Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 328 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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  • F.H. Hill Co.
  • f.u.z.z.
  • F.Y.P.
  • FA-Q
  • Fabric
  • Fabulous Disaster (2)
  • Face to Face (2)
  • Facepuller
  • Faces on Film
  • Faction
  • Faded Paper Figures
  • Fadensonnen
  • Fair Verona
  • Fairburn Royals (2)
  • Fairmount Girls
  • Fairweather
  • Faithless
  • Fake Brain
  • Falcon
  • Fall from Grace
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Fall Silent
  • Falling Still
  • Falling Wallendas
  • False Front
  • Family of God
  • The Family Tree
  • Fancy Hair Dragon
  • Fang
  • Fang Island
  • Fanshaw
  • Fantastic Plastic Machine
  • Fantcha
  • Far
  • Farces Wanna Mo (3)
  • Geoff Farina
  • Farm Dogs
  • Annette Farrington
  • Farside
  • Fascia
  • Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician
  • Fat Tuesday (3)
  • Fatal Blast Whip (2)
  • Fates Warning (2)
  • Fathom Lane
  • Fatso Jetson
  • Ronnie Fauss
  • Faux Fox
  • Fay Wrays
  • Fear Factory (6)
  • Fear of Commitment
  • Fearless Leader
  • Feathers
  • Feces Pieces
  • Chico Fellini
  • Felt
  • Dodd Ferrelle
  • Lorraine Ferro
  • David Fesette
  • Fetish
  • Fetish 69
  • The Feud
  • Fever
  • Fez Dispenser
  • Ff
  • The Fibs
  • Fiction Damage
  • Fiel Garvie (2)
  • Fiendz Cole
  • Meredith Fierke
  • Fiery Blue
  • Fiesel
  • Fifteen (3)
  • 50 Feet Tall
  • Fifty Lashes
  • 58
  • Fifty Tons of Black Terror
  • Fighter Pilot
  • Filthy Thieving Bastards (2)
  • Sarah Fimm
  • Final Cut
  • Final Fantasy
  • Finger Eleven
  • Finisterre
  • Finn
  • Finn Brothers
  • The Fire Show (3)
  • Fireball Ministry
  • The Firebird Band (2)
  • Firebug
  • Fireclown
  • Fires
  • Fireside (2)
  • Firewater (5)
  • Michael Lee Firkins (2)
  • Dave Fischoff (2)
  • Fish
  • Fishbone
  • Jeremy Fisher
  • Fistfull
  • Fitz
  • 5ive
  • Five Dollar Milkshake (2)
  • Five Eight (2)
  • Five Horse Johnson
  • Five Seconds Expired
  • Five Story Fall
  • Five Way Friday
  • Josh Fix (2)
  • Flake
  • The Flames
  • Flamethrower
  • Flamingo
  • Flashing Red Airplane
  • Flaspar
  • Flat Earth Society
  • Flattbush
  • Flaw
  • Fleming & John
  • Ellyn Fleming
  • Fleshcrawl (3)
  • Fleshdevils
  • The Fleshpeddlers (2)
  • Flightcrank
  • Flip Side
  • Flipper
  • The Flipsides
  • Floating Opera (4)
  • Flogging Molly (3)
  • Floodgate
  • Flossie and the Unicorns
  • Flour
  • Flowchart
  • Flower
  • Flu Thirteen
  • fluf (4)
  • Fluffer
  • Fluorescent Grey (2)
  • The Flying Change
  • Flying Luttenbachers (4)
  • Flying Monkey Orchestra
  • Flying Nuns
  • Flying Saucer Attack (2)
  • FM Knives
  • Foetus
  • Paul Foisy
  • Fold Zandura (2)
  • The Foliage
  • Foma
  • Joe Fonda-Carlo Morena-Jeff Hirshfield
  • The Fonda/Stevens Group
  • Fondly
  • Fono
  • For Against (5)
  • The For Carnation
  • For Love Not Lisa (3)
  • For No One in Particular
  • Forbidden Dimension
  • Forced Reality
  • The Foreign Resort
  • Bill Foreman
  • Forever Goldrush
  • Forever Sharp and Vivid
  • The Forgotten (2)
  • Forgotten Rebels
  • The Forms
  • Fornix
  • Chris Forsyth (3)
  • Fort Knox Five
  • The Forty Nineteens
  • Forty Piece Choir (2)
  • The Forty-Fives
  • Mark Fosson
  • Josephine Foster & the Victor Herrero Band
  • Foundry Field Recordings
  • Fountains of Wayne
  • 4 (2)
  • The Four Hundred
  • 400 Horses
  • 454 Big Block
  • Four Letter Word (2)
  • Four Square
  • Four Star Mary
  • 4th Sign of the Apocalypse
  • 4th Ward
  • 45 Spiders
  • Eric Fox
  • Fox in the Henhouse
  • Foxglove Hunt
  • Foxymorons (2)
  • Joel Frahm
  • Fragile Porcelain Mice
  • The Frampton Brothers
  • Betsey Franck and the Bareknuckle Band
  • The Frantic Flattops
  • Freak Brothers
  • Freak Show (2)
  • Freax
  • Tony Fredianelli
  • Free Diamonds (2)
  • Free from Disguise
  • Free Range Chicken
  • Free Verse
  • Freedom Call
  • Freeheat
  • Freeloader
  • Freewheelers
  • Ace Frehley
  • Daniel French
  • The French Kicks
  • Frenzal Rhomb (2)
  • Fridge
  • Marty Friedman (3)
  • Friends of Lizzy
  • Fringe
  • Robert Fripp
  • Friz
  • Frodus
  • The Frogs (2)
  • Front Line Assembly (9)
  • Front 242 (2)
  • Frontier Trust
  • Edith Frost
  • The Frownies (2)
  • Fruitcake
  • Frustrators
  • Fuckin Wild
  • The Fucking Champs (2)
  • The Fucking Am
  • Fudge Tunnel (4)
  • Fuego del Alma
  • Fueled
  • Full Circle
  • Full Moon Bay
  • Full On
  • Full on the Mouth
  • Funeral in the Mirror
  • Funky Butt Drum Club
  • Funny Looking Kids
  • Furbowl
  • Furious George
  • Furslide
  • Fury of Five
  • Fuse
  • Fuzz Beloved

  • F.H. Hill Co.
    Parlor Songs
    (LoTioN Industries)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Linear, yet unsettling, noise rawk. Like if fluf decided to crank up the distortion levels another buttload. The songs unfold like a well-worn highway, but it's still great to take the ride.

    Best enjoyed at loud volumes, of course, though the songs are good enough to be appreciated at relatively low levels as well. The sound borders on horrific at times, but even while the vocals are getting lost in a wall of haze, the rhythm section keeps bouncing out and moving the proceedings along nicely.

    All attitude and very little skill. Not that I'm complaining, of course. It takes something special to create the controlled chaos in as these songs, and there sure is something to be said for this wild ride.

    A wonderful rush, really. F.H. Hill Co. pounds out a glorious racket, and deserves to rake in the consequences.


    f.u.z.z.
    f.u.z.z.
    (Anechoic)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    If this was just a tasty conglomeration of beats and pieces, f.u.z.z. would still knock me out. But there are these raspy, soulful vocals riding the stinky grooves. Woof, what a combo!

    So you got yer hip-hop, yer electronic ramblings, yer fuzzy soul--you got all that and then you've got the even greater whole.

    That's where f.u.z.z. truly soars. When all of the parts grind against each other real tight, the friction combusts. The songs simply explode from the speakers with incendiary force. There's no way to get out of the field of fire.

    Don't question stuff like this, just enjoy the ride. Yeah, there's a thousand ways to analyze every little bit, but why would you want to do that? Too much fun is waiting to be had.


    F.Y.P.
    My Man Grumpy
    (Recess)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Truly snotty punk. Almost by definition, punk means attitude. These guys have gone above and beyond. It's grating and amusing at the same time.

    Puerile is another word that comes immediately to mind. How could it not, when presented with songs like "Shitheel", "Motherfucker, Cheap Thumbsucker", "Pork Rinds & Yoohoo" and "I Egged the President." In good measure, this sort of thing can be quite amusing. When it gets out of hand, well, you get F.Y.P.

    And if you can get past the lyrics, then there's no missing the "whiny white boy" vocal delivery. Just enough distortion to them to add a nasty nasal twang. Talk about annoying.

    All that said, I still had fun. This is the sort of disc that will piss a lot of folks off, for many of the reasons I've already delineated. Those very same characteristics will be seen as virtues by some seriously crazy punk fans. Cool world, ain't it?


    FA-Q
    Each Hit
    (ATP Records)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    No, ATP doesn't have anything to do with Boris Becker. Geez...

    Stuff from Seattle that is addressed to the "metal reviewer". If this sounds like Soundgarden or Alice in Chains I'm gonna puke!

    But no. The guitar does have that grungy distortion, and the vocals do evoke a shadow of Chris Cornell, but the cool, sterile sound of the bass and drums keep this from being insipid.

    Now, FA-Q has a long ways to go to escape the Northwest ghetto. The lyrics are pretty damned silly (which never stopped anyone before) and the music does get kinda repetitive after a few songs. And as the album progresses, FA-Q regresses more and more into a Seattle poser mode. Bummer.

    I can hear some elements of potential, but FA-Q has to get out of town and find its own sound. There are only so many bands like Candlebox that make it big by playing trends. And where will that band be tomorrow? FA-Q should try the originality route.


    Fabric
    Woolly Mammoth
    (Scrimshaw)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Loopy pop played over a completely electronic percussion section. Now, this is ultra lo-tech stuff, so it almost sounds, um, rustic or something. The songs themselves resemble reconstructed Brit-pop, so you can imagine the structural dichotomies involved.

    The stuff is inelegantly arranged, adding to the off-kilter feeling. But by playing such strong themes against each other, Fabric achieves some seriously impressive results. This is definitely thinking music, though you can hum along if you want. I doubt the band would mind.

    The concept is somewhat involved, but by using simple lines, Fabric makes the near-impossible sound breathlessly easy. Sure, it's rather disconcerting. That's the point.

    And past making good music, I can't even fathom a guess as to what Fabric is going for here. But I don't care. I'll simply bathe in the discord.


    Fabulous Disaster
    Put Out or Get Out
    (Pink & Black)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Basic fare. Three chords, lots of attitude and some oozin' ahs. The key to this stuff is the attitude. The music is generic, though in a pleasing sense. Fabulous Disaster's character comes from the band's swagger.

    And I love the stance. Four women who don't take shit from no one. In fact, they specialize in giving it away. The lyrics are clever enough to find plenty of ways to say "fuck off." I'm impressed.

    Every once in a while the gals try to make a more serious point. That works some of the time. It does detract from the attitude factor, though the change of pace helps. I'm kinda ambivalent about those moves.

    Musically, Fabulous Disaster trolls in the same waters as plenty of fast, trashy bands, though the tight production from Fat Mike and Ryan Greene does lend a somewhat clean quality to the sound. I do wish the band would spend a little more time picking different chords to abuse. Even so, I had a great time.


    Panty Raid!
    (Pink & Black)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    What the Go-Go's might have sounded like if they were a pack of butch lesbians produced by Alex Newport. Okay, so I'm just guessing as to the sexual identities of the band members (which are irrelevant in any case), and Fat Mike also twisted the knobs, but I think you get the point.

    Beautifully simple melodies played at an almost-breakneck pace. Hooks with grit and just a little grace. And guitars that sound just right (thank you, Mr. Newport).

    As for the style of the band members, well, that comes across more in the attitude than the music itself. Sure, this stuff has balls, but it's not pure buzzsaw. There's a sweet side to Fabulous Disaster, and it comes out at all the right moments.

    These songs wouldn't have worked if they weren't written so well. All the attitude and great production and all doesn't matter if the songs themselves suck. Fabulous Disaster is anything but. Quite the happy pill for my aching head.


    Face to Face
    Ignorance Is Bliss
    (Ladyluck/Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Ooh, bouncy, peppy and oh-so-tame. Which is too bad, 'cause these boys can play that power punk-pop thang. Too bad it's way too conformist, straightened out into this kinda dull sheen.

    The stuff is tightly written and played, of the sort which is a joy to hear. It's just that all the life has been strangled out of whatever was there in the beginning. I sure don't hear any sparks now.

    And I blame almost all of that on the seriously overloaded major-label production job. "We've gotta make these guys sound big", someone seems to be saying. Well, they sounded big before all the excessive nonsense got introduced. It's amazing how a knob job can torch an otherwise cool sound.

    Just another reason I sing the major-label blues. Sure, it's fine to sand off a few rough edges. But this is way too extreme. And it makes a potentially interesting band sound boring. That's the real shame.


    Reactionary
    (Lady Luck-Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    The same tuneful pop hardcore sound, with just a bit more attitude. Very much a raucous version of the Bad Religion sound. That's not a bad thing at all.

    My main complaint about these guys' last album was that is was dull. Tame. Not very interesting. The changes are subtle, but here's the scoop: The guitars are just a little looser, the vocals a bit more ragged and the hooks just a little tighter. I'm not talking about quantum changes. Just small nudges that make all the difference.

    Now, I'm not calling this one of the great punk albums of all time. It's merely pretty good. For a major-label punk release, it's damned good. Face to Face found its roots, and my ears are much happier for it.

    Like I said, we're not talking about a punk revolution or anything. Just a fine effort by some seasoned vets. Nothing to sneeze at, my friends.


    Facepuller
    Auditory Surgical Technicians
    (BangOn)
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    Take a dose of punk speed and pop sensibility and add a load of metal guitar and industrial filtered vocals.

    This is nothing terribly original, though they do mix their influences in a way I can't remember hearing. Kinda like if Soundgarden (who never was a grunge band-get it straight) did a side project with the Supersuckers. And they borrowed an old P.A. for the vocals.

    The guys tend to be a little excited about the metal riff conventions, but apart from that this is absolutely enjoyable. Sometimes the sonic assault is damned near inspiring. A pretty cool package overall.


    Faces on Film
    Elite Lines
    (self-released)
    reviewed 12/11/14

    This is Mike Fiore's third outing as Faces on Film, and he doesn't seem bored yet. These songs are subtly unsettling and earworm-worthy as the same time.

    The electronic elements of the production are omnipresent, but they never dominate. Instead, each song develops its own sonic palette within Fiore's mellow dreadful guidelines. I suppose that last might sound unappetizing, but what I mean to say is that Fiore keeps an air of loose melancholy about his at all times.

    Without sounding even slightly like the Smiths, these songs manage to evoke a similar response. Like the blues, listening to this much introspective heartbreak and disappointment can only make one feel better. And it sure doesn't hurt that the music is some of the best-crafted stuff I've heard in a long time.

    Indeed, it was the music that first pricked up my ears. Fiore's deliberate melodies and slowly-shifting rhythmic bases sound simple at first. But even a moment's listening reveals the exceptional craft behind that ostensible ease. It's really, really hard to sound completely at ease, and yet Fiore accomplishes this again and again as his songs shuffle through a truckload of influences.

    That chameleonic quality makes it hard to identify a Faces on Film "sound." But the fact that Fiore has completely mastered so many forms is more than impressive. It's wonderful. This is easily one of the best albums of the year.


    Faction
    Collection 1982-1985
    (Goldenrod)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Sounds like mid-80s hardcore via southern California. Whoa, it is, too.

    Twenty-eight tracks and extensive liners that even include the dates and locations of Faction gig during the time specified. Pretty impressive.

    Of course, the real test is the music. And while the Faction had a decent knack for writing cool punk songs at a time when it wasn't necessarily cool to be punk (certainly by 1985), I can't say this band has been anonymous for no reason.

    The stuff is well-worth listening to, but the songs sound like a lot of other ones coming out from about the same time. Punk can be a maddeningly generic genre, and without unique characteristics (Bad Religion's use of harmony, Jello Biafra's voice, Greg Ginn's riffs) a band can get left by the wayside. I'm not saying the Faction sucked (this disc has ample proof to the contrary), but sometimes writing good songs is not enough.

    If you are a serious student or collector of punk music, this disc is pretty damned near essential. Otherwise, it is an interesting anachronistic curiosity.


    Faded Paper Figures
    Dynamo
    (Shorthand)
    reviewed in issue #303, December 2008

    The requisite straight-up laptop pop album for this set of reviews. Faded Paper Figures is a trio that specializes in trippy beats, kinetic guitar and softly sung songs. It's an exercise in constant counterpoint, and I like that.

    The key to all of this is the constant motion. It would be impossible to classify any of these pieces as particularly aggressive, but they never stop moving. Between the bass, guitar, keyboards and programming, there's always something moving. Usually, it's two or three things moving in opposite directions.

    Very cool. Indeed, I can't think of an album that deserves that appellation more than this one. These songs are involved and often intellectual, but they simply sound cool. Not so much hipster as simply self-confident. Being cool means that you don't worry about being cool.

    Or that's what my mom always told me. Maybe she was just trying to make me feel good. Doesn't matter. I know that these songs make me feel good. This album produced almost a month's worth of smiles. A rollicking success.


    Fadensonnen
    White Night
    (Fadensonnen Records)
    reviewed in issue #340, September 2012

    A certain PD and FD are responsible for the chaos of this album. You should be on your knees. In chains, preferably. This is music of utter bondage. Once you enter the album, you will be defenseless against its charms.

    Charms, of course, is a relative term. The distorted riffage and generally deconstructed lines of the songs (a loose term, to be sure) are aggressive and mean. The sound is abrasive and harsh. The effect is impossibly liberating.

    So you get it or you don't. These are songs, not just tone poems, and they do say something. They probably aren't the future of rock and roll (though I wouldn't rule it out), but they're goddamned thrilling. Chaos abounds and life flows.

    And not inconsiderable brilliance. Absolutely lovely fare, if you construe lovely the way I do. Fadensonnen is mean, rude and avaricious. Totally lovely.


    Fair Verona
    Fair Verona EP
    (I.V. Records)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    There's some wonderful lead guitar work here, looping in and out of the ragged, jangly songs. But what really impresses is the impassioned vocal work. I suppose there is a lead singer slot (three women somewhat share those duties), but as the songs build in intensity, the other singers come in for added emphasis.

    The result is a wild set of off-kilter harmonies (that's not what they are, but I think that reference conveys the idea best). The vocal work is just stunning. And that's on top of rather inventive music. It's safe to say that Fair Verona owns its sound.

    Which is not to say that there are no points of reference. Fair Verona is somewhere in the same land as punk-pop acts like Jawbox and Treepeople. The lines are a bit trippier, though, and the vocals are much more involved. This is some wonderful wailing.


    Fairburn Royals
    The Sunshine Slowdown
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Seems to me that more and more bands these days are finding cool ways to update roots music. Fairburn Royals can play the stuff straight, but generally the folks find one or more ways to dress up the basics.

    Lots of experimentation with distortion and studio editing, particularly in the intros to the songs. I'm guessing the genesis of many of these pieces was often a long ways removed from the way they ended up.

    What I really like is that the tricks and experimentation serve to complete the songs rather than simply hang as ornaments. Everything on this album was done for a purpose: To make good music.

    And that's what we have here. Fairburn Royals have constructed an album with a solid foundation and a ceiling that just keeps rising and rising. Boy, do I like the way these folks think.


    From a Window Way Above
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    The easiest thing to do would be to slot Fairburn Royals into alt. country. This catchall category seems to include anyone with even the slightest hint of folk melodies or slide guitar slinkiness. These boys do have a vague roots feel to their music, but I'm hesitant to constrain the sound here by giving it a label.

    As I noted in my review of the band's self-released album (which appeared last May), the songs generally find two or three ways to deviate from a traditional sound of any type. The inventiveness is shown in many ways, from subtleties in the writing to studio sleight of hand. What is apparent is that Fairburn Royals has refined its approach even while increasing its search for cool music.

    All that stuff about nonconformist views? It's true. But it's also quite possible to listen to this album and bask in the simple pleasures of pretty melodies and satisfying hooks. It's all in how you approach it. Me, I like to think about my music. And Fairburn Royals gives me plenty to ponder.


    Fairmount Girls
    Fairmount Girls EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Imagine tight harmonies blended into tight pop, with a dusting of distortion in the guitars. A little looser than that description implies, I think. There is an inherent off-hand feel to these songs, and it is precisely that almost-indescribably feel which makes this disc so cool.

    Fairmount Girls don't stick to pure pop sounds, either. "Nash" has more than a few Breeders and grunge influences (though it is still, technically, pop) and "Underwater" has a guitar line which would be right at home in a Johnny Cash song (though the rest of the song is a bit more straightforward).

    See, it's not the style that makes this sound so good. Yes, these "girls" (they are female, and it is the name of the band, but I'm still a bit uncomfortable using that term; sorry) play pop as well as I've heard in a while (with some ace production), but it is the undercurrent that marks this disc as a winner.

    They make this sound easy. That's the trick. And maybe it is for the Fairmount Girls, but I doubt it. This is highly-crafted, well-performed pop. Almost impossible to set down. Just gorgeous.


    Fairweather
    Lusitania
    (Equal Vision)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Some very clever Brit-pop types who happen to hail from somewhere in the DC area. J. Robbins produces, and he's barely able to contain the exuberance.

    The first track, a dead-ringer for something off Loveless, is called "Derivative Opening." The songs then fly through a wide range of sounds, all somewhat loosely centered around the whole post-hardcore pop sound perfected by Robbins's old band.

    But why the fake British accent? And why only sometimes? Is that part of the joke? I don't know. These boys can be awfully earnest when they want to be, though when one of the featured links on your website is to the Manowar web home, well, that is a sign of a certain deranged sense of humor.

    Thing is, I don't have to analyze the music to know it's good. This stuff is amazing. My reaction is both intellectual and visceral. Very few bands can attract on so many levels. Fairweather is probably a bit too much (of lots of things) to make the big time, but great music is always its best reward. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.


    Faithless
    Sunday 8 PM
    (Arist)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Electronic acts on major labels tend to bum me out. Not because of any real excess influence on the part of the moneymen. No, it's more that a band has to be pretty unspectacular to get picked up by a biggie. Faithless does some nice things on the mellow side of the electronic movement, but it's all kinda, well, there. Not here. Not affecting me.

    My main complaint is that the songs aren't really songs. They're bits and pieces of rather disparate musical ideas. Incoherent, really. Is that revolutionary or just lazy? Have to think on that one a while.

    The pieces, many of them anyway, are good enough. The mellow dancehall vocals by Maxi Jazz are reasonably good, but it's all the other parts which don't always match up. Again, I know it's intentional. Is it some sort of innovation?

    I don't know, really. The fractured music is not particularly innovative, though it does some nice things with found sound. I'd probably dig this if I was drunk or tripping or not having to pay close attention to it. Ah, so I guess I answered my question, after all.


    Fake Brain
    Department of Our Ways
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    The kind of fuzzy, eccentric rock that I've found my mind wandering toward at the strangest times. Fake Brain usually sticks close to pop conventions, except for one or two small parts in each song, which creates this othrworldly feel to many of the pieces.

    And the fuzz... You know, it seems like an easy thing, just add a little disortion to the guitar and everything sounds more intimate. It's not, though. A lot of band don't quite have the right touch. Fake Brain does.

    My only real suggestion (if the band is really interested in big success rather than kudos from idiots like me) would be to shave the idiosyncratic moments down and tighten up a nothc.

    Of course, if Fake Brain did that, then I wouldn't like the band any more. It's a risk many have taken without looking back. Anyway, adventurous popsters really ought to give this a scoping. There's a lot to love.


    Falcon
    Disappear
    (Future Media Research Lab)
    reviewed in issue #327, May 2011

    Heavily-processed indie pop. That is, lots of keyboards and electronic beats in addition to the usual paeans to maudlin bliss.

    Falcon sounds like it is simply tossing off these downbeat little gems, but the behind-the-scenes craft isn't entirely invisible. Truthfully, there's so much laid over the basic band sound that it's not that hard to hear how the production tightened and expanded the original concept.

    A good job, in any case. These songs rumble by at a mid-tempo clip (or occasionally slower), and leave me feeling lighter despite their general downward cast.

    That is the wondrous thing about indie pop. When it works, the more bummed out the songs are, the more uplifting the music. Achingly beautiful.


    Fall from Grace
    Fall from Grace
    (Mayhem/Fierce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    When I started A&A six years ago, this was a very prevalent sound: hardcore metal ramblings, with a serious Black Sabbath fixation.

    Times have changed, tastes have changed, and yet here is Fall from Grace resurrecting images of Non-Fiction and that whole sound. And while a good number of years have passed, I can't hear anything exceptional in Fall from Grace's sound. Nothing to indicate the passage of time. Almost like a time capsule.

    Nothing terrible, just somewhat dull. I still like this guitar sound (it's a version of that "clean grunge" thing, kinda like what Downstroke was trying), but I've heard all these songs before, even if they have new lyrics.

    You can't go home again. For better or worse, that's what Fall from Grace is attempting to do. There is no success without growth.


    Fall Out Boy
    Take This to Your Grave
    (Fueled by Ramen)
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    These folks are a wee bit too clever for their own good. Take the label name (Fueled by Ramen) or the title of the first track ("Tell that Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today"). Okay, so I 'm sure the boys didn't name their label. It sure is appropriate, anyway.

    These songs aren't all jokes, but there are a few that venture into Nerf Herder territory. The music itself is tight punk pop with just a hint of an aggressive edge on the guitar. The pieces do come together nicely.

    And much of the reason for that is the production, which doesn't overdo anything. Rather, the band's natural exuberance is preserved without allowing the proceedings to get out of hand. There's a nice live-to-tape feel here--though I don't think that's how this was recorded. No matter. The final product is quite nice.

    Solid songwriting and plenty of energy to pull off these well-crafted pieces. Fall Out Boy isn't the most distinctive band around, but these songs are more than worth a listen or few. Give the boys some time and they just might come up with something better than very good.


    Fall Silent
    Six Years in the Desert
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Some 10 or 11 years ago a lot of folks took great pains to separate the genres of "grindcore" and "death metal." Never mind that grindcore stalwarts Napalm Death and Carcass ended up solidly in the death metal camp by the time they hung up their axes. Fall Silent pushes the extreme hardcore (which is, I guess, today's term for "grindcore") sound to the edge of the metal envelope. To the point where I'm not sure how or even why you'd make a distinction.

    'Cause see, it's good. Good is good, and bad is bad. Doesn't matter what else you call it. Fall Silent can rage with the best of 'em (pun intended). Seventeen songs of unmitigated fury. Not short songs, either. There's more than an hour of vitriol on this disc.

    Quantity and quality. An irresistible combination, to be sure. The guitars flash and scream, producing some wondrous riffage. A frenetic rhythm section keeps churning the songs to speedier and more frenetic heights. Lyrics? Um, I can hear vocals. Sometimes I can make out a phrase. There is a lyric sheet. The stuff is fairly standard antisocial fare. These guys are serious, and so are their songs.

    Mostly, though, Fall Silent doesn't. The sonic disturbances produced by this disc are flat-out amazing. Straight ahead full throttle. Don't look back. Don't even look to the side. Peer straight ahead and view your rapidly-approaching demise.


    Falling Still
    May All Magic Guide and Change You
    (Peace, Man)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    I'm beginning to get the feeling that rock and roll is definitely on its way back in. Falling Still bashes and crashes its way through songs that might have been cast as power pop or maybe "modern rock" in days gone by.

    But we're mired in a mean new millennium, and the only thing that can save us is goddamned rock and roll. So Falling Still cranks up the guitars and screws on the sneers. This disc is simply dripping with attitude, and the catchpan is overflowing.

    The production is ultramodern--very clean and sharp. That helps to emphasize the attitude, even though it does drain the power from a couple of these songs. A little distortion and/or reverb can be humanizing, boys.

    Nonetheless, it is fun to hear folks getting back to basics. Falling Still hurls these songs out off the cliff. They're more than tough enough to survive the journey. Stand and take the heat.


    Falling Wallendas
    Falling Wallendas
    (IMI Records)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Monster fans of pop music as practiced by Big Star, the Posies and such, the Falling Wallendas replicate the sound quite faithfully, but don't quite have the songwriting spark to quite join the ranks of the hallowed.

    Which is not to denigrate the album whatsoever. This is fun, earnest pop music that at times threatens to become exquisite. But just when the knockout blow should be delivered, the windmill misses.

    The production is great, giving the music a full voice. I just wish the songs had a little more to say. I can hear a good amount of potential, but a little spark is needed to really kick this band into gear. Something to move these folks from retro band to current sensation. Some sort of inspiration, I guess.


    False Front
    Dude
    (Shimmy Disc)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Atypical Shimmy-pop, with driving riffs and heavy guitars, verging on the grunge at times. Right now this one riff is just crunching my head straight into the screen. All pop sensibilities lost. For the moment.

    I like bands that can shift gears. It's kinda nice to wander in and out of musical styles. Makes the brain very happy. And False Front can whiz from a heavy tune to a slightly jazzy one to a straight pop kinda thing. And it all remains coherent. Rather amazing when you think about it. Rather cool, too.

    If you have always passed off Shimmy stuff as too weird for a loud music show, then you are a musical bigot. And if there is such a disc that would fit perfectly into your format, this is it.


    Family of God
    We Are the World
    (Sugar Free)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Two guys, Adam Peters (he once of Echo and the Bunnymen) and Chris Brick (among other things, owner of trendy clothing stores), who simply make music. Categorizing these sounds is a futile enterprise. As this is two guys who make full-sounding music, though, there are plenty of overdubs and manipulations. But wandering from vague new wave to ponderous distortion assaults to sparsely arranged moody bits to some kind of strange western flamenco riffage, Family of God doesn't stop in the same place for long.

    What it is is great. A complete journey through the minds of the creators. Each song has its own charms, and while they don't share a whole lot in the way of overt characteristics, the album flows together quite nicely.

    Like I noted, there are plenty of little studio tricks and the like all through. Not clumsy, but wonderfully subtle . Try on the lengthy (12 1/2 minutes) track "The Observer Is Observed" for size. Ambient, Kraftwerk-influenced to be sure. But astonishingly creative in its use of everyday noodlings and beats.

    By the way, this is not Christian rock. I didn't figure anyone reading anything on my site would get confused that way, but what the hell. I just looked at the press, which calls this cosmic disco for the millennium. Um, no. But it is a truly inventive and creative album, one which impresses and inspires. Well worth a thousand spins.


    The Family Tree
    Planting Seeds
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Something of an off-shoot (no pun intended) of the All Natural collective, this disc collects a number of different DJs and MCs under the Family Tree moniker.

    The beats are often buried behind distortion or reverb (or simply muffled), which reminds me of some Wordsound fare. The rhyming is all over the map, some sloppy and some carefully crafted.

    Certainly, the best fare on the album comes from the All Natural crew itself, though the instrumental beat explorations from G(riot) are also first rate. Indeed, the one common thread throughout the disc is a commitment to good beat work.

    Just a sampler, I guess, but one that provides a fine picture of artistic ferment. The somewhat haphazard sequencing (not all songs flow particularly well into each other) is forgivable given the diversity of the set. Most enjoyable.


    Fancy Hair Dragon
    On Golden Sand
    (Scary Garden)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    The kinda loopy punk pop that Lookout! has specializing for years. Fancy Hair Dragon is more pop and less punk (even going with electronic drums some of the time, I think), but the soaring hooks and clunky chords fit right into the formula.

    And this is nothing if not formula. Doesn't make it bad, of course, but the stuff never quite breaks into greatness. The songs are wry and the hooks do, indeed, stick to the wall. There's just this element of generic three-chord monte going on.

    Maybe it's the fairly dull production that's leading me down this path. All of the edges have been sanded off, leaving Fancy Hair Dragon with a flat sound. There's not much in the way of dynamic range. All of these songs come on at about the same level and speed.

    A little variety would really help. The songwriting chops are solid, if unspectacular. The stuff is good, but not good enough to get me going. Some oomph is definitely in order.


    Fang
    American Nightmare
    (Wingnut)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Yet another resuscitated punk band attempting to cash in on the latest punk wave, Fang does have a few good excuses for its absence. Chief among them the six years in the can served by frontman Sam McBride.

    And the music is, well, oddly ordinary. For such a vile past, this incarnation of Fang (McBride being the only original member around) sounds positively civilized. The music is straight three-chords, and rather slow at that. The lyrics, for all the claims of streetwise ferocity, are bland, angry shouts.

    It's not that this is so bad. In fact, I kinda like a few of the songs. But they're basic, regular punk stuff. Where the old Fang had a few bones to pick with the music of its time, this Fang has been worn down by the sands of time.

    I had hoped for more. I got okay. That's the way it goes.


    Fang Island
    Major
    (Sargent House)
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    Another trip down trippy, proggy power pop-rock lane with Fang Island. Some of these songs rock out, and others simply bliss into near-irrelevance. The better ones manage both at once.

