dance right up the precipice before gracefully gliding back into coolsville.

    Which isn't to say these guys plan to be indie heroes for very long. This ambitious album is a calling card, one that ought to be well-received in many major label A&R departments--if it hasn't been already. The Churchills won't have to change their sound at all. This stuff is ready for the major leagues right now.

    And it's still good. Exciting, in fact. There are a couple spots where I think I can hear echoes of excised, more experimental, ideas. But editing isn't a crime if the music turns out fine. And it sure does here.

    This Way To The Other Side
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Or Barrett Jones, with a few folks helping out from time to time.

    An odd sensation, this grunge-pop. Jones has tried merge the two big sounds of Seattle into one cool amalgam. It doesn't work, but some of the results are pretty interesting.

    Take "One the Line", which has a very weird Ted Nugent feel. I can't explain that one at all. Jones writes his music all over the place, which is great. He's trying his ass off.

    And that's one of the big problems. I can hear all of the effort that went into this recording. Not in the production so much (Jones does know what he's doing there), but in the songwriting. He really struggled with some of these songs, it sounds like. An internal tension that can lead to great things.

    Not here. But there are enough cool moments to bring me 'round again.

    The Dying Truth
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Sounds like rushed recording. It makes for an interesting listen. The drumming is amazingly uneven, so that when the band breaks into one of those extended snare-smashing sessions so popular with many death metal bands, the head is never struck the same way twice. At first it sounds unprofessional, especially since the drums are mixed so high, but it grows on you. Kind of endearing, if this sort of band can elicit that response.

    And the sound. It really is the drumming that sets this band apart from the pack. It's really cool. I must admit I have never paid that much attention to the percussion ever before. The sounds out of the kit are really interesting. I'd like to know how they did it. It is was intentional, I'm very impressed. If not, well, it worked anyway.

    A Descent Into Hell
    (Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94

    Very low-tech production, leaving a lot left in the muddle.

    The liners proclaim themselves purveyors of "true" death metal. Okay, but there isn't one shred of originality wandering anywhere near here. If you want to be old school, fine. But have your own stamp, other than shitty production.

    There are some nice riffs meandering in and out here, but on the whole this disc is a loss. And I was really looking forward to it, too. Bummer.

    Joey Cigainero
    A Short Story
    (Sonic Lab)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    A little sequencer project. All keyboard and samplers, near as I can tell. In that vague realm that borders on "happy jazz."

    And you all know how I feel about that stuff. Well, Cigainero is at least one of the better practicioners of the sound. He throws in enough interesting rhythms and melodies to keep the stuff from getting utterly syrupy.

    Still, this isn't the most adventurous fare around. And I don't think it's intended to be at all. This is mood music, I guess, and that's just the way it is.

    Certainly not my sound. But I can say that Cigainero does a nice job with a sound that generally makes my skin crawl. Indeed, I got through the whole disc without feeling terribly eepy. That's really saying something, to be honest.

    Aie! -- Le Trois EP
    reviewed 3/18/15

    A Swedish punk band that sings in French and utilizes a keytar as its main instrument--this just can't work. Or maybe it's just crazy enough to be brilliant.

    Did I mention that the vocalist, Aurelie Ferr (a name that sounds suspiciously French, despite her Stockholm address), has a devastating purr? Or that the vocals are way up in the mix, which makes this stuff sound something like Francophile techno-thrash?

    In any event, this third shortie from CIKATRI$ (I'm not sure about the all-caps, but that seems to be the style) is utterly arresting. Nobody plays anything like this, and even going back to the madcap mid-80s punk scene not many did. The keytar is the real difference-maker here. Like the melodica (perhaps better known as the "hooter"), this instrument (which is about what it sounds like) provides a distinctive sound that defines the band. Well, that and the hardcore rhythm section.

    If you can imagine Blondie reinterpreting black metal, well, you're on the right track. While still in the pop universe, this is some lovely, eccentric and extreme stuff. Not just a breath of fresh air, but gasps and gulps of it. I bet you can't listen just once.

    The Cinch
    The Cinch EP
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    So you've been jonesing for some Cub-like pop, bubbly stuff that moves and moves and moves and moves? The Cinch is, well, you know.

    Expert direction from a tight rhythm section combined with loosely-kinetic lead work and drolly understated vocals is the only way to create such a fun sound. It takes a lot of work to make stuff sound this simple, and none of it is apparent in the finished product.

    Which is how it should be. We don't need to know how hard it is to create blissfully simple-sounding stuff. We just want it to drip into our ears like chocolate fondue. Quite the confection, this is.

    Shake It If You Got It
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Somewhere between Iggy and the Stooges and Poster Children--but much better-produced and fronted by two female singers--lies the Cinch. These songs have a fine raw power that is refined into a tuneful current.

    That's the feel I get, ragged punk pop represented by a rolling river. The melodies float nicely above the tight, insistent rhythm section. The sorta stuff that gets hypnotic in a hurry.

    I suppose I could reference a band like Pluto and that whole "strummed punk" movement of ten years back (or so), but I like my initial reaction better. The sound is much, much more refined than most Dirtnap releases. In itself, that doesn't mean much, but these songs sound better with rounded tones than they would with a sharper, more jagged approach.

    Just about everything here is spot on. I quite liked the first Cinch EP, but this is much better. The band is beginning to really get a handle on its sound. The folks have moved from solid to very, very good. I can't wait to hear what's next.

    (March Records)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    My wife got the first Cinnamon album at her newspaper. I thought about reviewing it, but I didn't like it. In fact, I thought it was one of the worst albums I've ever heard. So... I get this thing.

    But since I don't remember what I didn't like about that first album, I think I can be objective. Mostly. Here's what I can tell you: Cinnamon wants to be Stereolab. Real bad. But it's not.

    The faux-Bacharachian tunes (replete with strings and horns) aren't horrible, but they aren't particular interesting, either. The arrangements are nice, but not inspiring. Frieda Diesen's voice is okay as well, but while she does wispy alright, there's not much supporting that.

    Not the worst album I've ever heard. By a long shot. Perhaps I misjudged that first effort. But this isn't worthy of legions of cult fans, either. It's merely alright.

    Circle 9
    Noel the Coward
    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Circle 9 delivers a dose of solid feedback-filled pop on "Agreement Song". The distortion only makes things sweeter. A nice driving tempo and truly outstanding lead work (by the far the highlight). Great song.

    Noel the Coward crams four songs onto its side, including a real short one titled "(Why Are All the Cool) Rock Chicks (Dead)". So you get the idea: loopy humor that's not necessarily in good taste.

    The music is also in a pop way, with more attention paid to the lyrics and song construction than Circle 9. I get YFF vibes from some of this, which isn't a bad thing. None of the songs are great, none suck. A nice collection.

    Circle of Dust
    Circle of Dust
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    As most of you know, R.E.X. was the original home of Believer and still houses such bands as Living Sacrifice. Here comes their industrial onslaught.

    Reminiscent of Rape and Honey-era Ministry, this is more than mesmerizing. Yes, since it's on R.E.X. there is Christian content, but much more in line with the real world than the guys you see on TV.
    And good music transcends all philosophical differences. In case you still hadn't caught on, this is good music.

    Not sure what else I can say to make you dig this, so I'll just implore you to listen. Metal djs have been picking up more and more industrial these days, and with the aggression level this high, there is good reason.

    Brainchild 7"
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    R.E.X. has just secured R.E.D. distribution, and this is a release to celebrate that, and to tempt your ears for what's coming soon.

    The first, eponymous, Circle of Dust album is being re-recorded and will be released next summer or so. The second album, which was originally released as Brainchild, will now be acknowledged as a Circle of Dust project and re-issued in February.

    As most of you missed out on these guys the first time around, this is strong industrial music. I thought the first album was more experimental and the second more plain heavy, but you be the judge. Be prepared to be awestruck.

    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    I reviewed this a while ago, but since most of you are seeing it for the first time (due to new RED distribution), I'll give you my more coalesced thoughts.

    Industrial stuff that is more experimental and sample-laden than most of what has been coming your way lately. Personally, I think these guys are among the most creative and talented folk brewing such noise around.

    Although I like their first album even more (it will be reissued later this year), this is much more the heavier of the two. If you've been on the Pitch Shifter, Dead World or any heavy industrial stuff, Circle of Dust will destroy your mind. Reward creativity with airplay. I know you can do it.

    Circle of Dust
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    You may remember a similar album with similar art and a similar name that came out about two years ago. Well, this is the new version.

    For starters, the songs "Exploration", Technological Disguise" and "Senseless Abandon" have been replaced by "Onenemy", "Self Inflict" and "Parasite". The mixes are heavier, and some of the cool experimental touches (including the three dropped songs) are history.

    I talked to Scott while he was working on this, and he said he hadn't had the time he wanted to complete the album the first time, and since so few people noticed it then, R.E.X. was giving him the chance to make things right.

    My favorite song from the original disc, "Nothing Sacred", comes through with a little more emotion and feeling than the first version. The beginning is a little more subtle, the end a little heavier. That's much the same as the rest of the disc. There's an obvious improvement in the overall sound. And this was a good album to begin with. If you missed it the first time around, get on now.

    (Flying Tart/Polygram)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Finally, a new album. It's been a while for Klay Scott, the guy behind the Dust. He hasn't released an album of new material since 1994, and I've been waiting. On Disengage, Scott somewhat fuses his influences into a more cohesive sound. Sure, it's parts assembled solely, but these sound more like songs than cool collections of samples.

    The lyric writing is as strong as ever, which certainly marks Circle of Dust as unusual in the electronic music world. Scott likes to explore a plethora of ideas, both musical and verbal.

    And so this is the most experimental and also the tightest Circle of Dust album. Heavy, ephemeral, sterile, highly organic and everywhere in between. This is easily Scott's finest album, and he's been very good in the past.

    Electronic, industrial, techno, riffola, whatever. Circle of Dust always cranks out music for the body, mind and soul. This one just happens to be a little better than what has come before.

    See also Brainchild.

    Circle of Force
    Circle of Force
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Sounds like the sort of metal that was popular about five years ago: pretty fast, shouted-not grinding-vocals, shred-type riffs. This is a couple years old, so I would assume the band has evolved a bit, but there's plenty here to talk about.
    The technical performances are quite good. The production showcases each player well, as well as keeping the whole sound together quite nicely.

    Within the genre, the songs are well-written and thought out. The band finds a groove and sticks with it (one of my favorite soapbox points). And it sounds like these guys know each other fairly well.

    I'd love to hear what newer stuff sounds like. Circle of Force may be a somewhat silly name, but the music is good, indeed.

    Weighs a Ton
    (Wooden Man)
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    King Missile meets Tom Waits in a bad alley. Jesse Jackson mistakes John S. Hall for Barack Obama...and inexplicably Hall's voice drops. A jaunty eunuch in the company of madness; that's probably the only way to make sense of this disc of divinely warped storytelling.

    Make no mistake: the music is utterly compelling (and often closer to Neil Young than Tom Waits, but whatever), but the lyrical flights of fancy take precedence. Even on the instrumentals. Like I said, madness is merely the beginning.

    After about five songs, though, I was completely addicted. Mike Millevoi's off-handed speak-singing is a glorious counterpoint to the convoluted compositions. The sound is noisy but full. These folks are having a great time destroying rational thought. I'm with them all the way.

    It is impossible to enjoy this album and remain in touch with the real world. You just gotta let go for a while. And that act of liberation is a gift that cannot be overstated. Wildly amazing.

    Circus of Pain
    The Swamp-Meat Intoxication EP
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    AKA the Swamp Terrorists and Meathead remixing a load of stuff from each band, along with couple tracks that are original to this set.

    The remixes are nothing spectacular, really. Just average German engineering-type stuff with a few bells and whistles. Honestly, I liked the originals better.

    Well, actually, the remix of "Remove My Skin" titled "RREEMMOOVVEE MMYY SSKKIINN", which sounds a lot like the stuff on Pigface's Washingmachinemouth remix album (one of my all-time faves), is pretty cool. The two new tracks are fairly cool, being more experimental in nature. Still, not enough to break this set out of the average category.

    Sometimes two bands just aren't better than one.

    Back On A Mission
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Techno rock and roll dance music to the rescue. A D.J., a sampler, a rapper and a dream. I can't wait until we all walk around with our personal soundtracks booming in our head and all we have to do to get everyone to hear our inner sonic vision is to put both hands on random people's heads and let the booming flow.

    But until then we get to do the new jerk to this pelvic thumping rhythmic soup of everything synthetic. It's good. It's like soup. It's like nothing bad, let me tell you that much. Anthems for a new age of anthem-less youth. My question is this: are we supposed to dance or jump or bump or what?

    I think I need the steps. I need the diagrams. And I certainly need the speed. Boom, boom, boom, let's go back to my room and we'll run around with the speed of the ceiling fan until we fall down in orgasmic goo.

    -- Matt Worley

    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Back in the day, goth meant slightly off-kilter music sung with something akin to a falsetto. Cities has that mid-80s, ringing goth feel, but it adds a math-y consistency to the rhythm section and just enough other tics to take this sound to someplace completely new.

    Kinda like Trailer Bride. Southern gothic americana makes perfect sense now, but all those years ago no one could believe it. The same applies here. Rock and roll has been due for this sort of makeover, but I can't say I've heard anyone do it quite like this.

    The sound really helps. The songs sound like they were recorded 20 years ago, except that the sound is so much more precise. And those beveled edges help to highlight the interesting things Cities does with its songs.

    The best analogy I can come up with is an Alan Parsons Project cover band made up of 20 year olds--and that doesn't play APP tunes. Really pretty and often spooky. Quite the disc.

    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    I wouldn't have expected a remix album from Cities, but here it is. On the heels of the band's stellar debut album comes this set of eight reinventions. The sounds are all over the place, but each manages to live up to the quality of the originals. Not many folks would take a chance like this (how many rock bands do any electronic remix releases?), which earns the boys even more respect from this corner.

    Citizen Fish
    Millennia Madness
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    Raw Brit pop-punk that combines the best of the Buzzcocks, Clash and Madness with the power production that American bands clearly adore. Yeah, the result is somewhat anthemic, but that is offset by the vaguely ska feel of many of the tunes.

    Sound like a mishmash? Well, it is. I can't think of an American band that would take the musical chances Citizen Fish has, though all of the stuff is very simple. And don't go looking for a Bosstones sound; Citizen Fish uses ska much more subtly (perhaps a real command of music?).

    A pop album more than anything, Millenia Madness is loopy enough to keep the frat boys nodding along while sophisticated enough to make me turn my head. Good trick, that.

    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96
    That cool Brit punk thing that emphasizes pop and ska in almost equal measure, without getting too overwrought at any time. Plenty of fun from a band that's been doing this for quite some time.

    Inexorably catchy, with 12 new bits to lure new fans into the coterie. The production keeps the sound sharp, but not edgy. Everything in perfect measure. Well done.

    Sometimes the lyrics don't say a whole lot, and every once in a while a riff has obviously been pinched from somewhere. Smells like punk to me. And a good thing Lookout has brought this Fish across the pond.

    Another fine effort. Plenty of smiles for all.

    Active Ingredients
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    I always seem to remember Citizen Fish as just another punk band, but every time I hear a disc, I'm impressed. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but in all fairness, the music always is.

    Citizen Fish does drop some ska from time to time, but its more impressive trait is a willingness to toss in strange little bits from song to song. The title track has a rockabilly lead lick, and other songs have similarly incongruous elements. Well, strange at first listen. The band does a great job of incorporating them into the whole.

    Loosely played, loosely produced. A nice, bouncy set. Nothing complicated, nothing excessive. Just solid fare. The sort of thing I really should remember for next time.

    Yep, another solid-to-great outing. Highly competent and quite entertaining, really. I should keep these boys in mind when recounting some of the finer punk bands around. Really, I should.

    Life Size
    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Citizen Fish has been playing this kinda stuff forever, almost. That British bouillabaisse of oi, ska and straight-up blue-collar punk first popularized by the Clash. The fact that this Bay Area band is made up of Brit transplants helps to make the sound authentic.

    Somehow, after all these years, the boys still has things to say and new musical frontiers to test. This isn't the most adventurous album around, but relative to most punk bands Citizen Fish is a veritable mix tape operation.

    I always wonder about Citizen Fish. The albums never quite blow me away, but I'm always surprised at how good they are when I hear them. I'm not sure whether that's a compliment or a slag, but it's just how I feel.

    Same story here. I had a good time. I always do. There's always something interesting around every corner on a Citizen Fish album, and this one doesn't disappoint there. Solid as ever.

    Citizens' Utilities
    No More Medicine
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    An exceedingly solid pop foursome from the Seattle area. Echoes of Treepeople and the Posies abound, as might be expected, but with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos at the helm, the band has managed to hone a nice sound that manages to elude any derivative qualities.

    The wild diversity of influences helps tremendously. CU isn't happy to play the same sort of stuff from song to song. The changes are nicely subtle, enough to prick up my ears, but not going overboard.

    Berlin has given each song its own sound (something Los Lobos has insisted upon for most of its career), and that is certainly helpful in keeping the album lively. From ballads to uptempo ravers, CU proves it knows how to handle nearly every tempo. And the lyrics are as diverse and introspective as the music.

    Completely assured and confident. Pop music from a band who knows what it wanted, and then went out and made it. High quality.

    Can't Wait One Minute More 7"
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Civ, of course, is/was lead singer of Gorilla Biscuits. This is his new band, with many original Gorilla Biscuits taking their usual places. Don't be confused. CIV will sound familiar: cool pop hardcore with just a hint of attitude and great tunesmithing.

    "Can't Wait..." is a jaunty little piece of fluff with a great drum beat. The flip, "Et Tu Brute?" is harder edged, yet still rather catchy.

    CIV, the man and the band, is reminiscent of Gorilla Biscuits, with good reason. A full-length is expected one of these days. Be happy.

    All Twisted 7"
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    The albums are on Atlantic, but as the vinyl singles are still on Revelation, I'll drop my views.

    CIV is the band fronted by the ex-frontman of Gorilla Biscuits (with some ex-Biscuits in tow). The music is punk (more attitude than pop), the time for that sort of shit is now.

    The Gorilla Biscuits were a good band. CIV sounds like a pretty good band. Nothing terribly distinguished; they probably won't sell 10 million records. But if the kiddies want something to bob along with, I'll feed them CIV. Why not?

    The Civil Tones
    Rotisserie Twist
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    More of that sixties lounge-style party music. I understand that this is the big trend sweeping the nation (I'm always the last to find out about such things), and I suppose the Civil Tones have as much a right to wail away at serious retro as much as anybody.

    But this sounds like white guys trying to be Booker T. & the MGs. Take the second track, "Onions Only". I think that speaks for itself.

    And Booker T. and co. were damned close to going straight as it was. These guys miss all the inflection and nuance, playing this style reverentially, as if it were high art. That's certainly not the case.

    Amusing in a kitschy sense, I guess. But after a couple of songs this thing in my back starts crawling, and it doesn't stop until I turn off the discer. I guess I don't mind recreating the past. It helps if you can actually recreate the feel, as well as the sound. The Civil Tones could use some work there.

    Stephen Clair
    Altoona Hotel
    (Mandala Hand)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Fleshed-out folk, with that sparse sound reminiscent of Michelle Shocked's first album after the tapes. Clair's voice and guitar work are nothing spectacular, but his observations are much more impressive.

    Irony is out in full force, as are the leaner views from the curb of everyday life. Clair paints portraits of hopeful despair that can't help but grab your ear. And even when he cranks up the amplifiers and goes electric (as on "Anything Will Do"), nothing changes much.

    As the disc rolls on, Clair's voice bounces about even more, and I wonder why didn't go for a new take on some of the songs. Studio time couldn't have been that precious. Even these missteps, however, don't overly mar this album.

    Affecting and effective, even with Clair's performing shortcomings. He certainly knows how to write (and produce) a good tune.

    Little Radio
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    Stephen Clair's songs sound like he's writing them at the same moment as he's playing them. There's an off-the-cuff feel that he infuses into his performance that is positively electric. While I know that these songs are the result of countless hours of struggle and practice, I always feel like I'm discovering the pieces at the same time Clair is.

    Does that make sense? I hope so. Clair is that peculiarly New York sort of singer-songwriter (think Paul Simon or Lou Reed, two guys who have a lot more in common than you might think) who manages to be sentimental and cynical and slyly cool at the same damn time.

    Part of that comes from his impeccable phrasing. Clair is often just off the beat--much like Reed. This presentation works because of the informality it adds to the arrangement. Unlike Reed or Simon, Clair works in that post-post-folk, alt. country kinda sound, though he does a nice ear for a pop hook. He doesn't overplay the candy, but he acknowledges its power.

    An album full of understated gems. Don't let Clair fool you--it takes more work than you can imagine to create such an effortless sound. When you toil so long as to remove all the scaffolding of craft, you know you're done. Clair has done it.

    Clair de Lune
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Some ten to fifteen years ago, a few veterans of the midwestern hardcore scene decided to go deconstructionist. The result was no wave, symphonies of dissonance that seemed to simply explode from the center with no intention of returning. It started with bands like Dazzling Killmen and the Jesus Lizard and quickly disintegrated into squalling pockets of raging noise. I happened to love the stuff, but I was in the minority. Even such a startlingly strident sound as emo was in its infancy found a way to go pop. Hardcore turned toward the extreme. And all the noise faded into a dull roar.

    Clair de Lune found it and has turned it into true symphonies. The arrangements here are grand and ambitious, and the raucous lines within fairly blister with their intensity. These songs are searingly bright screeches of anger and agony.

    The Mars Volta used similar influences in crafting its deconstructionist prog-metal sound. Clair de Lune sticks to a rougher, meaner punk edge, but the overarching visions are quite similar. Both bands want to make the most important music on the face of the earth.

    And damned if the boys don't come close. The songs here are densely-packed bombs, and just when you think you've escaped the carnage, another anti-personnel blast takes off your ears once again. I'm amazed by the vision and scope of this album. I'm awestruck by the achievement. Simply astonishing.

    Assisted Living
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    When this package from Deep Elm arrived last month, I said (out loud, I swear), "I sure hope this is a new Clair de Lune album." And damned if that wasn't one of the things in there. Sometimes things work out as well as you hope.

    The easiest touchstone for these guys is the Mars Volta, except that Clair de Lune stays solidly in the punk. The guitars can get proggy or mathy, but the sound has been sanded down a bit. That lends just enough softness (or a ragged edge, if you prefer) to the sound, so that whatever tangents these boys may follow, you always want to return to base.

    Clair de Lune seems to specialize in writing songs that almost break down before they resolve in some of the most mind-blowing ways imaginable. As if I could imagine where these guys would go.

    Okay, I've heard two Clair de Lune albums and I must admit to having a feel for what might transpire. Nonetheless, these guys are some of the most creative and yet accessible songwriters around. There's a lot going on, but there's always a road map lying around. You'll never get lost--unless you really want to, of course.

    The Kouch Kronicles
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Just some guys trying to do the whole 70s funk/r&b/roots rock thing. Dominated by a keyboard, which probably isn't the way to go.

    The songs themselves are fine, but generally undistinguished. Part of that is in the recording and/or mix, which pretty much left the guitar (or the bass) out in the cold on a few songs. It's strange; on the songs the guitar dominates the bass just drops out, while the keyboards are all over the place when the guitar take a break..

    And while a piano sound worked real well on "Primitive Man," a song that also benefited from guitar presence, the keyboard sound seems kinda alien to the songs. The band also needs to find a spark in the studio, translate live success to tape. This is a bit too sterile for the sorta music Clambake is playing.

    I'd run a lot closer to the guitar and base the songs even more around that. And make sure you can hear the thing.

    Allen Clapp
    Whenever We're Together CD5
    (The Bus Stop Label)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Every once in a while, I get a disc that reminds me of the old Britpop band Danny Wilson. I hated those guys at the time--this would be somewhere in the mid-80s--but don't you know, now that I'm older I've developed an appreciation for a reworking of the old Bacharachian complex soft-rock sound. Clapp himself claims to be aiming for some sort of Elton John/Todd Rundgren nexus. I'm not gonna disagree with that.

    Add in just a touch of soul in the vocals--real soul, not overamped pyrotechnics--and you've got a good idea of what Allen Clapp does in the three songs on this disc. The writing here is impeccable, and the sound is gorgeous. Soft as a pillow and deep as a cistern.

    And that's what's needed to do this sound up right. Clapp doesn't bring many new ideas to this game, but damn, he's just nailed the stuff. These three songs are simply glorious. I could float away.

    Clare Quilty
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    There's an awful fertile music scene that runs along I-64 from Richmond to Charlottesville. Rather eclectic, from electronic stuff to noise rock to punk to something like Clare Quilty.

    I didn't characterize Clare Quilty, and that was intentional. I guess the easiest spot to drop the band would be modern Britpop (utilizing the same source material as the Fall, Blur, Elastica and other bands that generally wouldn't be grouped together), but even that is a bit too simple.

    Basically, each of these songs has an iron-clad hook, ultra-tight rhythm section and the ringing vocals of Jenn Rhubright. The songs cycle through a wide variety of sounds, but this diversity never takes away from the delightful grooves at the center of it all.

    Some albums inspire joy in my heart from the first note. This was one of those. Hard to be terribly objective when your body is screaming out with some sort of pre-orgasmic tension. Oh, yeah, by the way, I liked this.

    Carrie Clark
    Between the Bedsheets and Turpentine
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    Carrie Clark throws just about everything she can into her songs. There's more than a bit of Tin Pan Alley and plenty of hints of general American popular song thrown in with her idiosyncratic take on the americana sound.

    She's from Oregon and now bunks in Seattle, which helps to explain that approach. I've found that west coast types tend to go with a lighter, yet more experimental, approach to this sorta thing. Clark has a voice that has more character than strength, but that suits her oft-quirky songs.

    Indeed, the first song on this album ("Bum Ba Dum") will either utterly charm you or completely turn you off. I can't imagine anyone finding it dull. And if you like that, you'll love this album. Clark ranges far afield from her opener, but that first taste reveals her intentions. She's gonna grab as much as she can and cram it into this album.

    Works for me. Clark is a fine songwriter, and she's found a great sound on this album. Much like Carolyn Mark, she might be a bit too unusual for some, but those who appreciate the folks who stand on the outside looking in will be entranced. Lovely and thrilling.

    Chris Clark
    Clarence Park
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    It's all Chris Clark. And when I say that, I mean it's all Chris Clark. These songs have very little to do with each other except that they were all assembled by the same guy.

    Assembled is the operative term here. Clark doesn't much care to stick around the same sound twice, and instead jumps wildly from song to song, crafting each from loads of samples or simply playing out a simply piano or keyboard line.

    Now, after going though this a couple of times, things are getting clearer. The simpler, more basic pieces serve as intermissions. The denser, thicker, heavier throbbing electronic techno noise constructions are more regular songs. Though in any case, very few pieces seem to fit together at all.

    Rather, this disc is the fruit of an astonishingly fertile mind. I don't know what Clark eats for breakfast, but man, this is some wonderfully twisted gunk. Whatever he tries to do (and to be fair, most of this stuff does fit somewhere in the ambient-techno-noise-funk universes) manages to speak most eloquently for itself. Creativity can be an amazing thing.

    Tom Clark and the High Action Boys
    Cross-Eyed and Bow-Legged
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Somewhere between roots rock, alt. country, rockabilly and, um, just plain ol' rock and roll, Tom Clark and the High Action Boys ride the range. Clark plays guitar, and the better songs here are the ones that feature his picking. Somehow, he seems to sing better when his hands are occupied.

    I know, he probably recorded the guitars and vocals separately, but what the hell. That's how it sounds from here. Clark has a fine sense of songcraft, and he uses it to spin tales in all sorts of different (but related) sounds.

    That wandering ear gets Clark in trouble from time to time. He's got the chops to make the songs solid, but some of his pieces (particularly the ballads, for some reason) don't quite have the style and confident feel of the best on this album. Nonetheless, I must admit that I'm quibbling here. There isn't a bad song of the 14 on this disc, just an ordinary one here and there.

    If Clark would focus on just a few sounds (perhaps the old-fashioned country and rockabilly--invariably his best here), he'd probably impress me just a smidge more. As it is, I simply like what I hear. And that's not bad.

    Gilby Clarke
    The Hangover
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Despite a good solo album that featured some GN'R mates and plenty of other famous friends, Gilby Clarke found himself out on the unsigned seas when sales didn't pan out.

