I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House
Put Here to Bleed
(In Music We Trust)
reviewed in issue #242, June 2003
The name may be silly, but the music is anything but. Hard-drinking, bloody-knuckled blues with a couple sledgehammers back. Imagine the Dogs D'Amour with about twenty times the attitude.
I know, the reference is semi-obscure, but hell, that's what popped into my head. The music is a throbbing thicket of riffage, based in the blues but basted in hardcore. There's a fine bit of harp work that keeps the stuff vaguely honest.
The production as designed for maximum power. Not much subtlety here, but I don't think that sort of thing is necessary. This is music for the iron of heart. Why pretty things up when the folks who might like something flowery won't bother to pick up the disc in the first place?
The more I hear, the more I'm convinced the band's name is singularly appropriate. This stuff is pure bluster, walls of sound thrown up in front of a surprisingly basic rampart. Pretty damned good that way, too.
I Come to Shanghai
Eternal Life Vol. I & II
reviewed in issue #339, August 2012
While I'm reviewing these two releases as one, if you want to buy them (digitally or on vinyl) you'll have to purchase them separately. And if you've only got the scratch for one, well, flip a coin. Both are great, but there's very little difference in terms of content or quality.
These are meditative electronic musers. Many of them are drop-dead gorgeous, and some of them eventually form themselves into the shapes of songs. Some don't. And I think I like those a little bit better.
Modestly accessible, I Come to Shanghai takes sunny Beach Boys-style pop and plants it firmly in the experimental ambient universe. And that's even cooler than you might think.
I like it, anyway. These two albums are utterly beautiful, even if some of the songs tend to melt into the horizon. Perhaps I should replace "even if" with "because." Whatever. These are the synths of doom, and I'll ride them to Hell and back.
I See Spots
reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99
Acoustic guitar-tinged roots pop tuneage. The usual eccentricities found in singer-songwriter fare can be found here, but generally in a good way. These songs roll along quite nicely, which gives the words behind the music a chance to sink in.
There's a cool echoey quality to the recording, which gives the songs a smoky, haunting feel. And while the lyrics are more intimate than mysterious, the sound does help them sound more poetic, somehow.
That's not too hard, though, because everything here fits together so well. Alright, the guys aren't breaking any new musical ground, but the stuff is heartfelt and genuine. That works, too.
I See Spots has a good grasp on these songs. With a sound that's not too pretentious or sappy, but merely very good, this album quietly impresses. I can handle that.
reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95
Pretty cranking hardcore with a great wailer at the mike. Perry Masco just keeps everything flowing very nicely, even when the underlying music gets a little messy.
Traditionalists will turn up their noses, but I.C.U. has a fairly addictive sound that fits in many genres. The music is loud and the riffs are crunchy. Is it "alternative"? Is it "punk"? Is it "metal"? Yes, yes and yes. And no, no and no.
I.C.U. faces the same problem bands like Die Monster Die haven't quite conquered: great music, but as the industry likes labels, what's yours?
I say don't fall victim to labels and stick to the "great music" claim. Someday the world will come around to your point of view. And if not, at least you made great music.
O No No O Zone
reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95
I remember the last I.C.U. release. As I recall, I thought it was alright, but the folks needed to work a little more. The same verdict after hearing this effort.
Up-tempo fuzz-guitar stuff with a vague punk-industrial feel. In other words, all the right trends are covered. But the songs are missing that particular spark to really make a difference. Hearing these songs makes me wonder what six months of working the stuff out live would do for them.
Right now I.C.U.'s tunes are merely average. But if the band would really settle down and do the leg work, I think the prospects for success would be much better. And by the way, don't worry about that legal case noted in the liners. It went down 10 miles from my house and has been resolved (I think the charges were either severely reduced or dropped altogether). In any case, your letters won't make a bit of difference.
The Great Divide
reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99
Oh, my. This disc is bookended by 10-minute-plus songs (plus an 11-minute theme song). Yes, the label is a dead giveaway, but man, this is prog.
And extremely well executed. The playing is very good, the songs structurally sound. Rote at times, but certainly within specs. And despite being really, really longwinded at times, Ice Age is a good example of why people dig prog. Inventive and technically brilliant playing, tight (if convoluted) melodies and harmonies and a sense of greatness and, well, pomposity to the sound. This stuff sounds important.
I'm not so sure that it is, but hell, it's hard to slag on these guys. I do wish they varied from the ideal more than they do, but in general, the stuff is still quite impressive.
The sort of album which gives prog a good name. Self-indulgent? Of course. But that excess produces some fine moments. Ice Age tries to get as much of its vision into the sound, and for the most part, it's in there. A most impressive debut.
Check Yo Self CD5
reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93
After they sent me the EOA, I encouraged Priority to send me their rap stuff as well. Thank God.
While the two album tracks on here are clean for airplay, they're not bad. I prefer the originals. But the bonus track, "24 with an L" is heavier musically and lyrically. Very nice.
While on this tip, you should check out the Onyx-Biohazard remixes. Challenge your listeners and their prejudices. Everything goes back to Chuck Berry, anyway.
(Texas Is Funny)
The original no wave was a dig at new wave music. I can almost guarantee that you've never heard of any of the "original" no wave bands, but bands like Sonic Youth are direct descendants. In the late 80s and early 90s some (largely Midwestern) punk bands appropriated the moniker for their brand of screamer noise. The Jesus Lizard, Kepone and some other Touch and Go artists played with this sound, but the label really applied to folks like U.S. Maple and other bands that circled around lesser-known Chicago labels like Skin Graft. And if you've heard of Skin Graft Records, bless your sweet heart.
Ice Hockey takes the deconstructive notions of the original no wave, adds in the screamer noise of the later revamp and lets everything stew a bit. This is the opposite of chaos--in any incarnation, no wave emphasized a sort of nihilistic structure (I know, but bear with me), and Ice Hockey is no different. At times the rhythms are positively prog-like.
The official non-digital release form of this is a cassette, which is both hilarious and completely appropriate. The hiss that is present in the digital version will sound even better when slapped into a jam box (what we oldsters used to call those portable sound systems that had a cassette deck stuck between two monster speakers).
The adrenaline materializes not as a rush but as a wall, a slap to the face. Ice Hockey hails from the Quad Cities (there's that midwestern thing again), and I do get a whiff of the whole "life is going on somewhere else" futility that I also felt when I was stationed in flyover country for most of my youth.
My favorite moment, however, is "The Great Flood of '93." I remember that flood (it lasted an entire summer, and many parts of the Missouri and Mississippi valleys haven't yet fully recovered), and I drove through it in order to move from Kansas City to Battle Creek, Mich. The relentless, inexorable march of the water is the perfect analogue to this music. You can't stop it. You can't contain it. Just let it wash over you and clean up afterwards.
reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93
Out of Utah this flows, making me wonder if I shouldn't visit there, too. After all, I do dig Into Another (mentioned on the liners here) and these guys are rather amazing as well.
Taking a cue from Primus and cranking the bass rather heavily, these boys then merge basic grunge guitar sound with an almost pulsating rhythmic style. At times it gets hard to tell whether Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden is the big influence here. And mind you, all that filtered through five layers of fog.
Brutally intense music. How these guys actually manage to live in Utah is beyond me. I'm sure there aren't enough people out there who appreciate them. You know, they kinda remind me of this Albuquerque band Treadmill. Not that any of you remember their album of a couple of years ago, but still.
reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93
I looked at the back of this package and saw four titles. And a little note that mentioned the disc ran 79 minutes. "This must surely be the longest EP in history," I thought.
As it turns out, there are 28 tracks, but they don't make much sense unless strung together in the groups the liners suggest. And they do string together anyway.
Like movements to symphonies (and the things are about that long), you can cut these up, but I wouldn't. Oh sure, your listeners might wonder, but this stuff is great! If you could do ten to fifteen minutes of Disembowelment at a stretch, no worries here.
Of course, Iceburn are more in the grunge side of things, but they have moved the genre into completely new territory. I loved their last disc (on Victory), and with the larger clout of Revelation, their hometown label, Iceburn should reach many more of you. DO NOT pass this up, thinking it looks too weird.
It is weird, but all of you thought Primus was a little weird a couple of years ago, and now look how many copies they can sell of a truly mediocre album. This is a great album! It deserves your support and devotion.
Poetry of Fire
reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95
The coolest thing about Iceburn (among a multitude) is that while you can hear an Iceburn piece and instantly know it is an Iceburn piece, you never know what to expect from Iceburn from recording to recording.
Well, apart from lo-fi sounds that still manage to completely convey every intricate idea spawned the musical genius of the band.
I would guess that Iceburn never plays any one song the same way, from recording rehearsal to released versions to live, every time the band hashes out the jam the song is accomplished in various ways.
The easiest example is to compare the studio version of "poem of fire" to the live version (a bonus track for those of you who have the CD). You'll hear the same musical ideas with some differences in the order and intensity. Of course, there's also the Black Sabbath medley in the middle of the live version.
And that's why I like Iceburn so much. Impeccable musicianship, highly creative songwriting and an amazing ability for group improvisation. If for some reason you have never heard of Iceburn, then play this disc. After a spin, you will be hooked.
Defined: Iceburn-perhaps the most amazing band in the universe. In a sentence: Iceburn is the most punk band who doesn't play anything resembling punk music. Iceburn. I-C-E-B-U-R-N. Iceburn.
See also Rival Schools.
reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94
Perhaps the two most creative bands to emerge from the nasty world of grunge music, Iceburn and Engine Kid are so far removed from their sonic starting points that that particular reference may seem obscene.
Engine Kid does its usual take on the pianissimo to fortissimo in two beats school, pleasant and meandering one second, pulverizing the next. I keep hearing the band improve as the guys keep struggling to define their sound. These three songs are more than nice.
Iceburn has two (lengthy) takes on Stravinski's "Rites of Spring" (remember Fantasia?). Stunning would be an understatement, so I'll just say I was speechless. If you have yet to really experience Iceburn's musical genius, then get on now. The line will be out the door before you know it.
reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97
Instruments: Bass, guitar, effects, samples. That's it. And that's more than enough. Kinda spacey stuff, like Seam without vocals or something. A lot like Pell Mell. That sorta thing.
Yeah, the guitar lines echo a lot, and sometimes I wish those lines had a bit more meat to them. The use of samples is subtle and effective, one of the better things in the disc.
Nicely understated, basically. This isn't groundbreaking music, but it sets a mood quite well. Icecake is a constructed act, with each piece being properly sequenced in with all the others. That sort of sterile breeding ground might have yielded a shrill or unfeeling album. Not here. Icecake is contemplative and warm.
Yet another path to the inner recesses of your mind. Icecake's hypnotic grooves can be grating if the listener isn't in the proper mindset, but with a little stretching, this music is ready to take you on a ride.
Night of the Stormrider
reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92
What is it about Tampa Bay that produces Euro-metal bands? A few years back I was really into Crimson Glory, and then a couple of years ago I got the first IE album from Century Media. Blew my shit into tomorrow.
As Crimson Glory have gone major and faded in a big way, now Iced Earth can be noticed for what they are: innovative, intelligent and just plain great.
This is a concept album, sort of tracing one man's path through the metaphysical choices we all must make at one time or another. But to judge this solely on lyrics would be absurd.
The music is what really impresses me. Heavy riffing, lots of extra touches (choirs, some lilting keys, etc.) that remind me of early Queensryche. And, of course, the Iron Maiden connection is always present. By meshing all this together, Iced Earth have created something that is truly unique; their own sound. And a great album.
reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95
(Previous review to the contrary) I always assumed Iced Earth was from Germany. Never read a bio, but since the first IE disc (along with Despair) was the first missal I ever received from Century Media (a German company), I guess I just assumed too much. Of course, Iced Earth is a Tampa band.
Not that the music doesn't have a real European power metal sound, reminiscent of many German bands. But I guess I'll have to stop saying all those nasty things about Tampa bands (well, I guess the new Death taught me something about assumptions as well). So any, enough mea culpas. On with the review.
