Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 610 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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  • M Coast
  • M-3
  • M.E.S.T
  • M. Headphone
  • M.O.D. (4)
  • Maalstroom
  • The Mabuses
  • Macabre
  • Tony MacAlpine (4)
  • Jahmings Maccow & E-Rif
  • Mach 5
  • Macha (4)
  • Machine Head (3)
  • The Machine in the Garden
  • Mackintosh Braun
  • Mad Caddies (3)
  • Mad Daddies
  • Mad Flava
  • Mad Happy
  • Madball (3)
  • Madcap
  • Madelin Zero
  • Audra Mae
  • Magellan
  • Magellan (unsigned)
  • Maggi, Pierce & E.J.
  • Magic Bullets
  • Magic Wave
  • The Maginot Line (2)
  • Magnapop (2)
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Magnetophone
  • The Magnificents (2)
  • Magnolia Thunderfinger
  • Magrane Hill
  • Mahavatar
  • Marco Mahler
  • Jennifer Maione
  • The Majesticons
  • Majeure
  • Maji
  • Makajodama
  • Makar
  • Make Lisa Rich
  • The Makers (2)
  • Makkiwhipdies
  • Maktub
  • mala in se
  • Malacoda
  • Malade de Souci
  • Malajube
  • Malevolent Creation (3)
  • Malformed Earthborn
  • Malhavoc (3)
  • Malicious Onslaught (2)
  • Malkum & Chris (2)
  • The Mallik Family
  • Yngwie Malmsteen (2)
  • Michelle Malone (2)
  • Mama Tick (2)
  • Mammoth Volume
  • Man at Arms
  • Man from Fiery Hill
  • Man of Everything
  • Man or Astroman? (6)
  • Man Scouts of America
  • Man the Change
  • Man Will Destroy Himself
  • Mark Mandeville (3)
  • Mandolin Orange
  • Mandragora
  • Manic Hispanic (2)
  • Manifold Splendour
  • Manishevitz (2)
  • Mankind Liberation Front
  • Kate Mann
  • Guy Mann-Dude's Mannic Distortion
  • Lynn Manning
  • manRay 19
  • Michael Manring
  • Jono Manson
  • Frank Mantooth
  • Manute Soul
  • Harry Manx (2)
  • Many Axes
  • Maow
  • Maple
  • Leigh Marble (2)
  • Houston Marchman
  • Mardo (2)
  • Eric Margan & the Red Lions
  • Armand Margjeka
  • Tania Maria (2)
  • Mariage Blanc (2)
  • Marillion
  • Mariner Nine/Haywood
  • Marionette
  • Carolyn Mark (3)
  • The Marked Men
  • Phil Markowitz
  • The Marksman
  • Marla BB
  • Marmoset (3)
  • Mars Needs Women
  • Mars Needs Women
  • The Mars Volta (3)
  • Chris Marshall
  • The Mary Janes
  • Mas Optica
  • Sarah Masen
  • Maserati
  • Jason Masi
  • James Mason
  • Ray Mason Band
  • Masonic (3)
  • Masonna
  • Mass Exhibit (2)
  • Mass Psychosis
  • Mass Psychosis/Exterminance
  • Mass Shivers
  • Brendon Massei
  • Carl Mateo
  • Matmos
  • Mato Grosso
  • Matt's Altar
  • Matthew and the Argonaut Sea
  • The Mattoid (2)
  • Kalle Mattson
  • Maudlin of the Well (2)
  • The Mavis's
  • Maximino
  • Mayadome
  • John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers (3)
  • The Mayflies
  • Mayhem
  • Kevin Max
  • Maximum Penalty
  • MC Double M
  • MC 900 Ft Jesus
  • Mark McAdam
  • The Cecil McBee Band
  • Tom McBride & the Whig Party
  • Bernadette McCallion
  • Pete McCann
  • Delbert McClinton
  • Rob McColley (2)
  • Cass McCombs (2)
  • McGill Manring Stevens
  • Richard McGraw
  • Gerard McHugh
  • Mark McKay (3)
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Brian McMahon (3)
  • Holly McNarland (2)
  • McRackins (2)
  • Me & Jeremy
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (3)
  • David Mead
  • The Meadows (2)
  • Mean Red Spiders
  • Meanest Man Contest
  • Means to an End
  • Meathead and Cop Shoot Cop
  • Meathook Seed
  • Meatwagon
  • Medea Connection (2)
  • Medication
  • Medicine Hat
  • Medicine Sunday
  • Medusa Cyclone
  • Medusa Oblongata
  • The Meeting Places
  • Mega-Mousse
  • Megadeth
  • Megafaun
  • Mekons (8)
  • Mellowdrone
  • Melt-Banana (2)
  • Melting Euphoria
  • Melts (2)
  • Melvins (3)
  • Memento Mori
  • Memory Ground
  • Memory Map
  • Men of Fortune
  • Men of Leisure
  • Ava Mendoza
  • Menlo
  • Mensclub
  • Mental Crypt
  • The Mentones
  • Meow Meow
  • Mephiskaphles
  • Mephisto Walz
  • Merauder
  • Mercy Rule
  • Mercyful Fate (4)
  • Mercyful Fate/King Diamond
  • Mercyless
  • Lisa Meri
  • Merzbow (2)
  • Meshuggah (2)
  • The Mess (2)
  • Mess America
  • Messiah A.D.
  • Messyheads
  • Metabolics
  • Metal Machine
  • Metal Molly
  • Metallica
  • The Metalunas
  • Methadone Actors
  • The Methadones
  • Method 51
  • Method of Destruction
  • Methuselah Jones
  • Metropolitan
  • MF Doom
  • Michael
  • James Michael
  • Micro Mini
  • Microstar
  • Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak
  • Middle States
  • Midget Handjob
  • Midnight Syndicate (4)
  • Midnightmare
  • Midsummer
  • Midway
  • Mig
  • Miggs
  • The Mighty Fine
  • Mighty Mighty Bosstones (2)
  • The Migration
  • Mikah 9
  • Mikey Jukebox
  • Mil Mulliganos
  • Mild Mannered
  • Robert Miles
  • Milkmine (2)
  • Millencolin (2)
  • Blake Miller
  • Roger Miller (3)
  • Steve Million (2)
  • Million Dollar Marxists
  • The Millions NE
  • Mind Flux Funeral
  • Mind Over Four (2)
  • Mind Riot
  • Mindfunk (2)
  • Mindhorse
  • Mindrot (2)
  • Minefield
  • Mineral (3)
  • Ming and Ping (5)
  • Mini Systems
  • Minmae
  • The Minor Canon
  • A Minor Forest
  • Minster Hill
  • Mint 400
  • Minus (American)
  • Minus (Icelandic) (2)
  • Miracle Mile
  • Miranda Sound (2)
  • Mirrored Image
  • Misery loves Co. (2)
  • Misfits
  • MISS (2)
  • Miss Autopsy
  • Miss Fortune
  • Miss High Hell
  • Miss Mary
  • Misfortune 500
  • Mission Giant
  • Mrs. Fun (2)
  • Mrs. Grundy
  • Mr. Airplane Man
  • Mr. B & the Bird of Paradise Orchestra
  • Mr. Len
  • Mr. Lif (3)
  • Mr. Magic's Nightflight
  • Mr. Pink
  • Mr. Right & Mr. Wrong
  • Mr Russia (2)
  • Mr. T Experience (5)
  • Mr. Wilson
  • Mr. Wrong
  • Ms. Led (3)
  • Cheyenne Marie Mize
  • ml
  • Mob Rules
  • Moc Moc
  • Model One
  • The Modern Relics
  • Modern Skirts (3)
  • Moebius, Conny Plank and Mayo Thompson
  • Mog Stunt Team
  • Mogami
  • Mogg Way (2)
  • Mogwai (3)
  • Moistboyz
  • Mojack
  • Mojave 3 (2)
  • Mojosmoke
  • Molar
  • Molasses (3)
  • Mold (2)
  • Pete Molinari
  • Molly McGuire
  • Momzer
  • Monastat 7
  • Mondii
  • Money Mark
  • Moneyshot
  • Lucy Mongrel
  • Monk
  • Monkey Paw
  • Monks of Doom
  • Monorchid
  • Monotonic
  • Monotract
  • Michael Monroe
  • Monroe Mustang (2)
  • The Monsoons
  • Monster-0 (2)
  • Monstrosity (2)
  • Montana Screams
  • The Montgomery Cliffs (2)
  • Moods for Moderns
  • The Moon
  • The Moon Seven Times (2)
  • Moonshake
  • Moonspell
  • Britney Moore
  • Vinnie Moore
  • Mooter, Wholesale and Manufacturing
  • Mop Mop
  • Mopes
  • Moral Crux (2)
  • Morbid Saint
  • Morcheeba
  • Mordred
  • More Fire for Burning People
  • More.ca
  • Moreland & Arbuckle
  • John Moremen
  • Morgana Lefay (3)
  • Morgion
  • Morgue
  • Morning Glories (3)
  • Morningbell (2)
  • Danny Morris
  • Valarie Morris (2)
  • Wayne Morris
  • Morsel (2)
  • Mortal Remains (2)
  • Mortician (2)
  • Mortification (2)
  • Mortiis (3)
  • Moses Guest (2)
  • Bret Mosely
  • Moss Dog (2)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing
  • Mother and the Addicts
  • Mother of Moth
  • Moths (2)
  • The Motion
  • Motion City Soundtrack
  • Motion Picture (2)
  • Motley Crue (3)
  • The Moto-Litas
  • Motocaster
  • Motorhead (2)
  • Motormark
  • Motorpsycho
  • Mount Moriah
  • Mount Shasta (4)
  • Mount Washington
  • The Mountain Goats
  • Mourn
  • Mourning Sign (2)
  • Mouth
  • Movers and Shakers
  • Moviegoer
  • The Movielife
  • Movie Star Kiss (2)
  • Movietone
  • The Mowgli's
  • Moxi
  • Muckafurguson (4)
  • Mucky Pup
  • Muddle
  • Muddy Frankenstein
  • Mule (4)
  • Muler
  • Mull Historical Society
  • Muller and Patton
  • The Multiple Cat
  • Mulu
  • Mumble and Peg (2)
  • Mumbleskinny (2)
  • Mung
  • Munkafust
  • Murder Inc.
  • A Murder of Angels
  • Murfreesboro
  • The Murmurs
  • James Murphy
  • Peter Murphy
  • Rian Murphy
  • Murphy's Law
  • MURS
  • Museum Mouth
  • Mushroomhead (2)
  • The Mustard Seeds
  • Mustasch
  • Mutiny Mutiny
  • MU330
  • Muy Cansado
  • MxPx (2)
  • My Brother's Keeper
  • My Dying Bride (6)
  • My Education (3)
  • My Favorite Martian
  • My Name (2)
  • My Own Victim
  • My Teenage Stride
  • Mycomplex
  • The Mysteries of Life
  • The Mystics
  • The Mystix
  • Mythic
  • MZ.412

  • M Coast
    Say It in Slang
    (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    How to play pop rock music in fifteen easy songs. Or something like that. M Coast wears more hats on this disc than Bartholomew Cubbins.

    I say pop with good reason. These songs occasionally rock out, but more often there's a bossa nova trip or patched in harmony or some other honey-laden bit. These songs originated in the three-chord, three-minute universe, though M Coast takes each far beyond.

    Superlative production here gives each song its own feel. There's little continuity as the album rolls along (which is a serious quibble, I admit), but as a jukebox set it's hard to find a fault.

    Take what you get. Fifteen great songs that sound like they may have been recorded by as many bands? Hey, as long as they're great, I'm not gonna complain. Just hit shuffle.


    M-3
    Roger Miller Ben Miller Larry Miller
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    If this isn't a concept album, I don't know what is. The first three songs were written by one of the members (Roger, Ben and Larry) and performed by all. The fourth song is everyone, writing and playing. Then the last four (Larry does two) songs are done by the members by themselves, writing and playing.

    Yes, it sounds very weird. You can pick out folk to compare them to, but to my ear they have Henry Kaiser's sense of rhythm (though not much guitar). The rest? No idea. It's certainly a disturbing dream.

    When something is as odd as this is, you folk know I have the tendency to wax ebullient. People need to be exposed to unusual music. They need to have their sense of reality challenged. I know that Ministry may perform that function for the KD in your creative writing crib course, but for most humans it takes a little more.

    M-3 does the trick, wonderfully.

    See also Roger Miller.


    M.E.S.T
    matter-energy-space-time
    (Dwell)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    A guy from that coolest of trance outfits, Virtualizer (not to mention Ob1), cranks out a space-ambient disc that is pretty much trance without the beats.

    And I don't get into it quite so much. But like the Virtualizer projects, there are plenty of music things going on to keep you occupied. And every once in a while, the beats do kick in.

    For very spacey stuff, I am surprised I dig this so much. Perhaps it is just the talent behind the noise. Actually, I'd bet on that possibility. Give this an hour of your time, and you won't be disappointed.

    See also Ob1 and Virtualizer.


    M. Headphone
    The Apex Barbecue
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Highly-crafted, extremely idiosyncratic fare. There's a vaguely funky rhythm guitar, a more straight-ahead lead guitar and a pile-driving bass and drums. With poppy vocals. Though each of those elements is subject to severe change at any given moment. Oh, man, this is one unusual band.

    A lot of the press clippings wonder aloud why this band hasn't been signed. I can give that answer easily: It doesn't fit in anywhere.

    And anyone who reads me regularly knows that means I'm really gonna dig the band. It's true: I like what these guys are trying to do. M. Headphone is working its ass off to carve its own niche. Sure, it's theirs by default, since no one else wants it, but still.

    Advice time: If the boys want to get any time soon, they've gotta change. Get a bit more boring. Or, as an agent recently told me about my writing: "John Grisham does it this way; you should consider doing it this way, too." My response to that notion was to laugh my ass off and work on improving what I do within the notions of how I should do it.

    Because if you do something in a very strange way for long enough, you get really, really good at it. And that's when the world starts accepting you on your own terms. Persistence and hard work are imperatives. That's my real advice here. Keep on keeping on, and once day the world will beat a path to M. Headphone's door.


    M.O.D.
    Rhythm of Fear
    (Megaforce-PLG)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    The liners say it all: M.O.D. is Billy Milano, bass and vocals. Then it lists the session guys who helped out. Why not call this a Billy Milano solo project? Because a lot people have heard of M.O.D.

    I know Milano did a lot of the work on previous M.O.D. recordings, but if something has a band name, then let it be a band. But enough of my bitching.

    This is real tight and clean. And while that helps make this the most attractive M.O.D. album ever, there are drawbacks.

    Like the paradox "attractive M.O.D. album." That says something. The songwriting is great, and the performance first-rate. I suppose I shouldn't really worry about what entity is creating what I hear. Ignore the names, favor the jams. So be it.


    Devolution
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Um, still Billy Milano and folks he recruited to carry on the name. Not that they're untalented hacks (quite the opposite), but this is still Milano's project. He wrote all the lyrics and split music writing duties. I'll quit bitching about that particular thing now, because I also understand how difficult it is to let go of a profitable marketing tool like the M.O.D. name.

    Like the last Megaforce album, this is pretty decent metal-core. Nothing great, but it's certainly tight, well-played and even somewhat catchy. Dated? Yeah, but then Anthrax and Sacred Reich are still getting paid, so why not Billy and friends?

    I've never been the biggest M.O.D. fan, and this doesn't turn me. It's a good album, and it does continue the M.O.D. sound spectrum, but I just hope for something more.


    Loved by Thousands... Hated By Millions
    (Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    The title says it all. This greatest hits sorta thing with some new shit thrown in, like a weird rendition of "Color My World" (yes, Chicago).

    Billy Milano is again the driving force behind this set, with plenty of help from a few well-known folks on the side.

    If you like M.O.D., you'll undoubtedly dig this. If you don't, run screaming, because M.O.D. is on the loose again. Rampant retardedness will soon be filling the streets.

    Color me amused, as usual.


    Dictated Agression
    (Megaforce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    Another episode of the Billy Milano show. You know the riffs, you know the aggro lyrics. Nothing new, and nothing really to recommend here.

    Even die-hard fans will find it difficult to really groove on this stuff. I mean, whatever creative instinct Milano had disappeared long before last year's greatest hits thing, and it sounds like he got much less cash to produce stuff here. The sound is really terrible.

    Or maybe it's just a silly attempt to cash in on that "sloppy punk" stuff that was popular six months ago. I don't know. Everything is thrown together in a very messy way, and I'm often not able to locate the guitar lines from the rest of the rhythmic goo. With Milano's voice thrown behind that wall, well, the result is chaos. And that doesn't work well, since M.O.D. isn't one of those acts famous for technical proficiency and artistic impetus.

    I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but I thought I'd find a tune or two worthy of jamming at high volume. Not in this set, I'm afraid.


    Maalstroom
    The Final Days EP
    (Raw Records)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Technical, Euro-style instrumental guitar. Like, say, Yngwie Malmsteen. A fair comparison, and Maalstroom (the odd spelling is the result of some legal affairs work) is in the same league, though the guitar is a bit slower (albeit more expressive).

    Which is to say, the songs are written around the guitar, and past the guitar, there's not much of interest. The lead lines are pretty good, and they're quite well played, but I'd like to hear some more from the rest of the band.

    And who knows? The band now has a singer, and forthcoming albums will feature vocals. Usually that diminishes the music, but with Maalstroom it might encourage some diversity in carrying the load. Let the other guys take a shot, now and again.

    For what it does, Maalstroom does it well. A bigger band effort is needed to really take the sound to the next level.


    The Mabuses
    Mabused
    (Magpie)
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    I threatened this last month, and in fact, I've done it. The Mabuses get a full review. And damned if it only took me 20 listens to pull the trigger.

    In truth, I'd decided after about five, but the other 15 simply confirmed my second (and third and...) impression. This is mordantly obsessive pop with more bits and pieces floating around in it than Pamela Anderson's chest. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't fall in love at first listen, but then, the best albums never hit me the first time.

    Naw, this one takes a little getting used to. Mabuses have this habit of sewing two or three songs together into a single piece. Nothing unusual about that, except that the parts assembled rarely have a lot to do with each other--sometimes even when smashed up together.

    The bouncy, bounding sound on this disc truly sells the songs properly. The music and lyrics are quite ambitious, but what comes out strongest is the fun these folks are having. Their music isn't quite conventional, and they're really damned happy about that.

    So am I. This might well be my favorite album of the year. I'll have to listen to it another hundred or so times and then decide. There's a task I can definitely embrace.


    Macabre
    Sinister Slaughter
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    A tribute album to serial killers. Each of 21 songs details the attitudes and activities of these guys.

    Very intense grindcore sound. My only real complaint is they didn't write a song about Kansas City's most famous serial killer, Bob Berdella. He picked up male prostitutes, chained them in his basement and tortured them to death over a period of months. No one knows how many he killed. When he died in prison, the news anchor said (really), Well, this one's sure to dredge up old memories..."

    Great concept, good music. A damned educational disc. Hopefully it will spawn all sorts of law enforcement complaints. Let's roast America's other white meat.


    Tony MacAlpine
    Freedom to Fly
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Undeniable talent, but Tony MacAlpine has at times compromised and released some cheese in attempts to cash in.

    Not here. This stuff is about as good as it gets for instrumental guitar work. You have to expect a little masturbatory excess, but that is kept to a minimum. And MacAlpine knows when to stick with a groove rather than show off with his speed. B.B. King is a guitar master, and he never rushes a good note. A good lesson for all. Tony MacAlpine seems to have caught on.


    Madness
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    More guitar hero solo work from one of the more talented axe-men around. With his last effort, I thought he was trying to get away from the highly technical and into more heart-felt works.

    There are fewer runs up and down the scales, and those that exist are at least not terribly show-offy, but this has the sound of a Joe Satriani record. Which is to say, almost artificial.

    Then there's the one song on the album that features Branford Marsalis and some other horns. This is still a fairly commercial piece, but it is just the slightest bit less glitzy than the rest.

    I liked the direction of his last album. This is okay, but I was hoping for more.


    Premonition
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #61, 9/15/94

    No one questions Tony MacAlpine's talent. He has technical skills on the guitar that almost every other player around would kill to get a hold of. But he has always been searching for a signature piece, a song or album or even just a riff that would really define his sound, his place in the realm of guitarists.

    I don't see that here. The songs are a little cooler than recent efforts, giving them an even more Satriani-esque color. No stealing, but just a general feel.

    As usual, MacAlpine goes through as many effects as he does scale runs, which keeps things lively and interesting. You can't fault him for not trying.

    Another solid album, but not the one to really break Tony MacAlpine into the stratosphere.


    Evolution
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    This is the album Tony MacAlpine has been trying to make ever since he embarked on his rather impressive career.

    Plenty of chances to show off his prodigious talent, songs that are catchy (in an anthemic sorta way) and a good diversity of material to keep us all interested.

    He wails on his guitar in a way that usually offends me, but MacAlpine is simply too far in the groove on this disc. For whatever reason, everything clicked together. Even on the most Satriani-esque moments (like, say, "Time Table"), he manages to keep me impressed.

    I've been waiting for MacAlpine to come up with a great album. Everyone knows he has the playing talent, and he has shown flashes of songwriting skill as well. All of the parts flow as one wonderful unit, and MacAlpine has his signature album. For instrumental guitar work, it doesn't get much better than this.


    Jahmings Maccow & E-Rif
    New Way
    (Liquid Cyber)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    For the last 20 years or so, a lot of reggae recordings have been made on skimpy budgets, using lots of keyboards to save on studio costs. Jahmings Maccow fits right in to that tradition.

    It's too bad, too, because these are good songs. With a band, or at least a more skilled producer to creatively fill out the sound, this album could have really been impressive. Because despite the chintzy production values, this stuff is still pretty good.

    Maccow is an impassioned singer and songwriter, and his emotional range brings an unusual intensity to these songs. His songs are pure expressions of one point of view; there's no equanimity here. But that's exactly why the pieces burn so brightly.

    Man, I wish someone had spent an extra grand to do a better job on the drum machines (at the very least). Maccow's songs deserve a lot more than that. He's got something to say. It would be nice if he had a better platform.


    Mach 5
    Sunday's Here 7"
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Jangle pop with a bit of a grunge edge (these folks are obviously monstrous Big Star and Posies fans-who isn't?). Bit of that swirly guitar making everything just a bit fuzzy. Mouthwatering.

    "Sunday's Here" is one of those happy summer songs that always make me feel like there isn't a cloud in the sky. Nothing complicated; just fine pop stuff.

    And the flip follows the same way. "Blown Away" is a bit more downbeat, but only slightly. I do wish the production had left stuff a bit cleaner (the bass kinda gets lost from time to time), but I can simply pretend this is one of those pop stunners from the late 60s-early 70s. A certain slab of glory.


    Macha
    Macha
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Macha uses basic pop melodies, but alters them slightly. Just enough to lend an off-kilter feel. Some of the eccentricities can easily be identified as Middle Eastern, but more of them are tougher to parse. Perhaps Indian, perhaps Turkish. Perhaps perhaps. And, of course, under all of this is a Brit pop band.

    Yes, that is the end result. And the fusion of Eastern (and Middle Eastern) and Western pop music is very trendy in London these days (so my sources tell me). Macha isn't gimmicky with its sound (like a few other acts), though. It's easy to hear the genuine feeling behind even the most unusual bits.

    An intriguing album, one with as much lurking beneath as on top. An iceberg of a disc, maybe. Macha doesn't apologize for itself, however, and I don't think it should. Nope. This disc stands just fine on its own.


    See It Another Way
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    I was looking over my review of Macha's first album, and it's apparent I really didn't understand what's going on. I still don't, actually, but I've got a better handle. Maybe the band does, too. Could be. Don't want to commit myself or anything.

    The vaguely Indian and Middle Eastern influences are a bit more strongly in evidence, but so are the Western pop underpinnings. And while this sounds like Britpop, in fact, the band resides in Athens. Georgia, that is.

    All of the collected influences (and I think I hear some stuff that might even be Far Eastern) are run through the Macha wringer, and nothing comes out unscathed. Original intentions count for nothing. This is music cut from wholly original cloth, tailored by four guys with a real sense of purpose.

    Not that I can really divine that purpose yet. But I like trying. And one of these days, I just might crack the nut. Or would that ruin the effect? Can't say.


    Macha Loved Bedhead by Bedhead Loved Macha with Bedhead
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    The Brothers Kadane of Bedhead and the Brothers McKay of Macha all grew up together in Wichita Falls, Texas. Some time back, they decided to collaborate on a long-distance record.

    So the Bedhead brothers (still in Texas) made a tape of songs-in-progress (containing mostly drums and guitars) and sent it to the bothers in Macha, who by now had relocated.

    The result is, well, stunning. Not surprising, considering the pedigree, but most separated studio efforts can sound stilted through no fault of the participants. There's no problem here. Six journeys into the possible, with very little held back. In fact, the distance seems to have inspired even greater flights of fancy than might have been allowed if the collaborators were nearby.

    Bedhead, alas, is now gone, but this record is certainly good enough to stand in line with the band's output. Needless to say, this should also please the avid Macha fan. A sum that might be greater than its parts.


    Forget Tomorrow
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    A further refinement of the psychedelic-friendly dance-rock ideal put forth on previous Macha efforts. This is easily the band's most cohesive effort to date. Reminds me of the Love and Rockets's better days--but this time, fueled by espresso.


    Machine Head
    Burn My Eyes
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    This disc positively crackles with aggressive energy. Mixing styles from all sides of the loud music universe, Machine Head comes down heavy with a vengeance.

    The band is still young and learning. I can't identify a real sound or even tell exactly where the music is going at all times. And that's a good thing (in case you were curious). No need to be complacent.

    There is room for improvement: the playing is sometimes sloppy, and at times the boys copy their influences a little too closely for my comfort. But this disc is jammed with potential. I just get a good vibe listening to it. Machine Head should have a great future, as long as the members continue to grow.


    The More Things Change...
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    It took me a while to get into Burn My Eyes, and this album hits me the same way. Machine Head refuses to be type-cast or to stick to any preconceived notions of metal, with the possible exception that the music should be played very loud.

    A power-metal band that manages to sound nothing like Pantera, Metallica or even Sepultura? Yes. There are more than a few nods to Fear Factory, but I'll forgive some appropriation of the labelmates style. And anyway, such traits are but a small part of the greater sound of Machine Head.

    This album is really late. I mean, it's been two and a half years. All the excitement of that fine debut album has worn off. Until folks get a taste of this puppy, I guess.

    Is it just me, or is Roadrunner kicking out some of the best metal around this year. Coal Chamber and Karma to Burn were much better than average, and this album, while certainly highly anticipated, has managed to overwhelm my wildest expectations.

    Fifty-something minutes of pure, textured aggro. I can't begin to catalog all of the influences and sounds, except to say that the final result is nothing less than stunning.


    The Burning Red
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    In case you were wondering, metal isn't dead. The bands at the top of the Roadrunner rostrum (Fear Factory, Sepultura, Soulfly and Machine Head) do all feed from the same trough, but each has branched out in unique directions.

    This sound does go back to Sepultura and Fear Factory, of course, but Machine Head incorporates a rapid-fire, almost rap approach to the vocals, stripping the rhymes over tribal-style rhythms and buzzsaw guitars. In that way, Machine Head has become something more conventional. But even so, I've never heard anyone do this quite the same way.

    Change is one way to remain vital, and so Machine Head has infused its already powerful sound with some new repertoire material. But the new sounds simply spice up what was already there. Perhaps it's change for change's sake, but it works.

    By the way, that listing of bands at the top of the review is also a list of some of the most vital bands in metal. I don't know how anyone who claims to love a loud sound would pass up anything by these folks. This is simply another quality album from a band that might well have passed from good to great. Bite into this adrenaline line and ride.


    The Machine in the Garden
    One Winter's Night
    (Middle Pillar)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Well, yeah, it's dark. Goth. Whatever. An astonishingly sparse and simple approach to the sound, often with just vocals and a fairly minimal keyboard accompaniment. These do sound like fully-fleshed out songs, but certainly not typical ones.

    Haunting, to be sure, and I know that's one effect the duo was going for here. Yeah, there are some basic gothic pop songs here (complete with percussion, guitar and bass lines, etc.), but even those are relatively clean sounding, without all the bombast that often accompanies this sound.

    The real test of a band is whether or not it can try on different ideas and sounds and still retain its own identity. The Machine in the Garden has a firm grasp on what it wants to do, and so even as it flits from this side to that, there is no mistaking the sound. In a genre where bands can trend to generic awfully quickly, this duo is impressive in its presence.

    Yes, Roger Frace and Summer Bowman are that good. This is a confident and accomplished album from a band that has a secure handle on its identity. Haunting, beautiful, stirring--it's all that. And, as the cliche goes, more.


    Mackintosh Braun
    The Sound
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    This Portland duo recalls some of the chilliest German engineering from the 70s and 80s. Imagine Air playing Kraftwerk. There's almost no there there sometimes...and those moments happen to be merely transcendent.

    It is difficult to grasp much of anything often enough. This duo has listened to a lot of William Orbit as well, as the burbling electronics prove. Quite the sound this sound is, I'd say.

    Frozen back to the depths of the last ice age, this album almost becomes inviting in the lush choruses. The discordance of musical ideas is positively invigorating.

    Not exactly fun, I guess, but quite fulfilling. Fans of current acts like Ming and Ping ought to groove on this as well; the sound isn't identical, but there are plenty of reference points. I can feel myself floating away.


    Mad Caddies
    Duck And Cover
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    I'm sure in the future there will be an entire nation of jaded kids who used to jump up and down, dress in suits and pork pie hats and have tattoos that sport the phrase "Skanking Bastard." This nation will be dubbed "Old Skanker Land."

    And it will probably be somewhere in the flat grasslands of the midwest. No one will be jumping around anymore. No one will be wearing their suits or pork pie hats anymore. And that tattoo? What are you kidding? That's why we developed laser technology, right?

    Anyway, apropos to everything I've said so far, the Mad Caddies have got some nice tight ska here. It's not terribly distinctive from anything else on the market (but they've got a really cool cover -- WWII themed), but it doesn't suck. And they're financed by Fat Mike, so what else do you want? Yeah, I don't know either. I guess I'll just keep jumping up and down for now until something else cool comes along.

    -- Matt Worley


    The Holiday Has Been Cancelled EP
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Feeling that it had been a while between records, Mad Caddies decided to whip out a short EP. Four original tracks and the obligatory Abba cover.

    Mad Caddies kick out that loose, thick ska sound that works best at parties. Or, as the liners say, "try drinking a lot and listening again." Actually, this stuff is a lot of fun even before contemporary bladder exercises.

    Worth putting out for any reason. Nothing spectacular, perhaps, but a nice little bundle of joy. Sure to chase the blues away.


    Rock the Plank
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Less ska-core than simply snotty punk with horns, the Mad Caddies have in any case created one hell of an irresistible sound. I mean, if this doesn't sound like party music to you then you're drinking enough.

    And I say that because the boys know how to mix things up. Punk rock can get awfully dull if you stay the same. Mad Caddies do have a tendency to slide into the NOFX style of oozin-ahs, but the horns help out. Not to mention the utterly infectious hooks. You must sing along.

    Right. See, there's no option. Each of these songs shows off different shades of punk. The versatility of the band is key. Yeah, the guys can play. No kidding. But there's no way to get bored with this album, and that's what helps to set it apart.

    There's also the dry and biting sense of humor, the sharp and clean production and the general high quality of the writing. There's no such thing as a perfect punk album. That would be an oxymoron. But the Mad Caddies have angled their way toward the top of the pro heap. Craft and punk can walk hand in hand without losing the fun factor. Don't believe me? Take a listen here.


    Mad Daddys
    The Age of Asparagus
    (R.A.F.R.)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Perhaps you've deduced that these guys aren't the most serious boys on the planet. Well, perhaps "boys" is a bad term. I've seen the pictures. A couple of these guys look old enough to be my dad (and maybe your grandpa). Well, maybe not that old, but still...

    Solid, back-beat driven punk rock. Songs that delve into some of the dumbest corners of the human existence. Which would get annoying, except that the Mad Daddys know exactly what they're doing: They're having fun.

    So it's easy to come along for the ride. The thick sound enhances the goofy feel of the album, and the songs just rumble on through the night. It's impossible not to laugh, and I think that's precisely the intention here.

    Or, maybe in a subtle twist, the guys are going for "Good n' Stoopit," a most appropriately titled song in the middle of the disc. I dunno. I had fun. That's about all I can ask from something like this.


    Mad Flava
    Feel tha Flava CD5
    (Priority)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    Taking their rhythmic sensibilities and rhyming tendencies from Cypress Hill (without that real annoying whining sound CH seems to be propagating), Mad Flava certainly are on a current tip.

    Eric "Vietnam" Sadler remixes a couple of the tracks, and you do start to hear a little of that P.E. Fear sound going on. But I've always liked that a lot.

    As for the lyrical content, this is basically a lyrical boast, much like lead tracks from the recent Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog albums. Personally, I prefer it when people speak about something other than themselves. But once again, they are on the current tip.


    Mad Happy
    Renegade Geeks
    (Mutiny Zoo Records)
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    Goofy as hell laptop hip hop. Reminds me of Dee-Lite, though more in terms of sensibility than sound. Mad Happy trips through a variety of electronic styles, including a heavy reliance on dance hall reggae.

    What separates these folks from the plethora of college-educated white folks making hip hop albums these days is the relentless self-deprecation. Even when this duo starts bragging, it's making fun of itself.

    The sound itself is thoroughly stripped down, giving the whiny rhyming plenty of room to annoy. But somehow I'm more amused than aggravated. And in case anyone is looking to pick up an act like this, both MikeiLL and Rivka are almost reprehensively attractive. Never hurts, you know.

    But what actually sells this album is the rhymes. The wry observations come fast and furious. And for such a minimal sound, a lot of these songs are pretty damned catchy. Maybe the better parts of the 80s are finally coming around, after all.


    Madball
    Set It Off
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Take Rollins, add gruffer vocals and more metallic riffs. Keep the same moronic bass line. You get Madball.

    Well, that's not entirely fair. Madball keeps the beat rolling better, and even occasionally comes up with a song I like. Yeah, it's really hard to find an original riff or beat, but sometimes this stuff does rock.

    Not enough, though. It's even pretty good in spots, but I can't find something in the music that will make me remember Madball. That's the final test.


    Demonstrating My Style
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    As always, tightly produced. Metal riffs and hardcore vocals and attitude. And I'll admit, this one is catchier than previous efforts.

    But still, the glossy sheen on the sound leaves this sounding slightly generic. And the fact that Gang Green riffs are slung without compunction (let's not pretend Gang Green originated them, either) is more than a little annoying.

    And while Madball makes an attempt to write "serious" and "positive" lyrics, they aren't terribly original or insightful. Still the whole package does have a vague something that kinda attracts me.

    While I obfuscate and try and pull my head out of my ass, I will note that I haven't really liked any Madball release previous to this (though I recall not hating the last one). Lots of other folks (most of them in the NYC area) do. So if I kinda like this one, does that mean they've sold out or changed enough that the old fans won't like this? Fuck if I know.

    Kinda like the last Leeway album. I might even play this again, though it's not a priority. And I don't think that bodes well for the real fans of this band.


    Hold It Down
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    A lot of people like Madball. The band has a significant following, and plenty of folks I know swear by the guys. The stuff has never quite worked for me.

    And this comes as close as any album I've heard. The boys have added even more bits and pieces to the sound, making this as distinctive a generic hardcore sound as there is. Still, there's the "g" word.

    Now, if I were in the mood for NYC metalcore, well, this might do the trick. But I'm not, and it doesn't. I've heard a lot of bands with this basic sound, and while Madball does distinguish itself a little better than in the past, it isn't taking the sound to a new level.

    I've just never been attracted to this particular brand of aggro tension. Hard to say why, really, but that's the case. Madball is as good as I've heard do this sound, and this is the best I've heard from the band. So if your tendencies are on a different track than mine (and they probably are), perhaps that's the most telling sentence in this review.


    Madcap
    Stand Your Ground
    (Side One Dummy)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    So I'm sitting here, looking at the cover and the liners. Haven't put the disc on. I'm thinking, these boys really like the Clash. You know what? They do. Early Clash, more like, the strident, aggressive stuff. But still, the connection is there.

    I know, literally millions of punks worship the Clash and wish they could be the Clash. Right right right. But then there's doing your own thing. And Madcap does, to an extent. There are oi-like choruses and nicely manic arrangements to keep me amused.

    And yet. To be fair, Madcap does do this sound right. There's no laziness here. The boys rock hard and loud, and the songs are lotsa fun. Nothing to sneeze at, in any case.

    But not enough to really break the band out of the pack, either. Good generic, but there's no getting around the fact that Madcap sounds like an awful lot of bands out there.


    Madelin Zero
    Madelin Zero EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    I guess it's a cliche, but guys generally go for female singers with low, sultry voices. Especially the ones who can growl a bit. Madelin Zero can growl. Real well.

    Her songs fall into the power pop category, though with more oomph than the stereotypical "chick rock" perpetrator. And she's not using heavier music to try and disguise vocal shortcomings. Zero can go from a whisper to a wail without losing any tone or flying off key. She's got the chops.

    That goes for her writing as well. She's genuinely talented and worth hearing. Now she's just got to get lucky. That's the hardest job of all.


    Audra Mae
    Haunt EP
    (SideOneDummy)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    SideOneDummy used to be the home of punk bands--often ska and Irish-tinged. Good stuff. Audra Mae is a rootsy singer-songwriter. And she's got good stuff, too.

    For starters, she's got an arresting voice. Like Neko Case, Audra Mae's voice betrays little training. It's a wild beast roaming through these torch tunes. Great pieces, songs that touch on just about every side of human existence.

    Well, the downer side of human existence, anyway. You won't get me complaining. Audra Mae's voice along is enough to recommend this, but her songwriting is top-notch as well. We'll be hearing much more from her, I'm sure.


    Magellan
    Impending Ascension
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Be it Queen, Yes, ELP or those American poseurs Kansas Or Styx, I'm just not a big fan of supposed progressive rock. The songs often sound more constructed than composed, and everything seems pretty damned antiseptic.

    So goes Magellan. This is not my kind of music. The playing is great, and there are parts of songs I quite dig. But the whole thing is so pompous and sterile, well, I can't get into it.

    On the other hand, I can't think of another band that so completely replicates the late-70s prog-rock experience (down to 12-minute songs). If that is your bag, then I can't imagine you being disappointed.


    Magellan
    A Strange Traffic of Dreams
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    While not the same Magellan as records for Magna Carta (and I hope I'm not creating any legal difficulties here), this Magellan also travels a byway of the prog rock landscape.

    Rather poppy, with plenty of little sound sculpture tidbits lying about. The vocals are generally filtered through one machine or another, and whatever guitars appear also sound rather mutated.

    Kinda in a Floyd-lite state. The lyrics and music are nowhere near as pompous and overbearing, but there is still a resemblance. I guess a comparison to the best of Alan Parsons Project is also in order. Well produced, fairly mellow, but still adventurous, pop fare. You could do a lot worse.

    The funny thing about the name is that this Magellan has been around much longer. Take a check of the website and see how much this band has done. Fairly impressive, really.

    The sound may be inoffensive, but Magellan still traverses some fertile waters. Prog-pop without the cheese.


    Maggi, Pierce and E.J.
    For
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    This album is "dedicated to and inspired by the life and music of Jeff Buckley." So sez the back cover. Doesn't mean there are any covers or anything. More an extrapolation, music created because of the band's exposure to Buckley.

    As for a sound, the trio doesn't stick to anything in particular. From full-throated spacey rock to nuevo folk to blues to stops in all parts of the world, Maggi, Pierce and E.J. don't make long stops at any one musical harbor.

    And yet, each of these songs sounds like it belongs on this set. Perhaps it's the indirect subject matter. Perhaps it's Maggi's silky steel vocals. Perhaps these folks simply know how to bring in all sorts of influences without getting lost musically.

    I dunno. One or all of those probably apply. Here's the thing: When an album this adventurous manages to hold together well, someone's doing something right. Maggi, Pierce and E.J. really know how what they're doing. Top notch all the way.


    Magic Bullets
    A Child But in Life Yet a Doctor in Love
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    I'm not even going to try and figure out what the title of the album means. But it is somewhat indicative of the music within. Magic Bullets play very involved pop music, stuff that throws layer upon layer (even while sounding exceedingly simple) in an apparent desire to mask any and all core meaning.

    Well, maybe not quite all that, but this stuff is awfully pretty and equally confusing. I've never been a lyrics guy (I think I mention them every third or fourth review at most), but with this style lyrics are key. And I don't get these.

    But the music is so pretty. And even with all of its complexity, I can hear the meaning in it. The problem for me is that lyrics don't seem to match up with the story told by the song itself. The question is how much of a problem that really is.

    Not a killer. For starters, people who value lyrics may be able to figure out what's going on here. And people who like well-constructed pop music will simply bliss out. There's no reason those two groups of people ever need meet. And maybe after another hundred listens or so (a very attractive prospect to my ears) I'll figure this out. That's cool with me.


    Magic Wave
    Magic Wave
    (self-released)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    A heavy duty dose of the Hendrix, filtered through Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I know, they're kinda interrelated as it is, but Magic Wave just wallows in the stuff. Without completely ripping either off (the vocals are much more of a glam metal wail, for example), which puts the band ahead of most.

    Still, nothing here suggests any musical growth within the last 25 years. Magic Wave is just stuck in big guitar grandly played. Done well enough, but this music has been done before.

    It pains me to come down on this disc, because the band is definitely talented. The playing and sound are great. It's just that I'm not a big fan of retroid band which don't really move any of the old ideas forward. And Magic Wave is stuck in neutral.

    Too much of the old times for me. I'd like to hear even the slightest hint of innovation.


    The Maginot Line
    Paris Burning
    (Ambiguous City!)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    The album's title may have something to do with the band's name, but in every way the Maginot Line plays distinctly American rock. Pretty much straight up emo, with a few progressive pop tendencies thrown in just for fun.

    The verses are generally strident and almost atonal. The choruses are often multifaceted and utterly beautiful. I sure do like the way these songs are built piece by piece before exploding into splendor.

    Indeed, it's that ultra-crafted writing style that gets to me most. These songs are simple joys to hear. And as much as it is obvious these guys worked dreadfully hard writing and arranging these songs, the energy level is quite high as well. There's no quit here.

    A lot of fun for me. There's plenty of thought within these songs, but I'm exhilarated by the athletic pacing and tight writing. It's very hard to fuse those elements, but the Maginot Line makes it sound simple.


    split 7" with Jet by Day
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    One shot each from these bands, and each makes the most of the grooves. That's what you like to hear.

    Jet by Day's "Cheap Shots" is a real chunky rockin' raver that reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick. I'm not sure there's any relation to the song title or if I'm just on a hangover from cruising through the Sex, America, Cheap Trick boxed set last week. Anyway, the song is loud and fun, which works for me.

    The Maginot Line's "Theme Song" is a frenetic workout, not unlike what I've heard from the band before. It's got a real nice post-indie rock feel (how's that for mashing yer genres?), and the energy keeps up throughout the whole piece. no flagging whatsoever.

    Again, this is what a seven-inch ought to be: a slab of fun. The two bands here match up well, and they make a nice team here.


    Magnapop
    Hot Boxing
    (Play It Again Sam-Priority)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    They toured with Sugar, Bob Mould was in the booth on this one. Guess how it sounds.

    Great, of course. Magnapop has a great sense of understated, um, pop, and Mould makes sure to punch those guitars right out the roof. Jangle-pop becomes DAMNED LOUD JANGLE POP.

    The amazing thing is that there is any sense of dynamics conveyed at all. Yeah, there is a lot in your face, but occasionally things back off and you enjoy a peaceful moment. Then your ass gets kicked again.

    What really sets Magnapop off from the other thousand college pop acts from Georgia is the songwriting. Every tune is highly crafted, with all the lines intended to create one coherent, catchy whole. Everything right on target. Magnapop is wondrous.


    Mouthfeel
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Hot Boxing, the first Magnapop album, was great. It had wonderfully blocky production courtesy of Bob Mould. The songs were terse anthems. One of those songs even made it onto a Taco Bell sampler. I still listen to it once or twice a month. The second album was almost as good, but to my ear was missing something. Other people must have thought so as well, since it didn't sell as well and Magnapop kinda went away.

    But not all the way. And now we have this new album, some ten years after that first effort. The songwriting style is similar, though the playing is more refined and just a tad bit more modern (if that makes any sense). The production isn't as contrasty as on Boxing, but then, these songs are a bit more subtle as well.

    The sound allows itself to get loud and vicious when necessary, but it also allows the songs to develop on their own. There are more ideas here. Not so much tangents--Linda Hopper and Ruthie Morris haven't reworked their style--as much as asides. Catty comments on the songs themselves. They're cool like that.

    I don't think a lot of people were waiting for the big Magnapop comeback. That's okay. Give your friends one bite of "Satellite" and see if they don't come around. It's always nice to hear from an old pal who's fallen out of touch.


    Magnetic Fields
    The Charm of the Highway Strip (advance cassette)
    (Merge-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    Mesmerizing pop, with just a hint of that pschedelia-distortion tip, but not enough to annoy. Wowzers.


    Magnetophone
    I Guess Sometimes I Need to Be Reminded of How Much You Love Me
    (4AD)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    When folks talk about electronic music, they usually aren't talking about this kinda stuff. Magnetophone assembles its songs out of every sort of loop and sample imaginable. Except that the pieces don't sound like loops and samples. It just sounds like a band is sitting down and playing this stuff. Though I'm pretty sure that would be impossible.

    Though, given the astonishing nature of the compositions, I guess anything's possible. These pieces ("songs" just doesn't seem to sound right) seem to resemble stream of consciousness thought. They're a little weird.