    And, honestly, this weird slightly-metallized power pop is kinda hard to dig at first. The old Gunners fans thought it was way too soft, and pop fans didn't like the way the guitars sounded (and perhaps the mere presence of Axl was enough to turn them off). So what does he do? Try again.

    Another good album. Clarke's addiction to the whole glam thing (from Slade to Bowie to Mott to the Stones early 70s stuff) shows though, and I can't complain. I happen to like that stuff a lot, too. It's excessive, sure, and the lyrics suffer terribly, but still awful fun.

    I was a big Kill for Thrills fan when the band actually existed. A few tracks here return to that lean rock guitar sound, merging it with the more pop format Clarke has been trotting out lately. It works, actually, as does this disc. Cheesy, sure, but still high smiles.

    Claudia Malibu
    Can't Hold Back the Rocket EP
    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    Muted poppy stuff, kinda spacey at times (mostly due to some fine organ work). The songs themselves have very little energy, even though a couple would be rather punchy numbers if performed by another band. Claudia Malibu is definitely suffering from the musical form of mono.

    Just the slightest hint of desire would suffice. Like I said, the songs themselves are at least serviceable (and most better than that), but the renditions here are positively mind-numbing.

    You know, I didn't like Codeine, either. Claudia Malibu is much more energetic than that band, but this music demands to be played with at least the slightest semblance of joy and verve. Just a little. Please.

    We'll Find You!
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Claudia Malibu really, really wants to be an edgy pop band. I don't know if it's the bashing of the drums or the sometimes mismatched riffs, but the band can't quite get out of the rock and roll groove.

    There is a difference, though the distinction is pretty gray these days. Still, I'm not knocking the folks. In fact, there are a number of fine rock songs on this disc. I just get a little uncomfortable hearing the music try to be something that it isn't.

    Enough of the lame griping. Claudia Malibu is adventurous enough to try a number of sounds and feels, and the slower, more introspective songs in particular work well. The arrangements are still a little rough, but even that adds charm.

    A solid album, even with my discomfort. Chalk that up to a personal problem on my part. Once I walled that little voice up, I had a good time with this disc.

    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    Rounding up all the usual suspects and more, Clawhammer surge forward with a record that is quite difficult to listen to, but in the end worth the effort.

    At times this seems to be wandering into punk territory, but most of the time some odd pop/hard core deconstruction theory seems to be at work. This lends to the difficult nature of the music, but the rewards are in the sonic results and the wacky lyrics.

    Things tighten up as the album progresses, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. The strangeness evident at the beginning has wandered next door, but the vicious hard-core musings please me just the same.

    As an Epitaphile, I find it difficult to complain about any release of theirs. And while Clawhammer are not the typical Epitaph act, they match up well in the quality department with their labelmates.

    I think I'll listen to this just one more time...

    Claws of Paradise
    Claws of Paradise
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    Badass rock and roll, with horns. It's not a new concept, but few bands have attempted it with such a ferocious attitude. It's not just that this album is one blistering blast after another (think Voodoo Glow Skulls meets "Paranoid" Black Sabbath and then slips into a bloozy hot tub). Well, maybe it is.

    The horns really make the sound, too. The whole caffeinated stoner bar band thing is cool, but the horns just set it off. Otherwise you've got a low-tech Hanoi Rocks with more guitars. An intriguing idea, to be sure, but one that these boys surpass.

    The other key to these songs is that they remain in motion throughout. If the beat wasn't so insistent, the energy would drain out quickly. But once Claws of Paradise opens up the throttle, there's no looking back.

    A big ball of fun, with some kick-ass riffage as a bonus. One for the testosterone set, to be sure, but even adrenaline junkies prefer quality. And there's plenty of that here.

    Andrew "Dice" Clay
    40 Too Long
    (Def American)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Maybe he wasn't sincere on Arsenio. Maybe he is the world's biggest prick. But lots of people laugh at Dice. And he makes a sincere effort to take on authority figures rather than minorities for the first time in his recorded career.

    But the audience really could care less. It responds only when he spews four-letter words incoherently.

    It sounds like Dice is trying to become a real comedian, as opposed to just a hatemonger. Some real crafting to his jokes, an attempt to diversify. But from the sounds of his audience, they will have none of it. Once he quits spouting off about tits, blow jobs and jerking off, no one will listen, even if he is really funny.

    Clay People
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    In many ways this is a band layered over dance beats. The vocals are flowing and melodic, a definite strike for individuality in the industrial universe.

    At times, this sounds like Solitude Aeturnus or Memento Mori mixed up with Malhavoc. Not a bad thing to try, and it works great.

    In these days when metal and dance are becoming more and more intertwined, we should revel in the gifts bestowed upon us. As I noted in the 16 Volt review, if you are not hooked up with Reconstriction, call Chase immediately and get this stuff. If it impresses you half as much as it did me, then you'll still be staring up at your stereo from the floor. Yes, it's that good.

    The Iron Icon EP
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Flying in at a much heavier angle than previously attempted (maybe Burton Bell from Fear Factory, who did a significant amount of backing vocal work, had something to do with that), Clay People has crafted six songs that transcend any genre.

    Much like the recent FLA album, Clay People has cranked everything towards the breaking point. While never strictly a techno band (Clay People has always used guitars and other tools of industry), this marks a whole new evolution in the band's sound. I like it a lot (could you guess?).

    Personally, I just can't get enough of this death metal-techno-industrial revolution. I wouldn't want everyone to sound like this, but as it is a natural spot for Clay People to find, I won't complain. Perhaps this is best suited to a loud format, but adventurous MDs will find a spot for a project as good as this one. Strap it on.

    Stone--Ten Stitches
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    Clay People has always wanted to sound like the perfect mix of FLA and Fear Factory. Not too surprising, as Burton Bell of FF has helped out these guys on occasion. Stone--Ten Stitches takes the sound of Millennium, throws it in the mud a bit and really rips a new hole in the industrial fabric. Finally, I can say the guys have made it.

    The first thing you notice is an astonishing lack of bass. I know one longtime fan who has been bitching about that for a couple weeks. As for me, I'm happy to hear a Clay People record that sounds like it was made in the real world. The percussion is sharp, the vocals rough (but audible) and a guitar sound straight out of death metal.

    And I consider all this to be a good thing. I've been hearing the band attempt to make it here for years, and now that Clap People has reached the promised land, I simply have to chime in, "Amen."

    Very much a "love it or hate it" album. Fans of Sepultura and Fear Factory will really groove on the awesome production work and general metal/industrial sound, and FLA fans will probably just call the whole thing a big rip off. I mean, "Pariah", among others, has a real Vancouver feel. I sorta agree, I guess, but Clay People isn't fucking around with synthesizers, and this is anything but a cold album. While highly mechanized, Clay People has infused the metal guts with something very alive.

    This is the sort of album that moves the future of music. Taking some of the best that came before, Clay People has crafted a gorgeous sound all its own. i understand why some folks don't like this, but as a real music maniac, I can only stand back in awe.

    The Clay People
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Once one of the more aggro Reconstriction bands (but still definitely within that cold wave or digicore sound), The Clay People have moved in their past couple of albums toward more of a basic metal band sound. And, of course, with this album they break into the big leagues.

    Not unlike Fear Factory or Sepultura, The Clay People aren't afraid to incorporate industrial rhythms and chord structures in the songs, but still, at the end this is still a new wave metal band.

    And a pretty damned good one at that. I loved Stone--Ten Stitches, and while this doesn't knock me out like that one did, I figure it's just because the band is beginning to settle into its sound. A sound which definitely works.

    All power and glory. The Clay People don't fuck around with subtlety. This music crashes through all barriers in its path. Awe-inspiring and completely convincing. The Clay People puts the band's best music forward.

    Cleveland Bound Death Sentence
    Cleveland Bound Death Sentence
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Lo-tech recording and even more basic songwriting. This is punk the way it was meant to be, methinks. Can it get more basic than this? Maybe, but not with the element of fucked up sound.

    That's a compliment, folks, don't misunderstand me. Cleveland Bound Death Sentence makes music a real mess, but the rhythm never stops, and for some reason, my interest stays piqued.

    Art? That's a million miles away. CBDS stands for all that is screwed up in the world, and its proper propagation. There is no reason to clean up this mess.

    Nope, just let it fester and see what happens. Don't know what that might be, but it has to be interesting. And most certainly vital.

    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    Rhythmic, soaring, grungy hardcore. Outta Baltimore, if you can understand that. Click takes the latter-day Helmet sound, translates it back to a dirtier sound and then proceeds to shred.

    The only way this sort of music works is if the drums and bass are in constant motion, cleansing the music of its excessive tendencies through a baptism of fury. In general, Click manages that trick. This is tight and mostly fast, at its best reminding me of the Therapy? EPs released by Touch and Go as one album.

    Click does occasionally get a bit overwrought, and then the music bogs down, releasing shrill grunge anthem shrieks and howls of mendacity. Each time, though, the next song picks me up out of the morass and helps me back into the groove.

    Not perfect, but surprisingly well-executed. I mean, this is a somewhat dates sound, and Click managed to keep my attention and even impress. There's something here.

    The Clinic
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Roots taken to a grand vision. The Clinic plays a well-structured form of roots pop, with the choruses tending to plow into anthemic territory.

    Perhaps just a little too upright. The Clinic's moves are obvious a mile away, and there is a slight disjointed feel to some of the riffage. I know, the latter is sorta common in the style, but I like to hear bands settle into grooves.

    Nonetheless, the Clinic has gotten some ace sound work. Despite the presence of acoustic guitars, organ and piano, the production did not allow the mix to get overly sweet. The good parts of the songs and the performances shine through.

    I just like to hear bands that sound a little more comfortable. The Clinic ought to be just the slightest bit more laid back. It's a subtle thing, really, but kinda important. The band does need something to break out of the pack. If it can find that ingredient, well, it's pretty well set otherwise.

    Michelle T. Clinton
    Blood As a Bright Color (advance cassette)
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    While Jello Biafra may express a certain disaffection that white males feel for our society, Michelle T. Clinton gives a distinctive black female spoken word perspective on this fucked up world we live in.

    Clock DVA
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Like the title suggests, this is a collection of singles from 1988-1993. But most of the mixes on the disc are new, just so you don't think you're being ripped off.

    Instead of merely claiming to be influenced by the German experimental electronic movement of the seventies, Clock DVA has been around long enough to be an influence all unto itself. The liners seem to claim that Clock DVA is somehow personally responsible for the new wave reaction to punk. This has some truth to it, but I think the case is a bit overstated.

    If you're not familiar with Clock DVA, the songs are much more actively theatrical and "arty" than what you're probably used to. Relying less on beats and synthesizers to create moods, Clock FVA merely comes right at you. What's said is what is meant to be understood. And the music is still very interesting.

    What really is amazing is that Clock DVA can manage to still be experimental and so damned prolific, over fifteen years into its existence. This taste should get you nicely warmed.

    Clock Hands Strangle
    (Chocolate Lab)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    I really liked these guys' first album. Did a short review. This one, though, is an awful lot better. Back then I wondered how five guys could create such a full sound. That's still a mystery to me, but the true wonder is the sound itself.

    There's no easy way to categorize Clock Hands Strangle. The simplest description would be raucous roots fare with horns. But that would ignore the solid song construction and tight playing. Yeah, these songs often seem to be devolving into cacophony, but the center always holds. These boys know what they're doing, even when the playing gets almost hyperkinetic.

    Imagine a convergence of ALL, Meat Puppets and the Wrens. Okay, so those references kinds show my age, but they're still apt. CHS is fearless in its reinterpretation of a wide variety of sounds, and they play so well and so energetically that there are no holes whatsoever.

    A joy, pure and simple. A lot of my friends ask me why I listen to a hundred or two dreadful albums a month. An album like this is all the answer I need. Flat out brilliant.

    (First Warning)
    reviewed in issue #7, 2/14/92

    From Nashville. My girlfriend's from there, and I know the scene pretty well, but this is still a surprise. A power-something trio (did you ever notice that all trios get dubbed power-rock, like Rush, or power-blues, like Cream, or shit like that?) that relies on great musicianship and the occasional pop melody.

    For those of you who heard the Bullet Lavolta album last year, when this gets cranking, it reminds me of that. Of course, there's mellow spots as well. But don't let that scare you off (and many of you are playing this). This is not easy listening; it is rewarding listening. I picked up their first album for $3 at an Albuquerque used record store (Record Roundup, I think), and I couldn't have gotten more for my money. These guys are great. Metal, punk, alternative, whatever. Who cares? Good music.

    You want me to give you cuts to play? And you call yourselves college radio. I've decided that I'm not going to that anymore. I may mention the occasional song that I really like, but no programming hints from me. If you want to know what track to play, then go somewhere where you get paid to play records. Enough, already.

    Don't Walk
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    God, I thought Gilby Clarke had a pretty cool handle on this glam pop thing, and then I hear this. Closer sounds exactly like Marc Bolan leading the Posies. I mean, exactly. Not that it's a bad idea or anything.

    The songs swirl about in an atmospheric mix of acoustic and electric guitars, with the choruses providing space for swooping melodic shifts. The excess is everywhere, and I like the way it drips off the page.

    Makes me wonder what the band Star Star would sound like today if it was still around. This stuff is much more sophisticated and moody, but the thought lingers. And it's not an unpleasant notion.

    The cover is goofy, and the band looks like Goth rejects, but at least the music is cool. Actually, that's all that matters, period.

    Cloud Cult
    Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus
    reviewed in issue #265, June 2005

    Cloud Cult is one weird band. It donates 100 percent of its profits after expenses to environmental causes. It has performed on VH1 (on the show "Totally Obsessed") and made a significant dent on the national radio charts. And all this with a sound that can only be described as obsessive (there's that word again) proggy pop. Kind alike the Shins, I suppose, but much, much more idiosyncratic.

    Craig Minowa is the main force behind Cloud Cult. He's an environmental activist (thus the Earthology label and the donations), but these songs tend to tackle the personal rather than the political.

    The sound is unique and approachable, which may explain why so many folks in so many different places like the band. The loosey-goosey production sound keeps the adherence to craft toned down, and the overall sound sounds like the perfectly organic blending of a number of minds.

    The web site and the press notes are a bit over the top. Cloud Cult cannot save the Earth from destruction, much less give my wife and I a fuller sex life. Still, the music is inventive and fun, and the insights trip out the speakers with regularity. Solid.

    Cloud Party
    Everything And... EP
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Calvin Trillin once described Reading (Pa.) as the home of the world's most successful aluminum siding salesman. Having wandered past the town a couple times, I'd have to agree. But then, that's not saying much about Cloud Party, is it?

    No. These nice young men play some nice roots rock. They dabble with backbeats and harmonies, but they don't even come close to being cloyingly overpolished. The lyrics aren't particularly exciting, but they're serviceable.

    And the riffage is as well. Nothing particularly exciting, but nice, rolling fare. Songs for a nice afternoon on the front porch. If I had one anymore. Got to work on that.

    Perfectly good stuff. Not overly distinctive, but solid. If I dug this sort of thing more, I might be excited.

    (Mush-Dirty Loop)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    A collection of 12 10" record sides, this album represents a couple years' work. But what is it, anyway? I'm struggling with that question. The easy answer is that cLOUDDEAD is comprise of why?, odd nosdam and dose one, with a few friends along for the ride. These folks exist on the fringe of coherent experimental electronic music--on the hip hop tip.

    The rhyming kinda keeps the songs in tow, while the wonderfully warped beat work and atmospheric electronic backdrop do everything they can to takes these songs to other dimensions. Often, they succeed.

    Once again, I've got to say this has a bit of that old school (am I really saying this?) Wordsound feel. A lot of work went into creating an effect here, and oftentimes that effect overshadows the ostensible focus of a given song.

    Things get trippy that way. At no point does any of this get dull. The creative ferment behind this album must be something to behold. I'm blown away. Anyone with half an interest in either underground hip hop or the experimental side of electronic music should be most pleased with this disc.

    Clouds Forming Crowns
    Clouds Forming Crowns
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Last month, Tobin Sprout. This month, Clouds Forming Crowns (featuring Tim and Todd Tobias). Let the GBV diapsora bloom in full force!

    But, really, can't we take all these folks on their own merits? I think so. Sprout has an exceptional ear for truly gorgeous pop music. The Tobias boys seem a lot more interested in noodling between the lines of hooks. Which makes these songs just that much more difficult to glom on to...at least, at first.

    There are plenty of points of purchase here. The songs often are quite pretty, even if a tangent or two within tends to undercut the surface beauty. Those scars, however, seem to enhance the overall. Pop music is more than skin deep, in other words.

    Now I'm making a fool of myself. But that's alright. Good music has been known to do that to me. Clouds Forming Crowns may be a truly silly name for a band, but the music within is most worthy of its pedigree.

    Race to the Blackout
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Sweet, fuzzy swagger that never lets up. Indie rock meets cock rock with some seriously glorious consequences. I've liked these guys for a while, and this album makes me happy.

    (Baby Julius)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Keepin' the grunge torch alive, with a rap-core infusion. Clyde has all the conventions down: Soaring vocal lines, bombastic bass lines and anthemic riffage. Very nice, if that's yer bag.

    And there are a few modern conventions beyond the rap stylings. The tone is muted; while the songs are pretentious and excessive, the sound is restrained. Kinda like the first Pearl Jam album. You know, where you could hear every instrument. Hear what was going on.

    I like that about Clyde. Maybe this is the sound that might win over the Dockers crowd to the new jack. Not too threatening, plenty tuneful. None of that revolution silliness. If that's where these guys are aiming, well, they might have something.

    It's not my scene, mind you, but these are talented guys who can write and play solid songs. That's gotta count for something. And it oughta get them somewhere, even if the destination isn't the one they had in mind.

    Colleen Coadic
    Say Anything
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    Riding somewhat the same territory as arena rockers Melissa and Alanis (no last names need apply), Colleen Coadic's whiskey-soaked voice manages to stake her own claim to this well-traveled musical road.

    For starters, her arrangements are more bluesy than bombastic. Indeed, at times the production reminds me a lot of the sparse honesty that Etheridge found on her first album (and never recovered). The folky instrumentation (violin, harmonica, acoustic guitar, etc.) brings to mind the late 80s Mellencamp albums (and the Indigo Girls, of course, but why be obvious?).

    Sure, Coadic tries to hard to make a point sometimes, and the creeping death of anthemitis is often just around the corner. But just as often a haunting melody scrapes itself down my spine, leaving a nasty scar. Of course, to be popular, she'll have to bulk up the sound. To be better, Coadic needs to move to roots just a bit more. The terrible choice.

    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    A sincere practitioner of what even my wife calls "women's music", Colleen Coadic merges pleasant roots-pop with rather agonizing lyrics. Very raw, emotional content here.

    The best thing is that Coadic has moved past her earlier recordings and found more of her own sound. Oh, there are flashes of Michelle Shocked, the Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, Kate Bush and, of course, Melissa Etheridge, but Coadic's hard work has produced a clearer vision.

    The production has left some of that nasty demo-type muffling (though in general the sound is of a more than acceptable quality). Still, the general sound setting emphasizes Coadic's songwriting, which has become more mature and self-assured.

    Still not exactly my cup of tea, but Coadic is so far past where she was just a couple years ago, I'm completely taken aback. This is a strong album by any measure.

    You Feel This Good
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Colleen Coadic was one of the first artists to send me a tape when I started A&A more than 13 years ago. I liked her stuff back then, and I like it now. I haven't heard from her in quite a while, and this album is much better than what I heard back then. Coadic has enough personality to raise her music out of the faceless morass of similar singer. She's a fine anthemic folk-rock singer, and she writes good songs.

    Coal Chamber
    Coal Chamber
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Easily the most intriguing debut metal album I've heard in a while. Coal Chamber is far from perfect, but the band's willingness to try anything is a big plus.

    The sound is somewhere in that trendy world inhabited by Rage (well, first album, anyway), Fear Factory, Sepultura and the like. A mishmash of styles and sensibilities, laid over a basic hardcore rhythm track. Most of the time.

    It doesn't always work, but Coal Chamber has managed to rip off a big chunk of greatness. The real test is where it goes from here. I hope the band continues to try and break the soil of complacency with creativity. This album tells me that's the likely course. A good thing.

    This disc is merely at the forefront of current metal styles. With any luck (and a lot of hard work), the next album could define the future. Coal Chamber has that potential. Don't be overly ecstatic with such an accomplished debut. The race hasn't even begun.

    The Coal Porters
    The Chris Hillman Tribute Concerts
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    The Coal Porters are a somewhat shifting group of Brits who like to play all sorts of American country music. Lately, they've been getting more into bluegrass. The group plays a Chris Hillman tribute show every December 4 (Hillman's birthday), and this particular concert shows off the band's recently-developed mountain music licks.

    The songs encompass much of Hillman's career, with a particular focus on the Byrds (and a good dose of Burritos as well). The picking is most fine and the singing most often in tune (which is about as close to perfect as you want to get with this kinda stuff).

    For a live recording, this sounds great. Wonderful. Sharp, yet rich tone. None of that tinny junk. Just a good balanced sound that allows everyone to be heard. Again, just where you want to be.

    Nothing complicated. The formula is very simple, and the Coal Porters have executed it to perfection. The songs are timeless, and the performances here are worthy of the works. A most enjoyable set.

    002 CD5
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    Last time I saw Kansas City band Season to Risk, those guys were touring with Fudge Tunnel. Fellow K.C. act Coalesce seems to have taken a few lessons from the masters for its New Chapter single release.

    And the result is a nicely cacophonic sound that crosses the guitar slinging of Chicago hard core with the pure vitriol of the Brit hard core movement (I wanted to avoid saying "cross Jesus Lizard and Fudge Tunnel"). But there it is.

    Three songs, nicely varied and yet fully self-defined. Coalesce should have no shortage of offers after this gets any release. A real stunning piece of attack work.

    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Years and years and years ago (okay, maybe only years and years ago), there was a band called Seam that played slow, introspective, somewhat psychedelic rock songs. Then Seam wised up and got hip to that Chicago noise thing and slowly moved out of its old apartment.

    Coastal must've sublet the place. Back when Seam sounded like this, I didn't like the stuff. But now I'm older, wiser and just that much smarter. So now, I'm happy to say that the old Seam was pretty damned good, and so is this Coastal stuff.

    But let's actually talk about Coastal, shall we? The songs are driven by a languid lead guitar line and organ tones, with male and female vocals (most often working together). The songs don't always go somewhere. Sometimes, they just wallow in the mood.

    Even then, however, there's this yearning, this need to figure something out. I get the feeling that Coastal is slowly (alright, very slowly) pondering some of the bigger questions of the day. Like, why sit around and watch Springer when you could be making love? Okay, so that's not a topic discussed here. Not a problem. I just need to tap into this gentle groove a bit more and reconnect with my subconscious. Coastal helps a lot there.

    This Ageless Night split LP with Midsummer
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    I'm familiar with Coastal from an album on Words on Music a couple years back. Like the folks a lot. Midsummer is new to my ears, and I'm simply blown away.

    Contemplative rock is something of an undercurrent in a wide variety of scenes. It's always been around, but most folks don't seem to notice it. Like Coastal, Midsummer reminds me a lot of Seam and other similar bands. Thing is, these folks really give the sound a big rush. Kinda like if Three Mile Pilot channeled its tangents into sweeping themes instead. Yep, this stuff is pretty damned great.

    And lest I jilt the band I came with, Coastal's five pieces don't let me down. I had an idea of what to expect, and for the most part these songs exceed my premonitions. Coastal is much more minimalist than Midsummer, and that makes for a nice counterpoint to the second half of the album. A loosening of the tensions without actually lessening the train of thought.

    A fine pairing, and a fine album. These are two bands that have moved past "potential" and are beginning to deliver. Thoughtful music that is strikingly moving as well.

    Halfway to You
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    If you took the High Llamas and distilled that music to its pure essence, you'd find yourself close to Coastal. These folks thrive on pure melody, melody expressed most deliberately. Navelgazing, to be sure, but gawd-awful pretty as well. A slow-motion explosion of beauty.

    Fear of Standing Still
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Three-fourths of the Dentists, and guess what? Lots of bright, somewhat tortured (in the structure, that is) pop songs. With all the tricks and turns a good pop album needs.

    You want a pure hook-driven song to blast as you drive around with the top down? Try "Turning to Gold", which simply shimmers. You want something a bit dirtier, with more of a bite? Well, "Trophy Wife" oughta satisfy that need.

    Basically, the members of Coax obviously know how to crank out pop music, and they've taken the time to make this one the complete experience. Lay in down in splendor, indeed.

    Truly, truly, truly. Oh, yeah, some might complain that this sounds too calculated. I'm not convinced. Too good, too impressive. And way too much fun.

    Cobra Killer
    Cobra Killer
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Highly disjointed fare. Distorted beats overlaid with rants and screams. The DHR usual? Well, kinda, but usually the stuff comes together a bit better. Cobra Killer is crafting chaos for chaos' sake, and that only goes so far.

    For example, there just isn't a coherent thought anywhere. Even from song to song, the pieces jump about without any concern for anything else on the disc. I'm not a strict constructionist (concerning the constitution, music or anything else), but this just does not compute.

    It's not so much a failure of ideas as a problem with the intent. There isn't any, or at least, any common intent throughout the disc. Yeah, it's kinda interesting to hear, mostly to find out what comes next, but repeat listens do no yield increased meaning. In fact, the opposite is true.

    Anarchy can be a beautiful thing. But Cobra Killer needs to infuse its work with just a bit more continuity. Enough to explain just what the hell is going on.

    Cock E.S.P.
    (with Panicsville)
    Last Train to Cocksville
    (Little Mafia/Nihilist/SunShip)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    The album so brutal that it took three labels to release it. Well, maybe not, but still. This collaboration between two mostly one-man electronic noise masters (each hauls in some friends to help out now and again) is truly staggering.

    Andy Ortmann (Panicsville) and E.W. Hagstrom (Cock E.S.P.) are two of the more inventive noise deconstructionists around. They like to take "normal" sounds and reduce them to feedback, distortion and crackle. Then they'll throw in something vaguely recognizable just to fuck with your head. Put the two of them together, and the results are cosmic.

    Which isn't exactly what I expected. Often this sort of sonic chaos is best created by one person. If you keep adding cooks, the soup is reduced to burnt beef tips and dried onions. But Hagstrom and Ortmann are nicely restrained, and the pieces here retain the playfulness which characterizes much of their individual work.

    It's supposed to be fun, goddamnit! And, truth be told, this album is a blast. Okay, so maybe 500 other people on this planet might agree with me (I'd be willing to go as far as an even thousand), but we know good noise when we hear it, and these two boys have created one fine stew. Hearty enough to eat with a spork.

    Hurts So Good: The Cock E.S.P. remix album
    (V/Vm Test Records)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    As the cover says, 99 tracks, 88 artists. Lots and lots of folks lay their hands on Cock E.S.P. tracks, with generally bizarre results.

    But, of course, that's the point. I'm reasonably knowledgeable about the experimental noise scene, and I've heard of just a handful of the folks messing about here on this CD. That's cool. The results are what counts. Well, that and the headache I got after listening to this thing on headphones.

    I kept getting this subliminal message to keep turning up the volume, and so I did until I was overwhelmed. It's hard to deduce exactly what the source files for these remixes sounded like in the first place, but these restatements are impressive. The sort of stuff that could render the entire Republican National Convention sterile with even minimal exposure. Hey, I've got an idea...

    Oh hell, most of those folks are too old to breed anyway. Whatever. This disc is a happy trip through the wide variety of sounds that encompass the whole noise "thing." As I noted in last month's review of the Cock E.S.P./Panicsville collaboration, there's some seriously wonderful screwing around going on, and I feel privileged to have survived it.

    Cock Sparrer
    Live: Runnin' Riot Across the USA
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    These guys have been around for, like, almost forever. But they didn't hit the U.S. until February 2000. This disc was recorded at CBGBs (New York, duh) and the Great American Music Hall (S.F.) at shows two days apart.

    And the boys show why they've been around forever. Hard-driving, tuneful punk plays with fire and grit. The hooks are lean but meaty. Just the sort of thing to warm up a cold winter's day.

    Quite simply a joyous collection of tunes. This disc serves nicely as a "greatest hits-for now" or as a solid primer on the band. Either way, you'll come out a winner.

    Live albums generally either work or they don't. Cock Sparrer has had years to hone its live attack, and that work shows. This is a great live album, recorded with fine sound. A wonderful portrait of a great working-class punk band.