    The better songs are the ones with a solid guitar hook. That's always good for a solid center, which is important with bands that tend to be centrifugal in their motion.

    Largely, though, there's a lot of pleasurable noise going on. Perhaps this is better for wallowing than actually appreciating, but I wouldn't go that far. 'Cause when these songs do kick in, they really pack.

    A bit old school in its obtuse nature, Fang Island provides plenty of joy for those of us who don't mind a little confusion with our ear candy. A fine amusement.


    Fanshaw
    Dark Eyes
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    Olivia Featherstonhaugh is the driving force behind Fanshaw (is that the proper pronunciation of her last name? Just curious...), and she dives right into the eclectic pop pool that seems to have flooded western Canada.

    Featherstonhaugh is comfortable arranging one song as a multi-tracked vocals-only piece, another as a wide-ranging pop exploration and yet another as a sweetened version of late 80s indie country. And that's all without getting to the Kate Bush fetish she affects from time to time.

    It's all good. I mean that literally. Featherstonhaugh seems incapable of sticking to any particular style (though most of these pieces are understated in one way or another), but whatever she touches emerges somewhere near the realm of perfection.

    The glue to this album is her voice, which she often uses to an ethereal effect. There's a real strength underlying those breathy tones, though, and that steel girds that album and brings everything together. There are waves to be made with this one.


    Fantastic Plastic Machine
    The Fantastic Plastic Machine
    (Emperor Norton)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    I'm not sure if this music is meant for five year olds or if it's supposed to sound like music played for five year olds but really meant for twenty-five year olds that want to think they're still five.

    And maybe this is the quintessential question. Do we listen to music escape the past or escape to the past. Maybe it's a question of when we listen to it. This reminds me of Disney records on acid -- but not a bad trip. No no no.

    This is the trip where the clouds are your friends and a 7-11 is like entering a multi-colored syrupy wonderland. Yes, take me back. Oh yeah, it sounds like it was made on one of those cheap Casios with Japanese vocals in English. Hence the slushy feeling.

    -- Matt Worley


    Fantcha
    Criolinha
    (Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Songs a la Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony of islands off the west coast of Africa. Fantcha's luxurious voice is at home on torch-style songs and dance numbers. And with all the African, Brazilian (another former Portuguese colony) and Portuguese influences, there's always a reason to dance.

    Even when the music kicks in fast and furious, Fantcha's voice is always at the forefront. She is in control of the song, and her producer made that possible. The arrangements are full, but not overwhelming. The instrumentation is mostly traditional, with only the occasional hint of keyboard.

    And so the result is a pop album that radiates the joys of many musical heritages. And, of course, Fantcha's astonishing voice. A wonder that should never cease. Obviously aimed at a mass audience, this disc has more than enough depth to attract the attention of more demanding listeners as well.


    Far
    In the Aisle, Yelling 7"
    (Pazzafist)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Punchy pop punctuated by some ripping riffs. The a-side concerns personal problems and burning theaters and the flip is a fun little tale about killing a "boring guy". Or maybe the positions are switched. Hard to say.

    I really dig the music. It's poppy and discordant at the same time (a neat trick). The vocals and vocal lines are completely out of sync with the music, and that adds to the tension.

    Not an easy listen, but pretty interesting and effective nonetheless.


    Farces Wanna Mo
    Recording @ Home Plus Seven
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Some very strange ideas in pop music, as fronted by a Jello Biafra wannabe. The title track (as such) is a fairly straightforward song, traditional in structure if not in performance. The rest of the pieces get weird very fast.

    Structure kinda takes a holiday and what sounded like mere odd thoughts at first rush to the fore. At times, the music sorta peters out, replaced by the occasional chord or beat and an assortment of vocals.

    I'm not kidding. This is warped material. Which, as faithful readers know, means I really like it. It's horribly incomplete at times, and that sort of thing does have an almost unimaginable appeal to me.

    While not on the outer fringe, Farces Wanna Mo (does the band name tell you anything?) certainly is nowhere near staid reality. Dip your toes in, the water is mauve.


    Mess of Pottage EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    More wigged-out musings from these fine folks. While sticking to the pop universe (in a very vague way), the tunes quickly fly into all sorts of strange territory.

    This has the feel of kids playing around on new instruments. Intuitive kids, kids who instinctively know which direction to turn at every crossroads. There's a whimsical rejection of the "normal" world and an embracing of heretofore unimagined sonic pairings.

    This sort of thing will never have mainstream appeal, except as a sort of novelty act. But that doesn't do the band justice. These songs are well-conceived. Often goofy, but still put together with skill and care. I just hope the folks don't cheese out.


    Transcend & Subsume EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Self-consciously clever lyrics and music. Farces Wanna Mo reminds me of nothing less than non-snarky Zappa without the genius. Which is to say that everything is a bit conventional in its whacked-out way, but it still is a lot of fun to hear. It's nice to hear people have fun with what they're doing.


    Geoff Farina
    Reverse Eclipse
    (Southern)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Geoff Farina wrote and performed everything on this disc, except for three songs where Josh Larue sat in. Farina speak-sings in the style of a tired lounge singer. He plays guitar (with a very flat tone) in a vaguely jazzy style. Not the easiest approach to assimilate.

    Really, he's a beat poet without bongos. It's not like he's singing anthems, or even really singing much at all. He's reading poetry with a lilt, adding in some guitar and bass.

    And that's cool. I'm not being snide, either. Farina has crafted a sound all his own, and once I got used to it, the stuff started to grow on me. Few people write lyrics the way Farina does. This isn't cheap poetry; it's the real thing. Good poetry, I mean.

    Farina does have grand ambitions. You don't make music like this unless you want to create something big. I think he's done it. Anyway, I like the way the notes bend.


    Farm Dogs
    Last Stand in the Open Country
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #7, 7/29/96

    Bernie Taupin is easily best-known for writing the lyrics to Elton John's best songs (everything released up to 1978, with a few "reunion" collaborations since then). I'm sure it helps pay the rent.

    Taupin recruited sides for a band, called it the Farm Dogs, and then the four of them wrote and recorded this album. The production is generally sparse, which helps accentuate the laid-back, folksy feel. Taupin's lyrics are up to his usual standard, and the playing is immaculate.

    Reminds me a bunch of the Notting Hillbillies (Mark Knopfler's Brit-country outfit) that way. Americans have never made country music this way, but I can't complain too much about that. A bit antiseptic, perhaps, but affecting nonetheless.

    The other nagging doubt is what sheen the production left. This is quite obviously a seriously commercial outing, despite the protestations to the contrary. Taupin's lyrics are rarely unpretentious. He reaches a bit far at times here, but I appreciate the effort. Once all the little things quit bugging me, I can sit back and enjoy a fun album.


    Annette Farrington
    Azure Wonder & Lust
    (Castle von Buhler)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Imagine if Kate Bush decided to go post-industrial. Annette Farrington combines densely-populated music and lyrics to create a stirring set of almost orchestral pieces.

    Everything builds from the electronic drum and bass-driven rhythms. Whether it's her strong-yet-ethereal vocals or the wide variety of sounds that are gathered together, each element ties itself to the low end.

    And the overall production sound is lush yet sharp. Full, but with enough space to allow a wide variety of sounds to color the songs. A real nice balance, if you ask me. The engineering is just as well thought out as every other element.

    What I'm really trying to say is that Farrington and producer Anthony J. Resta have created a truly fine album. It's really hard to properly represent a wide variety of ideas (both musical and lyrical), but that's exactly what happened here. First class.


    Farside
    Rigged
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94

    If you weren't already familiar with Farside's take on pop-punk, gather 'round and take a listen.

    Popeye's low and slightly scuffed vocals sound much like Mr. O's of fluf. Farside aren't quite so bombastic as that San Diego crew, though.

    With a fine sense of melody and subtle lyrics (a real unusual find in punk), Farside build on the roar that began with Rochambeau. Yes, there is an anthem or two, but I don't think the guys are full of themselves or anything. They just know when to catch a particularly catchy wave in their songwriting.


    Fascia
    Fascia
    (Clock Wise) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Epochal, atmospheric rock. There is an ambient, trancey feel to much of this, but the main instrument of torture seems to be a guitar. Apparently the live shows are more visual in nature (the liners don't list instruments; they list "music" or "visuals"). I can see how this would translate well to that.

    Bubbling out of an alternate consciousness, Fascia's music quite often takes on the form of a brook. The lines cascade down a hill, catching rocks and bits of debris, finally depositing them in a languid pool.

    The three-dimensional sound really helps to illustrate the music, perhaps even better than overt constructions might. Fascia often uses something of a drone construct, picking one melodic or rhythmic line and repeating it infinitely, finding meaning in the minor variations as it develops.

    Sounds complicated? Well, it's not, really. That's why the stuff really connects. This is music that is easily accessed by the mind. It just slips in before the defenses are ready. Sneaky bastards, that.


    Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician
    Wave Motion
    (Mush)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    The description on the back reads "American made instrumental hip-hop." Couldn't have said it better myself. Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician deals in beats smooth and funky, always laying down a most gracious table assortment.

    I've always felt that the more creative the beatwork, the more innovative the rhymes are likely to be. And if more DJs had the creativity and skill of Fat Jon, well, the radio might sound a whole better.

    Maybe not. Maybe the masses don't want complexity. Their loss. Complex music can be accessible, and this disc is proof. There are plenty of rhythmic byways for my mind to wander, but the basic grooves are simple and solid. Open access for all comers.

    This is soul music in the deepest sense. In that this music actually has a soul and isn't afraid to show it. These beats have a depth and clarity that few achieve.


    Fat Tuesday
    Califuneral
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    The latest Red Deci-band does not disappoint. As I noted a while back in the advance review, there is at times a rather obvious Jane's influence. It gets a little hairy on "Latest Lover", but for the most part Fat Tuesday heads out into their own sound. Bass-heavy, funky even at times, the one thing that keeps this all together is a heavy emphasis on rhythm.

    That's right. If you have a little imagination, you can dance to this. No machines or anything silly like that. Just grooves. Heavy ones, at that. Do the clubs in your town think all alternative music sounds like Nine Inch Nails or Nirvana? Well, help their asses out. I know, there is only so much you can do. But every little bit helps. And I have a few techno-loving friends who would eat this album up whole, even though it sounds nothing like anything else they listen to. It just has those, well, grooves.

    Coming in somewhere between the Sabbs and the Chilis. Just further out than either. No Top 40 ballad-izing going on here. Just real rock and roll. Somewhere on a funkier plane.


    Califuneral CD5
    (Red Decibel-Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    While the first release of the album Califuneral caught most of you heading off onto summer vacation, the folks at Sony heard this. After a couple months of negotiations, a distribution deal was worked out between the Columbia label and those fine Minnesotans (currently, anyway) at Red Decibel. Thus the album sees a new light of day, and you get this promo single.

    Not the strongest track on the album (one of the worst, actually, which says something), the tune is kinda overly Jane's-ey for me, but the two bonus tracks are not to be ignored. And you get a second chance to play these guys in a couple of weeks. Enjoy.


    Everybody's Got One
    (Red Decibel/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    The 90210 poster boys (their last album cover has been in many shots at the radio station, I understand) return (only a few months late) with a much poppier sound.

    It seems to work a little better for these guys, however, as they always seemed a little uncomfortable with getting out of control. There are the obligatory punk moments, but no Jane's Addiction references here, and I applaud that excision.

    The whole thing still reeks of major label blues at times, but overall Fat Tuesday are enjoyable and even occasionally crankable.


    Fatal Blast Whip
    Seduction remix EP
    (Blacklight)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    That nicely-bounding gothic electro-industrial whine which is almost exclusively German in origin. This band, then, is from San Diego. Of course. It only makes sense.

    The first five tracks are various versions of the title song. Three other songs (b-sides?) follow. While this might seem like light content, the remixes are barely distinguishable as coming from the same song. There isn't a problem with variety.

    Nor with a cool sound. I'm quite impressed. Derek Jones (the main guy behind FBW) does a good job of incorporating a variety of sounds and samples into his work. From the techno grind to fairly intricate soundscapes, he's got a handle on what he's doing. And in only four songs, too.

    I am impressed. Sure, I'm a general sucker for this sort of sound, but Jones gives an old sound some new shine here. That's always worth hearing.


    Constellation
    (Blacklight)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    If you ever wondered where hard techno went, then check out the chilly grooves from Fatal Blast Whip. Oh, these folks do revel in the "band sound" (the individual elements are mixed together into a somewhat muddy solution), but this is a fine example of gothic techno.

    And aggressive stuff at that. Not content to wallow in the past, Fatal Blast Whip tosses in plenty of modern beat theory and uses the talents of all its members. I mentioned the "band sound." I really like it. It's nice to hear electronic music that sounds like it could be played on stage.

    The usual sterile sound is lost, of course, but I don't miss it. Who says an electronic band has to make music that sounds like it was manufactured by a machine? There's just no need for everyone to hew that line.

    A fine effort from some folks who know how to try out new things without sounding pretentious or scatterbrained. There are plenty of club-ready tunes here, the sort of thing I'd like to hear my next time on the floor.


    Fates Warning
    Parallels
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    I got into Fates Warning a little late (No Exit), but I've been a fan since. I thought Perfect Symmetry was a little soul-less at times, but they have recovered nicely with Parallels.

    Lots of people I've talked to see this album as rather Queensryche-ish. Yeah, this has comparisons to Empire, but Ray Alder and Geoff Tate will always sound somewhat alike, no two ways about it.

    Another observation is that "We Only Say Goodbye" has definite Top 40 potential. I hope those stations that are cranking Nirvana to death will have room in their formats to include another band with real instruments. Probably not.

    But "Goodbye" is an infectious song and damn good writing. So is the rest of the album. Check it out.


    Inside Out
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    About five years ago, Fates Warning was one of my favorite bands (around the time of No Exit). Their two subsequent releases disappointed me, mostly because they music seemed to lose its edge, the musicians more interested in creating linear songs.

    That trend continues on Inside Out, with Fates Warning as accessible and easy-listening as ever before. I'm not sure why they haven't ridden a mellow tune to stardom a la Queensryche yet, but my guess is that Metal Blade doesn't have the bucks EMI has.

    Despite my slagging, I do like this album. It just doesn't challenge me like early FW, and that continues to bum me out. I think this is a little better than Parallels, but not by much. Old fans are the hardest to satisfy, I know, but maybe there's something to that, after all.


    Fathom Lane
    Down by Half
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #347, 4/7/13

    Easy-rollin' roots rock that eases its way. The sound is often gorgeous, in an understated way. These songs come along slowly and deliver a solid payoff.


    Fatso Jetson
    Toasted
    (BongLoad)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Produced by Chris Goss (once of Masters of Reality), with all the musical mayhem you might expect. A trio (or a quartet--the liners and the press notes do not agree), but these three guys are able to blast some truly impressive fare. Perfunctory playing, punctuated by off-the-wall noodlings and descants.

    Kinda like if Black Sabbath was a prog band, but it only remembered that fact every once in a while. The vocals are utterly un-Ozzy-like. Actually, they sound a lot like Goss back in the MoR days. I'm pretty sure he does do a little singing now and again.

    One of those albums which lurches and leans toward the impending apocalypse. You can see the end coming, but you can't do a damned thing about it. It is inexorable, you are utterly powerless. The fury and the wonderment pass through you. Not an entirely pleasant feeling.

    But mostly. I can say I haven't ever heard anything quite like Fatso Jetson. That's always a good sign. Yes, it's definitely stoner rock (you know, like Sleep or Faith No More or something), but these boys have their own niche. And a fine one it is.


    Ronnie Fauss
    I Am Not the Man You Know I'm Not
    (Normaltown)
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    Something like a Texan version of Steve Earle, Fauss rasps out a passel of character-driven songs over a sprightly mix of americana roots rock.

    Fauss has been rambling around the edges of fame for quite some time, and this might be the album to bring him more than a little. The songs are expertly-crafted, and he sounds completely comfortable delivering them.

    More major-label than indie in terms of production, the solid, bright sound of this album suits Fauss's career trajectory. This is the album of a comer, and it sure sounds like it.

    Sometimes it's easy to pick winners. Well, Fauss is one. This album is an impressive announcement.


    Faux Fox
    Cusp of the Precipice
    (Quartz Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Somewhere between, say, Gary Numan and the Cure, lies Faux Fox. Well, there's also this kinda fun modern sheen to the sound, but the songwriting style is definitely grounded in the early 80s, all that sorta punky, gothic, pre-industrial stuff.

    Which means that the masses might not exactly embrace this album with open arms. Probably why I like it so much. Faux Fox doesn't so much replicate a now old-fashioned sound as much as wallow in it. There's no reason electronic music needs to sound like this--unless you want it to, of course.

    And given that John Congleton (The Paper Chase) is on the boards, it's apparent that this is precisely what Faux Fox wants. The disarmingly simple production highlights the complex songwriting, which then makes all of this that much more inviting. There is a good deal that lies just beneath the surface.

    Hell, this is simply a big wad of fun. Yeah, I can think of all sorts of "intellectual" reasons to dig Faux Fox, but I think the most important one is the overwhelming pleasure of the music. Yes, it helps that I was in junior high back in the early 80s, but I think just about any serious music fan will be entranced. First rate.


    Fay Wrays
    Strange Confessor
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    So I like to do a little research on the bands I'm going to review. And one review calls these boys a "Fresno/Los Angeles band." Which is sorta like using the phrases "Spokane/Seattle band" or "Macon/Atlanta band" or whatever. Then again, if there ever was such a thing as a "Fresno/Los Angeles band," then these boys would be it.

    The riffola is straight outta Chicago, with more than a nod to Black Flag-style throttling. So, y'know, something of a revamp (though not exactly modernizing) of the whole Touch and Go ethic.

    Which, of course, is something that I simply can't pass up. These guys tear holes in the universe and then meander on a tangent or two. That's style, ladies and gentlemen. The sort of thing that makes a band great.

    And maybe Fay Wrays will become great one of these days. This album came out last year, but it just pricked my ears this summer. No worries. It will continue to make my eardrums bleed for years to come. Most excellent.


    Fear Factory
    Soul of a New Machine
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #20, 9/15/92

    Finally. With Godflesh slowly sinking into accessibility (and boredom), another industrial death band approacheth. Like the new Ministry, the music is based on metal (that is to say, bastardized blues) progression, and the beat is fast. So there isn't the sludgy catharsis Godflesh could give; instead, these weird British pop-like vocals wandering in over the chaos. (Think I'm kidding?)

    No, I'm not. And the melodies are tastefully scattered throughout, so you won't overdose on them. Actually, they are most prevalent on the "suggested cuts," so if you cruise around the disc like good music people, you will amuse yourself to a great extent.

    It is the rare album that really excites me. The advance cassette did that, and the clarity of CD just reinforces my arousal. I could come up with all sorts of cutesy "this album kicked my ass from here to..." sayings, but I won't. The music more than speaks for itself.


    Fear Is the Mindkiller remix EP
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    For starters, I always thought tracks like "Martyr" would make good club tunes to begin with. But when I heard about this project, I was excited and yet a little worried. All prevous attempts to do this sort of thing (Prong et. al.) ended up sounding really boring. All the guitars turned down, and the vocals mostly lost as well.

    Well, I knew with the FLA boys at the helm there would be no fear of volume. And my God, this thing cooks.

    Nothing is lost in the techno translation, and a lot is added. Not just those slightly annoying beats, but even more volume to the guitars. And the vocals also seem stronger. A real fusion of dance and death. Techno metal. This is what Godflesh will never be able to accomplish, because they don't have the guts.

    To call this brilliant or a must play is just far beneath the reality of this disc. I could really go for this sort of thing on a regular basis. Brutality or death!


    Demanufacture
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Without a doubt the most anticipated album release in the independent label community so far this year. And that goes for alternative MDs as well as loud music directors.

    As one of the few bands willing to take every musical risk presented, Fear Factory earns respect just for what the band attempts. And then to follow through...

    Merging the industrial-goth flow of Soul of a New Machine with the techno flavor of the FLA-remixed Fear Is the Mind Killer, this album is a fresh breath of mordant musical madness (who says I can't turn a phrase?). To pick favorite tracks is an impossibility.

    Eleven tracks of pure pain and suffering, accessible enough to be "cool metal" for alterna-fans who usually turn up their noses at such fare, and heavy enough to keep the fans who have been clamoring for this disc. A miracle? Perhaps. But then, if there is a band that can pull this off, Fear Factory is it.

    Song for song, this is the strongest album I've heard from anyone this year. Fear Factory is pretty big, but this could be the big breakthrough. I can't imagine who could possibly resist.


    Remanufacture
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    The FLA connection continues with Rhys Fulber taking on about half the remixing duties, the other half going to a variety of DJs who do a fine job of reinterpreting the original tracks.

    I remember asking someone at Roadrunner if the special re-issue of Demanufacture meant that this long-awaited project was off the schedule. Sadly, it was said to be true. Now I am happy to report that that prognosis was incorrect.

    Like Fear Is the Mindkiller, the DJs had access to actual tape, and the results are sharper than many remix projects. Fear Factory's highly industrial metal sound lends itself well to this sort of thing, anyway, so it's not surprising how good this is.

    Indeed, Fear Factory is a band without fear. Some of these splice jobs take the music where it has never been before. Quite a few bands might be worried about what the fans might think. I believe that Fear Factory fans would worry if the band refused to take chances.

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Remanufacture may not have the sheer audacity of Fear Is the Mindkiller, mostly because this sort of thing is a bit more accepted nowadays. But the sheer mass of great music is hard to ignore.


    Obsolete
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Fear Factory is the most imitated, most influential metal band of the past 10 years. When metal fell off its tenuous pedestal at the end of the 1980s, many trends emerged to carry the mantle forward. Grindcore, death metal, the new hardcore (both Biohazard and Fudge Tunnel styles), grunge, industrial and gothic. These are extremely generic labels, and the list is incomplete in any case. What is indisputable is that when Fear Factory's debut, Soul of a New Machine arrived in 1992, any person with ears knew some serious talent had arrived.

    I don't kiss ass like this very often, but let's face it, as revolutionary as that first album was, the works that followed are even more impressive. Two electronic remix EPs and a second effort in the past, Fear Factory now emerges with its most audacious and coherent effort yet. A seamless merging of all its influences into a powerhouse sound of incomprehensible proportions.

    Once again teaming up with Rhys Fulber (FLA, etc.), the band delves into the electronic bag even more, effortlessly adding a techno/industrial sheen to its strident riffage. Oh, yeah, this stuff is highly engineered, but in such a way that samples meet riffs in a very organic setting. The songs are more ambitious, the production that much more arrogant. Fear Factory is now ready to take over the world.

    I spent the first few years of A&A attempting to convince a number of people that metal (in totality) is just as artistically relevant as any other sound. I always used Fear Factory as an example, and this album proves my point without any further explanation. Fear Factory has transcended whatever genre it might inhabit. Obsolete moves the band onto the world stage as one of the finest musical acts, period. I don't think I need to say another word.


    (second review)

    I've said it before, but I might as well say it again. If the bulk of heavy metal and hard-core bands had gone the way that Fear Factory takes the music, I might still have my dangling long hair and wear my black rocker T-shirts. Their dark pulsating rhythms and wailing lyrics combine together to make me want to flex, scream, pick up heavy objects, and put them in a totally new place. Yeah, some good angry primal shit.

    Demanufacture was the first album I heard from Fear Factory, and it will probably be my favorite just for that reason. Obsolete doesn't back track though, and in many respects, it is a much more mature album. These guys have continually brought in electrical sounds and programming to take the intense music straight to the mind.

    But does it kick ass? Will it go over with the heavy boozing, slam dancing, still long haired crooners that hide in the woodwork until the metal shows come around town? Are we allowed to listen to the darkness pounding upon darkness until our skin spits from its pores because we finally realize that man is obsolete? The answer to all these questions is "Yes motherfucker. Quit being such a sissy and listen to it."

    --Aaron Worley


    Fear of Commitment
    Paper Dolls and Paper Plates
    (Dren)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    A showpiece for the writing talents of Sarah Knab and Niall Hood, Fear of Commitment spins a number of intense, low-key songs. Or, to put it another way, these songs sound simple and inviting, but they have one hell of an undertow.

    Which, by the way, is a good thing. Most of the pieces deal with, well, relationships (you might have guessed that from the name of the band), but in a way that manages to escape cliches. All that remains are human emotions.

    There is more than that, but not much, really. Which isn't as much of a problem as you might imagine. By shifting perspectives and stripping everything down to the core, Fear of Commitment has put together some stunning songs. Every note feels like a raw nerve.

    No matter how pretty the songs are (and many are gorgeous), there's usually something dark lurking. Knab had a relatively plain voice, but she is able to make the sweetest song a harrowing experience and then pull everything back to one at the end. This must be heard to be believed.


    Fearless Leader
    !#$;!
    (Hell Yeah!)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Utterly lacking table manners (or even a bedside manner), this sloppy, disgusting (to most, anyway) trip through a psycho-scatophile's chunky dream reeks.

    In my vernacular, read RAVE REVIEW. After all, Kiss has been a self-parody for at least ten years, so why not the real thing? The music is more in the New York Dolls vein, but the make-up is dead-on hilarious.

    Okay, so the lyrics are retched at times, but that's the point. The liners say something crude and cliched about understanding and appreciating humor, so heed that advice. The innards are as appetizing as the cover.


    Feathers
    Synchromy EP
    (Hometapes)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Speaking of minimalist electronic pop, these folks riff through Tortoise country by way of Sigur Ros and Tangerine Dream (the good 70s stuff, of course). It's a little kitchy, but catchy as well (sorry, I couldn't resist...).

    Five bouncy pieces that all seem to time out at around four minutes. A nice little coffee break for the brain. Get some stuff percolating up there and, boom!

    This is a short review, and that's a shame, because the depth of musical ideas on this disc is impressive. Some fine jaunty fare that makes me smile just thinking about it.


    Feces Pieces
    Feces Pieces EP
    (Curve of the Earth)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    These guys were raised on that Beantown sludge, and they give as good as they've heard. This is a nicely metallized version of the same, thick with chunky riffs and nice, driving rhythms. The mixture is stirred at all times.

    Pounding, throbbing, heaving excitement. The songs are tightly written and expertly played, with a very cool sound which emphasizes thickness and yet leaves room for sharp moments. This is much harder to accomplish than you might think.

    I haven't been sludged this well in quite a while. These guys are pretty damned funny (try "(I Will Survive) Just to Hate You" on for size), and the music is simple, but quite well executed.

    It's not brain surgery by any means, but then, these guys don't try to make anything more of what they do, either. The lack of pretentiousness is great, and the music ain't bad, either.


    Chico Fellini
    Chico Fellini
    (Shangri-La)
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Chico Fellini sounds just like what the major labels were wanting to hear in 1992. Slick sounds, immaculately-written songs and attitude to spare. Perhaps a wee bit mannered, but that's all an act.

    Ah, yes, the whole theatrical nature of the band. There's a lot of prancing about (I mean that in a Siouxsie Sioux way, of course) and a certain affect to the vocals. It all says, "This may be a put on, but you're gonna have a good time, nonetheless."

    So, yeah, post-modern punk with an electronic sheen. I like my Siouxsie reference more and more, though the reliance on beats (analog and digital) reminds me a bit of the Ants as well. But even with these exceedingly dated references (I tend to forget I have readers who weren't born when Black Flag was a going concern), the band sounds rather up-to-date. Perhaps we're well into our third trip through 80s nostalgia, or maybe the kids today have figured out that the last golden era for pop music ended in 1985.

    Or maybe 1986. I dunno. Doesn't matter. Chico Fellini has the genre-crossing impulses that all good artists have. Don't label the music, other than "good" or "bad." Needless to say, I find this good. Very good.


    Felt
    Desert Center
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Felt plays pop rock the way it was meant to be played: All over the map. There's a little power pop, a little faux-funk wank, some scattered hints of ska (hints, mind you, not the real thing), some anthemic roots stuff and even a wee bit of psychedelia just to round out the package.

    So whether you like the Spin Doctors or Hootie and the Blowfish--or you're like me and you like neither--there's something to appreciate here. The songs themselves are written quite nicely, and there's very little resorting to old cliches. Rather, the boys seem to have worked very hard to find an original edge to their music.

    I do get a sense that these folks play better than they feel. The proficiency of the musicians sometimes overshadows any emotion that might be present, but that tightness also helps to ratchet up the hook quotient. I'm not sure I like that trade off, but I have to admit that it works pretty well for these guys.

    Hey, I'm the first to say that this album is a bit too accessible for my tastes. But Felt does one hell of a job crafting its voice, and I never got bored. There are so many shades of sound on this album that it would be impossible to accuse these boys of falling into a rut. Surprisingly enjoyable.


    Dodd Ferrelle
    Lonely Parades
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    Dodd Ferrelle sounds a bit like Steve Earle, but his music is much more eclectically raucous and tuned to a pop sense. Which is pretty good, too.

    Basically, we're talking about well-crafted songs bashed out with a bit of twang. Ferrelle rarely treads in unfamiliar territory, but his ear is so sure that these songs sound fresh nonetheless.

    There's simply too much energy to allow this album to drag. There are a few moments of stunning beauty and the occasional twinge of regret, but by and large these songs are all about movement.

    A fairly uncomplicated affair, but that's not a complaint. Ferrelle presents his music with style and passion, and that makes this album a real treat.


    David Fessette
    David Fesette EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Here's a lesson for all you unsigned bands out there. David Fesette put his contact info on the spine of his disc, as well as on the back and on his letterhead. I can't tell you how many times I spend way too much time trying to figure out where a disc came from. Bravo to David for learning the first lesson in the art of self-promotion. Lesson two: Have something good to sell.

    Damned if he didnĀ¹t learn that as well. Fesette specializes in acoustic guitar-driven pop, though the third song here does rely on an electric lead. The sound of his guitar is great (which begs the question why so many major-label producers can't seem to figure it out), and he can really play.

    The songs have a soaring, atmospheric feel. I like that a lot. I wasn't as enamored of Fesette's writing style at first, but by the time I got through all three songs I was converted. He know what he wants to do, and here he does it. Latch on to the playing and let it guide you into the songs.


    Fetish
    Silver
    (Adeline)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Not afraid to drop pop references into a crunch punk sound, Fetish rambles through a fine set of well-textured tunes. The writing is much more crafted than the usual punk ethos, and the playing is nice and tight.

    So is it punk? Well, yeah, kinda. There is a certain energy, and the guitar sound just screams punk. The construction and production? Much more and of a higher quality than expected.

    Along with that added sheen is just a touch of glam metal riffage. The slightest hint of trashy fun and outright silliness. These boys don't take themselves too seriously.

    Which is the best way to play this kinda tuneage, I'd say. Let the stuff bound about and keep on smilin'. Don't worry about how people categorize it. After, it's your music. Fetish gives this one the hard sell, and that works quite well.


    Fetish 69
    Antibody
    (Release-Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    I've been waiting for this disc so long, I can't remember when I wasn't. No disappointment, either.

    Gritty metal-industrial, like the last Optimum Wound Profile, only nastier.

    This just keeps rolling in my brain, and I don't know how to stop the bleeding. I want to write accolades, but my reason circuit seems to have been snapped, and all I can put down is drivel.

    Awestruck, I suppose.


    The Feud
    Language Is Technology
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #237, January 2003

    Three guys who like to play that whole noise pop fusion sorta thing (when I think of a better name I'll let you know). More Don Cab than June of 44, though this stuff rarely dips into the fuzz.

    Rather, these boys let their music do all the talking. Literally. The sound is relatively clean and there are no vocals (that I heard, anyway). The instrumentation is impressive, as harmonica, xylophone (or some similar sort of thing), keyboards and more are played in most inventive ways.

    With this kinda stuff, the most important thing is where the various musical lines intersect. The Feud rarely deviates very far from the established path, preferring to indulge in frenetic (though utterly controlled) interplay. The impressive thing is that these pieces sound like songs at all.

    They do, though, and the sheer density of these songs is what propels them so completely into my consciousness. Not unlike Dianogah, the Feud takes simple ideas and replicates them so prolifically that the pieces seem always on the verge of collapse. They don't. And I'm just blown away.


    Fever
    Too Bad But True
    (Digital Hardcore)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Pretty cool fuzzy dub beats and some dancehall vocals on top. Lots manipulation. Yer generally intriguing little electronic project.

    Goofy, too, much of the time. Kind of a strange dichotomy, the heavy, throbbing beats and the loony bits, but not unlike Spectre, it works just fine. With stuff like this, you gotta laugh and enjoy yerself.

    And dig into the true creativity of the project, the beat work. Yeah, it's electronic, but with lots of skips and hesitation. Unexpectedly so at times. Like the best hip-hop productions.

