Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 320 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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  • H2O (2)
  • Jeff Haas Trio with Marvin Kahn
  • Habacus Sucubah
  • Kurt Hagardorn
  • Hagfish (2)
  • Hai Karate
  • Hailer
  • Hairy Patt Band
  • Hairyapesbmx
  • Haji's Kitchen
  • Ed Hale and Transcendence
  • Half Film
  • Half Hour to Go
  • Half Japanese
  • Halfway
  • Halfway to Gone
  • Hallelujah Boy
  • Haloblack
  • Halycine
  • Neil Hamburger
  • Hamell on Trial
  • Sara Hamilton
  • Hammerfall
  • Handgrenades
  • The Handsome Family
  • Larry Hankin
  • The Hanks
  • Hannah Cranna
  • Kevin Hannan
  • Jeff Hanson
  • Hanson Brothers
  • Hanzel und Gretyl (3)
  • Happy Diving
  • The Happy Scene
  • David Harbuck (2)
  • Scotty Hard
  • Hard Candy (2)
  • Hard Place
  • Hard Skin
  • Marina Hardy
  • Harlingtox A.D.
  • Daniel G. Harmann (2)
  • Harmless
  • Harmonious bec
  • Harm's Way
  • Brady Harris (3)
  • Hank Harris (2)
  • Michael Harris
  • Mary O. Harrison
  • Brian Hartzog
  • Harvest Theory (2)
  • Mick Harvey (2)
  • Harvey Danger
  • Hate Dept. (4)
  • Hate Head
  • The Hatepinks
  • Greg Hatza Organization (3)
  • !Havana Blast!
  • Havergal
  • Hawk
  • Dale Hawkins
  • Ted Hawkins
  • Hayden
  • Haywood/Mariner Nine
  • Haymarket Riot (4)
  • Haze (2)
  • Lee Hazlewood
  • He's My Brother She's My Sister
  • Peter Head and the Pitchfork Militia
  • Head Like a Kite
  • Head North
  • Head of Femur
  • Head Resonance Company
  • Headcleaner
  • Headcrash
  • Headrush
  • The Heads
  • Headstrong
  • Eloise Klein Healy
  • The Heartdrops
  • Heat Dust
  • Heatmiser (4)
  • Heaven 17
  • The Heavenly Music Association
  • Heavy Vegetable (3)
  • Heavyweight Dub Champion
  • hed (pe)
  • Hedgehog
  • Tom Hedrick
  • The Heed
  • Heidemann
  • Heinous Bienfang
  • Helen Kelter Skelter
  • Helio Sequence
  • Hell on Earth
  • Hellbent (2)
  • Hello Defective (2)
  • Hellsongs
  • Help Wanted
  • Thomas Helton
  • Rick Helzer/John Stowell
  • Hemisphere
  • Hemlock
  • Neil Henderson
  • Scott Henderson Steve Smith Victor Wooten
  • Aaron Henry
  • Hepcat (2)
  • Her Flyaway Manner
  • Hermit Thrushes
  • The Hero Cycle
  • Hero of a Hundred Fights
  • The Heroic Enthusiasts (3)
  • Heros Severum (2)
  • Colin Herring (3)
  • Emily Herring
  • Rick Hertless
  • Steven Hess
  • Boo Hewerdine
  • Hex Error
  • Hexedene
  • Hexx
  • The Heygoods
  • The Heys
  • Nick Heyward
  • Hi Electric
  • Hi Fashion
  • Hi-Fi and the Roadburners
  • The Hi-Fives (2)
  • Hi-Standard (2)
  • Hicky
  • The Hideaways
  • High Llamas
  • High Rise (2)
  • The High Violets
  • Highlands
  • Adam Hill (3)
  • Andy Hill and Renee Safier
  • Jason Hill (2)
  • Hillbilly Devilspeak
  • Kye Alfred Hillig (4)
  • Hillstomp (2)
  • Hilltop Distillery
  • David Hillyard and the Rocksteady Seven
  • Hilo
  • Lisa Hilton
  • Him (Wordsound)
  • Him (Perishable)
  • Himsa (2)
  • Hippopotamus
  • Hiss Golden Messenger
  • Hissanol
  • The Hit Back
  • The Hives
  • Hobbyist
  • Lauren Hoffman (2)
  • Steve Hogarth
  • Will Hoge
  • Lyle Holdahl (2)
  • Ted Holden (2)
  • Luke Holder (3)
  • Hollands
  • The Hollow Points
  • The Hollows
  • Hollydrift (3)
  • Josh Holmes Band
  • Holy Crap
  • Holy Gang
  • Holy Ghost Tent Revival
  • Home (2)
  • Home Grown
  • Honcho Overload
  • Logan Hone's Similar Fashion
  • Honey Barbara
  • HoneyChild
  • Honeycomb
  • The Honeydogs
  • Honkyball
  • Honored Guests
  • Hooch
  • Hood
  • Hoods
  • Hoofmark
  • Jay Hooks
  • The Hooligans
  • Hooray for Earth
  • Hoover's G-String
  • The Holt Hopkins Band
  • Hor
  • Troy Horne
  • Hospital Grade
  • Hostility
  • Hot Water Music
  • Hotel X (2)
  • The Hotelier
  • James Houlahan
  • John Houlihan
  • The Hourly Radio
  • House of Large Sizes (2)
  • Darren Housholder (3)
  • Houston
  • Hovercraft
  • Greg Howe (7)
  • Danielle Howle
  • Howling Iguanas
  • Nathan Hubbard (3)
  • Nielson Hubbard
  • Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Schwab
  • Hudson Falcons
  • Huevos Rancheros (3)
  • Huffy
  • Glenn Hughes (3)
  • John Hughes
  • Lena Hughes
  • Hum
  • Hum & the Quick
  • Human Host
  • Humbert (2)
  • Humble Gods
  • The Humbugs
  • Humpers (3)
  • Hundred Hands
  • Hundred Million Thousand
  • Hunger Anthem
  • Hagfish (2)
  • Hungry Crocodiles
  • The Hungry Mind Review (2)
  • James Hunter
  • The Huntingtons
  • Hurl (3)
  • Hurl Soul Bridge
  • Lida Husik
  • Hydropods
  • Hymen
  • Hyperdex-1-Sect
  • Hyperstory
  • Hypnotic Clambake
  • Hypocrisy (5)
  • Hyptonic

  • H2O
    Thicker than Water
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Led by former Sick of It All roadie Toby Morse, H2O thrashes through a set of tuneful hardcore that is reminiscent of, well Morse's former employers.

    Less metallic of course (it's amazing how many hardcore bands pick up that extra guitar overdub when they get money for the studio), and with a bit more emphasis on melody, H2O bows to no one when it comes to attitude.

    And when the pop feel really comes out, like on "I See It in Us", H2O cops a Down by Law feel (when Morse sings, he really sounds a lot like Dave Smalley). Personally, I think this is a good thing.

    Enough power to satisfy the adrenaline junkies, and enough tunesmithing to make a few popheads turn theirs. H2O isn't great yet, but this album has plenty of extra-fine moments. If the growth process continues, well, it could be very exciting.

    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    No obscenities in that title. Just "Faster Than the World". Sorry to burst yer bubble. Other than that, this disc shows off what H2O does best: Combine some oozin' ahs with tight hardcore (more of late 80s NYC vintage than the more recent moshcore sound). And while the first two discs weren't bad, this one is easily the best of the set.

    Effervescently powerful, an almost incomprehensibly difficult effect to conjure up. H2O breezes through these muscular songs with wit and flair, never stopping to take a breath. Well, I'm sure the live show is somewhat less frenetic, but the magic of the studio has created a heart-stopping set.

    And that studio sound is important. The guitars are fairly free of distortion, allowing them to sound powerful even as the riffs pile up like used condoms on Broadway. Always, always, the vocals are placed on top, holding all the pieces together. Sing along, now.

    And that's the thing. This is tough music, lifted up by incredibly catchy choruses. Wowsers. I can barely catch my wind.

    Jeff Haas Trio with Marvin Kahn
    L'Dor VaDor-Generation to Generation
    (Schoolkids' Records)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    The trio is made up of the basic instruments: bass, percussion and piano (where Jeff Haas resides). Marvin Kahn adds his exquisite touch with an alto clarinet, which has a bit different tone than the standard B flat clarinet (it's a bit larger and thus plays a bit lower).

    Jeff Hass is the son of Karl Haas (yes, that Karl Haas), and he goes about his composing and arranging with the meticulous attention of a serious music scholar. Most of the songs are arrangements of traditional Hebrew melodies, put into a jazz context. By bringing many traditions of music together (including one of his father's pieces), Haas shows a deft touch. He has a knack for the oldest of musical professions: reinventing the standard.

    The playing is reverential, but not ponderous. Hass, Kahn and cohorts know exactly how to make this music sing. The production stays completely out of the way, allowing the musicians to completely express themselves in an uninhibited manner.

    Cool, but not cold. Scrupulously scripted, but not straitlaced. Hass and friends have presented these ideas in a beautiful way. A wonderful expression of appreciation of history and hope for the future.

    Habacus Sucubah
    Recontre II EP
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    Sort of a jazzy take on the electronic noise sound. The keyboard pulses rarely degenerate into distortion, but there's not much here in the way of traditional song construction. Rather, each piece seems to be set up around a particular rhythmic idea, and most of the song is then the reverberations of that key thought.

    Kind of like variations on a theme, but not quite. This is a bit too scattered for that. Habacus Sucubah is simply throwing a lot of sound down onto a disc and seeing what sticks.

    As you might expect, some of this really clicks. But the constant exploration means that the band never settles into a groove. Creative? Yep. Intriguing? You bet. Boring? Never. A challenge? Most certainly. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, but I liked the workout.

    Kurt Hagardorn
    Ten Singles
    (Bladen County Records)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    Ten singles...as opposed to ten songs that would constitute a coherent album. I've been digitizing my old 7"s (it'll probably take me another three or four months to finish), and I've been struck by how many bands--even not particularly good ones--seem to work harder for the singles. I don't know if Hagardorn worked harder, but the singles ethic does seem to be in force here.

    The sound is modern Americana--loosely-played roots stuff with organ and other appropriate accouterments. Hagardorn, who has played with Thad Cockrell and Caitlin Cary (among others), tends to sing more about the internal than the external, which makes some of these songs a bit difficult to enter. Though the music is decidedly inviting.

    These songs were recorded over six years, so I don't know if these really are ten singles. I don't think they were, but it is a cool title, and it does set up the structure of the album.

    Deceptively simple songs that impress in a backward sorta way. Recognition comes at the end of the songs, not the start. So stick with this one and you'll be most pleased.

    Caught Live
    (Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    A very clean live recording. As the note said, this is something of a greatest hits package, with the best of a couple albums present. Hagfish doesn't really specialize in any sort of sound, but simply cranks out fairly amusing little punk ditties.

    Like I said, this recording is sharp. Every moment of greatness and every fuckup is caught in living splendor. There are plenty of examples of both (Hagfish is fairly sloppy live, though that does lend a certain charm to the proceedings) to be found here.

    The songs themselves are tightly written and, at least here, executed with little regard for technique. Plenty of sing-alongs, plenty of bouncy guitar lines. Plenty of dropped lyrics and chords.

    A fun set, one that is probably best suited to the fans. This isn't the sort of disc which will inspire the uninformed, but it does provide a nice picture of the band.

    That Was Then, This Is Then
    (Coldfront) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    A collection of b-sides and other hard-to-find material from these boys. The studio sound gives me a better idea of what the band is trying to do (I wasn't so sure after hearing the live disc). What it sounds like to me is Down By Law with a sharper sense of humor.

    I'll take that in a second. Now, of course, the songs here don't hang as well together as they might on a regular album (we're talking about stuff recorded over a seven-year period), but they do alright.

    Probably the best thing Hagfish does is stick to what it does best. These are great punk-pop tunes, and the band doesn't try to stretch them into something more. Fun, with just enough of a bite to lend an air of authenticity.

    This is really a much better presentation of the band than the recent live album. I'm much more impressed now that I've heard this. Hagfish is indeed something worth having around.

    Hai Karate
    Hai Karate
    (Man's Ruin)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    The sort of punk raver album that skips on by. Nine songs, 18 minutes. An EP? God, I'm sick of fucking with musical semantics. This is an album, I guess. Do you care? Doubtful.

    Hai Karate kicks out its jams with more of a bar band approach (harmonica, gang vocals, etc.), and that helps to make the music even more arresting. Yeah, the riffs are old, but the lines are amusing and the energy is utterly infectious.

    I've been hearing more and more punk bands wandering down this path, and I think it's a good idea. This is the natural extension of the punk ideal, jamming like a mother and swigging a few beers in the process. Simple, basic and fun.

    Nothing spectacular, just a damned fine time.

    Another Way
    reviewed 6/20/13

    The art of album sequencing has been declining for decades. That's hardly surprising, as we live in the days of random playlists and irregular release formats (singles, EPs, etc.). The concept of the album has been in evolution at least since CDs asserted their domination in the late 80s. Mellon Collie heralded the age of the bloated "album," and even great bands (and Smashing Pumpkins, while not great, wasn't half-bad) succumbed to the need to treat each album release as a notebook dump.

    In any case, the whole idea of programming a 40-to-45 minute listening experience has been relegated to the back benches. American Idiot was one of the few "mega-albums" to actually use the extended time frame to make something coherent, but I think referencing concept albums when talking about sequencing is kinda cheating. Not entirely tangentially, a high school friend once commented that he thought Rage for Order told a much more interesting and complete story than Operation: Mindcrime. I disagreed at the time, but now that I have moved past my literal phase and into my Never Mind the Lyrics, Here's the Kick-Ass Music mindset, I can see that he was right.

    Hailer is an Australian rock band. There aren't many actual rock bands these days (I think I've written about that subject, but I'll probably expand upon it at some point in the future), and most rock bands today are pretty dull. I'm not singling out rock artists by saying that, as most musical artists trend toward the dull so as to appeal to a wide audience. Though I'm also of the opinion that rock has become a much less interesting genre over the last 20 years or so. The fact that Nickelback is the top-selling rock band in the country is example #1.

    Hailer is not dull. And these boys know how to build an album from the ground up. The first couple of songs serve as mood-setters--except that they don't set a mood. They simply provide a zero-entry opening to listeners. By the time the listener gets to the heart of the album ("Holding Hands," "Tina," "Don't Let It Kill Your Love" and "It's All On"), the hook has been set. Hailer doesn't stick to any one sound. The early pieces are a definite nod to the alterna-dull rock that predominates today. But there's an edge to the sound, an edge that blooms with extreme prejudice as the album moves along. Hailer gets loud--to the point of noise at times--and then dials things back as it sees fit.

    I mentioned "Don't Let It Kill Your Love" back there. This is a barely mid-tempo song that would be stripped of its impact if it didn't appear after the chaos of the previous songs. It is an unabashed alt-rock power ballad. There's more than a hint of the ol' Flying Nun atmospherics--I could definitely imagine this song on Melt--but nonetheless we're talking about "Everybody Hurts" territory. I generally don't like those kind of songs, but "Don't" works amazingly well in its slot.

    The sequencing of this album is so good that I ran a small experiment and listened to the set in random order. It still sounded pretty good, if not quite so coherent. I tried it with a different random order, and I remained impressed. Just not knocked out. Which is to say that many of these songs are freakin' brilliant, no matter where they sit. But the best way to listen to this album is in the sequence decreed by the band. Do that a hundred or so times before you relegate the songs to randomizing. You'll thank me later.

    Hailer is a rarity, the fearless band. I have to admit that it is easier to not give a shit when you're not tied to a label or really making much money at all from your musical endeavors. But most self-released bands are retreads or worse. Hailer has worked exceedingly hard to create music that doesn't really tie itself to any particular sound or era. This is rock and roll with a purpose. Hailer wants to immerse listeners in its world, and all elements of this album (music, lyrics and production) combine to do just that.

    By the time the fractured folky psychedelics of "Two Feet" have faded (in a most unusual and engaging manner, I might add), the jonesing has begun. Again. And more. And then more. I've been mainlining this album for a week or so, and I'm still in thrall.

    In the olden days, unsigned bands from Australia had exactly zero chance of reaching an American audience. But we live in the brave new world of Bandcamp and iTunes, and such things are commonplace. Hailer, however, is most uncommonly awesome. These boys wave the rock banner proudly. I salute with smiles blazing.

    Hairy Patt Band
    Buford's Last Pusser
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    What Killdozer might sound like if those guys decided to completely forget about hooks and instead listened to a lot of Dogbowl and Daniel Johnston.

    Um, right after mentioning the Dogbowl thing I noticed that this disc was recorded at Noise with Kramer and a guy named Steve. Imagine my surprise.

    Highly unusual fare. The guitars are usually wanging about somewhere in the next galaxy, and the drums merely constantly in motion. No bass. It might be loony sludge. It might be sludgy country. It might be wacky, cascading pop. This is not music for the incontinent. They might blow their whole bladder right out after a listen to this.

    The only weak song is the cover of "Jack and Diane". It's completely unnecessary and actually detracts from the rest of the disc. Just skip track one and get to the good stuff.

    (Artist Workshop-V&R)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    A nice little funk band with generally rapped vocals. The style is laid back more often than not (that's singing and playing), though the guys do ratchet up the intensity when necessary.

    What Hairyapesbmx does quite well is crank out the grooves. These guys know exactly how to find a slinky little kink and exploit it for all it is worth. Funk can be complicated, but there's gotta be something simple at the core.

    The band sound (as opposed to a synthetic-sounding faux-funk feel) really drives home the grooves. This feel is nice and organic, a warm sound that really provides a nice space for the songs.

    The guys aren't afraid to take chances, either. Hairyapesbmx covers so much ground, even while staying true to the groove, that I'm simply knocked out. Quite stirring.

    Haji's Kitchen
    Haji's Kitchen
    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Industrial drumming, processed vocals and a grinding buzzsaw guitar attack. Wait, this isn't the first Pantera album, is it?

    No, and to call this a rip wouldn't quite be fair (though it's close). After all, Haji's Kitchen is still a little too steeped in the grunge to really be stealing from Pantera (though those King's X and Soundgarden references are downright spooky at times).

    A decent, workmanlike album that combines various aspects of current metal trends into a palatable package. This does not suck. In fact, I really got into a couple songs. But in five years will this stuff seem remotely important? No, because the band members seem much more interested in what other bands are doing than in making new music. There is plenty of talent here; Haji's Kitchen should be doing more than surfing metal trends.

    Ed Hale and Transcendence
    Rise and Shine
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Ed Hale and Transcendence play exceptionally catchy AAA tuneful rock (with just the right dash of soul). I usually don't go for this kind of commercial project. There's just the one thing. These guys are really, really good.

    Which is not to say the music is edgy. It's not. There are rounded edges aplenty. Not a problem, as Hale imbues his songs with so many ideas that it's hard to get bored. There are all sorts of musical references to ponder, and the lyrics, likewise, ask more questions than they answer.

    And it's all wrapped up in this pretty package. This stuff could be played on the radio without a question. The sound is big and sharp and shiny. But there's a certain substance that's missing from most mainstream rock. Or, to put it more plainly, there's a there here.

    Highly enjoyable music that slyly challenges. Hale and friends don't charge straight for the edge, but they manage to trip a few nice tangents anyway. A real solid package.

    Half Film
    The Road to the Crater
    (Devil in the Woods)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Irish band, Frisco-area label, the sorta stuff I'd expect to hear from a band on the eastern side of the midwest. Not out of step with Hurl or that sort. There is the Irish accent on the vocals, but still. Meandering, subdued pop music with more than a little noise in the mix.

    Vaguely atonal, too, in a vague way. I get the feeling I've heard these guys before, but I'm still happy to have this disc. Since I haven't come across Half Film in the past, I'll simply be happy with the deja vu.

    The songs wind and roll along. They start and stop, not always at logical points. What I'm trying to say here is that this is the sort of band which will compliment the comfortable cheese epicenters of a good many people, even though they too have never come across this exact band before.

    The more I look at this review, the more nebulous it seems. As I listen, my thoughts become more and more unfocused. I lose myself in the tuneage and have to struggle to return. I'd say that's a fair compliment.

    Half Hour to Go
    Items for the Full Outfit
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Boisterous pop that was mastered at an astonishingly high level. This puppy simply pounded out of my speakers at a much higher volume than any of the other discs I reviewed this week.

    Nothing kinky, nothing strange. Half Hour to Go cranks out full-on pop music at max volume and intensity. Some tracks are gorgeous gems (like "Theatre in The Round"), while others take a while to really find their stride. Don't worry, they get there eventually.

    Some bands just have a knack for this sorta thing. Half Hour to Go is obviously one of them. The guys know that simple is often best, and while some songs do have nicely complex structures, the overall goal is simplicity itself.

    Far too pleasing to leave on a rack somewhere. Half Hour to Go is one of those bands that leaves everyone wanting more.

    Half Japanese
    Fire in the Sky
    (Safe House)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Calling Half Japanese an acquired taste is an understatement. Calling Jad Fair's voice annoying is to voice truth, but then, you could say the same about Daniel Johnston (who has one of his songs covered here).

    And they are both in the same category: guys with marginal musical talent who are geniuses when it comes to observing things. And creating moods with their music.

    It is still music, after all. Even when Ornette Coleman or John Zorn fly off the furthest cliff, only Wynton Marsalis would say it isn't jazz. This is certainly weird, but it is also strangely affecting.

    Jad Fair has improved his playing and even his singing, and Moe Tucker achieves a nice early VU sound in her production, which is certainly more than appropriate.

    Farewell to the Fainthearted
    (Laughing Outlaw)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    So can you call it Americana if the band is Australian? Why not? Seven guys in the outfit, and enough pedal steel and dobro to take me down the road apiece. Indeed, I can name a couple dozen bands around my little corner of North Carolina who would love to make music this good.

    The songs are impressive, but I think I like the collective feel of the album the best. When you've got seven members (and a lengthy list of guests), a genial, collaborative sound often results. These ideas have been bounced off any number of folks, and they came back improved.

    When I go to the beach later this summer, I'll be packing this disc, a bottle of the finest bourbon and as little else as possible. Keep it easy, and make sure the ice cube bin stays full.

    Halfway to Gone
    High Five
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Stoner rock with a southern soul. I'm not saying this trio is actually from the south (I'm pretty sure the boys are from somewheres around Detroit), but there is a certain "down home" feel to some of the fuzzball riffage.

    Which isn't to say that Halfway to Gone is above rehashing just about every stoner rock stereotype in the book. These songs are often ponderous (though generally less than four minutes long) with at least as many nods to Black Sabbath as Lynyrd Skynyrd (even on a song subtitled "The Van Zant Shuffle").

    The sound is as thick as it needs to be. And then some. Right in line with the profile. Nothing wrong there. I just wish that the songs themselves took a few more chances.

    There are so many places that stoner bands haven't explored, even within their own sound. Halfway to Gone, despite the occasional glance askance, didn't fulfill my expectations of something new.

    Hallelujah Boy
    Noise and Silence
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Hallelujah Boy has spent a lot of time recording and posting new demos, hoping to reach 100 songs by the end of the year. Somewhere in between, the boys actually polished up twelve of them and have this album to show for it.

    Perky indie-pop fare, the sort of thing that ought to interest fans of GBV and similar sorts. There's a bit more reliance on organ and general electronics here, and that helps to fill out the sound. I like it. Well-orchestrated without the orchestra.

    Sometimes it pays to let the seams show. The production sound is hardly perfect, but the wrinkles here and there provide an interesting view into the mind of the band. What you don't fix says a lot about you.

    What I hear is a band that wants to sound human. Not out-of-tune or overly messy or anything like that. Just not perfect. Except for the hooks. Some of them may, in fact, be beyond reproach. It's always good to stock plenty of honey.

    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    I love "dirty" electronic music albums. Bryan Black (aka Haloblack) has crafted a fine set of experimental industrial tunes.

    Black hails from Minneapolis, and so its not surprising that his interpretation of "funk" has more than a little to do with the impressions of the great purple one. This revelation came to me while listening to "Nympho" (no, the title wasn't the key here...), and it did color much of the rest of my listening. Now, I'm not saying Black stole from anyone, but his funk features greasy (and highly manipulated) guitar licks, which ties him into that whole Paisley thing. No complaints, of course.

    Now I've really done it. Haloblack sounds nothing like Prince (if you don't believe me, plunk down the cash and listen for yourself). I was merely making... no, if I try to explain more it just gets more fucked up. Leave the dog lying about.

    Now, before I got so rudely interrupted by myself, I was about to mention the really nice sound Black got on this album. A nasty sort of funk, one that has little to do with the real world. Cyberfunk, or something like that.

    You know, the more I try to compliment Haloblack, the more I fuck up. I'm stopping now.

    In the Salt EP
    Heroic Enthusiasts
    The Second Three EP
    reviewed 9/19/16

    My current favorite band from the city of my birth (Rochester, N.Y., which I left well before I could walk), the Heroic Enthusiasts, are back with another three-song effort. The title is both stylish and apt, which also describes the band.

    When people think of 80s music, they are thinking of another band from Liverpool, Echo and the Bunnymen. Even if very few of them could name a single Bunnymen song (and if they can, it's probably "Bring on the Dancing Horses," which is best-known in America as part of the still-legendary Pretty in Pink soundtrack).

    The Heroic Enthusiasts incorporate the Bunnymen manner of folding melodies in on themselves while adding just a dash of 90s garage panache. I can honestly say that I love every single song I've heard from this band. It's early yet, but I haven't been this blown away by a band in ages. The Second Three is further confirmation of looming greatness.

    Chloe Raynes is Halycine, for all intents and purposes. If I might suggest, don't read her bio. It mentions that she heard a particular Nirvana song (no, not that one) and knew at that moment that she had to be a songwriter. As she's only 21, there are all sorts of things wrong there.

    But that's the only wrong thing. Origin story aside, it's entirely possible that Raynes is suffering from some sort of divine inspiration. Her sound is a lot more Alanis than Kurt, but she does sound like a child of the 90s. Her songs are layered, slow-burning anthems that are thankfully short on self-importance. The lead track (and first single) "Circles" is the best thing here, but the other four songs help flesh out Raynes's vision.

    I'm curious to hear if she can evolve and bring a few new ideas into her sound. This is a fine first effort. Now the hard work begins.

    As for the Heroic Enthusiasts, they seem to relish the work. #2 is even better than #1. That doesn't happen often, but when it does it means a lot. I'm already jonesing for a third helping.

    Neil Hamburger
    Neil Hamburger is America's Funnyman
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    Recorded "live" in Albuquerque, Modesto and Las Vegas. Perhaps.

    The joke in this comedy album is that nothing is funny. Hamburger (or whoever he is) has completely drained each and every one of his jokes of any humor whatsoever. He's managed this feat despite the fact that many of his "jokes" had astonishingly funny premises.

    In other words, this is "high concept" comedy. The idea that a person would stand on stage and say this stuff, hoping for a laugh, is completely hilarious. Of course, you also get the reaction of folks like my wife, who wondered why anyone would go to the trouble to hear this painful stuff in order to get a cheap snigger or two. Fair question.

    I don't know. I suppose I'm a masochist for comedy. And while Neil Hamburger doesn't have a funny joke in his repertoire, the act itself can be sidesplitting. Don't believe me? Well, you probably shouldn't.

    Hamell on Trial
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Why not kick an album off with a spoken word piece called "Go Fuck Yourself?" It's a basic sense of charm like that that really keeps this disc on an even level. Hamell on Trial is mostly Ed Hamell, a guy who strongly resembles a bald Danny Aiello.

    And he's got that New York attitude as well. That's the charm I was referring to earlier. The vocals often turn into arhythmic rants, and the guitars (particularly the acoustic ones) can careen out of control as well. These are not the songs of a wallflower.

    Nope, Hamell on Trial sounds more like "everybody on trial." Ed's pissed, and he's letting loose. Man, this is a wonderfully liberated disc. No-holds-barred, no punches pulled. Everything is on the table. Can I write one more cliche?

    Sure, but I won't. The thing is, Hamell on Trial is definitely not cliche. This is earnest anger, delivered with venom. Refreshing and pointed to the end. Definitely cool.

    Sara Hamilton
    Call My Name
    (Saricana/Red Eye)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    Sara Hamilton has that Mary Chapin Carpenter mid-alto range, and she knows her way around writing songs as well. This album is set up to feature those two things, and those two things only.

    Which is how I would have produced it as well. Hamilton is obviously angling for a Nashville contract, though I'm not sure she's got the glitz and firepower. Maybe she really is aiming for the AAA country-folk-pop submarket, that commercial side of alt.country where Carpenter and Rosanne Cash (another obvious influence) reside.

    Her stuff is good enough, and like I noted up top, producer Jesse Dayton makes sure to dress up the music without distracting the listener from Hamilton's voice and ideas. The album sounds lovely, as it should.

    I always get a little bummed when I hear such a fine album and yet can't quite envision commercial success. Only a little, though, because most musicians never make an album as fine as this.

    Glory to the Brave
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    A Dutch band that has studied melodic metal quite well. The guitar lines are right out of Helloween, and Joacim Cans' vocals sound a lot like a leaner version of Bruce Dickinson.

    Speed and melody are equally treasured by HammerFall, and this incessant drive forward keeps the project tight and focused. The songs are all cut from the same sheet, but there's enough creativity to keep the sound lively.

    Basically, this is one big load of fun. Everything is in its place, as would be expected, and HammerFall makes sure to drop in some seriously prodigious playing. Nothing over-the-top, but enough to get that rush going.

    Retro and loving it. This sort of music can get pompous and overbearing in a heartbeat, and the band has done a good job keeping the lines simple and gorgeous. Albums like this are helping to bring about a new metal renaissance. And about time, too.

    reviewed 12/1/16

    90s Britpop by way of Detroit, Handgrenades tosses off a passel of overstuffed harmonies and production excesses. When done properly, of course, this sort of thing approaches brilliance. Such is the case with Handgrenades.

    In the right hands, these sort of ringing pop songs sound inevitable. Entirely predictable in the way they build toward their bashy climaxes, it is nonetheless remarkable that most band who attempt this sound fail. I mean, the formula is obvious, and once one starts down the path, there's just one way to go, right?

    Not really. It's just the good stuff that sounds inevitable. The rest is hackneyed. This is Handgrenades second album, and from what I can tell, it is a real step forward. The arrangements are tighter, the production is more . . . more, I guess. Even on the more introverted songs, the intensity never wanes.

    I suppose the most obvious reference point here is Supergrass, though I hear a lot of Blur as well. And there's plenty of good old American "alternative" as well. Handgrenades have made their statement. Let's see who hears it.

    The Handsome Family
    Honey Moon
    (Carrot Top)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    I first encountered the Handsome Family at a Mekons show in Baltimore. Well, I was late, so I missed the band, but I recall Jon Langford saying, "They take a little getting used to, but they're great!" as the Mekons cranked up.

    This latest effort from the Handsome Family fits that definition perfectly. Not country, not rockabilly, not rock and roll, not doo-wop, not Elvine...not anything, exactly. But all of that, too. Probably the best way to approach this band is as the opposite of the White Stripes: A still-married couple that plays its songs with care and devotion.

    Fans of the band are similarly devoted, and once cast, the spell is irrevocable. It will take a few minutes to unclutter your mind and allow the modestly unconventional arrangements and singing to soak in. Trust me, it's worth the effort.

    Another fine outing from the band. Brett and Rennie Sparks hit upon this style quite a while ago, but they certainly seem to have plenty of miles to roam. Let the songs wash over and bathe you in their glory.

    Larry Hankin
    Pomes & Stories
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    The poet as stand up comic. If that sounds cheesy, then dig into Larry Hankin. He'll convince you otherwise.

    He is reasonably literate, but not highbrow. He uses literary forms to craft messages into his seemingly mindless, funny stories. When the piece is done, after your laughter subsides, a realization will follow. After you get used to the delivery, you will begin to truly appreciate the amusing art of Larry Hankin.

    While much spoken word can be pretentious (even if interesting), Larry Hankin's stories are decidedly self-deprecating. He wants his ideas to get across and makes sure you don't have any problem with the interface. Just listen, okay?

    The Hanks
    Your New Attraction
    (Cobra Music)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    It's been a while since I've gotten some first-class melodic emo. The sound that was played to death a few years back still yields the occasional sprightly disc.