As many of you know, I consider Night of the Stormrider one of the 10 best metal albums of all time. So Burnt Offerings has a big shadow to fill.
This is not a single concept album (like Stormrider), the continuity is not quite as good. But all of the pieces are thematically related, and Iced Earth does match the music from the first and last tracks, to give sort of a bookend effect.
And then there is the music itself. Gorgeous and flowing, with a few more nods to current doom and death trends, but still a solidly power metal stance. Not many bands play this sort of music any more. No one plays it so well.
Iced Earth has returned, and it returns as a conqueror. The playing on Burnt Offerings is the band's finest, and new singer Matthew Barlow (the third in three albums) compliments the music terrifically. Nothing to complain about on this one. Just pure bliss.
reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97
With a good grasp on the many moods of alternapop, Icon has crafted solid, if a bit uninspired set of tunes.
The songs' constructions are varied and well-done. I get the feeling, though, that the guys are working a bit too hard to mix things up, and so some of the natural evocative potential of the music is lost.
Still, I'd rather have a young band trying to innovate and falling just a bit short, than hear the latest flavor of crap. Icon has the right idea, and with a bit more work just might whip these tunes into shape.
Okay, the production is a bit muddy (though above general demo quality), but that almost works into the hands of the band, who aren't afraid of a little dirt on the sound. An encouraging tape.
reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97
A somewhat leaner approach to the anthemic hippie funk stuff that attempted to supplant glam as the dominant metal sound in the late 80s. Didn¹t work then, but the trendsters managed to mutate this idea into what turned into the commercial form of grunge.
And so Icos comes across as sounding almost authentic, even as it traffics in well-worn riffs and musical ideas. Each song is an anthem, and that gets old real quick. Icos works fairly hard to mix the sounds up, but in general this is pretty lame stuff.
Sharply produced, certainly good enough to find itself pushed by a major label. And, actually, that sheen is one reason I can¹t dig this. Too much emphasis put on craft (both in the booth and in playing) than on writing worthwhile songs.
I¹ve heard a bunch of albums just like this one. And many of them had better songs. Icos sounds like a coldly calculated shot at success. Hey, I know folks have to make a buck, but I¹m in the business of looking for musical merit. And there isn¹t much here.
iD and Sleeper
reviewed in issue #267, August 2005
Rhymes by iD, music by Sleeper. This sort of arrangement is fairly common, of course, but when it works both people push each other to the limits of creativity. Such is the case here.
iD muses about the modern condition. Whether talking about the material or philosophical worlds, the ideas in these songs are fresh and intoxicating. This stuff is hardly abstract, but iD pulls off the neat trick of speaking generally, yet leaving a specific impression.
The beats and grooves are dirty and lean, just as fertile as the lyrics. Indeed, often enough there are musical counterpoints to the subjects of the rhymes. That's what I meant when I was talking about pushing each other. Creative competition often yields exemplary results.
An album well worth delving into. There are far too many ideas and themes to mention in a review as short as this. Let's just say I'll be peeling the onion for quite a while.
reviewed in issue #327, May 2011
An extravagantly generous set of electronic tunes. Identity Theft includes 22 songs on this album, and there's very little here that's not up to snuff.
Indeed, the immediate sense is that so much is great. The songs fall all over the landscape, from bubble melodic pieces to much more moody, soundscapey kinda stuff.
And that range does make it a bit difficult for the album to hold together as a unit. I will confess that I cannot find much in the way of unifying features.
But I prefer to hear this as a sort of travelogue through the many moods of electronic music. A jaunt here, a rumination there--and the occasional rage as well. Most impressive, both in terms of quantity and quality.
reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95
The remains of STG. And just maybe, Idiot Stare is more than the sum of its parts.
The music is much more techno (in a recent FLA sorta vein; still plenty of guitars to go around) and dance oriented, but the pain and anger are as omnipresent as before. Bucking the trend of most industrial acts becoming more focused on a "live sound", Idiot Stare is the result of STG going the other way. And I like this much better than the last STG disc.
If this can be reproduced live (and the boys have had plenty of experience, so I would imagine that enough could), it would be a most impressive show. Enough of the old STG sound remains (in pieces) to bring the old fans along.
A bold step forward. Idiot Stare has more than enough in the way of chops and tunesmithing to go places. Who wants to give them a lift?
See also STG.
Taking on the Monster EP
(Earache New Chapter)
reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97
A Jersey hardcore band that sounds like a Britpunk band playing Sam Black Church? God help us all.
Plenty of the doctrinaire ("Divided We Fall" is right out of the punk handbook, and "Interference" could have been penciled in the margins), which limits the appeal. I'm still not sure why the singer ("Red") feels the need to affect a British accent, but he does, and it bugs the shit out of me. I know, I know, that's not supposed to matter, but it does.
Add to that the really "by the book" style of the lyric and music writing, and there just aren't that many bright points. IDK can play this music well, but so could a few chimpanzees with a few lessons. The real trick is to make a statement without resorting to slogans, to put a new musical spin on the three-chord ditty.
IDK does nothing of the sort. Competent musicianship isn't artistry.
reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97
Trying very hard to be cerbral in both lyrics and sound, Idle flies through all sorts of concepts without really settling on much. Leaves me kinda breathless, though I'm not sure that's a good thing in this case.
At the core of each song is our friend, simple pop music. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and fade. Idle likes to change the order of these things, drop in any number of extraneous sounds, varying levels of distortion and a new style for each song. I like the fertile idea camping ground, but in a quest for the unusual, Idle ends up saying nothing at all too much of the time.
The extremes of experimentation are quite interesting to hear, as long as you don't try to make sense of it. But since the general theory of pop involves a certain mindless appreciation, well, there's a bit of paradox. Which, of course, is a good thing.
Now I don't make any sense, either. See how this works? Anyway, Idle is way beyond my meager means of comprehension. There is simply too much here to pick up in one setting. Perhaps I'll really dig this after a couple of months. It's probably brilliant, even, and I'm just too dense to figure it out. Oh well. I do what I can.
If All Else Fails
Do Not Forget to Be Angry
(Baseline Music Co.)
reviewed in issue #274, May 2006
By and large, the albums I give full reviews to are very easy choices for me. This one wasn't. I was torn between the full review or none at all. And so I listened to the album again.
The conundrum for me was that I've heard this sort of wailing, crunchy, melodic pop punk many times before. If All Else Fails breaks no new ground at all. But man, this album is one hell of a rush. The songs are all played at least 30 BPM too fast, and it feels like they speed up as they go on. There's a palpable kinetic energy here.
In the end, I've got to honor that. I'm not saying IAEF is ripping anyone off or simply adhering to musical precedents. But there's nothing surprising on this album...except for the visceral thrills it provides. A bravura performance, to be sure.
So let the power wash over you. Don't ask too many questions and enjoy the ride. It's electric.
reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01
I got a call from a PR person telling me about this album from a band that's in that "Sugar Ray, party music kinda mode." My memory is bad (happens when you're a senior citizen like me), so I don't recall if Iffy was the band in question. The description fits, nonetheless.
And it's not bad, if you don't mind an emphasis on back beats and vaguely whiny choruses. Laid back grooves, and lyrics whose content matters much less than the delivery--this stuff is supposed to sound "cool." Works, mostly.
Okay, so this really isn't my scene. And since I hear stuff like this all the time at the gym, I don't think Iffy is really distinguishing itself from a larger pack. That's probably the biggest problem here.
'Cause the stuff is fine. Nothing spectacular, but fun in a silly sorta way. I think that's where the boys were aiming. Now, if they could only write that one smash hit...
I don't miss much about being younger. Yes, it was nice to be able to go out, do completely irresponsible things at all times of night and then stagger through the next day without feeling entirely like hot death. Well, the irresponsibility was fun, anyway. For the most part, though, I'm happy to be a reasonably prosperous old fart. I have sons who will mow my lawn and even get me a beer when I holler. Life is good.
But in that brief morning haze that comes once or twice a year (a toddler--my third boy--doesn't exactly allow for early rumination), I have flashed back into my "man, I've gotta listen to more Touch and Go shit" place. And for a few days I'll be blasting some Don Cab, Jesus Lizard, GvsB, Kepone and the like. My older boys just shake their heads (though my oldest did sneak some GvsB onto his iPod not long ago), but a primal need is slaked.
Iglomat is helmed by David Jack, and his DJ background does lend an electronic underpinning to these songs. But the sounds here are anything but rote. The album opens with some classic seminal post-rock T&G sounds, surge straight into a bit of the chill haze and then wander back into the world of semi-analog rock. And then out again. And then over the hills and far away.
I suppose the Flaming Lips would be a solid reference, though Wayne and the boys tend to change course between albums rather than between songs. And anyway, Iglomat may be a lot of things, but psychedelic is definitely not one of them.
Ruminative, however, is. Subtly deconstructive, too, which is probably the reason I kept associating this with T&G even as the album spun further and further from that orbit. I'd advise having no expectations as you listen. Because there is no explaining exactly what Iglomat is. There is no signature anything. Simply music that defies just about everything.
In other words, something to satisfy my early morning cravings. Spectacular.
A Place Called Home
reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00
These boys certainly have their hearts in the right places. Logos for Doctors Without Borders, Earth First and other organizations grace the liners. The songs, as well, are pointed cultural commentaries.
It's just too bad that the pedestrian hardcore riffage and Zoli Teglas' hoarsely operatic vocals sound strangely like a punk Iron Maiden homage. Ignite suffers in the comparison.
I'm not sure if it's just a case of a band more concerned with its stance than its art or merely misguided stylings. The underlying chords are definitely hardcore, but the songs sound more like 80s metal than anything else. But not the good stuff. The forced stuff. Bands that weren't quite fun enough to make it.
It's not that the guys can't play. Indeed, Teglas is quite the singer. But it's just so weird. I get visions of the Scorpions when the anthems kick out. And that's when I reach for my copy of Virgin Killer and flip this puppy out of the discer.
Let It Come Down
reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98
James Iha has a bit more on the line here than the average member of a superstar band releasing a solo album. After all, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan has made it clear that Corgan not only writes the music, but plays most of the instruments as well. Which leaves Iha and his other bandmates as highly-paid touring pros.
So can Iha write songs? Can he actually play? Of course. This album will probably surprise Pumpkins fans with its pure pop core, but the fact of the matter is, Iha has a real knack for kicking out the slightly icky pop tune. Easy-rockin', rootsy love songs that roll of the discer smoother than Maker's Mark out of a jigger.
Somewhere between Big Star and the dBs, with a heavy dose of the Eagles. Iha has a great voice for this stuff, just enough of a rasp to make him sound distinctive. This music may not be as adventurous as Smashing Pumpkins recent efforts, but it works much better.
Perfect timing for this sort of record, too, what with the huge pop resurgence and all. I wasn't expecting anything, and Let It Come Down just ran over me. More than competent, Iha sometime really amazes. Well worth the time.
reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01
Latin survivors of the NYC metal scene (Pro-Pain, Soulfly) team up with some South American newcomers to play, well, some NYC metal. Right up the ol' Fear Factory alley, complete with hoarse falsetto vocals.
There's a drummer and a percussionist. That leads to a whole lot of rhythm and even some polyrhythms. Ill Nino also isn't afraid to bring everything down and jam calmly. The dynamic and emotional range of these songs is impressive.
Intense is just not an adequate term. These boys don't really take the sound to a new level, but the rhythms and range are as impressive as anything else in the scene. Each song is a new adventure. Each track impresses me more than the previous one.
There was a time when I would have said this might be a little "out there" for the average listener. Not so anymore. Metal fans these days are probably more adventurous than your average listener. Something like Ill Nino just makes them salivate. Worked that way for me.
Changes 'Comin EP
reviewed in issue #238, February 2003
Lisa Thornton wrote all five songs here (she had help on "Working Woman" from Mia Noble). She sings on three of them. But she didn't sing on the standout track, "Walk All Over You," which is one of the best country/blues tunes I've heard in ages. Bonnie Raitt (pre-mega fame) would have been proud.