    Really, this is just an strange offshoot of hip-hop. Somewhere in that world, anyway. Though most folks would crinkle their noses at me if I said that while this was playing. No matter. Quality always wills out.


    Fez Dispenser
    Fez Dispenser
    (Skin and Barrel)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Those of you looking for electronic beat work inside a jazz idiom need search no more. Fez Dispenser blows out its grooves in a full-on fusion attack, waxing smooth and blistering as necessary.

    That's smooth in the delivery, not "smooth jazz." These guys turn out one impressive piece after another, never falling into a repetitive rut. Full marks for originality.

    Just enough of a hip-hop edge to the beats to keep the joints jumpin'. Fez Dispenser uses everything at its disposal (samples, drum machines, guitars and more) to create complete aural snapshots. The texture within these songs is amazing.

    A fine disc for your next party. Cool enough that it won't scare off the less adventurous in your crowd, but stylish enough to impress even the most imperious music snob (like, say, me). Quality and then some.


    Ff
    We're #1
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Hyper-aggressive heavy pop music straight outta Brooklyn. I remember truly digging the two tracks Ff had on last year's Double Deuce compilation, and this album is no disappointment.

    Veering between the balls-out straight ahead style of fluf and the more askance guitar style propogated by Jawbox and many others, Ff crafts its own wonderful niche. Um, give me a second. I've got to bliss out for a moment...

    Okay, I can sit down again. But I'll have to take a break and jam "Collide" again in a second. It's the drummer's favorite song, and it's about the best pop tune I've heard this year. Perfectly amazing.

    And the rest of the album is almost that good. I figured this would be a good album. But instead, I get one of my favorites of the young season so far. Some folks just have a knack for plying the pop trade with the appropriate amounts of melody and distortion. Ff joins that august group with aplomb. We're #1 certainly gives plenty of reason for the band to claim just that.


    The Fibs
    Pisces in Crises
    (Watchmen Records)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Okay, so I don't read the little notes that come with the albums. Until, of course, I've actually heard the music. So I look at the cover and figured the Fibs were a happy pop punk band or something. Um, not quite.

    I also didn't look at the band picture on the back of the disc. The Fibs are an easy-going, rootsy rock band. Enough country and blues to color the proceedings properly, tied together in a nice 4/4 package.

    Smooth as 30-year-old whiskey. The songs are subtly humorous (perhaps not so subtle, how about "Pythagoras & the Beanfield" or "Bullets 'N' Beer"?), and they simply roll off one after the other. Oh, man, sometimes a band simply clicks in with my brain and turns on all the right receptors. All my pleasure centers are reeling.

    Just some great kick back and smile music. Nothing too serious, nothing overblown. A big fat happy disc.


    Fiction Damage
    Heathen Stuff
    (High Time)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    I simply sat and listened to this for quite a while, unable to figure it out. Perhaps because in the end, Fiction Damage is really quite simple.

    Probably most resembling Gilby Clarke's old band Kill for Thrills (though with some really ugly Journey and Triumph references), Fiction Damage cranks out vintage power rock. Everything is above board and on track. Even a 10-year-old could tell you what the next key change will be.

    Not so much bad as merely uninteresting. Fiction Damage pounds out song after song, some prettier than others, without breaking any new ground. Anyone could have done this, and what I want to know is why Fiction Damage did.

    Listening became painful by the end. And while I think I figured it out, I still can't understand why.


    Fiel Garvie
    Leave Me Out of This
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Dreamy, lush, Britpop that reminds me a lot of Mazzy Star or Elysian Fields or stuff like that, except that Fiel Garvie is never lethargic.

    Which is not to say these songs are quick or in any way fast-paced. Nope. Fiel Garvie navel-gazes as much as anyone, and the songs can pretty much all be lumped into the languid category. But there's just too much going on to fall asleep when this stuff is playing.

    Part of it is the tasteful distortion and echo-filled sound achieved by the producer. These songs are interesting on their own, but the vaguely mysterious feel caused by the sound made me bite almost immediately. Just a bit of a skin crawl combined with nervous curiosity.

    One of those albums that took a while to really prick up my ears. Cool stuff, to be sure, but how cool? I'm beginning to think that this album is much better than I first imagined. I keep coming back for another hit.


    Caught Laughing
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    Breathy, dreamy Britpop that always manages to keep the ball rolling. These songs rarely get bouncy, but they're always kinetic. Nothing dawdling or dull here.

    Not bouncy, but often bright and shiny. The underlying rhythms to the songs are quite playful, and the melodies often shimmer with grace. Simple they may be, but that simplicity translates into something most wonderful.

    These is nothing complicated about the arrangements or the production. Fiel Garvie plays things straight up, and that serves the songs quite well. No need to pancake a pretty face, and there's no need to gussy up gorgeous songs with studio bombast. Add just enough adornment to emphasize the strong cheekbones and let the rest go.

    I've liked everything I've heard from these folks, and this album doesn't change that. Quite impressive.


    Fiendz Cole
    Fiendz Cole
    (Black Pumpkin)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Sounds a lot like Chemical People, except for the odd ska undercurrent. Not quite a full skank, mind you, but enough of the horns and back beat to add some flavor. A good way to use the feel, if you ask me.

    And the rest is power punk pop. Thick in the harmonies and tight in the hooks. Real enjoyable, nice kick back and smile music. Or, if you're so inclined, nice party tuneage. It's adaptable that way.

    At times the slow intros are a bit pretentious, but once the songs shift into gear, I'm not complaining. Good stuff, the sort of thing no one need apologize for. Ever.

    Hey, basic works. for me just fine. Fiendz Cole don't do anything particularly innovative, but the fundamentals are solid. Good work, indeed.


    Fiery Blue
    Our Secret
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Paul Marsteller did most of the writing, Gabe Rhodes does most of the playing and Simone Stevens does almost all of the singing. Together, they've made a solid album.

    These songs travel well-worn americana trails, but the fine pedal steel work and Stevens's strong-yet-lush vocals raise these songs above most of the pack. Reminds me a lot of latter-day Tift Merritt (which is very good, though perhaps not quite as exiting as her first couple of albums).

    I wish Fiery Blue showed a bit more of its namesake. These songs are pretty and well-oiled, but just a bit more passion would really kick this album into the stratosphere. As it is, I like it a lot.

    And there's nothing wrong with that. Well-written, well-played music is always welcome. The songs tell stories in a modestly elliptical format, and that draws in the ears as well. I'm hoping this partnership creates some real fusion in the future.


    Meredith Fierke
    The Procession
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    There's this huge section in the musical universe that's full of women who sing with a low alto and prefer to adorn their songs with as little accompaniment as possible. Patti Smith is the high priestess of this cult, even though she was smart enough to move on more than 30 years ago.

    Every once in a while, though, someone else comes along and catches my ear. Edith Frost comes to mind, as does Alice Despard. Meredith Fierke isn't quite up to those singers, but she's awfully close. Her pieces draw the listener in and proceed to shatter one bone after another.

    With the lyrics, that is. In general, I'm not much for lyrics, but this kind of music rises and falls with the expression of the singer. Fierke's eye is unsparing, and she ratchets up the intensity as the album progresses. Even an extraordinarily pretty piece like "Train's Song" crackles with emotional fire.

    I dunno. Maybe Fierke does match Despard and Frost. This album is a wrenching experience, and by the end it can be hard to imagine living through these songs again. And then your hand hits play once more...


    Fiesel
    Fiesel EP
    (The Losing Blueprint)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Some folks won't let the Jesus Lizard rest in peace. Thank God. Every once in a while I crave some serious intensely rhythmic noise. And about that time is when something like Fiesel comes along.

    Much like Kepone, Fiesel doesn't much care whether or not vocals are part of the mix. When used, they serve merely as another conduit by which the general cacophony is spread. You know, as particularly enthralling screeches and shouts and such.

    Every song revolves around a rhythmic core. Oh, there are tangents to be followed (after all, this sound is a descendant of Slint, among many others), but even the byways are rigidly controlled. Spontaneous sounding, surely, but still welded tightly to the fuselage. This short taste simply makes me ravenous for more.


    Fifteen
    Surprise!
    (Grass)
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Gosh, another pop-punk trio with stuff that tries like hell to be hooky. And one of those fake British accents, too.

    Well, to be nice, Fifteen finds a hook now and again. Once in a while. But not close to enough to keep me interested. This has the feel of guys who cheesed out to make money, and they couldn't quite do that right, either. Writing hooky pop songs is one of the harder things in the world. Like physical comedy, you might think it's damned easy. Sorry to burst the balloon.

    The guys get credit for trying. And they're earnestly trying to be cool and write good music. It just didn't work. Time for plan B.

    Whatever that might be. Burger King. Stockbroker. President. I dunno. Just something other than punk rock superheroes.


    There's No Place Like Home (Good Night) EP
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    I didn't like the Grass record, and this EP doesn't get me much more excited, though here Fifteen does show signs of working for more than more pop supremacy.

    The bad musical jokes are still in evidence, and in general, Fifteen is a bit too discombobulated to really bring any sort of thought to complete fruition. You can see where the band is headed, but it never seems to get there.

    This appears to be some sort of swan song, or maybe it's just that the liners are rather morbid and focus on nice friends of the band who have died. I don't know (well, actually, I finally found the enclosed press info saying that this is, indeed the last Fifteen release).

    And yet this isn't a horrid disc by any stretch of the imagination. It just doesn't seem to be saying much (particularly with the inexplicable rendition of "Hey Joe"). But then, sometimes that's what the odds and ends comprise, after all is said and done.


    Lucky
    (Sub City)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Obviously, Fifteen is still around making music. This one is a bit heavier-sounding than the other two discs I heard. More mainstream rock, less punk. Though the general construction is that pop-punk three chord ideal. And the vocals are still quavering and wavering.

    The lyrics are much more overtly political than before. The roots were always there, but here, everything is out on the surface. Which makes the whole set hang together is bit better.

    The heavy guitar sound is a bit disconcerting at times, though I guess that's just how the album came out. And, like I said, this disc holds together much better than the other Fifteen sets I've heard, so maybe the sound has something to do with that.

    The best Fifteen album I've heard. Given what I've said before, well, that's not saying a lot, but honestly, I kinda liked this disc. Nothing earthshaking, but it sounds like the band has finally come together. Who knows?


    Fiftylashes
    Harder
    (PMRC-Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    Rhythmic metal hardcore, much like the sort Biohazard has made popular (though not nearly as cheesy). Still, I think I've heard it before.

    The boys are energetic and have a few nice licks. In particular, Eric Hansen's bass is pretty much amazing. And they play the game pretty well.

    But it's still a sound that is far too trendy these days, and Fiftylashes doesn't improve the formula. Perhaps this is a little closer to the hardcore purity that some seem far too concerned about these days, but originality still makes a difference in my book.


    58
    Diet for a New America
    (Americoma-Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Not to be confused with Five Eight (reviewed below). This is 58. To add to the confusion, last issue I dismissed Nikki Sixx as a has been. This is his side project. And it's one hell of a lot more interesting than anything the Crue has done in 15 years.

    Sixx and David Darling (best known as Meredith Brooks' producer) split the bass and singing duties, Steve Gibb (son of Barry) plays guitar and Bucket Baker kicks in on drums. Basically, there's no reason this should be any good. And sometimes it's not. But every song is interesting.

    There is a bit too much of that "modern rock" sheen to the stuff. I'm not talking about mechanical beats and samples; those are usually used to fine effect. Nope, I'm more concerned with the guitars and vocals, which are a bit too processed. This effect is multiplied when the song in question starts to lag.

    The sound? Well, the press sez somewhere between Zooropa and Diamond Dogs. I'd say somewhere between On the Record (The Sweet) and Tin Machine (the first one). Both somewhat failed attempts to reenergize flagging careers, but engaging nonetheless.


    Fifty Tons of Black Terror
    Demeter 2xCD
    (World Domination-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Disc one is the album, disc two contains a few remixes. Not the sort of sound you hear remixed very often. Fifty Tons of Black Terror specializes in the down home squall blues, heavy on the hollering and the distortion. And, also, horribly, horribly addictive.

    Perhaps the meanest sort of music on the planet. Depressing, abusive and generally rude. The sky has been blacked out, iron cinders falling like rain. The world ended a couple months ago, and these guys are still plugging away, forestalling fate with every weapon at their disposal.

    A gawdawful racket, but it was planned that way. These are not songs of tenderness and devotion. They are paeans to pain, suffering and the most foul ways of life known to mankind. Puking as an aphrodisiac. That sort of thing.

    So, you know, it runs right down my alley. Gruesome music to be sure, but brutally sane. Sometimes, life has to be faced without any interference from makeup.


    50 Feet Tall
    Superhighway 7"
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Pretty cool post-punk pop (or what some folks call emo-core, I suppose), with an odd lounge twist to the chorus of "Superhighway".

    That tune is a nicely catchy ditty reflecting on the apparent pointlessness of some people's existences. The lyrics are rather oblique, and I kinda like that. Not overly pretentious, not overly cynical.

    The flip, "It's Not Funny", is also fairly reflective. And a sing-song chorus. I get the feeling 50 Feet Tall doesn't really care much more traditional song structure, but merely uses it to make fun of the convention. Fine by me.

    Didn't completely knock me out (it did come close), but I hear plenty of potential. If these folk can crank out an album of material that can stand up to this single, then I'd be mighty impressed, indeed.


    Fighter Pilot
    Atomic Anthem
    (Bankroll)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Just another power pop trio that plays lots of great songs, more than one starting with the word "You." That last bit is just something funny I noticed. A bit distracting, but mostly just amusing.

    I think these guys want the big deal. The songs have that sort of heavy pretentiousness to them. Unlike most bands, though, Fighter Pilot carries it off. These songs are not only intended to have additional heft--they actually have it. So I can forgive a bit of the preciousness.

    Indeed, I think a lot of the power comes from the boys's obvious desperation to whack a big one here. I don't blame them one bit. You might as well swing for the fences each time. Give it all you got. And all those other dreadful sports cliches. I've never understood slacking off in an artistic endeavor. If you don't exhaust yourself, you haven't finished the job.

    I'm thinking this album wiped these boys out. It sure is something impressive. A most enjoyable endeavor.


    Filthy Thieving Bastards
    Our Fathers Sent Us EP
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Long EP or short album, you decide (nine songs in 22 minutes). At times, the Filthy Thieving Bastards are happy to play amped-up garage punk. But then, the boys are just as likely to break into a little Irish jig. There's also the wide territory in between as well.

    This willingness to play whatever seems right makes the Bastards a right refreshing blast. It also helps that the songs are sharply written and played with a loving intensity. These guys sure are having a lot of fun.

    Which is probably the most important thing, in the end. After all, there are a million punk bands and almost as many "Irish" bands. If you're simply rehashing old ideas, well, it's pretty hard to get anywhere. The Filthy Thieving Bastards don't exactly break new ground, but they're enjoying themselves so much it's hard not to go along.


    A Melody of Retreads and Broken Quills
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Alright, so there is a bit of a Pogues feel to this. I mean, most any Irish-inflected punk band (particularly one with a vaguely political agenda) is pretty well cursed with that association.

    Filthy Thieving Bastards don't quite break free from those chains, but the guys are pretty damned impressive nonetheless. The songs are tuneful and punchy, with just the right lyrical kick.

    Lighter and more melodic than the Pogues. These guys actually like to carry a tune. They aren't really Irish, either (near as a I can tell, the band hails from California), but no worries.

    No, it's more important to enjoy the good times. And this album has the power cause an infectious outbreak of smiles. Can't complain about that one bit.


    Sarah Fimm
    Cocooned
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    There are people who know how to make music that appeals to a wide audience. This stuff is usually loud and dull (this can refer to pop, country, hip hop, hard rock, whatever; it's all loud and dull). There are those who make music that appeals to folks who like anything they've never heard before. This stuff is usually so weird that it appeals to an audience of about 50 (generally me among them). Then there are those who can make commercial-sounding music in utterly creative ways. These are folks who have the potential to create change in the great rock and roll canon. Sarah Fimm has that chance.

    She sticks close enough to that whole Alanis "intense young woman" sound that regular folks won't be turned off. But Fimm is more intense and her music is much more complex than yer average angst-ridden waif. She weaves her tricky tales in such a way that her experiments sound mainstream. There's a word for this, and it begins with a "g."

    Fimm's sound isn't revolutionary, but the way she drops in so many ideas and references into (generally) the sort of sound that a ton of people can handle is amazing. Average listeners will think that her genius is just in the ideas. That's just half. The other is the way she makes those ideas palatable for the masses. And that second part is what impresses me most.

    Oh yeah, the music is gorgeously appointed and professionally produced. This disc is ready for the world. And Fimm is likely someone you're going to be hearing a lot from in the near future. There's just too much talent here to ignore.


    Final Cut
    Atonement
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Vancouver industrial legends: Skinny Puppy, FLA, the Final Cut...

    The way it should have been, anyway. Back in 1992 the band released Consumed, which is about as good an industrial album as that year saw. I saw these folk open up for Chris Connolly, and they blew their co-conspirator away.

    Finally a new album, and it's everything I hoped for. Nothing has been lost. The Final Cut has kept up with the times and even added a bit to the industrial pantheon with this album.

    Special guests a plenty, from Martin Atkins to Taime Downe (Faster Pussycat). All crafted with precision and care for maximum sonic impact. The Final Cut takes the best ideas of the world's finest industrial purveyors, adding a few new ideas just for the hell of it. Damned impressive, as I anticipated.

    Okay, so we had to wait four years. The Final Cut has come through with a vengeance. No complaints about tardiness.


    Final Fantasy
    He Poos Clouds
    (Tomlab)
    reviewed in issue #275, June 2006

    The solo side of Arcade Fire's Owen Pallett, Final Fantasy stands with feet planted firmly in the realms of art and pop. And while it would be tempting to say the "art" side of the equation is borne out by the reliance on a string quartet (as part of a fully-stocked chamber music ensemble), the truth of the matter is that Pallett is more adventurous in the way he writes rather than the way he arranges his songs.

    The strings give an immediacy to the sound. Each of these songs has an urgency demanded by the insistent strings and classical percussion. They're hard to ignore, even as Pallett's melodic flights range farther and farther afield.

    I like the sound, and I love the way Pallett takes risks. These are not simple little songs for the masses. These songs sound the way they do because that's how Pallett wants them to sound. You might think that every artist works that way. But only the most naive would subscribe to that notion.

    A curiosity with steel underpinnings. Final Fantasy (I'm not even going to venture a guess as to the copyright questions involved with the name) is a most worthy endeavor. Pallett proves with this second album that he's got the chops to make music his way.


    Finger Eleven
    Tip
    (Wind-Up/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Metalcore grooves with the edges shaved off. Sounds kinda like Living Colour at times. And that's a sound I don't expect to hear every day.

    Yeah, so it's arty loud stuff. Finger Eleven likes to crank up the noise often enough, but there are lots of strange little bits dancing around the edges. The slightest hint of a Bowie influence (that would be late 70s) in the quieter moments. Perhaps. I can't quite put my finger on what I'm hearing.

    In any case, the band manages to craft some nice songs. And despite the volume and intent, these songs are highly planned. Lots of hard work, and not all of it erased. I can hear the band trying every once in a while. Maybe it's a slipped fret or the slight shift of the groove from tight to deliberate. I never like to lose the illusion.

    Still, fairly good stuff. Not exactly my sort of thing, but Finger Eleven is in the right ballpark. Lots of good ideas and a good work ethic should only lead to greater things.


    Finisterre
    Storybook
    (Moonjune)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Finisterre is an Italian prog band (complete with flute player), and just like the DFA album, this one was recorded live. Just down the road from me, in fact, at the ProgDay Festival in Chapel Hill, N.C., back in 1997.

    And just like the DFA album, the sound is excellent. There weren't any crowd mikes, so whatever response that was recorded comes through the band's PA. Doesn't take away from the performance, though. That part is solid.

    Finisterre (I'm guessing that means something akin to "End of the World" in Italian, but I'm getting there by way of French and Spanish, so maybe I'm way off) references some of the 70s heavyweights, particularly Yes and (duh) Jethro Tull, but it also takes from a variety of other sources. There's a delicate feel to many of these songs that is most engaging.

    I have to say, live prog has a lot more emotion and character than most studio prog. Finisterre not only plays well, it performs well. The distinction is key. This distinctly subtle prog album is most intriguing.


    Finn
    Finn
    (Smokeylung)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Pretty much just Finn Swingley, with a few special guests on spot songs. The sound is lush, as it often is with these one-man bands. Gorgeous pop music, the sorta stuff that rings with the scent of truth.

    Finn has a delicate touch, and he doesn't take up much of a cudgel. These are gossamer songs, pieces that float around and must be caught. Trust me; you'll want to catch them. No doubt about that.

    A sort of melancholy beauty drifts through most of the pieces. Life isn't perfect, disillusionment is constant, and yet the sun is shining. A message most folks can easily appreciate.

    References? Well, the lighter side of the Flaming Lips, but without the distortion. There is a 70s cheese vibe that pops in now and again, but it doesn't get rancid. After all, these are songs of a crafted beauty. Easy to appreciate and hard to ignore.


    Finn Brothers
    Finn Brothers
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #6, 7/1/96

    I remember the hype for the Crowded House reunion of Neil and Tim Finn (famous, of course, for their earlier work together in Split Enz). The label thought such a ploy might resurrect interest in the band, which hadn't sold well since the rather commercial debut. Unfortunately, Woodface was a dreadful disappointment, both commercially and artistically, and the band kinda drifted into oblivion.

    This album has been roaming the earth for a few months now, with the expected interest in Australia but not a whole lot elsewhere. And it deserves better than that.

    Really moody pop, with plenty of Beatles references to keep any World Party fan happy. "Last Day of June" not only sounds Lennon-penned, but the vocals (I don't which brother, I'm afraid) highly emulate the dearly departed. Very pretty and depressing.

    Much better than that Crowded House thing, Finn Brothers still doesn't really ever crash over into "great" territory. It's not for lack of pretension or anything, but more than a few of these songs sound, well, unfinished. The production is nice and strong, but all the parts don't seem to show up. Of course, that's what folks used to say about R.E.M.

    An irrelevant tangent. This puppy won't win over any new converts, though members of the Pavement crowd who never picked up on early Split Enz might be surprised to like this stuff. I do, well enough, anyway. I wish it was more, but this will suffice for now.


    Fires
    Angels in the Dark EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    Here's a nice bit of ear candy. Fires leavens the ubiquitous My Chemical Romance post-emo style with some geeky math lines in the guitars. Nothing particularly original, mind you. Just exceptionally well-executed.

    The songs are scorching at high volume, and the writing is strong enough to be appreciated in somewhat more sedate surroundings as well. In particular, the title track plays like something Jawbox might be playing these days (if Jawbox was playing these days, of course).

    Yeah, yeah, I know. This is tricked-out and commercial. Sue me. My ears lapped it up, and then requested a repeat or few. I haven't burned out yet, so perhaps there might even be some staying power. That would really be something.


    The Fire Show
    The Fire Show
    (Perishable)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Tightly-woven songs that rely as much on strings as they do on guitars. There is a fair amount of noise as well, and the vocals certainly have a certain squall to them, but the strings hold the key to the sound, even though they exist on only three of nine songs.

    Bands that like strings write song in certain ways, even reconstructed punk outfits like the Fire Show. How far from punk are we? Quite a ways. But there's an anarchic bent behind the songs here, a notion that music doesn't have to sound like anything in particular.

    The pieces kinda bubble along, sometimes snarling and sometimes cooing. Ah, it's come to me! This reminds me of Jane's Addiction, circa Nothing Shocking. Vocal style (though not exactly sound) and the general need to really fuck with song construction are the main connections.

    This album comes together about as well, too. The more songs I hear, the more the whole comes into focus. A cool idiosyncratic romp through whatever it means to be a band these days.


    Above the Volcano of Flowers
    (Perishable)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    It's kinda weird. The Fire Show reminds me of some of the stranger experimental new wave bands of the early 80s. So vaguely, however, that I really can't find a true reference point. And anyway, these folks are playing regular instruments (augmented by various electronic gear, but that's not the focus). This is a "rock" band, after all.

    Oh, hell, did I just tar these guys or what? I dunno. Thing is, the songs themselves are constructed in basic verse-chorus form. It's just that the musical lines within those segments often sound a lot more like noise pop or experimental electronic goo. All this with vocals that will probably annoy as much as excite.

    There is a tinny, whiny quality to much of what the Fire Show does. I think that's where the retro feel comes from. The center is actually much more solid and coherent. It's just that sometimes the manic level really takes off.

    I like that, myself. I like to hear bands reach a little out of their range and let the mood of the moment take over. It's even more interesting when it comes from a band that's as meticulously experimental as the Fire Show. I like the way these guys work. There's plenty to think about, but always plenty of pure enjoyment as well.


    Saint
    (Perishable)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    I've been trying to figure out the Fire Show for years now. The only thing I can tell you with certainty is that these folks are damn near geniuses (if they aren't in actuality). Past that, well, little ol' me is a wee bit stumped.

    While not direct descendents of Slint, the members of the Fire Show have quite obviously listened to Spiderland hundreds of times between them. Personally, I believe such a regimen is necessary to be a truly functioning member of society. Which may be why I have such contempt for most of the world.

    All that aside, the Fire Show tells stories with its songs. Sometimes funny stories, sometimes stories with coherent music. Sometimes with both and sometimes with neither. This is where my confusion enters. I know where these guys are coming from. I just can never piece together where they're going.

    That's why I dig this band so much. Every album--hell, every song--is utterly unpredictable. Just when I'm sure I can pin the boys down to one little thing, that notion is dispelled with extreme prejudice by what I'm hearing. Man, do I love bands that keep blazing trails. Even if the trails lead to nowhere in particular.


    Fireball Ministry
    FMEP
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Three originals and five covers, though three of the covers come under the "bonus tracks" appellation. Fireball Ministry is one of them great hard rock power trios. Got a nice grind going, reminds me of Circus of Power.

    The three originals are pretty damned good. They show a lot of potential. The covers are of Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Blue Cheer, Misfits and Aerosmith. Generally competent, though they don't always make sense.

    Which also applies to the way this disc was put together. It's almost an oddities set, what with all the covers from a variety of compilations. The first three songs make a nice introduction to the band. I guess I'll stick with that.


    The Firebird Band
    The Setting Sun and Its Satellites
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Chris Broach of Braid and some pals finally make this "side project" the main event. Stark yet energetic guitar lines draw thin musical pictures, images that change just about every second.

    Imagine a sparsely-populated emo sound, built up from a drum machine. Not quite ... anything in particular. Many things at once, and sometimes nothing at all. The holes in the sound hold the secrets.

    This does sound incomplete, as if the Firebird Band laid down the first pieces of a few demos. The songs rarely express coherent, full thoughts, preferring to just slash away with shards of ideas.

    Making this a challenging listen. Getting inside the holes is the thing, and if you can do that, you just might figure out what the Firebird band is trying to say in the first place. I'm not quite there, but damned if I'm not gonna keep trying.


    The Drive EP
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Really hard to place. The Firebird Band doesn't stick to any one sound or idea, other than something that might be described (badly) as mechanized emo. There's a drum machine, see, and the song construction generally falls somewhere in the realms of emo.

    But, see, that's a most general of statements. The simple fact is that these guys don't sound anything like anyone else. Often enough, they don't sound like themselves. There's a whole lotta experimentation going on, particularly on the electronic side of things. It doesn't work all the time, but I like it when bands take chances.

    This review reminds me a lot of my first take on the band last fall. I still can't quite get a handle on what's going on. More than worth a listen, though. Music this challenging should never be overlooked.


    Firebug
    Fragile
    (Buddha Belt)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Vaguely arty rock and roll. Juliette Tworsey has a set of thick, powerful pipes. And she wields them as many would play a guitar. Strong and yet limber. That description fits the songs as well.

    Something of a throb and boogie, with Tworsey adding a wail at appropriate moments. In its heavier moments, Firefly does indeed remind me of Hammerbox.

    And that's high praise coming from me. Firefly isn't quite as forceful, not all the time, but the songwriting is certainly just as sharp and cutting. The band wanders down a few side roads (I did mention the arty thing, right?), but all loose ends get tied up.

    Quite the package. And whether the songs ride the rails or soar into the heavens, Firefly has a handle on what it's doing. Versatile and talented. A deadly combination.


    Fireclown
    Junkie/Big Disease 7"
    (New Rage)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    Boy, is it nice to see Seattle bands are finally picking up the tempo. I mean, compared to the Melvins or Unearth (see review), these boys are positively thrash. Now, in the real world, they are merely mid-tempo, but still.

    I hope this is a trend. The two songs here are both very good, but I must say I prefer "Big Disease" by a hair. I think it must be the guitar solo. Real lead guitar!! If only the rest of Seattle would wake up to the realities the Accused and others are putting forth. Fireclown is definitely worthy to be mentioned with other "new wave" Seattle bands.


    Fireside
    Do Not Tailgate
    (American)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #8, 8/26/96

    I always like to see how folks overseas interpret the various American musical trends. No self-respecting U.S. band would take elements of grunge, hardcore and pop music and merge it into a whole different sound. But then, Fireside is from Sweden.

    And it doesn't work all of the time. Indeed, often the result is a plodding mess. But Fireside has the right idea: come up with something new and different. The main problem here is in the execution. Often, the original song constructions bog down into a traditional grunge bounce, and as Skin Yard showed, once you're there, there aren't many ways out.

    Still, a band that is this daring deserves to be watched. With better-honed songwriting and playing skills, you never know what might pop out next. I like the concept; all Fireside needs is the finishing skills.


    Uomini D'onore
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    The band's last album (released in the U.S. on American) was a bit too bombastic. In the production, I mean. Too over-the-top, and not enough grunge in the grunge. Not that Fireside is a grunge band, not really. There are plenty of other cool references. But the sheen was a bit too much for me.

    This disc is more stripped down. All the power without the annoying excess. And you know what? I was right in my last review. This sounds a hell of a lot better. Also, Fireside has done a better job of melding its conflicting musical intentions into a coherent whole.

    Still anthemic, but in a cool way. The music is more subtle, even as it bashes. Altogether better, in almost every way. Greatness realized.

    Well, color me impressed. Fireside has recorded the album I thought it was capable of. And Crank has the good sense to foist it upon an unsuspecting American public. Well, okay then.


    Firewater
    Get off the Cross... We Need the Wood for the Fire
    (Jetset-Big Cat)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Take a few names you might recognize: Tod A., Jim Kimball, Duane Denison and Dave Ouimet. Add in Hahn Rowe, Kurt Hoffman and Yuval Gabay and you get what the press refers to as the greatest Bar Mitzvah band in the world.

    And as much as I'd like to call that merely silliness, there's a definite Jewish lilt to the musical madness here. Not unlike what it might sound like if Mule played the Hora. Silly but strangely compelling. There's definite MTV anthem potential in far too many of these songs to make me comfortable.

    Too bad the playing is exquisite and the production letter-perfect. I'd love to find a way to criticize such an obvious ploy for mass-acceptance, but, of course, I'm screwed. The bastards have cranked out an astonishing album that only the tone-deaf can dislike. Don't know if this will hit Peel or Dr. Demento first, but hell, airplay is certain.

    By the way, until recently the band went by the name the Organ Grinders. They apologize profusely for any inconvenience the change might have caused. Damn, another bone down the drain...


    The Ponzi Scheme
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    After such a brilliant debut as Get Off the Cross... We Need the Wood for the Fire (that particular album is one of the 10 best ever recorded, IMHO), I wondered if the band could even come close to such brilliance the second time out. Adding to my trepidation is the fact that more than half the band is new for this effort. But still, when I got a call a week ago saying this puppy was on the way, I kept an eye on the mail slot just the same.

    The highly orchestrated sound (replete with piano, saxohpone and strings) has remained (though there isn't quite such a reliance on klezmer melodies and rhythms), and Tod A.'s sneering, sarcastic spiels are as biting as ever. The songs crash on top of each other in apocalyptic fashion, each struggling to build up from the rubble left behind. This is mean, nasty music, and yet it has all the trappings of "big rock" ( a term I'm borrowing from Sam at Jetset, thankyouverymuch). Over the top anthems with gorgeous sound and real, actual things to say.

    So the only thing to ask is, does this disc beat the first one? No, but just because this album isn't such a revelation. I have heard it before, from this band. The fact that these 12 songs are as strong as the dozen on the first notwithstanding, Firewater is still in danger of being hailed as one of the greatest bands around, period. I won't do that, because it's something like the cover jinx. No band that I have excessively praised has ever sold many records.