    The Cocker Spaniels
    Withstand the Whatnot
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Sean Padilla just graduated from Baylor. He's been making recordings as the Cocker Spaniels for something like 10 years now. In the beginning, it was a band. For quite a while now, it's been just him.

    And that makes this a most interesting CD. The songs take on everything from race relations (apparently some of his earlier albums were more focused on racism, but his observations here are more wry and revealing than angry and bitter) to the vagaries of boy-girl relations. I don't think it would be entirely fair to call him the black Jad Fair, but then again, the first song on this album is titled, "The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show." You make the call.

    Certainly, the music does share a certain idiosyncratic feel with Fair, and Padilla himself claims to take great inspiration from Guided By Voices. That and other similar influences come through loud and clear.

    But what drives this album is Padilla's skill as an observational poet. I'm not usually taken by the lyrical content of an album, but there's no other way to review this album. The music is simply a medium for conducting Padilla's thoughts. It serves its purpose, and the album shines as a result. Weird--very weird at times--but well worth investigating.

    Cockeyed Ghost
    (Big Deal-Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Big Deal is a power pop label. And Cockeyed Ghost is a power pop band. I simply can't believe how big this sound has gotten this year. History, of course, has been repeated. Most of the very influential bands who created the desire for this sound are without deals, and there's all these unknowns bashing out three chords with abandon.

    And Cockeyed Ghost is as reckless as any. The production is thick, but the band's loose playing style keeps this from getting too stale. I do wish the songs were a bit more innovative, but thrashing pop is a lot of fun to hear, anyway.

    The threesome also does more subtle moments fairly well (the precision of the singing is quite good), though when the tempo slows, the heavy production gets somewhat in the way.

    A good, if rather undistinguished album. A big piece of candy. And only time will tell if I will want another any time soon.

    The Scapegoat Factory
    (Big Deal-Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Another full-length from this Reseda, Calif., trio. Power pop in all its glory. These pop three-pieces are a staple, but with this disc Cockeyed Ghost proves that it is more than a one-disc wonder.

    Because if anything, this one is more solid than the last. I wondered how long I'd groove on that first one, and, well, I lost track of it pretty quickly. This one is more immediately arresting, and I can hear more undercurrents as well.

    Improvements all the way around. This is a fine effort, the sort of album which sounds like the summer winding down (what a perfect release time). The songs tell of a glory just beginning to fade, with a wistful nostalgia beginning to creep into the consciousness.

    I can't say a whole lot more than that. Cockeyed Ghost and songwriter Adam Marsland have matured, lending a more confident sound and more consistent writing. Pretty damned cool.

    Cody Cods
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Always nice to review some local talent. Especially when the boys can rip like this. Cody Cods refuse to limit their sound to anything conventional, except that most songs do contain something of a blues'n'boogie groove somewhere.

    But past that the songs wander into funk, hardcore, hip hop and even groove territory. There isn't a cohesive band sound, and for once, I think that actually helps these guys.

    Young bands need time to try out a number of different ideas. The fact that Cody Cods can play this many styles well bodes well for their future. They just need to consolidate a bit.

    Sticking to the blues and boogie grooves is a good start. And about half the songs on this disc sound like they could have been recorded by one band. The trick is to bring the other pieces into the fold without destroying their creative fire. There's only one way to do it: Play, play play.

    Dennis Coffey
    Dennis Coffey
    reviewed in issue #325, March 2011

    Dennis Coffey is legend. A member of the Funk Brothers, the backing band featured in the movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Coffey has played almost everything with more bands and artists than you can imagine.

    This album rips through chunks of that history, presenting new versions of Funkadelic, Parliament, Wilson Pickett and 100 Proof Aged in Soul songs. He doesn't sing, but he recruits great vocalists you may or may not know. The results are impressive.

    Even better, though, are his original instrumentals. Coffey's range and skill are both impressive. This album sounds like an old-school soul album--back when soul meant R&B, rock and more all wrapped up in a bow. Folks don't make records like this anymore, and that's a damned shame.

    Yeah, it's something of a nostalgia trip. But I much prefer the songs (and singers) on this album than I did with Standing in the Shadows, which seemed stilted to me. There's nothing stiff or restrained about this album. Just good music played with style and energy.

    Coffin Break
    No Sleep 'Til The Stardust Motel
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    A parting shot with C/Z, this compilation is worth a page two mention, except that most of it is previously released (but rather rare) material.

    The quality is first-rate, and if you are one of the few who have not even heard of Coffin Break (shame, shame) pick this or their latest album Crawl (on Epitaph) up and spin through the tunes.

    This is a classy tribute to a band who is spiraling up in popularity. Do not miss out (or risk being called a shithead).

    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Coffin Break have less to do with punk than any other band on the Epitaph label. Is this a bad thing? Well, no. They use a punk attack to careen through all sorts of loud forests. This album comes across as a glorious car wreck. Kinda like watching Faces of Death parts I through whatever for the first time (knowhatimean?). Hell, even the cover makes absolutely no sense. But the whole damn thing is fun, hard and makes you say "fuuuuuuck" after hearing it.

    While a lot of you got after "Crawl" in a big way, this is yet another move forward in the evolution of Coffin Break. It's so good I ache.

    (Collectible Escalators)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    Yer usual poppy, electronically-enhanced rootsy americana stuff. Or something like that. The songs tend to shamble along, kinda like Owen Wilson's hair when it's being really expressive. You don't know why, but you kinda like it. Come to think of it, you like it a lot.

    Right. These boys are off-kilter in a most enticing way. The songwriting is curious, though most of the time the songs adhere to some sort of traditional form. The performances, however, range from tight and precise to something resembling last call at a college bar. Someone's gonna get laid, and it might as well be you.

    I'm using the second person a lot, and I think that's because these songs have that sort of personal connection to them. Coffinberry isn't actually speaking to me, of course, but I relate so closely to the disheveled sounds that I feel a real connection.

    Throwing a bunch of stuff on a CD and hoping it works is generally a recipe for disaster. Coffinberry sounds disorganized and a bit hairy, but there's a plan at work here. These songs come together beautifully, and so does the album. You've just got to lie down and let the music whisper to your heart.

    The Cogs
    Open Kimono
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Astonishingly clean power pop. Unlike most of LunaSea's bands (which generally favor at least some messiness in their sounds), the Cogs have picked out a terminally sterile sound. Given that these are by-the-book pop tunes, the key rests on the sweetness of the hooks.

    And those are generally impressive. The Cogs don't try to overpower. Rather, the intent seems to be churning out rhythmically-tight tunes (not unlike Magnapop, which also featured nice alto female vocals). And that attention to the center of the sound translates into addictive, if somewhat mechanical, hooks.

    Interestingly, very few of these songs really take off. Just about everything lies in the mid-tempo range, which makes sense given the focus of the songwriting. Great care is taken to make sure the stuff doesn't get dull. There's plenty of punch here.

    Punch, actually is what the Cogs do best. The energy level is in the rafters even though the songs themselves don't try to leave the ground very often. A nice live wire to chew on.

    James Cohen
    High Side of Low Down
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Is flamenco the blues? Maybe, maybe not. But, as proven by its recent gospel compilation, NorthernBlues is about much more than some narrow definition of the blues. If you're interested in great guitar playing, James Cohen will more than suffice.

    And this isn't yer everday flamenco album. Yes, that's Cohen's style, but he places his dramatic picking and strumming in a number of settings. There's the Django Reinhardt-esque "Mock Pollock," for example, and "Elsie," which flies through jazz, flamenco and blues structures in its four minutes.

    It all comes down to whether or not the music is good. This is not good. It is great. Cohen is an astonishingly expressive player, so much so that his virtuosity is hardly noticed. I can't think of a higher compliment than that.

    And so I'll take my leave. Cohen's playing and songwriting are exquisite, and his bandmates are spectacular. This is an album of the highest order, no matter how you wish the classify the music within.

    Cold Memory
    Damage/No Damage
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Jaunty, tightly-played pop. There is a hint of emo in the vaguely strident rhythm guitar work, but only a hint. Of course, I'm speaking musically. In terms of content, Cold Memory prefers to take on the big subjects from the outside in. Personal glimpses that attempt to answer some big questions.

    And stylishly done that way, too. These songs are pretty, in a stark fashion. There's nothing extraneous to the arrangements here. No studio enhancements to add a little color. What you hear is what you get.

    It's enough. I think these songs are a bit too complicated to really punch up. Better to leave them as they are where they can explain themselves. Where they can do their best job of throttling the listener.

    Oh yeah, there's plenty of attitude. Cold Memory plays with white-hot intensity, even when the songs take the mood down a notch. Just because this stuff is expertly crafted doesn't mean it's stilted. Not at all. The energy of the band almost melted my CD player.

    Cold Sides
    Cold Sides
    (Moment Before Impact)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Contemplative garage roots rock with many elements of linear noise pop construction. Another way to put it is that Cold Sides puts together a number of seemingly incompatible sounds to create something truly unique.

    I may have to refine that convoluted description a bit. Cold Sides often uses a rolling, Dirty Three rhythm style (without the violin, of course) and then grafts raggedly catchy vocals over that. Then again, there are plenty of songs here that sound more like my initial description.

    In terms of sound, the band has opted for a fairly clean, though not sharp, setting for its songs. There's plenty of space for the individual members to express themselves, though the sound is at its best when the band comes together and everything bleeds together.

    If I had to guess, I think that Cold Sides probably considers itself an emo band, at least nominally. Shows how far that sound continues to evolve. As for these guys, well, they've amply proven their worth.

    Victims of a Small Town EP
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Just about anywhere, kids can get together and crank out some serious angst and anger. Yes, even in Montana.

    Coldsnap-9 whips out the breakneck riffage and social commentary, hardly taking a second to breathe. Though there are some humorous intros concerning certain "country" stereotypes. Baa!

    Yes, this is kinda faceless. Coldsnap-9 puts all of its energy into speed and caustic lyrics. Nothing you wouldn't expect, but a fine, blistering ride nonetheless. This is, indeed, what punk was always supposed to be: Music that allows just about anyone to release a little pent-up energy.

    Idea of City
    (Mood Food)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    The press refers to Girls Against Boys and Slint as influences. I didn't get that at first, but it came to me. Imagine Slint playing GvsB stuff and omitting the grooves. That's right; hoarse vocals and thick bass lines that simply don't go anywhere.

    Hell, the guys have loft ambitions. I can hear that easily. Each song has the potential for a transcending moment. Sometimes it comes, and sometimes it doesn't. That's what happens when you take chances.

    Cole very well might have what it takes to craft a stunning album that will forever change the face of rock and roll. Really. There's a big wad of creativity in this music, and it's easy to hear a willingness for experimentation. Unfortunately, at this point Cole has no discipline. So it's just not harnessing much of its talents, and the energy simply blows off in all directions.

    It's stuff like this that can be the most frustrating of all. Because the boys were so close at times, but they couldn't quite grasp the greatness. And so the jar fell to the floor and smashed, scattering candy to the wilds. Bummer.

    Richie Cole with Brass
    (Heads Up)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Subtitled "The Music of Dizzy Gillespie", Cole and conductor Bob Belden have put together a program of nine Gillespie tunes and one ringer ("You Go to My Head") that fits right in.

    Cole reinterprets Gillespie's melodies on his alto sax, lending a slightly different feel to the compositions. Of course, he improvises along the way in true jazz fashion, and his affinity for the music comes through in his playing.

    Many of Gillespie's most famous works are recreated here, from "Manteca" to "Birk's Works" and, of course, "A Night in Tunisia". Cole doesn't try to imitate Gillespie; that would be foolish. Instead, he tries to bring his own flair to the music, and succeeds admirably. Many only remember Gillespie for his famous cheeks; this disc will help us remember his more enduring musical legacy.

    James Coleman
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    James Coleman plays the theremin. This isn't theremin and orchestra or theremin and jazz combo or theremin and rock band. It's theremin. With a very few accompanying clanks and bumps and whistles and such.

    If you know what the theremin is (it's probably best known as the instrument that produces those ghostly howls in old sci fi movies), then you might begin to understand the range of sounds and feels that Coleman produces. He certainly refuses to keep himself tied down to simple spooky noises.

    Rather, he teases intense squeaks and howls and tinkles from the rather expressive instrument, eliciting thoughts of delight and frolic that commingle with the more expected rolls of anticipation, adventure and dread.

    These are complete pieces, and not simply snatches of musical thought. Coleman has put together quite a collection of sound, one that resonates far past the initial listening.

    John Wesley Coleman III
    Microwave Dreams
    (Super Secret)
    reviewed 2/20/17

    John Wesley Coleman isn't one to hold back. Perhaps best known for his work with the Golden Boys, this Austin artist writes and performs with full alacrity. The chorus of the first track on this album is "Dance with me, motherfucker" (possibly plural; Coleman isn't the clearest of enunciators). Is that a request, a demand or something even more forceful? Hard to say. He is one insistent bastard, to be sure.

    The album isn't full blister; it burbles and blips along at times. But Coleman's intensity never wavers. He puts just as much intensity into an introspective midtempo piece as he does into a rager. Which is the perfect way to segue into a discussion of his versatility.

    The generally lo-fi production does hearken back to Coleman's garage past, but the songs on this album span the last 30 years of indie rock. He allows himself to be as pretty, shiny or outright grungy as the song requires. And he sounds comfortable in all settings. The changes between songs can be jarring, but Coleman's enthusiasm provides more than enough of a bridge.

    This one definitely benefits from repeat listens. There's far too much here to fully appreciate in an audience or three. Coleman not only lives up to his underground legend with this album. He improves upon it. That's truly impressive.

    30th and Lake 7"
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    Bright and punchy fare, kinda like what I was hearing from Deep Elm a couple years back. Not where emo seems to be today, but this is still a most effective sound.

    Indeed, as an old Jawbox and Treepeople fan, I'm always happy when bands reach back into those astonishingly fertile fields for inspiration. Coletta does more than rehashing, putting a thicker sound on the low end. The choruses are just as raucous and pleasing as the rousing riffage.

    I'd say Coletta ought to work a bit more on inventing its own sound. This isn't faceless, but it's somewhere in the muddle. Impressive, nonetheless. Quite worth the listen.

    Buddy Collette
    A Jazz Audio Biography
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    When something like this comes along, you just wish more people would sit down and record their views of history.

    Collette relates tales of Charles Mingus (lots of Mingus), Charlie Parker, Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson and many more. In fact, the only real sense of Collette's own life is seen through conversations he remembers with others.

    And the idea works. Even if you haven't heard of Collette as a musician, it's easy to slide in and be mesmerized by his stories. Two discs worth. A real treasure trove of jazz memories.

    Beneath My Skin
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    A real departure from the usual cybercore (Chase's word, not mine) propagated by Reconstriction. The man who calls himself Statik has imbibed heavily upon European techno and spewed a sheen of minimalist dance music (approaching trance at times) behind the ethereal vocals of Miss Karin.

    Well, just Karin, I suppose. Anyway, I wish the production allowed her to sing a bit more fully, to contrast better with the near-anarchic music. That would really kick this into a whole new level of originality.

    On the other hand, songs like the title track really show off Statik's talent for crafting a massively attractive sound. The music and vocals build slowly around a pulsating beat, culminating with a orgy of sonic delights. Ooof.

    Maybe some of the other songs don't live up to that promise. Maybe Statik gets a little too happy with his knob twisting skills. Maybe I was just too blissed out at the time I reviewed this. Whatever. I really dig the album, flaws and all. Collide attempts a lot, and succeeds enough of the time to please me. And when it works, the sound is simply gorgeous.

    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Remixes and a host of covers. Collide is one of those bands that tries very hard, either succeeding spectacularly or failing in the worst possible way. The remixes here aren't uniformly as adventurous or ambitious as the band itself, but many do well.

    I challenge you to recognize "Son of a Preacher Man" (coming soon to one of the stranger tributes I've encountered, remakes of songs from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack). "Whip It" is much easier to identify, and many of you probably heard it on the Newer Wave compilation. The cover of "Obsession" (Siouxsie, not Animotion) lies somewhere in-between.

    Compelling listening, if nothing else. Hit-and-miss, as all remix projects are, but with enough nuggets to satisfy fans.

    Look for a new album next year. That's when Collide really has to come through.

    Gerald Collier
    Gerald Collier
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    One of the leaders of Best Kissers in World, Collier recorded a solo album for C/Z a couple years back and now establishes his "big money" position with another solid set of brooding pop tunes.

    Talk about establishing a mood. The first three tracks are, in order, "Dark Days", "Whored Out Again" and "Forgiveness from Revenge/God Never Lived in My Neighborhood". Either this guy is some sort of mordant pop genius or his pretensions will kill him.

    Those familiar with Collier's previous work know the former is true. And on this album he uses a decent recording budget to craft a thick, grimy sound that announces, with conviction, that tomorrow will never come again.

    And as if there aren't enough downers, there's even a cover of an early Floyd tune, "Fearless". Collier pulls out all the stops and connects with an emotionally-charged soul-starving album. Death, destruction, pain and suffering. Just don't go looking for a bottle; as long as this album is playing, you'll keep serving up the doubles.

    How Can There Be Another Day?: Demos and B-Sides
    (In Music We Trust)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    This stuff was recorded about ten years ago, around the time when Collier was recording his album for Revolution. Self-titled, that album still ranks as one of my all-time favorites. The wry and bitter lyrics are some of the most searing ever put to tape. Which is probably one reason why very few people picked up on it.

    Nonetheless, a cult of Collier (so to speak) has sprung up around his sporadic recordings (and even more sporadic distribution). With good reason. The man has a gift for expressing the darkest sides of the human condition. You can't hear his songs without getting a bit of a lift. After all, your life doesn't suck as much as his (or, at least, those of his characters).

    These songs are looser (in every way) than what appeared on Gerald Collier. Even the demos of songs that made the album are much more laid back. There's a bit more of his natural country (or, really, alt.country) bent here, and it works well. There's a bit more "fuckit" and a bit less gloom and doom. But the writing and singing is just as fierce.

    I'm a full-fledged member of the cult, so I'm the first to admit my words are somewhat tainted. But Jesus, if music this good can't sell, then humanity is truly doomed.

    Dale Collins
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    "Demo" may not be the right tag. This is just Dale Collins and his guitar, recorded by himself at home. He says in his note that he plays to stay sane after teaching Spanish. Hey, anything to dull the pain.

    Collins isn't what you'd call an accomplished player or singer. What he does have is a main line to the blues. Kinda like if Will Oldham started playing Muddy Waters and had Jim O'Rourke produce. An electrified version of the rural blues, with plenty of experimental tangents.

    Anyway, Collins doesn't so much perform these songs as channel them. There's no way to separate him from the music. A sort of symbiotic bond has taken hold.

    Absolutely gripping. I've never heard anyone quite like Collins. He's a natural. Not in terms of talent, like I mentioned. But he is the music, you know? Some folks are just born that way. Collins was born a blues man.

    All Solace Inland tape
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Another tape from Dale Collins, which finds him in a somewhat more moody and introspective mood. The songs fit in with the minimalist roots movement (Palace, etc.) as much as the rural blues. More screed-like, too, than the last tape I heard.

    That's too bad. I kinda liked the more oblique approach Collins took to his commentary on that earlier effort. The lyrics here are almost stream of consciousness, the sort of artless tell it-like-it-is style that can get grating.

    Still, the effect of his playing and singing together is still transfixing. And often enough, Collins finds a groove and really spins quite a spell. When he's locked in, few can tell a story better.

    The recording quality is minimal, but since it's just Collins and his guitar (or piano, as on the last song), that's not a big problem. Some of the pieces here sound rushed--not completely worked out. On the other hand, a song like "Badass" more than makes this set worthwhile. Collins simply needs to transform some of the intellectual fire of the more topical songs into the visceral glee and pain of that piece or "End Feudalism Now" (a political song that also qualifies as blistering art). As it is, this tape merely impresses me. Which isn't bad at all.

    Laughing House
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Another tape from the prolific Dale Collins. I was a little worried about burnout after hearing his last effort, and Collins himself told me then (and in a note with this tape) that he's going to take a break from writing and recording to recharge.

    Still, this tape removes some of my more serious concerns. Collins is back in his own pocket here, rarely resorting to easy tricks to finish off some songs. Rather, these pieces are better thought out, and they have a much greater emotional impact as well. Once again, Collins is talking to, not talking at, his audience.

    I think that was my biggest concern, and Collins figured it out for himself. The songs here are much more harrowing and involving. He's back on the edge of emotional and intellectual breakdown. Which is where many of the great songs can be found.

    Recharging can only do him good, but I'd say Collins has already figured out his problems himself. This guy has a great feel for the minimalist blues. He must be heard.

    The Low Country
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    He was only kidding about hanging up the capo. This tape contains a few songs from his last outing, but they've been reworked (one even has a new title). Collins expands his instrumentation here with a song called "Untitled" which is played on some sort of an organ.

    Same elegiac quality. This tape, more than most of his others, really digs into the darker side of the blues. Collins is less calculated and more emotive, which brings out the raw intensity of his writing.

    While the low (and I mean low) quality of the recordings helps to lend an otherworldly feel to the songs, I'm hoping some folks out there recognize his talent and get him in a real studio. Nothing fancy. Just enough to make his guitar more than a two-dimensional rhythm instrument. A little resonance would be great.

    If there's anyone I've heard in the last year who deserves a $500 (or more) advance for studio time, it's Collins. There's talent here that needs to be put down on good tape.

    Vivir en America cassette
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    More minimalist blues from Dale Collins. The recording quality is as lo-fi as ever, but his songs still have a lot to say. In particular, Collins seems to be paying a little more attention to the guitar side of his talent. The playing is a bit more polished, which doesn't take away from his rough-hewn appeal one bit.

    Songs for Lake City cassette
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    My favorite lo-fi South Carolina bluesman has returned with a tape that's more weird than blues. Collins's guitar work is still most intriguing, and he's channeling it into more adventurous territory--stuff that needs more than a boom box microphone. I think he's outgrown this method. Time to pony up some bucks and book some studio time.

    Jim Collins
    The Church of Gary Numan: A Dark Celebration
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    There's a great quote on the back of this disc. "One day my daughter said, 'You love Gary Numan so much, you should start a church for him.'" Judging by this disc, I'd say Jim Collins is quite the devotee.

    He adds a few modern industrial conventions to Numan's work, and despite his obvious love of the originals, he's taken a few liberties with the pieces, particularly when it comes to the beatwork.

    Now, the overall sound still lies in that sterile techno universe that Numan helped to define, but that's really the only concession to convention Collins makes. He has his own thoughts as to how he wants the songs to sound, and he's willing to mess with the "master" in order to express his own ideas better.

    All to the good. As the title implies, this disc is more of a celebration than tribute. All of Collins's hard work has paid off. One impressive package of songs.

    Colony of Watts
    Mercenary Position
    (Sector Five)
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    The sticker on the front calls this "hard rock." If that's the case, then hard rock has come an awfully long way. And I say that as a balls-out hard rock fan.

    Colony of Watts is a polished no wave act--think Jesus Lizard's later days, or perhaps Kepone's more tuneful moments. And yeah, the interplay between the lead guitar and rhythm section is exceptional, most worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as those folks.

    Indeed, the subconscious grooves in these songs are just brilliant. These boys sound utterly loose, but the songs still manage to be sewn up tight. The sound is ragged, but still powerful enough to bring out the natural throb in the material.

    Hard rock? I dunno. It is damned loud, of course, and it is rock and roll, but I think that label is a bit misleading. These boys are on the noise side of the divide, and we should all be thankful for that. There's nothing like a little dissonance and boogie to get one right with the Lord.

    The Color Turning
    Good Hands Bad Blood
    (Softdrive/New West)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    Patience is a virtue when listening to the Color Turning. These guys play big, bad rock and roll--in the vein of U2, Radiohead and the like. The ambition is staggering.

    Which is why the subtlety of this album is so impressive. There's a scary amount of synthesized orchestration, the sort of sound that just screams "pretentious crap ahead!" But the Color Turning undercuts that posture with songs that don't become anthems.

    There's more than a hint of Air in the sound, which might drive less forgiving listeners away. The Color Turning doesn't go for the easy punch. Rather, it worms its way through its songs, always ending up someplace I wasn't quite expecting.

    Perhaps I'm thinking too much about this. Or perhaps that's what the band wants me to do. Hard to say. But there's a rich vein of solid material here, stuff that actually does live up to the ambition expressed at the start.

    Flower EP
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    A solid pop sound, with solid pop songwriting. Colorwall tweaks the edges, but doesn't really take any serious chances. What you get is three good tunes, songs with minimal distinguishing marks.

    Oh, sure, the usual toying with echo and reverb. And a couple achingly gorgeous moments (particularly on "My Eyes", the most adventurous song of the bunch).

    The playing is more than adequate, and the sound is above average. No real complaints, except that I do wish Colorwall would find some way of busting through the formula wall. Maybe it's just these three songs, or maybe I'm asking too much. But there has to be something more.

    All Lingo's Clamor EP
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Alright, so Nick Sakes moved to Minneapolis and found himself some new friends who can play. You take the man out of Dazzling Killmen, but you can't take Dazzling Killmen...

    Colossamite is simply the next level. Not an improvement (there wasn't much room, really), but a bit of an evolution. And yet, even with new musicians, plenty remains close to home. The apocalyptic drumming style and Sakes' trademark howling vocals and guitar playing are the same. The bass isn't quite so impertinent (I really don't like that word choice, but it works, I guess), but still, you can tell the pedigree.

    And, of course, the conformity to quality still remains. Sakes doesn't know how to make anything but music for the last days, and Colossamite is yet another successful conduit.

    Life sucks, then you die and then you don't get to listen to this sorta thing any more. That's a true vision of hell.

    Economy of Motion
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    For all of us who still worship at the Dazzling Killmen altar. I'm pretty sure there's some of you still out there. Colossamite is just another of that band's ever expanding diaspora. This is the first full-length, and there's plenty of wandering about.

    Indeed, this stuff can hardly be called tight or even mildly cohesive. Just apocalyptic ramblings of the first order. More noise than before, with lots of tape loops, samples or whatever. Colossamite has definitely crossed over the threshold of soundscape creation.

    But there are a few bits that might be called songs, even if that definition fits loosely. The only way to hear this disc is as a contiguous whole (most of the compositions extend across a number of tracks, so random is definitely out), and trust me, you won't be sorry you did.

    Yeah, frontman John Sakes only knows the abyss, and Colossamite has a pretty good view from where it sits. I'll take the band's word for it, anyway.

    See also Dazzling Killmen.

    Colour Revolt
    Colour Revolt EP
    (Esperanza Plantation/Tiny Evil)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Take one dose of one-man emo eccentricity and then add large quantities of any number of hip sounds and you might get close to Colour Revolt. The press note on the front states "There's a lot going on in a Colour Revolt song!" Most often, that sorta statement is an overblown bit of puffery. Not so here.

    I like a band that can sound like OMD and Archers of Loaf--in the same song. The overall feel is pop, but these folks (or person, as I don't know anything about the actual makeup of the act) make that generic label woefully inadequate. The sounds, the moods, the themes shift radically from song to song.

    Which might be a hindrance on a longer release. But it probably won't be. 'Cause when yer good, yer good. And the Colour Revolt is pretty damned fine. This six-song introduction is most impressive.

    The Comas
    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    I've never seen these folks live, despite the fact that they live very close to me. I haven't seen anyone live in three years. A kid'll do that to you. Still, I'm familiar with the Comas. They're kinda hazy stars in the local firmament, known more for great live shows than for selling lots of records. Oh, and there's the fact that singer (and songwriter) Andy Herod recently broke up with Michelle Williams of "Dawson's Creek." In fact, this is a "breakup" album, with songs full of shattered hopes, unrealized dreams and all that.

    So maybe, just maybe, all those folks who put up the bucks for Smile will take the time to check out bands like the Comas who put almost as much effort into crafting otherworldly pop music. The Shins, of course, have managed to escape Albuquerque with a similar (though much less dense) approach to this sound. I don't want these folks to go away, but I do wish them greater success.

    The real question is how many people really like excessively-layered pop music. And this is excessive. There's no doubt about it. These songs do not need all the extraneous noise in tracks 25-48 (or whatever). Yeah, it does makes this stuff sound almost transcendent, but strictly speaking, it isn't necessary.