    But awfully wonderful. While the stuff sounds like nothing you might find in the "organic" world, there is a warmness, something inviting about it. Just astonishingly cool. I could bathe in this all day and night.

    File under "music that kicks ass." Don't bother with any other sort of category. Don't flinch and you'll find yourself hypnotized by the almost horizonless visions of the sounds. Really. I'm not exaggerating. Magnetophone has created some truly brilliant music.


    The Magnificents
    The Magnificents
    (KFM)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    Highly processed, highly aggressive. The Magnificents sound like Devo run through a digital hardcore filter. Some songs more new wave, some more hardcore, but always an interesting mix.

    I've always been fascinated by folks who fuse melody and noise--no matter the sort of noise. Here, we're talking about electronically-created distortion, for the most part, though there's plenty of other little modulation tricks in the mix as well.

    The key to an enterprise like this is to keep a spontaneous feel to the songs, no matter how crafted they may be. Devo's best stuff sounded like a real mechanical band, as it were, and not just some geek at a keyboard. The Magnificents keep the tunes moving at a fair clip; that does most of the heavy lifting in terms of making the sound fresh.

    Probably too-piledriving for pure pop fans, and perhaps a bit too melodic for hardcore hardcore fans (though we're talking about some extreme ears on that side of things), the Magnificents do a fine job of fusing an original sound out of styles that have, in some cases, actually been played to death. Most engaging.


    Year of Explorers
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    Kinda like a Flock of Seagulls with New Order bass lines, the Magnificents throttle the old school new wave sound with abandon. I haven't heard someone sound so dated while, in fact, creating something entirely new.

    Maybe Echo and the Bunnymen is a better reference point than FoS, but that depends on the song. The driving bass lines and generally insistent beats give these songs an energy that often flagged in "classic" new wave songs.

    Which is to say, these guys never let off the throttle. And we're talking about pop here. Seriously aggressive pop with a lot of synth in the mix. I'm almost out of breath just listening. And having blast, too.

    This is the perfect album for back-to-school. I can imagine my compadres in college radio going nuts for this. Of course, that was 20 years ago. I have a feeling, though, that the kids are alright. They oughta dig this as well. Electrifying.


    Magnolia Thunderfinger
    A Lot of Motor Under Your Wheels
    (Fangerbang)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Loverly heavy rawk, inspired by the likes of Iggy and the Replacements but with the full-on sound of now, baby. Uptempo and whompin, with little regard for anyone left behind.

    In other words, basically tuneful stuff with awesome guitar licks. The sound is dead solid perfect, tuning up all the of the various components until the machine is purring like a kitten. And make no mistake: Magnolia Thunderfinger delivers when the light goes green.

    Simple pleasures, sure, but it's awful nice to hear unapologetic guitar rock done right. No hangups and no obeying some ages-old "formula". The songs keep rolling out, and the disc keeps impressing.

    I sure wish I'd had this puppy all summer, because is exactly what I want to have blaring out my windows as I zoom around in the sunshine. Music that makes me feel alive. And that's a great fucking feeling to have, let me tell you.


    Magrane Hill
    Public House
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Travis Magrane and Adam Hill come together to record a few of their own songs and a cover of "Statesboro Blues." The latter fits quite well within the styles of this Portland duo. Some partnerships may sound forced, but this one seems to create music that just might be greater than the sum of its parts.

    Hill's music (I recently reviewed Them Dirty Roads) is more rough and tumble, in the style of Uncle Tupelo's third album. Travis Magrane holds more for finger picking and other fits of dizzying dexterity. It's very easy to tell who wrote what, but the styles are quite complimentary.

    Indeed, Magrane's picking brightens up many of Hill's songs, and Hill's occasionally reckless playing keeps some of Magrane's songs from sounding like exercises. That's the nice thing about a duo; you can keep your own identity even as you broaden your palette.

    Excellent songs for the back porch. Don't forget your bourbon with the iced tea chaser. Hey, if you're gonna go, you might as well go all the way. I'm headed out right now.


    Mahavatar
    Mind Hypnotic Vision Towards Revolution
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    A rather unique mix of extreme and classic 70s metal. There is, of course, the novelty of the singer and the guitarist both being women, though to be honest that's not much of a curiosity anymore.

    What is important is the music, and Mahavatar has created a unique sound for itself. Lizza Hayson sings in a very low range, and the husky vocals have some of that extreme edge. Karla Williams' riffage comes more from the late 60s and early 70s, melodic and powerful.

    The key word here is power. Mahavatar presents its songs with polish and relish. These folks know how to get what they want. There's not simply potential here; there's great stuff.


    Marco Mahler
    Design in Quick Rotation
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Exceedingly understated songs, most of them just Mahler and his guitar (with the occasional overdub and bass line). The style isn't really folk, either, but more pop along the lines of James Taylor or Paul Simon. Though significantly more minimalist than either of those guys.

    Indeed, the stark nature of this recording is its most arresting feature. It took me a while to really figure out the songs. That doesn't make much sense, as they're pretty much right in my face, but then, there's a reason my mom made sure my name had only three letters.

    Yes, I miss the obvious all the time. And while this album is anything but, Mahler's approach doesn't waver from the first note to the last. He travels through his songs, using each to change course ever so subtly.

    Not nearly so idiosyncratic as a Simon Joyner or Songs:Ohia or Wil Oldham or whatnot, Mahler has nonetheless managed to notch his own first-rate entry into the minimalist singer-songwriter ledger. Fine work.


    Jennifer Maione
    Jennifer Maione CD5
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Cool vocals oozing from the blooze, with riff-sharp music kicking in the background. Remind me a lot of Melissa Etheridge's first album (which, if you recall, was pretty good), though Maione has a better voice and a somewhat heavier approach to the tunes.

    Three songs here, all mid-tempo rockers. But other than that, each is nicely distinct, showing a good range. If this is any indication, Maione has both the songwriting and the singing skills to really get somewhere.

    As you might have inferred, this is fairly commercial fare. But of a good sort. Maione has a deft touch with both her lyrics and her music, and the voice is the sort most dream of having. I'm rather knocked out.


    The Majesticons
    Beauty Party
    (Big Dada)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    There's a trend among certain labels to drop audio "watermarks" into promo discs. The worst of these can really distract me when I'm trying to review the album in question. Strangely, though, I really dig the noises grafted over the songs on this disc. In a way, the version of this album that I have is more interesting than the one you might buy.

    Whatever. The Majesticons apparently conceived of this album as something of a dancehall/r&b sampler. Each song is a sort of "party." Like "Piranha Party." Or "Brains Party," which cleverly references the Pet Shop Boys's "Opportunities."

    As for the execution, the Majesticons never forget to include the grooves. A lot of modern "soul" music is more a display of artless singing or dull, repetitive hooks. These pieces are smooth and slinky, with plenty of sly attitude at the bottom end.

    I still must confess I like the almost constant interference from the anti-piracy overlays. They actually complement the songs rather well. But I figure I'd like this puppy even without the promobot going off all the time. Majesticons sure do know how to throw a party or 15.


    Majeure
    Timespan
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    Majeure is A.E. Paterra of Zombi. On this, his first solo release, he gives up on any pretense of rock and roll and simply flies into the ether. Comparisons to Tangerine Dream or Vangelis's score for Bladerunner are obvious, but they won't tell the whole story.

    For example, "The Dresden Codex" almost sounds like a remix of themes from Bladerunner. The rhythm riff (everything is keyboarded, with the exception of some live drums) is a slightly-reworked take on the insistent burbling that infused the film. But then he moves on and finds something new to say with the sound.

    It's easier to do that sort of thing when your songs are between ten and nineteen minutes long. The three pieces here are involved and immediately absorbing. There is no energy wasted. Paterra starts each piece relatively simply and then builds. And builds. And builds. He knows what he's doing.

    The three "original" pieces are stunning. The three remixes (by Steve Moore, Justin Broadrick and Black Strobe) are equally fine. If you ever wondered what the future of electronic music might sound like, this is a good place to start. Let your mind wonder, but make sure you keep up. Majeure doesn't wait for stragglers.


    Maji
    Mystery Machine
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    The lava lamp take-off on the cover should have warned me. Lots of epochal riffs, with dabs of vocals here and there. A lot like a grungy Black Sabbath.

    I've heard worse, but I've also heard this before. Sounds a lot like Soundgarden did about five years ago. I kinda liked Soundgarden back then, so this sound isn't horrifying to my ears, but I do yearn for something original.

    On the plus side, the production on this self-made disc is very good. The band has managed to craft a major-label sound (with the exception of the drums, which sound a bit mechanical) on a tight budget. That's a serious accomplishment. Were that the music found a more creative perch.

    Leaning on inspiration is one thing, but Maji is far too close to some fairly famous bands to really get very far. I know this is a serious conundrum (if you sound too common or too weird, the big boys don't want you), but that's the biz.


    Makajodama
    Makajodama
    (The Laser's Edge)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    So, you were wondering what it might sound like if Dirty Three and Led Zeppelin threw together some instrumental jams? Kinda like eight different (awesome) versions of "Kashmir" or something?

    Yeah, something like that. By and large, these pieces are long. They center around guitar and violin, and they can be heavy. They can also be drop-dead gorgeous when they feel like it.

    The sound is organic. There's none of the tinny sound that sometimes infects prog projects. And while this is most definitely prog, the lush and open sound lends it a much more classic feel. These songs sound like they've been around forever.

    And maybe they will be. I'm not sure who can resist such lovely and powerful work. Certainly, I was not up to the task. Play it loud and melt your mind.


    Makar
    99-Cent Dreams EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Some folks have the strange notion that jangle-pop can never rise above milquetoast. Makar's songs sound easy-going and free of worry, at least until the lyrics kick in.

    I kinda like that dichotomy. The wonderfully intricate and involved lyrics work quite well with the rolling pop tunes to create a deep and moving picture. The band has crafted its sound quite carefully--to sound loose, of course.

    The playing is tight yet spirited. Just one more set of seemingly oxymoronic qualities that cements the quality of this set. Thoughtful and breezy all at once.


    Make Lisa Rich
    Another Venus
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Power pop that doesn't rely on the hook to do the job. Rather, the emphasis is on the various rhythms and riffs that underlie each song.

    This isn't one of my favorite techniques, though what it does do is increase the importance of the lyrics. And there, Make Lisa Rich comes through. These songs are fairly personal and quite incisive. Irony isn't unknown here.

    Which is interesting, because the music is rather straightforward. No underhanded tricks which would imply various implements of sarcasm. Maybe it's that jumble, as much as the riffage, which keeps me uneasy. Though don't take my searching glances as unhappiness.

    Indeed, Make Lisa Rich is really stretching the sound. This is hardly typical fare, and it's that fertile feeling that keeps me intrigued. There's plenty here to contemplate.


    The Makers
    Stripped
    (Kill Rock Stars)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    One might think that Kill Rock Stars, of all labels, wouldn't be jumping on any sort of trendy sounds. The Makers are straight outta the garage, and not particularly subtle about it. What gives?

    Well, when you consider that KRS was releasing garage bands long before they were cool, it all makes perfect sense. And anyway, the Makers do happen to throw in a bit of the stoner rock fuzz and other nice bits to color their songs.

    Hell, this stuff is so damned arrogant and snotty it's impossible not to have some sort of reaction. I'm sure plenty will be put off--these guys truly don't give a shit--but I like that sort of sauciness. Rock and roll ought to be played with a sneer.

    One of those albums that proves that it's possible to find a couple new wrinkles in even the most apparently played-out sound. The Makers aren't going to change the world, but they make me smile. And that's cool.


    Everybody Rise!
    (Kill Rock Stars)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    The Makers are probably older than me. They've been purveying their own version of snot-nosed, attitude-driven garage rock for nearly 15 years. They know how to make this stuff sound good, and this album is further proof. Not much different from their KRS album of last year, but certainly as good. And, of course, louder is better.


    Makkiwhipdies
    His Name Is NNNNNN... A Musical Extravaganza
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    Once you get past the title track (a real musical extravaganza that clocks in at more than 20 minutes), Makkiwhipdies (don't even think of asking me what it means) settles down into a steady diet of sample-heavy, tres-electro pop.

    A guy named Cosgrove in is charge, and we should be happy he isn't running a nuclear power plant. His mind flits from musical thought to musical thought, and it doesn't much matter if that makes sense to anyone on the outside. Abetting Cosgrove, mostly in the graphic presentation department (and there's plenty of that, too) is a guy named Mourad. He's responsible for supplying this disc and the bio to me. The bio, by the way, was printed on the back of a recycled Whalers schedule. I like.

    Aggravating, but undeniably brilliant. Much of this disc is way-overdone in a dreadful self-indulgent way, but there are also many moments of sheer grace.

    It's like reading someone's thoughts as they have them. Cosgrove doesn't bother to explain or even to tell us why he put this disc together. The liners are minimal, yin to the music's all-enveloping yang.

    Inexplicable. Maddening yet glorious. Painful yet thrilling. A frightening glimpse of one man's mind.


    Maktub
    Khronos
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    If one good thing came out of the 70s (in terms of music, anyway), it was the fertile cross-pollination of soul and rock. Sure, Sly and the Family Stone and a few other pioneers started this trend in the 60s, but the idea really took hold when Stevie Wonder went nuts (in a creative way). Then, late in the decade, Prince came along and started to get crazy himself.

    Maktub likes to ply the extremes of this idea, merging very smooth vocals with often hyper-aggressive guitar riffage. Not unlike some of Faith No More's work, but with the approach coming from the soul, and not the rock, side of the coin.

    And the guys aren't afraid to fully commit either way. There are some really sweet tunes here, and there are some heavy-duty rockers as well. Then there's a cover of "No Quarter" that subtly shifts the focus of the song. I like that a lot.

    Mostly, though, this disc rolls. The fervent desire to stick to the groove is omnipresent. There's something cool going on here.


    mala in se
    mala in se
    (Phratry)
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Wonderful, shouty stuff that packs just enough melody to be utterly catchy. Kinda like Knife the Symphony. Oh, wait, Andy Perkins plays guitar (etc.) for both.

    I don't know if that's the entire point of similarity, but Perkins's driving riffage (to repeat from the last review, pleasantly reminiscent of Kepone) keeps these songs from descending completely into the sludge.

    And boy, things do get heavy from time to time. Nonetheless, the tempo generally stays brisk. Don't know if the boys get bored easily, but these songs move along with aplomb.

    Also like KTS, this band does sound like it is a bit of a time warp. One that I wholeheartedly endorse, but then, I'm a certified geezer. In any case, this rocks. Hard. Very hard.


    Malacoda
    Cascade
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Trance dub, if I had to limit the description of this sound to a particular style. But, thankfully, my job is to do the oppose and paint as full a picture as possible.

    Plenty of the dub feel, with lots of electronic and ambient touches. Not to mention plenty of world beat snippets. All tossed together in the hopes of creating a coherent stew.

    Which happens more often than not. The main groove of each song is simple and established early, leaving plenty of room for exploration. And as the base beats for different songs vary wildly, Malacoda whips through quite a variety of musical ideas.

    Sometimes a bit too sterile, with wave after wave of excess sampled material floating past. But even accounting for such well-intentioned blunders, Malacoda shows it knows how to craft some intriguing music.


    Malade de Souci
    Novmmbr Aign EP
    (CB Intl.)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Inspired by Guns N' Roses's "November Rain?" Three guys from mid-Missouri playing wonderful no-wave releasing their record on a French label? I got this package in a plan manilla envelope with no return address--but a St. Louis postmark. It's hard to figure out where the put on ends and reality begins.

    Don't go by the tracking on the disc. There aren't really 29 separate pieces on the disc--though there are more than 10. There is a lot of pounding and a good deal of howling. In a relatively artful fashion.

    Reminds me a lot of early U.S. Maple. High on energy and creativity, low on structure. There's some really nice guitar work, when the boys decide to clean up for a moment. A lot of surprise for less than 10 minutes of music.


    Malajube
    Trompe-Loeil
    (Dare to Care)
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    There seems to be something about Canada--east or west, it doesn't seem to matter--that spawns a particular type of obsessive pop band. Whether we're talking about the New Pornographers or (insert any of ten or twenty other semi-famous Canadian acts) or Malajube, these bands seem to have similar places to rest their off-kilter perspectives.

    Maybe it's only off-kilter if an American is listening. I dunno. These guys remind me most of the Wrens, but they're not quite so tightly wrapped. And there's that, well, Canadian wank to the stuff.

    For years I've been trying to identify exactly what I mean by "Canadian wank." There's a certain amount of atonality and a slight disregard for melody, but something else. And it's not the fact that a number of songs here are sung in French.

    I'm gonna have to spend more time thinking this out. Not that it's a big deal. I like stuff that takes interesting angles of attack. Malajube has the skill, intelligence and energy to impress just about anyone. Ten seconds of any song on this album ought to prove that.


    Malevolent Creation
    The Ten Commandments
    (Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91

    Another Burns production at Morrisound. Sorry, but it's becoming a cliche. There isn't anything exciting to listening to such things any more. At least not upon reading those words.

    But a good band can overcame such limitations. Malevolent Creation comes close, but still is a little off for my taste. Often, on tracks like "Memorial Arrangements" and "Remnants of Withered Decay," they stick with a good groove. But then on many other songs they speed for speed's sake. You know, lots of guys can play songs at 220 bpm. It's the real band who can do that AND make it sound good.

    Wait a minute, I'm berating a band that has the speed thing down pretty well. Malevolent Creation is one of the best speed bands, but it just sort of upsets me when obvious talent ignores the possibilities.

    To sum up: this is a good record. I think with different direction and production, it could have been great. Malevolent Creation will be a force to reckon with.


    Retribution
    (R/C-Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    Their first album established them as one of the tighter death metal bands around. This one is faster, harder, more grinding, and yes, better.

    While many bands of this ilk sing the glories of decapitation and general mayhem, Malevolent Creation speak rather eloquently about the problem violence presents in our society. The fact that Brett Hoffman leaves his vocals untouched by machines means the kids just might get the point.

    A second album already makes them veterans of the scene. And it moves them toward the top of the heap. Definite rising stars.


    Stillborn
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    I loved their first album. The second was almost as good. Now this. It's like they've taken every death metal cliché and melded them into an album.

    Too bad, because this is the sharpest production MC has enjoyed thus far. Three albums in a little less than three years is a lot, and I think the inspiration took a little dive this time out.

    Better luck next time, guys.


    Malformed Earthborn
    Defiance of the Ugly by the Merely Repulsive
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    That would be Danny and Scott of Brutal Truth and Shane from Napalm Death. In case you were curious.

    The basic tracks were laid down three years ago, and then finished up earlier this year. Not like there aren't enough side projects out there, eh?

    The reason this one got finished, though, is because it does truly threaten the very existence of life on Earth. Heavy, and yet still strangely club-accessible at times, Malformed Earthborn cranks into Dead World territory with purpose and intent.

    Not exactly nice, but certainly exquisite. Malformed Earthborn tracks into the world of vicious industrial noise and helps blaze a trail. A sheer joy to experience.

    See also Brutal Truth and Napalm Death.


    Malhavoc
    The Release
    (Metal Blade/Epidemic)
    reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92

    The one track on either of the Raw M.E.A.T. samplers that I really liked was Malhavoc's "Punishments." And this is my first full taste of James Cavalluzzo's industrial heaven. Or hell. However you wish to see it.

    Much like Nine Inch Nails, Malhavoc is mostly a one-man show. Mr. C is the main guy behind the name. If you were feeling aggressive enough and your date frisky enough, you could dance to this stuff. Sorta like "Slavestate."

    But much more, well, evil, I suppose. The music is a sparser, but almost darker. This stuff would of course go well with Skin Chamber, but don't overlook other industrial gods, like, say the new Young Gods. Or some good old-fashioned Einsturzende Neubauten.

    Damn this is cool. And the "Punishments" ep is included with the ride. Who cares if he carves a pentagram on his chest if the music is this good?


    Premeditated Murder
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    This is much more club-ready than The Release, but it is also heavier and more coherent. Singer James Cavalluzzo filters his voice a little more, adding a few levels of distortion, but for the most part this is a very radio-friendly disc.

    That doesn't mean commercial, though. An anti-violence theme permeates the disc, and Cavalluzzo's lyrics are insightful, not insipid. And this is not a Nine Inch Nails gig, where the guitars exist only as window dressing. There is real feedback and riff work, not to mention some great beats.

    And there is a reason for the exceptionally dance-type grooves: a protest against their use to disguise stupid songs (like any rave piece). Always original; Great as before.


    Get Down
    (Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    After a couple of releases on Epidemic licensed through Metal Blade, James Cavalluzzo and his Malhavoc cohorts have signed a nicer deal with the folks at Cargo.

    The expected from Malhavoc: highly stylized industrial production, severe sonic pain, a concept of the music as art. This disc is intended to be the story of a certain MC.J.C. (you guess) and his view of life. And if you don't get it the first time, then there are alternate tracks orderings listed in the liners.

    Pretentious or what? Yes, it is. But you can also listen on a purely superficial level and still get off on the music. If you thought Premeditated Murder was big step up for the band, get your hands on this. Malhavoc cycles through genres and emotions in the quest to explain…well, all this MC.J.C. stuff.

    I thought after the last album that the band's improvement curve would be getting flat by now. But this is another huge jump forward. I won't underestimate again. This is sublime.


    Malicious Onslaught
    Rebellious Mayhem
    (demo)
    reveiwed in issue #1, 10/31/91

    Fairly traditional sounding death metal. I like the fact the vocals are not run through any machines. The cassette I received had three tracks on it. All are certainly worthy of airplay. If you have any room for demos in your formats (and you should) give these guys a yell.


    Malicious Onslaught
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    Two tapes from these guys, one of which may or may not be their album on Turbo Records (which would make it ineligible for demo status, but I can't tell, so why worry?).

    Malicious Onslaught can play their instruments very well, and at times their techinical brilliance seems to overshadow any feeling, but not often.

    This is better than the last tape I heard from them, and I can only assume they will improve even more.


    Malkum & Chris
    Walk On
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    This would be Malkum Gibson and Chris Kleeman. Malkum handles the harp, Chris the guitar (acoustic and steel). They swap out on the vocals. The songs are generally old standards, though one of Gibson's also makes the cut (and fits right in).

    The treat here is the playing. Gibson gives the harp a natural, easy-going sound, and Kleeman can pick with the best. Neither is a great singer, but both can be expressive. They don't embarrass themselves on that point.

    Still, I'm not listening to the singing. I'm taking in the wonderful interplay between guitar and harp. Malkum and Chris could pick and blow all night and I'd be sitting still in rapt attention. Technically, they're great, but it's the emotion and presence they exude that makes this a transcendent experience.

    Sometimes simplicity can bring the greatest joy. This album is just two guys sitting around, playing and singing. Anything more might well have spoiled the broth. As it is, this album has a resonance that few can match.


    Yes, I Want to Go
    (Buckatoon)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Another sterling acoustic blues set from Malkum Gibson (harp) and Chris Kleeman (steel guitar). A few classics, a few lesser-known oldies and a couple originals that fit in nicely. An all-around fine album.


    The Mallik Family
    Secret Colors
    (Shalimar)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    There are times when my meager musical education comes back to haunt me. So I'm going to rely on outside sources for this info. The Mallik family has been performing in India for a couple hundred years, and for the last 50 or so various members have been traveling to other countries.

    The Mallik Family specializes in Dhrupad singing. There are two ragas on this disc, and each is split up into three sections. The first raga is about spring, and the second concerns marriage and merriness. The basic structure sounds like variations on a theme, starting simply and moving into more and more complex interplay.

    To my untrained ear, this sounds like astonishingly skilled singing and playing. I don't have any reference points, though, so I can't say with certainty if this is average or astonishing relative to other Dhrupad singing. In any case, the vocal combinations are rather haunting, even more as they wind up within each section.

    I think I'm gonna quite while I'm ahead. This does rate highly on the coolness quotient, even if I'm not entirely sure what I'm hearing.


    Yngwie Malmsteen
    No Love Lost CD5
    (Architect-Viceroy)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Same old Yngwie. Way-overproduced pabulum, with the meister's usual fluid (and stale) solo work. And the singer has a really reedy voice. He shouldn't be singing this high.

    Well, I can't say I'm surprised. The album can't be very good. But I'll slog through if called upon.


    Magnum Opus
    (Architect-Viceroy)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Yngwie's best moments have always been the ones where he shamelessly rips off Iron Maiden. And if you're gonna steal, you might as well steal from the best.

    Unfortunately, the single (which I really ripped a couple issues ago) was taken straight from Warrant, which is a real step down in the inspiration department. Tracks like "The Only One" remind me of his failed stabs at Top 40 greatness in the late 80s.

    And yet, the best of the bunch are songs like the first track, "Vengeance", which honestly sound better than anything on the current Maiden disc. Of course, that's really not a compliment. Malmsteen, as usual, changes gears relentlessly, but this album is much better than that single portended. It's no worse than what Polygram was releasing from him about 10 years ago. I didn't really like that, either, but it isn't complete shit. A lot better than I thought it would be.


    Michelle Malone
    Stompin' Ground
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Sometimes it's pretty easy to guess an album won't suck. Michelle Malone (billed on the cover as "Moanin' Michelle Malone and the Low-Down Georgia Revue") has been one of the legendary women of rock for more than a decade, but you'd be surprised how little of her stuff can be found in a record store. A quick look at her discography will explain what I mean.

    Anyway, she's got one of them whiskey-dipped (as opposed to soaked) voices that sounds ancient and yet ageless, and she sure knows how to wail the blues. And that's where her songs come from, though she's perfectly willing to rock out or go twangy or whatever else is necessary. Each of the songs here has that "instant classic" feel, a nice comfy sound that is impossible to create intentionally. The songs must be great, that's all.

    And boy, are they. Malone refuses to stick to a particular mood or sound, and that makes this album lively and fun. The songs themselves take on a number of dark subjects, but Malone has a deft hand, and she never loses he wry sense of humor.

    Like I said, you know some albums won't suck. This one shines. Malone is in fine form. In fact, this is probably the most consistent studio album she's made. That it's completely heartfelt helps immensely. This is the real Malone, and that's purty damned good.


    Debris
    (SBS)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    The new album from Malone. It's probably not her best (no crime there), but if yer in the mood for some blues tunes belted by one of the best, this oughta do the trick. The songs are good, the playing is brash and Malone sounds as fine as ever.


    Mama Tick
    Horsedoctor 7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    They're pissed and out to get you. This is a vicious maelstrom of rantings and screams. Well, perhaps I am overstating things, but it sounds amazing.

    I would put this in the category of Jesus Lizard or Alice Donut, just because those bands are pretty original as well. The command of noise here is simply astonishing.

    As this is a Skin Graft release, there is also a great comic book inside. I mentioned this before, but it is such a cool idea, I had to say something again.


    Gimme the Five Bucks
    (Dubious Honor)
    reviewed in issue #63, 9/30/94

    In a world that is increasingly random and chaotic (or one that seems that way), I guess we need bands like Mama Tick.

    Every song threatens to relapse into some heavy metal hell, but the boys fight the good fight and keep things on a wackily noisy line. Just when things start to get accessible and easy, the band cranks out another vicious swipe at humanity. Civilization has been reduced to ruins once more.

    The interesting part is that while to all outward appearances there are few musical skills at work here, I can hear some sort of inner peace, something that says these guys want to sound like this; in fact, this seeming chaos is a highly crafted art form.

    Like Buzzov*en? Um, a little. Like the Jesus Lizard school? Well, they are from Chicago, so there is a little resemblance. But Mama Tick has found its own personal way of expressing horror at everyday life. Frightening, yet wonderful.


    Mammoth Volume
    Noara Dance
    (The Music Cartel)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Some Swedish guys get together and decide to play some jazzy stoner (Sab) rock. Jazz in the riff construction, not in the playing, which is kinda sloppy.

    I'm not knocked out, but I must say that this is a nice spin on the whole genre. I think the playing and singing are kinda generic, but in a comfy sorta way.

    What I'm trying to get at is that this just isn't that exciting. It can get tiring. But even at its worst, you know, it's okay.

    This disc has just stumped me. I can't go anywhere with it. It's not the most inspiring thing in the world, but I oughta be able to say more about it than this. Sometimes an album is opaque to my ears. This is one of those.


    Man at Arms
    A Waste of Time and Space
    (Joyful Noise)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    If you can imagine the Minutemen playing math rock, you might get an idea of the mania here. This is music for mutants, pure and simple. Humans need not apply.

    Luckily, this web site is for mutants, so Man at Arms is more than welcome. If my first reference is confusing, perhaps the notion of Ween playing Voivod might help you out. No? Hmm. The Jesus Lizard under the boot of a minimalist dominatrix? I have a feeling none of these are making any sense.

    So I'll just say that Man at Arms plays highly-technical, highly-crafted songs that sometimes sport an actual melody. The vocals trip over the music as often as not, but they're kinda effective that way. The result is a disjointed mish-mash that sounds positively wonderful.

    To mutant ears, of course. Humans will wonder what the fuck is going on. That's okay. Leave them to their Mantovani. Oh wait, another now-obscure reference. Sorry about that.


    Man from Fiery Hill
    Magazine Theft Yeah
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    I suppose perpetrator of this album might be considered a band, but the sounds here are often assembled as much as played. I'm sure it would be possible to replicate the stuff on this album live, but I doubt it would sound quite so cool.

    It's not that the songs don't have traditional cores. They do. Each piece could be presented with just vocals and an acoustic guitar. But there are so many extras, from stylish processing of the vocals to a wide array of samples and other bit of found sound. The basics are good, but the additions make these songs truly inspired.

    There's a whaleload of ambition in these here tracks, and it pays off. Man from Fiery Hill plays a poppy version of noodle rock--not entirely unlike Bad Astronaut. There are more tricks here, but the overall effect is almost as impressive.

    And I've only scratched the surface on my initial listens. I can hear plenty of layers beneath that which I've already acknowledged. More personal time spent with this puppy ought to yield untold pleasures.


    Man of Everything
    Man of Everything EP
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    Brooding pop that never quite transcends the whole whining factor. I'd hardly accuse these guys of being insinscere, but their attempt to be emotionally-wrenching ends up simply dull.

    The average demo production certainly helps pull this down, but honestly, the singing is just way too uninspiring to carry any of the songs. The music is alright, but I'd prefer to hear the playing tighten up a bit, be a little less lackadasical.

    This tape just weighed me down like a truck of brick. I like the lyrics, but the rest of the package just couldn't match up.


    Man or Astroman?
    Deluxe Men in Space EP
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    One of the all-time "Love 'em or hate 'em" bands. I don't know anyone who sits on the fence with Man or Astroman?. And I'll be honest, I like the way these guys rip through the surf concept and tear out a new beach ball.

    Six tunes, not quite ten minutes. Sounds like the boys are up to their usual tricks. A couple covers (I can identify neither of the original artists confidently) and four original tracks, including one from the upcoming album. All joyous bliss, as far as I am concerned.

    I've never understood why some people bash Man or Astroman? so. Maybe you can tell me. This is better produced (Touch and Go will spend a little more than the other labels MOA has recorded for) than previous efforts, and the wall-of-sound is simply stunning.

    Lots of fun. There's not much left to say. You get it or you don't. If you don't know, then give it a shot.


    Experiment Zero
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    The artist's conception of surf-pop. Man or Astro-Man? has been cranking out albums for what seems to be ages. Mostly on very small labels, mostly out of the mass public's view. That part changes with the move to Touch and Go.

    I mentioned it when I reviewed the EP, and I'll say it again: There's a big backlash against these folk out there, and I just don't know why. This is fun surf-pop with nice levels of electronic noise and amusing asides tossed in. How anyone could hate this with a passion is beyond me.

    The Touch and Go cash has led to moderately better production (consistently good is a better description, I suppose), and the songs roll off the assembly line in perfect marching order. Okay, so the stuff is all out of the same milieu. It doesn't get boring, even over 15 tracks. I think that's the big test.

    Plus, it's damned fun. Need any more reasons?


    1000X EP
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    The legend lives on. Roboto-surf instrumentals (and the odd tune with vocals) that incorporate the latest in modern technology to give as old-fasioned a sound as possible. But of course; what else to expect from Man or Astroman?

    I'm well aware that this band has almost as much of a backlash following as folks who like the music. I'm in the latter camp, mostly because of the, ahem, camp that always accompanies this fine music product. Read the fine print; it's as illuminating as ever.

    The music has some fine print in it as well. You simply have to listen hard enough to find the humor. And even if you don't get it the first time, you've still listened to some cool sounds.

    And if you don't get it, don't bitch at me. If I get one more "How can you like Man or Astro-Man? when you slag Frank Black?" e-mail, I'm gonna have to shoot someone or something. Sorry, it's a personal problem.


    Made from Technetium
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    The first CD I've heard that opens up with a message from the disc itself. Ah, but these are the mysterious boys with the ray gun musical toys (I couldn't resist). Another venture into the mostly instrumental world of Man or Astro-Man?.

    As usual, the guys seem to have put more effort into creating the packaging than the music (which is still up to its usual standards). The liners include lots of faux slides and a schematic flowchart showing how the music has come to this human's ears. I'm so relieved to finally understand.

    To be serious for a moment, this is simply another good Man or Astro-Man? outing. Fans know what to expect: surf-type instrumentals with occasional vocals, and always added retro space age weirdness. I dig it. I'm aware of those who find it retarded.

    I say those folks should lighten up. Everything surrounding the band may be a big-ass joke, but the music is solid. And that's all I ask of a band.


    Eeviac: Operation Index and Reference Guide,
    Including Other Modern Computational Devices

    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Once more with feeling. Surf instrumentals (with a couple vocal ringers) on a space-age theme. Man or Astro-man? has been kicking out these things for, well, almost forever it seems. Do the albums get better? Well, the production values are improved. Does the music change? Not really.

    Though, if I may hazard an opinion, I'd say these songs are a bit more frantic and messy than the last couple of albums I've heard from these folks. A bit. There's also something of an industrial influence at times. That whole technology/outer space/computer gig.

    I've said this before, and it's still true: Man or Astro-man? is one of those things which genuinely intelligent people can violently disagree about. Is it all a silly put-on, or is the music really, really cool?

    I'll tell you this: I don't know. I like listening to the stuff from time to time, and I'm sure I'll be kicking this thing in and out of the discer a few times in the near future. Manna? Mother's milk? Nope. Maybe oyster crackers. The bacon-flavored ones. Something like that.


    A Spectrum of Infinite Scale
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    It sounds like the Chicago sound has finally rubbed off on Man or Astro-Man?. Sure, the excessiveness of the exercise is still around, but the surf sound is all but gone, drowned out in a more strident sort of riffage and plenty of noise touches.

    So does this mean the guys are going for a grand statement? I don't think so. It is possible to find plenty of references to the more familiar sound, but I think the band just wanted to try something different. Not a bad idea, either.

    A success, too, in that the rather expansive concept takes throbbing riffola and heavy distortion quite well. Rather than a soundtrack to a space opera, this album sounds like the score to an exploitive horror movie.

    While I liked the old style, Man or Astro-Man? had to move on. And this is a good way to go. A real positive step for a band that I thought might be getting a bit stale. Not so, not so.


    Man Scouts of America
    Crash Course EP
    (R.A.F.R.)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Is this hardcore or metal? Yes. The Man Scouts have that metallic edge, though the music itself is still closest to hardcore. I get an early Cro-Mags feeling, although I'm a little uneasy with that reference.

    What I'm happy to talk about is the pure power of this stuff. No doubts there. The Man Scouts pound out their songs with full attitude and amplitude. The vague tunefulness of the choruses doesn't hurt, either.

    A pulsating thrill ride. Categorizing the sound is silly. It either works or it doesn't. And, well, it works for me. I'll be mainlining, thankyouverymuch.


    Man the Change
    Defeated
    EP (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    The band's site proclaims "we play fast," and so they do. Man the Change doesn't really break any new ground, but the energy of these songs is infectious. An excellent adrenaline wire.


    Man Will Destroy Himself
    consume...be silent...die EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    There are those who forget that my little corner of the New South has something of a reputation for metallic hardcore. C.O.C. hails from these here parts, and there's plenty more where that came from. Take Man Will Destroy Himself.

    The stuff can only be described as melodic extreme hardcore. Fast, brutal and yet somehow tuneful at the same time. Way too tasty for its own good. This is the kinda fare that could really go over to a mass audience.

    A frightening thought, really. Not that millions of kids would buy this, but that if you push a sound to the edge you end up coming back to the middle. Politics is the same way, of course. But this review has nothing to do with politics, just kick ass music. MWDH has plenty of that.


    Mark Mandeville
    No Big Plans
    (Nobody's Favorite Records)
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    Mandeville, frequently accompanied by Jerry Fels and Raianne Richards (see review below), plays a few classic songs in the key of americana. There's an elegiac sound to this album--think latter-day Steve Earle--but not unlike New Orleans funeral marches, the feel is uplifting.

    The simple setting gives these songs plenty of room to breathe. Mandeville makes the most of this, strumming or picking along on guitar or banjo. Everything sounds so effortless I can imagine that these songs poured out in one sitting from whole cloth. I know better, of course, but that's what it sounds like.

    By turns delicate and powerful, Mandeville's songs evoke a number of emotions. The clearest is simply one of freedom. The pieces have an engaging lilt, and they always seem to be in motion.

    A fine album for watching ice melting in bourbon. The key is finding the time and the state of mind, though these songs could be just the inducement you need.


    Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution
    Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution
    (Nobody's Favorite Records)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    He's been around since almost forever, or at least it seems that way. And so when another great Mark Mandeville album rolls along, all I can do is ask "What took you so long?"

    Raianne Richards plays Emmylou to Mark's Gram. They have an easy musical partnership, always seeming to know exactly where to come in and where to leave. Once you've heard them sing together, you'll wonder why they would ever sing apart.

    The songs are as evocative and charming as ever. Nothing on this album feels rushed or forced. The arrangements are intricate but completely uncluttered. Listening is like sipping bourbon that has slowly melted all the ice in the glass.

    Plan to devote plenty of time to this one. If you ever feel the need to lead a harried life, a dozen listens or so should get you right back where you belong. A tonic for those of us who try to do far too much.


    Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards
    Hard Times and Woes
    (Nobody's Favorite Records)
    reviewed 4/15/14

    Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards have been wandering around the Northeastern folk scene for the better part of a decade. What I particularly like is that whatever name is on a given release (The Accident that Led Me to the World, Old Constitution or some combination of Mandeville and Richards), the songwriting has been consistent even as the styles have shifted.

    This album is a stripped-down affair, often not much more than an acoustic guitar of some sort, Mandeville and Richards singing and one additional element (pedal steel perhaps, or maybe a harmonica). I suppose this is the "folkiest" of their albums, and in that way it is probably the most traditional.

    Relying less on original (or new, as some of these songs appeared on Richards' solo effort a few years back) material, this set is something of an easygoing ramble. Mandeville's songwriting matches up with the standards quite nicely, and without previous knowledge there's really no way to discern a difference (though "Hard Times" should certainly be familiar to most).

    It's great to hear Richards taking on more vocal duties here. She's got a great folk voice that sits at the high end of the alto range. At times, she slips into a Gillian Welch groove, but my preference is when gives her own distinctive voice full flight.

    The best moments come when Richards and Mandeville mix it up together. Mandeville's songs have always sounded better when played with abandon (or, at least, high emotion), but the mood on this album is definitely more contemplative. It's a different side of the pair, but while it's a different feel than I was expecting they acquit themselves well. Nonetheless, I miss a bit of the raucousness of their earlier work.

    I'm not disappointed, though. I have found that I like Mandeville and Richards' work the more I listen, and so I've got plenty of time to find my way through this effort. The best albums reveal themselves fully only after hours of appreciation. This album appeals from the start, but I do believe that the patina of age will serve it even better. Lovely stuff.


    Mandolin Orange
    Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger 2xCD
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Primarily the duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, Mandolin Orange distills the distinctive central North Carolina americana sound that I know very well. There's just the slightest lilt to the rhythms and a steely gentleness to the lyrics.

    Yes, that whole Southern thing. Martin plays guitars and mandolin, and Frantz plays guitars and fiddle. And more, of course. Haste Make is nine songs with a rhythm section, and Hard Hearted Stranger is nine (largely) without. The two albums were recorded at different times with different folks, yet they sound like they could've been thrown together in a weekend.

    Well, except for the craft inherent in the pieces. Marlin and Frantz are much more about expression than technical precision, but the entire project has been put together astoundingly well. These songs simply ring out.

    The wealth of nations, truly. There isn't a clunker on either disc, and the vast majority songs are superior in writing and performance. Absolutely gorgeous, and brilliant to boot. Mandolin Orange's future sounds limitless.


    Mandragora
    Full Bloom EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Five songs from these boys. When I was in college, many of my favorite bands came from central Oklahoma (Flaming Lips, Chainsaw Kittens, etc.), and I imagine I'm generally more interested than most to hear what's coming out of there these days.

    Mandragora sounds like college stoner rock to me. The sound isn't thick and fuzzy; it's more stripped down and straight-forward. But the themes and even style of riffage do fit. It's just that these boys try to do a little more with the concept.

    And it works, often in ways I can't quite explain. Basically, these guys keep driving the songs forward. There isn't a slack moment on this disc, which is always a sign of a band that knows what it's doing. If these boys keep up their focus, they've got real potential.


    Manic Hispanic
    The Menudo Incident
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Artistically speaking, not much going on here. A bunch of your favorite Hispanic Doctor Dreamers (and a couple friends) slap stereotypical mannerisms onto punk chestnuts.

    Of course, it is pretty fun, and maybe there is a point after all (but you do have to dig a lot). The guys can play (we knew that), and the production is nice and clean.

    I don't think the novelty factor can be avoided for even a second, but you shouldn't worry about that. Just smile.

    And by the way, in case you didn't know: the "menudo" in the title is a dish. The cheesy pop act was named after the word and not the dish, the latter being (I think) an American invention. Not unlike the burrito.


    The Recline of Mexican Civilization
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Something of a Hispanic all-star punk outfit (I'll leave it to you to figure out who is who), Manic Hispanic has decided to rework a number of punk classics in its own, inimitable fashion.

    So "Come Out and Play" becomes "We Gotta Get 'Em Immigrated" and "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" becomes "Brown Man in O.C. Jail." There are nods to Rancid, Bad Religion, Descendents, the Ramones, X and Decline, among others.

    Um, if you take this seriously then you've gotta get your head examined. The boys can play (duh) and the new lyrics are a scream. It's silly, even if there is something of a serious point behind what's going on here. Even so, it's much easier to win folk over with honey than vinegar.

    Like I said, lots and lotsa fun. The kinda disc that's good for kicking back with a brew or two. Let the worries of the world drain away.


    Manifold Splendour
    My Night Time Career
    (Bandaloop)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Somewhere between Stereolab and the Wedding Present (though obviously with rather more normal lyrics), Manifold Splendour spins its seductively attractive web.

    Veddy, veddy British, though the band is solidly Amurrcun. There's just this nice sheen of distortion washing over the Manchesterish rhythms that screams "Britpop."

    And that feel is what drives me nuts here. Ten years ago, I hated stuff like this. Now I love it. So chalk this rave review up to good timing as much as anything else. The deal is, Manifold Splendour not only does the style well, it has written some songs that would sound great in any number of arrangements. The stuff is rock solid.

    Too entrancing for its own good? Probably not. This is simply gorgeous music that shoots straight to the pleasure centers of my brain. Pretty, with plenty of backing substance. I'll dive in anytime.


    Manishevitz
    Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down
    (Jagjaguwar)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Songs that lurch in the night. Kinda haunting, gloomy bits, punctuated by very strange song construction. Most unusual is the way the tempo and general beat are wildly inconsistent. This adds to the uneasy feeling which is already prevalent.

    And, strangely, this is just another of those "roots" type of projects. Roots as practiced by the likes of Leonard Cohen, perhaps. I can't quite get a handle on the stuff, and that's perfectly fine with me.

    The production is relatively clean when it comes to the music in the foreground, but much of the background stuff gets some serious effect work. A good way to do this; definitely a spooky way. Just adds to the whole.

    I'll stagger anywhere to this beat. Dark and brooding, but still, somehow, inspirational as well. Got to find the depths to climb out of them, I suppose. Just another way to find the blues.


    Rollover
    (Jajaguwar)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Sorta the regular Manishevitz thing, if there is such a concept. That whole eclectic 60s-tinged sound with lots of jangly decorations. You know, horns, strings. flute, vibes, whatever works.

    There's a collective spirit at the center of the Manishevitz sound, even if the songs are generally the work of Adam Busch. His cohorts spin the songs into spells that create their own space in time. Each piece is something like its own world of experience. The texture is so wonderful, it's easy to get lost.

    And really, it's the feel of these songs that establishes the Manishevitz sound much more than the actual writing. The way that the different players interact with each other and with the ideas themselves. Like I said, there's this collective spirit that's hard to describe. It's just here.

    Simply another album of songs from people who know how to make music that matter. Not much more to say than that, mostly because I can't pay a higher compliment. A must, in any language.


    Mankind Liberation Front
    Mankind Liberation Front
    (Sol 3)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Somewhere between Devo and Kraftwerk, with all the accouterments of the new electronic movement (breakbeats, dub, etc.). Mankind Liberation Front sounds like warm German pop music. Warm for being German, that is.

    Though this was recorded in Hollywood. So I'm not going to take a guess as to where the folks behind MLF are from. Just noting the influences. The vocals are your standard techno rap, with a heavy emphasis on standard rhythms. Kinda droning, but in a pleasant way.

    Bouncy, in a way you might not expect. Easy to fall into, though how deep the hole is is up for question. I dig though, no matter.

    Enough unusual elements to lift MLF above the pack. Yeah, it'll work in the clubs, but that doesn't mean it's mindless.