The rest of the songs are pretty good--"Working Woman" is a nice modern country version of "She Works Hard for the Money," and "Knife Across Your Back" has a solid groove, though it does try a bit too hard at times.
Thornton proves herself to be a versatile songwriter, but she ought to let someone else handle the singing. And boy, she oughta get down to Nashville and sell "Walk All Over You." It's just the sort of boot in the ass today's country music needs.
reviewed in issue #326, April 2011
This Canadian duo makes some of the most instantly insistent music I've heard in ages. Marti Sarbit sounds like the perfect distillation of Grace Slick and Neil Young, and Rusty Matyas always seems to have the perfect music for the occasion.
Imagine: Uptempo, moody, rootsy rock and roll. Kinda like a modern-day Captain and Tenille, except that these songs are fully-formed. Matyas may be the only player, but this sounds like a full band. And boy, does it know how to rock!
Maybe a better reference is C&T meets the New Pornographers, with a side trip to some of the grander arena sounds of the 70s. If you can imagine a sound that fully embraces all of these ideals and still sounds great, you might be starting to understand what's going on here.
I'm hearing it (and, mostly, describing it), and still I can't believe it. This is one of those amazing albums that seems to have come from nowhere. I know, Matyas and Sarbit put in unimaginable work, but the effortless ease of the greatness here is breathtaking. My heart is racing.
Are You My Lionkiller? EP
reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00
Imbruco is having none of this modern emo sound. Nope, just a strident guitar sound injected into fairly atonal anthems. Oh, and lots of distortion. Kinda like dusting Frosted Flakes with sugar, if you know what I mean.
Swerving radically from the sublime to the buzzsaw, Imbruco also hews tightly to the line. There does seem to be a bit more of a focus on the vocals than might be necessary, though the harmonies are still fairly non-melodic.
I've always liked this sound. I mean, going all the way back to the progenitors. Imbruco does it well. I do think the band needs to find a signature of its own, but that shouldn't be too hard to accomplish. I mean, they made this fine disc, didn't they?
Left of the Middle
reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98
Following the lead of such "visionaries" as Melissa Etheridge and Alanis (she's just the one name now, I understand), Natalie Imbruglia peppers nice acoustic shuffles with drum machines and a whole host of excessive guitars and keyboards.
Actually, that's probably her producer's fault. The songs themselves are fine, if somewhat uninspired. The thing that gets me is that every single song sounds programmed for maximum radio airplay. Almost every song starts slow, builds slowly and then crashes down in an orgiastic climax of crappy riffs. And the ones that don't go overboard never get going in the first place.
Monster smashes are rarely singlemindedly created. There has to be a smattering of inspiration, either in the writing or in the performance. Imbruglia's vocals are so disguised by the excessive production that it's hard to hear her sing, and the songs themselves are hardly amusing. Rock-by-numbers is an apt description.
Man, I hate it when labels try to cash in on a badly aging trend. This stuff isn't even selling anymore, so why crank it out? Imbruglia got this one shot, and her producer shot her in the face.
Dawn of Possession
reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91
Immolation has been passed by in the recent glut of death metal, but perhaps they deserve a glance. While certainly nothing out of the ordinary is going on here, there is a respect for the riff permeating the album, which is more than many out there.
Enunciation is achieved occasionally, and the results here are fairly uniform. No great songs, but many good ones. Check out "Internal Decadence," "Despondent Souls" and "After My Prayers."
reviewed in issue #20, 9/15/92
Real in-your-face death metal. The treble has been mastered down, so when you crank this album, you can feel every last beat. It resounds through your body like trichinosis. Doctors will be using this record for ultrasound treatments.
All kidding aside, this band is another of the "really Satanic" ones. Most of their songs have such themes, and thanks goes out to Satan, Lord of Flies, Impaler of Souls... (so that's what the name means).
But you never listened to death metal for the words, did you? This music cranks! I'm gonna go another eight hours on this rush.
Too Short a Season
reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94
These guys have a great guitar sound. And they seem to know it and spend far too much time convincing us that their guitarists can play well.
As Eurometal stuff goes, this is alright, if a little too stiff and convoluted. When Andre Vuurboom finally gets to sing, things start to get a little more interesting, but most of the time is taken up with filler guitar parts.
All of the things people don't like about bands like Helloween and Iron Maiden are exhibited here. There is some of the good as well, but the whole seems to be balanced a little the other way.
Horror of the Zombies
reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93
Run-of-the-mill death metal. Nothing original jumps out at me. The sample openings are okay, but they really don't add anything to the songs, especially since they are not used within the songs themselves.
I'm not sure how seriously these folk take themselves. The less the better, I'd say. And any song titled "Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue" can't be all bad, even if it's not about eating the remains of Jesus Jones and their ilk.
The Impossible Shapes
The Great Migration
reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00
The main rhythmic force for this pop band is a soft tapping, whether it comes from the high hat, guitar or bass. It's not too hard to imagine some geeky guy in glasses at the drums, bobbing his head from side to side.
But while the rhythmic conventions may be a bit dated, the melodic side of the band is quite modern. Overlaying that tapping is a series of lines generated by guitar, piano, horn or other means. These lines interact with each other, creating intricate patterns.
Such complexity gives the 60s pop base a complete overhaul. Often, the Impossible Shapes reminds me of Cerebral Corps, a one-man band that specialized in the layered pop sound. There's always something beneath the surface.
But you gotta let it come to you. The Impossible Shapes doesn't play the sorta music that lends itself well to immediate conclusions. This stuff is contemplative, and it rewards those who are patient.
Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome
(Recordhead/Mr. Whiggs-Luna Music)
reviewed in issue #230, June 2002
In structure, the Impossible Shapes play the same sort of anthemic pop music as labelmates Brando. But instead of using layer after layer of sound, these guys embrace a decidedly minimalist approach. Same kinda songs with a completely different effect.
And not a bad one, either. As is always the case with pop music, the writing is key. The underlying idea must be simple and direct, no matter how loopy the window dressing can become.
And there are a few trinkets along side of the road. It's just that their use is restrained. The sound is rich and textured; it's simply understated and easygoing. All the better to enjoy the songs themselves.
Which is about as easy as anything can be. The Impossible Shapes have created a fine set of rollicking--yet mellow--tunes that immediately take a hold of the brain. Impossible to shake.
(Mind Control-Nuclear Blast)
reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92
Bassist Vince Vogel dropped this by at my graduation party. He was visiting a mutual friend and figured it might be a good idea. I'm not sure how you can get this if you want it, but why not call Nuclear Blast, who is starting up this label.
"Back to the grind" is how Vince described the music, and he should know. Side A's four songs have somewhat muddy production, especially the live track. The second side is just the single song "Sometimes".
And a great one. A vicious riff runs through the whole song, and everything comes together in a most pleasing way. If you can get your hands on this, do.
In Between Blue
Kissing the Face of Hope
reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95
I may have related this story before, but what the hell. A few years back I was taking Spring Break in Nashville (my girlfriend lived there) and listening to the Vandy station. They played a track from a Columbia (Mo.) band, East Ash. About halfway through the song, the DJ ripped the needle off and apparently flung the record against the wall (that's what it sounded like, anyway). He yelled "No more U2 clones!" and went on to the next song.
I feel that way here. In-Between Blue is comprised of talented musicians who have been listening to too much latter-day U2 for their own good. Do the songs suck? Not really, but they are so pretentious that I lose interest quickly. I mean, don't write like an arrogant fuck unless you have millions of dollars and MTV in your pocket, okay? Folks like me will just call you a stuck up ass.
Sometimes blatant rip-offs can make the big time (like Toad the Wet Sprocket, the original "smells like chicken, tastes like R.E.M." band), but most of the time record execs are smart enough to pass on such a thing.
In-Between Blue EP
reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97
After I gave an earlier release one of the more scathing reviews I've written in a while (comparing them to U2, which any regular reader understands is a serious insult), these guys sent me back a note thanking me for my review, quoting Bono.
I liked that. A lot. A sense of humor is really important, particularly when it comes to music.
And I wish that nice, biting humor would come across in the music a bit more. In-Between Blue has crossed over from pretentious and somewhat annoying to full-blown aggravating. The U2 reference is still somewhat valid, but I'd add a serious dose of P.I.L. to the mix.
A moderate change for the better. Of course, the musicianship is first-rate, and I like the way these songs have been utterly crafted. The performance is over-the-top, but maybe I'm mellowing or something, because I like this puppy better. This set of songs is nowhere near as calculatedly commercial as the last one, and that's the biggest improvement.
Just goes to show. When someone disses your work, send them nitrous, not nitro.
In Between Blue
reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99
I've reviewed a couple self-released efforts from these folks, and they just keep growing on me. All five tracks from the EP of a couple years back are here, with six more new songs. The U2 and P.I.L. influences are still there, but more than that, there is a still-growing disdain for making popular music.
What I mean by that is that IBB has the option in most songs here to take the edge off, to simplify some of its complicated constructs so that the "average" fan can dig it. This, of course, is a silly notion, and IBB quite correctly spurns it.
Instead, the songs roll along in weird ways, sometimes heading down roads I wouldn't go, but nonetheless impressing me. It is unusual that a band keeps heading to the edge as it matures, but that's perfectly fine with me.
Simply put, IBB can't be really categorized any more. There's too much going on, too much done in strange and wonderful ways. This band is precisely the reason why I never give up on someone after I dislike their first disc. Actually, I think it's safe to say I really disliked it. But I've grown, and the band has grown, and now I truly dig it.
reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01
Evolution is a wonderful thing. I heard the first In Between Blue effort years ago, and I wasn't knocked out. With each succeeding album, the increasing confidence and sense of adventure has impressed me.
No drop-off here. In fact, In Between Blue has lept off from its old plateau and landed on a much higher promontory point. The boys are still engaging in collage pop, but at a level of sophistication miles above previous efforts.
While the U2 connection is still pronounced, I'd say that many of In Between Blue's songs work better than much of the Irish band's 90s efforts to redefine itself. The level of pretension just isn't here. These are fine, complex songs that don't sneer at the listener.
Maybe that's the band's greatest achievement. The complex, often jazzy arrangements could be heard as overblown or excessive. But they aren't. Instead, they fit nicely into the mood and feel of the album. Some bands just keep getting better. And then some are like In Between Blue, improving by leaps and bounds. Really fine stuff.
Soundtrack to Your Escape
(Nuclear Blast America)
reviewed in issue #252, April 2004
Long-time readers might know that A&A started out as a "loud music" tipsheet. Nuclear Blast stuff was right up my alley. And then a few years back we kinda lost track of each other.
In Flames fits very well as an update of that "old fashioned" Eurometal sound. Plenty of melody, but with more of a modern extreme edge to the vocals. Not death metal by any means (I know, I know, no one uses that term anymore, but old habits die hard), but really just a stylish, more forceful restatement of the Iron Maiden sound during the Paul Dianno era.
Oh, there are a lot more keyboards and general orchestration (this is a modern Eurometal album, of course), but strip away all the window dressing and you get old NWOBM songs. Which is a good thing, of course.
An enjoyable album. Nothing particularly awe-inspiring, just fun fare that takes me back a few years. I'm not clued into the scene nearly enough to be able to say whether or not In Flames is particularly unique in its sound and songwriting, but I do like what I hear. Which is good enough for me.
In Ink Please
How to Make Better Love split CD with The Foliage
reviewed in issue #255, July 2004
Two male-female duos that specialize in well-crafted, moody pop. The sorta stuff that makes for a nice, contemplative evening.
In Ink Please reminds me a lot of Floating Opera, but with somewhat more minimal arrangements. Often Fender Rhodes organ and guitar are the only instruments. The melodies are intricate but never jarring. The parts never stop moving, and that keeps the songs flowing well.