    Not necessary, but still really nice. Really, really nice. Maybe there isn't a big market for complex, moving music. Or maybe it's just really shallow--Brian Wilson is cool, but forget about everyone else. I don't follow that sort of thing. I just know good music. And I know great music. And I know this album is better than that. One final note: The package also includes a DVD of Conductor--the Movie. I'd watch it, but some crackhead (really) stole my DVD player and my stereo this week (he was smart enough to leave my 15-year-old TV). I bought a new stereo (got to do the reviews), but the DVD player will have to wait. Such is life.

    Low Spirits
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Combatdrug is a guy named Willy who likes to play with beats. With some insistent electronic stuff driving what melody is needed. Not much, to be quite honest.

    The truth here is the beat work. Everything else is fine, but non-essential. The songs don't evolve much, but rather unfold. There's a continual sense of discovery as each song chugs along.

    The production is somewhat crude, though the fairly high levels of distortion and the like simply provide a better canvas for the beats to shine. And when Combatdrug does deign to drop some real song construction, well, the results are amazing.

    There's a high level of creativity behind this disc. You gotta love intensive beat work to be sure, but there's a ferment here that gets rather addictive. Tap in and discover for yourself.

    Megatrends in Brutality
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    So what did L.G. Petrov do while he was between gigs as Entombed vocalist? Well, he got together with some more Swedish death-types and recorded this album.

    Due to lengthy litigation (and a settlement, of course), there are only 8,000 of these puppies out there, so latch on to your collector's item and play the shit out of it. It is fun aggressive fare (rivaling Entombed's finer moments).

    Jams, jams, jams. This is the last review I wrote for this issue, and it shows. But a damn good album.

    Converging Conspiracies
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/93

    Great band seeks vocalist desiring side project duties. Call xxx-xxxx. I can see it, can't you? The first Comecon album featured L.G. Petrov of Entombed on vocals, and it pretty much ruled.

    Flash to two years later. Martin Van Drunen, late of Asphyx, joins in to record the second album. Never mind that he is one of the better death metal vocalists or even anything like that. The music does the talking once again.

    This is not a throwback to riff-laden thrash days or anything like that. Straight ahead speed and brutality that still manages to hold my attention (grip it, really).

    The heaviest album of the new year (even if it came out last month). It deserves your devotion.

    Mike Comfort
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    Not too long ago, Mike Comfort was in a band called Thirst. It disbanded without recording, and so Comfort took his songs and recorded this disc. That was a very good idea.

    I will warn regular readers that Comfort is definitely a commercial artist. He does the stuff so damned well, though, that I simply don't care. This is fine AAA stuff--just enough guitar to sound rockin', anthemic choruses and a soft buff on the production. I know, normally I use discs like this for skeet practice. But this guy is good.

    Truth be told, if major labels would sign people with this much talent and then allow them to record albums with this much intensity, no one would be talking about a drop in sales. The reason people don't buy so many CDs is because there are so many crappy CDs being released. Mike Comfort is someone who could reverse that trend.

    Not everyone wants to be the next important artist. Some folks simply write and play solid music. That's what Mike Comfort does. He's so good, even my cynical ear melts, if just for a moment.

    Command V
    Command V
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    While still wandering the electronic streets, Command V is quite the departure for Mush Records. These folks are from a different coast and a different time (metaphorically, anyway).

    This stuff is chilly, with hints of Suicide and other New York antecedents. The vocals are assertive and assured. Unlike most Mush artists, Command V could care less about the beats. This is all about the feel and the songs themselves.

    What Command V adds to its influences is a slinky sense of songcraft. There are some serious grooves in these songs. And there's very little droning or repetition in general. Just a greasy throb.

    Electronic music is rarely understated, but Command V does a fine job of flying largely under-the-radar. These adventurous songs blurp along with wry senses of musicality and humor. Most engaging.

    Commander Venus
    The Uneventful Vacation
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Wind-Up (nee Grass) licensed this to Thick, and well, Commander Venus sounds a lot like that. This Omaha band (that sounds a lot more like a Lawrence band, but whatever) has general pop intentions, but manages to butcher most of them by the time the band gets finished playing. In short, very cool.

    My only really problem is that CV kinda takes the butchering part to heart a bit much, and some of the songs are a bit more mangled than they needed to be. Noise is glorious, and the greatest anthem can always benefit from another nudge of distortion, but I draw the line at cranking out hardcore marching orders.

    Still and all, a decent set of tunes. CV has a good ear for both hooks and how to manipulate them. The songs are a lot of fun, even if a bit heavy at times. As the liners point out, there are a lot of great bands in Nebraska (or, at least, there used to be). And these guys measure up pretty well.

    Common Ground
    Not Enough Space
    (LoLo Records)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    I could call this fusion, but it's really prog rock with a sax. Now, I know some folks would find those to be the same thing, but I don't. There isn't a whole lotta jazz here (not a problem at all), but some rather accomplished technical rock.

    And in the finest prog tradition, at times the execution of the music seems to take precedence over expressive playing. The songs do get a bit chilly.

    The human element takes flight every now and again. It's like a soul has left the building. Sure, there are intriguing melodies being performed with precision, but I don't hear any passion.

    And passion is always required, even for the most mellow and sensitive music. Common Ground's workmanlike approach fulfills all the technical requirements, but falls a bit short of the artistic ones.

    Common Rider
    This Is Unity Music
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Ever listen to the original ska from the sixties? It had a great stripped-down sound. A lot of the recent big-name skasters seem to have forgotten that.

    Common Rider hasn't. Yeah, this is punk music through and through, with just a hint of a ska lilt. The sound is tight, but it's also slight. Spare. Basic. The perfect platform for supremely melodic songs.

    Smartly-written pieces played with style and verve. Almost no attitude whatsoever. This music sounds, um, nice. Pleasant. A punk record to take home to Ma. And that's not an insult.

    I think there's room for well-crafted, nice-sounding punk. Maybe the kids want louder guitars and screechy vocals, but I'll always be happy to praise people who take the time to make a great record.

    Company of Snakes
    Here They Go Again--Live 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray formed the core of the Whitesnake band from 1978-1982. David Coverdale, of course, was the frontman who sold the show. Company of Snakes reunites the three Ms and brings in Stefan Bergren as the new singer.

    Bergren is capable, if not as potentially incendiary as Coverdale could be, and the band does a good job of recreating the hard blooze and roll sound that made early Whitesnake a lot of fun (even if I did appreciate those albums after experiencing Slide It In).

    Interestingly, there are numbers from Slide It In and the self-titled megahit, though these guys had little to do with them. Even the version of "Here I Go Again sounds a lot more like the hit than the spookier rendition on Saints an' Sinners. So is this a labor of love or a dash for cash?

    Probably a bit of both. Whitesnake recorded a lot of great rock songs before Coverdale finally figured out that excessive music paid better. Company of Snakes recalls the nobler, if poorer, part of Whitesnake history. Personally, I prefer the old recordings to this set, no matter how well played the stuff is here. There's nothing new here, really, and that is what seals my opinion.

    The Company Stores
    Little Lights
    reviewed 4/26/17

    So if you're a band from Charleston (W.Va.), is it impossible to describe your sound without using the word "Appalachian"? I ask, because that's about the last description I could have imagined when I listened to this album. And yet that is precisely the word that keeps popping up in the press clips. The band itself refers to its sound as "hill hop" or folk fusion. Which also doesn't match what I'm hearing.

    Maybe this is the easiest (and most marketable?) way to describe a band from West Virginia, but I don't think so. The Company Stores (a great name for a Green Mountain State band, for sure) incorporate blues, soul, rock and roots into something of a classic belter sound. Casey Litz has the pipes to really let loose, but she's also quite convincing in the quieter moments.

    There isn't anything particularly unique about the sound, but these folks sure do put it together nicely. The arrangements are tight, the playing is expressive and Litz is a wonderful singer. Is there much more to worry about? Not in my book.

    I think I do understand the marketing conundrum. It's always better to be unique than good, and as a music critic I'm often guilty of veering toward the former rather than the latter. The Company Stores simply make good music--music that should please the ears of an awful lot of people. I guess that will have to be enough.

    Best of Luck
    (Rock Park)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    There aren't many anarchic pop bands around anymore. I can't recall the last Fall album, and old soldiers like the Flaming Lips have cleaned up their act. Those two bands were listed in the press notes, I must admit, but along with Pulp (also noted), the reference points for Condo become increasingly obscure and defunct.

    I'm not sure why this sound disappeared. Perhaps the endemic non-commercial aspect has something to do with that. I happen to like this sound a lot, though. Condo rolls out its songs with very little pretense and simply lets the pieces fall as played. Sometimes the listener has to pick them up, a certain form of respect that I've always appreciated.

    Indeed, Condo has no intention of talking down to its audience. Rather, it challenges. Which is not say these songs are particularly difficult. The rhythms are almost always engaging and the thoughts (musical and lyrical) are clear, if somewhat disjointed.

    Ah, such fun. I don't know if this sound will prove any more popular for Condo, but good music usually attracts a fair crowd. In this case, such attention would be more than deserved.

    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    From seminal punk band to, well, some kind of strange hardcore industrial act, I suppose. When thing really get cranking and the speed seems ready to fly off the handle, Conflict sounds a lot like Bloodstar. A lot.

    But that happens only occasionally. Most of the time the band is content to crank out above-average hardcore musings. Nothing great, nothing that approaches the early records (that always seems to be true), but Conclusion still manages to spew out a fine stream of anarchist energy. Certainly a load of fun.

    Now You've Put Your Foot in It CD5
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Some wonderfully crunchy political punk. Conflict celebrates the violent activist spirit and protests the many iniquities of the industrialized world from the WTO to the British government's reaction to the foot and mouth epidemic. Precisely the spirit of the "A," if you know what I mean.

    There are a couple of live bonus tracks to go with the two songs from the single. Both live tracks are heavily reggae influenced, quite the counterpoint to the buzzsaw riffage of the studio tracks. The live sound is, interestingly enough, sometimes better than the studio stuff.

    The liners come complete with a manifesto and other fun political musings. In other words, this is a fairly heavy package for just a single. But there it is. And it screams most beautifully.

    Confront James
    Ill Gotten Hatred
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    Greg Ginn on guitar and bass, regular cohort Andy Batwinas covering the drum machines and Richard Ray providing the vocal support.

    Sounds like Was Not Was, with better guitar playing. Not the cheesy WNW stuff, but the cool songs like "Hey Dad, I'm in Jail" (remember that one?). Very artificial, very catchy. The backing music sounds like Gone on happy pills; Ray has a rich, smooth and slightly whiny voice that seems to fit the project perfectly.

    After a few tracks, it does get a bit monotonous. There is an assembly line feel to a few of the songs. Ginn has been doing so much in the past couple of years, I think that would be hard to avoid. But as a nice piece of fluff, Confront James does the trick admirably. Get this on at the clubs, and I'll buy you a beer.

    See also Greg Ginn.

    (Earth Music-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    Wanky hippie soul, if that makes any sense to you. Plenty of references to classic smooth sounds, combined with acoustic guitar riffing, a slightly funky bass and vocals that just scream "seventies!".

    I know a couple folks who would call this an underproduced Hootie and the Blowhards, and that's probably right, too. The production is a good thing, because if this stuff got punched up too much in the studio, it would come off as pretentious and overwrought. I wouldn't like the album, but it would probably sell a few million copies.

    Despite the hands-off production, Conglomerate manages to get a bit annoying and excessive. "God bless..." anyone is a bit cliche, and the references to "brother" and "sister" may have been cool when Sly and the Family did it, but this is the 90s, guys.

    Still, it is an album broaches the gulf between "alternative" and "big star rock". Someone is going to pick these folks up, spend a million in the studio and make a mint, but at least we got to hear a stripped-down album first.

    The Congos
    Live at Maritime Hall
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Some bands don't have it after 25 years. And, well, the Congos did use a backing band. But that band sounds great, and the vocal work from the Congos is exactly what you'd hope for on a live set.

    Cedric Myton and Watty Burnett comprise 2/3 of the original Congos line-up, and they're still singing with fire. The songs, often Biblically based, have a sort of reggae gospel feel. And, indeed, one of the strengths of the songs (and this backing band) is the ability to draw on a number of influences.

    And instead of resorting to medleys and other cheap ways of getting through a set quickly, the Congos actually extend the pieces, using the live setting to explore the music.

    Again, that's kinda what you're supposed to do, I think. A top-notch set, well-recorded. Fine work all the way around.

    Bobby Conn
    Rise Up!
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Another example of the unusual side of the Chicago noise pop revolution. Conn gets friends like Dylan Posa, Thymme Jones, Sarah Allen, and Jim O'Rourke to back him up (the list goes on much longer, BTW). O'Rourke produced, of course. The music, well, the music is a bit eclectic.

    Kinda like listening to the seventies through a horribly distorted filter. From Kiss cock rock to disco and everywhere in between. And that's just one song. Lots of asides, lots of idiosyncratic moments. Brilliant, undeniably.

    But certainly weird. A word I generally hesitate to use, but hell, if this doesn't fit, I don't know what might. Conn's twisted notion of musical form and style is so utterly absorbing that I couldn't take my ears away. I kinda wanted to, from time to time, but I couldn't. Impossible to shake.

    There are plenty of accessible points, but Conn switches gears so quickly (and facilely) that the average listener will certainly give up before the truth of the vision hits. Facing that truth, well, that's something even I don't want to do right now. Give me a couple days or something.

    (Fire Records)
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    It's been a long time since I last caught up with Bobby Conn, but I'm glad to hear that he's still staggering through similar new wave-tinged electronic r&b territory.

    I'm not kidding with that description. Conn may have moved a bit toward straight pop and a hair away from the r&b, but there's still plenty of soul here. Once you get past the assembled sound and Conn's decidedly affected voice.

    Oh, that voice. It's just another off-kilter piece of this remarkably messy affair. Just about every song relies on incongruity in order to hold together. Do you know how hard that is to maintain?

    And then every once in a while there's a gem like "Face Blind" that will make non-doctrinaire Marvin Gaye fans smile. Lord have mercy, that's a stunner. There's too much here to quantify, but it's easy to praise the quality. My ears runneth over.

    The Connection
    Extended Play EP
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Six songs, all of them tight--yet restrained--pop music. I get a real Britpop feel, somewhere between I'm the Man-era Joe Jackson and the Wedding Present. I realize there's quite a range there. The Connection has that sort of reach.

    And sometimes when you pick just six songs, you pick six real good ones. That's what these folks have done. Don't know if the guys can make it stand up for a full-length, but I'd bet on it. There isn't a clunker here

    Just songs that say more than is apparent on the surface. Take a second listen and discover a whole new meaning. Man, there's just nothing better than that.

    Chris Connelly
    Shipwreck (advance cassette)
    (Wax Trax!/TVT)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    The usual: a mishmash of genres and styles. This is perhaps a little more coherent than previous projects, certainly more accessible. More self-assured than nasty.

    Jim Connolly
    and the Gove County Philharmonic
    Time Stops to Visit... (2002)
    Jim Connolly and the Gove County String Quartet (2007)
    reviewed in issue #290, October 2007

    While listening to albums for this issue, I heard the String Quartet album first, liked it and tossed it in the "full review" pile. A couple days later, I listened to the Philharmonic set and did the same thing. I didn't realize I had two albums from the same artist until I sorted out the piles. These must have come in the same envelope and gotten separated.

    Which is cool. I like it when I have two validations for a given review. It means I'm not losing my mind. Yet.

    The String Quartet album is just that, a set of pieces played by a muscular string quartet. It is the newer album (recorded this year), though I'm not sure that matters much when we're talking about classical music. Classical with a hint of the avant garde, I suppose, but classical nonetheless. The melodies are often haunting, but the rhythmic passages really set this album off for me. This baby moves. Exceedingly well.

    The Philharmonic album adds clarinet, trumpet, accordion and piano to a basic string trio (violin, viola and Connolly on bass). This album (recorded in 2002) moves, too, but in a much more conventional way. This one feels like a day at the fair: playful, exciting and ultimately exhausting. Sometimes the songs run themselves into the ground. In a good way.

    It's easy to hear the progression in Connolly's writing. Where the older album is often manic without apparent motive, this year's effort is purposeful--almost stalking--in the way it moves. Both are vibrant and alive in ways that most music (of any sort) is not. Quite a two-fer.

    Mary Connolly
    Blue Desire
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Whipping out a classic rock 'n' soul sound, Mary Connolly wails and her band grooves. A very basic sound, but one that works quite well with her voice and sides.

    The songs work best when the band stays in pocket, focusing solely on the groove, letting Connolly take the asides. And she doesn't stray that often, either.

    The sound is loose enough to let the soul shine in, but tight enough to keep the package wrapped up nicely. Connolly doesn't really try to head off in any new directions, but rather seems to prefer sticking to the tried and true.

    And she sings that exceptionally well. These songs are expertly crafted and lovingly performed. There's always room for heartfelt music played with style.

    Justin Connor
    Behind the Sun EP
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Gorgeous post-apocalyptic pop music. Justin Connor is well-schooled in the art of songwriting. He also knows when too much is, well, too much.

    So most of the songs here are nicely restrained. He's not exactly the most chipper person around, but these songs exude a kind of cheery melancholy that's hard to describe any other way.

    I think I mentioned that the music is tragically beautiful. Songs for the end of the world--an end that you won't mind at all.

    Loren MazzaCane Connors
    and Kath Bloom
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Bloom wrote most of the songs here (there are a couple of standards), but both Bloom and Connors played guitar and sang. Bloom's work is at the edge of what might be considered folk, but Connors is quite past the pale. The liners have a nice discussion of this issue, much better than I could give.

    The recordings are somewhat crude, but they lend a sense of immediacy to the songs. And these are pieces which could hardly be more intimate. Bloom's approach is so open, it's often frightening. Connors (who also produced these recordings) hangs out on the edges, and when he sneaks in the effect is even more unsettling.

    Thirteen of the songs here are taken from five Bloom records in the early 80s (thus the title). Connors also includes a recent Bloom recording for purposes of comparison. The didactic nature of this disc is compelling. It's interesting not only as an artifact of a time and place, but also as a commentary the nature of artistic creativity.

    Not yer usual cup of tea, certainly. These are songs well worth revisiting, perhaps even in more depth than possible here. The sound waves sparkle with pain.

    Loren Connors
    The Departing of a Dream
    (Family Vineyard)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Dropping the MazzaCane from his moniker, Connors is back with new recordings, including two reflecting directly on 9/11. His use of solo guitar in sonic construction is breathtaking. I think the weirder Connors gets, the better I like him.

    (Sol 3)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    At its best, Consolidated has cranked out some amazing political musical tirades. At its worst, the band has lost its musical moorings and degenerated into incoherent rants. Enough of the latter found the band on the street (thus the title of the album, I believe), and now while the tide has receded, Consolidated is back.

    True to form, the artist reply coupon offers info on joining activist organizations in the listeners home community. No one ever accused Consolidated of hypocrisy. But such a devotion to causes can be a bit overwhelming.

    But on this disc, the excesses are reined in. Now, that also by necessity rules out any great statement, but Consolidated cranks out a sizable load of astute politically-aware pieces without skimping on the music. If you're unfamiliar, imagine Living Colour with a drum machine and a white singer. And lots of samples. Nothing revolutionary, but when your options are limited, sometimes it's necessary to redecorate the interior or your shell.

    I would like to hear a few more chances being taken on the musical front. There are some nice references (The "Get Up Stand Up" bass line pops up in "Red Flags and Bags"), but much of this album is a bit too subtle. A bit more of the attack dog would be nice to hear.

    Tikkun-Survivor Demos
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    As the press notes, Consolidated is less a band than a collective. The main instigator of this release is Adam Sherburne. The subjects here are as dire and desperate as those on Dropped, but in all regards this is a more attractive disc.

    Probably because the music on that disc reflected the lyrics. It wasn't pretty, and I really didn't get into it much. Not a lot of creativity, just a whole lot of pounding. This sounds much more like a typical Consolidated outing, which mixes political and personal screeds with funky beats and insistent grooves.

    A formula that is positively inspiring when it works. On this disc, it does pretty well. There's a return to form here, a sound that makes me think there might be a little more gas in the Consolidated tank.

    In particular, the rediscovery of the bass as a tool of social protest. A fine bass line can tear down mountains. Consolidated has found the rock once again.

    Hit for Six
    (Fat Wreck Chords) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Well, you know, it is a Fat Wreck album. You guessed that Consumed plays some sort of melodic punk. Well, the melodies here are in the guitars. The vocals are hooky without really being terribly tuneful. Man, I really like that.

    So we've got 14 great howlers here (that's a song count), and I couldn't get enough. Yes, there is a formula to this stuff. Yes, Consumed breaks no new ground. But hell, any fool can acquire the ingredients for Guinness and still, it tastes best direct from the tap. Same with this stuff. Some bands can do it. Consumed, for example.

    And, really, the guitar work is really nice. A thick sound in the rhythm section and just enough fuzz on the lead licks. Makes the riffage all that much more enticing. This is the sort of disc that can kick my mind into overdrive.

    Not to mention my ass, thighs and feet. Hard to stay immobile long enough to write this review, much less stay sane. I kinda wanna get up and do some damage. Right now. Talk to you later.

    Turn of the Screw CD5
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    There's a reason singles are edited for radio: the label thinks commercial radio can't handle the original. Be it length, certain words or ideas or anything else, you can always be sure ignoring the radio edit is good policy.

    Having said that, the edit here is not bad. But the club version (four minutes longer) is pretty awful good. If you got into the Assimilation stuff, especially Diatribe, or any of the recent Reconstriction, then this is worth your time.

    Contra Guerra
    Crystal Ball 7"
    (Earth Music-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Heavy punk-pop, a la Treepeople, with different folks giving the vocals a shot.

    These folk have a nice handle on what makes a hook, and they still manage to pack a bruising with the riffage.

    Already starting to resurface following last year's major label San Diego buying spree, the scene there is producing even more cool bands. Contra Guerra is one to watch.

    Defense Mechanism 7"
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Fuzzy, heavy pop that reminds a whole lot of Husker Du's lighter moments. I don't think that's necessarily the most apt description, but what the hell.

    "Defense Mechanism" is a nicely anthemic pop rocker, with plenty of production room fuzz to keep any palate whetted. The song never quite reaches its potential maximum impact, but does nicely nonetheless.

    The flip, "Girl/boy" follows in the same vein, just a bit more halting in its pop delivery. I like the odd lyrics a bit better than the a-side, but once again, the song falls just short of perfection, like the band is just tossing off a gem.

    Such indifference is a little annoying, but the two tunes are wonderful, and perhaps one day the band will decide to really rip into them and give them the showcase they deserve.

    Controlled Bleeding
    (Third Mind)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    If you play Pigface or the new Godflesh, then there is no reason to wait on this disc. Sure there a few tracks tailor-made for the dance floor, but once you experience the fury of "Auto Grind" and a new live version of (Swallowing) "Scrap Metal," there is no looking back. The fury is real, and it is extremely addictive.

    There is no way possible to call this wimpy. Sure, there are drum sequencers and the occasional keyboard. But the guitars thrash as well as any other, and the vocals are much grittier than your typical industrial act.

    Try it. You'll like it.

    Jane Doe
    (Equal Vision)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    The first couple of notes here pretty well settle the case. Converge plays a blistering form of extreme technical hardcore. Imagine the Refused cranking up the intensity a notch (and without the electronic experimentation).

    Yeah, it is that fine. These songs just fly out at me, almost taking my head off in the process. Converge has no sense of propriety or balance. Even the relatively less manic pieces are mean as hell.

    I must say, though, that I really got into the aggro songs. And that's most of the album. The production left a sheen of distortion (that also simply might be the way the guys play) but otherwise was very clean. All the better to hear each and every line as it crashes into another.

    The kinda disc that leaves burn marks all over its listeners. But this is more than just a bursting ball of energy. Converge's writing and arranging leaves all kinds of depth. This is one of those albums that will provide visceral and intellectual pleasure for years to come.

    Lost Equilibrium CD5
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    This underground series has turned up great music. Many of you grooved on the Disembowelment (they have a full-length album coming out soon), and now you should get into Convulse.

    Matt sent me a tape of Dead World advance tracks and dropped a few Convulse tunes on there as well. This is not ordinary death metal. Take some basic grunge, add elements of doom and the regular vocal style. You will dig! As I've heard other tracks, I'm sure an album will be coming one of these days. This is solid all the way around.

    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    I've had many conversations recently about the future of death metal and grindcore. These folks were worried that truly mediocre but popular bands like A.C. and Cannibal Corpse are making the point that you have to really change your sound to get airplay and sales.

    It might be true. But Convulse does manage to be heavy AND accessible. Yes, they steal a few grunge conventions, but once those riffs are mixed in with a generic but melodic death style, interesting things happen.

    I see a commercial future for bands like Convulse. Death metal bands have let their standard sound become stagnant. In order for the movement to survive in any form, there has to be innovation. Convulse's tack is but one way.

    Death metal should learn from its punk ancestors and not get too doctrinaire. Convulse pushes the edge, and does it well.

    Cookie Galore
    Cookie Galore 7"
    (Heat Beat)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Some serious electronic goofiness. On "Communion", the vocals waft (they're a high alto, so it's not like were talking about babydoll singing, but still) over very sparsely populated beats, with some keys and bass creeping in from time to time.

    Not entirely haunting, and I don't think that's the point. The band sets a great mood, one that's arrogantly languid, almost as if toying with the listener. I kinda like that.

    The other song (I couldn't determine if there was an a-side) is "Leaves & Philosophies", which is much more raucous, comprised of assembled live beats and a melange of incoherent vocals. Not exactly normal, so I'm intrigued.

    A lot of creativity bouncing around on one little slab. There's a note on the sleeve that recommends a newer needle. I have a dreadfully old needle, and it worked just fine. In any event, don't fear. Stroll into the unknown with a strut, and you'll do fine.

    Portable One EP
    (Heat Beat)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    A beats and pieces electronic dreamland duo. There's a moody cover of a Magnetic Fields song (yes, even more downbeat than Merritt's original) and a number of different sounds within just six songs.

    Cookie Galore can shift from somber to surreal to sublime like it was climbing stairs. There's almost no effort, or, at least, that's what it sounds like. Simply always evolving, always challenging fare.

    That's what I like best about this set. There's something different going on at all times, and despite the variety, just about everything works. Cookie Galore has the tools and it has delivered. That should be enough.

    Cool Serbia
    Cool Serbia EP
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Lovely fuzzpop. And that's about it, really. The five tracks here rarely break out of midtempo fare, but they do sound heavenly. There's a definite Psychocandy groove (as opposed to Loveless, although that may be a production quirk rather than anything intentional), and I can dig it. Louder is definitely better.

    The Coots
    Message from the Seventh Dimension
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Harp-driven blues with plenty of soul. Most songs are stuck right in between a shuffle and the boogie. And while the Coots do feature an electric piano, the sound is nice and sparse.

    Classic, really. The piano and bass sometimes click into jazz modes, but again, a classic and not fusion style. In any case, blues bands generally sound solid or contrived. The Coots are dead solid.

    That sparse sound I mentioned is also a result of the writing. The songs don't try to overpower. Instead, the power is in what's not played, what's not said. Almost spooky, which is always fine blues territory.

    The songs just keep rolling it at that just-past-mid tempo feel, about what's right for this kinda stuff. This album doesn't have any clunkers. A whale-load of passion and soul, but no sour notes. Blues for wallowing.

    Coph Nia
    Coph Nia
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Another trip to the dark side. Coph Nia issues forth some wonderful black music. Soundscapes with a light touch, spoken vocals (with faux-chanted accompaniment).

    Spooky, particularly when the vocals go away for a while. Coph Nia is probably at its best when it brings in sonic elements out of the darkness, a shriek here or a swoop there. A haunting quality that's pretty damned tough to achieve.

    Surprise is what's necessary, and Coph Nia sets the stage for fright quite well, lulling the listener into a false sense of security right before lowering the boom. Listening to this album is like walking through a dark forest, not knowing what lies two steps ahead.

    To keep that up for an hour is impressive. Coph Nia doesn't really break new ground, but its execution here is impeccable. Exciting and frightening fare. Quite the thrill ride.

    (EV Records)
    reviewed in issue #274, May 2006

    Stellar beatwork by Copperpot, incisive and insightful rhymes by Longshot. I'm always in the mood for something political, and this disc hits the spot right.