    Kate Mann
    Things Look Different When the Sun Goes Down
    (Orange Dress)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    Mann is belter trapped in the body of a somewhat strait-laced folk singer. She surrounds herself with a veritable americana orchestra (harp, fiddle, cello and even saw) and then lets loose.

    The songs themselves are somewhat mannered, and Mann generally sings within the lines. That's precisely what makes her moments so momentous. When she lets go, it's like the light of the world has been extinguished.

    Her songwriting style is similar to that of Patty Griffin, but unlike Griffin, Mann rarely makes full use of her voice. Most of the time, she prefers to use the music and lyrics to make her points.

    This works pretty well. Generally, I prefer the belters. And I think Mann may end up there someday. Her alto is perfect for that type of singing. Still, she acquits herself well here. Well-crafted and utterly engaging.


    Lynn Manning
    Clarity of Vision
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    The title is an irony, and a truth. Manning lost his sight in a barroom brawl 16 years ago. But it doesn't take sight to find poetic vision.

    Manning's voice is sonorous and expressive. He at once provides you with his vision, and yet this is also an aggressive act against our own concepts of reality. In total contrast to the Vranich album, Manning makes you look outside, not inside.

    He makes you see the world in its all-too-imperfect state. But instead of simply speaking in indignities, Manning also proposes, if not solutions, then at least ways of surviving this nasty plane.

    Yes, you can read poetry. But the only way to understand what the poet really intended is to listen. To hear the poet relate his vision.


    manRay 19
    See You on the Ground
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    The back of this disc has to be seen to be believed. It kinda shows the thought process of how bands go about the sequencing of a CD. Hard to explain more than that, except to say that there's a load of info there. Pretty cool.

    The music is fuzzy and messy. Don't know what I expected from an UP (that's Upper Peninsula, for those not up on their Michigan nomenclature) band, but in any case I didn't expect this. Hyper drumming, languid shouts and heavy fuzz on the guitars.

    As if the Chicago noise pop thing went into the backwoods, I suppose. The pop forms are there (deep in the background), the experimentation is basically in the drumming and the guitars and bass simply wail and moan. All with vaguely tuneful choruses. Really. You know, come to think of it, this does remind me a bit of the God Bullies and Thought Industry, a couple of southern Michigan bands. Vaguely. As much for the spirit of adventure as anything.

    Energizing and exciting. manRay 19 may not have a huge commercial future, but this disc could become legendary. There is a lot here to appreciate and feed on. Highly recommended.


    Michael Manring
    (as Scott McGill Michael Manring Vic Stevens)
    Addition by Subtraction
    (Free Electric Sound)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Been a while since I've heard solid prog jam fusion. This album certainly fulfills that need. Scott McGill handles the guitar work, Michael Manring rumbles around on his fretless bass and Vic Stevens blisters all manners of percussion. Jordan Rudess joins in on keys every once in a while, and producer Neil Kernon plays with some loops.

    A group endeavor all the way around. Most of the songs are a series of solos built around a particular theme, though there is some nice interplay as well. The obvious camaraderie makes it quite apparent these guys like to play with each other.

    Kernon has given the sound just a bit of a metal sheen, and that helps to give this album a slightly off-kilter feel. I mean, these guys are playing in a more rock style, but this is hardly bash 'n' thrash. Technical soul is the order of the day.

    That's what really impresses me here. Yeah, these guys can play. But it's the feel, the tenor of the sound, the way true ideas are expressed by that playing which really knocks me out. Artistry, in a word. This isn't a sterile prog project. It's three (or four or five) friends talking. And that makes all the difference in the world.


    Jono Manson
    Little Big Man
    (Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    The little sticker on the front has a review that claims if not for Jono Manson, such wonderful acts as Joan Osbourne, Blues Traveler and Spin Doctors would never have come to the forefront of the national consciousness. Am I missing something, or is that a seriously backhanded compliment?

    Luckily for Manson, he doesn't truck in cheap syncopation and dreadful lyrics. Instead, he has a nice habit of infusing some actual soul and country grit into white-boy blues licks. Yeah, this stuff can get kinda sugary, but generally not to an annoying level.

    Nor does he reach any great heights. This is middle-of-the-road, in an "alternative" context. Manson doesn't take many chances, but he's a good enough craftsman to sell what's he's got. Can't argue too much with that.

    Nothing astounding, but better than I figured after reading that note on the front. Manson kicks out his tunes with little fanfare, but he's got his heart in the right place, just behind his voice.


    Frank Mantooth
    Sophisticated Lady
    (Sea Breeze)
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Mantooth (who produced this album and arranged seven of the 10 pieces) has put together some great musicians to help him realize his often latin-laced big band visions of standards and jazz classics (some of which were written for big band, some not).

    While his latin arrangements are certainly on the better side of taste than Perez Prado, Mantooth succeeds when he sticks to more traditional arrangements. The glitzy take on Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" is alright, but all that big band flash takes away from the beauty of the music itself.

    And that carries over to much of the rest of the album. Mantooth seems to have stuck to his vision, but I don't like it. Too much seems calculated for a more commercial audience, sacrificing the original heart of the songs for popular success. The rendition of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" is the best thing on the album. There wasn't much to cut out, and Mantooth's instrumental arrangement features his able musicians well. Unfortunately, most of the other pieces required more surgery than toning, and Mantooth's ear for "happy jazz" worked a little overtime.


    Manute Soul
    Atlas CD5
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Trying to be a funky little rock band, Manute Soul doesn't really make its parts fit together terribly well. Often enough, the vocals and the music just don't match up. Either is good enough on its own, but they don't fit running at the same time.

    I can hear attempts at the whole Spin Doctors groove thing, but Manute Soul can't decide whether to be excessively self-indulgent or go for the hooks. Pick one. Stick with it. Both just muddle the music.

    There's some fine musicians in this band, and the singing is just fine. At some point, though, Manute Soul has to figure out just what it wants to do. Perhaps then it will be able to impress more.


    Harry Manx
    Dog My Cat
    (Northern Blues)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Harry Manx plays slide guitar and harp. For the most part, this album was recorded live. The notes say there were a few guitar overdubs. Nonetheless, the feel is certainly authentic.

    Mostly originals, with a couple of Muddy Waters tunes and a couple other covers. Manx has a light touch on his guitar and harp, and his voice, while not a traditionally raspy blues instrument, still manages to convey the ring of authenticity.

    While not overly sentimental, Manx prefers to stay on the brighter side of the blues. Contemplative, yes, but not down and out. The production is similarly breezy and simple, almost transparent. Sounds like I'm in the room with Manx and he's playing just for me.

    Funny how so few producers can manage such a trick. Also funny how many blues musicians try to plumb this territory and end up sounding trite. To repeat myself once again, Manx sounds like the real deal. These songs sing when he plays them.


    Wise and Otherwise
    (NorthernBlues)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    The success of Dog My Cat seems to have really opened up Harry Manx's creative juices. He digs even deeper into his bag of Indian influences, using his Mohan veena on more than half the songs here. And he works much harder to meld those influences into a traditional blues sound.

    And so introducing "The Thrill is Gone" (one of only four covers on this album) with a short round from a raga and then blending that raga into B.B. King's classic lead picking sounds just about perfect.

    What also works so well is Manx's acoustic setting for all these songs. His own writing is based as much in folk as it is in the rural blues--which only makes sense. And when he takes on a well-worn tune ("Thrill," say, or "Foxy Lady"), he makes it his own. In a most spectacular fashion.

    For some people, success leads to sloth. For others, like Manx, it helps to fully refine an artistic vision. There's no one out there that sounds at all like Harry Manx, though I'm sure plenty of folks would love to be able to do what he does.


    Many Axes
    2 Many Axes
    (pfMENTUM)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    If the name of the band (a better term might well be trio or ensemble) didn't tip you off, these three folks each play a musical line or two, with the general concept of the song falling along somewhere along the intersections--or axes (the plural of axis).

    Or maybe not. I'm was just taking a guess. But this stuff is improvisational fare, and it wouldn't work if the three didn't manage to create enough points of intersection to create some sort of synthesis. Many Axes is always careful to make sure that it's pieces do, in fact, stick together. Even when the ideas are as ephemeral as a spring breeze, they have enough cohesion to keep the piece moving.

    Susan Rawcliffe and Scott Wilkinson play wind instruments--most of them instruments Rawcliffe has made herself. Brad Dutz plays whatever percussion makes sense for the song. This sort of free-wheeling approach to instrumentation and song construction doesn't translate into chaos, but rather a decided sense of wonder.

    There is an otherworldliness to this album. These folks don't make music for the timid and static. These are pieces that will exercise your mind. Follow the path, and see where it leads.


    Maow
    The Unforgiving Sounds of Maow
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Three women cranking out plenty of that retro 50s and 60s stuff: rockabilly, surf, etc. That old time rock and roll, with enough energy to power the whole Pacific Northwest. Hell, they even cover a Wanda Jackson tune (and she hasn't charted since 1961).

    All three sing, all three write. Of course, they all seem to like the same stuff, and while it's easy to discern the different vocals, the effect is the same. Very simply very good.

    All doled out with a fine sense of humor, to boot. Yeah, some of this stuff is pretty sophomoric, but it's fun enough to keep me happy. I'm not sure exactly where Maow plans to take itself, but I'll wallow in the mess right here for a while.

    If you're into this sort of stuff (Southern Culture on the Skids, Rev. Horton Heat, Hi Fi and the Roadburners, etc.), then Maow will fit right in. Might be a tough sell for some, but I dig. Silly enough for rock and roll.


    Maple
    It's My Last Night
    (Slab)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    Not the outstanding Skin Graft artist, which goes by the moniker U.S. Maple anyway. This Maple plays pop music in a much more straightforward way. Singer Bryony (female, if you couldn't deduce that from the name) has the standard affected style, but the music is amusing enough to make even that attractive.

    Sure, this sounds rather drafted for the big leagues. Simple song construction, with just enough dissonance to satisfy them frat-boy "alternative" types. But the presentation is pleasantly low-key, and like I said, the music is decent enough.

    Nothing groundbreaking, just reasonably good. Maple wends a few nice tunes down the pike, hoping for good returns. Eminently forgettable, but a nice ride nonetheless. If inoffensive, facile pop is what you want, Maple will service fine.


    Leigh Marble
    Red Tornado
    (Laughing Stock)
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    Emotive Americana played with strident attention to rhythm and attendant aggression. Leigh Marble starts off raucous and keeps the energy up throughout. The tension intensifies when Marble slows things down--a sign that the songs are really working.

    Rowdy but refined, I suppose. Marble throws plenty of rock and roll into his rootsy delivery...I suppose another Tom Petty reference wouldn't be amiss, though Marble's approach to this style is anything but southern.

    There is an underlying bitterness to some of the lyrics, but Marble generally comes off as hopeful. Hoping, anyway. Even if things aren't going well now, the future might be different. Maybe

    Marble channels too much energy to make these songs dreary. Even the slower ones have plenty of punch. This album crackles. That's always nice to feel.


    Twister EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    Leigh Marble's Red Tornado was a fairly typical singer-songwriter album. Twister is a much more intriguing creature.

    Marble has a background in producing, so it shouldn't be particularly surprising that he would be able to find some serious talent to remix a number of songs from Red Tornado. He does a couple of the twistings himself.

    What results is something fresh and exciting. Those young enough to remember the remix of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" might begin to understand the radical departure of these pieces even as they generally retain the spirit of the originals. Not to take anything away from Red Tornado, but this effort is superlative. It's much more interesting to play in a sandbox full of toys, and Marble seems to be enjoying every minute. Most invigorating.


    Houston Marchman & the Contraband
    Desperate Man
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Houston Marchman sounds like a time-worn Ryan Adams--think the blues-tinged country soul of Stranger's Almanac-era Whiskeytown--and boy, can he write a song or few.

    A sense of tired wisdom pervades these songs. The characters Marchman knows best are folks who have lived and lost. They don't know how they screwed up, they simply know their lives are just about spent. And strangely, such thoughts are about the most cheerful ones I can imagine.

    After all, most of us tend to fall a wee bit short of where we're aiming. It's always nice to hear about someone who's a bit less fortunate than we might be. And when the songs are as achingly beautiful as Marchman's, well, the pleasure increases and increases.

    Not many albums come along that hit me as squarely as this one. Marchman's voice (both figurative and literal) is impressive. His liners talk about trying to write good songs and not worry about anything else. He's done just that, and his band drew some really pretty pictures to go along with the stories. Set me up for another round.


    Mardo
    Mardo
    (House of Restitution)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    Every so often, someone comes along and tries to do the whole MC5 maximum r&b shindig. Circus of Power did alright with its first album, and the Delta 72 morphed quite nicely along those lines as well. Now here comes Mardo, hoping to do the job right.

    And this L.A. three-piece manages to find just the right balance between old-school rock and roll, glam, r&b and punk attitude. At times, the sound is a bit plastic for my taste, but honestly, this is about as restrained as you might expect from a SoCal outfit.

    There's a big punch in the sound, but not the overwhelming sheen of nothingness that pervaded a lot of later glam metal efforts (including the second CoP album). I'm not saying Mardo fits in with that sound--not entirely, anyway--but the loosey-goosey feel, heavy guitars, bouncy beats and obvious affection for tight harmonies in the hooks do lead me in that direction.

    Whatever you want to call it, Mardo does it right. The boys do get wiggy now and again, but they establish their groove early on, and suspension of disbelief sets in. This is Mardo's world, and anything is possible. Highly enjoyable.


    The New Gun
    (House of Restitution)
    reviewed in issue #275, June 2006

    I like these guys. Not enough to blow a load over them or anything, but there's something appealing about a power rock trio that sings about smoking and drinking and fucking and all that. This is the second disc I've heard from these boys, and this one is just as over-the-top as the first. Good to know youth isn't wasted on everyone.


    Eric Margan & the Red Lions
    Midnight Book
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Ah, youth. There's always an endless fascination with the ol' "Romeo and Juliet" tale (Shakespeare, of course, didn't invent that play's romantic themes, either), though it tends to fade as one gets older.

    Eric Margan is in his early 20s, and he's written an exceedingly engaging album about love found and love lost. The sound is full and all-encompassing (most fitting) and the songs themselves have no problems standing alone outside the context of the album.

    Indeed, these songs are so complex that it might take a listener a few trips through the disc to completely pick up on all the subtleties of the tale. The vibrant arrangements and playing are wonders in themselves, making it that much more difficult to keep an ear on the big picture.

    I like albums that can be heard many different ways. Margan's songwriting is astounding, and the execution on of this album is simply amazing. No matter how you listen, you will be blown away.


    Armand Margjeka
    Margo Margo
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #329, August 2011

    Nick Lowe often says he becomes a different character for each song he writes. Armand Margjeka seems to have the same level of commitment. These keenly observed songs are gems unto themselves.

    But the performances and production take this album to another level. Margjeka is responsible for the knob work as well, proving that he knows exactly what he wants his songs to sound like. Each piece has a different arrangement style. Some songs are basically Margjeka and guitar, while others bring in piano, strings or horns.

    So maybe Margjeka is the Spottiswoode of Birmingham. Or something like that. These pieces have been honed to perfection, and yet the deft touch on the performance and production gives a deep breath of life. There's nothing stilted here.

    This is the sort of album just about every singer/songwriter dreams of creating. Lovely, moving and powerful, with some of the best songs you'll ever hear. Wow.


    Tania Maria
    Bluesilian
    (TKM)
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Tania Maria (Correa Reis) sings and plays keyboards. She's got a cool alto voice with just enough character to make the silly lyrics sound almost credible.

    The better pieces here are the instrumentals, though, which allow the band to really jam on whatever groove has been presented. This could have been cranked into insipid "smooth jazz", but Tania Maria does a good job of keeping things on the side of good taste.

    But still on the pop side. Folks looking for adventurous playing or a unique perspective won't find such things here. This is good for what it is, but not much more.

    Fun, easy and not overly annoying. Can't ask for much more from this kinda approach.


    Europe
    (New Note)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    I found her recent studio album to be decent, though not terribly adventurous. Tania Maria has a good voice, and she can play keyboards and piano well. But that recording seemed intended for a mainstream audience, and I wasn't overly impressed.

    On the other hand, the seven tracks here (recorded live at a variety of spots in Europe) give her the space needed to really make an artistic statement. And while the music is still on the pop side of jazz, Tania Maria lets loose her considerable vocal and playing talents, and, more importantly, turns loose her artistic instinct.

    And so songs that might have been clipped or edited down to a palatable level in the studio are left to evolve slowly into more complete ideas. The songs average a little more than seven minutes per, and Tania Marie takes advantage of that freedom.

    A much better showcase of her skill. As often happens with jazz, the live recordings are more vibrant than studio sessions. That certainly is the case here.


    Mariage Blanc
    Mariage Blanc
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    No, they're not French. And if they're fans of Billy Idol, they hide it well. This Pittsburgh five-piece rocks through some heavy-duty 60s pop grooves and comes out shiny.

    With just enough bite to add contrast, these songs fit the sound perfectly. Almost a musical doppelganger of the Rollo Treadway, but with lyrics that are a bit more appropriate for the sound.

    I have to say that I like the shadows when they fall. Mariage Blanc is almost too perfect for its own good. These tightly-crafted songs are just loose enough to give a little air. Craft is a wonderful thing, but it can be stifling. These boys might want to keep that in mind.

    Still, all's well that ends well. And Mariage Blanc has recorded an impressive album. Ride the thermals and soar on some serious sun.


    Undercurrents EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    These Pittsburgh boys thank the Caribbean on their web page, and there are similarities. Mariage Blanc is a bit darker and more atonal, though, and I like that. I do wish there was just that much more menace; some of these songs seem to fade a little too quickly. Every one of the five songs here has something to recommend, though. More is needed for a complete appraisal.


    Marillion
    Radiation
    (Velvel/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Not your father's Marilllion (or your own, if you're like me and remember the band's short-lived U.S. fame in the mid 80s). Fish left in 1988, and as the band has soldiered on for 10 years, this edition of the band is actually the longer lasting.

    Which is something like saying the recent reformation of the Buzzcocks has recorded more music and has been together longer than the original incarnation. The music is still prog-tinged pop (think late 70s Genesis or something), and it's reasonably good. Terribly self-important and excessive in the writing part, the overall effect is still appealing.

    I don't like to hear people trying so damned hard. If you want to make music like this, don't leave the tags hanging out. Smooth some edges, use a little subterfuge. Don't make the music sound difficult. Marillion still hasn't quite got that notion down.

    As pop music goes, this is decent. As Marillion music goes, well, I was hoping for a bit more. This is not an album to rekindle the fires of fans past.


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

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

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

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

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


    Marionette
    Facing You
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #315, March 2010

    Marionette's Kevin Cornell has those hoary, moany vocals that can get overwrought in a hurry. I really thought this disc was headed for the discard pile. But after a few songs, I started to get the idea. Sort of.

    Marionette isn't immediately arresting. The songs, individually, and the album, as a whole, tend to build slowly. The lines of construction are left out for any listener to hear. I think the idea is to conquer, one matchstick of sound at a time.

    That works. Marionette could've turned any number of these songs into anthems, but only a couple fit that category. Indeed, if you want a quick fix, a fast window into the workings of the band, try "Four Voices." It's a great song, if a bit simpler than most of the others on the album. In any case, it's accessible and solid.

    Those of you who like the long haul, however, will want to start at the beginning and see where the music wanders. The cumulative effect of these songs is simply staggering.


    Carolyn Mark
    (as Carolyn Mark and the Room-Mates)
    Terrible Hostess
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Carolyn Mark has one of those weather-worn voices that is simply perfect for county music. She has an innate feel for selling a song, and she emphasizes different flaws in her voice in order to create a greater emotional impact.

    Of course, Mark has no intention of playing straight country music. She'll tear the hell out of a torch song, scoot off on a shuffle and then skip through a bluegrass reel. Aiding in her on this journey are the Room-Mates, Tolan McNeil (who, along with Mark, served as one of the "Lougan Brothers" on John Guliak's album) and Garth Johnson. Their contributions cannot be underestimated.

    The range of songs here is impressive. What's astonishing is that Mark and the Room-Mates manage to pull off this trick. To be honest, I'm not surprised. She's got one hell of a track record. Even so, I'm knocked out.

    John Guliak's album sounds like it was recorded in 1972. This one goes back 10 years before that, back when country was still mannered but not restricted. Marks matches her incomparable voice with a creative streak that simply electrifies.


    (as Carolyn Mark and the New Best Friends)
    The Pros and Cons of Collaboration
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    Carolyn Mark tries too hard. She really does. The first track on this album, "The Overture," really is an overture. It sounds like the Dixie Dregs trying to encapsulate 70 years of country music in just more than two minutes. The thing is, she succeeds.

    As best you can given the constraints of the assignment, of course. Mark plays conceptual country (if you can think of a better description, send it this way), and sometimes her concepts are almost impossible to flesh out. She revels in tweaking music conventions and refuses play anything perfectly straight, which is why some folks find her, well, annoying.

    Not me. But then, I'm one of those dorky music critic types who likes to think about music almost as much as I like listening to it. Which isn't to say that this album isn't an utter blast. It is. But Mark refuses to stick to a groove. Rather, she dances circles around the expected, obstinately avoiding the easy solution. Which is cool, but not always smooth and pleasing.

    Mark is an acquired taste, and I picked mine up years ago. This is her most accomplished album by far, and I think the pieces fit together a bit better as well. As well as possible when you're dealing with a genre polymath like Mark, anyway.


    The Queen of Vancouver Island
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    It's been a while since I sat down to review a Carolyn Mark album. Happily, not much has changed. Mark remains the queen of contemporary country music, throwing in dollops of the Dixie Dregs and Gram Parsons into the pot. There's a reason why she loves the Robert Altman's Nashville. That movie examined the fault lines in late 60s/early 70s country music, and Mark is still mining those chasms today.

    Oh, and she just happens to have the most expressive voice I've ever heard. Mark can sing anything, even if she can't quite hit all the notes. With her songs, though, she pushes the edges of her range just right. She has been making albums for almost two decades, so one must that figure she knows what she's doing.

    Is this her best album? I dunno. To be honest, it's as solid, exacting and varied as any of her other albums. The songs are chock full of the humor and keen (and occasionally biting) observations that Mark fans love. Mark is so consistently great that it's hard to say where this ranks.

    But why worry about such things? A new Carolyn Mark album approaches. Celebrations are in order. Hell, there should be parades! Now that would be something.


    The Marked Men
    On the Outside
    (Dirtnap)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Lean licks and tight grooves. Most Dirtnap releases revolve around some sort of warped Ramones/Devo nucleus, and the Marked Men adhere much more closely to the boys from Queens. Some serious manic energy ripping through here.

    Basic basic basic. Solid hooks with very little adornment. The writing has to be sharp and the playing has to be almost giddy. Both elements are executed to perfection. These boys have this sound down.

    This isn't the most original-sounding album around. But the Marked Men make up for a general lack of new ideas with their precisely-crafted songs and driving tempos. While speed and energy can't hide all flaws, they do make most music much more engaging.

    One of those "simple pleasures" albums. Nothing to write home about, I suppose, but well worth writing about here. This one's perfect for a long drive across the plains with the top down.


    Phil Markowitz
    In the Woods
    (Passage Records)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    A guy who obviously knows his stuff, Markowitz whips out a collection of standards and personal compositions with flair. He knows exactly where he should be and what his piano should sound like. The arrangements are exacting and tight.

    Just a bit too cerebral for me. One look at the notes and you can easily recognize the quality of his musical education. And this transfers over to the music, for better and worse. Markowitz knows how to create moods and feeling with just a shift in key or time signature. And his playing sometimes manages that feat without any outside help. But not often enough to keep up with me.

    This is quality, no doubt. Markowitz and his sides play quite well, but somehow some of the emotion and feeling that I can hear inside the musicians hasn't come out. Worrying about the next change, perhaps, or just plotting another tack in the course. I don't know. This is precision perfect, and I'd like something a bit more expressive. A personal beef, I know. But that's how it is.


    The Marksman
    Point Blank
    (Nickel City Records)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Rap music that goes way back, back to basic backing tracks and a focus on slick rhymin' and serious subjects. I would never have such a connection in 1988, but the Marksman kicks out in the style of Run-DMC and Paris.

    Not as political as the latter, of course, but well-considered and introspective. Rap that focuses on, well, rapping.

    The music is not much more than basic beats with some simple ornamentation. This isn't dance music. It's rap music. Like the olden days. A weird sorta nostalgia thing.

    Who knew that the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy album would spell the end of rap music as we knew it? Judging from the primitive production sound, I'm guessing the Marksman is doing this more out of love than with any cash motives. Nice to hear some real rapping.


    Marla BB
    I'm No Angel EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Marla BB plays the part of a blues chanteuse. She adds all sorts of inflections to the lyrics, but ethereal rather than guttural. It's an interesting idea.

    I can't say that it works for me all the time. The music also is a jazzy take on the blues, and all that polish somewhat works against the earthy themes of the songs. This doesn't sound fake or contrived; nothing like that at all. It's just... well, odd, I guess.

    That's really the deal. I like my blues down and dirty, and Marla BB just doesn't play there. I dunno. It's quite possible that this sound has some serious commercial potential. I'm just not terribly excited.


    Marmoset
    Hiddenforbidden EP
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    More stuff from one of my favorite micro labels (is that a term?). Marmoset plays a pleasantly noisy sort of pop music, often wandering off into tangential territory. This requires some extra effort on the part of the listener, of course, but as usual, the payoff is worth the pain.

    The songs are built around the drums. Whatever the drummer is doing pretty much dictates the direction of the song. And as no two songs have the same rhythmic base, the set is good and diverse.

    Now, at the times when the rhythms are close to basic rock stuff, the guitar does take something of a leadership role. And that might be the one problem with Marmoset: There is no cohesive factor, or at least, there's nothing that manages to hold the songs completely together. Each track keeps threatening to succumb to entropy, but still, all manage to finish still bound somewhat by the laws of physics. If barely.

    Anarchic and free, my friends. Marmoset refuses to stick to any particular style or feel, and bully for that. I will note that this EP does contain nine songs, so there are plenty of points of departure for the potential fan. Pick one and fly away.


    Today It's You
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Once again, it's Marmoset. And once again, there is a multitude of short songs which don't necessarily share much in the way of a cohesive sound. Very short stuff, though. Twenty songs in less than 35 minutes. And about as many interpretations of a noisy pop sound as anyone might conceive.

    Remember Chevy Heston? While Marmoset doesn't sound like that, it sounds like that. The basics here are very lo-fi, while Chevy Heston got into the technology a bit. But still, the affectation of a million sonic disguises is a similar trait.

    And the other similar feature is that the stuff is routinely brilliant. Loony sometimes, introspective and perceptive other times, but generally trending toward greatness. Immediately arresting and entrancing, in any case.

    So, yes, this is just a longer version of the Marmoset "style" found on the Hiddenforbidden EP. Which is to say folks who like their pop complicated would do well to dig this puppy up. There is something amazing beginning to flow through these veins.


    Above Our Heads 7"
    (Megalon)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    An EP, an album and now a 7". Marmoset in all formats. I can dig it. Particularly when the band is so singularly set on cranking out streamofconsciousness pop gems.

    Are the feelings expressed in these songs edited and crafted? Probably, but they don't sound like it. And the music also sounds similarly loose and improvised. It's not, of course, but it feels that way. Listening to Marmoset is like having a conversation with a good friend.

    And so two songs just aren't enough, though they are very nice, indeed. Quite good. A nice way to spend a few moments with a musical pal.


    MARS
    Everything You Want and Need EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/24/13

    Pleasant, if inoffensive, pop music that channels the laid-back feel of the early 70s--with just a bit of 60s insistence. Nothing particularly spectacular, but this workmanlike effort earns its smiles honestly.


    Mars Needs Women
    Sparking Ray Gun
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #8, 8/26/96

    The Discovery folks picked up this disc from Eggbert Records, and I can hear why: catchy choruses and a really nice production job that leaves the guitars choppy and vicious-sounding.

    I know, I know, you're all screaming this sounds a whole lot like Everclear. True enough. It's simple pop, with just a couple frills. Believe it or not, it's the simple stuff that's hardest to accomplish.

    And Mars Needs Women blows things on songs like "Nothing" with too much songwriting. The riff is cute, and the hook snags nicely. But the guys add a bridge and some other stuff that just gets in the way of the fun. Keep it simple.

    And when the band does that, this album is a real ripper. I'm afraid the guys have too much ambition to be a simple pop band (you can hear these things in the background), but what the hell. This is a good enough effort.


    The Mars Volta
    Tremulant EP
    (Gold Standard Laboratories)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    The Mars Volta has six members and at least twice as many faces. At its heart, this is a band that plays experimental futuristic (but not necessarily spacey) prog. With a decided bent toward rapid changes of pace. As might be expected of such a venture, Alex Newport produces.

    Reminds me a little of Blue Meanies (without the ska, of course). Just the willingness to experiment and see what sticks. The whipsaw songwriting style would be really annoying, except that the transitions are solid. All three of the songs here make perfect sense, in their own way.

    Grandiose, overblown and, you know, brilliant. The Mars Volta aims for the top, and I'd say it gets pretty close. This stuff is a wee bit out there, but not, say, as far as Mars itself.


    De-Loused in the Comatorium
    (Universal)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Of the 4,000 or so bands I've reviewed over the years, about 10 have signed major label deals after I've written about them. This isn't to say that my reviews had anything to do with their success. Given the ratio of reviews to big money, I'd say any words from me is about as close to the kiss of death as anything.

    The thing is, the bands that have gotten "the call" generally fall into two camps. One would be well-established bands with a strong following (like ALL--you do remember that Interscope album, don't you?) or really, really weird bands, like Blue Meanies--a band with which I compared these boys in a previous review. But even with the band's fine pedigree (two former At the Drive-In members in the forefront), I would never have guessed in a million years that anyone with serious cash would give these guys a deal. But it happened.

    Even more miraculously, this still sounds a lot like that EP from last year. Alright, so producer Alex Newport has been replaced by Rick Rubin and Flea, John Frusciante and even Lenny Castro drop by to lend a hand. Celebrity guests on a debut album can often be a sign of trouble or at the very least insipidness, but the spirit of adventure is as strong (or even stronger) here as on last year's EP.

    The album itself is a mediation on life and death (the hero travels through a morphine coma and then decides to kill himself upon waking up). I get more from the ideas in the music (which is probably best described as early Queensryche with less bombast and a lot more stuff going on) than the lyrics themselves. The picture painted by the wide variety of musicians on this album is astonishing.

    I know a number of music critics who say that the greatest albums must be recorded for major labels, because only the big boys have enough money to pay for the studio time necessary to make truly great and timeless music. Those people have never heard the Wrens's Silver. Nonetheless, it's quite apparent that the "deal" has enabled the Mars Volta to make one of the finest albums of this or any other decade. People will be talking about these boys in a hundred years. And with good reason.


    Amputechture
    (Universal)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    I know, everyone else reviewed this a month ago. Sue me. I reviewed the original EP years ago, so I figure I'll keep the string going. Here's my two cents: The mainstream thinks this stuff is weird. The underground knows where this stuff comes from, and by and large, us bottomfeeders like it. Weird? No. Difficult? Sometimes. Good? Oh yeah.


    Chris Marshall
    August Light
    (In Music We Trust)
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Most east-coast americana artists pay some sort of homage to bluegrass or Appalachian music. That's just how it is. The folks out west have a different perspective. No banjos and more muscle. Steel guitar, though, is de rigeur anywhere you hang your hat.

    Chris Marshall has that west coast sound. His songs ring out with power--both in terms of amplification and chord structure. This is "big" americana, the sound of the open range. A few songs have intimate moments, but even those feel as if they're being broadcast to millions.

    That's fine. I like the wide open feel of this album, and I like the way Marshall arranges his songs. The pieces are grand in scope, and they might as well sound that way. No reason to shorten up on the stick when you've got a swing like this.

    Yes, baseball season has arrived. But an album like this is made to be appreciated all through the year. I hope no one ever tames Marshall's spirit.


    The Mary Janes
    Flame
    (Flat Earth)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Hard rockin' alt. country. Janas Hoyt wrote these songs. She sang these songs. And she recruited plenty of friends to flesh out the Mary Janes's sound. Which part do I like best? Not a fair question.

    The songs are earthy and full, drenched in energetic emotion. Sometimes the lyrics look back, but these songs are all about moving forward. Hoyt's voice has more of a 70s singer-songwriter quality than a country or folk feel, but it fits her writing style perfectly.

    Different songs feature different instrumentation. There's violin on a number of tracks, and some accordion here and there. Simple flavors that enhance the main course. The production has left a punchy sound that brings out the kinetic qualities of Hoyt's songwriting. Perfect.

    Utterly enjoyable. Great driving music, with enough soul to accompany a languid night under the stars as well. It's far too easy to fall in love with this album.


    Mas Optica
    Choose to See More
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    While the majority of the RdB and industry attention seems to be on the other included release, the amazing Bloodstar album, don't pass this by. I have jammed this advance almost as many times as I have the Treepeople. If you told me I would really get into an album that features acoustic guitar, I would have told you if I never heard another Extreme song again it wouldn't be soon enough.

    But this is a fine hybrid of jazz, pop, funk and metal, not to mention a real ear for the awesome anthem, something not really done well since mid-eighties Rush. These guys are young and damn talented, and I think "TBA" and "The Feeling" are my two favorite songs of the year (by far).

    Um, this takes a little getting used to if you don't listen to a lot of different types of music, but it is really great. Produced by Dave Pinsky, who seems to be becoming the Jack Endino of the upper Midwest, these Wisconsin folks have an absolutely astonishing album.


    Sarah Masen
    Sarah Masen
    (Re:Think)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Quirky folk-pop much like what James McMurtry sounds like these days. Masen's voice is pleasantly fragile, which plays off the way over-produced musical backing nicely.

    An awfully ambitious sounding album, with good reason. Masen has a nice ear for writing, though as I noted, the production is way too slick. I like the songs and the singer, but not the backing band. Down, boys.

    I'm sure this will go over well with the Joan Osbourne set, but I still wish the arrangements were more sparse. Masen has a cool voice, but less guitar, not more, would help bring out its character. It's obvious the producer (Charlie Peacock) took a bit of the edge off a couple songs, and the results are poorer for it. Of course, one of her backing vocalists is Brent Bourgeois, who knows more than a little about overzealous producers.

    Yeah, as a "contemporary Christian" album, this is fairly impressive. But the extra attempts to make this accessible ultimately turned me off. Too bad about that.


    Maserati
    Passages
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #310, September 2009

    A compilation of tracks previously only available on vinyl. For the uninitiated, Maserati plays rock and roll. Period.

    Throbbing, intricate, reaching, soaring rock and roll. The emphasis is on the rhythms, but there are plenty of melodic ideas bounding around, from the bottom of the bass lines to the higher ranges of the guitars and keyboards.

    Oh yeah, this stuff is exceptionally groovy. As in lots of grooves. You can rock out or shake your ass. Or, if you're like me, you can do both.

    This set is intended to tide folks over until the next Maserati album. Thing is, when stuff is this good, it simply whets the appetite for more.


    Jason Masi
    Balance & Pull
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    By-the-book americana. Plenty of jangly guitar, banjo, mandolin, organ and time-worn vocals. Could be dull. But Masi knows how to write songs. Even better, he knows how to perform them.

    There's more than a touch of soul (think Mike Younger, especially the references to the Band), and everything is delivered with style. Masi doesn't oversell anything, leaving these songs with just enough of a laid-back feel to pull everything together.

    A cast of thousands contributes, and the plethora of sounds frames these songs well. There isn't a hint of strain anywhere, which is impressive and unusual.

    Basic, perhaps. Basically good. Masi doesn't do anything revolutionary with the sound. He just cranks out good song after good song. And that's more than enough for the likes of me.


    James Mason
    Carnival Sky
    (Sonoface)
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    This is the sort of contemplative album that requires a bit of getting used to. I probably would've skipped right over the puppy except that I've been swapping e-mails with the Sonoface honcho. There's a hint there for young bands: Make a personal connection. It can't hurt.

    Actually, I'd probably have come around on this album without that all that electronic communication, but still. James Mason's songs are moody but not maudlin. The sound is more dusky than dark. There's more than a little resemblance to the minimalist pop of Silver Jews and folks like that.

    Which is another way of saying the stuff is purty damned good. These songs don't always have well-defined centers, but they come together quite well nonetheless. Part of that certainly has something to do with the intimate sound of the recording. That feel isn't lost when bass and drums and electric guitar join Mason's voice and acoustic guitar. Rather, there's just a bit of a claustrophobic feeling, driving the music deeper into the skin.

    Quite simply, this is one well-crafted disc. There's just enough looseness in the playing to keep the feel personal, and the attention to detail keeps the songs from spinning out of control. First rate.


    Ray Mason Band
    When the Clown's Work Is Over
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Ray Mason sings and plays guitar. His singing is rather reminiscent of Neil Young, though his guitar work is a bit more idiosyncratically normal--like, say, George Harrison or something.

    Mason's writing is all over the map. From bounding pop to honky-tonk country to a general roots feel, he pens songs that are instantly attractive. There's an easy-going feel that is most inviting.

    The sound is full, but ragged enough to leave a bit of a garage feel. For most of the songs here, that works quite well. On a couple of the more contemplative numbers, I did wish he had smoothed out an edge or two. But overall, the raucous sound serves him well.

    Mason ranges so far that he makes this album sound more like a collection of different bands than the output of a single entity. That's good on one hand, as it's impossible to get bored. On the other hand, Mason really doesn't define a personal sound, something that might make this album more coherent. If he could find that thread to weave through all his songs, I'd be ready and willing with an unqualified rave.


    Masonic
    Never Stood a Chance
    (Tight Spot Records)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    A five-piece pop band that features such fun elements as the odd Moog or theremin break. And, of course, impossibly thick and distorted lead guitar playing licks that a deliciously tight and sweet.

    The name Masonic almost certainly comes from the fact that three members share last name of Mason. Jennifer Christen provides the vocals, and her flat (as in sound, not key) alto really works with the slightly loopy style of the music. Provides a kinda laid-back feel to the stuff.

    And so when the songs bash away or simply fade softly, there's a sense of comfort and ease. Almost immediately, the band establishes firm contact with the listener. I knew what was coming, and I ate it up most contentedly.

    Predictable? Sure. Predictably great. Understated power pop is one of the most beautiful sort of music there is. Masonic locks down the feel and just wails away. I'm completely hooked.


    Too Far. Too Fast. Too Soon
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Three guys with the last name Mason, a guy named Mike on bass and a girl named Leah singing. Sometimes, it's the simplest of formulas that works the best.

    I've always been a sucker for highly-rhythmic melodic rock. Think Magnapop (first album). That sorta thing. Masonic is definitely a bit more understated, but that just makes the hooks that much more endearing.

    The flat production sound lends a seedy feel to the affair. Three bourbons to the wind, giving the eye to something that probably isn't worth wrecking a relationship in any way, shape or form. Yeah, I feel a bit slutty, but it's so damned easy. Just let it flow.

    So I will. And I won't feel bad about it the next morning, either. Masonic makes this stuff sound effortless, though it surely isn't. That breezy feel is what will bring me back again and again.


    Live Like a Millionaire
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Peppy, bright pop that doesn't fit a particular style. I suppose there's a bit of the new wave in the perky rhythms, but this stuff is almost timeless in its construction and sound.

    Much more textured and layered than most outfits, Masonic takes care to shift gears in its sounds. Some songs feature a ringing keyboard, others are more guitar-driven. The focal point is Eryn Gettys's vocals, which couch their steel with a thin layer of velvet.

    The songs, too, are often barely-concealed paeans to minor doom. The failures of everyday life make for fertile fodder, and Masonic dives right in. This is a classic application of the pop sound, and it's done well here.

    Despite the downer themes in many of these songs, though, Masonic manages to find provide plenty of uplift. Sometimes dark clouds can provide the most pleasure. I'm impressed.


    Masonna
    Inner Mind Mystique
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Certainly loud, certainly annoying. Maso Yamazaki is a rather prolific noise artist (as many are), but I'm not sure why folks are so interested.

    While momentarily amusing, the tracks on this disc sound almost entirely alike (and they have names like "Inner Mind Mystique 1", "Inner Mind Mystique 2", etc.). There is little differentiation in modulation or dynamic levels. Just an almost continuous sheen of noise. I like that, but only so much.

    I've heard much better noise stuff in the past few weeks, and even this week. Perhaps her other stuff is a bit more creative. I hope so, because this effort simply doesn't impress me.


    Mass Exhibit
    Disguised They Ride
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    Used to be Exhibit A, but you know those lawyers...

    Straight for the neck riffola, this is fine metal in a traditional vein. Reminds me of early Anthrax (which, of course, is a good thing). Fine production for a demo, everything comes out nice and clear. They do get a little happy about their technical proficiency, but I've ridden that horse long enough this issue. This is great.


    No Trial Runs
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Well-produced, decent riffage and a currently hip vocal style. Ace playing, too. But I can also name every influence at every break (the list begins with Metallica and Anthrax and goes on and...)

    Young bands often make the mistake of playing like their heroes, not being inspired by them. I liked their first demo, but they haven't moved on. Time to find your own sound, folks.


    Mass Psychosis
    Mass Psychosis
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    An extension of the 7" also reviewed in this issue. I hear a real progression from that time here. Given enough work, these guys could develop into a great band. Just give them a little time.


    Mass Psychosis
    Exterminance
    Split 7"
    (Shredomatic)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    This was one of the bands known as Psychosis. Now, of course, they're Mass Psychosis. More ominous for better music.

    I wouldn't compare them the Accused anymore. They've slowed things down a bit, but this is still on the wacky side of death metal.

    Wacky is a good thing. It keeps me interested. The music switches gears a bit too much for my taste, but I'll deal. A fine improvement over previous efforts. Check out the demo review, too.


    Mass Shivers
    Ecstatic Eyes Grow Glossy
    (Sickroom)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Some fine wackiness from up Chicago way. Mass Shivers plays that rhythm-heavy, math-addled post-rockin' kinda stuff. As if the very nature of songs themselves don't matter much.

    How do I know? People don't title their songs "Womanizing Metal Studs" or "Quinine Peninsula" (parts one through three, not in sequence) if they're at all concerned with traditional song structure. Okay, so that's a bit of an overstatement. But I can say that these songs hang together by the barest scraps of rhythmic joy.

    And it is joy, my friends. These are the most kinetic of works, unbridled by any "normal" concept of melody or harmony or, for that matter, key. These things would be an unholy mess if the drums, and often the drums alone, didn't keep one toe in the pool of reality.

    Yet for all my petty whining, I must say this is one of the most exciting albums I've heard in ages. If you can break almost all the rules and still create an album this engaging and accessible, you just might be on the brink of genius. Play it loud and play it often.


    Brendon Massei
    No More Sad Eyes
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    Ditching the Supperbell Roundup moniker (and moving to Chicago), Brendon Massei has decided to step out under his own power. It's just him and his guitar (mostly) this time out, but the stars, as before, are the songs.

    And that's not to say that Massei can't play. He can. In fact, he writes songs that compliment his excellent picking style. The songs often have a bleak lyrical tone, but somehow they end up sounding hopeful. No matter how much the past sucked, the future can't be worse. Or something like that.

    I'm simplifying, and that's quite dangerous when talking about songs with power such as these. Massei's deft playing and singing can mask some of the harsher emotions (one of the things about Wil Oldham is that he wields his voice and guitar as emotive hammers, not instruments), but I think that ease of delivery also provides a quicker entry.

    Or, to equivocate just a little bit more, there is more than one way to play heartfelt songs of despair. As before, I'm blown away. Anything I say can't begin to describe the totality of vision found on this disc.

    See also Supperbell Roundup.


    Carl Mateo
    Big White House
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Vocals and lead guitar, playing off each other. Sure, there's a band, too, but the songs have this really unusual feel. At least until they hit the choruses, which are not nearly as good. Mateo is not a hookster.

    The sparse, haunting verses are great, no matter how the rest of the songs kinda pork out. And some songs really don't really get past the verse, and I like those the best.

    Mateo's voice is just raspy enough to impart a little character, and he's got some real power that he keeps under wraps most of the time, kicking out the jams only when he really needs to. He knows how to use his instruments.

    Alright, I wish he could write a decent anthemic chorus. That would make this the real deal. As it is, Mateo has found a great sound. Who knows where he'll be with some more work.


    Matmos
    Full on Night with Rachel's
    (Quarterstick)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    So you're a little bored, and you decide to rework one of your old chestnuts. Then you ask some friends to do the same. Sounds like something someone like, say, Chicago might do. Ah, but this is Rachel's, the only band in the world I know of in the possessive without an object.

    Right off, then, this isn't yer ordinary hack remix. Not at all. Rachel's simply plays a new arrangement of the piece. That this arrangement and recording are three years old means nothing. Listen to the story told by this gorgeous music and it will seem like not a day has passed since these sounds hit tape.

    Matmos, on the other hand, is playing editing games, using the original recording and two live performances of the song. These boys take a full 18 minutes to explore the song, and the results are as unRachel's as can be. Or rather, this vision of the song (retitled "The Precise temperature of Darkness") sounds nothing like the original.

    But then, that's what's required with projects like this. The Matmos take is as jumpy and jarring as the Rachel's is smooth and flowing. Eighteen minutes is a long time to take, but trust me, it's enthralling. The whole package is, really. Sometimes, hitting up the past can be a good thing.


    Mato Grosso
    Brasiliero
    (CrossCurrents)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    In any language, in any country, cheese pop is cheese pop. Mato Grosso may be huge in Brazil, but then, Julio Iglesias is still big in most of the Spanish-speaking world. We've got our own embarrassments, like Michael Bolton or Kenny G.

    It's not entirely fair to lump Mato Grosso in with those folks, because the band does incorporate a laudable number of influences, but, in the finest commercial pop tradition, they're all dumbed down for the masses.