    Brilliance, again. Sure, this album proves that the visionary behind the band is Tod A., and I guess it doesn't matter so much who's playing behind him. All that's left to say is that I've already played this thing three times, while attempting to write this review. My mind is devastated, but my heart is soaring. Throbbing, bursting, exploding with joy. This music speaks directly to my soul, shining a new slick of oil on the darkness.


    Psychopharmacology
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    The klezmer is gone. Dead. Buried. On this, his third Firewater expedition, Tod A digs deeply into his bag of hipster 60s lounge pop, rummaging through some Beach Boys, a little Donovan and a lot of the sorta stuff that's been getting released on Jetset lately and then revving all that up Firewater style. And while the first two outings could possibly be termed "loose" concept albums, Psychopharmacology sticks to its topic tighter than the Alan Parsons Project ever did.

    Some of the meanest, most clever lyrics in music today are still the norm. Tod A likes contradiction (witness song titles like "Woke Up Down") and playing with contextuality. Unlike the off-kilter poetic perspective generally presented in the past, some songs here are astonishingly straight. The title track is a blistering attack on psychiatrists who prescribe pills without even considering talking to patients. There's no subterfuge and very little art to the lyrics. Just rage.

    As usual, he's put together an ace band. The core of the group is much the same as it was for the Ponzi Scheme tour (my copy of that album is a promo that doesn't actually tell me who played on it), with the usual guest appearances. In particular, Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields drops by for "Bad, Bad World." Bliss. Dark bliss, but still.

    Not exactly the album Firewater fans may have been expecting. All the trademarks are here (except for the klezmer), but there's a feeling of manic desperation about many of these songs. Tod A doesn't play the cocksure cynic on this disc. Rather, he seems to recognize that the world is just as fucked up as he thought, but he can't do a damned thing about it. Fatalism is creeping in on the usual sneering misanthropy. Fit the concept, I guess. Still shimmeringly brilliant. But consider this: Five years ago, a song like "She's the Mistake" would have sounded utterly out of place on a Firewater album. Here, it's the perfect capper. In fact, I doubt I'll hear a better song all year. Same goes for the entire album. I had high hopes; Firewater is one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite. Psychopharmacology leaves that anticipation in the dust. There is a glow of greatness here.


    The Man on the Burning Tightrope
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    Anyone who has been reading A&A for a while knows I love Firewater. I'm not the most objective person when it comes to judging the muse of Tod A and company. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I adore this album as well.

    This disc finds Tod A in full roar. Unlike last year's Psychopharmacology, whose dreariness was necessary to properly address the subject, this puppy is ringed with a dark light. The lyrics are as blistering as ever, and the circus theme (which isn't omnipresent, but does crop up from time to time) seem to have inspired the band to truly twisted heights.

    There are 16 songs here, a definite expansion from the 10 we received last time out. The album isn't that much longer, but it feels more complete. Once again, Tod A stretches himself musically and lyrically--a couple songs go places where I've never heard Firewater before.

    Some surprises and some (as it were) comfy "traditional" Firewater songs. There are bands that run out of steam. And then there's Firewater, which always seems to know how to keep its juices potent. Another great album.


    Songs We Should Have Written
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Exactly what it claims to be: Firewater performing songs written by other folks. Not unlike the recent side outing by Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham, where the Luna frontpeople decided to dabble (mostly) in the works of others. And as it happens, Tod A invites the divine Ms. Phillips along for the ride here (to provide the sometimes necessary female vocals), and he does have fine taste in song. But really, is this a good idea? I mean, Firewater is known for some of the best songsmithing around. An album of covers? That would be like Bob Dylan doing an album of Tin Pan Alley tunes, right?

    Maybe. The choice of songs here is impeccable. Weird, sure. After all, there are songs made famous by the likes of Sonny and Cher, Frank and Nancy Sinatra (one of each) and Peggy Lee. Plus "Hey Bulldog," "Paint It Black" and, truly inexplicably, a mental-breakdown version of "This Little Light of Mine." I suppose you can tell where he's coming from.

    Oh, yeah, there are songs by Tom Waits and Robyn Hitchcock, and a version of "Folsom Prison Blues" that sounds more Copshootcop than Firewater, though I suppose the distinction is minimal at this point. There then is the question: Is this really necessary?

    Of course not. But it is a lot of fun. And in so many ways, it opens a door on the songwriting mind of Tod A. Not a pretty place, not at all, but an interesting spot to visit now and again. I have but one request: Get to work on the new album soon, okay?


    Michael Lee Firkins
    Chapter Eleven
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    A solid dose of what my brothers would call space hoedown music. Or simply technical blues instrumental guitar work with an odd ambient and bluegrass tinge.

    Which is a lot of stuff going on at once. Firkins has found a more mechanical sound for his guitar that makes him sound like a MIDI-ed Billy Gibbons.

    Of course, Firkins has no real style on which to hang his hat, and that can be a problem. But I'd much rather deal with a guy like Firkins who keeps trying new stuff than someone keeps repeating himself.


    Cactus Cruz
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    An instrumental version of what the Meat Puppets might sound like with a few lessons from Yngwie Malmsteen, but without a couple bongloads to help them on their way.

    Squeaky-clean guitar music that has a definite "hoe-down" feel, but not the inspired wackiness of the Puppets. And I wish it was here.

    Firkins has a nice grasp on his sound, and he's managed to find another musical area to explore with a solo guitar. The sidemen are good, but the tunes need a bit more color.

    The cover of the "Sanford and Son" theme is fun, but not nearly as goofy as I'd hoped. If Firkins can just loosen up a bit, he might really have something.


    Dave Fischoff
    Winston Park
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Amazing poetry, in both the lyrical and musical senses. Fischoff has a rather non-linear way of presenting his songs. The lyrics don't tumble out in pop song form, and the music is hardly normal.

    The rhythm (and much of the melody in some songs) is provided by various forms of electronic disturbances. Not sharp, though, but dulled to dull thudding and whispering waves of interference. Most often there is a guitar (and sometimes an organ), but still nothing ordinary.

    Haunting, no doubt about it. Music from another place, most likely another world. I don't even want to get inside Fischoff's head. But I'm happy to let his music talk to my brain.

    The sort of album which spooks out those who aren't self-aware. This disc leads straight to the subconscious, and if you don't want to know what's lurking there, then you'd best stay on the safe side. The most dangerous (and rewarding) kind of music around.


    The Ox and the Rainbow
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Fischoff has a voice that always seems to be on the verge of going away. The fragility of his singing is emphasized by the minimalist accompaniment (often just one or two instruments). This has the effect of making him sound like a sensitive guy.

    To be fair, I think he is quite sensitive. Perceptive, to boot. Fischoff's halting singing brings most of the attention to his lyrics, which are dreadfully poetic. Image-laden and tightly structured, each song is like a little gem.

    While he shares just about nothing with Geoff Farina (reviewed above), Fischoff operates in the same corner of the universe, dressing up poems with interesting, but unspectacular, music. It does take a while to get used to the presentation. But once there...

    Yeah, it's more than a little alright. Fischoff's style is a little unusual. Strange, even. But he gets his points across. That's the true test.


    Fish
    Raingods with Zippos
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    I hadn't even thought about Marillion for something like 10 years, and then I got the band's latest album. Didn't even know Fish left all those years ago. Ah well. And now, I get the new Fish. It's like some sort of retro conspiracy.

    And it's like I never stopped listening to Marillion. Fish is still cranking out the straight-ahead prog stuff that I remember. In fact, much of this album is pretty interchangeable with the "olden days".

    Which has its advantages and drawbacks. Old fans will be able to trip back in, feeling like they haven't missed a beat. I really don't think this music is going to attract a large number of new fans, however. The sound isn't particularly in vogue these days, and quite honestly, the stuff is a little weird for the average American.

    But I don't like to make commercial prognostications. I'm very bad at that sort of thing. What I can say is that this should interest old Marillion fans, and I myself had a good time. A little nostalgia never hurt, though there's no need to overdose.


    Fishbone
    Chim Chim's Badass Revenge
    (Rowdy-Arista)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #4, 5/27/96

    Columbia never did figure out how to market Fishbone. After the across-the-board success of The Reality of My Surroundings, Columbia listened to the first few tracks on Give a Monkey a Brain... and decided to push the band at loud radio. And nowhere else.

    Sure, the record wasn't as strong as it could have been, but the need to pigeonhole a band such as Fishbone truly perplexes me. Arista hasn't made that mistake, but the truth is, Chim Chim's... continues a trend of decent, but not great albums for the band.

    As a live force, Fishbone is pretty much unequaled. The genre-blender strategy works best in a live setting anyway, but no producer has been able to really capture the energy of a Fishbone show. Dallas Austin does his best, but this album sounds like a Frank Zappa record (without all the really wild parts). Clean as hell, with fairly technical playing (more so than usual). Enjoyable, but nothing awesome.

    Fans will dig, but there's no breakout track here to attract any new fans. It's getting late in the day for the career-defining Fishbone album, but I'll continue to wait.


    Jeremy Fisher
    Mint Juleps
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    This is Jeremy Fisher's fifth album, and he's got that easy confidence that really makes folky pop-rock songs sing. And don't discount him just because he's Canadian. That's not right.

    And beside the point, anyway. Fisher is not a morose troubadour. He writes songs that flash with brilliant joy. While he supplements folk construction with some more complex forms, he extraordinarily successful at crafting sing-alongs.

    One time through the chorus, and you're set. Oh, and they're good choruses, too. The hook factor is high. And in case you misread my "morose" statement, Fisher explores many emotions in his pieces. He just tends to finish things up by walking out of the rain.

    It's far too easy to love this album. Fisher is an old pro, but he's still got plenty of fresh energy to keep these songs rolling. Lovely stuff.


    Fistfull
    Fortune Cookie
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    A somewhat pouty take on the ol' L7 formula. The band cranks out some nice riffage and Brita Admundsen purrs and wails (as appropriate). Simple and easy. Well, it sounds that way.

    Which is always the trick. Nothing here sounds contrived. It's probably not too hard to tire a bit of Admundsen's histrionics (she sounds a bit too much like a chick singing rock and roll some of the time), but I wasn't overly concerned. I was too caught up in the fire.

    And that there's plenty of. Fistfull doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, the band lays down some regular hardcore, smushes it into a conventional construction and cranks up the sound. Beauty.

    Fans of 7 Year Bitch and the Gits also might find some joy here. Fistfull is a bit more tuneful, but just as powerful. This is one serious sonic attack.


    Fitz
    Desperate Me
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Just yer basic roots rock. Ragged vocals laid over a pretty mellow base. Perhaps that's a production issue. Can't quite tell. All very much by the book.

    So there are dues songs, love songs, despair songs and, of course, drinking songs. Fitz manages to jump through all the hoops without sounding like some formula-conscious band. This stuff is written and played from the heart.

    I do wish there was a bit more bite to the guitars. Even acoustic guitars can be more than mush. Most of the songs need a bit of a kick in the intensity department, and that's the easiest way I can figure to do that. Still, the songs themselves, while not overwhelming, are perfect representations of the style.

    The somewhat light sound lends a generic air, one which is probably not in existence at live shows. Fitz probably needs to find a bit more of a "live" sound on the next disc. But keep the writing just where it is.


    5ive
    The Hemophiliac Dream
    (Tortuga Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Two parts to this album. The first is the title track, which runs a mere 24 minutes in length. The second is a decidedly nasty remix, though I'm not entirely sure of the source material.

    "The Hemophiliac Dream" is something of a spacey trip into the ambient. Lots of slow moving ideas and strange noises slung together into a languid electronic soup. Just the sort of thing to help a person zone out and get into deep contemplation.

    The second piece (titled Part II) is a remix. Of what, it's hard to say, but the piece is really loud and distorted. Perhaps this is the "Dream" recast as a nightmare. I do pick up bits here and there from the main piece. This isn't as conducive to pure meditation, but it's exactly the sort of stuff I like to listen to when I write. Challenges the intellect and creativity, you see.

    Two sides of the same coin? Two wildly disparate visions of the name idea? I dunno. If the musical version of abstract expressionism is you bag, though, this puppy ought to do you nicely. Plenty of ideas to ponder here.


    Five Dollar Milkshake
    Ice Cream Headache
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    The first direct band-name reference to Pulp Fiction that I've seen. Of course, the music isn't quite so confrontational.

    Much more of a contemplative, college roots-rock sound. Actually, the music is right there, from the familiar "railroad" rhythm guitar to the strained vocals. And a cover of the Beatles "She Said" (yes, the same song covered by Overwhelming Colorfast a few years back) just to really annoy me. Well, now I'm getting a bit of a full head.

    But everything the band does rubs me the wrong way. The production is pretty decent, if a bit restrained, but the songs tend to go and do precisely what I'm hoping they don't do. A certain chord change, a certain jangly guitar riff. Too much to specify, almost too esoteric to explain.

    The folks can play. Just not in a way that I can stand.


    No Crowd
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A reviewed a tape some six months ago, and this set falls right in the same territory. Jangly pop with throaty vocals that are just a bit to the Hootie man for my comfort.

    When Five Dollar Milkshake kicks up the tempo, I can almost handle it. But the moping comes back around, and my stomach starts doing that flipping thing. Uncontrollable, really.

    I'm not sure what it is about brooding white guys, but they really get on my nerves. I know, the lyrics are trying to be clever and incisive, but they don't make it. And the music, while well-played, just bugs me too much.

    I'm sure there's an audience for this sort of thing. I'm just not in it.


    Five Eight
    The Good Nurse
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    The second band in this issue that uses the number five and the number eight. Though not the numerals. Very important distinction. Anyway, Five Eight burbles through disjointed and uneasy pop music. Uneasy in that there are lots more blue notes than you might expect. Folks who picked up the Parker Paul record a while back might know what I'm talking about.

    But the intensity and drive more than makes up for any technical difficulties. Actually, I think that lassez-faire approach to tight tuneage is intentional. There's a lot of conceptual stuff going on here, and the lack of attention to specific notes kinda adds to the tension.

    The disc just keeps lurching forward, picking up momentum as it rolls. Yeah, the sound can be unsettling, but that style often lends itself to more immediate immersion in the songs. It is easier to just loll about the ideas, addressing them slowly and intensely. Packs a wallop, that's fer sure. Even if you can only dive into the first couple of layers, this should wipe you out. Quite the emotional load.


    Your God Is Dead to Me Now
    (Iron Horse)
    reviewed in issue #325, March 2011

    Remember when alternative meant alternative rock? Five Eight not only remembers, it's been around since those days. These tuneful songs sock it to listers with a solid left. Yeah, they've been doing it forever, but this album sounds more alive than almost anything around these days. Score one for the old school.


    Five Horse Johnson
    The No. 6 Dance
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Judging by the intro (an excerpt from Apocalypse Now), I'd say these boys are from Toledo. Along the same lines, the first musical track, "Mississippi King," also gives more than a hint of what's to come.

    Thick and heavy blooze boogie. More than a little reminiscent of Mountain. With a bit more punch. In fact, at times, Five Horse Johnson fires all its weapons at once.

    The boys absolutely throttle the songs, refusing to leave anything standing at the end. A gorgeous, throbbing mess of a sound, stuff that just keeps churning and churning until it circles the drain and finally drops through.

    This what bands like Raging Slab always tried to do, but couldn't sustain a consistent attack. Five Horse Johnson makes sure that the groove is always maintained--not unlike that first Circus of Power album. The power here is just an accelerant, not the main show. And here, the songs reign. Blistering boogie never had it so good.


    Five Seconds Expired
    Puzzle 7"
    (Another Planet)
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    Sorta merging that distinctly Boston version of the metal-core ideal with plenty of grunge elements, Five Seconds Expired is trying to get somewhere.

    I can hear the band struggling, even striving to be cool. It must be hard when you're from Vermont. To get in tune with a scene, not be cool. Anyway, about halfway through "Puzzle" the band breaks through with some nifty rhythm work. Still kinda rote, but definitely cool. Still, it was only the bridge.

    "Toss and Turn", the flip, is a live take that breaks into more of that Sam Black Church style of stuff. With more deft production it might even have approached Earth Crisis, but the guitars are way too low in the mix. The song is pretty good, though.

    This accomplishes what a seven-inch should, though. Shows plenty of potential, and gets me interested in more.


    Five Story Fall
    Five Story Fall
    (Puppethead)
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    The gimmick, of course, is the female hardcore vocals. Except that Charlotte Webb Swenson sounds just about like any guy trying to sound like Henry Rollins.

    A nice presentation of the style, and Five Story Fall does its best to try and jump from the pack of bands cranking out the grinding hardcore. Some songs, like "South Philly Gestapo", accomplish this aim better than others.

    The riffs are lush and songs flow pretty smoothly, considering the abundance of tempo changes. If you dig the heaviest of hardcore and are looking for something new to hear, then Five Story Fall is worth checking out.


    Five Way Friday
    Run Like This
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Just like little girls go nuts for pretty boys who (supposedly) sing like angels, old guys seem to really dig rough-hewn roots music that falls somewhere between Bruce Hornsby, Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Take, say, Hootie and the Blowfish.

    I'm not trying to slag on these guys and call them copycats. They're not ripping off riffs or melodies or lyrics or anything. But this sound feels calculated. Certainly the generic band photo (they're all walking with purpose in their eyes) and the "turning leaf" of the cover lend to that impression.

    The music itself actually has some Night Ranger echoes (in a couple of the riffs and some of the backing vocal arrangements), and I mean that as a compliment. Yeah, the hooks always return to the organ-backed anthemic warbling, but there are moments.

    Perhaps I've spent too long on the outside. Probably have, at least in terms of being able to appreciate this well enough. There is some serious commercial potential. Plenty of folks could sell this, if a single could be found (and I'm not sure there is one here). Man, I hate playing that game.


    Josh Fix
    Free at Last
    (1650 Entertainment)
    reviewed in issue #293, February 2008

    Bluesy pop, with just about every added brightener you can imagine. Josh Fix tries very hard to make these songs the best they can be.

    He's got a light hand when he plays, though, so even the most involved arrangement manages to have a loose feel. Imagine Jeff Lynne produced by Jack White. Except, you know, nothing like that.

    There are a ton of flourishes--Fix is a fine guitar player, and he is convincing in a variety of sounds--but they all feel natural. This is the rare hyper-ambitious pop album that sounds like nothing of the sort.

    Rather, there is simply a feeling that this music is the greatest thing going on right now. And, who knows? Maybe it is. It sure is awfully damned good.


    This Town Is Starting to Make Me Angry EP
    (Flop of the Century)
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    Five more songs from this pop impressionist. These pieces are more in the faux art rock vein of Supertramp or mid-range Genesis, with all the pomp and perhaps a bit more gravity.

    The heavy reliance on piano also brings to mind early Elton John, but Fix has a light hand with his pompous impulses, so he tends bliss out rather than beat listeners over the head with his hooks. That sweet bit of subtlety is one of the things I like best about Fix.

    Five stellar songs. There ought to be more. Fix is that rare artist: a polymath who is also able to write songs that appeal to the heart as well as the head. Much happiness for my ears.


    Flake
    Music 7"
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    As the band is from the Big Q, I called my brother Matt (of Lies) to get the scoop. "They're not the big band in town," he said, "but then again, they've been around a lot longer than a few of the 'next big things'. Know what I mean?"

    Yep. And this single plays that out. The a-side, "Sue Defender", is a nice bit of what folks like to call emo-core. I quite liked the tune, actually.

    But the two on the flip are not very good at all. The pieces don't fit together, and nothing much seems to really work. The b-side stuff is alright in its best moments, but there are quite a few drop-offs as well. Perfectly acceptable music, but nothing spectacular.


    The Flames
    Fast. Easy. Cheap.
    (Joetown)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    The album title says it all. Vaguely punk, all pop. Catchy little ditties with just enough bad-boy guitar to give the stuff an edge. Silly, of course, but you'll be to busy bouncing along to notice.

    That's the thing here. Simplicity is the key, and the Flames don't add anything that would take away from the broth. There's no need to apologize for nice hooks and tasty riffage.

    Basic basic, like I keep saying. There's nothing pretentious or calculated here. Just the bare bones of rock and roll. Bad boys done wrong by good girls (and good girls done wrong by bad boys). Doesn't get any simply than that.

    Too fun to ignore. No, no analysis is necessary. The Flames are one of those cheesy pleasures which make smiling worthwhile. Not much more needs to be said.


    Flamethrower
    Flamethrower
    (Dead Teenager)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    About what you might expect from the Dead Teenager posse. Blistering hard rock infused with spectacular riffage and oozing attitude from every pore. Reminds me of Zeke.

    I wonder why. Dead Teenager is the home of Camarosmith (a post-Zeke project), but Flamethrower outdoes the ex-Zekesters at their own game. Short, fast songs that last just long enough to leave a righteous stain.

    Jack Endino helmed the board, and he did his usual bang-up job. This puppy has real power. The low end is almost infinite in its reach. Damn, that's one fine rumble.

    A simple pleasure, and one that I refuse to apologize for in any way. Some folks know how to kick ass. The guys in Flamethrower are masters.


    Flamingo
    Flamingo
    (Not Lame)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Not Lame is yet another label from that strangely burgeoning Ft. Collins scene. Flamingo is a pop band once from Buffalo, now from somewhere in Florida. Most of the post-production on this album was done right here in Duham, but I never saw them play if they were actually in town. Of course, I work nights, so I don't see as many shows as I like.

    And I would like to see what these guys might do live. There are moments on this disc that sound a bit too sterile, though in general the feel is ragged enough to lend some energy to the songs. Not that they really needed a lot of help that way.

    Yes, big debt to Big Star (in everything from songwriting style to out-of-tune falsetto), but enough originality to claim its own sound. For the most part, anyway (The verse in "Dutch Master" was a bit too close for comfort). The songs are rather crafted, and that's where the occasional heavy hand in the studio can strip some life out of the stuff.

    In general, this is a fine exercise in one of the more vibrant forms of pop around. Flamingo needs to work on increasing both craft and reckless abandon to really knock this sound stiff, but this is a fine start.


    Flashing Red Airplane
    My Life As a Frog
    (Matchpale)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Flashing Red Airplane doesn't do anything easily. I mean, if you're gonna go to the trouble to name a song "It's a Long Way Down When You Know Your Way" while giving most of the rest of the pieces one or two word titles (this creates a serious graphic design problem, if you want to know why I'm mentioning something so trivial), you're probably gonna work very hard to write songs that don't always fit perfectly.

    But, in fact, the songs do work. Jennifer Wilke is Flashing Red Airplane (with occasional help from friends) and her single-minded approach carries the day. These songs and this album are her statement. And she shines through.

    For the most part, Wilke sets a meditative mood, even when she lets her songs get a little jangly. She's turning herself inside out with these songs, and that's never easy. There's some hesitancy, but that also colors the songs nicely. It's human.

    And this album is something like a conversation. One-sided, I suppose, but I don't mind hearing Wilke tell me about herself and her ideas. Her singing and playing aren't perfect, and her songwriting isn't particularly crafted. There are moments where she doesn't follow form. That's where things get interesting. Sit down. Have a listen. Enjoy.


    Flaspar
    Erotic Jetplane Stylings
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    There's this illustration in the liners that perfectly explains what Flaspar is all about. It's a person, with the head of a smiling man in an astronaut helmet, the body of a fit woman wearing a short sweater dress (sitting, legs crossed, so that you can see the tops of her stockings attached to a garter belt). The kinda strange thing is that the top leg is artificial, attached just above what would be the knee.

    In other words, these people (person? I can't really tell) like to make singular pieces out of many parts. Electronic work, with lots of samples and found sound plastered over strikingly idiosyncratic beat work. Did I mention that Flaspar likes to create unusual pieces?

    Right. There's not much in the way easily accessible points. You've gotta be in the mood to be challenged to give this a proper listen. That's not to slag. I happen to really be grooving on the stuff right now. That's how my mind works.

    Taking up the challenge will yield rewards. Flaspar journeys to some cool places, and I came away with a number of great ideas. That's what music like this does for me. Kind of a creativity recharge, if you will. The album is hardly cohesive; you've gotta connect the dots for yourself. I've always found that to be a most invigorating exercise.


    Flat Earth Society
    ISMS
    (Ipecac)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Think of this as music for a series of noir cartoons. Band leader (and songwriter) Peter Vermeersch is obviously schooled in Carl Stalling, Henry Mancini, John Barry and, well, Miles Davis and John Coltrane as well. The result is a series of dark--often darkly comic--romps.

    There's something of a Gypsy orchestra in this as well--think Angelo Badalamenti (City of Lost Children, Mulholland Dr., Arlington Road) meets Benoit Charest (Triplets of Belleville). Sometimes ominous, but most often simply wild and engaging.

    So, yes, we're talking about "filmic" music, or more specifically, music that tells a story. The quality of the compositions and production lead me to wonder why one of the major classical labels didn't pick this up. Maybe they're too worried about offending someone. Too bad.

    One of the brightest, most pleasant surprises I've heard in a while. Yeah, Ipecac rarely puts out a clunker. But this is surprising even for them. Of course, the "compiled by Mike Patton" note at the end does explain one thing: he found four albums by this outfit and decided that the rest of us ought to hear it.

    He's right, you know.


    Flattbush
    Smash the Octopus!
    (Kool Arrow)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Take two Filipino immigrant brothers and a couple of boys who are more than willing to push the metal envelope and you get (it appears) Flattbush. The songs are sung both in Tagalog (the Filipino dialect) and English. The music is loud, fast and extremely complicated.

    Did I mention that it was astonishingly great as well? Billy Gould (Kool Arrow honcho) produced, and the result often sounds like Faith No More on crank with a side of Marxism. Personally, that works for me. I'm always in favor of people pushing to the edge and beyond.

    And despite the loud and fast and often harsh music, Gould has given these boys an amazingly full sound. Sometimes the anarchy rages while that thick blanket wraps itself around my ears. Again, this is something that works for me. Works really well.

    Song construction? A real mess. Performance skills? The focus is on fast rather than precision. Lyrics? In-your-face and sometimes less than coherent. But when put together, the result is astonishing. A brutal, mind-crushing experience. The sort of ride I like to take a thousand times or more.


    Flaw
    Flaw
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Five songs from an album, but the guys didn't want to send out the real goods. I understand, but I would advise that it is always better to send out release-quality material than the muffled goop that this level of taping generally spawns. I mean, CDs and cassettes don't cost that much as long as you're going to send stuff out anyway.

    Off the soapbox and on to the music. Flaw kinda moves around through a variety of hard rock sounds, from some mellow anthemic funk grooves to the more aggro Beastie Boys style (though with less bombast). To be honest, I really can't hear much (the tape sound is for shit), but what I do hear isn't particularly original.

    Not bad, really, but nothing innovative. Flaw trips through the new funk metal hardcore style like so many other acts these days. I'm not hearing any real spark.


    Fleming & John
    Delusions of Grandeur
    (R.E.X.)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Fleming McWilliams sounds like she really wants to sing with a wispy affectation and stick with more mellow pop tracks.

    But the songs she and John Mark Painter write send her voice all over the place trying to catch the screaming prog-rock excess that the band plays. The Sundays laid over ELO? Why not?

    The production lends even more lushness, and the result is an odd mishmash of sounds that is gorgeous and a bit otherworldly. Now, I'm not sure all that much is underneath, but the facade is rather pretty.

    For being so commercial-sounding, Fleming & John (the band) has a strange musical union at its core. It's not necessarily my thing, but I know quite a few folks who will dig it.


    Ellyn Fleming
    Lost in the Fire
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Reminds me a lot of those late 80s glam metal albums, even though Fleming's music is a lot more early 80s Pat Benatar style. Anyway, the stuff is technically correct, but played without any passion. Fleming's voice is pretty weak, and she doesn't push it. The result is songs that don't really click.

    She can toss off the lyrics, but she can't belt them. and when you're dealing with material this lightweight, you've got to give it a bit of a ride. Inject some personality. Work, in other words. I can't hear it here.

    I think that Fleming is trying to play some sort of blues, but the soul dropped out. All the notes are in the right place, but they don't sing. And Fleming's personality isn't enough to drag the stuff out of the hole.


    Fleshcrawl
    Descend Into the Absurd
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    A couple of firsts here: death metal guys referring to "all the girls I get" in the liners, and also backing vocals credit. Certainly interesting, to say the least.

    Getting to the music, a very fine, slow pounding is administered, followed by a peppering of quick shots to the stomach. While the tempos do change often, the songs flow, not jerk around. And finding a death metal band who really understands (or even wants to understand) flow is quite a find, indeed. Not something you see everyday.

    The lead work is blistering and rather creative. While very fast, the feel is more bluesy than technical. Goodness, but it feels so good.

    What, a German death metal band that manages to find a sound for itself? I know that's becoming a cliche, but maybe it's because those guys over there have their shit straight and actually want to lead and not follow any pack. I second the movement.


    Impurity
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94 Unlike many death metal bands, Fleshcrawl knows how to find a groove and stick to it. Sure, the boys cycle through tempos and riffs as much as any other band, but they manage to put together complimentary parts in each song.

    By actually constructing songs this way, Fleshcrawl doesn't fall into the trap of "all the damned songs sound the same", as many of my R.E.M.-fan friends say. I bet I could get some of them to really dig this, if I had enough rope and beer. But back to the album.

    A simply stunning album. Even I can get tired of the same-old, same-old from this genre. But with bands like Fleshcrawl, my interest is constantly revived.


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

    For a band that sticks so closely to the "classic" death metal formula, Fleshcrawl has the knack of finding little bits of nuance and innovation and creating stunning albums.

    The best way to describe the sound is some sort of atmospheric grind, the sorta thing Napalm Death has been trying to achieve for years. Yeah, the production is a little disappointing. The levels seem to have been misset at times, leaving some really shrill moments. But I don't let that bother me. There are only a couple of bands that can consistently write great songs in this style, with Gorefest being the other.

    And give Fleshcrawl a moment to impress. It takes that get used to the unbending dedication to the ideal the band has. But once you're clued in and have the proper mindset, nothing else will do. Fleshcrawl has always left me stumbling in a ditch. The power of the music is something that must be experienced. And once you have, there is no choice but to submit fully.

    Another great album from one of the best, period.


    Fleshdevils
    Fleshdevils
    (Bridge Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    You know those movie posters that advertise descriptive blurbs as praise? Like where someone has called a movie a "screwball comedy", and the press people think that's a compliment instead of simply a statement of the movie's genre. Well, that sorta thing is all over the press for Fleshdevils, and it worried me a bit.

    These guys are a power trio from South Africa, though they could be a power trio from Detroit and I don't think the sound would be much different. The main groove consists of pile-driving beats and oddly ethereal hard rock style of singing.

    At least until the chorus breaks in, which is where the Fleshdevils exhibit a nasty tendency to sound like post-Diamond Dave Van Halen. Ouch.

    While there are quite a few unusual tendencies exhibited by the band, the music still ends up in the same AOR sound. I'm exactly sure how this happens, but it does. And whatever potential the Fleshdevils have has been sucked into the L.A. metal machine.


    The Fleshpeddlers
    Disposable Pop Songs
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Disposable pop songs in the key of the cold wave. You know, that vaguely gothic industrial style that blew through both coasts a few years back. Robotic and yet lush.

    The Fleshpeddlers remind me of SMP or Non-Aggression Pact, mostly in the use of old school hip-hop beats. There are some gothic keyboards flitting about, but this is definitely an Operation Beatbox attack.

    It has always surprised me that so few people have thought to combine these styles. I mean, the best part of 80s rap was the beat work, the rhythmic vocal delivery. That stuff still works. So why not drop that into a light industrial sound? Why not, indeed.

    This is so far away from where music trends are today it is a wonderful breath of fresh air. Imagine the Beasties fronting NIN. Maybe that will help describe what's going on here. It works. Real well. Not much more I can say about that.


    Falling Into a Dream
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    One of the great bands of the late 80s and early 90s was the Jesus and Mary Chain. I mean, the brothers Reid wrote some of the best pop songs ever. The Fleshpeddlers seem have figured this out, and they have fused that industrial pop sound with a general new wave sensibility.

    Irresistible for just about anyone going through an 80s retro fascination, methinks. Whether using synth-pop or industrial bases for the rhythm section, these songs simply soar.

    Imagine, say, if Magnetic Fields were to suddenly develop a craving for Revolting Cocks or something. That good, at least at times. And even when the Fleshpeddlers miss the mark, it isn't by much. The songs then are merely cool.

    One of those albums that jumps out at me and screams, "Listen to me! Listen to me! Love me!" I kinda have to follow my impulses there. I'm in blissland. Feel free to join me.


    Flightcrank
    What U Need CD5
    (Copasetik)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    A song and two remixes. Hard to get much more basic than that. Flightcrank uses all of the electronic tools at its disposal, from drum machines and sample sequencers to modulated noise and other special effects.