    And actually, this disc is a lot more anthemic than light on its feet. But the hooks are sweet and the power chords are like butter. The Hanks aren't reinventing the wheel, but they've found one slick prototype.

    The production is shiny, but not metallic. There's an indie feel here, even though its more than apparent these boys want to move so much farther down the road. The sound is a nice frame for this picture of a band on the move.

    Of course, this isn't exactly the most commercial sound these days. Okay by me. I just call good music when I hear it and let the industrialists fight over profits. Don't ask for the moon and this one will surprise nicely.

    Hannah Cranna
    Hannah Cranna
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A big sticker on the front proclaims "Produced by Joey Molland of Badfinger". That's supposed to be a kicker? Maybe for aging baby boomers who haven't heard a good band since Grand Funk Railroad broke up.

    Luckily, Hannah Cranna's music outpaced the expectations that sticker provided. Not by a lot, mind you, but this stuff isn't dreck or anything. It is, however, a sharper produced and somewhat better written version of the "whiny white guy" music that I bitched about in the Five Dollar Milkshake review.

    Actually, the production is the best thing about this disc. It captures some emotion and feeling that the actual performances lack. This is very pretty and all, but I simply cannot identify with the subject matter.

    A weak version of the sort of thing the Jayhawks still do very well. In fact, the more I listen to this the more I'm reminded of some of the worse moments on the first two Jayhawks albums on American. Moodiness without meaning. Oh, it sounds gorgeous, but the music is still a big doughnut. Hollow in the middle.

    Kevin Hannan
    Bridge to Atlantis
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Somewhere between dreamy English pop (say, Danny Wilson or something like that) and Elliot Smith lies Kevin Hannan. He's got that warbling voice and kinda twisted intensity that pretty much requires a listen or two.

    Dramatic, almost anthemic fare. Hannan drenches his arrangements with all sorts of overlays, from synth strings to guitar washes to cascading electronic rhythms. Thing is, he's probably most effective when he keeps things simple, such as on "Riding Horses on the Moon."

    But Hannan's grand ambitions preclude that. And sometimes, as on "Madman," the song that follows "Horses," Hannan gets it right, adding just the right amount of background to fully flesh out his ideas.

    A lot of the time, though, the songs sound like extravagant muddled messes. Interesting messes, to be sure. Compelling and riveting, even in excess, Hannan sure knows how to write a song. He needs to have a steadier hand with his arrangements, but that oughta come with time.

    Jeff Hanson
    Madam Owl
    (Kill Rock Stars)
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    Well-crafted minimalist pop, with some great string and horn work from time to time. The most striking thing about these pieces, though, is Hanson's voice.

    He sings like a girl. Strike that. He sings like a boy who wants to sound like a girl. And to tell the truth, he succeeds in astonishing fashion. I couldn't say why he affects his falsetto, but it's really effective. This is his third album, and its safe to say a lot of people like the way he does things.

    Once the whole question of vocals is resolved, however, the quality of the songs becomes that much more apparent. These pieces are tightly crafted but produced with a loose hand. There are a few spaces for ideas to hide out, and Hanson crams them full of exquisite bits.

    Exceptional work. I suppose some won't be able to get past Hanson's vocals (I'm having a bit of trouble, myself), but those who do will find an album of quiet brilliance.

    Hanson Brothers
    Gross Misconduct
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    Those wacky Canadians (Nomeansno, I mean) are at it again. This totally Ramones set of tunes is enough to make anyone jump around and make total fools of themselves. Of course the music is completely derivative! Of course the lyrics are retarded (though awful funny)! Of course you'll love it!

    Yes, Tommy, Johnny, Robbie and Kenny (ahem) Hanson come together to celebrate the neato sounds of the late seventies and early eighties that we all still hold near and dear to our hearts.

    Quit being so goddamn serious and play this fucker, alright? The band really doesn't exist (under this name, anyway), but you probably played Spinal Tap. It'll bring a smile to the hearts of your listeners. And maybe you, too. Go "Blitzkrieg Hops"! (Don't forget to check out the 7" included inside.)

    See also Nomeansno.

    Hanzel und Gretyl
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    So German, half the songs are in that language. And while the usual German industrial touches are present (body-jacking beats, monstrous guitars, etc.), Hanzel und Gretyl manage to infuse plenty of innovative touches into their mix.

    For starters, the beat does mutate, from mellow to fast, depending on the mood. A few pieces have an almost ambient feel (in a cool way, that is).

    Where Die Warzau hyperexperimented with jazz on its last outing, Hanzel und Gretyl really rip through most of the electronic trends of the day, making them theirs. This album has the potential to be a real industrial dance touchstone. So many moods, so many colors... Makes me wonder who can resist.

    Transmissions from Uranus
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    The first Energy release, Ausgeflippt, flipped through most of the biggest industrial/electronic trends of two years ago. The same is true here. There is the expected German engineering veneer, but beneath that lies the hearts of innovators.

    A ton of folks really dug the last album (in fact, I got one of those "I'm listening to" things from a label rep a month ago that still mentioned it), and so this puppy has had some serious industry buzz. Indeed, I've gotten a few e-mails on the subject since the release date went up.

    All the hype is totally justified. If anything, Transmissions from Uranus is more cohesive, more experimental and more complete than its predecessor. The world of electronic music has expanded significantly in the past couple years, and the progenitors of the band have read and recognized the most important trends, incorporating them into the Hanzel und Gretyl fold.

    A bit heavier and with an overall fuller sound, this album simply advances the legend. Beautiful noise, indeed.

    Uber Alles
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    If I am to understand the press correctly, there are those who think that Hanzel und Gretyl have appropriated some kind of Nazi image with this album. Well, some of the graphics do borrow from that sort of thing, but it's all obviously a joke. I mean, "Third Reich from the Sun?" Come on.

    What isn't a joke is the music, which is pleasantly stuck in that mid-90s metal-industrial complex. Lots of guitars, lots of samples and lots of singing that may or may not be in German.

    The thing that always set Hanzel und Gretyl off from the rest of the pack has been this duo's ability to match raw power with a good melodies. There's more power than melody on this disc, but the stuff is still desperately infectious.

    Not a whole lot of progression, I suppose, but I've been a fan for a long time, and I like this stuff exactly where it is. Hanzel und Gretyl are way out of whack with the times, and that just makes this sound all the more appealing to my ears. There's always a need for a sledgehammer approach to silliness.

    Happy Diving
    Big World
    (Father/Daughter Records)
    reviewed 3/6/15

    A long time ago (say, 25 years or so), one could turn on a college radio station and get a steady diet of loud, sludgy pop music. Some of it was sludgier (Mudhoney), some of it was louder (Soundgarden) and some of it was poppier (Jawbox). Some of it was weirder (Sonic Youth), but that's another story entirely.

    My personal favorite entry is a band that went by the name of Ff. I heard We're #1 almost 20 years ago, and it remains one of my favorite albums. Apparently there is at least one other album from those folks, but I haven't heard it. And as #1 exists in my brain as a form of perfection, I'm not sure I want to hear anything else from the band. In any case, whenever I hear something in the sludge pop vein, I always compare it to We're #1. This process weeds out all of the pretenders--which Is just about everyone.

    Happy Diving makes the grade. There are squalls of feedback, vocals buried behind the guitars and infectious riffage. These songs sound great at normal volume, but the pleasure increases exponentially as the volume gets upped.

    The hardest part about this sound is balancing poppy hooks with brutal licks. Too poppy and it sounds like a parlor trick or cheesy metal. Too heavy and you get into full-on Skin Yard grunge territory (which is fine in its own right, but at that point we're talking about a different sound entirely). And then there are the folks who don't actually know how to write songs, but those can be safely ignored.

    If I might make an odd comparison, Happy Diving uses feedback and riffage much the same way Neil Young did back in his Ragged Glory and Mirror Ball phase. When it's time for the song to shine, the scrim is pulled back just enough. The playing is just as rough-and-tumble, but the tune shines through. At the edges, though, there's an imminent threat of sonic doom.

    Happy Diving doesn't do anything new here. But I haven't heard someone rip up a sound like this in some time. Stay loud, my friends.

    The Happy Scene
    Take My Teenage Head 7" EP
    (Happy Records)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Kinda jangly pop, though the sound is quite sparse. Six songs, none varying much from the norm.

    Garage rock that hasn't opened the door yet. The Happy Scene rips off chunks of life and doesn't refine either the music or the lyrics much. And the production has left nearly everything in the background, save the vocals and the occasional distortion-heavy lead lick.

    None of it is terribly compelling, either. The musicianship, the songwriting and the production are all sub-par. There is something earnest in the way the band plays, but it still sounds terrible.

    Perhaps the Happy Scene should do a little more work behind closed doors.

    David Harbuck
    9 Songs and a Picture
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Simple, heartfelt songs. Built around acoustic guitar, sung with a worldweary voice. Sometimes the songs rely a bit too much on standard construction, but Harbuck has the basics down.

    There's an odd sound to the production, a weird whine which can be heard in some of the keyboards and guitar lines. A bit annoying, but it doesn't interfere too much with the songs themselves.

    And the songs are basic basic. Like I said earlier, I wish Harbuck would change up his song structure from time to time. After three or four songs, I need a breather. But for a guy who deals in highly emotional songs, Harbuck does a pretty good job of avoiding lyrical cliches. His conclusions may be a little simplistic, but he expresses himself well.

    If it weren't for that odd sound shimmy in the midrange, I might really recommend this. Oh well. I've got the new album up next.

    The Troubadour
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    This is Harbuck's latest. In the liners he expresses a desire to get as close to the guitar and voice format he uses at his live shows. So the recording process was streamlined.

    The songs are more assured, more confident. Harbuck approaches his singing and playing with more abandon, less afraid of making mistakes. And the emphasis on simple sounds helps as well. The focus here is more on his writing, a strong point.

    Somewhere in the roots rock-folk vein, Harbuck continues to write sentimental songs that don't get bogged down in excessive goo. He's not exactly poetic, but the songs have an original feel.

    A step forward, for sure. If Harbuck continues to work at his writing and playing, I can only imagine what the next disc will sound like.

    Scotty Hard
    The Return of Kill Dog E
    (Wordsound) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    This IS a rap album, but there's more beat experimentation here than on many Wordsound releases (and you know that's saying something). Scotty Hard deals the music and sound while letting a number of guests lay down the raps. And so it is hardly surprising that it's the tuneage that most impresses here.

    The tales are from the city, and they're grittier than the stuff Charlton Heston bitches about. And while the raps can get tiresome sometimes, the backing beats never fail to inspire. Hard is a master of sound construction, taking beats and pieces from all over to craft his sonic sculptures.

    It is this spectacular use of sound that just utterly overwhelms me. The songs convey a wealth of feeling and emotions even before the vocals hit the stage. The sheer quantity of creativity is stunning, and the quality knocks me out.

    Yeah, yeah, I'm eternally knocked out by Wordsound stuff. There's no way around that. Scotty Hard gives me yet another excuse to spread the gospel about these folks. May they never compromise their ideals and artistic principles.

    Hard Candy
    Sweatin'to the Indies7"
    (Lunchbox Records)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    I'm not sure if it's a manufacturing defect or what, but Hard Candy's attempt at moody jangle pop comes off as spooky.

    That weird whine in the background might be keyboards, or it just might be a bad pressing. I can't say, but I like that part. The lyrics are fairly amusing (the title of the seven-inch gives you an idea), but they don't fit the very strange sound of the band.

    Whatever. I wish I knew precisely what caused this odd noises currently escaping my turntable, but I suppose I'll just have to accept them. For very ordinary songwriting, this sounds awfully cool.

    Turn Out the Flame
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Lunatic renderings of classic rock riffs with utterly weird vocals draped on top. Imagine Half Japanese playing .38 Special, with an emo overwash. I'm not sure if the graininess of the sound is intentional, but it sure does add to the strangeness within.

    I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I don't know what to make of this. The lyrics are pretty goofy, and with song titles like "401(k)", "Jazzercide" and "At Least in Jail", there's no doubting some unorthodox world views are at work here.

    It grows on me, somewhat, though I'm always taken aback anew as each song kicks off. The playing itself is rather sloppy, though again, that does help the overall feel. If the intent was to create an almost unlistenable disc.

    But I did listen to it, and strange as it is, I enjoyed the experience. I wouldn't recommend it, exactly, though fans of bizarre pop music might get a kick out of it.

    Hard Place
    Hard Place EP
    (Antenna Farm)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    A three-piece that plays snarky, culture-snapping music that is most reminiscent of the late 70s output of Supertramp, Cheap Trick and David Bowie. Not exactly stiffs, are they?

    Hard Place lays down a hard line. The lyrics are exceptionally sharp and mean. The music is inspired by a very particular time and place--not exactly the sort of thing intended to be all things to all people. Let's be clear about this: It isn't.

    Rather, this is music for people who like music. People who understand the history of music and appreciate having their sensibilities vilified. People who can laugh at themselves with vigor. The line may be short, but the assemblage is most worthy.

    Hard Skin
    Same Meat Different Gravy
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    While true of punk in general, there's an extremely thin line between generic and transcendent oi. And while I can quantify a couple of things that can flip and album either way for me, the main reaction is simply one of the gut.

    These three London boys seem to have "it." The raggedly tuneful melodies, the rising bass lines, the pissed-off energy--all here. And, you know, the songs are kinda funny, in a sad sort of way (one of the tells of great oi, if you ask me).

    The sound is exceptional, almost too good for oi. Not that it's anything exceptional, but I can actually hear each instrument and even tell the difference between the various vocals. Yeah, I guess that's some sort of backhanded compliment, but the relatively clean sound is a new wrinkle, one that I kinda like.

    Hell, this is great oi in my book. Two fingers to ya if you don't agree.

    Marina Hardy
    Pink Violin
    (Eh?/Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #292, December 2007

    The liners (as such) call this "collected works from 2006 and 2007." No kidding. Hardy flits about from sound to sound, just about anything as long as it's way, way out there. There are ear-bleed guitar licks, soft-as-snowfall atmospherics, lurching European folk dances and more.

    Really. Lots more. This is one album that I like simply for the sheer diversity of sound that resides upon it. It's really amazing how many ideas Hardy has riffled through, not to mention how good she is at expressing those thoughts.

    A virtuoso performance, both in the playing and the assembling. Because Hardy played everything herself (of course), she needed to work pretty hard to give this album the cohesive band sound that it has. Give a listen to "Spanish" and imagine one person playing all that in pieces.

    I know it's possible. Back in the day, Ray Parker Jr. played all the instruments himself. But the wide range of ideas and the impeccable production on this album are simply amazing. Marina Hardy has a feel for the heart of music that very few people ever come close to experiencing. A mind-blowing disc.

    Rich Hardesty
    Party Going On
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Basic roots groove work, with a few side trips. Basic and somewhat faceless. Rich Hardesty throws some interesting punches in the song intros, but from there the music trends toward the generic.

    Which is too bad, because the playing is surprisingly expressive and the lyrics often have something incisive to offer. But Hardesty insists on squeezing his voice into a rather small box. On the few occasions when he lets loose, he sounds great.

    Most of the time, though, he tries to sing about an octave too high. Which works if you're trying really hard to sound like Dave Matthews rather than yourself.

    While the execution is great, the sound is rather sterile and generic besides. Like I said, Hardesty has a few things to say, but his ideas get lost in the backwash of his music.

    Harlingtox A.D.
    Angel Divine EP
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    A 1990 set of tunes recorded by a bad that barely existed (read the liners for the mostly tedious story). Dave Grohl (yes, THE Dave Grohl) played bass and Laundry Room head honcho Barret Jones drummed. A guy named Bruce Merkle sang, and his vocals are the most interesting part of the band. Oh, if you're curious, a guy named Tos played guitar.

    Boring, overbearing and mostly annoying. There's some sort of musical history thing going on, particularly since a lot of folks seem to think the Foo Fighters (whose first album Jones produced) are actually good. But as something to actually play and enjoy, well, I wouldn't recommend it.

    Sometimes these tapes are best left in the box.

    Daniel G.Harmann
    White Mountains
    reviewed 4/28/15

    Harmann has been making music for some time, both under his own name and that of the Trouble Starts (which started out as something of a band and ended up more along the lines of a solo project, if my memory serves correctly). The sound is (generally) moody indie pop. Affected vocals, discarded backbeats, noodly keyboards--the whole shebang.

    What has always amazed me about Harmann is how well the music works. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about his architecture or production. This is simple music presented simply. But there's something in Harmann's writing and delivery that makes it irresistible.

    After all this time, of course, it's apparent that he's extraordinarily talented. Music this good and accessible is hard to create. And Harmann has done it over and over again. If you just listen to a couple of songs, you might think "This is catchy, but I've heard something like it before." Go a few more songs, and the thinking is more like "I'm pretty sure I've heard something like this before, but I really need to hear a few more songs." Before long, you get to "I don't care if I've heard something like this before. This is great!"

    Harmann's aural deja vu effect is pretty cool. The first few notes establish an intimate comfort level, and that only increases as the album move along. These largely unadorned songs charm in different ways, but they're tied expertly to the whole.

    As with every Harmann album I've heard, it took me a few minutes to explain why I liked it so much. Sometimes the most obvious things have to hit you in the face a few times to get your attention. Harmann is one of the best in the business. Just because your music is unpretentious doesn't mean it can't be brilliant.

    Slowing Down
    (Hello Tower)
    reviewed in 6/30/16

    Harmann is one of those artists who keeps sending me stuff because I always seem to say nice things. Probably because he rarely repeats himself, and the chances he takes almost always pay off.

    I'm usually not a big fan of layered, pretentious pop music. And Harmann is not just ambitious; there's an arrogant sweep to his sound. This only works if an artist can walk the walk. And Harmann has been proving himself worthy for ages.

    The title of this album is in reference to his turning 40 (why, he's just a pup!). He may feel like he is slowing down physically, but the fire within his music has just started burning. Indeed, this is another step in the maturation of an already fertile musical mind.

    Harmann does announce his presence with authority, and really, he has every right to do so. These songs never fail to deliver on the promise of their openings. It doesn't matter where the rock lands in a particular song; Harmann knows how to fit all the pieces together, and he does so with almost blinding intensity and energy. Even the slower and softer pieces here are almost too hot to touch.

    So Harmann will probably keep sending me his stuff, and I'll probably continue to write nice things about it. The thing about symbiotic relationships is that they're mutually beneficial. In this case, Harmann's music is beneficial for just about everyone. Jump in anywhere and enjoy the flow.

    Protect Us From Evil
    (Hell Yeah!)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Drums, bass, keyboards (mostly piano) and these wild saxophone sounds. It ain't Christian, Edna. It sure ain't normal.

    And thank God for small favors, as this is a truly fun album to imbibe. Completely impossible to describe, except that saxman Martin Fierro seems to have taken lessons from John Zorn and Ornette Coleman. Some of the sounds he creates...

    The style seems to revolve around some twisted rockabilly groove, but then they wander out into uncharted territory. With stunning results. You may not listen to an album this strange again this year.

    From what dark pit of hell this crawled I shall never know, but I will endeavor to keep it safe and unvanquished forever more.

    Harmonious bec
    Her Strange Dreams
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    A couple of Japanese guys who adore electronics and avant garde composition. Sounds like a recipe for extreme annoyance, right? Not quite.

    There are plenty of geek-out moments, but much of this album is dedicated to somewhat more introspective fare. Many of the pieces here layer variations on a theme in a most engaging way. I suppose it's helpful to have an intellectual approach, but I think many of these pieces are just as exciting in a visceral way.

    There's plenty of motion, in any case. Harmonious bec (that lower-case "bec" is the way the folks like it) riffs through the ambient and then takes off. There are so many ideas flying around that it can be hard to keep track. I like that sort of approach, but I know that can wear on some. Oh well.

    Hardly mainstream, but much more approachable than many might think. Every once in a while, this album pricked something in the upper-right-hard part of my brain--an area I rarely notice. I don't know what that was all about, but it sure was cool. Kinda like this album.

    Harm's Way
    Industrial Vol. I
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    The vocals are mixed great, but the rest of the music is buried beneath. And I like what I hear of the music. One nice take on the doom motif and a couple of upbeat numbers. All impressive. Better production should really help out their sound.

    Brady Harris
    Good Luck Stranger
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Roots rock with just a bit of a moody country tinge to the sound. Reminds me a little of Chris Cacavas in the way that the songs always seem to trend darker and darker. Oh, there's also something about the ultra-sharp songwriting, too. Harris does know what he's doing.

    For example, even without the note in the liners, it's obvious that "Anthrax Blues" is a tribute to Johnny Cash. The piece perfectly imitates Cash's walking blues style without copping anything overtly. Harris certainly knows his way around a song.

    And he's not too bad with the playing and producing, either. Harris has all the tools necessary for a wondrous career in music. All he needs is for a few folks with cash to pay attention.

    One of the finest albums I've heard this year. I could run through a list of superlatives, but really, that won't serve any purpose. This music is timeless. I don't think I can say much more than that.

    Lone Star
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Another set of alt. country-pop from Harris, who is quietly writing and performing some of the best songs around these days. Think Ryan Adams, only a bit more faithful to whatever sound he's playing at the moment.

    And that might be country, jangle pop, a tune that would be right at home on Pet Sounds or stuff that can only be described as "indie rock." Harris doesn't feel the need to pigeonhole his stuff. He just works his ass off and makes great music.

    I keep using superlatives, and there's a reason for that. Harris writes songs that immediately affect me. They're straightforward, but hardly simple. He knows how to make a song bite immediately and how to reel in a listener slowly as well.

    The production sound is a little tinny at times, but that's an easy stereo adjustment. To be honest, that's my harshest criticism. In my last review, I called his songs timeless. That description fits the pieces on this album as well. Harris shouldn't be unknown for much longer. Talent like his is all too rare.

    North Hollywood Skyline
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    If I hadn't reviewed a number of previous releases and been swamped with CDs this month, this would have been a shoo-in for a full review. Harris is one of the best songwriters going, and this album is chock full of the contemplative (but never dull) work I've been admiring forever. Simply stellar.

    Hank Harris
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Going back to the 70s. With some new agey musings (in the lyrics, not the music) and gentle rock steady grooves. All put together with some seriously fine craft.

    Hank Harris sure does know how to write tight songs. A little too tight, certainly when he's borrowing some of the reggae. Part of reggae's charm is the way it plays with pop song construction, elongating and condensing certain phrases as is necessary to communicate a message in the proper style.

    For what he's doing, though, the sound is good. Bright, happy and ultra clean. This really focuses attention on Harris' well-considered songwriting, and that's his strong point.

    And indeed, there is much of this album that simply falls into the well-made soft rock category. A little cheesy, but generally not egregiously so. Kinda like Paul Simon and 70s Billy Joel rolled together. The good sides of both. Feel good sides, in any case.

    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Electronic pop with slightly dusky vocals. Harris likes to shift gears as often as possible, but his voice provides all the continuity that's necessary. Something of a throwback to when people actually gave a shit about songs, and that is a good thing.

    Michael Harris
    Ego Decimation Profile
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    Instrumental guitar stuff for old Maiden fans. Not a bad idea at all.

    No, no, Harris wasn't in the band (that's Steve, no relation), but he sticks to a classical style of guitar that Maiden and a ton of their European cohorts propounded back in the early 80s. Aggressive, melodic and keyboard-laden at times.

    Harris has pumped his lead tracks so high that when he settles into a song those lines sound a lot like Joe Satriani. But the rhythm work is really nice. I just wish it was a bit higher in the mix.

    I could also do without the keyboard excesses. When he goes overboard, Harris really has a knack for going nuts. But luckily, most of the time the focus is on the songs themselves, which can more than stand on their own. With a little work, he could really do something.

    Mary O. Harrison
    Factory of Days
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    Ten years ago (or so) I kept getting a raftload of minimalist rootsy singer-songwriter stuff. Edith Frost comes to mind. In the last five years, I've been getting a lot of stylishly-produced Bacharachian singer-songwriter stuff. Sarah Shannon is probably my favorite of that bunch.

    Mary O. Harrison provides an almost seamless combination of these styles. Her voice and the songs's instrumentation are very much in the minimalist camp. But the arrangements and production are more late-60s lush.

    And the result sounds like well-turned out indie pop. Harrison is a fine songwriter with an instinctive ear for the hook. Jason NeSmith produced, which shouldn't be surprising. He's been lurking around these sounds for more years than I can recall.

    A quiet gem that isn't really so quiet after all. These songs will stick with you much longer than Thanksgiving turkey. And they won't put you to sleep, either. Great stuff.

    Brian Hartzog
    The Smashing of Pictures
    (ZOG Sound)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Wending from soft faux-soul to serious guitar-renching anthems (all songs by and all instruments performed by Brian Hartzog), all with a serious Hendrix affectation.

    Sound like anyone you know?

    A damned ambitious sounding album, one that doesn't fit into any easily-defined slot. This bodes well for Hartzog's future. The guy is obviously creative and able to express himself in many different ways.

    Not that the album is perfect or anything. The Hendrix connection is a bit too obvious much of the time, and Hartzog has a lot of the pretension of (the onetime) Prince without any of the catalog to back it up. But this is a lot of fun to groove on, if you're tired of listening to the same old thing all the time. Hartzog is definitely good enough to get somewhere.

    Harvest Theory
    From the Back 7"
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    Nice pop-tinged noise, a la Poster Children or Die Monster Die. Except that the dynamic ranges are much more subdued, with things flowing along much more smoothly. I kinda like that.

    The agnst and energy are just as apparent, but the band does not see fit to overwhelm listeners with it's message. Apparently the words are perfectly suited to that purpose.

    Don't get me wrong; this stuff is good and crunchy with plenty of hollering. But the songs stay within certain restraints, and it works very well.

    Harvest Theory
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Harvest Theory posits a view of American life that is pretty much in line with general punk doctrine (an oxymoron to be sure) and wonderfully out of line with all the bastards running for president.

    You'll note that, for the record, I'm calling my former employer a bastard. And I'll probably vote for him again, anyway. I'd just like to put my hypocrisy front and center. Thank you.

    Anyway, the Harvest Theory of song construction brings in a sweeping punk sound (lots of noise) and peppers it with some grunge and Chi-core leanings. Mix that with fertile imaginations, and you get a sound that is pretty much definable as Harvest Theory. Pleasantly anthemic, but not annoyingly so.

    The lyrics are stunning, the presentation and production stellar. This debut is one of those real important ones. Perhaps only a few of us will notice now, but if everything falls into place (and the folks keep this level of achievement up), Harvest Theory will be a name to be reckoned with one of these days.

    Mick Harvey
    Pink Elephants
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    A follow-up album to Intoxicated Man, whereby Harvey is translating the songs of Serge Gainsbourg. If you don't know Gainsbourg, well, that's because in America we generally don't pay much attention to French music. Trust me, this you want to hear.

    Harvey recreates Gainbourg's cafe jazz pop style, infusing that moods with a style all his own. As my seventh-grade French has been decaying ever since, I can't really comment on the quality of the translations, though the lyrics are quite arresting, which I assume echoes the originals well enough.

    As the best jazz artists do, Harvey has taken a set of classic songs and made them his own. The method may seem a bit obsessive, but it's impossible to quibble with the result. This set is much more eclectic than Intoxicated Man, and while it is not quite so single-minded in its pursuit of the Gainsbourg ideal, I guess, I think this works at least as well.

    Ambitious, certainly. And Pink Elephants works. Completely satisfying, dropping any listener into a world that sounds familiar, but is a bit strange to the touch. Always good to find new bearings.

    One Man's Treasure
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    Perhaps best known for his long-time association with Nick Cave, Mick Harvey has produced or performed on a lot of your favorite albums (check the liners closely, folks). He gets around, but only infrequently records himself.

    This album does have a bit of the menacing quality of some of the better Bad Seeds efforts, but Harvey's voice is at once generic and powerful. It's not hard to forget, but Harvey has a delivery that can stop a song cold.

    The songs here are his and those of some of the more eclectic writers of decades past (Lee Hazelwood, Tim Buckley, etc.). The sound is seamless, with each piece seemingly flowing into the next. The seduction is almost impossible to resist.

    And then all of a sudden you're completely defenseless, and you get whacked. Harvey is a heartless artist. He takes no prisoners, even as he creates some of the most gorgeous songs around. A true marvel.

    Harvey Danger
    Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    There's this song on the radio. I don't know what it's called, I don't know who it's by, but there's a line that goes, "I'm not sick, but I'm not well." And I can't get the fucking song out of my head.

    I keep telling myself to put in a tape or change the station or something, but something has it's hooks in me and I can't move. I can't do anything except listen to this fucking song. And then I'm at work and the fucking song will not leave my head. I beg my co-workers to rasp nostalgiac about those stupid 70s bands they love so much --just so I can get this fucking song out of my head.

    But to no avail. No mention of America can get this goddamn piece of radio candy out of my addled brain. And then I get the fucking CD in the mail. Christ.

    -- Matt Worley

    Hate Dept.
    Meat Your Maker
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    As aggressive industrial goes, this is pretty wimpy musically. The beats often sound like they came off a Casio sampler, and the guitars are never allowed to really dominate. Siebold's vocals are kinda nasty, but not really quite up to the snide and crude level that is expected.

    That said, there is much more texture underlying everything than the current trend-setters have. There is no pretense of a "band", and I can't really detect any desire to "rock out". So what is this, anyway?

    Well, a hybrid of club techno and the more aggressive industrial dance music, I suppose. With a few touches of the ambient and other electronic genres. In other words, you won't get bored.

    Fairly experimental in the way things are mixed, Hate Dept.'s music resists all attempts to be classified. Fine by me.

    Mainline EP
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    The 21st Circuitry album Meat Your Maker was pretty damned fine (I'm still pulling that one for the occasional social spin), and the four songs here keep up the techno-industrial vision promulgated before.

    Each song has a distinctly different feel than the others (obviously a good sign), from hard and heavy ("New Power (Suck Dry)") to mellow and introspective (the next track, "Omnipresent"). Yes, four tracks with plenty to love.

    I'd love to keep writing, but I don't know what to say. Praise praise praise. I wait on bended knee for the next full-length effort. Hate Dept. is one of my favorite bands. I think I've run out of all the possible cheesy things I could squeeze from my pen. Find and enjoy this disc.

    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    The second full-length from one of the more versatile industrial dance acts around. Hate Dept. has always more than satisfied, and Omnipresent keeps that string going.

    Capable of shifting moods as well as anyone in the game, Siebold and Co. are simply masters of this domain. While you'll have to hit the recent EP to find the "title track" of this album, you do get a reprise of "New Power" from that release.

    Perhaps the band's most important attribute is its ability to combine the catchy with the intense without creating wanky anthems. These songs tear at your soul, and still you want to rush the dance floor.

    This album is a bomb. Who knows what will be left once it has been properly detonated. We are all powerless to resist the charms of Hate Dept.

    New Power remix EP
    reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96

    The album track version, two other renditions of "New Power", and one take on a song called "Countergrowth" thrown in for good measure.

    The Uberzone remix doesn't do much for the song except make it longer. It's alright, but unnecessary. On the other hand, the Amanda remix (by Amanda Jones) fucks with the beats nicely and adds a cool techno sheen to the proceedings. Classy work, and a nice new vision of the song.

    "Countergrowth" zips through all sorts of electronic music ideas, finally settling on something that sounds like a distorted early New Order. A pretty cool song that is certainly good enough to have made it on the recent album or EP.

    Two out of three ain't bad, and Hate Dept. always makes things interesting. Probably something just for the avid fans, but that fits me well.

    Hate Head
    (Red Eye)
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    The Soundgarden sound has invaded San Diego with a fury. But, thankfully, the vocals counter the anthemic riffs with a reedy delivery. Sounds cool, believe it or not.

    Hate Head does need to find its own sound in the mishmash of grunge conventions it has taken on, but there's time. I can hear moments of creativity exploding through the attack, and with enough encouragement this could be a great band.

    You can dig through for some cool tunes to play. Beats most of the grungoid records I've heard lately.

    The Hatepinks
    Plastic Bag Ambitions
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    This might well be described as the Epoxies on testosterone. But the Hatepinks aren't so much a new wave punk explosion as simply guys who like straight 4 timekeeping and minimalist hooks. Yes, I know, that does sound a lot like new wave. Give me a break. It's been a long month...