    In other words, the casual music fan may dig this because it does sound different from most overblown American cheese. But after a few listens, it becomes apparent to anyone that there simply isn't much here past simplified samba rhythms, a few passes at jazz piano and the odd spot of fusion-style horns.

    Proof that there is music for the lowest common denominator in any country.


    Matt's Altar
    Long Walks on the Sanity Highwire EP
    (Joetown)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Four guys working very hard trying to make an "important" rock record. Ambition is a good thing, but sometimes it's a good idea to be realistic. And while Matt's Altar almost has the lyric writing skills to make the grade. The music, however, is fairly pedantic.

    It's that brooding, kinda kitschy sound. Somewhere in the Mother Love Bone universe, with a grunge-prog-pop feel. The style is fine; the music just doesn't really go anywhere. Not for lack of trying; the guys reach out to a variety of styles in trying to fill out their sound. The efforts just don't bear fruit.

    The results are, unfortunately, generic. I can hear how hard the band is working, and come to think of it, that might be the problem. Perhaps if the sounds came together a bit more naturally, then they would work better. Perhaps if the band wasn't so naked in its ambition.

    Ah, but woulda shoulda coulda. I applaud the effort, but it didn't work for me. I guess that has to be the final analysis.


    Matthew and the Arrogant Sea
    Family Family Family Meets the Magic Christian
    (Nova Posta Vinyl)
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    I'm not sure what "Family Family Family" refers to, but The Magic Christian is one of those weird 60s Peter Sellers movies--with Ringo Starr playing an important role. It's incoherent, but rather drolly so.

    MATAS (as the band seems to be more popularly known) isn't particularly incoherent, but it sure does owe a debt to the 60s. Late Beatles, the Zombies and (as the press notes say) the Mamas and Papas are obvious influences.

    But 40-odd years have passed, and these folks take note of a few later trends as well. In particular, there is a devotion to Big Star's anglophile constructions and some nods to the more recent power pop revival.

    This is not power pop. Not by any stretch of the imagination. MATAS falls into the realm of the Stills and other purveyors of pretty pop--with a bite. Gorgeous, but with enough of a foothold on the real world to score an emotional response.


    The Mattoid
    Hello
    (Cleft Music)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    There's a somewhat undefinable charm about a guy who enunciates clearly while crooning and then grunts for no particular reason. The Mattoid (a man and a band) sounds a lot like Leonard Cohen's younger, slightly brain damaged brother. My guess would be that the damage came from listening to too many Doors records at high volume, but that's pure speculation on my part.

    Equally at home in the worlds of Burt Bacharach and Screamin' Jay Hawkins (or Roxy Music and Chuck Berry, if you like), the Mattoid doesn't really try to actually fit into any particular sound. The lyrics are insightful, though it does take some effort to parse the stream of consciousness pabulum. In other words, there seems to be a method to the dorkiness.

    The sound is straight studio project. Think early Brian Jonestown Massacre (well, not real early, but pre-TVT, anyway). These songs don't sound real. I'm not even referring to the lyrics. The late 60s/early 70s pop/blues feel sound like it was whipped up in a test tube and swallowed without regard to the consequences. This ultra-contrived conceit is impossibly charming.

    I would imagine that a lot of people would listen to about four bars of "Funeral Party" (the first track) and run away screaming. I figure that's cool with the Mattoid (man and band). If the folks really cared what people thought about their music, they'd never make an album like this. And I wouldn't like it nearly as much.


    Eternifinity EP
    (Cleft Music)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Oh. My. God. The Mattoid returns. Talk about someone whose appeal is utterly mystifying. He's got a three-note range--and that's being generous--and his songs all have a similar "boom-boom--boom--chick--boom--boom--boom--chick" rhythm. And then there's his accent, which can morph from straight American to British to Ahnold-ish Austrian.

    Let's not forget the songs, which are about as close to being about nothing as is possible. But the funny thing is I love listening to the guy. There's a stream of consciousness feel to these pieces, as if they simply bubbled out of the back of his brain and onto CD.

    Wesley Willis with actual talent--and not quite so repetitious. I'm sure lots of folks simple scratch their heads when they hear the stuff, but I think it's great. More fun than minor electrocution...but with more seizures.


    Kalle Mattson
    Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold
    (Parliament of Trees)
    reviewed 7/24/14

    For the last 40 years or so, pop music has been created beat first. That is, the songwriter (often the producer) picks a beat and hangs a song on it. Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA is quoted (in many varying versions; darn Internet) saying she cried when she first heard the beats for "Dancing Queen."

    Moody Swedes aside, it's pretty safe to say that disco, new wave and most pop since have been beat-driven. These days, producers toss beats out to "writers," who will then sing lyrics and melodies over the bare bones to create demos. Sometimes, what sounds like a demo becomes the actual released version of a song (think "Royals"). Some of the catchiest music in the world has been written this way. Very little of it, however, has any staying power.

    I don't know the best way to write a song, but most of the stuff I really like has a thicker foundation than the beat-driven fare. Though there are plenty of examples of classic songs written in largely the same style. Sometimes a song keys on a single instrument and drapes the rest of the arrangement around that. Try to imagine the early Rolling Stones without Keith Richards' guitar. Of course you can't. But those early Stones songs, while still awesomely powerful, have nothing on the more complex and crafted songs of Let It Bleed or Beggars Banquet.

    Kalle Mattson approaches his songs from every angle. Some of the pieces here are sturdy rockers with blasty orchestration. Some are introspective folk bits. Some are pretty jangle pop. The foundation of his songs is wide and varied. And no matter how the songs themselves are built, this album holds together solely on the sound of Mattson's reedy voice. The vulnerability he projects infuses this album with a spirit of strength.

    That strength is important, as the lyrical theme of this album is Mattson's coming to terms with grief, loss and the future (he's just 23, and this is already his third album). The bright production on these songs wrings hope from some truly dark places, but Mattson's lyrics also refuse to sink despite their often bleak outlook.

    Acceptance can be its own form of hope. And the toughest times can create great art. Sometimes, though, the passage of time does most of the work. Mattson has been around long enough to get an idea of how he wants his music to sound. This album, much more than his first two, shows a real sense of purpose and sonic vision. The writing is stronger, too. In all, a real step forward.

    I prefer my music to be complex. Single element-driven songs can be crunchy fun, but I like to crawl down the wormhole and see what's kicking. Mattson's latest gives me plenty of places to hide. The perfect accompaniment to a setting sun.


    Maudlin of the Well
    Bath
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    There are bands who know how to use noise. There are bands who blend noise and melody. And then there are bands like Maudlin of the Well. Let me restate that. There is no other band like Maudlin of the Well.

    Acoustic interludes punctuated by extreme riffage and howling. With plenty of goth overtones to boot. All exquisitely orchestrated. And I mean that literally. There are plenty of orchestral instruments contributing to the broad sweep of this album.

    Ambitious doesn't even begin to describe what's going on here. Beauty, horror and the realities of life combine to create a far-reaching, rich and deep experience. The sound is full, but not overwhelming. It allows the listener to dig into the crevices and find new ways of approaching the music. Inviting, to be sure.

    If this had failed, I would have lauded the effort anyway. I mean, you gotta try before you create something great. Maudlin of the Well succeeds in its mission. This is a great album, a work of uncompromising effort and vision. If you never thought the grind could be used artfully, well, you're an idiot. In any case, this disc puts the lie to that idea forever.


    Leaving Your Body Map
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Picks up right where Bath left off. Maudlin of the Well is the most inventive and creative extreme metal band out there. The songs whipsaw from dreamy sunlit soundscapes to harsh noise and back again--without sounding forced or contrived.

    There are gothic, hardcore, folk and even jazz elements to be found. And that's just the surface. The thing is, Maudlin of the Well isn't impressive because it has a lot of influences. The astonishing thing is how the group has incorporated all those thoughts into a completely coherent band sound.

    These songs make sense. There's nothing jarring or out of place about anything that can be heard here. The almost orchestral arrangements are spot on. These songs are gorgeous. Almost unspeakably so. And I mean that in a traditional sense.

    I'm not sure what else there is to say. Maudlin of the Well has such a amazingly good handle on its sound, I can't imagine another way to do it. Very few bands can create such a complete work, much less two. I'm utterly blown away.


    The Mavis's
    Thunder 7"
    (Heat Beat) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Australian. Don't know why I said that, but that is where the band is from. An odd thing. "Thunder" sounds a lot like an Alanis Morrisette song, with a couple of very important differences. First, no drum machines. That fills out the sound. Second, the songs isn't written in a way that panders to the crowd. It retains its own identity. It sounds, well, good.

    The flip has two songs (sung by one of the male members of the group). So while the musical constructions are similar, without the female vocals most of the previous associations I mentioned are null and void. This is simply quirky rock, heavy on the backbeat.

    The songs were recorded back in 1996 (or, at least, written back then; the info is sketchy), and they sound like it. I wonder what the band is doing these days. Could be very interesting, indeed.


    Maximino
    Not So Cold, Cave EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    Gerald Perez lives in Orlando, but his work as Maximino travels all over the electronic landscape. While these songs may sound as if they're simple table settings at first, the intricate burblings weave a much more complex picture as the EP wears on.

    And while these songs never really take flight or even form themselves into songs proper, they have an intriguing structure all their own. The internal logic of these pieces is almost as entrancing as the sounds they purvey.

    The EP is the perfect length for an introduction to the unusual sounds of Maximino. A full-length might be too much, and a single is simply not enough to begin to comprehend what's going on here. I'm curious to see how this will hold up, but right now I'm fascinated.


    Kevin Max
    Stereotype Be
    (ForeFront)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    The first question I have is "Who is this guy?" Kevin Max co-produces his album with Adrian Belew, and he gets Tony Levin (among many stellar session folks) to play along. The songs fall somewhere within an electronic update of Marshall Crenshaw's roots pop, though Max isn't afraid of spinning in many different directions (often at once).

    Belew keeps the whole concoction purring. I can hear his hand in some of the arrangements (there are a few distinctly Belewian moments here), but mostly he simply keeps Max from trying too many things for his own good.

    The sound itself is crunchy and commercial, though perhaps a little too manic for the mainstream. I don't mean manic in a sense of tempo, but just in the number of ideas that fly out of these songs. Sometimes, simple is better. Every once in a while I wish Max stripped down a notch.

    Mostly, though, I simply sat entranced. Sometimes pretty, sometimes downright gorgeous, Max's songs always have something to say. And they're all more than worth hearing. A soft pillow to fall into, most certainly.


    Mayadome
    Paranormal Activity
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Perhaps this is a rising new/old sound. Mayadome is a group of guys from Sweden who haven't given up the anthemic eurometal ideal. Their take is hardly original, but at least it is competently played and fairly well-produced.

    Mayadome still suffers from radically shifting gears in songs a bit too often. Soft, lyrical introductions are abruptly cranked into metallic overdrive for the song itself. And the layers of keyboards are a bit heavy at times.

    Good enough for starters, though. The production gives Bjorn Holmquist's vocals a nice touch, and sometimes even the keys are kept at a manageable level.

    The band will have to improve its songwriting to move ahead, but all the other parts are in place.


    John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
    Blues for the Lost Days
    (Silvertone)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Not very often that I get to review an album by a genuine legend. If you don't know who played with the Bluesbreakers in the 60s and 70s, why don't you simply saunter over to the bookcase and pick up your favorite reference. The names are simply too numerous to mention.

    Mayall's albums generally rise and fall by the quality of his sides, and while the names here aren't household, the guys hold their own. Mayall's songs are solid, if workmanlike, representations of the blues (mostly Chicago-style), and his vocals aren't terribly inspiring, but the playing is awful nice.

    While Mayall isn't afraid to overload the speakers, he plays the blues with a bit more reverence and feel than today's crop of bluesmen. A sense of how shifting dynamics can help bring across the emotion of a song is just one of the reasons young players should pay attention to Mayall's shade of the blues.

    Now, the songwriting is a bit to pedestrian to get overly excited, but Mayall presents another solid set. Certainly worth a listen, particularly when he hits the title track, which is worthy of such a position.


    Silver Tones--The Best Of
    (Silvertone)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Four tracks each from Mayall's last three albums, plus a new song and an outtake of "Fan the Flames". So, if you've got the recent albums, this just is not necessary.

    Mayall's consistency is amazing. Some might even call it thickening concrete. He's still singing the blues much the same way he did when Eric Clapton was in his band more than 30 years ago.

    I guess that's my problem. His voice has only gotten better (blues voices are like wine that way), but the production is slick, squeezing the soul out of many of these songs. I just like my blues in the stripped-down mode. Like, say, the Buddy Guy and Junior Wells disc that arrived in the same package as this album.

    What's so maddening is that Mayall is never bad. He can be brilliant. But most of the time he's just wandering around in the middle, sounding strangely straight. His competency is unchallenged. I would, however, ask where the passion went.


    Padlock on the Blues
    (Purple Pyramid-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    John Lee Hooker sits in on a couple, highlighting a fairly loose outing from Mayall. He sounds much less constrained than he has in recent days, and his band also has the feel of a liberated army.

    Easily the best album I've heard from Mayall in years. The production has been tamed a notch, which also probably accounts for some of the improved sound. Simply put, this sounds like a blues album, not some acid hangover run through a blues grinder.

    The special guests are nice (Hooker is still one of the most expressive and inventive guitarists in the world), but the highlight for me is hearing Mayall sound like he's actually enjoying himself. There's nothing stilted here, just some blues tinged with a piece of the rock.

    I don't know what happened (though the switch in labels is telling), but it worked. Mayall sounds like a young cub once again, a man at ease with himself and his music. This album is loads of fun.


    The Mayflies
    U.S.A. EP
    (Superhero)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Sweet pop music coupled with woefully out-of-tune vocals. Terribly addictive, I'm afraid.

    Chris Stamey mastered this disc, and the song constructions are straight out of the dBs, though, as I said, the vocals are anything but tight and mellifluous.

    That unrestrained feel to the singing is refreshing, providing a good counterpoint to the meticulously played music. An altogether appealing sound, really. All those folks who seem to insist on playing "perfect" music should listen to this and perhaps begin to understand that performance requires skill and emotion, and that with such a visceral thing as rock and roll, the feeling is the more important of the two.

    Sure, this stuff always sounds better with the top down in the summer, but I bet I would have loved this if it had arrived in the middle of a January ice storm. Simple, and simply wonderful.


    Mayhem
    De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    Trademark black metal (or silly metal, as I like to call it). The most popular purveyors of this stuff are King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, though Mayhem are quite a bit heavier than the recent output from the King.

    That doesn't meant it isn't silly. But I really dug a similar album a couple of years back by Dark Throne, and I have to admit part of me thinks this is pretty cool.

    The somewhat muddy production (at times the vocals and even the drums get completely lost) tends to point out the limited musical range of the band, and it is easy to get bored.

    Heard worse, heard better, oh well.


    Maximum Penalty
    Superlife
    (Gypsy-Velvel)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    A band that pops out the NYC metalcore sound. What a concept. And I'm serious when I say that, because I haven't heard it done much.

    Perhaps because the whole idea seems like an oxymoron. It's not, but to accomplish the task well it takes some serious work. Maximum Penalty doesn't make it work all the time, but enough to catch my ear.

    Yeah, the sound is something like SOIA meets Green Day, with the best and worst of both sounds everpresent. The tendency to crank out a hooky anthem is a bit aggravating, but the rhythm work within a pop context is really stunning.

    And there's 15 songs here for you to really get into this sound. Yeah, it's a bit weird, but in the end Maximum Penalty makes everything worthwhile. Fun and thoughtful music. Definitely worth the effort.


    MC Double M
    & the Yup Yup Crew

    Horn if You're Honky
    (Dunket)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Old school rhymin' combined with a variety of beats and "Wham Rap" technique (you know, white guys tryin' to be as cool as the Sugar Hill Gang). Kinda reminds of MC 900 Foot Jesus, except not as clever. Rather, these boys come like Sir Mix a Lot. Subtlety isn't a virtue here.

    Did they just say "Like Howard Hessman on 'Head of the Class'?" Right before mentioning Euripides? Yeah. I thought so. Maybe that gives you a better idea of what's going on here. These guys toy with rap forms, but they're really nowhere in that universe.

    Which is not to say MC Double M and crew are classy. They mention a Greek playwright to show off, not to make a serious point. Songs like "She's a Sleeze" and "Booty Delight" are about you might expect. They do play with the subject, a little. Just enough to show some self-awareness.

    The thing is, the music here is fun. The rhymes are entertaining. The depth is fair to middling. Nothing too complicated, nothing terribly highbrow. Just some good times and catchy grooves. Nothin' wrong with that.


    MC 900 Ft Jesus
    One Step Ahead of the Spider
    (American)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Saw a review of this album that marveled at the "new-found jazz sensibility" on the disc. I guess they missed the last record.

    Stylistically five thousand light years from Hell With the Lid Off (except for the occasional times the vocals just drop off the map), this album takes the funky grooves of Welcome to My Dream and then mellows further.

    As always, the message is damned subversive, highly cynical and dead-on. And there are the occasional hit-single types, like "If I Only Had a Brain", which I heard twice on the Michigan State station when I was in Lansing a couple of weeks ago. Suppose I did accidentally get my shit together?

    And if you haven't noticed yet, MC 900 puts on a great, low-key show. When I saw him, he had a dj, a drummer and a guy who alternated between bass clarinet and saxophone. He played trumpet a lot. Yes, it was fantastic.

    This is fun, loopy and also quite engaging. Not to mention mentally arresting. Somewhere in here you can hear God shoot up. At least, that's what I heard.


    Mark McAdam
    Cavalcade
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Largely self-made, this tour through "things that rock, softly" is as impressive for its breadth of sound as for the quality within. McAdam can sound like a new wave folkie, a singer-songwriter troubadour, an indie rock paramour or obsessive emo geek. And he does all of them pretty well.

    This is a relatively popular sound these days, of course. And McAdam acquits himself well, creating songs that are distinctive and engaging. You do need to need the mellow, of course, but hey, don't we all sometimes?

    The sound sparkles throughout. That contributes to the slightly whimsical feel I get from the stuff, I suppose, but it's a neat trick to make the songs pop out just enough to prick the ears.

    An album that makes me go "hmm." A little nice 'n' easy, with some keen observations on the side. Good dish, that.


    The Cecil McBee Band
    Unspoken
    (Palmetto)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    The toughest thing in jazz is to keep one foot in the past, so as to keep the traditionalists placated, and to step out into the future, so as the please the young turks. A slight misstep either way can either sound dated or simply jar most listeners into the aspirin bottle.

    Now, I'm a big fan of free jazz and all the wildness it can create, but I still appreciate the finer points and rules that "traditional" jazz incorporates. Now, to realize that bebop (and even a good chunk of the early free jazz) is considered part of the canon is to realize that any jazz album that doesn't keep it's eye on innovation is doomed to the mothball shelf.

    McBee has assembled a fine quintet that plays with vigor and precision; emotion and enunciation are equally demanded and appreciated. McBee's compositions approach many colors of jazz without acceding to the whims of any one master. His wide swath of sounds is testament to the rigorous study of jazz.

    Fresh and engaging, Unspoken is something of a jazz anthology. McBee's journey through the many styles and moods of jazz is invigorating and impressive. Sublime.


    Tom McBride & the Whig Party
    Like a Lion
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    Tom McBride likes old school rock and roll. Horns, organ, a bit of harmonica now and again. He takes from the likes of the Beatles, the Who, even the Dirty Dozen Brass band. It's an interesting mix.

    Not unlike the Lonely H, Tom McBride and company have a definite New Orleans feel. It's a completely different take, as these guys seem to be writing from a southern state of mind as well as cultivating that certain sound.

    But yeah, there seems to be a conscious effort to sound "old." Or, perhaps more accurately, "classic." Timeless? Not quite.

    Good, though. I rolled through this with ease, and I was up for seconds as well. Well-constructed and played with enthusiasm. Perhaps the guys might find a bit more of their own groove next time out, but this is a solid effort.


    Bernadette McCallion
    Bernadette McCallion EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Solid, tuneful pop that wraps itself wonderfully around McCallion's somewhat wispy voice. Impressive, introspective lyrics complete the package.

    And the production is sharp and full, rendering McCallion's talent in full bloom. These three songs are done as well as anything I've heard lately. Unlike some of the current alternapop divas (Jewel comes to mind, as much as I've tried to block her out), McCallion refuses to go for the cheap line or trendy melody, and instead marks her own territory.

    Utterly impressive. McCallion has the complete deal here. She has the ability to appeal to both the mainstream and the underground, which is more than a little impressive. When she gets her big deal, I hope the A&R hacks don't convince her to cheese out. Stick to your guns, and the world will come to you.


    Pete McCann
    Parable
    (Palmetto)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    McCann plays jazz guitar, but rather than sticking to the singular, "soft" sound that you might expect, he feels free to experiment with different levels of reverb and distortion. In fact, he even plays acoustic guitar, which I've never heard before heard featured on a jazz record (though my knowledge is extremely limited).

    McCann also lets his side players get their licks in, particularly Peter Epstein on alto and soprano sax and Matt Wilson on drums. But when the piece requires something special, McCann takes over. He has an uncanny knack of knowing just how to attack a certain segment of a song, which sound to use, which style to appropriate.

    But this isn't just some sort of rock/jazz fusion guitar work. McCann borrows from classical styles as well, and he's at his best when utilizing all three. There are some definite Frank Zappa-esque moments, and that's high praise coming from me.

    A most unusual album. Any guitar fanatic will go nuts, but McCann's range and skill should impress just about anyone. This guy knows how to play.


    Delbert McClinton
    One of the Fortunate Few
    (Rising Tide/Universal)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    McClinton has been around forever. Like Buddy Holly, he was raised in Lubbock and recorded in the 50s. But while he's recorded umpteen albums and written for and worked with just about everyone in the blues and country circuits, he's never had a big hit album. This puppy follows the well-worn formula for Grammy, and then popular, success.

    Like what Silvertone has done for John Lee Hooker of late, the money went out and favors were called in, finding a wealth of special guests. Everyone from B.B. King, John Prine and Mavis Staples to Lyle Lovett, Patty Loveless and Vince Gill adds a touch to the proceedings. And there are plenty more famous folks where those six came from.

    No skimping on the basic studio band, either, with Benmont Tench, Jim Keltner, Hutch Hutchinson, Steuart Smith, Bill Cambell and Reese Wynans cranking out each groove. The songs are basic Delbert McClinton, which lies somewhere amongst country, blues and gospel. Probably not his best stuff, but good enough to allow his buddies to shine along with him.

    I know, I know, this thing is a calculated stab at greatness. I don't think the songs are quite strong enough, and there is a bit of the cheese factor running throughout, but on the whole, I'd say McClinton has a winner. Whether Rising Tide can spend enough on advertising to influence the Grammy folks, well, that remains to be seen.


    Rob McColley
    A Boy Named Laurie
    (Legal Records)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Depending on what exactly you read in the liners, the artist that performed this music is Rob McColley, Laurie McColley or Robert Laurie. My guess is that we're talking about a certain Robert Laurie McColley, but I'm not going out on a limb. I decided to go with the info on the spine.

    Nomenclature aside, McColley is hardly confused. He plays dense, bouncy pop music thick with hooks and not above the occasional pun or silly joke. Maybe the plethora of names is just another manifestation of McColley's penchant for loopiness. Makes sense to me.

    The lyrics may be loopy, loony or simply underhanded, but the music is dead solid straight. I did note the bounce that often comes in the bass, but McColley has a fine handle on the grand pop sound. These songs sound important, and sometimes they even are despite the superficial wackiness of the lyrics.

    A tough album to fully appreciate in just a listen or two, and that always bodes well. There's so much here to hear, and I'm afraid I just scratched the surface. Maybe that's just anticipation masquerading as fear, because this puppy is going to be cruising my discer for a long time to come.


    Sings Insults to an Ex-Girlfriend
    (Legal)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    The full title of this album is Sings Insults to an Ex-Girlfriend and an Unrelated Song About Television, Because How Much Can You Really Say About One Not Very Complex, Dishonest Person. Which is just about perfect.

    Rob McColley used to go by the names Laurie McColley and A Boy Named Laurie (the latter alias is still used on the CD cover for this album). I have no idea what sort of identity issues the guy has in real life, but his music is similarly obsessive.

    Witty as hell, too. Not necessarily in a Wildean context, but just in an easygoing, laid back way. These songs are about what must have been a pretty brutal break-up (except, of course, for "Teevee"), but they have a droll, loose feel to them. It's always good to be able to laugh at yourself even as you break out the angst stick.

    More fun than funny, I guess, which is still pretty impressive given the material. McColley knows his way around a sweet pop hook, and he also knows enough not to oversell what he's got. The golden moments on this album are true surprises--even on repeat listens. Once you accept the rules in McColley's universe, then everything makes sense. Which is exactly what art is all about.


    Cass McCombs
    Not the Way EP
    (Monitor)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    Six fine tunes played in a jangly, rootsy ball of fuzz. Ever wondered what T. Rex might sound like if the songs were all acoustic? Well, Cass McCombs really isn't that. Though for some reason, that's exactly what came to my mind.

    I've always liked pop played with acoustic guitars. But the heavy fuzz on the bass and relatively large rattle coming from the drums really fleshes out these songs quite well. Perhaps that's what pricked up my ear. Can't really say, except that I really like the sound of this disc.

    The songs themselves are quite impressive as well. Imagine Will Oldham consciously playing pop music. Pretty straight, I mean. McCombs isn't a dour troubadour, he's simply a guy with some fine songs in his pocket and a creative way of playing them. Let's hope he's got plenty more rolling around in his head.


    A
    (Monitor)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    A couple of years ago, I was getting all sorts of minimalist singer-songwriter stuff. For some reason or another, that stuff isn't reaching my mailbox much these days. Maybe it's because plenty of folks have discovered the charms of lunatic pop and those labels don't need to waste their discs on a hack like me.

    Or maybe I just pissed them off. Who knows? Doesn't matter. I've got the new Cass McCombs effort going now, and I'm getting a wee bit wistful for those days of a couple years back. McCombs has a slight quaver in his voice (think Robyn Hitchcock), and he writes slightly clunky songs. Damn, they sound good.

    Not unlike a number of his cohort, McCombs likes to dress his songs up with unusual electronic accompaniment. Often enough, it's just an electric piano or organ, but sometimes it sounds like more. Maybe that's just a trick of my ears. Anyway, the fleshing out of the sound around the edges is quite good.

    The best thing about slightly clunky songs is that they're still pretty sharp, and they have that worn charm as well. McCombs casts many spells, and most of them come off perfectly. Quite the rambling, intriguing disc. McCombs is at the top of his game.


    McGill Manring Stevens
    Addition by Subtraction
    (Free Electric Sound)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Been a while since I've heard solid prog jam fusion. This album certainly fulfills that need. Scott McGill handles the guitar work, Michael Manring rumbles around on his fretless bass and Vic Stevens blisters all manners of percussion. Jordan Rudess joins in on keys every once in a while, and producer Neil Kernon plays with some loops.

    A group endeavor all the way around. Most of the songs are a series of solos built around a particular theme, though there is some nice interplay as well. The obvious camaraderie makes it quite apparent these guys like to play with each other.

    Kernon has given the sound just a bit of a metal sheen, and that helps to give this album a slightly off-kilter feel. I mean, these guys are playing in a more rock style, but this is hardly bash 'n' thrash. Technical soul is the order of the day.

    That's what really impresses me here. Yeah, these guys can play. But it's the feel, the tenor of the sound, the way true ideas are expressed by that playing which really knocks me out. Artistry, in a word. This isn't a sterile prog project. It's three (or four or five) friends talking. And that makes all the difference in the world.


    What We Do 2xCD
    (Free Electric Sound)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    What do you get when a traditionally-constituted (guitar, bass, drums) power prog trio plays jazz? Um, this. (Scott) McGill (Michael) Manring (Vic) Stevens have two albums of their own works under their belt, so this time they took on the masters. You know, Coltrane, Davis, Hancock, Towner, Evans...stuff even your kid brother who buys Pink albums because he thinks she's hot knows.

    Funny thing about it is how traditional this sounds. Oh, sure, the instrumentation is different. But the passion is the same, and the skill level is comparable. These guys can shred, but more importantly, they can say something with their playing. These aren't rote run-throughs. They're quality interpretations of timeless songs.

    The sound lies somewhere between geek prog and electric jazz. There's really no way to dull down the sound enough to make it sound truly "jazzy," but then, if McGill made his guitar sound like Stanley Jordan, it wouldn't have the same impact it does here. These guys are true to themselves, and that makes the songs work that much better.

    And two discs worth, to boot. The second disc contains eight MMS pieces (it's titled What We Do Too), just in case you want to make a comparison. Truth is, what they do, they do very well. I'm sure I'm not the first idiot to put that in a review of this album, but what the hell. Superlatives aren't enough.


    Richard McGraw
    Her Sacred Status My Militant Needs
    (Non-Utopian)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Richard McGraw separates his songs into chapters, or at least sections. I suppose there are a few thematic reasons for this, but most of the songs on this album deal with existential crises of one kind or another. In a most witty fashion, might I add.

    That wit is both musical and lyric. McGraw's acoustic guitar-driven sound could get overbearing quite quickly, but he has a deft writing touch and a most engaging playing style. These songs simply aren't dreary, when by all rights they should be.

    I love the stark sound. It would be really easy to overdub the acoustic guitar or even crank up an electric to "fill out" these pieces. But that would have been a horrible mistake. McGraw leaves his sound raw but rounded, right where it should be.

    Sometimes this sort of album takes a while to grow on me. I'm not always the most meditative person. But McGraw's skill and intensity drew me in immediately. If you let yourself become engrossed in this album, it will wear you out. And you'll beg for more.


    Gerard McHugh
    Tales of Madness and Horror
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    A long-time stalwart of the Atlanta scene, Gerard McHugh likes to skewer just about everything he sees. This disc takes on, well, regular life. With his band the Crafties and guests such as Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, these songs sound pleasant enough. Until the lyrics become clear.

    I'm not trying to say that he doesn't have a point. McHugh's ripping dissection of popular culture and mores is truly funny. And apt. It's just that there's no let up. No chance for redemption.

    Which is fine with for a cynical bastard like me. I can think for myself and find my own paths to salvation. Those who like to have a little help along the way may find McHugh's vision a bit uncompromising. Well, it is, and he's not gonna apologize for it, either.

    As for the quality of the work, well, it sounds great. McHugh's been doing this a long time, and he knows exactly how long to craft and when to let things go. This stylishly roughshod album rambles on just the way it should, giving McHugh's ample lyrics talents room to roam. There lies the rub. Those who like a challenge will appreciate what he has to say.


    Mark McKay
    Nothing Personal
    (Dren)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Traditional alt. country. I guess that makes sense. Mark McKay has a solid foundation in country rock, and he's not afraid to take his music either way. Most often, however, he blends the styles seamlessly, creating music with hints of storm clouds on the horizon.

    Raging torrents arrive infrequently, kinda like everyday life. McKay's easygoing vocal style holds these evocative songs together and tempers some of the darker elements of the music.

    Not a restraint, of course, but just some balance. The sorta thing a talented songwriter likes to find in his work. Producer Ducky Carlisle gave the album a full, but relatively clean sound. Warm tones predominate, which tends to emphasize the darkness underneath.

    Solid songwriting and a professional album. Not generic or dull in any way, though. McKay constantly challenges and surprises, and that makes this album a joy to hear.


    Live from the Memory Hotel
    (Dren)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Actually, this is live from Jammin' Java outside of D.C., but I have to admit, Mark McKay's title sounds cooler. Not that he needs any special enhancers. What he does is certainly good enough.

    McKay is all alone on three tracks. Four more feature Kris Delmhorst's smoky vocals and evocative fiddle playing. The second half of the disc shows off June Star, a fine rootsy four-piece band. No matter the personnel, the key here is McKay's songwriting.

    Here's a fine test: He does a version of Springsteen's "Atlantic City," and it fits right in with the rest of his electified tunes with June Star. This isn't to say that McKay writes like Springsteen--he really doesn't have much in the way of anthemic tendencies whatsoever. But his chops are solid, and his songs stand up quite nicely.

    And the performances, well, they range from merely very good to incendiary. These songs were recorded on three nights over six months of last year, and McKay sounds like he was on every time. Sure, that's why you edit, but still. This set shows off a fine songwriter in full play. A very nice set.


    Shimmer
    (Toadfish)
    reviewed in issue #258, October 2004

    Prolific songwriters like Ryan Adams somehow have managed to get their due. Mark McKay, who seems to put out a great new album every year or so, hasn't yet. This is somewhat mystifying to me; he's got one hell of a track record, and still he seems to be getting better.

    The genre is somewhat unspecified, though alt.country or simply alt (period) probably fits the best. McKay has a knack for encapsulating a complicated emotional idea in just a few guitar lines or a lyric couplet. He says more in one song than many people do in entire albums--and the music is similarly impressive.

    Multilayered without sounding pretentious, the tunes behind the lyrics are just as expressive. McKay isn't one of those people who believes that anything interesting in the music should stop as soon as the vocals kick in. He's more than willing to let the song roll.

    And they do roll, all the way through. McKay's copious output is impressive enough. The quality of the stuff is what simply astonishes me. And while a note from me is hardly enough to put him into the spotlight, I do hope those with a bit more entre can give him the pub he needs. Good music always deserves to be heard.


    Sarah McLachlan
    Surfacing
    (Nettwerk-Arista)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Okay, so the Lilith Fair is the big concert hit of the summer, and this album sold 160,000 copies its first week in release (more than all of the 400-something other albums I've reviewed this year put together) and hit #2 in the process. It's not like this puppy needs my (or anyone else's) help. Still, It showed up in my box, and I figure I'll rattle off a couple of thoughts.

    McLachlan's strength has always been in appreciating much more diverse music than she herself performs. This sounds stupid, but very few have figured it out. McLachlan has performed with a wide range of producers and musicians, often getting little credit. And her albums have always been stuck somewhere in Suzanne Vega land, though even the most demanding of my friends can find at least once song per album that works for them. That's the secret: Incorporating lots of little bits without losing your own personal vision.

    This current success shouldn't be surprising, as her last album, Fumbling Toward Ecstasy yielded a slew of hits and sold millions of copies. A big question might have been whether she could hit again. Well, the monster success of the tour probably answered that question, but this album leaves no doubt. The songs are well-penned, with lush, yet restrained, arrangements. After all, the main focus here is McLachlan's voice, which is in as fine form as always.

    I'm tired of big name acts who score big numbers with shit albums. Sarah McLachlan deserves every bit of her success, and Surfacing is simply further proof.


    Brian McMahon
    17 Volts
    (Crab Pot)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    McMahon is one of the original members of the Electric Eels, a long-departed punk band that included future members of Pere Ubu, Golden Palominos, the Styrenes and the Cramps. McMahon, of course, isn't one of those.

    But he has recorded this impressive minimalist pop album that mixes Lou Reed-style lyrics (and vocal style) with spare accompaniment that is often not much more than a guitar and assorted noises, with a mildly-annoying keyboard flitting about on occasion. The songs are sarcastic and biting without getting bitter too often, and the weird musical backing keeps the mood of the album quirky and light.

    Perhaps the most adventurous pop album I've heard this year. McMahon and his producer, Tom Smith, really have an ear for crafting creative yet accessible songs. Some of the press called this noise-pop, but if you can recognize what you're listening to as music, I won't call it noise anything.

    That said, though, I can't take away from McMahon's musical achievement here. 17 Volts is the pop album 99 percent of the musicians in the world wish they could even approach. A real stunner.


    An Inch Equals a Thousand Miles
    (Crab Pot)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    I just re-read my review of McMahon's last effort, the excellent 17 Volts. As usual, I managed to completely punt in the description department, with the exception of calling the album brilliant. That is true.

    And this album (really an album, too; McMahon sent me a delicious vinyl copy) follows down the same road. Sparse arrangements (most often guitar, bass and drums, with some extra sound stuff bounding around when the mood strikes) of off-kilter pop songs. McMahon's voice is kinda fragile sounding, which adds an endearing quality to the "as-it-happens" lyric style.

    A modern version of beat poetry, really. The images are everyday, but McMahon juxtaposes those ideas to bring about new meanings. Not only is the average worth celebrating, in its own way an average life can be extraordinary.

    Elegantly understated, An Inch Equals a Thousand Miles is another stunner. Quietly amazing. McMahon sure knows how to use a minimal sound to great effect.


    (And the Kitchen Ants)
    Yeah EP
    (Crab Pot) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Operating in the concept of a band has Brian McMahon sounding as raucous as I've heard him. The music bounds about, and even in the more contemplative moments there is a goofy joy that just can't be repressed.

    Barely 11 minutes of music here, and all of it bearing McMahon's trademark songwriting style. The vocals quaver and the guitar makes its own way (these, too, are McMahon hallmarks). Merely amazing, as usual.

    Like I noted, this project is a bit more upbeat and energetic than recent McMahon outings. There is a palpable electricity in the songs, making them somewhat more viscerally stimulating than previous efforts. The brilliance is unchanged.


    Holly McNarland
    Sour Pie EP
    (Universal/Uni)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #10, 12/2/96

    She's got that whiny, Gaelic yodel-thing going, but McNarland's from Canada. She doesn't even have some sort of fake reverence for local heritage going for her.

    The songs take a hell of a long time to get going at all, and mostly they simply sit in a pit of turgid melodies. McNarland wafts her voice all over the place, and it gets grating rather quickly. Some folks call this wrenching songwriting. I call it insipid.

    Hey, I'm sorry McNarland has had such a shitty life (at least as depicted in her songs). That doesn't mean she needs to inflict it upon society via a set of inept songs.

    This is one of those musical trends I can't wait to kill off.


    Stuff
    (Universal)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    With a whine that falls somewhere between Alanis and Jewel, Holly McNarland works herself up into a full frenzy. Unlike last year's EP, the music here is competently executed. The songs move along at a nice pace and don't wallow in so much self-indulgent crap as before.

    And way too much more. This puppy was produced to outperform the new Alanis album (you'll recognize plenty of the same cheap bullshit tricks), and who knows, it might even be better. That doesn't mean McNarland has come close to actually recording a good album.

    Another one of those albums calculated for success. Hell, it might work, I mean, Tiffany sold more than 10 million albums, as did the execrable Ms. Morrisette. Don't ask me to like it. I can't get this thing out of the discer fast enough.


    McRackins
    In on the Yolk!
    (Shredder)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    A trio of pop punksters (or "bubblepunk", as one song calls it) who also style themselves after the Ramones (Fil McRackin, Spot McRackin and Bil McRackin). Rampant silliness from north of the border.

    Unlike most B.C. punk bands, the McRackins are NOT bass heavy, but sound like they belong in sunny southern California, soaking up rays and scoring the babes. And who knows, perhaps they will do just that.

    The songs generally have something to do with food, though the foibles of teenagers in love also get their fair share of attention. But remember, this is not a main course, but just a light serving of musical dessert. Candy (or bubblegum) for a short snack.

    And I don't think the boys have any higher ambition. This is fun, underproduced poppy stuff. Yeah, you eat too much and you'll get sick to your stomach. But in proper amounts the McRackins are quite tasty.


    Comicboooks and Bubble Gum
    (Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Yeah, and that "put-on" stuff I said about MOA? goes double here. The McRackins is something of a poppier Ramones, except that the guys dress up as a chicken and eggs while performing. You know, as in "crackin" eggs or something.

    Now, the musical merits are easy to judge. These are silly songs, whipped up into a sugary punk pop confection. Same as ever, really. Light as air, but still it's hard to go a while without scarfing some down.

    I'm not even going into the silliness part. This is the band's first album in a while (almost two years), though the recent Doormats album (also on Cold Front) is a side project for Bil McRackin (the Ramones ties run deep). Ever and ever, the songs remain the same. Similar, anyway.

    Which isn't a bad thing, when the stuff is so much sticky, gooey fun. Too much will give you a stomach ache, but you need some just to make life worthwhile.


    Me & Jeremy
    May Day May Day
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    The rather amusing bio says the band has put its dues on credit and is going for broke. When you play pop music, well, you'd better have an unusual perspective. That statement sorta fits.

    The band has been in existence a bit more than a year. It is apparent that the two songwriters haven't quite figured out the strengths and weaknesses of the band (for example: there might be good lead guitar playing, but it's most often obscured by leaden rhythm work). And the whole ensemble is still a bit clunky. Not quite together.

    But there are nice bits. The first track is a great, sunny pop piece. Nothing else on the album even comes close to matching it. My advice would be to keep "Pick It Up" and go back to the drawing board. Hey, one great song in a year is a good year. Particularly for a new band. And there are other snatches of sound which are nice. In general, the band is enthusiastic and energetic, which helps sell even lesser material.

    But this is a young band, and like it or not, Me & Jeremy is going to have to pay its dues. The songwriters are going to have to learn how to write better, and the band is going to have to gig those songs into recording shape. I'm all for jumping ahead in the line. But this band will have to wait its turn.


    Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
    Are a Drag
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    If you don't know, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a joke. Well, it contains members of a few Fat Wreck bands (and Fat Mike, of course), and the band's first album was a silly collection of 70s songs. This one is even more inspired, two-minute takes on Broadway showtunes.

    Well, sorta. "Rainbow Connection" never hit Broadway, and "Science Fiction Double Feature" hit the White Way about 20 years after the movie became a cult smash (though it WAS a musical first).

    There are lots of musical asides (apart from the general goofiness of a punk band riffing through these tunes). "My Favorite Things" is kinda grafted onto the back of Bad Religion's "Generator", which is a connection I wouldn't have thought of myself. Another amusing bit is a Cheap Trick descant at the end of "Tomorrow". Perhaps the coolest moment is a ska rendition of "Stepping Out" from Cabaret. Long-winded and deservedly so

    Okay, I wouldn't have thought of any of this. But I'm still laughing my ass off. And singing along, because, well, I own more Broadway albums than NOFX albums (and I have the entire NOFX collection). And there's nothing wrong with that.


    Blow in the Wind
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Um, yes, punk's looniest "supergroup" (a wonderful oxymoron to begin with, of course) is back, this time taking on songs from the 60s. So you get everything from "Sloop John B" to "Stand By Your Man." And then some stuff like "Wild World," from the early 70s that also fits in with the theme.

    With the usual touches, such as four-part harmony on "Blowin' in the Wind" and the traditional Islamic greeting at the start of "Wild World" (think about it a minute...).

    Alright, so the rendition of "My Boyfriend's Back" just can't touch Alice Donut's gay S&M take, but what can you do? Hard to touch a classic, though the boys give "I Only Want to Be With You," which has seen life as a hit for the Bay City Rollers and Kylie Minogue (not to mention Dusty Springfield's 1964 original), one more life as well. The version here tends more toward Dusty, which is the best move.

    This album isn't quite as manic or delirious as Are a Drag, the album of (mostly) Broadway tunes the boys cranked out last time. Most of these songs started life as three-chord pop songs, and there isn't a whole lot a vaguely punkish rearrangement can do for them. Still, there's a whole lotta joy here. Big smiles.


    Take a Break
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    By now, you know the concept: Five punkers who have made their names with other fine bands get together once a year to play other people's songs. An idea with definite potential.

    The albums have concepts, of a sort. This one takes on r&b. Sorta. I mean, putting "I Believe I Can Fly" and (You Make Me Feel Like a) "Natural Woman" in the same category is a bit silly for more reasons than one.

    And silliness is what these boys specialize in, of course. Some bits are better than others (the version of "Hello" is truly astonishing, I swear), which makes the overall album a bit uneven. But that's only to be expected.

    This is a more inspired effort than last year's Blow in the Wind, a surprisingly toothless run-through of 60s pop. The boys have their groove back. And, yes, I too believe they can fly.


    David Mead
    Indiana
    (Nettwerk America)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    I got this CD a few months ago, and I've been listening to it about once a month since. This is rare for me; usually my reviews are based on my first exposure. But I hadn't noticed the release date when I first popped this album in, and so I've had a lot more time to appreciate what David Mead does.

    While I was initially impressed, I've found that this album improves significantly on repeat listens. That's somewhat surprising for a modern folk set like this, given that the songs are quite straightforward and the sound is similarly open. Most of the time, this is the sort of album I like initially before getting bored.

    Maybe it took me that long to really hook into Mead's songwriting style. He lies somewhere between Nick Drake and Sound of Lies, that most moody and paranoid of Jayhawks albums--which, again, means I should dig this immediately.

    Okay, so it took some time. That's cool. The fault is all mine. Mead has created an album of deceptive power. Let it flow, and you'll hear what I mean.


    The Meadows
    The Meadows
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Not exactly yer normal self-released project. Todd Herfindal and Kevin Houlihan have been wandering around California for quite a while, and even if few of their bands made much of a splash (Herfindal's band Single did manage to chart its first album in CMJs Top 200), they've obviously spent plenty of time figuring out how to make good music.

    Folding in rootsy instrumentation into a lush power-pop anthem sound, the Meadows quickly create a comfortably exciting atmosphere. These pieces sound like songs you've been singing in your head since you were ten, except that they're new.

    Oh, yeah, and they placed one of the songs on this album ("Younger Yesterday") in a very small movie (Little Manhattan). Just to show that, indeed, they know what they're doing. Hell, that's obvious about 20 seconds into the disc. Some might quibble with the dramatic feel to the sound, but I like it. It sure is powerful, but it's not harsh and shiny like you tend to get on a major label release. The sound here is like your grandpa's leather easy chair, strong but ever so comfy after fifty years of use.

    The band's web site calls this the most unanticipated album of the year. A joke, but possibly true nonetheless. My guess is that the next Meadows album will have a bit more buzz behind it. Damn, this is good.


    First Nervous Breakdown
    (Single Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #294, March 2008

    I listened to the first Meadows album the entire week I spent at the beach last summer. Kinda fitting, as those sunny songs with enveloping hooks are just the sort of thing to set the soul at ease. I had high expectations when I pulled this from the package. I wasn't sure I wanted to put it in the ol' discer for fear of disappointment.