    Of course, there's a song here. Charli Tucker provides the sultry vocals which fit right into Leeroy Thornhill's (he once of Prodigy) dense musical constructions. Flightcrank takes just enough edge off underground sounds to clean up right nice.

    The remixes are utterly different visions of the song, and honestly they only point out the greatness of Thornhill's original music. Would that I could have some more.


    Flip-Side
    This, That and the Other Thing
    (Mutiny)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Bubbly, with an Elvis Costello jones that just won't quit. Well, there are a few Joe Jackson quips as well, but I'm getting into splitting hairs.

    Flip-Side is also a bit too quick to give in to somewhat annoying tendencies, like "rocking out" or incorporating some marginal ska beats. Almost as if the guys don't have enough faith in their base song, and some other gimmick is needed to kick this stuff over the top.

    I appreciate the effort, but honestly, the first instincts here are better. Once Flip-Side quits fucking around and just rips off large doses of hooky pop, the disc beings to shine. Unfortunately, just when I think the guys are ready to really get it going, there's another setback, some silly little bit dropped in.

    Boy, there's a lot here to like. And perhaps next time out the band and the producer will have a little more faith in the base material. This is one of those too many cooks moments.


    Flipper
    American Grafishy
    (Def American)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    A caveat: when I saw these fuckers open up for Gwar, they were by far the worst band I have ever seen on a stage. Even worse than L.A. Guns in their first show replacing Guns N' Roses as the opening act for Iron Maiden's Seventh Son tour.

    This is a far cry from the past. There is a hell of a lot of noise, and not much of it interesting, innovative or even passable. Sometimes when I say an album feels like passing a stiff turd it's a compliment. Not here. This is like the nasty, bloody shit that pre-dates prostate surgery. Just a pain...


    The Flipsides
    Clever One
    (Pink and Black)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Blisteringly tuneful pop punk, with those slightly snotty alto female vocals all guys love. Brings back memories of the early 80s, if you know what I mean.

    Of course you do. The formula is simple: Basic chords, tight hooks and deliciously ironic lyrics. The Flipsides score on all levels. There's just no area of weakness here.

    Okay, so we're not talking about the reinvention of the wheel. I still maintain that crafting tasty pop punk is a skill that most folks don't seem to be able to master. The Flipsides are in the fortunate minority.

    Ultimately, the face of a band like this is provided by the singer. Sabrina Stewart has the attitude and pipes (and writing skill) to notch her place in the firmament. If there's a better summer album out there, I haven't heard it.


    Floating Opera
    Everybody's Somebody's Monster EP
    (Ismist)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    As a Missouri college student in the 80s, I couldn't avoid the sound of the Millions, a Lincoln (Neb.) band. As a Missouri college student in the 90s, I got damned excited every time I saw Mercy Rule (another band from Nebraska). And so arrives this disc, with members of both bands (most obviously, the singers) and a plethora of other local Lincoln talent. All under the watchful eyes of Richard Rebarber.

    Really crafted stuff. The press draws comparisons to Kate Bush and Tori Amos, and the meticulous arrangements and production certainly bear out the nods. But where those two artists can get overbearing really fast, Floating Opera simply shines. Perhaps it's the revolving musical cast. Perhaps it's the gorgeous songwriting. Or maybe just some of that Nebraska magic (alright, alright, enough with that weirdness).

    A fine set of pop tunes. Six new ones, an odd take on a Husker Du tune (actually, it sounds an awful lot like the Wedding Present, substituting piano for that trademark guitar) and three songs from a three-year-old self-released tape (the sound is seamless, so perhaps this should be considered a full-length; oh well).

    Classically-trained pop, painstakingly created and yet not stilted in the slightest. A joy to hear.


    It's Not Easy Listening Anymore EP
    (-ismist)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    But Floating Opera was never easy listening. Maybe I'm being a bit too literal with the title. It's happened before. And anyway, the title comes from a line in the first track

    Five more songs from Richard Rebarber and his troupe of studio troubadours. Lori Allison (once of the Millions) and Heidi Ore (once of Mercy Rule) are back singing -- Allison takes on most of that burden --and the arrangements are as busy and complex as before.

    "Timeless" gets bandied about an awful lot, but that's what these songs are. These pieces could be appended to the end of the last Floating Opera album and it would be impossible to tell that they were recorded years later. The other side of that description is also applicable. The style of the songs is such that they never fade. They're never out of step. They're simply gorgeous and terribly moving.

    Once again, there's a cover ("I Can't Reach You"), and it fits right in with the original stuff. The arrangement is just as idiosyncratic and wonderful as the other pieces. No one makes music quite like this. Floating Opera will probably never get much mainstream attention, but it has created some of the great pop music of the last few years.


    Burning Lighthouse
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Hard to believe that Floating Opera has been around for more than 10 years. A collection of musical castaways in Lincoln, Neb., the "band" started as the collaboration of Charles Lieurance (lyrics) and Richard Rebarber (music). The pair recruited vocalists like Lori Allison (the Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule), members of the aforementioned bands and other crack players.

    Rebarber is a math professor at the University of Nebraska (you can even read his papers on the web site!), and his music is pleasantly mannered. It's also exceptionally complex and enthralling. He manages to whip up a glorious order from the mess of voices and instruments that populate each song.

    And the songs are hardly repetitive. All of the piecess do fit into nicely into the "crafted pop" world, but Rebarber likes to stretch himself. And so the moods of the songs rise and fall. Lieurance's lyrics are intimately detached, if that makes any sense. The subjects of the songs seem to be aware of the song being written. Does that make sense? Probably not.

    So ignore all the silly crap I've written so far and read this: Floating Opera creates music that is impossible to forget. I've been listening to these folks since 1997, and every person I've turned on to the band has fallen in love. These folks are proof that magic is very real, indeed.


    Pony Up a Go-Go
    (Spectral Operator)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    Richard Rebarber and Charles Lieurance have been writing blissful pop songs for ages--I reviewed the first Floating Opera CD way back in 1997. The music has become a bit more muscular in the years since, but the commitment to clever lyrics and even more clever music has remained strong.

    Many Floating Opera songs have a chamber music quality to them. Not just because of the strings and horns and such, but more because of their structure. These pieces generally don't follow traditional pop form; rather, they're much more formalized. Imagine art songs that are actually catchy.

    Do you have any idea how hard that is to accomplish? I've never heard anyone do it this well, and it takes Lieurance and Rebarber years to complete each album. Patience and a demanding rigor to craft have produced yet another stunning album.

    I was thrilled to find this album in my mail, and I wasn't disappointed. My initial feeling is that this is the strongest Floating Opera album to date, but it'll take a couple years of listening to be sure. By then, Rebarber and Lieurance ought to be about ready to start thinking about a new album. When the results are this satisfying, the boys can take all the time they want.


    Flogging Molly
    Swagger
    (Side One Dummy)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    We've all been to Irish pubs. There's often a house band, playing "old" songs with that familiar Gaelic lilt. After about three songs the stuff truly gets old, and only the Guinness keeps you around.

    Flogging Molly avoids this fate with superior musicianship and songwriting that brings in a bit more than "the old country." Indeed, this is probably more American roots than Irish, but the muddling of the cultures might be what caused the improvement.

    Of course, neither the Pogues nor the Waterboys or the Saw Doctors play "straight" Irish music. There might be a point here to be taken. Anyway, Flogging Molly plays incessantly melodic and spirited music, stuff that is almost impossible to walk away from.

    Did I mention that Steve Albini is the engineer on this puppy? Yep, he's branching out. The vocals are still a bit ragged, but that works for the raw tone that this band needs. You can't soften up music like this; you'd ruin it. Just let the energy flow.


    Drunken Lullabies
    (SideOneDummy)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Is it Flogging Molly or the Pogues? Well, these folks rock a little harder I guess, but the stuff is of similar quality. Pretty solid all the way through, with fine tin whistle and fiddle decorating the fuzzy guitar and bass.


    Within a Mile of Home
    (SideOneDummy)
    reviewed in issue #258, October 2004

    I suppose Flogging Molly doesn't really need the likes of me to, um, flog its albums, but what the hell. It's in my pile, it's great and I feel like writing about it.

    And, surprise surprise, this just might be the political album of the year. Rather than polemics, we get metaphors. The music is the same manic rock 'n' reel that fans know well. And, sure, the boys haven't exactly shied away from current events in the past. Still, the vehemence (and brilliant expression of same) is stunning.

    I know, I know, stuff like this isn't going to change anyone's mind about a damned thing, but the beauty is that the music and poetry is impressive enough to enjoy without bothering with the sentiments behind them. Of course, it helps to think. It always helps to think, even when you're into your fifth pint of the evening.

    Truly inspiring. I had no expectation that this sort of brilliance would be emerging on this album. Yeah, the boys are fabulous, but this is an entirely new level. Let's see if they can keep it up.


    Floodgate
    Penalty
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Goddamn if this doesn't rip off Facelift like a motherfucker. Catchier stuff than the last RR grunge effort, Gruntruck. But still dreadfully derivative. But then, a couple of the guys played in Exhorder. Not like you could expect more.

    I mean, why would you want to sound like a washed-out Alice in Chains? Cashing in, I guess. No other reason I can think of, unless these guys aren't creative enough to come up with their own sound. I give them more credit than that.

    The stuff isn't dreadful; indeed, it is hooky and fairly entertaining. I just got past this music about seven years ago, and I don't want to go back. That's all.


    Flossie and the Unicorns
    LMNOP
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Okay, imagine the Chipmunks as a twisted electronic noise outfit. With lots of toy instruments. A 10-minute introduction titled "Free Guitar Lessons for Animals", complete with a load of special animal friends. And a nearly 8-minute conclusion, "The Halloween Puppet Show".

    Weird, silly, and completely warped. Strange in a bizarre way. Can I make this any more clear? This is one fucked-up disc. I'm laughing my ass off, though, and that kinda scares me.

    The most disturbing thing is how nearly normal this sounds. If the average parent wasn't paying attention, they might think it was some Teletubbies spin-off. Of course, it's not.

    One of the most remarkably crazy discs I've ever heard. The usual rules do not apply. Flossie and the Unicorns take insanity to a new and wondrous level. I digs, indeed.


    Flour
    Fourth and Final.
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Just in case you're damned tired of all those slick industrial outfits who get nominated for metal Grammies, here's Flour.

    For the uninitiated, Flour (aka Peter Conway) has a track record of three blistering albums (the last one three years ago) and has toured as a band containing a lot of folk from the Touch and Go (and elsewhere) music community. Senor Flour has toured with Pigface as resident bassist and was the bassist for a few other bands, too.

    This is the end of Flour (by that name, anyway). We hardly knew ye (or ye was hardly known, more correctly). Don't make the mistake of letting this puppy get lost. This much pent up aggression is just what America needs to hear.


    Flowchart
    Cumulus Mood Twang
    (Carrot Top)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Effervescent pop done the loop way. All the catchiest hooks and beats, done over and over and over again. Reminds me a bit of that old pop psychedelia thing (My Bloody Valentine, etc.) except that these songs are mostly treading water.

    Way too addictive for my sanity, too. My mind latches on to the drone and I simply keep going. Full-out frontal lobe field trip. There's something to be said for that, certainly. I think.

    Pop loops. Until all minds melt. I'm sorry, but thinking about this is driving me batty. If I let go, all is well. Analysis is futile. Brain is jelly. Arglebargle.


    Flower
    4 Songs
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    Somewhat muffled production muddles what sounds to be great music. While at times a resemblance to the currently popular Pacific northwest can be heard, there is a midwestern feel that is unmistakable. For those who might understand, mix early Mudhoney with Uncle Tupelo and you might have a clue.

    Definite potential for the future.


    Flu Thirteen
    In the Foul Key of V
    (The Medicine Label)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    College rock anthems, taking me back to my own school days, when this particularly clunky form of disjointed pop music was terribly popular. Back before Dino Jr had a big label deal. Yeah, prehistory.

    Sorry to be so sarcastic. Everything has to come around again, and as emo is right in this ballpark (though Flu Thirteen engages in way too much melody to fit in there), I guess I should have been prepared for this re-evolution.

    Flu Thirteen does the form well enough. The riffs aren't inspiring, but they're competent. The songs do have a nice, raw emotive quality, though that ragged sentimentality can grate after a while. Good, but nothing more.

    I kinda like the disc. This album won't change my life, but I don't mind listening to it. I know, I know, this wishy-washy sort of review doesn't serve anyone well. But it's how I feel. Flu Thirteen is pretty cool. Above average. Worth hearing. Just not awe-inspiring.


    fluf
    Mangravy
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    From the ashes of the completely underappreciated Olivelawn comes Fluf. And good God, does this put new meaning into the word "rock".

    Everything is cranked to eleven, and I still get the idea they're playing pop songs. This is the most incredible wall of distortion I've heard in quite sone time. Even though my stereo could be heard in the apartment building across the street, I insisted upon turning it up another notch when I heard what it was putting out.

    Kinda like what Sugar might sound like if Bob Mould finally woke up and get into uppers (or vice versa). While it is more than trite and cliche rolled into one, the only honest reaction I have is: "This fuckin' rocks!"

    When I think about it, I don't think a higher compliment exists.


    Home Improvements
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    As many of your know, the better portion of Olivelawn (with a new drummer) released a full-length last year under the band name fluf. The CD, vinyl and cassette versions each had a different name. The one I had was called Mangravy. It smoked, I said so, and not too many people noticed.

    So, let's try this again. fluf is a great band from the San Diego area that has managed to stay on an indie. Not a small achievement. They play heavy pop-punk, or light hard core with nice melodies. I don't care how you classify it. Despite the unfortunate necessity to label things, I really don't like to. This is good, heavy music that makes you tap your foot and sing along, particularly after one too many microbrews.

    If that doesn't convince you, I'm just not sure how to do it.


    skyrocket 7"
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Another good reason to check out their new full-length, although neither song here is on that fine effort. Both tracks are simple, to the point, crunchy punka rawka.

    The flip side has the luck of a great title, "all the fuckers live in newport beach". I'm not exactly sure how the lyrics and the title are related, but then I've never been to Newport Beach.

    If somehow these boys have escaped your attention (and by the playlists I've received, most of you have), there is no excuse. Capitulate or die.


    The Classic Years
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    A cool compilation of 12 tunes previously available only on 7". I have about half this stuff, but it's nice to get my hands on the rest of the goodies.

    fluf is one of the finest rock bands around today. You can't imagine what I'd give to see the boys in action.

    Well, after all, I do have two of them...

    Anyway, as is normal with 7" compilations, the tunes and performances are looser and rather more entertaining than a regular album. The band knows it has to make a statement in one song instead of ten, and the focus is much better.

    Not a clunker in the bunch; included on this disc are 12 good reasons to fall in love with fluf. One of these days everyone else will notice, too.

    See also Olivelawn.


    Fluffer
    Wreck +2 CD5
    (Fear of Nebraska)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Crunchy chords that slip and lock into place, punctuated by Laura Galpin's breathy and breathless vocal delivery.

    Crashing, hollering, bashing the hell out of the music. Fluffer isn't terribly friendly, but the sound is irresistible. Wonderfully conceived and executed hardcore pop. Fast, mean and incisive.

    A thrill ride that ends way too soon. Yeah, for all the aggro, this is still inescapably mainstream, but it's so clever (the "Panama" reference on "Slick" is delicious) that I won't complain.

    Beastly and wondrous. Three songs are not enough.


    Fluorescent Grey
    Lying on the floor mingling with god in a tijuana motel room next door to a veterinary supply store
    (Isolate)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    And I thought Eluvium was being obtuse with its album title! Ah, well. Good thing I like these songs so much. Robbie Martin has been making electronic music for ages, and his assembly technique is impeccable. He never dwells too long on a particular sound or idea. Better to cut the sample short and repeat it than let it run too long.

    An awful lot of folks could learn from that. Editing is difficult, but particularly important in collage-style electronic music. Martin uses his samples both as "melodies" (such as they are) and rhythms. Sometimes he uses the cuts as a something approaching a rhythm track. Like I said, he's good.

    Good enough to make an experimental electronic album that is warm, even though it's filled with pops, crackles and other odd bits of energy. There's never a sense of chaos. Martin imposes a strict order on things even as he is willing to ply the edges of the musical sphere.

    One of the best strictly electronic albums I've heard in a long time. There are so many layers to the pieces, it's gonna take me a while to peel through them. And don't worry: I will.


    Antique Electronic Synthesizer Greats 1955-1984
    (Record Label Records)
    reviewed in issue #327, May 2011

    Robbie Martin, who sometimes records as Fluorescent Grey, has a history of parody and provocation. So is this album a series of rerecordings of old electronic pieces, or is it just the product of his own twisted mind?

    Mostly the latter. Martin took bits and pieces of old electronic works and melded them together into his own compositions. The results are utterly stunning.

    As in, "What planet is this from, and why won't my butt stop moving?" Yes, there's a heavy experimental element to all of this, but the pieces are often catchy as hell.

    There are 27 tracks, but only 15 loops. How did he do it? Listen a few dozen times and you'll begin to get the idea. But once you've deconstructed this stuff, you'll simply love it even more in the altogether. Fantastic.


    The Flying Change
    Pain Is a Reliable Signal
    (Scarlet Shame)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    I do believe that the minimalist roots sound is on its way back in. This is the tenth (or twentieth?) such disc I've heard recently. Maybe that's why the New Yorker did a profile of Wil Oldham. I dunno.

    It's so easy to screw up this sound. There's really nothing to save bad songs from themselves. Sparse arrangements and relatively spartan recording techniques don't leave a lot of room for hiding. The Flying Change has the songs to make this sound sing.

    And there are just enough brighteners to keep things lively. These guys aren't slavishly devoted to some false "real" sonic ideal. They're trying to make good music. Where the songs demands just a bit more, the Flying Change makes sure to use that little bit.

    An album that enchants more and more as it rolls along. I really like the way these folks put together their songs. There's a sweet off-handed feel that lends an immediate intimacy. Watch out--you just might fall in love.


    The Flying Luttenbachers
    Revenge of the Flying Luttenbachers
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    A new album by the masters of the Chicago noise scene. This stuff is a godawful mess, and every drop is worth savoring.

    I've had a few readers complain about my taste in music, particularly "that noise crap", as one so nicely put it. In a word, fuck off. I feel I can speak for the Luttenbachers and plenty more. And in this case, I don't know how anyone could call it crap, anyway.

    Despite the messy sound, the rhythm section is very tight, and the songs are meticulously crafted. Yes, the end result is a wild squeal of distortion and general discomfort, but even a layman can hear the care that went behind this.

    Hey, you don't have to like it. I do, and this album is a perfect example of why noise is a valid type of music. It may sound incoherent on the surface, but the overall effect is just the opposite. Grand opera it ain't, but grand it is.


    Gods of Chaos
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Not only do these folks craft (probably a bad choice of words there) some of the finest incoherancies ever produced on this planet, but they are well aware that there is never a good reason to take much of anything seriously.

    So the liners proudly proclaim "Pay attention! Any feelings of tedium you encounter during Gods of Chaos is integral to the piece." I certainly didn't find anything tedious, though there were times I felt as lost as a free-thinker at a Christian Coalition convention. The Flying Luttenbachers specialize in sonic deconstruction, laying bare the foundation of modern music and then proceeding to crank up the jackhammers. Pretty cool, when you think about it.

    The liners say Gods of Chaos was recorded in one take with no overdubs. The second part is easy to believe. I'm not entirely sure that the band didn't take at least a short break between songs (that what I'm calling them, anyway), but it really doesn't matter. The stuff is wondrously strange and inventive, even when it's hard to tell up from down.

    Oh, the things that pass through the mind at times like this. Unfettered creative output is maddening and joyous all at once. Ultimately, I find this sort of music to be horribly inspiring. I know, I'm one weird motherfucker, but sue me. I love the Luttenbachers, even if I really can't describe the music.


    Destroy All Music
    (ugEXPLODE-Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    A collection of works from 1993 and 1994, some studio and some live. I've been through this little charade with the Luttenbachers a couple times before, and once again I'll say that once you've heard the band, you love it or you hate it. There is no middle ground. This is not music which inspires tedium.

    No, it's alive. As alive as anything I've encountered in all my years of reviewing. Perhaps a bit more manic than other Luttenbachers fare I've heard, but then, that's definitely a subjective analysis. What this is, simply, is more stuff from one of the most inventive bands in the world. With more reed work than I've heard on other discs.

    There's a rant in the liners about "effete jazz" and how the Luttenbachers aren't jazz or death metal (I can't imagine who would have described them that way, though I can think of some free jazz that bears some similarity to what can be heard here). It's, um, music, and there's not a lot more to say, other than maybe it's great music.

    Tres cool. That about sums this up, I'm thinking.


    Retrospectiw III
    (ugEXPLODE-Quinnah)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Just in case you missed out on a couple of limited run EPs and didn't manage to score all the compilations the Luttenbachers ever appeared on. And in the case of the final track, a different mastering level than what appeared on the compilation. Lots of cool shit, all of it in that distinctively Flying Luttenbachers style.

    Which, if you didn't read the previous review (and why the hell not?), is somewhat difficult to describe. There's an equation in the liners. Free jazz=death metal=no wave. No wave, of course, is a term familiar to fans of Skin Graft Records and the collection of craziness which surrounds that venture (the Flying Luttenbachers have played a nice part in that phenomenon).

    The recording quality of some of these tracks isn't the greatest, though to be honest, I don't think that matters much at all. I mean, part of the joy of this music is the missed notes, notes which might, in another sort of review, be called blue notes. And so what if there are a few dropouts, some unintended distortional chaos? It's all part of the whole.

    And what this collection represents, really, is the whole of the band from 1991 to 1995. A run of epochal proportions. Music which defies any label except "really, really, you know, really great".


    Flying Monkey Orchestra
    Mango Theory
    (Monkeyville)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Some may not believe it, but there is a difference between mellow and cheesy. Mellow can be soft and slow and still have artistic quality. The Flying Monkey Orchestra achieves this with the instrumental parts of this disc.

    But when the voices or lyrics come in, everything slides right on down the road to cheesyville. The latin grooves are nice enough, but those lyrics are just terrible. And the voices have that dreaded adult contemporary feel.

    It didn't have to be "happy jazz". But that's where Flying Monkey Orchestra ends up.


    Flying Nuns
    Everything's Impossible These Days
    (Q Division)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Back in the olden days (when I was but an impressionable youth), there was this thing that didn't have a name. It wasn't "alternative," and neither was it "indie rock," though that seems to be what people call it these days.

    Whatever it was, the stuff generally featured vaguely disjointed songs full of ragged hooks and lots of volume or disortion or at least some fast drumming. We're talking about a very vague thing here. Anyway, Flying Nuns fall right in there somewheres.

    I think what I hear here that really makes me identify with that old school stuff is the stream of consciousness style these boys play. The music, I mean. The lyrics are fairly convoluted, of course, but the music seems to follow its own internal rules. This stuff shouldn't work. But it does. Gloriously.

    And so I'll just sit back and bask in the wonder of it all. The ideas just swirl about my head, distracting my mind from the obvious flaws in construction. See, when stuff works, it works. Rules don't matter. Flying Nuns know how to make good music. And that's all you need to know.


    Flying Saucer Attack
    New Lands
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Most Drag City releases are of the quiet and intense variety. Or perhaps raucous and loopy. But rarely noisy and harsh. Flying Saucer Attack does follow well-worn Drag City path: the crafting of awe-inspiring music.

    The songs themselves are generally mellow pop bits, but they lie beneath imposing layers of electronic pulses and white noise. These upper layers provide most of the rhythm, and they also all but wipe out everything else.

    Almost is the operative word. Yes, it's a challenge to decipher. The act of listening isn't a passive activity, and to get the full effect, some work must be performed. No one said the life of a music fan was easy.

    As for me, I kinda like the overlaid stuff. Being a serious noise fan, the effect somewhat hypnotizes me, taking me to cool space deep inside my warped mind where I'm watching the new People's Court as Ed Koch sentences Kenny G to death for crimes against humanity.

    Now that's good music!


    Mirror
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    The press note said that this is something of a more "refined" Flying Saucer Attack. I wasn't relishing that prospect. The band's ethereal take on the noise sound is something that I really like.

    Well, this IS more refined. The songs are actually songs. The stuff doesn't have to be deciphered. That said, I'll also admit that the band certainly didn't sell out. The noise has drifted to the background, but the adventurous songwriting remains.

    Reminds me a bit of Seam, circa 1993 or something. Back when I was too dumb to recognize how cool that stuff was. This is much more "out there," of course, and I suppose it also reminds me of some of the later Old albums. Lots of loops and pieces, melded together into a lush sound.

    Change doesn't have to suck. Flying Saucer Attack has gotten a bit more introspective, but the creative fire hasn't dimmed at all. The more I listen, the more I fall into the abyss.


    FM Knives
    Useless & Modern
    (Broken Rekids)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    What might have been if the Ramones decided to be a lo-fi garage band rather than a somewhat souped-up punk band. The FM Knives rely on much the same sort of understated and simple melody structure and highly aggressive (if decidedly basic) guitar riffage.

    I know the garage thing is a big trend. One that's probably already lost its bloom. After all, the standardbearer albums aren't exactly great (despite incomprehensibly good reviews), and a lot of these bands sound the same. FM Knives have managed to carve out their own corner of this sound quite nicely.

    For starters, these guys know how to write songs. Yes, the construction is simple and the charm relies on energetic playing, but these songs would work if they were arranged for Joan Baez. They've got life, that special something that pricks up the ear and turns up the corners of the lips into a smile.

    Will FM Knives change the world? Are they as good as the Ramones? Does it matter? Nope to all three questions. This is a nice little unpretentious album that kicks some ass. Which is pretty damned good in my book.


    Foetus
    Boil
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    There is rarely middle ground when it comes to industrial acts playing live. They either suck or are brilliant. I've never seen J.G. Thirwell and his traveling band on stage, but if this is any indication, well, I'd rather not.

    Recorded Foetus is, at best, a hit-or-miss proposition. Sometimes Thirwell is on, and often enough he's not. And his last album wasn't one of his best, though five of the tunes here are from that opus. Covers of Alice Cooper Band, Dead Boys, Beatles and Cheap Trick tunes help complete the set, along with three other Thirwell compositions.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise is the dreadful mastering job on this disc. The production is pretty muddy, but even accounting for that there's no reason I should have to crank my stereo just to hear what's going on. An altogether useless enterprise, unless you really groove on bizarre covers. I'm truly disappointed.


    Paul Foisy
    Windows, Walls & Doors
    (Sun Goat)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Really nice guitar work laid over highly mechanized backing tracks. Foisy's voice is kinda reminiscent of Joe Walsh, and his sense of humor fits in that area as well.

    Actually, this sorta thing (with an actual backup band) probably would have done fairly well back in the late 70s and early 80s. Foisy does handle his guitar very well, and the guitar licks sound great. The rest is rather lacking.

    And the songs are jokey things that produce more groans than guffaws. I'm a big fan of not-so-serious lyrics, but this stuff just doesn't get me going. I think Foisy should spend more time on his arrangements (and producing them better so that they don't sound so cheesy). Refining the lyrics is also a priority. Hey, the guitar is fine. The rest needs work.


    Fold Zandura
    Ultraforever
    (BEC Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    It's easy to follow Fold Zandura's groove. The beats are processed for high accessibility, and the guitars simply follow that lead. Tight, focused pop music, with that whole "retro futuristic" feel. Something like glam processed through an electronic filter. You know what I'm saying, right?

    And oh, the hooks, the hooks, the hooks! Glorious in their resplendent simplicity, bathed in a shimmering shower of rock candy and bubblegum. Mini-epics, flights of limited imagination but maximized entertainment.

    Yes, yes, it does indeed get old. Fold Zandura kinda wallows in this bog, and after a few songs my mind began to wander. If only I could tap into that sense of wonder I found when I tossed the disc into play.

    Those old saws about excess are quite applicable here. A dram now and then is quite pleasurable, but beware of the overdose.


    King Planet
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    At least, I think the band is still called Fold Zandura. All references in the disc package are to Foldzan, but the press notes use the old name. In any case, it is the same sound as the album I heard a couple years back.

    Seven songs in 25 minutes. Is that an album or an EP? Dunno. I'll call it an album. For those who don't recall, Fold Zandura creates a lush pop-rock sound using a variety of instruments and sampled sounds. A variety of beats and bass lines pepper the songs. Indeed many of these songs are almost ambient in construction.

    Though never quite all the way there. The guys never give up on crafting catchy ways to perpetuate their music, and so the hooks always creep in. Yeah, this is definitely a commercial sound, but in the best way. Complex, teeming with life. A full sound which still captivates the average listener.

    A sound that could sell (though I guess it didn't, because this disc isn't on the band's previous label) that still manages to interest me. That's hard to do, and all praise is due. Fold Zandura continues to impress.


    The Foliage
    How to Make Better Love split CD with In Ink Please
    (Fall Records)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    Two male-female duos that specialize in well-crafted, moody pop. The sorta stuff that makes for a nice, contemplative evening.

    In Ink Please reminds me a lot of Floating Opera, but with somewhat more minimal arrangements. Often Fender Rhodes organ and guitar are the only instruments. The melodies are intricate but never jarring. The parts never stop moving, and that keeps the songs flowing well.

    The Foliage is much more fond of electronic accouterments in its arrangements, but otherwise the feel is similar to that of In Ink Please. There are plenty of layers within both the sounds and musical lines, and the pieces seem primed to withstand an almost infinite number of listens.

    These bands are a good match for a split--both bands are from North Dakota, even--and they both put some great work down for the set. A fine showcase for two solid duos.


    Foma
    Inverness EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Foma could have stuck to the dreamy sonic construction sound that floats through this album. But these folks want to sound a bit more intense than Air.

    The vocals are still on the dreamy (or, as most folks prefer, "ethereal") side, but there's plenty of movement behind them. Sure, there are the occasional waves of keyboards, but those are augmented by some actual rock and roll.

    Yeah, Foma is exceedingly precise in its arrangements and playing. That can be a hindrance at times, but on a song like "Hannah, It's Finished!," that craftsmanship really pays off as the tone (and sound) of the song shifts into overdrive and then back again.

    There's a lot here to figure out, and I'm always a sucker for that kind of attention to detail. Foma may think a bit too much, but I'm guessing the live shows are just blistering. This set (the band's third) certainly provides plenty of great songs.


    Joe Fonda-Carlo Morena-Jeff Hirshfield
    What We're Hearing
    (DeWerf-Allegro)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Bass-piano-percussion, to follow the names respectively. This is in the same vein as Fonda's collaboration with Michael Jefry Stevens that I heard last year. Very much solo oriented, but the three players know each other so well that there is plenty of interaction even while one member has the spotlight.

    Cool, yes, but with plenty of other inflections. Just when I can feel an edge of complacency coming on, the trio shifts gears and races off to find some new areas to conquer. Never look back

    I do wish this trio would be as adventurous as the Fonda/Stevens group, but the inclination to settle down for just a moment isn't necessarily a bad one. And, honestly, some of Morena's lines are simply gorgeous.

    A worthy set. An introspective look from three guys who know how to make this music sing.


    The Fonda/Stevens Group
    The Wish
    (Music & Arts Programs of America)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Fonda plays the contrabass, and Stevens handles the piano. I've heard Stevens work before (on a Stevens, Siegal & Ferguson album), and I was impressed then. Fonda's bass work is at least as good, and the two surround themselves here with a set of fine musicians.

    The sound is somewhere post-bop (my jazz etymologies are pretty poor), not unlike the stuff you might hear on early Branford Marsalis works, though obviously with more attention paid to the piano and bass.

    Lines that seem randomly chaotic always come together before the end and make everything much clearer. This music challenges and subsequently rewards the listener. My kind of stuff.

    I haven't heard a new jazz album this good in a long time. The members of the band obviously know each other pretty well and know precisely how to complement the other players. The music sings, swings and reverbs through all sorts of moods. Fully textured and wondrous.

    I'm beginning to confuse even myself. I really liked this album, though I suppose that should be clear by now. If you like inventive and original jazz music, then you will love this disc. Period.


    Fondly
    F Is for... Fondly EP
    (Scratchie-Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Yer basic pop trio. playing basic three-part pop music. Luckily, Fondly doesn't like standing still much, and so the music bounces off all the walls this sorta music can create.

    Somewhat off-key hooks laid over well-written guitar lines and punchy beats. Everything you want, with some nice additional touches. Some of these are studio tricks (generally lo-fi sound effects), and some are a result of rather inventive songwriting.

    And the boys aren't afraid to play it loud. Joyous, angry, bitter and unrestrained, the 16 songs here paint a picture of the examined life, with great backing music.

    Pretty damned fine. This album is hard to rip out of the discer. Extremely fine work.


    Fono
    GoesAroundComesAround
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Fono likes its pop well done with the whupass stick. These punchy tunes fairly explode, blasting hooks from here to forever. Power is the only game the Fono boys seem to like to play.