    Nonetheless, I'd say these guys are as much DK as Buzzcocks--or maybe a fascinating conflagration of the two. Throw in a few Ramones and Devo references, and you probably have as good a picture as I can provide.

    The sound is, of course, utterly modern, filling out all the cracks. There's nowhere to hide a damn thing, and that does color the overall sound. There's just that much less menace when the edge is taken off a buzzsaw riff.

    Not that I'm complaining. This album is speedy, off-kilter fun, with plenty of kick in the engine. Just enough attitude to produce a ragged sneer. Which is, indeed, just about right.

    Greg Hatza Organization
    Greg Hatza Organization
    (Palmetto Jazz)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Hatza plays the Hammond B-3, and his Organization plays just on the jazz side of Booker T. and the MGs.

    The comparisons are inevitable, but I'll try to sidestep them. After all, where Booker T. and the MGs were riffing through the pop standards of the day (creating a few along the way), Hatza and company flip through five bebop and big band standards, along with six Hatza compositions which don't sound out of place at all.

    Sure, the intricacies of Gillespie and Coltrane are much easier accomplished on an organ, but Jim Snidero on alto and Major Boyd on soprano sax also get much of the spotlight. While you might accuse the band of turning classics into easy listening (and that thought gains creedence with the inclusion of a rendition of "Georgia on My Mind"), the playing is quite inspired and not at all timid. Yeah, a B-3 just screams "mellow!", but once past that roadblock, the musicianship can be appreciated for its own merits.

    I actually prefer the originals to the arrangements of the standards. Hatza has a nice feel for the limits and possibilities of his instrument, and he has a solid band to help him push the envelope.

    In My Pocket
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    The second Hatza album I've had the privilege of hearing in the past year, and once again I stand impressed.

    First, as Hatza's instrument is the Hammond B-3 organ, there is a bit of that lounge quality lying around. But the three sidemen are quite competent and not willing to just sleepwalk through songs. Hatza wrote all but one of the songs (a good sign), and he allows his mates to shine in nearly every song.

    And while admittedly mellow, this isn't slow or boring music. It's quite fair to say that the Organization really cooks, ripping through slower and up-tempo pieces with verve and confidence. Hatza knows how to write songs that complement not only his playing but the skills of his band, as well.

    The Organization is a perfect example of how mellow jazz doesn't have to degenerate into sappy and insipid crap. Wonderful playing, and a very nice work.

    Snake Eyes
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    His third album with the Organization, Greg Hatza dips even deeper into the soul, r&b and blues bags, at times dropping all pretense at jazz. Thick with horns and Hatza's trademark Hammond B-3, these songs bring Hatza almost all the way back to the old days of the swinging organ.

    There are a few cheesy moments. The one cover is of "Change the World", a song which is a bit too light to sustain over six minutes of interpretation. This is a mood album, and that mood is easygoing. Current lounge trendoids would probably groove well to this, but don't let that scare you. This is good stuff.

    When the Hammond B-3 is used well, it flavors and colors the music. Hatza brings all of his players together and occasionally steps out on his own. He has the consummate bandleader's touch and has arranged these songs very well.

    Quality work, as ever. The organ is enchanting, and the rest is pretty damned good, too. Light jazz that isn't lite jazz.

    !Havana Blast!
    !Havana Blast!
    (CM Records)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Guitar-driven electro-pop, reminiscent of the finer days of Was (Not Was).

    Well, the guitars are heavier, but W(NW) did a song with Ozzy, and HB covers "War Pigs", so perhaps there is an odd connection somewhere.

    The beats rarely vary from a slow hypnotic pulse, but !Havana Blast! manages to drop enough cool sounds into the mix that you don't really notice all that much.

    I'm having a hard time describing this, but I sure do like it. The sound is often eerie and disjointed, but the pop soul is pure. Yep, pretty damned cool.

    Lungs for the Race
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    No matter what Havergal does, the song always ends up sounding melancholy. Maybe it's the keys of the songs. Maybe it's the guitar sound. Or maybe it's lines like "I'm in love with mother/Wish I had eyes for another."

    That's not fair, because the song in question there is using metaphor. Sort of. Anyway, I think you might get at what I'm saying here. This band deals from the bottom of the deck. Gleefully.

    The songs are sometimes sad, but mostly creepy or almost assaultive with irony. The kind of thing a critic friend of mine calls "indie hipster rock." Of course, he kinda likes the stuff, too.

    If there's one thing I can impart about Havergal, it's that the band constantly surprises. Yes, it sets a mood. Yes, it goes for the jugular. But the way it does these things, well, that's where the unexpected occurs. Listen until the last beat fades.

    Rock N Roll
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Hawk sticks to mid-tempo rockers (so, um, 80s rock and roll). That does lend a certain sameness to some of these songs. On the other hand, if you ever wondered what Loverboy might have done if it hadn't discovered the power ballad, then this album might tell you.

    Probably not the reference these boys would like, but this reminds me a lot of that first Loverboy album. Lean, stripped down rock and roll that never gets out of line. Can that actually be rock and roll? Yeah, I think so.

    The production gives the guitars just enough oomph to carry the day. Otherwise, the mix is fairly spartan, letting the songs themselves do most of the work.

    And they do. The lyrics entice a few wry smiles, but the real pleasure here is the simple nature of the music. There's nothing complicated in the writing, and Hawk doesn't hide behind studio tricks. The boys just play rock and roll. Or rock n roll. Whatever.

    Dale Hawkins
    Wildcat Tamer
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Dale Hawkins is probably best known as one of the guys who wrote "Susie Q" . A rockabilly boogier from way, way back when, Hawkins proves on this disc that he's still got the chops and something to say.

    There is, of course, a version of "Susie Q", but simply as an appendix. Instead, Hawkins' recent compositions are featured, and he and his band rip through them with some fervor.

    The sound is dated. The quality of the recording is modern, but the mix recreates rather faithfully the sound of an early Creedence, a swampy rockabilly feel. Lots of air between the sounds, plenty of room to howl. And for Hawkins, he takes every inch given to him. This sort of production allows for maximum emotional range, and Hawkins takes advantage.

    A lot of these "reclamation" projects are just that, albums to give an old, deserving rocker some bucks and a nice little album. This one, however, gives a still-vital voice a megaphone. Really, really fine, in a way that gets me moving.

    Ted Hawkins
    The Final Tour
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    There's an interesting tale in the liners about how Hawkins's final studio album came to be recorded for Geffen Records, but the real story here is Hawkins's wonderful voice.

    He brings a light, bluesy rasp to pop songs that would have fit in perfectly with the early days of rock and roll (and some of his selections are indeed from that time).
    The first 16 tracks of this disc are from a show at McCabe's in Santa Monica, near his home. Just Hawkins and his guitar, an addictive combo. A lot of the songs are from The Next Hundred Years, his Geffen album (the performances on this disc are taken from that tour, which turned out to be his last).

    Years of performing in Venice Beach honed his craft, sharpening his storytelling skill to a mesmerizing level. Each song helps tell another chapter of his life, which makes this album a fitting memorial. Very few performers can shine with just a voice and guitar, but Hawkins takes the spare surroundings and creates an entire universe. A wonderfully moving set.

    Everything I Long For
    (Hardwood-Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    One guy who plays all the instruments, but mostly sticks with acoustic guitar and the odd harmonica bit. Kinda like a Canadian Neil Young. Um, wait a minute...

    I know, I know, bad joke. And Hayden (Desser, though he goes by just the one name) sounds a lot more like Alice in Chains (the mellow side) than Neil Young any day. In fact, Hayden's songs are merely acoustic (and somewhat more atmospheric) takes on the whole grunge songwriting ideal. Not a terrible idea, reasonably well executed.

    And for some reason he's a big rage in Canada (and signed to Geffen for future U.S. releases). The only thing I can think of to explain such a predicament is that he takes after the character in "Airheads" who pronounces himself average enough to write really big hit songs.

    I get it, but I just don't think Hayden is all that exceptional. Perhaps that explains the appeal. Some of the songs are quite nice, but many are mostly meandering wails about silly things. Still, I figure tons of people will go apeshit. I mean, most people in the U.S. think Alice in Chains are about as talented as musicians come these days. And Hayden certainly has folks like them beat. Easily.

    Haywood/Mariner Nine
    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    I had the Haywood track ("Trophy Case") on the 33 1/3 like it said, and it sounded terrible. I think it's supposed to be 45. At that speed, the band is a nice representation of what folks are calling emo-core (or what I just like to call pop). Kinda minimalist as that sort of thing goes, a stripped and slowed-down version of what the Treepeople were so good at.

    The song doesn't really go anywhere, but it's pretty cool where it stands.

    And the Mariner Nine actually sounds normal at 45, so I'd advise playing it there. Two songs, "Rocket" and "Orpding" (don't ask me what that second one means). "Rocket" has more of an anthemic pop thing going on (you could compare to Superchunk, but this is much more mellow), still rather cool. "Orpding" has a odd voiceover, with sloppier music backing. It's not really long enough to worry about

    None of these songs are really great, but all three have a nice, understated appeal. The two songs ("Orpding" is about like its title) would be great tracks on a cool album, but don't quite have the presence to kick this 7" over the top. Still, some fine work.

    Haymarket Riot
    Haymarket Riot EP
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Taking a good piece of the Jesus Lizard's groove 'n' grind and then texturing that with strident punk chords and almost prog guitar licks, Haymarket Riot throttles its way through five songs that rather defy categorization.

    Certainly Jawbox comes to mind, though. Haymarket Riot is at once more precise and more raucous than the erstwhile D.C. stalwarts, but there's more than a thread connecting them.

    Five songs full of power and grace. There is, most definitely, something going on here.

    Wax! EP
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Four blistering songs. Haymarket Riot delivers its emo punch with full force. The power and intensity of the sound, however, cannot take away from the textured arrangements and intelligent lyrics.

    Indeed, the band's technical prowess is exceeded only by its ability to write and play utterly involving songs. There are a lot more sideways glances here than most emo types make. No matter. These songs stick together like glue.

    A short burst of brilliance. I know, I've said nice things about these boys before, and I'm sure I will again. This too-short set is more than worthy.

    Bloodshot Eyes
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Finally, a full-length from these guys. I've long admired the way these guys integrate technical playing with the passion of emo. This disc only cements that appreciation.

    Every little bit of this album was plotted in advance. And yet the sound is fresh and exciting. Haymarket Riot may know precisely what it's doing at every moment, but that doesn't mean the guys aren't able to rare back and rock when they want to.

    It's those seeming contradictions that really give Haymarket Riots's music the energy it has. Of course, in reality there's no need for conflict between precise playing and emotion. It just usually works out that way. Not so here.

    This album is the goods. Everything I hoped for and more. The sound is both raucous and refined. The writing is spot on. And the result is sheer bliss.

    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Recorded by Albini, produced by Congleton, released on two of the more eclectic labels in the decidedly exapnsive Chicago universe. That's a pretty cool picture, right? Start with some strident riffage and then add plenty of noise and a certain strange Naked Raygun wash and you get another fine album from these boys.

    Tom Dooley
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Haze is the name of the singer and the name of the band. Just so you know.

    And the band takes its fuzz-heavy space sound from the likes of the Floyd, Hawkwind and Bowie. Haze refuses to sing most of the time, preferring to whisper-squeak her vocals. God, is that really annoying.

    The title track, a re-working of the old folk tune, totally twists the whole point of the song all around. Honestly, I liked the message of the original better.

    These folk make all of this very dramatic and demand a lot of attention, but for no good reason. The music only occasionally gets interesting, and Haze herself seems far too self-absorbed to really sing a song in an interesting way. Final analysis: pitch in the wank pile.

    Master of the Powerless
    (Emerald Forest Entertainment)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    She has tamed some of her self-indulgent excesses and trimmed the music down to the glam-industrial core which has worked so well of late for Marilyn Manson. And, you know, I kinda like it. A huge improvement over the EP I heard three years ago.

    There still are the egregiously overdramatic moments, bits which even the most self-absorbed goth band would shy away from. Haze's often tortured voice gets more grating the more she "emotes". Honestly, it sounds horribly contrived.

    But I like the new, simpler musical direction. Idiosyncrasies are nice, but it's much better when you've got only one or two per song. A pile of them just means your music is a jumbled mess. Haze is centered, and this album succeeds because of that focus.

    I'm not convinced this stuff is really all that great. But at least I can listen to it now and again. A huge improvement.

    Lee Hazlewood
    Cake or Death
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    Perhaps best known in the popular culture as the writer of "These Boots Are Made for Walking," Lee Hazlewood has written some of the strangest and most compelling pop songs of our (and, to be more accurate, our parents's) times.

    So there's some new, some old and a lot of amusement. Take, for example, the vocals on "Some Velvet Morning" by his granddaughter Phaedra. The treatment here is impressive, but it's almost overshadowed by the meta implications therein. Almost.

    Hazlewood's strength has always been his lyrics, though the lost-in-the-60s sound of his music has a certain appeal these days. There's a reason Firewater did more than one Hazlewood song on its album of covers, Songs We Should Have Written. And rather than drench these songs in the excess of the time, Hazlewood restrains his hand. These are tasteful, if sometimes surprising, arrangements.

    He says this is his last album, and I figure he ought to be believed. I mean, it's not like he can make millions by staging a series of "final curtain" tours. If nothing else, this taste of his career (including some really nice new tunes) might well inspire younger listeners who first encountered his songs through the likes of Sonic Youth and Beck to scratch through record stores to find some other Hazlewood nuggets. And hey, if it is his last, Hazlewood has done good. Nice to know that some old men don't go softly.

    He's My Brother She's My Sister
    Nobody Dances in This Town
    (Park the Van)
    Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
    (1-2-3-4 Go)
    reviewed 10/31/13

    For the longest time, I resisted pop music. My early childhood music consisted of show tunes, instrumental movie soundtracks and similar stuff. I listened to baseball games and CBS Mystery Theater on the radio. I know, right about now you're smacking your head saying "This explains everything!" And you're right. I spent my first twelve years largely outside the influence of popular music.

    Then my family moved to New Mexico. And I had two choices on the radio: Country or pop. And, duh, pop it was.

    The first two albums (and, of course, they were albums) I bought were Chicago 16 and Paul McCartney's Tug of War. The first is a forgettable jumble of soft rock (with the exception being "Get Away," the horn-jam coda to "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," which remains crack-like for me to this day), but the second is a modestly-underrated masterpiece. I loved Tug of War in a way I've loved few albums. I listened to it more than a thousand times, and I'm still happy to spend time with it today.

    At the time, it was well-received, but over the years Tug of War has climbed the charts of "great albums." As it should. Remarkably, despite the massive amount of craft put into the songs (McCartney and Martin back together again; I can only imagine the studio time involved), the album itself moves along briskly. You can quibble with the merits of "Ebony and Ivory" (it sounded much better in 1982, I swear), but the whole album stays in pocket.

    So I was stoked when Pipes of Peace hit the stores a couple of years later. In hindsight, I should have recognized that my slight hesitation when I first heard "Say Say Say" (the duet with Michael Jackson that served as "payback" for the glorious "The Girl Is Mine" on Thriller) meant that Pipes was not up to the task of following Tug of War. And wow. It was a colossal disappointment. If I ever listened to that album all the way through, it was just the first time. I don't think I did, however. I remember pausing on the flip to try and work out my angst before soldiering on.

    Didn't work. Pipes is a borderline awful album. I didn't understand. How could the guy who created the brilliant Tug of War (and a Beatle, besides!) come right back with something so terrible? In many ways, that question is what has driven my writing about music. I've spent more than twenty years trying to explain how it is that one album sounds so naturally awesome and another sounds like a Tinkertoy contraption about to collapse. I can give you all sorts of technical reasons, but largely it boils down to staying in pocket.

    "The pocket" in music is like "the zone" in sports. You know it when you hear it. Geniuses seem to locate and stay in pocket longer, but it is still something of a mystical concept. In any case, the difference between good and bad often comes down to how well an artist stayed in pocket. In short, music that stays in pocket sounds effortless, as if sprung into the air by virtue of its innate irrepressibility. The great albums all have this feeling of inevitability. But to make a great album, you must have a series of songs that not only stay in pocket--they have to stay in the same pocket. Not easy at all.

    There are genres that resist the concept of the pocket. Prog (and its extended family) actively scoffs at the notion of an all-powerful pocket, preferring to rely on steely technical prowess (and a good blaster). This is why prog's popularity will always be limited.

    Other genres rely almost exclusively on the pocket. Americana, in particular, rises or falls depending on the condition of the pocket. Once the songs start sounding like assembled parts, the magic is gone. Blair Crimmins and the Hookers play a specific brand of americana that insists on wink and a promise. It's more old-timey than folky, with its roots firmly planted in Dixieland jazz and Tin Pan Alley. There are double-entendres galore (almost as many musical as lyrical) and a general good-timey feel. After a few seconds, it's clear that this album will succeed as long as Crimmins and company don't bog themselves down with silly concepts like artistic purity and slavish devotion to influences.

    In other words, if this album veers even slightly from the modestly crude mania suggested by the first track's title ("Roll Over Bessie"), then it will fail.

    Thankfully, everyone simply has a good time. The songs roll by with a cheerful leer. The musicians never let up off the throttle, which gives these songs an irrepressible energy. I suppose there are those who might tire of puns and slightly off-color metaphors, but that sort of silly humor pairs perfectly with this impeccably squonky music.

    Or, in other words, Crimmins found the pocket and sat down in it. There's not a dull moment in this album (the 11 songs clock in at just past 35 minutes). Crimmins is more than willing to wallow in his slightly seedy world, and we get to bask in the afterglow. Lovely.

    He's My Brother She's My Sister (no punctuation, apparently) hail from the rock and roll side of americana. To be more precise, the band works the americana side of indie pop. The sound is much more stripped down and relies on some lovely lead guitar work to really shine. But the pocket is established quickly here as well, and HMBSMS drives uptempo beats, some lovely guitar work and a loose vocal style to stay the course nicely.

    There's no way to escape this album without a smile. Whether channeling rockabilly, folk rock, California country rock, Big Star-ish ameranglo pop or whatever, HMBSMS tears the cover off the songs. Eyes closed, it's easy to imagine this band in the living room. There a real feel of spontaneous generation here, even if science long ago discredited that theory.

    If you have any doubts, crank up the fourth track ("Same Old Ground") and hear how the band gives late 60s Stonesey rock an enema and ends up with a gem. I think I've listened to that song 50 times, and I still can't wait to hear it again.

    In the end, I suppose that all a given review ought to say whether or not an artist hit the pocket and stayed there. That would make my job a lot simpler--if it didn't eliminate my job entirely. Whatever the words, however, Blair Crimmins and the Hookers and He's My Brother She's My Sister have found the sweet spot (even if it's impossible to say the same about their unwieldy names). Tonight I'm smiling.

    Peter Head and the Pitchfork Militia
    Big Beef Bonanza
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Kinda like if Alice Donut calmed down a bit and decided to play vaguely country music. Peter Head doesn't quite have the nasal wail down, but his voice can get rather grating nonetheless. In all, highly enjoyable.

    I mean, who wouldn't enjoy a songs with choruses like "Pennsylvania fuckin' blows!" and "I'm a trucker, motherfucker!". I think you get the idea. This isn't complicated, and it's not supposed to be.

    The band is able to shift gears from time to time, and that keeps the proceedings from getting truly puerile. Y'know, considering how silly all of this is, there's an unexpected level of sophistication here.

    Well, kinda. To be honest, this isn't exactly subtle fare. And there's no need for that, anyway. Slice me another big slab of beef, man!

    Head Like a Kite
    There Is Loud Laughter Everywhere
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    The early 90s really were the golden age of electronic music. Technology finally seemed to allow the seamless fusion of rock, electronics, funk and whatever else occurred to crazy DJs. The Chemical Brothers and Propellerheads are obviously emblematic of this shift, but listening to KMFDM albums in chronological order gives an even more accurate history lesson.

    Head Like a Kite embraces rock, hard rock, funk, trip hop and wiggy keyboard fare. Oh, and more than a bit of the shoegazer as well. The fuzz growing on the sound is most impressive.

    The album itself is mostly low key. The moments where Dave Einmo (the man behind HLAK) steps out of this groove are where he really starts to put a stamp on his sound. The incongruities shine like nuclear markers in the bloodstream. Einmo loves rock and roll, even if he seems to prefer to cast glances askance rather than simply rock out.

    If you want to get the full package, check out track 6, "Everyday Should Be a Costume Party," which rips through disco, soul and some sweet hip hop beats. Oh, and a nice little bit of guitar. Einmo is awfully subtle sometimes, but he will put your ass in motion.

    Head North
    The Last Living Man Alive Ever in the History of the World
    reviewed 7/10/17

    Having shifted gears repeatedly before releasing its first full-length album (this one), Head North seems to have decided to take its punk roots and throw just about everything else into the sink. This sprawling, at times disjointed, album is breathtaking in its ambition and spread.

    Veering from early-80s Peter Gabriel experimental electronic rock to emo raver to edgy roots rambler (and mixing those ideas even while throwing more in), the songs on this set do not have a cohesive aural center. Which cements the Gabriel reference, in my book. Also, Brent Martone has that reedy/raspy vocal tone that makes such a comparison almost required.

    While the music is all over the place, this is a concept album. As the band says, the lyrics center around the idea of a "world where God and love are forbidden." But not in some mawkish, mopey way. These are sharp, biting snatches of exhilaration and pain. And the loose ends aren't tied up. Like all those novels you had to read in college.

    But see, I liked those novels. And I really like this album. It took me a long time to start to get my head around it, but I heard the nascent greatness from the beginning. Listen to this 10 times, and you'll realize why you need to listen to it another 100 before you'll even start to take it all in.

    Head of Femur
    Great Plains
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    A gang of three with a baker's dozen of side players. Sixteen folks working their way through a complex web of mostly acoustic psychedelic tunes that would have fit in real well in the 60s.

    Yeah. That cool, really. Imagine early Urge Overkill with an orchestral acoustic bent. And then twisted a few more times for good measure. These songs often fold in upon themselves, but when you pull on the ends they turn into a gorgeous work of origami.

    Okay, that was a pretentious analogy. But Head of Femur walks a tight line between brilliance and excessive pretentiousness. Somewhat astonishingly, the folks never cross. I kept waiting for that to happen, but no. Simply one astoundingly fine song after another.

    That's the thing with tightly-crafted pop. It can get overbearing fast. Maybe it's that vague psychedelic twitch or simply the bands obvious enthusiasm for the songs that saves the day. In the end, it works. And somewhere out there, Roky Erickson is smiling.

    Head Resonance Company
    19 Tracks for Unknown People
    (Beta-Iactam Ring)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    Truly old school, as these songs were recorded between 1980 and 1984. Funny thing is, they don't sound old. In fact, my first impression upon hearing them is how forward-sounding they are. Then again, what's old is new again.

    This is the sort of album that leads me to talk in circles. The electronic rumblings are, indeed, decidedly Teutonic in nature, but there's a playfulness to them that is generally missing from such stuff, especially when talking about music from this time.

    Perhaps most importantly, this isn't strictly electronic. There are "real" instruments included along with the samples and surfeit of keyboards. The bass work in particular keeps these songs from simply freezing into nothingness.

    A whole lot more fun than the bio might suggest. This isn't just for fans of the sound. Anyone who likes to give their brain a whirl ought to find a few smiles here.

    Pigment of Imagination
    (Big Deal-Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Lean music that follows pop construction but is more noise than anything. The guitars are reduced to mere instruments of rhythm, and even the vocals are basically atonal.

    A lighter version of Kepone or Glazed Baby. Headcleaner isn't much for excess, and it certainly doesn't have much of an appreciation for hooks. Still, the fuzz and throb do come together for some great grooves.

    An odd sound for a band which leads its album off with a track titled "Plimsoul". Of course, it's not a reference to the band. At least, I don't think it is.

    In the end, there just wasn't enough to get me overly excited. Headcleaner deals in a very limited sort of sound, and even that isn't explored much at all. The songs, unfortunately, tend to end up in the same area. The thing that bugs me most is that a couple of my favorite bands have this same basic sound, but they make it sing. Headcleaner stays pedestrian.

    Overdose of Tradition
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #6, 7/1/96

    German guys trying out the whole metal-rap-industrial trip. For once, though, German engineering fails.

    The sound is dreadfully wimpy, like the guys are afraid of the guitars that hide in the background. The lyrics are pleasantly anti-social, but the whole package rarely gets above Hard Corps territory, much less approaching (obvious influence) Beastie Boys territory.

    I agree with some of the sentiments expressed here, and I like it when people get political. But Headcrash is simply too boring musically, and the gang vocal rap style does not get me off. And you can't crank this up, because all of the jock-rock riffage is buried beneath.

    I'd like to know what the intent was here. The disc sure ain't telling.

    Urrbin Ledjinz
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    A little drum 'n' bass, a little jungle, a little metal, a glam ballad fragment (really) and a lot of experimentation. Headrush surfs along some of the more successful of the recent electronic dance music trends, adding in some guitar and samples to fill out the sound. The result? An otherworldly experience.

    There's just no way to completely explain what's going on here. Headrush has borrowed from so many corners (the vocals range from dancehall raps to metal screeches) that there's no way to describe this stuff in full detail.

    So I'll just say the ferment is most impressive. Just when I think I'm settling in, another sound, another side trip comes along. Headrush refuses to sit still, and yet throughout most of this album whatever noise escapes my speakers could reasonably be identified as a Headrush sound.

    That's what's most impressive, I guess. Even with this kitchen sink collage approach to songwriting, Headrush remains consistent in its goal to propagate quality music. Whatever the sound, the vitality runs high. Most invigorating.

    The Heads
    Relaxing With...
    reviewed in issue #108, 5/6/96

    A nicely revved-up version of acid rock coming out of London. With some cool harmonica work, to boot.

    God knows, the MC5 have been used before, but not necessarily to such a decent effect. The Heads have the whole "cool bass" concept down flat, and the astonishingly lo-fi production merely adds to the mystique.

    Singer Simon Price growls his vocals, a la Scott McCloud of Girls Against Boys, and that also updates the idea quite nicely. And actually, the way the songs roll on and on makes this almost as appealing as GvsB at times.

    Post-punk acid rock tripmeister heroes. Well, all I can say is that it works for me. There is something hypnotic in the rhythm section, and when that happens, all I can say is watch out. If the Heads get under your skin, they may never leave.

    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    The great southern boogie version of grindcore. You know, Agony Column and the like. Songs that move, vocals of concrete, guitars of doom. I kinda wish Headstrong sounded like it had more of a sense of humor, but I can't have everything.

    Oh, and the riffage is inspired. The sound is slightly sludgy, and that helps to mute the guitars just enough to take off a shrill edge. You know, I can also hear early Pantera (Cowboys from Hell-era, a fine period in my book) limping about, though Headstrong bloodies a lot more brains.

    Throbbing toward some imagined apocalypse, Headstrong just doesn't let up from the attack. Okay, so the sound isn't exactly in vogue these days. It still works for me.

    And if Headstrong wants to continue brutalizing the world, well, that's just fine by me.

    Eloise Klein Healy
    Artemis in Echo Park/The Women's Studies Chronicles
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    One of my favorite things to do as a dj was to play spoken word stuff over cool instrumentals, from Pell Mell to Branford Marsalis to the Shadowy Men. New Alliance has put together a great series of spoken word sets, some with and some without background music.

    This one is without, but the words are strong enough to do without accompaniment. Healy's physical voice is nothing special, but her mind's voice spins circles and circles of music in my mind as I try to grip her thought.

    Not highbrow, but in their accessibility, her words speak to people who might not otherwise hear.

    The Heartdrops
    East Side Drive
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    A bit poppier and less punk than yer average Melted release, but damn, the quality and infectious nature are at least up to code. As soon as the first backbeat hit my ears, I was ready to jump around the room in joyous abandon.

    No, really. These boys have such a fine fuzz-pop attack it's impossible to sit down when it's rolling. My disc had a bit of a manufacturing defect (something scratched out a piece of the second track), and when that hit I about freaked. Had to just skip to the next song. Bummed, but once "Lolita" kicked in, I was happy.

    You know, people use the phrase "hi-octane" a lot. I don't go there very often, but hell, if there was a band that deserved such an appellation, the Heartdrops are it. Damn, man, this stuff blasts out a form of energy that even Stephen Hawking couldn't describe.

    Yeah, I had a good time. A great time. Some truly fine songs and more than enough sonic aggression to get anyone through the night. Pop heaven is the next stop.

    Heat Dust
    Heat Dust
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Fuzzy, muscular punk that doesn't bow to convention. There's plenty of meandering here even as the riffola carnage piles up. If you think you're playing it loud enough, you're not.

    Stray 7"
    (Cavity Search)
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    While the album has its unfortunate occasional Nirvana-like moments, this single highlights the punkier side of their musings. There're still these real familiar bass lines, but I can overlook that if the songs are this fun.

    "Stray" and "Can't Be Touched" are on the new album ("Wake" isn't, and I like that one best), and the versions here are far superior. This is a great disc.

    Dead Air
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Even though they're from Portland (Ore.), they sound like they wish they were from the upper great northwest. Nice pop melodies run through impossibly fuzzed-out guitars and bass, with a kinda whiny, kinda moaning vocal style.

    Rip-off is not the right word, because there are so many bands who sound like this these days you can't pick out who did it first (I'm pretty sure it goes back to a pleasant young man caught with his FFA first prize ewe).
    This is also damned catchy, which is not something you can say about most of those "Neer-vay-nuh" wannabes. And the songs themselves are completely original.

    More than enough to light up your shift; And this way you don't have to play a damn Seattle band to get the same effect.

    Yellow no. 5 EP
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94 Focusing more on the punk than the pop grunge of their last album, Heatmiser have come closer to creating their own identity.

    Sure the punk is still poppy, but aggression is the order of the day. These guys have a need for sonic assault.

    A taste of the boys before their second album comes out in the fall, Heatmiser are dead on target this time out. Miss at your own peril.

    Cop and Speeder
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Most folks I know in the state of Washington swear by Heatmiser. Nice guys, good band. It's just the occasional Nirvana-esque tune that has always bugged me.

    Not any more. The fast songs have gotten faster and leaner, the slower ones slower and less melodramatic. I still don't think the boys know exactly what they want to sound like, but there are so many fine things to choose from, I'm not complaining.

    Yes, at the base is a pop-punk sensibility, but Heatmiser has progressed past that potential dead end and moved into some more experimental areas, particularly the production. Everything here is so clean and lean, no bombast whatsoever. It sounds great.

    Certainly their finest output yet, and Heatmiser hasn't had a bad release. Now, if only the world would notice.

    Heaven 17
    Bigger than America
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Another 80s outfit back to haunt my aging adolescence. I was never very familiar with Heaven 17, though I did hear them a few times on the old "Rock over London" show. And this disc sounds just like I remember.

    Well, the drum machines are more precise, but the vocal stylings are dead up new wave. A lot like old OMD, if that helps you. Wow. I would have loved this stuff 15 years ago.

    And a lot of Brits did. Heaven 17 was monstrously huge for a moment, and then nothing. Until this. It's perfect timing, of course, though as Kiss found out, everyone wanted the old records and ignored the new ones. I'm not sure what the market for new new wave is, but ask folks like the reformed Echo and the Bunnymen and I think you'll get a rather negative answer.

    This is complete retro. There's been little evolution in songwriting or lyrical ideas. But if you want to hear some cool 80s stuff that rings unfamiliar in your ears (new nostalgia, if you will), perhaps this will suffice.

    Thee Heavenly Music Association
    Shaping the Invisible
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    By and large the product of Dave Hillis and Helen Storer, Thee Heavenly Music Association is a collection of musical ideas run through a few processors and then edited into a semi-coherent shape.

    Actually, some of these songs are really songs. Really good songs. And even the more conceptual pieces here are quite striking. Imagine Black Box Recorder on a bad trip--but with guitars by Anton Fier. I'm not exactly sure how Hillis and Storer put together live shows, but apparently they do. I'd pay to hear that.

    Maybe all the experimentation that went into the recording is simply distilled into a straight retelling. I doubt it, though. Anyone willing to put together an album this adventurous wouldn't--make that couldn't--do something so insipid.

    And in case the album doesn't warp your musical sensibilities enough, there's a cover of Kate Bush's one and only U.S. "hit." Oh, don't worry. This is no ape job. It's a surprising reimagining of the piece, surprising mostly in its delicacy. Thee Heavenly Music Association knows how to make a mark.