    Courage, man! This set is more cohesive than the first. The songwriting is tighter, the playing a bit more effervescent and the overall joy ranking significantly higher. I don't know how Todd Herfindal and Kevin Houlihan are able to craft so many exceptional rootsy pop-rock gems in so short a time, but I'm not going to spend too much energy worrying about it.

    Rather, I'm going to enjoy it. This album has the same "summer all year long" sound as the first--hence my beach experience. This is the rare album that ought to have massive appeal on commercial rock radio and still make the iconoclastic indie rocker smile slyly.

    I guess that's the real trick. If you look at the band's press page on its web site, there's a Rolling Stone review, and then there are plenty from the likes of A&A. We all agreed before; I imagine we'll all agree now. The Meadows are freaks. Just the kind of freaks we like to hear.


    Mean Red Spiders
    Starsandsons
    (Teenage USA)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    I made the note an issue or two ago that I hadn't heard anyone try the ol' My Bloody Valentine sound in a while. Well, Mean Red Spiders tries to cross the Primitives with MBV. The result is a bit fluffy, but awfully tasty going down.

    The distorted wall of sound (heavy on the treble) does make the tunes run together, but they're so damned peppy that I find it hard to bitch about. I do wish the band had tried to add a bit more complexity behind the ringing mush, but like I said, this is on the fluff side of things.

    As for that sound, I've never heard it used quite so extravagantly on a basic pop band. I think it might drain some of the life out of the hooks, but it sure does give Mean Red Spiders a unique feel. No one else sounds quite like this.

    And that goes a long way. Yeah, I wish there was a bit more to all of this. But there's not, and I can't do anything about that. I'll just have to be happy with what is here.


    Meanest Man Contest
    "split" with Languis
    (Sneakmove)
    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.


    Means to an End
    Means to an End
    (Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Unlike a lot of people, I never liked Paw or the Lawrence, KS, scene their success has dragged out. Means to an End got signed because Paw was supposed to be great, and they play a lot like them (only a little heavier).

    That doesn't excuse the fact that more than one guitar line is stolen from the Seattle original, and that Means to an End seems bent on replicating an already stagnant music movement.

    Without merits? As is usual, the performances are decent, and the production is quite nice. The clean sound allows you to identify all the theft even easier.

    This sounds like a cash-in sorta disc. The band wanted to cash in on a trend, and so did the label. No harm in trying, I suppose. I just don't have to like it.


    Meathead and Cop Shoot Cop
    Dick Smoker Plus
    (Fused Coil-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    The last four tracks are the Dick Smoker EP, while the first four tracks are the Kill a Cop for Christ and Bring U His Head EP, which featured one new song each from Meathead and Cop Shoot Cop, with the bands remixing each other's song as well (four tracks in all there).

    Confused? Well, remember that the two Cop Shoot Cop tracks (the original and the remixed versions of "Schweinhund!") are the last recording work the band did as a unit (Tod A. is currently fronting Firewater).

    The Kill a Cop EP is fairly good, with the remixes far outshining the original songs. Makes you mourn Cop Shoot Cop's passing, in any case. The Dick Smoker tracks (the last four listed) consist of a fairly clean mix and a "wet" mix of the title track, a catchy industrial tune called "Outta My Face" and a cover of Pussy Galore's "Loser", which obviously shouldn't be confused with Beck's song of the same title. Come on, you aging alternative hacks out there, laugh with me!.

    And then track #9, which is short and of mild interest. Untitled, of course. Pretty annoying if you actually get through all two minutes. This is a wildly diverse set of tunes (two EPs and two creative bands will do that to you) that could probably have used some cohesion, but will suffice in its current form. Some wonderful noises going on.


    Meathook Seed
    Embedded
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    I hope that's the right title. I couldn't really read the handwriting. Oh well. Members of Napalm Death and Obituary team up for an industrial-death side project. And it sounds really good!

    Both of the regular bands involved saw their sounds edge toward the commercial last time out. This is commercial, I suppose, but it rips to shreds most of the industrial bands I've heard. Fast, grinding riffs and nasty drumming keep the buzzsaw to my throat.

    This is what side projects are supposed to do: bring out the creative side of genius. Instead of doing the same old thing, Mitch and folks have attacked a new sound and done a number on their competition. Absolutely stunning.

    See also Napalm Death and Obituary.


    Meatwagon
    Pretty in Pink
    (Red Eye)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Any band who thanks their penises for "all the hours of enjoyment" is certainly worth a listen.

    What you'll find is ripping hard core with rather clearly sung lyrics. No growls or howls. After all, this shit is funny! If you can't understand it, well, the effect is diminished.

    Do not take that as a rip against the music. It tastes like week-old chili. Everything has finally congealed into a sumptuous feast. No need for cheese or saltines to dress it up, either. Straight.

    Like I've noted in the other Red Eye reviews, this is a label to notice. They are just getting started, but the three bands I've heard are amazing. Get in touch.


    The Medea Connection
    The Action Noise
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    The instructions are to play this puppy at maximum volume. Alright, though it's pretty damned loud when it's soft, if you know what I mean.

    Thick, throbbing grooves and pounding riffage, but the heart and soul of these pieces are pure pop. There are even great hooks hiding behind the wall of sound.

    The recording was great. Only two people make up the Medea Connection, but this disc sounds like a full band. The songs just keep churning (and making my floor rumble--once the noise from the speakers caused my player skip!) and I just keep bobbing along.

    Way, way too much fun. Once this train gets rolling, there's no stopping it. Sure, the pieces are simplistic, but that's why they work. Pure, undiluted power and shiny candy hooks. A great combination.


    The Bell Ringer
    (Curve of the Earth)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Extraordinarily thick riffage played at breakneck speed. If yer gonna play spacey stoner rock, you might as well do it like this.

    Thing is, the Medea Connection has so much energy, so much adrenaline, that it transcends its roots. The sound is almost punk at times (that is a complement), even recalling the fury of early Anthrax--though much more refined.

    Fun music. Period. And sometimes a band can create that feeling simply by keeping the pedal to the metal. In this case, it's that energy combined with a precise ragged sense of melody that ties up the package most impressively.

    Makes me want to pick up my air guitar and dance around the room. That infectious. That, um, rawkin. Sometimes there's nothing better.


    Medication
    Medication
    (Quadruped-Family Vineyard)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Five guys, including two drummers, who manage to create what sounds like experimental electronic music while playing "regular" instruments. Which is to say, while there are samples, there isn't a keyboard player. This is all drums, guitar and bass.

    The pieces are generally meditative, falling into what folks used to call the ambient genre. Though from time to time the guys feel a need to venture into spacey noise territory. Whatever they're in the mood to do, I suppose.

    And that works for me. The songs tend to explore a couple themes at once. Complimentary themes, mind you. This stuff isn't so esoteric as to eschew all connection with reality. There's plenty of solid thought behind the meanderings.

    I like that. I like the way these guys use musical lines. I like the way the songs tend to come into and go out of phase from time to time. I like what this stuff does to my head. I guess that's the best part. Always good to get the brain waves focused, one way or another.


    Medicine Hat
    Medicine Hat
    (Demo)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Some rootsy anthems with the right riffage for faux hippies wanting follow last year's trend.

    I'm really ripping on serious fans of stuff like this than the band itself. I mean, yeah, I'm not a fan of unsigned bands following the latest hit like sheep. And if Medicine Hat doesn't have a big-ass poster of Collective Soul adorning its rehearsal space, I'd be shocked.

    The playing is acceptable, though the raspy vocals are just a bit too much, really. And this tape does have that "demo sound", though it's not as bad as some I've heard.

    I simply don't like bombastic music that makes its point with bluster instead of inspiration. I'm done here.


    Medicine Sunday
    Medicine Sunday
    (Rainforest-Instinct)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Anytime a band lists a dulcimer player, I get interested. After all, no one in their right mind has played that thing in a couple of centuries.

    They meander around the psychedelic sound, but manage to avoid that annoying Blur (pronounced "bleah") drone. And as you start to dig in, they really start to tear it up. If you only scan the first track, you might miss some real choice heavy pop tunes.

    This is not your normal first effort. It's self-indulgent and presents a completely incoherent picture of the band. I like it.


    Medusa Cyclone
    Medusa Cyclone
    (Third Gear)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Mostly the product of Keir McDonald, who was a member of Viv Akauldren (back when that was still a band).

    A home tapes project (not unlike the Magnetic Fields) that is oddly moving in its mechanical ways. McDonald has a way of making the technology sound human, and the songs are (just a little) on the psychedelic side.

    Many of these songs were originally released on 7", and the whole Medusa Cyclone set of work now finds itself on CD. An odd taste of ambient pop (ooh-I just coined a genre!) that has enough texture to stand hundreds of listenings.

    Too cool for words is a silly cliche, but I'll bite and use it here. McDonald has a way of making the strident accessible. His song construction methods are revolutionary, and yet not difficult to ascertain and enjoy.

    This one's a real keeper, boys!


    Medusa Oblongada
    Medusa Oblongada
    (Circumstantial-Megalithic)
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Grind-y guitars mix it up with both a live drummer and a drum machine. I've always liked that, and the rhythms produced by Medusa Oblongada are pretty damned cool.

    But the band can't decide whether it wants to sound like Fudge Tunnel or Megadeth, and in the end it tries to split the difference. I'm not sure what the right choice would have been, but this is not it.

    The amateurish production has left a tinny sound to the bass and vocals, which certainly doesn't help matters. But Medusa Oblongada has created songs which start and stop in seemingly incoherent fits, and the vocals don't seems to be connected much to what the band is doing. To call this a complete mess would not be far off the point.

    I still like the idea of drums and drum machines dueling it out. And with some craft time and a firmer hand from an experienced producer, Medusa Oblongada might able to find its sound without completely destroying any cohesion whatsoever.


    The Meeting Places
    Find Yourself Along the Way
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    It's official: The Loveless revolution has finally struck, some 10 years too late. I've heard a ton of bands lately that appropriate the My Bloody Valentine formula of dreamy pop songs almost wiped out by drones and distortion. The funny thing is that most of these bands do the sound pretty well.

    The Meeting Place handles the noise with a light hand; the pop nature of the songs is always apparent. Still, those droning vocals and washes of distortion add a fine bit of color. A little icing on the cake, if you will.

    Yeah, the noise does tend to make this kinda stuff a little faceless. The Meeting Place combats this by making sure the sweet hooks are enhanced by the production. Again, a deft hand in the booth makes all the difference.

    A quite enjoyable album. Nothing earthshattering, I'll admit, but quite entrancing on its own merits. Left me with a big smile, to be sure.


    Mega-Mousse
    Musical Monogram
    (TZME Productions)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Mega-Mousse features a three-sax attack that sits right out front. Who needs a lead guitar when you've got three reeds on top?

    The songs follow a wide variety of song constructions, from traditional jazz to prog to klezmer to some stuff the boys seem to have invented themselves. Sometimes more than one structure invades a single song. Luckily, the players are skillful enough to pull off such a difficult task.

    The sound is produced to feature the sax. Round, full and not too high on the treble end. A fine complement to the music itself. Well-conceived and executed.

    It's not every band that can remind me of Iceburn and Blue Meanies--in the same song! Mega-Mousse does wind its way around a variety of styles in smashing fashion. Think of these pieces as mountain trails. You never know what you're going to find, and you're always glad you took the hike.


    Megadeth
    Cryptic Writings
    (Capitol)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Megadeth's problem has always been timing. When the band was poised for massive success, with a real groundswell created from Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good and Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, it released the shlocky So Far, So Good... So What?. A self-prophesizing title if I ever saw one.

    And while Metallica (you all know the ties there, I assume) has evolved into a turgid self-parody, Megadeth has continued to evolve and, more importantly, record. I'm sure the simple economics of rock stardom has something to do with it, but the simple fact is that Megadeth has made the right choice.

    And so songs like the very alterna-poppy "Almost Honest" don't sound out of place with the rest of the album, which tried very hard to encompass everywhere metal has gone in the last 20 years, while also keeping an eye on the future.

    And so, now that it has once again established itself as a band in the foreground of the rock pantheon, Megadeth finally releases the album that should convince folks it deserves to be where it is. The range of the songs is impressive, and even if Mustaine's lyrics are pretty silly more often than not, the music is mature, assured and confident. As it should be.

    I've got to admit complete surprise here. I'm even a little impressed. Something I certainly didn't anticipate when I tossed this puppy in the discer. That'll do.


    Megafaun
    Gather, Form & Fly
    (Hometapes)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    These guys arrived in Durham, N.C., just about the time I left, and this album is just one more reason I might shoulda ought stayed back in the New South.

    A long time ago, there was this vaguely campy gothic roots band called Trailer Bride. Megafaun appropriates that band's gloomy atmosphere, but it draws in a more haunting sound. Imagine Dirty Three with banjo and raggedy three-part harmonies.

    Yeah, kinda like what the Beach Boys might've sounded like if they spent their days paddling the Eno River rather than shooting the curl. Of course, Megafaun doesn't sound much like Brian Wilson and Co., but that's sorta my point.

    The sort of album that takes a while to coalesce in the front of the brain. Once it gets there, though, there's not a thing that can rip it out. This stuff is seriously insidious.


    Mekons
    I (heart) Mekons
    (1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    A pop band that's not afraid to get really loud and distorted or smooth and cheesy. And they can do that on successive songs.

    And back with an indie, which is where a truly creative band almost has to live in order to express themselves without a marketing plan. Mekons have been around for a long time, and they haven't lost a step.

    A special note: the liners are a great concept. Check 'em out.


    Retreat from Memphis
    (1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Where I (heart) Mekons was highly calculated and occasionally mesmerizing, this 17-song compendium of sound is consistently stunning.

    Not afraid to attack any side of the pop or punk universes, Mekons shift gears more times than Richard Petty during a day at Daytona. So if you want any semblance of sameness, go somewhere else.

    But Mekons have always meandered, and it's in those wanderings that I've found greatness. Mekons refuse to be categorized, and since the assembled musicians are more than up to the task the end result is bliss. Wonderful musings.


    Untitled 1&2 CD5
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    Sometimes it doesn't pay to ask why. This disc is supposed to have something to do with Elvis and Memphis and the death of the American dream (or something like that) all in two songs that don't even have names.

    Well, "Untitled 2" does have a Sun Records feel to it and is a nice little rockabilly ripper. The first track is a meandering and moping piece that could be seen as a funeral dirge, if you want.

    Hell, I don't know what all this means, but I sure do like it. Seven-and-a-half minutes of pure Mekons weirdness.


    (and Kathy Acker)
    Pussy, King of the Pirates
    (Quarterstick)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/95

    Mekons has always been the sort of band to do whatever the fuck it wanted to do at the time. This has led to the invariably diverse albums and a truly confused public. And, of course, a small band of fiercely devoted fans.

    The same sort of folks who try and transcribe all of Mark E. Smith's lyrics from Fall albums. And Mekons tear through the concept of pop music like a knife through butter. This albums finds the folk writing songs to accompany (and enlarge) the novel of the same name by Kathy Acker (you might even find it in a bookstore).

    Acker's spoken word excerpts bridge the gaps between Mekons songs. And while I haven't read the book, from the bits on the disc I think the songs really help paint a more complete picture of the novel (which would be a good reason for the project). Mekons provide songs that sound like they are based on sea shanties, and the performance is as eclectic and stunning as ever.

    Even without the accompanying narration, the nine Mekons tunes are welcome additions to the canon. And, if you take the disc as a whole, Pussy, King of the Pirates is one of the band's better efforts. It truly sings. Me
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    I've had this disc for ages (a month, at least), and I've been listening to it a lot. It's Mekons, of course, and that always means great, if excessively eccentric and idiosyncratic, music. It's the band's first album in four years, and I figured it was possible the folks might want to release something with some commercial appeal. Not going to Chumbawamba lengths, but at least something like The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll.

    Um, nope. This is perhaps the most dissonant and fractured Mekons album. The sequencing seems random (though that has never been a band priority), with wild changes in mood and sound between tracks. Yeah, the first and last tracks work as bookends, but past that, well, the album is a melange of self-indulgent rants.

    That, by the way, is the theme. You know, Me. And if you're going to write songs about a self-absorbed society, you might as well structure your album the same way. Is this artistic over-analysis? Maybe. But the strength of the individual songs cannot be ignored. The pieces do not fit together well at all, but each shard is a gem.

    Maybe the ultimate Mekons album. Not many new converts with this one, but then Mekons has never really catered to a mass audience. This is pop music fricassee for the inner circle. Weird, great and awe-inspiring. In other words, Mekons.


    I Have Been to Heaven and Back:
    Hen's Teeth and Other Lost Fragments
    of Unpopular Culture Vol. I

    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Leave it to Mekons to kick out an "oddities" album which is more immediately accessible than any recent opus. Concert favorites like "Now We Have the Bomb" and "I Have Been to Heaven and Back", shimmering self-revelatory pieces like "The Ballad of Sally", a football anthem and a Rod Stewart song.

    Alright, so perhaps this is just another eclectic Mekons album, simply one that took almost two decades to complete. For the first time (in ages, anyway) the actual names of the band members are printed. Another item in the manifesto throw away, I suppose.

    What this is, of course, is a celebration of everything that Mekons represents. Not the representation itself; that's too much for any one album. But a bit of a good time and some nice songs, to boot.

    It's almost too much to contemplate, but a second set of these curiosities is due in the fall. Okay, so I'm not the most objective observer in the world (I get a little tickle in my thigh whenever Sally Timms calls me up on some Biz 3 promo business), but nonetheless, it's easy to hear the greatness in this set. The sort of thing a neophyte could take in small doses before beginning to take on the entire Mekons universe.


    Where Were You?
    Hen's Teeth and Other Lost Fragments
    Of Unpopular Culture Vol. 2

    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Where to begin? This disc finishes up the Mekons' rarities set, and includes everything from a fresh recording of "Fancy" (regularly played during a 1993 tour) to a single from 1978. There is also an early recording of "Memphis, Egypt," the two untitled recordings from a 1995 single, an early collaboration with Kathy Acker and plenty more.

    Somewhat less cohesive than the first disc, and really, this one is more for the completist. It does serve as a fair introduction to the vagaries of the Mekons, but that's not necessarily a comforting caress. Indeed, the songs careen about, appropriating a wild variety of styles (and almost as many levels of production values). Perfect for the choir, not so much to the visiting parishioner.

    Indeed, the diversity and loose feel of this disc is yet another reason why Mekons deserve to be considered among the unknown (and, to borrow part of the title, unpopular) greats of rock and roll. True adventurers are rarely rewarded in their own times.

    And that, perhaps better than anything else, sums up the story of the Mekons. Greatness outside of the mainstream means day jobs and scrounging for pint money. With a healthy side of almost reverential fandom. Not a bad life, really.


    Journey to the End of the Night
    (Quarterstick)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    The last Mekons album (not counting the rarities releases) was a discursive take on our rather consumer-oriented society. This album goes utterly the other way, to the dark recesses of the individual mind.

    Now, this doesn't seem obvious at first. The songs are about night, particularly night in London, but the liners between the lyrics (and the thoughts between the lines of the songs themselves) illustrate an inner conflict.

    Perhaps this might well be called the "Midlife Crisis" album. What do you do when you've got so much you want to do within an increasingly limited time frame? Oh, hell, the stuff isn't that dire, but that's the feeling I'm getting. And gosh, these are about the prettiest songs the Mekons have ever recorded ("Last Night on Earth," in particular, is stunning). The guest backing vocals of Neko Case, Edith Frost and Kelly Hogan add even more texture to the potent sound.

    But we're not talking AAA stardom here. Too much fiddle and lyrics that are a bit too incisive. This is an album that the Mekons couldn't have recorded 10 yeas ago. Sometimes it's best to let things come in their own time.


    OOOH!
    (Quarterstick)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    The most recent Mekons album, Journey to the Edge of the Night, was perhaps the band's most coherent and traditional collection. Looking at the Mekons story (as it were), that would mean that this album would most likely be, you know, out there.

    And while these songs are certainly somewhat more varied in their influences than those on Journey, once again the Mekons have put together a stunning album that might tempt the mainstream. Musically, at least.

    The lyrics, on the other hand, are typically idiosyncratic. Many songs take different shots at organized religion, but the tone is more bemused than angry, even on a song like "Hate Is the New Love." There are also a couple witty meditations on the lives of aging punks and a few other ideas tossed in besides. Trust me; it all makes sense when put together by these folks.

    Perhaps as typical a Mekons album as there has ever been. Very few musical excesses, but this late-found devotion to melody and structure hasn't dulled the creative fires whatsoever. Indeed, the somewhat off-hand conformity of these songs is an even stronger repudiation of processed rock than the conceptual art-punk creations of old. A great many people much more influential than me have said this before, but it bears repeating. The Mekons are unforgettable and irreplaceable. If you have a chance to catch one of their 25th anniversary shows, don't let it pass you by.


    Mellowdrone
    Angry Bear
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #310, September 2009

    Staggering, lurching and basically stupendous, the new album from Mellowdrone is just about everything you could hope for from a band dropped from the big time.

    The songs crackle with energy and wit, with plenty of power in the grooves. The offhanded feel is a bit forced--these songs are crafted within an inch of their lives--but I like that the boys try to keep things loose.

    Really, though, songs with this much passion and ambition just aren't going to draw comparisons to the Replacements. The production leaves things a bit muddled in the middle, but that Jello-like wobble is just the thing for these deconstructions of life in the age of disillusionment.

    And if that's not how you see things, please don't tell Mellowdrone. These songs are blissfully unaware of the notion that life might actually be good. I can dig it.


    Melt-Banana
    It's In the Pillcase 7"
    (Nux-Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    A perfect example of the Japanese schizo-noise pop thang. Which, for me, is cause for celebration.

    Skin Graft has exposed such cool bands as Space Strakings to U.S. ears, and now this single harkens Melt-Banana's 7" into America. Oh, sure they must suck. After all they're currently opening for Mr. Bungle.

    Yeah, this stuff seems weird if you listen with conventional ears. But the tunes are actually sweet (underneath all the extra stuff), and it sure is nice to hear exactly what American bands can sound like when they go overseas. This is prime.


    Scratch or Stitch
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Four Japanese guys travel to Chicago, get Jim O'Rourke to mix their album and even feature K.K. Null on keys on one song. Oh, you've heard of Melt-Banana?

    Blissful, yelping noise pop that's far too infectious to put down. Even folks who aren't into managed insanity should get off on the energy of this album. It's a huge adrenaline rush.

    Kinda like surf noise. You can just ride along, bob your head and yelp when you feel like it. Highly entertaining and immensely pleasing. Certainly on the pop side of noise music, Melt-Banana has cranked out a fine set of tunes (22 in 30 minutes). Waycool.


    Melting Euphoria
    Upon the Solar Winds
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    As the sticker on the cover notes, this is space rock. That apparently means all of the things synthesizers and such do for ambient and space music acts are actually replaced by guitars, drums and such and played in real time.

    Which is why Hawkwind was space rock (and why Lemmy could stand playing it). The difference is breathtaking. Where Nik Turner's new outfit went almost completely synth in the studio for its album (and the results kinda wanked), Melting Euphoria does a good job to capture a live feel to this decidedly otherworldly music.

    And I like it. Sure, things get a little pretentious and even silly at times, but the presence of a real band does lend a sense of credence to the proceedings. While I feel I can predict the actions of a synthesizer pretty well, with a band I am always less sure, and that lack of balance makes the music that much more affecting.


    Melts
    667 7"
    (227)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    My second review of a NC-based 7", and this one sounds nothing like most bands in the area.

    Discordant screaming and really loose chord structures are the main feature, but the real star is this sludgy, chunk-ola guitar sound that reminds me a lot of Killdozer's finer moments.

    This is not music to fuck to. It is not music to dance to. It is not music to sit back and appreciate. This is the official soundtrack for Serial Killer for the Practicing Psychopath magazine. Well, it would be, anyway.

    Not that this is so weird or anything. The Melts just come off as really mean. Symphonies of disgust.


    Salicoutinaw
    (227/Hammerhead)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    This is precisely what all those Sabbath rip-off bands should do: pick just part of their influences to imitate. Melts take Geezer's thick bass sound and proceed to create a highly original sound.

    Heavy it is, but the rhythm section keeps things moving, and Theo (guitar and vocals) spits out his lyrics through an interesting drawl.

    Yes, there is a North Carolina metal scene, and it's pretty good. Most of you have heard of Buzzov*en, now get ready for the Melts. And if you don't have a copy of this, get one. Just don't get left out.


    Melvins
    10 Songs
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91

    It was five years ago today... . You realize, of course, five years ago us college music types were hailing Seattle as the music capital of the world; hell, we were even speaking of it reverentially three years ago. Now the hip scene has cruised through Athens, Austin and (unfortunately) Manchester. Who knows where it will end up next. But now Seattle is the pop music capital of the world. Not only Nirvana, but Queensryche, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and others have made it big. C/Z wants to claim it began with the Melvins back with the series of recordings that make up this...album, I suppose.

    To be fair, lots of other people say nice things about the Melvins (me included), so let's not quibble. This disc is a slab of short, heavy pieces that will drain your brain. And remember, Mud-hon Matt Lukin was a part of this incarnation (before he lost his virginity, the press says). You know you want to play it, so do. You won't be sorry.


    (Jello Biafra with the Melvins)
    Never Breathe What You Can't See
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    If you've never heard of Jello Biafra or the Melvins, then go on to the next review. Or, better yet, go to another web site. I don't mean to be, well, mean, but I do assume a certain knowledge of ancient music history when I write reviews. If you are familiar with the boys, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

    Hardcore metal riffs and Biafra's unmistakable histrionic wail. The songs are loud, fast and (surprise, surprise) political as all get out. If you remember the album Jello did with DOA 15 years ago (!!) ago, then this puppy ought to bring on a nice flush of nostalgia.

    I know this statement approaches sacrilege, but I prefer the albums Jello has made with DOA, Nomeansno and now the Melvins to old Dead Kennedys. For starters, the production is much better. And while there are a number of DK songs which are undeniably brilliant, the albums tended to be kinda scattershot. And while there's no "Let's Lynch the Landlord" on these later albums, it's obvious that Jello and the bands like each other and are having fun. The albums are cohesive, solid shots of blistering rock and roll.

    And, y'know, these "other" bands are much better musicians than the DK boys were back in the day. Maybe I am getting old, but that does count for something in my book. Whatever. Even with considering all that nonsense, this album is a real blast--even if those who made it can count the days until they are eligible to apply for AARP membership. Sometimes loud music ages exceptionally well.


    A Live History of Gluttony and Lust
    (Ipecac)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Most bands cycle through drummers from year to year. Melvins isn't a normal band. And so the member-in-the-turnstiles is the bassist. When asked to go across the pond and replicate Houdini (the band's first major label release) on stage in London and Dublin, King Buzzo and Dale Crover did the only sensible thing: They got Trevor Dunn to play bass.

    Of course, they didn't record those shows. So this disc is a compilation of the best performances of two shows in L.A. Though "shows" is probably a bit of an exaggeration. There's no crowd noise to speak of here, though it is apparent that the songs are recorded live on stage.

    You can hear it mostly in the energy of the work. I think it's safe to say Buzzo and Crover are better players now than they were then, and Dunn is easily the best bass player the band has ever had. The low end here is most impressive. Indeed, I'd say the sound on this recording is more "authentic" than the kinda metallic one Atlantic foisted upon the boys back in 1993.

    If I had to pick one Melvins album to do live, I probably wouldn't pick this one--even with the "special additions" to the set list. But then, for me, Melvins is more a state of mind than anything else. I'll take a dose now and again for what ails me and be done with it. So I guess Houdini is as good a choice as any. And this album is an interesting portrait of a band looking back and liking what it hears.


    Memento Mori
    Rhymes of Lunacy
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    With ex-members (of ex-bands) Candlemass, Hexenhaus and King Diamond's band among others, you might figure on some excellent doom.

    No shit, hunh? This proves that if you sing pseudo-operatically, your backing music doesn't have to be boring. Not to slag on Solitude Aeturnus, who I love, but the kicks their last album down a hill and into a ditch.

    Simply put, Memento Mori's members sound like they've been disappointed with the way their legacy has been acted upon by today's young doomsters. And with this album, they should drag everyone else's bloody carcass into a new dimension.

    Is that clear enough for you?


    Memory Ground
    Lights in a Fat City
    (City of Tribes)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Eddy Sayer performs percussion and hybrid harp. Stephen Kent plays the didgeridoo and animal horns. And Kenneth Newby fills in the holes. And with the exception of the first song (which is merely an introduction to the album), the pieces are long, drawn-out and utterly stunning.

    Organic soundscapes, the sort of thing that gets called "new age" but has nothing to do with Yanni. And, indeed, this is fine music for meditation. The sounds invite the mind to explore and seek out new spaces, to find new ideas. There is no hurry, but rather a steady impulse, the need to expand horizons.

    In another sense, the songs sound connected. Tied to the earth, to the history which lies beneath our cities and our culture. A voice rising up from below, entreating us to pay a little more attention to where we are and where we are headed.

    At least, that's where my mind went. This is the sort of disc which makes such mental jaunts a joy to perform. Actively search out the roots of these songs, and within yourself and the music you will find something unexpected. There's always more of you than you know.


    Memory Map
    Holiday Band
    (Joyful Noise)
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    So you like indie rock. Really, really, like it? Do you remember what you were doing when you heard that D. Boon was dead? Were you even alive?

    I'm pretty sure the members of Memory Map were alive, if barely. This album touches on many of the great ideas and sounds of indie rock, often reaching back to the early 80s. Everything from noise, math, no wave and what I like to call "midwestern noodly" are immediately evident. The quavering unison vocals are instantly annoying and addictive. The rock-solid song construction allows the band to follow almost every tangent under the sun. No matter where these folks go, they end up at home.

    Oh, and there are plenty of references to the likes of the Shins and Flaming Lips and Pinback. Or, at least, references to the influences of those bands. Memory Map is far too stylish to come close to ripping anyone off. In fact, the band's sound is one of the most distinctive I've heard in some time.

    Oh, and the songs do have that certain something. A knowing innocence. A deceitful truthfulness. A--you get the idea. Inherently contradictive and completely intuitive. The more I peel away, the more exciting things I find.


    Men of Fortune
    split with Lark's Tongue
    (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.


    Men of Leisure
    Creme Soda
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Like a cheesier version of the Connells, Men of Leisure slides along a soft pop highway, with a few side influences dropping in now and again.

    Some of the songs simply float along, lighter than air ("Ruby" is a good example), but a good number of songs resort to that old familiar college pop acoustic guitar funk riff that got old long before Better than Ezra and Toad the Wet Sprocket drove the thing into the ground.

    The Beatlesesque moments are the best. And while the playing is superb and the sound dead solid perfect, the inconsistent songwriting is a problem. The main writers have quite a few good ideas, but when they get in trouble they simply whip out a musical cliche. That's not good.

    And there's definite filler here. Men of Leisure needs some time to grow, certainly. Call back in a year.


    Ava Mendoza
    Shadow Stories
    (Resipiscent)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Just a gal and her guitar--or rather, a gal's guitar. Mendoza lets her fingers do the talking, and she picks and slashes her way around standards, country, the blues and whatever else she feels like taking a swipe at.

    But this is no out-of-control, wild woman album. Mendoza plays these songs. She makes them sing. Her technique is impeccable, but her playing is astonishingly expressive. She doesn't just bend blue notes; she wads them up into a ball and throws them up against a wall.

    Almost all instrumental guitar albums screw things up by adding a backing band. Some guitarists even think they can sing (ye gods!). Mendoza knows what she does well, which is tell stories with her guitar. Check that. Mendoza knows what she does better than almost anyone else on the planet, which is tell stories with her guitar.

    From the first note, it's obvious that this album is the product of a master. Skill, taste and expression are all off the charts. If you don't weep while listening to this, then you have no soul.


    Menlo
    The Stars Are Held by Strings
    (Sparkler)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Cerebral and contemplative fare that isn't afraid to rawk out when necessary. Not proggy, but definitely into creating a sound in the studio. Much of the impact of these songs comes from the way that musical lines are placed in the mix (say, the way an atonal and fuzzy guitar line drones on in deep background on the first track, "(battlestar) Galactica."

    And so while a lot of folks will reference Radiohead (everyone's favorite noodlers these days), I'd say these midwestern boys stick much closer to home to the ever-evolving Chicago noise-pop-fusion movement (is there a decent name for this stuff? I don't know of one, myself). Menlo is quite attracted to anthemic choruses, but otherwise it would fit in pretty well with David Grubbs and folks like that.

    I'd be interested to hear what these guys try to do live. There's so much knob-twisting in this sound, I have a feeling the pieces sound a bit more normal on stage. That's not a bad thing, really. Always better to simplify when you're playing for a crowd. When you're in the studio, take advantage of every tool.

    And Menlo does. These straightforward songs are cut and pasted into something greater. This album pulsates with a vibe that is impossible to suffocate. Whenever I think the stuff is getting just a bit too ordinary, there's always a little twist that pricks up my ears. These folks know exactly what they're doing, and they're very good at what they do.


    Mensclub
    Comin' to Take You Away
    (Bar/None)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    The press compares them to stuff like the MC5, mostly 'cause that's cool, I guess. And, yeah, Mensclub has that monstrously overfuzzed bass and guitar sound that the punk acid rockers dug. Of course, you might as well compare this to early Urge Overkill. Same thing. And not an insult, either.

    A cool riff though the whole "lead guitar as a weapon" concept. Mensclub has really covered this groove nicely. Now, we're not talking anything original, but the turn up the volume and take the top down and you've got a great afternoon drive.

    I can only go so far praising retro stuff, and so must say I wish Mensclub tried in some way to update this idea. Didn't happen. Plenty of fun, plenty to dig, but nothing new. And while that's my only serious complaint, it's a big one. If Mensclub would just try and mutate this sound into something seriously great, well, that would be something.


    Mental Crypt
    Sects of Doom EP
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    They may be Swedes, but the members of Mental Crypt have put together a technical-sounding rendition of death metal that is highly reminiscent of the most recent Suffocation and Death albums.

    The production is very sharp, which brings out the strong playing and fairly complex songwriting. No room for error, and Mental Crypt executes well.

    Not terribly innovative or anything, the band does know how to kick the sound along. There is hardly a dull moment in the four songs, and while Mental Crypt isn't blazing a new trail, at least this is a nicely policed version of an older path.


    The Mentones
    (Steuart Liebig/The Mentones)
    Nowhere Calling
    (pfMENTUM)
    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.


    Meow Meow
    Snow Gas Bones
    (Devil in the Woods)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Somewhere between the Jayhawks and Fountains of Wayne (which, come to think of it, is one of the prettiest valleys around) sits Meow Meow, a foursome who can't quite kick the alt. country habit as it launches its songs into pop perfection overdrive.

    Did I mention that there's a solid dose of Neil Young (particularly in the sue of feedback and distortion as musical adornments) as well? Hey, these folks sure know where to plumb for inspiration. Lucky for us that they take those ideas and create something entirely, astonishingly new.

    Soaring pop songs with pure distortion at the center of the hooks. Gorgeous melodies that slip onto a back road just as they're about to become unbearably beautiful. Subtle, sensitive pieces that are irretrievably marred by the presence of shocking sonic violence.

    All that is really, really (really) damned good, by the way. Meow Meow has some sort of inner barometer of great music, because in breaking just about every rule I can think of, these folks have created one of the most breathtaking albums I've heard in ages. Each song is a new adventure; the album is an epic of improbable proportions. Bathe in wonder.


    Mephiskapheles
    Might-Ay White-Ay
    (Velvel-Koch)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    If you remember the old Bosstones, from the way-back Taang! days, well, Mephiskaphles is a somewhat less cultured version. Ragged on the edges and in the grooves as well, the band slogs from hardcore to ska to a manic combination of the two, all cemented by concrete vocals.

    Yeah, well, if it sounds like heaven you're almost right. I do wish the horns were used for more than effect (or more than to announce, "Yes, we are a ska band"). Horns should be an integral part of the songs, not just window dressing. But given the overall power of the music, well, this almost sounds like quibbling.

    And damnit, I've got to stop that. For what sounds like a throwback (though I know the bands has been plying these fields for some time), this puppy is pretty much up to date. Ska has been moving away from the shiny pop realms for a couple of years, and so now it is safe once again to bludgeon while you skank.

    So get your elbows in motion and prepare to get rude. This is nowhere near true ska, but it's still a big-ass load of fun. Power, drama and some horns (I'm not going there again; nope, not me). Quite the trip.


    Mephisto Walz
    Thalia
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Lush gothic pop, with sound that seems to go on forever.

    All the usual "d" goth themes are here: death, depression, the devil, drugs. The last discussed in an oddly mellow version of "White Rabbit". If there's one this Mephisto Walz seems to believe in, it's a lack of passion.

    Not a bad disc at all, but there is nothing here that particularly moves me, either. I guess I'm just not in a mood to be really depressed this week.


    Merauder
    Master Killer
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    At least a year behind the trend, Merauder cranks out solid, if rather uninspired New York metalcore tunes. Biohazard and countless others have done this before; some better, some worse.

    To round out the fad chasing, Merauder cranks in a grungy guitar sound at times, and fluid euro-style lead work at others. The second isn't a real trend and I like it. And on songs like the title track, there is a real European feel (at least during the verse). But that doesn't happen much. Most of this is pretty generic.

    This bums me a bit, because there are parts that I really like. But the frustrations is that most of Master Killer sounds like it came out of a "hot metal today!" factory. Bleah.


    Mercy Rule
    Bye Bye 7"
    (Faye)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Another gem from the heartland. Mercy Rule is a great post-punk outfit from Lincoln. Their disc on Caulfield records last year was rather nice, and they have recently been inked to Relativity.

    Mercy Rule has a rather formidable live reputation in the Midwest, and I have yet to hear that translate exactly to record. No different here; I think a little of the energy that comes across onstage got lost in the mix of "Bye Bye". The flip, "Royal", is almost perfect, though. I think I'll be listening to that for some time. Smiles.


    Mercyful Fate
    Return of the Vampire
    (Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    King Diamond and friends burst upon the scene with some real Satanism and some good music over ten years ago. Since the King has done Geraldo and gone solo, the music and act have bordered on parody. But this disc shows what was there in the beginning.

    This is music from the NWOBHM era. Songs with epochal lyrics, a dependence on rhythm guitar and screeching vocals.

    Today, King Diamond still prances around wishing he was half as cool as he was when these songs were recorded. Enjoy in good health.


    In the Shadows
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Comparing this to King Diamond's woefully mediocre solo albums, this is a great achievement. Compared to what expectations have been for a revitalized Mercyful Fate, perhaps this falls a little short.

    Then again, when putting this next to other reunion albums of the past couple of years, In the Shadows is the class of that category.

    It's really useless to write more about this, since all of you know MF and have had plenty of chances to hear this by now. I had fun on the ride.


    The Bell Witch EP
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    As the first two tracks are from In the Shadows, I won't even talk about them. You have had plenty of time to play them.

    The four live tracks allows the band to get old material released on their new label. The recording is decent, although a little muddy. That's surprising, considering who put the set to tape. The performances are passable, and you certainly already know the songs.

    There is a new album in the fall; wait for that.


    Time
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    Last year's reunion disc was merely tepid. The band hadn't quite jelled, and the songs were simply not up to what I was hoping for.

    Here, there are King Diamond histrionics a plenty, but also a few nods to current musical trends. However, Mercyful Fate is smart enough to stay away from becoming just another doom or Euro-metal revivalist outfit. After all, didn't these guys help start all those trends years ago?

    Yes, and the music here is fresh and inviting. In the Shadows is but a mere apparition when compared to this disc. Sure, in many ways it is the same old Mercyful Fate cheez, but the comeback is complete, with an album that is as inventive and fun as any in the past.


    Mercyful Fate
    King Diamond
    A Dangerous Meeting
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    Boy, the liners are pretentious as hell. I was worried that such a greatest hits package would be as overblown as many of King Diamond's later songs. So it is.

    But on the other hand, Mercyful Fate had its moments. Back when they were just another Euro-metal band with a demonic fetish, they managed to break from the crowd and attract a following. Now, of course, the King managed to lose my respect when he did that ridiculous gig on the Geraldo special on "Devil music."

    As a GH package goes, this hits most of the highlights. There is a lot of filler, too, but savor the gravy.


    Mercyless
    Coloured Funeral
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    They're still run-of-the-mill. Unlike the Comecon, which uses the old conventions and creates a wonderful harsh reality, this only makes me sleepy.

    Not helping much is the standard somewhat muffled production. Unlike Unleashed, where the knob twister infused vitality into a project that may have been lacking a little, here he just rammed the project into oblivion. Into every sort of music bland bands have to exist, and I'm afraid this is one of them.


    Lisa Meri
    I'm Not Gonna Say I Told You So EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    A nice alto voice slinging seventies-style pop tunes. Meri fits in well with folks like Rickie Lee Jones, though the songwriting doesn't quite hold up.

    Earnestly singing vaguely silly lyrics is admirable, but still doesn't overcome the basic problem. The slick production slides the sound very much into that AAA groove, which I find kinda boring. I'm not sure where else to take Meri's songs, though.

    Time has passed her by (even if she wasn't around the first time), and honestly Meri doesn't exhibit any songwriting skills here that would have impressed folks even twenty years ago. And with the ascendance of people like Joan Osborne and Sheryl Crow, well, perhaps the clock has swung around again. Meri will need to find a new muse, or a collaborator to help kick her songs into "interesting" territory. More kick, a more personal take on the lyrics and just a hint of originality might make her over into a pop star.

    That's a lot of work. For anyone.


    Merzbow
    Pulse Demon
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    More of that noise stuff I warned you about. Masami Akita has cranked out more Merzbow releases than even he can probably count. This is the second one to get wide U.S. release on, um, Release.

    Akita cranks more distortion into his compositions than many noise artists. This stuff could tear speakers apart, I suppose, though mine seem to have survived just fine. My wife, on the other hand...

    As always, an acquired taste. I like the way Akita mixes up the sound, from pulsing beats to blind white noise and everywhere in-between. I don't get bored with any of this sorta stuff (I really like to read with it on), but Merzbow is a good starting point for, say, those who dig the more experimental ambient stuff and want to find the next frontier.

    Discerning the difference between Merzbow releases (or even songs, for that matter) isn't terribly easy, of course, except over the long haul. So don't lay that trip on me. But if you're of a similar mind, check this out.


    Bastard Noise
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    The latest Release release for Masami Akita, this puppy combines the Merzbow and Man Is the Bastard Noise sets into one 60+ minute opus. Much better than the Pulse Demon album of a couple months back, these 13 tracks really show why Akita (Merzbow) is considered one of the masters of the noise genre.

    And to top it off, the liner notes are hilarious. Well, I suppose it might be a little frightening if they were intended seriously, but still. These tracks showcase Merzbow in full astonishing fury, from low rumbles to all-out sonic warfare. The range of sounds is awe-inspiring, and the effect is mesmerizing.

    This is what expected last time, and I'm happy to say it's all here now. Noise in all its powerful glory, performed by a true master. No getting around it, Merzbow is one of the wonders of the world. Prime stuff.


    Meshuggah
    None EP
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94

    If you apply Jesus Lizard-style guitar licks and hardcore-style vocals to the regular death metal package of distortion and viciousness, you might find Meshuggah.

    All very tasty, as well. Five tunes to the EP, and none of them suck. That's pretty rare, indeed. I hope next year's full-length is somewhere close to this in quality.

    In general, the music should appeal as much to more mainstream hard rock fans (especially the amazing "Ritual"), as well as traditional death metal adherents. Plenty of brutality to go around.

    With the right positioning, Meshuggah could become a real monster. Just wait for the album.


    Destroy Erase Improve
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    The few and the proud who ground the Meshuggah EP into dust a few months back have been rewarded. The full-length is now here.

    And if you thought the prog-industrial-death metal tendencies were strong on that disc, wait until you get a hold of this. Mind-numbing and pulse-flattening, pure and simple.

    Sure, some of the effects seem a little forced and overly-layered, but for the most part the little bits flitting about are mere window dressing for the feast provided. If you don't care for this lead break or that keyboard riff, you still have the band jamming in the foreground to occupy you.

    Sure, there are some boring Swedish bands out there. But Meshuggah is on the cutting edge of the "heavy" death metal movement (if you want to call a band like Tiamat "light", that is). Musically innovative and still heavy as hell. The mainstream won't get it, but then that simply leaves more scraps for the faithful.


    The Mess
    Plankton Comes Alive
    (Hammerhead)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Imagine an early seventies guitar sound (say, 1972 Deep Purple) moving along with today's pop punk sensibilities. Riffage and hooks. What a combination.

    Toby Dammit (really) has a nice early-Idol growl (pre-sneer). The songs have that "just crawled out from the dumpster" feeling, not a bad thing at all.

    I can honestly saw I've never heard anything quite like this. The Mess have a corner on their sound, and it's an entertaining one. I can only imagine what the live shows are like.

    In the spirit of throwbacks, the liner notes contain instructions on the preservation of your fine vinyl collectibles. The Mess thinks of everything, after all.


    You Just Made the List
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    I reviewed the band's first CD, Plankton Comes Alive, and was fairly complimentary. I got one of the more amusing and gratifying thank you notes a couple weeks later. The guys don't just play cool music, they have fine manners to boot. Thought I'm not sure if that revelation fits with the music.

    The sound hasn't changed, really. Chunky, seventies riffs and vocal melodies, spewed forth with proper 90s punk aggro. Aptly named, The Mess is just that, but every time the guys manage to find enough reference points to hold the song together.

