Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 338 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.

  • La Secta
  • Lab Report
  • Labb
  • James LaBrie's MullMuzzler
  • Labtekwon
  • The Laces (2)
  • TheLacto-Ovo
  • Mike Ladd (2)
  • Laddio Bolocko (2)
  • Lady Bianca
  • Lady J
  • The Ladybirds
  • Lagwagon
  • Laibach
  • Laidlaw
  • Laika
  • Lake of Dracula
  • Lake of Tears
  • Michael Lally
  • Lambchop (2)
  • Eric Lambert (2)
  • Yves Lambert Trio
  • Jim Lampos (6)
  • Bert Lams (3)
  • Gene Land
  • Land of Chocolate
  • Land of Thin Dimes
  • The Landing
  • Landing Gear
  • Lana Lane
  • Suzanne Langille (3)
  • Daniel Lanois
  • Lark's Tongue
  • Larva
  • The Lassie Foundation
  • Joe Lasqo
  • Last American Buffalo
  • Last Charge of the Light Horse
  • Last Days of April (3)
  • Last Days of May
  • The Last Kind
  • Last Lungs
  • Last of the International Playboys
  • The Last Royals
  • Last to Know
  • Bill Laswell meets Style Scott
  • The Late Show
  • Lateral Tension
  • Latex Generation
  • Latimer
  • Latin Jazz Orchestra
  • Latz
  • Jim Lauderdale
  • Laughing Hyenas (3)
  • Laughing Us
  • Laura's Invention
  • Scott Laurent
  • Laurels (2)
  • Lawnmower Deth
  • The Lawrence Arms (2)
  • Lazy (2)
  • Lazycain
  • Le Rug
  • Tom Leach
  • Leadsman
  • Leaether Strip (3)
  • Leather Girls
  • Leather Hyman
  • Leatherface (3)
  • Leaving Trains (3)
  • Josh Lederman y Los Diablos
  • Vincent Lee
  • Lee Harvey Oswald Band (2)
  • Lee Marvin Computer Arm
  • The Leeches
  • Leeway (2)
  • Left Hand Solution
  • Left in a Dream
  • The Leftovers
  • Left Undone
  • Lefty's Deceiver
  • The Legendary Pink Dots
  • Th' Legendary Shack Shakers
  • Steuart Leibig/Tee Tot Quartet
  • Lemming Project
  • Lemonheads
  • Lemons
  • Lemur Voice
  • Lemuria
  • Sean Lennon
  • Lento
  • Frank Lenz
  • Leon Milmore
  • Leopold
  • Leopold and His Fiction (2)
  • Les Sages
  • Les Savy Fav
  • Lesion
  • The Leslies
  • Less than Jake (2)
  • Let's Go Bowling
  • Chris Letcher
  • Letters Home
  • Letters to Cleo
  • Leukemia
  • Katie Levent
  • Leverage Models
  • Leviathan
  • Marissa Levy
  • Lewis
  • Lewis and Clarke
  • Don Lewis Band
  • Leyode
  • Li'l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes
  • Libido (2)
  • Libido Boyz (2)
  • Libretto
  • Alan Licht
  • Lick
  • Lickety Split (2)
  • Licorice
  • Lidsville
  • Steuart Leibig (2)
  • Liege Lord (2)
  • Life After Life
  • The Life and Times (2)
  • Life in a Blender
  • Life of Agony (3)
  • Lifer
  • Light FM
  • Light Sleeper
  • Lights & Motion
  • Lights of Euphoria
  • Lights Over Roswell
  • Like a Fox
  • Like Wow
  • Lillian Axe (2)
  • Limbo
  • Liminal
  • Limp (2)
  • Jon Lindsay
  • Linfinity
  • Link 80 (2)
  • Lionrock
  • The Lions
  • The Lions Rampant
  • Elliot Lipp
  • Liquid Daydream
  • Liquid Hips (2)
  • Liquid Sex Decay
  • Liquid Tension Experiment
  • Liquor Bike
  • Louie Lista
  • Litmus Green
  • Little Children
  • Little Name
  • Living Abortions
  • The Living End
  • Living Sacrifice (4)
  • Lizard Music (2)
  • LKN
  • Local H (2)
  • Loch Lomond
  • Jeremiah Lockwood
  • Locus Solus
  • The Locust
  • Lød
  • Loden
  • Log
  • Bob Log III
  • Logh
  • Lola
  • Lollipop Lust Kill
  • The Lonely Bears
  • Lonely China Day
  • The Lonely H
  • Lonesome Leash
  • Lonesome Travelers
  • P.W. Long and Reelfoot (2)
  • Long Fin Killie (2)
  • Long Winters Stare
  • Longwave
  • Lewi Longmire Band
  • The Longwalls
  • Lonnie Walker
  • Look Mexico
  • Loom
  • Loomis
  • Scott R. Looney
  • Loop Guru (2)
  • Loose Change
  • Loose Lips
  • Lopside (2)
  • Lords of Acid
  • Loretta's Doll
  • Lorna
  • Los Activos
  • Los Angeles Electric 8
  • Los Canadians
  • Los Gusanos
  • Los Infernos
  • Los Kingdom
  • Lost Breed
  • Lost in the Trees
  • The Lost Kids
  • The Lot Six (2)
  • Lotus
  • Lou Ford
  • Loudblast
  • Loudspeaker Speaker (2)
  • Lousy Robot (2)
  • Love American Style
  • Love and Rockets
  • Love Gutter
  • Love Huskies
  • Love in Venice
  • Love Interest
  • The Love Letter Band
  • Love Like Blood
  • Love Love
  • Love Offering
  • Love Nut
  • Love Revolution
  • Love Spirals Downwards
  • Love/Hate
  • Lovecraft
  • Lovesick (2)
  • Loveskills
  • Lovetones
  • Lovewhip (3)
  • Preston Lovinggood (2)
  • Low
  • Low Fat Getting High
  • Low Pop Suicide
  • Low Fidelity All-Stars
  • Katt Lowe and the Othersyde
  • Lower East Side Stitches
  • The Lower 48
  • Mike Lowry Band
  • Lubec
  • Lucero
  • Luciar (2)
  • Lucid Nation (2)
  • Lucky Me
  • The Lucky Stars
  • The Lucy Show (2)
  • Lucyfire
  • John Ludi
  • Ludicra
  • Troy Lukkarila
  • Lull
  • Luna (2)
  • Lunachicks (2)
  • Luscious Jackson
  • Lust Penguins
  • Lustre/Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver
  • Luvrokambo
  • Luxt (2)
  • Luxxury/Baron von Luxury (3)
  • LVX Nova
  • Lycia
  • Lydia's Trumpet
  • Bill Lyerly Band
  • Lymbyc Systym (4)
  • Lynch Mob
  • Trudy Lynn

  • La Secta
    Memories Pt. 1
    (Munster-Hell Yeah)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Something like the Spanish version of the Ramones (if you want to call Die Toten Hosen the German version of the Ramones). Basic punk rawk stuff that doesn't vary from the basic sound much at all.

    This disc is a compilation of various singles and tracks from a couple albums. The band actually claims the Stooges as one of its main influences, and to be honest, that's probably better than my choice. The music is thickly produced, the chords extremely simple and the lyrics even more basic. Raw power, indeed.

    The stuff doesn't hold up particularly well, though it does have a kind of ragged charm. Enjoyable enough, though probably not as much so after a few run-throughs.

    Certainly steeped in the punk spirit. Past that, well, I'd rather not say.

    Lab Report
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    I first saw this act as an opener for Pigface. We had just sat through a garishly awful Stick set, and were not ready or willing for what happened next.

    The problem with experimental music live (and if this isn't experimental...) is that it's damned hard to connect with an audience. If I had happened to be on some sort of hallucinogenic or something, then maybe things would have been different.

    But I prefer to see my shows relatively straight. Also, when you only have two guys running around manically simply trying to keep all the appropriate levels of feedback whining all the time, the music loses its effect a little.

    On disc, however, Schultz and Pounder are able to control their surroundings and do more than one thing at once. This is music for a psychotic romantic evening. I like to dim the lights, pick up a cool book and put discs like this and Scorn and the like on.

    Like any experimental act, Lab Report don't connect all the time. But by pushing the limits of time, space and music, these folk have done everyone a great service. Because, after all, life is not a series of ordered events but a shower of chaos that descends upon us. Mutate or die.

    Driving Your Shadow
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Ultra-shiny power pop, complete with crunchy riffage and swaggering hooks. Labb isn't delicate, and it doesn't believe in subtlety. These songs pack a massive punch, and they sound much better with the volume cranked.

    Which is not to say that this stuff is simple or mundane. Labb isn't afraid to ratchet back the sound now and again, but eventually every piece blooms into full fuzz.

    The kinda stuff that either works well or not at all. Labb expended so much effort putting this together that there's the distinct possibility of staleness. Power pop is best crafted, but sometimes too much work can leave the tunes stilted. No problems with that here. The requisite energy and attitude is present.

    Leaving me with an utterly satisfying disc in the stereo. Nothing more than that, but as any reader knows, good tight power pop does straight into my veins and flies right to my pleasure center. Big smiles.

    James LaBrie's MullMuzzler
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Prog for the pop fan. James LaBrie (the singer for Dream Theater, if you didn't recognize the name) has put together a solid band, and he and the band have written some fine tunes. Drenched in keyboards and featuring technical guitar, drum and vocal runs, this stuff is still approachable by folks who appreciate the far edge of Rush or Styx.

    I'm not dropping those references as a slag. Not at all. Both bands have put out some fine prog-tinged stuff, and LaBrie and company take that pop edge and just run a little further on.

    What saves this from getting too excessive (and makes it accessible) is the relatively light hand on the production knobs. Yes, the keyboards do predominate now and again. But what really comes through is the solid songwriting.

    And the fact that this stuff might appeal to a broader audience in no way takes away from its power. Nothing has been sacrificed to achieve this. Just worked out that way. Hardcore prog fans might note be so sanguine, but what the hell.

    Song of the Sovereign
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    The rhymes may flow in a cool and mellow fashion, but Labtekwon is anything but shy and restrained. The thought (behind the music as well as the lyrics) is strong and well-considered.

    Slow, dirty grooves populate the beatwork. Lots of funk expressed in a meditative and restrained style. More than scratching, sampling and looping, there's some nice bass work going on as well.

    Nothing shiny about these songs. Even the distortion has been refined to a dull roar. All that contributes to the cool feel of this album, and it's a perfect compliment to the rhymes.

    Labtekwon sets the table and then piles the plates full of knowledge. Not a thing stands in the way of a proper feast. Dig in.

    The Laces
    Thankyou and Goodbye
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Tortured pop music which brings to mind the excesses of June Panic or the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Stuff that I listen to an awful lot.

    Vocals which don't really find the melody lines, meandering lyric thoughts and slightly-off kilter tuneage. This is a recipe for disaster, but in the hands of someone truly insane it works out. Much of the time, anyway.

    And near as I can tell, the Laces is mostly Doug Kabourek, recorded at home to four track. Obsessive, yes, and not particularly detail oriented. Some really wild music. Mainline emotion, with not much lost in translation.

    I'm simply a sucker for idiosyncratic pop stuff. It's not commercially viable and most folks might compare the Laces to a dog howling in pain (well, maybe not something that severe). But no matter. I happen to like the sound of a soul being bared.

    Forever for Now
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    This sort of album is the future of the music anti-industry. CD mixed on computer and written on a CD-ROM. Liners printed out on a color printer. Distributed by the band (or some close personal friends)

    Same Laces, too, somewhat silly songs sung in a devil-may-care fashion (though not quite so recklessly as the last disc I heard). Pleasant pop songs with just a hint of a bite.

    But you've got to get below the surface to find that little nugget of sarcasm. I like such slogging myself, and once again I find myself really liking a Laces disc. This does sound somewhat like a one-man project (and it is, kind of), but the earnest obsessiveness is quite appealing.

    Nothing epochal or earth-shaking. Just cool music wandering out to me from the midwest. I'm happy to sit back with a smile, even if it gets a little snarky from time to time.

    Shoes & You
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    The first song is a tres-June of 44 instrumental. I began to wonder what might lie beyond. Turns out that Lacto-Ovo is a minimalist pop band (complete with retro keyboard). That first track wasn't exactly an anomaly, but it isn't representative, either.

    Ah, but what am I bitching about? Lacto-Ovo doesn't like to stay in the same place. There is quite the VU feel to many of these songs (the lengthy "Your Sweet Shoe" in particular), and that's not unwelcome. These folks know how to set a mood.

    And have a little fun while hard at work. Not just on obviously playful songs like "Smurf," but in general. Lacto-Ovo lopes along, roping whatever it wants from the saddle of its mottled steed.

    And that's cool. This stuff fits right in the middle of what a friend of mine calls "indie-hipster pop," and so you've gotta be in a receptive mood. If you are, though, settle in for a fine ride.

    Mike Ladd
    Vernacular Homicide EP
    What a great album title. I'm surprised no one has used it yet. It kinda brings back memories of the early days of hip-hop. And so does Mike Ladd's work in general.

    Like I noted in the 12" review, Ladd has a real commitment to tight, rhythmic enunciation and the playful elements of those pioneering days. What I couldn't hear as clearly on that small sample was Ladd's interest in experimental beat work and more esoteric sorts of rhyming.

    And so this album veers from the light and jaunty toward the introspective and spacey. And then back again. And again. On this album, the beats predominate. There are a number of cool instrumentals, closing up with a poem (call it freestyle if you like). All done with style and grace. Ladd has an original ear, and he knows how to serve it.

    Activator Cowboy 12"
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Harkening back to real old school days, Mike Ladd populates his beats with the sounds of the 70s and 80s and raps with a smooth and assured rhythm.

    The title track incorporates a lot of tinny keys and a goofy story. "The Worst Elements of Hip Hop" brings in vocoder and more Parliament-style funk. "Foxwood's" is simply a simple rhyme draped over bubbling bass.

    All done with style, panache and wit. I know, the kids today will just think it's weak and has no bite. Perhaps these aren't gangsta tales of the hard life. But they are finely-crafted little gems. Nothing wrong with that.

    Laddio Bolocko
    Strange Warmings of Laddio Bolocko
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Rumbling through what sounds like wildly distorted and sometimes quite lengthy tape loops, Laddio Bolocko actually plays a series of mechanical-sounding vamps, eventually assembling generally incoherent pieces into a fairly pleasing whole.

    Man, that description is obtuse. But then, Laddio Bolocko probably faces two reactions to its music. The first (and probably most prevalent) would go something like "What the fuck is that shit?" The second, more reasoned approach would consider the fairly complex sound, mull over the variety of noises presented and conclude that Laddio Bolocko is somewhere off the edge of the ledge, though it hasn't quite hit the ground yet.

    A train wreck in progress, the sound of a dying civilization, whatever. Laddio Bolocko is a noise band in almost every sense, from the keen appreciation of sonic discord to the wide spectrum of distortion employed at various points. The best way to dig into this kinda thing is simply to burrow into the mess and see where you end up. Lose yourself, and take the chance that you won't be coming back any time soon.

    Chaos breeds order. Laddio Bolocko understands this better than almost any other band I've encountered. A brave and unsettling disc, one that brooks no cowards.

    In Real Time
    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    I don't correct my reviews very often. Most of the time, the complaints that arise are over opinion ("All my friends say this is a great album" and that sorta thing). The Laddio Bolocko guys were a bit cheesed when I said they used tape loops in the first version of my review of their Strange Warmings... disc. They don't. I changed the review to read "what sounds like... tape loops". And I did so happily.

    This album throws all the messiness of that first disc right out the damned window. The songs are still based around some mechanical-sounding rhythm grooves, but there is much less ambient noise. More attention to melody (however contorted the melody might be). A stronger sound altogether.

    Right in the vein of the Shipping News or June of '44. Regular readers know how much I love them (interrelated) bands. Well, Laddio Bolocko impresses me just as much. This is really wonderful stuff.

    Would seg well with the Don Cab, too. Instrumental lovelies, thriving on the lush interaction of instruments cranked to the edge of distortion overload. This harnessing of energy is most impressive, and while I liked the caterwauling primal scream of Strange Warmings..., this disc is ever so much more impressive. The sound of a band growing into its genius.

    Lady Bianca
    (Rooster Blues)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Lady Bianca Thornton sings the blues with a gospel bounce. In fact, these songs have a lot more churchified soul going for them than the blues. Not a bad thing; you've just gotta know what you're getting into.

    Once I settled into the groove (the album title should've prepared me for the bright, bounding style of the blues I found here), I had a much better time. Lady Bianca doesn't wallow, even when she gets down. There's an uplifting feel to her voice, that sorta "ev'rything's gonna be alright" sound. Like that.

    Which doesn't exactly fit in with songs like "Sexy Bones." I'm sure she's sincere, but Lady Bianca can't quite sell anything earthy. Maybe it's the gospel influence; I don't know. I'm just saying she didn't convince me.

    Still, I like the way she mixes things up. Lady Bianca sure knows how to make the blues roll. And when she does, there are few better. Them's the parts I liked best.

    Lady J
    Music for the Soul
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    I'm not sure where this disc is aimed. Lady J sings rock and pop songs, backed mostly by a synthesizer or electric piano. Even when other instruments come in, the sound is kinda tinny.

    The style is a more rootsy version of the early 80s cheese pop epitomized by Irene Cara. Lady J is something of a belter, and so maybe you'd do well imagining Pat Benatar singing "Flashdance" (with Neil Gerardo on guitar, produced by Michael Sembello).

    This just doesn't make sense to me. I'm not getting any connection. The songs themselves are rather pedestrian. Heartfelt, but rather cliche-ridden without much to say.

    I hate dissing stuff that's so damned earnest, but just don't hear anything. Is this totally without merit? No, but I'm definitely not the right person for Lady J.

    The Ladybirds
    Shimmy Shimmy Dang
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    I guess if you're from Louisville, then dropping your sound pretty much dead between the Cramps, and Southern Culture on the Skids, early Neko Case and 60s girl groups is about right, geographically-speaking. The Ladybirds play a most raucous form of traditional rock and roll. Not that tradition is hardly the first thing that comes mind upon first (or tenth) listen.

    For starters, there's a goofiness factor that might put a few people off. These folks see trailer trash as a gold mine, and that's just how these songs are presented. Perhaps there's a bit too much mugging, but the band never lets off the throttle, so any annoyances flit away harmlessly.

    The sound is a bit bright, but that's part of the modest sleaziness factor that these folks cultivate. While there may be a modestly earnest point here and there, the Ladybirds are out for a good time first and foremost.

    They certainly deliver on that. These songs are a blast, and the band's cavalier approach is refreshing and energizing. Big, big smiles.

    Let's Talk About Feelings
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Thick and chunky punk rawk anthems. With plenty of musical and verbal humor. Kinda like...

    Well, you read my take on the Ataris. Same deal. There is more than a passing NOFX influence, though I can also hear bits and snatches of Pennywise and (obviously, then) Bad Religion. And like the Ataris, Lagwagon does its heroes proud. Tight tunes with muscular hooks and scads of wit.

    Oh, more bliss. The sorta punk I crave. Sweet and chewy, but with enough substance to satisfy. Kinda like if eating a Snickers left you feeling like you just ate a big ol' sub instead.

    Well done, well done. Big wads of smiles from my corner. I'm still singing along in my head. And hitting repeat.

    Jesus Christ Superstars
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Perhaps the preeminent experimental electronic band of the 80s, Laibach has laid low much of the 90s. Many of the band's albums have been rather conceptual, and this one examines religion and the people who follow them.

    So you get a rather melodramatic romp through "Jesus Christ Superstar", a strangely stiff interpretation of the underappreciated Prince song "The Cross", a version of "God Is God" (the original of which will appear on the new Juno Reactor album) and plenty of Laibach originals.

    Much of the time Laibach toys with that whole Enigma-style dance groove, merging those beats with the dull electronic throbbing that is a band trademark. You know what you're going to get, and Laibach delivers.

    Not so much an update as a postcard from a wandering friend, Laibach has returned with an album as uncommercial as any other in its history. Now that Laibach has a rep as an early industrial influence, we'll see how the kiddies accept this offering.

    First Big Picnic
    (Americoma-Beyond/BMG) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    The first band on Nikki Sixx's Americoma label (he produces as well), Laidlaw cranks out a big-ass chunk of southern-fried rock. Overamped and underconsidered, there's just not a lot here to get excited about.

    Some members of the band have worked behind the scenes in the music industry (guitar tech, roadie, etc.). And these songs have some of the trappings of big rock, without any soul to fill in the holes. Sixx is actually a competent producer (though having Steve Perry sing backup vocals is certainly a questionable decision), but he tries too hard to dress up what is so obviously a shell.

    Rock by numbers is an ugly description, but Laidlaw deserves it. Yes, the playing is good. Can't argue with that. But the lyrics are insipid at best and mind-grating at worst. And the country-rock cum glam metal sound just never really works.

    Just an example of the bad ideas on this disc: An over-the-top version of "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo." If ever there was a song that didn't need the anthem treatment... Oh well. I'll be quite happy to forget about this puppy. As soon as the shakes stop.

    Good Looking Blues
    (Too Pure-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    I've always held that the best way to utilize modern recording technology is to record "real" instruments and then splice them together in whatever way you see fit. Laika seems to have hit upon this idea as well.

    Incorporating a basic band format (with a man on Minimoog) and then dropping samples here and there, Laika creates a lustrous, textured sound that leaves my senses reeling. Margaret Murphy Fiedler drops half-sung, half-spoken on top of this gorgeous, pulsating cloud, releasing all of the pent-up energy.

    Each small piece can easily be explained. But what Laika does in slotting these ideas together is nothing short of revolutionary. It's like multiplying the Bomb Squad circa 1990 and the Chemical Brothers, and then adding the Minimoog. Yeah, I know, those first two references are rather interlinked (sound-wise), but I think you might get my point. This album really moves.

    Entrancing doesn't begin to describe the power of Laika. Some might put this in the trip-hop category, but this album is impossibly complex compared with most other acts in that sound. Few albums truly move a sound forward as this one does. I'm just blown away.

    Lake of Dracula
    Lake of Dracula
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    An ungodly racket. Electric guitar, drums and mostly incoherent vocals. Occasionally the parts work together nicely. Nice, however, isn't what Lake of Dracula had in mind.

    Hey, there's no way you can ask me to prove intent. I have no idea, either. When this stuff works, the guitar and drums are operating just off-sync from each other, creating a third, overpowering rhythm. The vocals are just an afterthought, though they do provide yet another rhythmic counterpoint.

    The sort of thing even I have problems appreciating. Oh, there are cool moments ("Plague of Frogs" and "Blues Fantastique", for starters), but Lake of Dracula needs to figure out just what the hell it really wants to do. Noise for noise's sake is fine and all, but it generally doesn't make for great music.

    A big wad of potential disguised as a distortion overload. Nice for the adrenochrome rush. And maybe just a little burnt sienna afterglow. But nothing more.

    Lake of Tears
    Greater Art
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Highly accessible doom-death musings. Lake of Tears sounds a lot like Tiamat without all the keyboards.

    At times, things get awfully close to particular Tiamat songs (not to mention the album cover), which I found a little disconcerting. But in the moments that were truly original, I enjoyed LOT a lot. I think this is a perfectly natural way for death metal to hit the mainstream, and I wish these boys the best of luck.

    But next time, don't write your songs ten seconds after listening to Clouds, okay?

    Lakeside Project
    Animal Logic
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    The whole noise rock/jazz fusion thing really lights up my brain. There's something about not-quite abstract lines weaving patterns in the air that just undoes the fetters on my mind. The Lakeside Project specializes in this sort of music.

    The lead guitars plays often atonal melodies, allowing the bass and electronic elements space in which to express themselves. And when I say electronic, I mean keyboards and drum machines and the like.

    The result is an oddly orchestral manifestation of this sound. Unlike, say, June of 44, which would often take a minimalist approach. These songs remind me more of Iceburn and other more "full-figured" kinds of bands. Even when the sound gets gritty, there's a certain fullness that can't be missed.

    Only five (long) songs, but they're more than enough to knock me out. There's enough experimentation and musical thought to reward the demanding listener, and yet the complete nature of the arrangements ensure that everyday folks will find plenty to enjoy as well.

    Michael Lally
    What You Find There
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    The liners note the story of a man who has passed from the days of "good young poet with potential" to "fifty-year-old poet". The poems on this spoken word set (no music included) reflect the passage of time, though not necessarily in a linear sense.

    Lally celebrates the ordinary, combining some poetry conventions with conversation. Completely lacking in pretense, Lally relates everyday events. The everyday includes racism and other -isms, the general roads of life, family and how that can warp you.

    The best thing about Lally's poetry is the way he makes you reconsider your surroundings using events that seem superficial at first. He doesn't sound deep, but moments after hearing Lally, a new meaning will hit you. And then your awareness is expanded.

    That's the true test of poetry. Lally succeeds.

    I Hope You're Sitting Down (advance cassette)
    (Merge-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Widely-instrumented pop. This sounds like the perfect Merge band: Songs with a reason, wondrous playing and an off-kilter pop sound.

    How I Quit Smoking
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    As part of an ever-expanding effort to create "the new Nashville sound", Lambchop has added string arrangements to its orchestral take on the country crooners of the late 50s and early sixties.

    Except that Kurt Wagner (who wrote all the songs on this disc‹one song co-written) doesn't croon. He speak-sings the stuff, while these lush arrangements swirl about him. Lambchop may be trying to improve upon the legends of Chet Atkins and Jim Reeves and such, but the result is more a quaalude-laden My Bloody Valentine mixed with the odd poetic musings of the Palace Brothers.

    Which is not the worst thing in the world. I can't imagine sitting through a Lambchop show without utterly crashing, but as mood music, this album covers the situation pretty well. I think Lambchop knows damned well that twangy karaoke versions of Elton John songs are more likely to be "the new Nashville sound" (and judging by a recent trip to that city, such musings may already have taken that title) than this stuff, and the folks in the band just don't care. Keep on keepin' on is all that can be done.

    Eric Lambert
    (& the Laughing Gnomes)
    Year of the Gnome
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but lean blues 'n' boogie was not it. Lambert and the Gnomes (what a great name!) kick out some tight and smooth boogie shuffles, bringing to mind early Robert Cray or the Fab T-Birds before they hit the big time.

    For the most part, Lambert keeps the sound simple and doesn't succumb to the temptation of taking his music where it doesn't want to go. Even on a song like "Dirt Brown Pillow", which starts off in an almost glam metal ballad style, he pulls back and settles into a nice folk-gospel groove.

    The key to the blues, as far as I'm concerned, is always how well the music connects. Technical virtuosity is nice, but not required. Insightful lyrics are a plus, but don't tell that to John Lee Hooker, whose greatest songs are the sparest. The power is in the delivery.

    And Lambert knows how to deliver the goods. The light touch helps the music mainline that much quicker. One of the best blues albums I've heard in quite a while.

    Just the Way I Feel
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Lambert is a master of the feel-good blues. He doesn't cheese out his sound with studio excess, but instead prefers to infuse his songs with a soulful rawness. And whether he's taking inspiration from the Dead or Muddy Waters, the guitar work is pure Lambert.

    The music here is based on the blues, but Lambert doesn't feel the need to be a traditionalist. I noted the Dead earlier, and Lambert is also influenced by a number of bands who merely dabbled in the blues. It's this willingness to play with all sorts of song constructions that keeps his songs sounding so vital.

    By not adhering to any hidebound definition of what music "should" sound like, Lambert creates something new and unique. This guy works his ass off, playing 10-20 shows a month in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. All that live work can be heard in the assured hand on his guitar. He knows what works and what doesn't.

    Because, really, this is music that is best appreciated live. I only wish I lived up that way to catch a show. The discs are going to have to do for now. And boy, they do alright.

    Yves Lambert Trio
    Laissez Courir Les Chiens
    (La Pruche Libre)
    reviewed 7/25/16

    If you're like me, you always wondered a little bit about where the Cajuns in Louisiana came from. A while back, I looked it up. Cajuns moved down to Louisiana from Canada. They were originally Acadians. Their music was Acadian. They spoke French.

    Generations in Louisiana deep fried both their dialects and their music. But there is still an Acadian tradition in Quebec, and Yves Lambert taps into that and many other North American folk styles. He's been recording for decades, and chances are this isn't his greatest album ever. But for those wondering where certain styles of music that we think of as "American" came from, he's happy to show.

    Or play, really. This is another side to the americana coin, and a most enjoyable one at that. There are a few rhythms (and accordion riffs) that most folks would think of as Cajun, but Lambert is expansive in his use of influences. He makes three references when one will do.

    I know so little about Lambert's career (and even less French) that I can't make an educated judgment on the overall quality of this set. But it does pique my curiosity, and I can say that the more I hear it, the more I am able to dig deeper.

    Fully engaging, this set wraps the listener into a web that quickly becomes inescapable. Not that you'd want to be freed, of course. Some traps are pleasure domes.

    Jim Lampos
    Innuendos of Lafayette
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Roots rock with a classic feel, an acoustic version of Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Southern Culture on the Skids and R.E.M. And the guy is based in New York. Of course.

    Lampos is best on slow-burn anthems like "All Saints Day, Paris" and "Book of Mystery", where he simply lets the songs come to him and allows his voice full flower. Plus, I really like the violin (not fiddle; I'm no idiot) accompaniment.

    He kicks up his heels to a bit lesser effect, but keeping the sound mostly acoustic helps to contain the possible pretentiousness. The songs never get overbearing, and Lampos actually has something relevant to reveal.

    One of those albums that's just way out of time. An ideal companion to John Cougar Mellencamp's "stripped-down" days (or, more appropriately, James McMurtry's first album), Innuendoes of Lafayette is one of those kinda country, kinda folk, kinda rock albums that manages to satisfy all of those jones. Lampos is a songwriter of unusual power.

    Starlight Theatre
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Jim Lampos puts a moody, somewhat mystical spin on the roots sound. He does this without getting silly or cheesy or stupid. Perceptive and intelligent lyrics sure do help.

    Now, don't take that moody comment to mean that Lampos can't kick it up just a bit. He does, but even as the tempos rise Lampos stays cool. And instead of sounding stagey or contrived, it works.

    Which is really the most appropriate thing to say about this stuff. It works. Nothing complicated, though most certainly thoughtful. Restraint can be a most useful tool sometimes.

    Still fully intense, of course. These songs burn brightly. Lampos sure knows how to write, and he seems to sell his songs to the listener effortlessly. Sure, it's hard work, but all the better when it sounds so seamless.

    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Jim Lampos has a pretty simple formula. It's illustrated with his picture in the liners. There's Jim. And there's Jim's guitar. Nothing else is necessary.

    Lampos writes songs that celebrate life. The good times, the bad times and even the middling ones in-between. And while this may sound like I'm being vague, actually it is quite unusual to find a person who can express himself so clearly on so many experiences.

    Yeah, Lampos has a nice touch on his guitar. But the key here is his singing--and what he's singing about. His lyrics are plainspoken but still quite eloquent. Not exactly poetry, but not ham-handed prose, either. Just like I'm sitting back having a conversation with him.

    Which is exactly what the whole singer-songwriter style is all about. The simplest form of musical communication. Person-to-person, with as little interference as possible. Lampos gets his messages across in a most impressive fashion.

    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    On the surface, Jim Lampos sounds like any other nuevo-folk singer-songwriter. There's the half-sung, half-spoken vocals, the walking guitar lines and the spartan arrangements. All that is de rigeur. But what continues to impress me, album after album, is how much Lampos does with so little.

    While my reviews are notorious for ignoring lyrics (a valid complaint), Lampos's phrasing is so exquisite that it's impossible for me to miss his. He's a good guitar player, and he isn't willing to allow his vocals overshadow his rolling picking.

    Lampos sings about everyday life--most of the time, lives that reside a few miles from the freeway. He doesn't dress up his characters or try to make them more than they are. He just gives them a quiet dignity. There are echoes of Russell Banks and Richard Russo in his people, and that's only fitting. Like them, he celebrates the natives of the unseen parts of the northeast.

    Given his previous efforts, I'm always expecting something wonderful. And it seems that I've always forgotten just how amazing Lampos's songs are, because every time I'm knocked out all over again. Sometimes the great just get greater.

    Thunder Moon
    (Clocwyse Productions)

    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Jim Lampos has been sending me his albums for quite a while. He's got that whole understated folk ballad thing down pat...and more importantly, he's good enough to make each song worth hearing. Yet another solid effort from one of my favorite songwriters.

    Entangled States

    reviewed 6/16/16

    I first reviewed a Jim Lampos album almost 20 years ago. And I haven't heard anything new from him in almost ten. So this is a welcome reacquaintance.

    His voice remains instantly distinctive. Lampos doesn't use his diaphragm nearly as much as other singers, which gives him a slightly wrung-out sound. As he tends to write chamber-folk (perhaps now chamber-americana) songs and sometimes almost talk-sings, this works well. As I said, once you've heard Lampos, you'll never mistake him for anyone else.

    The last ten years have been very good for Lampos' songwriting. He's a little more willing to surround his voice with a variety of accompaniments (there's a lot more piano and organ here than I've ever heard before), and he's obviously got a bit more money to spend on production. The result is a fuller sound and songs that feel more fleshed-out. What was once distinctive has become even more compelling.

    This is the opposite of easy-going americana, though. Lampos has a flair for the dramatic, and he doesn't write songs for nodding along. He demands full attention, and on this album, these songs deserve every speck.

    It's always nice to pick up where we left off, but in this case Lampos has moved miles ahead. I expected good. I got so much more.

    Bert Lams
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    Subtitled "Bach Preludes on the steel string guitar," and that's exactly what's here. I sat listening for a minute and I'm like...I know that guitar. I've heard it somewhere. And then the liners tell me what I already knew (but couldn't remember): Lams is a member of the California Guitar Trio.