    And it's a game that is in fine form. Yeah, I'd like a little more diversity in the sound and song construction, but maybe if the band strayed the songs wouldn't work so well. For a one-note band (musically, anyway), Fono manages some fine shots.

    Perhaps the most solid element is the production, which has left these songs throbbing and bursting with energy. The tempo never strays much from the middle ranges, and the sound is pretty much uniformly strong, but even so I want to hear more.

    Probably because this stuff is simply so well done. There's nothing tricky here, no musical sleight of hand. Just pop done the power way. Pop done extremely well.


    For Against
    Coalesced
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #237, January 2003

    Ringing, blissful, mid-tempo pop music. Hooks like honey, guitar tone of the gods. The sort of music that screams "spring afternoon in the park." Ah, if only the lyrics were always so pretty.

    But do you really want shiny, happy music all the damned time? Hell no. And so For Against has crafted some really stunning pop songs with the occasional dark undertow. Just the way it should be, you know?

    The songs are surprisingly long (the seven pieces here clock in at more than 37 minutes in total). Not exactly the formula for pop music, is it? Well, no matter. These pieces are constructed so skillfully that I didn't even notice their length. I just bobbed along in the surf.

    Well-made, and played with plenty of intensity. That's important, because even supposedly "mellow" music needs some attention. The craft here is impressive;the end result even more so.


    In the Marshes
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #291, November 2007

    Some loverly, almost new wave-y beatwork on these pieces. Both "live" and electronic, mind you. And the other two guys play off the rhythms with some quality atmospherics of their own. But these songs key off the percussion.

    The sound is vaguely goth, though filtered through mid-80s U2 and that sort of dramatic rock. Ringing guitars, inobtrusive bass (which is why I didn't compare For Against to New Order) and moderately soaring vocals.

    It's an exceptionally uncomplicated formula, but most folks try to do too much with it. This trio keeps things simple, and so the pleasures of the songs are what strikes the listener first. The sound is cool (especially for someone who was in high school in the middle of the 80s), and it works.

    I suppose there's an element of retread here, but For Against brings these "old fashioned" ideas up to date nicely. A most solid disc.


    Shade Side Sunny Side
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    Another venture into the spooky side of 80s indie pop. For Against doesn't so much emulate a particular band or two but rather simply basks in the glow of the sound.

    At times languid and at others insistent, For Against never hurries. These pieces take a while to unfold, though they're not particularly lengthy. Patience is required, but it's the sort of patience that comes naturally when listening to such engaging music.

    The sound is just hefty enough to provide a nest for a speck of reverb. That hint of unsteadyness washes these songs in a molecule-thin gauze. Just enough to notice, but not enough to annoy.

    And the craft is spectacular. These songs connect the dots effortlessly, and more importantly, the junctions are inaudible. Once again, For Against has put together some truly fine work.


    Never Been
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    Another For Against album, another set of intricately-crafted, deeply introspective tunes. The sort of stuff that sticks with you for a few years.

    I have the feeling this is the best For Against album I've heard, but I can't be sure. Even listening to the older ones (always a pleasure), I'm not positive. But that doesn't matter. These songs are a bit more confident; the playing is somewhat more assured. There are no holes.

    Nothing is missing in the writing or the execution or anything. These midtempo excursions into the recesses of human existence are revelatory. Despite the relatively steady tempos, there is no tedium here, which is an impressive feat. For Against takes its time, but the intensity never fades.

    Damned fine. I've written about these folks a few times before, and I'm all out of fresh praise. Just check it out, okay?


    NeverBlack Soap EP
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Three songs from this trio. For Against seems to be getting more focused and strikingly better every time I hear it. These new wave-inspired songs trip along perkily, and then bare their fangs. Wowsers.


    The For Carnation
    The For Carnation
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Yes, this is another of those post-Slint/Louisville legacy albums. Specifically, the For Carnation revolves Brian McMahan (not to be confused with Brian McMahon), who may also be remembered as an integral member of Squirrel Bait.

    In any case, a couple of previous For Carnation albums came out on Matador a while back, but McMahan has revamped the band (once again) and enlisted a lot of vaguely famous friends (once again) to create this album that is "intended for mature music fans."

    Maybe the press notes said that because the sound is complex and moody (gosh, what a stupid and overused word!). The stuff moves to quiet but insistent bass lines intertwined with keyboards, guitar, strings and whatnot (there's a good amount of whatnot here)

    I'm starting to worry that the highly idiosyncratic nature of this review will lead you to think that I don't like this disc. On the contrary. It's just that the music is reacting to me on such a visceral level that I'm having difficulty translating that transcendent experience into words. What I'm saying is that the problem is mine and mine alone. My wonderment exceeds my scribal abilities.


    For Love Not Lisa
    For Love Not Lisa
    (Indivision/Vis-a-Vis)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    The usual suspects: crunchy guitar licks, boom-boom-chick-boom-boom-boom-chick percussion and hoarsely shouted vocals. In a situation like this one has to gauge the songs themselves.

    Well, most of this is live anyway, so judging craft can be a little difficult. But I will say the live stuff is more energetic and pretty damn fun.

    Yes, there are a lot of punky-grungy-upyers kinda bands running around. This taste isn't enough to make me declare for or against these folks. But if you don't like the new Superchunk (like a few I know), give this a listen. You just might find a little youthful gem, buoyed by fresh energy.


    Softhand 7"
    (Theologian)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Nice, crunchy pop, a little heavier and punkier than their EP, which I reviewed a couple of issues back. I think this is actually the earlier recording, but who's counting?

    These folks have a solid music base, and seem to be rather decent songwriters as well. Folk to be watched, for sure.


    Good Intentions 7"
    (Theologian)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Now signed to Elektra (their second full-length comes out this year), I can still gladly review FLNL's indie 7"s.

    For the uninitiated, FLNL merges pop, hardcore and grunge in a furious fashion, throwing riffs in and out of the mix and still coming up with a glorious product.

    The two songs here are no exception. I don't know if this is a pre-release 7" or what, but For Love Not Lisa is a great band, no matter where these guys hang their hats.


    For No One in Particular
    For No One in Particular
    (Amulet)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    I'm not entirely sure if "For No One in Particular" is the name of an act or simply the name of the album. The players are Billy Martin and Grant Calvin Weston on all sorts of percussion (Weston adds some trumpet when necessary) and DJ Logic (Jason Kibler) on turntable. The key here is that this is a live recording. Really.

    So what we're dealing with here is an astonishingly exciting fusion of electronic effects, beats from hip-hop and the entire world beyond and a seriously whacked-out vision of jazz. I know that description doesn't do the music justice. But it will have to do.

    This album is the sort of thing that could only happen in a few places in the world, spots where the creative mass is so combustible that folks wander in and out of gigs, scenes and sounds without worrying about propriety. New York, where this album was recorded, has been one of those places since, you know, forever. But it's not just a place that makes this album great. It's the willingness of the three guys here to take astonishing chances--and work together--that makes this disc so amazing.

    Not to disparage any rock drummer in particular, but this is no mere hour-long drum solo. Percussion involves a bewildering array of instruments and sounds, and Martin and Weston seem to work as many of them into this performance as possible. This is life-blood.


    Forbidden Dimension
    Sin Gallery
    (Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    A disc that can only make you smile. Elements of punk, rockabilly and straight-forward rock plow their way to the ultimate conclusion: this, the perfect driving record.

    This is a fine updating of the surf sound of the sixties, modernizing it with speed and an even cooler guitar sound, but everything is still damned goofy and fun as ever.

    I can't finish this review, because then I have to stop listening. I could pour a beer and kick back, but it's only one o'clock. Maybe just load a tape and get this thing auto-ready. I think that's the ticket. I may never take this out of my deck.


    Forced Reality
    13 Years of Forced Reality
    (Outsider)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    A couple of studio tracks and eight older songs recorded in the studios of WMBR in Cambridge, Mass. Solid, throaty punk tuneage with more power than attitude.

    The live setting seems to have kept a good pace with the boys, who have a knack for pounding, tuneful songs. Nothing complicated, just the good stuff. The last track is a cover of "Mama Tried," which makes for an odd coincidence, as Merle Haggard's next album is coming out on Epitaph.

    These guys may be from Boston, but they sound like good ol' punk boys. Not hicks, but just happy-go-lucky sorts who seem to stumble into something good more often than not. A fun disc, one that is very difficult to put away.


    The Foreign Resort
    New Frontiers
    (Ignition)
    reviewed 2/18/15

    Nothing really new here, but some arresting sounds nonetheless. This Danish trio takes stripped-down new wave, throws in a little Marr-ish lead guitar and drowns it in MBV-style distortion. So, you know, two au courant trends for the price of one.

    While it makes perfect sense once hearing, I can't say I've heard anything quite like this. At first, I made a fairly straightforward connection with the Cure--another clear influence--but the production is too dirty to make that work perfectly.

    Peppy tunage and dour lyrics make for kind bedfellows. Okay, so that has to be one of the most insipid lines I've ever written, but that doesn't make it untrue. The Foreign Resort has an excellent Smith-ian balance of sweet and sour.

    Let's see: the Cure, the Smiths, MBV. . .who else can I throw in here? Jesus and Mary Chain is another obvious reference, and the insistent midtempo beats do recall New Order. What's really remarkable is that the Foreign Resort can take all of these ideas and turn them into something that sounds modern.

    So geezers like me can dig it, and kids like my newly-minted teenage son can nod along with smiles as well. This is so much more than a tonic for the generation gap, but I'll always take one when I can find it. Loads of fun.


    Bill Foreman
    Building St. Petersburg
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    With the exception of some piano on the first track, Bill Foreman performed every sound on this disc. I'm always impressed by such things, though the music is still the test. And Foreman's stylistic wanders do try.

    Try my patience, test my intellect, attack my sense of being. And before you go thinking I'm ripping this, think again. Whether he's laying down a sweet guitar-picking groove or whacking away with abandon, Foreman's passion is omnipresent.

    He can't sing. Not really. Usually, he doesn't even try. His lyrics are spoken (or hissed or shouted or whatever) as much as sung. Sometimes all he does is rap out a poem. Don't matter what he does. It works for me.

    The purity of individualistic artistic expression is difficult to handle. If Foreman really wants to "get anywhere," he ought to take on a collaborator, someone who will refine his vision into something the general populace will understand. Of course, that would deprive us of discs like this. There's always a tradeoff.


    Forever Goldrush
    Halo in My Backpack
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    There's the country side of alt. country. There's the rock side of alt. country. And then there's the punk side of alt. country. Forever Goldrush isn't quite so ragged as Armchair Martian or early Uncle Tupelo, but the chords are just as thick.

    And, indeed, the strict up-and-down two-step song construction does have its roots in "real" country music (or the blues, or mountain folk, or Irish reels, or...). But there's not a whole lot of craft on this album. Just a lot of thick chords and a kick-back 'tude.

    Down-home anthems, if you will. Forever Goldrush isn't afraid to mess with the formula, and it isn't afraid to goof around a bit. The adventurous spirit (in a relative way; the guitars never really mellow out) is to be commended. In fact, the title track isn't far away from a grunge ballad--it sounds like something that would have been right at home on Temple of the Dog.

    But that's kinda the joy of this sorta music. The rules are there are no rules. Make music that makes sense to you. Period. Don't worry about what other folks say. And if you happen to crank out a chunky little charmer like this disc, well, so much the better.


    Forever Sharp and Vivid
    Forever Sharp and Vivid
    (LoLo Records)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Free jazz? New age soundscapes? Strange stuff? Yeah. All that.

    Forever Sharp and Vivid is David Castiglione (reeds) Chris Massey (percussion) and David Torn (guitar and assorted effects). As that lineup might tell you, the sound is mostly acoustic. Although there are plenty of tiny bits sprinkled in here and there.

    The parts I don't like are the ones which can most easily be identified as new age. The overly-languid openings, with excessive cymbal rolls and the like. That stuff isn't necessary to introduce the fine sound. But the songs generally explore, and I like many of the journeys.

    I still have to say that Dirty Three does this best (substituting a violin for the reeds, of course). Forever Sharp and Vivid takes the road more traveled more often that I would like, but I'm still around at the end of the trip. And happy about it.


    The Forgotten
    Keep the Corpses Quiet
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Manic, fist-pumping hardcore that just doesn't let up. The Forgotten may be recycling riffage and spewing forth a cliche or two, but songs fly by so fast and furiously that its hard to notice.

    Most of the time, anyway. This is an album for adrenaline junkies. Past that, well, I don't think the Forgotten is really trying to achieve anything grand here. Just the odd blistering song.

    The sound is great, sharply-recorded but muddy in the mix. This adds to the heightening tension while still allowing scrutiny of the individual efforts. The playing is professional if not outstanding, but do you really care?

    Of course not. The Forgotten is all about playing fast, hard and loud. Anything else is an afterthought. On that score, these boys are way ahead.


    Control Me
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Punchy, tuneful tunes. Plenty of political screeds, most of which are accompanied by some seriously catchy gang vocals. Not the greatest punk album of all time, but certainly one which rises well above the pack.


    Forgotten Rebels
    Executive Outcomes
    (Bacchus Archives-Dionysus)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    The first four tracks are execrably recorded songs from 1979. The tunes are amusing enough, though I'm pretty sure the world could have done without a parody called "The Punks Are Alright".

    The rest of the disc consists of a live show from 1990. The only original member left was singer Mickey DeSadist (Mike Grelecki), which probably explains why the vocals are so high in the mix.

    My guess is that there's some attempt at humor in most of the songs. It's not that they're puerile; they're incomprehensible. I think I'm supposed to laugh, but I don't get the joke. The stuff isn't funny, and the music, while passable by punk standards, isn't terribly rousing, either.

    Perhaps there is a reason to remember the Forgotten Rebels. This disc isn't it.


    The Forms
    Icarus EP
    (Threespheres)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    The little press kit with this puppy claims that this short effort by the forms rivals debuts by the likes of June of 44 and Sunny Day Real Estate. Well, aren't we presumptuous?

    A little, but damned if the Forms don't almost pull it off. The sound is somewhere between the rock fusion of June of 44 and the noodly emo of bands like Mineral (remember them?). This is about as good a distillation of that sound as I've heard.

    But I think the Forms can do more than reference their influences. This is a band with the talent and vision to create something truly epochal. This EP isn't it, but it's still awfully good. If you're interested in the future of music, the Forms aren't a bad place to start.


    Fornix
    Filth for the Faithful
    (Deep Beat) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Strangely retro-sounding industrial tuneage. Fornix sounds like a low-tech version of Chem Lab or Skrew (I know they're not exactly interchangeable, but that's what I'm trying to say). By low-tech I'm not talking about the production so much as the sound of the instruments and drum machines.

    The song construction is right out of that era, however. Early 1990s Ministry is also a good reference point, though again with the caveat about the sound. Anyway, you get the idea, I hope.

    What I don't hear is any way that Fornix really takes this sound much further. Yeah, the gothic metal industrial apocalypse is a lot of fun to ride, but it has been done. And while this is perfectly fine, it has been done better.

    This is another of those cases where a band has done nothing wrong (there are no overt flaws, exactly). It's just that the spark of inspiration that I like to hear isn't here. Fornix just doesn't rise above the pack, that's all.


    Chris Forsyth
    (as Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth)
    Left & Right
    (Pax Recordings-Bottomfeeder)
    reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Here's how this one worked: Ernesto Diaz-Infante worked up a series of acoustic guitar pieces, taped them and sent them on to Chris Forsyth, who added his electric guitar musings.

    And unlike Diaz-Infante's piano works, these songs are anything but neat. Both guitarists scrape at the strings and wail at the universe. Sounds a bit like Marc Ribot or Henry Kaiser in their most agitated moments.

    While these pieces are more involved than what I'm used to from Diaz-Infante, the effect is just as haunting. The pieces sit just beneath the radar, touching an odd part of my subconscious. Somehow, they really make my skin crawl. I like that. A lot.

    I think the other part that really gets to me is that the guitars are not generally complimentary. They're competing with each other, challenging the other to find a new way to express the ideas already exposed. This disc contains some seriously stunning work.


    (as Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Chris Forsyth)
    Wires and Wooden Boxes
    (Evolving Ear/Pax Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    In jazz, improvisation is studied. There are "right" and "wrong" ways to play, depending on the approach. Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth play the wrong way. All the time.

    These improvisations are as much about found sound as they are about tonal theory. For example, on the first track Forsyth's entire contribution is a meditation on the static caused by plugging and unplugging the amp cord into and out of his guitar. By the way, it really works, too.

    Unlike the last pairing of these two, this album was recorded in one studio with both members present. Funny thing is, I don't hear a whole lot of difference. Both play with more instruments in rather unusual ways, but the spirit of adventure is just as high as when the due recorded bicoastally.

    That's the main reason I'll pick up anything that either of these guys does. There's just no telling what's going to happen. I'm not gonna lie; sometimes the experiment doesn't quite work out. Most often, though, the results are spectacular.


    (as Chris Forsyth/Chris Heenan)
    Forsyth Heenan
    (Reify)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    A tale of two Chrises: Forsyth on the guitar and Heenan on reeds (alto sax, bass and contrabass clarinet). Improvisational to the extreme.

    Fans of these two guys know that they prefer to use their instruments in, shall we say, non-traditional ways. Forsyth is just as comfortable using his guitar as percussion as he is wringing melodies from the strings, and Heenan sounds just as good not blowing a note as he does hitting one.

    I'm just guessing here, but I think the six pieces here were recorded live to tape, with no overdubs. That's pretty impressive considering the wide ranges of noise that populate each piece. In particular, Heenan seems to be shifting between instruments in fairly rapid order. Or maybe I'm just hearing things funny.

    All of the song titles are statements that begin with "I" ("I Am Not a Technologist," "I Listen," etc.). I'm sure there's a point to that, but right now I have no idea what it might be. I simply enjoyed listening two fertile minds plumb the depths of sound and find some striking gems.

    See also W.O.O. Revelator.


    The Forty Nineteens
    Spin It
    (self-released)
    reviewed 12/20/14

    This is not an album for the kids. When a band's website blares the information that it has played with the Fixx, it's pretty clear that the target demo is folks who aren't ashamed to watch CBS.

    Okay, that's going too far. But the Forty Nineteens fuse AOR rock, punk and garage pop the way it was done all the time in the 80s. Remember the Romantics? The less metallic side of Billy Idol? The Forty Nineteens play in-between those margins. They're probably closest to a beefed-up and manic version of Huey Lewis and the News. There's not a side of rock and roll they're afraid to touch, and most of the time three or four strands are braided together within a song.

    By the way, kids: That thing on the album cover is an old 45 insert. 45s are what us oldsters used to call seven-inches. You know, because you play them at 45 rpm. I've always felt that CDs should be called 200s for the same reason, but no one else seemed interested in jumping on that bandwagon.

    The Forty Nineteens are on no bandwagon at all. This hand-hewn rock is completely out-of-favor today with just about everyone. These boys (I'm speaking euphemistically, as the members of the Forty Nineteens appear to be older than me) are making this music for themselves. Which is just as it should be.

    I do think there's a place for this kind of tuneful, raucous music. Time may have passed us by, but adrenaline still needs pumping. Music like this is the perfect tonic. Beats Viagra any day.


    Fort Knox Five
    Pressurize the Cabin
    (Fort Knox)
    reviewed 5/4/15

    The four members of Fort Knox Five are busy boys. In addition to their eponymous record label, which releases an eclectic mix of D.C. sounds, these producers lend their hands to a wide array of projects. And every few years they throw together something under their own name.

    We're talking funk, and old-school stuff at that. Meandering between Parliament, the Furious Five and other like-minded folks from the 70s and early 80s, these songs are sticky ear candy. Much like "Uptown Funk," these songs take an old sound and shine it up into something special.

    I haven't heard a better party album all year. These boys remember when dance music actually caused you to shake you ass (even when you weren't inclined to do so). These infectious romps have no quit. They bound along with abandon.

    There are a few modern electronic touches, but most of that is window dressing in the production. The horns are real, the guitars are real and the bass is most certainly thumped. And while these songs are most certainly assembled, they sound like live jams. The talent behind the sounds here is breathtaking.

    The D.C. music scene is as fertile and diverse as it has been in ages. Wale's recent #1 album would be exhibit A. Another example is that these funksters put out their label's albums through punk stalwart Dischord (Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Dismemberment Plan, etc.). And I know plenty of folks who swear allegiance to the myriad sounds of the DMV. Fort Knox Five don't have a corner on local funk, but they sure know how to throw a party.

    If you manage to get through this album without busting your butt, return it for a full refund. I'm quite sure no funds need be set aside. This is Grade A funk, with a massive chaser of fun. Glorious.


    Forty Piece Choir
    Tennessee
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Thre's something about the whole Americana movement that seems to inspire some really wild attempts at musical assimilation. A band like Lambchop throws in everything and then heads out to the junkyard to look for more. A guy like Ryan Adams is comfortable channeling Gram Parsons, Neil Young, James Taylor and the Replacements--sometimes in the same song. Forty Piece Choir is just as diverse in its influences, and that results in a fine album--an album that's probably too unique for most labels to stomach.

    I mention labels because the band's website mentions that it is searching for one to call home. There are plenty of outstanding record labels in the band's Chicago home, and I figure one of them will pick up on these folks sooner or later. What to do with Forty Piece Choir is another question altogether.

    While the vocals of Dana Okon and Kelly Kruse do lend a sense of familiarity, there is an awful lot going on here. The sequencing of the album is alright, but it really isn't optimal. There's not the sort of flow between the tracks that there ought to be, and they really don't build to much of anything.

    Which isn't to say the stuff isn't great. Most of these songs are wonderful; they just seem a bit jarring in the order that they're placed. Sequencing is an art. When done right, it makes an average album great. A reshuffling here would make a very good album even better. When you're trying to do as much as Forty Piece Choir, every little bone thrown to the listener helps.


    The Profound Nature of Life
    (Cooked County Records)
    reviewed in issue #293, February 2008

    Six members rather than the advertised 40, but when you've got an active horn section, it's easy to make small numbers sound bigger. And these songs generally sound much bigger than they are. Which is about what I expected, given how much I liked the band's earlier stuff.

    The guts of the pieces are simple rootsy jangles. But throw in the horns, a Fender Rhodes, violin and mandolin and these songs take on a more ambitious life. They certainly sound more alive, in any case.

    The sound of the album is raucous and restless, almost mono at times. That flat character really takes these songs to a cool place. Kinda like being present at the birth of rock and roll.

    Alright then. Some folks know how to play the country blues, and more than a few can do the rock and roll. Most folks these days don't try to do both at the same time, but Forty Piece Choir does just that most impressively. Most fun.


    The Forty-Fives
    Get It Together
    (Ng-Artemis)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Some nice bash 'n' pop, with organ chaser. High-speed ravers, with just a little bit of the edge taken off. Kinda like a Long Island Iced Tea.

    And like that wonderfully inebriating drink, there's a price to paid for too much quick pleasure. The songs flow so furiously that a hangover is almost guaranteed. I'm such a junkie for stuff like this, all I really say is that the Forty Fives sure can pack a groove.

    Think of a little Love. Well, maybe a lotta Love. Not a bad band to emulate, though there are other influences. While in the same sonic range, this is not quite as good as the new Delta 72, but then, not much has been this year.

    No, this is merely damned good. Probably not the most substantial of meals. But a great snack. Man, I love that organ. Just makes any day shine, you know?


    Mark Fosson
    Digging in the Dirt: Home Recordings 1976
    (Tompkins Square)
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    These are the demos for Fosson's long-lost Takoma (as in Takoma Park, where I live) Records album. That album was finally released back in 2006, and these tapes surfaced some time later.

    Back in the mid-70s, Fosson was a 12-string instrumentalist, rather than the more traditional songer-songwriter he is today. The songs here are original compositions (except for Gene Autry's "Back in the Saddle Again"), but they have the feel of the Appalachian piedmont finger-pickin' blues. The 12-string guitar adds a few layers, but at their heart a lot of these songs sound like they're the direct descendants of the old stuff played by Elizabeth Cotton and others.

    Fosson did add plenty of his own ideas, including a fair chunk of classical guitar. Those flourishes help to make these songs sound timeless. The sound is immaculate; it's hard to believe these recordings came from almost 40-year-old tapes.

    A more intimate affair than the Takoma album, despite sharing many of the same songs. Fosson says he likes these recordings better, and it's easy to hear why. Entrancing.


    Josephine Foster & the Victor Herrero Band
    Anda Jaleo
    (Fire Records)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Back in 1931 Federico Garcia Lorca recorded a set of Spanish folk songs and released them as Las Canciones Populares Espanolas. Not surprisingly, Franco banned it. A few years later (ahem), Foster and Herrero decided to make live recordings of the songs. This is the result.

    Those unfamiliar with Foster might be put off by her affected singing style, which sounds a bit like a frustrated opera singer trying her hand at popular song. Foster did study opera, and she might be a bit too studied in her style, but that whiff of high culture colors these songs nicely.

    Herrero's arrangements are simple and arresting. I love the settings of these songs. They immediately capture what I imagine would be the time and place of the original recordings, and they are impressive standing by themselves. Well-paced and quite assured.

    For those unable to parse Spanish, the liners provide adequate translations. But I'm not fluent by any means and I still managed to pick up the emotions in the songs. It's hard not to get swept away. Beautiful.


    The Foundry Field Recordings
    Prompts/Miscues
    (Emergency Umbrella)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Always good to hear something new from Columbia, Mo., where I spent five fun years back in the late 80s and early 90s. Strangely, back then I knew a couple of bands that sounded vaguely like the Foundry Field Recordings, seeing as the whole psychedelic, over-produced rock thing was kinda breaking out at the time.

    These folks do have a modern sense of restraint (which can be a good thing--back when I was in school, the Flaming Lips set off more fireworks in small theaters than Great White), and more importantly, every note seems to be preordained. Not predictable, mind you, just played as if there was no other place to be.

    The other, more important distinction is that this album is well-produced, which could not be said about any Columbia outfit from back in the day. Modern technology can be stultifying, but it seems to be quite helpful for creative people doing creative things. This album sounds so, so pretty.

    Doesn't so much take me back to my college days as it does remind me of how nice life is after college. You grow up. You drink better beer. More good music comes along. You drink more better beer. Yes, indeed, life is good. And the Foundry Field Recordings are too.


    Fountains of Wayne
    Fountains of Wayne
    (Scratchie-Tag Recordings-Atlantic)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    They did "That Thing You Do", and here they do their own thing, which owes as much to the Posies rendition of Big Star faux-Brit pop as anything straight from the sixties.

    Ah, but the roots show right through. Peppy pop tunes, with just enough distortion and discord to hint at the slime underneath. After all, the most subversive songs are the ones that sound so damned nice.

    The Fountains crank out plenty of good songs, with a few great ones tossed in just for the hell of it. I have a feeling I'll like this puppy more each time I hear it, which is the sign of a good pop album. No throwaway stuff here.

    Well, there might be a bit of filler here and there, but not enough to bother me much. The production could tone the proceedings down just a bit (sometimes that self-conscious noisy crunch starts to grate), but these are minor points. The two main songwriters, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, have a good ear for the craft. Future efforts could be truly spectacular.


    4
    No One 7"
    (LoTioN Industries)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Hardcore emo (as if that makes sense to anyone), with a decent rhythm groove base and some well-shouted vocals.

    The a-side, "No One", is uptempo and rather messy. The song doesn't seem to come together very well at all. The same result for the flip, "Tip of Your Tongue", a rather dirge-like song (even considering that it's emo) that rambles on and on with no end in sight (although one is mercifully supplied).

    The main problem with the songs is that they don't have a center of any kind. It doesn't have to be much, a particular riff or bass line or something. These tunes aren't even coherent enough to be amorphous.

    More work is definitely called for here.


    Unusual Warmth
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    The 7" was altogether incoherent, even for what I term "hardcore emo". I'm not asking for a big buttload of structure; just something to point the way. And 4 has come through on this disc.

    I don't know; maybe I was in a weird mood when I checked out the single. Now that I've heard more, I think I understand a little better. And I certainly like what I hear.

    There are quite a few moments of weirdness where the songs sorta lose track of themselves (tempo changes three minutes in, the dissolution of rhythmic ideas for no particular reason), but these tunes have been worked around pretty well.

    I like the idea behind this, and I like this execution much better than what I heard a month or so ago. There's still room for improvement, of course, but 4 is definitely on the right track.


    The Four Hundred
    The Four Hundred EP
    (Anechoic)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Five songs that bring to mind early My Bloody Valentine (the pre-excess sound), though with more than a hint of the current retro electronic feel. Loopy bubbly pop that burbles its way into every nook and cranny of the brain.

    Still and all, the songs are driven by guitars. There is a underlying wash of distortion (used kinda like the foot pedal on a piano, dragging out certain chords and sounds) and also that wee bit of electronic techno babble.

    The kind of stuff that makes the head light with giddiness. And, well, with just enough weight to make repeat listens not only bearable, but desirable. The sort of EP that brings wishes of an imminent full-length.


    400 Horses
    400 Horses
    (A2 Records)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Earnest glam, stuff that lies somewhere between the original 70s stuff and the 80s metal equivalent. The harmonies are pure Sweet, but the beats are more of the straight up-and-down variety. The songs are surprisingly socially-conscious, even if they're presented in a somewhat confused fashion.

    Strangely, the most striking feature of the sound is the keyboards, which are done up to sound like horns or strings or even a guitar at times. This leads to a somewhat tinny sound at times, but it also works every once in a while.

    Like most bands of this ilk (man, I've been preaching this for months now, it seems), the songs work best when they pick up the tempo. "Let It Go" is a lean rocker that takes full advantage of the band's strengths.

    Alright, even that song doesn't approach greatness, but it's alright. No real excitement here, I'm afraid.


    454 Big Block
    Your Jesus
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #86, 9/11/95

    Reasonably catchy ultra-heavy grunge stuff, though I became less enchanted as the disc wore on.

    More dull than truly bad, 454 Big Block keeps returning to the same well to try and salvage a sense of sound and attitude. And, amazingly, the band seems to incorporate the bass line to "Back in the Saddle" into every song. I don't think I imagined that, anyway.

    454 Big Block does credit to the genre, but that sound is getting awfully tired. And nothing moves forward; the music just keeps getting more constipated.


    Four Letter Word
    A Nasty Piece of Work
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Dead-on straight-ahead uptempo punk, with a tendency for the catchy chorus. British (well, Welsh. At least, that's the address) guys who have been doing this for a while and obviously have a handle on the form. Nice to hear some professional anarchy.

    Basic, yes. Four Letter Word does not surprise. This is right where it's supposed to be, with nothing diluted. Supremely executed, I might add, all the way from the tight playing to the great growler on vocals. Pub voiced, you might say. Just fuckin' right.

    And if you're not gonna innovate, you might as well kick some ass. Four Letter Word does everything right, and usually much better that simply correct. Inspired is a word that comes to mind. The blood is flowing and the adrenaline is bubbling out of my pores. Highly combustible.

    Very very very very very fine. Knowhutimean? I think so. The sort of music which inspired talentless kids to pick up instruments and start railing against the man. The best of times, indeed.


    Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? 7"
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    The cover art and title may seem amusing, but Four Letter Word has some important points to make in its two songs. Like the album I dug so much, these guys are able to kick out socially-conscious lyrics with contagiously addictive hardcore pop tuneage.

    The first song is basically saying, "Lie around stoned if you like, but you're missing a thing or two". The flip side attacks the 9-to-5, 25-to-life attitude of working your life away so that you can retire and die.

    The implication, of course, is that somewhere in-between lies an interesting way to approach life. Couldn't agree more. And with music like this, I don't know who wouldn't dig.


    Four Square
    Three Chords...One Capo
    (Bad Taste)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    Canadian emo boys recording for a Swedish label. It truly is one world, isn't it? Anyway, Four Square plays that almost sickeningly-sweet power pop emo, and it doesn't really do much with the formula. All these boys do is kick out one great song after another.

    Yeah, I keep hearing from some of my more sophisticated friends that it doesn't take any talent to write and play stuff like this. Hey, the boys here have heard that one before, and they've got an answer in the title of the album. That's pretty damned funny. But, see, they also know that writing tight hooks and keeping the energy level up song after song is a real bitch. You think crafting music like this is easy? You do it.

    Anyway, the sound is nice and thick, with just enough space to hear all the necessary sounds. This album goes by the book all the way down the line. It's nothing incendiary. It's just one big wad of fun.

    And sometimes that's more than enough for me. As the boys themselves note in "Hitmaker," "...there's nothing original, 'cause that would be absurd." Big cheese that makes me laugh? Alrighty, then.