The Foliage is much more fond of electronic accouterments in its arrangements, but otherwise the feel is similar to that of In Ink Please. There are plenty of layers within both the sounds and musical lines, and the pieces seem primed to withstand an almost infinite number of listens.
These bands are a good match for a split--both bands are from North Dakota, even--and they both put some great work down for the set. A fine showcase for two solid duos.
In My Eyes
Nothing to Hide
reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99
Just another Boston hardcore band. Which, of course, means the boys have been battle-tested. These songs have been played live many times, and In My Eyes has had the opportunity to put the necessary work into writing good stuff. You gotta, to survive there.
It isn't entirely surprising to note, then, that the songs do tend a bit to the generic as well. Hey, I can hear a little Sam Black Church here and a little Gang Green there. With plenty in between.
What I'm missing is a bit more of a contribution from the In My eyes boys themselves. I know, they wrote these songs, and the pieces are more than adequate. Some are extremely solid. But I just don't hear how In My Eyes is different from any other Boston hardcore band.
And yet, I can't slag this too hard. The songs are good, if somewhat toward the middle. And the performances and sound are quite good. A fine debut. I'll just be asking for more next time.
In the Nursery
reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92
Stuff my high school band director would like. Lots of horns and other classical instruments combined with strong percussion backing (mostly snare, or more correctly, field drumming). The occasional female vocal. Much like the Intermix in its sparseness, but somehow much more warm and appealing.
This album has a decidedly human touch, which beats a lot of the stuff the press release compared it to, like Enigma and New Order. Like the recent Lords of Acid album, which I have dubbed Songs About Fucking II, this is very erotically emotive music, but in a soft way. More kisses than thrusts here. But hard and fast is not the only way to take a lover. Slow tenderness is a cincher as well.
reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92
Their last album, Sense, was a favorite of my ex-roommate Chris. Mostly because he and his once-and-future (don't ask) girlfriend speak Spanish to each other, and there was a song with Spanish lyrics on the album. Some people...
I liked the damn thing because it was really interesting to listen to. So is the new album. And I like the liner notes. For some unknown reason, they smell like day-old popcorn (a real delicacy, especially is sprinkled with chili pepper and garlic powder).
Oh, you want to know about the music? Okay, it is kinda mellow. But it is really good, not boring in the slightest. The arrangements are rather orchestral, with lots of different instruments taking the stage. To pass this off as arty bullshit would be a big mistake. So don't.
An Ambush of Ghosts Soundtrack
reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93
Many folks other than me have referred to ITN as purveyors of "filmic" music. In every other review I have seen of this album, I have noticed the phrase "and so the natural progression has been continued..." into making music for a movie.
And they all laud this stuff, as if it now that Dead Can Dance have a big "hit" (isn't that a spooky thought), it should be okay for other folks of a similar ilk to compromise and put out a commercial product.
This is pretty decent music for a movie (it certainly beats The Bodyguard or anything like that, of course), but ITN had increasingly become interested in rhythms. Not necessarily dance beats, but just the interpolation of military snare work and other ideas. And then the music encompassed everything.
None of that here. It's brooding stuff that would probably make me really paranoid if I tripped, but since I don't it just sort of depresses me. I just wish they were going in an innovative direction. This seems all muddled in a trendy pond. Bummer.
In the Valley Below
This is one of the more lauded "independent" albums of last year. It's not independent, of course--the album is distributed by a major label. The only indie thing about this set is the somewhat lackadaisical approach to the song arrangements.
In the Valley Below is just the latest L.A. pop/rock duo to jump on the road to stardom. Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob manage to meld disparate voices and (it seems) diverging musical tastes into a simmering, accessible pop-rock broth. Is this album great? No. But I find a lot of interesting ideas in the compromises.
Gail has a hint of rootsy attitude in her vocals, while Jacob is studio smooth with his. The overall production tends toward gauzy laptop, with the tempos kicking up a bit faster than average. There are some indie rock kick beats, the occasional americana nod, some blues lead licks and more, but everything is smoothed out into a processed sound.
Which isn't a bad thing. I can hear why so many critics love this album. The writing is sharp and the musical ideas are clearly expressed. I like this album, and the main reason I don't love it is the lack of depth below the shiny surface. That's largely a function of the production, but I wonder if Gail and Jacob have held back just a bit in order to maintain accessibility.
There's a lot to like here. The feel is smooth and sophisticated, and the lyrics certainly don't insult the intelligence. If Jacob and Gail can dig deeper next time around, greatness might be waiting.
Building a Better Future
reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99
This showed up in my box without any explanation at all. And trust me, some sort of guidance here is necessary. There's a guy playing cello (generally the lead instrument), another who plays bass, guitar and trombone (sometimes at the same time--overdubs, of course) and a drummer. The music is a sort of loopy take on that whole "Theme from S.W.A.T." musical groove. KnowhutImean?
I'm not sure I do. I'll try again. The stuff is sort of a weird fusion experiment, somewhere between jazz and prog (the cello gives me Kansas grooves, for unknown reasons) and the general weirdness of bands like Dirty Three and Don Caballero.
Certainly, In Zenith doesn't bother with trying to do anything other than play its own music. Period. Entrancing music, to be sure. Stuff which cannot be erased from the brain. Utterly compelling. You know the sort.
All wrapped up in a nicely lo-fi recording. Jim O'Rourke mastered, so that should give you an idea as to the sound (and the creativity within). Just more cool noodlings from Chicago (at least, that's where it was recorded), a city which just might have the most fertile scene around right now.
reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93
They list their influences, and the one common thread (other than all are hard-core acts) is Sick of It All. And they sound like...
I don't need to say it. This has sharp production and decent playing, but it is less than original. Metallic hard-core is the new rage, these guys play it with a passion. Someone will probably notice, but I hope In-Line finds their own sound.
Forward to Golgotha
reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92
Remember Phil Spector? You know, the guy who was so stoned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner where he was inducted that he had to be held up by many of his friends? A skinnier Roy Orbison? Yeah, well he perfected the sixties wall of sound. It worked better in mono, but even his stereo recordings are something amazing. Check out "River Deep, Mountain High" (Ike and Tina) sometime. It will kick your ass.
Off that tangent, Incantation have perfected the death metal wall of sound. No pussyfooting around here: just vicious guitars, drums, bass and vocals IN YOUR FACE. At first listen it seems kinda muffled, but after a couple of minutes you realize what's going on. Talk about kicking ass.
Mortal Throne of Nazarene
reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94
What I really loved about Onward to Golgotha was the amazing production. It was the first application of Wall-of-sound theory to death metal I'd heard. The music seemed to seep through the air and penetrate every pore of my being. Needless to say, I was impressed.
Here, Incantation have incorporated some new ideas to their music (leanings toward both doom and traditional grind drop by for a spot of tea), but for the most part this is straightforward old school death metal. And the production team managed to intensify the sound even further.
Blasting through a thin (yet surprisingly strong) layer of distortion, the music sounds like it has been run through a network of baffles that both smudges and intensifies the music.
I'm still not the biggest fan of their music, per se. But the end result is another stunner. Incantation continues its slouch towards the apocalypse.
reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94
One of those San Diego bands signed basically on the basis of geography, I think, Inch crank out a brand of grunge-lite that manages to sound different than the other three hundred such bands out there.
Like other such SD bands, Inch incorporate a traditional pop song structure instead of the overwrought anthemic shit a few Seattle types have propagated. So you can sing along without straining your voice or credibility.
Not brilliant, but certainly a good young band. With a little work, they could be great.
Dot Class "C"
reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97
Another one of the old-line San Diego bands coming back to the fold. Inch released an album three years ago on Seed, toured, lost its bass player, found another and now has this album to show for it.
Sounds a lot like the first one. Reasonably catchy tunes, laid out in a crunchy bed of pop-punk music. Lots of distortion, if you please. Well, enough to make the salal crunchy, anyway.
I have the same reaction to this album as I had to the first one: Inch is a good band, but not a great one. The songs are good, but not great. The sound is better than average, but not in the inspiring category. All the requisite parts are present, but there is that indescribable something missing.
Hey, there's nothing wrong with being a working-class pop band. And hell, San Diego is as good a spot as any to ply that trade.
This Will Fall on Dead Ears
released in issue #160, 6/1/98
The title refers to the fact that the rest of the band worried that singer/guitarist Stimy would OD before the album came out. Boy, what a positive attitude.
Luckily, death did not visit Inch, and so this new album. About the same vein as the first two, which is to say extremely crunchy punk pop. One part Heatmiser and one part Rocket from the Crypt. The songs here are a bit more subdued and melodic at points, but not so much as to claim an actual change in direction or anything.
And not enough new ideas to completely change my mind about the band. They do a decent job with the San Diego sound, but not well enough to really kick my ass. Inch remains in the middle of the pack, though a bit closer to the top with this album.
Part of it is that I'm kinda tired of the sound, and part of it is that Inch isn't really finding anything new to say. This is a fairly enjoyable album, but that doesn't mean there's anything profound here.
reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00
Actually, this is just three songs from an upcoming released called I>Business, but I don't have any other name for the thing. Shouldn't be worrying about such silliness, though. The music, man!
The enclosed note says Incide's influences include "hardcore, industrial, alternative, hip hop, techno and modern rock." That's a lot to spin into one sound. But the guys have managed to put together a consistent attack.
The production isn't terribly good (treble heavy with a cheesy drum machine), and the songs are somewhat disjointed. I'm thinking Incide is trying to do too much here. There are only two guys in the band, and there's only so much that can be done. The three songs here come off as disjointed and unfocused, though with a palpable enthusiasm.
I can hear the guys trying things out. And that's great. But at some point editing is necessary. These are unfinished songs, unfinished performances. Incide has a great start. It just needs to buckle down find a smidge of coherence here and there.
Civil Disobedience for Losers
reviewed in issue #342, November 2012
An entirely different take on the whole guitar-drum duo thing. These Canadian boys crank out some of the most compelling stoner rock I've heard in years. The power within these songs is simply stunning.
The riffage is just brutal. Almost painful in its effectiveness, when Daniel Allen gets rolling he creates a guitar sound that could sterilze cockroaches at 100 yards. Not just brutal; the fuzz and reverb are calibrated at an almost perfect friction point.
Most impressive, though, are the vocals. Both boys sing, and they sing well. More to the point, they sing loud, expressively and with glee. The riffage is overwhelming, but the vocals put a fine cherry on top.
Yes, the guitars are overdubbed at times, which helps to multiply the power. Who cares? Anyone who can create a song like "Red Action," which is one of the most perfect Black Sabbath/Kiss mashups (in spirit, of course) that I've ever heard, goes straight to the top of my charts. Blissfully blistering.
Indian Rope Burn
reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95
Techno beats with more generic pop-style bass lines and a guitar sound right out of glam.
The production lets everything get a little muddled, and at times things sound like a muddy grudge match between Jesus Jones and P.I.L. laid over techno or house rhythms.
But the whole is much better than the parts. Honestly, this stuff is pretty addictive. The most important thing is always to find that kernel of catchiness in any idea. And when you're already in a pop medium, it can be easy to try and manufacture fun.
But Indian Rope Burn simply lets everything flow with panache, avoiding the temptation to meddle and ruin everything. Pretty much astonishing.
The Big-Bang Payoff
reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96
Sample-driven stripped-down industrial dance mayhem from the heart of Ohio. I loved the first CD I got from these folk, and the diversity on this one keeps me pleased as ever.
Much like the most recent 16 Volt album (and the last IRB one, too), Indian Rope Burn refuses to stick to any one sound. Yeah, the drum machines and keyboards keep this in the industrial universe, but like Die Warzau, you never know what is coming next. Sounds like a set of truly creative people.
Absolutely. Nine tracks here, and none of them really resemble any of the others. All are great; you could play the disc straight through in a club and the folks would probably think you were mixing bands as usual. And the folks would stick to the floor.