    That meticulous, yet supple, fingerwork. The way these pieces sound so natural springing from a guitar. Of course.

    The sound is incredible. None of that amateurish tin string sound that has become an unfortunate hallmark of acoustic guitar recordings. These strings ring richly true, and the sound is as full and lush as can be imagined. The sound fills the room without crowding, and there's never a false note.

    Beautiful. Amazing. Precise, yet always expressive. Lams has some impressive technical ability, but his real talent is in making the material his own. Little touches mean so much. This is one of the the finest classical guitar albums I've heard. Absolutely first rate from beginning to end.

    Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams
    Unnamed Lands
    Daniel Bachman
    Jesus, I'm a Sinner
    (Tomkins Square)
    reviewed 3/16/14

    Modern music would not exist without the guitar. And while the guitar seems to be the perfect amalgam of violin and piano (capable of playing melodies like the similarly-shaped violin, but also very useful for its ability to play more than one note at once, like a piano), the history of the guitar likely predates both of those other instruments.

    Any fool can play a guitar. And that's a good thing. The relative ease with which a novice can produce pleasing sounds is why the guitar is central to today's highly democratized modern music scene. But there are a few folks who are radically understating the facts when they say, "I play a little."

    I've been following Daniel Bachman for a couple of years. Seven Pines, released in 2012, was a revelation filled with stunning guitar fugues. He created great walls of sound just by playing an acoustic guitar. It was a singular effort. The one drawback is that the songs pretty much stuck to that fugual state. After a while, the listener either had to surrender or run away. And while I'm at my happiest when I give up and melt into the music, I can understand those who might resist.

    Jesus, I'm a Sinner is a more accessible effort. For starters, Bachman brings in Sally Anne Morgan on fiddle for a couple songs. Morgan and Charlie Devine (banjo) sit in on "Chattanooga." Bachman even switches to banjo on "Goose Chase." While still an exquisitely structured and mannered album, this set flows more freely than Pines.

    While his style is very much in the mid-Atlantic folk guitar tradition of John Fahey, Bachman is able to do things on a guitar that pretty much no one else can. And he's still quite young. He's proven he's an adept. What next? Prove that he's an artist. That's always the trickiest step for young geniuses.

    Sinner does just that. Bachman still works his way in and out of the fugue, but this album is much more emotionally varied and open than Pines. The ebb and flow makes this set flash by almost instantly. It's wonderful to hear a young player mature into a true artist. Bachman has recorded four albums, but he's just beginning.

    Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber have been around for almost forever, it seems. Lams trained in his native Belgium, and Griesgraber snatched a degree from Berklee. Lams is best known for his work with the California Guitar Trio, but he's worked and performed with a long list classical, jazz and rock artists and ensembles. Griesgraber was originally a guitarist as well, but he started working with the Chapman stick (which has both bass and guitar strings) in 1997. Like Lams, Griesgraber tends to make music across all genres.

    This latest Griesgraber/Lams effort, Unnamed Lands, tells the story of one person on a wagon train headed west. The particulars aren't important; it's the journey that matters.

    There are times when this sounds like Pat Metheny playing the songs of Dirty Three. Most often, however, it's even better. The songs tend to be conversational, as if the fictional traveler is relating his story to the listener. The sound is open, which certainly suggests the wide spaces of the American prairie and how amazing those vistas must have seemed to someone more familiar with urban America in 1840.

    Griesgraber and Lams are classically-trained, and they have technical chops to burn. But instead of turning this into some sort of mellow shredfest, they use their skills to create a world out of sound. I've long appreciated Lams ability to create a wide variety of emotions within his precise playing style. He has his own language, and he uses it exceptionally well. Griesgraber uses the stick for both atmospherics and exposition. I can't even begin to comprehend the difficulty of making that thing work, but Griesgraber seems to do so effortlessly. The range of the instrument in his hands is amazing.

    The story itself isn't revelatory in terms of plot. But the idea of focusing on the inner thoughts of someone making a journey of outward exploration is wonderful. The execution here is simply stunning. The sound is inviting from the start, and once a listener has hitched on there's no looking back. Like the pioneers, there is only one way to move: Forward.

    Bachmann, Lamm and Griesgraber aren't the future of guitar. They are examples of some of the finest playing done on the instrument (or one of its variants) today. Sometimes the best players don't know how to translate their technical prowess into ideas that mortals can comprehend. These guys have done that and more, creating albums that amaze and, more importantly, inspire. Wonder knows no bounds.

    Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino
    Long Ago
    reviewed 9/14/15

    I've never been disappointed in anything from Bert Lams. He's one of the preeminent classical guitarists in the world, and he's adventurous enough to take on just about any idea or sound. One of his specialties is recording classical works not originally intended for guitar. Here, he and Italian guitarist Fabio Mittino have arranged many pieces by Georges Gurdjieff and Tomas de Hartmann, two Russians who collaborated on a number of works from 1918 to 1927.

    The collaboration generally consisted of Gurdjieff (much better known as a philosopher, of course) singing melodies inspired by travels through central Asia (thus titles like "Armenian Song," "Sayyid Dance," "Kurd Melody" and "Hindu Melody"). De Hartmann then placed the melodies within more formal settings. The sense of place within these songs is extremely strong.

    While the melodies within the songs would be powerful enough if played by one guitar, the effect of Lams and Mittino playing off and accompanying each other amplifies the effect. Both men have a strong feeling for the material, and their arrangements maintain the simplicity of the works while teasing out even more wonder.

    This is just two acoustic guitars recorded with an almost luminous sound. The results are transporting. It is almost impossible to remain rooted while listening. There is simply too much ground to cover. As usual, a stunning turn from Lams and a stellar collaborator.

    Gene Land
    Strangers & Angels
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Gene Land wants to be a country superstar. At least, that's what this album says. He covers a wide range styles, from pop ballads to traditional ravers and just about everything in between.

    Land takes the good part of rock and roll (the energy and vitality) and merges that with the good parts of country (a fine pedal steel and a basic sense of storytelling). He applies those ideas to every song, no matter what style he's working with.

    The sound is sharp and rich, and Land and his band are in fine form. The songs sparkle. They're all great examples of the wide variety of modern country music.

    Did I mention Land's voice? It's strong, but not overwhelming, instrument. Which fits the stories he tells. While this album doesn't hold together very well because of all the sounds he tries out (imagine 38 Special, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr. and Marty Robbins recording as the same artist), I think he's more than made his case.

    Land of Chocolate
    Unikorn on the Cob
    (Slipt Disc)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Land of Chocolate would just like to say, "I'm more prog than you!" Prog to the point jazz fusion. Prog to the point of sounding more like Frank Zappa than King Crimson or Fates Warning. Prog in the extreme, really.

    The focus is entirely on the playing. Nothing else. Not a lot of emotion comes through, even in the singing. Rather, a preeminence of musical thought, rationality over sentimentality. I've gotta admire the devotion to an ideal.

    And all that energy is channeled into the sound. Land of Chocolate doesn't stint on effort. The sound is sharp, the playing expert and precise. It's very easy to hear exactly what these guys wanted to do.

    Quite the abstract statement. This album is for prog fans, and really prog fans only. You've gotta really want to dig into some quality playing and offbeat (if intricate) musical theory to dig this. Luckily, there are plenty of folks like that out there. Land of Chocolate should have no trouble attracting attention.

    Land of Thin Dimes
    Land of Thin Dimes
    (Toadophile) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Sorta like if Primus wandered into Pink Floyd and moshcore at the same time. The impulse to jump around is tempered by the technical looniness of the playing. Oh, and the bass really wanks out really loudly.

    And the point is... to try lots of stuff, stir it around for a while and call it a song. Hey, I'm for breaking the rock paradigm as much as the next guy, but come on. I just don't hear enough coherent thought on the edges here. Never mind the innards, I'm worried about the whole.

    There's nothing to it. This is a goulash with no taste. Lots of ingredients, but nothing combining to make a tasty dish. Plenty of wild-ass thoughts buzzing past, though.

    Bitchen it ain't. Interesting and intriguing are two words which leap immediately to mind. I kept waiting to hear what would happen next. It's just that the necessary connections were never made.

    The Landing
    We Are EP
    reviewed 1/8/15

    Back when I was a pup, the whole one-man-band thing sounded like, well, a band. Think about those early Prince albums or Frank Zappa's Barking Pumkpin stuff--or, really, those awesome mid-70s Stevie Wonder albums. They were pretty much put together by one person, but they sounded like bands.

    The electronic revolution is an astonishing thing, and it has become easy to multi-track vocals and layer electronic instruments (yes, Zappa was doing this 30 years ago, but he was a genius and all that). What's lost is the whole "band" sound. The Landing sounds just like what it is: one man's personal idea of what music should sound like.

    And that's not a band. Rather, these are a series of ideas thrown together in a meditative gauze. The beats pop and break, the harmonies waft and sizzle and the songs themselves kinda come and go. The Landing isn't so big on beginnings or endings, and this all-too-short EP is more of a piece than a collection of five songs.

    So there's got to be more coming, right? This came out last spring, so we can hope for more soon. The web site is utterly elliptical and almost incoherent. And that's cool. I can't quite pin this one down, and I think that's a very good thing.

    The Landing has declared its existence. The next step is defining that existence. I can't wait to hear that.

    Landing Gear
    Break-up Songs for Relationships that Never Happened
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    It's always nice to hear what's going on in the upper Midwest. Landing Gear is from Minneapolis, but has a sort of lush, rambling sound that is much more reminiscent of, say, England.

    The moodier side of Britpop, the kinda stuff you often find on Jetset. And regular readers will know that's a pretty fair complement from me. Landing Gear is equally comfortable with delicate melodies and bounding rockers. That it can make such disparate styles cohere within the same album is a testament to the band's confidence.

    Honestly, I think the boys are a bit better at the mellower side of the spectrum, but the heavier, more raucous pieces here are quite impressive. What helps is the band's reliance on keyboards--that sort of thing does help to provide a touchstone for all of the songs. The band recorded most of this itself--and it did so very well. This album hardly sounds like some muffled demo. Though I haven't heard a demo like that in years. Technology is an amazing thing.

    A solid and nicely varied album. Landing Gear may just be getting started, but it already has set out a nice road map for itself

    Lana Lane
    Secrets of Astrology
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    There comes a point where you carve out such a distinctive place for yourself that you are, by default, the best at it. Lana Lane is the self-proclaimed queen of symphonic rock, and I have no reason to doubt her. No other woman is doing anything quite like this.

    Think of yer standard melodic Eurometal, add a pile of classical influences played with prog precision and excess and then produce the stew to be as over-the-top as possible.

    Not an unattractive sound, mind you. The copious notes that came with this said that this album is heavier than previous Lane outings. I have no means of comparison, but I think I know what they mean. The guitars have a good bite, and the sound is extremely full.

    As for the lyrics, well, they're generally meditations on the stars, astrology and the concept of moving through space. Kinda silly sometimes, but not too annoying. Anyway, this sounds too good to really nitpick about the subject matter. Not everyone's favorite sound, I know, but I like it.

    Suzanne Langille
    (with Loren MazzaCane Connors)
    The Enchanted Forest
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Sort of a musical, based on the 1945 film of the same name. Langille wrote the lyrics and the vocal melodies, and Connors took care of the guitars. That's the basic idea.

    But the execution is anything but basic. Langille has a strong, but not husky, voice. It is a voice of experience, a voice which conveys much more information than simply words. Which is good, because sometimes the words are clumsily written.

    And while Connors's playing doesn't interfere with Langille's voice, it does not really compliment it, either. There isn't a whole lot going on there. Which leaves the remarkable part of the album, Langille's voice. She is able to create a number of characters, each easily distinguishable from the others.

    I like the idea, and I like some of the parts. But on the whole, this albums doesn't quite succeed. I was more interested in Langille's voice than what she was saying. And the rest, well, it's just the rest.

    Let the Darkness Fall
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Langille's last album, a collaboration with Loren MazzaCane Connors (Langille is joined by Andrew Burnes and David Daniell on this disc), is the only Secretly Canadian album I haven't liked. There might be another one I didn't love, but I remember being bummed for weeks because I did not understand or dig The Enchanted Forest.

    So when I got this disc, I resolved to work my butt off to develop an appreciation for Langille. I mean, so many other cool people liked Forest, there must be something wrong with my personal musicometer. But, after a lot of effort, I've gotta say I don't really like this one, either.

    My general notion is that music has to work for me, or have a good point or in some other way grab some attention. Langille, instead, sings as though she's constantly on her dying breath. The lyrics are poetic, I suppose, but they don't move me. The music is interesting in the way it, too, sounds like it is about to fall away from the center like some galaxy which has lost touch with gravity. But nothing really happens with that. It's the perfect sonic description of an atom on the edge of entropy.

    Alright, that is kinda cool. I don't dislike this disc, but it doesn't excite me, either. I tried, too, I tried damned hard. I'm not gonna apologize for the way I feel. That's just the way it goes.

    (with Loren MazzaCane Connors)
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Another in the series of re-issue compilations of the rather intertwined careers of Suzanne Langille and Loren MazzaCane Connors. These songs are, for the most part, traditional blues done in a rather iconoclastic style.

    I've always found it hard to connect with Langille and Connors, perhaps because I have never been able to get my head around their own compositions. But I know most of these songs, and the trembling, almost terror-drenched arrangements happen to bring out the most dramatic elements of the pieces.

    The easiest comparison would be a much more avant garde Cowboy Junkies playing the blues. But, like I said, so much further out to the edge as to make such a reference almost useless. I'm not sure that anyone has ever played the blues quite like this.

    Maybe this is the disc I needed to begin to share some head space with Langille and Connors. I've been coming around slowly, but I really like this one. I'll give it a few more spins and then go back and see how much my appreciation has deepened.

    "split" with Meanest Man Contest
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    Meanest Man Contest performs a mellow blend of electronic collage and hip-hop. Nothing complicated--at least in the rhymes--but the flow simply doesn't stop. The six tracks here are hypnotically good, the kind of stuff that worms its way into the consciousness without remorse.

    Languis is a more "traditional" experimental electronic act. Much message, with the emphasis on "mess." But there's a nod or two to conventional pop music on "Maxie Flowers," which sounds like 60s chant pop (my term for those "gang vocal" tres-white songs that were more chanted than sung) imported through a modern electronic filter. The other three tracks are kinda out there, though "Lullaby" does have a sweet heart.

    I love splits that don't quite fit together. It's so much fun to compare and contrast, and there's plenty of room for that here. I'm curious what each of these bands would do with more space.

    Daniel Lanois
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    I've always thought of Daniel Lanois as a folkier Brian Eno. His long history with Eno probably has something to do with that, as does his involvement with a couple of the great "modern folk² albums of the last decade: Dylan's Time Out of Mind (not to mention his earlier, most excellent Oh, Mercy) and Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball. The music on this album is wonderfully conceived stuff that exists somewhere in the world music/roots/folk continuum.

    Lanois has long shown a real feel for the use of electronic processing (keyboards, effects, drum machines, etc.) to create a strikingly organic sound. He uses every weapon at his disposal, and in so doing creates canvases that seem denser and richer than is humanly possible.

    These impossibly gorgeous tapestries are, nonetheless, often simple affairs consisting of just a few lines at any given time. Sparse riches, I guess. That's the genius of Lanois: Use everything, but never overwhelm.

    The soundtrack to one of those indie movies set in some magical backwater. Simple people who aren't so simple. Everyday events that have lasting consequences. A flash in the night; reconciliation by dawn. That sort of thing. Except that Lanois tells the story much better than I ever could.

    Lark's Tongue
    split with Men of Fortune
    (Bird Dialect)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Three lengthy songs from Lark's Tongue, and four longish pieces from Men of Fortune. These bands do share a kindred spirit with King Crimson (as Lark's Tongues moniker might suggest), but they take it in different ways. Lark's Tongue plays fairly cogent and straightforward modern rock riffs on the ol' ecelctic prog ideal, while Men of Fortune deals fuzz and volume along with its technical grace. My fave is LT's "This Little Light of Mine," which really shimmers.

    Waiting for Daybreak
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    Jangle-pop filtered through a metal/grunge filter. Reminds me a lot of Law and Order, except that the lyrics don't quite have the same bite.

    A nice conglomeration of sounds, actually, even though the metal side of things adds a little too much bombast at times.

    Cheap and easy thrills, sure, but I can't complain excessively. Catchy as hell at times.

    Joe Lasqo
    Turquoise Sessions
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    A strikingly American (modern) take on Japanese and Indian (the subcontinent) musical forms. Joe Lasqo takes his time on each of these lengthy improvised solo piano pieces, but he never dawdles.

    Rather, he simply digs deeper and deeper into the connections between Eastern and Western forms. His improvisations sound utterly natural. He has created a world that doesn't exist--except that it does. Right here.

    There's something compelling about the solo piano sound. It is stark and lush all at once. Lasqo's source material highlights this paradox and helps to make this set that much more striking.

    Some folks are experimental for the sake of being experimental. That's cool. I like that. But what really impresses me are the experimentalists that sound almost mainstream. Lasqo makes improvisation sound easy and accessible. Wow.

    The Lassie Foundation
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Full-on fuzz pop with dreamy hooks that float like clouds on a hazy sunset. Indeed, if this isn't the music of California, I don't know what is.

    The hooks are almost descant in style, anti-climactic falsetto lines that provide a bit of musical irony. The music itself moves along at a relatively slow clip, allowing plenty of time for the glory to accumulate.

    I have a feeling I'd be bored to death at a live show, but kicking back with something cold and contemplating my navel, this stuff really does the job. I'm in a trance in five seconds flat. Most impressive that way, and there's plenty to appreciate what lies behind the pendulum.

    Wow. I've heard a lot of pop bands in the last couple of years, and the Lassie Foundation is one of the most original around. Yes, there are the High Llamas wandering about in somewhat the same territory, but the LF has a distinctly Californian tinge to the sound. And anyway, this isn't an orchestra of effects, but just a band. Make that a pretty cool band.

    Last American Buffalo
    Marquis for the Debutante
    reviewed in issue #292, December 2007

    Imagine a rootsy, rockin' band that plays americana-style stuff with the clipped detachment of New Order. I mean that in a good way, though I'm not sure anyone will believe me.

    What I'm trying to say is that Last American Buffalo moves with its lush, organ-laden sound rather than wallow in it. These tightly-crafted songs keep moving and never get lost in the fullness of things.

    I think I'm making it worse. But the other connection to New Order is a certain rhythmic style that reminds me a lot of many songs from Get Ready--a modern, clean style of drumming and guitar work, I suppose. And the harmonies are often somewhat dissonant...the country roots do not extend to the ends of the sound.

    But the sound is glorious, the songs are wonderful and the playing is top notch. One of those albums that is impressive from start to finish.

    Last Charge of the Light Horse
    Nine Kinds of Happy
    (Curlock and Jalaiso)
    reviewed 3/21/15

    This is my favorite type of quietish music: busy. These songs are rarely loud, but the music burbles intricate patterns constantly. Add to that Jean-Paul Vest's moderately reedy vocals (think late-60s Neil Diamond, though with less cheese), and you've got a real winner.

    Years and years ago, I really like a band called the Hungry Mind Review. Those folks hailed from Wilmington, N.C. (and not Long Island, where LCotLH calls home), but they cast the same active, ruminative spell. I'm not a big lyrics person, but I sure do notice when they're used as effectively as they are here. Vest plays off the vocals and the music, enhancing the power of both.

    As inviting an album as I've heard in some time. From the first notes, these songs invite the listener in for an intimate chat. If you sink into that comfy chair, you might not get up again this evening.

    Make no mistake, either: This is evening music. This isn't grab-your-coffee-and-go stuff. This isn't the soundtrack to your spinning class. This is a cup of tea with a 15-year-old scotch chaser. Sophisticated, but with bite.

    Vest and company have been making these albums for a while, and they sound like they know what they're doing. Go ahead and sink into that chair. The hangover will be most gentle.

    Last Days of April
    Angel Youth
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Another Swedish take on emo pop. Last Days of April make no pretense toward playing any particular subgenre, as both emo and lush power pop are expressed in equal amounts. What a gorgeous sound these guys get.

    I mean it. There's strings and keyboards and all the sorta stuff that's supposed to ruin a good record. Should cheese things out, soften the sound. But not here. All those little touches are like impressionist brush strokes. So much is going on all they do is add a splash of color.

    The density of this recording is amazing. There's so much going on at any given minute that it's just about impossible to pick out each little piece. Rather, the elements clash and blend into a wild melange of sonic brilliance.

    It occurs to me that I've liked a lot of the albums I've reviewed in this issue. All I can say is that each one has deserved a rave, as does Last Days of April. This album is simply a stunner. I got floored by each song in succession. As soon as I picked my butt up on the hardwood, another inspirational blast puts me down again. I'm breathless.

    Ascend to the Stars
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    Another album from these Swedish emo boys. They like bright, peppy melodies and aren't afraid of using keyboards to assemble songs. In short, there's very little keeping Last Days of April from breaking huge.

    It's not just that folks seem to be digging this sort of thing lately. These guys simply know how to craft great pop songs. There is just the slightest hint of distortion, that wee bit of reality creeping into these brilliantly-colored pieces.

    I'm not sure how Pelle Gunnerfeldt managed to infuse such power into the light sound he created for this album, but he did it. These songs are grounded; they won't fly away with the smallest breeze. The amplitude is a handy way to throw a little depth into the work, to be sure.

    At times, I get the feeling that Last Days of April wants to be the Swedish version of the Flaming Lips. That's not the case, not quite, but there is a similar strain of genius at work. Quite the pretty picture.

    If You Lose It
    (Bad Taste)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Last Days of April have always been one step ahead of the evolution of emo, to the point where this music wouldn't be recognized as such to aficionados of five years back. Instead, most folks would hear this stuff as highly-crafted, expertly-played introspective rock.

    Which, of course, it is. And that's where one school of emo is heading, as well. As with previous efforts, the quality of songwriting is astonishing. The "gem" metaphor is overused, but it would fit here. Karl Larsson pens exceptional pieces.

    The sound is understated, yet full. You'd never know this was, by and large, a two-man effort. There's plenty going on, but the song is always the focus of the production. And with songs this good, you can't go wrong with that approach.

    Yeah, I figured this would be good. I've been knocked out by the band's previous albums. But this satisfied those expectations and even created higher ones for the next album. Transcendent.

    Last Days of May
    Radiant Black Mind
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    An "augmented power trio" (which means there are four rather than three members), Last Days of May builds some really astonishing sounds. Each (lengthy) song is a journey, with plenty of peaks and valleys traversed within.

    The place is space, I suppose, as the guitars have lots of reverb and echo. The sorta stuff that facilitates frontal lobe motivation. I can dig it.

    And, hey, I'm not making fun by saying that. These are meandering pieces, sure, but they have plenty of incisive moments. There's room for introspection and observation within and without the music.

    The thing is, you have to think. No two ways about it. Last Days of May does not make background music. This is stimulating fare, the kind of music that encourages critical thinking. No matter how you react, the music wills you to action. Wonderful in that and so many other ways.

    The Last Kind
    (Stray Music)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    The Last Kind creates its backing tracks through the collage method (a la the Bomb Squad), but the rapping style is more modern. The mix is rather intoxicating

    What's also impressive (to me) is the political nature of the lyrics. The Last Kind is not only out to promote its revelations, but to spur a little revolution as well. A revolution of the mind, as opposed to one in the streets, but that approach is innovative and exciting.

    But you don't have to pay attention to what's being rhymed if you don't want to. These songs sound great all by themselves. It's pretty rare to find similar levels of musical and lyrical sophistication on the same album, but here both impress.

    Not the sort of album that burns up the charts, I guess, but it sure does blister the mind. The Last Kind seems more interested in advancing ideas than increasing personal fame. Hey, I'm all for that sort of sacrifice. I just wish it wasn't necessary.

    Last Lungs
    Look at that Old Grizzly Bear
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    Languorous takes on the instrumental rock dream. Last Lungs not only plays long songs. It also stitches together long multi-part songs. Imagine Mineral reincarnated as the modern equivalent of an instrumental ELP and you're getting the idea.

    The ELP part is the ambition and the length. The sound is straight old-old school emo (before it was hijacked by pop punk). The folks at Deep Elm know what I'm talking about.

    The sound is ringing and alive, despite the general mid-tempo nature of the songs. Last Lung requires one hell of a commitment. Luckily, the payoff is huge.

    Lovely stuff, the sort of sounds that will haunt my ears for some time. Despair never sounded so engaging.

    The Last of the International Playboys
    The Last of the International Playboys
    (Transcontinental Recording Co.)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Subtitled "Vegas jazz and Latin lounge", and I can't really come up with a better description. The odd thing is that while I really can't stand the vast majority of this loungecore thing that's far too popular (and if I have to hear the Squirrel Nut Zippers ever again, I will kill), this stuff is earnest and goofy enough to keep me on my good side.

    The playing is generally understated, but still quite good. The band is at its best when being a band and skipping the whole vocal thing, mostly because it's the songs with singing that really drop into the annoying category.

    In fact, the cleverness of the "Pussy Galore Meets James Bond" medley and the swinging brilliance "Eso No Es Na" (neither written by the band, obviously) really capture the best of what these guys have to offer.

    Originals with titles like "Pass the Cous Cous" give an idea of the band's somewhat whimsical approach, and that's what keeps me reasonably happy. I'm still not a fan of this trend, but at least the Last of the International Playboys are in this for the right reason: to make good music.

    The Last Royals
    The Last Royals EP
    (Ooh La La Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    Deliberately clunky electronic pop. With "real" drums. Each song is almost exquisitely calculated, but all that craft creates an unusually compelling atmosphere. Sure, it's artificial, but beauty is beauty.

    The Last Royals largely stick to pop form on these five songs, but they borrow plenty of rock and americana elements. All spun into an almost-cotton candy architecture. Gossamer and sweet, not to mention sticky. And when it's gone, you've gotta have more.

    I'd like to hear the full monty. Five songs is barely enough for a taste. Eric James and Mason Ingram have a way, and I'd like to hear more. Much more.

    Last to Know
    with Burns Out Bright and Dade County Resistance
    Twelve Step Program
    (Three Day)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Who knew that Columbia, S.C., was such a haven for great emo? Well, there have been signs. A while back I was pretty well knocked out by Burns Out Bright, and it's pretty rare that a scene has only one good band. If there's no competition, it can be hard to really be inspired to work on your chops.

    And once again, Burns Out Bright blows me away. Without sticking to any one particular emo ideal, the boys do a nice job of hitting the sound just so. The depth of the ideas in the songs is most impressive.

    Dade County Resistance is a bit more limited in its approach, sticking to an uptempo, melodic feel (not unlike a rougher-edged Ataris, say), but these guys do have four great songs here. Same goes for Last to Know, who whipsaws from contemplative to blistering (sometimes in the same song).

    The production values are a bit limited (particularly with the second two bands), but the songs are great. And isn't punk supposed to be just a little ragged on the edges? I thought so. I wish more bands and labels would put together projects like this. It's always nice to have a snapshot in time of a particular scene.

    Bill Laswell meets Style Scott
    Dub Meltdown
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Laswell covers the bass, Style Scott takes the drums, and a few friends help fill out this rambling exploration of the dub.

    And what a trip. Laswell and Scott provide an ever-evolving rhythm base, and the other folks (including Laswell) overdub lots of creative soundscape materiel. The base of all these songs are real-time instruments, but the flight is provided by some fine electronic tricksters.

    The songs are long and drawn out, and in this particular case, that is precisely the way to travel. This way, the musical ideas are given time to fully germinate, providing a full bloom of gorgeous power by the finish.

    Precisely the sort of recording I count on from Wordsound. Ever more creative ways to use technology and talent to create sound sculptures that are best appreciated by an open and curious mind. Not just a dub meltdown, but a mutation of the dub in the best sense. Very exciting.

    The Late Show
    Portable Pop reissue
    (Trashy Creatures)
    reviewed in issue #338, June 2012

    For years, The Late Show's Portable Pop album has been available only on LP. Now that CDs are going the way of vinyl, the album is finally making its way to that soon-to-be-obsolete format. Though, if you really want, you can also go digital download.

    This re-issue contains the revered 12-song album with four bonus tracks from earlier incarnations of the band. If you really old school and buy the cassette (!!!), you get a 10-song set of radio station live recordings as well.

    But why all the hullaballoo? Well, Portable Pop is legendary for a good reason. These songs blend 70s AOR sensibilities with rockabilly, British invasion pop and surf rock. Kinda like a poppier (and more earnest) version of Cheap Trick, though with a hint of the punk trend sneaking in now and again.

    The story of the band is sad and twisted, and this is the one recording the guys ever made. Lots of geeks like me consider it to be one of the most important power pop albums ever. I'm not gonna make any grand historical judgments (even on an album that came out in 1980), but these songs impress in any decade. Just in time for summer, if only 32 years late.

    Lateral Tension
    Pressure Device
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    I hate to call anything typical, but Lateral Tension has all the hallmarks of the self-produced industrial band. A somewhat slight overall sound, samples from movies, fairly pedestrian beats and half-whispered, half-hissed vocals.

    And so while Lateral Tension doesn't do anything remotely original, I will say it does pretty well with what it has. Oh, repeat listening will undoubtedly reveal a number of flaws, but once through, the disc plays well enough.

    Doesn't excite me much, though. I can't work up a spark. Not that it is bad; not at all. A lot of hard work went into this disc, and it is very easy to hear the result of all that work. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Music should sound effortless. I can hear every chisel punch that went into these songs.

    Typical of so many self-recorded albums. Lateral Tension needs to reach out, find its own sound. And then put that to tape.

    Latex Generation
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Just looking at the name of the band and the album title, I figured this was a homocore band. Not a bad thing, not at all. But that's not the story here. More of a basic punk feel, with lyrics tending to the strangeness of everyday life. Not much in the way of sexual habits of any sort.

    Which is okay. Latex Generation plys the power pop punk (like, say, 7 Seconds or something) with enough panache to keep my feet tapping. Distinguished? Not really. But not bad. A little above the middle of the road.

    The lyrics are often amusing. They're not really the focal point of the band (at least, they've been kicked down a notch in the mix), but what I hear I like. Which is pretty much the story of the disc for me.

    Enjoyable without being particularly memorable. Basic punk, with minimal trimmings. Nothing wrong with that. Just no real spark for me, either.

    Live from Sour City
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    Decent enough punk, with really monstrously heavy distortion clouds lying low over the proceedings. And a guitar sound that reminds me far too much of Kepone, though I suppose that's my personal problem. Should cleanse my palate between albums.
    Not to digress or anything.
    As the liners note, this should be played at high volume. It doesn't make any sense if it's not making your ears throb a little. I mean, sloppy music recorded without any concern for the actual playing can be that way sometimes. Still is fun and all.
    For the obvious shortcomings, I like Latimer much more than I should. There's a weird line somewhere in here that draws me in. Wish I could tell you what it is, because I have more than a few reasons for dropping this puppy like a Gloria Estefan disc (well, let's not get silly, shall we?).
    For being so messy, Latimer sounds damned pretentious. This music isn't nearly as important as the band wants me to believe. Then again, I dig it, so maybe I'm wrong about that. So much goes out the window when you let your emotions rule your taste in music.
    But then, is there any other way?

    The Latin Jazz Orchestra
    Havana Blues
    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    Orchestras are generally better at propagating dance music than smaller acts, and the Latin Jazz Orchestra is no exception. In fact, that's one of the avowed intents of the band. Live, the orchestra uses six to nine pieces (a little big band, if you will), but on this disc the number occasionally swells to twice that.

    The LJO does its best work with the deft handling of Afro-Cuban dance rhythms, merging those sometimes frenetic beats with the smoothness required by an orchestra. Never out of its element, the LJO manages to swing mightily.

    Because this is orchestral jazz, there is a much greater emphasis on the overall sound and relatively little attention paid to the individual players. Still, the sound is impressive and the playing first-rate. Four of the songs are arranged and conducted by the Chico O'Farrill, who has been working with this music for more than 40 years.

    A fresh blend of old and new permeates this disc. I generally prefer smaller groups, but the LJO has won me over. This is solid work, stuff that easily impresses despite being immediately accessible by almost anyone. Quality fun.

    (Angry Fish)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    If you take the wonderful distorted sound of digital hardcore and combine it with old-fashioned industrial music (back when Einsturzende Neubauten was the best-known practitioner), you'd come up with something close to Latz.

    These two Germans (H.J. Mennicken and M. Bulgrin) warp their way through a trove of material--some borrowed and some original. There's a fairly straight-up run-through of "Ring of Fire," and some twisted reworkings of a couple Lene Lovich songs (complete with Lovich's vocals).

    In short, this works. Latz doesn't limit itself to mere sledgehammer attacks. It also has a fine sense of techno chilliness, which is employed at the appropriate moments. The sound is filled out nicely that way.

    Something of an acquired taste, I'm sure. For me, Latz is a delicacy to be savored. At high volume, the peak of its power.

    Jim Lauderdale
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    Classic country songwriting, produced with all the slickness of today's Nashville. Compromise or inspired collaboration?

    Both, really. More of the latter, though a couple songs come off as merely hick pop. Lauderdale's dalliances with rock remind me a bit of Steve Earle, and Lauderdale certainly doesn't shy away from kicking out a pain-stricken song.

    More often, though, he simply offers up classic "my girl left me, now-I'm drinkin'--why you kickin' my ass?" country songs. With full digital recording and monster sound that today's boomer country crowd desires. I wish the sound wasn't quite so massive, but Lauderdale's songs are good enough to get past that obstacle.

    There a spot in my record collection for folks like Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Foster & Lloyd (etc.), Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and Rosanne Cash. Looks like they'll have to make some room for Jim Lauderdale.

    Laughing Hyenas
    Crawl EP
    (Touch & Go)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    And I thought this was an album, I got so excited. But I'll accept four songs from these fine folks any day. No indication that an album is forthcoming, so we'd better be satisfied with the goodies contained herein.