    Perhaps nothing more than a bar band epitome (which isn't bad), The Mess now has two well-produced, solid CDs under its belt. The songwriting drwas on the sources I mentioned and plenty others. Always tending to the cheesy side of things, I suppose, but that's the bar band deal, you see.

    More fun than serious, more goofy than focused. So what? You even complain about a good time?


    Mess America
    Studio City
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Imagine yer basic "indie pop" band. Three chords and a fairly sparse production sound (there's some space between the instruments). The Presidents, etc. Mess America doesn't really cranks out the cutesy lyrics, but the music falls into that arena.

    Basic, see? Nothing pretentious about the tuneage or the lyrics, and maybe I was hoping for a bit of bite somewhere. Mess America does a perfectly fine job of playing this stuff, but there's nothing distinguished about it, either.

    The lack of bite, in other words. The guys aren't ripping anyone off, and the songwriting follows the book very well. All very competent, but not particularly intriguing. A nice listen.

    I need more than that, honestly. Mess America is just a bit too faceless for me. I'd like to hear something that makes me take notice, and that just didn't happen here.


    Messiah A.D.
    Underground
    (Noise)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Messiah A.D. has been around almost forever. Members come and go, but the sound remains mostly the same.

    This time, the guys try and merge a little of the trendy hardcore sound to their usual sauce of euro-metal, but the result is the same: it sounds fine, but there is just no personality.

    And that's been my knock on them every album I've heard. Technically proficient, played with verve, but Messiah A.D. sounds faceless (talk about mixing metaphors).

    This is journeyman music. Nothing wrong with it. Just no real spark, either.


    Messyheads
    Say Something Stupid CD5
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Messyheads is John Connor. With just a little help on a couple of the songs. Connor compensates for the lack of a band by giving his guitar work (acoustic and electric) an electronic backdrop.

    You know, drum machine, keyboards, bass, etc. Doesn't work quite as well as, say, early Magnetic Fields. It does, though, lend the stuff a vague early 80s post-new wave feel. Connor's pop songwriting certainly doesn't hurt that impression.

    In terms of production values, these songs would have benefited from a bit more solid backing. On the other hand, Connor's writing is sharp and incisive. Messyheads is a project worth crafting further.


    Metabolics
    The M-Virus
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    It's always true: Innovative music recalls the past as much as the future. Metabolics take bits and pieces of the last 20 years of hip-hop, assembling them into a mesmerizing whole.

    Somewhere between Cypress Hill and Run-DMC, with the lean production of some of today's top artists. The focus is on the rhymes, though the music satisfies just as well.

    Gotta like rap that says something, and Metabolics spin ideas as well as they spin grooves. Stories? Some, but more of these songs espouse a philosophy of surviving. Period. Have a good time while you're around, but take care of business. Sounds good to me.

    Serious and silly, with some wonderfully constructed beats. Some old, some new, I've used the word some a lot. A cool melange of styles and ideas. An album which simply continues to groove on and on.


    Metal Machine
    Kinked Slinky
    (Sanity Check Musec)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Two guys, Terry Miller and Blue, combine to play blistering industrial blues. Most of the time, I get pretty tired pretty quickly of what I like to call "white boy blues," where the guitar makes more noise than emotional impact.

    First, that's not the case here. Blue plays loud (really loud) and distorted guitar, but he's got a nice feel. And these songs are playful. Hard to do that with a drum machine and other processed elements, but these boys manage just fine.

    This shouldn't work. There's just no way this music should sound anywhere near as cool as it does. And yet, here it is. No denying that.

    And no denying the quality. The sound is unrefined despite its technical prowess, and that's probably what keeps Metal Machine from degenerating into some sort of parody. As it is, this is some fine fare.


    Metal Molly
    Surgery for Zebra
    (Silvertone)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Grungy pop stuff that rarely stops to check and make sure all cylinders are still running. Highly unoriginal and terrible derivative.

    Damned near unlistenable, actually. Particularly when the guys decide they should throw in a little ska or something. I appreciate the fact that these folks are trying to sound interesting. It just doesn't work, mostly because the musical range of this band is quite limited.

    This is like one of those garage bands you see at some college town bar on a Monday night. The odd amusing riff flits out, but the band is just unable to do anything with it. And the rest of the time you're hollering at your friends in an attempt to have a conversation over the racket.

    Absolutely clueless. I can't imagine why anyone would like this. But, of course, I said the same thing about Candlebox years ago.


    Metallica
    Load
    (Elektra)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #5, 6/10/96

    As in Load of shit, I guess. I wasn't expecting anything good, as the black album was a pretty dreadful experience, though it was at least fun at times. "Enter Sandman" may be derivative and stupid, but when you turned it up to 11 there were some charms.

    The boys never even come close to that level of performance on this album. "Ain't My Bitch" is the fastest tune on the album, and I could sing the chorus even before I heard the opening riff (straight out of Angus Young's bag of tricks, by the way). In fact, this stuff is so predictable, I was calling chord changes for the next song all the way through.

    Ride the Lightning is still one of my favorite albums ever. But Metallica seems to have succumbed to the U2 syndrome (not surprising, since they have made themselves over to look like Ireland's finest): Count the cash and copy what serves as popular fodder of the day. No more trendsetting for these boys. Just days of sitting around and contemplating lawsuits so they can buy bigger houses.

    I wish I had full confidence in the taste of America's youth, but last night I sat through a packed dollar-house show of "Broken Arrow", which is pretty damned amusing, but only because it is so bad. Load can't even get that much of a recommendation from me.


    The Metalunas
    X-Minus-One
    (American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Yet another Mark Brodie project. A lot like Man or Astroman?, except without that vital kick. I'm beginning to appreciate Brodie's lack of aggression, I think, because his laid-back style (oh, he still plays fast, the sound is just somewhat underwhelming) actually works pretty well here.

    Again, I'm not sure if it's just that I'm getting used to what he does, or this is actually superior to his other projects. Hard to say. But for once, his surf musings actually work.

    The production is marginally better than most of his other stuff as well (the thin sound of some of those discs is beefed up here), which certainly aids in my appreciation. Just happy beach music. With that 50s outer space theme, of course.

    I still think that's a bit to close to MOA? for comfort, but you know, this is easily the best Brodie disc I've heard. I don't know if that says more about me or the disc.

    See also Mark Brodie.


    The Methadone Actors
    Caged 7"
    (Meddle)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    The a-side has a real Nirvana feel, in structure and particularly the off-key, somewhat mumbled vocals. The song moves along at a decent pace and then collapses into a shouted sing-along. Really rough pop.

    The flip, "Blackberry Jane('s Gone to L.A.)", is completely different. The lead guitar takes on the echo mantle, and the song itself is a dirge-like slog through some kind of heroin crash. At least, that's what it sounds like.

    Two songs which show completely different sides of a band. I liked the flip much better, mostly because of the more original sound. There's definitely something here.


    The Methadones
    Not Economically Viable
    (Thick)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    It never fails. Whenever my son Max (he's 2 1/2) gets antsy in the car, my wife and I throw in the Mopes' Accident Waiting to Happen. He starts laughing and bouncing and soon enough he's happy again. Dan Shafer was the force behind the Mopes, and he fills the same shoes in the Methadones.

    One of the reasons this music is so attractive to the (much) younger generation is that it's loud, but not bruising. The melodies are thick and easy to discern. Shafer's voice has something of a sing-song quality to it. And lastly, the stuff is fast. Perfect for short attention spans.

    You might think I wouldn't go for such a thing. Hah! Shafer's trick to is take the old Ramones schtick, run it through the Mass Giorgini (et. al.) punk wall of sound production machine and put it up on the counter like a thick steak. Okay, so I don't like steak. I like the Methadones. A lot.

    Very simple. So simple yer grandma can dig it. So there. Play it loud. Then play it louder. Drink one beer. Play it louder still. And dance yer ass off.


    Method 51
    Method 51
    (PC Music)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Yet another rap-metal-hardcore act. Method 51 doesn't whine or wank around on faux funk. No, these guys are out to kick ass, and they use whatever sound gets them to that result. Attention to detail. I like that.

    More like Pro-Pain than Rage (and actually, more like Sepultura or Soulfly than either of those), Method 51 grinds through a series of moshworks, peppering the hoarse vocals with occasional rap-spoken lyrics.

    A metal production job has left the guitars sharp and arresting and every piece distinct from the others. No sloppiness anywhere. Again, I think that works better. Keeps all the elements from getting sloshed together.

    I do wish Method 51 would pick up the tempo from time to time, but that's a regular complaint from me. These guys kick out this sound as good as most (alright, it's not quite so good as the Soulfly, but Method 51 is not too far behind). Quality work.


    Method of Destruction-see M.O.D.


    Methuselah Jones
    Methuselah Jones
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Grand, epochal statements in the folk-rock tradition. You know, like 10,000 Maniacs. A lot like 10,000 Maniacs, actually. And while Methuselah Jones quite competently executes the concept, there's really not much of a new spin on the subject.

    That's really the my deal, and I seem to be repeating myself this issue. I just don't understand starting a band if you're not going try and create your own way of playing. Doing this is real close to playing in a cover band, which at least has the virtue of being a decent-paying gig.

    This disc is well-produced, and the playing is first rate. Hell, the songs are nicely crafted, with plenty of room for emotional release. All of that is great. It's just that I can't shake the notion of having heard them before. I haven't, but it really feels like that.

    I know, I know, folks will throw my advocacy of "soundalike" punk bands in my face. Probably a fair complaint. All I can say is that I don't hear anything here which makes me want to delve deeper into the sound. Nothing new to these ears.


    Metropolitan
    Down for You Is Up
    (Crank Automotive)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    I'm beginning to think that the 80s ideal of "indie rock" is starting to manifest itself again. Metropolitan has that feel, though there's a definite emo sheen to the guitars and a restrained quality to the writing that is much more, um, modern (I guess).

    It's just that these songs don't sound like they're working very hard. Sure, there's a little noodling here and there, but mostly the stuff is straightforward and basic. A little fuzz in the guitar. The occasional backbeat.

    I dunno. That works for me. Nothing pretentious or overbearing, just solid songs performed with a minimum of flair. I have a feeling the three members of Metropolitan walk out on stage, play their songs and walk off. Workmanlike and impressively so.

    Sometimes the music is enough. Like on this album. No need for any flash or hype. Metropolitan simply plays good music. That's all.


    MF Doom
    Mm..Food
    (Rhymesayers)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    MF Doom may play in the fields of hip-hop, but the real star here is the way he puts his songs together. There's a real pop-meets-electronica to the songs...anyone remember MC 900 Foot Jesus and DJ Zero? Right. These songs aren't quite as joke-laden, but they do have a similar collage style.

    Of course, a lot of these songs are damned funny. MF Doom leavens his humor with serious asides (and vice versa), which gives this album a sort of worldly feel.

    I'm not sure exactly what audience this album is supposed to attract. It isn't a traditional hip-hop set at all, it's a bit silly for the taste of your average beat junkie. In a lot of ways, the disc doesn't really fit in anywhere. Which is probably why I dig it.

    A weird, goofy little snack. And, hey, it's also a fairly warped concept album...and the concept is, indeed, food. There's a lot lying beneath the surface. Take your time uncovering it all.


    Michael
    The Day After My Confidence
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    Back in the dark ages (the late 80s), there was this relatively obscure movement that favored contemplative rock music. Galaxie 500 is perhaps the best-known (and probably dreariest) of these bands. Later acts such as Seam and (at times) June of 44 kinda took the thoughtful elements of this sound and fused it with stylish and adventurous music. Michael follows in those footsteps quite nicely.

    Most of the songs here build to a loud, but not quick, climax. Michael likes to use particular references to drive home an idea. For example, the band isn't above using grange-like rives to make a point, but only for effect. The song construction and general feel don't fit into any neat category.

    The sound is dull, as if all the rough edges have been buffed away. There's a muted shine to these songs, something decidedly anti-climactic, even when the pot bubbles over. Indeed, the sound is almost ironic (is that possible? Maybe not) at times.

    One of those albums that sneaks up on you. There are few high points on this disc; all of the songs are uniformly good, though they are hardly carbon copies of each other. There's an unsettled, restless feel that runs through each of the songs, an edge underneath the smooth patina. I think that's what I like best of all.


    James Michael
    Inhale
    (Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    The sort of thick, overblown power pop that has kinda lost favor in the last year or so. At least, I'm not hearing nearly as much of the stuff, which means that maybe it is, indeed ready to hit the mainstream.

    James Michael channels Cheap Trick as much as anything else, and that's a pretty good way to start. He doesn't particularly sound like Nielsen, etc., but that's just more of a feel thing for me.

    Michael does overdo the layered vocals on the choruses just a bit. His guitar sound is thick enough to carry the hooks. But hell, I can forgive a little youthful exuberance.

    And I can also forgive some overreaching in the writing department. Not everything Michael sings about is earthshattering, but he does have a bit of the anthemitis going on. Not enough to drag the disc down, however. Nope. A bit too much of the good times going on to do that.


    Micro Mini
    Heir Apparent 7"
    (Collective Fruit)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Three tunes in that Everclear pop mode, but trending to a kinda dull sound (a real danger in this are, to be sure).

    Kinda bouncy, but the songs have a throw-away feel that is hard to shake. I mean, slacking off is one thing, and mellow pop is another, but it's hard to do both at the same time without sounding really boring. Micro Mini doesn't quite make it out of the pit.

    Sweet and kinda charming, but I just can't get revved up for Micro Mini. I need just a bit more intensity or enthusiasm or something.


    Microstar
    Samples!
    (Pony Canyon)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    I think I got this from the friendly folks at Big Fish. By the time it got put in the review pile, etc., I lost all the accompanying info. Anyways, this is Japanese pop, somewhere between Dutch hardcore techno and Abba. Light as air, but just about as tasty as spun sugar.

    I think this is just a promo sampler (there's six tracks, and it's not packaged like an album), but what's here is pretty cool. Now, perhaps a person in Japan who didn't know much about American pop might say the same thing about Hanson or Britney Spears, but hell.

    Yes, there is excess production. This is almost syrupy. But once something gets so cheesy, it gains its own authenticity. Kinda like Abba, see?

    Oh, hell, whatever. I like it, despite the rather calculated way that it is cranked out. Just some anonymous Japanese woman singing Western melodic lines over 70s-style pop. There is room for that in my life. I don't know about you.


    Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak
    Hand Over Fist
    (Doomtree)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    Harking back to the days when hip-hip was about rapping, Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak tear through 13 tracks full of slamming beats and plenty of honest-to-God rhymes.

    Don't get me wrong. The whole hip-hop as an alternative version of pop music is interesting. Or it can be, in the right hands. A lot of the time, though, MCs seem to simply be speaking prose over tired samples and grating vocals. This is not the case here.

    Lazerbeak goes back to the rock, throwing plenty of guitars and noise into his beatwork. He's certainly a fan of the Bomb Squad, but there's a deftness and subtlety to his work that sets it apart. This is one fun album to simply experience. Mictlan, likewise, is a born rapper. Don't know if he's got stage presence or the sort of personality that sells a video. But he knows how to spin rhymes and keep listeners glued to the speakers.

    Yeah, this is a lot more 1989 than 2009. And hey, I'm a geezer. That's just fine with me. There's some serious power here.


    Middle States
    Happy Fun Party
    (Effen)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    Tight, well-crafted pop tunes that are played with abandon. If there's a better way to make me smile, I just can't think of it right now.

    Middle States simply blaze through this material, sometimes so quickly that I think something might have been left out. Certainly, the production sound is strikingly primitive. Don't know exactly how these guys accomplished such a demo-ish sound in this day and age, but it does add a certain charm.

    And it also adds to that rushed feeling. I'd like to tell these guys to take a break. Chill for a moment and let the songs settle. This is great stuff, and I can't imagine why there was any great rush to set it to tape. Then again, there's the side of me that likes a bit of the harried.

    When I sent my brain away for a holiday, I had a great time. Those nagging thoughts are just that. There's room for improvement, but this is one serious calling card. Keep an ear out for these boys.


    Midget Handjob
    Midnight Snack Break at the Poodle Factory
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    And now for something completely different. Some of the geezers out there might recall the work of John S. Hall (of King Missile) and Kramer (ace producer and Bongwater dude). Strange musical wanderings topped off by Hall's inimitable delivery of songs about circle jerks and other amusing situations.

    Midget Handjob plys the same waters, though both the music and the voice are somewhat more normal. The subjects and the situations, however, are at least as unsettling.

    These aren't so much songs as performances. The real star is the audaciousness of the lyrics, and I know that's something of a novelty. After a while, nothing's shocking, you know? But then, there's always the music in the background, a clamorous set of sax-driven pieces that have plenty to recommend all on their own.

    No one's really trying to do anything like this these days. If for that and no other reason, Midget Handjob deserves kudos. Of course, there's a whole lot more. Dive in headfirst.


    Midnight Syndicate
    Born of the Night
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    This disc is being marketed as a Halloween special effects disc as much as anything else, which is something of a disservice to the band. This is gothic soundscape, not quite as dark as the standard Cold Meat Industry disc, but pretty cool nonetheless.

    Well, except for the voiceovers, which come off as a bit cheesy. The music is bit too bright to overcome the silliness of the vocals. I prefer my spooky music to be a bit more mysterious. Midnight Syndicate is more classically oriented, using power in the bass clef to indicate evil, and that works fine, too. Just not my preference.

    The compositions themselves are nicely complex and well-structured. And those voiceovers don't occur too often. I do wish the band had either used more samples (for a fuller soundscape) or cut back the scope of the songs (again, to lend mystery). But honestly, these are minor quibbles. It's a matter of degree, and mostly, a matter of taste.

    This disc is much better than some Halloween special. It should (and does) stand alone on its own gothic merits.


    Realm of Shadows
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Not as gloomy as most gothic soundmeisters, Midnight Syndicate nonetheless has crafted some intricate tunes. What is lacking in doom is more than made up in compositional craft.

    Yeah, some of the stuff does veer into the martial or new age areas from time to time, but these pieces are well-grounded in musical theory. They may not be ultimate goth, but they're solid tunes.

    I suppose there are arguments both ways. This is, indeed, goth music for the non-goth fan. I myself would prefer the stuff to delve a little deeper. But it's hard to overly criticize something that has been shaped so well.

    Good work. Not great, perhaps, but certainly fine enough to merit praise.


    Gates of Delirium
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Midnight Syndicate has a flair for the dramatic. So it only makes sense that the duo would finally put together a sort of "dark opera." Sort of because this is mainly instrumental fare, and what vocals exist are used as instruments rather than to convey lyrics.

    But since these guys are practiced at the art of using music to create effect, that's no problem. The general plot of the story is apparent by the mood and colors of the songs, and the listener should feel free to add in the details as he or she wishes.

    That's what I did, anyway. More fun, in a way. Also, that made me dig deeper into the stuff than I might have otherwise. It's a little easier to zone out and really get lost. And that's exactly what I did.

    Compelling without getting overwrought. Just solid, spooky fare with a story to tell. Use it as the soundtrack for you next Halloween party. Or travel through this haunted house any time you like.


    The 13th Hour
    (Entity)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    These guys have been making gothic soundscapes for almost as long as I've been writing A&A. They're one of the best at creating full-orchestrated music full of doom and terror, and this album is as spooky as any. The perfect music for giving a scare to anyone who might need one.


    Midnightmare
    Blood and Oil
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #11, 4/15/92

    Commercial enough to get some play on KSHE in St. Louis, Midnightmare's sound wanders around the Queensryche/Maiden lines with solid guitar work and strong melodic vocals.

    The production is rather muddy, but a follow-up full-length album is promised soon, so perhaps that problem will be rectified. The band has also changed its line-up substantically, so any new recordings would be rather interesting.


    Midsummer
    This Ageless Night split LP with Coastal
    (SunSeaSky)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    I'm familiar with Coastal from an album on Words on Music a couple years back. Like the folks a lot. Midsummer is new to my ears, and I'm simply blown away.

    Contemplative rock is something of an undercurrent in a wide variety of scenes. It's always been around, but most folks don't seem to notice it. Like Coastal, Midsummer reminds me a lot of Seam and other similar bands. Thing is, these folks really give the sound a big rush. Kinda like if Three Mile Pilot channeled its tangents into sweeping themes instead. Yep, this stuff is pretty damned great.

    And lest I jilt the band I came with, Coastal's five pieces don't let me down. I had an idea of what to expect, and for the most part these songs exceed my premonitions. Coastal is much more minimalist than Midsummer, and that makes for a nice counterpoint to the second half of the album. A loosening of the tensions without actually lessening the train of thought.

    A fine pairing, and a fine album. These are two bands that have moved past "potential" and are beginning to deliver. Thoughtful music that is strikingly moving as well.


    Midway
    Poole Hall Sessions EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Working hard to find the hooks, Midway slogs through a set of roots rock anthems without quite capturing that one, true chorus.

    And if I'm going to sit through AOR 101, I'd better get a nice kick at the end. Midway knows how to put the pieces together. They've studied hard, and the craftsmanship shows. But the songs fall apart just when they should coalesce. Doughnuts.

    The most important part of this kinda thing is the hook. And Midway dances all about without getting terribly close to a good one. Oh, the playing is quite nice, and the sound much better than your average self-released disc. It's just that the music is far too mundane.


    Mig
    Tongues
    (Urlinie)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Oh so very electronic. All sorts of sounds thrown over generic beats used in some unconventional ways. Very much influenced by Kraftwerk, with a terribly sterile sound. And yet, astonishingly vibrant and alive.

    A nice little dichotomy for me to puzzle out. The unusual song constructions help to make the otherwise ordinary rhythms sound fresh and inviting. There is a heavy reliance on samples, which leads to a Vampire Rodents sound from time to time.

    And maybe that's what I'm reacting to. In any case, boy do I like this. Fresh, playful and inventive. And considering what Mig uses as a starting point, that's pretty amazing.

    Whoa, now. Mig is one of those wonderfully experimental acts which doesn't hit you over the head with how "out there" it is. Instead, like the frogs in the water, the music keeps creeping out over the edge, and it's only when the trip is finished that I realized how far out I was. Impressive and inspiring.


    Miggs
    Anyway
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Seeing as my formative years came in the 1980s, I have something of a tolerance (okay, an affection) for the AOR pop-rock of that time. You know what I'm talking about: Everything from 38 Special to Night Ranger to Huey Lewis. Etc.

    When those bands were good (and they were, sometimes), they played well-crafted rock full of rich hooks and nice guitar work. Miggs has all that, and manages to update the sound as well.

    So there are jangle-pop references and even the occasional syncopated back beat. Mostly, though, this is precisely what arena rock is supposed to be: Tuneful, heartfelt and just a little shiny.

    I'll admit it: When Night Ranger rolled through town last summer on the Ribfest circuit, I went. I didn't hold up a lighter when the boys lit into "Sister Christian," but I had a good time. A real good time. Miggs does this sound oh-so-well, and these boys even know enough to add a few nice tricks. Very cool.


    The Mighty Fine
    In Revival
    (Solidarity)
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    Good to know that there are some good old hardworking melodic punk bands around these days. Sure, Against Me still flies the flag, but the ranks seem to have thinned in recent years.

    Which is probably why I like the full-throated roar of this album so much. I'm a sucker for power chords and hooks, and if you add in some serious heavy riffage I'm pretty much ready to blow.

    So, you know, the Mighty Fine do quite well by me. These songs blaze no new ground, and the lyrics are somewhat stock. Who cares? They move with a rugged power that simply melts my ears.

    Yes, I know, I'm a whore for this kinda stuff. But hearing this album has brought me so much joy that I simply cannot deny it. Lovely.


    Mighty Mighty Bosstones
    More Noise and Other Disturbances
    (Taang!)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    I've been crazy about these guys since one of our music directors took me to their show at CMJ. I shoulda noticed sooner. While their 5" of last fall was pretty cool, this album is much better. First, the songs here are written with that hot horn section in mind. And the guys really know how to pen great tunes.

    The heaviest songs take advantage of those horns, adding depth and texture to the bass and guitar. Dicky Barrett's gruff vocals keep the hard-core ska sound rolling right along. What more can I say?

    Well, this is one of my favorite albums so far this year. It's perfect for a party or just a little headbanging on the side. Don't pass this by.


    A Jacknife to a Swan
    (Side One Dummy)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    I haven't paid much attention to the Bosstones lately. I don't know if it was a return to the indie ranks or what, but the quality of stuff here makes me wonder whether I was missing something after all. The best I've heard from these boys since the Taang! days.


    The Migration
    Usually Destroyed
    (Subspace Platform)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Punchy fuzz-pop with a delightful undertow. Another take on that old AOR theme, this time with processed harmonies and somewhat unusual chord changes. Well, that and no anthems as such. Which would make this almost Cars-meets-Steely Dan, I guess.

    Actually, I like that reference a lot. These guys have buffed up their sound to an extreme shine, and I get the feeling they want to really get somewhere. And why shouldn't there be room for a sound like this?

    Why not, indeed? I like the way the parts are assembled in such a crafted manner. Once the theme has been set, it's set, but within that structure all sorts of interesting things happen. There always seems to be about one more sound than I was expecting.

    Which might be the band's downfall, at least as far as major label interest goes. These guys are actually good, and they show little need to dumb down their sound to gain acceptance. Of course, you new know what cold hard cash can do for that silly thing known as "artistic integrity." Here's hoping these boys stick to their guns, wherever they roam.


    Mikah 9
    Timetable
    (MeanStreet)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    A wide-ranging collection of freestyle rap. About half of the pieces here were recorded live at various times from 1990 to the present. And it's those live, fresh performances that drive this disc.

    Mikah 9 is not a particularly disciplined rhymer. This makes the studio tracks sound messy and somewhat stilted. On the other hand, while on stage he plays with the medium, scatting and kicking his tongue around whatever beat might be around. He's in his element when thinking on his feet.

    So even while the sound is occasionally dreadful on those true freestyle tracks, the energy is so much higher. Those pieces just leap out of my stereo. The studio work is fine, but not nearly as arresting.

    Left with such a schizophrenic effort as this, I've just gotta praise the parts that get me off. Mikah 9 is incendiary live. Sometimes the studio tracks come close, but they never match his live style.


    Mikey Jukebox
    Mikey Jukebox
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Mikey Jukebox would be Mikey James, a Rochester, N.Y., musician who rips his way through more pop sounds than the last ten years of Brit pop.

    There are plenty of overdubs, but this sounds more like some sort of complex pop act than the usual idiosyncratic one-man effort. And despite a large number of performers, this is most definitely the work of one Mikey James.

    You do have to like jaunty, snotty pop music. More Joe Jackson than New Pornographers (though it's not hard to hear both--often in the same song). If he had a band, I figure James might eventually trend along Elvis Costello lines. Or maybe not. He's got a pure pop heart. And those are hard to find.

    Brilliant. A bit brittle, perhaps, but brilliant nonetheless. If this doesn't get you off your ass, call an ambulance.


    Mil Mulliganos
    Flavor Country Firefight
    (Corn Chopper)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Just another Chicago power pop band. Reminds me a lot of Judge Nothing, except that these guys are way too young to have been a part of that. No matter. I'll just have to describe my wonderment in other ways.

    The vocals shimmer. Just like a transcendent guitar lick. When the hooks hit the right moment, the vocals take on a sparkly quality. You know what that does for a power pop song? It's like chocolate chip pancakes (with lots of whipped cream) at the IHOP.

    In case you were wondering, that is a good thing. Anyway, Mil Mulliganos can not only craft hooks that would make a confectioner drool, the boys have a enough wherewithal to drag in a few eclectic pop influences, reminding me at times of (let me cross myself first) the Wrens.

    In all, a rather stunning record. As this puppy keeps spinning, my amazement mounts. It's really not fair that such young guys should have this much of a handle on music like this. Oh well. I won't complain further. I'll just turn up the volume and lock down the repeat button.


    Mild Mannered
    Believeland
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    The evolution of a duo better known as Starberry, Mild Mannered is a husband and wife from Cleveland who recruited Tim Parnin (Cobra Verde guitarist, among other things) to fill things out.

    I can't speak to who is filling what, but these jangle-rock songs are solid and filling. Jennifer Casa's vocals are strong and expressive, selling these off-the-rack songs with aplomb.

    What I'm saying is that Mild Mannered does not travel far out to sea. These are basic songs, but they're performed with such style and energy that they're transformed from merely engaging to truly infectious.

    There must be a million bands like this out there. Mild Mannered doesn't do anything special, but it does nothing special really, really well. The perfect top-down album for summer, even if those months are largely past.


    Robert Miles
    23am
    (Deconstruction-Arista)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    A not-unfamiliar mix of the ambient, electro-pop and techno, Robert Miles is an Italian DJ who achieved notoriety for his reaction against a PMRC-like group in his home nation. The song, "Children", was a big European hit and even made a few waves over here.

    23am is at its best when the music is left to its own devices. Most of the vocals are ethereal chant-like bits anyway, used more as instruments. But when a real song breaks out, well, that's where Miles's music reverts to a base club level. It's not bad at all, but not nearly as satisfying as the more complex skill he shoes elsewhere.

    Fans of the Orb might well say "They did this years ago". Those folks would be right. But very few acts (other than that collective of talent) have been able to so succinctly fuse a wide range of electronic forms and still retain a sense of personal vision. Miles does that almost effortlessly, it seems.

    Perhaps this isn't as groundbreaking as the press seems to think, but Miles has a touch and feel for this music that I haven't heard in a quite a while. A nice take on the moodier side of the electronic spectrum.


    Milkmine
    Super M 7"
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    Apocalyptic ramblings in the familiar Chi-town vein. STR-style p.a. vocals add to the chaos.

    Everything sounds real cool to me. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing (as my other reviews might mention). But that doesn't mean it's not good anyway.

    How about a full-length, guys?


    Braille...
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Perhaps the first album mixed in a blender, or maybe it just sounds that way. There is a huge wall of distortion that individual instruments and the vocals fail to pierce regularly.

    Believe it or not, this reminds me of a low-tech Killdozer (or early Melvins). I didn't think it was possible, but these things occur when you push the edges of musical existence.

    Very simply put, a god-awful racket, and of course, I love it to death. Brutal in its disregard for music, Milkmine redefines what was originally known as grunge. This might very well kill you.


    Millencolin
    Life on a Plate
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    Proof that that the Epitaph ideal is now a world-wide phenomenon. Millencolin is a Swedish quartet that oozes and ahs almost as well as classic Bad Religion (or at least Pennywise).

    They not only know the style, they have the chops and songwriting skills to create lean, mean tuneful pop-punk tunes. Positively addictive. Play this and then the new Bad Religion, and you'll realize how far the mighty have fallen.

    Okay, so the lyrics are sorta silly. This is simply fun music. Gonna bitch? I think not.

    Damned exciting music. Not to repeat myself, but upon listening to the new BR, I wondered why I ever thought those guys were the total embodiment of cool. The album was lame. And now Millencolin spells it all out to me: desire and energy.

    Anyone who claims to like pop punk stuff (and certainly any of the Epitaphile minions out there) will go bezerk upon hearing this. Nothing could be so simple, and yet very few have reached this standard.
    My heart is racing; my pulse weak. Gotta hit repeat again.


    For Monkeys
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Perhaps a tad heavier (the guys are a year older), Millencolin returns with another set of astonishingly catchy punk tunes. Once again engineered by Dan Swano (is there nothing musical in Sweden he doesn't touch?), this album may have a bad pun for a title, but the music is pure bliss.

    In trying to explain to a few folks how much I like Millencolin, the general response is "Yeah, but it's just poppy stuff." Yep. And I can't think of many folks who do it better. Think cranking out this sort of peppy punk (overladen with great hooks) is easy? Yeah, you try.

    Perhaps most importantly, For Monkeys proves that Millencolin is no fluke. Yeah, I know that Life on a Plate was just their first U.S. album, not their first album in general, but still. After all the hype and exposure, the boys are beginning to escape their teenage years and still can write cool music. A good sign

    In short, nothing short of awesome. I had high expectations, and this fulfilled them. With a little extra whipped cream on top.


    Blake Miller
    Together with Cats
    (Exit Stencil)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    There are eccentric solo projects, and then there's this. Blake Miller seems to want to play just about every type of music that's been even vaguely popular in the last century or so, and even more astonishingly, he does it pretty well.

    That description is something of an exaggeration. The mode here is pop, though it gets awfully wiggy much of the time. The opening track, "Sinners," is as baleful a rural blues wail as you could want to find. The songs that follow take a minimalist approach to everything from shimmer pop to, well, stuff even I couldn't quite identify.

    The key to this sort of obsessive endeavor is to stay focused. It sounds to me like Miller recorded this himself, dubbing his own vocals and whatever extra noises he deemed necessary. The sound, then, is increasingly spooky or creepy, depending on your feeling toward this sort of thing. I felt both, and I liked that.

    The obvious touchstones are Daniel Johnston or Jad Fair or Simon Joyner or any of the other obsessive minimalists of the last couple decades or so. Miller does seem to want to be a bit more mainstream than those, and he's also got better chops, but in the end, this project is for those who appreciate the unappreciated genius. For the record, Blake Miller is my kinda guy.


    Roger Miller
    Oh.
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    Not the King of the Road, but No Man. Got it?
    This is a re-issue of a 1988 album, and it is, shall we say, eclectic. He covers a Sun-Ra song, and that's about the most commercial track on the disc. I think that says it all.

    If you're a fan of Henry Kaiser and other experimental guitarists, you should dig right in. This is a land of misplaced riffs, sprawling distortion and jumbled lyrics.

    You ask: But does it work? For me, anyway. You might remember Roger and his brothers put out a disc on New Alliance under the name M-3. Just as out there, and I listen to that all the time.
    Challenging, and ultimately rewarding.


    Elemental Guitar
    (SST)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Rather than being meticulously eclectic, like Henry Kaiser or Richard Thompson, Roger Miller (No Man, not the King of the Road) is more conceptually eclectic.

    He performs all instruments and voices on the disc, but most everything is wave upon wave of guitar, crashing in breakers of distortion and wild effects.

    Instead of hiding behind technology, though, Miller uses the tools at his disposal to create his own world, a method of conveying his dreams, nightmares and realities.

    The masochists out there might call this pop music, and certainly some of the compositions lean that way (and Miller himself is well-versed in the form). But I'd prefer to call this just a Roger Miller album. That pretty much sums up the experience, and will satisfy those in the know. Miller has been creating exquisitely discordant music for years, and Elemental Guitar is but one more stop on a long journey.


    (Roger Miller's Exquisite Corpse)
    Unfold (advance cassette)
    (SST)
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94 Anyone who can describe what Roger Miller does in three sentences isn't doing him justice. This is wild and exciting.

    See also M-3.


    Steve Million
    Million to One
    (Palmetto)
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    Sometimes piano jazz is not an epithet (though I've used it that way, too). Steve Million may play piano, but he is wise enough to give his quintet plenty of leeway (and if you have the likes of Randy Brecker sitting in, you would too) to find just the right expression for the particular piece in question.

    Million is also a member of Monk's Dream, and the Monk tune "Boo Boo's Dream" is presented on the disc. Overall, the sound is quite reminiscent of those in and around the bop scene of the 50s, with plenty of other influences as well. This is no playing-to-the-masses project.

    Just plain good jazz. What a wonderfully vague statement for a truly singular album. Million and cohorts have recreated (through talent, work, production equipment and other things) the sound and feel of some of those classic recordings that I've been jamming lately (lots of Coltrane on Impulse! and Atlantic recently surfaced at the local cool record store). Anyone with an appreciation of jazz that has more going for it than an easy beat and simple melody will get off on Steve Million.


    Thanks a Million
    (Palmetto)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    Steve Million could easily have given in and made this album a happy-jazz toss-off. On the surface, it's easy to hear many of the rhythmic references that made (and makes) lounge music so annoying. But instead of dumbing down, Million takes the baseline and continuously expands his musical ideas until he has full fleshed out whatever notion troubled him at the start.

    The piano is Million's instrument, but he lets his sides (including Ron Vincent, Chris Potter, Michael Moore and Randy Brecker) take their fair shots at his compositions as well.

    In fact, this flexibility in arranging and songwriting is what makes Million's work so impressive. The only song in this collection he didn't write is the title track, which extends his streak of bad cliches for album names. Good thing he doesn't write lyrics, I guess.

    Of course, the playing here more than obliterates the need for words. Million and his mates seem comfortable whatever style they're playing, and that easy feeling translates into a wonderfully smooth sound that isn't cloying in the least. It's nice to hear a mainstream jazz album that doesn't pander to the masses.


    Million Dollar Marxists
    Million Dollar Marxists
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Bass-heavy, bouncy, melodic hardcore. From Van--I mean, Ottawa. These boys were raised on a steady diet of D.O.A., Ramones and other classic heavy pop. And when I say heavy, I mean it. The low end here is astounding.

    Complicated? Um, no. Three chords and a bottle of beer. That's it. The lyrics are decent enough, though decidedly throwaway. As long as they don't get in the way of the bruising melodies, they've done their job. And to be fair, they're better than that.

    I might have mentioned the thick, thick, thick sound. Even the guitar sound is round, without any treble tinniness. This album was engineered for power, and it delivers.

    Gets the blood pounding, it does. If there's other criteria I should be considering, I can't imagine what they might be. Million Dollar Marxists, they of the too clever by half name, know just how to deliver one tight load.


    The Millions NE
    Poison Fish re-issue
    (Randy's Alternative Music)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/17/13

    These are the unused songs from the 1990 M Is for Millions sessions. That album wasn't a hit for Polygram, though the Millions were (and remain) legendary among midwestern pop fans of a certain age. The production is quite dated (in that distinctive "just-before-Nirvana" way), but the songs retain some bite. I loved the Millions way back when, and Lori Allison remains one of the great alt-pop voices. A pleasant bit of reminiscing.


    Mind Flux Funeral
    Birthmark
    (Doppler Effect)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    It's kinda rare that reviews fit together this well, particularly when the originating labels are almost half a world apart. Mind Flux Funeral hails from just outside Chicago (though the label is near Portland), and it runs through much the same hardcore electronic terrain as ATR. MFF is at once more stark and somewhat more eclectic in its sound.

    The beats, in particular, change tempo much more often. But there is rarely a hint of melody, simply hiss and percussive impact. The thing is, it works just about as well.

    Perhaps just a touch of the ambient mixed in with the hardcore. An almost minuscule touch. Enough to provide a wonderful flavor. MFF has the sound down well enough to tweak it in many places, leaving a most impressive set of songs.

    Tight and highly-regulated, but with plenty of side trips. Work of the highest order, with hints of even more greatness to come in the future.


    Mind Over Four
    Halfway Down
    (Restless)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    "She walked in the room..."

    Those were the first words I heard from Mind Over Four, from some song on side two of their self-titled album on Destiny Records. "Black Dahlia", "Black Orchid", I don't remember the name. That album is impossible to find; I played the tune in my days at KCOU.

    Their last, The Goddess, was one of the best albums of 1990 (was it that long ago?). I remember it finished at #100 in the CMJ Top 100 of the year.

    The buzz on this album should preclude such a travesty now. The music, what I like to call heavy fusion, has never been better or tighter. And the lyrics almost make sense (a little metaphor is a good thing).

    While many bands like to draw on all kinds of music, when they put it together it seems all herky-jerky. But Mind Over Four mix every kind of beat and style imaginable and it sounds seamless. More like amazing.

    It seems everyone is talking about how incredible Halfway Down is. Like it is the best album of the year or something.

    They just might be right.


    Empty Hands
    (Fierce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    And yes, Mind Over Four has changed labels once again.

    The band that for almost 10 years has been making people think twice about dismissing loud music as mere puerile rantings is back. And with an album that is as strong as any in the past. With a few caveats.

    In the past, Mind Over Four has put out albums that predict the coming wave of metal manias. They did grunge before Seattle figured it out. The Goddess has some stunning industrial moments. On this disc, Spike and the boys try a few new things, but these ideas are mostly new to this band. The sampling and beatsmith techniques are unusual, to be sure, but such attempts are common these days, even if Mind Over Four does them to stunning effect.

    This is not an album that predicts the future, but even with my reservations I have to admit it may well be the most cohesive and attractive Mind Over Four album ever. That these guys deserve some recognition, fame and monetary success for what they have contributed to loud music is obvious. And that they "sell-out" (the quotes here denote sarcasm) with an awesome album is just another testament to the greatness of the band. Mind Over Four may not be the biggest selling loud band in history, but it probably is the best.

    See also Humble Gods.


    Mind Riot
    Peak
    (Godhead-Flying)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Eclectic doesn't begin to tell the story. Mind Riot merges about every idea wandering around hard rock circles these days with plenty more.

    You might get a grungy tune with goth overtones ("Ballerinas") or a tune with a grinding core, progressive melody and chord structure and female vocals popping in and out ("For the Spirit"). And those are just the first two songs (in reverse order).

    Each of the eight songs do sound somewhat related, but Mind Riot tries to make each song its own world unto itself. While this makes it difficult to identify a Mind Riot sound, the musical philosophy is easily discernible. Anything can be good music.

    This is the strangest album I've heard in some time. I haven't a clue where (figuratively) the band is coming from. But there is more than enough here to keep me interested. I've never been one to shy away from weird music and I'm happy to embrace Mind Riot.


    Mindfunk
    Goddess CD5
    (Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    The lead track from the appropriately-named Dropped is more of the sound that made them college metal darlings (and sales pariahs).

    Actually, I thought they had a couple of catchy songs on their Epic record, especially "Sugar Ain't So Sweet." This is heavy, grinding grunge. Trying to be artsy at times. It holds hope for the full-length. From the basis of you folk's reports, though, it's already a hit.


    Dropped
    (Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    Their debut on Epic sounded rather stiff, almost forced. Like they were sqeezed into something they didn't want to do. Like they were just another metal band on a major label.

    The addition of Jason Everman on guitar has added a hint of that Seattle sound. Hell, they actually slow things up at times.

    And it just sounds a whole lot better. I still think that they compromise quality for volume at times, but as sins go, that's a quick penance.

    The more I listen, the more this sounds like the album Soundgarden should have recorded last time out. It's more interesting and not quite so dumb conceptually. And with songs like "Zootiehead", I begin to get the idea Mindfunk don't take themselves too seriously. A very good sign.


    Mindhorse
    In the Night Kitchen
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Well-produced stuff, lying somewhere in the glam universe with a touch of King's X harmony and general feel.

    Nothing particularly exciting about his one, however. Good, not great.


    Mindrot
    Forlorn
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Three tracks of total doom. This reminds me a lot of Candlemass turned up to 11.

    Not much really going on here, as Mindrot seems to just be treading water musically most of the time. If you really get into that "witches brew" sound of swirling guitars and no motion for minutes at a time, you might dig this. But not me.

    Just too much wanking around for my taste. The guys can obviously play, and the production is quite bright and punchy, which lends an odd feel to the sound that I do like. If the full-length contains more songs like "Dreaded Light", the third (and best) track, then perhaps that will redeem Mindrot in my eyes.


    Dawning
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    One thing I've learned in four years: never trust an EP from a Relapse or Nuclear Blast band. They are quite often substandard and uninteresting. I cite Pyogenesis, Benediction and Mindrot as the most obvious examples. Sure, there's the odd cool Deceased or Meshuggah thing, but the usual pattern is dreadful EP, cool album.

    And that certainly hold up here. Matt called up a couple weeks ago to assure me this album had the goods, and I told him I'd be sure to give an impartial listen. THIS IS NOT THE SAME GODDAMNED BAND!!!!

    Just had to get that off my chest. Dawning is a wondrous trip through all that is cool about the doom/death movement. And sometimes things get so cool Thin White Rope is recalled (check out "Burden" for that).

    Wildly atmospheric and operatic, Mindrot pulls off this audacious attempt with ease. The songs are lovingly crafted into mini-symphonies of darkness, and the performance and production leave nothing to chance. Even the tracks reprised from the EP (which I didn't like) sound much better here. Perhaps there is something to that musical context idea.

    Man, I really love this album.


    Minefield
    Decomposition: Reinventing Minefield
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Four songs from Minefield's After the Ball EP go under the knife, and these 10 remixes emerged. I generally don't get off on remix albums, but this one works for me.

    Dead Poets Society, Karl Mohr, Soviet Radio, Cryptomnesia and Soy Futura did the slicing, and what's impressive is how different the interpretations are. Perhaps that's why this collection impresses so much. Creativity unleashed can be fearsome, indeed.

    The intent behind this, of course, is to put a larger spotlight on Minefield. Judging by the sounds here, that would be a good thing. There aren't many ethereal industrial goth acts around (that's my description, not the band's), and I'd say these folks are among the best. Quite an impressive set.


    Mineral
    The Power of Falling
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Cool punk-pop (or emo-core, if you prefer that designation). Distortion-laden hooks with nice guitar lines. Crank has found a veritable gold mine of these acts.

    And Mineral keeps the standard held high. While not deviating much from the formula (spare guitar riff, add hoarse vocals, add bass and drums, build to a climax; start all over again), these "pizza guys gone rock" do seem to have a good handle on the concept.

    This is one of those albums I like a lot, but I have no idea what else to say. If you like this sort of sound (and it is hip these days), you'll love the way Mineral bends the songs. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, you've heard of Jawbox, right? Them folks (along with the Treepeople, I guess) are the progenitors of this sound.

    Sorry to get sidetracked. This is a cool album. Nice noise, keeps me happy. Wish I could say more. Good albums sometimes handcuff whatever meager writing talent I have. Would that I could do better.


    Mineral
    Jimmy Eat World
    Sense Field

    split 7"
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Mineral kicks this fine set off with an astonishing cover of the well-worn torch song "Crazy". If you think this song has already been interpreted to its full extent, you simply must hear this rendition. The finely-honed guitar lead (which is nothing more than barely-controlled distortion) sets the tone, and the rest follows. A real stunner.

    Jimmy Eat World impresses, as always, with "Secret Crush". The sound is a bit messed up because the compression necessary to fit this song and the Sense Field tune on the same side, but the song itself is a great emo raveup. Highest quality.