This is the best industrial dance album I've heard in a long time, probably since the Die Warzau last spring. A real step forward for Indian Rope Burn from , which was a pretty damned decent recording. Inspiring stuff, indeed.
reviewed in #164, 8/3/98
Swing is the thing. At least for now. If you're one of those people who shags, and pulls, and whips, and throws down a good Lindy hop, give this one a listen. The sextet is full of boogie-woogie piano grooves and tenor sax laced melodies straight out of the 1940s. Not too many full-blown jump-jiving tracks. Mostly mid-tempo smoothies and ballads which are free chances to pull that partner a little closer to your body.
While much of the new swing incorporates electric keyboards and drum machine, Indigo Swing makes sure to have an all-acoustic line up with a stand up bass, hollowed out guitars, and a stand up acoustic piano. The result is a mellow, smooth collection of boogie-woogie tracks.
The San Francisco based band has been touring the West Coast swing scene for the past few years, so if you're going to get into a fad, you might as well get a little old school. Nothing wrong with swinging slow as long as you aren't swinging alone.
6 Demon Gang
reviewed in issue #10
For those of you romping on the Malhavoc right now, here's another industrial sample fest. From the opening use of "Kashmir" to any number of other riffs (Oh say can you steal?), this has all of the elements of a smash (and a few lawsuits).
A little dancier than Malhavoc, but still heavy, this is a nice package. Too bad there are only eight tracks and two re-mixes. It would have been fun to sample more of the Industrial Artz. And not to harp on the Mslhavoc connection, but these folks are out of Toronto, Ontario (M-boys are out of Scarborough, Ontario). Kinda weird.
I know it's the new hip thing, but this is good album. The production is raw enough to make it rather interesting.
The Go Round
reviewed in issue #309, August 2009
Now this is more like it. Instrumental hip-hop beats that range the breadth of music today. I haven't heard stuff this good since the heyday of RJD2.
And that's sayin' something. True enough, this is probably more of an electronic album than hip-hop, but then, if your idea of hip-hop includes the likes of PreFuse 73, etc., Inf will fit right in.
The liners are cagey as to the identity of Inf, but the person(s) behind this disc seem(s) to be European. Makes sense, really, as these beats borrow too much from jazz and cock rock (sometimes in the same piece) to be American. We're just into other stuff these days.
Secret identities don't bother me. Boring music bothers me. And there's nothing boring about Inf. This album is a blast from beginning to end. The variety is breathtaking, and the quality is unparalleled. Top notch.
Hell Is Round
reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93
Rather accessible death metal. Decent riff work and not half-bad production. I've heard worse released on CD.
There is a technical element in this, like they trust their talent more than their emotion. In time, the playing should meld with what they want to say and yield a more pleasing product.
Not to gripe about this. But I hear so much more waiting to be unleashed.
Infinite Number of Sounds
reviewed in issue #270, November 2005
The sort of blocky, introspective instrumentals that I tend to enjoy. There's a logic to each piece, and nonetheless the playing is engaging and fun. These boys ride a fine line between automation and exuberance--and they make that tension last all album.
I can guess what comes next most of the time (that whole logical thing), but that doesn't make the ideas any less intriguing. Why are the songs say what they are? And how are they saying it without words?
That second question is a joke, and the first one is merely facetious. That's the sort of geeky whimsy this album inspires in me. And I can't say I'm sorry about that.
Swell, in the very best sense. I like the way these guys roll. I suppose that's as complicated as my enjoyment gets. It's nice to simply settle down and have a good time every once in a while.
The Infinitely Indexed Memory Bank
The Infinitely Indexed Memory Bank
reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00
Guitar driven pop with a serious 80s feel. The drum machine and keyboards probably contribute to that. There is an overall weakness on the bass side of things (the keyboards only partly compensate), but he songs are tightly-written and well performed.
Tony Davies' voice has that vaguely robotic feel which works so well with this sound. There's something of a disconnect that occurs when he sings, and that adds nicely to the alienation factor.
The note from the band said that these are its least commercial songs. I'd say if the production values got a little higher (particularly on the low end), even these songs would be quite attractive to folks who are into the dark new wave stuff.
reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00
Just straightforward pop rock, a two-person operation. This means machines instead of drums, which does lend something of a demo quality to the pieces. But the songs themselves, well, they sing.
Sometimes execution doesn't matter. And that's not to say that Tony and Robin Davies can't play or are terrible engineers. Quite the opposite. It's just that this doesn't sound quite like a band. But no worries; the quality is in ample supply.
Simply put, some folks get pop and others don't. Sometimes, a hook is just a hook and a catchy chorus is just that as well. The Davies understand that and are completely at ease with the form.
Now, would these songs sound better with a full band backing (or at least regular drums)? Absolutely. But the material is solid. As long as IIMB doesn't try to overreach, it should do well.
split 12" with Panicsville
reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01
New Panicsville, a thought that always gets my panties in a bunch. I never know what to expect. Sometimes the sounds are utterly abstract, sometimes they're more ambient and sometimes there's even a melody. On its side of the slab, Panicsville dishes out three songs.
And each of those concepts is represented. The first piece is utterly ambient, an understated noise soundscape. Simply entrancing. The second song has almost a traditional construction, complete with melody and all. The third song, while still playing around with a keyboard, is much less structured. Most intriguing.
Inflatable Alterboys fills its side with one song, "Superior Twelve Inch Finger" (One of the greatest titles I've ever seen). It kinda sounds like the Panicsville, except instead of separating the three distinct approaches to electronic noise, everything gets thrown into a single pot.
Not like a mishmash, but more of a bouillabaisse. The pieces are distinct within the whole. There is a consistent rhythmic idea that travels throughout most of the piece, and everything else kinda hangs off those beats at odd angles. Truly wonderful. This piece of vinyl is everything I expected (I did have high hopes) and much more. Big smiles.
reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00
Branching out from more straightforward punk, Adeline kicks out this disc. The Influents wander around the whole roots/punk sound, vaguely reminiscent of Armchair Martian (though much poppier).
Indeed, some of these songs are just about as pure pop as you can get. Simple, to the point and often poignantly gorgeous. Indeed, where more punk pop is fairly sarcastic and snarky, the Influents are clever, but generally earnest almost to a fault. These boys are holding their hearts in their hands for the world to see.
But don't get the idea that this stuff drips with sentimentality or suffers in any way from this idealism. Not at all. Like I said, the stuff is clever. Astonishingly well-written at times, the songs are almost universally engaging.
The kind of album I almost never hear. Mature punk? Geez, that sounds like an oxymoronic mess. Won't work. Can't work. But see, it does. And when folks are able to take such a seemingly unworkable sound and make it sing, well, the results are almost always great. In this case, great is just the beginning.
Don't Be Afraid
reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97
Yes, that Information Society. The only remaining member is Kurt Harland (he used to go by the last name "Valaquen"; I don't know the reason for the change).The music is still completely computer-generated. I mean, if it worked almost 10 years ago, why change now?
I never thought much about the band's major label incarnation, and this disc doesn't really help me much, either. The blending of various samples is amusing, but they generally do not cohere, spinning the songs off into a cacophonic morass. Now, I generally like that, but musical anarchy for its own sake (particularly when it seems like there is supposed to be some sort of point) can often sound like, well, random junk.
There is also a data CD, but since it only works on PCs I have no idea what it looks or sounds like. This seems to be a most egregious error, as most of the serious music fans I know who have computers have Macs. The folks who are most likely to search out unusual music also seem to be Mac fans.
Whatever. For all the time, Information Society hasn't changed appreciably. Better as a concept.
The Inner Banks
Songs from Disko Bay
reviewed in issue #310, September 2009
Caroline Schutz and David Gould are the couple behind this album and DAG! Records in general. Schutz has one of those steel-girded ethereal voices. You know, comfortable and comforting but almost impossibly strong. The music is a wide-ranging survey of folk, pop and rock sounds.
Plenty of the 70s, though. The songs take their time but, like Schutz's vocals, have plenty of heft behind them. It's almost impossible to find any weakness.
The album took a while to record (Schutz had twins during the process), and there is a meditative feel that burbles through the album. This is a thoughtful disc, but not in any unfocussed way. Rather, these songs force the listener to think.
I like that. I like these songs, and I like the album. Schutz and Gould make a great musical team. They seem to know exactly how to compliment each other's strengths. Very nice.
reviewed in issue #337, May 2012
Wending and winding electronic rootsy fare that pauses just long enough to make its point. The Inner Banks rarely get much past midtempo, but that is hardly an impediment.
Rather, these songs simply fall into mellow grooves and then add lines of intensity. It's those grooves that make the album, though. Sometimes all you have to do is find the center and then keep it going. The Inner Banks is quite good at that.
Even on a song like "Found Holiday," which features a fractured rhythm groove that hypnotically imitates a skipping CD, the music floats by almost effortlessly. The way that song modulated the "skipping" is what convinced me that there is something most impressive going on here.
Oh, yes, the whole acoustic/electronic thing? When it's done right, it's amazing. And the Inner Banks are tied into the main line. Truly fine.
reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94
Boy, lots of things swirling around here. There more than a touch of doom, some (programmed) double-bass pounding old-school percussion, a load of classical vocal samples and more. The production is a little on the sparse side, where I was hoping for lush, but I got used to it , even starting to dig the sound.
When this stuff comes together right, like on "Drowning in Sorrow", it is really good. There are middling parts on the album, but nothing gets dreary. Keep plowing through and you'll find more goodies.
This project is the brainchild of Bobby Sadzak, once of the (Canadian) band Slaughter. He plays all the bass and almost all the guitars, not to mention program the drums and lay in the keyboards. There are a couple more full-time members and a load of guests wandering about. Despite what I would consider an odd way to record an album and function as a band, this disc is great. The louder you play it, the better it gets.
reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96
Classic death metal riffage blended in with just enough modern sensibility to keep things up-to-date. Canada's Inner Thought has struck gold once again.
Hacking guitar lines bring to mind the best days of Morgoth and Pungent Stench, while expertly executed keyboard and extended sequencer passages (all the drums are programmed) bring just enough of that Amorphis-like sound into the mix. Bobby Sadzak certainly hasn't lost his writing touch, and still manages to branch out in search of new forms to fold into his death metal vision.
I've been hearing less and less of this style, and an album like this makes me hunger for more. Yeah, I wish this was less a one-man-band thing (with Dennis Balesdent doing the vocal work this time out), but Sadzak is a fine craftsman, and his creation is fairly seamless.
While the musical world has somewhat turned its back on death metal, an album like this just might convince a few old fans to look back fondly. Inner Thought may be caught in the wrong time, but good music doesn't need to adhere to any such notions.
Is there Hope Amid the Ruins? EP
reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99
Guitar, bass and drum machines (with a few samples) blasting out beneath some great death metal vocals (is that what they're still called? Well, I'm old school...). This is music intended to cause sonic disruption, stuff that is supposed to warp the brain.
The production is a bit tame. The sound comes off somewhat sterile at times, and that kinda takes away the whole overwhelming aspect. Still, I've gotta say this does remind me of Streetcleaner, though you might hope we've come a ways since then.
Perfectly competent and sometimes even better. There's just a bit too much calculation here to really make my day. I know, when you're working with machines that can happen, but I was hoping for a bit more. Inner Thought can do better.
Insane Clown Posse
reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98
To really know the music of ICP is to understand the kind of extremes humans will go to get their points across. So they release the unreleased EPs and B-sides in "Forgotten Freshness" as a reminder that they are very much alive and ready to take on the world.
With this release and another all original album soon to follow, it seems that we've been treated to a kind of recapitulated ICP reaching desperately for a wider fan base. Despite the fact that we're dealing with the "songs that got scrapped, songs that suck, songs that couldn't fit on albums, and all that shit," they still remain very skilled in the art of street rap that's both intelligent and maybe brilliant, added to the fact that these guys are really capable of total destruction in their live performances.
Besides the slight disappointment in this ICP album, it's inevitable with the new album they will soon rise to the top of the charts faster than anyone could say "wicked clown" and get everyone back on their feet for the refreshed visions of rap and violence, but until then we must deal with what we've got.