    Heavy Vegetable
    A Bunch of Stuff 7"
    (The Way Out Sound)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Nicely messy pop music, with a lot of noise and almost chanted vocals. Everything is going nowhere, and somehow it all begins to make sense. And then the needle lifts up.

    The production is spotty, and I'm pretty sure it's intended that way. I'm not exactly sure what the artistic statement is, but at least the folks are trying for something. I'm listening...

    The Amazing Undersea Adventures of Aqua Kitty and Friends
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    An almost-disturbing sing-song quality pervades throughout, but for some reason these folks are funnier and much more interesting than, say, Billy Goat or Poi Dog Pondering.

    Well, Heavy Vegetable has the crucial knack of figuring out when the joke is getting old. And not all of these songs are dumb jokes. More than a few are nicely crafted straight pop tunes with relevant lyrics.

    If you don't like one song, don't worry; another will start up in a minute or so. But even if most of the tracks come in under two minutes, they still feel complete.

    With everything on course for failure, Heavy Vegetable managed to crank out a good album. No small feat, that.

    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    "Twenty-eight more songs" says the back cover. And in only 45 minutes. Pretty impressive.

    And what a variety. Heavy Vegetable proves itself capable of running rampant over just about any pop style you can name, including a wondrously anarchic vision of the old Alan Parsons Project sound on "Cotton Swab" (no, really).

    As members of the nationally acclaimed (even here) Encinitas (near San Diego) scene, Heavy Vegetable proves to be bored with anything normal. The tunes are zany and wide ranging, with plenty for anyone to dig. God knows how these folks remember which songs are which for the live shows (45 songs from two albums might mess with the memory), but the word is that a show is not to be missed.

    Just in case HV isn't in your neighborhood this weekend, pick up the disc. You will like it.

    Heavyweight Dub Champion
    Rise of the Champion Nation
    (Champion Nation)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Wandering from a completely different corner of the hip-hop world than Deaf Judges (reviewed in this issue), Heavyweight Dub Champion lays out some astounding dub and then recruits the likes of KRS One, Killah Priest and many more to throw down the rhymes.

    This "guest artist" approach works only when the underlying production is good. And the sound on this album is simply explosive.

    Dub is one of the most fertile grounds for hip hop and reggae, but too often artists get lazy. Fuzz is emphasized over structure and the rhymes are even further off the radar. Obviously, HDC took care of the latter with its guests. But the creativity in the beats is what really makes this disc amazing. Each song is rooted in the dub world, but there are plenty of field trips abroad.

    Which is the key to success in music: Take something that works and tweak it just enough. HDC puts its stamp on dub, and the outstanding lineup of MCs and singers push the songs even higher. Most invigorating.

    You Happy Face
    reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92

    Well-orchestrated punk-funk. What I mean is these guys have the soaring vocalization of other "post-metal" (I really don't like that term) bands channeled into a basic heavy funk sound. Sorta like if the Red Hots ran into Last Crack and metamorphosed.

    It's all rather appealing; the bass stays away from the cliche bounce of lots of funk and actually has character. Nice riffs, too. The vocals stride the line between hard core and melody very nicely, without giving way to either.

    Tom Hedrick
    As If!
    (Freedom of Speech)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    Loopy little pop ditties that always play by the rules. Perhaps this sounds dull to you, but Tom Hedrick manages to infuse each song with a wacky (and decidedly nerdy) sense of humor.

    For example, the first line of the title track is "If I were a Vulcan..." "Little Saturn" could be that Beach Boys-flavored jingle that GM has been dying to hear. And then there's a song about our greatest president, James K. Polk.

    In the liners, Hedrick admits to being a control freak, and he's certainly dotted all his I's and crossed all his T's. The sound is tight and very, very studio. Hedrick crafted the graphic on the cover, and that same sort of sunny un-reality pervades his music.

    You might think I'm complaining, but the strange thing is that Hedrick's wonky, obsessive sound works simply because the guy is so damned earnest. He makes music this plastic-sounding because he likes it that way. And his enthusiasm rubbed off on me in a big way.

    The Heed
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    A groove band with a heavy blooze 'n' boogie jones. The Heed doesn't bother too much with syrupy hooks or other pop conventions. Rather, the guys hope that a heavy dose of the backbeat and clever lyrics will carry the day.

    Sometimes, it does. Certainly, the guys can play, and their expertise is impossible to ignore. Often enough, the songs seem to rely a bit heavily on technical skill and ignore writing craft. A few of these songs do sound "unfinished."

    The album sounds good. Not too brassy and certainly not underdone. The sound is probably the most consistent part of the album. It does tie the package together nicely.

    But the guys do have some work to do. Mostly in the writing phase. Instead of falling back on cliches, they need to dig a little deeper to resolve some of the trouble spots. Find their own way of writing out of a corner. Then these songs could really sing.

    Detectives EP
    (Fabrique Records)
    James Bishop
    Bad Dream EP
    (Broken Circles)
    reviewed 5/9/16

    Monika Heidemann's day job is doing what needs to be done for the Juan Maclean. She takes back her multi-instrumentalist talents for herself on this chilly electronic pop set. Nancy Whang (a collaborator with the Juan Maclean) helps out on a couple tracks, and the spectacular single "Last Chance" is also given a full Juan Maclean spin.

    All this incest, and it's all good. Heidemann is able to evoke the ethereal vocals that compliment such a techno-chill electronic feel, but her voice has real strength and range. In fact, I prefer when she sings in what sounds like her more natural alto range. Vocals aside, the star here is the electronic universe that Heidemann has created. Four songs and one remix that flesh out a complete world.

    I've been listening to James Bishop's new EP for almost a month now, and I still don't quite have a handle on it. One problem with a four-track release is that subtlety is not rewarded. These sort of things have a get in/get out sort of imperative. And Bishop is just not that kind of guy. These songs take a while to get where they're going, and once that feel finally sets in, there aren't any more songs.

    Bishop builds his songs slowly, adding layer after layer until forging a spectacular final push. The result is more of a tidal wave than your basic anthem, however. Instead of a triumphant shout, these songs tend to simply recede. Perhaps this reflects humility, but in any case the construction is definitely intentional. Bishop knows what he's doing. And these four songs make me want to hear many, many more.

    The connective tissue for these two EPs is the singular vision each artist brings to these songs. Heidemann may have had a collaborator or two, but she is clearly the author of her sound. And I don't think two people could have agreed to make the music that Bishop has created. Single-minded music can often head down the rabbit hole. On these two releases, however, the tunnel vision created something wonderful.

    Heinous Bienfang
    Satan's Camaro CD5
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Also included with your CD is a 10-minute movie and other fun computer weirdness. The music itself is kinda non-descript, a bland version of Alice Donut (okay, so maybe it does have some character). There's a one-minute regular version of the song, a six-minute remix and two versions of the soundtrack to the 10-minute movie.

    Of course, my refusal to upgrade my system means I can't see the included movie. From what the enclosed press clipping say, that's the interesting part of the package. And I can't see it.

    Whatever. The tunage is fair to middling, and I can't really judge the visual part except by the soundtrack. Sounds amusing, an Atlanta version of Slacker or something. Something I can't see. Maybe I should put out for System 8 or something.

    Helen Kelter Skelter
    reviewed 2/12/18

    The second release from this psychedelic garage band from Norman, Okla. Wait, doesn't that ring a bell?

    Not really. The Lips are south OKC all the way (which is light years--or 20 miles or so--from Norman), and that's a whole different trip. HKC is much more about adding some spacey touches to "modern" garage sounds. In other words, you can dance to this.

    This album is much more coherent (and psychedelic) than the band's debut of a couple years back. In every way, this is a step forward. The writing is stronger, the band seems to have a better handle on what it wants to do and the execution is much more assured.

    These boys are still working out their potential. Some of the songs have an unfinished feel (which isn't all bad, especially for psychedelic stuff), and my ears are prepared to make further leaps than HKC manages to take. Another day, another step forward.

    On its own merits, however, this is a solid set. There's more than a kernel of something exciting going on, and with the requisite work the growth might be special. Keeps your ears on these boys.

    The Helio Sequence
    Com Plex
    (Cavity Search)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    The breakout success of the Flaming Lips a few years back proved that there was a market (if limited) for obsessively crafted headphone pop. Now, the Helio Sequence doesn't sound a whole lot like Oklahoma's finest (the sounds are a lot more technical and less noisome), but it is in the same arena.

    There's a spaciness to these songs that's pretty cool. Almost as if these songs were beamed into my stereo rather than jumping out from a CD.

    Like the music has been a journey, see, and not my mind. I can't nail down this feeling much more precisely. But it's a trip, to be sure.

    There is a Beatles cover, and that's where the boys kinda get a bit excited. The thing is, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was already a kinda spacey song. Oh well, one minor (negligible, really) misstep isn't enough to get me bummed out. I'll accept these transmissions any day.

    Hell on Earth
    All Things Disturbingly Sassy
    (Neptune Records)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Some goth boys from Tampa (I swear to God, I've never seen a scene as weird and, um, natural as the one I experienced when living in Florida a few years back) who play some highly-processed industrial metal.

    Kinda retro, in its way. Hell on Earth relies on sledgehammer drum machine beats, synched guitar and keyboard riffs and a nice growly vocal presence. Reminds me of the good Ministry albums.

    Actually, that's a fine touchpoint. These songs are obviously studio creations, though I imagine the boys can do a fair job live. It wouldn't, it couldn't--and shouldn't--sound the same from a stage. That's cool.

    Just a nice little head trip into the past. These guys really know how to dress up this sound and make it sing. Good enough to make me smile.

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

    A side project containing Bryan Black of Haloblack, Eric Powell of 16 Volt, Jared Hendrickson and Dylan Thomas of Chemlab and Charles Levi of MLWTTKK (knowhutimeen?). A nice pedigree, indeed.

    A very sterile sound, complete with half-spoken vocals, a spare drum machine and the odd techno warblings in the background. And the usual wandering bass.

    The whole proceedings are quite reserved, considering where these guys come from. But it's precisely that restraint that gives the impression all hell is about the break loose, bringing wonderful tension that adds immensely to the appeal. The thing is, the expected pain never arrives. Obviously the concept was laid out before the creation of the music, and the boys never wandered out of the parameters.

    Not what you would expect from this crew, but such things result from a successful side venture. No, this isn't the catchy guitar-driven sound of the guys' regular gigs. But the departure is not only refreshing, it's quite satisfying in its own right. Hellbent has that technopop thing down rather well.

    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Something of a re-working of the 0.01 album released on Fifth Colvmn three years back. As Fifth Colvmn is no more, that disc is out of print (and pretty damned hard to find; no one's taking it off my shelf, that's for sure). There are a number of tracks from that disc sitting right along side some newer stuff. The same core members, the same general technopop sound.

    Which means it's not exactly yer usual Reconstriction offering. Very electronic, very sterile (though with a bit more guitar in the newer pieces). I liked that first disc, and this hybrid re-issue still does the boys justice.

    The song structures are basic pop, with some attention to catchy choruses. Catchy is a relative term, but you can sing (or speak) along if you like. Again, this sounds like it was made in one of them "clean rooms".

    And again, I dig it. Even fans of the first disc (all thousand or so of you out there) will find plenty here to get you going once more. A classy re-issue. I wish more were like this.

    Hello Defective
    Plastic Hearts EP
    (Element 115)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Over the last few years I received two EPs from something called ESP All-Stars. A band which, according to the minimal liners, "consists mostly of Kirby and Armitage." These boys played gorgeous distorted pop in the manner of latter-day Flaming Lips. And they, too, are from Oklahoma City. Interestingly enough, they met because Kirby saw Armitage wearing a bootleg Mercury Rev t-shirt that Kirby had sold at local record stores. Talk about divine intervention, or at the very least blind luck.

    So now I get an EP from something called Hello Defective, which also seems to consist mostly of Kirby and Armitage. Four songs (as seems to be the norm) which are almost transcendently beautiful in their dissonance and distortion. Oh, yeah, there are some wondrous melodies flitting about as well.

    And so, despite the awesome weirdness that two bands from central Oklahoma might actually play awesome wigged-out psychedelic pop, this continues to be the case. The name has changed, but Hello Defective still knows how to play the game. Apparently a full-length is due in the near future. Not soon enough, in my estimation.

    Kill Us Now
    (Element 115)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    A few months ago, Hello Defective (which contains the creative core of the fine band ESP All-Stars) released the Plastic Hearts EP. I dug it immensely. Now comes a full-length which also features the four songs from the EP.

    I've never liked that sort of marketing. Makes the folks who bought the EP feel cheated or something. But enough of my soapbox. Time to talk about the music. And, as with everything I've heard from Mssrs. Armitage and Kirby, the five songs on this disc I haven't heard before (Stop it! Just stop it!) are simply outstanding.

    Yes, these boys are from Oklahoma City, and yes, they play a highly-processed form of psychedelic pop music. Not unlike another band we all know and love. The comparisons are obvious, and I'm sure Hello Defective is a bit tired of them. Too bad. They'll have to change their sound to get rid of all that nonsense. But I wouldn't do that, because these boys sure do know how to make their songs shimmer.

    And in the end, there's no way to rip off the Flaming Lips, apart from stripping out actual chunks of music. Hello Defective plays in the same pool, and it also produces similarly impressive sounds. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, if all bands were as creative as these boys, no one would be bitching about how terrible music is these days. I dunno. I'm a sucker for this stuff. You know that. These boys play it real nice. 'Nuff sed.

    Hymns in the Key of 666
    (Minty Fresh)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    More than a decade ago, my brothers wrote a stoner play (never performed, of course) that featured a fantasy of Metallica playing Vegas. The band opened with "Blackened." In a lounge style. Somewhere, somehow, the members of Hellsongs came across that play, even if their versionof the song tends more toward Donovan.

    Or maybe not. But the notion of recasting hard rock anthems as Nick Drake-y folk or jaunty hippie pop is so arresting as to verge on parody. I'm not suggesting that's the case, of course. But still...

    These songs have been drifting around the web for a while, and this album has been available as an import since the first of the year. But Minty Fresh, purveyor of the finest tastes in alterna-pop, is doing up the official U.S. release. So, y'know, maybe it's not all a joke.

    All I'm saying is that anyone who can turn "Seasons in the Abyss" into a chamber pop piece or extend "We're Not Gonna Take It" into five minutes of introspective folk has a talent. Any one of these songs will stop you in your tracks. Soiled garments are strictly your concern.

    Help Wanted
    The Return of Monkey Face
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Another dose of that neo-white boy funk-folk sound. You know, syncopated jangle rock. I keep trying to define this sound better each time out, because I've gotten quite a few questions as to what I've meant. Okay. In the realms of Poi Dog Pondering and Blues Traveler, though in this case Help Wanted stays less pretentious and more groove friendly.

    In fact, while I really can't stand the two bands I spoke of above, I like what Help Wanted does with the sound. The songs are serious, but they aren't self-indulgent and excessive. In fact, each line and idea is trimmed to just the right length. In fact, some of the songs sound a lot more like R.E.M. than Dead again.

    All these references do mean something. Help Wanted still needs to work and further define its own sound. The band isn't quite sure how to play certain passages, and sometimes I hear the feel of the music shift out of character.

    Still, the songs are good and the performances more than adequate. More work is needed, but Help Wanted has a decent handle on where to go.

    Thomas Helton
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    The title says it all. Thomas Helton wails on his double bass for an hour. Three pieces, each of which is rather distinct from the other.

    What I like about Helton is that he actually plays the instrument. He's not picking or whacking or trying to make noises that the thing was never meant to play. He's simply composed some songs and he plays them.

    I'll amend the "noises" statement. He does come up with a few cool screeches and whines, but only while he's also playing another line. Mostly, though, he's wandering through bass territory I've not heard before. He doesn't push the envelope all that much (this statement doesn't exactly contradict what I just said), but he sure does know how to get the most out of his instrument.

    Fans of the truly avant garde won't really dig this, and certainly those with a toe in the mainstream will run screaming. But those who like to hear a nice workout on the double bass (which, after the baritone sax, is perhaps the coolest instrument around), Helton provides plenty of fine listening. I had a fine time, myself.

    Rick Helzer/John Stowell
    Friendship and Remembrance
    reviewed in issue #294, March 2008

    Helzer plays piano and Stowell has a guitar. And that's it. The setting is simple. The execution is elegant. The music is stunning.

    This duo seems to never be in a hurry, even when the tempos pick up. They simply never break stride. And for those who might read that and scream "Aaaarghh! Not happy jazz!," well, rest assured. This stuff is more than sophisticated enough to satisfy any palate.

    Good music, no matter its style, is able to communicate ideas clearly--sometimes by shouting, screaming or wailing and sometimes with a whisper. Helzer and Stowell are more seductive than anything else. These songs slink their way into the subconscious. And once they're there, there's no letting loose.

    I can't recall a recent album that gave me so much pleasure. I love the sound of piano and guitar. The interplay of the two stringed instruments is remarkable. Combining the natural affinity of the instruments with pieces like these that challenge and engage is a masterful feat. Simply wonderful.

    Hemisphere EP
    (Quantum Loop)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    The term EP is becoming more and more meaningless in this age of compact discs. Even without the remix of "Scetch" appended to the end, this set is longer than most punk albums. Hemisphere trucks in rather sterile explorations of techno sounds and electronic drum formations.

    So in other words, this is stuff you might like to play at your next dance party. Or maybe not. We're not talking about strict 4/4 stuff here. A bit more complicated and strange than that. Beats drop in and out at almost random intervals, and the music isn't terribly inviting. Kinda alienating, really.

    And I like that. Hemisphere is taking chances, as it should. Sometimes the melodic lines work with the rhythms, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the songs themselves sound woefully out of sync. Just more exploration.

    Those efforts pay off. Yeah, some of this stuff is way out there. The sounds of an alternate universe. The sort of thing that spaz in the corner dances to after one too many beers. Hey, everybody needs something. And Hemisphere provides admirably.

    Valvestate EP
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Punk-pop that's nicely crunchy and chaotic. Only five new songs here (with three from a previous 7"), but all are perfectly amazing.

    Some odd bits that are strikingly reminiscent of Nirvana, not for any direct rip-off, though. Nathan Westwood handles bass and vocal duties, and his voice is almost eternally flat (not unlike a certain dead guy). And the band has that just-offhand way of cranking out pop gems that very few acts achieve after years of work.

    Of course, Nirvana was never cool enough to do a rip-and-shred cover of the Duranies "Save a Prayer". The original is boring and pretentious, but this version is fast, heavy and mean. A like it a lot (like the rest of the disc).

    Hoo-boy! Get these guys in the studio again and give me a full-length. I simply cannot wait.

    Neil Henderson
    Amateur Dreams
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Rootsy pop-rock with hard rock leanings (though the music is quite restrained).

    Not only am I unsure as to what this really is, I'm obviously not sure of what exactly Henderson is going for. When you make music this commercial, usually there is some sort of market that you're aiming at. The closest I can think of is the Babys, but even the Babys cranked up the guitars a lot more than this.

    Which means this is just wanky music that few will like. No commercial potential, and far too cheesy to attract any alternative attention. I feel like I'm caught up in some time warp to the early 80s when David Foster produced stuff like this. Most of us are happy that sort of thing is past.

    Scott Henderson Steve Smith Victor Wooten
    Vital Tech Tones
    (Tone Center-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    Shrapnel honcho Mike Varney decided to create a strictly fusion imprint (which will probably be the home of Richie Kotzen and other current Shrapnel artists), and he enlisted three well-regarded musicians to kick off this new endeavor.

    Scott Henderson has played guitar with Chick Corea's Elektric Band, Jean Luc Ponty and his own band, Tribal Tech (among many other gigs). Steve Smith is indeed the Steve Smith of Journey, and he's played drums for more folks than I could list in one review. In addition to a highly successful solo career, bassist Victor Wooten plays with Bela Fleck. Not a bad lineup.

    Most of the songs were written and worked out in the studio, with an intriguing cover of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" thrown in for good measure. Unlike most one-time improv groups, these guys keep a tight rein on their playing, sticking to a coherent group sound. This does avoid some of the potential highs, but also wipes out any serious gaffes as well.

    Virtuosos who also know how to play with verve and feel, this trio kicks out some impressive licks. The teamwork shown here is impressive, and the songs show a nice range. A thoroughly enjoyable outing.

    Aaron Henry
    Poet Laureate
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    I'm always a bit suspicious when an artist refers to his star sign at the top of the bio. I dunno. Just seems a bit silly. Distracting, in any case, though as ever, judgment is reserved for the music. And while Aaron Henry's promo matter is a bit excessive, the music slides right in just fine.

    He lists influences from Hendrix to Rakim (the latter is very apparent). This is old-school funk-laden rap, where the rhymes are full of ideas and the grooves are as creative as the wisdom. I guess I am getting to be an old fogie. This is what I think of when I think of hip-hop, so I'm only, what 15 years behind the times?

    Well, not exactly. Henry has undated the old sound. The sound samples are smoother, and the music is constructed with a bit more grace. And, of course, the subject matter is up-to-date.

    That's what I really like, rap which says something. Old-style gangsta stories are nice and all, but real skill is exhibited in making good music with a message. Aaron Henry has that down just fine.

    Right on Time
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    I must admit, when I first read about Tim Armstrong's formation of Hellcat (under the broad Epitaph umbrella), I was a bit worried that there was something of a reaction to a fad going on. That's exactly what it was, but in this case, Armstrong, Gurewitz and friends have endeavored to bring to the fore real, live ska music, stuff that's faithful to the Studio One and London ideals. An education for the kiddies and edification for us oldsters.

    Soul music with a syncopated groove, in other words. Hepcat skanks through song after song with sweet horns blowing and tight harmonies swinging. The production is wonderfully sparse and loose, giving the sound a wide, echoey, expansive feel. It's like you're in the club fetching the beat.

    Traditional, but hardly wallowing in the past. Hepcat is no copycat, but an innovator true to the original concept. Luminous in its presentation of the real ska.

    Simply a joy to behold. Like the Slackers album from earlier this year, Hepcat combines stellar musicianship with pureness of musical intent. The shining countenance of the band is palpable in the sound. Way too cool to miss.

    Push 'n Shove
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Certainly Hellcat's most soulful ska act, Hepcat uses skankin' beats to explore the cool side. Using multiple singers and broad instrumentation, the band has as fully-fleshed a sound as I've heard.

    But you already knew this (I'm assuming). What's heard here is a further expedition into the heart of the groove. Hepcat has never been superficial, but this album really gets down to the base of the matter.

    A nice piece of that is the thick, mono-style sound that is highly reminiscent of the classic Studio One style. But instead of simply using that sound as an emotional kicker, Hepcat goes deeper into it, finding a depth that older recordings never had.

    Perfectly great. Easily my favorite ska album so far this year. And this is real ska, without any of that punk or rock influence. Sometimes, the real thing is the only thing that will satisfy.

    Her Flyaway Manner
    Her Flyaway Manner
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Yet another byway of the emo revolution. Her Flyaway Manner is three guys. Guitar, bass and drums. The sound is basic; the writing and playing is anything but.

    This is astonishingly deliberate fare. The three players rarely mesh. Instead, the instruments wander around, daring listeners to put the pieces together. This approach is not tailored to the Musicland crowd.

    And, indeed, it probably sounds awfully strident to those just now getting used to the emo/power pop merger. Her Flyaway Manner uses the minimalism of Mineral and fuses it with the practical fury of Jawbox. Most of the time, it works.

    When it doesn't, of course, entire songs break down. But that's just growing pains. Her Flyaway Manner is really reaching for something here, and the goal is within reach. A little more work, a little more live playing, and this sound could really become something. One to keep an eye on, to be sure.

    Hermit Thrushes
    Slight Fountain
    (Joyful Noise)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Minimalist pop occasionally deconstructed into something sublime. Hermit Thrushes refuse to play a song straight through--there's always a reason to slice up a line or two in an attempt to find deeper meaning.

    I sympathize with those who find this sort of disjointed style annoying. I do as well, but only when it doesn't work. Hermit Thrushes really do open up new windows on the songs with this approach, so I'm not going to complain.

    The sound is often loud, but rarely is it overwhelming. Each instrument can be clearly heard, and the band stays firmly in control even during the most raucous moments.

    An interesting set. This is definitely a "music critic" kinda band, but I think there are plenty of folks out there who appreciate such adventurous fare.

    The Hero Cycle
    Lakes and Ponds EP
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Five songs from some nice Vermont folk. Fine, softly bashing tunes. I suppose this is more "rock" than "pop," but I'll let you decide. I'm not that particular, myself.

    The key for me is quality, and the songs here are simply showered with the stuff. It took me about fifteen seconds to glom on to what these folks are doing, and my enthusiasm never wavered. I guess that immediate infatuation makes this more "pop" after all. But it's hardly ephemeral.

    I'd be curious to see if the band's energy could hold up through an entire album. Probably. There's more than enough craft and elan here to carry the Hero Cycle through just about any travail.

    Hero of a Hundred Fights
    The Remote EP
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Like Haymarket Riot, Hero of a Hundred Fights take a vaguely prog approach to emo. But where its labelmates still manages to tie up a nice (if loud) pop package, this band lets the lines run wild.

    Not quite incoherent, but you can smell it from here. The songs sound like they're continually falling apart, though they never quite separate fully. I like that. A lot. Though at times I do wish there was a bit more of a nucleus at the center. Chaos is always interesting, but finding meaning in a mess can be a bitch.

    Hero of a Hundred Fights succeeds, but barely. Just the tiniest bit of band consciousness would go a long ways. I wouldn't want to change the meandering, warbling style, but I do want to be able to discern what the boys are trying to say. I think I got it, but just a touch more tidiness wouldn't hurt.

    The Heroic Enthusiasts
    Memory Wheel EP
    reviewed 4/4/16

    James Tabbi and Thomas Ferrara play an almost textbook style of "alternative rock." Back when that term was coined in the 80s, this is the sound that inspired it. Loose melodies, understated harmonies, tight rhythm sections and ringing chords. And often not American. After my first listen to this set, the two bands that popped immediately into my mind were the Go-Betweens and Echo and the Bunnymen. So yeah, these guys are good.

    And they hail from my birthplace, Rochester, N.Y. So that's cool, too. The four songs are off-handed gems, tightly-crafted songs played with just enough inattention to leave an entrancing haze. My only real complaint is that there are only four songs. Because I want to hear a lot more.

    It's tempting to go nuts about a band when its first effort is something this spectacular. History tells me to calm down and see if the boys can replicate this spectacular set. Especially when the "band" members have been making music together for a few years. But I think I'll let myself get a little crazy on this stuff. Even if the Heroic Enthusiasts never reach these heights again, Memory Wheel will always be amazing.

    [sigh]. I think I have to listen to this another hundred times or so. I have a feeling even that won't get it out of my system. So it goes.

    The Second Three EP
    In the Salt EP
    reviewed 9/19/16

    My current favorite band from the city of my birth (Rochester, N.Y., which I left well before I could walk), the Heroic Enthusiasts, are back with another three-song effort. The title is both stylish and apt, which also describes the band.

    When people think of 80s music, they are thinking of another band from Liverpool, Echo and the Bunnymen. Even if very few of them could name a single Bunnymen song (and if they can, it's probably "Bring on the Dancing Horses," which is best-known in America as part of the still-legendary Pretty in Pink soundtrack).

    The Heroic Enthusiasts incorporate the Bunnymen manner of folding melodies in on themselves while adding just a dash of 90s garage panache. I can honestly say that I love every single song I've heard from this band. It's early yet, but I haven't been this blown away by a band in ages. The Second Three is further confirmation of looming greatness.

    Chloe Raynes is Halycine, for all intents and purposes. If I might suggest, don't read her bio. It mentions that she heard a particular Nirvana song (no, not that one) and knew at that moment that she had to be a songwriter. As she's only 21, there are all sorts of things wrong there.

    But that's the only wrong thing. Origin story aside, it's entirely possible that Raynes is suffering from some sort of divine inspiration. Her sound is a lot more Alanis than Kurt, but she does sound like a child of the 90s. Her songs are layered, slow-burning anthems that are thankfully short on self-importance. The lead track (and first single) "Circles" is the best thing here, but the other four songs help flesh out Raynes's vision.

    I'm curious to hear if she can evolve and bring a few new ideas into her sound. This is a fine first effort. Now the hard work begins.

    As for the Heroic Enthusiasts, they seem to relish the work. #2 is even better than #1. That doesn't happen often, but when it does it means a lot. I'm already jonesing for a third helping.

    The Heroic Enthusiasts
    reviewed 11/2/17

    At last! Here is a full-length from my favorite 80s band from my hometown. Well, the Heroic Enthusiasts do incorporate a lot more than Echo and the Bunnymen-style 80s Britpop, and I left Rochester, N.Y., well before I could walk. Nonetheless, that first statement is true, up to a point.

    True, but irrelevant, of course. What's important is the quality of the lush, melodic pop-rock created by these folks. The first two EPs were spectacular, and this set improves on them. "Summer Serenade" is included from The Second Three EP, but otherwise this is an entirely new enterprise.

    Back in the day, this level of output was the norm. But I can't name a single act that has put out so many good songs in the course of 18 months. I'd chide the band for its profligacy, but I think it is always best to strike when the songs are coursing. And these flow like a mighty stream.

    I think all of us romanticize the musical styles of our youth, but as I hear my sons singing along to Led Zeppelin, Green Day and Public Enemy, I think that some sounds are more timeless than others. The atmospheric, keyboard-driven pop that originated in the U.K. changed its stripes many times, and it grew to encompass such disparate acts as Joy Division/New Order, Bauhaus/Love and Rockets, the Cure, Buzzcocks, the Fall, the aforementioned Bunnymen--and it was a direct precursor to such 90s successes as Blur, Oasis and My Bloody Valentine. This is a diverse sound that allows for experimentation and wandering. The Heroic Enthusiasts take full advantage of this palette, even verging on the sonic deconstruction of MBV at times. But the songs pull back deftly at the exact right moment, and what is left are ringing hooks and a full-throated ache.

    Ah yes, the melancholy. Perhaps the defining element of this sound. The Heroic Enthusiasts don't shy away from that feel, but the darker the sound gets the better I feel. It's kinda like the blues that way.

    I don't know what the market is for this sort of geezer rock (and yes, the members of the Heroic Enthusiasts are folks I might have gone to school with had I stayed in upstate New York), but I like to think that quality music will find a way. I'm naive and overly optimistic, but what the hell. Stuff like this inspires even an old misanthrope like me to flights of fancy. And that's about the best thing I can say about any album.

    Heros Severum
    Wonderful Educated Bear
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Eric Friar has an, um, assertive way of singing. Actually, it's not singing as such but rather a sort of melodic speaking. Anyway, he may not be as terminally annoying as Fred Schneider, but damn, he's close.

    Lucky for Friar that he's also a brilliant songwriter. He's also smart enough to pair his voice with the supple tones of Sherryl Branch. His pieces are more conceptual than actually realized songs, but boy, they sound cool.

    Mostly guitars, drums and a drum machine. With some keyboard extras when necessary. When Friar and Branch really start cooking they remind me of Heavy Vegetable. Friar's idiosyncratic writing is nothing like Rob Crow's, but the two do share an appreciation of the coolness that dueling vocals can bring to a work.

    This sounds nothing like anything I've heard before, and yet so many of the parts seem familiar to me. I guess that's another way to define great music.

    Get Ur Freak On/Rock and Roll Nigga 7"
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    Described by the band on the sleeve as a "tribute" to two artists (Patti Smith and Missy Elliot) who "are not afraid to try a new sound," this seven-inch is certainly intriguing.

    Start with the fact that Heros Severum travels somewhere in the post-rock universe, and it doesn't abandon that sound for these songs. I believe that is kinda the point here, of course, but the new interpretations of these songs are quite refreshing.

    Hey, you oughta try new things out on yer tiny vinyl excursions, right? Heros Severum has the right idea. This one is a real winner.

    Collin Herring
    The Other Side of Kindness
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    It's tempting to say that Collin Herring sounds like Ryan Adams without ADHD. His voice is a dead ringer for Adams's at times, and that's too bad. Because Herring writes some great songs, and he plays them with a controlled reckless abandon that is almost impossible to achieve.