    When I describe the beats as stellar, that's an understatement. I'd love this album if it were an instrumental. Copperpot combines the collage style of PreFuse 73 with the smooth grace of RJD2. These songs are real songs, assembled by a master.

    And that's not to slight Longshot, who is one of the more creative MCs I've heard in a while. He's not afraid of taking the time to fully expand an idea within a song. He does this without getting lost or, even worse, dull. This is incendiary fare.

    A collaboration that deserves to continue. CopperShot blisters every track on this disc. Don't listen if you don't want to think...even though these songs are too infectious to put down.

    Peter Cor
    Esprit de Cor
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    There are very few sorts of music which almost automatically drive me up the wall. The phenomenon known as "happy jazz" is one. And when I first dug into Peter Cor's disc, I thought that was where I was headed.

    I mostly got that idea from the drenching keyboards and rather simplistic rhythms. Cor has a nasty habit of cribbing some wonderful ideas from a wide variety of world music traditions and then stripping them of all their verve before dropping them in his songs. Whet really bugs me is his "background music" style.

    And as Cor has done a lot of work in commercials and cheesy films, that makes sense. But if you can strip out the lesser elements (a task, but possible), then you might appreciate the good piano and guitar work. Not particularly original, I guess, but solid and intriguing anyway.

    The lead instrument work here is quite good. It's just that all the stuff which lies behind is so treacly. You know, a bossa nova beat run through a keyboard just isn't quite the same thing. Cor needs to upgrade his backing section, and then his talents might start to shine.

    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Seems like everywhere I turn, there's another Richmond (VA) band. Decent musicians, but I've yet to hear one with a coherent idea as to how they should sound.

    Coral follows that trend well. But as a whole the members can't decide if it wants to be a heavy pop band, a mellow pop band or whatever.

    It all sounds kinda halfhearted. There are some good songs, but more effort is needed. Coral may be the perfect slacker band, but I think you should give a shit.

    Lamb Lost in the City/
    Cordero Perdido en la Ciudad

    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Ani Cordero writes the songs, sings, plays guitar and generally rules the roost. As the album title intimates, the songs here are sung both in English and en Espanol. The music, as well, shifts with the languages.

    The English songs sound a lot like basic indie rock with the edges softened. Cordero has a great ear for melody, and she's not afraid to write pretty songs. The pieces sung in Spanish have a lounge-ranchera feel, kinda like if Willie Nelson (in Stardust mode) and Tish Hinojosa were playing the Albuquerque Ramada Inn.

    That's a good thing, by the way. The sound here is as laid-back as the songs. There's a lilt in the air, and a languid feel permeates. Beautiful and easy-going, but still very well crafted.

    This album is an immediate grabber, and the quality throughout makes listening a true pleasure. The sound is a natural. Wonder why no one else is doing it.

    Somos Cordero
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    More genre-mixing tunes sung in Spanish and English. The core is pop, but Cordero draws from so many influences that it's hard to really describe the final product. Top quality, once again.

    (then known as Chords)
    Eat Your Heart Out 7"
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    The band is now known as "Cords", but they used to be called "Chords", back when this single was pressed. Thus the odd nomenclature. The label is a new venture by TVT to crank out singles of unknown bands before they release the full album on the mother label.

    As for the music, it appears the TVT A&R staff is getting a little more adventurous, anyway. There's a lot of noise, not much of it with a real point, but I've always been fan of dischord (ba-dump…ching!) God only knows how they're going to market this to the average fifteen-year-old Nirvana freak. It's worth a shot.

    Taurus No Bull
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    The most uncommercial thing this label has released. I liked this a lot better when I didn't know what the lyrics were. Now that I can read them, I realize many are more inane than the title of the album.

    But it all sounds pretty damn neat. A heavy pop sound cranked through more layers of distortion than I want to peel right now.

    Too bad the lyrics are so damn dumb.

    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    I get the feeling that Simone Holsbeek can sing, but she just doesn't want to. Instead, her vocals are twisted through layers of distortion, as is the accompanying music. No signs of change.

    Despite the dumbest album title in years (Taurus No Bull), Cords TVT debut was a nice ball of nasty fuzz, and the originals on this EP are in the same vein. But when I saw the cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman" (dreadful), I figured the "Snowblind" must be Styx's song.

    No, they pick the Sabbath tune, and do a decent job on it. Hell, Simone even lets her real vocals come through most of the time.

    I'm still not sure if Cords is a weird joke or not. At times, particularly on the title track, the folk are positively riveting. Then the down side crashes in. Cords could be something if the inconsistency is dispensed with.

    Core 22
    Not Your Size
    (Sol 3)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    As good a representation of the post-pop collage as I've heard since the last Chumbawamba album. Core likes to assemble its songs out of numerous incongruous pieces, swirling techno keyboard riffs, acoustic guitar riffs, synth strings and generally dance floor friendly beats into three-to-four minute masterpieces.

    Core distinguishes itself by working the edges of this technique to the hilt. There's so much goofy mess floating about, it's a miracle that the songs come off at all, much less as well as they do. These are not simple songs with lots of stuff added on top. There's plenty of divergent lines cruising through the sound. But, you know, it does work.

    With a final sound that has that "we're gonna sell a million records" feel to it. Anthemic, arrogant, pretentious and definitely attention-craving. Yeah, a mishmash of current pop hipness. See, it doesn't matter how trendy something is if it works. And like I said...

    Brilliant? Well, maybe. Core propagates a brood of overblown throwaway pop symphonies. But when you hear one, you know you're gonna listen all the way through. That's a sign of something impressive, you know.

    The Corn Sisters
    The Other Woman
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Also known as Neko Case and Carolyn Mark, the Corn Sisters riff through a series of vaguely country songs (moving effortlessly from torch to folk to bluegrass to, well, whatever they feel like playing) in front of a live audience. About half the songs are originals (most of those written by Mark) and the rest come from writers such as Loretta Lynn, Nick Lowe and Lucinda Williams.

    Two women, a guitar, a snare drum and the odd bit of piano. Case has one of the great "big" voices in music today, and Mark's somewhat more fragile vocals are a fine complement. Indeed, Mark sounds much more at home on the more spirited numbers.

    The biggest joy of this disc is simply the energy created by the duo. Both are impressive when singing solo numbers, but when both start singing (and competing, to an extent), the sound leaps out of the speakers and into my bones. Shattering would be an understatement.

    Who boy, a big ol' wad of fun. There isn't a clunker in the set, and really, just about every number soars. Sometimes the most powerful sounds can come from the simplest packages. This one is simply not to be missed.

    Corner Suns
    Corner Suns
    (Idol Records)
    reviewed 1/1/17

    Sometimes I'm mystified by my attraction to a particular album. Not so with Corner Suns. Taking a healthy dollop of Touch and Go-style rhythmic dissonance, a large handful of Shin-ny pop meandering and finishing it off with stellar indie-pop hooks, this sucker pretty much hits all of my pleasure centers dead center.

    While these songs are largely tightly-wound pop gems, this Dallas-based duo isn't afraid to skip through the weeds at times. Perfection is not an ideal; nor is it ideal. Our flaws are what make us beautiful, and Corner Suns fully subscribe to that notion.

    My only real complaint is that this set doesn't really build on itself. Having scrambled the sequencing a few times, I didn't really come up with an order that worked better. These are eclectic, busy pop songs that often don't have much to do with each other past the sound.

    In the end, I was too entranced by the individual parts to worry too much about that. Corner Suns make glorious sound, and that makes me smile. These days, smiling cannot be discounted.

    Hugh Cornwell
    Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Cornwell was the singer of the Stranglers, and I guess by hearing this I can understand just what the hell they were thinking with that concert album I reviewed a while back. All those strings drowning out the punk pop. Didn't make sense. But now, I see the light.

    Well, I see what he was going for, anyways. This disc is heavily-produced (but not quite over-produced) pop of the British persuasion. The songs are too long (they average out at more than 4 1/2 minutes per), particularly for the fairly lightweight writing, but at least they're listenable.

    Still, this is dreadfully pretentious fare, and I'm not quite rewarded for sitting through it. Cornwell apparently thinks he's making grand philosophical statements here, and he's really not. Kinda catchy songs with the odd good line, really. They just do go on.

    Oh, good enough for rock and roll, you know, and I'm sure plenty of Stranglers fans will want to hear what he's doing. It's not bad, it's just not as good as I thought it might be. Ah well, these things happen.

    See also the Stranglers.

    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Yes, that's a didgeridoo (I think I spelled that right) at the start of the album. Wait a minute and Coroner really kicks in.

    And a lot more animated than their last effort. Still the same sound, but with more intensity.

    Don't know Coroner? Go back into your station's library and listen. These guys were heavy when most of the metal universe was playing Poison. With roots in thrash, early on they departed from that potential dead end and created their own tightly-produced sound, which is in ample abundance here.

    This does sound a little dated, but personally, some things are worth reminiscing about. Knowhutimeen?

    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    After a bazillion albums, Coroner finally feels the need for an eponymous release. Whatever they want. Probably has something to do with Noise deciding to clear out the vaults as the band heads to a major label.

    But after leaving that problem in the dust, this album finds Coroner staking claim to the territory they owned before Prong came along and ripped it out.

    Alright, Coroner has always been more technical and progressive than Prong, but the heavy use of repetition, etc., sure does ring a bell. And now that Coroner stuff can finally be had again in the U.S., perhaps the kiddies will notice as well.

    Us old folks have known Coroner as perhaps the best practitioners of the heavy prog metal genre. Not many bands tread in this area, because you not only have to play well, but you also must play with emotion and flair. Not an easy task.

    But Coroner has been doing just that for years. This is better than Grin, and I'd put it up against any Coroner record, period. Sure the extra tracks are kinda cheesy, but there's plenty to sink your teeth into here. Don't miss.

    Coronet Blue
    Coronet Blue
    (Laughing Outlaw)
    reviewed in issue #237, January 2003

    Okay, so Coronet Blue sounds a lot like the Doors channeled through the Cult (Hard to imagine, right? Yeah...). Not exactly the most original sound. It's just that these guys do it so well.

    You need just the right balance of attitude and actual musical awareness to really pull of a trick like this. Too much smarm and the stuff just bogs down in a sea of sliminess. Too much attention paid to the tunes and the songs get faceless real damned fast.

    And neither happens here. The songs are loud and aggressive, but not over the top. There is plenty of swagger, but never at the expense of the riffage. Okay, so the boys aren't blazing any new trails. They just sound good where they are.

    Not an overwhelming album, but damn, man, there's something that grabs me. Maybe I'm just a sucker for straight 4/4 drum licks and up-and-down riffola. It happens to the best of us.

    Corporal Blossom
    Corporal Blossom
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Back in the olden days, artists (painters and such) had to hope that people recognized the references to other great works within their paintings. After about a hundred years, though, a lot of those names tend to get muddled in the murky logs of history. Thus, we have art appreciation classes.

    The modern day is so much better. Such that something like Corporal Blossom (instigated by Layng Martine III) can take the beats and pieces of our sonic culture and whip them into a rather tasty little stew.

    He did some of the work on this disc in Brooklyn, which puts him somewhere in the proximity of the Wordsound crew. In fact, this album would be right at home with such projects as Slotek and Prince Charming. First rule: Always find the groove. Next rule: Always do the unexpected (but stay within the groove). Last rule: Make it sound great.

    I really do dig this bass-oriented electronic collage stuff. The low end puts you in a hypnotic state, so as to better experience the rest of the affair. Corporal Blossom has plenty of backways to explore, places that need repeat visits.

    Corporate Avenger
    The New Testament
    (Suburban Noize)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Just in case you were confused, Corporate Avenger is not a Christian band. At least, that's the way it appears when an album's got song titles like "The Bible Is Bullshit" and "Jesus Christ Homosexual."

    I didn't want to lead anybody on. No, these guys rap like Cypress Hill over a crunchy industrio-metal complex. The music, however, isn't what's important here. These guys have a few things on their minds.

    The simplistic accompaniments (which are generally growling throbs) provide a nice nest for the over-the-top lyrics. The delivery is great, and the whole sound comes together quite nicely.

    The ideas may be extreme (at least in the eyes of some), but this is still a tasty mix. Corporate Avenger is a real blast of fresh air.

    Corporate MF
    The Royal We
    (Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Wonderfully smarmy synth-rock. Corporate MF sounds like a Smashmouth cover band playing the Ramada--except that in my imagined universe, Smashmouth wrote really good songs.

    A lot of that has to do with the decided absence of guitars. The basic sound is bass (yes, I know bass is a type of guitar...), drums, organ and synthesizer, with a few choice bits of noisy weirdness thrown in. The pieces themselves are basic 60s style groove rock, updated and shredded for the rigors of modern life.

    The sound is astonishingly dirty for such a technologically-driven band. It's a great idea; there's no good reason why these songs should be all shiny and pretty. That extra bit of aggression in the sound pays off, making the songs that much more engaging.

    One of those albums I kept meaning to put down but couldn't. I'm not entirely sure why I like it so much, but there's something about the sound and the songs that keeps the headphones glued to my head. Maybe it's one of those subliminable messages the Prez keeps whining about. No complaints from me.

    Corpus Delicti
    Reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Four gothsters from France weigh in with their first US album. The press says this shows "that Europe doesn't have a monopoly on dark music...". Um, last I checked France was part of that particular continent, and even that particular Union. Oh well.

    And at times the band also works too hard to make a cool point. The intros to the songs are often overwrought and just plain silly. Once the songs get going, the cool pop sensibility of the band takes over, and things get cooking. Corpus Delicti has a very good sense of that early Cure-meets-Sisters sound that the kiddies love, and a lot of this is most tasty, indeed.

    Now, anyone who can explain why the world needs a goth version of "Suffragette City" gets a free beer next time I'm in town. Because the rendition here doesn't make any sense and is pretty much note-for-note the Bowie original. I understand the goth slaving to Bowie, but not with this song. Whatever.

    But slight missteps aside, Sarabands is rather enjoyable. Not the greatest goth album in history, but a pretty good one, anyway.

    Impromptu Caber Toss split EP with Kobald
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    Kobald is a band that includes the Brian and Chris of the band Brian and Chris. Corsicana is another band plying the post rock waves. At first glance I couldn't find a song list or even a note explaining who is playing what where. Then I turned the liner page over. Duh. Anyway, there are six songs. They're mostly instrumental. Without the note, I would have guessed that the stuff was by the same band--the differences are there, but minor. And that's cool with me.

    See, when the music is cool and inventive and constantly evolving, I really don't care who is playing it or what the name of the song might be. There's something quite intriguing about an almost anonymous disc. You can imagine it to be whatever you like.

    Well, I don't have to imagine this one to be good. It's taken care of that all on its own. I just have to let the music run and let my mind bask in the glow. A fine feeling, it is.

    Corvus Corvax
    The Atavistic Triad
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Rolling, lush atmospheric goth synth symphonies occasionally combined with the aggression and drum breaks of black metal. A natural pairing, of course, but one that few really go after.

    Now, unlike Cradle of Filth, this isn't death metal with gothic overtones. This is goth music with just a hint of the black metal. The intros and basic musical track are sweeping and gorgeous. The background vocals are generally of the common faux-operatic style, but the lead vocals are that nice death metal growl.

    Really, this is a classy pairing of the two sounds. Extreme fans won't be satisfied, I'll tell you that. But goth fans intrigued by such mid-90s faves as Edge of Sanity should get excited by this.

    Corvus Corvax has created an entrancing sound. And by putting this album together as a triad of lengthy pieces (with one short interlude), it has emphasized some of the classical theory behind the music. A truly exciting disc.

    Larry Coryell Tom Coster Steve Smith
    Larry Coryell Tom Coster Steve Smith
    (Tone Center)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    I know it's just a function of the press process, but I have been getting a lot of albums which feature Steve Smith on drums. I'm not complaining about that. Smith is not only talented, he manages to make highly technical drumming actually sound interesting (having grown up with a brother who's a drummer and having heard many of his drummer friends, I know the difficulty involved). He's joined here by Larry Coryell on guitar and Tom Coster on keys. A nice fusion trio outing.

    Most of the tunes also have some fine bass work, mostly by Benny Reitveld, though Victor Wooten plays on the first track. All that is secondary to the interplay between the members of the trio. No one instrument dominates throughout, though solos are passed off in most songs.

    Coryell has a nice touch, able to rip off some nice speed runs and still impart a bluesy feel. Yeah, this is a jazz record (vaguely), but his down-home sound is more than welcome. Coster's keyboard work comes straight out of the prog field, though he also keeps a light touch to his sound. Smith simply does what he does, adapting perfectly to the needs of the moment.

    A nicely varied outing, great playing that really connects. These guys know how to connect thoughts to notes, and they have the skill and experience necessary to make the music relevant. Well-conceived stuff that sounds good. Not nearly as easy as it sounds, my friends.

    Cosmologic Syntaxis
    Cosmologic Syntaxis
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    When you're in college, the natural impulse is to experiment. Good thing, too. These four UCSD students play jazz on their own terms. They pick and choose from their favorite influences (there seems to be a particular affinity for the whole John Coltrane/Miles Davis axis--that's a broad spectrum, but I think it holds together) and then fuse them into something completely new.

    Sometimes the stuff works, and sometimes it's merely interesting. I like the way Michael Dessen often teams his trombone with James Robinson's tenor sax. The two instruments are naturally friendly toward one another, and using them in tandem really highlights some cool melodies.

    Scott Walton's bass is a bit lost in the mix, but when I can make it out it really helps to hold together some of the more "out there" moments. And while Nathan Hubbard must feel a bit underused as the percussionist, unlike many drummers he doesn't mind hanging out off the beat if that's what it takes to make a song really work.

    These guys are not at the height of their powers. They're just beginning to figure out how to really play and how to write songs that fit their talents. Nonetheless, I hear a lot of potential. Anyone who is willing to try as many things as these boys do is off to the right start.

    Das Knaben Wunderhorn 7"
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    The first track is a spooky mix of chunky emo stuff, a cool lead guitar lick, spoken vocals and this ethereal wailing. A wide mix of stuff that really appeals to me. The other three tracks are more basic emo pop stuff, quite reminiscent of the Treepeople, though with female vocals.

    Very good in their own right. The production on these tracks (or the mastering of the vinyl) isn't great. The bass is kinda lost, and the treble sounds all out of whack. I have a shitty turntable, but stuff usually sounds better than this.

    Still, I can hear glorious music. Cotillion knows how to add just the right amount of melody to the emo form and craft some stirring pop anthems. Yeah, this style is among my faves, but Cotillion does it right. An impressive set.

    Chris Cotton
    The Big Sea
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    Fronting a trio (with special friends) of guitar, drums and upright bass, Cotton plays a certain type of old-timey blues that brings to mind Tin Pan Alley or Bob Wills almost as much as Leadbelly.

    By mixing up rural blues, jazz, American song and some sweet western swing, Cotton has brought all these sounds into modern times. The song structures are mainly modern, and the playing is decidedly up-to-date. But the sounds within recall scratchy 78s and acetates.

    I'm speaking of the musical elements, of course. The sound on this disc is immaculate. Like I said, this is modern music. Cotton knows his influences, but he's most concerned about making his own music.

    And it is music most impressive. Cotton's expressive playing and singing drive this album, and his sidemen and pals paint some real pretty (if often sad, of course) pictures. A quiet gem.

    Cotton Mather
    Wild Kingdom
    (Star Apple Kingdom)
    reviewed 5/5/17

    Last year, Cotton Mather returned from a 15-year recording hiatus with the first installment of an intended 64-song cycle based on the I Ching. I thought Death of the Cool was pretty good stuff, but it didn't take me anywhere. I missed the three-track EP that popped at the end of 2016, but this 11-song set totally makes up for all that.

    There's no particular style that predominates; leader and songwriter Robert Harrison has mixed and matched his influences into a multi-layered stew. I mean, late 80's indie rock is a pretty broad category, and the songs here pull in a lot more than that.

    But I like the diversity (and aggression) on this set. Definitely a collection rather than a cohesive album, Wild Kingdom shows off Harrison's songwriting range, but more importantly, the ability of the band to take those songs and turn them into something even greater. The energy and spirit on this album is exceptional.

    If you don't remember Cotton Mather from the first time around, I can't help you too much. This album sounds like the bastard child of Joe Jackson and Eleventh Dream Day. With just about everything that implies. Enjoy the individual pieces, and let the whole wash over you to get the full effect.

    Young Life EP
    (Star Apple Kingdom)
    reviewed 11/16/17

    The latest installment in Cotton Mather's 64-song, I Ching-inspired cycle is quite possibly the best. To my ear, each release has been stronger than the one that came before. The bar was already high; I can only imagine how good the final pieces will be.

    The first track, "Mighty Girl", might be the best expression of Cotton Mather's ambitions I've ever heard. A very holy combination of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and George Harrison, the song marries mannered pop construction with an intensity that bleeds out the seams.

    Robert Harrison's ambition for this renewed Cotton Mather is massive, and so far the output has been staggering. This six-song set is a bit more contemplative than those that preceded it, in part due to the passing of longtime bassist George Reiff and also (according to Harrison) a tour of Russia. Whatever the reason, these songs often sound more Sister Lovers than Radio City.

    The range and depth of these six songs feels almost infinite. As this project nears halfway (in terms of songs released, anyway), it sounds like Cotton Mather is channeling the I Ching rather than simply being inspired by it. In any case, these songs are an inspiration all their own.

    Couch of Eureka
    Year of the Zombie EP
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Utterly messy punk-pop stuff. So much so, you might think there was a concept going on, or perhaps something "artsy".

    I'll buy that to a certain point. This stuff is wildly discordant, with no real center that I discern. And still amusing.

    When the Couch really cranks up the amps and the tempo, I'm reminded of old Replacements and old Soul Asylum (which is, of course, a compliment). But most the time the stuff is more mid-tempo, which has its own charms and all, but isn't as immediately appealing.

    I've got a feeling I'll really like this after listening to it about fifty times. There's certainly enough going on to warrant such a search. Of course, I may also discover that this is just a complete mess. Just can't tell.

    By the way, the CD includes the band's earlier This Life's EP. More of the same, perhaps a bit messier and certainly less produced.

    Manhandler EP
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    There's just something about a hard rock band with horns. Sassy horns, too. Actually, this sounds an awful lot like some old school midwestern bluesy hardcore/hard rock (somewhere between Laughing Hyenas and Raging Slab, I'd say) with a horn chaser. There's a lot of complexity within the noise.

    And don't let the song titles ("Dick Dater," "Vegas Makes Her Fuck," etc.) fool you. There is a lot of caustic attitude being tossed around in between the impossibly thick boogie grooves, but don't ignore the subtleties.

    Well, feel free to save them for repeat visits. On first listen, just let the throbbing desire pound its way into you. Once you've been properly softened up, you'll know much better how to accept the greatness that is being thrust upon you.

    Count Raven
    Destruction of the Void
    (Hellhound-Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Sleep used to be the last word in Sabbath sound-alike bands, but Count Raven does them one better. Dan Fondelius sounds exactly like Ozzy Osbourne. It's fucking creepy sometimes.

    As with Sleep, they don't rip off any famous riffs and generally do a good job replicating the late sixties-early seventies Sabbath sound. The production is even sufficiently muffled.

    While Count Raven is fun to listen to, I have a request: no more of these Sabbath-esque bands. A&R people should inform the folks that hitching on to a trend is short-term bucks at best. And next year everyone will be trying to rip off early Scorpions or something.

    Count the Stars
    Never Be Taken Alive
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    From what I can tell, the mainstream definition of emo is pop-punk played with verve and produced so as to make the guitars fat as hell. Ergo, Count the Stars is an emo band.

    A damned good band, no matter what you really want to call the music. These boys have written some deceptively deep pop ravers and cranked up the energy level. There's no let up, even during the mid-tempo pieces.

    The sound, as I noted, is full and seemingly ever-expanding. The guitars are as thick as George W. Bush's skull. The hooks are tight, sweet and yet just the slightest bit messy. I like that. After all, art lies in the little incongruities.

    Um, yeah, this is the sort of album that I eat like candy. The quickest way to my soul is to play pop music with style (well, that or play truly weird shit). I'm a sucker for this kinda stuff. But hell, I only fall for the good bands. At least, that's what I want to believe. So don't tell me any different, okay?

    Country Club & the Porn Horns
    The Station Wagon Revolution
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    I'm always in favor of people trying to do cool things with horns in rock music. Everything from Chicago (some of those early jams are truly incredible) to Blue Meanies to the multitude in-between. Country Club & the Porn Horns utilize some of the dissonant styles of Blue Meanies, but there's not much in the way of ska to be found here.

    Rather, the pieces whipsaw between the poles of fusion jazz (the good side, of course) and rockabilly, with often obscene spoken interludes from a guy (or character) named Wexler. Don't ask me to make sense of it.

    There's just no need. This is a band with singular requirement of its music: The stuff has to be good. It might swing, it might wail, it might screech, but it's always interesting.

    I'd imagine that these songs are completely reworked in a live setting. As incendiary as this album gets, my guess is that the show is ten times more impressive. And that's a truly frightening prospect.

    Wayne/Jayne County
    (If You Don't Want to Fuck Me Baby) Fuck Off!! 12"
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    From the (really) forthcoming Greatest Hits package. The press identifies her as both a transvestite and transsexual, which you can't be at the same time, really. But why quibble?

    The title track was a nice little honky-tonk punk, and included are two repetitive faux-disco re-mixes that have an annoying resemblance to a Paul Lekakis hit of years gone by.

    Wayne/Jayne isn't that original, even with the "punk" songs included here, but the stuff is mindless and fun, and I'll not whine. The full-length is due in August, so be sure to check it out. Everyone can always use a laugh.

    Rock 'n Roll Cleopatra
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Twenty shots of late 70's punk rawk in all its glory. County's band does its best to emulate the Dolls, but his/her amazingly atonal delivery pretty much has to be heard to be believed.

    Well, it is tons of fun, anyway, The remix 12" was silly, but the real meat is here. If you somehow are still afflicted with a feeling for this stuff (and a lot of you are), then give Wayne/Jayne a shot. The transvestite gig is silly, but with the exception of songs like "Wonder Woman" and "Man Enough to Be a Woman", it usually doesn't get in the way of the music.

    Not a vital retrospective, but certainly a worthy one.

    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    A new set from the queen of transgender punk. Not that she rules a large kingdom, or anything...

    The lyrics are pointedly strident. Jayne has plenty of points to make, in absolutely non-poetic or even interesting forms. The music is basic 70s punk rawk (more attitude than speed) in the Stooges or Dolls style. Wish more was being said.

    Still, when you've got the balls (ahem) to cover "Cherry Bomb" (and not badly either), well, that's hard to tear apart. Folks haven't tried to make music quite like this in a while. There's a probably a reason for that, but give County some credit. As a party disc this almost succeeds. As art, well, I'm not so sure.

    The Coup
    Steal This Album
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    The copy of this disc I received had a record store price tag on it. I wonder if it was stolen...

    Nah, not really. In any case, Boots Riley lays down some smooth rhymes, backed up by Pam the Funkstress (I kinda like that one). The soul is a lot closer to 1970 than 1999, though occasionally Pam gets a little too close to outright use on some of the lines, but most of the beats 'n' bass come together like a nicely mixed symphony.

    Riley's technique is solid, if on the ordinary side. He's just hangin' most of the time, which puts more pressure on the rhymes to deliver. They do some of the time, though they, too, sometimes come off as merely ordinary.

    Tales from the street, stuff that shines only when Riley's dry sense of humor comes through. I'm not saying the Coup needs to be a joke act, but it needs something distinctive. This is solid, but generally faceless.

    Cousin Dale
    Tossin' Helmets
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Pop punk that stays right in the middle of the road. No tattoos or discernible marks. On the music, that is.

    Strangely ineffectual. Cousin Dale might do better to pick up the tempo a bit and crank up the guitars a notch. I know, I bitched when Green Day found salvation in Andy Wallace's metalloid production values, but Cousin Dale has light years to go before crossing that bridge.

    East Bay style from the west side. I don't think that's the problem or anything, but Cousin Dale just doesn't have much to say, musically or lyrically.

    Not enough punch for a pure pop feel. Listless in general.

    Boneless Christian
    (Ever Rat)
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    When something's this tasteless, you just have to laugh. Or, at least, I do.

    Blasphemous to even the most liberal Christian, offensive to even the most tolerant feminist (even those that find it funny), this package has something for everyone.