    For the unfamiliar, this lies somewhere between grunge and heavy punk-pop. With most anything else added in from time to time. So let's just call it a stew of your favorite foods.

    No disappointment; simply drooling for more.

    Hard Times
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Just as the Rolling Stones took traditional r&b and crammed it down the throats of willing youngsters over thirty years ago, the Hyenas have been doing the same for about ten years (with time out for a break or two).

    While the first track, "Just Can't Win", is so infectious even the most jaded slacker can't help but jump up and get moving, much of the rest of the album is more contemplative and steeped in the heavier side of the blues.

    Okay, so the Hyenas don't want to party all the time. There are many shades of the blues, and as long as John Brannon keeps howling, I will not complain.

    More polished and stylized than before, the Laughing Hyenas have nonetheless kept true to their roots and still moved forward. And are still bringing the essence of the blues to kids who truly need the message.

    Merry Go Round
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    The first CD issue of the Hyenas first EP (with four extra tracks tacked on). That should be enough for some of you.

    For those less familiar with the Hyenas maximum blues formula, I'll explain. You take a nice tea ball of blues, add a ton of boiling water and then immerse the band in said concoction.

    You get a caterwauling vision of the blues that would probably leave many oldsters frightened but still could have come from Mississippi if the folks weren't from Detroit.

    The most amazing thing is that the music has retained its vitality and presence. It's as if 1987 were today, and in a way, it is. The Laughing Hyenas have been ahead of (and behind) their time pretty much since they started. Perhaps now a greater number of folks can reel in this catch.

    Laughing Us
    Roc en Ingles con Laughing Us!EP
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    German engineering at 200 BPM. Loads of samples and guitars, replayed at breakneck speed. A nice little poppy industrial rush.

    Well, "Promise of a Liar" does slow the tempo down significantly, but the other three main tracks are fast and tight. Fun and easy, if not terribly unique.

    I guess that's my main beef. Laughing Us is just another of those faceless bands that cranks out amusing dance candy. There is nothing here to distinguish the band from countless others, so that no matter how appealing this is on first listen, I know I'll tire of it in a few days.

    A tasty treat, but watch for the calories on the back end.

    Laura's Invention
    (Pope Street)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Two guys, Brandon Erdos and Drew Bancroft, who manage to craft a fairly full sound. The vocals are of a desperate quavering quality, and that plays off the somewhat idiosyncratic guitar lines reasonably well.

    Part of the time, anyway. When the vocals really start to trip out on that Joe Cocker on heroin sound, well, I kinda tuned out. There's just gotta be a better way to sound sincere.

    The songs themselves are fairly loosely constructed, generally following the lead guitar. When all of the pieces keep their focus, the tunes work fairly well. I don't mind tangents (my entire life has been a tangent), but throwing too many apparently unrelated ideas at listeners makes it difficult for folks to walk in the front door.

    I would guess that these guys don't play live much. The craftsmanship is impressive, but some live dates would really help to work these songs out a bit better without losing the unique perspective.

    Scott Laurent
    The Truth Is Lies
    (No Alternative)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Scott Laurent has that raspy feel to his voice that at once sounds real and pretentious. His songs are ambitious, rootsy pop songs--more possibilities for pomposity. But to be completely truthful, Laurent never gets overbearing.

    Even when his production pulls every trick in the book--shifting sounds in the middle of songs, dropping in somewhat jarring instrumentation, etc.--the songs themselves stay completely true. Real. The first part of what I mentioned. Laurent doesn't make it easy to like his music, but he succeeds nonetheless.

    Like I noted, the sound of this disc is all over the place. Mostly, it's a brooding affair, but the pieces might sound tinny one moment and lusciously full the next. All this knob-twisting works, though. The songs do sound better after going through the wringer.

    So maybe you were listening to some Small Faces or old, old Rod Stewart and you wonder how someone so impossibly talented could have recorded a song like "Have I Told You Lately?" Well, Scott Laurent has a similar knack for telling stories in his songs, and his songs don't suck. In fact, they're pretty damned good.

    Grave Digger 7"
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Wicked psychedelic pop with enough noisy chaos to remind me pleasantly of Brise-Glace. The Laurels are more cohesive and less jazzy, but still eminently cool.

    Which leaves me at a loss to explain the strangely faithful cover of "Immigrant Song". Oh, yeah, there are some odd echo effects, and the guitars are a mess of sound, but then, the Led Zeppelin version was noisy as hell, too. Whatever. The a-side more than warrants a ton of attention.

    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    Creamy, distortion-laden pop from Rhode Island (but with a definite Chicago feel).

    A mostly new set of tunes (as opposed to last year's singles compilation), though this does include "Grave Digger", which was part of the Thick picture disc series. Albini took control the knobs on about half the tunes (most of the others were recorded back in Providence by Jon Williams), with no detrimental effects. The Laurels fit in well with Albini's theory of "cool guitars, fuck the vocals", spinning layers of fury over unusual rhythms and bass lines.

    And, anyway, the Laurels are quite unique. No producer could shove songwriter/bandleader Jeff Toste and his revolving cast (currently including Dare Matheson on drums and Ryan Lesser on guitar) into a niche. And I can't imagine why anyone would even try.

    Obviously a real treat for fans of Slint, any of the Jim O'Rourke projects and that kinda thing. I can't find the spark that would make this a truly god-like effort, so the Laurels will have to be content with simply a very good album. Ain't life a bitch?

    Lawnmower Deth
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    Britain's most prolific punk band has pumped another one through the pipeline. And who would be at the knobs? Just a bloke named Steve Harris.

    Tuneful yet heavy punk that has a lot more to say than you might guess. And still, a lot of it is certainly silly.

    Why would Earache sign a band that has nothing to do with death metal? Well, maybe because THEY'RE REAL GOOD. Or something like that.

    There has been this big fence between the metal and punk worlds. "Real punk rockers" use the phrase "went metal" whenever a band they liked used a little too much guitar on a record. And metal folks have reciprocated by mostly ignoring bands like Bad Religion and ALL that are natural for them.

    Lawnmower Deth has done a little better, partly because of their label. But their label has also held them back at "alternative", which has embraced punk and punk derivatives of late.

    So who will play this infectious disc? Someone better, damnit!

    Eddy Lawrence
    Going to Water
    (Snow Plow)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Every once in a while, I get an album from someone trying to talk about the American Indian (or Native American, whichever you prefer) experience. Often these folks try to incorporate whatever "native" sounds they have come across, and the whole mess generally comes off as sanctimonious and somewhat artificial.

    Eddy Lawrence is dead straightforward with his lyrics. He pulls few punches and generally lays his ideas right on the line. He drops these thoughts into regular rock and roll, stuff that pulls in touches of the blues, reggae, country, tejano and just about everything else that rockers have assimilated over the years.

    Bit of an irony there, right? Yeah, and I think it's kinda intentional. After all, Eddy Lawrence uses his given name. He's been assimilated himself. And when he sings of times gone by, of deeds done wrong by the leaders of the U.S. (and the Spanish, and ...), he has a wry, observational tone that highlights the hypocrisy without preaching.

    Like I said, Lawrence doesn't shy away from tough subjects or simply wash off the past as "done and gone." But he's able to talk about past injustice without indicting the folks he sees today. And he does it while playing some first class rock and roll. Enjoyable and enlightening.

    The Lawrence Arms
    A Guided Tour of Chicago
    (Asian Man) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    You know they're from Chicago; they drink Old Style exclusively. The Lawrence Arms spew out a stream-of-consciousness punk tour of the Windy City. The parts tourists don't get to so often.

    Have to be a local to really groove on the tuneage. This is gritty fare, without much in the way of urban renewal, if you know what I mean. The real treat is the vocal fare, which is funny, incisive and pretty much the real attraction here.

    Nice to hear a punk band that's really pissed off. There are too many happy punks out there these days. The Lawrence Arms are angry and frustrated and generally hacked off at everyone and everything. They don't see anything to celebrate in the heart of the city. Plenty of sludge, though.

    Quite the tour, though. Got to hear ideas I hadn't contemplated before, and I'm always happy for such opportunities. The Lawrence Arms is a punk band in the best traditions of the name: slopy, uncultured and most definitely aggravated. Hard to beat that.

    Apathy and Exhaustion
    (Fat Wreck Chords) reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    The current kings of Chicago power punk pop, the Lawrence Arms pound out blistering hooks and fuzzy riffage. These boys know that this sound can get too clean, so they make sure to stay just messy enough for bliss.

    Some Assembly Required
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    When you're a pop three-piece, you really have to work to make your work stand out.

    Lazy has the right idea, sounding a lot like many of the moody-at-one-moment/really-angry-at-another bands that populate the Merge.
    Aspiring to write songs as well as Superchunk is one thing; being able to pull it off is another. Lazy's songs are pretty good, but their musicianship is a little lacking.

    The production doesn't help. It is big and bold and reveals every little flaw. It's like the producer (Brian Paulson, who has, surprise surprise, produced Superchunk, Tsunami, etc.) decided early on to really punch up Lazy. But the music demands an understated approach. These aren't seasoned pros, but youngsters.

    The talent is there, but a lot of development is needed. There are quite a few gems to snag out of this collection, but I think even more should come in the future.

    The Lazy Music Group
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    A much more aggressive effort than the bands debut, which I thought suffered from a lack of direction. Lazy seems to know exactly where it wants to go, and the sound is markedly improved because of that.

    The songwriting is still awfully simplistic and almost self-consciously avoids hooks. An interesting idea for a band that seems to want to be the next big pop thing.

    The production leaves everything where it should be. The band takes advantage of the steady hand, ranging all over the landscape. Jarring chords combined with soft vocals, screeches over acoustic guitars, whatever. Lazy likes the dichotomy ideal, and this album certainly tests the theory to the max.

    And the folks seem to be working a bit too hard to achieve these results. A little more feel and less crafting is still in order. But Lazy has moved up a notch.

    Deaf on Corner 7"
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    I wish the guys would stick to their grooves just a bit more, but for the most part Lazycain has a nice handle on that punk-noise-grunge sound made famous by another Virginia band, Kepone.

    Lazycain focuses on the guitar hero poses a bit more, and they get docked for that indiscretion. otherwise, the riffs are solid, the hooks nicely anthemic and the production messy enough to emphasize the band's power.

    The musical execution is a bit uneven. While Lazycain finds some nice grooves, there is still a bit too much of the wanking holding pattern (to understand what I mean: imagine a band on stage playing the same repetitive metal riff over and over while making their hair dance). I wish the songs would move of their own accord.

    Promising, though. I'd like to hear more.

    Le Rug
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    By and large the work of a certain Ray Weiss (Matthew Gaffney did the drumming on a few tracks), Le Rug sounds an awful lot like the bastard child of U.S. Maple and the Shins.

    There's lots of pop and lots of whiny no wave. Often at the same time. Most of these songs annoyed for one reason or another (Weiss's distorted vocals certainly high among them), but I couldn't turn it off. Maybe I fell victim to the whole "you can't look away from a car wreck" psychology, but I don't think so.

    Rather, I think the messiness and the grating vocals actually work--when connected to the rest of the music. And particularly when fused with these songs, which do contain an impressive devotion to the hook, no matter how fucked up the rendition of that hook might be.

    The total package is impressive. There's no point in breaking it down; after all, it is pretty much the work of one person. And while this album could well be entered into evidence at an involuntary commitment hearing, well, that's what makes it great. A little insanity is good for the soul.

    Tom Leach
    Tom Leach
    (Slow River-Rykodisc)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Recorded to a four-track and barely mixed, Tom Leach has nonetheless managed to create songs of spare sound but overwhelming emotional impact.

    The general shoddy quality of the sound probably is a help, in the long run. For starters, Leach's quaky vocals are the perfect compliment to the dense, complicated lyrical webs he spins. And the hiss and pops help to propagate a feeling of authenticity. You know a real man is singing these songs of pain, loss and even newfound joy.

    Leach sticks pretty much to the Johnny Cash boom-chicka-boom style of playing (and if there's a backing percussion track, it runs along those lines, as well), and if the man in black is looking for songs for his next album, he would do well to check this disc out.

    The songs are short, and the album clocks in at just less than 40 minutes, and yet the effect on my is almost paralyzing. A stunning effort.

    Words Unspoken EP
    (Beats Broke)
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    Two Dutch guys who really know how to mine a groove. The title track takes the jaunty funkiness of "Low Rider" and turns those shuffling beats into a dark, dense jam. Along with another thousand or so songs ("Push It" and "Funky Cold Medina" come immediately to mind) the drum and bass elements on "Words Unspoken" run very close to the old War horse, but here those jams are pressed into service by music far superior to most.

    Is that a defense? I dunno. "Words Unspoken" is one of the most compelling songs I've heard this year, even though the song title comprises pretty much all the lyrics. Indeed, the three songs here are high on throb and short on verbage. Cool by me. I always say if you've got a groove, put all the focus there.

    This presages a full-length next year. We'll see if the boys can make that hold up. Until then, we'll have to make do with the brilliance of "Words Unspoken."

    Leaether Strip
    Double or Nothing
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Two discs from Claus Larsen, who is Leaether Strip. Four new tracks on the first, and 13 re-mixes, live or old tracks on the second.

    But the first disc is worth the price of admission. Goth pop with enough industrial attack to keep me interested. Larsen keeps the music flowing, despite the often morose lyrics.

    The real test of this sort music is what else is brought into the mix, and how that is done. Larsen doesn't use many samples, but he obviously listens to a wide range of music, because you can hear all sorts of references throughout his compositions.

    My favorites on the first disc are "Torture (A Suicide Note)" (a wonderful mix of Goth and industrial sensibilities) and "Don't Tame Your Soul", a cool spoken word bit.

    When you get to the second disc, you'll notice the wide array of sounds Larsen likes to experiment with. Don't be afraid to sample everything. All are satisfying.

    Legacy of Hate & Lust
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Claus Larsen cranks out another set of goth-flavored experimental techno masterpieces. If you thought samples and waves of keyboards (some sharp, some diffuse) were a dull combination, then you'd better give this a listen.

    And, as his pseudonym implies, Larsen has an interest in the darker side of life, with nods to master and servant games and other such peccadilloes of human existence.

    Well, sure, Leaether Strip is pretty mean sounding. That's the point. Techno with a serious attitude, and lots of naughty bits to boot. Larsen has created another wild ride for the electronic enthusiast.

    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Claus Larsen, of course, and the first 11 tracks are well-known to his many fans. I've raved about Leaether Strip's accomplished sonic sculpture and industrial production, and I figure that sort of stuff will probably seem a bit overbearing to many.

    So I'll focus on the three unreleased tracks that inhabit the end of the disc. Obviously, as Larsen has improved his grasp on technology, he has filled out Leaether Strip's sound accordingly. These tracks are as full (yet haunting) as any that have come before. Leaether Strip has always had plenty of gothic influences, and this has never been more evident than on "Take the Fear Away", a truly stunning song.

    The other two "bonus" tracks are just as impressive in their differences. Larsen has always liked to explore rather than rehash, and so this disc is a full testament to his journey. "Lies to Tell" (remixed by Lights of Euphoria) is a fitting end to the collection, a crashing club anthem that exhibits yet another side to Leaether Strip.

    Initiates of the order now have their primer. Study well.

    Leather Girls
    Leather Girls
    (Yippie Ki Yay)
    reviewed 7/3/17

    The shoddy production makes this sound like it was actually recorded in a garage, but my guess is Leather Girls (comprised of three guys and a girl, but you know. . .) pinned the needles on purpose. Not that there are any needles in production studios these days, but now I'm really digressing.

    Leather Girls inspires such musings, though. This blistering, streetwalking, bluesy rock attack comes on with a fury and never relents. And yet I found myself contemplative throughout. Perhaps it's the heavy dollop of psychedelia (the band is from Austin), or maybe the rush is so intense that I had to pull back.

    Dunno. What I can say is that this album is one long search-and-destroy mission. I'm not sure exactly what the target might be (boring music?), but there's a heavy feeling of intent. The focus is almost oppressive. Or maybe that's just the overpowering musk of the sound.

    Basic sound is one thing. Leather Girls use a prehistoric sound to create a post-modern master. This sucker is going to rumble for a long time.

    Leather Hyman
    You Can't Rake Without Arms
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    The most distinctive sound on this tape is the smarmy keyboard sound that's right out of 60's lounge music. A nice jazzy feel from the rhythm section keeps the music jerking and jumping, and then the band really gets weird.

    Alternately smoothly mellow and harshly strident, Leather Hyman prefers not to stake out a mood as much as an attitude. I guess this lies somewhere in the pop universe, but certainly one of the more creative corners. It takes some work to comprehend, but Leather Hyman is a fine elixir.\

    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Marketed as Motorhead meets the Ramones, for once the publicity couldn't be more correct.

    If you like either of those bands, and don't mind that someone may have appropriated their sonic likenesses, then you should really groove on this. The songwriting is first-rate - lots of catchy ditties.

    Like a smooth cream soda, this stuff is gone in a belch. But while it goes down, you can only think happy things, like remembering the last time you broke the state sodomy statute. Going down will get you twenty years out here, so maybe it's just safer to listen to the music.

    split LP with Hot Water Music
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    I reviewed the last Leatherface record to surface over here way back in issue #29 (early 1993). The sound here is a bit more ragged, but still the notion of catchy punk anthems prevails. Like the band never went away.

    Hot Water Music is from Richmond, and you can hear it. Avail, (Young) Pioneers, it's all there. Well, not in rip-off style, but just a sort of feel. Somewhat herky-jerky in the execution, but still tuneful enough to sing along with.

    The connection for me is the excessively hoarse singing style exhibited by both singers. Oh, and the bands are touring together as well. I think the idea here is to hearken back to a time when this sort of release was more common. Bring bands and people together. Something like that.

    And it might even work. At least on this one, since both bands cranked out great songs. A quality set, all the way around.

    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    I got this disc a ways back (like in April), but it got put on a shelf with some computer catalogs (the sort of thing I consult only when I need toner), and so it got lost. Until now.

    Leatherface proves that old punkers can still light up the stage. Yeah, this is as much pop as punk, but the ragged edges keep the sound honest. Really, the arrangements are spot on, and there are no complaints about the energy level of the band.

    And man, I love the thick sound. Just a swirl of drums guitar and bass, with hoarse shouts wailing out the vocals. You know, one version of punk heaven.

    The songs just keep spewing forth. Leatherface's comeback continues apace, with another fine effort. Actually, this is one of the better albums I've heard this year. Way too much fun to put down easily.

    Leaving Trains
    The Lump in My Forehead
    reviewed in issue #9, 3/15/92

    Serious? Right. This is an irreverent look at life through the eyes of some seriously disturbed folk.

    And that whine! Well, if you can get used to and appreciate Jello Biafra's voice, then this is no stretch. And like you've never played a Leaving Trains album before.

    Better than before? Not really. Worse? Not really. You know what to expect. It's right here. For a trip to the loopy side, jump on the Leaving Trains. (Oh, man, I'm really sorry. I'll never write a stupid pun clincher on a review again. I'll sell my soul before I do that - oops, I already did that to get Ice-T to play Columbia).

    The Big Jinx
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    The Leaving Trains are probably the least-known legendary punk band around. Those who have been paying attention for the last 15 years or so know not to miss a show, but when it comes to albums, well, things can get spotty.

    Some confusion would be understandable on this disc, though, as bassist and producer Chaz Ramirez was killed while trying to put The Big Jinx together. It's a weird story, but mostly sad. Especially since the Trains have come up with some of their catchiest songs ever.

    For starters, once you get past the title track, which is an intentional load of samples and assorted odds, the songs are tight and rather accessible. The lyrics are as entertaining as ever, and Ramirez's last project was quite well produced, indeed.

    Predicting any sort of major success for the Leaving Trains is like betting on U.S. World Cup chances, but you never know. Maybe enough people will come to their senses and dig in.

    Drowned and Dragged EP
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    Five new ones from the Trains. Falling James has one line-up for this EP, and another for heading out on the road. And the Trains keep a rollin'...

    The songs on this EP keep to a more conventional sound than the recent Leaving Trains albums, with a couple pieces that might even be called introspective and somewhat moody. And none of the songs gets wild or out of control, which is certainly a new suit for the band.

    I wouldn't call this a new direction or anything, just a momentary speed bump in the road. And for a mellow interlude, this is a pretty good one. I know a god number of folks who have always considered Leaving Trains "too crazy"; they would probably like this.

    Odd, but certainly amusing.

    Josh Lederman y Los Diablos
    The Town's Old Fair
    (Coffeestain Music-Nine Mile Records)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    Not unlike Firewater, which originally billed itself as "the world's worst Bar Mitzvah band," Josh Lederman y Los Diablos started life playing Irish weddings. Which might explain the occasional reference to a reel that seems to crop up now and a again.

    Mostly, though, this is old-fashioned country music--some folk, some rural blues, a healthy dose of western swing and a healthy helping of plain ol' poor white trash wailin'--the kinda stuff that folks like to call "Americana." I suppose that's as good a moniker as anything, though it sure does create a wide-ranging category. If it has room for folks like Lederman and friends, who can combine early-60s Tom Waits with Marty Robbins, the Pogues (see, I told you there was a vague Irish feel), the Jayhawks and Whiskeytown, well, I guess there should be no complaints.

    The sound here is, well, non-existent. The producer (who also mixed) did a smashing job of staying out of the way, mixing up the elements that needed a slight boost and making sure that nothing overpowered anything else. It's awfully hard to create such a transparent sound, and Darren Burke deserves full marks.

    I remember when I first heard Strangers Almanac. I still haven't recovered. This album has the same sort of powerful presence. I kept waiting for some sort of emotional letdown, a song that couldn't quite stand up with the others. It never came. By the end, I was a total wreck. And that's a very good thing, indeed.

    Vincent Lee
    Less of the Same
    (Aural Adventures)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    Side one featured cheesy drum machine backing glam-guitar stylings. And Mr. Lee singing, which isn't too bad when he sticks to his range. But when he heads into the upper reaches... look out below!

    At times this is positively amusing; "Barbasol" is one of the funnier tunes I've heard in some time. And Lee presents it as a joke, getting credit for a decent sense of humor. But he needs to get a sense of what he can and cannot do. He's not a great singer, and the songs would sound a lot better if backed by a band of people, not a band of overdubs.

    Side two is what the press terms "experimental". Poorly recorded samples, tapes run backwards, chaotic guitar noise, etc. I like this a lot better, though Lee is not a great producer or mixer, and that really shows. Still he gets some points for trying to do something different.

    If you're interested, you can get the tape from Aural Adventures for $5. The address and e-mail can be found on the label info page.

    Lee Harvey Oswald Band
    A Taste of Prison
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    As if punk needed another band led by a (just for show?) transvestite.

    Well, if all such outfits sounded like this, then it surely does. LHO Band plays sloppily (and maybe even under the influence at times), but it sure is a lot of fun. A couple of odd covers make this a strange set indeed, but it charms nonetheless.

    The obvious fun this trio is having while playing is evident even through the sometimes heavy distortion. A Taste of Prison is perfect for partying or just whenever you want to feel better about things in general.

    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Touch and Go has decided to flame the rumor fans with possible identities of the (supposedly famous) members of this band. Assuming the pictures are actually of members of the band, this isn't that difficult a call. I'll let you play games; just think of "alternative" icons who might have had reasons to be in Texas, Chicago or jail in the last ten years.

    And who gives a shit, with cool tunes like these? Kinda a glam-acid-punk powerhouse sorta thing. Enough Slade and Bowie references to keep any such inclined person in stitches. And the lyrics are as cutting and amusing as any other act around. The band that last time came up with "Jesus Never Lived on Mars" has punched up the sound, but otherwise come up pure.

    Total fun. We're not talking high art, but simply adrenaline-punching guitar riffs riding on through the night. Sumbitch is right.

    This whole superstar trip on the members' identities is unnecessary. Thus music more than carries the day. Perhaps not the most original sound in the world, just some of the most fun tunes around.

    Lee Marvin Computer Arm
    Lee Marvin Computer Arm EP
    (Conspirators in Sound)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Five snappy, ragged bits of Detroit glory. Recalling the MC5 as much as the White Stripes, Lee Marvin Computer Arm has more than enough energy to make its own name shine brightly.

    While the blistering pace and raggedy sound are more than enough to keep me occupied, these boys have penned some stylish songs as well. Rather than conforming to any sonic ideal in particular, LMCA continually drags in new lines of thought.

    But never lets up on the gas. The main attraction here is the live wire style of playing, and all those other cool things are just added bonuses. Nice to have--especially after a few listens--but I'll take this jolt every time.

    The Leeches
    (British Medical Records)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Imagine Blondie reincarnated as a Brit garage band. Lizzie Wood does a whale of a job playing catty sex kitten at the mic, and the boys in the band service her capably.

    While plenty of the lyrics are clever, there's very little subtlety to this disc. Wood is into put downs, but her style is more Eddie Izzard than Oscar Wilde. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

    You've gotta dig the groove the folks lay down--it's got a veneer of faux sophistication laid over a slowly rotting core. A lot of folks will no doubt find this annoying, but what the hell. I'm a sucker for anything that satirizes continental condescension.

    Oh yeah, a lot of this is a joke. I'm sure there are sincere moments, but they are few and far between. Mostly, this is just tasty trash. Just my style.

    Adult Crash
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Leeway claims to be the progenitor of the current wave of metal-core bands. I'd say bands like Gang Green were there first, but Gang Green was also pretty funny. The folks in Leeway go out of their way to be serious.

    If Leeway is guilty of the first charge, that in itself is a great argument for the death penalty. I didn't like Leeway when I first heard the band, and I still don't. This is not good cheez, it's rancid cheez. Leeway is a poison that will rot your brain much faster than Ren and Stimpy or even Latoya Jackson's Exotic Club Crawl. It has big signs on it saying "stay away or face sterilization". Need I say more?

    Well, to be honest, some of Adult Crash isn't quite that bad. But it's not much better.

    Open Mouth Kiss
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    One track spins by. Surprise. Two tracks. I border on shock. Three tracks. Amazement.

    This album doesn't suck.

    For Leeway and me, that's a huge accomplishment. I can't even begin to describe how many Leeway discs I've heard over the years, and the first reaction has always been the same: Yow, this is bad.

    Well, their last album had a couple of decent songs, but it was still damned bad. Open Mouth Kiss, however, is definitely in the mediocre range, with some really nice work amongst the rest. Sure, it's the same old metal-core (Cro-Mags school) that the boys have purveying for years, but the lyrics aren't retarded and the music isn't insipid.

    Color me amused. A Leeway album I might even listen to again. Will wonders never cease?

    Left Hand Solution
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Moody Swedish stuff, sorta like where I imagine Tiamat would be today in a rational progression. The keyboards are excessive, but still used effectively. Mariana Holmberg's alto vocals add to the ethereal qualities of the music.

    Interesting, but not intoxicating. My Dying Bride can get away with such simple progressions because of the stark sound and its use of dissonance. Left Hand Solution has a sweet, lush sound which counteracts the potential power of those chord runs.

    All the edges smoothed over, and that makes for much less captivating music. Yeah, it sounds pretty, but when things are supposed to get terrifying or at least a little spooky, the heavy instrumentation provides way too much comfort.

    These folks have some good ideas. Perhaps a stripped-down version would be much better. Holmberg's voice works very well with this sound, and would sound even better without all the extraneous stuff. A chance missed.

    Left in a Dream
    Left in a Dream
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Some guys in suburban Seattle who plays music about, well, being guys in suburban Seattle. Emo, even. From Seattle. The bio sheet is pretty amusing, basically recognizing the absurdity of it all.

    Now, the stuff has that demo sound (get a better engineer next time out, boys), but that doesn't cause too much of a problem. I mean, this is emo. Lo-fi personified. Musically, the band has the sound down. A little too precisely, really. Most good emo bands have a little something extra they bring to the table. That's not here, but these guys are young.

    The lyrics are fairly good. Observations on the ultimate boredom that can only be achieved in the suburbs. That's why I'll never live there. These guys don't have much of a choice right now.

    Competent musicianship and fairly inspired lyrics. Left in a Dream needs to write a lot more songs and really discover some way to break out of the "soundalike syndrome" that can be deadly in emo circles. It just takes time and work.

    The Leftovers
    On the Move
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Blissed-out punk pop...just skip the first song, okay? It's not bad, but it just doesn't set the table properly. The second track, "Dance With Me," would be much more appropriate. But I don't need to get into a sequencing digression or anything...

    Ben Weasel had his hands all over this (including, specifically, the sequencing--ouch!), and this does fall into his territory. Ephemeral, perhaps, but when the chords are this muscular and the hooks this sweet, ephemeral can last a lifetime.

    There's just enough oomph in the production to kick these songs into pop heaven. Not Mass Giorgini style by any means (though his punk wall of sound would probably suit these songs as well), there's plenty of room to breathe here. Makes the songs sound like old friends.

    And if my enthusiasm doesn't flag, they might well be lifelong buds. The Leftovers don't do anything but play exceptional punk pop. The kinda stuff that makes one happy to be alive.

    Left Undone
    The Uptown Soultel
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    The band styles itself as a new sort of soul act, claiming influences like Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament, Blind Melon (um...) and more. Very much a rock soul band, as the funk is always played straight.

    I can think of worse things. And any band who chooses "Thank You (falletinme be mice elf again)" as the Sly cover isn't all bad. But doing a song like that brings on all sorts of unfortunate comparisons. Like...

    The Sly version is a dynamic, flowing wonder, tossing off groove after groove as if such things were in unlimited supply. Left Undone, on the other hand, sticks to one beat and one groove throughout the whole song. Their cover sounds something like a funeral dirge.

    The playing is fine, but I don't hear the soul. A prime example of white boy funk. Something's missing. It's not pigmentation, but the spirit of innovation and exploration just isn't present. Rote, but not much more.

    Lefty's Deceiver
    Process Junior EP
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    One of the longer EPs I've come across. I mean, even though Lefty's Deceiver has only seven songs here, thirty minutes of music is almost always considered an album. But, well, the band calls this an EP. Ambitious boys, I guess.

    I'll say. These jaunty songs are crafted with precision, landing the overall sound somewhere between noise pop and the emo side of minimalist pop. There's a lot of space between the sounds here, but the band's near manic fervor leads to an incongruously full feel nonetheless.

    The disc babbles on a like brook, always finding a new rock to trip over and spill past. The motion never ceases. Not quite like clockwork; the rhythms are more organic than that. Pretty fine, all the way around.

    The Legendary Pink Dots
    Plutonium Blonde
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    The Legendary Pink Dots are, after some 28 years, actually legendary. It's safe to say that certain corners of the goth movement sprouted from the LPD branch, though I can't really think of any bands today that are meandering around this universe.

    That's not to say that LPD are goth--this is prog-folk-electro-pop that hinges on Edward Ka-Spel's affected vocals. A first time listener will hear this and scratch somewhere. Give the music a little time, and the scratching might hit the spot.

    All that is for the uninitiated. If you're an old fan wondering if this set is worth the dough, prepare to cough up the cash. It's not a career-renovating set, but it's very solid. I have only heard one of LPD's four previous albums released this millennium, and this is better. Weird, eccentric and perhaps a wee bit overly trippy, but quite good nonetheless.

    When you're a living legend (even when that legend is circulated among a relatively small set of folks), it's hard to do wrong. But Ka-Spel and LPD do much better than okay. There are a number of compelling songs here, and they sound that much better considering that very few bands are trying anything like this these days. Good stuff.

    Th' Legendary Shack Shakers
    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    I think Firewater was the last band to combine gospel and klezmer in a song, and while the sonic results were different, the quality was similarly high. Th' Legendary Shack Shakers riff through all sorts of "classic" American music (gospel, rockabilly, folk, blues, bluegrass, James Brown-style r&b, etc.) and shove it through a grinder, filtering the result through a reducing filter.

    In other words, you ain't never heard nothin' quite like this. Electric all the way, but in the spirit of acoustic anarchists. There are so many different sounds and ideas that I was afraid the Shack Shakers would lose their way. They don't.

    A lot of that is due to the leadership of Col. J.D. Wilkes. He wrote the songs (except for the blues standard "Help Me") and kept a firm eye on the production. His singular notion of what a mish-mash of American music ought to sound like seems to have kept this album along a recognizable path. Indeed, no matter what the band is playing, the songs retain a certain Shack Shakers feel.

    So when the sun goes down and the bourbon has melted the ice, put this disc in. Holler, dance, do what comes naturally. Just don't blame these boys in the morning.

    Steuart Leibig/Tee-Tot Quartet
    Always Outnumbered
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    I tend to hear Leibig's work as straddling the avant-garde and accessible worlds. Most of the time, I'm an avant-garde kinda guy. But I tend to like Leibig's more straightforward work best.

    This album, however, seems to straddle the straddle, as it were. Leibig's contrabass work here is fairly conventional in a melodic sense, but his pieces are anything but. In particular, Dan Clucas's work on the cornet is spectacular. He kinda flits through the universe as Scot Ray on dobro and Joseph Berardi on drums keep order.

    Each player takes his share of solos. Ray's dobro work is exemplary, and he takes his turns with aplomb. But these pieces seem written to feature the cornet, and Clucas is the clear star here.

    I'm cool with that. These are well-constructed pieces played with style and emotion. In the end, I'd say this is one of my favorite Leibig efforts. Very nice.

    Lemming Project
    Hate and Despise
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    Everything about this is ugly. The cover, the layout of the back side, the spelling... and of course, the music.

    And what music. A real relief from some of the almost sparse sounding stuff I've been hearing lately. The production here, much like the Incantation album last year, makes sure every pore of your skin is inundated (especially at the volume I had this on) with heavy death metal. And heavy is the proper term.

    This reminds me of Morgoth (who have a new once soon - finally) in the way they crank out riffs and then switch to doom licks now and again.