    His writing style reminds me of the Alice Despard's more country-ish moments. There's some punchy percussion, some slightly understated vocals and one (or more) melodic counterpoints. And while Herring is willing to get all rough and tumble when necessary, most of this album is burnished to a shimmery indie shine.

    Indeed, even the cheapest CDs these days sound professional. So the trick comes in knowing when enough is enough--or even when to introduce the occasional "amateur" element into the mix to dirty things up a touch. Herring deftly manages this task, giving each song the sound it needs.

    Herring ought to get past the Ryan Adams comparisons soon enough. He's more adventurous (at least within the confines of a single album) than Adams, and he's got a vision of his sound that is impressive. The sort of album that will be treasured for years.

    Past Life Crashing
    reviewed in issue #293, February 2008

    This is the second album of Herring's I've heard, and it's become obvious to me that his more aggressive songs are his best. Most of the time, I'm talking about his electric fare, but some of his acoustic stuff packs some real bite as well. Herring is a fine writer and he has a great voice. He's simply not as good when introspective. Luckily, most of these songs are about fucking up his life--and he's not backing down. Good for us.

    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    I've always preferred Herring's electric songs to his acoustic ones. Sometimes the boy can wallow a bit. Of course, he's got a great voice for wallowing, but still...

    On this album, Herring balances the scales as well as I've heard. There are plenty of somewhat mopey, introspective pieces. But he also kicks up the sound more than usual. I kind of like it when his voice gets a bit excited. He's got some of the best scratchy pipes around, and they sound better when they're allowed to roam free a bit.

    And, you know, it's always good to change things up. Like I noted up top, this is easily Herring's most complete album. I've liked a number of his songs ("Back of Your Mind", from The Other Side of Kindness, remains one of my all-time faves), but this is the first album that really works for me on the whole.

    He's been working at it for a long time, but I think Herring might well be coming into his own with this album. He's defined himself nicely, and now he's stepping out confidently. Fine work.

    Emily Herring
    My Tears Will Be Relieved
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    For the most part, this is Emily Herring singing and playing guitar or dobro. There are the occasional drums and accordions, but I think you get the idea.

    Rough-hewn roots fare, of course. Herring's playing is spectacular, though her voice is decidedly more uneven. Thing is, that's how this kinda music often works. Herring's tendency to yodel through notes might drive some listeners into fits, but I find it endearing.

    Solid songwriting--with as much emphasis on the music as the lyrics--keeps this album moving all the way through. The sound is slightly ragged; good enough to feature the fine playing, but rocky enough to justify Herring's vocal tics.

    Tics that really set off the songs, by the way. Herring really gets into her music, and that infectious spirit is more than enough to get me to go along. Quite a fine set.

    Rick Hertless
    Hey Heart CD5
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Rick Hertless sounds like a retro new traditionalist. Is that right? I keep forgetting what folks call George Strait. Anyway, there's plenty of pedal steel and fiddling and all the trimmings. The two songs are slick and very traditional in style. They have a timeless quality to them.

    Now, Hertless only wrote one of them, so I'm guessing he's trying to make it as a performer. He's got a nice voice, one that has authentic expressiveness. Hertless doesn't have to pour on the twang. Just the right amount comes out.

    Thoroughly enjoyable. Would that Nashville put out a lot more music like this. I can't gauge Hertless's commercial chances (I'm terrible at that sort of thing), but I can say I really like these two songs.

    Steven Hess/Miles Tilmann
    Departures LP
    (Other Electricities)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    True story: When my wife and I were preparing for the birth of our first child, our childbirth instructor suggested we bring some CDs that might help my wife meditate during labor (so as to have a natural childbirth). The disc she liked best was Miles Tilmann's Underland EP. For a variety of reasons, we never used the CDs, but I've always had a bit of affection for that EP.

    This album is much more abstract than that EP, but I still feel some sort of kinship with Tilmann. The sounds are subtle, but the ideas have force. You just need to wait for them.

    Well, and perhaps turn up the volume. This one isn't going to surprise you with sudden lurches into fortissimo; it's merely going to amaze with the breadth of its thought.

    This one would be good for the hospital, too. Lots of meditative possibilities, but hardly boring. Quite stirring in its own way, actually.

    Boo Hewerdine
    Baptist Hospital
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    Easygoing pop music, very much like the mellower side of Elvis Costello. The songs are sound pleasant enough, though the dark undercurrents are quite obvious.

    But nothing gets too... anything. Hewerdine turns nice enough phrases, and the production has created an achingly gorgeous understated sound. But through it all, I feel quite empty.

    Alright, so Hewerdine and I don't share the same world. This isn't much of a crime, but I just can't connect. I know part of the problem is the very meticulous crafting that is evident with every strum of the guitar. Hewerdine sings rather passionately, but about stuff I just don't worry about.

    A very nice piece of work that says absolutely nothing to me.

    Hex Error
    Hex Error
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Back in the day they called this kinda stuff sludge. Came out of Boston way back when, and then as it toured the nation it acquired a bit more of a rhythmic kick. Tempos sped up. Songs gained a little bit more complexity. I began to seriously like the stuff.

    Hex Error hails from Atlanta, which is a long way from Boston. But the sound of the guitars is just as rough and thick as any sludge band I can remember from more than a decade ago. The intense focus on rhythmic interplay between guitar and drums (and every once in a while bass and drums) creates a blistering sound.

    Magnifique, I must say. These three guys may deal noise full bore, but they really know how to put together their songs. There are subtle little touches here and there that show me Hex Error has the ability to keep up this high level of writing and playing for some time to come.

    Yeah, okay, so it sure helps to play this loud. Duh. Thing is, there is plenty to appreciate at the lower dynamic levels as well. A first rate show all the way across the board.

    Choking on Lillies
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Not your usual Recon act. Sure, there are plenty of gothic overtones laid over an electronic musicscape, but what electronics. Hexedene is just as likely to kick out an amped-up disco groove as skull-pounding cybercore lines. Techno with an extremely cool edge.

    Wowsers, indeed. Jonathan Sharp is the main guy behind the band, assembling the pieces. Katie Helsby contributes the darkly entrancing vocals and Ian Palmer adds some guitar work. Helsby and Palmer are in Streem, which has an album on Roadrunner. Sharp has his finger in so many pots I'm not even going into that here.

    The main point is that this music succeeds where many folks have failed. Gothic electronic music can often sound sterile and contrived, the keyboards thin and cheesy. This music is well-conceived and produced, running through a full spectrum of sounds.

    And there's definite synergy to the parts. Every single piece contributes to the whole. And that whole is something wonderful to behold. I've been increasingly bored with electronic music, but Hexedene brings me back into the fold.

    Morbid Reality
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    Century Media's first stateside band (though they're better known in Europe) is a litle closer to traditional thrash than the rest of the fold. The vocals are still rather death-ish, but the music ranges from the occaisional early-maiden influences to an all-out 250 bpm assault.

    These guys really have some things on their minds, and the lyrics show it. And the one instrumental, "Spider Jam," is very nice. Hexx definately has the chops. Once again the Bay area comes through, and another fine band makes its presence known. Dig these cuts too: "Fire Mushrooms," "Watery Graves," "Birds of Prey" and the title track.

    The Heygoods
    The Lights of Town
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Okay, if Rick Hertless is a new traditionalist, then the Heygoods are real traditionalists. David and Katie Champagne (and friends) play around with rockabilly, western swing and torch. With just enough of a hillbilly shuffle to keep things moving along.

    It's kinda interesting. Despite sounding wonderfully authentic (this is music that could easily have been floating around in the mid-to-late 50s), there's a modern attitude to the performances.

    I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's the intro to "Leroy" (David Champagne intones "'Leroy,' take two"), or maybe it's the way the Heygoods mix styles that never quite made it together. Indeed, their reading of "A Mess of the Blues" is a lot more rockabilly and blues than the original.

    What good is history if you can't learn from it? The Heygoods have assimilated one hell of a cool sound. Their mix of originals and covers fit together seamlessly. A raucous and friendly set.

    The Heys
    (4 West)
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Yes, the whole garage thing played out a long time ago. A long time ago in "fad years," anyway. But there's something about music played with immediacy and attitude that just doesn't go out of style.

    Being British, the Heys sharpen the garage sound to a fine edge and then provide one hell of a shave. These are songs stripped down to their barest elements: power, melody and electricity.

    Oh, and they're good. The Heys know how to kick out the hooks, and more importantly, these songs are decadent examples of exceptional rhythmic grooves. In other words, shaking your ass is required.

    Not the next coming of anything in particular, but awfully tight and refined in such a way as to maximize the pleasure. Just in time for summer.

    Nick Heyward
    The Apple Bed
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Brit press is always fun to read, and the most common comment about the first singles from this album was that Heyward, who is best known as the frontman for Haircut 100, had signed to Oasis's label (in Britain, both are signed to Creation). Oh, there's the odd mention of slavish devotion to the Beatles, and an occasional mention of brilliance, but all I really saw was the word "Oasis" written over and over again.

    And this fixation on Beatles-style heavy pop production certainly does sound reminiscent of Oasis. Heyward, however, doesn't make the mistake of consciously cribbing. He just cranks out some fine power pop.

    Well, this is a glorious pop album. It does sound a bit too much like the Beatles for my personal comfort, but still, Heyward does have a knack for the stuff. The songs are gorgeously arranged and simply bloom out of the speakers. Could give Semisonic a run for the title of pure pop album of the year, at least in commercial terms.

    Yeah, even a skeptic like me can be bowled over by audacious pop tunes. I still think Heyward would do better trying to find a pop sound that isn't so Liverpudlian, but hell, as long as he's here I might as well enjoy it.

    Hi Electric
    Hi Electric
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Yet another garage/indie/etc. rock band from Memphis. Is there really a serious scene there, or have has that notion been influenced by a small sample size? Dunno. Hi Electric is much more polished than some of the other SE Tennesse bands I've heard lately (methinks these boys actually want a deal or something), but that's not all bad. I'd like to hear a bit more attitude (or at least feedback), but there are some nice songs here.

    Hi Fashion
    Sprechen Sie Hi Fashion? EP
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    Thunderous techno bass lines, outrageously flamboyant vocals and blistering electro rhythms. Oh, and some of the funniest songs of the year. How's this for a line: "I don't give a hurl if you say you like girls, because I know that you're gay-zing." Ka-chow!

    Um, yes, this is tres-gay (in all the right ways). But when camp is taken to the level of Camp Mohawk (c'mon folks, Meatballs!), it's all good. This stuff is full of slamming smirks and ultra-tight hooks.

    So over-the-top that it demands to be taken seriously. But really, why think about such infectiously addictive songs. Hoo boy, this is one big rush.

    Hi-Fi and the Roadburners
    Fear City
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Ever since Elvis joined the army, Chuck Berry went to jail and Buddy Holly plowed into Iowa (and the music establishment established a beachhead on rock music it has never relinquished), there have been scattered rebels who play like it's still 1958.

    Occasionally these types pop up on the big scene, like the Rev. Horton Heat or Stray Cats, but these folks are usually treated more as novelties than serious musicians by the mainstream.

    So Hi-Fi and the Roadburners don't have much hope for a big wad of cash. Oh well. They play music in the Chuck Berry tradition: short songs, sweet licks and hoarse vocals. The R&B tradition is represented in full swing, with a full-time sax and great rhythm section. Jeff Schuch keeps cranking out nice bits of guitar song after song, and Hi Fi (aka Erik Kish) has a nice, unrestrained sound to his voice.

    I'm pretty much a sucker for this sort of thing. Hi Fi and the Roadburners are more retro than most, as even their lyrics follow the urban blues tradition that gave birth to rock and roll so long ago. Damned fine.

    The Hi-Fives
    It's Up to You
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    A couple peppy surf punk-pop tunes, light as a breeze but still nicely hook-laden.

    Well, If you've heard the band before, you've got an idea of what this sounds like. And, well, if you've heard Jan and Dean, you probably have a decent idea as well. This keeps in with the best of the genre, but doesn't really move anything anywhere.

    Enjoyable fluff, and nothing else. A little cotton candy at the fair.

    And a Whole Lotta You!
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    If the young Beatles were to get a bit more excited about Buddy Holly (and had the prescience to predict the Clash), they probably would have sounded a lot like the Hi-Fives.

    Pure and simple pop, laid out with sparse production (a lot of dead spots; really makes the sound great) to create a cool set. A few strange covers ("Tainted Love" will probably excite a few too many; oh well) round out the disc.

    Simply fun stuff. The Hi-Fives aren't about to break any barriers with their music or lyrics, but for lying about on a rainy day, music doesn't get a hell of a lot better. Happy fluff.

    Making the Road
    (Fat Wreck Chords) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    If Hi-Standard was just yer average Japanese punk band, well, it'd be pretty cool. The off-key harmonies and pleasantly grating riffage is more than enough to satisfy me. But there's more.

    Big wads of humor, probably best coming into focus on a cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes." Not only are the vocals a suitably poor-man's Ozzy, the uptempo reading really puts the song in the right place. Wildly cool.

    Just pop enough to keep the smiles going, particularly in the bass. But even when the hardcore stridency creeps in, Hi-Standard never really gets too mean.

    Nope. A big wad of fun, and there's nothing that makes me happier. The amusement factor is high, and the music is more than meaty enough to satisfy. A very Hi-Standard, indeed.

    Love Is a Battlefield EP
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Four goofy love songs, including a cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love." Shows that this Japanese trio has some emotional range. As if Hi-Standard really had anything left to prove.

    A fun set, full of soaring hooks and a wonderfully ragged playing style. Bouncy bouncy, with just a bit of the buzzsaw guitar. Very, very nice.

    Really, this disc doesn't require much explanation. The fact that it's something new from Hi-Standard should set hearts to racing, and I'll happily drop the fact that this stuff is lotsa fun. That should about cover things.

    The Proof Is in the Booze
    (Quivering Submissive Flesh)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    A little side work from some of the Pleasure Elite folks. Down 'n' dirty slide guitar rawkin blues, with plenty of goofiness to spare. Humor is the intention for the most part, and generally, Hicky draws blood to the surface of the skin.

    Silly, sure, but interesting enough to get through with a smile. The joke does get a bit old after a while, as you might expect, but the laughs do keep coming whether you really want them or not.

    What does save this from getting too annoying is the production, which left a fairly spare sound. So this is lean, not overblown and ponderous. The stuff keeps on moving, and that's probably a good ideer.

    Don't ask for more than Hicky can deliver, and I think you'll do just fine. The best jokes are the subtle ones, and this one stays just on the tasteful side of that line.

    The Hideaways
    The Whiskey Tango Sessions
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    A little Byrds, a little Jay Farrar, a little Jayhawks, a little bit of everything that folks call alt. country. Played with loose hand that lets the sound roam just far enough.

    I will admit, right up front, that I find this kinda stuff rather appealing. Comes from a late 80s Missouri college education, I suppose. But the Hideaways do this sound very well, and they add a few nice touches of their own.

    Such as authentic (as opposed to ironic) twang. And clanging guitars within a two-step. I don't know why people refuse to call this "real" country music, but it is to me.

    Whatever. Labels are stupid. Good music is the key (I've typed that line a few thousand times in my life), and the Hideaways are exceptional. Pull up a rocker and some Jim Beam and set a while.

    High Llamas
    Buzzle Bee
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Perhaps the strangest show I ever saw was Stormandstress, High Llamas and Trans Am at the 9:30 Club in D.C. The crowd completely recycled for each band (more cash for the club, which might explain the odd bill), and the few fans that showed up for one of the others appeared confused. In particular, High Llamas' tightly-controlled, lush pop is about as far away from Stormandstress' lean improvisations as I can imagine.

    High Llamas obsess on the details. I've never seen so many keyboards on one stage as I did that evening. To even come close to replicating the complex studio sound, I guess you do need a phalanx of electronic hardware.

    This is one of those bands you either get or don't. If Brian Wilson's intense vision of tightly-layered harmonies and intricately-crafted music doesn't excite you, well, go somewhere else. Fans will buys this no matter what my judgment is. That's just the way cult bands like the Llamas are.

    For the record, it sounds to me like the Llamas are stagnating somewhat. The songs sparkle, but it's the same sort of shimmer I've heard before from the guys. After a while, the stuff does begin to run together. Oh, it's achingly gorgeous. No doubt about that. But beauty without counterpoint can get dull sometimes.

    High Rise
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    High Rise was a Japanese three-piece back in the 80s. The band specialized in over-the-top fuzzwork, a more manic version of Cream, if you will.

    A lot more manic, really. This doesn't sound much at all like Cream, except that it's three musicians works real hard to kick some major ass. The press has high praise for Munehiro Narita's guitar work, and it's all that and then a lot more.

    It's hard to judge the recording quality of this set, since the band so liked trafficking in fuzz noise. Narita's work astonishes throughout, though. He's not just fast, but rather expressive as he navigates the wall of distortion he himself is putting up. The seven tracks clock in at more than 47 minutes, so there's plenty of room for exploration. Discordant, ragged and profane (in a musical sense, that is), but brilliant nonetheless.

    I should note that this and the Disallow album are re-issues. I don't do reissues often, but when I've never heard of the band and the stuff is this good, well, something has to give.

    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Alright. It's a bit easier to hear High Rise on this studio recording. And, indeed, with some of the extraneous live matter removed, the band does sound a little like Cream. Or, to be honest, more like Black Sabbath. Munehiro Narita's guitar slinging, however, is even more impressive in this context. He's not just crazed, but brilliantly so.

    A couple songs here are also on the live album. The arrangements are different. Similarities can be heard, but live I'd say High Rise is a completely different band.

    And better, to my ear. This album is good, and connoisseurs of fine guitar work will prefer the quality of this sound to the live stuff, but I liked the overall lunacy of the live sound more. That's all.

    Still, I'm knocked out. There's plenty of reasons I didn't know High Rise before. Now, there's no way I can forget.

    The High Violets
    44 Down
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    The High Violets certainly belong on a label called Reverb Records. There's plenty of reverb in the guitars here. A fair amount of distortion, as well. The sound is reminiscent of early My Bloody Valentine, though without the extraordinary level of production tricks.

    Rather, the High Violets seem intent on creating their dreamy, introspective, psychedelic pop sound in a live setting. I doubt these songs were played live to tape in the studio, but I have the feeling they could have been. There is an electric feel to the songs that is often the result of such a recording.

    Pretty? Not really. Beautiful? To be sure. It's important to understand the difference. The High Violets go for the deeper result, and they succeed. There's a texture to these songs that is almost addictive. It's so easy to latch on and peel the layers.

    There's something about bands who work so hard to control their atmosphere. Oftentimes, the results sound forced and canned. The High Violets, on the other hand, have created their own musical world. One that sparkles with vitality and grace.

    Adam Hill
    Them Dirty Roads
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    There are a lot of folks out there playing music that goes by the extraordinarily vague label of "americana." This catch-all refers to music that incorporates country, blues, folk, bluegrass, rock and even a little jazz. Most people who play this are singer-songwriter types who find this style quite amenable to hanging out with a guitar and slinging a few songs.

    Adam Hill, however, seems to take this moniker most seriously. He trends closer to a classic folk line, but he's not afraid to throw in a little bluegrass or dixieland or, well, whatever into his songs. He seems to have the ability to figure out exactly what sort of feel a particular song feels--and then he's able to play that way.

    So there are a few songs with just him and his guitar. Some of these are ravers and some a bit more somber. A fair number of these songs rattle, rock and swing. I imagine that Hill is an exceptional performer. His adaptability is most impressive.

    An album that is a joy from beginning to end. Hill is a most impressive songwriter, but his performance skills are what sends this album soaring. Perfect for evenings spent savoring bourbon on the back porch.

    (Magrane Hill)
    Public House
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Travis Magrane and Adam Hill come together to record a few of their own songs and a cover of "Statesboro Blues." The latter fits quite well within the styles of this Portland duo. Some partnerships may sound forced, but this one seems to create music that just might be greater than the sum of its parts.

    Hill's music (I recently reviewed Them Dirty Roads) is more rough and tumble, in the style of Uncle Tupelo's third album. Travis Magrane holds more for finger picking and other fits of dizzying dexterity. It's very easy to tell who wrote what, but the styles are quite complimentary.

    Indeed, Magrane's picking brightens up many of Hill's songs, and Hill's occasionally reckless playing keeps some of Magrane's songs from sounding like exercises. That's the nice thing about a duo; you can keep your own identity even as you broaden your palette.

    Excellent songs for the back porch. Don't forget your bourbon with the iced tea chaser. Hey, if you're gonna go, you might as well go all the way. I'm headed out right now.

    Two Hands, Tulips
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    Adam Hill can play lovely americana, and he can wander into the depths of folk experimentalism. He gets out there on this album, and I can't say I think it all comes together on every song. But his engaging ambition and imagination keep this album well to the good. Hill seems to be constantly challenging himself, and I can't wait to hear where he ends up next.

    Kye Alfred Hillig
    Together Through It All
    reviewed in issue #347, 4/7/13

    While I'm generally dismayed by artists giving their music away for free, there are gems to had out there. Kye Alfred Hillig has one. This idiosyncratic trip through a variety of rootsy sounds is bracingly original. In a very crowded field, Hillig has created a sound all his own.

    Real Snow
    The Buddhist
    reviewed 1/14/15

    Kye Alfred Hillig is seriously prolific. It could be argued that he might be a little too prolific, but I say get in while the getting is good.

    I remember hearing an interview with Matthew Sweet (this was a long time ago, obviously) where he recounted working with Julian Cope. "Don't you ever finish a song?" he recalled Cope asking him. Back in that post-Girlfriend heyday, this was a good question to ask. And it's also fair to say that if you took the 16 best songs from his four album stretch of greatness (Girlfriend, Altered Beast, 100% Fun and Blue Sky on Mars) you might well have the greatest pop album in history. You could also take the 16 worst songs from those albums and drive up sales of earplugs.

    Ryan Adams and Prince are also members of the "probably too prolific for their own good" club, but one thing all of these guys have in common is that they've been successful. Hillig is cranking out album after album (these two are his 2014 output), but he's nowhere near as well-known.

    Also, he is a folk singer. The production on Real Snow is slicker, but the songs retain their folk roots. Hillig also has that walking blues way of giving titles to his songs ("My Young Love Was As Blind As Ray Charles And Half As Cold As Heat", "The House Across The Street Feeds On Broken Families", "Ugly We Were Born"), so he embraces the folk side pretty completely.

    Even so, Real Snow is a fully-produced effort that gives the impression that Hillig isn't just going electric; he's looking to go big. And as an ambitious pop-rock album, it's one of the better ones of the year. The anthems have solid hooks, and there is a wide array of sounds and musical ideas. The lyrics and lyrical construction are still folk, but Real Snow is definitely an attempt to build on Hillig's solid base.

    The Buddhist is the more recent release, and it's a straight-up folk album. There's not much past Hillig and his guitar, a step back toward simplicity which may explain the album title. I prefer the more collaborative sound of Real Snow, but I give Hillig full props for making whatever album he wants to make when he wants to make it.

    By my count, Hillig has now released four albums in the last three years. They all circle around the folk ideal, though The Buddhist is probably the "purest" folk album of the lot. I do think he could use a bit of an editor, but there's way more good stuff here than there is crap.

    Best of all, though, Hillig is taking chances. There's no point in cranking out song after song if you're writing the same song over and over. Hillig is exploring the musical universe, and we get to hear his notes. I can definitely get behind that.

    reviewed 11/30/17

    I've often advised even the most talented musicians to keep their day jobs. So what do I get when I Google Kye Alfred Hillig? A LinkedIn entry describing him as a case manager at the Tacoma Housing Authority. I don't know if this is what helps him find so many human stories for his songs, but I also can't imagine a much better occupation for a songwriter. Talk about serendipity.

    Hillig plays a style I've decided to call laptop singer/songwriter. These are minimalist, modestly-produced intimate compositions that often open up into full pop glory, but at their own pace. In other words, you can't push Hillig. He knows where he's going and he knows how long it takes to get there.

    So, please, give him space. These songs aren't particularly long, but Hillig isn't concerned with the comfort of the listener. How he spins his tales is at least as important as the stories themselves. He has the rare gift of being able to provide exceptional settings for his keenly-observed songs.

    Sure, I wish Hillig all the luck in the world, especially the luck to actually make enough money with his music to quit his day job. But I have a feeling that day job is inextricably linked to the richness of his music. As always, be careful of what you wish for.

    reviewed in issue #338, June 2012

    If My Bloody Valentine had been just a bit more dronelike and a bit further down the stoner rock path. Or something like that.

    The easier comparison is JAMC, of course, but this is at once more accessible (other than Automatic of course) and more hypnotic. There's an insistence in the rhythm section that is positively magnetic.

    Oh yes, piles of reverb and plenty of feedback as well. The melodies are well hidden behind the scrim, with only the churning rhythm section clear at all times. I particularly like the guitar sound, no matter how obscured it might be from time to time.

    Fall through the mirror and see where you land. Highlands only asks the question; the answers are within you.

    Andy Hill and Renee Safier
    It Takes a Lot to Laugh
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    There are many ways to make a tribute album. Andy Hill and Renee Safier do 14 Bob Dylan songs here, some better known than others.

    The reason this album works (and it does) is that Hill and Safier make the songs their own. Even while (generally) using Dylan's phrasing, the duo messes with the arrangements just enough to provide a fresh take on these songs.

    What also helps is the bare-bones sound. Hill and Safier keep the songs acoustic (with the exception of some keyboards programmed to sound like a piano and some electric guitar on "Emotionally Yours"), and that helps the songs ring out true.

    Tributes like this can often sound forced or strained, like the artists are reaching for something they can't attain. Hill and Safier are extremely comfortable with these songs, and so the pieces roll off like old friends. Which, of course, they are.

    Jason Hill
    Jason Hill EP
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Hill grew up playing country and pop from the 60's, and then discovered Euro-pop during a four-year army stint (so sez the bio, anyway). The result is something akin to Timothy B. Schmidt fronting R.E.M., which isn't the worst idea in the world.

    Running morose, hand-wringing lyrics through a lazy roots-rock groove, Hill has managed to find some original purchase in a well-mined area. His lyrics are a bit silly and over-the-top, and the song arrangements are a bit too tame, but you can hear swatches of glory here and there.

    He hasn't quite reached his artistic destination. But Hill has put together some good songs, and I figure he can only continue to improve. The sound here is a bit better than usual demo quality, though the mush factor does exist. Hill's voice is rather reedy, which is probably a good match for his songs. All-in-all, an admirable start.

    Jason Hill
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    Another set of wistful pop tunes from Jason Hill. And while the production is pretty bad (he allows that this was "recorded on cheap equipment", after all), the quality of the songs shines through.

    It's a tape like this that convinces me I'm not completely far gone in panning many of the other releases in this issue. A lot of people have the inclination to write songs about love gone wrong and the consequences thereof. But most people skirt around the real issues, leaving bland lyrics over blander music.

    Hill has an interesting way of writing his songs on his guitar, and his lyrics are intensely personal and almost painful to hear. That is how to make music like this really work.

    While the playing and production are still not high-quality, the songs are even better than the last tape I reviewed. I sure hope someone notices this guy soon and gives him just a little scratch to make a decent record. As long as the better surroundings don't remove the charm.

    Hillbilly Devilspeak
    Revenge of the Micronauts 7"
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Produced by Alex of Fudge Tunnel, Hillbilly Devilspeak may be separated by an ocean and a continent from those nutty Brits, but the sound remains the same.

    Pounding drums and bass, with guitar lines that swoop in and provide the odd melodic experience. The songs are pretty humorous; the production is passable, but leaves things fairly muddy. This isn't that big of a drawback, though. The thing is the assault, and it progresses nicely.

    Actually, if I didn't know any better I'd say a couple of the Agony Column guys moved to Phoenix and started playing again.

    Four songs; lots of fun. Mean and silly. Two of my favorite types of music.

    After Two But Before Five
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Two Oregon guys who sound like they wish they'd been born in the Delta. Or, at least, some twisted Pacific Northwest version of the Delta.

    These tracks were recorded live, and most of them are something along the lines of blues standards. Henry Kammerer does a nice electric rendition of Robert Johnson-style rural blues picking (with slide, natch), and John Johnson mans the buckets. PVC. Food-grade. With what appears to be a frying pan or Dutch oven on top.

    If you ever saw the Flat Duo Jets as a duo, you might begin to understand this. There's a certain manic energy to a guitar and, um, percussion duo, and it helps to play down and dirty music. The less refinement, the better.

    Hillstomp is anything but refined. Let's hope they never get it in their minds to clean up and become respectable. Because this world is too pretty as it is. We need all the muck we can get.

    Darker the Night
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    The third studio release from this duo, who do the whole trance blues thing to eleven. Kinda like a hardcore version of the Chickasaw Mud Puppies (the washboard rhythms here are very similar), the power of the performances is almost overwhelming.

    I liked their recent live album a lot, but the studio is really where these songs can be padded out and readied for full-on assault. The boys take full advantage of the opportunity and really tear things up.

    The sound is quite full for this sort of music, and that compliments the energy of the band. This isn't music for appreciating; it's music for experiencing. There's simply no way to sit back once these songs start coursing through the veins.

    The Flat Duo Jets reference on my review of the live album still stands. These boys are a bit more steeped in the blues, but the excess of passion and emotion rings just as true here. Throw your face in front of the blast, if you dare.

    Hilltop Distillery
    ...Died in the Woods
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    A long time ago, bands like Slint and Rodan crawled out of the slime. Or Louisville. Whatever you want to call it. I have a feeling that if you asked anyone in 1980 where two of the most influential bands of the final two decades of the 20th century might arise, Louisville would have been way down on the list.

    I don't know where Florence is, but it's in Kentucky. And these folks certainly have learned at the knee of the Slint/Rodan axis. Three guys, two of whom are named Joe, Hilltop Distillery does a nice turn on that whole noise rock fusion thing (I understand that some folks are calling this stuff "post rock." That seems a bit simplistic to me. But I digress...). Not a lot of distortion (though there is some, from time to time), and very little singing. To the point of there being no singing, actually. The three clean lines played by each of the band members meander about, but they always come together at the right moments. Put another way, some folks know how to fuck off brilliantly, and the boys of Hilltop Distillery are among them.

    Think June of 44 in a noodly mode. That's how good these guys are. They don't really change the canon much, but this stuff is so well done that I can hardly complain. Just a fine set of songs for the end of the universe.

    David Hillyard and the Rocksteady Seven
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    David Hillyard plays sax with more than one Hellcat outfit (the Slackers, Hepcat and others). Here, he gets to create his own ska-soul-jazz explosion with some of his many friends. And, well, the results are simply stunning.

    Hillyard kept the recording simple (live, no overdubs) and just kicked around all the musical ideas in his head. Much like the Slackers, the sound is as much r&b as ska (r&b in an "original rock and roll" sorta way). Music my dad would like.

    Appreciation for such things can carry down through generations, as Hillyard proves himself. Loose, bouncy, brilliant. So many ideas and riffs are tossed into the mix. The band examines them, often two or three at a time, tossing out the detritus and maybe settling on a couple for the rest of the song. This may sound chaotic, but in reality, the songs have the feel of whole cloth. Something complete.

    Masterful, really. What happens when one talented person gets a load of friends together, jams a while, and then really gets down to work. The sort of album which shows the power and influence of ska. The sort of album which constantly amazes and astonishes.

    This Is the Destroyer
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Just in case you thought Cambodia focused only on loud, heavily conceptual music, here's Hilo: quiet, heavily conceptualized music. Long songs which take almost forever to work through. Perhaps this is the Mineral style of emo taken to its logical extreme.

    Good fare, by the way. Every once in a while Hilo does break the dynamic barrier, with expected spectacular results. Like Greg Maddux says, it's not how fast you pitch, it's the changing of the speeds. Hilo is always intense, but the dynamic shifts really make the songs.

    This isn't really emo, either. There are harmonies (well, Heavy Vegetable-style harmonies), and there is real singing. You know, expressive, melodic singing. Sometimes. Oh, hell, I'm fucking this all up.

    Alright, since my brain seems to be in terminal lockdown: This is a good album. Might be a great album; I'll have to listen a few more times. I'll do that gladly. I think that says everything which needs to be said.

    Interpretive Belief System
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    A truly violent set of beats and samples. Him prefers to ply his trade over some seriously painful sounds, heavily distorted percussion that moves just a bit too slow at all times.