    Add to it cheesy late Suicidal-type riffs and a pleasant rapid-fire delivery and you have a real winner. Just don't play it when mom comes to visit.

    Theremin EP
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Pulsating gothic techno, reminiscent of the heavier, early days of X Marks the Pedwalk. Very much club ready and accessible. Seamless sampling, ace beat work and very classy arrangements.

    Just leaves me breathless. Where some electronic acts can get kinda sterile and lack the human touch, Covenant retains a human touch despite the excess of electronics. The real key is in the songwriting, which leaves just the right amount of electronic orchestrations in the mix.

    I wasn't prepared for the diversity of sound here, either. Covenant displays an astonishing creativity and willingness to take on a multitude of sounds and moods. Yeah, it's all dance music, but that leaves a lot of room for innovation. And Covenant has taken full advantage.

    Positively murder. Covenant has crafted songs that could set the stage for a world takeover. Completely addicting and habit forming. You fall hardest when you don't see the hole.

    Dreams of a Cryotank
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    Perhaps the perfect antithesis of the Christ Analogue disc. Broadly speaking, the bands play the same style of stuff, but where Christ Analogue seemed only to be able to express itself in cliches, Covenant carves out new niches.

    And Covenant isn't afraid to mix things up. Sure, the emphasis is on cold-spoken vocals (very Laibach-like, really), but the music shifts about significantly, from dirge-like, pain-filled anthems to almost bouncy, club-influenced dance bits.

    Still, I didn't hear quite enough experimentation to thoroughly please me. The Theremin EP was better in that regard, and I wish even more chances had been taken. See, I know how good these guys can be, and this isn't quite their best.

    Still, Dreams of a Cryotank is rather impressive, especially the final "Cryotank Expansion" sequence. I only wish the rest of the songs could have tapped more into that spirit.

    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    The finest gothic techno, with plenty of hard elements as well. A nice balance between distortion and orchestral grandeur. I've said it before, and I suppose I'll have to say it now: Covenant does this better than anyone else.

    Throbbing, pulsating and simply oozing with life. Most of the acts who play in this pool come off sounding cold and remote. Covenant drops enough noise into the pot to bring off a wonderful, earthy feel to the music (the act likes to think of itself as a mixture of techno and the EBM movement, and I won't argue the point). And, of course, it's great for dancing.

    The Stalker EP is included as well, featuring a couple remixes of the album track and three other songs, most likely stuff that didn't quite measure up to full standards. The tunes are bit more experimental and not entirely successful. Still worth hearing, though.

    Blown away, as I have been by everything I've heard from this Swedish act. If you even pretend to like any electronic music, Covenant is a must.

    Final Man CD5
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Two versions of the title track, one basic techno and one amped up a bit and called the "club version". Two other songs, "Control" and "Sample Start". All told, three more reasons why Covenant is a master of what some call dark techno.

    Inventive melodies and rhythms are only the start. Covenant is the rare electronic band that seems hell-bent on innovation. Even when that experimentation doesn't quite pan out. On this single, though, no problem.

    "Final Man" is basic enough, but "Control" is steeped in gothic overtones, and "Sample Start" is a distortion-heavy romp through the land of dance beats. Not much more than beats, but what beats and what a racket!

    All hail and revere. Three songs are not enough, but I'll take them for now.

    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    The chilly technomeisters from Sweden are back. Yeah, these songs exist in the electronic void, but Covenant incorporates so many ideas into both the music and the lyrics that it's hard to argue against electron life. Europa bristles with lightning spikes of vitality.

    Most impressively, the band simply doesn't repeat itself. Yeah, the general gothic techno feel permeates the skin, but instead of allowing that heavy influence to limit the sound, Covenant breaks free and constantly explores new territory.

    There are only a few bands on my short list, and Covenant has been there longer than most. Usually I get tired of a particular sound or the band itself loses steam somehow. Covenant has forestalled that fate by constantly morphing its sound, always staying true its roots while covering new territory. Once again, I lie prostrate to the greatness.

    Impressive is an understatement. Astonishment only begins to explain how I feel. If you have even the slightest interest in techno, you must get to know Covenant. No other course of action is acceptable.

    The Cowards
    reviewed 3/22/17

    The British Cowards, that is, not the French Cowards nor the Canadian Cowards nor . . . I think you get the picture. There are a lot of Cowards bands out there, and this one is probably the least well-known of the bunch. Perhaps this album will change that.

    Or maybe not, as it has been kicking around for a few months now. It should get plenty of attention, though. There's some seriously demented rock and roll going on here.

    The mix of 80s pop, electronic disturbances and garage sounds certainly bring to mind a certain Mark E. Smith experience, but Cowards sticks to its own brand of looniness. Throwing deconstructed hooks over a slinky groove is just one way these folks show they know their way around commercial demolition.

    Not unlike the Fall, Cowards take a while to settle in. This is definitely a band more suited for cult "fame" than widespread appeal. There is simply too much to take in on a single listen, and I didn't rear a single cut that would make sense as a commercial single. I intend that as a compliment, but it's also a sincere observation.

    This one improves as it ages. Give it a few spins and see if you can get it out of your ears. Hasn't happened for me yet.

    Cowboy Indian Bear
    Each Other All the Time
    (The Record Machine)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    A trio from the wilds of Lawrence, Kan. These folks play a well-crafted sort of affected pop. The songs generally trip along, often sounding more like puzzles. By the end of each, however, the glory of the whole has been revealed.

    Not for the timid or impatient. Cowboy Indian Bear takes its time in building these sonic structures, and real listening is required. I'm not trying to scare anyone off, but if you're looking for some mindless music for the car, this is not that.

    On the other hand, if you're looking for music that will worm its way into your consciousness and create something completely unexpected, then come on in. The sound is almost as cryptic as the songs themselves, shifting gears from song to song. Suffice it to say that the "band sound" is fully contained within the way these songs are structured. Many pieces have electronic components, and there are plenty of math and post-rock elements, but there's not a genre that contains what these boys do.

    Other than "damned good music," of course. This stuff rocks, rolls, blips, trips and scrapes its way to greatness. Astounding.

    Cowboys International
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    It wouldn't be too hard to dismiss this stuff as Eno-era Bowie. Especially when you consider that these boys were riding herd in the late 70s. But there are a couple of key differences.

    First, this stuff is fun. Okay, it's fun in a Gary Numan sort of way, but shit, man, that's still fun. And where Bowie was obviously just trying on a new coat, these guys truly believed in the sound they created.

    Which isn't to say this is anything more than great early new wave stuff. It's not. But I'm one of those people with a strange passion for vaguely robotic vocals and gorgeous melodies processed through a synthesizer. Must come from being born in 1970 or something like that.

    I rarely review reissues (or retrospectives, which is more what this is). This one is worth the look back. Not for historical importance or anything silly like that. Just for fun.

    RJ Cowdery
    One More Door
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    Cowdery writes songs that are obviously influenced by her life. The lyrics tend toward an excess of earnestness, and the music is basic country folk. All that is moderately interesting, at best. Then there's Cowdery's voice, which is what makes this album work.

    Cowdery sounds more than a little like Nanci Griffith, and she's got a bit of Griffith's bell-like delivery as well. Whatever the qualities, her vocal performance is what makes this album a delight.

    There's something to be said about competent songwriting and arranging. Cowdery's lyrics head off into the treacle a bit too much, but they always fit the music. The music is workmanlike, but it never gets lost, either. And so, with a solid platform, Cowdery's voice is able to take flight.

    It's not a voice that fills a stadium. It may not even fill a small hall. But it's a voice of character and wisdom, and Cowdery knows exactly how to deliver these songs. It is amazing how one element can completely sell an album.

    Mike Coykendall
    Half Past, Present Pending
    (Fluff and Gravy)
    reviewed 8/24/15

    ou may think you've never heard Mike Coykendall. But you'd be wrong. The producer of such acts as She & Him, Tin Hat Trio and many more, Coykendall has also recorded on his own and with a variety of groups (including Klyde Konnor and the Old Joe Clarks).

    This album mixes a few new songs with many of his old ones and a few covers as well. The attempt seems to be to replicate his unique live set up on a studio album. So the sound is straight-up one-man band, but Coykendall's unique "rig" (a semi-drum set, harmonica and electric guitar) gives all of these songs a fresh feel.

    The breadth of sound is impressive, and Coykendall has done a fine job of curating the songs. He's been doing this forever (almost), but the skills on display here are almost matchless. One moment is raucous and rowdy, and the next is strikingly intimate.

    I'm not opposed to the generic "greatest hits" collection, but I like this approach even better. The problem with putting songs to tape is that they stay static. Coykendall shows how he has allowed his songs (and himself) to evolve over time. This is fascinating as a document, but it's even more compelling as entertainment. Transfixing.

    Kevin Coyne
    Room Full of Fools
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Weird, eclectic rock influenced by the blues, folk, country and the kitchen sink. Kevin Coyne sings in the fashion of Randy Newman: That pinched, almost howling style. And his songs also are written along many of the same lines, with idiosyncratic lyrical tangents.

    Generally optimistic , these songs rumble along, becoming more and more endearing. Coyne's voice, also, begins to materialize as a comfy, familiar entity. He's just sittin' back, telling a few stories.

    The fairly sophisticated, yet restrained, production brings out the best in the songs. Indeed, this album doesn't sound so much like a music collection as a storyteller compilation. Not in the VH-1 sense, but in the sitting around the campfire sense.

    Every once in a while Coyne goes for the home run. But he's a line-drive hitter. And a good one. Sit back, pop a beer, and listen to Coyne ramble. A good way to pass some time.

    Coyol EP
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Gothic americana is a pretty small genre, but within that Coyol is a genre of one. Celeigh Champan and John Isaac Watters have fused their somewhat disparate approaches to music into this set of highly-dramatic, roots-infused fare.

    To call this sound unique is an understatement. Sure, all of the elements are familiar, but the way that Watters ultra-dramatic flair and Champan's quavering Loretta Lynn-alike voice come together is unsettling and invigorating.

    These aren't even opposites. They're incongruities. And yet when they come together, the music is utterly astounding. You will be amazed.

    Crab Daddy
    Trees & Caves
    (Up Close)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Self-released, but the production (both musically and packaging) are exceptionally good. And the most important part, the music contained inside, is very fine.

    At times a little reminiscent of Primus, but plenty of Pixies in the mix as well. You can't fault them for that, as they do hail from Boston. But the mix of influences boils into a real sound of their own.

    They are also releasing seven-inch singles to radio station, so if you happen to get one, pick it up. You have been forewarned. This six-song cassette impresses me greatly, and not just because the guys in the band are nice folk. But that doesn't hurt, on the other hand.

    Crack Up
    From the Ground
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A nice restatement of the gothic death metal style epitomized by the likes of Edge of Sanity and Cemetary. Crack Up tends a bit more to the extreme, but nonetheless has a good feel for melodic power.

    More than a hint of industrial rhythms, so that Crack Up grinds rather than slogs along. The songs are generally short in length and long on quality riffage. Eat the stuff like popcorn.

    The press note compares Crack Up to Gorefest, and I'd have to concur. The strong and assured songwriting combined with impassioned playing fits that bill. Surprisingly good for a debut disc.

    Music that makes me proud to love death metal. Good music is good music, with all labels thrown out. Crack Up makes good music.

    Gentleman's Blues
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    I always thought Camper Van was a bit over-pretentious. Remember, I'm the idiot who thinks U2 is the most overhyped band on the planet. Anyways, I've found most Cracker to be either excessively pandering or, once again, pretentious. To my ear, the music never quite settled into a cool fall.

    To be honest, I haven't paid a hell of a lot of attention to the band. I can't tell you how this album compares to any previous ones. What I can say is that somewhere the guys discovered Tom Petty. Of course, that might have something to do with band members Bob Rupe and Kenny Margolis (once of the Silos, a great Florida band) and the presence of Benmont Trench and Mike Campbell (the hear of the Heartbreakers) on this particular album

    The songs here (and there's a lot of them) roll along nicely. And while there is the usual biting humor, the jokes rarely get run into the ground (a definite improvement). A low-key set, to be sure, and honestly, easily the best I've heard from the band. They have found a fine groove.

    I really didn't think I would like this at all. But the arrogant overtones have been rechanneled, and the result is a really great album. One which is will be recalled often as the river rolls along.

    Garage D'Or 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    A friend of mine had a line about REO Speedwagon's Greatest Hits: "That's a seven-inch, right?" Hell, in terms of mainstream penetration, Cracker's would be simply a single side of a 7". But since David Lowery hasn't ever really embraced the spotlight, that's not so important.

    This compilation collects some favorites from the band's four albums and tosses in a soundtrack cut and three news songs. Yes, "Low" is there. Also, if you buy fast enough, you get a bonus disc with some outtakes, b-sides, live cuts and other oddities.

    I've never been the biggest Cracker fan, but where I found the band lacking in sincerity back in 1992, I'm now more of the opinion that Lowery and company are playing this stuff as straight as they can. Remember, these lyrics come from the guy who wrote "Take the Skinheads Bowling."

    I actually liked the "bonus" disc better than the official release. It kinda cements Cracker in my mind as a band that I've consistently underrated over the years. Always nice to reassess such thoughts every once in a while.

    Cradle of Filth
    Dusk and Her Embrace
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    The second of the Futurist goth-doom triple header. I know the folks at the label (not to mention a few people elsewhere) have been excited about this release for ages. With good reason, of course.

    The similarities between black metal and goth music should be obvious to even the most inattentive fan, and Cradle of Filth goes all-out, merging those two styles with classic Euro-metal, doomier stuff and, of course, the monstrous riffage capabilities of death metal. Wildly creative, utterly anarchic in song structure and style, only the brave will survive this onslaught of musical mutilation.

    Of course, it's damned impressive. Orchestral, vile, moody and absolutely malevolent. Dead Can Dance on a cocktail of PCP and crank, with a pineal gland thrown in for the hell of it. The awesome, full sound of atmospheric gothic metal coupled with the unbridled viciousness of the extreme. Truly, music to murder by. And that's in the lighter moments.

    All are powerless before Cradle of Filth. The disc lurches from song to song, not allowing a thought in edgewise from the listener. Music like this is all-consuming, with a power that is almost unimaginable. Turning up the volume reveals more texture and nuance, improving the effect (as if that seems possible).

    An exquisite symphony of damnation. The beauty of darkness and night revealed to all. You do well to fear the dark side; it will capture your soul.

    The Cramps
    Big Beat from Badsville
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    It seems as though Epitaph is becoming a proponent of geezer punk. First Wayne Kramer, then the Descendents and now the Cramps (with ALL upcoming). Alright, so that's not really a bad set of bands. And so what if \ the Cramps are really rockabilly? I doubt any old-time Buddy Holly fans have made it through a Cramps show.

    Simply put, the Cramps paved the way for the rise of two rockabilly revivals, from the Stray Cats stuff of the 80s to the Rev. Horton Heat and friends a couple years back. What's almost as amazing is that in more than 20 years, not much has changed on record or on stage. Lux's voice is still harrowingly compelling, and Poison Ivy still plays sex kitten almost as well as she plays guitar.

    This is as rambunctious a Cramps album as I've heard in some time. Most of the band's labels have tried to restrain the raunch and emphasize the cheese. No such problems with Epitaph, and all of the sneering innuendo comes through in full regalia. Probably the band's best album in 10 years.

    The cap and silliness are still in full flower, as songs like "Sheena's in a Goth Gang" and "Wet Nightmare" will attest. In all, this is a bit better than I expected. But as anyone should know, you can count on the Cramps for a great live show, and every once in a while that even translates into a great album.

    Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders
    What You Gonna Do?
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Alex Larson likes his blues loud, aggressive and distorted. This album is just as much punk and indie rock as the blues, and it's all the better for that. After all, there's no good reason to sound like anyone else. Those who recall Jon Spencer will find a few points of intersection, but Larson prefers more traditional song construction and tighter cohesion. Songs that are played with volume in mind. Quite a pile of fun here.

    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    Despite what many "purist" types say, there is still a legitimate use of the grunge sound for artistic innovation. Just because a bunch of hacks have discovered the cash value of feedback doesn't mean we should turn our backs on those who are truly forging ahead.

    Reminds me a little of early Melvins, but less emphasis on rhythm and more on mood. Not much coherent song construction going on, and I like that a lot. Actually, they create a feeling very similar to the one I get when I crank up an Iceburn disc (a fairly regular occurrence). Add to the great music within perhaps the best packaging I've seen in a long time (those paintings are spooky!), and this is a great disc. A real artistic achievement.

    Lost Nation Road
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    A simply mesmerizing amalgam of aural viciousness. Craw returns with a second disc even more unfriendly than the first. All hail.

    If you missed the self-titled debut, Craw merges the best parts of non-anthemic grunge and Chicago-style post-punk. This leads to a few open spaces and interesting side trips exploring the darker side of music and life. And then all hell breaks loose again.

    Someone I know called them "Tool with talent". I don't hear the resemblance, but Craw is certainly more creative and diverse than any mainstream band trying to rebuild the grunge sculpture.

    While I have deservedly called many albums in this issue "good" and even "great", Craw is right at the top of the list. In a season of fine releases, Craw has clawed its way to the top of the heap. Now if only you folk will notice.

    The Adventures of Cancer Man 7"
    (Super Model Records)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Complete with comic book. And on the "comic" side, there is a fairly annoying "turn the page" voice that arrives whenever the song has gotten past that particular part of the book. I have never seen such slavish devotion to the children of America.

    If you know Craw (like I know Craw), then this tune will seem a bit on the commercial side. Well, it is fairly coherent, and the noise elements are kept to a minimum. Oh, and if you didn't figure it out, the "radio" side contains the same song without the "turn the page" narration". Much easier to follow.

    A decent song, and a fairly interesting comic book, drawn by Derek Hess. The tale concerns a tobacco company exec, near as I can tell. Not sure if any of this is connected to the X-Files character of the same name (I've only seen one show and all), but that's not really a concern.

    Scrawling guitar pop, without all the mess that is usually involved in a Craw song. I miss the excesses, but perhaps more folks will finally dig in.

    split 7" with Primitive
    (No Lie Music)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Aah, now that's more like it. Craw's song here is "Butterflies", and it is full of the crashing chords and mutant progressions I am more accustomed to hearing from this band. Wild and noisy explorations of the mordant pop ideal. A complete rush from beginning to end. Big smiles.

    Primitive (not to be confused with the much more accessible Primitives) checks in with "$10,000 Reward". The sound lost something in the production booth (or it simply isn't as lush and full as Craw's), and the stuff is sorta a noise pop version of late 80's hardcore (kinda like Kepone, I suppose). It's alright, and the strident chord changes keep me up a bit. Still, nothing awe-inspiring.

    The Craw track is certainly worth the price of admission. And once you've plunked your money down, the Primitive song will seem like a decent bonus. Boy, if that new Craw album could only be here today...

    Map, Monitor, Surge
    (Cambodia Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    I've always thought of Craw as the noisier and more elliptic cousin of Iceburn. Both bands are highly conceptual in their recording, and both produce works of epic proportions.

    No failure to achieve here. Craw starts off at a slow burn, and then churns the gears into a nice, metallic goo. This is, by far, the most calculated and best executed Craw album (it has been a couple years since Lost Nation Road, after all), but that extra work and attention to detail only serves to bring out the genius in the songwriting.

    And even with the new, cleaner edge, Craw still spews forth a gorgeous torrent of noise and vitriol. The band has found new stores of depth and clarity, honing the vision into a finely-crafted tool of mass destruction. I lay prostrate at the feet of this megalith of sound and fury.

    If anyone does this better, I haven't heard it. Map, Monitor, Surge completely overruns my senses. I'm not sure I want to reestablish ties with reality any time soon. Simply let me wallow in the dark recesses of my overloaded synapses.

    Bodies for Strontium 90
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Some things do get better with age. Craw has been around for nearly as long as I've been doing A&A, and I've reviewed just about everything the band has done. I've always thought there was room for good, crafted noise metal, and Craw has been one of my favorite examples. This album doesn't let me down.

    The lines are tighter and the sound isn't as chaotic. Craw has matured, and actual songs are the result. There's a still a raucous, noisy feel to the proceedings, but the guitar riffs sound practiced (though not stilted) and at times a vague prog fog descends upon the songs.

    And none of this is bad. One of the things I most like about Craw is the band's willingness to try out new ideas. Unlike many musical explorers, most of these journeys sound great. The same is true of this album.

    Just a wonderful, blistering set. I've been singing the praises of Craw for many years. I hope to do so for many years to come.

    The Crayon Theatrical
    The Crayon Theatrical
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Nominally released on the Skeptical Cats' imprint, this tape showcases the sound of another Ohio outfit. Intense, yet restrained pop. Not folk; this is acoustic pop (with some electric guitar on the edges).

    A bit too reliant on the easy syncopation. That exaggerated backbeat gets old after a while (though Poi Dog Pondering is still revered in certain circles, even after no major answered the phone). If it weren't for that somewhat grating affectation, though, I think I would dig this much more.

    Sure, it's easy pseudo hippie-pop fare, but the Crayon Theatrical does have some interesting things to say, even if I'm not grooving so much on the music. The recording itself is well-produced, with perhaps a bit too much treble in the mixage (an unusual problem for demos, which almost always come out with far too much bass). Intriguing.

    ad nauseum
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    A recent signing of Imperial Stab Chamber, this demo speaks well enough for itself.

    While bite-in-the-ass is often used as a derogatory term, it best describes these guys (positively). As soon as you think you're about slap them in some generic genre, they proceed to tear you a new one.

    If these guys (not to mention Mas Optica and the metamorphosing Last Crack) are any indication, then there is one fertile scene up in God's Country.

    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Their last demo blew me away, and a similar result here. Things have solidified, with less meandering lines and more mind-fucking riffs. Of course there are still competing musical points of view, but they live together more harmoniously at this point.

    Simply great.

    Crazy Eyes
    Ring Ring Singalong and Dark Heart Singalong
    (Knick Knack)
    reviewed 5/7/15

    If you can imagine merging the vocal sensibilities of mid-90s Britpop with Big Starry riffage and a decided commitment to cacophony, then you get Crazy Eyes.

    This Seattle group has crafted some of the most discordantly beautiful pop songs I've heard in ages. The vocal hooks remain somewhat unscathed, but the music is constantly battling with the forces of deconstruction. The tension in these songs is whether or not they'll make it to the end; there's no question of their brilliance.

    Part of what makes this album so spectacular is the way the pieces don't fit together in such specific ways. Some folks simply don't try to make their songs work. That deviant ethic works well enough sometimes, though it can get frustrating even on a masterpiece like Sister Lovers. Crazy Eyes makes sure the last wheel never falls off. These songs stagger and stumble, but they always reach the finish line.

    Not garage, not Anglophile pop and not punk, Crazy Eyes navigates its own path through the wreckage of the modern music scene. It probably shouldn't work, but this succeeds on an almost unimaginable level. This isn't the future (I can't imagine anyone even contemplating replicating this), but it's a bracing blast of the right now. My heart continues to race.

    Crazy Mary
    She Comes in Waves
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    A wonderfully inventive and eclectic (you might think I'm using that word too much, but I'm not) band. Crazy Mary simply refuses to stick to any one particular style. Well, unless you want to say the band is reminiscent of the Mekons. That would be fair.

    And a high compliment, as regular readers will note. Crazy Mary expresses lots of strange ideas in even more unconventional fashion. And yet, it's still rock and roll. From Venus, perhaps, or Mars, but the roots can be spotted.

    With two principal songwriters, three singers (two male--the writers--and one female) the comparisons to the troupe-formerly-hailing-from-Leeds increase. The real trick to making this sort of music convincing is evoking a sense of vulnerability and fragility. As if we are really seeing inside the collective heart of the band.

    Crazy Mary offers itself up on the altar of rock and roll. You can decide whether or not to proceed with the sacrifice. Personally, I've drawn my knife. I'm ready for more.

    Burning into the Spirit World
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Crazy Mary runs groove rock through a jangle pop filter. An interesting idea, and one that works when the band remembers the hook.

    The thing is, you can get away with vaguely atonal vocals and rambling lyrics if the songs go on for a while; listeners are ready to exercise a little patience with the proceedings. But when you're aiming for three minute bliss, some tightening up is necessary.

    Crazy Mary resists formula like the dickens, and that results in a couple of sublime songs. "Voices of Freedom," for example, really shows off what this sort of genre bending can accomplish.

    A lot of the other songs, however, just don't every take off. They need a little push, some oomph. Hooks are always in short supply, and these songs just don't have time to evolve properly. Crazy Mary is never boring, but it doesn't click like it should, either.

    Helios Creed
    X-Rated Fairy Tales
    Superior Catholic Finger
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    The first issue of Helios Creed's first two post-Chrome albums on CD. 1985's X-Rated Fairy Tales is a kind of reaction against the whole Chrome ethos. It's poppy, accessible (with lots of smarmy keyboards) and downright cheesy. At times painful to listen to, Fairy Tales is a mistake Creed never made again.

    Apparently the weirdness induced by the earlier album was more difficult to get over than at first realized. Superior Catholic Finger arrived in 1989 and immediately proved that Creed could still create amazing sonic chaos.

    Yes, there is some great riffage and absolutely amazing production. Finger very occasionally wanders into Sisters of Mercy territory, but on the weird side to be sure. This is one of, if not the finest album Creed has put out. There are the pop moments, but Creeds stunning guitar work wails throughout, and there are so many things thrown into the production mix that you'll never catch them all.

    Not just a re-issue of interest to completists only, this disc can rightfully deemed essential.

    Cosmic Assault
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    When the subject of great guitarists comes up in conversation (a not-unheard of circumstance), I always bring Helios Creed into things. If the person has heard of him (unlikely, but it happens), Creed is dismissed with, "Yeah, okay, but who do you compare him to?"

    Precisely my point. And let's not forget that Creed also plays most of the other instruments on his albums as well. On this disc he has reverted to some Chrome-era industrial hacking, with some of the spacey sensibilities he may have picked up touring with Nik Turner.

    All done in the inimitable Helios Creed style, which leaves me breathless and leaves most others with a blank look on their faces. "What the fuck is that?" is a common rejoinder.

    Well, perhaps Creed is a bit out-there for most tastes. You can be fairly certain this boy will not go mainstream any time soon. Good thing, that.

    Half Man, Half Pie advance cassette
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    If this ain't the strangest thing... . You can never tell where it's coming from or where it's going, but I love it anyway. Mr. Bungle on PCP.

    Bad Radio 7"
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Their recent album was divertingly strange, but I wasn't sure if the folk could stick around long enough to prove to be really bizarre.

    Well, this isn't the weirdest stuff I've ever heard, but it does bring to mind the most psychotic moments of Alice Donut, Engine Kid or Half Japanese.

    Strident riffs, Squiggy-esque vocals and a lot of screaming punctuate the songs here. And don't forget to play it at 33, or you'll get The Chipmunks Go Grunge.

    Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    A few folks have claimed there is no originality in the current spate of punk bands. I've always disagreed, and often pointed to the first Creedle disc as an example. "That's not punk!" they would exclaim. "That's just weird!" Well, you say tomato...

    Creedle has its odd Fall-like moments, but in general, this is a punk band in the same way Iceburn is probably at heart a punk band. There is no concern for structure or any such constricting ideas. Music is whatever flows from the muse, not necessarily three-chords with a verse, chorus and bridge.

    And Creedle will often resort to the sheer shock tactics of massive sonic assault. That's the sort of thing that will get you kicked out of the pop band-of-the-month club. "My God, that's just too loud!" the alternative nation will exclaim.

    Fuck 'em. Tell them to listen to good music for a change. Burn their Weezer and Pavement discs. You know, if we get 100,000 folks to listen to this disc, we just might inspire a revolution.

    When the Wind Blows
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    The first Creedle jazz album, or so sez the liners. Like anyone can confine Creedle to any sort of genre.

    Leave it to Creedle to actually find coherence in wild jazz forms. Compared to the first couple of albums, though...

    The main thing to remember with Creedle is that reality is just over the next hill. You can smell it, but the taste will never reach your mouth. Just when you think you've arrived, there's a new wrinkle. And I like the wrinkles.

    This album is much less scattershot than previous efforts, but Creedle is still pretty much playing with the bizarro pop conventions where Three Mile Pilot and the recently deceased Heavy Vegetable found amusement. The sense of humor is still there (expressed both lyrically and musically), which makes my smile even larger.