    Ugly. And damned proud of it.

    The Lemonheads
    Car Button Cloth
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    The last time I paid attention to the Lemonheads was way back on Lick, whereupon the band (which it was at the time, more or less) covered "Luka". I kinda liked that. The rest seemed kinda cheesy, but what the hell. Of course, when that NKOTB cover came out a year later, it was all over for me.
    And somewhere between then and now, Evan Dando (who still uses the name "The Lemonheads, kinda like Chrissie Hynde does with "the Pretenders") got popular. I understand there was a cover of "Mrs. Robinson" somewhat involved, which would mean that most of Dando's notoriety comes from song recycling.
    To be fair, his stuff here (and most of it is original) isn't bad. Of course, it's not terribly interesting, and I'm surprised at how little things have changed in eight years. I guess if you've got something people like, then keep on the money train.
    Momentarily amusing at best, trite much of the time, Dando has cranked out another set of tunes that yuppies can call "alternative". He, of course, has better sense than to claim that title himself. And so I won't excoriate him. I simply urge you to find more interesting pop music to slap in your discer.

    The Lemons
    Just Happy to Be Here 7"
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    Certainly the most commercial thing C/Z has ever put out. This is pop-punk (I'm not going to use the term pop-core again because I understand it was used in Rolling Stone last month) at about its finest. Like the Goo-Goo Dolls with a little extra sludge and distortion.

    From C/Z? Yep. And I like it a bunch. Sure it's catchy as all hell, but there is no law against a band writing a couple of songs with real hooks. Absolutely no apologies necessary here. This is plain 'ol kick ass punk rock 'n' roll (with the occasional guitar solo). Just like blueberry blintzes.

    Lemur Voice
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    Taking a somewhat keyboard-heavy, yet grungier, approach to the whole prog thing, Lemur Voice at once manages to sound wimpy and aggressive. An interesting idea that doesn't quite take off.

    The main problem is that the band refuses to advance prog theory past the established masters. I hear way too much Rush and Yes in here. Sure, it's alright to borrow from influences, but the goal is to create your own sound. Lemur Voice occasionally does get past those two influences, and then it starts sounding just like Fates Warning.

    The playing is adequate, though a bit sloppy at times. The production is stock prog work, lending atmosphere and a bit of spaciness to the surroundings. Adequate and appropriate. Just wish the music had something original to say.

    An old saw, but I keep wailing away. Lemur Voice needs time to work past its influences and craft an original sound. Until then, it will be merely a decent act that could get better paid as a Yes tribute band.

    (Kind of Like Spitting/Lemuria)
    Your Living Room's All Over Me split LP
    (Art of the Underground)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Two trios who hail from opposite sides of the continent. They decide to throw down a split. Thank goodness.

    Lemuria has seven songs, and the construction is pop. The sound turns from raucous to introspective to shiny and back to raucous without losing the central vibe of the band. I really like these folks. But I'm a sucker for energetic music with great hooks.

    Sounds like Spitting is much less refined. These guys make a lot of noise, and they hide a fair amount of it in the slightly muddy mix. That would usually be a complain coming from me, but here it simply gives the songs that extra bit of character. These boys are from Portland, and they remind me of Treepeople and Built to Spill and other PacNW outfits. Completely unsophisticated, and rather charming that way.

    Splits work best when the bands aren't a perfect match. These two acts complement each other quite well without getting in the way of the other. Just the way it should be.

    Sean Lennon
    Into the Sun
    (Grand Royal/Capitol)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    No angst here. This is mellow music for the after hours set.

    Maybe you've been a little bit aggressive and mad all day and want to get on the down low tip. This is definitely down low. Pretty singing and polite strumming that blends a half dozen genres into homogonized blah for good times.

    It's not offensive or even bad, but it's not anything relevant or great either. Not that I should want something more from anyone wading in this sea of appropriation and wetness, but it's hard not to compare the voice to The Voice. The original had something to say over his bands sometimes simple and benign songs. The next generation seems to be content to wallow in "my girlfriend sure is cool" and space age theories of bygone eras.

    I kept trying to find something with substance and at the end realized there was nothing in my hands but empty air.

    --Matt Worley

    Anxiety Despair Anguish
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Yes, Lento traffics in metal. But these moody metallic soundscapes transcend the generic perception of the genre. Reminds me of Edge of Sanity's instrumental work. Wade in and stay a while. Let your brain bleed.

    Frank Lenz
    The Hot Stuff
    (Northern Records)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    An acid-tinged 70s flashback. Frank Lenz turns Bacharachian lounge pop on its head, burning in beats of all flavors (disco, hip-hop, electronic and more) and then really taking off.

    To the point where those 70s underpinnings are almost (but not quite) irrelevant. Lenz has a wonderfully complicated and inventive sense of musicality, and he's not afraid to unleash potentially dissonant forces into his tunes.

    But even the most caustic of additions can't take away the blisteringly gorgeous sounds of this disc. Just when it seems Lenz is losing his grip, the songs snap together with an audible pop. He knows just how far to push the envelope without alienating the listener.

    The definition of an artist at the top of his game. Lenz owns his medium. It bows to his will. And this album manifests his glory.

    Leon Milmore
    Under a Green Sun
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Nicely fuzzy earnest roots rock. Just enough hooks to shake off the wanky guitar bits. The vocals are bit too affected for my taste, but they fit the style just fine.

    A band, by the way, and not a man. I made the same mistake before checking out the liners. Don't know what it means, but hell, I generally don't worry about that stuff. I prefer to focus on the music.

    And for the sort of involved, backbeat-laden fuzz rock the band plays, they do it well. I have noted on many occasions my general distaste for the stuff, but I can groove with Leon Milmore. There's enough soul here to keep my heart moving.

    A nice car album. Turn up the volume and take down the roof. Well, maybe wait until spring. I'll leave that choice up to you.

    Quebradita #4 7"
    (LoTioN Industries)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Cool noise rock that gets even better when the band finds a nice, tight rhythm groove.

    Okay, so it takes a minute or so for "Quebradita #4" to find the feel, but once there, Leopold latches on and doesn't let go for any reason. The two songs on the flip flow along in the same linear, yet painful, fashion.

    The sound is pretty bad, leaving the vocals way back in the mix. For something like this, though, that is almost a benefit. This way there's no way to ignore the awe-inspiring groove apparatus, nothing to take your mind off the throbbing ecstasy that keeps building.

    If you need a comparison, think of an exceptionally dirty version of Kepone. I don't think cleaning the mix up a bit would hurt, but that's obviously not necessary for Leopold to impress.

    Leopold and His Fiction
    Leopold and His Fiction
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    A fine bit of caterwauling. Leopold and His Fiction play the bash and wail as well as the Kings of Leon or anyone else. There's not a lot of sophistication to this sound--for my money, the first Uncle Tupelo album and the first Jon Spencer outing make fine bookends for this kinda stuff--which puts all the stress on the songs themselves.

    And these boys have put together some good work. Uncomplicated fare, which might seem oxymoronic except for the number of folks who seem to think that more is always better. These boys don't. There are some fine guitar licks and a fair amount of pleasant distortion, but no notion that this is something it isn't.

    It's merely solid roots fare masquerading as loud music. And doing a damned good job of it, too. Like one of those old patio chairs with half the stuffing ripped out. There's nothing more comfortable, really.

    Sometimes there's nothing better than taking it easy and turning the volume way up. We're getting into that season, so now is the time to stock up.

    Ain't No Surprise
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    Kinda like the Kings of Leon before that band got dull, Leopold and His Fiction plays meta-rock with all sorts of rootsy trappings.

    The thing is, this stuff is anything but simple and unrefined. The entire "rough" sound is carefully constructed. Even the raucous moments sound a wee bit crafted. Which does make it hard to get lost in the sound.

    Funny thing is, I managed anyway. Part of it is the pure intellectual appeal of the songs. I like trying to figure out what subtle references the band throws in with its distortion and reverb. I even like trying to puzzle out the meanings behind the lyrics.

    Best of all, this stuff is played with style and energy. Yes, it's crafted, but it's hardly stilted. These boys may be merely playing at the rough and tumble, but they might actually have a line on deeper things.

    Les Sages
    Blood Harmony EP
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Les Sages is content to grab whatever sound catches its fancy and spind it into a song. This doesn't do much for sonic continuity, but the minimalist-experimental-math-non-electronic laptop-etc. sound is intriguing. These songs work best when their inspirations integrate most fully. Given the disparate ideas, I'd say a bit more editing would have made for stronger songs. But I like the way the band isn't afraid to try anything.

    Les Savy Fav
    (French Kiss)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Over the last nine years, Les Savy Fav has been releasing a series of 7"s as part of a greater project called "Inches." Each slab of vinyl came out on a different label, which meant that at least one of the things might have arrived at the cool record store in your area (if you have one), but the chances of collecting all nine were slim for all but the most devoted fans.

    So all 18 songs (A and B sides, of course) are on this disc, together for the first time. And while I do think they probably work better as two-song bursts (there's really not much continuity between each 7" other than the late 80s Fall-esque BritPop rantings often favored by Les Savy Fav), this disc is a generous helping of scalding rock.

    Kinda like the first Rocket from the Crypt 7" compilation (which is still my favorite "album" from the boys), and I think that the 7" may be the best way to experience Les Savy Fav. Short doses of highly energetic rock and roll, supercharged with attitude.

    Exciting and impossible to shut down. It wouldn't be advisable to create such a long string of live-wire songs for an album--there's gotta be a respite somewhere. Then again, sometimes it's fun to grab the wire and bite down. Bite down hard.

    The Leslies
    The Leslies 7" EP
    (American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    A set of songs from a Swedish pop outfit. The songs are presented in inverse order of age (the first track is the most recent, see). Basic pop ruminations, without really going anywhere in particular.

    See, the guys do a nice job of presenting soul-inflected pop (there's a almost note-for-note Marshall Crenshaw cover included, if that gives you an idea), but I can't think of any reason to really give them a second thought. I mean, if they somehow sucked at something, that would at least be a handhold for me to latch onto.

    But no. The Leslies are mediocre songwriters and good players. Which makes the band just another generic pop outfit. I wish the songs had a bit more... you know, something. It's not here.

    You and What Army?
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Crunchy fuzz rock, somewhere between Black Sabbath and the Stooges. A little closer to the Stooges, perhaps, since most of these songs have a nice tempo. Power, raw and undiluted.

    Quality? I'm still pondering. The music is quite well-played. That's what drives this disc. The vocals (and the lyrics) are decent, but not particularly exciting. They kinda exist because this sorta music needs something up top (like singing).

    The production is first rate, channeling the power into the right grooves. This puppy just pounds its way out of the speakers and never lets up. You can feel this thing all deep in your bones.

    And if the singing had a bit more purpose, well, I'd be enthralled. As it is, I liked the album well enough. More than enough aggression to get the blood flowing nicely.

    Less than Jake
    Losing Streak
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Anthemic, ska-tinged (at least horn-laced) punk. Well, hell, since Rancid broke up I guess there's room for a new contender.
    These guys are from Gainesville, and they've been through town a few times. I haven't caught the band, but I know some folks who swear by it. And there's plenty to recommend.
    Tight melodies, the usual strong rhythm section you get with ska types, and a nice loose-yet-precise production job. The songs aren't much more than cotton candy, really, but then some 10 million bought that No Doubt album, right?
    And Less than Jake is still on the cool side of skadom. Sure, the stray bits have been chopped off (this is a major label release, after all), but the general feel is still fun. And anyone who records a song called "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts" can't be all bad.

    Borders & Boundaries
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Less then Jake still has the horns, but the sound is much more power pop than ska. Not that these boys ever really held up the skankin' end of "skacore," but still.

    Thing is, this works better. Pop punk songs with horns kick ass. Particularly when the band can lock into hooks like these boys can. Okay, it's simple party music with a little cogent thought thrown into the mix. Got a problem with that?

    Didn't think so. If you were worried that the boys might be skimping on the production costs (can't imagine why, really), don't. This is just as punchy as anything else the guys have put out. I mean, how much does it really cost to produce a punk record, anyway?

    Have I ranted enough? Sorry. Must be that election wackiness or something. Anyways, this album won't change the world. But it might light up your next gathering of intimate (and not so intimate) friends.

    Let's Go Bowling
    Mr. Twist
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    Let's Go Bowling is one of those bands that always seems to be in town, but you wonder where the records are. Well, here's one, anyway.

    Solid, energetic runthroughs of the stuff the band has been playing for something like forever. As with any ska act, solid horns and a tight rhythm section dominate. The vocals (and lyrics, for that matter) might leave a little to be desired, but skankers never seem to worry about such things.

    Indeed, Let's Go Bowling takes more of a jazz-like approach to its sound, with the instrumentalists taking solos in turn as the beat rolls on. Solid work and solid musicianship about.

    This is classic ska. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. Let's Go Bowling has no outside pretensions (like punk or other such influences), and so the sound could just as easily be wandering in from the 60s as the 90s. Not a bad thing at all.

    Chris Letcher
    (Sheer Sound)
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Chris Letcher has the bounding rhythms, soaring arrangements and proggy loopiness of the Flaming Lips down pat. And since the Lips seem to have sunk into a morass of self-indulgence (and I'm pretty bummed out about that), we'll have to let folks like Letcher provide us with our fix.

    In Letcher's defense, he trends more 70s than the Lips (there are plenty of singer-songwriterly touches) and his songs don't quite shoot for the apex of the anthemic scale. Perhaps his ambitions are somewhat more modest. In any case, they work for him.

    The production is suitably round and springy, giving this album the sonic equivalent of a superball coating. This keeps the songs moving along--even when they don't seem to want to do so.

    Yes, it does make me yearn for something astounding from south OKC. But once I get past my own self-indulgent wistfulness, I realize that this album stands well enough on its own.

    Letters Home
    Take Your Time
    EP (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Bash and bash punk pop. I like the atonal focus, though I do wish the boys had been able to craft a more recognizable band sound. There's enough here to crave a full-length.

    Letters to Cleo
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Okay, so this is way overproduced. The artificially-induced thickness wears a bit, but come on, these folks know how to make power pop tunes. And once you filter out the cheese, it's easy to hear the great songs underneath.

    Of course, this is a sound right up my alley. And I've always been a sucker for female vocals on top of heavy chords. Kay Hanley has a good range, and easily avoids the whole baby doll vocal cliche that is somehow still in vogue.

    Throwaway? Yeah, maybe, but the stuff is so tight and pretty, I can't eat just one. This is a summer album, to be sure, but I'll take it in the fall if that's how it has to show up. And anyway, since this seems to be the next big thing (yes, it seems pop is actually Pop again), I guess the big boys want to crank their best stuff out during the Christmas shopping season.

    What? Marketing involved in the release of a major label album? Duh. And despite the really wretched excessive production, this puppy is pretty damned good. I like this band a bit more stripped down, but I guess I'll have to get in to see a show sometime.

    Suck My Heaven (advance cassette)
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    Strange, but I have never heard an Animal House sample on an (almost) death metal album. This is more in the glam grindcore vein (really), but it still shreds mine ears.

    Katie Levent
    My Eyes Are Watching You
    (Elite World)
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    People often call, write or send e-mail describing what they do and ask if I want to review the disc. I always say I can't judge anything until I hear it. This disc is a good example. I'm not a big fan of the current r&b scene, and that's where Katie Levent is aiming. The thing is, she's got an interesting twist to the sound.

    Some folks might already have noticed that Levent's name is strikingly similar to the Levant, an old-fashioned name for the Middle East. And indeed, the melodies and even the beats have an exotic flair. On the best songs, the stuff sounds a lot like Egyptian or Lebanese pop. And even on the more conventional bits, there's just a hint of spice.

    Levent's voice is good, though as with most pop r&b stuff, it's really hard to say much more than that. The production is solid, much better than most self-released divas. A fine package, all the way around.

    I wish Levent would do more songs like "Table Dance For 2," "Nothin' to It" or the title track. All three are more hip-hop than the rest of the album, but they also utilize more of the Middle Eastern flavor. Levent should focus on how she's different than all the other young women trying to become a star. Then maybe, who knows?

    Leverage Models
    Forensic Accounting EP
    Interim Deliverable EP
    (Home Tapes)
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Shannon Fields is better-known for his work with Stars Like Fleas (among many other pursuits), but he's decided to release a three-EP sequence and Leverage Models. These are the first two (sent to me on one promo CD, but you get to buy them separately), and they scream but one thing to me: Roxy Music lives.

    Oh, this is at once crazier and much saner than Roxy Music, of course. Fields performed most of the instruments himself, which lends a serious case of the one-man-band itch to these pieces (think Controversy-era Prince for another comparison), but because this isn't a band project, there aren't as many tangents as Roxy sometimes propagated.

    The mutant lush life approach to music is very similar, though. In all, this album is very much rooted in the 80s. Fields tosses in a few modernist touches (the drum machine rhythms are a bit more martial, for example), but he seems very comfortable with this sound.

    He oughta be. It sounds great. These are cool songs that have been shaped into truly intriguing music. I don't know if Fields will pass this way again after he finishes the third installment, but one can always hope.

    Deepest Secrets Beneath
    (Rock the Nation)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Highly technical prog metal, with more emphasis on proper playing than on actual feel.

    A lot of people like this sort of thing. I prefer to feed off the emotions of an album, not the technical brilliance of the band. I think there is an equal talent in crafting something original that has a tangible feel. I have no idea if these guys believe in what they're performing, or if they are robots.

    The band is comprised of good players, but there is far too much emphasis on scale playing than on songwriting. I just find this pretty dull. It's a shame.

    Marissa Levy
    63 Songs About Joe EP
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Peppy songs full of pop hooks and just the right touch of venom. Levy veers from all over the rock landscape, but her voice is always on top of the mix in standard singer-songwriter style.

    These songs are well-crafted and even tend toward the slick, but I like Levy's delivery. She's direct and confident without being brassy. Her voice is high alto, and she had a good range--both singing and writing.

    I haven't heard either of her earlier albums, but this short set is pleasantly enticing. Fine stuff.

    Even So
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Melding traditional emo song construction with the sort of off-kilter melodies exemplified by, say, the Smiths, Lewis has created something that never was quite before.

    And that is the grand, almost epochal, mopey tune. Just as the best Smiths songs merely plumb the depths of emotion rather than wallow in them, Lewis artfully discusses its pain. The lyrics and music combine to form a unitary force, never forgetting that a swoop contains both a fall and a climb.

    The songs are written with a fine sense of craft, and they're played with intense care. Nothing calculated in the final product, though. Rather, these songs play out like intimate conversations. Almost voyeuristic at times.

    Pretty, but with an underlying power that's almost irresistible. Diving into these songs is easy. It's the getting out that's tough. And once you finally escape the pull, all you'll want to do is give in once again.

    Lewis and Clarke
    Bright Light EP
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    Solid contemplative pop. Lewis and Clarke makes no pretentious statements, harbors no ulterior motives and doesn't browbeat at all. Nonetheless, this is one compelling disc.

    Rarely do three songs grab me like these. Lewis and Clarke uses all sorts of guitars, pianos and even a Hammond organ to create its shimmering sound. The songs come on with a whisper and have the impact of a bomb.

    Sometimes it's the stuff that sneaks up on you that you remember. Lewis and Clarke has created an unforgettable little disc. There'd better be a whole lot more where this came from.

    Don Lewis Band
    Between the Lines
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Jaunty jangle roots rock with just a hint of the groove. The odd bit of syncopation that actually adds to a song rather than turn it into a derivative mess. I kept waiting for the pieces to degenerate into excess. They didn't.

    There's even a slow love song that manages to be more moving than cloying ("Believe"). These guys have been doing this for a while (there are bonus tracks on this disc from three previous releases), and they've obviously learned some important lessons.

    Indeed, a quick scan of those earlier songs provides a nice snapshot of how much the songwriting has improved. The bonus pieces aren't bad; the potential is obvious. But often enough, the writer got stuck and resorted to an all-too-expected backbeat or chord change. That stuff is merely middling-to-good.

    The eight tracks of Between the Lines, however, are great. No holds barred. Solid, bright tunes with a definite unique band character. The Don Lewis Band has come a good ways, and the latest stop is most impressive.

    Fascinating Tininess
    (Eastern Development)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Eastern Development is Prefuse 73's imprint (Herren himself guests as Savath y Savalas), which makes a whole lot of sense. The songs are less collages and more cohesive pieces (just about everyone calls this stuff cinematic, and I can't disagree), and there are lots and lots of pretty moments.

    And yet, there's plenty of the trippy and experimental fare that folks might expect. Imagine the Flaming Lips (of recent vintage) hooking up with Stereolab and dropping some slinky--if occasionally disjointed--beats, and perhaps this will begin to make sense.

    It took me a half an hour to write the above two paragraphs. That's a long time for me, and part of the problem was figuring out a way to explain this stuff properly. I think I'm gonna give up. It's great. That's enough for me.

    And if it isn't enough for you, well, you know the pedigree. If that doesn't impress you, then there's not much more I can say. Otherworldly just doesn't do this justice.

    Li'l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes
    Young and Evil
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Ronnie Owens is old enough to remember when the blues (of all flavors) and country and western collided to jump start rock and roll. And he knows that long before anyone rocked around a clock the blues talked about good rockin' and rollin'.

    Ronnie and the Grand Dukes harken back to the days when the blues and rock and country slipped and slid around each other. He played a wicked harp, and on about half the songs here he's got guitar help from Anson Funderburgh. There's no questioning the chops.

    Or the spirit of the songs. Owens wrote most, and the ghost of those old days infuses the music and the playing. Low down and fun, comin' at the sound from the blues side, these boys just wear out these songs.

    Not pure blues. Not pure anything. That's why Li'l Ronnie and the Dukes are able smoke like this. The important criterion is simply: Does this burn? Any other notions are extraneous.

    Killing Some Dead Time
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    I have been jonesing for a Posies album for some time now. Libido will do the trick nicely.

    And if you've been in search of arrogantly overpowering pop music that is as much about killer guitar riffs and drenching harmonies as it is about throbbing sound, well, you might get happy in this place, too. There are some weird references (a complete crib of the guitar line from King Missile's "Gary and Melissa" to open "Supersonic Daydream"--unintentional, perhaps, but spooky nonetheless) which only help to complete the greatness.

    Oh, yeah, this is a great album. I could hear that at the start. Sometimes you just know. Libido has a wonderful grip on wrenching the last bit of irony out of a lyric, and after all, pop music without irony is treacle. Stuff you can't keep down for long.

    Libido can cure any musical bulimia you're suffering. The songs crash along, shattering illusions all the while. Music of power, grace and extreme cynicism. The perfect tonic for what ails me.

    Lying Through Her Teeth CD5
    (Fire Records)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    My favorite Posies soundalike band is back, even if only with three songs. This CD single is from the U.K., so you might not be able to find it right away. If that info makes any difference or not.

    I like the Posies (which you probably knew) and while Libido is a complete rip-off (this is objective truth; even the harmonies are identical), I still like the stuff.

    Solid. There is a cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill" which is more than a bit overwrought, but the single and the third track sounds good to me. I guess an album is forthcoming. Bring it on.

    Libido Boyz
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    Another of the fine crop of releases from Red Decibel. There is a cool post-punk thing going on here. Of the three RdB albums, this is the most progressive and potentially the most satisfying over time (tho' I'm still a major fan of Rapscallion, too).

    Grooves. Those fill the album. This is music I can dance to. The tempo changes, lots of guitars and cool lyrics. But, see, I'm funny that way.

    Songs I like? Well, "Godzilla," "Pissed to Be Alive," "Ghia" and "The Path" all do it for me. But listen to the bastard for yourself. It's worth it.

    Yes, the Midwest has struck a blow to the bi-coastal domination of loud music in the past few years, a lot due to labels like Red Decibel. This is good.

    Godzilla CD5/10"
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    If you receive the way-cool 10" vinyl picture disc, then you get a work of art, but you miss out on the two extra cd tracks.

    Packaged with one of the finer tracks from their OPGU album is another cover of Heart's "Barracuda". Other recent ones to compare this to: Chastain and Angkor Wat (part of whom are now in Skrew). For sheer firepower, I'm sticking with the Angkor Wat version, but the Boyz are much more bass-heavy than any of the others.

    While the third cd-track is basically an encore-begging, crowd-stomping thing, the final track kicks my ass into tomorrow. If you go for art, you will miss one cool song. If you still haven't checked out OPGU, then do it today.

    (Dim Mak)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    A playful, stream-of-consciousness political hip-hop album. Libretto spins complicated, yet always crystal clear, rhymes over an impressive range of beats. The beats borrow heavily from 70s soul and funk and then update those cool grooves to the new millennium.

    In short, this is an album of ideas that can double as a party album. Let it roll while you kick back, and in no time the ideas will trickle into the brains of your guests. Not exactly subliminally, but close.

    I just can't get enough of the beat work here. It evokes a mood without being derivative. It fits in well with Libretto's cool, unhurried style. Who says discussing serious ideas can't be fun?

    The most impressive hip-hop album I've heard in quite a while. Libretto's smooth swagger is a wonder. And the backing beats are, as I keep saying, something special. One of those albums that sticks with you for years.

    Henry Kaiser/Alan Licht
    Skip to the Solo
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed 10/10/16

    When you were young, did you lift the needle on the record and cut straight to the good part of the song? That question betrays both age and attitude, and I'll cop to both. Henry Kaiser and Alan Licht record together for the first time (with Mikko Biffle and Rick Walker), putting together a series of pieces that are little more than solos laid over basic tracks.

    Biffle, Kaiser and Lich swap duties on bass and guitars, and Walker provides the percussive connective tissue. Fans of Kaiser and Licht will know that while this album does vaguely fit in the realm of jazz, the sound coming from the speakers at any time could be anything. Storm squalls, gorgeous ruminations or just some persistent noodling. All without the annoyance of verse, chorus or bridge.

    While this is about what I expected, I did not anticipate the adrenaline rush these pieces provide. Kaiser is one of the great experimental guitarists, but on this set he uses his versatility to heighten the impact of his playing. Yeah, there's the requisite bleeps and blips, but largely this is an album about the emotional potential of electric guitar.

    I got lost. Seriously and truly. The lines are at times sinewy and at other times choppy. Sometimes the music pushed, and other times it pulled. Not unlike the total chopsocky first installment of Kill Bill, there is the danger of overkill. And perhaps Licht and Kaiser crossed the line. It they did, though, I crossed willingly as well.

    There are folks who ask me why I listen to "weird" music. First, it's not weird to me. But second, I get off on ideas. This album is overflowing with ideas, ideas that are played to within an inch of their lives. The rush is brutal, kinda like riding the pipeline (as if I've ever done that!). Drop the needle anywhere here and you will be more than satisfied.

    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Sample heavy and full of distortion, Martin Atkins has dropped his heavy touch with the knobs on a band again.

    And not a bad thing, either. After all, the mastermind of Pigface must have a good idea or two left. And Lick has the vicious grunge-cum-industrial songwriting style that seems perfectly suited to this sound.

    Ten doses of meager melodies and booming beats, with swirls of fuzz guitar and bouncing bass notes ringing throughout. I'm not sure hope this translates live (and I missed the band when it trekked recently through the area), but on this disc the sound is simple awe-inspiring.

    Pile-driving (what else from Atkins and Invisible, anyway?) mean-spirited grungy industrial sludge. Yowzers. All that and this is still a great album.

    Lickety Split
    Volume Won
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Pleasantly sloppy hardcore with a pop edge. Nothing amazing, but quite good nonetheless.

    The formula is set: gang vocals, classic riffola and an everpresent upbeat straight 4/4 tempo. The real charm here is the interplay between members of the band. These guys are having fun.

    And that transfers well into the songs. Nothing outstanding by themselves, the pure joy of the band carries the day. The production leaves everything a bit muddy, but that's probably best. The playing is ordinary at best, and I think it's better to imagine great vocals rather than be proven wrong.

    I had more fun than I probably should have. What the hell.

    Lickety Split
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    My review of the first set from these DC hardcore artisans would fit in here. Nothing has changed, everything is just as solid as before. Solid pop hardcore with just enough sloppy energy to keep the proceedings fun.

    The songwriting really is the key, and Lickety Split always keeps the songs just loose enough. Nothing complicated, just powerful little songs with just enough hook to make an impression.

    The sound is a bit of a problem. It varies wildly from song to song, sometimes very sharp and other times kinda muted. I know this is punk rock, but this part of the process could have been done better. Much better.

    Still, the high quality of the songs and playing manage to break through any technical issues. Once again, more fun that I should have had. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Nicely creepy electro-pop. The press references Nick Cave and the Legendary Pink Dots, and I'm not gonna quibble with that. The lyrics are heavy with sarcasm and irony and the melodies are almost delicately deadly.

    The band is, for the most part, Julian Tulip, though Single Cell Orchestra and Eric Powell of 16 Volt help out on a couple tracks. Tulip certainly knows what he wants to get out of his sound, and he arrives there with apparent ease.

    The stuff is wrenching, despite the sterile electronic sound. In fact, the rather tinny keyboards and slight drum machine almost play into the hands of the rather harsh vocal work. As for the latter, let's just say that Tulip's talent isn't singing. Though he does work what he has extremely well.

    The sort of music that kids at college radio still love. I, myself, am still a sucker for overwrought angst and snippy one-liners. Deep? Not particularly. But sharp enough to put a Ginsu to shame.

    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Up-tempo three (or four)-chord monte. Nothing complicated, nothing to fuck up.

    And Lidsville takes care to keep the sound simple and unassuming. The songs are nice and thick, with chunky chords and infectious (but not insipid) choruses. While it is that easy to describe Lidsville's approach to music, it's also pretty easy for me to say I like this album. Big loads. With tons of love.

    And where to go from here? I guess I'll just have to crank the disc again.

    Steuart Leibig/Minim
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    Three pieces here. "Mosaic" is made up of 23 short pieces (called "miniatures" in the liners), all based on Haiku. "Chrysanthemum" is a "single movement in 14 parts." "A Single Rosehip Bursts in Praise" was written in collaboration with a dance company. Whew!

    Like Jeff Kaiser, Liebig seems to specialize in highly-crafted music that sounds improvisational but, in fact, is not. There may be moments here and there, but these pieces sound tightly-written to me. They're played with energy and enthusiasm, of course, but I don't hear any flights of fancy.

    And that's cool. These pieces are intended to challenge the listener, to make us hear more than we were expecting to hear. I like to talk about field trips to the frontal lobes, but this work is much more active than that. There's no spacing out here. Conscious, willful thought is required.

    Works for me. The three works here are distinct, but they are also quite obviously all written by the same hand. Liebig's work is sharp and twisting, commanding attention. Listening to this disc was exhausting, yet ultimately exhilarating. Quite the rush.

    (Steuart Liebig/The Mentones)
    Nowhere Calling
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    Liebig plays contrabass guitar and wrote the music. The Mentones (Tony Atherton, Bill Barrett and Joseph Berardi) flesh out these compositions in the most visceral and exciting way possible.

    The result is one of the most invigorating avant garde jazz albums I've heard in a while. Liebig has long impressed me with his willingness to try out new ideas, and the works here are no exception. Still, it is the performance of the band (Liebig included) that really blows me away.

    These guys play together. Long-time Primus fans might remember the chaos of those early Caroline albums, when Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde attacked each other with a fury and still managed to play on the same page. That competitive, yet collaborative, dynamic faded as the band scored success, but I've always loved it. These guys have the same feel. They know what the others will be doing, and they push each other to the edge.

    Always moving, always finding new ways to create sounds, the players have created an album that never stops. I wish it would never end, but the laws of physics don't allow such a thing. I guess I'll have to live with that.

    Liege Lord
    Burn to My Touch
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    I don't usually do catalog reviews, but when the band asks, well, I guess I'm a softie. This album was released in 1987, and really, it was a few years ahead of its time.

    Very contemporary with what bands like Queensryche were doing then, and it's not hard to understand how this kind of got lost in the shuffle. Remember, this appeared in the Bon Jovi-Poison heydey.

    The music is quite sophisticated, though the playing and singing don't always quite measure up. The production tries to mask some of the deficiencies with little tricks (harmonizing guitar lines, overdubbing vocals to a silly extent), but that only emphasizes the problems.

    Still, a solid trip through the Eurometal style. Ambition is never a bad thing.

    Master Control
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Released in 1988, the stuff here is even more Iron Maiden-influenced than the first album. More of a heavy, plodding sound, though, following the trends of the day a bit more.

    While the production job from Terry Date is much better than the one on the first album, it still can't make up for the band's technical problems. Speed seems to clog up some of the fret work, and singer Joseph Comeau sounds out of his range whenever he reaches up near the treble range.

    And yet, the overall effect is appealing. I like the basic ideas Liege Lord works with, and the performance difficulties aren't overwhelming. They're just a bit annoying.

    Another workmanlike disc. Liege Lord never worked up to greatness, but that wasn't for lack of trying.

    Life After Life
    Harrahya 7"
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    Old school west coast hardcore (not unlike DK, D.O.A. and such) with the added benefits of accordion and keyboard filling out the sound.

    The two tunes were recorded live in the studio (no overdubs, I assume), leaving the already wild sound even more primal. Life After Life is messy and fun, and the production brings out every dripping moment.

    And the songs are mordant as well. If you can make out what is really being sung, you have better ears than me. A part of "Doors" seems to be stolen from "Psycho Killer", but that just might be me. Certainly a perfect appropriation, anyway. Just adds another dimension for me to dig.

    The Life and Times
    Suburban Hymns
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    Ah, some luscious, heavy-handed power pop. Not as much distortion and dissonance as seems to be popular these days, but still shrouded in just enough mystery to keep everyone interested.

    And that wonderful Bonham-esque up-and-down drumming style. Gives this stuff the majestic feel it deserves. Kinda epochal that way. Makes me feel like I'm listening to the last will and testament of rock and roll itself.