    Some songs, like "Twirling Dub" lighten up a bit, but even there the tempo is just a step behind at all times, leaving a sense of slow motion. Kinda like the Slotek project, though with a much clearer sound.

    Experimental without losing touch with reality. Him has his finger on something, and he isn't letting go. Interpretive Belief System isn't terribly infectious, but it is arresting nonetheless. This is real work into the science of sound.

    Not party music, but music worth celebrating. Electronic music doesn't have to sound artificial or zip around at wild speeds in order to be innovative. Him proves that in spades.

    Lisa Hilton
    (Ruby Slippers Productions)
    reviewed 2/15/18

    When I was a kid, I thought that jazz was "hard" music. All those notes and dissonance threw me. I had a real problem finding an entry point. And then I saw Branford Marsalis' Quartet at a small club back in 1990, and it all came together for me. Jazz is what's between the notes. The truly skilled players can take folks to other worlds, but for me jazz (and all music) only comes alive when my mind can forge its own musical connections.

    No one (not even my youthful, ignorant self) would find Lisa Hilton's piano "hard" on the ears. She has supple hands that express the most challenging ideas with a sprightly grace. The songs on this album are bright and always in motion. My ear goes straight to Vince Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown" music, though Hilton takes a lot more chances than Guaraldi on those pieces. Nonetheless, the lyricism and constant motion are easy connections.

    This is one of those rare albums that could be played in both traditional and "smooth" jazz formats. Hilton is a font of creativity, finding almost endless ways to wring new ideas out of the piano, and her band is the perfect combination of side players and solo partners. The grooves here are almost endless.

    The perfect album for someone who endlessly claims to "hate" jazz. Hilton's piano is relentlessly graceful, even when she ventures afield. I suppose truly traditional jazzheads might find some reason to call this "soft," but they would be wrong. Hilton creates all sorts of challenges for listeners; she just does so without displaying the slightest bit of effort. That's probably the most impressive thing about this set. Truly wonderful.

    Our Point of Departure
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    The "respect" notes in the liners go out to Out in Worship, June of 44, The Letter E and others. I think you know where this is going. Or at least, you think you know.

    You'd be half right. There is an astonishing amount of music experimentation and creative fire bursting out of every song. But this takes that jazz noise rock sound to another level. And Jon Theodore has everything to do with that.

    According to the liners, he's been spending a lot of time learning voodoo drumming. And his rhythms here are otherworldly. His patterns imbibe the songs with an unstoppable vibe and vibrancy. Theodore has a great repore with Fred Erskine, the bassist. Together they provide this bubbling undercurrent that is more addictive than cold beer on a hot day.

    Most of the songs were recorded in one take, with somewhat blocked out improvisations. I can only imagine what a live show might entail. These pieces are so hot, so blazingly pure that anything else I say can only damage them. Do not miss.

    Ground Breaking Ceremony
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    I guess this prog hardcore thing is really beginning to take off. Himsa utilizes plenty of different sounds (and a technically precise, if blunt, attack) to fashion its base of pain and suffering.

    Oh, yeah, this is heavy fare. Himsa flails away at a number of demons, rendering them quickly into dust under the sonic attack. An attack whose every step carries new surprises.

    A welcome sound, to be sure. Himsa reminds me a lot of Glazed Baby, though with a bit more precision and a good bit more variety. The heaviness is a constant though. It's just about impossible to escape the oppression.

    Not that I want to, mind you. I'm happy wallowing in the mire with the rest of the mere mortals Himsa routinely tramples underfoot. My ears haven't taken a pounding like this in a while. They'd like some more.

    Death Is Infinite EP
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    There's no doubting the power of these guys. Himsa blasts out extreme hardcore with astonishing ease. The riffage throbs and the lead guitars wail. Just the way things oughta be.

    I will quibble a bit with the writing. I'm not hearing quite the range and inventiveness that I was hoping for, though the sheer aggro intensity of the songs is almost enough to tide me over.

    A close call, that way. And it's hard to argue with a song like "Hellbent and Hammered," which is precisely the sort of song that gives this sound a good (and, you know, bad) name. I wish the other three songs lived up to that song. They're close. Real close. Himsa is just a step away.

    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Another gawdawful mess. Kinda like Brainiac without the coherence, or Arcwelder put in a blender.

    But strangely appealing nonetheless. I'm not at all convinced that these folk have any real talent, but there are moments that do keep me listening. And sometimes the stuff is really quite good. If still pretty ragged.

    Not to kid anyone. Hippopotamus is too weird to be accepted by even a small number of music fans, and the members aren't good enough to really warrant much attention. But sometimes the sheer accumulation of effort and inspiration here does create what the snobs call "art".

    The sheer preponderance of evidence (18 songs, almost an hour) gives Hippopotamus the benefit of the doubt. I still don't think the band has a future (if it keeps on this path), but this moment was nice.

    Hiss Golden Messenger
    Poor Moon
    (Paradise of Bachelors)
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    Definitely hailing from the more-is-more school of americana, Hiss Golden Messenger rolls though a series of slow-burning rootsy pieces.

    Almost orchestral in its arrangements, the band channels both the raw edges of Gram Parsons and the epochal ambitions of the Band (gosh, there just has to be a reference to the Band this month, doesn't there?). The key to this approach is to keep both in proportion, and Hiss Golden Messenger never gets out of pocket.

    Rather, these mid-tempo pieces ramble through the brambles with a deliberate, unhurried gait. There's plenty of room to roam while acknowledging the center with every step.

    A grand time. There are plenty of layers, but the real joy comes in the combining. This one falls together nicely.

    4th and Back
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    To explain: Hissanol consists of Scott Henderson (lives in Victoria, B.C., works for Shovlhed, Swell Prod. et. al.) and Andy Kerr (lives in Amsterdam, used to work for Nomeansno). Like famous authors who put their names together on a book in order to make a shitload of cash, Scott and Andy made this album on two continents, schlepping tapes back and forth.

    Sorry guys, mega sales aren't going to happen. Mostly because the music is simply too cool to be snapped up by the mainstream. Oh, what are we to do?

    A lot of the disc sounds like a mutant and mean version of They Might Be Giants merged with the compositional sensibilities of Frank Zappa. Yes, indeed, it is that good.

    So don't get scared off by the unusual. Is it industrial? Is it hardcore? Is it pop? Is it good?


    The Hit Back
    Who Are These Weird Old Kids
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Imagine an americana outfit playing new wave--complete with drum machine and the like. The Hit Back isn't quite that rootsy, but the feel is very much there.

    More poppy than americana. Think Marshall Crenshaw singing over mostly electronic backing tracks. That's a better combination than you might think, too. It's at once endearing and edgy.

    The beats aren't entirely coherent, so perhaps I ought to add a bit of experimentalism to the mix. The Hit Back isn't the most straightforward band around, but its sound is strikingly consistent. After two or three songs, I figure I could name anything this duo might do in three beats or less.

    Adventurous and fun. Kind of like a party that made you a bit uneasy at first, but by the end of the night you were making out on the couch. You decide how far you are willing to go.

    The Hives
    Veni Vidi Vicious
    (Burning Heart-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    More goodies from Sweden. More Buzzcocks than Ramones, and messier than both. Indeed, the Hives seem to like making a mess of things, in the finest punk tradition, of course.

    The guys play a very basic punk sound, kinda that stripped-down and ragged pop thing. The songs start simply and don't go anywhere from there. The treats have to be gleaned from the energy.

    There is plenty of that. A nice bit of flair, too. I mean, this stuff is so simple that the cusp of distortion sound works really well. Adds some substance that's definitely needed.

    A fun little set. Nothing outstanding, mind you, but a more than able distraction. I can just about guarantee a smile. That's always worth a listen.

    Sonic Cramps
    reviewed 1/19/18

    If you can conjure up a notion of LCD Soundsystem playing the rootsy dirges of 16 Horsepower--with male and female vocalists (Holly Prindle and Marc Mozga, who also comprise the entirety of the "band") singing mostly separately--you might begin to get the idea. Hobbyist isn't interested in easy listening. These distracted pile-drivers are not for the weak of heart.

    Even if you can't connect with the eerie throb that emanates from Hobbyist, the music is a spectacle. It's like the cleanup after a car wreck. The pieces are all over the ground, and they're being swept up in indiscernible patterns.

    Good god, now I'm writing like them! Okay, I'm one of those people with an immediate attraction to this sort of understated chaos. I'll follow any rabbit hole to its illogical conclusion. That's not just my job, either. I actually love that sort of thing.

    And so, fellow travelers, gird up for a journey into the weird. Another reviewer called Hobbyist "Suicide meets Jim Croce," which isn't that far from my earlier comparison. It just uses references from the 70s instead of the 90s. That's cool. The resulting smoothies are very similar in taste. I'd say "Enjoy!", but that's really not the point. Endure. Just endure.

    Lauren Hoffman
    From the Blue House
    (Free Union)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    A tinge of the blues, but more of a mellow folk feel. Hoffman doesn't sing so much as speak her songs (though she does have a lilt). The sorta thing some of my male friends like to call "chick stuff." Marketing folks will probably stick her in the Lisa Loeb section, but that's not fair, either.

    Hoffman writes some great songs. Her arrangements are exemplary, and while her voice never really whips up a storm, the backing music is complex and intriguing. The lyrics, similarly, work on several levels. And, lest you think I'm slamming the voice, Hoffman's vocals work for her sound.

    In other words, she knows how to express herself, and while the sound is somewhat unconventional, it works. Period. This is solid work, stuff that impresses easily. Hoffman co-produced this (which is why I give her so much credit). She's got loads of talent.

    It's easy to hear on this disc, too. Slap this puppy in the stereo and dig into her world. She spins the web so effortlessly that you hardly notice you've been snared until too late. Not that the bindings are painful. Rather, just the opposite.

    Lauren Hoffman & the Secret Storm
    Family Ghost
    reviewed 5/22/17

    Lauren Hoffman has been making music for a couple decades, and each foray finds her wandering in different directions. I reviewed an album of hers almost 18 years ago (From the Blue House) and there are few similarities on the surface. That album was folky blues (or bluesy folk), and this one trends more toward Nick Cave-y doom pop. But there are a few clear identifiers.

    Hoffman knows how to use her voice. It isn't the most supple or distinctive instrument around, but she pushes it into areas it probably isn't made to inhabit. Similarly, the music isn't cut-and-dried. There's always something else going on in the background. Hoffman writes layered lyrics, and her music holds that complexity as well.

    Another point in common is that I can feel anticipation as each new song starts. I want to hear what comes next. I don't get that even on some albums that I love. But even on repeat listens, Hoffman inspires desire in my ears.

    Maybe she hasn't been the big star she wanted to be. I'd say Hoffman has accomplished even more: Consistently creating great music. Fame is fickle and fleeting, but good music lasts forever. This album just might as well.

    Steve Hogarth
    Ice Cream Genius
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    One of those obsessively written and performed albums that has to be called personal pop. Steve Hogarth writes spare, lilting poetry and fuses that with whatever sort of music he thinks will express it best. Lots of friends helped out with the playing, but there's no doubt whose brain was behind this.

    The music has a surprising range, from minimalist pop to flat out rockers. Reminds me alternately of such folks as Mitchell Rasor or Peter Gabriel. Well, and lots of other folks along the creative edges of pop music.

    A completely personal statement. Hogarth knew what he wanted to say, and he said it. Extremely well. The many moods evoked and ideas considered are a testament to the breadth of his vision. An achingly wonderful disc.

    Hogarth takes chances. A lot of them. And they pay off almost every time. Sometimes utter devotion to a goal pays off. Ice Cream Genius is immeasurably great.

    Will Hoge
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    So about halfway through the album the thought occurred to me: I ought to be writing something. Halfway through and I haven't dropped a word? I'm either enjoying myself or trying to figure out what might be the best constructive criticism I might offer a dreadful album.

    With a set-up like that, you know the punchline. I'm knocked out. Will Hoge plays that kinda big punk rock, a sorta cleaned-up version of the Mats or Soul Asylum (before both became safe and overly sanitized). Grand songs that rollick by at a fast clip and actually have something to say.

    Goddamn if the stuff doesn't sound great with the sound turned way, way up. I just kept cranking the knob on my stereo, and each time I still wanted more. Hoge is more textured than most folks who have his energy, and his songs are wonderfully complex maelstroms of thought and emotion.

    Yes, there is a radio anthem here (and it's titled "Heartbreak Avenue"), the sort of thing that could help Hoge pull a Semisonic if he got a little major label interest. But most of the fare is just on the edgy side of the mainstream, kinda giving a best of both worlds feel. An album that just about everyone should be able to agree on, methinks.

    Lyle Holdahl
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Lyle Holdahl sent me a couple of discs by way of mp3.com (the second gets reviewed next issue). Not the cheapest way to send stuff out, but I guess it might work if yer not sending out too much stuff.

    Anyway, the title of the album is most appropriate. Holdahl traffics in keyboard-laden prog music, and his compositions often resemble Yes without guitars. That might scare some folks off. It probably should.

    Holdahl's obsessive vision is impressive. He uses keyboards in just about every way possible, assembling line after line into his finished songs. These pieces are operatic in scope and self-indulgent to the extreme. No one else could make anything quite like this. No one else would want to make something quite like this.

    That said, I'm glad he did it. I have something of a craving for this kind of artistic purity. The stuff can get creepy, particularly when an artist exposes him or herself (Holdahl heads out to the edge time and again), but that voyeuristic thrill is part of the attraction here. Holdahl has something to say, and he says it in most interesting ways. The commercial potential is minimal, but the artistic side is unlimited.

    Prog 2
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Since reviewing Prog (1), I've had a chat with Lyle Holdahl (and a couple of his friends), who insist that it is pretty cheap to simply "buy" you own disc from mp3.com and send them out to reviewers. Since the artist scores a nice bit of the price, the cost is less than I figured. If this discussion confuses you, check out my review in the last issue, where I made an apparently incorrect assumption on the economics of buying your own CD from mp3.com.

    Basically, this disc is more of the same. Holdahl uses keyboards as active instruments (and not merely as drenching curtains), and he's a big fan of prog (duh). Each song is pieced together from a number of keyboard-driven elements. And while that is apparent, this isn't yer average one-man-band project.

    Holdahl has a vision. He knows what he wants, and he's worked his ass off to get that sound. I'm really into that sort of obsessive artistic passion. No matter what the sound, the results are always compelling. Weird or even bizarre sometimes, but always worth hearing.

    Holdahl's pieces aren't weird. They are obsessive, with layer upon layer of keyboards (programmed to sound like different instruments) utilized to flesh out his imagined sound. It works for me. This isn't commercial fluff; it's a little out there. But sometimes out there is the best place to be.

    Ted Holden
    (Tiki God)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Jangle-pop that sounds midwestern, but with that southeastern melancholy turn (insert whatever bands you like into those designations). Of course, Holden hails from somewhere near Philadelphia. So much for my geographic analysis.

    Holden isn't particularly tortured or pissed off about much, but his easy delivery and solid songwriting are kinda irresistible. You'll be singing these songs in your head until you go insane.

    Nothing terribly barnrattling or anything, but then, sometimes it's nice to just enjoy a pop album. Excuse me while I enjoy this one again.

    Graterford Cinema Five
    (Tiki God)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    I haven't read my review of his last album, but I remember thinking it was alright. Not great, not terrible. If that recollection is wrong, well, it won't be the first time. This once has a lot more potential.

    Roots-rock, if you want a style. Kinda anthemic at times, and Holden's voice is not best suited to those moments. He's got a kinda whine going on, and that works very well when he goes to the blues'n'boogie shuffles or other uptempo styles. Which happens often enough to keep me pleased.

    Holden writes nicely affecting songs. His voice doesn't always carry those off, but you can hear the craft in the writing. And the production is very nice, lending each of the songs a slightly different feel. For a singer/songwriter who likes to mix things up, that's just about perfect.

    I wasn't expecting to like this album quite this much. Holden has markedly improved his writing, and he seems to have learned (better, anyway) how to showcase his more average singing and playing skills. Very satisfying.

    Luke Holder
    Playing for an Audience of Candles
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Yer general rootsy guitar rock, with some nice modern touches. Holder has something of a manic folk storyteller style to his singing, which fits nicely with his electronic additions to the sound.

    He has something to say, and he says it with style. That's a tough trick, and he's got the chops. This is a joy to hear and a wonderment to ponder. Holder doesn't let up.

    I was looking at my initial description, and I got worried that some of you folks might be thinking there's a Beck thing going on here. Not at all. Holder flavors his sound, but he doesn't mutate it. Perhaps he's a first step toward that sound, but this is still rather traditional fare. With the nice touches, of course.

    The more I hear, the more I like. Damn fine stuff. Should be going somewhere real soon.

    Penumbra EP
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Luke Holder has a band behind him for most of this outing, and so these songs have a more organic sound than the last disc I heard. Holder has also let go just a bit more, bringing a nice, loose sound to his ragged roots style.

    In particular, the guitars are just slung out, and this approach colors the songs quite well. The emotion trumps anything that might have been gained by perfect playing. And anyway, the rumbling guitars compliment Holder's rough vocals perfectly.

    The songs themselves are just like before, stories told in a shorthand that isn't always easy to decipher. I'm not saying the lyrics themselves are complicated; they're not. But the ideas that lie behind them don't always make themselves known immediately.

    Altogether better than the first album I heard, and that wasn't bad at all. Holder knows how to write, how to play and how to sing. He sounds like, well, Luke Holder, which is often the toughest thing to learn. Just waiting on the acclaim.

    This Was a Giant
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Holder tells stories, and he lets them unfold slowly. His laid-back folk-pop sound is a great setting, and he makes these stories come alive effortlessly. Impressive, as have been all of his discs.

    Restless Youth
    reviewed 3/15/15

    John-Paul and Jannina Norpoth are a couple. They each have musician parents. That's not always a good thing; when you hear music all the time you can sometimes get lost in tangents that are interesting only to you and music critics.

    But the Norpoths don't get lost. They weave all of their tangents into an infectious brew that features a laptop rhythm section and then throws almost everything imaginable on top. The result is a series of songs that have seemingly little to do with each other.

    And if you listen to these songs randomly, that effect is magnified. But the sequencing is impressive. This is one set you really want to hear front-to-back. The exceptional crafting that is apparent in the songs is just as evident in drafting of the the song order.

    Of course, there are tangents. These songs unfold in unusual ways, and they can be a bit twisty. What keeps everything in line is the electronic beat and bass underpinnings. The groove is always rolling, and everything else keeps in contact--at least by the fingertips.

    Okay, it is a bit wonky--but in an endearing way. The album title is indicative of the contents, but Hollands makes the most of its restlessness. With adventurousness tempered just slightly into coherence, the results ring brightly in the ears.

    The Hollow Points
    Annihilation EP
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Not yer normal Dirtnap release. None of that new wave-inflected raggedy punk. Nope, this is tuneful and aggressive hardcore--the sort of thing that Epitaph put out ten years ago. Equal emphases on melody, power and lyrical stridency make these guys throwbacks.

    In a good way. As NOFX observed on it's most recent album, punk music has always been about a reaction to the middle. No matter your persepective, the most important thing is to have one. There's nothing dumber than punk songs with nothing to say.

    The Hollow Points have plenty to say, and they're polished enough to ensure that they say what they want with aplomb. Fans of early Pennywise or Bad Religion (before the oozin-ahs completely took over) will listen and smile faintly to themselves.

    The Hollows
    Descend EP
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    All the parts are here: sweet harmonies, chords falling in the right places and important sounding song titles. The Hollows are competent craftsmen. Just not particularly interesting songwriters.

    Both lyrically and musically, the band simply swims in the middle lane. There's nothing here that would differentiate the Hollows from an thousand other pop bands. Not that the guys are doing anything wrong; they're not. Like I said, all the tools are there.

    But not the life. Not that one spark that makes average bands good, or good bands great. The Hollows are earnest and hardworking. That much is easy to hear. But all that work just doesn't prick up my ears.

    This Way to Escape
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Hollydrift places all sorts of noise (much of it distorted) in its collages. Do the pieces all make sense? Not at first listen. But they sure do sound cool.

    An awful lot of what Hollydrift does sounds like it is realized on a keyboard, which is then manipulated (most likely on a computer, I'd guess) and assembled into a decidedly broad canvas.

    Most folks who specialize in washes of electronic distortion hide things within the white noise. Hollydrift often hides the white noise behind more coherent sounds. This isn't a small distinction. These pieces are much more approachable than yer Raison D'Etre or other somesuch.

    Flash back to the start. At first listen, these pieces are a bit confusing. But after a couple passes, the entire project begins to make sense. With this sort of music, it's always very important to consider the entirety of a piece. Hollydrift insists that the listener consider the full album before passing judgment. One more reason why this puppy blows my socks off.

    Waiting for the Tiller
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    "All songs written and deployed by Matthias Anderson." Deployed. I like that. It works, of course, because this is a collection of found and manipulated sound pieces, random bits of the ether tied into loops and bound to one man's notion of coherence.

    Make that two. I like the way Anderson builds his pieces, starting off with a few atmospherics before dropping off into some serious trippage. It's never a good idea to get too weird too early--even practiced listeners of this type of fare need a reference point now and again. Anderson eases into his dementia, slowly turning up the heat until it is too late to leave the pot.

    I mentioned electronic manipulation (distortion and other stock tricks of the trade), but Anderson is generally happy to let his pieces speak for themselves without too much window dressing. The power of the ideas is stronger than the edge of the sound. That's why this album is so good.

    Plenty of regular readers will read this review and sigh. I'm off on another of my cherished field trips to the frontal lobes. Damned straight. And the other two hundred people in the world who love this kinda thing will savor this album like 30-year-old scotch.

    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    Noise that tells a story. Hollydrift is one of the most impressive bands of its ilk that I've heard, and this album is just as good as their earlier efforts. The audience may be small, but the quality is high.

    Josh Holmes Band
    364 Days
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Three guys who sound like they're trying very hard to reinvent the whole power trio thing. There's a whole lot of 80s AOR in the writing, but the songs are played in an almost astonishing understated way. Imagine, say, 38 Special or Night Ranger without the loud guitars or hooks.

    That sounds bad, doesn't it? Well, I don't mean it that way. Holmes likes to sing in a husky near-whisper, and the band doesn't ever really rock out. Um, I think I might be making things worse.

    Well, the more I hear, the less I feel like correcting that problem. This is an interesting sound. I'll give the guys that. I haven't heard anyone even attempt something like this. Hootie and the Blowfish on Valium just isn't a career goal for most.

    I don't want to be mean (once again, I'm afraid I've failed). Really. These guys are so earnest. They have put a lot of work into these songs, and there definitely is an audience (say, women in their 30s who still get moist when they hear Kelly Keagy croon "Sister Christian"). I guess I'm just not in that group.

    Holy Crap
    Rock and Roll for President EP
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Some raucous bash 'n' pop, somewhere between mid-80s Soul Asylum and Big Star. In fact, one of the guys (hard to tell which by the liners) is a dead ringer for Dave Pirner.

    And well, I always liked that throaty howl he had back then. The music itself borrows from the two bands I listed liberally, almost to the point of losing its own sound in the process.

    But not quite. This is a nice blast of power. Some folks seem to forget that pop music can really rock out. Holy Crap is under no such illusion.

    Holy Gang
    Free Tyson Free!
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Led by Richard 23 of Front 242, Holy Gang rambles through a familiar mish-mash of metal samples and hoarse vocals.

    While there may be 10 tracks, most are simply remixes of either the title track or "Sanity Fair". While I think the idea that Tyson got a raw deal is more than a bit silly, I would agree that white men in his situation (William Kennedy Smith comes to mind right off the bat) have gotten a lot luckier than he did. Is there still racism in our society and our justice system? Sure. Just look at death row.

    On the other hand, if you're guilty, you're guilty. Just because similarly guilty people get off because they're white is no reason to release a guilty man early.

    Musically, this is mostly a retread of ideas lots of people have put forth before. I can hear lots of Ministry and, yes, Front 242 as well. The production is nice and slick, but what lies behind it is more mundane.

    Holy Ghost Tent Revival
    Sweat Like the Old Days
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    Throw in some Dixieland horns, a fair dash of southern rock and some countrified soul, and you might be getting there. The ingredients never quite mix completely, leaving some jarring intersections. After a while, I figured out that's exactly what these folks intended.

    The whole point of a revival is to throw a bunch of people on a stage, tell them to get in the spirit and see what happens. At least, that's how they did things when I was a kid.

    So one moment HGTR sounds like the Band trying to play a Sly Stone song, and sometimes these folks ooze into full-blown prog americana. There's no telling where each song will lead, which leaves the overall album something of a mess.

    But that mess is exactly the point. This is music at a most basic level, just a group of folks getting together and seeing what happens. What happened, of course, is something most arresting. Roll out the barrel and cue the horns. It's time to stumble again.

    Elf::Gulf Bore Waltz
    (Jetset-Big Cat)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    I'll give Home credit: These folks are working their butts off. This is music that aspires to the prog-pop standards set by Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa. The songs range all over the musical landscape, with about as extensive instrumentation as I've heard on an "alternative" album this year.

    And often enough, the band connects. Mostly because instead of going for bombast, Home consciously pulls back the sound into a lo-fi atmosphere and just lets the whole mess stew a bit. Yeah, that gives this a bit of a seventies feel, but in a good (loose) way.

    The more I listen, the more I think the production saved this album. There are so many musical ideas wandering through each song, it's impossible to keep up with all of them. Keeping everything to a slightly dull warp eliminates the need for such work, and the listener can instead focus on the totality of the band's musical vision. This, of course, is where you should be.

    Alright, alright, there are some annoying Pink Floyd moments and even a weird homage to Led Zeppelin now and again. But Home is simply too erratic to stick to one concept for more than 20 seconds or so. I have to say this is the best album by a Tampa Bay area (which is my local scene) band in at least a year. With all the fermenting ideas, Home has a ton of potential beyond this very good album.

    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    An ex-Tampa Bay band (that I never saw when I lived in the area, so I'm not sure why I'm even bringing it up), Home's first album was a huge mess of ambitious creativity. The folks threw everything into the pot, and well, some of it was gristle.

    Still, I liked the way the band absolutely refused to follow any traditional notions of structure or style. Home is unlike any other band I've heard, and for that, they deserve credit. The playing on this disc is meticulous and exact, and recording is messy. Lots of echo and reverb disguise the tight playing, but the end effect is something of a glorious party a few beers down the line.

    Despite ignoring accepted patterns, Home did pay much more attention to songwriting on this disc. That's where the excellent playing comes in to play. While the aftereffects induce sonic chaos, the underlying structure is sound. These songs will hold.

    This album comes much closer to fulfilling the potential I heard on Home's first album. There is true greatness here. And I don't say that very often.

    Home Grown
    Wasappaning? EP
    (Grilled Cheese-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Four guys, five songs and a quick trip through NOFX land. I've been astonished at how many direct rip-offs I've heard in the past six months. I mean, every piece, from the songwriting to the snotty vocals to the vague ska influence to the nicely textured oozin' ahs (which NOFX borrowed from Bad Religion, and producer Mr. Brett more specifically).

    Home Grown does this sound pretty damned well, really, but shit, NOFX is still a creatively functioning band. A great band, but there's no need to be so blatant in the theft. I can't identify one "home grown" characteristic here.

    And that's where "influence" becomes "theft". Home Grown is very good at replicating NOFX, but that's no reason to get a record released. I mean, how many Elvis impersonator albums have you heard (please don't answer that, okay)? Home Grown is obviously talented enough to imitate another band; perhaps it has the skills needed to find its own sound. And despite claims to the contrary, there's always room for innovation in punk.

    Honcho Overload
    Pour Another Drink
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Pleasant atmospheric alternative pop with the usual odd lyrical bent.

    Oh, sure, things break out occasionally, but I get the idea that Honcho Overload prefers to let the music simply glide along to its natural conclusion.

    Which is alright, but it has been done before. And HO doesn't have a line on a fresh re-interpretation of the scene. This isn't quite a Galaxie 500 rehash, but it comes close at times.

    Good music for the chemically dependent, particularly in the throes of a reverie. But straight, I simply cannot find anything exceptional.

    Logan Hone's Similar Fashion
    Logan Hone's Similar Fashion
    reviewed 12/7/15

    Logan Hone is a busy man. He lists five different ensembles on his web site (in which he plays three different instruments, sings and also contributes electronic and "music box" sounds), and he just graduated from college. Impressive.

    Or maybe that's just the reality facing young musicians: You're never gonna make money doing just one thing. Truth be told, he's probably not making money doing five things, but at least he's making good music.

    He plays saxophone in Similar Fashion, and he's joined by Lauren Baba on viola, Gregory Uhlman on guitar and Michael Lockwood on drums. Not exactly your usual jazz quartet, but the music isn't ordinary, either. Each piece sets forth a few basic ideas, and then the ensemble journeys from there. There is plenty of improvisation, but the defined structure holds throughout.

    In other words: Jazz happens. Hone doesn't really recall any particular school of sound, but what I hear are moments of astounding beauty emerging from a sonic cloud of ruminations. A lot like Dirty Three. Which isn't jazz, exactly.

    And that's okay. I don't think Hone wants to tie himself down to any particular thought process. Similar Fashion rambles its way through a variety of fresh ideas, and each piece contains fresh revelations. Hone may be young, but he sounds like a guy who is able to make wonderful music even as he pushes every boundary possible. Keep on keepin' on, my friend.

    Honey Barbara
    I-10 & W. Ave.
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Emigre sells fonts, CDs (they initially released Basehead's Play With Toys), books and the magazine in which this album appears. I'm not exactly sure how all of it works, but there is a strange connection between Emigre and Honey Barbara. The band put together a wide array of sounds and ideas and spun them together so that they create something seamless and coherent.

    Dark, but not moody. Introspective without getting into navel gazing. Witty, but not overly clever. Wildly diverse without following unnecessary tangents. Just a constant burble of sterling musical and lyrical thought. This is music that demands intelligence in a listener.

    And that's not to say it can't be appreciated in a mindless way. There are some nice hooks here, even if they aren't terribly meaty. It's just that I think the best way to really dig into the heart of this disc is to start thinking about it and then let the subconscious get going.

    Honey Barbara creates "important" music without getting pretentious. I think what I'm trying to say is that these folks do just about everything right. Maybe this isn't music for the masses. I don't care. It's music that really speaks to me. And that's all I have to go on.

    Nearer the Earth
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Solid rockin' americana stuff, close to the rock than the roots. That's cool by me. That makes everything roll down the road that much smoother.

    Reminds me a bit of the Meadows, what with the ringing harmonies and lush arrangements. There's a bit more instrumentation with HoneyChild, but maybe that's just the mix. I've done some comparing, and I'm just not sure.

    Either way, I like the way this moves. There's more to these songs than appears on the surface, but that smooth running feel is hard to beat. Smooth running like Gram Parsons, not the Eagles. Just so we're clear about that.

    And yes, there are a few rough edges. Some deftly-placed feedback, a bit of the ol' raggedy vocal and such. Just enough to keep these songs in check. Good by me.

    Worldwide Electric Inventor's Kit
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    A solid pop duo that veers between laptop peppiness and full-bore power pop muscle. Kinda like the Wrens, if the Wrens were inclined to noodle a bit more often.

    The hooks are what, well, hooked me. There's bliss in them bits, and Honeycomb knows how to set them properly. The songs are arranged so that the hooks derive the greatest impact.

    And the sound is hardly laptop duo. There is the ubiquitous quirkiness that seems to inhabit solo and duo pop acts, but once the choruses break in, all is forgiven.

    If you're not sure about any song on this disc, wait thirty seconds. Then a smile will pass over your face and you'll mumble, "oh yeah." Gentle bliss is great stuff, indeed.

    The Honeydogs
    Sunshine Committee EP
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    Hipster americana with more than a bit of the ol' Nick Cavey doom rolling around. For all that, these songs are awfully damned bright.

    A study in contrasts, to be sure. There's plenty of jaunty guitar (both electric and acoustic) and singer Adam Levy does a fairly credible David Lowry imitation. Indeed, I wish that wasn't so pronounced. But the Honeydogs are a different beast than Cracker (or CVB, of course), and the music follows its own beat.

    I need to hear more. I think there's a lot here to like, but I wonder if the Honeydogs can sustain an entire album. I guess the future will tell.