    It's the new Creedle album. Those of us in the know are ecstatic. And there are enough access points here that even a few unwashed might enter the Ganges of alternative pop. The funkier, the better.

    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Thick sludge from the hinterlands of upstate New York (where I was spawned 22 years or so ago). This is an amazingly sharp disc. The presentation is great.

    But the music. Compares more than favorably to Crowbar or Prong. That kind of stuff, but still with their own feel for the grind. Exceptional sense of rhythm. And the lyrics are rather incisive. A very well-made piece of work.

    Listeners will not be able to tell this is a self-financed project. Hell, they won't believe it. I hope many folk get the message and the music. Creeper deserves that and more.

    The Cretins
    I Feel Better Already EP
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Seven listed tracks, and three additional songs referred to as "the result of way too much Budweiser." I can smell the quality from here.

    Truly sloppy punk stuff, with just enough hooks to keep some semblance of recognizable music. Silly, stupid and occasionally reprehensible. Yep, sounds plenty punk for me.

    It grew on me as the songs rolled on (at least until the "Budweiser" curtain). The production is really awful, and the songs don't get much past the basics. Of course, that's true to the form, isn't it?

    Amusing enough to keep me around. It would take a larger dose to really make a judgment, but the Cretins do seem to have a good idea of how to whip out a punk cock.

    We're Gonna Get So Laid
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Pop punk, played with an infectious sense of fun. Nothing is sacred, and nothing is spared in an attempt to crack a smile. The band's last EP ended with a drunken attempt at "Don't Stop Believin'". The words were only half there, and the band quit halfway through. Still, you gotta admire the moxie in actually releasing such a ball of goo.

    This full-length crams 23 songs into 48 minutes, and once again ends with something of a goof. Not quite so silly, and it's the band's own composition, but still. I have to say that relying on the crutch of "the result of way too much Budweiser" is a bit weak, but still funny.

    And given the lo-tech sound (guitar and bass that function more as fuzzy percussion points than melodic constructs), gotta find something somewhere. The songs are consistently hilarious, even as the tunes are rather hackneyed. A funnier version of the Ramones, with less musical talent and no big-name producers.

    And hell, if you can't laugh at a song like "Got Caught Cheating on My S.A.T.s", then you might as well give up. Life's just no good for you anymore. There's always room for busting a gut.

    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Andy Cox (once of Fine Young Cannibals) puts together the electronic grooves, and Yukari Fujiu does the crooning. The result is a bubbly, surprisingly tasty confection.

    Cox believes in populating his songs with every sound imaginable. With the caveat that each must have a supremely addictive dance groove. Past that, he throws in a host of ideas, challenging Yukari F to match his adventurousness.

    Not a problem. Fujiu is as versatile as Cox, and more than willing to try out something new. And so the effervescent sound of this album somewhat masks the depth and quality present.

    One of those albums that sounds like the pop of tomorrow. Given the pedigree, that just might be the case. The pretty wrapping is just the beginning.

    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    Hoping to cash in on the string of Metallica sound-alikes employing an industrial base (Helmet, Pantera, etc.), Shrapnel gives us Crimeny.

    As such things go, I like Derek Taylor's voice, which lies somewhere between Doug Pinnick (King's X) and James Hetfield (um, you know).

    The songs are about as original as you can get with two-and three-string chords, the rhythm section moves along decently.

    There is a lot of commercial potential in this sound. Crimeny puts everything together very nicely; it's just that I always cringe when I hear something that is so flavor-of-the-month. A bad habit, I suppose.

    A good album; I just wish the band would move away from the trends and really establish its own sound.

    Criminal Hygiene
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Not so much garage as simply deranged, Criminal Hygiene takes lo-fi rockers to their deconstructed limits. There is a definite charm to these songs, though it helps if you can imagine the Replacements playing Big Star's "Downs" even more sloppily than humanly possible. Make that "Kangaroo," another song from Sister Lovers that actually appears on this album--I swear I didn't notice that before I wrote the last sentence. Anyway, this is pretty much a low-key reassessment of American anglopop and its backlash (the aforementioned bands serving as alpha and omega, if you will), with footnotes and all. Weird, but intriguingly so.

    The Criminals
    Never Been Caught
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    As raw and untamed as any Lookout band I've ever heard. The Criminals are Stooge fans in the good way, mixing raw power with indecently insightful lyrics. Yeah, it's rude and crude, but it's strangely compelling as well.

    And the Criminals would be even more impressive if they could pop themselves out of the redundant groove they can't jump. After a while, the songs simply start sounding alike, no matter how impressive they might sound if taken separately.

    I know, it's something akin to sacrilege to ask a punk band to actually (gasp!) score a little diversity, but the Criminals simply must if they want to get anywhere. This stuff is fine, but it does get old. And I can't name a punk band that wants to get old.

    Tomorrow's Too Late EP
    (New Disorder)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Just as messy as the stuff on last year's Lookout album. The Criminals dig old-style (early 70s) punk music as practiced by Iggy and the New York Dolls. Down and dirty fare, with barely a nod to redeeming social values.

    And they don't bother to really do much in the way of production. Oh, it's pretty easy to hear all of the important parts, but this isn't someone's final project for tech school, if you know what I mean. The music is mean, and the mix is as well.

    There's a good number of people that might call this "real" punk music. I like more inclusive language, myself, but I think you can understand what I'm talking about here. And yes, it sounds great when turned up to eleven.

    Burning Flesh and Broken Fingers
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    More from the Criminals, a band which kinda glories in not advancing. You know what yer gonna get (aggro pop-punk with buzzsaw riffage and throaty vocals) and you know what isn't going to be around (much difference between the songs).

    Good in spurts. I liked last year's EP mostly because it was a short dosage. Thirteen Criminals songs in a row can get kinda tiring. Though one or two (or five) at a time can be a refreshing change.

    While undoubtedly doing the style quite well, the Criminals do not extend the territory first delineated by Iggy and the Stooges years ago. Not so much wallowing in the past as simply standing in place.

    This band is almost maddening to me. I start out liking the discs, and then I get tired of the sound by the end. Good mix tape material, though. There's nothing wrong with that, either.

    Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
    (1-2-3-4 Go)
    He's My Brother She's My Sister
    Nobody Dances in This Town
    (Park the Van)
    reviewed 10/31/13

    For the longest time, I resisted pop music. My early childhood music consisted of show tunes, instrumental movie soundtracks and similar stuff. I listened to baseball games and CBS Mystery Theater on the radio. I know, right about now you're smacking your head saying "This explains everything!" And you're right. I spent my first twelve years largely outside the influence of popular music.

    Then my family moved to New Mexico. And I had two choices on the radio: Country or pop. And, duh, pop it was.

    The first two albums (and, of course, they were albums) I bought were Chicago 16 and Paul McCartney's Tug of War. The first is a forgettable jumble of soft rock (with the exception being "Get Away," the horn-jam coda to "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," which remains crack-like for me to this day), but the second is a modestly-underrated masterpiece. I loved Tug of War in a way I've loved few albums. I listened to it more than a thousand times, and I'm still happy to spend time with it today.

    At the time, it was well-received, but over the years Tug of War has climbed the charts of "great albums." As it should. Remarkably, despite the massive amount of craft put into the songs (McCartney and Martin back together again; I can only imagine the studio time involved), the album itself moves along briskly. You can quibble with the merits of "Ebony and Ivory" (it sounded much better in 1982, I swear), but the whole album stays in pocket.

    So I was stoked when Pipes of Peace hit the stores a couple of years later. In hindsight, I should have recognized that my slight hesitation when I first heard "Say Say Say" (the duet with Michael Jackson that served as "payback" for the glorious "The Girl Is Mine" on Thriller) meant that Pipes was not up to the task of following Tug of War. And wow. It was a colossal disappointment. If I ever listened to that album all the way through, it was just the first time. I don't think I did, however. I remember pausing on the flip to try and work out my angst before soldiering on.

    Didn't work. Pipes is a borderline awful album. I didn't understand. How could the guy who created the brilliant Tug of War (and a Beatle, besides!) come right back with something so terrible? In many ways, that question is what has driven my writing about music. I've spent more than twenty years trying to explain how it is that one album sounds so naturally awesome and another sounds like a Tinkertoy contraption about to collapse. I can give you all sorts of technical reasons, but largely it boils down to staying in pocket.

    "The pocket" in music is like "the zone" in sports. You know it when you hear it. Geniuses seem to locate and stay in pocket longer, but it is still something of a mystical concept. In any case, the difference between good and bad often comes down to how well an artist stayed in pocket. In short, music that stays in pocket sounds effortless, as if sprung into the air by virtue of its innate irrepressibility. The great albums all have this feeling of inevitability. But to make a great album, you must have a series of songs that not only stay in pocket--they have to stay in the same pocket. Not easy at all.

    There are genres that resist the concept of the pocket. Prog (and its extended family) actively scoffs at the notion of an all-powerful pocket, preferring to rely on steely technical prowess (and a good blaster). This is why prog's popularity will always be limited.

    Other genres rely almost exclusively on the pocket. Americana, in particular, rises or falls depending on the condition of the pocket. Once the songs start sounding like assembled parts, the magic is gone. Blair Crimmins and the Hookers play a specific brand of americana that insists on wink and a promise. It's more old-timey than folky, with its roots firmly planted in Dixieland jazz and Tin Pan Alley. There are double-entendres galore (almost as many musical as lyrical) and a general good-timey feel. After a few seconds, it's clear that this album will succeed as long as Crimmins and company don't bog themselves down with silly concepts like artistic purity and slavish devotion to influences.

    In other words, if this album veers even slightly from the modestly crude mania suggested by the first track's title ("Roll Over Bessie"), then it will fail.

    Thankfully, everyone simply has a good time. The songs roll by with a cheerful leer. The musicians never let up off the throttle, which gives these songs an irrepressible energy. I suppose there are those who might tire of puns and slightly off-color metaphors, but that sort of silly humor pairs perfectly with this impeccably squonky music.

    Or, in other words, Crimmins found the pocket and sat down in it. There's not a dull moment in this album (the 11 songs clock in at just past 35 minutes). Crimmins is more than willing to wallow in his slightly seedy world, and we get to bask in the afterglow. Lovely.

    He's My Brother She's My Sister (no punctuation, apparently) hail from the rock and roll side of americana. To be more precise, the band works the americana side of indie pop. The sound is much more stripped down and relies on some lovely lead guitar work to really shine. But the pocket is established quickly here as well, and HMBSMS drives uptempo beats, some lovely guitar work and a loose vocal style to stay the course nicely.

    There's no way to escape this album without a smile. Whether channeling rockabilly, folk rock, California country rock, Big Star-ish ameranglo pop or whatever, HMBSMS tears the cover off the songs. Eyes closed, it's easy to imagine this band in the living room. There a real feel of spontaneous generation here, even if science long ago discredited that theory.

    If you have any doubts, crank up the fourth track ("Same Old Ground") and hear how the band gives late 60s Stonesey rock an enema and ends up with a gem. I think I've listened to that song 50 times, and I still can't wait to hear it again.

    In the end, I suppose that all a given review ought to say whether or not an artist hit the pocket and stayed there. That would make my job a lot simpler--if it didn't eliminate my job entirely. Whatever the words, however, Blair Crimmins and the Hookers and He's My Brother She's My Sister have found the sweet spot (even if it's impossible to say the same about their unwieldy names). Tonight I'm smiling.

    Crimson Glory
    reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Once upon a time there was a band from Tampa called Crimson Glory. The band released a couple albums on Roadrunner, with the second, Transcendence garnering such attention that MCA picked it up for re-release. That didn't work out so well, but the band still managed to get another album released on Atlantic (Strange and Beautiful) before getting dropped.

    Now, almost 10 years later, there's a new Crimson Glory disc. Hard to believe, but here it is. And while the guys have smartly dropped the face paint, the music is still rooted in that spacey metal groove the band did so well all those years ago.

    This album reminds me a lot of latter-day Voivod in its mechanical sound and technically-precise execution. No one is making music like this these days. Wags might follow that with a rude comment, but I like this. It's excessive and at times kinda silly, but it sounds great.

    No Transcendence, mind you, but this is a better trip than I imagined it would be. The chops haven't diminished, and the songwriting remains as iconoclastic as ever. Crimson Glory is still walking the line between intellectual and silly, but hey, it hasn't fallen off yet.

    The Cripples
    Dirty Head
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Some more of that keyboard-driven, vaguely-new wave pop punk that I'm coming to expect from Dirtnap. Low-grade production values, hi-test hooks. The distortion can be immense at times, almost drowning everything out.

    And that's okay. Can't say if it's an artistic choice or simply some novice at the board, but it doesn't matter. When the sound fuzzes out, the energy still drives the songs.

    Basic basic basic, which is something you ought to have deduced by this point. The Cripples aren't trying to rewrite the history of rock and roll. They're just trying to bash out a few tunes.

    Fun ones at that. There's a lot here to like, especially if you like your punk of the minimalist variety. I'll take bliss, no matter its source.

    Critters Buggin
    (Loose Groove)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Where has this shit been? Spacey ambient stuff, with lots of little side trips. A few years back, I was up to my eyelashes in the stuff, and now when I hear something like this it utterly takes me by surprise. Maybe I'm hanging out with the wrong people.

    The wanderings are alternately trancey or more introspective, but they certainly make a point. It is a snap to get lost within the grooves, to ride the sounds to a completely unexpected part of the mind.

    I'm not big into chemical trips, That's why music like this is so welcome for me. I can let my mind take off into any number of directions, flitting and splitting off as the songs dictate. There is plenty here to discover, too. Critters Buggin doesn't skimp on the inspiration.

    And so, I'm left riding the sonic waves. There's a lot worse places to be. I'm just happy wandering about. There's plenty of that here.

    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    This album is a lot like going to see a movie sequel. You know what to expect, and if things go as you like, then you are satisfied. The Cro-Mags have done that here.

    Nothing revolutionary, nothing that seriously deviates from the paths they struck out over ten years ago. But this is in no way a bad thing. The music is aggressive, a little commercial, but rather fun.

    This is a fun ride. I wasn't expecting a genre-expanding album, just a spot of enjoyment. And I got it.

    Near Death Experience
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    They've passed through their cheez-metal stage (kinda) and are now into their "boy, when George Harrison cruised the guru, he was really cool" stage. Not to make fun of anyone's religious beliefs or anything, but the stuff that's written here is so incoherent I can't imagine how it adds up to philosophy.

    I'm not even going to touch the pro-life song, since Death did it already a couple of albums ago. While I don't agree with the view, that doesn't mean my saying this far oversimplifies things is biased in any way (so I did touch it after all).

    As for the music, it's rather fully-produced, and the guitars have a bit of annoying Motley Cruee-esque harmonizing. Actually, a lot of this has a bad glam edge. I think I spoke too soon about the cheez-metal thing.

    There are hard-core remnants wandering around, but this is just too awful. I thought their "comeback" had some potential. I don't see it anymore.

    Crocodile Shop
    Celebrate the Enemy
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Whenever a disc wildly hypes a producer (in this case, Chris Randall of Sister Machine Gun, who produced seven of the 12 tracks), I am immediately suspicious. Trading on a (semi) famous name is a dubious practice at best.

    But Crocodile Shop turns out to be a good band, merging industrial beats with sparsely rendered techno and acid house riffs. In other words, good, accessible dance music.

    Sure, this stuff gets a little generic at times (particularly when things get repetitive), but when I'm dancing I don't mind that so much. This should be shipped right out to the club, because that's where it will be best appreciated. Lots of fun.

    Crooked Cowboy and the Freshwater Indians
    Annalog and Her Hopeful Diaries EP
    (Neurotic Yell)
    reviewed in issue #340, September 2012

    What starts out as a somewhat wiggy take on Leonard Cohen morphs into God knows what. I don't know exactly what these folks are trying to do with these five tracks, but what is unescapable is the power of the music itself.

    So, yes, there's the whole poetic lounge thing. And the experimental indie pop thing. And then some. Crooked Cowboy (et. al.) doesn't seem to mind the odd meander as long as the sound is cool. And boy, do these sounds pass that test.

    Are five songs enough to figure out what Crooked Cowboy is doing? Hardly. Are these songs absolutely compelling? Indeed. I need a full length to make a full judgment. For now, though, count me a true fan.

    Crooked Roads
    Love, Again
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    Chris Dingman is the songwriter and the singer. Crooked Roads is the band. Reminds me a lot of Chris Cacavas and Junkyard Love. That is, vaguely southern-fried country-rock songs--more Gram Parsons than Black Crowes.

    There's also more than a bit of the ol' Uncle Tupelo chunk to the chords, riffs that are thick enough to grill. That Dingman's voice is slightly reminiscent of Jay Farrar's (kind of the perfect cross of Mark Olson and Farrar, really) helps me make that connection.

    These are songs in the classic style, with titles like "Blue," "I'd Rather Be with Her," "Please Forgive Me" and "Without You." I think all of those titles have been used many, many times before, but Dingman infuses them with a new, invigorated feeling.

    Just a pretty, laid-back kinda album. There's plenty of joy and pain, love and betrayal and all the other stuff that makes old country music so damned satisfying. Dingman and Crooked Roads are one hell of a throwback. And that's definitely a good thing.

    Crooked Saws
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/24/13

    Are the blues better with two? I dunno, but this heavy duo cranks out some lovely distorted fare. Minimalist to the extreme (as the title suggests), which gives this album a large personality. Best appreciated at high volumes.

    Cross Fade
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    Pretty cool grind. Before this issue I hadn't hear much on this side of death in quite a while... a comeback, perhaps?

    Rather good production. You can hear every instrument distinctly, and the vocals are mixed nicely, if but a touch high. I don't think there will ever be a massive commercial forum for grindcore, but my, is this done well.

    Cross My Heart
    Cross My Heart
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Another release which lies somewhere between full-length and EP. Seven songs, 28 minutes. I know I shouldn't worry about these things (at least, that's what my analyst sez), but I do. Anyway, this is a Deep Elm release, so you might figure on some muscular emo.

    And that's what's here. Cross My Heart lets the guitars truly wail and presents a powerful interpretation of the ever-evolving emo standard. The loopy songwriting style is in evidence here, and everything works. No surprises, just solid music.

    Passion, man. That's here in droves. You know, it's called emo for a reason (I keep meaning not to repeat that word, and yet, I still do). The psychic urgency of the lyrics and riffage makes listening imperative. No choice. This stuff impels me to turn up the volume and contemplate.

    The best music takes hold of the soul and doesn't let go. It doesn't have to be loud or driving. There's a hook which slowly snags itself on the heart, and once it pierces, escape is a futile dream. There is no catch-and-release program for great tuneage.

    Temporary Contemporary
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    I'm having this problem with my CD player. It's about 10 years old, and every fifth CD or so, it refuses to play the thing without skipping all to hell. Really pisses me off, particularly when something is obviously as good as this is.

    Yeah, I have a backup plan. It's called my seven-year-old portable. So I've got that puppy cranked, and I'm finally able to take in this fine disc. Cross My Heart plays soulful emo. I think I said something like that a couple years ago when I reviewed the band's first disc. Happily, some things don't change.

    And this style, swinging madly from screams to whispers, has kinda fallen out of favor. Even Cross My Heart has succumbed somewhat, tempering the dynamic shifts with a fuller production sound. And there are a couple of more modern emo pop pieces. But still, these guys are enough of a throwback to make me smile.

    'Cause that was one of the things I really dug about the sound: The unfettered emotion. Oh, ragged pop is a wonderful thing, but there's something about the primal scream therapy of early emo that can't be replaced. Cross My Heart does a good job playing missing link. Great stuff.

    Synthetic Division
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    What hath Fear Factory wrought? These days, the merging of techno and metal is almost seamless. why, only nine years ago it seemed unthinkable... Actually, this sound has been coming and going in popularity. Crossbreed reminds me a lot Clay People (a truly great band), though these boys lurch into anthemic overkill. At just the right time.

    The sound is so polished I figured these guys had to be survivors of their local scene in the Tampa Bay area. But the only member with previous creds that I could find is keyboardist/samplemeister DJ Izzo, who did some time as the singer for Nocturnus a long time ago. His hands are the ones crafting many of the nice touches here.

    Infectious, heavy and still eminently danceable, the songs here benefit from a light (and deft) touch in the studio. Instead of making Crossbreed a techno band with guitars or a metal band with samples, producer Matt Chiaravalle allowed the sounds to intermingle completely. Seamless and stupefying.

    Yeah. This stuff is that good. The sorta album that makes purists hold their heads in their hands. Let 'em. The rest of us will latch onto this wire of purest energy and bite down hard.

    Rob Crow
    Lactose Adept
    (Earth Music-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Man, did I hope for more. Crow was the main songwriter of Heavy Vegetable, one of the more inventive pop bands I've heard. This disc is a set of 29 songs that he recorded to 4-track.

    Not his 4-track, not his instruments (so he sez). The sound quality is demo-level (if that), and for some reason Crow seems to have affected a real affection for Beck. Yikes. Sure, there are some real gems here, and I'll give him credit for wandering all over the whole music universe, but while he seems to have a handle on how to rip out an awesome quirky pop song or 20, he is lost at sea most of the rest of the time.

    I had high expectations for this. Well, reasonably high, as I understood before I first listened to it exactly what the point was. But there are probably only five or six really good songs out of the 29 (or 30, as my CD player notes). The rest range from "nice try" to "good God, that sucks!". A good idea that really didn't work out too well.

    At least there's a soon-to-be-released Heavy Vegetable b-sides disc, and Crow's new band Thingy has recorded an EP that Headhunter should have out one of these days. They have to be better than this.

    Living Well
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    I haven't heard from Rob Crow in ages. I did hear that Pinback has achieved some sort of fame, but Touch and Go quit sending me records years ago (they rightly believe that notice in these here pages doesn't do a goddamned thing for record sales).

    Ah well, but that's the past. This is the new Rob Crow project, a solo record which brings together a few old friends to put new Crow songs to disc. And y'know, it still sounds like Rob Crow.

    Which is to say these pieces have a unique and utterly infectious sense of melody. Crow's greatest gift, I believe, is his ability to cram as many notes as possible into a hook and still make it drip honey. By and large, these pieces are somewhat more restrained than Heavy Vegetable, Thingy and some of his earlier solo work. I suppose this might be called maturity or something.

    Maturity is overrated, but if that's what's working on Crow these days, it hasn't hurt him a bit. These songs are a bit safer than some of those old speed-pop thrashes, but the level of complexity remains high. In fact, since it's easier to hear what's going on, it is possible that the slightly slower pace gives his work that much more shading. I dunno. It's the new Rob Crow album. I think he's a fucking genius. So, duh, I love it.

    See also Heavy Vegetable.

    Obedience Through Suffering
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Wow! A real departure from anything Grind Core has released before. First, I must acknowledge the incredible buzz this album has gotten; almost unheard of for an act on a small label. I hope you get this and play it a lot.

    The sound is in the slower category, kinda like a raspier Candlemass. And all of you who have been playing Cathedral and Solitude AEturnus, dig into this as well.

    The buzz is deserved. This is brutal music, the kind that shakes you to your core. If the world hasn't heard of Crowbar in a couple of years, I'll be rather surprised. Make that incredibly surprised.

    Crowd Company
    Stone & Sky
    (Vintage League)
    reviewed 11/20/17

    That would be Sly Stone. Or if not, well, it's too easy a reference. Yes, this is an English band playing what is now considered old-school soul, but the time peg is just past the Motown glory days. As the band's web site URL points out, we're talking about funk and soul.

    Truly, this is more of a Funkadelic joint, given the dense feel of these songs. Whereas Sly was always careful to keep his sound simple and slinky (the horns and guitars rarely, if ever, bled together), Crowd Company revels in a seriously dank and dirty mix. The organ drenches just about everything, and that generally combines with the guitars and horns to create something of a stereo wall of sound.

    The "classic" elements inform the sound, but there is something modern about the precision of the mess. Had this been attempted in 1970, nothing would be heard but mud. Modern production tools enable Crowd Company to create one of the headiest sonic palettes I've heard in some time.

    Sometimes the feel overshadows the songs. Sometimes that's a good thing. But I will say that I have warmed to many of the tracks I wasn't as sure of on first listen. The complexity of the production makes multiple listens a treat. There's always another layer of the onion. And that is what made Sly such a master. Crowd Company's funk is something to behold.

    Crown Heights
    More Pricks Than Kicks
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Awfully weak for the imagery provided by the band's name and the album title. I was hoping for some serious balls-out music; instead I get a weak rehash of stuff that would have disgraced the Westerberg solo albums (and I wasn't quite sure that was even possible).

    Actually, this sounds way too much like the end of the Replacements, when the band was being pulled in five different directions at once. The label wanted some pop chart hits, Paul Westerberg just wanted to be a king-haul rock star, and various other members just wanted another hit (in a non-musical sense) or to write, say one song for the new album. In other words, completely disjointed and way too produced.

    I can't imagine what Crown Heights night sound like live. It doesn't sound like any of the parts here were recorded at the same times. Just a lot of re-takes and dubbing. I know, that's how the big boys play, but it sure didn't work here.

    The songs here might have worked if the band played them live to tape. All the cash for extra studio time left this album sounding wimpy and overbearing at the same time. Hard to accomplish, really. I don't think anyone could do it if they tried. Crown Heights simply lucked into disaster.

    Crown Point
    Curtains EP
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    I guess someone is still making "modern rock," after all. Crown Point has the ringing guitars, synth washes and vaguely pompous bearing down nicely. But that doesn't get in the way of some good songwriting. Yeah, I've heard this all before a few too many times, but there's some good stuff here.

    Pictures of Heaven
    (Wild Rags)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    In many ways these guys remind me of Sorrow. Fairly insightful lyrics, good music and almost intelligible lyrics.

    The ethereal intros kinda annoy me, but I think I'll get over it. This is rollicking death metal, almost happy-sounding at times.

    The production leaves everything very clear and tight, which gives this a real guitar and bass emphasis. As all are great players, there is no problem.

    Each song seems to get better. I really wasn't expecting Crucifer to be this good. Pleasant surprises are always the best.

    Desert of the Shattered Hopes
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Lost in the mix.

    I have a feeling it may have been intentional, but this album is so treble heavy, the guitar, drums and vocals all combine to create a mushy chaos. From the sounds I can make out, this is pretty mundane old school death metal, but if there are any nuances, the production hid them from my ears.

    Some bands (like, say, Incantation) can stay true to the old school because their production is so amazing. Crucifixion is in the other camp; knocked out by some odd choices at the knobs.

    Sweet Weaponry
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Three Maxwells and a Hawkins from Austin, Cruiserweight plays buzzsaw pop music with a wonderfully aggressive edge. The songs themselves pack a monster punch, especially when the band takes the time to build them up.

    The primary feeling for me is breathless. I simply cannot catch up to the energy of this album. Even the occasional mid-tempo moments are hyper-intense. Cruiserweight has infused this music with the sort of electric jolt that most other folks can't even imagine.

    The sound is edgy, even metallic at times. I wasn't sure how good an idea that was when I began listening, but once I adjusted I have to admit that it does right by the songs. That's the test, isn't it?

    One of those albums that comes out of nowhere to land a knockout blow. I know, enough of the boxing metaphors. I'd have to agree if I didn't feel like I just went ten rounds (in a very good way).

    The Crumbs
    Shakespeare 7"
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Yeah, okay, so this is standard hooky East Bay-style punk-pop. If you're tired of the sound, go away. If you like that, then you should groove with a big smile.

    And the Crumbs are a little more lyrically adept than most of the bands that populate this sound. Somewhat snide and cynical, but not enough to overpower the amusing groove.

    Both tunes are uptempo and buoyant ravers, the kind that makes Florida's summer in December almost bearable. Alright, so plenty of you have already shoveled a load of snow or two. Don't whine at me. The Crumbs are pretty damned cool.

    The Crumbs
    The Crumbs
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97 East Bay style all the way, albeit with a bit more sludge than usual. Well, since they're actually from Miami, I guess some adaptation is in order. Perfectly acceptable, perfectly generic. Just like the 7".

    Nice for head-bobbing and all, but nothing to get hopped up about. The Crumbs don't put forth any case for widespread notice at all. Just solid punk.

    And no, there's nothing wrong with that at all. There's just a ton of bands out there right now that fit the description. Ten years ago, I might have gotten a little more excited. Now, I've heard it all before.

    Reasonable quality, but far too bland.

    (Trance Syndicate-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    Three folks from rather well-known bands (read the press for yersef) get together to play a little party music.