Not to say these songs totally suck, but anyone who knows ICP understands that they can do much better and they will, it's just going to take a bit of time. If these are songs that didn't make it, you can only imagine what it's going to be like to hear the songs that did make it--scary isn' it?
reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00
All the nonsense about these boys aside (including the general silliness of their rhymes), the fact remains that these songs sound great. The beats slam, the effects are spooky and the whole experience just makes me smile.
Not that you should take anything these boys do seriously. But the cheesy pop-rap-metal feel works. No two ways about it. Yeah, most of the words spoken are of the four-letter variety. The humor is crude. Listening to the Posse isn't exactly an intellectual activity.
But it feels good, see? That's all that counts. And to be fair, the production on this disc is outstanding. When songs are this chewy, I'll over look a lot. And there is a good amount of junk spewed.
If you're gonna take offense, though, you'll be facing a long line. The Posse is an equal-opportunity discriminator. No one escapes the blade. There are those who think that such stuff has no redeeming value. Fuck them. This stuff sounds good. That's enough for me. Let the weenies whine.
reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00
Not being the most observant person (and given that I don't read press kits as a general rule) I assumed the reason I got two copies of the new Insane Clown Posse album was because of the slightly-different packaging. But, see, the real story is that there are two new ICP albums.
And so, this is the second of those two. Just like Bizaar, the rhymes are generally retarded. Sometimes they are funny, but most often the charm lies in the production. Hey, these songs are musically seductive. Easy, yes, but still a lot of fun to hear.
Right, so you still have to wade through the rest of the ICP program to luxuriate in the thick grooves. I know, sacrifices must be made. But in this case, there might be a good reason. I mean, this stuff sounds really fine.
Having a good time is a decent reason to buy an album. Two sets of ICP? Well, not unlike Eminem, there is plenty of good stuff going on here. It is balanced out by a whaleload of stupidity, but hell, what do you want? Beethoven? Come on.
Utilizing a similar set of rhythms to Godflesh's immortal Streetcleaner, Insect Ark (the mask of Dana Schecter, with newly-acquired drummer/keyboardist Ashley Spungin) chases a different beast entirely. Rather than fulminating rage, this album drills deep into the subconscious. Kinda like Scorn, but not.
Decades-old references aside, this project does sound a lot like that odd strain of ruminative, introspective industrial music of the late 80s and early 90s. I suppose Einsturzende Neubauten goes back a bit further, but Schecter is not nearly so anarchic. These set pieces echo and rumble with almost clockwork precision, and this is a singular vision. There is no band.
At times, Schecter's songs delve into near soundscape territory. There are no lyrics, but most of these piece lack that over-the-top cinematic character of such works. Rather, this album features a minimalist agony--a soundspeck, if you will.
Absolutely intriguing. These pieces ask many more questions than they answer, though I can promise to put in the time to try and puzzle them out nonetheless.
An album that is out of time and probably twenty years too late to get the attention it deserves. Or maybe not. After all, this is no retread. Insect Ark is infused with the spirit of musical adventure. It will devour your soul, and you should be thankful for that.
Inside Five Minutes
Stately Chaos Home
reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01
This is more what I expect from southern Michigan bands. Thoughtful, raucous fare with the rhythmic precision of Twitch and the aggression of God Bullies. Though, of course, since this is 2001, there are a few modern touches.
Not as many as might be expected, however. Inside Five Minutes harkens back to the days when experimental hardcore bands really worked the rhythm side of things rather than the noise side.
And the key here is the churning rhythm section. Everything else builds off that, and the constructions are intricate and impressive. The production sound is lean enough to allow those rhythms to predominate, and that only emphasizes the most unique elements of the band.
This album builds and builds until forever. I kept waiting for a letdown, something that would give me a hint of weakness. I didn't hear it. These boys are moving in their own circle, and they do it extremely well. Merge with the throb.
Banished to Bogeyland
reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99
Trying somewhat to bridge the gap between two-tone and traditional ska, Inpecter 7 absolutely doesn't get poppy or punky. This is ska, pure and simple. Reasonably energetic, reasonably inventive.
Loose, in the way all good ska bands are. Inspecter 7 is just standing up and playing. Yeah, there's a lot more two-tone than Studio One, to be sure, but it works. And there's no theft involved.
Nice production sound, too, with just enough echo. Ska can't be recorded clean; it loses its heart. The stuff is good and grimy here.
Basic, but still creative enough to get me moving. A good disc for the fan who likes to mainline, but accessible enough for neophytes as well.
reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01
Power pop most tasty. Inspection 12 uses an organ (upper range only, please) to kinda drill the melodies into the ground. Damn that's cool. In fact, while the members of Inspection 12 may be awful young, they sure know how their draft.
These songs are tight. Tight tight tight. Impossibly sticky hooks, songs that compel singing along on the first listen. The sorta thing that could drive a pophead to quick overdose.
The songwriting is just astonishing. The arrangements keep everything moving along quickly and the production has left a wonderfully punchy sound. Just about perfect, really. Inspection 12 doesn't really do anything unusual. These boys simply play brilliant pop music.
And that's enough to get me out of my chair for a few minutes of bouncing around the office. The fun factor is high and the quality needle is pinned in the red. If this isn't the pop record of the year, it's gonna have to be beat by one of the all-time greats.
Great Day to Get Even
(Cold Meat Industry)
reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00
Highly-distorted electronic musings mixed with straight modulated electronic disturbances. The kind of thing I like to torment my co-workers with every now and again when I can pull something truly strange down off Napster.
Institut actually is a bit closer to the DHR sound than plain noise, as there is usually something resembling a regular rhythm to each piece. There's also wave after wave of blistering distortion, but that's just on top. Underneath, there's actually some order.
Which may, in the end, make this mildly palatable to folks on the outer edge of the general public. Those who already dig this sort of sound will probably like the way the folks use that distortion as a melodic element from time to time. It's pretty cool, actually.
Sure, this is the sort of thing that gives Luddites plenty of philosophical ammunition. Life goes on. Sometimes, you've got to endure a little pain. Sometimes, the pain feels really good.
Black Citrus 7" EP
reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01
"Play loud, at dusk or night, at any speed..." You gotta love instructions like that. Instruction Shuttle is all about shifting modes of reality. A wide variety of sounds are woven through a cloud bank of lush keyboard chords.
Relaxing, if you happen to dig subconscious noise. What's on top (the keyboards) isn't particularly unusual. What pricks up my ear is all the stuff that dances in and out of the shadows. It's the motion of those noises that's really cool.
Indeed, intriguing at any speed. Instruction Set is a typical experimental electronic band. Which means it sounds like nothing else. Little surprises like this are what keep me reaching for the edge.
Insult II Injury
Point of This
reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94
More NYC metal-core, the kind of stuff I love to hate. EXCEPT-I can't. Insult II Injury manages to escape a lot of the lyrical silliness of its contemporaries and merely delivers lean and tasty grooves.
Great music, great playing. And Bobby Gustafson helps out in the booth and really keeps the sound cranked.
The one caveat-this is still NYC metal-core. Insult II Injury may be near the top of that heap, but this album does not completely transcend the genre. I'm afraid there aren't enough improvements to make your average fan really differentiate between this and, say, Biohazard or Pro-Pain (Gary Meskil helps out on one track, even). I can tell you Insult II Injury is much better than Biohazard, but it still wallows in the same trough.
But don't let that little bit dissuade you from playing this one to death. Guilty pleasures are often the most savored.
reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95
No middle ground on this disc. Integrity plays hardcore the old school way, with all of the style and panache that brings fans to the genre and gives detractors plenty of ammunition.
The songs follow the time-worn construction: jam about for a couple of minutes and then rip off the lyrics in a fast-as-we-can thrash riff. Integrity is a little more polished than some, but the sound remains the same.
If you are in the "fan" group (and many are), then Integrity has included 9 demo tracks in addition to the 13 on the album. Plenty of love to share.
reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01
Most of a Cold Meat Industry kinda release than what you might expect from Victory. Yeah, Integrity does play something akin to extreme hardcore, but the underpinnings are more gothic soundscape than anything else.
And it works. The blistering riffage and electronic noise combine to create searing sonic portraits of life gone wrong. There is no respite or release from the pain inspired by this disc.
What's most intriguing is that Integrity's power comes not from over-the-top energy and excessive distortion. The sound is very clean. The songs themselves are built on mechanical rhythm sections. Almost a Bloodstar sound at times. But the integration of hardcore guitars and vocals with this electronic base is full and complete. An inspired construction.
The prevalence of keyboards and drum machines might put off a purist, but anyone who can get into the Ex or Refused should be able to handle Integrity with no worries. Me? I had a blast. The depth on this album is absolutely stunning. An amazing achievement.
reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92
Another Front Line Assembly side project. Not to bemoan side projects, but they often seem to be one of two things: a liberation for the artists, who then masturbate all over their freedom and go way to excess, or just the stuff the regular band decided was shit.
I think a combination of the two is at work here. All but one of the songs are five minutes long. Some vocal work, but as an instrument, not to convey a message. This certainly sounds like it was "assembled," not created.
reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93
Not just a side project, this is FLA by another name. Their last album as Intermix was so interminable and emotionless I thought it would never end. Well, a friend of mine has called techno "suburban soul", and after listening to that album, I had no choice but to concur.
Just like the Will EP, however, this is much more interesting. It's not great, not even great techno, but I could ad would dance to it after a few Guinnesses have passed my lips. I'd rather dance to Pigface, but this ain't bad. Wait a minute, a hint of funk! A hint! Well, so Parli-delic funkmeister Clinton (George, that is) won't be quaking in his platform boots, but still.
Standing on the Sun
reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94
Even as I complain about the Sab-sound rip off proliferation, here's another one in my discer.
Internal Void do well with the cover, which is in the style of a few Sabbath ones. Unfortunately, I do hear some actual riff-stealing here. The "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" bass line is repeated a lot (though others have nabbed it, too), and a couple solos are disconcertingly similar to some Iommi work.
Even in the rip off, cash in sweepstakes, Internal Void fallS short. If you have to pick a Sabbath sound band to play, there are better. On the same label. This pretty much sucks.
Heart Is Black EP
reviewed in issue #303, December 2008
Planting Seeds seems to have cultivated a Britpop connection. International Jetsetters play that energetic and yet so cool pop that's been a staple since, well, the Beatles. These folks borrow heavily from the American pop resurgence of the last 15 years or so, but that, too, is a time-honored Britpop tradition.
The best of these bands take a wide array of influences and meld them into a seamless pop sound. The six songs here have an impressive range and continue to be intriguing on the fourth and fifth listens.
Like the best popsters, these folks don't let up even when the songs turn introspective. The intensity remains. A most impressive set. I'll queue up for the full-length.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy
reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00
One glance at the liners and I was thinking that this had to have some taint of Refused on it. Sure enough, Dennis Lyxzen is the singer here and he also did the same with Refused. He put together this band, which includes plenty of survivors of Swedish punk bands, in an attempt to take the whole Refused thing further.
Certainly, this is different. Where Refused relied on jarring juxtaposition, the (I)NC slides its revolutionary thought through on a smooth tip. Not unlike a slicker version of the Delta 72. There is an underlying punk ethic at work here, but plenty of soul as well.
Indeed, this puppy has a downright warm sound. Inviting, almost, which is somewhat surprising considering what's being sung. I guess that would be the one jarring juxtaposition here.
Further? Yeah, but not toward the edge. This is a more inclusive set of songs, and that will probably disappoint some hardcore Refused fans. If you keep your mind open, though, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how into this music you can get.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy featuring Jonas Kullhammar & Sven-Eric Dahlberg
Live at Oslo Jazz Festival
reviewed in issue #284, April 2007
Europeans are a bit more open in their definition of jazz. This is basically the Conspiracy rocking out with a sax and a Fender Rhodes. Kullhammar and Dahlberg are front and center in the sound, and their additions are impressive. Makes me wonder if there isn't a studio effort in the works with these folks. Pretty damned cool
See also Refused.