    And thus Sense Field brings up the rear with "Every Reason", one of its better efforts. The excessive punch that is often imposed upon the band's songs is toned down just enough (though it could be that compression thing, again) to let the song breathe.

    Beg, borrow or steal to get this slab of joy. Some of the best emo talent around with three great songs. Where to go wrong?


    EndSerenading.
    (Crank)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Occasionally, an album released by a small label gets so much attention that the band is besieged by mega-bucks offers and promised years and years of superstardom by the men in the suits. Mineral has been living that life since the release of The Power of Falling almost three years ago.

    While not stupid enough to reject the brass ring, Mineral is releasing one more album on Crank before hitting the big big time with Interscope. Personally, I wish the guys big fat wads of luck. The band is one of the premier emo act, and the extremely sparse sound is increasingly unusual in the genre. I'm not complaining one whit. No, I'm very happy to hear this puppy.

    Indeed, if not for the greatness of bands like Mineral, emo would have died a quick death. Thousands of kids wouldn't have been inspired to take up guitar and sling introspective lyrics and hardcore pop song construction together in such amazing ways. And life as we know it would consist of lots of Silverchair clones. Eeew.

    Oh, yeah, this album is really great. I've got to start addressing the business at hand quicker. The songs are more haunting and more accomplished than ever. The artistic, if not financial, future of Mineral sounds sound to me. Definitely one of the most important albums of the year.


    Ming and Ping
    mingping.com
    (Monotone-Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Twins from San Francisco who absolutely adore the danceable side of new wave. Dead or Alive, Erasure, New Order, early-OMD ("Tesla Girls," etc.), that sort of thing. Keyboard and sequencer-driven songs, melodies that soar with simple grace. Ah, takes me back to high school.

    Yeah, I've got a 20th reunion in a couple years. I'm that old. And I remember when this sort of music kinda bubbled beneath the surface pabulum of the mid-80s. Billy Ocean may have been a big star, but there was a lot of great stuff that didn't quite get the airplay. Even now, I'm still discovering some hidden treasures from that period.

    Ming and Ping don't appear old enough to have been listening to the radio (or buying LPs) back in 1983, but they've obviously steeped themselves in the sounds of the time. These songs are jaunty, loopy blurts of joy. I don't know how anyone could hear them and fail to smile.

    The 80s have come so far back that they're starting to go away again. Ming and Ping may not have much of a wave to ride with their electronic pop, but they have managed to craft a truly exciting and blissful album. And that's always a good thing.


    MP2
    (Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    Some laptop pop sounds utterly modern. Ming and Ping are so goofily new wave they'll never make it back to today. And that's fine with me.

    Fans of early OMD will certainly dig this--and fans of the brothers' first album will certainly appreciate the increased maturity in the writing. That first album was remarkable, but there was a rough-hewn quality to the tunesmithing. Those ragged edges have been sanded down here--and that's a good thing.

    Damn, but these songs are gorgeous. The boys aren't the world's greatest singers, but they've created such lush, vibrant music that there's no reason to complain. Just sink into the velvet melodies and lose your mind in the pleasure.

    Again, it's wonderful to trip back into my high school days--especially with a new album. I suppose those without any nostalgia for the "real" 80s might not be so excited, but I can't imagine anyone not appreciating the beauty and cleverness of this album. MP2 is even better than the first.


    Causeway Army
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    The third, and easily most-assured, effort from the brothers. They've always had an intuitive feel for the fluidity and playfulness of 80s electronic pop, but these songs are much more accomplished than what I heard before.

    Compared to this album, the first two sound incomplete. Some of that was by design, as there were plenty of asides an interludes among the songs. This album is songs alone. And while that makes Ming & Ping slightly more conventional, it also binds this album together that much better as well.

    A worthy trade-off, I think. At some point the guys had to decide whether to become full-time musicians or conceptual performance artists. This album leans much more towards music, and that's for the better.

    The little eccentricities--especially in the lyrics--haven't completely disappeared. Ming & Ping have a charm that is apparent from the first beats. Even if those beats are intentionally copped from New Order (the song is called "Dream of Pop," so you know...). A big step forward from an act that was already one of my favorites.


    Ming & Ping
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #310, September 2009

    The fourth album from these Hong Kong-born twins, who recently moved from San Francisco to L.A. The change of residence may be a questionable choice, but their music has always been above reproach.

    Tying together as many electronic sounds as possible and wrapping them up in a bow of pure-spun fun, Ming and Ping have progressed from ambitious and adventurous spirits to musicians of the highest order. The songwriting, in particular, is much more focused. The sound has changed somewhat as well, evolving into the aural electronic joyride that is this album.

    In particular, the sound is a bit more organic. There's a strong resemblance to that of New Order's Get Ready, which remains for me one of the great electronic albums--period. M&P use some "real" drums here and there, but everything has been streamlined. There is much less between the musicians and the listener, and that lets these songs really shine on their own.

    Yeah, the pieces are much poppier. But hey, it's damned good pop. And if you can't use a dose of that these days, you're taking far better drugs than me. Bliss out and call me in the morning.


    The Darkness of Night EP
    (Bao Vo Creative)
    reviewed in issue #340, September 2012

    The brothers are back with the first part of a supposed "twin EP." This seven-song set contains a heavy dose of the dreamy, dense electro-pop that is a hallmark of these boys. Is there any progression? Probably not. But the songwriting remains top-notch, and the production is lush and gorgeous. Fun as always.


    Mini Systems
    Prophesy 7"
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    The coolest thing about packages from Skin Graft is the strange little oddities that arrive in concert with the latest from the founders of the Now Wave. And so I get this slab of vinyl, which has nothing more than a phone number for a contact (though it seems this may be the product of a label called Westside Audio Labs--the info is at the bottom)

    Poorly-produced, and even if I could hear what was happenin', I have a feeling it would be incoherent and vague at best. Mini Systems doesn't play songs in the traditional sense (or maybe in any sense at all), but the noise does have its moments.

    Avant-garde, experimental, you stick whatever moniker you like on this sort of thing. It doesn't matter. All it means is that 99.9% of the universe will consider it something lower than the latest Kylie Minogue offering.

    But we know better, we of the enlightened freak class. We know that music like this foments cultural fermentation and righteous change. We hold as true the idea that no matter how fucking bizarre (and quite possibly unlistenable) the music is, such expressions are vital to the progress of civilization and the future survival of the human race.

    Well, at least I do. So there.


    Minmae
    Microcasette Quatrains
    (BlueSanct)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    So if you ever wondered what Loveless would sound like without the pop songs underneath, Minmae is happy to oblige. Wall upon wall of distortion, with just the occasional hint of a melody burbling through the goo.

    Which is not to say this sucks. Rather the opposite, if you're a fan of artful white noise. Minmae does provide a real song or two along the way, but it almost sounds like the band giving the finger to those who would ask, "Now, what the hell?"

    I'm always fascinated by what talented people do with the extremities of sound. Oh, sure, you may have a different definition of "talented" than me, but I think most people would be hard pressed to call this stuff dull. It's a big, wild mess, but compelling nonetheless.

    That's the biggest trick with this sort of music. It's gotta tell a story, no matter how twisted that story might be. Minmae is sailing the seas of electronic disturbance, but damn, they make the stuff sound like a sunny day on the Gulf Stream.


    The Minor Canon
    No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
    (Tenderness)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Elegiac pop that sometimes sounds downright majestic. The Minor Canon uses horns to a wonderful effect and kicks out its underplayed anthems with just enough slacker grace to convince you they aren't entirely serious about their pretentious nature.

    Got that? Me either. Still, the Minor Canon does an amazing job with the arrangements of its songs. There's plenty of space and very little clutter, even at the edges. It isn't hard to imagine this stuff being played in your living room--there is some drama, but these songs are mostly quiet affairs. With devastating consequences.

    Sometimes, when you want to sound really, really important, the best thing is to strip everything down to the barest essentials. These songs are fairly complex, but it's not hard to pick out the different ideas within each. If they didn't work, this album would be a mess. It's anything but.

    Each song sucks you in that much further. Quite an impressive album. The Minor Canon's quiet intensity is impossible to shake.


    A Minor Forest
    So, Were They in Some Kind of Fight? 2xCD
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    A rather monstrous sort of final compilation. This trio garned quite a bit of attention during its rather brief lifetime, and the extensive set of works here (just about every recorded bit that wasn't included on the band's two Thrill Jockey albums) is almost too daunting to even begin to contemplate.

    As many of these songs were recorded as one-offs and for rather obscure projects, the recording quality varies wildly. The same can be said for the sort of sound A Minor Forest tried to create. Fans know that these boys could warp from contemplative to destructive in about five seconds. If anything, these songs are even more adventurous than the "regular" releases.

    In any case, what this set does bring out in me is a sense of sadness in the passing. It's too bad that A Minor Forest isn't recording and touring any more, but at least we've got some memories. And the music, of course.

    Bleah. There's no need to be excessively sentimental or maudlin. This set only furthers the legend, one that is likely to grow even greater. Something certainly worth celebrating.


    Minster Hill
    Minster Hill
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    I reviewed the newest Yes album a couple weeks ago, and there are element here which remind me of that old warhorse. Howard Herrick's vocals are reminiscent of Jon Anderson, and the songs swoop with a gentle grandeur that also recalls some mellow prog moments.

    Still, most of the guitars here are acoustic, and the songs don't go on forever and ever. And unlike the most recent Yes effort, this stuff has substance. The sound is fairly lightweight, and the songs themselves aren't terribly involved. But there is an undercurrent of complexity which helps propel Minster Hill past generic status.

    Now, I'm still not the biggest fan of the hippy prog sound, but Minster Hill does it pretty well. And, really, this is pretty fun fare. Each song wanders off into intriguing directions, even while keeping decent contact with the whole.

    A cool disc, all the way around. Perhaps Minster Hill might be a bit more ambitious, but hell, that's certainly quibbling. There's plenty here to enjoy.


    Mint 400
    Intercomfort
    (Vile Beat)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Somewhere between modern rock and anglo pop, Minto 400 bashes out its tuneage. I really hate both of those monikers, by the way. They blow. The thing is, Mint 400 pays a sort of full-throated rock-pop music that is common, but uncommonly hard to describe.

    Basically, the bass defines the grooves, the guitars generally rule and there's a lot of sound filling in the gaps. Distortion, looping, some cello, whatever works to flesh out the sound, y'know? And generally, it does work.

    Mint 400 just pounds out song after song, each one following the same general pattern but managing to impress just the same. The reliance on the bass reminds me a bit of some of the Seattle pop bands of the early 90s (Gnome, My Name, etc.) but this has a sheen all its own.

    Just gets better as the album rolls on. There's a lot to discover here, and one listen won't close the deal. A unique sound within a somewhat spent genre. Quite worth a few spins.


    Minus (American)
    Dark Lit
    (New and Improv Music)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Three guys obviously inspired by (but not controlled by) that wonderful midwestern noise rock ideal. I hear a lot of Don Caballero (I think Pittsburgh counts as the midwest, don't you?), early stuff, the pounding, bruising fare. A lot of wailing (mostly instrumental).

    These boys work together more than apart. The songs are cohesive, and if a solo is taken, it's still tightly tied to the rest of the song. Not a lot of wandering, really. So that when there are a few side trips, I got a little surprised.

    Always good to keep people off-balance. Minus does that. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I could take much more pounding, there's a pleasant repast. Then back to the salt mines.

    Oh, it's not work. Not that at all. Minus just has this way of cutting to the bone. Then they guys get a little playful. Then the waves start crashing once again. A good way to sequence an album. There's a sly sophistication at work here. I wouldn't be surprised to hear a completely different album next time out.


    Minus (Icelandic)
    Jesus Christ Bobby
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Some fun from Iceland. Minus sounds like U.S. Maple playing Fudge Tunnel tunes. In other words, deconstructed metallic hardcore. There is so much going on here I can hardly take in just the surface details.

    A complete sensory rush. I should note, for the record, that this Minus has nothing to do with the Minus I reviewed last issue. I don't think there would be any confusion, but you never know. This Minus, the one from Iceland (which is the one I'll be referring to throughout the rest of the review), simply doesn't know how to let up off the gas. Intellectually, I mean. The ideas just keep flying out of my speakers.

    There are two ways to listen to music like this. One is to simply ride the manic, screaming energy wave. I like that one and I took that option for a while. But in general, I prefer to take the cerebral approach. To discern as many discrete elements as possible and connect the dots my own way.

    Few bands are good for one of those approaches. I can think of five or six that satisfy both ways. Minus has an almost unlimited scope of sound. There's nothing these guys won't try. And there's very little that they can't do very well. This is a most astonishing and energizing album. Utterly brilliant.


    Haldor Laxness
    (Smekkleysa)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Iceland is so cool. Well, no, Iceland is damned cold. But it keeps turning out bands that like to turn accepted musical conventions on their head.

    Minus likes to play, aggressive, fuzzy, vaguely proggy hard rock. Think Faith No More as performed by Slayer. There's a notion that if you play complicated, sophisticated music you must keep the sound as clean as possible. Take Mushroomhead, a band I like a lot. That band's sound is thick, but crystal clear.

    Minus hides behind distortion and even a relatively muddy mix. It works, bringing this music, which is pretty damned intimidating, back into the fold of the real. With a sound like this, a band like Minus becomes approachable.

    If only for a little while. After all, anyone who can put together songs like this is quite obviously a master of the form. These boys can write, and they can play. Play it loud, but don't forget to listen behind the wall of sound. There's a lot going on.


    Mirabal
    Mirabal
    (Warner Western)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Robert Mirabal is very earnest in his appeal. He combines traditional Native American musical ideas with a mellow rock sensibility, ending up sounding something like Robbie Robertson.

    It works better on some songs than others. The best incorporate varied instrumentation (Mirabal plays a variety of flutes and other wind instruments) even as the basic music tracks stick to regular rock.

    Many of the ideas for the lyrics came from traditional songs, but translated and re-interpreted. Fine by me. Mirabal doesn't just update; he sometimes provides a commentary on his forebears and culture as a whole, like with "Witch Hunt", whose vocal chant is derived from an old song describing such a scene.

    Mirabal's basic musical instincts aren't very complex or unusual. While this helps keep his songs from getting too "out there", it also consigns him to the "regular rock artist" pile, and he's simply a little above average there. Nothing wrong with that, of course.


    Miracle Mile
    To Burn Together
    (Pinch-Hit)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Extremely pretentious stuff, with lots of syncopated rhythms and echo effects. Almost as if Miracle Mile is trying to convince me that this stuff is really as important as it wants to sound. Well, it doesn't work.

    I've gotta admit that the performances are quite good. The playing is expert, and Jonn Ross's vocals are dead solid perfect for this sorta thing. It's just that the lyrics don't have enough to say. It's not that they're terribly oblique or anything, I just find them hollow in the middle.

    On the other hand, if you like moody, angst-ridden music, then Miracle Mile has enough to supply us until the millennium. I guess I wish there was something past the music.

    Hey, they took a shot. It's really hard to pull through on a mission like this, and Miracle Mile did manage to craft good music for the occasion. I just wish the lyrics could keep pace. With all the musical build-up, that let-down is pretty disappointing.


    Miranda Sound
    Engaged in Labor
    (Standard Recording Company)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    Taking the whole noise rock fusion concept one step further, Miranda Sound adds dueling vocal lines to the spinning, twisting spirals created by the music. At once, this makes the stuff more accessible, and yet, even more edgy as well.

    As a rule, Miranda Sound takes something of a garage approach to this sound, bashing out the songs with plenty of verve and energy. The stuff is technically sound, but not so much as to be awe-inspiring. Rather, it's the energy of the band that inspires as much as the excellent writing.

    Perhaps the best thing about these guys is the way they refuse to play the same song twice. Every song spins off in a slightly different direction--with each track featuring a different set of instrumentation. These experiments in sound work quite well, lending even greater depth.

    I think these guys are just a bit more pop-oriented than, say, the Michael album I reviewed just above. Maybe it's those vocals, but I think that even through the dissonance and abstraction these guys still like to make a pretty tune. That they actually do is a testament to an awesome talent. Most impressive.


    Western Reserve
    (Sunken Treasure)
    reviewed in issue #274, May 2006

    A couple times a year I hear a band that shifts between jazz and rock modes as if there were no difference. Reminds me a lot of a band called Clockhammer that released a couple of albums 15 years ago. Miranda Sound reminds me of them.

    J Robbins produced, and he has a crunchy-yet-clean style that emphasizes the similarities to me. In truth, these guys are much less mannered and much more willing to bliss out the hooks. But even the slightest hint triggers a reaction in me. There aren't that many adventurous bands out there. There never have been.

    Especially when we're talking about pop. Most folks are all about the sweeteners. Miranda Sound is much more interested in texture. That's sort of impulse that creates albums which will last past a few listens.

    Solid writing and playing, and Robbins's touch on the knobs makes this shine all the brighter. A fine set, and a band well worth listening for in the future.


    Mirrored Image
    Living Hell CD5
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Just the one song. A slow-burning piece, what might have been called doom metal about 10 years ago. Certainly, there is a Paradise Lost or Morbid Angel influence (probably more of the latter). Some nice gothic moments.

    A bit overwrought. The song runs seven minutes, and I think I might have spliced some of the gothic soundscape stuff into the riffage (as was done toward the end of the piece). This thing sounds to me like a five-minute song.

    Gotta admire the creativity behind this, though. These are trying out some new ideas. Keep working, and they just might succeed.


    Misery loves Co.
    Misery loves Co.
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    A Swedish take on the industrio-goth-death first promulgated by Fear Factory.

    Misery loves Co. sticks a little closer to the industrial side (with less added vocals) than FF, but there is still a strong similarity in theory, if not actual practice.

    The production gives MCL an extremely full sound, one that tends to peel scalp off skull. In the right circumstances, a not unpleasant occurrence.

    This disc has real commercial potential, reaching out to sincere industrial fans and real death metal fans as well. The success of the Meathook Seed disc should prove that there are those crave the adventurous.

    I've been cranking the CD5 for some time now, and the full disc only makes me happier. This is simply a stunning achievement.


    Happy? EP
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96

    More of a re-introduction than anything else. The "Happy?" track from the album, a new track ("Strain of Frustration") and five live renditions of songs you heard on the awesome debut. Oh, and if you have one of those CD-ROM thingies (I don't), you can fuck with the disc that way, too.

    "Strain" gives me yet another reason to be anxiously awaiting the new album. The seamless industrial metal construction is just as addictive as anything that came before. The live tracks are clean, with just enough noise to differentiate them from the studio versions.

    The main reason to pick this up would be the CD-ROM stuff, and I can't review that. I love the band, and the stuff here is great, if a bit of a rehash. Bring out the album, boys!


    Misfits
    Famous Monsters
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Something of a concept album, paying tribute to a few well-known celluloid (and otherwise) monsters and generally creepy things. This is a highly-amped version of the Misfits, with top-notch production from Daniel Rey and mixing from Ed Stasium.

    Sounds a lot like the Ramones, with better vocals and dumber songs. Which is to say that there's plenty of toe-tapping fun, but the stuff is not exactly frightening. I think what made those old Misfits albums so spooky was how raw they sounded. This sounds like a generic pop punk album. It's just that there's a Misfits cover on it.

    Not bad, particularly, but not really good either. Mostly generic. And for the Misfits, that's a pretty sad statement. There's gotta be something better. I hope, anyway, or there's really not much reason for another Misfits album, period.

    I'm not trying to be overly negative. This album is actually better than I thought it would be. My expectations were not high. But mediocrity isn't wondrous. For a band which came to fame as something "extreme," this rather tame disc just doesn't fit the pedigree.


    MISS
    A Pretty Mess
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94

    Merging basic industrial and techno rhythms with a much more commercial sensibility, MISS seems to by trying to garner mainstream attention even while staying somewhat faithful to the more creative side of the industry.

    But when you'd expect the vocals to be cloying and overpowering, the mix provides just the opposite. Lara Vecchiarello's voice unusually floats just beneath the surface. It's a little disturbing at first, but after a while it begins to grow on you.

    In the end, though, I think the goal is Top 40 acceptance. In that case, MISS should work a little more on focus and drop some of the underground pretensions. As it stands, this is far too commercial for the more alternative college stations, and yet too "out there" for the dwindling number of contemporary hits stations.


    Civil War
    (J-Bird Records)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Not at all what I expected. The elements are the same as on the demo I reviewed a few years back, but the result is completely different. On the old tape, MISS focused on a more commercial sound, blending techno and r&b elements into a fairly attractive, if a bit too earnest, sound. The music is much more subdued on this album, which suits Lara D'Anna's voice well.

    A much more introspective outing for the band. Even on the more upbeat songs, it is obvious that the mirror is faced inward. The music, while well-written, still has a bit of a "computer" sound to it. A bit empty in the middle, somewhat artificial-sounding. D'Anna's vocals distract from that problem, but it still lies in wait.

    On the whole, though, this is a much more assured and confident sound for the band. I wasn't sure where MISS was headed when I heard the demo, but this firmly entrenches MISS in the more adventurous side of the music world.

    From evocative, wrenching ballads to peppy pop tunes, MISS wanders around admirably. And while there is something of a schizophrenic sound, I have to say I liked this. Not what I expected, and that almost always means good things.


    Miss Autopsy
    Sweet Killers
    (Comatone Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Steve Beyerink is Miss Autopsy. But this does not have the feel of the stereotypical one-man outfit. The sound is ragged, loose and really, really dirty. Though I guess I am repeating myself.

    Slinky hard rock riffs abound, but Beyerink thinks nothing of sliding into a midwestern americana groove when the feeling strikes--and that's good stuff, too. The construction and simple riffage is the same, but he adds a mellow twang here and there that's comforting to an old Missouri boy like me.

    A Missouri boy who was born in New York, but then, aren't we all a collection of contradictions? Beyerink certainly is. This album whipsaws from loud and nasty to frighteningly introspective at the drop of a ten-gallon hat. Surprisingly, it manages to hold together just fine. Probably more a result of Beyerink's almost militaristic guitar style rather than his voice, but when you've got John Congleton at the knobs, you've always got a fighting chance.

    Thoroughly enjoyable. Though I must admit to being wrong about one thing: The idiosyncrasy present on this album clearly marks it as a one-man job. But hey, that's cool with me. I always like stripping away the layers of someone else's personality. Keeps me from worrying too much about mine.


    Miss Fortune
    Miss Fortune
    (What Kinda Records)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Mid-tempo pop tunes with heavy harmonies. Miss Fortune throws in just about every studio trick possible (guitar effects, various keyboards--Moog, organ and more, slide guitar among them) trying to spice up the songs.

    It doesn't work. At some point, the songs have to sing. They're three-chord symphonies, man, and there has to be a high point somewhere. It's not like Miss Fortune is even trying to be particularly moody. The stuff is just stuck in the same old rut.

    And some of it is really pretty. There are references to Big Star, the High Llamas and many more, but these pieces rarely leave the ground. They sound like basic fare, but there's just no energy. Not all pop has to bright and happy (Gerald Collier is a genius at the tortured pop game), but Miss Fortune simply has no range. No up. No down. Just a muddle.

    I can't get into it. The boys are doing everything right from a technical standpoint. It's just that the end result is rather less than enticing. Kinda like a sitcom starring Christina Applegate: It's pretty, but also pretty vacant.


    Miss High Heel
    Miss High Heel
    (B. Sides)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    The best part of a Skin Graft package is all the extra goodies which come along. Miss High Heel is a one-off project featuring members of the Flying Luttenbachers, Peach of Immortality, Lake of Dracula, To Live and Shave in L.A. and the Scissor Girls. A rather undisciplined approach to the generally unstructured sort of music those bands play.

    There isn't enough coherence here to call the music "caterwauling". These folks have gotten together, made a hell of a lot of noise, and then artlessly edited and remixed the audio evidence. As you can tell, I'm absolutely knocked out.

    That's right. Random acts of musical violence score high on the Jon-o-Meter, and That's pretty much the sole intent of Miss High Heel. Give the boys a chance to work out some inner tension, not to mention the stress of playing in extremely obscure and throttle-garde bands (you may also insert the Skin Graft "no-wave" genre at any time).

    I'm not kidding about the sonic carnage. There's a lot of crap going on here, a true melange of bizarre and uncoordinated sounds. I dig it, see, because I'm one seriously disturbed motherfucker. Music like this causes mental damage in normal folks. Thank God I got weird early on.


    Miss Mary
    Ready2Pop
    (Waxfruit/Dren)
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    That would be Mary Stopas, who led the Oscillators back in the late 1990s and has since embarked on a solo career. Her songs are jaunty, hook-laden treats, served up with a heavy dose of sly, sultry pop vocals. Feel free to think of the Pastels or Letters to Cleo.

    Is she that good? Oh, probably not. But these songs are wonderful bits of power pop fluff, borrowing heavily from 60s surf and garage. Throw in plenty of fuzz and some nice volume dealing, and we're talking about first rate stuff.

    Miss Mary does this sound exceptionally well, but I can't say I'd be able to pick her songs out of a crowd. That's the blessing and curse of pop, I guess. Originality isn't always rewarded--but then, neither is quality.

    So I guess I should be spending more time praising the spot-on writing and fine sound of these songs. Lovely and subtly moving pieces that are worth more than a few minutes of anyone's time. Pretty and substantial. That's always a good combination.


    Misfortune 500
    Before this Winter Ends
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    Take the ringing guitar and insistent drumming of The Unforgettable Fire, throw in a little surf-a-billy and then push the tempo. Always push the tempo.

    Misfortune 500 sounds more like an early 90s indie rock band than something from this misbegotten era, but as you might surmise by my comment, that's a good thing. These folks have the sense to throw together a number of complimentary sounds. Sounds that worked the first (or tenth) time around.

    The sound is nice and noisy, the sort of crunchy feel that breathes yet another spark of life into a sound like this. This is a most dirty album, soundwise. All for the best, boys.

    It's true that these guys aren't the most distinctive act around, but they write good songs and thrash them out with plenty of attitude. In the finest possible tradition, of course.


    Mission Giant
    Brotherhood of the Plug
    (Uncle Buzz)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Fans of Emperor Penguin and other loopy laptop funk "bands" ought to groove on this puppy all through the night. Mission Giant has created a bright, shiny universe for its music, and the songs sparkle until eternity ends.

    Yeah, the whole robotic vocal thing has been done before. There's really only one way to use it, too. So the key is the music. And while Mission Giant doesn't break new ground there, either, the folks always seem to understand that "fun" is the only criteria that needs to be satisfied.

    The songs themselves have the occasional experimental opening, but otherwise conform to traditional pop forms. The sound is tres-dork--and that's intentional. Works for me. I couldn't get the smile off my face.

    Okay, so maybe it helps that Mission Giant does a vicious rip of my favorite Ratt song: "You're in Love." Damn, that's hilarious. Funny, but the song works on its own terms as well. That's what makes this album so impressive.


    Mrs. Fun
    The Best of Mrs. Fun
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    A duo that records the basic tracks with no overdubs or sequencing. There are some guests, and most likely those bits are spliced in. Even so, when you hear the complex interplay between the keyboards and drums, well, it's hard not to be impressed.

    If I described this as electro-pop with an eye to jazz, you'd probably get the wrong idea. Connie Grauer and Kim Zick have certainly been influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa, Lionel Hampton (the keyboards almost have a vibes feel to them at times), Sly and the Family Stone and Yaz. At least, I can hear pieces of those artists and many more flitting through.

    There's a nice "jam" feel to many of these songs, which were culled from four albums the band released on its own. And even with all of the cool stuff added on later, I'm still taken aback by the basic grooves the band lays down.

    Unconventional is just a starting point. There's way too much here to properly discuss in this short period of time. Great fun for those with a sense of adventure.


    Funsville
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Eighteen songs, all recorded in an afternoon. Not only was the music improvised, the titles to the pieces were also crafted on the spot. Which explains the name of a song like "Waukesha all Praise to Thee."

    Mrs. Fun is Connie Grauer on keyboards (including a bass line) and Kim Zick on drums. This is very much a jazz act, though thick enough in the grooves to appeal to the pop set without being stuck in that "smooth" category.

    Grauer and Zick have been at it for years, so they know exactly how to play off each other. Their improvisations sound almost crafted, and there's rarely a time when the two are out of sync.

    Either you get it or you don't. That's the whole story. If you can't dig two highly talented musicians exploring the edges of their sound, well, okay then. The rest of us are going to have a little fun.


    Mrs. Grundy
    Your Stinky Candy
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Amazingly bass-heavy pop. Mrs. Grundy is two guys (without a full-time bass player, it seems) who simply pound out the songs. Replete with wit and hooks, no less.

    Sugar, that's what this sounds like. A bit more uptempo, with a bit more power and less precision, but the bass. That's where I've heard it before. It works, certainly.

    For a two-man home-recording project, this sounds great. And the writing is top notch. Funny, but not in a jokey way. Slab of grooves on wry. A wonderful recipe.

    Heavy on the bash, but plenty of pop to go around. This duo knows how to work the music properly. No doubt about it.


    Mr. Airplane Man
    C'mon DJ
    (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    Back when I was in college, there was one retroid duo ceaselessly touring the country in search of sales and even an amoeba-sized fan base. Didn't matter that the Flat Duo Jets were truly amazing--live and recorded. As far as old-school garage stuff that drew on rockabilly and so much more, they were it. Well, Timbuk 3 was also a madly-touring duo, but Pat and Barbara K played something else again. What a difference fifteen years makes. These days, it seems like two people playing minimalist garage-y rock and roll is the coolest thing since Robert Downey Jr. discovered smack.

    Well, if you're talking about Mr. Airplane Man, you might be right. These two women from Boston have just the right amount of bluster and bluesy brooding to carry off this sound without sounding lame or simply generic. To put it bluntly, Tara McManus and Margaret Garrett sound like an early-60s girl group that has gone and discovered acid rock. Remember the Monkees's Head? Like that. Only much, much better.

    Remember the Red Aunts? Four women devoted to playing punk music as it was meant to be played. They sounded great, but their songwriting was spotty. Mr. Airplane Man sounds incredible. There's this raw distortion in the guitars and bass that just shreds through speakers. Kinda like early Stones or Jefferson Airplane that way. In general, this album reminds me of 1964 blasted through 1968 speakers. Which is a pretty damned good idea.

    As for the writing, it's astonishingly good as well. That's the kicker for me. I'm not sure McManus and Garrett actually planned out all the sound. They just got together, wrote and played some great songs and this disc is the result of their hard work. I'm never gonna be able to get that amazing guitar sound out of my head. And I don't want to, either.


    Mr. B & the Bird of Paradise Orchestra
    Hallelujah Train
    (Schoolkids' Records)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Bad boogie-woogie piano players haunt Holiday Inn lounges all over the country. Some good ones just want to have fun. Like Mark Braun (aka Mr. B).

    Paul Keller is a bassist and leader of the Bird of Paradise Orchestra, which swings as well as any I've heard in some time. And modern recording technology allows the sound to bound out as bright and bouncy as it was played. Which makes this pretty much damned irresistible.

    And while you get a few (not necessarily big band) standards like "Down the Road Apiece" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans", most of the compositions are Keller's or Braun's. No problem. These guys know how to craft songs that swing and make folks like me smile.

    High art? What's that, anyway? The point of this disc is pure fun, and Mr. B, Mr. Keller and company are more than equal to the task. Can you dig it? (Um, sorry, wrong decade.)


    Mr. Dibbs
    The 30th Song
    (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    The first of two DJ projects I'm reviewing in this issue. Mr. Dibbs plays things pretty straight, blasting out some slammin' (literally) beats and dropping in nice bits of conversation here and there.

    That conversation could be a sample from some sort of instructional filmstrip or a little singing or, well, something Mr. Dibbs found on the street. Truth is, it's hard to say what to expect from the next song, except that the beat work will be solid.

    Hey, anyone who combines slick grooves with a slice of Grace Slick (at Woodstock, I think, though I'm not an expert on Jefferson Airplane or that particular festival) surely has something cool going on.

    If you want the full effect, you're gonna actually have to pay attention. But the beauty of this disc is that the mindless folks out there can simply jam on the beats and not worry about all the wildness in between. I prefer the entire picture, of course, but then, that's my job. This is first rate work, folks.


    Mr. Len
    Pity the Fool--Experiments in Therapy Behind the Mask of Music While Handing Out Dummy Smacks
    (Matador)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Mr. Len drops the beats, and a bevy of guest MCs flows the rhymes. Which means I should pay more attention to what lies beneath. And so I shall.

    The problem with multiple MCs is one of consistency. There's just no way to make these songs fit together in any seriously coherent fashion. Mr. Len doesn't worry too much about that, simply booming big beats over and over again.

    The construction is creative, utilizing sound and music samples and seriously aggressive drum machines. Generally midtempo, all the better for insistently shouted verses and anthemic choruses. Not exactly militant, but verging on that style nonetheless.

    Mr. Len's contribution to this album (it is his, after all) is wonderful. When he wants to do so, he can really spin out some great beats. I wish he'd tailored his songs a bit more to some of the MCs, though on songs like "Taco Day," everything comes together. Wish that more of the album was that seamless.


    Mr. Lif
    Emergency Rations EP
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    If it seems to you that everyone is walking lock-step with a decidedly warped Bush administration, well, let me present Mr. Lif. He's got a few things to say about the repression of thought. I gotta tell you, I'm with the guy all the way.

    Lif's imagery isn't the most creative, but his ideas are dead on in their incisiveness. There is no room in America for silencing opinion of any sort, no matter how odious. And anyway, who was the moron who equated patriotism with militarism and consumerism anyway?

    Um, I'll give you a hint. He wasn't actually elected president. But this isn't my polemic. It's Lif's. Goddamn if it isn't great to hear some sharp political hip-hop. Give this a spin or three and see if your activist genes don't get switched on.

    contemporary hits stations.


    I Phantom
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Mr. Lif steps out on his first full-length, and this puppy is just as full of smackin' beats and incisive rhymes as his recent EP. He may be underground for now, but Lif obviously has what it takes to break out.

    It's all too easy to try too hard. Life keeps things simple: Solid beat work, tight-yet-shifty rhymin' and a slick package to wrap everything up. The songs tackle everything from crooks in the music industry to crooks on the street to crooks who managed to get elected.

    And so, while this may not be as overtly political as the EP, Lif still manages to critique society quite effectively. And he sounds damned good doing it, too. Who says you can't have fun and think at the same time?

    Not me. The beats scream party, but Lif makes sure he makes all his points. And then reinforces them without sounding preachy. Take what you want from this; there's always more to discover.


    Mo'mega
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    The thing about Def Jux artists is that there's just as much creativity on the beat side as there is on the rhyme side. Mr. Lif has long since proved himself as lyrically adept, and he doesn't fail to impress here. The tracks behind him are similarly impressive.

    From the very first track, this album assaults senses and sensibilities. There's a definite body-slam feel to the beats and backing tracks, and Lif comes out swinging. He sows ideas as if they were seeds. Some take and some don't, but the sheer quantity of thought is impressive.

    This is a loud album. Really loud. And heavy. A recent tour through some of my old school (as it was) rap albums revealed to me how reliant on rock and roll many of the progenitors were. In the 90s, there was a decided shift toward r&b. Lif sticks to the rock--building in a nice sense of flow.

    Um, anyone in the know had to have a feeling this would be good. It is. Not much left to say. Lif strikes again. And my guess is that he's just getting warmed up.


    Mr. Magic's Nightflight
    Created by Norman
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    The title is also descriptive, as Norman Feller is the DJ behind this project.

    He takes a space-style approach to the purely ambient tracks, but on songs like the title track, he spins in cool rhythmic ideas that help define his ideal universe.

    Feller is much more interested in finding exploring a vital part of space, as he keeps new ideas flowing into the songs. Repetitions keep running over each other, until an synthesis is achieved. This is not an unusual technique, but Feller uses it with the skill of an old hand.

    I've heard better and worse. Mr. Magic's Nightflight (or Norman, if you prefer) should satisfy those who dig the ambient, but it won't bring in any new converts.


    Mr. Pink
    Frontierman
    (Planetary)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    The first track made me think I was in for some sort of slowed-up hardcore thing. But, really, Mr. Pink is simply a really loud, really messy pop band. Semi-atonal female vocals and excessive chord usage. With a full dose of anthemic pretension.

    The more straightforward moments remind me of the band Whirlpool. Swirling guitars and unusual harmonies (well, teamed vocals, anyway). The more agitated and convoluted bits could be any hardcore band trying to figure out what the hell it's doing, anyway. Seven Year Bitch? Yeah, maybe, though Mr. Pink is a lot more coherent.

    Definitely an unusual mix of styles. It doesn't work all the time. Particularly when the noises get faster and louder. But I'd always rather hear a band on the edge than a band which just sits in a shell and doesn't try at all. There's enough good moments here to take notice.


    Mr. Right & Mr. Wrong
    One Down and Two to Go
    (Wrong)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Well, as many of you know, this is another fine Nomeansno release. The liners claim AT really wanted this disc, and there's plenty of reason for that.

    There is the wacky concept ("a musical magazine") that drives the disc, for starters.

    A few new NMN tracks, some old demos, a Hanson Brothers track or two (um, yes, another name for NMN) and a nice load of the experimental stuff that goes by either the name Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong.

    Perhaps the boys should be castigated for the confusion that all these fake names can cause, but I'm not sure why. When you let the music do the talking, then everything necessary is said.

    Solid punk from all over the hardcore universe, bound together with that ultra-heavy trademark NMN bass. So NMN refuses to sit still and play the same songs over and over. We're supposed to complain about creativity? Get real. And play this disc a lot.

    See also Hanson Brothers, Mr. Wrong and Nomeansno.


    Mr Russia
    Teething
    (Lens Records)
    reviewed in issue #303, December 2008

    Remember those first Girls Against Boys albums? The ones before the guys signed to Touch and Go? This album has that sound. But these guys aren't cool and detatched. They're loud and in your face. Kinda like a poppier Jesus Lizard.

    And guess what? Mr Russia hails from Chicago. Well, if that don't beat all... Interestingly, the label describes the band as a combination of Iggy Pop and the White Stripes. That's probably not too far off, either. The fact of the matter is that Mr Russia starts loud and fast, plays loud and fast and ends loud and fast. With some awfully raggedy hooks every once in a while.

    I love the rough-hewn sound. It's somewhat artificial, as there are far too many overdubs to trick even the most inexperienced listener into believing this puppy was recorded live to tape. On the other hand, whoever twisted the knobs created a sound that feels alive. And not just alive, actually, but truly vibrant.

    A real electric shock. This album carries one serious rush, and it never drops the ball. I'm not sure I could survive a live show; my heart couldn't take it.


    Training for the Gameshow Host EP
    Boys Keep Swinging 7"
    (Lens)
    reviewed in issue #316, April 2010

    An EP from these folks, and this one is at least as catchy as last year's album. Damn, it's nice to hear someone having fun with rock and roll these days.

    That's right. Nothing messy. Just clean rhythms, tight hooks and plenty of power. Dip some garage in a new wave pool and then filter through early 90s indie swagger rock (GvsB, etc.). And play it fucking loud, man.

    Six songs on the EP. Every one is distinctive--and distinctively great. By and large, this stuff is a bit looser than Teething. The 7" (the A side is on a tribute album, I believe) is two versions of the Bowie song. Both takes are stunning, and they have very little to do with each other. Most bands can't get away with such a conceit, but it seems a natural for Mr Russia.

    If you want to download the EP for free, just stop by http://www.mrrussia.net. You won't be disappointed. And you can say you heard them when.


    Mr. T Experience
    Alternative Is Here to Stay EP
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Folks have been speaking of these boys in reverential terms since I was in college (some-yikes!-three and four years ago). Something about pop punk with a snarly attitude that makes those pretentious college radio types drool.

    If that wasn't enough to get your attention, the material will. The title song (and the real reason for this project) is a hilarious rip through the whole concept of "Alternative Nation" and other oxymorons. The other two songs are short but still quite entertaining. And you get an "alternative" version of the alternative song, just to run the whole thing into the ground.

    Not very subtle, but funny as hell.


    Love Is Dead
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    Darlings of the Berkeley scene (and the band has had that disctinction since about the first thing it put out) that has managed to avoid doing something silly like signing to a major label and making a lot of money.

    And what does this "committment to the scene" mean? Well, for starters, it helps albums like this sound human and real. The production is slightly dirty, and the bass is cranked way too high (but not quite Vancouver-style). And if anything was changed, it wouldn't be so cool.

    Sixteen awesome pop-punk tunes. Plenty of attitude and silly love songs, with the panache to pull that sort of dichotomy off. The Mr. T Experience makes punk music the way most other bands wish they could. Fast, furious and most of all: fun. Love Is Dead on the stereo will enhance the enjoyment of whatever you're doing by a factor of 10. I just can't say enough.


    Night Shift at the Thrill Factory
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    The first time this album has seen the light of day in quite some time (it was originally on Rough Trade-- 'nuff sed). This is their second album, and, well, the amazing thing is how little everything has changed.

    Same angst-ridden youthful POV lyrics, same bouncy rhythm section. And plenty of great tunes (the 17 of the album, plus five bonus tracks). A pretty damned cool package.

    I don't review re-issues very often (and it's not like this is much of one, anyway), but this puppy deserved some special attention. A fine band whose earlier years can now be heard by a whole new generation of punx.


    And I Will Be With You 7"
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    One thing Dr. Frank and the boys have never been terribly good at doing is pick singles. Oh, the a-side is jaunty enough, but nothing great. Basic MTX which, while pretty good, isn't earth shaking.

    The flip contains a duet with Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, doing a version of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". Simply a runthrough, not even up to standards. A bummer, really.

    "You Alone" almost makes up for the rest, but it's real short and no matter how good it is, it's still the last song on the single. I'm sure the album is just fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way for this slab of vinyl.


    Revenge Is Sweet, and So Are You
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Another big load of punk pop musings from one of the best such bands around. I was a bit bummed by the single, which wasn't terribly witty or catchy.

    On the whole, there's more than enough wit and hooks here to keep just about any fan happy for a good long time. While there isn't a breakout song here like "Sackcloth and Ashes" (which is still one of my ten favorite songs ever), the songs are still quite strong. As if it wouldn't be so.

    Sixteen more songs about love and, even worse, relationships. The inexhaustible fount, it seems, as Dr. Frank and buds manage to whip out a quality new album every year or so.

    Will it ever end? I dunno. This puppy merely stays the course for MTX, but that's a fine way to travel. First class all the way.

    See also Dr Frank.


    Mr. Wilson
    Mr. Wilson
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #19, 8/31/92

    Very short amount of space: decent band, terrible production. They will be appearing on some compilation pretty soon, actually produced this time, so that will be the real judgement. Word is their live shows are great.

    Sound: kinda glam-classic hard rock stuff. But I'm not sure.


    Mr. Wrong
    Mr. Wrong Fights the System 7"
    (Wrong Records)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    Also known (this time) as Rob Wright of NoMeansNo, Mr. Wrong in this incarnation favors wailing vocals and similar wailing bass. That's about it.

    What it comes off like is a Danzig track without all of the pretentious production and lyrical posing. I'm not shitting you. This sounds pretty damned cool.

    If you haven't had your fill of truly strange stuff, this should indulge that secret craving. Mmm, good!

    See also Hanson Brothers, Mr. Right and Nomeansno.


    Ms. Led
    Afternoon in Central Park
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    This might be better known as Saeta re-cast. Though I do have something of a chicken and egg question when it comes to all that. Anyway, Lesli Wood picks up a guitar and sings, while Matt Menovcik grabs a bass. Bob Smolenski puts away the cello (there's very little call for strings of any kind when you play a particularly bouncy form of bash 'n' pop) and lends a hand with the graphics. Hey, any help is always welcome.

    Anyway, this is hardly tightly orchestrated stuff. The same care and diligence in the writing is obvious, but Ms. Led rocks. Loud. Fast. With all requisite attitude and energy.

    There are a few touches which recall the "other" band. Each band member is playing a character (Lesli is Roxy, Matt is Clark, Peg Wood stands in as Violet and Steph Hasselman is Bootsy--even though she's the drummer and not the bassist), and the songs are astonishingly coherent and well-crafted for stuff played with such abandon.

    Side project or no (and really, any project is the primary one at the time of recording, right?), Ms. Led is most worthy of further exploration. People who play such structured music as Saeta does don't always have the ability to let their hair down. Not a problem here. This disc is flat out fun.


    These Things We say
    (Fish the Cat)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    Few bands can make strident personal and political statements sound so damned appealing. Ms. Led opens up with a short history lesson and winds up with "there shouldn't be a stigma to being called a feminist." Hey, I couldn't agree more. But what really appeals to me is the awesome buzzsaw riffage.

    As noted in an earlier review, three-fourths of Ms. Led is part of Saeta, the exceptional avant-rock band. So while it is appealing to think of these folks are mere bashers, the truth of the matter is that these folks know how to play. That talent can be heard in the subtle touches which fill this album.

    There are tiny little references here and there, and perhaps even more impressive is the range of styles Ms. Led incorporates into its full-throttle roar. Kinda like a northwestern version of Firewater--substituting a Kill Rock Stars ethos for the klezmer, if that makes any sense.

    Anyway, this is another fine effort. I've now listened to this disc three times, and it keeps getting better. Truly fine.


    Shake Yourself Awake
    (Fish the Cat)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    The third Ms Led album I've heard, and it's just as arresting as the first two. That said, the formula hasn't changed. Lesli Wood wails and provides the response to her own call, even when it sounds a wee bit forced. The band is heavy, but always in motion. The songs themselves are a bit crafty.

    Ms Led's energy has always overcome such minor complaints in the past, and it does here. In fact, I'd say the eccentricities are a bit more under control here, which makes the stuff a bit more accessible without draining the songs of their character.

    The production sound is full but clean. Space where there should be some, and a hint of fuzz where that is necessary. The mix is by Kramer, a man who knows something about that sort of thing.