    Well, maybe not quite. But this stuff is wonderfully evocative, and the dirty hooks that inhabit these songs are just the sort of slutty pleasure I need to get through these dark days. What a throb these songs have!

    Sounds too simple to be true. The Life and Times take some basic ideas and smear them up nicely into one hell of an impressionistic work. Little pieces that come together into some amazing pictures. Listen in awe.

    The Magician EP
    (Stiff Slack)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    Stiff Slack is a Japanese label, so I don't know how available this one will be. Then again, if I'm getting it other folks in the U.S. ought to be able to as well. In any case, the Life and Time bashes out five distortion-laden pieces here, and they're all pretty much transcendent. Loud, sprawling and surprisingly melodic, this stuff pricks up the ears immediately.

    Yes, it's a bit ponderous at times, and yes, the accumulation of ideas can at times seem pretentious. But all that is just fine if the songs themselves justify the majestic sweep. And boy, do they.

    Guitar inspired, guitar written (I assume) and certainly guitar driven, these songs are proof that folks simply have not kissed Les Paul's ass nearly enough. The Life and Times plays rock and roll at its most ambitious, and they do it awfully well.

    Life in a Blender
    Homewrecker Spoon
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    At times, Don Rauf and Life in a Blender do, as many reviewers have noted, highly resemble Robyn Hitchock. Listen to about three seconds of "The Answer" on this album and try say otherwise.

    But listen closer, and there's a lot more going on. Rauf's vocals can be gruff or lissome depending on the song. And his bandmates can churn out charming clunksters or soaring pop tunes with equal ease.

    As near as I can tell, these folks do resemble Hitchcock in one more area: age. And there's something about folks who have been making music since the late 70s. They seem to have a solid grasp on what works and what does not. I can't speak to past efforts, but Life in a Blender kept this album filler free.

    An old soul of an album, and that's a compliment. There's wisdom to be received here. Just settle into your favorite chair and all will be revealed.

    Life of Agony
    River Runs Red
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    Didn't like the advance at all. Psycho told me to give it another listen, because "everyone" else loves it. Okay, here goes.

    Highly anthemic fare that staggers in somewhere between today's Cathedral and Rush. Why Rush? Why not? I could also mention ELP, but the songs aren't that long. Just rather self-indulgent.

    Someday folks will realize that bombast does not mean great music. And just because someone tells you (honestly) that he or she believes something is the next big thing, remember that you don't have to sign on. We coulda nipped that Stone Temple Pilots shit in the bud with enough independent minds.

    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    The second disc from these New York boys shows a massive shift in direction. This movement was probably pushed by the production of Steve Thompson (mixed by Thompson and Michael Barbiero). Remember Thompson and Barbiero?

    They produced most of Tesla's albums and mixed Appetite for Destruction, among other things. There was a time that Thompson and Barbiero defined a pure metal sound. And they try and replicate that here.

    And do a decent job, really. The main problem is that Lie of Agony has decided to become a nouveau grunge band (a la Alice in Chains), forgoing the metalcore and prog leanings of River Runs Red. The main problem is that they still aren't writing interesting songs.

    The main problem with the debut was that Life of Agony tried too much, putting too many things into the music. Here the band has settled into a sound, which really should have helped. Unfortunately they picked a dull sound, and often don't spice things up much. Towards the middle of the album an occasional Type-O goth style is mixed in, and the songs are much better. "Other Side of the River" and "Let's Pretend" could almost fit into that whole early Warrior Soul sound that I really dig.

    Most of the album, though, is full of overblown pomposity. Thompson and Barbiero really know how to create a full sound, and Life of Agony sounds great. And at times, the songs really kick in as well. But too much of Ugly sounds uninspired. This is better than the debut, but the band has a ways to go.

    Soul Searching Sun
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    It's interesting. Among all the bands I've reviewed, I get more comments on my negative reaction to Life of Agony than almost anything else. I can't explain it, really, but I just don't connect with the band.

    Life of Agony is still a band in search of consistency. For example, take the first three songs. "Hope" is metallized grunge pure and simple. "Weeds" is a fairly attractive (not to mention accessible) punky raver. And "Gently Sentimental" seems to want to be some kind of pop song, at least until the STP-esque chorus wanders by.

    By and large, this album is a little closer to LOA's first. And I don't think that's a terribly good idea. The songs are arrogantly bombastic, as if daring me to punch holes in the pomposity. The thing is, that just isn't hard to do at all. Behind all of the excessive studio tricks lies... nothing.

    Life of Agony is still reaching for the big ring, and it shows in the worst way. A monster big rock album, and who knows, maybe it will fly with the masses this time. It's just not my bag at all.

    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    I'm always interested in hearing how the major labels are sanitizing underground sounds. But Lifer really isn't doing that. There's a very vague nod to extreme hardcore, but mostly this is more Rage lite than anything.

    Which isn't horrible, but it's not particularly interesting. Yes, there are some samples and loops and something that sounds like scratching. But that doesn't make up for the astonishingly generic songwriting. I mean, there's just not much going on here.

    Produced by Alex Lifeson, which either means Republic is gonna give this a push or that he was a bit bored while waiting to record another Rush album. Hard to say. I just can't hear anything on this album that even the dullest teenage could find original. One astonishingly ordinary album.

    Light FM
    Buzz Kill City
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Synth-driven rock and roll. Sounds kinda 80s, sounds kinda MBV, sounds kinda frickin' cool. Two singers (a guy and a gal) mix things up nicely. And the songs sparkle.

    That is, Light FM doesn't stint on the hooks. Sure, they make sure the riffage has the proper heft, but once the chorus drops, the songs are in overdrive. This is as it should be.

    The sound is shiny, but with a mellow buff. The sharp edges have been refined. All that's left is a sound that sounds vaguely nostalgic, and yet rather forward-thinking as well.

    One of those albums that simply makes me happy. These songs are exceptional pieces of craft, and they're played with style. Wallow in the glory.

    Light Sleeper
    Light Sleeper
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Light Sleeper plays that Bacharach/David-style of pop music. Lots of strummed guitars, lots of restrained energy. Angst channeled into "ba ba ba"s and "koo koo ka choo"s. That sort of thing.

    And there's this loopily kinetic lead guitar that sorta drops in and out at the most appropriate of times. It's the guitar that really sets Light Sleeper apart. There are a lot of bands that do a nice job of channeling the early 70s, but not many are able to update the sound as well as these folks.

    The production is stock for this kinda music. Vaguely fuzzy with an emphasis on the treble. The only part that doesn't fit is the exceptionally flat (some might call it "clean") sound on that lead guitar, and that counterpoint works astonishingly well.

    What might have been simply another fine pop record climbs a notch above. Light Sleeper is aptly named; just when you think you've settled down there's something that pricks up the ears and wakes you up. I like that, myself.

    Lights & Motion
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Occasionally minimalist electronic fare that is more chilly than chill-out--and certainly not ambient. Christoffer Franzen has assembled a number of subtle songs that take a bit of time to assimilate in the brain. Much more airy than Air and, well, I could keep going. I haven't heard anyone find as much space within an electronic space, and yet many of these songs end up as nearly full-blown anthems. Quite a startling sound.

    Lights of Euphoria
    Lights of Euphoria
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    New Order on ludes, Sisters on seconal, whatever: this is experimental electro-goth instrumental stuff that is so sparsely arranged at the start you sometimes wonder whether the disc has the ability to get going at all.

    But eventually the songs flesh themselves out, the beats start cranking (occasionally) and the whole project creeps along.

    This doesn't really get me off, but I do like spots. It's a little sterile, overall, to really make me sit up and take notice. But it sure is different, and that's worth a few points in my book.

    Lights Over Roswell
    Exposed EP
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    About ten years ago, the concept of merging industrial dance music and hard rock really took hold. Lots of people took the sound in vaguely different directions, from the "digicore" embodied by the Reconstriction imprint to the "cold wave" espoused by 21st Circuitry. Lights Over Roswell isn't quite as heavy as, say, Clay People or 16 Volt, and it's not as techno-influenced as, say, Covenant.

    More of a middle ground, I guess. With something of a modern sheen--sharper sound all around, really. Reminds me more than a little of KMFDM's dancier moments, the kinda stuff that can still get me on the floor to do some serious damage.

    Fun, with a bite. I can't say as I think this sound is really making a comeback, but I was sure happy to wallow in the pool for a while. Lights Over Roswell sure does have a good feel for the style.

    Like a Fox
    Where's My Golden Arm?
    (Transit of Venus)
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    Wonderfully raucous indie rock that borrows just enough from the Flaming Lips (1988-present and all that entails) to throw a spacey spin into the grooves.

    There are plenty of laptop, glam and new wave elements thrashing around with the raggedy guitars and sing-song choruses. The lyrics wander off and sometimes never come back. But somehow, someway, the songs manage to come together by the time they finish.

    It's a close thing at times, but I kinda like that sort of dramatic tension. And the tangents are so pretty (not to mention loopy) that it's hard not to enjoy the sideshow.

    Like a Fox runs along the edge of disaster for almost this entire album. And every time, the band stays on the side of good music. This has to be intentional. If these guys didn't know what they were doing, this album would be a complete mess. I like the way they think.

    Like Wow
    Burn, World, Burn
    (Psycho Teddy)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Like Wow really wants to be freaky weird. The band wants to make some sort of artistic statement. There is a lot wanting. Just not the stuff the band probably, well, wanted.

    Thomas Truax sounds something like of a more excitable Nick Cave. That's probably the most interesting thing here. Much of the music is serviceable, if a little clunky, but it just doesn't break new ground.

    Just sort of rambling art rock, really. Without much in the way of, well, art. All of the little thoughts tossed into the pot just don't work together. I don't believe that this was supposed to be quite the mess it is. Sometimes stuff just works out that way.

    There is another possibility: I blew this one. It's really rare that I come across an album that simply says nothing to me the way this one did. It might be that this is the greatest and most innovative album to escape from the sewer in many a day. I just don't hear anything of the sort.

    Lillian Axe
    Crucified CD5
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Lead track from their new album Psychoschizophrenia, a title which sets new standards for redundancy.

    The last time I saw these guys, they were playing a lame cover of the Paul McCartney-penned Badfinger song.

    This is average glam, and where would we be without such things today?

    (Grand Slamm-I.R.S.)
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    Lillian Axe signed to MCA back when the glam revolution was about over. Now that even Poison can't sell that many records any more, how is it Lillian Axe is still around?

    Well, for glam, this isn't bad (and might I say that single was a terrible choice). And there is no cheesy rendition of a bad seventies song on this one, so an obvious improvement over their last effort.

    Actually, I am familiar with all their stuff, and this is easily their best album. It sounds dated and is a little silly, but hell, that didn't stop the Spin Doctors, now did it?

    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    A decent take on the lighter side of northwest pop, though this does sound like all the members are under 16 (as they are). The songs get a little sing-songy in the chorus and the lyrical content is a bit simplistic for this sort of music.

    But all that said, I still enjoyed the listen. A couple years of working together on more mature stuff could leave Limbo anywhere but.

    Liminal/TV Pow
    split 7"
    (Gentle Giant)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    This isn't two completely different bands, really, as the three members of TV Pow are now part of the greater being that is Liminal. This is Gentle Giant, so you should know what's forthcoming.

    Tender explorations of the wild noise frontier, of course. Both tracks were recorded live, which adds another layer of grime to the already speckled sound. The TV Pow track, "A Brief History of Flashing Light", which was recorded four years ago, incorporates a white noise base and then slowly adds and subtracts background sounds. Very subtle, and very effective.

    The Liminal song, "Atoms Are Not Things", has a lot more going on. There is no underpinning of noise, but simply the effects of a wide variety of sounds playing off each other. This lends to a much deeper sound, one which doesn't seem to have any real end. It's real easy to get lost here.

    Sonic adventures of the highest order.

    Ack 7"
    (Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Woof! Aggro pop punk (a la Epitaph-era Offspring, muted through a Green Day filter), produced by Greg Hetson at West Beach. That there's a formula for some seriously cool music. Well, it could be disaster, but that's not the case at all.

    The boys have an unerring pop ear and the desire to crank up the distortion in the guitars. Crunchy hooks which echo long after the songs are done. Four little pieces of joy, each one a gem. There's something seriously cool going on here.

    Not knowing a damned thing about Limp, this bit of vinyl has elevated the band to a fairly high spot in my little chart of cool bands. In an era of increasingly boring and generic punk music. Limp proves here that there's always room for good songwriting and a kick-ass attitude.

    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    As most folks know, Honest Don's is the poppier side of Fat Wreck Chords. I'm not sure of the exact connection (and I'm not enough of a journalist to actually ask), but what the hell. I say that to explain that Limp is a band that would fit in well with Fat Wreck, except for these great keyboards, which kinda pop the songs out just a bit too much for some punk types.

    Thing is, the band's pop instincts are astonishingly good. The hooks drip honey and have enough of a punch to really entice a wide range of folks. This is power punk pop at its finest.

    Just a soaring sound here. It's impossible for me to do anything but bob along with the flow. There is some nice riffage (heavy at times) for those who want a guitar to hold on to, but I'll take the sugar any day.

    And Limp deals out sweetness by the cupful. There's enough of an undercurrent to make repeat visits worthwhile, but Limp is pure pleasure from the first note.

    Jon Lindsay
    Cities & Schools
    (File 13)
    reviewed 8/1/16

    As pop-rock goes, this set is as good as I've heard in a long time. Lindsay does most of the work himself, and the laptop production is a sound that threw me for a while. Neither major label over-the-top nor crunchy indie garage, this slick, yet restrained, sound seems an odd choice for these bouncy songs.

    But after a while, I began to hear the advantages. For starters, Lindsay is a subtle musical craftsman. He leaves little pieces here and there--pieces that would be lost with a louder or rougher sound. And anyway, this is pop. And sometimes minimalist is just the ticket.

    The songs themselves could have been lifted out of any era since the 80s. Toe tapping and tuneful, with just enough guitar crunch to leave a mark. Lindsay's sound is distinctly indistinct, and that leaves his songs as the stars. As the should be.

    I imagine the sound is one born of necessity, but it seems to inform Lindsay's writing style. His lyrics some in snippets, leaving room for just the right amount of musical noodling. He is definitely influenced by 60s pop, both Brill Building and Paul Simon, but he grew up later. And so there are echoes of the Presidents, Fountains of Wayne, LCD Soundsystem, Joe Jackson and many more. All adding up to Jon Lindsay.

    The deceptive strength of this album flows all the way through. Lindsay's polymathic ear serves him well. Sit back and let this one this you much harder than you expect.

    A Manual for Free Living: Installation EP
    reviewed in issue #290, October 2007

    Dylan von Wagner has a certain way about the way he sings. Imagine a restrained Eddie Vedder with a greater flair for the dramatic. The band itself seems capable of playing just about every side of rock and roll.

    And it does on the four songs here. By and large, the pieces are piano-driven (ah, my not-so-secret weakness), but that doesn't really tie these guys into any particular sound. They can whip out a raver and they can take the slow burn the anthemic heaven.

    Well-crafted, but even more importantly, well-played. The energy level is high, and the emotional impact of these songs is substantial. A full-length would be most welcome.

    Link 80
    Killing Katie
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Ska-inflected hardcore. Somewhere between the Blue Meanies and Voodoo Glow Skulls. The horns are nicely desultory, but the skankin' doesn't merge very well with the more straightforward riffage.

    The recording is strangely muted. Not a great job there. Plenty of stuff gets lost in the middle ranges. Still, and that's a big STILL, I really dig the wail of the horns over the hardcore. Makes up for a lot of the problems.

    Link 80 is not particularly creative when it comes to songwriting. The structures are stock, though every once in a while there's a cool break (usually having something to do with ska) that eases up the action nicely. And like I said, I'm a sucker for bleary horns draped over loud guitars.

    Link 80 hasn't quite figured out what it wants to do with its sound. Is it a ska band that plays fast and loud? A hardcore band which utilizes the odd skankin' groove? Just a bunch of guys who play music they like? Well, it sounds like the latter. I'd prefer a bit more cohesion and attention to detail, particularly with such simplistic music. But I'll satisfy myself with the band's intense energy and, of course, those bitchen horns.

    The Struggle Continues...
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Oh, it's been a while since I've had such a good taste of hardcore ska. More hardcore flavored by horns and a good helping of skank beats, but see, that's fine with me. The anthems just come naturally to this sound, and the power can't be beat.

    Link 80 isn't the most diverse-sounding band in the world. These songs are about riffage first, last and always. The guitars lead the parade, followed by the horns. This sort of construction allows for the power that I mentioned.

    Full-tilt adrenaline, with a few asides for the requisite cooling-off periods. Lush sound, the kind of wall that makes this music work so well. Quite the package, truly.

    Like I said, Link 80 won't win any awards for innovation. Doesn't matter. Anything that can make the blood move like this has everything that it needs. Better than two pots of coffee.

    An Instinct for Detection
    (Time Bomb/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Some stuff BMG UK has had its hands on for a while (about half the tracks on the album date back to 1993), but since us yanks have just gotten around to appreciating this stuff we so brilliantly call "electronica" (wasn't there a dreadful New Order side project by the same name?), Lionrock finds its way to our shores now.

    Which is, in general, a good thing. It would have been better if this simply came over when it was made, but, well, we can't have everything. Justin Robertson crafts beats and sample structures as well as anyone, the results often catchy but still somewhat disconcerting. Even when merely a backdrop for rap/spoken vocals, the music stands up well.

    Robertson leaves enough organic material in the mix to keep the sound from getting too sterile, but he's a big fan of techno beats, so there's always something electronic assaulting the ears. A nice mix, really.

    Along with the main album is a second disc of singles and remixes. While not as vital as the main disc, this is a nice treat. There's the ubiquitous Chemical Brothers remix (is there a band those boys haven't touched?) and plenty of other interesting goodies. Okay, so this stuff is trendy these days. It can still be damned good.

    The Lions
    Iconoclastic Motion Picture Soundtrack/Pub Songs & Sing-Alongs
    reviewed in issue #329, August 2011

    A Calgary trio that loves the 70s. Imagine T. Rex romping through some Floyd, with all the excess that implies. Hell, there's even a song called "Syd...Is a Serial Killer." So they're fully aware of what they're doing.

    And while the uninitiated might feel that those parameters are a bit constraining, in fact just about anything goes. Glittering raspy harmonies, moody grungers and some serious bombast. All delivered with panache.

    As for the album title, the apparent conceit is that these songs were written for a variety of movies that don't, in fact, exist. Like I said, somewhere between the Floyd and T. Rex. On the good side--the punchy, not-entirely self-involved side, that is.

    BJM fans ought to enjoy this, as will geezers like me who actually remember when lots of bands tried (and failed) to make music this good. Eighteen tracks, no filler. Give this one a few spins and you'll be addicted.

    The Lions Rampant
    It's Fun to Do Bad Things
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #316, April 2010

    Um, let's rock and roll. Really loud and really fast. And really good, too.

    It takes a lot of work to make an album sound as alive and unrestrained as this one does. The producer needs to have a handle on what the band does, and the mix has to be spot on. The Lions Rampant have done everything well.

    Oh, and the songs are wonderful small explosions. Sure, this fits in nicely with all the garage stuff of the past decade, but few bands can rip like this and still use nuance effectively. Underneath the rough and tough exterior lies a band that knows exactly how to craft a song.

    When you can craft to perfection and then record the song as if it was just tossed off onto tape, then you're doing things right. These boys have the know how, and they've done it right. My scalp is still tingling.

    Elliot Lipp
    The Outside
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    A much more traditional electronic "jam" album, Elliot Lipp takes some excellent German stock and simmers with healthy doses of hip-hop and indie experimentalism. So you've got grooves, gapes and some seriously chilly keyboards.

    Lipp isn't breaking any new ground here, but he sure does breathe some life into this sound. There's a playfulness, particularly in the beats, that leavens everything else. These songs glow with pleasure.

    And that's true even when Lipp is digging deep into his most wiggy thoughts. No matter how far he heads toward the edge, there's always a smile in the sound. It's not a cloying smile, or the smile of the cheesehead. It's simply the smile of someone having fun.

    As I noted, this one should me much more appealing to the purists that the Head Like a Kite reviewed above. But both are fine works in their own ways and ought to captivate anyone who likes to think a bit about music.

    Liquid Daydream
    ...From a Drift to a Glide
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    I'll admit it. I'm one of those folks who is completely mystified by the Grateful Dead-like fan base of Pearl Jam. Didn't think there was much of a musical connection, though I could see some philosophical similarities.

    Liquid Daydream puts the musical side in perspective for me. The songs here are very much in the loping, anthemic style of Ten, but they incorporate groove stylings as much as grunge. What was once a puzzlement to me has become crystal clear.

    These guys do what they do quite well. I think the sound is a wee bit too close to Pearl Jam for comfort (in particular, Matthais Sampson is way too Vedder-esque in his warblings), but if that sorta thing doesn't bother you too much, well, Liquid Daydream does put together a number of solid songs.

    I would prefer that the band find its own sound, or at least refine these ideas into a somewhat more original form. The quality is good, but I just want to hear some newer ideas.

    Liquid Hips
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    Unpretentious rap-core from the heart of the (NY) city. The production left a somewhat muddy sound; the guitars wander in through the fog.

    The lyrics are mostly silly and the sound gets repetitive and cheesy. But I can't find any of the arrogance that similar bands like Biohazard exude, so I'm in a forgiving mood.

    Static is a pretty nondescript album that still managed to get me going from time to time. Sometimes you have to indulge in simple pleasures.

    reviewed in issue #102, 3/11/96

    Wrong place, wrong time. For now, anyway.

    Liquid Hips is a fine purveyor of that slightly funky, definitely glam style of metal that lots of us kiddies (even if we weren't technically kiddies) bough up in the late 80s. What folks have taken to calling hair metal, though I don't like that term. That's just me.

    Anyway, Liquid Hips could pass for post-Feelgood Crue or stuff like that. The boys have a decent enough feel for this sort of music, though the lyrics are really dull. And to make this work, you have to be rude, crude and socially unacceptable. Liquid Hips is socially aware. So this is kinda like Tool singing over a Poison sound. I'm usually in favor of trying new things and all, but this doesn't work.

    The whole product is just that; it sounds overly crafted and produced, leaving the mess pretty dull. Not terrible, and the boys get points for trying to take this sort of music to an area of responsibility. But the music ain't leaving its shithole, and the lyrics aren't enough to carry this album.

    Liquid Sex Decay
    Liquid Sex Decay
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Featuring former members of Apparatus, this project delves deeply into experimental electronic caverns. Not really ambient, Liquid Sex Decay proffers its ideas in a deliberate fashion, as though ushering them with great care.

    Much like Apparatus, Liquid Sex Decay prefers to move through all sorts of electronic sounds, from ethereal and ambient to techno and even some industrial guitar moments. The results are generally good, though sometimes the final sound seems oddly lightweight. Perhaps that's a result of the very trebly-heavy mix; I don't know.

    Indeed, this disc is basically the follow-up to Apparatus, although marginally more conceptual. The thing is, I don't get off on it quite as much. This is good stuff for the most part, but it doesn't knock me out.

    I like the use of diverse electronic influences, but the end product doesn't break out ahead of the pack. Better than average, to be sure, but with plenty of room for growth.

    Liquid Tension Experiment
    Liquid Tension Experiment
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Tony Levin (again), John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess. Portnoy assembled this band for this one album, much like the circumstances surrounding the Bozzio Levin Stevens disc. After a couple failed attempts (which might have heard Billy Sheehan on bass and any number of guitarists), this lineup came together (Portnoy "settling" for Dream Theater partner Petrucci on guitar) for a week and put these songs together.

    Adventurous, particularly in the rhythm areas. The keyboards are basic stock prog stuff, well-played, but nothing terribly surprising. Petrucci has some nice licks, but he, too, generally sticks closer to an ordinary (if extraordinarily pretty) style.

    The songs take off when Portnoy blasts his way through some seriously creative drum licks and Levin skips along, sometimes leading, sometimes following (since most of the drum tracks were recorded first, I guess Levin was merely playing around with Portnoy's ideas, though this is some masterful playing). And then there's the last five tracks, which consist of an extended (28 1/2 minute) unedited jam session. A mess, if you pay attention to construction, but there's some serious shit flying in parts. It probably could have been edited down, but to hear it like this is to understand why musicians must play with other musicians.

    Too rote in too many places, this "supergroup" side project still travels to many fascinating ports of call. Not great, but in the presence of greatness. Sometimes flashes will have to do.

    See also Bozzio Levin Stevens and Bruford Levin Upper Extremities.

    Liquor Bike
    Home Improvement Kit 7"
    Reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Pleasantly tuneful in-yer-face punk pop. Liquor Bike keeps the adrenaline flowing freely, not bothering too much with tuning or even coherent chord choices. And honestly, you're just not gonna notice.

    This band has a bunch of 7"s out there (so sez the press), and I'd like to hear them so as to get a really good feel for what Liquor Bike really likes to do. This reminds me a lot of fluf (if fluf were to take inspiration from Superchunk as opposed to Husker Du), and that's not a bad thing. In fact, both of the tunes here are quite nice, if a little under-produced.

    More than worth searching out. I'd love to hear a full set.

    Louie Lista
    To Sleep with the Lights On (advance cassette)
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    This is called "Blues Theater", and it sure is. Lista is a great harp player, and he can relate a good story, not to mention history.

    Litmus Green
    It Must Suck to Be You
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Oh, what wonderful paranoid musings we have here. Litmus Green has expletive-riddled rants against organized religion (more than one song concerning Jesus personally), Jenny Craig, the Clintons, Operation Rescue and plenty more.

    A fairly generic buzzsaw hardcore attack accompanies these screeds, though I'm not sure what other music would sound better behind "Jesus fucking H. Christ, just shut up and let me live my life?" I mean, we're not talking about brain surgery here, just a whaleboat full omnidirectionally directed anger.

    Do the songs actually make sense? Is there a coherent political agenda? Have the guys discovered the mythical fourth chord? Of course not. One of the ultimate extensions of the NOFX "He's more punk than..." bit.

    Lots of uncoordinated shouting, with a main course of dreadfully-played music. Strangely enough, it's also a hell of a lot of fun. The amusement factor runs high.

    Little Children
    Little Children
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Not unlike a weaker version of Cuts Like a Knife-era Bryan Adams, Little Children ply the pop/rock rapids with technical skill and rather mundane songwriting.

    I don't want to sound like a one trick pony here, but this sort of thing has been done before. I kinda liked it when I was twelve, but when you leave childhood you put away childish things. And kids today aren't listening to this sorta thing. Rapidly aging Gen X-ers are, but they seem to prefer the real, if refried, Bryan Adams article.

    Sharp production and nice playing can't overcome the fleabitten songs. After coming out of mothballs, this type of stuff sounds a lot worse.

    Little Name
    How to Swim and Live
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    Lee Barker is Little Name. He's from somewhere in England, which doesn't really matter. This is Britpop of a sort (Belle and Sebastian-y, I guess), but it really has the feel of the obsessive American one-man-band sort.

    First, the man adores Bacharachian melodic lines. Hell, don't we all? And he doesn't make things too pretty. There are some nicely-chimed harmonies here and there, but rarely does a song enter treacle territory.

    Rather, this has the feel of a well-crafted lark. All the pieces are perfectly placed, but they don't sound forced. This album moves along like a warm spring breeze, all wafty and the like.

    Sometimes it's nice to relax into a comfy pillow and let the day drain away. Little Name knows all about it and is ready to wash your cares away.

    The Living Abortions
    The Living Abortions
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Self-indulgent, excessive punk-tinged rock. Really reminds me of a long-time Austin band known as the Pocket Fishrmen, but I can't find any names that match up. Oh well.
    Lots of spacey distortion, lead guitar licks that don't always coincide with where the rhythm section happens to be, and vocals that are out of scope with the music and reality in general. A real ball of confusion, but plenty of fun, anyway.
    And the center is tight. The drums and bass invariably lock into a groove for every song, which gives the frontline peripherals room to wander and return. The song subjects are generally silly and not terribly original, but why worry about that? This sounds great!
    The mixing on this album is near perfect, moving the various pieces around from song to song and always emphasizing the correct track. Hey, I'm not sure this is the music of tomorrow or anything, but it sounds good today.

    The Living End
    Roll On
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Bounding, anthemic punk rawk from Australia. On the major label tip, so there's some bucks behind this. Luckily, the album doesn't really sound like that. There's a nice, gritty underbelly to these songs.

    The apparent need to turn every song into a minor sing-along masterpiece does indicate some "industry" input, but once again, the songs are more than good enough to overcome any corporate attempts to "fix" the band.

    A lot of fun, really, too light to really get all worked up about. Are these three guys the next anything? Probably not. They just play a few fun songs and make me smile. I can handle that.

    Asking for more would be a problem. The Living End won't end world hunger or even convince Ariel Sharon that Arabs are people, too. Nope, all these guys do is rip off 14 pieces of musical joy. That's just fine with me.

    Living Sacrifice
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    Christian death metal, and their main vocal influence seems to be Cannibal Corpse. Not even a hint of enunciation. I stared at the lyric sheet, and had no clue where in each song I was. The vocals are mostly this rough moan.

    Musically, they incorporate many elements of doom along with more traditional death metal. Perhaps it's the Christian version of backward masking! Subverting millions of those secular humanist youth. I sure wish I'd thought of it first.

    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    Completely underproduced, this sounds like it was recorded in a mattress factory. Where's the sound?

    Inhabit is a big improvement over previous efforts. Instead of merely copying their influences, I hear the genesis of a real Living Sacrifice sound. And you can't call it progressive, though it is slower than before.

    I really wish I could hear everything that is going on. There is just so much mush in the background, it's very difficult. With better engineering, I think Living Sacrifice could really leap out. The chops are fine and some decent musical ideas are emerging. Next time, I guess.

    (Solid State-Tooth & Nail)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    The title is appropriate in at least a couple ways. As most folks know, Living Sacrifice is a Christian death metal band. And now the guys are on the Tooth & Nail roster after a couple albums on R.E.X.

    The songwriting and playing are quite improved from the last time I heard the band, which was about three years ago. The production is very clean, which shows off the improved skills quite well. The song lyrics are still somewhat one-dimensional, not reading much differently than the stuff Petra or the Newsboys or whoever might craft.

    But even so, I've got to say this is easily the best I've heard from Living Sacrifice. Yeah, they're way behind the death metal (extreme, whatever) trends, but at least this sounds good. That's a big step from the past.

    I still think the emphasis on the message (not the message itself) has detracted somewhat from the musical potential, but I'll live with one step at a time. And this is no small hop.

    The Hammering Process
    (Solid State)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    It's been a while since I checked in with Living Sacrifice. Last time I heard these guys, I thought they needed to focus on the music a bit more than the message. I guess they thought so, too, because this is a complete reworking of the band's sound.

    Like labelmates Zao (reviewed in the last issue), Living Sacrifice borrows heavily from Fear Factory. Both in the use of technical riffage and in the willingness to try out new sounds and ideas. These boys have come a long way.

    This is a solid album. It sounds good, and that should help the message to take hold that much better. While not the creative equal of Zao, Living Sacrifice acquits itself well here. The improvement is obvious and exciting.

    You don't have to sacrifice your brain to get into this brand of extreme metal. Intelligence abounds, from the song construction to the quality of the lyrics. And, of course, it rocks. Just had to get that bit in.

    Lizard Music
    Lobster T
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Jangle pop with a real penchant for peppy noise. Lizard Music has no intention of bridging the gap between sanity and chaos, and thus we must revel in the chasm.

    Plenty of nice moments, but unfortunately Lizard Music doesn't know how to play pop music straight and so instead of bliss we get saccharine filler. The band is much better when everything is a complete mess.

    Who knows exactly where the band wants to go? I think the strategy of writing hooky stuff and then filling up the empty spaces with whatever is lying around is a pretty good one. I liked that part of the disc, anyway. But taking the album as a whole, Lizard Music is positively inconsistent.

    Let the guys work a little more and find a more coherent vision (even if that results in wilder music). See what maturity brings.

    Dear Champ
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    I found their first WD album to be woefully incoherent. This was a problem because the band styled itself as a pop act. But I liked the idea of playing around with the form. So this disc comes around.

    Much tighter, with a lot less experimentation. Or, more accurately, the experimental moments are much better integrated into the whole. Pop music with plenty of edge, even some moments of true inspiration.

    Yeah, this time it worked out. At times Lizard Music still tries to infuse some cacaphony into sickly-sweet tunes, a bad habit I didn't like on the first album. But when that happens here, it's much easier to hear to joke. No question about it.

    A definite improvement. A quality pop album, still somewhat inconsistent, but not overly so. Lizard Music has learned to control its excessive impulses well enough to craft some fine tunes. Good work.

    Split EP with Knife the Symphony
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    LKN sounds like a direct descendent of the whole Slint/June of 44/Shipping News axis. The songs are shorter but just as complex. The band (which is, in fact, one Lauren K Newman) crams so many ideas in three-to-four minutes it's scary.

    Knife the Symphony is a bit more contemplative. Only a bit. And while its three pieces are quite distinct from LKN, the truth of the matter is that none of the three songs sounds a lot like any of the others. The best is a seven-minute Kepone-like thrasher called "Flat Time." There's also a fun sludgy cover of fIREHOSE's "On Your Knees."

    Two fine bands. Two quite different acts. Except, of course, that both would have been completely at home on Touch and Go Records fifteen years ago. No wonder I liked this so much.

    Local H
    Pack Up the Cats
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    It took me a while to get into the first Local H release. It seemed a little bit coarse, like it really was made by just two people. Although the lyrics were amusing (that Eddie Vedder song was as ironic as it was catchy), I still had this question in the back of my head--are these guys for real?

    I used to get caught up in the poser vs. real thing back in the day of glam rock. Was Poison more relevant than Warrant? It mattered back then. Now we don't care, the only ones going to see either band's reunion tours are now late-twenty something working slobs with nothing better to do than wallow in "the good old days."