    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    No surprise, we've got more sludge-core on the plate. I'd relate a certain dream I had lately about the true composition of "what-not", but I don't it's make much more sense if I wrote 1,000 words on the subject. Suffice to say I associate Honkeyball with a big-ass bowl of beans, sausage and assorted debris.

    I'll refrain from the usual rectal references, and simply say that Honkeyball likes to find a groove and sit on it real hard. This is a good thing. In fact, it's the best way to survive in the sludge pit. Anyone can discover a tasty lick; it takes prescience and determination to stick with that puppy and craft a song around said groove, keeping the funk in sight at all times. Honkeyball has that ability.

    And the songs are just the beginning. The playing is unusually sharp, and the typical sludge sound has been modified a bit to allow for some treble in the guitars. Bravo!

    Fifteen songs in fifty minutes, certainly a good load of what-not. I find a lot of bands in the sludge are to be somewhat repetitive and boring, but Honkeyball is quite inventive. Worth the extra effort to digest.

    The Honored Guests
    Into Nostalgia EP
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Dreamy, well-crafted songs that tend to float more than rock. The Honored Guests aren't so much trippy as simply ethereal. But boy, do they know how to put some songs together.

    I suppose this falls somewhere in the pop universe, but the boys have a bit of the rootsy twang to their acoustic guitars. And the chords are straight rock and roll, even if they are generally strummed. It's just so damned pretty that sometimes I wonder if I can stand to keep listening.

    I'm being facetious, of course. Pretty music that has an underlying depth is always an aphrodisiac for me. The Honored Guests are supposedly working on a new album. I'll be waiting. If you want a taste, go to the band's web site and they'll hook you up with a free copy of this most excellent EP.

    Maximum Shindig
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    Enough 60s-style psychedelia to drive Roky Erickson out of the asylum. A real Love-in, as it were.

    And it works often enough to make me smile. Hooch is working a pretty mined-out genre to death, but the sense of humor saves the disc from being overwrought. And the hooks are there, most of the time.

    Is this sorta stuff a coming trend? God, I really should pay more attention to these things. I thought Culture Club cover bands were all the rage these days.

    Anyway, Hooch is fun, if rather superficial. Nothing wrong with that.

    Jay Hooks
    Jay Hooks
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Jay Hooks plays the blues like a white man. That is, with a lot of rockin' firepower. When he's in the throes of a boogie wail or simply sliding down a shuffle, that works great. When he slows things up, well, he gets into trouble.

    Because all those pyrotechnics have to go somewhere, and when the pieces slow down the only thing left standing is the guitar solo. And not a subtle one at that.

    For the most part, though, Hooks sticks to the better parts of his repertoire. He seems to know that he's best equipped to play the brighter shades of the blues. And boy can he sling that guitar.

    As long as he sticks to the boogie, Hooks is hard to beat. Generally, he does. There's an awful lot to like here, even with the occasional misstep. Hard not to smile.

    Cold House
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Scratchy, sparse hip-hop beatwork enmeshed with minimalist electronica and vague singing. What I mean with that last part is that the singing pays lip service to melody and rhythm but generally floats in and out as needed.

    Which puts this project somewhere in the experimental trip-hop realm, I suppose. The songs noodle around, burrowing here and there into my brain. The process is slow but certain. I will succumb.

    Indeed, I must. Because the seemingly simple and lolling surface is a subterfuge for some sophisticated ideas that lie a bit beneath the surface. And it's that almost subconscious subtext that calls to me.

    And I respond. Again, choice is not present in this matter. Hood slyly hypnotizes until all resistance has been melted away. Tricky how that happens, isn't it?

    Time ... The Destroyer
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    For me, the way to judge extreme hardcore is viscerally. Does it get ya in the throat? If it doesn't work there, well, screw it. Doesn't matter how fine the lyrics are or how much work the boys put into the riffage. It's gotta slam you right in the windpipe.

    Hoods land a blow right there, and then they slide right to the jugular. And, indeed, that's the whole story here. The lyrics are fine explorations of outrage and pain, but I've heard them before. The riffage, well, it does the trick, though there's nothing really new to add to the canon here.

    Naw, what Hoods do is simply tie everything up and then light it brilliantly on fire. It's the energy, that ineffable something which separates the mediocre from the inspiring. This puppy? Inspired.

    Just a whale load of attitude flying down the pike. Some bands simply know how to connect. Hoods? Connected. To the main line.

    Stoic Winds
    reviewed 1/1/18

    The genre description that came with these electronic files included "Viking", "black metal" and "folk". What reviews that exist tend to refer to Hoofmark as a "black metal country" artist. This does not mean something that sounds like Emperor playing Garth Brooks songs. It's more like Pavement playing Mercyful Fate songs.

    Which is cool as well. Nuno Ramos is essentially the sum total of Hoofmark (at least in the studio). He hails from Lisbon, and he has a definite minimalist approach to his sound. So there's plenty of elegiac lead guitar and plenty of double bass drum throbbing. The best example of this is the two-shot of "Dust Trails" and "Dust Trails Blazing", which combined is more than ten minutes of acoustic noodling, soaring lead guitar, actual singing, blistering riffage and, finally, blackout metal. It's a complete mishmash that doesn't even try to reconcile the disparate elements. To call the songs a mess is being charitable.

    And yet, it's totally awesome. I think this is probably most palatable for fans of bands like Refused or Earth Crisis. Extreme and experimental hardcore fans have the ears for this sort of genre mixing (though certainly not blending) and the overall sonic assault on the senses. Listen long enough, and I guarantee you'll bleed from all orifices.

    Finally, "Yours Should Be a Heavy Casket" is the song title of the year (2017, though it might top 2018 as well). There's only one way that song could sound, and Ramos doesn't disappoint. It's merely an intro to the madness that is this album, but it's one hell of a "hello!" This album might well be the Trout Mask Replica of black metal. Stoic Winds is not the future of anything, but it will remain strangely compelling and enthralling pretty much forever.

    The Hooligans
    Last Call
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Purveyors of finely ages rockabilly (or psychobilly, if you follow the Reverend, I guess), the Hooligans crank out 17 tracks of guitar mania.

    The main attraction here is Gig Fortier's guitar slinging. Plenty of echo and reverb give his lean lines that special "otherworldly" quality rockabilly axemen crave. His vocals are equally appropriate to today's rockabilly sensibilities: rough, ready and just a bit wacko.

    The sides (Heath Cooley on drums and Jerry Rig on upright bass) are more than adequate, and the sound is perfect for the recorded racket. Now, the song subjects ("Lawnmower Man"-not about the movie-, "Coffee Drinkin' Papa" and "Planet of the Squares", just to name a few) are just plain goofy most of the time, which probably adds to the appeal.

    As with most musical revival types, the Hooligans don't do anything terribly earthshaking. Just fun music that sounds great. Ain't that a bitch.

    Hooray for Earth
    Hooray for Earth
    reviewed in issue #303, December 2008

    Not many bands rock out these days. There's a lot of cerebral noodling going on, and there's a lot of making noise, but not many bands settle into pocket and simply blister a hook into the ground. Hooray for Earth does. Not as much as I think it ought, I suppose, but it's good to hear a band rock out now and again.

    Now, Hooray for Earth's notion of rocking out includes a bit of noodling and a fair amount of noise, but nonetheless, these folks know the benefit of a solid groove and they seem to know when it ought to be pile-driven into the tundra.

    The keyboards lend this a bit of a new wave feel, but Hooray for Earth is really more of a modern indie rock band. Certainly, the energy level comes more from that side of things. The production is solid, though not overly aggressive. After all, when you attack songs the way these folks do, there's no need to ramp up the power. It's already in there.

    Dig the throb. I had a lot fun here. My head thrashed around like it hasn't in quite a while. My neck is a little sore, and I'm plenty happy. That's a winning recipe in my book. Hard to argue with a proposition like that.

    Hoover's G-String
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Somewhat atonal howling laid over restrained rock. With a nice dollop of humor (the band's name gives a bit of a hint that way). Simple, direct and attractive.

    Nothing particularly exciting, just solid stuff. Hoover's G-String never really kicks out the jams, but there's enough energy to light up the sound. The musical melodies are good and hooky, though the vocals tend to miss their mark from time to time.

    Which isn't a problem. This stuff goes down easy, if you get my drift. Just yer basic bar band ripping off a few tunes you wouldn't mind hearing again someday.

    Hard to argue with a proposition like that.

    The Holt Hopkins Band
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    When Holt Hopkins opts to put on a country-rock hat and belt out a few, he can be quite impressive. When he gives in to some unknown demon and starts playing that wanky faux-funk (think the New Bohemians) on his guitar, he's somewhat less so.

    Luckily, Hopkins toes the straight line more often than not, and the result is a mostly satisfying album. Hopkins voice is quite expressive, and he's got a pretty good range, considering the way he sings.

    And, like I've been harping, his basic songs are much more satisfying than the somewhat syncopated patter songs. His side players are quite good, filling out the sound nicely.

    All he needs now is consistency. That should come with time.

    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    With more of the industrial dance beats that permeated his last solo album, Greg Ginn returns (with Screw Radio cohort Andy Batwinas) to wend a big fat load of instrumental guitar tracks. And trust me, two seconds, and you know it's Ginn.

    This is good and bad. With the preponderance of product that Ginn has produced over the last two years, his style is everywhere and easily identifiable. Ginn is no rip-off artist. He knows who he is and what he sounds like.

    But I think a lot of this output suffers from Stephen King disease. If he just would distill the ideas a little longer and, say, put out half the records he has, they would be immeasurably better. And that's not saying Hor or any of the other records suck. They don't. But just imagine what a little editing and reworking might do...

    See also Greg Ginn, Gone and Screw Radio.

    Troy Horne
    Troy Horne
    (Freedom Zone)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Another of those free Freedom Zone discs, so if you're even slightly interested, why not take a $1.75 flier for postage and handling? I'm not shilling, by the way. I get no cash out of this. I just think the concept is interesting.

    As for the music, Troy Horne plays a soulful, slightly funky type of roots rock. The soul shines through in the vocals, while the bass takes care of the funk and the acoustic guitars jangle nicely.

    The best part of these songs is the vocal work, both Horne's expressive lead and the backing harmonies. Generally understated, but still full and resounding. I can tell you how nice it is to hear powerful vocals, as opposed to voices pumped up through an engineer's hand. Horne comes on hard from the heart.

    This really hearkens back to late 60s and early 60s soul music, the more folky moments of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Al Greene. Big names that Horne isn't competing with--yet. But he's got a good handle on what he wants to do. Truly impressive.

    Hospital Grade
    Written Axe to Trigger
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    I suppose that Hospital Grade falls into the whole emo category--that is, if you can remember when bands like Jawbox and Treepeople and Superchunk were considered seminal influences. This is conceptual rock with a punk edge. Kinda like if moderately-melodic punk music smashed into that whole post-rock thing.

    Built to Spill also comes to mind (though, of course, I did already mention Treepeople), but only the punchier stuff. Hospital Grade always keeps a sharp edge on these songs. There's nothing soft or round about them. Always a knife scraping across a blackboard. Keeps you awake.

    These are songs that make sense the fifth or fiftieth time you hear them. It's not that they're impossibly complex or anything, it's just such an unusual sound that it takes a while for your ears to adjust fully. But once they do...

    That's right. Total bliss. Put in the effort, and ye shall be rewarded. Or something like that. Hospital Grade is, indeed, of the finest quality.

    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Another Lawrence (Kansas) band signed in the wake of Paw and Stick and all the rest. Thankfully, Hostility doesn't stick to the "little grunge" formula.

    No, these guys have completely appropriated the Pro-Pain sound (which some will say is an appropriation of the old Biohazard sound, which some will say...). Indeed, Hostility plays that card well, and the riffs are as crunchy and tight as the best in NYC metalcore.

    Fun, in a brain-limited way. I enjoyed the disc, but the sound gets increasingly generic as it rolls along. It seems like a mantra in this issue, but Hostility really has to find its own sound if it wants to really get anywhere. The band has proven it can write good songs, even if the style is not its own creation.

    Catchy, if forgettable in the end.

    Hot Water Music

    split LP
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    I reviewed the last Leatherface record to surface over here way back in issue #29 (early 1993). The sound here is a bit more ragged, but still the notion of catchy punk anthems prevails. Like the band never went away.

    Hot Water Music is from Richmond, and you can hear it. Avail, (Young) Pioneers, it's all there. Well, not in rip-off style, but just a sort of feel. Somewhat herky-jerky in the execution, but still tuneful enough to sing along with.

    The connection for me is the excessively hoarse singing style exhibited by both singers. Oh, and the bands are touring together as well. I think the idea here is to hearken back to a time when this sort of release was more common. Bring bands and people together. Something like that.

    And it might even work. At least on this one, since both bands cranked out great songs. A quality set, all the way around.

    Hotel X
    A Random History of the Avant-Groove
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Meandering jazzy stuff whose phrasing reminds me a little of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. But this is more of an improvisational rock band, or at least rock instrumentation.

    They're not afraid to be raucous and rip it out if they feel like it. Or be real quiet and keep things to a minimum. In other words, any and all attempts to pigeonhole these folk will fail.

    Accomplished musicians making interesting music. The title of the album is probably the best way to describe it. Put it on and let your mind wander. You'll be surprised how far it goes.

    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    While labelmates Bazooka also play sloppy jazz, Hotel X has more players and a fuller sound.

    It's not that the players are terrible. But there just isn't quite the devotion to craft that you might expect from a more serious jazz disc. Hotel X is a little tighter and more innovative act than Bazooka, but this still suffers from the "punk jazz" syndrome.

    Which leads to raves on the first listen, but after more I just get tired. All the fresh angles are exhausted. Which is the difference between really fine stuff and the average.

    Hotel X is pretty good. And this disc is miles ahead of the last one. Maybe next time.

    The Hotelier
    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed 6/27/16

    The Hotelier harkens back to a time when "alternative" meant, well, what it means. The Hotelier is a rock band, but it comes at the sound sideways and sometimes up and down.

    And let's not forget the preciousness. The spoken word/instrumental interludes that punctuate this album don't add much (to my ear), but they do serve as an announcement that this is not business as usual. Well, it would have been in 1989 or so, back when Eleventh Dream Day, Buffalo Tom and other wonky rock bands crafted some of the most tuneful whacktoid songs ever. But this is a few years down the line. People don't make music like this anymore.

    Or, to tell the truth, people still make this music, but no one is really listening. It's a shame, but one that possibly can be rectified. I listen to albums when I get to work early in the morning (often, my first listens are at my desk). Our 23-year-old office manager heard me playing this album and--almost breathlessly--asked who it was. So that's a good sign.

    I've always been a "good music is good music" sort of guy. I've also reviewed some 10,000 albums in my time, and something like three of them have had any popular success. That might be an understatement, but not by much. My ear is for good music, and the Hotelier sure have a lock on that. I'd love to see bands like this find some mainstream success. There's no reason why they can't, except that this is definitely not au courant.

    Oh well. The Hotelier will have to do with me blasting this on my back deck. There are worse fates. Perhaps.

    James Houlahan
    reviewed 5/19/16

    As the album title implies, Houlahan embraces the wide view of americana. He trips through gothic alt-country, warped Dixieland and a serious side of southern fried on the first three songs, and then he really takes off.

    The album title actually comes from Whitman's "Song of Myself," a poem which tried to describe and celebrate America and serves well as a template for the americana sound. Not wanting to be too subtle, Houlahan samples generously from the poem on "The Rogue Song."

    If you want a coherent statement, go elsewhere. Houlahan doesn't sit still for a moment, and he's got far too many ideas in his head to write songs that sound alike. I suppose many songs on this set have a dark tone, but even that isn't omnipresent. Houlahan's ruminations can be sunny as well.

    So I suppose it's possible to hear this as merely well-crafted takes on the American tradition. Possible, but wrong. Houlahan shifts gears constantly, but his enthusiasm never wavers. Even his more contemplative pieces engage fully. He knows how to sell his songs.

    Spring here inside the Beltway has been quite chilly, but it's almost warm enough for bourbon on the back porch. I think I've found my first selection.

    John Houlihan
    John Houlihan
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Ragged, emotive pop. John Houlihan puts everything he's got into the playing of these songs, and they're so good it's obvious he worked awful hard on the writing end as well.

    The songs come across as an intimate conversation. Over drinks, I mean. There's a lot of shouting and the like. Like a rowdy chat with an old friend. A grand night out.

    I really do like the low-rent production sound. It's not calculated; that's just what happens when you're trying to play one-man band. It fits the songs perfectly. No need to go lush or crazy with this stuff. Just let it speak for itself.

    And that works. Houlihan doesn't do anything complicated. He just writes and plays great songs. I don't think he needs to apologize for anything.

    The Hourly Radio
    History Will Never Hold Me
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    The thing that was cool about the early '80s was that there were so many bands who wanted to make good pop music. Not pre-packaged crap polished by song doctors and produced into deafening oblivion, but sly tunes played with panache. Yeah, it does seem that most of those bands came from the U.K. (or Ireland or Australia or New Zealand), but there were some Americans playing the game as well. Marshall Crenshaw, the dBs, Let's Active...hell, I'll wave the flag as hard as anyone.

    The Hourly Radio remembers that time. Or, perhaps more accurately, its members have spent beaucoup time in the vinyl stores. In any case, these folks have a sound reminiscent of the Cure, INXS, the Fixx, the Smiths or, perhaps most strongly, later Chills. And yet, there's nothing in here that's derivative. The odd guitar flash here and straight up-and-down drum line there, perhaps, but the songs themselves are utterly original.

    Modern, too. The key to revisiting an era properly is to take that older sound and make it relevant. Hey, I love 80s music (as I define it) because that's the sound of high school and college for me. But just because you're playing music that vaguely sounds like stuff that might have been present at some kid's conception doesn't mean they're gonna dig it.

    So do what these guys do. Play good music. If there's a flavor from the past, that's cool. But don't be slavish about old times. Make the music that makes sense to you, and you've got a shot a winning today's kids over to your sound. The Hourly Radio does just that--even if it is a geezer (in my case) that they impressed here.

    House of Large Sizes
    North Cedar 7"
    (Red Decibel/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Red Decibel's latest shipment to the Sony folks pack a nice, heavy-yet-bouncy seventies feel into the A-side. Live, they were a bit unfocused and tended to degenerate into Jane's-ey rants. Here they sound like a band that could sell a shitload.

    A nice taste of one of the first releases of the new year. Listen and wait with anticipation.

    My Ass Kicking Life
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    Apparently Mountain and other obtusely epic seventies bands are the only things they play on the radio in Iowa. After a couple of songs, you wish the chords would pound in a slightly different pattern.

    And they do, after a while. And you also have to consider Dave Diebler's rather affected voice, which has a Perry Farrell-esque whining quality to it if he's not careful.

    These songs sound a lot more important than they are. The strange contradiction between lyrics and production would be annoying, if this wasn't so self-consciously dorky. How three very nice folks can make such noise is part of the fun of the band.

    If you give it chance, it will grow on you. Just don't let it ferment.

    Darren Housholder
    Darren Housholder
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    He can play the guitar, sure. And his instrumental work is as interesting as that field can get, although I would prefer a little less flash and more expression.

    Housholder has a great deal of polish and can knock style after style from his axe, which made this rather listenable for me. I usually listen to this kind of stuff when I'm trying to occupy my mind on more serious matters, but I can see actually digging this on other occasions.

    Generator Man
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    With all the industrial trendiness flying around, it certainly makes sense to crank out an instrumental guitar album that utilizes the occasional edgy drum machine.

    Unfortunately, most of the time Housholder only manages to sound like a slightly studlier version Joe Satriani (without nuance). While this would be okay for a Satriani album, I suppose, we are supposed to be listening to Housholder.

    Sure, the playing's great and the production is highly glossy and everything sounds just fine. I wish it had a few distinguishing marks, that's all.

    Darren Housholder
    Symphonic Aggression
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Another of those guitarists who really dig the classical music. Housholder is an impressive technician, and while he can be faulted for deciding to play with Love/Hate for a time, a job's a job, man.

    After two undistinguished albums for Shrapnel, Housholder has decided to really tear into the classical side of things with a fury. This side of his playing has always been evident, but before he seemed almost shy about letting some of those influences out. Not now.

    For the first time, I think I can hear Housholder. Him, that is, not some producer or someone's idea of what he should be. And that alone makes this album much better than anything he has put out before.

    Yeah, a lot of this has an Yngwie feel, except that Housholder is not a shred-o-matic type of player, and there aren't any silly lyrics to fuck up the music. Bombastic? At times. Overwrought? Occasionally. But for the most part, Housholder cranks out solid electric classical-style guitar word, with nice accompanying arrangements. He knows the music, and it shows.

    Bottom of the Curve
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    Yer typical Minneapolis three-peice. Yeah, right. Anyway, these boys play the post-rock game nicely (see how I've adopted that moniker, even though I find it dreadful? I'm shameless...), and they add a fine bit of power-pop to the deconstructionist proceedings. That is pretty cool.

    Kinda leaves me wondering what's coming next, which is a feeling I love to have. If I can guess what a band will do in the next few bars, well, I tune out. But bands like Houston, bands that prefer to venture into unknown territory, those are the ones that stick with me.

    The sound is clean, almost proggily so--though that is in no way an absolute. If a particular song demands some reverb or distortion, it finds its way into the mix. The production on this album is excellent. The boys did it themselves, and they weren't afraid to try a few unusual things. Most of the time, that worked out.

    It's pretty rare that so many chances work out so well. Maybe Houston has a another ten albums of stuff that didn't take. If so, then I'd be even more impressed. In any case, the songs on this album (and there are 16, clocking in at longer than an hour) are exquisite--exquisitely brutal, exquisitely pretty, whatever. Wonderful stuff.

    (Blast First-Mute)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    A lot like Scorn, without the sequenced beat tracks (Hovercraft uses a real drummer who doesn't stick to regular grooves much). Hovercraft likes to throw a lot into its sonic sculptures, and the results are more than impressive.

    A definite Pink Floyd influence running through here, but this is territory the Floyd hasn't seen in almost 30 years. Yeah, there's a good bit of sampling and sequencing, but that stuff generally comes in the form of overlays which lie on top of the "live" tracks.

    Very spontaneous and refreshing. Hovercraft is creative enough to appeal to those in the noise set, but this is very definitely on the edge of mainstream rock traditions. That's not a bad thing, by the way. The band bridges quite a few gaps very nicely.

    This trio is a good counterpoint to Dirty Three. They don't sound anything like each other, but the attempts to create new and adventurous sounds within the context of rock music inexorably bind them together. Hovercraft likes crawling out on the limb and testing its weight. The bough hasn't broken yet.

    Greg Howe
    Introspection (advance cassette)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    A bit more blues-influenced than in the past, as Howe has cooled off the flash and concentrated on great playing instead. He comes into his own.

    Uncertain Terms
    reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94

    Howe seems to have paid a lot more attention than usual to the other instruments he plays. This effort on the backing tracks lends to a more cohesive sound. Unfortunately, the songs are still mired in the many traps of instrumental guitar work.

    For starters, while the drumming (and drum machine?) sounds crisper, the rhythms don't vary much from song to song. Howe is stuck in the common jazz-funk shuffle that folks like Steve Morse have made so popular.

    And while at times Howe is playing with verve and feeling, many of the lead lines seem more calculated to impress than move. Sure, How is one of the greatest axemen around. But he still needs to work on his songwriting and feeling. A comparison may be farfetched, but B.B. King says more with one note than Howe can in an entire riff of arpeggios. Howe needs to make his guitar sing, not just speak.

    (Richie Kotzen and Greg Howe)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    With Poison dead, Kotzen returns from whence he came. Except, of course, that this time out he picks up with Greg Howe (long-distance, via studios) and the two bash out an album in a method reminiscent of the Hissanol album of earlier this year.

    Of course, this is smooth fusion guitar work, not wacky pop music. I must say I'm not the biggest fan of the sort of guitar wanking that goes on in most of these sorts of records (syncopated drum beats and flying guitar), but Howe and Kotzen keep the pyrotechnics to a respectable level, imbuing the disc with a nice, cool feel.

    I thought Howe had moved forward with his last album, and his maturity shows. Kotzen does well following Howe's lead, and the two cranked out some nice fusion tunes (with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Confusion" in the middle of things). This may not be my favorite sort of music, but Howe and Kotzen have put together a very good album.

    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Howe tries to get funky, but his typical ultra-clean production limits the effectiveness of that effort.

    I mean, real funk is fuzzy. George Clinton proved that you could be musically innovative, highly complicated and still funky. How? Keep that bass distorted and moving. Howe's bass lines are syncopated, but not terribly groovy. And the sound is just too precise.

    Of course, everyone plays like a virtuoso (because all the folk are). And Howe's work is impressive from a strict technical skill standpoint. But he needs to crank out tunes like he and Richie Kotzen had on their collaborative album a while back. These things are just stale rehashes of places he's been before.

    And those places have no feeling. Everything is so dead solid perfect, no emotion can creep into the proceedings. The song titles are generic (one could just as easily apply to any other). The performance, while perfect, is also just as bland.

    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Much heavier into the funk than recent outings, Howe tries to put a new face on his technical guitar noodlings. If he had been able to use a few more acoustic instruments (piano instead of keys, for example), this might have worked better.

    The problem is that it sounds like a studio creature, just a bit too artificial to be able to breathe live air. Howe is an excellent player, and his songwriting skills are above average. This set is just a bit too calculated to work for me.

    The production is fine, but I make the same notation: This could have used a more "live" sound. Might have helped kill the stilted feeling the disc has.

    He's done better. And he'll do better. This outing is workmanlike at best for Howe.

    (Richie Kotzen and Greg Howe)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Same formula as last time. Each wrote five songs, producing the backing track and solo for his work and then sending the tapes over to the other for finishing solo work. If you're really curious, Greg's always on the left, and Richie's always on the right.

    And as before, this somewhat antiseptic form of collaboration works really well. You really don't need to flip your balance to figure out who is playing what, either. Howe is a big fan of effects and unusual guitar sounds, while Kotzen sticks to a more basic sound. Of course, their playing styles are markedly different as well.

    The most fascinating moments come when both are playing the same lick. That is when I did play with my knobs, hearing the different ways Howe and Kotzen approached the same lines. But even such intellectual pursuits did not keep me from enjoying this work.

    These guys do better work together than they do alone. Howe inspires Kotzen to get a bit more cerebral, and Kotzen forces Howe to find an emotional edge in his sound. This isn't just another guitar god album. It's great music as well.

    (Gregorio Howe y Compadres)
    Salsa Blanco
    (Wide Hive)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    Subtitled "Latin Soul Flavorings," this disc is a piffle. A really tasty piffle, mind you, the sort of groovy music that only skilled musicians could even attempt. Greg Howe and pals fly through these songs with a style that few can match. It is a piffle; here's not much behind the facade. Still, few facades sound this good.

    Danielle Howle and the Tantrums
    Danielle Howle and the Tantrums
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Generally moody roots-pop. These folk don't truck much with sticking to a coherent sound, swerving from a grunge groove to bouncy acoustic guitar strumming without missing a beat.

    A little rote for my taste. While the music does wander all over the place, the songs stick pretty well within accepted norms. Not a lot of tinkering going on. And while the band is obviously quite competent, I simply wish there was a bit more of a spark.

    I sure like the way the songs move about, though. And Howle has a fine bluesy alto that works well with the music. I have the same complaint about the lyrics (a bit too cliche-ridden for my taste), but the execution is very good.

    It's time for Howle and the Tantrums to forget everything they've learned and just cut loose. The results just might be stunning.

    Howling Iguanas
    Howling Iguanas
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    One way to spice up an average blues record is to get a fine harpist to blow his brains out. Little John Chrisley handles the harmonica very nicely, but then the other musicians weren't out to make an average blues record.

    These musicians also know how to back off and let the music tell a story. The playing is immaculate and yet intimate. Michael Lee Firkens gets a great sound out of his guitar, one that complements Chrisley's playing perfectly.

    Jimmy O'Shea (bass) and Ray Luzier (drums) round out the package, and they make sure everything stays nice and tight in a total band sound. It has that crispy live feel, and the songs are ordered in sort of a set list.

    This is a primer on how to make a blues rock album, period. Very fine work, indeed.

    Nathan Hubbard
    Born on Tuesday
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    And now we come to point in our broadcast where Jon spoos all over an album that maybe a thousand people will have the balls to buy. Nathan Hubbard is, for the most part, a percussionist, though he augments his rattlings with some cool electronic bits just for the hell of it. Careful readers will also remember him as (i my words) the somewhat underused percussionist in Cosmologic Syntaxis. When you've got an outlet like this, there's no need to hog time in another band.

    The percussion in question is something along the lines of jazz. Hubbard isn't one of those freaky guys who simply makes noise for the sake of noise (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). Rather, he's tightly composed these pieces (or, at least, loosely composed them), which nicely showcases his wide-ranging skills and ideas.

    Yes, there is a lot of banging and pinging and such. That's the nature of these kinda projects. But Hubbard's skill keeps everything coherent, and since he's the only one playing a damned thing, there's an eerie feeling of dementia that never quite fades into the background.

    Me, I like such single-minded lunacy. It means someone really gives a shit about their music. Every once in a while, such pigheadedness actually results in a great album. Like this one. If you thought percussion was just drums, well, Hubbard will set you straight. There are enough sounds here to populate an orchestra.

    Skeleton Key Orchestra 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    An excess of riches. I love Hubbard's inventive improvisational percussion style, and this set of eight lengthy pieces (the number of players alone justify the "orchestra" appellation) shows off his musical instincts to their fullest. An ever-challenging and inventive series of works.

    Compositions 1998-2005 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Unlike his album with Curtis Glatter reviewed above, this set sounds, well, composed. Recorded at times with an almost orchestra-sized ensemble, this sizable set really provides a fine insight into Hubbard's mind. I have to admit, I like these more structured works. Hubbard has a really solid handle on how to bring unconventional ideas into accepted musical theory. Important listening.

    Nielson Hubbard
    The Slide Project
    (E Pluribus Unum)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    A big chunk of catchy pop-rock, just like Cheap Trick used to play. Hubbard waxes to few more extremes than those midwestern legends, shifting from excessive cheese to cascading riffage in the blink of an eye. And one thing's for certain: Hubbard has an unerring instinct for the hook.

    Which is good, because he sure as hell has no idea how to craft a verse or a bridge. The first song, "Everybody's Doing It" isn't much more than the chorus repeated over and over, with slightly different lyrics. The same disregard for proper song construction follows throughout the disc.

    And a damned good thing, too. His unorthodox take on highly accessible music gives Hubbard an advantage in the pop wars: no one writes songs the way he does. And he's not afraid to overdo things, like that truly annoying distorted organ that pervades "Captain of the Teenagers".

    We need more free spirits in the pop universe. Hubbard tends a bit too much toward the cheese to completely captivate me, but there's enough here to keep me amused.

    Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Schwab
    Vampyros Lesbos/Sexadelic Dance Party Soundtracks
    (Motel Records)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    Hubler and Schwab composed and conducted these scores, which pretty much follow that basic 60's pseudo-psychedelic party groove that permeated a lot of that decades farces. If you remember (or, more likely, have seen) such Peter Sellers movies as "The Party" and "I Love You Alice B. Toklas", then you've heard this stuff. Or, as the press notes, if you've ever watched an episode of the "Batman" TV series.

    Fun stuff, I guess. I grooved along just fine. I would play this at a party, though you wouldn't see me Frugging (not that I know how). Oh, and for you gratuitous nudity freaks, there's plenty of that in the liners.

    I suppose these movies are getting a video release, which might explain this package (I didn't read the press THAT closely). Anyway, this stuff is pretty damned silly, but if you have a thing for this kinda music (and I do, I suppose), then these soundtracks are a nice spot of fun. The amusement factor runs high.

    Hudson Falcons
    For Those Whose Hearts and Souls Are True
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Just yer basic punk rock bar band. Hudson Falcons play rock and roll. They play it fast. They play it loud. They don't mess around with fancy things like changing keys at the bridge. Three and out. That's all.

    And when the stuff is this good, that's all you need. These songs are lean and mean, no frills all the way. A pure protein diet for those who just don't want to eat their vegetables. Am I getting the point across?

    Geez, I hope so. It's not like this is a complicated concept or anything. Certainly, the Hudson Falcons aren't trying to add anything extra into the mix. These boys know exactly what they're playing and why they do it.