Back in the U.S.S.A.
reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97
Buoyant, bashing pop that gets to the point in a hurry. The 16 songs clock in at 39 minutes total, which doesn¹t allow for much past three chords and a lot of attitude.
The title of the album says it all, really. This is a power pop album that relies on clever lyrics and rote song structure. And while the bounce never leaves the Interpreters¹ steps, I¹d like to hear just a bit of subtlety and variance between the songs.
Completely absent. Every song is about the same tempo and the same dynamic level (pretty fast and very loud). It¹s so bad that the semi-whispered singing for "Teacher" sounds almost innovative. It's actually really hackneyed.
Not so much bad as simply overdone. This is pop music for people without brains, folks who get confused when a song doesn't sound like all the others on an album. The problem is probably as much with the label's expectations as anything, but whatever the reason, this album fails to take off. There's a whale of potential, but it's buried under the excess.
reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99
Just yer basic death metal trio. It's been so long since I've heard stuff this raw and aggressive (I really need to get out more). There's a pleasant aggro rush in the riffage and the proper rasp in the vocals. Best of all though is the way the rhythm section finds a groove and, miracle of miracles, sticks to it.
You'd think this was an easy concept, but most bands get a good idea once a song and then abandon it for a succession of crappy grooves. I've never understood this. Yeah, okay, so I'm a pop punker a heart, but hell, it just can't be that hard to stay in pocket for a whole song, can it?
I guess not. Interzone (did they name themselves after the Joy Division song? If so, just another note of good taste) sure knows how to wail away with impunity. Not only are the riffs creative, they're mixed in with the bass and drums to create some great mosh action. Hey, hair dancing is not always a bad thing.
Interzone isn't content to merely blaze away. This is a nicely textured album, at least within the basic constraints of the sound. And as far as that goes, the boys sure know how to keepa song together. I'm most impressed.
Creepy Eepy EP
reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93
It would take a lot of beer and Black Sabbath to get me through life in Utah, and so Into Another finds solace in both. But far from being mere seventies retreads, these boys go where Soundgarden feared to tread.
Downright vicious lead work and amazing sledgehammer riffs are the trademarks, but the rough-yet-soaring vocal work is also a plus. Like the Sabs, they also take an occasional sonic break without cheezing out. I've been a fan of these guys for a while, and I think they have real potential. According to the press, they are at work on their next full-length (this is an ep), so perhaps they will realize great success soon. If you missed this when it came out a couple of months ago, by all means get your hands on it and play, play, play!
reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94
When their first album came out, Into Another were simply the finest Black Sabbath-style band around. No one has matched that standard yet. But Into Another has moved on.
Creepy Eepy showed where the band might venture, and Ignaurus blows those high expectations away.
You can hear edges of bands like Mind Over Four and early Fates Warning (yes, this is prog-metal, but it sure tastes like candy) in the new songs, but only Into Another could make things sound the way they do.
I'm too amazed to write any more. Suffice it to say that Into Another has crafted a great album. Stunning is such an understatement; words cannot begin to explain the ecstasy within. Play only if you want to find your mind blown.
Poison Fingers CD5
reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95
"Poison Fingers" you know as the second track on Ignaurus. The other two songs, "To Be Free" and "Herbivore", are definitely b-side material.
"To Be Free" has a real Mordred feel, which is a new tack for Into Another. The lyrics are a little preachy, but esoteric enough to be forgivable. A good enough piece.
Not so on "Herbivore". The boys dig deep into their Black Sabbath bag and pull out a real clunker. The riffs are uninspired, the lyrics as pretentious as anything U2 has put out recently. Bleah. I think the band tackled this subject much better with "Anxious", the last song on Ignaurus. "Anxious" is sublime, "Herbivore" merely substandard.
A real disappointment. But I still await a new album (on Hollywood Records-sigh) with nervous anticipation.
reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94
Perhaps you know the proper pronunciation, but I am a bit mystified. Then again, "It's that motherfuckin' kick-ass Intricate album, dude!" won't quite do it, either.
A good many of you have expressed your sincere admiration for this disc, and with good reason. It lies somewhere in the industrial universe (with mostly real drums), most closely coming in contact (to my ear) with the Young Gods, with nods to Pitch Shifter and the industrial death school.
It may drag at spots, I suppose, but in all this is a spectacular effort. Fill my cup to the rim.
Intro to Airlift
reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)
More from the increasingly impressive Secretly Canadian list. Each band gets five songs, and the liners and packaging are individually created (man, I just couldn't get it to scan in right, but trust me, it looks very cool). Top notch music and way-cool coverings. Quality all the way.
Intro to Airlift plays atonal surf music, or perhaps really peppy and light emo. I like the first description myself, and this somewhat unorthodox approach to perky guitar pop is very attractive to my ears. Each of the five songs develops in a unique way, which further shows off the extensive musical knowledge of the band.
More June Panic, which means five songs which don't seem to have anything to do with each other. Once again, the band focuses on putting plenty of finishing touches rather than on actual songwriting, but that technique still works. The songs are a wild melange of styles romping through the pop universe, and they compliment the creativity of Intro to Airlift very well.
These bands don't sound much like each other at all, but the desire to explore united them and the disc. A wonderful set.
The Next Door Will Be Opened
reviewed in issue #234, October 2002
There's this moment on Washingmachinemouth, a Pigface remix album from a long time ago, where the sound of the song completely fuzzes out into this dull roar. The drums are but pulses, the guitars curtains of distortion. It's a really great moment.
Inu-Yaroh is in that moment from beginning to end. And man, does it sound cool.
These are live recordings, which is pretty remarkable. You might think that it would be easy to set up a tres-muddy sound mix, but to do it in such a way as to allow the individual instruments to be heard distinctly is impressive. Often, that takes quite a bit of studio tweaking.
Abstract noise that really packs a punch. There's so much here to like that I can hardly begin to describe my ardor. Totally smitten am I.
c/o Brian Day
Omaha, NE 68105
Invaders of the Heart
reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92
Kind of a weird supergroup, what with Mr. Jah Wobble's roots with P.I.L. (back when they were much more interesting) and Michel Schoots of UDS. Of course, Island or Atlantic or some biggie released an album by these guys a couple of months back, using the name Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart.
Moody as hell, with a few dance tracks, this is a much more interesting album than the major one. There's more music, for one. And the stuff is a little more out there. Lots of faux-international rhythms and melodies wandering around, sometimes even coherent. Not a straight-ahead piece of work.
Weave the Apocalypse
reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94
Following the current trend of Euro-death, which is an avoidance of anything grind-y and moving back in history to the thrashy mid-eighties, Invocator pay close attention to riffwork and also enunciate very clearly.
This, of course, is attractive to the commercial record community (watch how Sepultura, Entombed and Carcass sales make Columbia cream this year). And to be honest, I like this record. I know, I know, I should be standing up for the underground and keeping death metal "pure" (I keep using that word this issue). But the fact is, this is still good music, and it is still too heavy for MTV to take seriously.
While not groundbreaking, this is very attractive music. Invocator have drawn raves from a few of you already, especially those who were big thrash-heds a few years back. Metal, like all forms of music, is doomed to repeat the past. When the past sounds like this, I'll buy a ticket any day.
reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98
Atmospheric songs, alternately lush and strident. Io kicks through a number of styles in a short period of time. The songs themselves sound a bit unfinished (often only a guitar, bass and drums, and the mix is so sparse those holes in the sound are gaping), but I like the writing.
Inviting, almost. Asking the listener to fill in the holes, perhaps. Io is trying so hard to do so many things, I can understand. It's not the band's intent to really stomp folks anyway, so maybe I'm worrying about nothing.
Io's adventurous spirit is almost breathtaking. Each song comes alive in a completely different universe, but with enough of a connection to link to the others. Probably too creative for mainstream types, but that's not a sin or anything.
By the end, I was much more enamored of the strange mix. I'm still not sure it's best, but at least it didn't bother me so much. Io likes to travel, and this cruise is a good idea.
reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00
Meandering, but ultimately well-crafted pop stuff. Iota Songs doesn't have anywhere to get immediately, but at the end it's apparent a journey has been taken.
Both songs here evolve quite slowly, and there really isn't much of a climax, either. Iota Songs prefers to leave its mark in an understated fashion. Considering the emotional impact of the lyrics, that might be a somewhat unusual trait, but it works here.
Don't get impatient. Let the songs work their spell. It's good to expand the brain every once in a while.
Sam Densmore & Curtis Irie
Quit Work Make Music
Better known for their own work, Sam Densmore and Curtie Irie get together to record four songs from each. Those expecting Densmore's work to be rootsier and Irie's to be a bit loopier will be surprised. Densmore seems to have calmed Irie just a bit, and Irie seems to sent Densmore in some lovely new directions.
The set is utterly eclectic, though modern pop is probably the central theme. The sounds range widely ("Who?" can best be described as reggae-inflected laptop pop, for example), and the ideas are similarly expansive.
Some artists blast out of the gate and then slowly fade. Both Densmore and Irie seem to be getting stronger and more adventurous as time passes. This set is just the latest example of their respective maturations.
The songs pass by too quickly. Luckily, there's this thing called repeat. And the fact that Densmore and Irie are among the more prolific songwriters around. There's always a new album around the corner (if it hasn't arrived already).
Quite the lovely snack. I'm in for seconds and thirds, to be sure.
(Cold Meat Industry)
reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01
Martial electronic noise. Which is a variant I've not heard before. IRM utilizes the usual distortion and sampling techniques, but arranges the songs in what I can only describe as a military style. Then, of course, there's also the distorted vocals, which add just another level of pain.
Pain seems to be the order of the day. Pain, regimented and pure. There isn't anything soothing or healing going on here. But the strict structure of the songs does provide a few points of entry. This stuff isn't off the charts or anything.
Just more than a little extreme. Not in a careless way, of course, but in a manner most careful. Even the sound is carefully prepared, the vocals not quite so distorted that they're unrecognizable and the music blistered but still melodic.
Well-conceived and performed. If you like your noise constrained just a little bit, IRM has a sound for you.
Iron Lung Corp
Big Shiny Spears
reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97
The members of Acumen and Clay People get together, rip out a few techno-metal dancehall anthems and a couple Nitzer Ebb songs, just for the fuck of it.
I've always liked the more "live" sound of Clay People than the very processed output of Acumen. This is where I'd like Acumen to be in general. A little more aggro, some faster beats. This sort of music works much better at a higher speed, and that's all there is to it.
A lot of fun for the metalhed, the cold wave fanatics, and anyone who digs that whole Chemlab sorta sound. There's not much substance behind the great sound, but I'm not gonna bitch too much. This sounds too good for large complaints.
If Acumen can take something from this, well, I guess that would be the ultimate good result. A fine confluence of competing sounds, with a sterling result.
The Loose EP
reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13
Minimalist songwriting that's played in a maximalist setting. These songs sound as if they're played by different bands. "Mind My Halo" is a wonderfully blistering piece, while "Goin Slow" is a meandering pop-rock meditation. The other two songs are almost entirely forgettable disjointed indie rockers. I have no idea which is the real Irontom, but "Mind My Halo" is great.
Live at Maritime Hall
reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98
You've been there. A wedding or some other party with a DJ, and a really annoying medley comes on. Personally, I've been subjected to the "Grease medley" more times than I wish to count. Medleys are a cheap way of inciting a crowd. All cream, and no salt to balance.
Isaacs was once a very influential reggae artist and impresario. But now, he's taking it easy. Lots of medleys here, and none of them particularly cohesive. The stand-alone songs are truncated, sometimes not getting through full versions.
The sound, other than Isaacs's voice and the keyboards, is bad. The horns are hard to hear, and the bass is so muffled it is often relegated to a vague rumbling sensation way behind the sound.