    But back to Local H. The answer for these guys was answered on the first song--a hysterical gem that interchanges chunky guitars with the four word exchange of "All-right! Oh yeah!" on and on and on until the song ends. Musical irony has suddenly taken an upturn. While there are some not so great songs (this happens, I hear, in most CDs), there is enough goodness throughout "Pack Up The Cats" 15 tracks to keep it all moving.

    From lamenting the trendiness of youth to a girlfriend's lament of her rocker boyfriend to some songs about cats, Local H has hit a nice plateau. The climb can be a bitch sometimes, but once on top, it's a leisurely walk. Fucking metaphors.

    --Matt Worley

    The No Fun EP
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Been a while since I've heard anything from these boys. I've never been particular knocked out by Local H's brand of fuzz rock, but this disc is making me reconsider my position.

    'Cause these songs are great. There are nice covers of the Ramones, Primal Scream and the Godfathers thrown in amongst three originals. And while the covers are fine, the originals are better.

    I'm guessing the title is meant to be ironic (well, it's also the name of the first track, but still). Any time a band throws this many covers into the mix it's certainly not trying to keep things serious. Like I said, this short disc makes me think I oughta give Local H a bit more props. Color me impressed.

    Loch Lomond
    When We Were Mountains
    (In Music We Trust)
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    The vocal warblings are very Shins-y, but the music is decidedly more out there. Loch Lomond plays with beats, samples, loops, and more traditional sounds. Sometimes it's a band, and sometimes the pieces sound much more like a one-man project.

    But Loch Lomond is more a collective than a functioning outfit. Well, sort of. Richie Young and Rob Oberdorfer started work on this album, and in the end a good chunk of the Portland music scene stopped by to add one thing or another. Then Young officially joined the Standard, which picked up stakes and moved to my neck of the woods down here in the New South.

    You don't need to know all that to like the album, however. Yeah, a lot of these pieces are a trip--that's a good thing. Apparently Young, Oberdorfer and Kate O'Brien and Ryan Cross of Iretsu actually learned how to play these songs live and did a few club gigs. That's probably not happening again any time soon.

    But there is this album, see. And it's really good. The sort of album that takes creativity and then gets creative. Okay, so that sounds stupid, but you know what I mean. There are so many layers to these songs that it's impossible to peel them away in the short amount of time I have to review the disc. So I'll just have to play this one again a few hundred times.

    Jeremiah Lockwood
    American Primitive
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Having recently watched Junebug, I must admit to a greater appreciation of the staggeringly crude artwork that graces the liners for this disc. The music, likewise, is best described as one hack's attempt to whack his way through roots music--music with roots in the 19th century, that is.

    I'm not sure how much Lockwood actually reveres old (old) music, as he seems most happy when blazing out massive blues chords on his electric. But he does keep his playing and singing (if not his writing) on the, well, primitive side of things. And that's endearing.

    The production is anything but rough. Lockwood knows what he wants this album to sound like, and so this sounds like a modern recording. Modern renditions of ancient tales, I suppose, but clean and efficient nonetheless.

    Even if he is somewhat less than sincere in his approach, the effect is stunning nonetheless. Lockwood has performed a most difficult trick: Updating music without making it sound like it belongs in a museum. A most solid effort.

    Locus Solus
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    I know, minimalist pop is going around like a bad disease. As if those Pavement freaks weren't bad enough, there's a thousand other bands who discovered that their musical talent would lead to only one sound...

    And then there are those who use the form in a more creative way. It's a fine line, really, between godawful and good, and Locus Solus straddles it. At times the band achieves something wonderful, merging monotonous riffs, monotonous melody and the occasional shout to a nice effect. And then sometimes it just sounds dull and uninspired. I think the good songs are the ones that aren't borrowing from anything in particular. And in this form, not borrowing can be quite difficult.

    Locus Solus Has a nice record here. Some really great songs, some pretty terrible ones. Dig through, and I bet you'll pick different ones than I. Good.

    The Locust
    Flight of the Wounded Locust EP
    (Gold Standard Laboratories)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Just because you name a song "Gluing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You a Cantaloupe" doesn't mean you're a cool band. Though I have to admit it improves your chances.

    The Locust plays the extreme noise game with technical precision. Imagine the manic frenzy of pre-thrash hardcore produced to induce a surfeit of distortion. And add in 70s style techno keyboards. All whipped up into one serious killing machine.

    This does have many of the hallmarks of the "no wave" phenomenon, though the Locust plays with such precision and intent that it really goes much beyond that ideal. This is seriously aggressive fare, an almost unquenchable adrenaline burst. Only serious users should mainline this stuff.

    Folder EP
    (Tough Love)
    reviewed 6/12/17

    Four lengthy pieces that bridge the gap between Teutonic new wave and Scandinavian art rock. And that doesn't account for the improbable accessibility of these songs. Indeed, the strident sound of these songs (sung in Danish) might sound a bit harsh at first. But the insistent rhythms soften the edges, and what's left is a kinetic, if sometimes chilly, ride.

    If you want to get out of the E.U. for your references, think Bauhaus with just a bit of a New Order chaser. Lød does not craft anthems, but it does have a knack for a twisty hook. And the raga-like song construction is very, very much like Bauhaus. Except for the electronic percussion, of course.

    A lot of electronics, both at the core and in the periphery. Lød isn't afraid to lay down some serious atmosphere. Fans of Trans Am and other 90s post-punk acts (Don Cab also comes to mind) will undoubtedly find some familiar points of entry.

    I have no idea where Lød goes from here. Perhaps the band trends more toward the Sigur Ros side of things, focusing more on the extravagance of wigging out. Or maybe it moves more toward New Order, crafting pop songs with a different perspective. That it had such options is impressive. But even more so is the notion that whatever it does, Lød is almost certain to continue to impress. There's a lot here in four songs.

    Valeen Hope
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    The usual sort of cut-and-paste electronic stuff I hear from Mush. The usual high quality, as well. Loden actually focuses on fairly conventional song construction, and the result is something like Air on steroids.

    Air with serious beatwork, too, I suppose. But Loden does traffic in that sound of the ether on its melodic side. There's an awful lot going on in the rhythm section (whether "real" or assembled), though, and that takes these songs to a different corner of the universe.

    I kept hearing distinct stories in these songs, which is what you might expect from folks who adhere fairly closely to regular songwriting conventions. Don't expect lyrics, of course (though there are voices here and there), but let the music, um, do the talking.

    Insistent and elegiac at the same time. That's a bitch of a combination, but it works quite well here. An album that works for both the amygdala and the frontal lobes.

    Dodge & Burn
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    At the end of August, I got a package from these folks. The disc had been pilfered by someone involved in the U.S. Postal Service, and I called down to ask for another copy. When i didn't get one, I figured the folks had decided I was a moneygrubbing bastard out to rip them off. Not true, but I could certainly understand the suspicion.

    Turns out, they just moved. So I now have the disc. And it answers the question "Just what kind of pop album would the original guitarist for Gwar record?" Messy is an easy answer, and that would also be correct. Steve Douglas and his wife Teresa share bass, guitar and vocal duties (that's togetherness!), slogging their way through an incongruous melange of pop chords, metal lead lines and a general deconstructionist attitude.

    The vocals are nothing short of horrific, always out of tune and generally shouted rather than sung. I'm not even going into the subject matter. That cavalier attitude exactly what this stuff calls for. Log never seems to look back, fueling its marginal songs on a serious dose of adrenaline.

    The more I listen, the more I understand. This is music that cannot be broken down into component parts, because then it loses all its charm. And the funny thing is, for all the ugliness, Log is impossible to dislike. Enough of a dose, and all defenses are rendered useless. Why fight it?

    Bob Log III
    (Fat Possum-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Extremely gritty industrio-blues. The guitar style is recognizable, but once a lo-tech drum machine and a few other effects have been added, there's very little "normal" sound left.

    A rather strange set of noises, really. Lots of blues slide guitar work, lots of factory-style industrial beats. Log also howls a bit, but most of his vocal notions are walled behind the music.

    This isn't yer average blues disc. In fact, there are more than a few folks who would would probably claim it ain't the blues whatsoever. I wouldn't go that far, but this does push the envelope more than a bit.

    Abraisive, aggressive and generally crunchy, with some cool guitar train noises (my name for a certain sort of slide guitar) wailing through. Enjoyable, as long as your expectations are for the unusual.

    Every Time a Bell Rings an Angel Gets His Wings
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Some boys from Sweden with a taste for the grand and epochal. Simple and lean guitar lines are enchanced by truly lush arrangements. Profundity abounds.

    It's dreadfully hard to be profound when you aim for it. The best results come from honest hard work and an unsparing ear for honesty. Logh faces the truth unstintingly and then passes on the knowledge to the rest of us.

    The lean sound seems so much fuller because of the vibrant recording. The guitars shimmer, the bass is resounding. I have no idea where in Sweden these boys chose to set this album down, but the acoustics are wonderful.

    A haunting album that asks more questions than it answers. Which is probably another definition of profundity. Whatever. These boys have it. And that's all I need to know.

    One Day EP
    (Flat Earth)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Freda Love played in the Blake Babies years ago and more recently was in Mysteries of Life with Kathy Kolata, who had another project called the Mary Janes, where she played with Sophia Travis and Janus Hoyt. One night Love met up with Gretchen Holtz, once of the Smears, and after a while the five got together and made an album.

    Holtz, Love, Hoyt and Travis each wrote one of the four songs here, but honestly, the songs sound much more like a collaborative effort. They sound like the product of a well-oiled band, though that's really not quite what this is.

    Effervescent pop powered by Holtz's insistent drumming (that is the sound which really ties everything together). Four wonderful songs which simply make me ache for more.

    Well, there's better be more coming down the pike, that's all I have to say. Even considering the pedigree, this is an astonishing set of pieces. All I can do is ask for more.

    Lollipop Lust Kill
    My So Called Knife
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Sometimes you just gotta get into a little trash. Lollipop Lust Kill is nothing more than simplistic, bouncy metal riffage, overblown goth vocals and a lush sound. Think Type O Negative under German engineering. Or maybe latter-day White Zombie with better guitars.

    There's even a cover of "Personal Jesus" to fully complete the silliness of this project. I'd like nothing more than to dismiss this as a cheap imitation, but it's just too damned fun.

    A lot of that comes from the thick sound. Pillow soft, and yet hard as steel. The perfect confection for those of us who like to indulge cheap metal-industrial complex fantasies now and then.

    Great art? Probably not. But in terms of sheer satisfaction, very little compares to Lollipop Lust Kill.

    The Lonely Bears
    The Best of the Lonely Bears
    (Pelican Sound-Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    A collection of 12 tracks from three European albums recorded by Tony Hymas (keyboards), Terry Bozzio (drums), Hugh Burns (guitar) and Tony Cole (sax). Their approach to jazz fusion was more of a humanizing one. The playing, of course, is virtuoso, but the influences come from folk songs and dances as much as rock and jazz.

    And so while the playing gets very intense, the songs are generally gentle, not menacing. No one player gets out of line; the group acts together with focus and fierce intent.

    Obviously, each member does take a turn or two in the forefront. The intent is musical exploration however, and not personal aggrandizement. A collective in the best sense. The members of the Lonely Bears do seem to bring out the best in each other.

    I'd love to hear all three of the albums from which these songs were culled. This disc should more than whet the appetites for an American audience.

    See also Bozzio Levin Stevens.

    Lonely China Day
    Lonely China Day EP
    (Tag Team Records)
    reviewed in issue #274, May 2006

    Four guys from China. Who play something that sounds like electronic-tinged emo. Really.

    The lyrics are Chinese, and according to the notes, they're ancient poetry. Which makes the vocals just another instrument, at least to English-speaking ears. Fine by me, as I'm always more about the music, anyway.

    The music is a peculiar hybrid, sounding a lot like Air meets the Appleseed Cast. That's not a bad combination, mind you, just odd. And then there's the fact that a Chinese band is using western tunings...but then, Japanese rock bands have always sounded American, too. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

    Now, a Chinese band using Chinese tunings in a rock style--that would be wicked. Lonely China Day is merely quite intriguing. The writing is stylish, and the presentation is most impressive. A fine short set.

    The Lonely H
    Concrete Class
    (The Control Group)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    The Control Group is best known for releasing albums by the likes of the Killers and the Kings of Leon. With this third album, the Lonely H is rapidly joining that company--in quality, if not in rabid popularity.

    The songs center around chunky guitar riffs. The production sounds much like that ringing Gulf Coast feel favored by the Band. Lots of organ, fuzzy guitar and emotive singing. Is it soulful, or is it just overwrought?

    Well, a bit of both, I suppose. You've gotta take this stuff as it comes, and at some point sensitive cock rock does cause the eyes to roll once or twice. Then the stuff heads straight into rootsy ramblers, as if that might leaven things.

    It does, kinda. I think the Lonely H goes a bit overboard at times, but I do like the way the band goes full tilt at everything it does. If I had to choose, I'd take the latter. This is some crazy stuff, but it simply sparkles with energy.

    Lonesome Leash
    i am no captain
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    If you wanted to hear accordion-laced, European-splashed americana braced with a Tin Pan Alley spine--wait, you did ask for that, right? Well, that's what Lonesome Leash brings. These songs are dramatic to a fault, though that sense of urgency drives this album to heights that the songs themselves probably don't merit. The live show ought to be astounding.

    Lonesome Travelers
    Lonesome Travelers
    (Valley Entertainment)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Those looking to hear a little modern western swing can stop off right here. The Lonesome Travelers play a somewhat more rocking version of the old school sound, but the two-step is still alive and well.

    Equally accessible to fans of George Strait or Gram Parsons, the Lonesome Travelers straddle that divide quite nicely. What these guys don't do is cheese out. Even the more sentimental pieces play out with surprising edges.

    And then there's the wonder that is "The Fire Eater," the first time I've ever heard this kinda sound merged with circus stylings. It's fun, and it sounds great, too.

    That playful nature is present throughout the disc. Indeed, it's not only possible to like this album without appreciating its genre-bending tendencies--it's probably the best way to listen, period. Good music works that way.

    P.W. Long and Reelfoot
    We Didn't See You on Sunday
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Long made his mark with Wig and Mule, bands which took the general idea of the blues and then flogged their instruments until every bit of that idea had been exorcised.

    He gets a few of his friends to play along while he riffs through a series of bourbon-soaked tales of woe. It may be a bit more traditional than his usual fare, but perhaps Long has something to say.

    Or at least some stories to relate. Lots of agony and pain, washed through your basic punk blues filter and then dirtied up just a bit. Nothing complicated, but when it works, man, it works.

    And here it does. One of those albums that makes it almost pleasant to be sad. Face down in the mud, perhaps, but Long makes it sound almost like heaven.

    Push Me Again
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    P.W. Long is back, purveying his singularly distinctive brand of disjointed boogie tunes. Riffs that can't possibly groove, and yet, through some kind of herky-jerky blues voodoo, they do. and, of course, Long's voice is one of those instruments which sounds cool, if not particularly good.

    Which is to say there's no good reason why the guy's output (in Mule, Wig or with Reelfoot) has been so damned fine. The styles are similar (you could easily compare this album to the Mule works), and yet each time out Long has mutated just enough. Enough of some new inspiration to keep his music fresh and vital.

    I'm not too sure the vitality will ever drain out of Long. He's got such an unusual feel for music, I doubt his stuff will ever get dull. Weirder? Aw, sure, but never insipid. And as long as the slide guitar wails and his voice howls, I'll be listening.

    Like an apocalyptic preacher, Long kicks out some inspirational fare. And with Mac McNeilly, Dan Maister and Mark Boyce comprising Reelfoot this time out, you know the bases are covered. A thoroughly inspired trip through freedom rock's back roads.

    Long Fin Killie
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #7, 7/29/96

    Plenty of reasons to dislike this puppy, starting with that whole annoying British habit of affecting pop music terribly. But then, "Godiva" is the first song I've heard with a reference to Eric Cantona (the "Au Revior" guy from the Nike football with the devil ad). Which is a plus, I guess.

    And Long Fin Killie has crafted a definitely odd sound niche for itself. The rhythm section is tight, but very low key. Lots of quick bass and percussion runs, almost below the surface. Kinda an odd, bubbly feel. I'm still trying to get used to it.

    Because the plain fact is, (like I said at the start) this is damned hard to like. The lyrics are astonishingly inscrutable most of the time, and when they do make sense, it's more like nonsense. The musical range of the band is fairly limited (but original, to give the folks their due), and if you don't like the sound of one song, you won't like the rest of this.

    Long Fin Killie has worked quite hard to create an original sound. I like that. I think the sound is interesting, even if I don't have a huge affection for it. The production has lent itself to this odd sort of music nicely. If not for the silliness of the lyrics, I might like this more. Perhaps.

    (Too Pure-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Part of the mellow side of electronic pop, Long Fin Killie has been cranking out these intensely ephemeral songs for a while. And lots of folks (relatively) seem to like it. I didn't like Valentino so much, but the more I listened, the more I kinda fell into the grooves.

    Which is a definite requirement for digging this. The song lyrics are extremely obtuse, and I say that as a person with a wide range of tolerance for such things. The lyrics (well, vocals) kinda work as a rhythmic counterpoint as much as anything else. An interesting idea, one that I'm slowly warming up to.

    There's still a part of me that keeps thinking, "This is art music for people who hate art music". Some kind of artistic joke, like Leaving Las Vegas. Still, as the disc wore on, I found myself wallowing in the beats more and more.

    Creatively unusual or merely incoherent? I'm leaning toward the former, but that's not a conclusion. Amelia simply furthers the argument in my head.

    Long Winter's Stare
    The Tears of Odin's Fallen
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    These folks describe their music as "symphonic dark metal." These aren't romantic symphonies, however. They're baroque quartets and the like, as stark and striking as what My Dying Bride made its rep creating.

    Indeed, Long Winter's Stare is much more stripped down, generally not incorporating much more than the basic guitar, drums, bass and keyboards. There are a few strings thrown in, but this is basically a band experience, with some cool vocal work.

    Everything from grunts to an operatic wail. The dull, thick sound helps to foster a spooky, doom-laden feel to the songs. I think that's what the band wanted.

    The songwriting gets a little clunky at times, but the mood pulls things through. A solid, heavy (oh-so-heavy) album. Play it loud and watch the books rumble off your shelves.

    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Power pop coming down. Kinda like the Posies without the bounce. The harmonies are pretty, but the twisted guitar lines are gorgeous. Beautiful like a dying swan. Sure, the end is gonna be a downer, but there's still the objective lusciousness of the scene.

    And Longwave doesn't skimp on the window dressing. Plenty of distorted and effects-laden guitar which serves as a comfy pillow. Insulation from the coming devastation.

    Keeping the counterpunch working, the brightest song on the album is called "Crushed Down and Faded." These guys work irony the way Bobby Knight works his players. The process isn't pretty, but damn if it ain't a winner.

    One of those albums that's even better the fifth time around. And it won't take long to get to that point, trust me. Endsongs just screams for the repeat button.

    Lewi Longmire Band
    Fire 'neath the Still
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    Yet another fine practitioner of modern country-rock music from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe folks up there are getting a bit jaded, what with so many outstanding artists in a relatively small area, but I find it hard to believe that Longmire couldn't find a label interested in this album.

    Longmire swings wildly between mannered, introspective pieces (think latter-day Dylan, I suppose) and great driving music, with a few anthems (of varying styles) tossed in for good measure. Perhaps he doesn't segue between moods as well as he should, but the songs stand up nicely on their own.

    Maybe the problem is that Longmire isn't quite sure what tradition to follow. There's some "traditional" americana, some Texas two-step, the obligatory paeans to the open road, some 70s AOR (with a bit of twang) and more. He shifts gears so easily that it's sometimes hard to believe that these pieces are, in fact, part of one album.

    Longmire's songwriting skill is impressive, and his band does a nice job with this album. I suppose I wish it was a bit more coherent, but there's no denying the power of the songs. Impressive.

    The Longwalls
    (Static Motor)
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    The term "modern rock" is hopelessly antiquated, but it fits the Longwalls perfectly. These boys combine a jaunty indie rock sensibility with rooty arrangements and an often heavy hand in the production booth. These songs soar and crash with astonishing grace.

    Dour or bouncy, the pieces here sing with a sure voice. The Longwalls haven't quite created a definitive sound, but the songwriting is distinctive. The goal seems to be to cram as much as possible into extremely small spaces.

    And all with a relatively sparse sound. Oh, the reverb can really shudder at times, and there are a few feedback squalls as well. Mostly, though, there's plenty of room for the divergent lines to roam and coalesce.

    Best not to anticipate what comes next. The Longwalls will surprise no matter the expectation. An accomplished set, one that deserves plenty of attention. Pick any song, and you will be pulled in. The power is unmistakable.

    Lonnie Walker
    These Times Old Times
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    So, you know, some thirty years ago the Meat Puppets crawled out of the Arizona desert and sounded like...crap. Well, the music was interesting, but the singing was awful. Lonnie Walker (which is a band with no member by that name) sounds like a mutant cross of ancient MP and very early Uncle Tupelo, with a fair dose of "Slack Motherfucker"-era Superchunk thrown in for good measure.

    Right. So what to make of this glorious mess? I dunno. It sure as hell is a lot of fun, especially when the chaos overwhelms just about everything else. I'm a fan of noise, even when it is just for noise's sake--although I think Lonnie Walker is a fair bit more sophisticated than that.

    The varying sounds and ideas wandering through these songs are evidence of that, as is the solid production. There's nothing normal here, and I like that.

    Yep, just good ol' rock and roll with plenty of oats and hay rolled into the mix. Play it loud. Play it proud. And don't worry about the crashing about. It's all good.

    Look Mexico
    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed 8/15/16

    More than two decades ago, people argued whether emo would go down the path of Jawbox or Mineral. And then it wandered down the Alkaline Trio road instead. Look Mexico has been meandering along the emo path for almost ten years, and it sounds like the band still can't decide what it really wants to sound like.

    When you create songs like "Well, Kansas Ain't What It Used to Be" and "Ice? Yeah, You Would Chisel Some Off Your heart," you might be accused of embracing preciousness. And these songs do blip and burble with a heart of pure indie prog gold. But Look Mexico is still solidly in the emo camp, whatever that might mean. These songs simply take their time getting to the point.

    Unlike Mineral, who could pen lengthy anthems with the best of ‘em, these boys keep their songs in constant motion. The rhythm section is extraordinarily busy, but gentle. I keep going back to the Descendents as the most obvious influence, except that these songs are much too understated and poppy to fit. To use another way-old and semi-obscure reference, this sounds like the Rocket Summer playing Descendents songs.

    All those old references are intentional, however. This IS your dad's emo. Or, you know, MY emo. The stuff that inspired the Deep Elm Emo Diaries series. These pretty little pieces are sly in the way they get to the point, but they do get there.

    I must have listened to this five times before deciding to review it. The music grabbed me immediately, but it took a while for me to understand why. Over the years, I've discovered that that is how one finds a new favorite album.

    (Silent Cult)
    reviewed 6/15/17

    Loom takes the rage and riff stylings of Nirvana (often mixing the familiar chords of one Cobain song with the rhythm of another) and throws in a Britpunk chaser. So there are keyboards, guitar washes and a somewhat more uptempo feel.

    Many of these songs have circulated on singles and a cassette-only release from a couple years back. I believe these are new recordings, and if not, then they certainly have been remixed. If you're already familiar with the band, this set will pull all of those disparate releases together.

    Tarik Badwan has a real presence as a singer, and the band follows his lead. When he wants a song to sound like a long-lost Nirvana track, it does. When he veers into other sides of the post-punk world, he appropriates those sounds just as well. His red-hot anger makes this a blistering set.

    I imagine there are those who would dismiss this as yet another Nirvana rip-off. And, I admit, some of the references are a bit too close for my comfort as well. Loom translates them into an English idiom, but still, they're there. In any case, I'd encourage listeners to get past that veneer and dive deep into what Loom is trying to do. This is unfiltered rage, dressed up in modestly melodic and anthemic clothes. That's an energy I can always get behind.

    You're No Tiger/Meow, Meow, Meow
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Decent pop from the fertile fields of Madison. Maybe fertile lake is more appropriate. Whatever.

    Falling into that whole Edsel/Treepeople kinda upbeat punk-pop scene, Loomis has enough creativity to crank some vitality into the sound. Many of the songs sound like they're about to launch into a great hook and then stall (aargh!!), but that's not a fatal flaw. Just means the guys have to learn how to write such things.

    And it's the little things that hold Loomis back. I hear a lot of potential in this stuff. A little more work, more playing and just a bit more crafting of the songs should serve the guys well. I'm almost very impressed.

    It's an old saw, but Loomis simply needs time. I can hear the pieces assembling. Just a little bit longer, now.

    Scott R. Looney
    Solo Piano
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    The album title doesn't lie. Recorded back in 1995, this disc features a number of original pieces and reworkings of "Take the A Train," "Stardust" and "Silent Night." As the liners say, "This release is WAY overdue..."

    Like most good artists, Looney makes "A Train" and the other covers his own. He respects the originals without mawkishly copying some other famous arrangement. The songs are--for the most part--recognizable. But Looney's takes are most refreshing.

    As for the originals, well, he's got a song called "Wander." Looney plays variations on a theme, but without being overly doctrinaire about it. Exploration is his stock and trade, but generally he doesn't get too far out ahead of the listener. There's always a reference point within reach.

    Plenty of food for thought here, sure, but also some bright and invigorating moments as well. Looney has a style all his own, and he presents his ideas with panache.

    Loop Guru
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Digging into a world-wide bag of tricks, Loop Guru crafts songs based on the totality of life and music on the planet. A sweeping statement? Yes, but then from the very first song this album simply sweeps you away.

    There are too many elements to fully appreciate in this review. Plenty of Indian (as in the subcontinent) instruments, beats and ideas, as well as bits from the Caribbean, Africa and South America. All swirled into an ambient-dub-jungle rhythm base. I'm not sure who could hate this.

    Perfectly entrancing. Club ready, but erudite enough to play for music theorists and classical aficionados. I'm sure this was painstakingly assembled, but the finished product is a seamless symphony of glorious sound.

    Hey, I don't get this excited about an album very often, but trust me here, okay? Loop Guru has put together an album that folks will be talking about for a long time. Exciting is hardly the word.

    Loop Bites Dog
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    I've been a big fan of Loop Guru's since I first heard Amrita, the band's second album. The astonishing amalgamation of music from across time and around the globe into a coherent, joyous mesh simply entranced me. This disc merely continues my appreciation.

    Not content to sit still, Loop Guru has continued to search out new sources of inspiration. The Indian and Asian connections are still tight, but this album also incorporates some of the latest ideas in electronic music as well. The form is seamless, which is probably the most amazing part.

    The songs here range a bit further than on Amrita. The songs vary in tempo and feel a bit more, though the full, deep texture of previous work is sacrificed a bit in favor of leaner, tighter songs. Which is better, I really can't say. All I know is that Loop Bites Dog is quality of the first order.

    Few acts have the ability or even interest in creating music such as this. Loop Guru accomplishes a great deal, and does so without losing a sense of amusement with the human condition. The most important influence here is joy, and it is refracted a hundred-fold.

    Loose Change
    Fire It Up!
    (Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Basic basic. Peppy punk with plenty of beef in the guitars. Songwriting which is good, if not particularly great, and anyway, when in a tight spot the band simply speeds up a notch. This only works with punk music, but that is the subject here.

    Actually, the lyrics here are the most impressive part. Tending toward poetic and emotional (with the definite exceptions of the two covers, the Outfield's "Your Love" and "Crash", though at least the rendition of "Crash" is reasonably endearing).

    The sound is pleasantly messy, with enough open space for the vocals in instruments to do the proper work. A step above generic punk, though not quite something special. Good, however, is still good.

    More potential than anything. Loose Change needs to define its sound a bit better (and definitely do some work on the music writing end), but I can here plenty of impressive pieces.

    Loose Lips
    Talkin' Trash
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Sorta remarkable in that I've never heard a punk band channel the Stones quite like this. The references are just about all in the guitar lines, though the singer (uncredited) does have a few Mick-like sneers in him.

    Kinda gives a nice new kick in the ass to that old-time rock and roll. It's not that the boys are stealing riffage. Not at all. It's just that Keith Richards would have been proud to write some of this stuff. And the precisely loose handling of the guitar is dead on.

    Oh, but how about the rest of the equation? Solid, if more of a generic punk squall. Loose Lips really isn't anything spectacular when it comes to playing, but the band executes well enough. These songs do have the necessary oomph.

    But it's the Stones thing that drives this for me. I mean, you'd think more bands would try something like this. It's a natural. Maybe I just haven't been listening for it before. I dunno. But Loose Lips sure do a nice little punk rock seance.

    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    I'm a firm believer that it's fairly easy to predict what an album will sound like by looking at the album cover. The same goes for the web site. Lopside's web site has a few pictures and a short note explaining that all Lopside CDs are $6 postpaid. And that's about it.

    Dean Hinds (who is Lopside) seems to have gotten all that right. This is minimalist electronic fare. Not really in the ambient, but more like low-key melodic explorations of the barely conscious.

    What beats that exist are similarly naked, but that doesn't mean they're dull. Rather, Hinds has stripped away every unnecessary device, leaving only the elements that are more important. In that way, these cool (as in not quite cold) pieces acquire a humanity that other, more overloaded ones could not.

    Hinds challenges listeners, but he also embraces them, dropping many small treats along the journey. I know I'm supposed to judge music on its merits and not its price, but man, $6 is a steal for this stuff. Of course, $16 would also be a steal. Quite an exciting album.

    When You're Finally Through Being Responsible
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Speaking of minimalist electronic fare that doesn't strictly adhere to pop song construction...okay, that's a cheap opening, but Lopside kinda asks for it.

    Because there are songs here. Sometimes they're hidden within some sort of protective noise layer, but they're there nonetheless. The noise isn't white; we're talking more samples and found sound. But it tends to obscure rather than enlighten.

    I think that's cool. This is music for pondering--at great length, with a couple top shelf gin and tonics, I'd say--and not for enchanting a prospective bedmate. Well, unless your paramour happens to really dig abstract sound. Then this might send you two into paroxysms of ecstasy.

    Which reminds me of the time a radio DJ friend of mine dedicated some Einsturzende Neubauten to "my honeybunch," but I fear I'm way off the track here. Then again, the only thing to do with Lopside is get off the track. And don't worry about when you get back on.

    Lords of Acid
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    It must be the water. For some reason Caroline decided the first things they would send me are two industrio-dance outfits, instead of stuff from Hole, Monster Magnet (which they distribute) or even the Smashing Pumpkins. Of course, these are their latest releases, so I'll bite. Plus, the slogan is "Loud Music Resource," and I`m not about to discriminate against dance or rap outfits.

    That having been said, the Lords of Acid make on kind of music: songs about fucking. Music to fuck to. I have a few stories... . This is music that I can dance to. Of course, I can also dance to Poster Children, but this is good dance, not too far removed from Slavestate.

    If you have to balls (and the open mind) to play this, check out "The Most Wonderful Girl," "I Sit on Acid" (which will be dedicated to my roommate this week), "Hey Ho!" and the amusing "I Must Increase My Bust."

    If you get callers complaining, tell them to sit 'n' slam!

    See also Tattoo of Pain.

    Loretta's Doll
    Nocturnal Arcade
    (World Serpent Distribution)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    "Dark musick... it's not just for Goths anymore!" Hey, a slogan I can groove on any day. Loretta's Doll utilizes extensive sets of samples, creating a fairly sparse soundscape over which the songs flit.

    Underproduced or intentionally restrained? I vote for the latter. Understated may be a better description. The vocals barely rise above the music, but that causes a nicely spooky effect. You've gotta strain to hear them, and your ears might play a trick or two on you.

    I really like the way Loretta's Doll creates its own world. This is unearthly fare, a bit trippier than yer average goth stuff. The songs are leisurely, taking their time to fully bring the ideas to fruition.

    Creeping, every creeping. Loretta's Doll just keeps creeping up, and just when it seems safe, the attack comes. A subtle stab in the back, a sonic stiletto. Shifty. Impressive.

    Static Patterns and Souvenirs
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    Listening to this album is like floating in the Gulf of Mexico on a July evening. The air and water are essentially the same temperature, so all you feel is a warm glove enveloping your entire being. If you close your eyes, you could float out to sea in a hypnotic state.

    Lorna plays beautiful music. Not pretty. Not gorgeous. Beautiful. An approachable beauty, one that lends a certain grace to any day on which it is glimpsed.

    The songs move along at middling clips, but it's the wonderful tone of the guitars and bass that really set off the entrancing melodies. This album is quite well-suited to zoning out, but there are plenty of reasons to keep your frontal lobes engaged as well. This kind of album is generally hit or miss with me. I find a lot of meditative rock truly dull, but Lorna excites me. This album is just so...well, beautiful is the word. An apocalypse of wonderment. Just let it wash all over you and see what happens next.

    Los Activos
    Hasta Los Huesos (To the Bones)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    You've probably got an image of flamenco music like mine: Castanets and stomping, a Spanish version of the Mexican Hat Dance, perhaps (I'm not even going to worry about that screwed-up musical etymology). Well, Los Activos play flamenco, but it definitely not what I was expecting.

    The emphasis is on rhythm, and the rhythms are often recognizable. The melodies which float above these beats are as often as not from Arab culture (which shouldn't be surprising considering the nation's history), and they are performed with an unrestrained passion that is arresting, to say the least.

    Rhythm is the main game here, and that is what shines. The beats are pounded out on whatever medium is at hand (or foot): doors, floors, a wide array of percussion and more. When the percussive orchestration gets crazy, Los Activos represent dancing music at its finest.

    And there's so much more. I've always had an image of flamenco that is rather stifling; this disc turns that around. Los Activos insist on remaking conventions, and that makes all the difference.