    Four Star Mary
    Thrown to the Wolves
    (MSG)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Loosely written, but tightly performed and produced, pop music. There's a reason Four Star Mary has had its music featured on "Buffy." This is prototypical "alternative" music, but in a good way (kinda like the show, or at least, that's what my TV-watching friends tell me).

    I do wish the band would unbind itself just a bit. I mean, this album doesn't have the shine of a major label release, but the playing is that precise. And I think these songs need to breathe.

    But man, they're good. The hooks are golden, and even though I think there a bit too much calculation from time to time, my head keeps bobbing along. Obviously, Four Star Mary knows how to crank out top-notch pop music.

    I guess that should be my final judgment. Does the music move me? Sure. Will I care about it tomorrow? I dunno. Most pop music, even good stuff, has something of an ephemeral quality. A fine way to brighten a dark day, in any case.


    4th Sign of the Apocalypse
    Lost Hour World
    (Suffering Clown-World Serpent)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Just in case I might be tempted to refer to the almost mind-numbing repetition as sequenced or looped, there's a note in the disc stating that nothing of the kind is used. The mechanical precision achieved is human in nature. That's pretty cool.

    And that means that these cool gothic soundscapes are created by real-time instruments (okay, so there were some samples, but someone had to push the button at the right time) as well. I'm impressed. There's a lot of weird noise on this disc, but it all forms around an extremely industrial base.

    Sometimes a song (with vocals, anyway) breaks out, sometimes the spooky atmosphere perpetuates itself. And sometimes there's amusement, as in a song titled "The Last 7:38 of Your Life". I know, I know, there probably was serious intent behind that, but it's a delicious bit of ironic commentary as well.

    A highly individualistic disc, music created by folks who demand something different. I'm a big fan of soundscapes in general, and these are better than most. Very cool.


    4th Ward
    4th Ward
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Just as the Exist album is one example of the one-man recording, 4th Ward is another. Mike Shannon has plenty of help, but he's the man behind every song. He plays easygoing rock music and spices it up with often wry lyrics.

    Sentimentality runs high in this form, though Shannon usually keeps his pieces from getting too treacly. Part of that comes from his vocal delivery, which is reminiscent of Lou Reed's most commercial fare.

    The arrangements are where he gets into a little trouble. In the effort to sound "professional," Shannon tries a little too hard. He fills out his sound to excess, often with mushy keyboards. "Really Tired" is a pretty cool song, but he closes it with some unnecessary electric piano sounds, which totally changes the character of the song.

    Shannon has a good ear for lyrics. He's not much more than a journeyman songwriter when it comes to the music. At least, he takes very few chances with the sounds behind his vocals. A little more confidence there could lead to some really fine work.


    45 Spiders
    Mizu No Oto
    (Deep Reverb)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    The cover and packaging scream "trendy electronic crap". Actually, it's trendy emo. Not crap. Good stuff. Much in the Mineral tradition of long songs, heavy on the mellow exposition. In fact, sometimes it takes forever for the songs to get rolling. But once they do, hoo boy.

    Not for those with ADD. Nope. This music demands patience, and the time spent listening is well rewarded, indeed. 45 Spiders knows how to properly grow a song. How to put all the right pieces in the right order to make a devastating statement.

    Yeah, I guess it's really good. The three-piece sounds much bigger (even while sticking to the sparse traditions of emo). Maybe it's just the ideas which are bigger. Could be.

    Top quality. At the top of the top quality stack. Seven songs here, and all of them are great. No clunkers, not even a mediocre tune. Nope. Greatness on a disc, served up and ready. It is albums like this which make me happy to write about music.


    Eric Fox
    Roman A Clef
    (Dunket)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Guitars, basses, Moog and beatbox. That's what Eric Fox plays here. Introspective compositions that challenge even adventurous listeners. In a good way, I mean.

    These aren't obtuse pieces. Not at all. Fox does utilize loops and repeated themes, but only as a way of better expressing himself. I mean challenging in that there's an awful lot of information here to process.

    Musical ideas, I mean. Fox sometimes likes to hide the most interesting parts of his songs behind a false curtain. Not a wall, but just some scrim. Enough of a barrier to engage the mind as well as the heart.

    The challenge is to merge the two. Fox facilitates this with some wonderfully evocative guitar-picking pieces (reminds me a bit of Jim O'Rourke) mixed in with the keyboard-dominated works. Yeah, you've gotta spend a little energy to really dig into this album, but it's most definitely worth the effort.


    Fox in the Henhouse
    Fox in the Henhouse
    (iBot)
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    Fox in the Henhouse is Ryan Escolopio and J.D. Tennyson (formerly/currently? of Wakefield). And they're still interested in layered power pop. Damned good thing, too, cause they've got a fine feel for the stuff.

    The six songs on this album are probably a bit too complicated for the mass market, but you never know. What I an say is those who like their pop darkly complected will be quite pleased. The lyrics are constructed so as to avoid cliches, and there are so many ideas in each song that I was constantly wondering how long the center could hold.

    As long as Escolopio and Tennyson want it to hold, I guess. I should note that the other two members of Wakefield appear on this album, but they're not listed as members. Take that as you will. In any case, this is a Fox in the Henhouse release. Period.

    And I think Fox in the Henhouse will have a much longer shelf-life than Wakefield. If you're smart, you learn from experience. And it seems clear that Escolopio and Tennyson have learned that you might as well make music you like and let fame come calling later. That seems to be the approach they took here, and it worked wonderfully.


    The Foxglove Hunt
    Stop Heartbeat
    (Common Wall Media)
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    The partnership of Rob Withem and Ronnie Martin (Fine China and Joy Electric, respectively), this is yet another album in this set of reviews that skips through the fields of the 80s.

    In this case, these guys dive straight into the bounding synth pop that brought dolts like me to the dance floor back in the day. Interestingly, the sound doesn't stick to a particular era; there are plenty of Get Ready-esque numbers as well as those that would feel at home on Low-Life, if you want to use the New Order comparison.

    In other words, there are a few sterile dancefloor anthems, and sometimes there's a bit of leavening in the dough. Just enough fluff to provide a comfy spot for the ever-widening butts of the geezers who will appreciate this most. And yes, we're most grateful.

    What strikes me most here, though, is the sheer joy of the music. I'm all for moody introspection--if it's done well--but sometimes I just want my personal cheese. This satisfies like almost nothing else.


    The Foxymorons
    Calcutta
    (American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    A pop duo, two guys who obviously live for the overdub. Not so much in terms of creating a drenching sound, but simply by necessity. Indeed, this sounds a lot like a complete band bashing out tunes in the garage.

    That is the feel, folks. Basic basic, with all the attendant joys and tribulations. Oh, the Foxymorons do trip about stylewise, but the jangle never takes leave. And that's just fine with me. There's a certain sense of fun these guys have captured that is impossible to resist.

    I really have to mention that the production allows these two guys to sound like three or even four without adding any artificial mess. Like I said, most of these songs could be mistaken for what a group might be playing.

    Somewhat understated, but a load of fun to hear. Once it got started, I found it hard to turn off. There's just this goofy smile which keeps creeping over my face. Can't argue with stuff like that. Fook and Shite.


    Rodeo City
    (American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    The Foxymorons are two guys who know their way around a jangly hook. Actually, David Dewese and Jerry James are familiar with more hooks than I can imagine. There are songs here that seem to have two or even three memorable melodies.

    But because we're talking about two guys, the sound never gets terribly complicated. Just a pleasant stew of easygoing ideas. There's no pretense here, no attempt to make the next great album. Just a few songs that are eminently hummable.

    That is a virtue, by the way. There's not a damned thing wrong with a song that sticks in your head for days. As long as it's a good song, that is, and the Foxymorons have an uncanny knack for writing amazingly gorgeous songs.

    Almost like they're tossed off, but of course, they're not. This album is a fine example of the good use of craft. Make it sound easy. Make it sound almost mindless. Never mind the truth. Just give the folks a smile. Or ten.


    Joel Frahm
    Sorry, No Decaf
    (Palmetto)
    reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Plenty of names I've seen before: David Berkman on piano, Matt Wilson on drums, Matt Balitsaris producing. Joel Frahm handles tenor and soprano saxophones, traveling through a number of moods in his compositions.

    Along with a couple standards, you know, the usual arrangement. Frahm isn't particularly distinctive in his playing or his songwriting, though he sometimes comes up with some adventuresome rhythms in the pieces he pens.

    The playing and sound are, of course, first rate. I do wish Frahm might inject a bit more of himself into the mix, particularly his own playing. He simply doesn't stand out, even when playing his own stuff.

    In short, I want more from Frahm. He certainly can play with feel and emotion, but he doesn't inject his own personality into his playing often enough for my satisfaction. This is his album. It should sound like it.


    Fragile Porcelain Mice
    Fragile Porcelain Mice
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    Another St. Louis band cumin' atcha, this one more aggressive than the last. And while this is a tape of a tape (of a tape?), the sound is still very good. There is great flatulence on Earth and the heavens are pleased.

    I don't know how to describe this, except to say they manage to sound like more bands at once than anyone I've ever heard, with the result being a rather original spot of noise.

    It's damned encouraging to hear two decent acts from the cultural void of the universe.


    The Frampton Brothers
    File Under F (For Failure)
    (Cacophone)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Anyone who claims inspiration from the Young Fresh Fellows and the Kinks is always worth a listen or two. And rather than ape either of those heroes, the Frampton Brothers merely use the common currency of irony.

    These Pittsburgh boys have a jaunty feel to their punkish pop, eschewing real hooks for the more attainable of simple sing-along choruses. Truly fine sing alongs, I might add.

    The energy is utterly infectious. The songs are irresistible. While not hookmeisters, the boys certainly know how to find a groove and wear it out. There's no stopping once the rhythm section has locked in. Who would want to stop, anyway?

    Dunno. I began this disc merely bouncing about in glee. By the end, my jaw was on the floor. It kinda snuck up on me, I'll admit, but once there I was more than happy to swear allegiance.


    Betsy Franck and the Bareknuckle Band
    Still Waiting
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Some folks get the blues, and some don't. Betsy Franck not only gets the blues, she knows how to make the blues sound utterly compelling.

    Purists probably would throw this into the "americana" pile, but Franck merely throws a few rootsy elements into her blues stew. Her voice is strong, mid-range and true. When she sings, you believe her.

    At least, I do. These songs just sound right. The production gives her voice plenty of room, but there's some fine guitar, piano and pedal steel work here as well. Every element has enough space to come into it own without sacrificing the feel of the band.

    As I said, this one just sounds right. Franck and her band have great songs, and they deliver on every one. Pain rarely sounds this good. Despite playing for many years, Franck is still young. I'd keep an eye on her. Something's about to give.


    The Frantic Flattops
    Cheap Women, Cheap Booze, Cheaper Thrills
    (Pravda)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97Any band from the place of my birth (Rochester, NY) always gets a free point. The Frantic Flattops play really stripped-down rockabilly. This sounds like it was recorded in front of one mike, with strange variances in sound quality abounding.

    Plus, lots of cheap gimmicks, like the little intro and outro on "Look at the Size of that Boogie". Of course, that just comes with the territory. The real catch is the music itself.

    When the Flattops get cookin', life is good. This doesn't happen often enough for my taste (the guys seem to be overly enamored of mid-tempo semi-ravers), but even the slower stuff sounds good.

    Not great, but if you want to hear what real rockabilly sounded like some 40-odd years ago, this just might give you a clue. Total retro, but with style. The Frantic Flattops know exactly what they're doing.


    Freak Brothers
    Gonervill Presents the Freak Brothers
    (Stray)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Hoes, weed and good times. Sometimes the stereotypes are just too true. The Freak Brothers vamp on old school soul grooves and kick out the brag raps. Got the roll, the ho, the blunt, everything you want, right?

    Not me. I got bored quickly, and that doesn't happen everyday. The Freak Brothers just don't have a lot to say. At least, they don't have a lot to say that I haven't heard before.

    Every once in a while there's some interesting beat work. But then the rhymin' starts, and boredom ensues. I hate to be so down on a disc, but this one just doesn't excite me in the slightest. I think I'll be like Thumper and exit now.


    Freak Show
    Freak Show
    (Red Eye)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    While the majors have signed away much of the San Diego scene, a few stalwart people have started to put together something nice.

    Mike Monroe (not of Hanoi Rocks), vocalist for Freak Show, owns the Red Eye label. And the three tapes I got to review for this issue are pretty well great. While the first releases are not on disc, if you work with tapes at all you should get a hold of Mike immediately.

    Back to FS. Completely in-your-face hard core. Great riffs, great lyrics and an attitude that won't quit. This is a pretty old tape, and their next album will be on disc.

    The Red Eye lineup is too strong to miss out on. It is worth 29 cents to write them and hear this stuff.


    Distorted
    (Red Eye)
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    Sloppy hard core that tries to (slightly) funk things around. The guitars have that no-bass buzzsaw sound which begins to wear after a while.

    Lots of angst and not so much substance to the lyrics. The weird thing is, I still like this.

    Yeah, objectively this is on the wanting side. But there is an energy (or something) that really attracts me. No rational reason, just something in the riffs (which get to be sublime at times) that steals my attention.

    I should think this sucks, but I really dig it. Funny how that is sometimes.


    Freax
    Freax
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    Imagine White Zombie (post-Caroline, natch) reincarnated as a funky industrial dance outfit. No, a really soulful one. Freax does show a few seams at the points of assembly, but even those fault lines have some charm.

    Mostly, though, there's this fun fuzzy riffage laid over tight grooves. The stuff is hardly complicated, and I think that's why it works so well. When what you do works, why screw it up with extra shit?

    Don't get me wrong about these folks--there's plenty of little electronic bits dropped in here and there. Has to be, really, to fit the style. But those little extras are just that. They don't get in the way of the stuff that works. There's no distraction from the joy.

    A little heavy fuzz and soul for the summer. Something to bring me up and let me down easy. Can't as much more than that.


    Tony Fredianelli
    Breakneck Speed advance cassette
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    Instead of the usual nice, neat, clean and precise Shrapnel sound, we get pelted and jabbed from every direction with slashing riffage and real vitriol. Bravo!


    Free Diamonds
    There Should Be More Dancing
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Any question as to how far afield Deep Elm is ranging these days should be put to rest with this album. Free Diamonds plays tight rock and roll (in most every style) and lays some seriously cracked vocals on top.

    Reminds me a lot of this upstate N.Y. band called the Wallmen--in fact, I thought it was them at first. But I haven't heard from those boys in seven or eight years, and it's not like the album I reviewed sold more than a handful of copies. No, I'd say Free Diamonds came upon this lovingly twisted sound all on its own.

    I can see how this stuff would get grating or annoying or just plain insufferable to a lot of folks. Now, these aren't folks who have been paying a whole lot of attention to music recently, of course, but I can empathize. Life goes on. If you can't find the stomach to bite into this live wire, maybe you need a new game.

    More fun than it ought to be. Not pretty and certainly not smooth. Just, you know, really good. Really, really good. Lace 'em up and get on the floor.


    By the Sword
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Another dose of modern no wave pop from these freakazoids. I still can't get my head around everything these folks are trying to do, but I have to admit I like it a lot.

    Much of the allure resides in the ultra-tight rhythm section. While everything might (and often does) go to pot, the percussion, bass and (occasionally) rhythm guitar keep the songs locked in.

    Which is how you can sound tight and astoundingly loose at the same time. I think that might be the secret of why these folks appeal to dorks like me. Even the madness is calculated, I guess--and it works well enough to make me smile.

    Oh, hey, I just picked up on something of a Meat Puppets reference--1980s Meat Puppets, mind you. Free Diamonds make little pretense to sophistication. These folks merely make music of the most maddening sort.


    Free From Disguise
    Free From Disguise
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    You might be wondering how Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company translates in modern-day Osaka. Free From Disguise must be the answer. Made up of the members of Mady Gula Blue Heaven (I'm not making this up) and singer Akiko Otome, these folks wail their way through some of the most heavenly hardcore acid rock I've ever heard.

    The bizarre music is more than enough to attract my attention, but Otome's deep, rugged, bluesy voice is a revelation. She really knows how to bring down the curtain. Equally adept at shrieking and nailing a torch song right on the head, she's just about perfect.

    The first four tracks were recorded in the studio, and they sound great. The last five songs (including renditions of three of the studio tracks) were recorded live, and they are hit and miss--as far as sound goes. The live setting proves that these folks know how to take their psychedelic punk to the stage.

    Otherworldly, in a way that I never expected. My guess is that Free from Disguise inspires either devotion or disgust, with very little room in-between. The valentine written here exposes my position, one I'm happy to proclaim for all to read.


    Free Range Chicken
    Chateau
    (Hammerhead)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    Yer basic garage pop thing, with guitar licks from all over the universe and the occasional ethereal vocals. There are lots of things done absolutely wrong, and yet the almost everything works out in the end.

    One of the right things is that vocalist Dawn Corso shares singing duties with Amos Tevelow (and Chad Romanski on "Mescaline Highway"). The counterpoint in the singing styles really fleshes out the sound nicely. And while the lyrics are kinda serious and pretentious at times, the whole project is so loopy nothing gets bogged down.

    The whole album has a ska feel, though for the most part the beats are fairly straightforward. Just a kinda happy summer feeling, with that loose lead guitar wandering about.

    The more I listen, the more I like. Free Range Chicken does grow on you, which is another intangible in the band's favor. I wish I could explain myself better, but the best thing to do is simply find this disc and give it a listen. All should become quite clear.


    Free Verse
    Access Denied
    (Brain Floss)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Lotsa hollerin', lotsa screamin' guitars and not a whole lot of sense. These are sloppy hardcore girls-done wrong songs. Maybe that should be grrrls. But you know how I hate validating fake trends that are five years old.

    Angst. a big-ass load of it. The lyrics are interesting from a primal scream point of view. Artless, of course, but so is the entire exercise. It's music, but so completely unplanned and uncrafted that Free Verse songs resemble an incoming baseball bat. Right before the splat.

    Can I dig it? Yeah, if I'm pissed off enough at the time. The noise can be amusing at times, but I kept hoping for something, well, something that might put this in perspective.

    I know. Hoping for too much. Well, as angst-riddled shrieking goes, Free Verse is right up there. I'm just not much for the form, I guess.


    Freedom Call
    Crystal Empire
    (Steamhammer-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Some things I know I'm gonna like. I've been a fan of what the notes here call melodic speed metal" (think Helloween, Gamma Ray, etc.) since the first time I heard it. The stuff is cheesy, over the top and utterly excessive. The songs are often silly paeans to science fiction or swords and sorcery, but since I grew up devouring that kinda stuff...

    There is a logic, I suppose. And Freedom Call sure knows how to make this stuff sing. The melodies soar, and the peppy tempos make sure nothing drags. No matter how bad a mood you're in, this album should cure your blues.

    Fun, pure and simple. Yeah, there's some great technical playing, and the production gives Freedom Call a thick, round sound that rings out during the particularly quick breaks. Breathless and bouncy, all at once.

    Like I said, this stuff is like crack to me. Probably not the healthiest thing to ingest on a regular basis, but good for a kick now and again. Gotta light that pipe man, man.


    Freeheat
    Back on the Water
    (Planting Seeds)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    I'm not entirely sure what to make of this album. Jim Reid was half of the original Jesus and Mary Chain (with his Brother William) and Ben Lurie was a member in the band's latter days. The studio tracks on this album date to 1997, which was before JAMC broke up. The live tracks were recorded six years later in 2003. Strikingly, there's hardly any difference between them--except that the live tracks have a few scattered shouts after the songs end.

    Sounds one hell of a lot like the Jesus and Mary Chain, as you might imagine. Reid still sings, and Lurie's guitar playing hasn't changed much. So it's fair to say that the market for this album consists primarily of JAMC fans. Which is a pretty sizable population.

    There are some nonsense quotes about how Freeheat is about stripping down the music to its bare essentials...I thought JAMC was about that, too, if you discounted some of the more distorted moments. Anyway, this sounds to me like JAMC outtakes. Maybe a little looser than some of the stuff on the albums, but in a very similar vein. And that's cool with me. Very few rock bands could do slow burning blues pieces like "Dead End Kids" as well as JAMC--or Freeheat, as the case is here.

    I suppose you could read this entire review as some sort of backhanded complement, but really, I like the thing. I am a fan from way back, and this in no way compromises that history. The ancient nature of the recordings themselves is odd, but I've learned that music doesn't necessarily go stale. It sure didn't here. Quite a nice, if occasionally puzzling, set.


    Freeloader
    Custom/10
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Roots stuff that relies heavily on plucked lead guitar lines and plenty of blues. Oh yeah, and more than soul, too. This is one trio that sounds like a full-blown bar band.

    Which is pretty hard to do, let me tell you. Freeloader blisters its way through song after song, not unlike the way the Black Crowes used to do back when the stuff was tighter (and, in my opinion, generally better). There is more devotion to a wider range of influences and more care in the songwriting. But the grooves are very similar.

    So yeah, southern-style blues rock with a touch of the Stones and the Dead. Really. The good parts, mostly. Like I said, these boys keep the songs tight. There's introspection, but mostly within a set piece.

    Well done. Better than that. From the first note, I knew this one would be good. You may not believe that, but it's true. The sound these guys achieved told volumes about the care and feeding of these songs. So much work the stuff sounds utterly casual. Exactly as it should be.


    The Freewheelers
    Waitin' for George
    (American Recordings)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #2, 3/11/96

    One of the better things to see on an American Recordings disc is the name George Drakoulias. The guy who brought the Black Crowes and Jayhawks (among others) into the American fold. Obviously, there's a stylistic thing going on here.

    And the Freewheelers continue that roots-rock idea, right down to the stolen Skynyrd riffs (not to mention a note-for-note theft of the piano riff from "Feelin' Alright" in "Mother Nature Lady") and Hammond C-3. Yeah, the sound is goddamned punchy (it simply plows its way out of the speakers, much like Shake Your Moneymaker), and that gets annoying after a bit. This is living in the seventies full-tilt, and the Freewheelers dare you to love them or hate them. No in-between.

    Since I'm a critic, though, I get to split hairs. There isn't anything original going on here, but this is nice music to accompany a springtime Friday afternoon, beer in hand. Nothing difficult, nothing terrible. Just enough riffage to get you through 'till the sun goes down over the bay.


    Ace Frehley
    12 Picks
    (Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    I remember that first Frehley's Comet album well. It wasn't very good, but the autobiographical song "Rock Soldiers" had a nice kick to it.

    Everything after that was pretty much awful. Of course, the best tracks here are the six live songs (five of them Kiss chestnuts) played by the Comet. My God, you can actually understand the lyrics to "Shock Me" now.

    Even the biggest Ace fan has to have problems with his post-Kiss stuff, and the six tracks from three studio releases and a live EP are unfortunately the best of the lot. A step away from unlistenable, really.

    With a name like Ace Frehley, you've got to try and sell the goods. I hope there aren't too many buyers, though.


    Daniel French
    View Finder
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    In many ways, a typical self-released set of tunes. Edgy, emotionally-wrenching tunes. Chance-taking all over the place, from song construction to production style. All the things that make listening to personally-produced music so worthwhile.

    French writes songs in a vaguely emo style. More like post-grunge riff work (if there are riffs, and that's not a given), somewhat anthemic choruses. The songs often come to a climax in a crash of sonic disturbance, and in that way I can really hear the emo influence.

    Good stuff, and I like the way the songs are put together. Always keeping me off balance. French pulls back when I expect him to thrust, and parries when I expect him to feint. His unpredictability isn't predictable (so he's not crafting some sort of anti-style), just idiosyncratic. Again, exactly why self-released stuff is so cool.

    There's real songwriting talent here. And given the primitive production facilities, the sound is great as well. French has blazed the path from his subconscious to tape, and it's a harrowing and freaky ride. I'm rather impressed.


    The French Kicks
    The French Kicks EP
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Jaunty, disjointed pop fare. These boys' heads are in the same space that Alex Chilton's was when he thought that a deflated basketball would make a great snare drum on "Downs." And, in fact, the French Kicks do have a decidedly Big Star bent, albeit with a pile-driving beat.

    The tunes really don't sustain much in the way of grooves, but there's plenty of soul in between the licks. Joyful? Well, yeah. I'd say so. These guys are fairly desultory in their delivery, but it still sounds like fun.

    Indeed, this is something akin to glorious. No sheen here; nothing glossy anywhere on this disc. Nope. Simply hooks which immediately undercut themselves and a squalid guitar sound which rather quickly insinuates itself into yer brain.

    Um, yeah, the French Kicks have got something here. And ugly duckling sound, but utterly beautiful music. Proof that it doesn't take a million-dollar knob job to craft astonishing pop music.


    Frenzal Rhomb
    A Man's Not a Camel
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Extremely clever and calculated. The sound is pretty close to the punk antithesis of what Fat Wreck usual kicks out: the guitars are thin, the singing is, well, singing, and the songs are rather textured. I'm not trying to insult anyone here, I'm just saying I didn't expect this.

    Which is always a good thing. Frenzal Rhomb hails from somewhere in Australia (sorry, didn't read the notes), and like I said, these lyrics are frightfully clever. Thoughtful, too. Kinda like a cleaned-up version of MTX. The music is the cleaned-up part, of course.

    And the music is really what sets the band apart. Yes, this is punk, but these guys can really play. And they're not at all afraid to use bring some serious expertise to the table.

    Altogether impressive, really. The musical and lyrical asides are breathtaking at times, and they lend the sound a fresh perspective. This is a punk sound I've never exactly heard before. And that's the reason this gives me such a rush.


    Shut Your Mouth
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    On this disc, Frenzal Rhomb is much closer to power pop punk than its first time out with Fat. The relatively complex guitar lines and song arrangements are still here, but there does seem to be more of an emphasis on hooks and melody in general.

    Even so, the adventurousness of the band hasn't been shackled. Frenzal Rhomb isn't afraid to rip off some thrashy hardcore or even an oi break if that makes sense for the song in question. This does lead to some issues with album cohesion (not all these songs sound like they're being played by the same band or even sung by the same singer), but I'd rather the guys be stretching out than constricting.

    What is impressive is the way each song has been engineered to fit the sonic ideal the guys were trying to hit. This is what contributes greatly to the diverse (and somewhat scattershot) feel of the album. Hard to complain, though, when the guys can do so much so well.

    If I had any advice, it would be to find a way to combine all of these ideas into a more unified band sound. At least make the songs recognizable as Frenzal Rhomb tunes. Understand, though, that I had a blast listening to this disc. The wildly fluctuating sounds are most unusual for a punk band, and I'd hate to stifle such innovation. Play loud. And don't worry about a damned thing.


    Fridge
    The Sun
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    The original home of Kieran Hebden, Adem Ilhan and Sam Jeffers. While Hebden and Ilhan have made somewhat larger names for themselves in recent years, this return to the Fridge works for the first time in six years is hardly an exercise in nostalgia.

    First, because not that many people have heard of Four Tet or Adem, and even fewer are aware of Fridge's output. Second, because this is the work of three guys who are still young (a lot younger than me, anyway) and have plenty to say.

    Fridge tends to lay down some sort of percussive layer and then play off that. Sometimes, though. Ilhan's folkish-guitar leads the way. In any case, the guys play off each other beautifully. Each song is a series of actions and reactions--and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which.

    Well-orchestrated chaos. This album sounds wonderful, and the richness of that sound really complements the music. Fridge resides in a different world, to be sure, but it's quite a nice one to observe.


    Marty Friedman
    Scenes
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    Friedman, a Megadeth man for the last two albums, must be a little frustrated with the material Dave Mustaine has given him to play. This rather amazing instrumental album has more to say than the contents of all Megadeth albums put together.

    He teams up with New Age guru Kitaro for side one, and then lets it a little loose on side two. And while there are many mellow moments, Friedman is a good enough guitarist to make them work. Not just scorching the frets here, he sounds like a human being, giving real emotion. Very nice.


    Introduction
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94

    As usual, Friedman tries very hard to make you forget he also has a gig with Megadeth. The arrangements are lush. Well, actually more like LUSH.

    I wish more of the orchestration was with real instruments than keyboards, but I also understand limited budgets. And Brian BecVar manages to almost make me believe there is a symphony orchestra sitting behind Friedman.

    Yes, the songs are much more in a classical (yet highly anthemic) vein than the usual rip-and-shred, but once again Friedman acquits himself well. The playing is quite expressive, leaving no doubt that he can really do almost anything on a guitar.


    True Obsessions
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    More from the second life of Marty Friedman. More of you are quite well acquainted with his day job, lead guitarist for Megadeth. But he's been doing these atmospheric solo works for a while now, and I've yet to find one I didn't like.

    And hey, with quality sides like Tony Franklin and Jimmy Haslip on bass, Carmine Appice, Nick Menza and Gregg Bissonette on drums and the odd bit of vocal work from Stanley Rose, how can you complain?

    Friedman does a lot of MIDI work, giving his guitar all sorts of shapes and sounds. He doesn't stick to any one songwriting style or concept, preferring to wander all over the place. Hey, sounds like a good idea to me.

    Sure, this is still guitar god music, but Friedman does it better than almost anyone. He's not afraid to take chances and go places he's only seen in his dreams. Sometimes you crash, but on this album, everything works nearly to perfection. This is one of the best instrumental (with the exception for two songs) guitar album I've heard in a couple years, at least.


    Friends of Lizzy
    The Answer
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Subtitled EP, Summersongs & Demos, Friends of Lizzy is kind enough to provide 13 songs (and one remix) on this disc, which is more than enough to whet the appetite.

    There are two guys here who play piano. Often enough, neither do, but it sounds like most of the songs here were written at the keys. Piano rock does seem to be making a bit of a comeback, and most folks will tell you that even if the finished songs don't use a piano, such tunes have a slightly different kant than pieces hashed out on guitar. Take New Order, whose songs were always written on guitar even though the band could go entire albums without actually using a six-string. No matter. One can tell these things.

    These are grand, swooping songs. Even the kickier bits have a fine veneer of grandeur. The sound--even on some of the demos--is full and almost lush. The EP section in particular is utterly cushy. A perfect match for the romance of the songs.

    Really solid stuff. Even the more-ragged demos impress--in fact, a couple of those are among the best pieces on the album. Friends of Lizzy isn't afraid to take chances, and those chances pay off. I smell an up-and-comer.


    Fringe
    Enjoy the Ride
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    With a slogan like "The band always on the edge", Fringe has set its sights high. And while I wouldn't characterize the sound as edgy, it is unusual. Early 80s-style keyboards, highly distorted guitar and an always moving bass. A band out of time, really.

    The general style is a vague form of commercial pop rock. Strange though, how a fairly cheesy ballad called "Love & Affection" can segue into such a quirky tune as "Grist for the Grind", which features an old-school rap sorta drum line (amongst assorted percussive effects).

    Reminds me a lot of this east coast band Dunderhead, which I reviewed years ago. Goofy as hell, and without serious pretensions. Pretty cool, in other words.

    On the edge? Probably not, But certainly one of the more creative pop bands I've heard in a while. Quite enjoyable, really.


    Robert Fripp
    Exposure 2xCD re-issue
    (Discipline Global Mobile)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    It's hard to believe, but back in the mid-70s Robert Fripp was right in the middle of a certain wing of the popular music scene. He produced Daryl Hall's solo album Sacred Songs and Peter Gabriel II in 1977 and 1978, and the liners say he conceived of Exposure as the third part of an "MOR trilogy" which included those other two albums.

    Hall and Gabriel are all over this album (presented here in its 1979 version, the 1983 remix and 1985 re-release, with three added Daryl Hall tracks), as is regular Fripp collaborator Tony Levin (who did the vast majority of the bass work here). Phil Collins, Narada Michael Walden, Brian Eno, Barry Andrews are among the other guests. To round out the all-star cast, the cover was designed by Chris Stein (I'm assuming that would be the Chris Stein of Blondie, but I can't confirm that).

    This is a rather over-the-top set, and for me the real result is an almost-desperate need to hear that Fripp-produced Daryl Hall album--Hall's tracks here are rather unlike the blue-eyed soul that has defined his career. He does a number of interesting things with his versatile voice, and melding that with Fripp's vaguely-abstract prog sensibilities creates some really fine stuff.

    As for the album itself, this is probably of greatest interest to Fripp fanatics, though the quality of the project is undeniable. I found it interesting to hear the subtle differences between the two discs (and, like I said, the extra Hall work was a revelation), but then, that's why I'm a music critic. Fine stuff.


    Friz
    Looking for Green EP
    (Tinderbox Music)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Punchy power pop that manages--surprisingly easily--to separate itself from the madding crowd. Friz isn't afraid to rock out or to succumb to throaty harmonizing, but those little cheesy bits are like the pimiento in the olive. Eye-catching and tasty, as long as there aren't too many.