Hey, I know why this disc exists. But Isaacs just isn't the performer he used to be, and unfortunately, this album doesn't hide that fact. This disc doesn't do much even for nostalgia.
(as Gregory Isaacs & Son
Father & Son
reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00
Gregory Isaacs is preparing to turn over the family franchise to his son, Kevin. On this disc, They share writing and singing duties, alternating tracks on vocals. The weird thing about it is that there are only eight musical tracks here among the 16 songs.
Let's see how I can explain this better. First Gregory sings a song over a particular backing track. Then Kevin sings a different song (a different title with different lyrics) over the same backing track.
An interesting idea, though the sound of the music epitomizes low-rent recording to the hilt. There's a drum machine and a couple keyboards. Probably a bassist. And it's produced to sound rather slight and tinny. Really, this doesn't sound good at all.
As for the alternating conceit, well, it works out alright. Kevin's voice is clearer and stronger than his father's. But these songs don't do either justice. There's just not much here.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
(Jimmy Franks Recording Company)
reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01
This disc came in a plain white wrapper. Didn't know quite what to expect. In any case, I sure didn't expect anthemic blooze metal. It's pretty good, mind you. I'm not complaining. But I just wasn't expecting the aural assault, you know?
This is the sorta stuff that gets better the more it cheeses out. The more the guys sell the hooks, the more the guitars settle into predictable throttle modes, the more the blood gets moving.
Isabelle's Gift seems to know this. The songs never slow down or become turgid. Instead, they always seem to be upping the ante. Does the stuff get silly? Damn straight. And the band revels in the lunacy. That's the whole point!
High art? Hardly. But Isabelle's Gift has a knack for the heavy hook. As long as the pedal sticks close to the floor, these boys have wide spaces to roam. Play this as loud as you can take it.
reviewed in issue #329, August 2011
It is almost never a good idea to start an album with a slow, slow burner. The first two minutes of this album are interesting, but somewhat unfocused. Or, it least, they seem that way. Little by little, however, the genius behind the screen reveals himself.
And so what starts as a modestly-engaging folk piffle builds brick by brick into a massive edifice of rock majesty. Isaiah is happy to trade in the realms of Americana, but he definitely believes in rock and roll.
The easy-rollin' 70s version, perhaps, but rock and roll nonetheless. There seems to be an increasing affection for the sounds of Paul Simon and the Band and such (and yes, there's one hell of a connection in all that), and Isaiah pays heed. But he's not paying tribute. He's simply spinning his influences into his own skein.
So have a little patience. Isaiah gets going eventually, and this album truly takes flight soon after. Roll with the mood shifts and sound slips and let his vision filter through. It's something impressive, to be sure.
Is And Of The
reviewed in issue #335, March 2012
There is no description that can do this justice. Drew Bandos (who is Is And Of The) seems to have transcribed his brain onto these astoundingly accessible experimental electronic pieces. I'm not sure how else to explain.
An exceptionally gentle touch guides these songs, which is the main reason they flow into the brain with such ease. There seems to be almost no filter between thought and music, and at times I feel as though I can read Bandos's mind through the music on this album.
That feeling isn't unique, but it is addictive. And once hooked, the more experimental asides roll by with nary a shrug. It all makes sense, you see.
One minute is enough to hypnotize, but it will take many listens to begin to get a handle on how this album came together. Bandos deserves high praise for his writing, but the assembly and production are what make this album so brilliant.
Silver Lightning from a Black Sky
reviewed in issue #305, March 2009
I'm always interested to hear how folks from overseas reinterpret American music. European jazz bands are often a trip, but the European take on rock and roll has always been even trippier.
Kenneth Ishak is Norwegian, but you'd never guess that from his vocals. This sounds like crackling-clean indie pop. And it's that almost clinical quality to the sound that distinguishes it from the generally "dirtier" American feel.
That almost astringent production--even when the arrangements get busy, it's easy to hear every single element--lays these songs bare. Ishak comes through with a bevy of pleasant, introspective tunes that generally go nowhere fast, but charm nonetheless.
And these days, charm goes a long way. Ishak knows what he's doing, and he's done it quite well here. Pretty is as pretty does.
reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01
Not unlike the way National Geographic used to number its pages, Isis numbers its songs from the beginning. So the first track, "SGNL>05 (Final Transmission)" is listed as "12." on the case. It is, of course, track 1 on the CD.
Just getting that out of the way. As for the music, Isis is about as torn as Neurosis has been. The pieces go from experimental noise to churning sludgefests. With a few stops in between. Consistency is apparently not a goal of the band.
Creativity, however, run high. These pieces do work together to create a mood of doom and despair. In fact, there's something of a theme going on (I'm guessing some of the plot points began on earlier albums and may continue on future efforts). And, as might be expected, the sound is thrilling.
What I mean by that is that the stuff just leaps out of the speakers, no matter what the band is actually playing at the time. This is vital stuff. Isis messes around a lot, but within all of that is a core that should scare you plenty. Ride this dark cloud.
Return to the Sea
reviewed in issue #274, May 2006
Loping (sometimes lurching) geek pop that can be as simple as a trio and as fleshed out as a small orchestra. And while the songs have that laptop feel, these are "real" performances.
You might ask why it matters if the music is programmed or played. It doesn't, I guess, but there is a difference in sound--or rather, texture. And this sounds like a band. Barely sometimes, but a band nonetheless.
The songs themselves are often goofy and always intricately plotted. Such crafting can lead to something stilted, but these boys always manage to infuse a warped energy into the pieces. Kinda like a French Canadian They Might Be Giants.
Except that these guys aren't nearly so snarky. They're actually painfully earnest, which makes these songs even that much more engaging. I'm not sure why someone would make music quite like this, but I'm sure glad Islands did.
Gordon B. Isnor
Creatures All Tonight
(Lord Sir Skronk)
reviewed in issue #266, July 2005
Remember those faux new wave pop bands from the late 70s and early 80s? The Cars were probably the best known, though I was thinking more of the Tubes, Tommy Tutone, etc., one-hit wonders (or two, at most)--even though it sounded like most of those songs might well have been recorded by the same producer.
Isnor has a terrific handle on the cheesy keyboard riffs, the processed guitar sound and the offhanded hooks that defined this sound. This is sophisticated cheesy pop. And damned proud of it.
Yes, you have to be in the mood. And it helps to have actually liked the stuff back when it was current (and since we're talking more than 20 years ago, that does exclude more than a few readers). Geezer pop for aging geeks. Or something like that.
And since I'm a rapidly-aging geek who can't resist a nicely-turned pop hook (no matter how cheesy), this album utterly charmed me. Wistful smiles all around.
It Is I
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
A stunning industrial grind morass of the kind Winter showed us a few years ago. If that reference fails you, go back, listen to the first Type O, and then imagine another whole load of viciousness dropped on top.
Quite a sundae, eh? I have a feeling It Is I has one thing in mind: total world domination. Evolve is a stunning statement, with all of the sonic construction coming from instruments rather than samples and production room edit tape.
This is music for those heavy at heart. Don't play this for the cousin who likes R.E.M., or even the Iron Maiden fiends. It Is I has a mission: to be the heaviest band in existence. There are many moments here which rival Streetcleaner (which is still one of the heaviest albums ever recorded), and dare I say it, a couple moments that even surpass.
If you dug the Glazed Baby last year, this is just as heavy, but in a more distortion-industrial sense. It Is I is not clean, but loaded down with the pain of the world. No, wait. That's someone else's slogan. Oh well. It sure is appropriate here.
It's a King Thing
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
reviewed in issue #316, April 2010
A few guys from the suburbs of Philly who know their way around power pop. The easiest reference for me is the Mayflies, the old Chapel Hill band. But if that doesn't do it for you, then try this: If you happen to have that first Fountains of Wayne album, you'll know exactly what's on this disc. I love that first FoW album (and the Mayflies), and I'm kinda falling for this one pretty quickly.
The sound is just muddy enough to add a bit of abrasion to the glorious hooks. Pop should never be perfectly clean. It should also delve into the darker parts of the human brain. It's a King Thing obliges almost effortlessly.
Most of these songs are in the midtempo range, which can get tedious. Luckily, the band subtly shifts its approach from song to song, so that even when the tempo stays the same, the songs are distinctive. That's one of those small things that separates good writing from average writing.
Ah, but this album is fully above average. It might even approach great, but I always hesitate to anoint pop albums until I've had time to burn out on them. The goods remain stellar, and the average ones get old. I think I'll be listening to this one for a few years, but time will be the judge of that. Delicious. Oh, and if you don't believe me just go to the site. The album is free.
The Lush, Romantic Weirdness
(Vampire Media Group)
reviewed in issue #318, June 2010
Um, the title is astoundingly appropriate. The three guys in Italian Japanese play soft-spoken pop that is lush, romantic (depending on your definition) and definitely a bit weird.
And when you're going to whip out soaring hooks and mid-tempo beats, you'd better have something unconventional going on. Largely, the "weirdness" is in the construction, which owes as much to jazz as rock. Imagine New Order playing Steely Dan songs, and you'd be on the right path.
The sound is very rounded and full, and it tends to emphasize the unusual construction of many of these songs. Everything gets resolved by the time the chorus wanders by, but there's a lot to consider before that happens.
That's cool. This is a meditative album that has some truly transcendent moments. Just sit back and see where the journey takes you. You'll be most comfortable, I assure you.
Motion in Mind
reviewed in issue #306, April 2009
Tom Metz created the electronic madness that is Iuengliss, and he really revels in the digital gore.
Not digital hardcore, mind you, but rather disassembled melodies and beats that are never quite put back together correctly. It's easy to hear coherent thoughts and vocals, but they never quite fit together. Brilliant.
Indeed, if these songs were produced in a straightforward manner, they might be a bit dull. After all, there's only so much you can do with processed vocals and an array of keyboards.
Metz has done all that--and gone past the limits of the form with his arrangements. These songs aren't experimental in conception, but they are in execution. The sounds just aren't right, and that's what lights up my brain. I really like grooving to the fractured sounds of this album. Quite engaging.
Bandit/Triathlon/Ivadell/Slow and Steady
Everything Melts Eventually Vol. 1 7"
If you thought the era of record labels was over, you're only slightly mistaken. But while the "major" labels have receded, there are still plenty of small (or even tiny) labels that help bands get their music out. Broken Circles is one of those. And if you've spent any time with a favorite label, you're familiar with the "sampler" album. Samplers often come out in December, and they're often free.
This isn't a sampler. It's four top-notch songs from bands on the Broken Circles roster, and it's not free. But it's more than worth some coin. These four songs are somewhat vaguely winter themed (the label calls this "Christmas songs for the people who don't like Christmas songs"), but I didn't worry about that. I just dove headfirst into these brief tracks.
Bandit and Triathlon serve up shimmery pop on side one (this is properly served up on 7-inch vinyl, of course) , Ivadell wanders into crunchy post-punk territory and Slow and Steady closes things out with a moody drifter. The range of sounds and ideas on this short set is impressive. The songs are jewels unto themselves.
I rarely get excited about this sort of thing. And I almost never pay any attention to anything that remotely resembles a sampler. But there's something about the artists, songs and presentation here that really trips a nerve. Absolutely lovely stuff.
Beyond the Stars
reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00
There's not a better way to describe this than "power progressive metal." Take two parts standard melodic Eurometal and add the technical loops and whorls of prog and you're right in Ivory Tower's territory.
The emphasis is power and melody. The structural elements that get the most attention are the ones that move the song along, not those that fit into some elliptical scale pattern. What I'm saying is that Ivory Tower doesn't sacrifice the song on the god of proficiency.
But, of course, these guys can play. They just don't make a big deal out of it. The solos are majestic and evocative, not some kind of prickly whipsaw punctuated by lots of sixteenth and thirty-second notes.
The easiest American reference would be early Queensryche, say right around Rage for Order. Ivory Tower has a fuller sound than that, but the songs are right in that territory. This is quality stuff, the sort of thing that doesn't wander down the pike every day. Quite a listen.
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