    Los Angeles Electric 8
    Plays Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Braddock, Siegel and Kohl
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    That would be eight people on electric guitar playing classical music. Mostly modern (Braddock, Kohl and Siegel were all born after 1950, and Shostakovich is one of the great 20th century composers), mostly full of motion.

    The arrangements are the most interesting part of this album. It's not that hard to break down most any piece of music into eight parts or less. The different instruments in orchestras provide different textures even as many of them play the same part. Which makes the real challenge arranging these pieces so that the textural intent of the works comes through.

    Sometimes it doesn't. There are spots where the sound of eight guitars noodling around a theme sounds like so much mush. The playing is exquisite, but the setting does illustrate many of the limitations of electric guitar, no matter how beautifully it can be played.

    Still, I like the way these folks think. I like the way they attack the pieces rather than sit back and let the music play them. I like that these folks take chances, even when they don't always work. You've got to understand: This is an almost impossible undertaking. When all the pieces come together (which is most of the album), the results are transcendent. Wildly beautiful at the most unexpected times.

    Los Canadians
    The Kids Are Alroot 7"
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Alright, so the folks aren't Canadian. The title's still pretty damned funny.
    Dreadfully messy punk stuff, produced for maximum incoherence. Sloppy as hell, and I'm not even sure what's going on at times. Not necessarily a drawback when it comes to punk, I suppose, but I'd like a little more of a clue.
    Six songs, all of which share the same chord progressions and something of the same melody. Enjoyable in small doses, but nothing much past that.

    Los Gusanos
    I'd Love to Save the World 7"
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    C.J. "Ramone" and a few pals get together and cover a Ten Years After tune for charity. The proceeds go to the Oglala Lakota College on the Oglala Reservation in South Dakota.

    A little rougher edged than most Ramones recordings, C.J. seems to enjoy his slumming for a good cause. Dead-on punk with a golden heart. And a nice single besides.

    Los Infernos
    Los Infernos
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    Hard-working punk-rawk that satisfies, but with something of a lingering afterburn. Maybe it's because once you've heard the first four songs, the rest kinda fall in line behind. Not bad, but once the sound is established, Los Infernos just don't play around at all.

    A good thing and a bad thing. That lean guitar sound is really keen, and the rhythm section knows precisely how to define each song. The songs are amusing, the hooks catchy. There's just that certain... something, I guess, that's not here. A good album, but not great.

    Kinda like recent Social D (though better), Los Infernos wail their punk through a rockabilly sheen. With full credibility, too. I'm just waiting to hear that one piece, and it's not here. Still, a fine effort.

    Los Kingdom
    The Patron Saint
    (Madeline Madison Records)
    reviewed 10/6/16

    Arielle Verinis and Dave Green love old Jesus music. Spirituals, gospel, you name it. They take a passel of songs that most folks have heard in completely different contexts and transform them into minimalist heavy blues shouters.

    Verinis and Green aren't subtle singers. They blast through their pipes with everything they have. And the same goes for the music. Most of the time, it's just a bluesy guitar, although some organ and other accompaniments creep in now and again. The result both intensifies the emotional impact and somewhat neutralizes the religious aspect of these songs.

    There are a couple of ringers. "House of the Rising Sun" is not a religious song in any sense, but the arrangement here fits nicely. Along the same lines, Verinis and Green chose to use the "freedom" (and not the "Jesus") version of the song "Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On . . ." That's the version more folks know, for sure, but like many civil rights anthems, it comes from the gospel tradition.

    I had a few friends in chorus in high school, and their director always told them that they didn't have to believe in the words of the religious songs they occasionally sang, but the canon of fine choral music would be woefully inadequate without their inclusion. Los Kingdom has given these (largely) religious songs a more secular setting, and they shine through this facet as well.

    I'm curious to see where Los Kingdom goes from here. There are more than enough songs to make a lengthy cycle that would last for years. But I think I'd like to hear Verinis and Green apply their palette to a wider circle of songs. Either way, I'll definitely be listening.

    Lost Breed
    Save Yourself
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Cranking out the same straight-ahead rock and roll that made the Cult so popular a few years back, Lost Breed are trying to rev up the arena rock army.

    I just don't think that many people care anymore. Only the really big bands do stadiums, which is where this sort of music is best appreciated. Well, I suppose a frat party would be appropriate as well. You just need an overload of testosterone and a lot of beer. And then this becomes really easy to swallow.

    Lost Breed are really that. No one is trying to make music like this anymore. Personally, I think that just might be a good thing.

    Lost in the Trees
    Time Taunts Me
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    Intricate, almost delicate pieces that rely on listener patience. Which isn't any sort of backhanded complement. Rather, I'm just saying this is somewhat challenging music.

    Wrapped up in very pretty paper, of course. Ari Picker (better known for work with the Never, if you're conversant with the current Chapel Hill scene) grafts vaguely baroque strings and "this is our moment" beats onto what is otherwise a piano rock sound. Real strings, mind you, and beats that aren't quite as cloying as they seem at first.

    See, that's where the patience comes in. This stuff comes off as cheesy and pretentious, but that's just the top layer. Let the rest soak in and the depth of Picker's vision becomes somewhat clearer. And is quite impressive.

    The sort of album that can annoy before it enthralls. But don't worry. Listen all the way through and you'll be thrilled, too.

    Lost Kids
    Belle Isle Is on Fire EP
    (Gold Standard Laboratories)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Recorded in Detroit. I shoulda known. This has that kinda feel. If that makes any sense to you. Lost Kids play ragged rock and roll with a little oomph to the bass. Insistent fare that demands a listen or few.

    A bit heavy with the echo at times. I mean, these are the "oughts," not the sixties. Not even the seventies. Still, I like the way these folks play. With cool abandon. That sorta detached energy that infects slowly. Surely.

    Long live rock and roll. As long as bands like Lost Kids are around, I think the spirit is safe. Just be sure to turn it up loud. Real loud. Let the grooves infect your soul. And spread the word.

    The Lot Six
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Reminds me a lot of the Wrens, both in the somewhat whiny vocals and the willingness to drop just about anything into a pop format. These are pop songs, no matter how clunky or noisy or just plain loud they are. And they're pretty damned good ones, too.

    The Lot Six does prefer to bash. Even the less loud pieces here rasp and spit. Doesn't take away from the harsh beauty of the stuff, of course. Just enhances the pleasure.

    Not unlike the Pixies before that group got any attention, there's a lot of pure pop potential here that is being distorted by some seriously intense messing about. Of course, for me, anything after Surfer Rosa is a bit dull. Methinks the Lot Six might hold somewhat similar beliefs.

    Major Fables
    (Tarantulas Records)
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    Screechy, almost shrill stuff. But rhythmic as hell, and that sterling sense of rhythm wrings melody out of more recalcitrant members of the band. The production populates the songs with all sorts of cool extras, which also tends to reduce the noise at the extremities. Kinda like the Jesus Lizard meets the Wrens--in the abstract. In the real world, the Lot Six isn't that good, but still solid enough to impress.

    Lousy Robot
    Smile Like You Are Somewhere Else
    (Socyer Mom)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    A solid Albuquerque pop band that doesn't try too hard to sound like an Albuquerque pop band (if you know what I mean). Lean melodies, some sweet keyboards and fine jangle.

    Indeed, the feel is cool all the way. I don't know if the "robot" in the name is a reference to the keyboard sound, but there's more than a bit of the new wave in that element.

    Nowhere else, really, which is what makes these guys so interesting. Most of this is straight garage pop, produced with an extremely loose hand. The sound is bright but thin. It kinda screams "indie" at the top of its lungs. And that works with these understated songs.

    Nothing spectacular or otherworldly. Just cool music kicked out with an extreme lack of pretension. So no, this doesn't sound that that ex-Albuquerque pop band. But it's quite good as well.

    Hail, the Conquering Fool
    (Hit Records International)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    One of the good things about living off the musical map (say, in Albuquerque), is that you get a new perspective on popular sounds. The Brits revolutionized rock and roll 50 years ago because they didn't have the Jim Crow baggage. Lousy Robot digs into the current trends of mopey indie rock and finds real gems.

    Occasionally punchy, but more often downbeat, these songs always home in on the beauty within the ordinary. The skill with which these folks pull extraordinary melodies out of mundane surroundings is astonishing.

    The sound is bright, which helps to emphasize the "Eureka!" moments within each song. Even with the mopiest intro, there's always hope that the song will blossom. And, indeed, they all do.

    Sneaky good. This is one of those albums that sounds pretty good on the first listen, damned good on the second and monstrously brilliant on the fifth. Just hit repeat.

    Quartet Conspiracy
    (Record Heaven)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Some more "classic rock." And once again, that's defined a something in the Mountain range. Heavy riffage with vague blues tinges and plenty of attitude.

    Not unlike Bigelf, Lotus does this sound well. I mean, you've gotta dig it. Really dig it. But these boys really do have a handle on the sound, and they're not ripping anyone off.

    Lotus simply plays fine hard rock. No frills, no quarter asked and no quarter given. Nothing complicated. Nothing over the top. The stuff just works as it churns on down the road.

    There really isn't much more to talk about. If this sort of early 70s hard rock is your thing, then Lotus has a few riffs you might fancy. Turn it up loud. It will sound even better. Some things never change.

    Lou Ford
    Alan Freed's Radio
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Folks call this alt. country? I dunno. That's kinda like calling Garth Brooks country. There are some rockabilly elements, but this is more classic country married to a rock and roll rhythm section. When it's country at all. Hmmm. Maybe I've got my definitions all screwed up.

    In any case, Lou Ford (that is a band name, by the way, and not a person) sure does know how to sell its songs. A lot of these pieces are over-the-top Big Star-style pop songs, and the band is always just that little step off. Like you want them to be.

    If you hit all the notes at all the right times, then there's no suspense, no drama. A blue note now and again keeps the listener honest. Lou Ford knows that perfect playing can lead to boring music. And these dreadfully honest songs are anything but dull.

    Rock and roll is just the marriage of country and jump blues. Always has been. Lou Ford illustrates that simple fact in every song. An enthralling history lesson that sounds ultramodern. In other words, there's talent here.

    Sublime Dementia
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    I've been wanting to hear more Loudblast since their few tracks on Century Media's first U.S. release, the In the Eyes of Death compilation. And now, almost three years later, here they show up on Futurist. Well, at least it's here.

    No liners provided, so I'll have to wing some of this. This is rather tightly produced, with some interesting sound effects wandering in and out. These tend to fill out the sound as opposed to distracting the listener, though, so I have to give them the thumbs up.

    Top-notch song writing, too. While I keep thinking this must be awful commercial, when I try to analyze the lines and riffs, I see traditional death metal, with little classic rock pollution.

    A master stroke. Sheer genius. I've been waiting for a band to show me how death metal can progress without being tamed. This is not grindcore, but it is fairly aggressive death metal, and it sounds sublime.

    Loudspeaker Speaker

    Meets Clearly Human Like Ten Feet Tall
    (Broken Twilight)
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    Or Chad Imes and Jason Falk. These pieces exist in a corner of the electronic/dub/hip hop universe that I haven't visited since the heyday of Wordsound Records (what, ten years ago or longer?). They sucked me in within seconds and left me spent, my fingers trembling at the keyboard.

    What is it inside these sounds that affected me so? I wish I could tell you in objective terms. The plain fact is that there's something in the bass and rhythm work that simply echoes through my soul. It didn't take hold of me so much as I leapt headlong at first note.

    The lovely reverb-heavy sound is a plus. These songs flow out of a deranged echo chamber, one that holds a deadly allure for me. This is, truly the worst feeling a critic can have. I love an album unconditionally, which makes it almost impossible for me to write about it.

    But I'll soldier on, nonetheless. I've never heard Imes or Falk on their own--at least, I can't remember doing so. This collaboration is so strong, however, that I'd suggest they think about making it a partnership. Exceptional.

    Recorded Sound
    (Broken Twilight)
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Utterly idiosyncratic electronic explorations. The vocal work is often some form of found sound or simply something silly. It's what my mother-in-law would probably call "very creative."

    Well, sure. But what I like about Loudspeaker Speaker (which I first encountered on the recent collaboration with Clearly Human) is the playful nature of these pieces. They're weird and often race off into somewhat unformed territory, but there's an intoxicating vitality to the sound.

    A sound that is not organic in any way. These pieces are not part of the rational world. Rather, they're some sort of symbolic representation of our shared reality.

    Wow, that was pretentious. Gotta lay off the textbooks. In any case, Loudspeaker Speaker uses electronic disturbances in rather exciting ways. I plugged in right at the start and rode that wire hard until the end.

    Love American Style
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    I'm all in favor of more American bands attempting to sound like Britpop acts. I mean, when you think about it, there's no way bands like Duran Duran, the Buzzcocks and the Fall could have risen to success in the U.S. in the same five-year period. Yeah, so the Brits are notoriously fickle. That tends to engender more diverse popular music. But then, Brits also have to take the blame for Cliff Richard, Kylie Minogue and the Spice Girls.

    That tangental discourse aside, Love American Style whips out some poppy stuff that might be considered just behind the trend across the pond, but well ahead of the American curve. The songs are nicely crafted, with lots of little sonic goodies embedded within the hooks. All this musical gadgetry is a bit annoying, sure, but it does help keep LAS from sounding like anyone else.

    And the guys don't stay in one place for long. Like the best pop bands, LAS trips from heavy to gentle, fast to mid-tempo to slow, as easily as shifting on a Vincent while flying flat out on I-40 across the Texas Panhandle.

    God, I haven't listened to this long enough to decide whether it's cotton candy or a substantial meal. Right now, I'm leaning toward the latter. Nicely textured pop music, with attitude and bite. There can never be enough of that stuff.

    Love and Rockets
    Sweet F.A.
    (American Recordings)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #3, 4/8/96

    After reaching a creative high with Earth-Sun-Moon, and a commercial high with the eponymous Love and Rockets, David J and Daniel Ash recorded a few solo records, of which there might be an EP of decent material between them. And then last year's big "comeback" album, which was rightly ignored.

    The old Love and Rockets style of album sequencing involved loud, pseudo-psychedelic tracks broken up by truly psychedelic interludes. That old guitar sound makes the odd cameo appearance here, but much like the last album, I still don't understand why David Haskins bothered to rejoin the band (other than the cash incentive), because his talents are barely utilized. If you saw a Love and Rockets show five years ago, it was apparent that Haskins was the one person who embodied the band ideal and held everything together. He was the Rocket.

    No rockets on this album. Like the "comeback", this is much more like the solo work David J and Ash put out in the wake of commercial success. And to be honest, neither of them has really any good idea how to write a slow song that sticks together. I mean, this sounds like really bad 70s stuff often enough. Not a good thing.

    I kept waiting for a track that would bound the band out of this moronic moroseness, but nothing ever appeared. I can only imagine what the current tour material is. I mean, if they play "Kundalini Express", the crowd is going to wonder why they can't put out anything even resembling that today. Which is something I sure want to know.

    Love Gutter
    Sucking in the 90's
    (Black Hole)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    If you like your music loud, fuzzy and utterly without any conscience or shred of political correctness, dig right in. Songs like "Does No Mean No", "Skanky Ho" and "9 Month Time Bomb" might lead one to think these are mindless misogynists. Hell, they might be, but there is a slight veneer of sophistication and humor that makes me want to believe there is satire going on. After all, it takes something to write a song about Jan Brady giving head and Marsha Brady working the streets. What that something is, I can't really tell you.

    And who really cares? This is more of that Philly-core kinda stuff. Those of you familiar with the Carnival of Shame might notice a little similarity. Oh, and they also cover a Ramones song (see Hanson Brothers review). While I can't identify it, I really like this mystery meat.

    Love Huskies
    Sparks Street
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Just got an e-mail that said a couple members of Soul Asylum ("longtime Love Huskies fans") jammed with the Love Huskies at a recent show. Well, that sounds like some press exaggeration, but I wouldn't be too surprised. The Love Huskies have cultivated a sound that would have been big in Minneapolis in about 1987. Elements of the big three, Husker Du, Replacements and Soul Asylum, wandering through the ragged rock pieces.

    You know, there are few sounds I like more. Gravelly vocals, scratchy guitars, melodies which don't quite snap together, harmonies that are hardly tight and punchy drums. A lot of bands have tried this sound, and I generally like them better than I should.

    So in some attempt at objectivity, I will note that the Love Huskies repeat themselves musically with some regularity, and the lyrics tackle a wide variety of pop culture subjects with some strange results ("Then make an indie film of your life"?).

    Ah, hell, who am I trying to kid. I simply ate this album up and came back for more. I'm kinda helpless in the throes of this style. It happens to everyone. I have friends who adore Alanis Morrisette. I think my addictions are much more healthy. Really, now.

    Love in Venice
    'fraid 7"
    (Snow Blind)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Earnest pop musings set off by pile-driving riffs and soaring choruses. A bit anthemic, but LiV carries this off with aplomb.

    The A-side is nice and sparse, with the crush coming as the verse merges with the chorus. Perhaps reminiscent of grunge construction, though the sound isn't terribly similar.

    "Push Me", on the flip, comes a lot closer to the early Pearl Jam sound. Not a rip, as the production remains sparse and the riffs are in no way similar (though that bass does wander dangerously close to Settle), but you can hear the influence.

    I hope LiV sticks with the sound on "`fraid", which is pretty interesting. Obviously the folks have a solid pop base and are just trying to figure out how to make that work. Keep it up.

    The Love Interest
    Bedazzled CD5
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Chris Connelly, Martin Atkins, Mary Lynn Bowling and David Simms. If those names don't sound familiar... well, they should.

    Four mixes of a Dudley Moore tune, with one instrumental segue thrown in to mix things up.

    I'm not sure what caused them to do this, but it is oddly infectious. The manage to keep the late sixties feel and still give it a nineties sampled spin. No press to tell me if this is a one-off or what (I'd bet on that), but I should be happy with gifts like this.

    The Love Letter Band
    Fear Not My Brothers, Fear Not My Sisters, For I Have Seen the Future...
    (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Mix ragged, minimalist americana with Ennio Morricone's scores for spaghetti westerns, and you might begin to understand what's going on here. The Love Letter Band has completely stolen the guitar sound from those great flicks and then built some really whacked songs around them.

    This ought to be a bigger mess than it is. I mean, those scores were anything but subtle, and yet the quiet moments here are some of the most satisfying. There are a few vistas of great beauty, and plenty of punchy good times as well.

    The production sound is strangely rough. Ten years ago, though, I would have thought the sound was exceptionally tight. Interesting how things (and ears) change. In any case, the loose hands on the knobs help the songs prove their greatness.

    And there is greatness here. It lies beneath a couple layers of eccentricity, but that's only to be expected. Look at the title of this album. These folks aren't trying to sell a kajillion copies. They're trying to make a point. And you know, I think they do.

    Love Like Blood
    Swordlillies: The Decade of Love Like Blood
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Not many bands would devote two pages of their greatest hits disc to excerpts from fan mail. That's a nice touch. And when you've been around since forever (or at least 1987), to still care that much is impressive.

    If you're paying attention, this compilation is a bit dated, with the last track coming from 1997. What's interesting is how little the band changed over time. The band name comes from a Killing Joke song, of course, but the sound is tres Sisters.

    Most of the time Love Like Blood shows a good feel for the sound. You'd hope, since this is supposedly the band's best stuff. There are some interesting side trips, like the cover of "Heroes." But even there, Love Like Blood sticks too close to its idol.

    Technically, this stuff is awfully good. But there isn't much here to distinguish the band from any number of other wannabes, other than the fact that Love Like Blood has had a deal for more than 10 years. Just not enough of a reason for me.

    Love Love
    Love Love
    reviewed 8/27/15

    I suppose if your parents named you Jefferson Davis, you've got to own that. No "Jeff" or use of a middle name. This particular Jefferson Davis and Chris Toppin front the band Love Love, and their music is kind of like Davis' name: If you're gonna do it, you might as well do it all the way.

    That is, male and female vocals entwined over 70s-esque country rock. Kinda like a lower-fi mashup of Gram Parsons and Fleetwood Mac. Love Love's songs aren't that strong to warrant a serious comparisons to those monoliths--yet. But the stylistic elements are there, and most importantly, Toppin and Davis don't hold back on their writing. They go for it and don't fret about their missteps.

    Which is to say that the songs here are occasionally imperfect. The production sound is amazing, and the ideas are extraordinarily fertile. The problems crop up in transition--Davis and Toppin have a habit of trying to shoehorn a bit too much into some of their songs. Nevertheless, so much of this soars that the occasional clunky shifts don't register too heavily. And when the reverb-laden guitar and horns kick in, the effect is intoxicating.

    This album comes out in October, but hearing it in late summer was perfect for me. There's a late light feel to many of these songs, perfect for sitting out on the porch and feeling the heat ebb. These songs make any seat feel ten times more comfortable.

    Limitless potential. Maybe Love Love never quite scales these heights again, but I'm betting that with gigging and more time together, the results next time out will be stunning. This effort is merely one of the best of the year. I'm almost afraid to imagine what might come next.

    Love Nut
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Throbbing, gut-ripping buzz-saw pop from just down the road (I-83, to be precise) in Baltimore. Big-time producer Ed Stasium has provided the band with a monster sound, and the band did the rest.

    There's a lot to that rest. Wonderfully ragged hooks and just-short-of-a-crash song structure. Alright, a two-point deduction for the strangely lacking-in-irony power ballad "If You Go Away", but other than that Love Nut kicks out some serious power pop.

    Filter early Beatles through the seventies and add just a dash of that punky stuff that's still floating about. The songs are great, and the sound is dead on. This thing has a ton of commercial potential.

    And it's good enough to prick up the ears of folks on the other side of the tracks as well. Quite a package, even if it was fairly self-consciously assembled.

    Love Offering
    Face Down
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    If there's actually something called the "Kalamazoo sound", the Love Offering is a fairly good representation. Bands like Twitch and the God Bullies took equal parts hardcore and grunge (even before it was known as grunge) to craft this sorta rust belt rock.

    And I like this divergence a little better than average grunge, though the Love Offering does get into the "hair dance" riffs a bit too often. Still, the songs are well written, and the production is great. Everything that needs to be sharp has been milled to a razor-like edge, and the rest has just a bit of a sonic blur.

    In other words, people who know what the fuck they're doing. And perhaps a bit of that crafting could be discarded in favor of some raw emotion, but that's probably quibbling.

    It's been a while since I thought of my 1993-94 stomping grounds, and this brings a lot of it back to me. And a solid disc to boot. I can't complain.

    Love Revolution
    Love Revolution
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Mixing a little blues in with a heavy glam (in the 70s sense) and some flower power slogans, Love Revolution come out sounding one hell of a lot like Law and Order (remember them?)

    Well, I loved that band, and this is a decent fix, though LR's lyrics are pretty silly, where LAO would get a little more serious and introspective.

    But the same problems remain in selling this music. You can't very easily slip LR into a slot, and record companies love to do that. This band is too mellow for a lot of metal guys, but also far too heavy (and glam) for regular MDs. And when funk slip sinto the mix ("People Want To Be Free"), even the music starts to get a little absurd.

    Hell, I'm all for playing what you like (particularly if I like it). I wish these guys well and hope someone (with a label) finds their stuff.

    Love Spirals Downwards
    Sideways Forest CD5
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    A couple new songs, both in that ethereal pop realm. Love Spirals Downwards is good enough, though, to keep this stuff from crossing over into the "crappy new age stuff" pile.

    Add in a vaguely jungle remix of the title track, and you get the nice three-track set. The band (Ryan Lum and Suzanne Perry) creates lush soundscapes without pandering to the listener. The result is a nicely textured feel, with plenty of area for exploration.

    A nice single. Worth checking out if you haven't caught Love Spirals Downwards before. and if you have, you already know.

    Let's Rumble CD5
    reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94

    Not three chords, but four!

    I really have never liked these folk, even when Sony or Warner Brothers or whoever got radio stations to play the stuff. Now that they're out in the real world, the music has to convince people to play them.
    And they have. I think this is pretty awful, but many people whose musical taste I respect like it, so it obviously has appeal.

    To compare this with the Dangerous Toys release (two bands in the same situation), it's not even close. I'd like to hear a full disc, because I might find something redeeming. Not in this song, though.

    (Big 1)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    Funk with real horns, and a somewhat fusion feel to the whole project. The playing is good and the intentions every better, but the grooves just aren't quite there.

    The problem is in the rhythm section, where the bass and drums seem stuck in a wanky funk mode. Very little diversity in the beats, and if every song is built around much the same line, well, it doesn't matter how cool the peripherals are.

    And the thing is, the sax, clarinet and harp all really add to the sound, and in fact they shine despite the mundane songs. But there's no escaping the plain and simple truth: the music is dull.

    Lovecraft simply doesn't take the tunes anywhere. The sound stagnates despite the best attempts. Too bad.

    Big 1 Records:
    5609 Berkshire Valley Rd.
    Old Bridge, NJ 07751
    Phone (201) 208-0813

    split 7" with Aloha
    (Makoto Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    I've got a Lovesick CD sitting on the shelf. I'll review that next issue. First, though, I figured I'd go after this small slab of vinyl. Lovesick's contribution is loud, short and sweet. Messy emo, I'd say, though it's hard to tell from the production. That's where the mess lies. I just can't quite get a handle on what's going on.

    No such problems for Aloha, who lays out a track of beautifully textured pop. There's some marimba going on, but don't think High Llamas or Tortoise. Rather, think of the marimbas as just part of an extended percussion section. One that dances rather than churns. Wow. I'm really knocked out.

    This is part of an extended split 7" series from Makoto. I'm happy to recommend this one on the basis of the Aloha alone, though the Lovesick is intriguing. I have a feeling the CD will be more enlightening.

    (Makoto Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    The fairly lo-fi sound of the 7" is still in evidence. I guess these folks like that. The songs themselves sound a lot like sloppy Superchunk run through an emo filter. Obviously, not a huge shift in sound there.

    The energy is most appealing, I'll admit. Lovesick comes on caterwauling and doesn't let up. That's most cool. The songs themselves are somewhat interchangeable, which is too bad. I wanted there to be more in them.

    Not to be. I noted the rather muffled sound at the top, and I'll mention it once more. I think the band could do quite well with better engineering. I'm not talking about sharp, precise tracking. The mastering of this disc is so off I had to crank up my stereo just to hear it properly. And I'm going deaf. Not quite, anyway.

    More depth. More distinct songs. In other words, I want more from Lovesick. What's here is fine. But I can hear so much more potential that I'm disappointed. I just don't like to hear a possibly great band sounding ordinary.

    (No Shame)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Richard Spitzer is the guy behind Loveskills, and he's recruited a couple new mates for this outing. The sound is a fine combination of the electronic and organic. The gauzy pop songs have all the requisite hooks, and there's just enough noodling for those who need such things. A fine short set.

    The Lovetones
    (Planting Seeds)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Pop with an americana accent. The Lovetones are pretty straightforward in their approach; there's nothing behind the curtain. On the other hand, the show on the stage is utterly compelling.

    The hooks are understated, but the verses are so well-wound that it's hard to complain. Indeed, the music sells these songs as well as the singing. I've always been a fan of songs that don't simply fade away when the vocals drop in. At times, the music intensifies as the singing starts. Excellent.

    The sound is full and ringing, though the vocals are the only element that could be described as lush. It's that whole "basic basic" approach, I suppose. The songs are on the table, and we get to partake as we like.

    I suggest digging in whole-heartedly. The first few bars should sell you. If not, you're probably in the wrong shop. A lovely set of songs.

    Whip It, Baby!
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    An interesting idea: Mix ska, rock and African guitar pop. Except totally different from the Talking Heads.

    For starters, the skankin' beats are preeminent, and the African guitar lines come in a close second. Behind all that is a little rock and roll. Just a little. Enough to make this sorta recognizable.

    Of course, it all fits together. This simply puts similarly-influenced sounds back together in the cradle. The sort of thing that makes you slap yourself in the head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" Um, maybe because Lovewhip did. And boy howdy, does it work. When the band really cuts loose and lets the horns, drums and guitars go at it, the sound is sublime. And it's just about as good throughout the rest of the disc. Quite a find.

    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Imagine the Dance Hall Crashers as a world pop band. Lovewhip often uses intertwined female vocals, draping them over ska, Afropop and melodies assembled from all sorts of Caribbean and African sounds.

    It does generally get back to ska--complete with a nice set of horns--but the little touches (particularly with lead guitar and bass) keep the sound lively and interesting.

    Light as a feather, but that's no complaint. The bubbly nature of these songs is what makes them so attractive. This album is all about fun, and there's plenty of that delivered. No need to worry about the transmission methods.

    I had a blast. That's all. And for me, that's enough. Lovewhip is kind of a strange name for a band that plys this sort of stuff, but who am I to complain? I smiled the whole way through.

    Virtual Booty Machine
    reviewed in issue #270, October 2005

    I really liked the first album I heard from these folks, and this one is pretty good. Melding ska/reggae rhythms and bass with techno pop is an inspired idea. This album is a bit more mechanical and less organic...and I miss the more overt emotion of that earlier CD. Still, this one is awfully fun. Excellent for shaking the booty.

    Preston Lovinggood
    Sun Songs
    (Communicating Vessels)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/17/13

    Lovinggood manages an almost impossible trick, making chunky, clunky versions of what should be easy-rollin', jangly, rootsy pieces. Part of this can be attributed to the Capstan Shafts-y lo-fi production. And part of it has to be owned by Lovinggood. What's striking is how effective this is most of the time. Maybe Lovinggood is on to something after all.

    Shadow Songs
    (Communicating Vessels)
    reviewed 12/17/14

    One of my favorite albums is a re-issue of T. Rex's The Slider, which includes an alternate version that Bolan called Rabbit Fighter. The alternate album has a different sequence, with some of the same songs showing up in different settings. And some of the Slider songs are reworked into completely new pieces. I don't get the chance very often, but when I have a spare ninety minutes (or so) I like to kick back with a bourbon, some headphones and those albums cued up back-to-back. A summer night on the deck is just about perfect for this.

    The process of creation is not mysterious; it's simply hard work punctuated by moments of inspiration. But listening to how an artist works through his genius is truly enthralling.

    Preston Lovinggood has given us a similar window into his thoughts and processes with last year's Sun Songs and this album, which came out back in February. I've been listening to this album all year (every time kicking myself for not writing about it), and I like it better than its somewhat sparser older brother. And like my prized Slider set, this album takes five tracks from Sun Songs and fleshes them out further. Not just rearranging, mind you, but often major rewrites.

    A heavier hand on the production knob lends these (generally) more introspective songs a greater heft. And while I could do note-for-note comparisons of the five "repeated" tracks, that would be silly. What I will say is that listening to these albums back-to-back really exposes Lovinggood's astonishing songwriting chops. When you can put the same song in different contexts and still make it work, that's real songwriting.

    I also like the way Lovvinggood is willing to mess with his creations. I don't think he's trying to improve as much as explore what he's written. A recorded song is simply a snapshot in time, while the song itself is a portal into the writer's soul. I can't think of a better example of that than how Lovvinggood has put together these two albums.

    When deck weather comes around this spring, I think I'll give Sun Songs and Shadow Songs the back-to-back treatment. They may not replace The Slider in the canon, but they've earned their slot. And I simply cannot wait to hear what comes next.

    (and Dirty Three)
    In the Fishtank
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Followers of this series know the story. Konkurrent brings a band into the studio while that band is touring Europe (Holland, in particular) and has said band screw around. Twenty to thirty minutes of improvised music is then put onto disc. Here, Low came in and asked Dirty Three to sit in. The results, as if you couldn't guess, are spectacular.

    Both bands were playing the Crossing Border festival in Amsterdam, and in between everything else they managed to stop off and record a few songs. Five collaborations and a truly spooky version of "Down by the River." Must be heard to be believed.

    Sometimes creative bands are too competitive to truly work together to make something special. That didn't happen here. Low and Dirty Three combined the best of what they do to create some beautiful, haunting tunes. Just another reason why this is one of the best continuing series around.

    Low Fat Getting High
    Low Fat Getting High
    (Money Fire)
    reviewed 3/12/15

    Those who fondly remember Zeke will certainly smile when they hear Low Fat Getting High. This Brooklyn trio bashes out twelve zippy sludge-punk-pop songs ("tunes" would imply more melody than actually exists here) in less than half an hour.

    While the melodic range is limited, the rhythmic diversity and blistering energy is off the charts. LFGH doesn't churn so much as puree. And each piece ends quickly and breathlessly. The one complaint I can muster is that there's no real letup to the attack, which leaves the listener utterly drained.

    But that's like the answer you've prepared for the inevitable "Tell us about your weaknesses" job interview question. Relentless energy and mind-bending riffage is a very good thing. LFGH finds the groove, burns it in and then shifts into the next song before scarring sets in.

    Now, I can't promise that your ears (much less your brain) will survive a steady diet of this album. But I'll be damned if I won't give it a shot. This sucker is better than two cups of coffee with a No-Doz chaser. If it doesn't get your blood boiling, you've already succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. The rest of us will bite into the wire and ride the high into next week.

    Low Pop Suicide
    On the Cross of Commerce
    (World Domination/Capitol)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    The wanker psychedelia parts I can do without. A personal thing, I suppose. On the other hand, at times this really kicks in and starts to kick my butt pretty hard.

    As soon as that happens, they usually pull back and try to wank on me, but the occasional cool track slips through.

    A bit commercial for my tastes. Not without its merits, however.

    Low Fidelity All-Stars
    How to Operate with a Blown Mind
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Go electronic everyone! Lots of drum loops and samples all over the tracks, but a solid job of arrangement and energy. It's a good record to sink into yourself. Like the title suggests, many references to going so far that you can never come back.

    Good for setting trippy mood music or lying flat on your back staring straight up wondering what exactly is between the ceiling and the roof, what's between the skull and the brain, what's between the ego and superego, and what's between life and death.