    What else is there to say. Hudson Falcons play as pure a distilled version of rock and roll as I've ever heard. The essence, as it were, is here. Encounter at your own risk. Bathe in the glory.

    Huevos Rancheros
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Named after my favorite dish at the Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque (where my youngest brother now works), these boys crank out a raucous rockabilly thing.

    Instrumental rock is a rare thing apart from Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, I haven't heard much better. This borrows from Duane Eddy at times, but that is, of course, a good thing. The lord of twang should've been inducted into the RNR Hall of Fame years ago.

    Like Evan Johns and Rev. Horton Heat, this stuff is certainly loud and crazy enough to be played on metal shows. It probably isn't the best seg into Benediction, but I could see this leading into the new Bad Religion, for example. As they used to say at KCOU, diversity rules.

    Dig In!
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    Their first album had the unfortunate condition of being released on C/Z at about the same time as new albums from Dick Dale and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Even had the album been an equal of those discs (and it fell just short, in my estimation), the market had a ton of instrumental pop lying around.

    With "Miserlu" being played on about every station in the country (thanks to Pulp Fiction), there is a much bigger market for this sort of thing. And Huevos Rancheros have come back with a much better release.

    Wondrously aggressive while retaining a cool surf pop feel, Huevos Rancheros (you haven't had that dish if you haven't been to the Frontier in Albuquerque) sounds much more confident and in synch. I wish the boys would crank up the sound and speed a little more than they do (and lose some of the Ventures references), but this is a fine upgrade from Endsville. Mint scored again.

    Get Outta Dodge EP
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    Yeah, another of those Canadian pseudo-surf punk instrumental bands. Named after one of my favorite dishes (best at the Frontier in Albuquerque with the green sauce). But you knew that already.

    And like that famous green sauce, the band just gets better with age. These six tunes showcase the Huevos at their manic best. The guitar work is even better than the last Mint full-length, and the rhythm section is about as tight as you can find.

    Six tunes, and they roll off the discer like fine Muscatel.

    Well, of course. It's not like you're taking Princess Di to the show, now are you? The Huevos Rancheros embody fun and more fun, so don't bother with prissiness. Dig in with both hands and smear the slop all over your face.

    Now, who wouldn't enjoy that?

    Anything Goes 7"
    (Ringing Ear)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Perfect music for a single. Uptempo stuff with just enough of that punk rawkishness the kids love so much these days.

    And a mastery of that mystical thing the riff. Huffy simply rips through space and time with that guitar sound, and no prisoners are taken.

    The perfect sound for summer, somewhere between Minneapolis and San Diego sound-wise (which means they go very well with Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver, who I designated last year's "Band of Summer"). And since I live in Florida and summer is a month away, I'm all set. This puppy is hitting a tape and will be cranked out of my deck for months to come.

    In all honesty, this is simply fun stuff that is too cheery to get out of your head. Two really fine tunes on one little piece of vinyl. The reason God invented the guitar.

    Glenn Hughes
    Burning Japan Live
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Introduced as "the voice of rock and roll", Hughes (or the announcer) seems to have forgotten that he originally played bass for Deep Purple. He wasn't a singer at first.

    Not that he's dreadful. It doesn't require a great set of pipes to bellow 70s bombast. But it does take a good set of lungs, and Hughes proves he has that. Oh, don't worry about the odd sour note. That's just the way it goes.

    The best moments on this disc are the Deep Purple songs. While the Hughes-penned tracks are alright, there's a reason he's not a big star anymore. He can't write the kick-ass rock song. Which is why most of this disc is tepid, and I've heard the Deep Purple songs done much better. This isn't completely terrible, but there is no reason Hughes is still touring and recording.

    Return of Crystal Karma
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    I reviewed a Glenn Hughes live album some time back, and I wasn't nice. He was singing out of his range and sticking to the oldies. I'm not a big fan of all that.

    Here, he's sticking to that organ-drenched Deep Purple sound, though mixing in a little boogie and a little rockin' soul. And his voice sounds good. Some of that is help from the engineers, but some of it is simply sticking to what you can do.

    And he's not exactly limited, you know? Well, in any case, this isn't revolutionary material or anything close. Rather, it's simply a refinement of all the tricks Hughes has learned over the years.

    That's not bad. Alright, so you gotta slip back in pocket a bit to really appreciate this. Life goes on. Maybe I'm just a sucker for well-used organ, but I had fun with this. Wouldn't subsist on it by any means, but it's a nice treat.

    Building the Machine
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    There's a formula to these old rocker albums. Put in a bunch of new songs, throw in a reference to the past and a fun cover. So there are a number of 70s-tinged rockers (with at least a much of a nod to Traffic as Deep Purple), a reworking of a Hughes-era DP tune and, for some reason, a really heavy version of "I Just Want to Celebrate."

    Hughes does seem to be getting in the soul-funk pocket (thus my Traffic reference, I guess), though the guitar riffage is still post-grunge. An odd set of combinations, to be sure.

    Interestingly, the rendition of "Highball Shooter" here is stripped down. With the load lightened, the song really boogies. At times, it sounds like this was the sound Hughes wanted for the entire album. If the guitars had lifted their load and let the organ sing a bit more, that might have happened.

    Even so, this album rarely gets turgid. I liked the lighter, funkier stuff (Hughes' voice can still do the work, at least in the studio), and I wish the whole album had jumped into that groove more. Still, I'm pleasantly surprised.

    John Hughes
    Scarlet Diva soundtrack
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    This would be John Hughes the younger, son of John Hughes the film director. This John Hughes also runs Hefty Records. But no matter. Here he's scored an Italian film. That's what we're here to talk about.

    Not being one to hog the spotlight, Hughes contacted a number of friends, including Phil Ranelin (founder of Tribe Records), John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea & Cake) and Scott Herren. The breadth of the collaboration here led to some wonderfully eclectic sounds.

    This is a soundtrack, but it also works as an album. The songs sound like songs (don't make fun of me yet) rather than abstract accompaniment for visuals. Now, the structure of the songs is eclectic and non-traditional. The pieces tend to form around the contributions of the outside collaborators (particularly McEntire's electronic percussion work). Which makes them all the more interesting.

    The most impressive feat here is that Hughes managed to pull all of these sounds together into a cohesive album (and soundtrack). A lot of "art movie" soundtracks are wonderful explorations but don't quite make sense as albums. This one does. Hughes sure knows how to craft his music.

    Lena Hughes
    Queen of the Flat Top Guitar
    (Tomkins Square)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/28/13

    If you were never sure exactly what a "Tennessee Flat Top Box" might be, Lena Hughes will demonstrate. These early 60s recordings are somewhat primitive in their sound, but the playing is lovely.

    Downward Is Heavenward
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    A long way from the first record I heard from these folks. The thing was on 12-inch Records, and in fact was hand-delivered by label proprietors Poster Children to the college radio station where I worked at the time.

    A long way, and yet a short journey. Hum is still plying a spacey form of grunge pop, with cascading chords and the odd hooky chorus to tie things all together. Radiohead is an obvious connecting point (grunge and prog all the same now, in a weird sorta way), though Hum is definitely grounded in middle American music.

    Easy to get lured in. Hum's sound is listener-friendly, rather inviting, really. Once inside, though, I'm a bit disconcerted by the lack of depth. The music is much less complex than it seems at first. And while the lyrics follow the semi-literary form of "indie rock", they're not any more perceptive than most.

    Still, the stuff goes down like a dream. Not a great album, but one that makes for a nice listen. I'm not sure if you understand what I'm getting at, but what the hell. Really sharp sounding at first, but kinda generic underneath. Cool enough for another listen, though.

    Hum & the Quick
    Peek EP
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    The album is merely 18 songs long. The EP contains a new version of "Peek" (which also appears on the album) and two other tracks. You get both of them at once, as long as supplies last. And thus ends my shill.

    Or maybe not. Hum & the Quick plays extensively orchestrated fare. There's plenty of piano and accordion and strings and other nice bits of accompaniment. The songs themselves are generally introspective downers, with lyrics that often express utter confusion with the reality of the world.

    That would be as seen by the character of each song, of course. The lyrics themselves are deft enough to turn themselves around, illuminating their own inconsistencies. I'm not sure if this is meant to actually contradict, or merely to exude ambiguity. I'm not sure that it matters much.

    Hum & the Quick is the rare band that is able to play what might be construed as depressing fare and still leave its listeners with a smile. After all the pondering and hang-wringing and toil, it turns out that maybe life isn't so bad. As long as that 16-ton weight hanging over my head doesn't fall.

    Human Host
    Exploding Demon
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    At times loopy, at times sneeringly pretentious, Human Host is one big ball of attitude. And ain't that rock and roll?

    Basically, these songs wander all over the noise/no wave/elektro bop spectrum. The main connecting factor is a devotion to finding the most grating way to make a point. I'm not criticizing, mind you--I'm complimenting. Human Host has no apparent desire to please, and that's not just refreshing. It's brilliant.

    There are no points of reference and very little continuity between songs. About the only thing that holds this album together is the obvious desire of the band to fuck with as many heads as possible.

    Again, I'm complimenting here. These folks have a real handle on something special. Not the sort of thing average people care to deal with, but then, who needs average people? Take the world by the balls and squeeze.

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

    The sound is a bit low, but none of that nasty muffled demoitis. The songs are pop, though Humbert likes to jumble things up a bit.

    Wistful or vengeful, Humbert likes to be both. And, surprisingly, the band does both quite well. These folks know how to crank out a classic pop sound.

    And perhaps the most important part is diversity. Humbert doesn't stay in the same place long, but all of its waystations are worthy stops. The various members sing their own songs, with different levels of success, but this democratic approach has also allowed Humbert to keep shaking its sound up.

    Real quality work. These guys know how to craft fine pop. And that's not nearly as easy as some think.

    The Great White Lunchroom
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Twenty songs, averaging two and a half minutes per. Pop stuff that races through all the possibilities (morose, giddy and all that stuff in-between) and the goes around the track again.

    Okay, so the four songs from the demo I reviewed a few months back are here, but that leaves 16 more songs to enjoy. The thing I liked about the tape was the way Humbert was able to range over all sorts of pop forms with equal skill. An opus like this only impresses me further.

    The playing and knob work on this disc are great, leaving a fairly spare and open sound for the songs to play around in. It takes a lot of work to make great music sound this easy, and all the proper steps were taken here.

    I expected something great, and this was even better. A wonderment, really. There is far too much on this disc to properly describe in a thesis, much less what a short review can mine. Suffice it to say this is a truly fine disc.

    Humble Gods
    Humble Gods
    (Hi Speed Media-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Doug Carrion (from, um, everything) and Spike Xavier (from Mind Over Four) and some pals hook up to crank out crunchy pop punk.

    Hooks flying everywhere, buzzsaw guitar attack like no tomorrow. Catchy as hell, and yet not bubblegum. This is stuff you might have heard in the early or mid-80's. Of course, that sound is popular as hell now, and when you've got a project this cool, why not schlep it out to everyone.

    And, despite press to the contrary, Mind Over Four is still a going concern. I was a little worried, but a phone call satisfied my distress. A little more listening helped to satisfy a nagging jones. Just a little louder, now.

    The Humbugs
    On the Up Side
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    Up side, indeed. The Humbugs play straight-up pop rock with just the slightest of lilts. Think early Posies without quite so much lyrical bite. Which leaves plenty of room for a nibble or two.

    Pretty stuff, with lyrics that make this worth more than a couple listens. The Humbugs stick to day-in-the-life material, but the perspective is slightly askew.

    The sound is restrained. This stuff won't overpower; rather, there's plenty of space to let the songs breathe, which helps to give this album a bit of a different spin. And when you play pop, that's always a good thing.

    Not the second coming or anything, but solid and enjoyable. I'm thinking the Humbugs just might have a few more roads to wander before they're done.

    The Humpers
    Live Forever or Die Trying
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    The Humpers crank out smoke-soaked and beer-drenched party-time punk music. This is not as easy as the band makes it sound.

    Obviously best appreciated at high volume, too. Indeed, my appreciation increased as my eardrums screamed for mercy. As simple pleasures go, Live Forever or Die Trying is about as good as I've had in some time.

    The production has left a slightly textured feel, not unlike the sound of the Wayne Kramer album. The guitars wail and duel with purpose, riff against lick. And the almost inane but purposeful lyrics will keep even the most dour amused.

    When in doubt, hit the knob. Volume is the plan, and the plan keeps away the man.

    Plastique Valentine
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    I just re-read my cliche-ridden review of the Humpers' first Epitaph effort, and everything I said there goes twice here.

    Perfectly fun punk that never even considers pretentious arrogance. Johnny Thunders would be proud of the way these guys throw themselves into some of the sillier songs on the planet. Just makes the brio that much more infectious.

    The fun just keeps rolling off the stereo, track by track. After a quick listen back, I'd judge this album to be a notch more solid than the last one, Live Forever or Die Trying. Of course, you can't go wrong with that one, either.

    If these folk aren't the reincarnation of some of our dearly departed punk idols, I'm not sure how to explain the pure insouciant thrill I get when I hear these tunes. Just this smirk that creeps onto my face right before I go bounce around for a bit. And don't even get me started about aerobics classes for old punx.

    Euphoria, Confusion, Anger and Remorse
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    I've been subjected to a big raft of oldster punx trying to make a comeback with milquetoast albums. What I should have done is simply recommend the Humpers. All that old style craziness and tuneful hooks done right. Just like 20 (or more) years ago.

    Alright, so this is better-recorded. The spirit remains the same. The Humpers are a slash-and-burn party outfit, with plenty of old-style rawk pushing the punk right along.

    Team these guys up with the New Bomb Turks, and you'd have one of the great punk bar band tours. Fine songwriting, great musicianship and loads of laughs. Not to mention pitcher after pitcher of fun.

    Another blast into the future. I'll ride these riffs into the sunset.

    Hundred Hands
    Little Eyes EP
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Little sticker on the front sez "includes members of the Appleseed Cast," which made my eyes light up light up like a frat boy at the sight of an all-girls school. Emo as storytelling form, songs that defy easy description.

    Um, yeah, just like that. Hundred Hands does utilize a nicely punchy rhythm section (the stuff just throbs in a deftly tinny fashion), with plenty of extras. Like electronic percussion, keyboards and other stuff that adds, not detracts from the sound.

    I'd like to note for the record that this puppy was recorded at the Red House in Eudora, Kan. A friend of mine drowned in the Waukarusa River outside Eudora when I was six. For some reason, the songs on this EP made me think of him even before I saw that note in the liners. Kinda funny how that stuff works sometimes.

    Hundred Million Thousand
    reviewed 3/24/17

    Noel Jon describes himself as a Persian-Filipino artist. Who lives in Edmonton. That's an unusual combination, but not nearly as unusual as his music. Jon incorporates a wide variety of styles and sounds in his electronic works. On half the tracks, he drafts MCs to drop in some vocals. But instead of dropping the music into the background, he uses the raps as another instrument.

    If you've read me at all over the last 25+ years, you know that I believe everything should serve the music. So, of course, I think Jon has his priorities completely correct. He also is a spectacular editor. Most of these tracks come in at around three minutes or less. Get in, make your point, then get out. Perfect.

    That Jon definitely exists in the experimental wing of the electronic party makes his brevity that much more impressive. Some of the tracks seem like they end just as they set a scene, but listen a few times and the depth comes into focus. The artistic fervor is so strong that I wish he went on a bit longer. Again, the perfect approach. Always leave 'em wanting more.

    HundredMillionThousand isn't destined for great fame. At least, Noel Jon isn't likely to make his mark with this project. But he's got obvious producing chops, and he creates addictive sounds that I've never heard before. The right people will hear this, and you might see a few folks making their way up to ConnorMcDavidLand to score some of Jon's talents. At least, in a just world you would. Quietly spectacular.

    The Hunger
    Cinematic Superthug
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    More of that glam metal-industrial complex. Chunky riffs that Ratt or Poison would have been happy to promulgate, combined with a full-bore techno rhythm assault. Cheap and easy, and that's just the way I like it.

    Been hearing more and more of this sound lately, and that makes a big wad of sense. The stuff makes for an instant reference from old farts like me who remember Hanoi Rocks before Vince Neil "made a little mistake" as well as the Nine Inch Nails devotees of today.

    Plenty of straight out theft, both in riffs and soundscape material (check out "Ray" for ample evidence on both fronts). But, see, this is just the pop music of tomorrow. Enough hooks to attract the kiddies, enough guitars to amp up the testosterone, enough "artistic" meddling to please a few critics.

    Not great by any standards, I gotta admit that the Hunger has a nice handle on an addictive sound. Empty? Hollow in the middle? Sure. But a tasty treat nonetheless.

    Hunger Anthem
    Hunger Anthem
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    The token obsessive one-man pop spectacular of this issue. Brendan J. Vaganek (and his engineer) may not a master of the knobs (I haven't heard a case of "demo sound" like this in ages), but he makes up for any sonic deficiencies with impossibly boundless energy.

    These crunchy rockers are kinda like caramel corn. Once you pop a kernel in your mouth, there's just no way to put down the bowl. Vaganek writes some really catchy, if minimalist songs. And then he plays the hell out of them.

    That "demo sound" leaves the tracks tinny and a bit too distorted. It's vaguely annoying, but at least it fits the style alright. Turning this into a lush mushbowl would have been much worse.

    I have a feeling the average listener will either love or hate this immediately. There's really no middle ground for stuff like this. I latched on from the first hint of noise. Try it for yourself.

    Hungry Crocodiles
    Comewidit 7"
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Awfully cheesy heavy funk 'n' rap stuff. Sounds a lot like License to Ill-era Beasties stuff. Stuff I really don't like.

    The production leaves things sounding almost mono-like, which wastes some of the sampling efforts.

    Just a rehash of everything the Red Hot Chili Peppers have become. Yikes.

    The Hungry Mind Review
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Moody, contemplative pop stuff that has one foot in the DBs and another in the Smiths. The lighter side of each, I might add.

    But a lighter touch on the volume simply focuses the spotlight on the songwriting of Stephan Bayley and Holt Evans. Bayley did the bulk of the composing, but both men write in complimentary styles. Earnest, yearning songs, always looking just past the horizon.

    It's not everyone who writes a song about Barton Fink, and only the rare few can make a rational statement about that rather obtuse and intriguing movie. The Hungry Mind Review specializes in writing and performing songs that allow the listener's mind to enter new worlds, finding new ways of thinking.

    The complete package. This is a wonderful album, the first album I've heard this year that has "Top 10 of 1998" written all over it (even if it did come out last year; self-released discs are kinda nebulous that way). Like last year's Mitchell Rasor album, J'Abandonne speaks quietly, but kills all the same.

    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    This is generally not my sound. Easy-going pop music that is so hooky that it could, it should be syrupy. But it's not, somehow, and that's exactly why I loved J'Abandonne. This album is much more consistent than that effort. There's definitely something here.

    I think part of the reason this works so well is that the band doesn't try to ape anyone in particular. The songs are polished jewels, but they're played as if they were just tossed off. That off-hand approach is what keeps the tuneage from getting icky.

    So instead there's just gorgeous pop tunes played with abandon. The production is top-notch, lending a sheen when needed but also pulling back when more jangle is required. There are plenty of unexpected moments as well, which keeps the hooks on their toes.

    The Hungry Mind Review does everything except play by the numbers. Instead, it cranks out some top-notch pop music. These guys are ready.

    James Hunter
    Kick It Around
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    More rock and roll and doo wop than the blues (or even jump blues), James Hunter evokes the soulful side of the 50s. And evokes is the right word; Hunter writes almost all of his own material.

    And the stuff he didn't, well, you're not gonna know it. Hunter sells all of this stuff with everything he's got while still keeping faith with the "restrained" singing style of the time.

    Now, no one played all of these styles at the same time, but I think Hunter can be granted that much artistic license. He's not trying to be "pure." He's just trying to play music he loves.

    That love is expressed with every he plucks and sings. Call this a "survey" of the late 50s, if you like. Hunter hasn't just recreated a time; he's also brought the music forward to today. A refreshing blast.

    The Huntingtons
    Split LP with Darlington
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    A couple of pop punk bands do the split album thing. They each cover one of the other's songs and then add seven or eight others.

    The Huntingtons are the poppier of the two, almost Queers-like in their bouncy hooks. There is, of course, a strong Ramones feel as well, but not so much as to get annoying. Cheap and easy, sure, but with a nice gooey filling.

    Darlington cleans up its act a bit (musically, anyway) with these tunes. There's a tribute to Donna A. of the Donnas, a nod to the Ramones with "Pogo Beach" and then lots more of what Darlington does best. I do wish there was a bit more guitar (that sound is a bit thin), but the songs are as tight as ever.

    Perhaps cotton candy isn't filling, but it's sure a load of fun to eat. Likewise, these two bands aren't the most adventurous around, but they sure know how to knock out a hook or few.

    A Place Called Today
    (Third Gear)
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    Dirty, grungy pop, mostly without vocals. And the less distortion and layers the band puts on, the better the sound.

    The guys write cool songs with simple musical lines. They screw it up somewhat by trying to make more of the sound than is there. And that's too bad. A like a bunch of this album, but when the everything gets involved, Hurl begins to sound like an average grunge band. And these guys are rather above that characterization.

    I understand the urge to crank the volume and really rip out the guitar chords. I'm a talentless hack on the instrument myself, and I think I sound better with the volume up. My wife thinks I sound better when I don't play at all. Hurl is most definitely better when the delicate musical ideas they express are put forth in a more sheltered environment. In other words, when the volume is lower and the constructions can be heard above the descending cacophony of generic grunge chords.

    Almost there. Hurl needs to define itself just a bit more, and focus on its real talent, which is writing good songs, not blasting a rocket into orbit. What I liked, I liked a lot. I wish the folk would just believe in themselves a bit more.

    Not a Memory
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    My advice on the last Hurl record was to throttle down and let the nice songwriting show up more. If it read my advice, the band passed on it. Good thing, too, because instead the guys simply wrote better songs that sound great when the volume is cranked.

    Not to say that the band has deviated from its eclectic noise pop positioning or anything like that. Like fellow Pittsburghers Don Caballero, these guys know how to bash out a tune or two. But the main emphasis is on exploring the edges of musical coherence.

    And while somewhat harrowing, the trip is an amazing one. Hurl eschews any sort of formal song construction in favor of a swiftly shifting free-flow position. Many of the songs have many separate components. Sometimes they come together at the end, and sometimes they don't.

    But the artistry is there. This is high quality work, a couple notches above A Place Called Today. A couple notches above most bands.

    We Are Quiet in This Room EP
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Once a year, a little Hurl package of joy comes into my mailbox. A little late this time, perhaps, but certainly worth every second of the wait. In case you haven't caught the band before, Hurl is one of the finest purveyors of that impossible to define "eclectic noise pop" (perhaps the worst such description I've ever penned) movement.

    Intricately crafted guitar lines spinning and wheeling, crashing into the bass and drums. Oh, and the vocals, which are about as stream-of-consciousness as the music. A definite relation to emo, but not the same thing. Not at all. There is much more emphasis here on craft and style. The guitars glide and really aren't all that strident. The songs are just much more complex.

    A long EP, perhaps (the six songs some in at more than 28 minutes), or a short LP. My Pal God went with the former appellation. In any case, fine work. The sound is even more accomplished than before (the more trips to the studio, the more you can implement your vision), and the songs more impressive.

    Just another incremental improvement on an already solid foundation. Hurl has the vision, the talent and the obvious follow-through. A legend in the making? Possibly. All I can say is that I'm damned impressed.

    Hurl Soul Bridge
    Which Is Your Way?
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Before I go any further, let me say that a band releasing its own disc really oughta at least include a web site address, if not full contact information, on the packaging. Somewhere. Anywhere. I know, it looks cool, calculating and commercial, but c'mon folks, someone has to know where to call to congratulate the folks on a good album, right? (You'll note that there is contact info at the end of the review; the band was kind enough to point out to me that the phone number for their management is listed on the back of the CD--my bad--and it also threw in its web site for good measure).

    Of course, Hurl Soul Bridge is fronted by a guy named Roadie (at least, he wrote all the lyrics, so I figure that's him with the Gram Parsons-esque voice), so maybe good music is all you can ask for, after all. In any case, these songs are tres-Burrito, some tasty alt. country bits that take their time to develop.

    Perhaps the coolest part about the sound is that it is so round. No one felt the need to sharpen things up or, as they say nowadays, put a little garage in it. Just to classic new wave country style of the late 60s and early 70s, played by folks who really can, um, play.

    Great stuff for kicking back and watching the ice melt in the bourbon. Hurl Soul Bridge doesn't write simple songs, but the ease of delivery makes this album go down dreadfully smoothly. I'll take my own leave now.

    Lida Husik
    Your Bag
    (Shimmy Disc)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Minimal everything. One keyboard line, one guitar line, one percussion line, the occasional backup overdubs. Then, at times, this illusion is shattered in one way or another, always with dramatic effect.

    Hypnotic. You find your head bobbing along, willing accept anything she has say. Then you think about it. And it starts to actually make sense. Wow.

    Most of these songs are rather long (five of seven over five minutes, and three over seven minutes). You don't mind. It's all part of the experience, and the feeling is good. Just keep bobbing along, and you'll understand.

    Racecourse Exit
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    Perfectly understated poetry read over pleasantly diverse pop music, albeit with a drum machine. Sounds kinda like the Crispin Glover album. The delivery of the stuff, that is, not the dreadful singing or horrific imagery. A pleasant jaunt into the sunshine.

    John Dooley wrote (and spoke) the poems and also programmed the drums. This is why the stuff works. The poet knows the right rhythm, and so he determines it. Gary Glover riffed along on various guitars and keyboards. His stuff is a great accompaniment and occasional counterpoint.

    Deep, this is not. But the sound of a Hydropods piece is positively hypnotic, and the observations in the poetry are deadpan and enlightening. Completely without pretense, Hydropods succeed because sometimes simple life is much more entertaining than stretching and twisting reality. I just want to keep riding along.

    Au Gratin
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    Not what you'd expect from the land of Rupp (It's almost basketball season. I can start using those references again). Sure, this is muffled as hell; it sounds like it was recorded on a jam box. But that's part of the charm.

    And through the baffle I can hear something very nice: a command of that thing we like to call the riff. These guys are tight, no doubt about it. I would love to see them live.

    I also like the self-aggrandizing press, which notes "Its six tracks show great promise, especially from a band whose average age is 18." Funny, and you win tons o' points for proper use of the apostrophe. A big thumbs up!

    Metachrome EP
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Four tunes, and 7 remixes by X Marks the Pedwalk, New Mind, Download and Empirion. The original pieces show a nice touch on orchestral techno (kinda like X Marks), with lots of cool melodic and harmonic experimentation.

    Indeed, this is crafty fare, indeed. Each of the four songs is distinct from the others, and yet Hyperdex-1-Sect has still managed to notch its own sound. Well done.

    The remixes are innovative as the acts who made them. Complimentary, and yet completely new visions of the songs. This is a cool set which shows the potential for variations on a theme, as practiced by good mixers.

    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    C. Scott Blevins has written a minor rock opera that is almost as oblique and sublime as the Rollo Treadway's from earlier this year. The sound is a bit more Steely Dan than Beach Boys, but the exceptional attention to detail is most arresting.

    The "story" itself is more impressionistic than linear, something along the lines of discovery of all types. The songs don't attack the ears; rather, they invite the listener in slowly with a series of intriguing lines and hooks.

    The overall sound is restrained, in keeping with the lyrical content. Despite an almost movie-like roster of musicians, there's no screaming or even stepping on toes. In fact, much of this disc takes place at dynamics just above a whisper. That's okay. It makes the listeners voyeurs. And we're all too happy to listen in.

    An intriguing set that raises more questions than it answers. I like that. Tickles the brain as well as the ears. Hyperstory is anything but hyper, and that makes all the difference.

    Hypnotic Clambake
    Frozen Live
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Not quite a year I reviewed something described as "the worst Bar Mitzvah band in the world." The band was Firewater, and I loved the album. Last issue I reviewed this band called Japonize Elephants, which sounded something like an Indian (the country) hoe-down. Hypnotic Clambake starts with a combination of those styles and then moves on out.

    No, really. This album was recorded during a few shows last year (including, I believe, one just down the road from me in Lancaster). The first song clocks in at nearly 12 minutes, the second for more than nine. Not a way to sequence a "traditional" album, but then, as you might have guessed, Hypnotic Clambake doesn't truck much with tradition.

    The easiest way to wrap your mind around this band would be to imagine just about every folk style of music (folk in the musicologist sense; i.e., bluegrass, zydeco, etc.), assume you're going to hear a bit of everything mixed into a solid rock or jazz base. Depending on the song. See if you can keep up.

    And actually, Hypnotic Clambake is quite easy to grab on to. Like many of the live albums I've reviewed lately, the spontaneous energy captured outweighs any drawback in production value. And, honestly, the sound is pretty good. Hard to lose a smile when this stuff is on the stereo.

    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    A coherent Cannibal Corpse. This is pretty over-the-top stuff, and you almost comprehend it, which simultaneously makes it more disgusting and yet tamer.

    The grind here is not quite as mechanical as Cannibal Corpse (almost sounding like music, but the double bass/cymbal attack is still the most prominent feature.

    A lot of you have already signed on, and with good reason. If you need any further evidence, just listen.

    Osculum Obscenum
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Pretty much standard death metal fare. You make a lot of money selling this, but artistically it lags far behind other bands.

    If only they could merge the doomy intros and the actual songs. Right now that stuff is just window dressing. Then the window slams on the pane and glass starts breaking. Why do I have to clean it up?

    Too bad most of the innovative bands on Nuclear Blast (Germany, not Relapse) have been dropped. This is barely acceptable.

    Inferior Devoties
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Um, yeah, this is Swedish death metal. No deviation from that norm.

    I kinda wish there was, because this EP is just a water treading exercise for these boys. No moving forward; just sitting in a pool of redundancy.
    Sure, this was a cool sound three years ago. But it's getting pretty stale. Time for Hypocrisy (and quite a few others) to forge ahead.

    The Fourth Dimension
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Hypocrisy tries to shake things up on this disc. A little keyboard work here, some mid-tempo songs there.

    Oddly, the best songs are exactly those mid-tempo pieces. Unlike other bands, Hypocrisy has a good feel for how to retain a death metal feel, even if the bass drums aren't double clutching all the time. And when the songs speed up, you know it's Hypocrisy. Quality playing, sterling production and even some fine songwriting help out, but more than once things slip back into a familiar and well-worn mode.

    A mixed bag, but The Fourth Dimension is a good album. As much as I don't want to see every death metal band turn into Metallica or Slayer, Hypocrisy does the slower stuff very well. At times, the guys also show a capacity for writing the great balls-out ripper as well. I just wish things were more consistent.

    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    Two years ago, I would have said Hypocrisy has totally cheesed out. Indeed, Abducted has a lot more in common with Iron Maiden than Penetralia. Even ripping rockers like "Killing Art" seem oddly tame.

    Well, this is produced out the ass. Keyboards everywhere, and not one note is out of place. The guys have learned how to play, and they want it to be pretty. You want to bitch?

    Of course, the ascendance of bands like Amorphis and Tiamat have made many more "traditional" bands rethink their stance. Hypocrisy has been moving this way for quite a while, Entombed has been getting more and more melodic and now one will claim that Sentenced is a death metal band in any shape or form these days. Oh, those wacky Scandinavians.

    Like I noted with The Fourth Dimension, Hypocrisy does this lush thing well. I'm not sure that the guys' hearts were in the old sound. And now that they can play...

    Purists will not be pleased. But there are a lot more who are coming around to this sound. This album is quite good. The next one could be great.

    When It Rains...
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    At its core, Hyptonic is Scotty Vercoe on keyboards (of various kinds, but generally a Rhodes) and Lydia on vocals. The sound is a spacey sort of acid jazz trending toward trip-hop.

    With a heavy dose of experimentalism to boot. Hyptonic isn't afraid to leave the land of the straight and narrow and take flight. Indeed, some of the most transcendent moments on this album are at the fringes.

    All while sticking to the basic notion of wrapping a song around a tight groove. There's always a little funk sticking out of the hip pocket, just waiting to put that booty in motion.

    Cool but steamy, Hyptonic succeeds by refusing to stick to any one formula. The songs share similar themes but spin out into unique sounds and ideas. Which just happens to be a recipe for innovative and invigorating music.

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