    While wandering from Seattle to New York, they apparently got the attention of Austin's coolest label, Trance Syndicate (not hard considering the personnel), and this little slice of heaven was ushered into the universe.

    Don't believe me, eh? Remember how cool ZZ Top was in the seventies? Well, eliminate the slow numbers, add a little feedback and some intangibles, and here you are. Cool music you can play at a party, and even your friends who think U2 is the coolest "alternative" band around can get into it.

    Did I mention this rocks? Well, turn it up, man! (Sorry about that outburst. I really should watch less Up All Night.)

    Crush Kill Destroy
    Puncture Our Phrases
    (Makoto Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Another side path along that wonderful Slint-Rodan-June of 44 axis. Lots of lines criss-crossing and crashing together, with the occasional vocal accompaniment.

    I'm a sucker for this kinda stuff. It just runs circles in my brain and makes me smile like an overjoyed baby. Especially when the stuff is done this well. Crush Kill Destroy is very much in the line of fire of what Don Caballero is doing these days, though without the latent aggression.

    Intense, yes, but not hard. The general feeling is that of an atom. The listener is the nucleus, and the music is the electron cloud, spinning in all directions. There's no way to separate from the electrons without a major explosion, and there's no reason to separate anyway. The attraction is too strong.

    That's how I feel. This disc simply entranced me. Not much more to it than that. Simply great music.

    Crushed Out
    Want to Give
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    This whole guitar-drum duo thing is taking off. Personally, I flash back to the Flat Duo Jets, but the younguns probably are thinking of some Detroit-ish outfit. In any case, this is about the twentieth such act I've heard in the last few months. One of the best, too.

    The key, as with any of these groups, is in the rhythm. Moselle Spiller keeps these songs moving at a manic pace, and it's all Frank Hoier can do to keep up with his guitar. The ethos is very much a surf punk meets rockabilly, with just a bit of earthy soul thrown in for good measure.

    And while the instrumentation is minimalist, the sound is anything but. Hoier wrangles all sorts of noise from his guitar, and these songs ring out with an aggressive, solid middle.

    Just a big wad of fun. If the shows are anything other than kinetic workouts, I'd be shocked. Hold on for your life.

    Crushed Stars
    Self Navigation
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Mostly Todd Gautreau, with Matt Pence on drums and Marc Daigle helping out with a little guitar. Gautreau creates a meditative mood and sticks to it. There are the occasional 70s horn-by-keyboard (if you know what I mean), but mostly Gautreau establishes his feel with a strummed electric guitar.

    He's not in a hurry. And despite the languid pace of the songs (and, thus, the album), things don't get dull. Gautreau imbues his sound with such feeling and grace that it's hard to let go. Utterly seductive.

    That sound. It is the sound that really makes this disc. A certain echo in that guitar, the way the keyboards add just the right touch. Almost everything on this album has a delicate touch, to the extent that even the slightest heavy hand could ruin things. That doesn't happen.

    This album could not be forced. It simply had to flow, and it does. Crushed Stars has made music of uncommon elegance. Its muted dramatics are as moving as the most bombastic symphony. Utterly moving.

    Crusty Love
    (Trance Syndicate-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    The usual goods from Tranceland: awesome rhythm section, not so much focus on the vocals.

    Crust plows its way through fifteen tracks (!!), most of them fairly humorous, some slightly tasteless or even sickening.

    This is a little tighter than their previous efforts, I think. Somehow I detect a coherence that was not around before. It still whomps me in the butt and leaves me bleeding by the side of the road.

    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    A huge wad of songs that range from the easy-going indie-MOR style of Natalie Merchant's solo stuff to fairly involved emo-lite pop stuff. All three members play guitar, drums and guitar, and all three sing from time to time.

    Most of the time, though, Samantha Jones sings, which brings the sound more to that vaguely syncopated Grateful Dead twice-removed sound (Poi Dog Pondering, the Sundays, whatever). While Crustaceans plays this stuff at least as well as anyone else I've every heard (the sparse production really helps to move the songs along), I'm still not a fan.

    Of course, the band does move around, and for all the songs I really don't like, there are a good number that do work for me. Crustaceans feature some really nice interplay between the guitar and bass, and often enough the pop concept wanders into Thingy/Heavy Vegetable territory, which is certainly a happy land for me, indeed.

    Perhaps a bit too varied, Crustaceans does not sound like a band confident with its sound. Talent? Yeah. Songwriting? Good enough. It's great to have diverse influences, but the real trick is incorporating those ideas into a somewhat coherent framework. That's where the work is needed.

    the Cruxshadows
    Telemetry of a Fallen Angel
    (Nesak International)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Quite a package. The graphics are great, the album title is one of the coolest I've heard in some time, and to top it off, the music is some of the finer textured gothic industrial stuff I've encountered in some time.

    Alright, so the "angel" in question is a mythical series of Mars exploration probes, and the songs represent bits and pieces of the findings reported by the last, lost probe. Apparently there is life on the red planet, after all.

    I know, I know, it sounds a bit silly and certainly over the top, but the Cruxshadows pull it off exquisitely. The music is great, the beats particularly impressive for sequencer work. The keyboards add depth and shadings, but never get tinny and overpowering. The guitar lines are simple and elegant and mesh quite well with the underlying groove in each song.

    The longer songs (with vocals) are spaced out by one- to two-minute long interludes, which are impressive in themselves. Obviously, a huge amount of effort went into this album, and the painstaking work is evident as soon as you see the cover. The Cruxshadows have paid attention to every detail, and the result is a superior album.

    The Mystery of the Whisper
    (Dancing Ferret)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    It'd be easy to lump Cruxshadows in with the almost-past dark wave movement. Easy is usually wrong. Taking liberally from early trailblazers as Gary Numan, Alien Sex Fiend and the Cure, Cruxshadows has crafted itself a nice little niche.

    This music could be from 1985 or 2000. Hard to say. That's really the beauty of it. What drives the sound is a coherent band performance. These folks play live, and this album has an electric live feel that is quite unusual.

    And while the influences are apparent, they only decorate the unique band sound. The mix leaves plenty of space between the instruments and the vocals, giving every member enough room to shine. Like I said, this is a band.

    And a good one at that. Most goth acts try to create an otherworldly sound, drowning out reality. Cruxshadows instead focuses on the mystery within the real. Creepier, really, and much more involving. Not many can do it this well, much less better.

    Cryptic Cremation
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    Back, back, back we go. Cryptic Cremation would have fit in perfectly with the old school of death metal, heyday somewhere in 1990 or 1991. Completely incomprehensible vocals combined with classically-inspired riffs. A much more creative version of the Cannibal Corpse sound, if you will.

    The production is a bit weak, muffled where it should be sharp, and vice versa. Still, the songs come across fairly well, and the stuff is good. There's a bit too much of the "2-3-4 change!" ethic, but that's a hallmark of bands such as Gorguts and Suffocation, obvious inspirations.

    Cryptic Cremation does add a bit of the latter-day reliance on melodic guitar lines, but these guys from Quebec are still stuck in the past. Not a horrible thing, but probably not the best possible career move.

    A solid disc, though. The playing is impressive and even a bit expressive. The songs employ a good sense of rhythm (important when your vocals do not carry any melody) and there are cool grooves galore. Too bad the clock has passed this place and time.

    Gabor Csupo
    (Tone Casualities)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Gabor Csupo is still techno, and he's not about to apologize for that. Good for him. When you're as adventurous as he is, what matters is not the genre label, but the quality level.

    And that's very high. Time after time, Csupo takes chances. And they almost always pay off. His sound is warm and inviting, hardly the stereotypically sterile feel you might assume. Indeed, these songs are almost conversationally approachable.

    Csupo simply dances all around a variety of electronic sounds. Most often, he's closest to techno, but he never stand still long enough to really get a good fix. That just makes for a most engaging album.

    Top-notch work all the way around. No two songs here sound even remotely similar, which is very impressive. A disc worth exploring over and over again.

    Come Out Come Out
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Cub joyously bounces around in that nebulous realm between pop and punk that seems to center itself somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. These three women from Vancouver call their music "cuddlecore", but I think I'll stay away from that moniker, too.

    The sparse production serves the songs well. Cub writes understated tunes that are even better appreciated on second and even third listens. Nothing preachy, and yet the messages get across just fine. Perhaps there is a lesson here...

    And no fear of silliness here. Anyone who records a song whose bridge is "Dress like a boy/Pee like a girl" is quite alright by me.

    Come Out Come Out surprised the hell out of me. It's full of great pop tunes, with no clinkers at all. Well, the single cover, "Vacation" is a little cliche, but then again, why not be silly at times?

    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    When this puppy arrived at my friends' now defunct record store in St. Pete, I checked it out, as it had been touted as the "new" Cub record. Not so. This is a compilation of odds and ends, with some favorites ("New York City" and others) from albums.

    A ton of covers, some of which are much better than others. Actually, the worst track is the first one, a cover of the Hollies "You Know He Did" that never gets on track. The liners kinda acknowledge this, but still, it shouldn't lead off an album. Whatever.

    Of course, complaining about any technical matter when reviewing Cub is insane. The band has improved its playing immeasurably over its career (a fact that is easy to hear here), but still, the main emphasis is on raucous but simple music, strange little lyrical diversions and Lisa Marr's astonishing voice.

    A nice disc for catching up with the girls, and a fairly good introduction to the band for those not in the know. And if your record store can't find it, try giving Mint a call. That's who sent it to me.

    split EP
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    As if I haven't said enough about Cub already. Well, perhaps that IS impossible.

    The girls from Vancouver are back, with a heavier mix from the engineer helping to pump the sound up nicely. Still pop as all hell (and Cub does that as well as anyone), two originals and a cover.

    The Potatomen follow the same formula (two of their own and a cover tossed in) and also keep to a successful personal formula.

    The Buddy Holly tune is appropriate, as the Potatomen's version of punk pop has a distinct rockabilly inflection. Quite agreeable, really. Wonder if the guys are planning a tour with Hi Fi and the Roadburners any time soon (I'll be there!).

    A great pairing; a great EP. Whoever thought this up deserves a beer. A good one, now; none of that St. Louis shit.

    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/94

    A fully-developed vision of industrial dance music. Everything is heavy, but the beats follow techno and acid house convention, and there is a good amount of goth-style keyboards meandering around. Completely vicious.

    Nothing at all can be faulted. My gut reaction to this disc is the same one I had to the first Lords of Acid disc (on Caroline): who can't dance to this? Any of these songs should be able to raise a drunk to her feet and crank him out to the floor. Hypnotic and absolutely overpowering.

    I could say more, but this is simply one of the perfect dance records in the universe. There haven't been many, but if clubs are not all over this in no time, then I can't imagine what they're playing. Get on it.

    Cubic Feet
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    If you're reading these reviews in order and just finished the Captain Jack one, Cubic Feet represents the next step in the indie rock "progression." In other words, three-chord pop with the life polished out of it.

    I mean, these guys are tight. The hooks are decent, though often tossed off in such an off-handed manner that they fail to make much of an impression. The folks can sing and play, but the passion is strangely absent.

    The kinda disc that makes me suspect these guys are pretty cool live. Just didn't translate. Sorta like the difference between the Meat Puppets albums on London and the live show. Night and day.

    But I don't know about that for sure. All I can say is that this disc needs a real kick start somewhere, and I'm not hearin' it. All very nice. All rather nondescript. Gotta find a way to infuse a little life in here somewhere.

    Cubik & Origami
    EP I
    (Wide Hive)
    reviewed in issue #265, June 2005

    If there was such a thing as a hip hop jam band, Cubik & Origami might be it. These folks have a few turntables backing up real instruments. The songs themselves evolve over time without regard for convention. Something tells me the live shows ought to be even better than this CD.

    Which isn't to say this is unimpressive. Hardly. The feel and flow established in the beats and bass work give the songs their worldly feel--these folks simply refuse to tie themselves down to any set of ideas. And the songs are the ultimate beneficiaries.

    I'd say this is a worthy successor to acid jazz, except that it's miles more sophisticated and impressive than any acid jazz I've every heard. Imagine a crack jazz band in thrall to hip hop grooves. That's pretty cool, wouldn't you say?

    I would, anyway. And Cubik & Origami sure know how to lay down this style and then play with it almost incessantly. A wonder of an album. Something new and amazing is always around the corner.

    The Cubists
    Mechanical Advantage
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    There are eight Cubists mentioned in the liners, but the principals appear to be Noel Brown and Marcus Barfield, who wrote all the songs and seem to have played most of the music as well.

    That uncertain note is a feeling that never left me as I listened to this album. The songs veer from sound to sound, always retaining a passing resemblance to ethereal pop/rock. The press sticker references Swervedriver and the Flaming Lips, which seems vaguely appropriate to me. But the Cubists have a math-y, proggy sensibility that takes these songs in a slightly different direction. Kinda like ALL playing the Flaming Lips, maybe.

    Except that a fair number of these songs are languorous or simply vaporous. The Cubists shift gears so often I think they've burned out the clutch. Nonetheless, no matter how far afield the band ranges, these songs still retain a certain "Cubists" feel.

    That sense of self is one of those things that cannot be taught. A band either feels it or it doesn't. The Cubists (whoever they might be, in total) is feeling it. Which makes this sprawling album all the more impressive. This one will impress more and more as time goes on.

    Where We Sleep Tonight
    (Zero Hour)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Simple, plain-stated pop music that manages to bring across more than exists in the songs themselves.

    While Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried comprise the official line-up, a number of other musicians contribute performances that help the Cucumbers sound progress past the normal Cranberries-Sundays-etc. mellow lilting pop crowd.

    At the lowest points, the songs get a little pedantic and straightforward. Most of the time, however, there is that spark of something that keeps the Cucumbers on this side of dull. The extra mandolin and banjo on some tunes really helps, and Shoshkes insists on imposing a little emotion (not much, but a little) into the proceedings, which is always a good thing.

    This may be too accessible for the truly alternative and too experimental for the yuppie crowd. I think, though, they'll find quite a few waiting in the middle.

    The Cult
    Best of Rare Cult
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    For those not wanting to buy the whole boxed set (the six-disc Rare Cult), there's this smaller collection. The songs aren't necessarily unknown. Many are outtakes, but there are some pieces even die-hard fans haven't heard before.

    Alright, I can hear the jibes now. Who in the world would want six discs of rare Cult material? Well, not me. At least not before hearing this disc. I always though Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and assorted pals had something of a bloated sound and approach. Tell the truth, they did, particularly later on.

    But there are plenty of lean and tight rockers on this set as well. Indeed, there isn't a bad track on this disc. I assume there's plenty of mediocre stuff on the full oddities set (that's kinda the point of such things), but this single disc stands alone very well.

    I surprised myself by linking this so much. Back when the Cult was a true going concern, I never really got into the band. I might have to reconsider my general dismissal. This is a more-than-solid set.

    Cult Junk Cafe
    Cult Junk Cafe
    (Gentle Giant)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    A little over a year ago, I reviewed the Gentle Giant compilation, The Miracle of Levitation. This Kalamazoo label is devoted to perpetrating the furtherance of the noise revolution. The compilation included a track from this act, and this album only strengthens my opinion.

    The best noise stuff isn't weird for weird's sake. Instead, true artists craft a sense to the chaos, a road map that may not be apparent on first listen, but that is there if someone listens for it. Cult Junk Cafe is a bit more straightlaced than many noise acts I've heard (there is a strong dedication to call-and-response and variations on a theme), but the execution is as gloriously non-commercial as can be.

    So these five or six folks (depending on the song) from Japan pump out wave after wave of sonic sculpture activities, each diverging wildly from the last. There is great care in the construction, as I noted, but the final effects are as exhilarating as a blast of free jazz.

    Carefully textured and almost maniacally manipulated, Cult Junk cafe has one of the best noise albums I've ever heard. This is music that stretches a number of envelopes. A challenge to convention and anarchy alike. Genius at work.

    Cult of the Lost Cause
    reviewed 3/28/16

    Three guys from Denver who know from noise and power. Is it punk? Is it stoner rock? Hard to say.

    Is it great? Undeniably.

    A long time ago, someone asked me why I listened to so much loud music. "Aren't you smarter than that?" was the question, I think. As if there is inherent stupidity in being loud. These days, of course, it's probably easier than ever to make that assumption (just look at the GOP presidential field). And yet, it's still wrong.

    These boys remind me a lot of Don Caballero--especially the kinetic rhythm section. Well, and the proggy way all three members play off each other. Sure, they fuzz out and blast away from time to time. But the bones are exquisite.

    Any music that never shifts dynamic or intensity gets dull fast. Keep throwing straight 100 mph fastballs and batters will catch on. So you've got to vary your approach. Cult of the Lost Cause tells enthralling stories--without words--by fully fleshing out its ideas.

    Yeah, this is loud. Mostly. Plenty of fuzz. Lots of stuff to get the blood going. But your brain will appreciate the delicate way these boys craft their tales. Don't worry. The adrenaline will flow just as easily. Why listen to loud music? Listen to this, and you tell me.

    Culture Queer
    Supersize It Under Pontius Pilate
    (Tokyo Rose)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    A trio formed by members of various Cincinnati bands (I'm not entirely sure if this is a simply side project or more of a full-time gig--though I know such distinctions can be dangerous), Culture Queer plays happy, fuzzy pop music with insouciant glee.

    The lyrics are simply scathing. Hypocrisy of all sorts takes a good amount of the heat, though it took a few listens before I really picked up on some of the threads here. Song like "Dulli" required a bit less thought, of course.

    The harsh, plastic glare of the satire here erases any possible preciousness. The sound is bright, even with a heavier emphasis on distortion than you might expect, and that only sharpens the blade of the wit. Damn, these folks have no fear.

    And that's always a good thing. I do hope that Culture Queer becomes a front-burner band if it isn't already. The results of this collaboration are more than encouraging; they're enthralling.

    Nightmare Band
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    The latest from these Cincinnati folks is as slyly brilliant as the album I reivewed eight years ago. At first, this sounds like pastiche-driven pop that will fade quickly. And then the songs bite.

    The music sharpens its focus even as it winds its way through more and more tangents. And the lyrics are as pungent as I remember. The combination is toxic--or, perhaps more accurate, intoxicating.

    The production is bright and almost overexposed. Perhaps this comes from the filmmaking bent of many of the band members. Or maybe I'm abusing a metaphor, something these folks would never do. Of course.

    Wonderful ear candy. These songs are delightfully crafted and played with sublime faux earnestness. If you like your cleverness squashed with a meat tenderizer, this album is for you.

    Curious Ritual
    Get With It Girl EP
    (Dahlia Records)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Power pop that wanders into rough waters from time to time. Part of the reason is that singer Linda Jung doesn't seem to like latching onto any one particular tone for more than a fleeting instant. But part of it is the band's flair for kicking past the restraints of genre labels and striking forth toward its own sound.

    Heavier than you will expect, undoubtedly, but still strangely fragile, as if at any moment the whole facade will fall and the band will be exposed as... well, I don't know what. Walking such an emotional line is a neat trick, though, and Curious Ritual does it all through this EP.

    I think the band might have been better served by a slightly lighter hand in the booth, but that's really a minor quibble. Curious Ritual makes its point through small shifts in stature, even while the music itself seems to be pounding at the ramparts. Perhaps this is what contributes to my general sense of unease.

    Whatever. I like what I hear, and that's what matters in the end, I guess. Well struck.

    Curl Up and Die
    But the Past Ain't Through with Us EP
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    Only four songs. Three short ones and something approaching an extreme symphony. I guess you might as well call a song like that "God Is in His Heaven, and All Is Right with the World."

    What I like about these boys is that they're more than willing to try out new ideas. Curl Up and Die takes a lot of chances with its music. That last track is awash in all sorts of little studio tricks. It could be just a mess, but instead it comes out as a truly inspired bit of work.

    Loud, crazy and truly unique. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: There's a lot of loud music out there that's worth serious consideration. These boys make great music. Period.

    Currer Bell
    Slinky 7"
    reviewed in issue #2, 11/15/91

    The second release on Faye features one of Columbia's finest bands. This three-piece knows its way around a psychedelic pathway or two. We down at KCOU actually prefer the B-side, a nice little song called "Camel Lips."

    If you're into the Floyd boys, especially their sixties stuff, this will fit right in. Spacey, slightly grungy at times. A real treat for the ears. And I'm not saying that just 'cause it's a local thing.

    Curse of Lono
    Curse of Lono EP
    (Submarine Cat)
    reviewed 11/10/16

    Felix Bechtolscheimer is probably best known for his work with Hey Negrita. Curse of Lono is his new project. Curse of Lono began as a collaboration with Oli Bayston, but it has fleshed itself out as a full-fledged band. And with a lot of music in the can (or so it is claimed), this four-song set is a taste of things to come.

    One can only hope. The base of these songs remains solidly entrenched in UK americana (roots music being perhaps our finest export to the old country), but Dani Ruiz Hernandez's keyboards add a welcome expansion to the sound.

    These songs also serve as the soundtrack to a short film (which consists of related videos for these songs). I don't know what to make of that, except to say the wide range and open feel of these songs is perfect for the visual medium.

    If there's more where this came from, then let's get the ball in motion, okay? I've heard enough to know that I need a lot more. Curse of Lono has a fine pedigree, but the music is what truly burnishes its star.

    (Submarine Cat)
    reviewed 5/1/17

    Those of you who still celebrating 420 might recall that I reviewed the Curse of Lono EP last fall. Felix Bechtolsheimer has moved on from Hey Negrita, and this is the official first CoL album.

    The EP was a stunner, four tracks of americana as reimagined by those on the other side of the Atlantic. It sounds familiar, and yet not. I like that vague sense of "I don't think I've heard these sounds put together quite this way before" that I get with British (or European) forays into American roots. Of course, a lot of those "roots" originated over there, so I'm pretty much chasing my tail.

    Three of the four songs from the EP are on this set, so if this album sets you on fire as much as it does me, well, you pretty much have the whole of CoL right here. And boy, this should get the blood flowing. A laconic ramble through wide-open spaces, powered by instruments acoustic and electric alike. The loose feel is energizing, but the songwriting craft and arranging are brilliant. These songs work, in every sense of the word.

    If you do have that EP, and you wondered if a full-length could sustain the same sense of wonder, fear not. A full dose is even more overwhelming than that short set. Curse of Lono appears to be built for the long haul. This album might well be the dawn of something spectacular. It's pretty damn awesome as it is.

    The Ugly Organ
    (Saddle Creek)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Nearly ten years ago I first discovered the glory of the Wrens, one of the greatest pop bands of all time. Cursive takes a similarly adventurous approach to the form, imbuing each song with an infectious energy.

    Further proof that Nebraska has long been underappreciated in terms of bands. Cursive's innovation is the heavy use of cello, which adds more color to the bottom end of the sound. There's a bit more than just an electric bass rumbling down there.

    The sound is so utterly live that it isn't hard to imagine the band recording these songs in one take. The stuff just jumps out of the speakers, which makes the already blistering songs acquire that much more power.

    I love the Wrens. Cursive is just as intense, only in different ways. And anyone who is willing to completely reinvent pop songs as these dark musings is a good friend of mine. A most impressive accomplishment.

    Curtains for You
    What a Lovely Surprise to Wake Up Here
    (Spark and Shine)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    Exceedingly crafted pop. Layered harmonies, jangly guitars and all that mess. Oh, and lead guitar work that occasionally reminds me of George Harrison.

    So you know where these folks are aiming--somewhere between Nilsson, the Beach Boys and All Things Must Pass. There are worse targets out there. Even better (depending on your point of view), this is an increasingly well-traveled road.

    More to the point, Curtains for You generally hits the mark without aping any particular song or artist. There are echoes of modern popsters like the New Pornographers or the Shins, but these folks walk their own trail. There's plenty of craft but little artifice to these songs. Everything is upfront and earnest, and the production makes sure that comes across quite clearly.

    The sort of pop album that makes discriminating listeners smile. Just a bit. Pleasant, but with enough bite to satisfy. A fine set.

    Beth Custer
    In the Broken Fields Where I Lie
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Beth Custer plays the clarinet. She also plays flute and a variety of keyboard instruments. Oh, yeah, she also sings. The stuff on this disc includes some of her work with Club Foot Orchestra, Clarinet Thing, soundtracks and other endeavors.

    And all I can say is wow. I tried for years to play the clarinet, and I was lucky to sustain a note for eight counts. Custer can morph her sounds from sweet to scintillating to swooning in seconds. And then she'll proceed to get really nasty.

    In other words, she takes chances. Lots of them. The wide variety of pieces here really shows off her range. There's everything from fairly traditional jazz and classical bits to utterly experimental fare. The most amazing thing is that almost all of it works to perfection. Custer has an innate sense of the wonderful that is utterly profound.

    Custer pushes the envelope, and in so doing really opens up a wide range of music to folks who might not have considered it before. Challenging, but in a most pleasant way. I'm still shaking.

    Custom Made Scare
    The Greatest Show on Dirt
    (Side 1)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Likker-fueled and slap happy, Custom Made Scare lends a punk edge to the rockabilly thing, adding as much grit as anything else.

    Loose as a goose and then some. The songs just roll forth, natural as can be. Stories of God, guns, hookers, trucks, 454s and more. Alright, so they say a couple nice things about Texas. I can forgive about anything when the music works like this.

    And work it does. Like I said, there's only two speeds: Fast and faster. Custom Made Scare gets cranked and nothing stands in the way. Nothing, see?

    I'm afraid I haven't said nearly enough here. The fast and fearless music on this disc is wondrously invigorating, kinda like... no, I'd better not get into details. Let's just say this definitely works for me, on many levels.

    Sonic Wave Love
    (CMC International/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    I didn't know CMC was trafficking in "new" bands. But hell, not only is Cutters made up of relative youngsters (compared to, say, Iron Maiden and Quiet Riot and such), but the music is pretty damned cool, too. A pleasant little anthemic groove metal gig. With lots of fine electronic snippets in the background.

    The music keeps moving, and that's the trick. I'm not gonna say there's anything particularly substantial here, but hey, the stuff grabs nicely. Yes, there is a cheez factor, but it's my kinda cheez. All I can say about that.

    Perhaps the best idea in the studio was to keep the sound on the mellow side. The songs move, and many fairly blaze, but the sound does not get edgy or sharp. The corners are rounded off, and while I generally don't like that, it works real well for Cutters.

    Something new in the pop metal circus. Something that might even threaten to revive said trend in a serious way. Well, maybe not. But I liked it.

    Cy Dune
    No Recognize
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    An unholy combination of fuzz, misguided anthemic tendencies and warped vocals. These songs really don't come together in any meaningful way, but they remain compelling. There's so much mess that it's hard to characterize this further. So I won't. But this will give you your fix of music from the edge. Surf the chaos.

    The Golden Wreck Tangle EP
    (Action Packed!)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    These fuzzy popsters manage to evoke Brise-Glace and My Bloody Valentine in successive songs. The first two songs, that is. And then things really start to take off. I guess what I'm saying here is that these folks are highly creative, and they've managed to channel those wonderful impulses into solid songs.

    For all the distortion and unusual applications of percussion, the songs themselves are strikingly straightforward. This, of course, is yet another nod to MBV, I suppose, though anyone who listened to this entire disc would holler at me for making the comparison. Cyanotype is its own band, pure and simple.

    The level of craft and complexity in these songs is more often found in established bands. I don't know if these folks can keep it up, but if they can, then greatness might well await.

    Cyclone Temple
    My Friend Lonely
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    My only previous exposure to Cyclone Temple was that Combat records album. I thought they sounded a bit too much like Metallica, though it was fairly catchy.

    Now that Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth have all mellowed, Cyclone Temple has beefed up the sound. Through the process of attrition, they own their sound (though Sonny DeLuca's vocals do bear some semblance to John Bush).

    A caveat: many of these songs first appeared on their Progressive Records EP. Those tracks have been re-recorded with DeLuca singing, and they sound rather good. This is a dated sound, mind you, but if you dig classic eighties power metal, I'm not sure where you'll find a better taste.

    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    Where is the sound?

    I thought Scott Burns had produced himself into a rut, so this really changed my mind that way. But the sound seems to have simply dropped off the face of the earth. I can't find any bass to save my life, and the bass is cranked in my equalizer.

    And it's really too bad, because this stuff is both catchy and creative. And anything but death metal. Not sure if I really like the manipulated vocals so much, but oh well.

    Boy, if there were a fuller sound I could really dig this, but it's pretty fine as it is.

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