    Pretty good ebb and flow throughout. It's a good record to put on if you don't want to focus on the music. It's just a tool for the journey. A journey to where? I guess that's up to you.

    -- Aaron Worley

    Katt Lowe and the Othersyde
    Katt Lowe and the Othersyde
    (Monkey Moon)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    What happens when old punkers get introspective? Katt Lowe might provide a clue. This album (produced by Cherie Currie of the Runaways) is chock full of mid-tempo AOR rockers with a decidedly haggard edge.

    Lowe's doesn't hold a tune well. Not a problem when she's howling. But some of the numbers here require a more subtle touch, one that she can't provide.

    There are quite a few jangle-pop acoustic guitar riffs dropped in alongside the chunky punk-metal lead lines. The stuff doesn't mesh. It's like two songs are playing at the same time. Again, that might be a nice effect, but not when you're trying to make simple rock and roll.

    Lowe has a knack for writing proto-punk anthems ("Only Hurts a Little" and a couple other songs here). Those songs sound decent. But when she gets more sentimental or otherwise needs to draw on some kind of commercial-style emotion, she can't come through. The songs sound uninspired and her voice just can't hack it. Lowe has certain skills and a definite appeal. This album didn't showcase her strengths.

    Lower East Side Stitches
    (Ng Records)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    The cover sorta sez it all. Semi-tuneful, sloppy, slurred, raucous punk rock. With something of a social conscience. What L.E.S. Stitches has is an immaculate sense of how to do this right.

    I'm not saying this is all planned and plotted out. Hardly. But it comes together so nicely. Think of Rancid's straighter punk moments and add just a bit more of the N.Y.C. attitude and the formula is set. A time-honored, well-worn sound, but one that so few seem to be able to accomplish.

    In other words, these boys found the groove. The songs and the performances work. There's nothing much else to it. I mean, I must have heard a hundred or more bands try to do this, but L.E.S. Stitches are as good as I've heard.

    Oh, yeah. Play it loud. Real damned loud. Piss off your neighbors. Get a noise pollution ticket from the cops. Whatever. Just tap in and it's impossible to yank out.

    The Lower 48
    Everywhere to Go EP
    (Grape Juice)
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    Minimalist roots fare that rises and falls on the distinctive vocals of Sarah Parson. She's got a bit of the Linda Perry warble, and that works quite well with these understated songs.

    Despite the rough sound (these tracks sound a lot like demos) and occasional raggedy playing, there are plenty moments of sweet melody. Indeed, those almost accidental drops of sugar are most intriguing.

    I have to wonder if a bit more studio time (and more songs) would smooth over too many of the rough edges. Personally, I like the sound the way it is. It's far from perfect, which brings the Lower 48 that much closer to heaven.

    Mike Lowry Band
    Mike Lowry Band
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Mike Lowry looks fifteen. He might be twenty-five. Hard to say. But he's a young guy. And what he's doing is playing the blues. Quite well, thank you.

    Okay, so the stuff is really damned loud. It would be easy to dismiss Lowry as some punk white kid who's trying to glom off ancient traditions. And, you know, there is an element of truth in that. But Lowry wrote all these songs, and they're solid. A bit overblown at times, but solid.

    Of interest to me is the fact that Lowry's impressive guitar playing isn't cranked up in the mix. Rather, it's the rest of his band, particularly the keyboards (or organ or whatever is playing on a particular song) that predominates. I'd dial that stuff back and allow his lean licks to come forward just a bit. When it comes to the blues, I'm a meat and potatoes guy. Give my salad to the cow.

    Lowry has a fine range as a songwriter as well. Not every song works--Lowry writes more from craft than inspiration--but most do. I'm generally the first person to wail on this sort of album, but Lowry has impressed me. Let him get his heart broken a few more times, and he just might start a fire.

    Nothing is Enough EP
    (The Acme Thunderer)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    Fuzz-bombed new wavey stuff--imagine the Reid Brothers producing I'm the Man--that is simply too bombastic and gorgeous to stick in the closet.

    Pop anthems are a tricky thing, though Lubec does seem to have found the magic formula: Just add distortion to the soaring choruses. I know, it's not that simple. But these folks make it sound easy. And I like that a lot.

    Not a single clunker in the six songs here. I sure hope the band can keep this up for an entire album. That would be almost too much to bear.

    That Much Further West
    (Tiger Style)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    So what if Jay Farrar had fronted the Replacements? I know, it still would have sounded like Uncle Tupelo, but indulge my fantasy. Lucero plays a snazzy, modern version of indie roots rock, complete with dressed-up production and busy song arrangements.

    But Ben Nichols really does remind me of Farrar trying to channel Paul Westerburg (not unheard of, of course), which probably also accounts for my hearing some of these pieces as a bit more snotty than they ought to be.

    And there's this odd post-grunge bass feel as well, but I'll chalk that up to Lucero working its ass off trying to create an original sound. I'm not sure the boys completely succeed--there's more pastiche than coherent thought in the arrangements--but I do like what I hear.

    There's a bonus disc here that sounds like demo versions of the songs on the album. Less production, simpler arrangements--that sort of thing. I like these rough versions better. They show off the songs better. And they prove that sometimes it's possible to overdo a good thing. Nonetheless, Lucero proves that it has the chops for the long haul.

    Luciar CD5
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Just couple songs, so I'm gonna have to be brief as well. Luciar has a wonderful voice, full and lush, and she uses it extremely well. The music which backs her up reminds me a lot of later Pat Benatar (the more electronic stuff), and that lends a dated effect.

    The first song, "So Peaceful," is just that, a slow ballad that shows off Luciar's strength and flexibility. The second song, "Amuse Me," constantly shifts gears, and has something of a Tori Amos quality to the writing (but Luciar's vocals are much more mainstream in style).

    Enough of a taste to get me interested. I've been promised a full-length at some point in the future, and it could be interesting. There certainly is talent here.

    Rules of the Game
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    She's going for the big score here. Luciar has positioned herself dead in the middle of the modern female singer sound, somewhat less affected than Alanis but more complex than Madonna.

    I throw those names out for a reason. While Luciar certainly has talent as a singer and producer, there is an element of calculation in the sound. She wants to hit it big, like I said. And this doesn't quite reach that mark.

    It's not because she refuses to take chances. No, it's more that those chances aren't quite integrated seamlessly into this disc. Better for the artist, not so good for the commercial possibilities. And since this does not sound aimed at an "alternative" audience, I've gotta judge it as the "industry" might.

    Still, she has the talent, skill (not the same thing) and looks to break over in a big way. This disc does show off her abilities. There's something special here. I'm not exactly sure what it will take for a break out.

    Lucid Nation
    American Stonehenge
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Three folks, each of whom writes songs and sings (and plays guitar) on those songs. I'm not sure how that works out live (all that bass and guitar switching would be difficult, and that's not even getting into the problems of jumping around the rum kit). Still, the sort of thing I don't need to worry about.

    What's stranger is that each member writes completely different sorts of songs. Tamra Spivey pens balls-out hardcore screechers, which suits her untrained (and not particularly tuneful) voice very well. Ronnie Hogart is the most contemplative, with occasional languid spots. Drummer Erin McCarley is probably the most pop-centric of the writers, but she's only got three songs and maybe I'm not getting the whole picture.

    Lucid Nation is a garage band with plenty of ambition but not quite enough skill to pull off its ideas. The playing can be really bad, even though the songs themselves are fairly well-written. In particular, the lyrics are affecting, even if the music accompanying them doesn't quite match up.

    Just a start. This is a young band with lots of good ideas. If the members don't lose their solid instincts as they learn how to play better, Lucid Nation has a real future.

    (Brain Floss)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Not many bands would think that AC/DC and Sonic Youth are a perfect fit. But Lucid Nation tears off a chunk of "Night Prowler PCH," slinging it out as natural as can be.

    Tamra Spivey purrs, growls and struts her way through this disc, adding just enough attitude to pull off such an audacious stunt. The band has aimed high, and it's not quite good enough to pull it off. But when Spivey is singing (which is most of the time), it's easy to skim over the problems.

    We're not talking about huge issues, either. It's just that the musicianship isn't astonishing. These are young players, and the fingers don't quite do what they oughta. Still, the flights of songwriting fancy (and Spivey's vocal range) more than make up for any technical deficiencies.

    Young bands like this are rarely dull. Lucid Nation hasn't been around long enough to have its ambition stomped flat. I hope that doesn't happen. Boy, there's a whaleload of potential in this outfit. In a year or two, maybe something special will arrive.

    Lucky Me
    reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96

    The pedigree is pretty decent. Robb Williamson, once of My Name, on bass. Jade Devitt, once of Engine Kid, taking on the skins. Gary Westlake on guitar. And the songwriter (as well as singer and second guitarist) is Nylene Schmeichel.

    All that's pretty irrelevant, though, once you hit the music. Schmeichel has a singing style not unlike Courtney Love (when Love isn't trying to sing), and there are a few early (pre-DGC) Hole moments to be had. Wails (vocal and guitar), screeches (same) and seriously apocalyptic themes. And, of course, Schmeichel appears nude in the liners and on the back of the jewel box. I'll bite.

    Way too pretentious for its own good, Lucky Me still manages to pull off the near-impossible. These songs are oddly polished for a band that hadn't been together a year before this was recorded. And you can hear the chemistry. This band actually likes to play this stuff. It's infectious.

    As I cycle through the disc, I keep waiting for a shitty song. It's only natural, and it happens to the best of folks. But I never found it. Yeah, Lucky Me is pretty idiosyncratic, and Schmeichel is one of those "love her/hate her" sort of performers. But if you get into the groove, you may not find your way out.

    The Lucky Stars
    Hollywood & Western
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    The old joke about "we play both kinds of music: country and western" is pretty funny, but for the last 40 years or so there's been a lot more country than western swing.

    Yeah, you can catch the Riders in the Sky on the radio, and there are some country acts that play a little swing, but very few that specialize in the stuff like the Lucky Stars.

    The swing is tight, with some nice fiddle and steel guitar decorations. The production leaves this stuff sounding like it probably did back in the 40s and 50s (without the pops and scratches, of course): Light and lean. Of course, anything sounds spartan compared to today's country bombast.

    The songs are modern, at least lyrically. They come off as nostalgic, perhaps, but not particularly dated. The Lucky Stars do have a knack for the sound and the ability to bring it into a new millennium. A whole lotta fun, done exceptionally well.

    The Lucy Show
    Mania reissue
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    Somewhere between early Chills and early Cure (with a healthy dose of Robyn Hitchcock and Echo and the Bunnymen, just for good measure) lies the Lucy Show. The cover is a fine riff on the Smiths, which isn't a terrible reference point, either. And when you consider that this album was originally released back in 1986, I suppose it all comes together.

    So you know where these boys come from. What's more impressive is how far they take this sound. Startling isn't the word for it. Why the Lucy Show never really scored is something of a mystery, although I suppose it could well have gotten lost in the shuffle of the times.

    The sound, in particular, is quite dated. Tinny (of course) and sounding like it was recorded in an echo chamber, there's nothing in the production that helps break these boys out from the other fine U.K. pop bands of the time. Still, it sure sounds awfully good today, especially to folks who remember those times with great fondness.

    It's always nice to get back to high school again--even if I didn't listen to much of this kinda stuff when I was actually in high school. Some things aren't meant to be, but at least we can now hear what never broke. And that's definitely worth a wistful smile or three.

    ...Undone re-issue
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    The Lucy Show is one of those gothic new wave acts that never quite made it. If you read your Trouser Press (1989 edition or earlier), you wil be told that the reason is that the band never quite pulled all if its influences together.

    That's fair enough. None of these songs quite matches the majesty of the first track, "Ephemeral (This Is No Heaven)." The band vacillates between uptempo (almost coke-fueled at times) ravers and mid-tempo gothic pop songs--though no one would have called them that back in 1984, which is when this album first appeared.

    Looking back, this is a distinctive cultural artifact. The Lucy Show sounds a lot like the Cure, but not what the Cure was doing back in the early 80s. I wouldn't call this album prescient, exactly, but its intentions (often not quite realized) were fulfilled by later, more popular acts.

    This re-issue is just a remastering of the original album. I don't know what archival material might be available, but it's not here. All you've got is an album that didn't catch fire 25 years ago...but somehow it's still around. An interesting set.

    This Dollar Saved My Life at Whitehorse
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    If you're like me, you occasionally wonder what happened to the members of Tiamat. Well, singer Johan Edlund has decided to continue down the road traveled by his old band, cranking out some Sisters of Mercy-style goth pop. And he's pretty good at it.

    This isn't revolutionary fare by any means, but it sounds good. You know, a lot of folks have the impulse ride straight into overkill territory. Too many guitars. Too many keyboards. Moving the percussion toward the disco. That sort of thing. Lucyfire plays it straight up instead. Basic and solid.

    That restrained hand on the production knob really lets the songwriting come through. The lyrics are often pedestrian, but Edlund sells them coolly. And the music just grinds on.

    Okay, so there's a silly cover of "Sharp Dressed Man." I can't really describe it except in those terms. It doesn't ruin the album, though. Just adds to the somewhat otherworldly dimension already created. Like I'm listening to this disc in some kind of parallel universe. It's not a bad feeling, really.

    John Ludi
    Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Ache EP
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    So I'm listening to this, and my immediate thought is: Damn, this sounds like Tim Elder! A combination of both the voice and the programming style of the drum machines. So I go up on JohnLudi.com and discover, indeed, this this is Tim Elder. Or, more accurately, Tim Elder is John Ludi. Well, I think his real name is something else again, but we'll stick with Ludi for now.

    For those who missed my 1995 review of his Fashionable Angry disc, Ludi's voice is reminsicent of Peter Murphy, but with a rootsy thing going on. The music has progressed from the Minneapolis rock sound (as Ludi himself has moved from Minnesota to Chicago) to a more basic modern rock feel, but the writing is just as solid.

    And that's what Ludi does well. He writes great songs. He's not the world's greatest singer (though his voice is interesting), and his drum machine still sounds like it's popping out of joint every once in a while. But the quality of the songs themselves is quite apparent. There's a depth and soul that most people miss.

    I was bummed a couple years back when I noticed that Elder (okay, Ludi) had "closed" his Tim Elder personality (that's how he put it). Hey, as long as the music keeps coming, we're cool.

    See also Tim Elder.

    Fex Urbis Lex Orbis
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    It's been more than a decade since Fear Factory first mixed a death metal growl with gothic wails. Ludicra is the latest band to follow, ripping through a pastiche of heavy sounds (black metal, stoner rock and melodic eurometal, just for starters) and throwing a similarly wide variety of vocals on top.

    This only works if the songs actually pull together. Ludicra does an outstanding job of managing this astoundingly aggressive chaos. Even when the sound is at its most extreme, the only word I can come up with is "beautiful."

    Maybe I just don't get enough of the loud stuff these days, but these guys are completely on top of their collective game. Loud, mean and utterly fearless, Ludicra cuts an impressive path. Few bands would dare play songs like these, and even fewer could.

    Loud music sounds better when it is played louder, of course, but these guys sound quite good at moderate volumes as well. The musical ideas are impressive, and the presentation is impeccable. Big, big smiles from me.

    Troy Lukkarila
    Unsafe Structure
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    If Leon Redbone went rootsy and acquired a somewhat juvenile sense of humor, he might sound like this. Troy Lukkarila has that "old timey" voice, and he sometimes even incorporates some older structures in his pieces.

    Other times he comes off as a scratchy Jonathan Richman...which isn't the worst thing in the world, I guess. At times he goes a bit far for a joke, but he only sacrifices lyrics, not music. The sound on this album is wide-ranging and always intriguing.

    Take the song "Lucy," which sounds more than a little like something Daniel Johnston might have written, except that these synth horns fly in at somewhat unexpected intervals. Weird, yes, and certainly unsettling, but nice nonetheless.

    I've never been a fan of weird for weird's sake, and Troy Lukkarila probably fits into that category. But somehow the force of his personality and ideas turn the tide for me. I'm smiling all the way.

    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Sixty-two minutes, one song. Mick Harris is done with Scorn (I never did hear the final album--hint, hint), but he continues his electronic experimenting with Lull. The first three albums were on Sentrax, and now Harris has moved to Release (where an increasing number of old earache hands seem to be arriving).

    Much more daring than latter-day Scorn, Harris used Lull to really flesh out strange musical ideas and stretch the boundaries of music. Sure, it seems like a pain to sit through sixty-something minutes of one song, but trust me: It's worth the wait.

    The main difference is that Lull doesn't rely on a backing beat track. And as Harris seemed to be getting a bit derivative in that way toward the end of the Scorn run, I'm all for this new direction.

    Call it what you like: ambient, electronic, whatever. Mick Harris has come through again with a revolutionary disc. Now I've just got to dig up those earlier Lull albums.

    See also Scorn.

    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    It had to happen someday. Now that Jetset has established itself as the darling of college radio (a well-deserved esconcement, I must say), established bands come calling to put their wares out under the TWA code.

    Luna's lush, crafted pop sound has been imitated by many, but few artists have been able to find just the right mix of beauty and cleverness. This album finds the band in a somewhat more contemplative mood, but from the first note this album is recognizable as a Luna effort.

    Some folks just know how to whip out relaxed, yet complex, pop songs. Luna has long proven its ability, and nothing here would make me question my previous view of the band. All told, a solid set.

    And so what if this album isn't an artistic step forward. Luna has created high expectations for its work, and these songs more than fulfill them. You can ask for more if you like, but I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this album once again.

    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    One of the downsides of having a kid is not being able to get down to the club on a Monday night to get one last glance at Luna. Kinda bums me out, but life goes on. Though some might say life without Luna won't be nearly as pleasant.

    For those who have never quite gotten into Dean Wareham's spare, lilting brand of post-VU pop, well, this album surely isn't going to change your mind. If anything, it is a refinement of the vein that Wareham has been riding for nearly 20 years. Wareham's palette has expanded significantly from that first Galaxie 500 album, but it's still possible to hear echoes today.

    Is this the best Luna album? That's kinda like asking a Yankees fan to name a favorite player of all time. I like it a lot, but it'll take a few months before I could give you a definitive answer. That's the nice thing about Luna albums: They show their true seasoning after a hundred listens or so.

    Getting to that magic number is pure pleasure, too. Too bad the folks are going on hiatus. This sort of pop music seems to be in short supply these days. Of course, Wareham himself will likely continue to crank out songs. A junkie can't control his habit. And I'll be happy to slurp up the detritus.

    Binge and Purge
    (Safe House)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    Despite the fact that the press referred to Lunachicks as "foxcore" (a term I find rather idiotic), I'll still review this. But I'm warning all of you: no more!

    After all, female folks can rock just as hard as the guys. For proof, look up the Avengers, a band fronted by a woman who put out one great album. Just one, but it is rather amazing. Enough of the tangential stuff.

    You played L7, will you play this? I know, it isn't as tight or sterile, but all of the things left in add up to a ferocious gumbo. And you know, I can never get enough songs about periods, bulimia, popping zits or how nasty a few choice men are. Really.

    I mean, take this line. "Don't touch us in the street/"Cause we ain't your tits and meat/Just because we're fucking women."

    If it's smarmy pablum you want, go start playing your Warrant records. This is really down and real music for those of us who prefer our feet unbound.

    Babysitters on Acid
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Hard to believe that Lunachicks have become one of the most venerable acts around. I mean, they go back almost forever. And they're still cracking out loud, messy punk rock with the best of 'em.

    The quality level, as always, is inconsistent. There's always a few gems on each disc and some stuff that sounds forced. I get the feeling that's never gonna change. As always, the rule is: Go to the show.

    But since I'm talking about the album... I had a good time. This disc is nothing spectacular, but it is fun. You can't take Lunachicks seriously. There's just no way to do that.

    Have a good time, and take yer B vitamins when you get home. Too much Lunachicks will give you a hangover. In measured doses, however, these gals hit the spot.

    Luscious Jackson
    Electric Honey
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Yeah, I remember the old days, way back when Luscious Jackson was a hip, cool thing to play on college radio. That was a long, long time ago.

    Now it's cool teenagers who wait upon the next opus from this trio, and the music isn't quite as interesting. A little bland, even. I can understand the backlash some of my friends are kicking out, but I'm not going to go so far as to join them.

    Yeah, this is bouncy pop music, somewhere between electronic, disco and hip-hop. And because the beats and grooves trip between those feels, Luscious Jackson proves it still has a handle on creating creative music. Commercial, the sort of thing the kids will dig, to be sure, but that doesn't mean it sucks. It's just not the most inspired stuff in the world.

    Come on, boys, time to let go of that ritualistic sacrifice of the indie favorite gone big time. This is a decent album by a good group. Any more than that? No. But it's still a reasonably fun summer album.

    Lust Penguins
    Lust Penguins EP
    (Sheisterfest Records)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Weel, awraht den. Some balls-out roots rock. Completely underplayed, in utter opposition to that Agents album I reviewed earlier. These songs crash on, one after the other, bleeding angst, not arrogance.

    Tuneful, with just enough pompous hooks to craft a couple nice anthems. Mostly, though, the Lust Penguins prefer to fly through doors blind. Lotsa bashing for a band which utilizes a big wad of acoustic guitars. All the right moves.

    Eeew, sorry about that. This band deserves better than that. Hey, the songs don't shoot for the moon, but they do a nice bit of work on the way. Sometimes, the basics are all you need. Straight-up cool music.

    Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver
    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    The power-punk split from Cargo. Uncle Joe's... brings us "Lip Gloss", a wondrously bouncy punk raver which promised great things for the upcoming album Chick Rock. The tongue is firmly placed, by the way.

    Lustre's tune, "Junior", is a great pop anthem with heavy guitars that remind me somewhat of Fluf. In my book, that's not too bad. It's pretty hard to get away from this song without humming along. And FYI, Lustre used to go by the name of Shiner.

    Do the Glimpse
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Two guys, Toru Yoneyama and Osam Kato, who generally play guitar. There are other noises (both also play keyboards from time to time, and Yoneyama is credited with "toys" as well), but most of the music to be found here resides somewhere between the dueling axes.

    Perhaps I'm leaving an incorrect impression with that last statement. While the guitars certainly do play off each other (and in fact, the music is at its finest when both are playing their six-strings), the sound is hardly a metal meltdown. The sound is improvisational, with an interesting bluesy feel.

    Know how some improvised music can be tedious because there's no structure? Not a problem here. Luvrokambo sets definite parameters for its songs, and the experimentation colors in between those lines.

    What I like best is the way these guys can almost constantly surprise without simply throwing in the kitchen sink every piece. These boys are inventive without resorting to utterly unfettered structure. A most impressive sound, indeed.

    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Very mechanical-sounding coldwave stuff. Almost everything sounds sythesized, from the guitars to the vocals. Obviously the beats are programmed. With that much in the computer, the input had better be good.

    The songs generally start off in halting fashion, but once they get going, I like them much more. This makes some sense; if the stuff is really programmed to a major extent, the only problem areas are the beginning and the end. The middle is where everything is working overtime.

    Luxt structures its songs in basic industrial fashion, and that's a problem for me. I'd like to hear a bit more creativity. I like the synthesized sound in general, but a little artifical sponteniety would go a long way.

    The Yaz cover is somewhat telling; perhaps main members Erie Loch and Anna Christine want nothing more than to create another Upstairs at Eric's. Not a bad inspiration, really, but Luxt needs to refine the songwriting to match the programming if it really wants to break out.

    Razing Eden
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Drenched in noise and rising up from the dark depths of the cold wave, Luxt powers its compositions with simple but strong beat patterns and melodic ideas. Most often, the music is heavily distorted, but it's always comprehensible.

    Anna Christine's fairly unaffected vocals power through the wall, emphasizing the strength of the songs. The environment is completely sterile, but engaging nonetheless. A tough trick to turn.

    There's even a Led Zep cover that manages to capture the feel of the original even while taking a new tack. Christine's vocals are a bit too Plant-like, but the musical arrangement is very cool.

    A complete world unto itself. Once entering, leaving becomes difficult. Reality has a different scent. Life itself takes on a new dimension. I've always liked mind-altering music, myself.

    The Drunk EP
    (Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Omega Point is rapidly becoming this decade's answer to Wax Trax, a Chicago label standing at the forefront of electronic rock music. Luxxury is just the latest cool band to come down that particular pipe.

    Think Lords of Acid with a modicum of taste, or, say, KMFDM with a sense of proportion. Or, you know, the Cure with an overtly sexual component. In other words, we're talking about real rock music with an electronic dance rhythm section. The press notes make a reference to Roxy Music. And while the music doesn't fit that, the style definitely does.

    That style is a wonderfully stirred-up mishmash of danceable rock music, with more than a dash of pure sex. The sort of thing that is instantly addictive to an awful lot of people. Turn it up. And let nature take its course.

    Rock and Roll (Is Evil)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    A full-length from these folks who knocked me out with their recent EP. There are repeats, but with 14 tracks, this disc provides plenty more reasons to dig Luxxury.

    For the uninitiated, the guys list Giorgio Moroder as a prime influence. Indeed. This is like pop music on crack, it's so irresistible. Lots of synthesizers, a few guitars and an insistent disco/techno beat that simply screams "dance, motherfucker!"

    A, well, luxurious sound envelops these songs. Kinda like plush velvet on a comfy chaise lounge. Or something more organic with the same general contours.

    Don't know why I'm getting all euphemistic here. This is filthy music, and it revels in depravity. Quite the wonder that way, really. This sort of attitude is hard to keep up for an entire album, but Luxxury does nicely without even repeating itself. Throb baby, throb!

    Baron von Luxxury
    The Last Seduction
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    I guess Robin Blake decided that "Luxxury" was too pedestrian a moniker, so he added "Baron von" to class things up a bit.

    The obvious reference point here is Giorgio Moroder, whose pillowy synths and throbbing bass lines pretty much defined the mid 80s. Blake uses both of those elements to great effect, and he adds in some catchy tunes. Nothing exceedingly aggressive, but utterly entrancing.

    Indeed, if your idea of a fine night out is losing yourself on the dance floor, this is the best such album I've heard in quite a while. Yeah, there's plenty of cheese. That's the point.

    Settle into the Luxxury life. It's fully of cushy couches and slushy drinks served in strangely-shaped glasses. And ear candy. Lots and lots of ear candy. Delicious.

    LVX Nova
    LVX Nova
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Another one of those Tampa bands I never heard when I lived in the area. LVX Nova crafts stuff that might be best described as ambient light. The sound is purely electronic, but the ideas expressed as generally simpler and less experimental than the top practitioners of the form.

    Plenty of nods to that almost omnipresent electronic beat style, though in a very non-threatening style. Creative music for folks who find the Orb frightening and incomprehensible.

    Way too sterile for my taste, I guess. The stuff sounds just a little too processed. The best electronic music has a way of not sounding electronic, something that certainly did not happen here.

    Still, if the choice is this or Yanni, well, I'll make my bed here. LVX Nova has made quite a few pleasant, if unassuming songs. I simply wish there had been an urge to push the sound just a bit.

    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    More musings from Dead Can Dance territory, though Lycia sticks to the more esoteric and unusual early road of that band. The result is a pretty, if somewhat uneven, performance.

    The first track, "Frozen", features a really cool guitar sound, sorta like a MIDI thing with loads of distortion. I'm sure it's synthesized, but it takes the guitar position. You know what I mean. Anyway, I kept waiting for that to reappear. It didn't, and Lycia replaced it with a more mundane straight synth sound. I know, don't overwork a good thing and all, but still. This sort of decision-making takes songs that could be exquisite and drops them to the barely above-average level.

    Because boredom erupts across long stretches of this disc, punctuated by the occasional stretch of brilliance. I'm not sure if the folks can hear this (or if I'm totally missing their point), but it just bugs the hell out of me.

    Inside this average disc is a great one waiting to happen. Too bad it's still locked up.

    Lydia's Trumpet
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Not exactly folk, at least as far as the music goes. But Ray Kirsch's lyrics are rife with songwriteritis, where the product is stuff that sounds way too overwritten. When the lyrics fit together well, the music also seems to find that groove.

    But when it doesn't, the whole conglomeration of cool instrumentation can get painfully disjointed. Kinda like those guys who play guitar on the street corner. Most of them have one or two really good songs in them, but you have to wade through the other hundred before you find them.

    A lot of these songs fit in the "quirky acoustic pop" category, with the bouncy beats and almost clever lyrics that define that category. And the band does not sound comfortable in that mode. On more country-tinged tunes like "Dim the Wine", though, everything seems to click. The lyrics are simpler, and the diverse sounds of the band mesh together really nicely.

    Many nice moments, enough to make me like the album. Perhaps more clubbing would remove some of the excesses and really refine the sound. Or the band could quit the pop pretensions and just sink into the realm of country music currently defined by the Palace Brothers. Anything that helps the players understand what's going on would be a benefit.

    Bill Lyerly Band
    Railroad Station Blues
    (Riviere International)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Definitely white-boy blues, but still packed with soul. The guitars are cranked up a bit, that's all. Lyerly imbues his songs with all the requisite emotion and instrumentation. He adds piano or organ to his guitar playing, and lets his sides take care of bass and drum work. Nothing more.

    Most of the songs are his own, too. Good stuff, solid and original, even while paying direct homage to a number of blues greats. There's all colors of the blues here, shuffles, ballads, some pieces that are more folk or country. Lyerly dances around all of these notions, even as he keeps his own sound on solid ground.

    Resonant, in a way I haven't heard in a blues album in a while. Lyerly uses the blues to make a few personal points, but he never lets his lyrics get in the way of a good groove.

    Well thought out, well executed. Good, solid blues work. I wish Lyerly would sometimes wring a bit more oomph from his voice, but he does well enough. A fine album.

    Lymbyc Systym
    Love your Abuser
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    The sort of adventurous electronic music that takes a while to develop. Lymbyc Systym is more interested in telling stories than repeating the same point over and over again. And these aren't exactly short stories, either.

    Ambitious and grandiose, as most instrumental music should be. After all, if the average listener doesn't hear words, you've kinda got to pound the point into the dust. Except that, as I noted, these guys don't do that. Rather, Michael and Jared Bell remain subtle.

    In their ideas, I mean. The sound is anything but. These guys aren't afraid to raise a bit of a ruckus, though it's nothing pointed. The sound here is very precise, and I like that.

    A fine album for ponder. Pretty enough to entice, and complex enough to engage. Good stuff.

    Love Your Abuser Remixed
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    Just what it says: An entirely new way to enjoy the last Lymbyc System effort. These re-examinations are generally way outside of the original versions, and they're kinda fun that way. Usually when you take apart a great album, you get a bunch of junk. But this set is just the opposite, a brilliant work in its own right. Pretty cool.

    Shutter Release
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    Whatever connected Lymbyc Systym to the hip hop world has disappeared completely. That's not a positive or negative statement. It just is. Lymbyc Systym has morphed (ever so slightly) into a full-on electronic sonicspheric experience.

    Which is pretty cool. Despite a definite emphasis on sound and mood, each of these songs is actually a song. There's a beginning, a middle and an end. There's even a story--told instrumentally, of course.

    And damned if it ain't impressive. Well, everything these folks has done is impressive, but I do believe LS has turned a corner. This is music in full bloom, ideas put directly to tape (or, y'know, magnetic media of one type or another).

    Gorgeous stuff, the kind of sounds and songs that refuse to leave the memory after only a short exposure. I had high expectations, but this album blows me away. Astonishing.

    (Western Vinyl)
    reviewed in issue #340, September 2012

    The latest electronic musings from Jared and Michael Bell. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but just as the band has shifted to Western Vinyl and its somewhat more experimental focus, Lymbyc Systym has allowed itself to lose just a little focus.

    That simply leads to greater flights of imagination. There are fewer samples, less emphasis on beats and a greater use of melodic keyboards. Maybe this stuff is more focused even as it moves away from its center.

    It's easy to get confused about such things. More clear is the ringing electronic sound that the brothers have embraced here. What beats that are here trend more toward the laptop, which leaves a lot more room in the upper register for the melodies to reverberate.

    There are a lot of instrumental electronic artists out there, and few come close to these guys. Another superlative effort.

    Lynch Mob
    Smoke This
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Okay, George Lynch was in Dokken. A better than mediocre band for most of its existence. Then he created the first Lynch Mob, which was a worse than mediocre band for most of its existence. And then perhaps the cruelest cut: Lynch got born again.

    The interesting thing is that this version of the Lynch Mob, which adds progressive electronic elements and hip-hop grooves to the heavy metal moshing, is by far the best incarnation yet. The songs are generic (even with the improvements, the sound is a bit dated already), but at least the stuff is listenable.

    Maybe some divine inspiration did strike Lynch and company. Or maybe Lynch is finally beginning to catch up to the trends. I dunno. This isn't a great album by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I got through it.

    The guitar playing, strangely enough, isn't really the focus here. And Lynch certainly can wail. Apparently his message take precedence. I'm not gonna judge that. It is more subtle than most Christian rock, which, again, is a vast improvement over past excesses. I'm surprised in more than one way.

    Trudy Lynn
    U Don't Know What Time It Is
    reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Oh, my, but Trudy Lynn has quite the set of blues pipes. She can put moves on songs that most wouldn't even dream of attempting. Her voice simply shimmers throughout this album.

    At times, the production plays a few too many tricks. When you've got a voice like Lynn's and players like Lucky Peterson and Bernard Allison, there isn't much need to dress up the sound. Most of the time, though, I've got no complaints.

    Why complain with performances like those found here? Yeah, there's a good chunk of r&b infused into these blues, but this classic style, none of that tinny stuff that passes nowadays. Nope, Lynn simply keeps pouring on the soul, her voice lifting everything just that much higher.

    Sure, this is aimed at a mainstream audience. It's Lynn's gift that keeps the album true to the blues as well. A wider audience doesn't necessarily ruin the music. Not stuff like this, in any case.

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