    Every one of these songs reminds me of another few songs I've heard. And after deconstructing them, all I can figure out is that Friz has downloaded the contents of my mind and scrambled it into the songs on this disc. That or the boys have a particularly fun way of exhibiting their influences.

    Way too fun to bring a frown. Friz isn't the most original or brilliant band around, but these songs are more than solid. They're electrifying. Way better than they should be. And that's more than good enough.


    Frodus
    F-Letter
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Strident lead guitar, turgid bass and drums and completely hollered vocals. Stuff that could easily be coming from hardcore or pop backgrounds. Not for the easily scared.

    And it took me a while to really groove on Frodus. This stuff is painful. Even though the rhythm section is mixed way below the ever-present guitar, and thus doesn't pack the wallop of, say, Glazed Baby or Snapcase, Frodus manages to convey a truly frightening musical vision.

    So the key words here are pain, suffering, fear and loathing. The noise trio format has been catching on in the past couple of years, and Frodus is another great example of what three folks can do when there's nothing good to watch on TV.

    It took me a while, but I came around. A fine album (the production really brings out the best in the band; this is the finest knob work I've heard in a while) from what has to be a great live act.


    The Frogs
    Star Job EP
    (Scratchie/Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Silly, atmospheric pop that brings to mind World Party, Michael Penn and, obviously, the Beatles.

    The lyrics are dark enough to be interesting, and the mix of acoustic and electric guitars lends a kinda nice popcorn feel to the whole sound. And yet, I'm missing something.

    Good, but the Frogs don't know exactly how to express the tough lyrics in the songs. I suppose the lighthearted touch could be considered irony, but I don't buy it.

    Add in the slick production, and I really want to hear more. Acceptable, but not star material. Yet.


    Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise
    (Scratchie)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Still treading the roads on the edge of pop, the Frogs certainly have found a nice niche. These songs traipse forward with idiosyncratic rhythms, melodies and harmonies (when the latter actually appear, of course). And even with all of the off-kilter ingredients, these songs are gorgeous.

    Perhaps I should make that "because." Because a pop band has to do something out of the ordinary in order to attract attention. Scintillating songwriting can do the trick (and that does exists here), but sometimes the arrangements are more important.

    The Frogs do both well, and then add a production job which turns each song into its own album. There isn't a whole lot of stylistic consistency from track to track, but care of handling in each is up to the same, exacting standard.

    In short, this is one of those carefully-crafted pop extravaganzas. Don't expect a "Frogs" sound to burn itself into your brain. Just wait for the quality of the music to kick in, and you'll do fine. Don't worry; the effect is almost instantaneous.


    Front Line Assembly
    Mindphaser CD5
    (Third Mind)
    reviewed in issue #11, 4/15/92

    After digging through all of those FLA side projects looking for any sign of what the new album would sound like, Bill and Rhys finally get the first track out.

    "Mindphaser" reminds me of NIN a bit much. But it would be hard to put out a catchy industrial dance tune and not do that, I suppose. Pretty Hate Machine has just taken over Greektown (you know, BMWz N the 'hood) only two-plus years after its release. They still play the shit way too much at clubs around here.

    So, do yourself a favor and play this instead when a listener wants to hear Trent the wonder boy. And don't forget to cruise the two b-sides. They're more aggressive and harsher than the single.


    Tactical Neural Implant
    (Third Mind)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    My God, the noise! If this thing doesn't excite the masses, I'll be surprised.

    Why? Well, for one thing, industrial dance IS rather hip these days, even overshadowing Seattle in the college ranks. Now, I realize the real watershed was years ago, just like Seattle was really vital, oh, say seven years ago. Why do posers like the Warbabies get any play at all?

    Anyway, this is the closest FLA has come to a mainstream sound, and kids out there are buying the stuff. If this follows the NIN trend, then FLA will play Lollapalooza III and watch this album sell millions over a year after its release.

    Well, worse things could happen. Sometimes million-sellers are actually good albums.


    The Blade CD5
    (Third Mind-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    In case you thought FLA was still in that anesthetic techno mode, check out their latest album. Or, better yet, check out the B-sides on this disc. My God, "Re-Animator" sounds positively MLWTTKK-ish (figger it out).

    "Laughing Pain" wanders into more a psychedelic industrial playground. Lots of cool noise here. And while you can dance to some of it, you can also blow your brain out if the volume is high enough. Give it a shot.


    Total Terror II
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94 Not a new album, re-mixes of songs that Rhys Fulber and Bill Leeb originally put together some seven or eight years ago. If you know your FLA history (probably better than me), you know Bill put out a good number of tapes before FLA got a deal. This disc says none of these songs were on those, but they are from that period of time.

    It is a little dated, with more than a passing reference to Kraftwerk, which is hardly surprising. Within the constraints that such music had set for itself back then, though, Leeb and Fulber do have some nice experimental touches.

    This is an interesting look back. Some of the songs are more up-to-date than others, but in this genre fads have come and gone quicker than Vanilla Ice. Some of the more prescient songs would even stand well as new music today. Dig through and see what you can mine.


    Millennium
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber have been cranking out all sorts of techno-industrial recordings for more than 10 years. Usually the projects are more noise, dance, or ambient oriented. They haven't ever quite put together a completely satisfying metal-techno-industrial album.

    Perhaps the experience remixing Fear Factory has done something, because for the first time, FLA has a guitar-dominated disc. Well, sampled guitar, but still. This is a metal album. Sure, folks will be flying to the dance floor at first note, too, but don't be mistaken. Millennium is a positively stunning industrial dance metal album.

    Even more seamless than the Fear Factory remixes, Millennium is the best example yet of combining the worlds of techno and death metal. The vocals are much more distorted than your average industrial sound. It seems like everything Leeb and Fulber have been doing the past couple of years has resulted in this triumphant synthesis.

    To top things off, every song is irresistible. You can't help but get excited by the mere feel of the songs. And once everything really kicks in, you will be hooked. A supreme achievement.


    Corroded Disorder
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    This replaces the CD Convergence, which first tried to assimilate the tracks from 1988 FLA releases Corrosion and Disorder. This one does trick correctly, while filling out the disc with a few bonus tracks.

    Those expecting to hear the full-force techno death metal rantings of the current FLA mode will not quite be prepared for this. The music is less techno and more a real industrial sound, with the goth overtones which persist today. Also, the emphasis is on the music, with the vocals almost serving as window dressing (or an additional instrument) at times.

    For anyone who wishes to more fully understand the evolution of FLA, though, this and the Total Terror retrospectives (which focus on tapes Bill Leeb made back in 1985 and 1986) will help to explain why so many consider FLA to be one of the most innovative and creative electronic music acts of the past 10 years. The breadth of composition and construction even on this disc is stunning. While most of these tunes are eight years old, they are right in line with today's music.

    I've not found an FLA release that I haven't loved. This is not terribly commercial or anything like that, but those who demand quality and creativity can stop right here.


    Hard Wired
    (Metropolis)
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    Now licensed in the US by Metropolis, FLA arrives with its latest. Always a good thing.

    The past few albums have seen a transformation of FLA from a techno outfit to a heavy industrial one (with techno tinges). This might have had something to do with Roadrunner, it might have just been the tracks of the times. Hard Wired is a return to techno roots, with plenty of awesome beats and guitar noise to keep the newer fans pleased.

    Actually, this is the most accessible FLA album I've heard. Perfect for the clubs, "alternative" radio and kids in cars. And just in case you thought they'd given up on cool electronic experimentation, check out "Re-Birth". Great noise transmuting into bitchen beats.

    My only caveat here is that in the return to a mostly techno universe, Leeb and Fulber have somewhat sterilized the lush FLA sound that I liked so much on Millennium. Of course, I also really dig the more experimental noises here, and you can't have everything. Even if you want it.

    The continuing saga of FLA rolls on. Another great album, satisfying both my intellectual and emotional musical needs. Very few acts can do that on a regular basis. That's why FLA is so damned good.


    Cryogenic Studios
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Alright, so this isn't exactly an FLA release. There are a couple of new FLA tracks (the new Fulber-less FLA, that is) and remixed tracks from side projects like Equinox, Delerium, Pro>Tech and Synaesthesia. I figured the easiest way to classify this disc was to use that moniker. Please don't hurt me.

    As fans will know, these projects don't exactly sound alike. Hell, FLA albums don't necessarily have similar sounds either. What is constant is the quality and quantity of sonic exploration. FLA (and its progeny) has never been a haven for all that is dull and insipid in electronic music. Much the opposite.

    In fact, the two new FLA tunes incorporate elements of breakbeat and other recent electronic music trends. A bit clubbier, with no guitars to be heard. Inspiring fare nonetheless.

    Okay, so it is a bit cheap to drop a bunch of remixes on top of only two new songs. Take it from me: The two new tracks are worth the price. And the remixes are pretty damned good, too. I want more, but then, I'm a selfish bastard when it comes to my FLA.


    Front Line Assembly/Die Krupps
    The Remix Wars-Strike Two EP
    (Off Beat-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Die Krupps is one of those bands that hasn't taken nearly enough advantage of technology when creating its metal-industrial visions. FLA has proven time and again that it can make cool music out of just about anything. The results here are easily predictable, and predictably good.

    Fulber and Leeb add a nice techno sheen to "Metalmorphosis", "The Last Flood" and "Scent". The stuff is still a bit pile-driving at times, but the FLA touches are obvious and quite welcome. A whole new atmospheric metal sound that Die Krupps might do well to imitate in the future.

    Die Krupps re-works "Neologic Spasm", "Barcode" and "Transparent Species" (all from the most recent FLA album, Hard Wired) much the same way FLA itself has added guitars and other aggro elements in the past few years. Basically, these tracks now would sound more at home on Millennium, which is certainly the heaviest FLA album. Not a bad thing at all.

    Both of these acts have nice side jobs remixing just about every band under the sun, and here they prove they can do each other well, too. A cool set.


    Front 242
    Mut@ge.Mix@ge
    (RRE-Play It Again Sam)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    A 1995 compilation of remixes done by such current luminaries as the Orb and the Prodigy. I'm guessing this puppy is getting dusted off to take advantage of the current fascination with electronic music. Not necessarily a bad thing, if the stuff is good enough.

    It's not. Electronic music has a problem of getting dated awfully fast, and these mixes are emblematic of the early 90s, not today. So most of the mixes are spacey, ambient stuff. Not bad as that goes, but nothing exciting, either.

    If you have paid any attention to electronic music during the past few years, you've heard all this before. I wish I could be a bit more complimentary, but the mixes don't explore the possibilities of the original songs very well. This is not the sort of stuff that brings a warm sense of nostalgia.

    I doubt it will bring much cash, either.


    Live Code
    (Play It Again Sam)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Live recordings, particularly ones with few studio fixes, can tell a lot about a band. And particularly an industrial/electronic act. If, of course, all (or at least most) of the noise created is made on live instruments.

    An arrogant show, certainly. The intro is almost ambient, a monotonous drone. But soon enough, the "hits" begin to roll. My guess is most everything other than the drum machines and obvious samples were performed live, and this left a somewhat sparse sound (as might be expected).

    But competently performed. And interesting takes in their own right. There are obvious glitches where piece of technology don't quite match up, but hell, that only proves how live this really is.

    Front 242's best work is in the studio, but considering the uneven albums it has released of late, this disc might give younger fans a first taste. Because no matter how bad some of the albums are, Front 242 has earned a place as a truly influential ensemble. That it still wants to move forward with new music is truly admirable. I'm not standing in the way.


    Frontier Trust
    Three Mississippi 7"
    (Faye)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Sounding like early Uncle Tupelo (crashing chords and country music all rolled into one) amped up after listening to the "Rawhide" theme song one too many times.

    A big ol' wad of fun, in other words.

    "Patsy" is a goofy paen to all the weird images promulgated by mainstream country music. I think. It could just as easily be about stupid people in general. Hard to say, but I like speculating. The other two tracks are equally interesting and amusing.

    These boys have punktry down to a science. Love to hear a full-length.


    Edith Frost
    Calling Over Time
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Produced by Rian Murphy, recorded by Jim O'Rourke (both of whom play as well), Edith Frost sure has some top-notch help. Not that her achingly painful songs, most of which deal with a love that flits past, just out of reach, need much aid.

    The music is minimal, much like Palace. Frost's vocals are rather unadorned as well, as she prefers to present her songs as a way of baring her soul. The shortest path to salvation, as it were.

    Beautiful, but hardly delicate or pretty. Frost has a wonderful knack for using the least amount of words to express the greatest emotions. That's a decent definition of poetry, and certainly her lyrics fall into that category. But the music is just as poetic, without simply mimicking the vocals. The interplay is crucial to the success of the whole package.

    An arduous track, but one that is certainly worth walking. Frost paints a picture of a life just over the edge of reality. Close enough to touch, but millions of miles away. A true siren's call.


    The Frownies
    Amateur Dramatics for Professional Losers
    (Farewell Records)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    The boys acknowledge a serious debt to NOFX, but they don't pay it and get on with their music. Other than a couple extremely bland ultrapop pieces, this is the sound of three guys who like to sit around, throw six NOFX discs in the machine and play name that tune. They could each do it in one note, I'm betting.

    Like any photocopy, the Frownies don't measure up to their heroes. The song lyrics focus a lot more on personal subjects, but that doesn't make them terribly intriguing. The music is even more basic, which takes a certain skill and determination.

    All right, I've ripped long enough. I can hear that the Frownies mean well, and they haven't (consciously, at least) stolen any songs outright. There is a nice energy level to the playing, and shit, I'd rather listen to this than Blink 182 any day. That, however is not a ringing endorsement.

    My advice is simple: get your own sound, guys. Find a couple other influences, mix them all up and create a whole new approach. Then folks like me won't be such utter dicks when it comes to reviewing your music.


    The Frownies
    (Fast Music) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Peppy and pleasing pop punk. The Frownies do have a rough edge to the sound, but that's not the most distinctive element. At times, certain instruments simply drop off the map. Sometimes it's the bass, and every once in a while it's the guitar. The mix is just a bit inconsistent.

    Though, hell, we are talking about punk rawk, after all, so what's with the bitching? I dunno. It just seemed so, well, obvious. Anyway, the songs do have another somewhat annoying trademark: The seeming need to shift gears almost incessantly. This is pop, no?

    I guess. The energy level is high, and the hooks (as such) are reasonably good. When the band stays in pocket and latches on to a groove, the stuff is solid, sometimes even great.

    That just doesn't happen enough, though. If yer gonna be pop, be pop. If yer gonna fuck around, fuck around. Doing both just doesn't work.


    Fruitcake
    Patty Lane 7" and comic book
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    A nice heavy groove laid down on the first side. The song seems to be about a manic-depressive who has watched a little too much Nick at Nite. I think. I wasn't able to catch most of the lyrics, but the jacket has a distorted picture of Patty Duke, so I'm guessing. Even without any words it sounds cool as hell.

    The flip is a wacky take on the sound of the first side. The vocals are really distorted, and... well, like the Butthole Surfers useta do a few years back. I bet these folk would be really cool live. The bass is amazing here.

    As for the comics, they're a little funnier and tamer than the Dazzling Killmen set. But the marketing concept here is brilliant, with the execution up there as well.


    Frustrators
    Bored in the USA EP
    (Adeline)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Ultra-tuneful punk, with raggedy hooks and shouted choruses. The kinda stuff that's a bit too rough for mainstream radio, but goes down so smooth with the populace of the underground.

    There are no cows too sacred here (the lead track makes fun of the lead guitarist's sexual "exploits"), and no subject to touchy. Hell, there's even a cover of "Living in the Real World."

    Went by way too fast. A lot of punk bands have a problem with overcoming the faceless syndrome. Not the Frustrators. They shine incandescently.


    Fuckin Wild
    The Raven's Cry
    (Art Voice)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    All the signs of Euro-glam: female singer clad in leather and fishnets, guys with long hair and pouty expressions, songs with titles like "Castle of Dreams", not to mention the name of band itself.

    And your idea of that sort of thing is 60s Deep Purple or 70s Scorpions, you're in the right place. Lots of pseudo-psychedelic guitar noodlings (sometimes even progressing into riffs) and rather silly melodramatic lyrics. And production values that make Bleach sound like in comparison.

    Still, the appalling lo-fi sound almost works. The songs are really high-concept (and often way too long), and to be best appreciated, I would imagine a fuller sound is necessary. The bass barely exists, and Anja Fritzsche's vocals are awfully overdone. The guitar and drums merely try to keep time.

    I haven't heard anyone try to replicate this sound in ages, and I appreciate the effort. But Fuckin Wild (a woefully inappropriate name for a band playing this music, which rarely works itself above dirge tempo) needs more cash, more studio time and somewhat stronger songwriting before it can really do justice to the form.


    The Fucking Champs
    IV
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    70s-style metal riffage combined with 80s-style heavy duty production. Sharp sounding tunes without much in the way of vocals.

    Certainly, no lyrics were harmed in the making of this album. The Fucking Champs simply specialize in melodic metal tracks. Great guitar playing, outstanding crunchy riffola and an innate sense of how this stuff should really sound.

    The style is vaguely Euro-metal, though there are some Van Halen-ish moments (though without the guitar pyrotechnics). The focus here is on the sound, not necessarily on the music itself. This stuff sounds amazing.

    And that's my only quibble. The liners spend forever talking about the technical process behind the making of this album, and I can tell you that every bit of effort pays off. I do wish the songs themselves had a little flair to them. Just a little. Of course, that's not gonna keep me from cranking this one up a little louder the next time.


    V
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Hard rock instrumentals that truly, um, rock. There is an element of self-parody to these boys (witness the band's name), but the technical precision of the playing is impressive, and the songs, you know, rock. Rock hard, man.


    The Fucking Am
    Gold
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    This would be the second collaboration of the Fucking Champs and Trans Am (the first one went by the name TransChamps, releasing the Double Exposure EP on Thrill Jockey back in 2001). It's pure Fucking Champs cheez-metal confection, processed through the Trans Am sci-fi machine. There are even actual songs with normal (as such) vocals. Amazing.

    And so, as another Van Halen meets the Allmans meets Uriah Heep meets Joe Satriani meets Frank Zappa meets Maiden song blows by, I ponder the thought of a universe without this music. And I get very sad indeed.

    There is, of course, the question of how well this music would work without its antecedents. After all, a lot of my attraction to this stuff is that I listened to the inferior original stuff as a child. Now that I am a man, I am able to handle the pure distillation of those ideas. But even now, my constitution can barely handle the power.

    Um, yeah. Whatever. This is utterly fun music, performed with verse and style. And I'm not kidding about the "inferior originals" crack. These guys are ace musicians, and their inclination is to take this sound where it has never been before. Which is just fine with me.

    And when you name your band "The Fucking" anything, well, it would seem obvious that you're not going for the Wal-Mart crowd. That's cool. Us cognoscenti will have to simply bask in our coolness.


    Fudge Tunnel
    Fudgecake
    (Pigboy-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Before they started in on the heavier-than-fuck sound that permeated Hate Songs in E Minor, Fudge Tunnel were merely one of England's finest grunge bands. This compilation puts together a couple of previously import-only EPs.

    This reminds me of the re-issue of Soundgarden's Screaming Life and Fopp eps. Both bands have gone on to heavier things, but the past is at least as interesting as the present. And in this case, Fudge Tunnel recreated their sound in less than a year. Kinda interesting.


    Creep Diets
    (Earache/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Caught these guys up in G.R. a couple of weeks ago, and they were more than impressive. Where their first album was a testament to how heavy you can make a record sound, this one is back to the basics. Just blasting rock.

    It's a lot better. I liked the EP from Cargo of their earlier work much better than First Movement, and this is far ahead of that. All-around solid playing and song-writing, this is a good representation of the live show. Just three nice British guys making a few ears bleed. All smiles and "where's the crumpets?"

    This is high-grade.


    The Complicated Futility of Ignorance
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    On this their fourth U.S. release (third on Earache) Fudge Tunnel finally returns to the sound of their earliest recordings (albeit with much better production).

    Taking the garage attitude of Creep Diets and merging it with the raw power of First Movement (which, of course, wasn't that at all), Fudge Tunnel has crafted an album that accurately portrays the world as vicious, cruel, ignorant and painful. One might make the mistake of calling the boys of Fudge Tunnel pessimists. But I don't hear that message.

    Instead, I hear a voice calling to end all the despair. Through all the pain and suffering, there has to be a better way. Okay, so Fudge Tunnel doesn't have the answer. Do you?

    Yes, you have to think about this one. The music is the finest ever created by the band, and the urge to simply crank along is immense. But don't give in. Do your duty and fully experience the greatness of Fudge Tunnel. To do less would be a disservice to the band.


    In a Word
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Good for the completist, but also a form of a greatest hits sorts thing. You get seven songs recorded for John Peel's show (often marketed as "Peel Sessions"), five live tracks and three things that are probably best described as stuff left in the closet.

    The sound quality is quite good throughout (perhaps some judicious remixing, I'd say), and the versions of any songs previously released do differ somewhat (sometimes substantially) from the original.

    A nice little unpretentious retrospective package. There are no liners to speak of, except a disclaimer from the band saying, in part: "OK, this isn't a proper album, but we crammed as much stuff on here as possible. People have been asking for this for year, so here it is." Good enough for me.

    So in case you haven't fallen completely in love with the world's finest purveyor of extreme hardcore, this set might do the trick. But if the former is the case, then where have you been the past five years or so?

    See also Meathook Seed.


    Fuego del Alma
    Dicho & Hecho
    (Pueblo Records)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    It would be simple to call Fuego del Alma just another world music band. Some nice acoustic guitar licks with a vaguely flamenco flair, a full percussion sound and something inexplicable.

    Something American. Well, sure, there are Cuban and other Caribbean bits as well, and maybe that has something to do with what I'm hearing. Although I can't quite place it, but the way Fuego del Alma fuses its various members (and their influences) is quite nice. You can even see this approach in the title (an ampersand substituted for "y").

    Quite fun without any pandering to an unsophisticated audience. I like a band that is willing to keep its integrity, even if that means fewer folks will grasp the art. Eventually, the greats are discovered. I don't know if Fuego del Alma is destined for greatness, but this first disc is a fine start.

    Well-presented and recorded. Not content to simply recycle their influences, the members of Fuego del Alma wrote every song here. That is one of the things that keeps this endeavor from getting dull. This is their music. And it's pretty damned fine.


    Fueled
    In the House of the Enemy
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    A fairly basic industrial outing, though Fueled is kinda trippy if you put it into the industrial metal category. Plenty of cheese riffs and industrial percussion tied with rather pompous lyrics of doom and pain.

    Good as it goes, but nothing terribly exciting. The most interesting parts of the songs are the odd intros, which are quickly forgotten after the generic riff du jour opens up the track. Alright, so the band's title track ("Fueled", I mean) has a nice groove, it still doesn't go anywhere.

    Oh, my, I'm getting a Skatenigs feel here. Hooky hooky, but not enough to kick it into a real feel. And plenty of recycled guitar parts to keep the rocker kids happy.

    Fueled is a reasonably fun band, I suppose, but this album just doesn't grab me. I need to hear something a bit more creative, I guess.


    Full Circle
    Negative
    (Leviathan)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    An ultra-clean move on the NY metal-core sound that has been all-too-pervasive. Full Circle has found a slick-yet-sparse sound that somewhat reminds me of early Prong. This is not a bad thing.

    The vocals are slung about with the full venom of a grinding rapper, and the music helps provide the underpinnings for a full-scale riot.

    Leans riffs and the whiplash effect of the bass and drums are the sonic basis for Full Circle. But it's what is built upon that which is most impressive.

    Simply put, this is highly catchy and astonishingly good. Just cycle through the disc. The songs stay in much the same groove, but are varied enough to keep interest. Yeah, the comparisons to Prong or Sepultura or even Biohazard might be somewhat appropriate, but the cool this is Full Circle has staked a claim to its own sound. This is no rip-off. It's just good music.


    Full Moon Bay
    Back into the Night
    (Hudson Valley Records)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Well-played and produced, Full Moon Bay traffics in rather uninspired AAA stuff. The songs are the sorta thing Air Supply might have recorded, although this band keeps most of the excessive cheese out of the mix.

    The mostly acoustic instrumentation helps there. And it is impossible to fault the playing or the work in the studio. This disc sounds fabulous. The songs are the letdown.

    Trite lyrics and rather well-worn melodic ideas are way too prevalent. Now, plenty of folks like this sorta thing. Fact is, I don't. I can appreciate the effort and work, but in the end, it doesn't work for me.

    On the other hand, if you haven't had enough Bread lately, this might help feed your jones.


    Full On
    Cosmic Day
    (Reality Anonymous)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    For those music industry junkies out there, this is a project of long-time Epitaph soldier Jeff Abarta. The band name and album title somewhat help to describe what's here. This is vaguely trippy rock, with plenty of space and prog references.

    The songwriting is kinda whimsical, and the playing follows suit. That's a great counterpoint to the general style of things here. Undercuts the national pretentiousness of the sound by fucking around a bit.

    Now, I am left with trying to figure out just what the boys are trying to do. Play cool music is my guess, and they do pretty well in that regard. I think the idea is simply to sit back and enjoy.

    Why analyze? If it works, it works. Full On is something of a piffle, but a tasty piffle, anyway, You could do a lot worse.


    Alice D.
    (Reality Anonymous)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    This disc simply confirms my feelings about the first one. This is the obligatory retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story, with the surrealism played up and the satire played down. I mean, when you're spinning a trip groove, why weigh the folks down?

    The entire project is much sharper in focus and in execution. The playing hits all the marks, and in so doing loses a bit of the loose style of the first. Not bad, but a bit less original. As for the whole concept, well, again, the band sounds tied down. Instead of using the story as a jumping-off point, the band seems constrained by the limits.

    But in all ways this is a more professional effort. I've already mentioned the playing, and the production is likewise much sharper. The mix has the songs simply bounding out of the speakers. All that is great.

    But by putting fences around itself, Full On just doesn't come off with the same whimsy and joy. One step forward, and one back. That, however, is an entirely different fable.


    Full on the Mouth
    Collide
    (Pioneer Music Group/Atlantic)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    So the glossy has guys with bad perms staring ominously at the camera. With a name like Full on the Mouth, I was waiting for another cheap Pantallica ripoff.

    And well, the chord progressions just might fit that category. But Full on the Mouth is something like a mix of Whorgasm and Skrew. Catchy glam industrial grooves with plenty of techno overwashing. Definitely best appreciated at volume, but accessible enough to play at your average party.

    Alright, so this easy music. No doubt about that. Did it take a huge chunk of inspiration to come up with the riffage and lyrics? Of course not. But it does take talent to find good hooks, and those are in abundance.

    Pop industrial stuff wears on me quickly, so I'm not sure how long I'm really going to be digging this. But right now, I've got it cranked. And that will work for today.


    Funeral intheMirror
    Old Wolf Thoughts
    (Human Inhuman)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Joe DeRosa and James Pinkstone know how to rock. In almost every way imaginable. There's a bit of laptop, some greasy JAMC and some eccentric pop a la TMBG. Most interesting to me, though, is that the guys don't try to combine their influences.

    Which does leave Funeral intheMirror without much of a real sound of its own. These songs are finely crafted and assembled, and they have that tight "band" sound. The ideas are so diffuse, though, that I can't think of even one that epitomizes Funeral in the Mirror.

    That's not a problem, musicwise. And these songs are amazing. The sound simply pops out of the speakers, and the melodies and hooks are instantly gratifying. I'm really impressed.

    And maybe it isn't important that there be a Funeral intheMirror sound. Maybe DeRosa and Pinkstone can simply crank out awesome song after awesome song and all will be well. I won't complain, that's for sure.


    Funky Butt Drum Club
    Funky Butt Drum Club
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    With a couple members of the band My Brother's Keeper in its ranks, the Funky Butt Drum Club takes the idea of funk and flings it up against the wall, just to see what is left.

    And the results are about what can be expected. There are nice, deep grooves all over this tape, but they aren't always used to their full potential. The most interesting facet of the band is that most of the percussion is played on bongos of some sort, with very little in the way of electric instruments cluttering up the sound.

    A lot of this fine work is somewhat spoiled by rather uninspired lyrics and odd attempts to scat "funky butt" style. That's where the charm leaves in my opinion. Still, there are quite a few nice moments, and this is certainly a project with some serious artistic potential. As long as the funky butts keep trying to redefine the boundaries of the Funk.

    See also My Brother's Keeper.


    Funny Looking Kids
    Picture Day
    (Fast Music)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    The sound is extremely thin, even for a low-budget punk recording, but Funny Looking Kids sure has the songwriting chops. And the strangely sparse sound has a way of really focusing on that strength.

    The potent mix of hardcore and ska translates into wonderfully aggressive tuneage, played out through the unusual filter. Even when the band is going absolutely nuts, everything sounds restrained.

    No distortion in the sound, and the guitars and bass are mixed way low. So the vocals and the intricacies of the guitars sound out. The angry (and sometimes drop dead hilarious) lyrics come across quite well.

    Sometimes it's the weird things which help to point out the good parts of an album. I like the sound, mostly because it is different, but also because it really highlights the finest qualities of the band. Well done.


    Furbowl
    The Autumn Years
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/15/94

    Another of those highly Iron Maiden-influenced death metal bands. And once again, the mix of mid-eighties Euro-metal and death metal is a tasty one.

    It's the rare death metal album that could be termed catchy, but Furbowl does its best. The riffage is creative and melodic, and the production is touched up with some keys and a fiddle (as opposed to a violin).

    Like the best Euro-metal, Furbowl keeps things moving along at a quick, but not too quick, pace. There is plenty of time for the leisurely fast guitar solo and drum break. A lot of things were put in the pot, and miraculously, the simmered mixture is divine.


    Furious George
    Furious George Goes Ape! CD5
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    Three tunes that check in at just under six minutes. Very Ramonesy; Dee Dee even checks in on "Betty Crocker, Punk Rocker".

    Fun as fun goes, but eminently forgettable two minutes later. Novelty appeal is nice and all, but I'm hoping for more, somehow.

    I've heard this sort of thing over and over the past couple of years. Furious George does as well with the concept as anyone, but I'm getting tired of the joke. Wish there was more to say.


    Furslide
    Adventure
    (Virgin)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Whenever a band adds loads of incomprehensible elements to its music, the bigwigs always slap an "alternative" label on the disc and schlep it out to the masses. While Furslide generally does a good job of justifying its idiosyncrasies, there are still a few bits which I simply cannot understand.

    And it's not that Furslide makes complicated music. On the contrary. This is anthemic pop rock, stuff which plods more than soars. I can hear the ideas behind the music, and generally the band is unable to execute.

    Add to that an overblown production sound, and you've got major label mess. Furslide needs someone at the knobs who could take the band's unusual attack and keep everything understated. There is no way this works with an overly punchy sound. And yet, that's what I'm listening to.

    The basics behind the songs are good enough, but nothing else really works. I'd compare this to the Doppelganger disc I reviewed earlier. Unfavorably. Furslide sounds like it's trying, and that's the last thing it wants.


    Fury of Five
    This Time It's Personal
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Well-executed metalcore. Somewhere between old Suicidal and Biohazard, though with a modern sheen. Perhaps it's that top layer that bugs me, maybe it's something else. But I'm a bit uneasy listening to this.

    Not in a "my world is melting" way, but Fury of Five just doesn't do it for me. I hear all of the pieces a bit too distinctly; maybe that's it. The delivery, while well-processed, doesn't melt together well. Each influence remains distinct.

    Still, this is a serious adrenaline rush. Lots of pounding riffage, lots of hawdkoa action, if you know what I mean.

    That's gotta be it. Fury of Five is so many things for so many people that it forget to find itself in the mix. There's a lot of good things here; I just don't hear a cohesive band.


    Fuse
    Square One 7"
    (Side by Each)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Sparsely-produced punk-tinged anthems. A serious attempt to replicate a Pearl Jam feel (without really ripping anything off) on the first song. It's not bad, but certainly undistinguished.

    The flip ("Yellow") wanders the same road, with about the same result. I've heard many bands do this sort of thing better, and while Fuse (sorry I couldn't replicate the long vowel mark) is certainly passionate about this music, I just don't understand why.


    Fuzz Beloved
    Fuzz Beloved
    (Intrepid Sound)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    Remember that weird (and bad) superstar project Deep Jimi and the Led Zep Creams? Fuzz Beloved takes that whole ponderous psychedelic pop thing to a silly new level.

    It would really help if the songs moved faster than the speed of constipated shit. The general construction of the songs is very straightforward, as the psychedelic elements are mostly window dressing and production additions. Take all the peripherals away and you get boring pop music.

    And they can't get past that. Kinda like Soundgarden on a half-melted tape, really. Recent Soundgarden, the stuff you wouldn't feed to your worst dog. This stuff is far too annoying to consider any further.


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