    What else to say? Ms Led is still kicking out ballsy, thoughtful songs. Wood is in fine sneer, and the rest of the band (including Saeta mate Matt Menovcik) rips when ripping is in order. Smashing, as always.


    Cheyenne Marie Mize
    We Don't Need EP
    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    I got a promo copy of this album last fall, and just before I was about to publish a review I was told that Mize had a deal with Yep Roc. So I decided to wait.

    This isn't the first stuff I've heard from Mize, but it is the first that I've really liked. "Wishing Well," the first track, is an kinetic percussion-and-vocal piece that showcases how versatile one can be with the whole singer-songwriter thing.

    The rest of this EP is a bit more pedestrian, but Mize takes a lot more chances with these songs, and the results are accordingly impressive. If she continues to improve at this rate, she's got a long career ahead of her. Keep an ear on this one.


    ml
    Pajama Party
    (Toast and Jam)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    The latest from the band formerly known as Thine Eyes. Well, parts of that band, anyway. And this disc fits right into the Thine Eyes tradition of astonishingly creative experimental electronic music.

    What's most amazing about these songs is the sound itself. It's three-dimensional. The stuff is utterly artificial, but this album sounds like Tron looked. If you turn up the volume, there's an almost unreal depth to the noodlings.

    Completely abstract, I'll grant you. No doubt ml requires a lot of patience and attention. But, man, it's so easy to get inside the sound here. Like walking through a forest. Except that it's not a forest, but rather piles of soundwaves.

    I'm not coming back, and that's all there is to it. The universe created by this disc is so real (not to mention surreal) that I can't think of a reason to face reality again. At least not in the next few days. These frontal lobes are on extended holiday.


    Mob Rules
    Temple of Two Suns
    (Limb-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Okay, I admit it: I thought this was going to be another Sab ripoff. I mean, the band's name is Mob Rules! But I was wrong, and I'll take my licks like a man. No, Mob Rules is a latter-day Eurometal band along the lines of Gamma Ray. Thick and tight guitar lines, heavy use of keyboards (melodic, not drenching) and soaring vocals.

    Indeed, if I have a criticism it's that these boys are just a bit over the top. Everything is played to almost mechanical precision. There just isn't much room for that added bit of emotion to really drive the sound into overdrive.

    But that sort of shiny sound is part of what makes Eurometal such a fun endeavor. Craft is of high importance, and Mob Rules has put together a solid and satisfying sound. The production might be a bit heavy-handed, but not enough to piss me off.

    Nope, this is just a lot of fun. No other way to put it. Solidly written and played, Mob Rules has a great grasp on this sound. Soar with the eagles, my friends.


    Moc Moc
    Entropy
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Prog pop, with the occasional infusion of horns. Not nice horns, but the kind that wake you up in the morning at Scout Camp: blaring, nearly incoherent. The songs themselves are built around the interplay of the bass and guitar, both of which follow intricate paths, only occasionally coming together for a quick smooch.

    Kinda like Yes playing Big Star, with a nod to, say, the first Primus album. Though the rhythm instrument that drives these songs is the drums (the other players are generally lost in their own realities). The result can be maddening, particularly when the members get completely lost and resort to the "metal meltdown" (fast strumming of the guitar and bass, with rising intensity) as a method of advancing the process.

    That doesn't happen too much, though. Much of the time Moc Moc meanders through a garden of technically well-executed licks, while grinding the sound down enough to leave just a bit of a beveled edge. I think this album may actually sound better than it really is.

    At the core, I can't find much. There's a ton of great playing, and the songs are wonderful to traverse. The heart of the enterprise is something I can't quite discern, maybe because of the rather improvisatory style of the songs. For such an ambitious undertaking, though, Moc Moc has done a damned good job.


    Model One
    Model One EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    Four songs that remind me a lot of 80s pop rock--with a "modern" chaser. Kinda like if Cutting Crew actually wrote good songs or if Greg Kihn had a sense of irony, if those references aren't too insulting. Breathy vocals, choppy guitars and anthemic choruses. Takes me back in a good way.


    Rooms EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #275, June 2006

    Six more songs from these boys, and its obvious they haven't changed much from their 80s pop-meets-indie rock formula that worked so well before. And when I say 80s pop, I'm talking about latter-day OMD or Tears for Fears, not strict new wave stuff. This isn't electronic, though it certainly has a keyboard element.

    What works now is what works before: An undying commitment to gorgeous songs and the craftsmanship to follow through on the excellent writing. These are pretty songs--even the more raucous ones--and their beauty is fragile. One stray chord could mar them irrevocably.

    But that blow never comes. Model One knows what it's doing. I can't say if a label will come calling (good music is rarely in fashion, of course), but the two EPs these folks have crafted are simply stellar. Search them out at all costs.


    The Modern Relics
    Phonograph
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Steeped in 70s rock and roll, what with the howling, affected vocals and anthemic tendencies in just about every note. These are SONGS WITH SOMETHING TO SAY, they seem to scream.

    And, sometimes, they do. Once I get past my normal allergy to such things, the Modern Relics kick out some nice songs. Though there are a few other grating bits.

    "Every Single Day" uses the same descending chord structure as "Whiter Shade of Pale," though otherwise the two don't sound much like. There are other times where influence has been abused a bit much.

    I suppose that's the main problem I have. The Modern Relics have not quite been able to craft a distinctive style. "Just kinda rock and roll" is nothing to be ashamed of, certainly, but I like to hear folks assert a little more independence.


    Modern Skirts
    Catalogue of Generous Men
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    Rollicking, pretty songs built on piano and keyboards, complete with undertow. Comparisons to the New Pornographers are not out of line, though the Modern Skirts are a bit more American sounding (if that makes any sense at all).

    Something in the way the boys manage their eccentricities, I guess. More Beach Boys and less prog. Or maybe I'm just imagining all that. What I can say is that the Modern Skirts are earnest in their own, freakish way, and that gives them a most distinctive sound. Comparisons may (and do) abound, but this here's something unique.

    Kinda like if the Beach Boys did some time with the Americana folks, dropping in some rootsy notes to go with scintillating melodies and gorgeous harmonies. Pretty, but grounded in reality. Again, if that makes any sense at all.

    One of those albums that attracts instantly and then gets better from there. Infatuation matures into love most quickly.


    All Of Us in Our Night
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #303, December 2008

    These guys have some famous friends. David Lowery (Cracker, etc.) and Mike Mills produced a few tracks. But the sound here is much more sophisticated than that pedigree might indicate.

    By sophisticated I mean multi-layered and introspective. More like Tortoise than R.E.M., say. The Shins are an obvious reference point, I suppose, though these guys have a more than a bit of the Rob Crow mutant pop gene as well.

    The songs never really take flight. Instead, they're deliberate and exacting examinations of a variety of musical ideas. Not the sort of stuff to excite the kiddies, I suppose, but I don't think that's where these guys are going.

    Think Elton John without the cheese (those hooks that soar way too high). That sort of thing. Modern Skirts play music for adults. And there's not one single reason to apologize for that.


    Gramahawk
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Deliberate laptop-style rock. The beats are synthetic, for the most part, but everything else trends toward the organic. The songs themselves are plotted down in detail, with nothing left to chance. The only way to make this work is to somehow infuse a sense of spontaneity.

    The Modern Skirts succeed. Mostly. After a while, there can be some beatbox fatigue. But the lyrics and melodies are quite clever, and the band takes care not to repeat itself.

    I'm not sure this is the best setting for these songs. I imagine the band is pretty wild live, and some of that energy would help color these songs. Cleverness takes you only so far--although it goes a long, long ways here.

    I'm honestly surprised how much I like this. There are so many red flags, and yet Modern Skirts burns through them effortlessly. That's gotta count for a lot. I guess I'd better get on the bandwagon.


    Moebius
    Conny Plank
    MayoThompson

    Ludwig's Law
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Moebius is probably best known for his work with Cluster and Brian Eno. Conny Plank produced such acts as Kraftwerk, Devo, Ultravox and other acts of a previous electronic age. Mayo Thompson, of course, is the man behind the Red Krayola. They recorded this album in 1983.

    Of course, no one wanted to release it back then. Even today, the sound is certainly out there. Sterile electronic music dripping and washing about, with generally spoken vocals. Hard to imagine rambling electronic pieces, with all the precision such endeavors usually require. But here it is.

    Sane? Well, logical. But sane? Questionable. Some lovely noise, and truly unusual musical directions. Almost pop at times, but never all the way home that way. Intriguing and certainly maddening. Anyone who recognizes any of the names above the title should know what they're getting into here.

    In a weird postscript, Plank died as a result of a South American tour undertaken by this trio. The album never did see the light of day. Until now. Finally, we can all hear the original product. As eclectic and adventurous as might be imagined. Fully worthy.

    See also The Red Krayola and Mayo Thompson.


    Mog Stunt Team 5
    King of the Retards
    (Amphetamine Reptile)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Amazingly, there are folks who have never heard of the AmRep sound. This despite the mainstream success of such alumni as Helmet. Ah, I still remember Strap It On...

    Sorry. Anyway, Mog Stunt Team 5 is a peppy power pop band run though the traditional AmRep sludge apparatus. Oh, I suppose the band might have resembled Magnolia Thunderfinger or even Soul Asylum (early, of course) with a regular job, but see, there seems to be a requirement that any Amphetamine Reptile release absolutely deaden the treble.

    It doesn't hurt, really. In fact, this rather weird production scheme seems to have granted Mog Stunt Team 5 a lease on an original sound. The songs are well-written, and while not necessary, the playing is good as well. Enjoyable and loopy, in a violent sort of way.

    I have no idea what audience this puppy is supposed to please, but I'll be happy to claim a spot in the corner.


    Mogami
    Mogami
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    Jeff Arnal plays percussion (amplified), and Ryan Smith does a lot of computer tricks. Yes, folks, it's weird electronic noise time again. All those lacking a taste for the supremely abstract can simply walk on by.

    Not that there isn't plenty of interesting stuff here. Arnal and Smith keep their pieces lively and vibrant. The parts don't always fit, but they're always fascinating.

    Smith's computer work really brings this one home. Not unlike Panicsville, there's a sense of impending doom hanging over many of these pieces, an unease that is balanced somewhat by the unflagging energy of the components.

    The sort of thing that really catches my ear. Abstract doesn't necessarily mean mind-melting. Sometimes it's more of a deep tan.


    Mogg Way
    Edge of the World
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    As in Phil Mogg and Pete Way (both best known for their work in UFO), with George Bellas on guitar and Aynsley Dunbar drumming. A solid lineup.

    With mixed results. Mogg Way reminds me more of Bad English (Phil Mogg is sounding a lot like John Waite these days) than UFO. On more basic rock songs like "Fortune Town", the band sounds solid and confident. But many more of the songs are dull, plodding retreads that would have a hard time finding a place on a Winger album.

    Some extra time working up material would really have helped a lot. Mogg, Way and company obviously have some chemistry, but there aren't enough good songs here to properly showcase it. Too bad, really.

    This should have been much better. A chance missed.


    Chocolate Box
    (Shrapnel) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    A second time around for the former UFO bandmates. The sides are somewhat less distinguished this time around, but in all ways this is much better. The songs refuse to give in to excess, and sometimes they even soar.

    Phil Mogg is singing closer to his range, and while that's a bit lower than hard rock usually allows, it works better for this band. The writing is better all the way around. These songs actually have something of a classic to them, something that was missing from the first outing.

    The production relies less on bombast and sounds like it trusts the music a bit better. You can't hide crap with sleight of hand, no matter how hard you try. The fact is, these songs deserve to stand on their own. They do it well.

    I enjoyed this puppy, which is leaps and bounds above the first album. Yeah, the sound is dated, but Mogg Way does it well. Boy, I sure didn't expect that when I popped this puppy in the discer. That's why you always have to listen to the albums before writing the reviews.


    Mogwai
    Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996-1997)
    (Jetset-Big Cat)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Moody pop that likes to play lots of games with the dynamic meter. Soft quickly thrusts to loud, and the harshest pounding subsides to silence in seconds. It would be even more impressive if the band didn't do that sort of thing all the time.

    The music itself is fairly complex, with at least two competing melody lines (and the odd vocal set) in each song. There is a fairly diverse instrumentation (lots of unusual--for rock--bits in the percussion), but nothing that draws away from the sparse appeal of Mogwai's basic sound.

    The feel often echoes moments from the first Dirty Three album (without the fiddle, obviously). Ominous clouds on the horizon, a pervasive implication of danger and foreboding. And yet, the boom is never fully lowered.

    And that's what I kept waiting for: the release. The titles. Something to tell me that the movie is over and it's now time to wander out of the theater and get in my car. Mogwai is maddeningly ambivalent. I'm not sure if that's such a good thing or not, but it sure has me listening.


    Young Team
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    A peculiarly British form of rock. One that might be mistaken for emo, but the roots are all different. This music is the antithesis of punk, completely thought out and crafted over time. Much more like classical music than regular rock stuff.

    And like an art movie, Mogwai revels in creating a mood. The songs don't necessarily have climaxes or even some minor form of resolution, but merely serve as a snapshot of emotion. A generally depressed feeling, most often, though bits of rage and joy do emerge as well.

    The songs are long. Some longer than 10 minutes. But they speed by without much consideration as to time. Mogwai fully draws the listener in, and once there, refuses to allow release. Stuck, mostly for the better.

    Immaculately built, beautifully presented. Music on a higher plane. Mogwai is one of those truly amazing bands that you hear only once in a great while.


    Kicking a Dead Pig + Mogwai Fear Satan remix 2xCD
    (PC Music)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    I know, you're sitting there going "How can you remix Mogwai?". After all, this is a rock band with its base in elemental music. Not horribly conducive to the electronic revolution.

    Well, I'll tell you. The remixes are organic, almost ambient at times. Completely rethought and reworked, the songs come across here as a nice fusion of the dirty prog rock that Mogwai plays and the dirty electronic music that's been replacing the techno sound of late.

    Truly and wonderfully out there, in all the good ways. This isn't a club album, and it's not much of a rock album. But it's wild, hairy and unrestrained. Right on the edge.

    Which is what I've come to expect from Mogwai. Why not a remix album? Why not, indeed.


    Moistboyz
    III
    (Ipecac)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Something of a Ween side project, Moistboyz is nothing more (or less) than a goofily sly metal put-on.

    Not a joke. Decidedly not. These songs are packed full of silly lyrics, which are spewed out at breakneck speed over amusingly derivative drum-machine driven riffs. The songs are funny, but they're a total blast as well.

    It helps to have lived a heavy metal childhood, but rather than putting down that whole scene, Moistboyz simply show how to do it right. These tunes are the opposite of ponderous or turgid. Each piece moves along quickly and never looks back. I mean, how many fuckin' Scorpions power ballads do you really want to hear?

    Right. There's none of that here. If it weren't for the tinny drum machine at the center of rhythm section, this stuff could be passed off as the real thing. Well, at least until the lyrical content hit home. Moistboyz are loud, fast and fun. A real blast.


    Mojack
    Merchandising Murder
    (SST)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    More Ginn-age, with Gone cohort Steve Sharp on bass, regular bud Andy Batwinas covering the drum machines, etc., and Tony Atherton of Bazooka wailing away on saxophone.

    Not enough Atherton, and too much of the generic Ginn "onward to the apocalypse" sound. This is not the project for a drum machine that never wavers, never misses a beat. I think Mojack could have really used the human timekeeper element, to give this a warmer feeling.

    But that's not what happened, and the result is just another Ginn solo disc with the occasional sax. This isn't so much bad as repetitive and dull. I think perhaps Ginn needs to take another break from recording and redefine what he wants to do. His latest releases have been spotty at best, and none of them have a fresh sound. Ginn is better than what he's been putting out. I'd like to see him prove that statement.

    See also Bazooka and Greg Ginn.


    Mojave 3
    Excuses for Travellers
    (4AD)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Perfectly nice Britfolk (is that a term?). Mojave 3 dresses up its moody pieces with some interesting orchestration. Almost all acoustic, lending the songs an intimate feel.

    Pretty, almost to a fault. These are well-crafted shiny gems. Very little hint of imperfection, even while showing off plenty of vulnerability. A difficult feat that sounds like it was accomplished with ease.

    The songs stay in the same general territory, slow-to-mid-tempo with very few ups and downs. A recipe for boredom, really, except that the arrangements and orchestrations are marvels. Like a painting, really.

    Yes, it takes lots of practice to put together music like this. Mojave 3 has been at it a while, and yet this album is just as fresh as the first two. Lots to like, as per usual.


    Spoon and Rafter
    (4AD-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Anyone who has heard Mojave 3 has an opinion. I know folks who love these guys, and I know those who would take the band's CDs out for skeet practice. Very few people are ambivalent, which is kinda odd, considering the measured, highly-crafted folk pop the band purveys.

    It's something of a cop-out to say that this album will enchant current fans and irritate those in the opposite camp. But this is just another outstanding Mojave 3 album. The song are flawless, though that very fact is exactly what can drive people to violence. How can you dislike something so perfect?

    Well, I don't know. I'm in the pro-Mojave 3 group, and I happen to think that very few bands write such consistently good songs. Sure, this isn't the stuff you're going to play at your next kegger, but I think that's the point. There's plenty of room for thoughtful, nuanced pop music, which is exactly what these folks play.

    This is no groundbreaking album, and it's not likely to garner many new fans for the band. But I fail to see the shame in praising a band that has hit its stride. When music is this good, I can't help but get a little excited.


    Mojosmoke
    Pull
    (self-released)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Interesting lyrics, but music that is far too conventional. The band seems to think it sounds like the Wallflowers and other such groove-jam bands. I'd go back another 20 years, more akin to the heavily crafted AOR stuff that wandered along in the wake of Boston and the later Led Zep albums.

    But Mojosmoke keeps the sound understated, which is one of the few good things I heard. It's just that the songwriters tried far too hard. The music sounds strained, as if it the tunes didn't quite work out right. To be honest, they didn't.

    Which is too bad, because I think the lyrics are among the more perceptive I've heard lately. They don't work well with the music as presented, and perhaps the stress of matching up words and tunes caused some of the problems. Hard to say. Mojosmoke simply needs to find a groove, something to hold its songs together.

    A strangely disconcerting album. For all the potential and obvious talent (the playing is first-rate), the songs simply don't work for me. They stop and start way too much to keep a coherent music train of thought moving. Any kind of sustained rhythmic ideas would be welcome.


    Molar
    The Time and Motion Studies
    (False Walls)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Abstract, experimental electronic fare. Molar is that most unusual of such acts: an honest-to-God trio. Three guys who work really hard to create some of the most impressive sonic explorations I've heard in quite a while.

    Most intriguing is the way these guys use rhythmic loops. A lot of the songs here have a central structure, but the main elements meander so much that they become almost counterpoints. I like that. I like to hear new and interesting ways to define a rhythm.

    There are also a couple of laptop pop moments, which initially surprised me. But then, if you're going to go to the edge, you might as well return fully geeked out, right?

    I love this sorta stuff. It kinda wanders in and out of my mind, freeing up previously frozen synapses and allowing me to really kick off some awesome thinking. I know, music doesn't have to be so practical, but when it works, why bitch? Quite the brain laxative.


    Molasses
    You'll Never Be Well No More
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    I received two albums from these guys (the other one will be reviewed next issue). Both are beautifully crafted packages, with hand-sewn liner notes and amazing artwork. The same goes for the music.

    Baleful folk-country stuff, along the lines of Palace or Songs:Ohia. Extremely simple arrangements, truly gorgeous lyrics and playing. Kinda like Dirty Three with words sometimes.

    I'm a little scattershot here, mostly because I'm so overwhelmed. Molasses has a way of immediately demanding attention, and I have to break away every once in a while to write, you know? Well, maybe you don't. But I'm afraid I'm just not able to properly describe the power of the music I'm hearing.

    There's only one way to comprehend Molasses, and that's to experience the band for yourself. Sometimes the way to create an indelible impression is to say things plainly. That Molasses does, and the effect can be quite shattering. Hauntingly, achingly brilliant songs. An unforgettable album.


    Trilogie: Toil and Peaceful Life
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Once again, the packaging is inventively gorgeous. Great care went into creating the cover, liners and even the pieces of paper that shield the disc itself. The same care went into creating the music.

    Three songs, along with a lengthy intro that consists mainly of the sound of cathedral bells ringing. The three pieces are called waltzes, and they are played in 3/4 time. But these aren't dancing waltzes, because, as I mentioned in last issue's review, Molasses doesn't make normal music.

    No, it takes bits and pieces of found sound (the bells, the sound of the Montreal subway, whatever) and uses that noise to decorate some rather abstract folk-country-roots music. The songs are something of a meditation on just that dichotoomy, how to appreciate the simple things while still remaining part of the real world. Again, images of Dirty Three dance in my head.

    But Molasses is hardly stealing. Quite the contrary, the use of modern production techniques and rather old styles of music blend together seamlessly, creating an otherwordly sound. The kinda thing that almost demands introspection and a freeing of the conscious mind. Let yourself go, and visit the world of Molasses.


    A Slow Messe 2xCD
    (Fancy-Alien 8)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    So I get this package from Fancy and I know it must be a Molasses album. I rip the envelope open and take hold of the elegantly appointed contents. And it hits me. This isn't a Molasses album. It's a Molasses double album! I coulda died happy.

    Well, maybe I still want to get a novel published and go to tea with Susan Sarandon, but still and all, this was pretty good. When I put the discs in my player, the sensation returned, only moreso.

    For those who missed my orgasmic reviews of the first two Molasses efforts, this collective of musicians (there are seven regulars and almost twice as many guests) plays experimental noise alt. country. That's perhaps the dullest and least interesting description imaginable, but I think it does get the point across. Well, except for the fact of the band's utter brilliance, of course.

    The pieces are often morose and tinged with a decided flavor of evil. Maybe just an aftertaste, really, as the feeling I get after listening to this stuff is one of hope and redemption. Maybe not today, but sometime before our planet passes into oblivion. Until then, of course, life consists mostly of disappointment and loss, but it's not without startling moments of stark beauty.

    I sure do hope all this rambling is making sense to someone. I don't know of any other band that can take me away to an entirely different existence as quickly as Molasses. I get lost in the songs almost immediately, and often my own consciousness doesn't return until long after the final note has faded to black. Bleak has never come in so many vibrant colors.


    Mold
    Reject
    (Funky Mushroom)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Cool eclectic pop music, with just the right amounts of feedback and trippy nonsense.

    Mold won't stay put in any mode for long, ripping from moody to pissed to just plain blissful. Chrissy Davis keeps the vocals aggressive enough to avoid the "babydoll" syndrome Kim Deal seems to have gotten herself into.

    Not quite as loopy as their previous EP, Mold still keeps things on the lighter side. Serious subjects are broached, but you get discussion, not doctrine.

    Perhaps Mold isn't accessible enough to be huge. These folks know how to make cool music. Fun and still substantial. Hard to fault.


    Mold
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Last time I heard Mold, it was a distortion-laden fuzzy, heavy pop band. A lot of the extras have departed, leaving just the core songs and some squealing guitar. That's not a bad thing with this band.

    Fairly simple construction, rather creative lyrical content. Plenty to like, just as before. And many times the stuff is pretty funny, which only adds to the plus side.

    What makes Mold such an impressive band is that many folks are out there doing this sort of thing. And for the most part, the stuff is really dull. Mold imbibes its sound with intensity and aggressive instincts. Enough bite for the best of us.

    And lastly, the diversity of the song styles is most refreshing. Mold doesn't want to stick to just one sound, but stretches itself. And it works, which is all the more impressive.


    Pete Molinari
    Theosophy
    (Cherry Red)
    reviewed 1/5/15

    Pete Molinari is an old-school bluesy americana hollerer who is utterly addicted to 60s pop. The easiest reference would be to imagine 1965-ish Beatles as Jack White's greatest influence, but Molinari has a much more sophisticated attack.

    Which is to take nothing away from White's genius. But Molinari has a knack for tweaking just about every sound he touches so that the end result is something than can only be described as "Molinari-esque."

    And White is one of the few artists who managed the same feat so early in his career, so the comparison seems obvious to me. But Molinari is anti-garage. These songs are bright, loud and energetic, but most of all they're immaculately crafted. The melodies turn in on each other, and the rhythms are tuned precisely.

    There are some lovely Simon and Garfunkel moments here, though Molinari puckishly throws a little Dylan into those bits, so the results are more "A Simple Desultory Philippic" than "I Am a Rock." I'm more than amenable.

    Amenable to pretty much everything here. And as a complete aside, I'm glad to see Cherry Red still alive and kicking with such great music. This is an album that looks back to the past and finds the perfect sound for the future. Molinari is a talent that cannot be overlooked. Mindbendingly brilliant.


    Molly McGuire
    Sisters Of...
    (Hit It)
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    For the record: I saw these guys many times when I was living in Kansas City, and for a couple of years I talked them up to lots of labels. The usual response was: "Yeah, they're fucking great, but they won't talk to us." That's an unusual excuse, to be sure.

    Anyway, Molly McGuire has finally gotten a full-length out, so all those questions are moot. And what an album, too!

    The sound has matured somewhat, but there are still elements of grunge guitar, Chicago noise beats and constructions, with a few classic rock riffs and sensibilities tossed in just to confuse you some more.

    The end result sounds a little like another K.C. band, Season to Risk (whose singer guests on a track), but with a little more melody and musical punch.

    Sisters Of... is a great album, but with the talent in this band, I'm sure there's even more waiting to come forth. Molly McGuire should be terrorizing the nation for some time to come.


    Momzer
    Goodnight Nobody
    (Mean Bed)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    With few exceptions (the Dark Heart Procession comes to mind) piano-based rock needs to be kinetic. Motion is the key. Always move, always keep the pieces going forward. Momzer is more than happy to oblige.

    And even though the boys keep a steady hand on the throttle, they are more than willing to try out different sounds and ideas. This is an incredibly fertile album, with each song inhabiting a slightly different ensemble from the alt-pop wardrobe.

    The sound can be tinny, but where that might give some albums the sheen of cheapness, here it gives just the right edge to its sound. I do with the acoustic guitars were a bit warmer, but that's a minor quibble. It's far outweighed by the cool, icy organ sound the keyboards have.

    The album title is easily recognized by any parent as a line in Goodnight Moon, and the song not only acknowledges the reference but expands upon it in unexpectedly fine fashion. Kinda like the rest of the album. Momzer's understated approach sneaks up on you, but in the end you'll be hitting repeat.


    Monastat 7
    Now Available Without a Prescription
    (Relapse Underground)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Grind for your Nintendo. The Casio-like drum machine is kinda funny, but when you distort that sound a lot, it can get rather nasty.

    And what big samples you have, M7. Between grand breaks there are lots of little vignettes that recall a dark sideshow or just plain unpleasantness.

    I can't help but get the feeling this was manufactured more than created, but then again, I've never heard a grind band this catchy. You will hum these songs in your sleep.


    Mondii
    1:p
    (Hefty)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Not much documentation here, but lots of art. I mean, the liners are entirely visual in nature (no words), and the music follows suit. There are voices, but since everything is sampled and spun into a loop-driven sound, I wouldn't call them vocals.

    It would be a mistake to refer to this simply as a "constructed" or "assembled" album, though. Mondii does utilize some basic forms in putting together the songs. It's just the pieces that are so unusual. The rhythms are likely to be composed of melodic sounds, and what serves as melody is often atonal.

    This may sound disjointed at first, but it makes so much sense. Mondii is inviting us to listen to music in a slightly different way. After all, rhythm is rhythm, and melody is melody. You've just got to get past a few preconceived notions first.

    And allow yourself to tumble head-over-heels into this sound. The ideas are distinct and crystal clear. You've just got to understand the language first. And lessons are definitely not a chore.


    Money Mark
    Push the Button
    (Pinto/MoWax/London)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    At first I thought, hmmm, someone is trying to make Beck's Mellow Gold redux, except with a moog keyboard instead of an acoustic guitar.

    And then I found out Money Mark is the keyboard player for the Beastie Boys. So there is a connection. But there is a dichotomy on this disc. When Money goes on his strange little keyboard interludes between the "proper" songs with words, he's got an energy and style that makes me want to shout, "Check this out!."

    And then the proper songs come on. Sounding like a tuneless Matthew Sweet with dumber lyrics, one has to wonder what the hell Money was thinking. Forgettable pop songs more annoying than everything this side of Everclear, those damn things could--no should--have been left off. With the exception of "I Don't Play Piano," which is pretty good.

    Money Mark's creative side (and ability) is definitely in cooking up cool instrumentals. He should keep his mouth shut and let the music talk.
    --Matt Worley


    Moneyshot
    Teaspoonful of Love EP
    (Bombardier) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Rather mannered pop, with extremely tightly-written songs. Every piece is precisely set in place, but the sound is still fairly loose. While wound up securely, Moneyshot still packs an emotional punch.

    In fact, this heavily-crafted approach probably is the best way to get these ideas across. There are some complex notions in the songs (both lyrically and musically), and setting up precise structures allows those ideas to form more fully.

    And like I said, Moneyshot doesn't hold back. Sure, the music is somewhat strictured. That can't keep it from releasing a potent dose of energy to compliment the intellectual wonders. Fine, fine fare.


    Lucy Mongrel
    Lucy Mongrel
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Where most folks create textured pop by taking bits and pieces of odd influences and flowing them into a standard structure, Lucy Mongrel takes big chunks of just about every sound imaginable (foreign and domestic) and then remaking pop construction to fit her purposes.

    Add to that an utterly idiosyncratic delivery, and you get this disc. Mongrel isn't so much out there as she is visionary. Music can't stay pent up in a box, and the best way to move it forward is to try a few new things.

    So she might be singing a cafe song over a flamenco riff backed by some sort of African beat, or she might be playing the blues in an almost unrecognizable fashion. She knows what she wants to do, and the execution is quite good.

    Truly unique. The stuff might be somewhat unsettling, but that's the idea. Just try to find whatever point of entrance you can. Mongrel has left the door wide open.


    Monk
    Quiver
    (Flat Earth)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Sprawling, open songs of almost impossible beauty. Since I spent my formative years in the nation's breadbasket, I'd say this album sounds midwestern. I'm sure other folks might have other references.

    The style of the music itself is highly varied. The changes are subtle, but Monk isn't afraid to shake things up by tossing in a little funk or uptempo groove. And yet, the overarching feel of meaninglessness pervades.

    Well, maybe more insignificance. Standing in the face of something so incomprehensible that you disappear. There is a grandness to this disc that really can't be explained easily. It is in the sound, but it's also in the writing and the performance.

    Something to ponder as I listen to this puppy again and again. It's that kinda affair.


    Monkey Paw
    Honkey Kong
    (4 Alarm)
    reviewed in issue #265, June 2005

    There's something about these boys that reminds me of the Jesus Lizard. Maybe it's the fact that a few tracks here are produced by Steve Albini. Or maybe it's the often chaotic yelping of the vocals. Or maybe it's just that this trio hails from Chicago.

    Because it's not the music. Not exactly. These churning tunes are a bit too, well, tuneful. Monkey Paw isn't going to bowl anyone over with its hooks, but they're not bad. Kinda window dressing, really, given the power of the music.

    Oh yeah, the music is that good. It's not over the top or anything. Just so, really. Loud but not particularly distorted. Disjointed yet rhythmic. Lots of fun. You know, what this sounds like is Neil Young (loud phase) meets Jesus Lizard.

    Nah, that's still a cheap and easy way to describe the often loony sounds of Monkey Paw. Just when I think I've got the boys pegged, the do something like throw in a raggedy blues piece, complete with harp. Ah, yes, the true connection to the Lizard: These boys generally do the unexpected, and they make it sound like the most natural thing in the world.


    Monks of Doom
    The Insect God CD5
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    This is what is left of the once proud, often cheesy Camper Van Beethoven, whose grating cover of Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" (from their last and worst album) still gets played too much on college radio.

    The title track is, of course, a musical rendition of Edward Gorey's book, and there are Syd Barrett and (on the CD) Zappa covers to amuse yourself as well.

    The Monks of Doom seem to have found a little of that early Camper spirit and lost much of the pretentiousness that many college "supergroups" seem to find necessary to live with.

    Fun music for listening on a cruel evening.


    The Monorchid
    Who Put Out the Fire?
    (Touch and Go)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    One album on Dischord, this one for Touch and Go and the inevitable break-up. Now this lame duck album which still manages to convey the fire and desire of a working band.

    The Monorchid plays some high octane punk rawk. Complicated bass and guitar lines, though, so as to confound the formula. Almost Nomeanso-like in the bass at times. Thick, chunky and every moving. The guitars swoop in from side to side, highly distorted and sometimes almost hidden.

    Oh, what a joyous melange this is. Folks having fun making loud and crazy music. Stuff that doesn't follow any rules, but still manages to stay coherent enough to understand. Nice and tasty.

    The songs just keep throbbing out. Yeah, it's a damn shame the band is no more. And yet, the music will always serve as a beacon. Oh, man, did I really say that? I'm so sorry...


    Monotonic
    Electralux
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Keenly-edged rock with its roots in hardcore. Instead of going over to a metal guitar sound, though, Monotonic has dulled the guitar sound and chilled out just a bit. Boy, do I like this.

    Yeah, the songs are anthems with often silly choruses. Doesn't matter. I like the way I can hear spaces in the sound, and I like the way all of the parts seem to be working toward the betterment of the band superorganism. The songs are so well-written, the different players sound like they're merely tapping into a greater consciousness.

    And the guys aren't afraid to take some real chances, like with "Fucked Up Genius Love", which plays quite close to such songs as "Creep" and, strangely, the Crue's "Home Sweet Home". The amazing this is that the band pulls the song off at all, much less as well as it is done here.

    Just one of those albums that comes out of nowhere, grabs me by the balls and doesn't let go. A nice feeling to have, really.


    Monotract
    Pagu
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    There's something about a vaguely-distorted drum machine playing offhand-yet-catchy beats and synthesizer noise that gets me off. There's no other way to explain my attraction to Monotract.

    The music isn't simple, of course. There are all sorts of ideas flying around in the soup here. And I'm not going to pretend that everything (okay, much of anything) makes sense, though there is a strange sense of order in the way all of this coalesces into something approaching white noise.

    Except, of course, that it is organized noise. The squalls and shrieks and wails and throbs and scrapes and bleeps do have a purpose. That I can't necessarily discern said purpose doesn't mean the stuff is mindless. And like I said, the album really works for me.

    I do like abstract noise. It helps me clear my head after spending a day dealing with the travails of a one-year-old. For some reason, disorder in the outside world helps me bring focus to my own inner self. And if nothing else, Monotract is absolutely great for that.


    Michael Monroe
    Life Gets You Dirty
    (Steamhammer-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    You know, if Motley Crue can still put out albums, why can't Michael Monroe? The real question is: If Michael Monroe can put out an album this solid, why can't the Crue?

    Intertwined for eternity, the monster smash and the talented band seemingly obliterated in a smash-up. Monroe's output since Hanoi quit rocking has been up and down. But his brand of sax and harp-laced glam metal has always had the potential to really redefine the genre.

    And here, Monroe really does manage to fuse the blues and glam into a terribly exciting machine. I kept waiting for the drop-off. This stuff is astonishingly solid. I haven't heard everything he's done the last 15 years, but damn, this beats what did hit my ears. Not even a close race.

    "Self Destruction Blues" is a good enough reason to search this puppy out. But the stuff surrounding it is solid and occasionally spectacular as well. I'd be surprised if Axl's new G'N'R album turns out half as good. I wasn't expecting anything of this quality. Would that we all aged so well.


    Monroe Mustang
    The Elephant Sound
    (Jagjaguwar)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Maybe that whole pop psychedelia thing is coming around again, after all. Or, possibly, maybe it never left. In any case, Monroe Mustang wields a heavy stick as it kicks out some echoey, distortion-laden licks. Is it pop? Nah, not really, but there are some elements.

    Even more than the Manishevitz, though, this is a bluesy roots album. With lots and lots of stuff piled on top. There is the whole singer-songwriter sound (Palace, Songs:Ohia, Simon Joyner, etc.), but that's been amped up and wigged out.

    To good places. I like the lush sound, the full feel of the songs. These guys need that power to help make their points. All I really can say is that it works. These are moving works.

    Dark, brooding and generally antisocial. No wonder I like it so much. There's lots to plumb in these depths, and I'd like to get back to that now. Cheers.


    DeavonDen091099
    (Jagjauwar)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Recorded live for a Dutch radio station, this seven-song sampler shows off both old and new material. Generally acoustic, which gives the earlier stuff a bit of a new spin.

    The sound here compares well with the Mojave 3, a full-yet-folky feel. Monroe Mustang is less refined (as is just about everyone), but the bumps just lend more opportunities to get into the material.

    A big change of pace for those familiar with the band's two albums. This thing was recorded while Monroe Mustang was in Holland to play at a festival. The band doesn't tour much, certainly not in Europe. Perhaps this inspired the adjustment. Or maybe it just made sense at the time.

    I'm not too worried about the why. It's the what, and what this is is terrific. A new window on a great band. Plenty to appreciate and marvel at, to be sure.


    The Monsoons
    Orographic Effect EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Imagine extremely dense roots music, fronted by a guy who sounds vaguely like Bob Dylan--without the enunciation issues. Follow that dream, and add to it a tendency to drift into other 70s sounds, like glam or reggae (say, at the same time). And once you've got that in the spinner, well, just imagine that the boys don't stop there.

    The Monsoons remind me a lot of Muckafurguson in the way they assimilate a wide number of styles within their own sound. And the offbeat sense of humor surely doesn't hurt, either.

    Each of these songs is tightly written and expertly played. With a sense of fun and adventure. Despite all the ingredients, there is a loose feel to these pieces that's really exciting. A first-rate trip.


    Monster Voodoo Machine
    State Voodoo/State Control
    (D-Tribe/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Yeah, so I'm a few months late here. You folks didn't tell me I fucked up the name of the label in the charts. We're even.

    Um, did it strike any of you that these folk are nasty latter-day White Zombie clones? Hell, they even included remixes that don't save the songs.

    Why copy something that really sucks? Because you can make money. And I hate people like that. I'm sure they swear they believe in their music. I sure don't.


    Monster-0
    Entertainment System EP
    (Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    The new wave of new wave is in full swing, and Monster-0 (that's a zero, not an "o") takes advantage of modern electronic styles to flavor its synth-based sound. Oh, did I happen to mention that the "band" is Daemon Hatfield. But of course.

    This is a lot more Dare than techno. There's even a cover of "The Politics of Dancing," if you were confused as to where Hatfield hangs his hat. His version is strangely devoid of warmth--odd in that many of the other songs here are hardly chilly at all.

    Though this isn't laptop pop for the masses, not by a long shot. Rather, these are electronic anthems for those just off the beaten path. Hatfield also calls himself the "Laptop Ninja." Yeah, okay. Silliness is always a good thing. As long as the music is solid. And this certainly fits the bill.


    ...And Then There Were Zero
    (Omega Point)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    Few labels would have the courage to release one Monster-0 album. Daemon Hatfield writes some of the most incisive and attractive songs I've ever heard, but he seems to insist upon some of the strangest arrangements possible. Almost all of them involve some sort of rock-electronic hybrid, but rarely does he repeat himself.

    So if you're able to sit back and simply rock out the bones of the pieces, you're cool. Likewise if you simply like to hear great music put into some of the strangest positions imaginable. Those in-between, well...

    Luckily for Hatfield and Lindsay Williams, his new partner in Monster-0, Omega Point insists on releasing unusual--but always exceptional--electronic music. The sound palette for Monster-0 albums is breathtaking, and the results--once you've steeled yourself--are similarly impressive.

    I like weird stuff, and I also like picking music apart. This stuff is perfect for my ear. But it should be accessible to any vaguely adventurous listener. My only advice is to let the songs come to you. Trying to scale the ideas perpetrated by this album would be a true feat of genius.


    Monstrosity
    Imperial Doom
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    A solid death metal album. Everything is where it should be, everything sounds like it should. But then I find something lacking.

    A personal touch. While this is everything you could ask for in such an album, I want a little originality, something that gives me the opportunity to say definitively: "Yes, that's Monstrosity."

    But this feeds my adrenal glands like a beast, so why bitch? Good question.


    Millennium
    (Conquest Music)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Plenty of folks have been asking me who's distributing Nuclear Blast in the U.S. these days. I still don't have an answer for that, but this album is going through Conquest in the U.S., while Nuclear Blast's new deal with East-West (Warner) is taking care of Europe. Confused? Join the club.

    Those of you out of the loop on recent Tampa goings-on take note: This is the final Monstrosity album with George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher on vocals. He's now fronting Cannibal Corpse. Fisher's replacement is Jeff Avery, who used to growl for Eulogy.

    In a way it's too bad Fisher quit just as Monstrosity and Scott Burns got their collective shit together and recorded the first good album in the band's history. Yeah, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Burns is really into technically tight production nowadays, but I've got to say that Monstrosity has finally figured out how to write reasonably coherent songs, and thus doesn't sound like a poor cousin to Cannibal Corpse anymore.

    I still wish the guys would rely on more raw feel and less flashy playing, but what the hell, I'll take what I can get. This is the first Monstrosity album I would recommend even to death metal fans. I hope for an even more improved future.


    Montana Screams
    Mean World Syndrome
    (RED LeTTER)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95
    Well, God-DAMN! Another retro-glam band that tried to make grand statements while sounding like Law and Order (the MCA band).

    Now, wait a minute. I liked Law and Order, and this stuff doesn't grate on my ears. The rhythm section keeps the songs from cheesing out too much, though I have pass on silly stuff like "Thinking About You".

    And the album veers between wanker tracks like that and cool stuff like "Red, White, Black and Blue". It sure takes balls to play this sort of music when the trends are so diametrically opposed, but what the hell, right?

    A better than average glam album. Plenty to enjoy, if that's your bag.


    The Montgomery Cliffs
    Millennium: A Pop Opera
    (RPM USA)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Complete with an overblown overture and everything. The basic premise is that it's about time for mankind to evolve and move on. Precisely where? That's what this is all about.

    This is pop done in the grand style. The music slogs down a bit, at times trying a bit too hard to sound "important." Most of the time, though, the hooks manage to overcome any excess pomposity.

    In any case, this puppy is a lot easier to handle than any Styx concept album. It's a lot more literate, too. I have to admit that the weenie metaphysical philosophy is a bit silly at times (humans were planted on earth by aliens, and now it's time to justify our existenc,e etc.), but the stuff isn't too weird to enjoy.

    An interesting attempt. I'm not so sure that pop music, which the need to craft hooks incessantly, is really the best medium for expressing such seemingly serious ideas. The Montgomery Cliffs ended up with some stultifying passages, but mostly, a cool disc.


    The Montgomery Cliffs
    (RPM)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Jangly power pop, the sort of sound that breeds sing-along anthems like rabbits. The Montgomery Cliffs have figured out how to take advantage of that natural coincidence, and these songs are definitely addictive.

    Definitely a step up for the boys, who sound a lot more comfortable playing these songs. That ease of delivery simply spins the sugar finer. Pop can never sound like a chore.

    And it sure isn't here. The slightly ragged production sound (emphasizing the jangly quality of the songs by giving the cymbals just that much more rattle) lends these songs a bit of an intimate quality, which only pulls me in tighter.

    Altogether a wonderful experience. It's always fun to hear a band hit a groove, and the Montgomery Cliffs are right down the middle of one now. Three chords and a dream rarely sounds this good.


    Moods for Moderns
    Loud & Clear
    (Doghouse)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    The mood, if you were curious, is glam rock. Take a good look at that cover photo. T. Rex all the way, baby. And boy, does this settle down nicely. Right in pocket, perfect for jangling.

    Just the right amount of clunky jangle pop mixed in with the rough harmonies, bounding lead guitar and booming bass of glam. Songs about rock and roll, girls and rock and roll. Just what the doctor ordered.

    This is hardly modern music. The name of the band is retro irony. Kinda like that. The songs are straight out of 1971 or 1972, with no apologies. And why should there be any?

    A solid representation of the form. I love stuff like this. I could eat it all day every day for the rest of my life. Maybe it's the music of my soul or something and I have no control. Hard to say. What I do know is that I'm gonna play this puppy until I somehow manage to wear it out.


    The Moon
    The Moon
    (Surgeland)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    The Sleeze Beez arrived in the U.S. just as the whole glam metal ship slipped beneath the surface. Not to be deterred, SB vocalist Andrew Elt is now fronting another Dutch outfit, the Moon. A little less emphasis on cheap riffs and a little more on craft.

    The Moon wanders all over the rock landscape, taking superficial swipes at a number of styles. The guys can play, and Elt is a fine singer, but these songs sound more like crib exercises than actual original songs. No soul, in other words. Just all the outer trappings.

    And just when I thought things couldn't get worse, there came "What Is It", a dreadful trip down Beatles lane. Do these guys really understand what they're playing, or are they simply running through the notes and figuring that's good enough?

    Don't know. The lack of a center in this music reminds me all too much of the Sleeze Beez. If these guys are earnest about their music, they ought to let it show a bit more. This stuff is rock-by-numbers to the max.


    The Moon Seven Times
    The Moon Seven Times
    (Third Mind-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    Psychedelic pop without all the annoying feedback. You can understand the lyrics and appreciate Lynn Canfield's fine voice.

    While sticking to the mellow side of the road, The Moon Seven Times are far from dull. At times reminiscent of seventies Kate Bush, though a little trippier, these fine folk have put together an album that is deceptively simple.

    Pass this over to the MD on your right if you like, as most metalheds will not appreciate your seg from Bolt Thrower to this. But you are free to appreciate the easy beauty of the songs. I hate the Sundays and stuff like that, but for some reason I like this. Perhaps it's because the melodies are a little more interesting, and the lyrics aren't unadulterated shlock (thanks YFF).


    Sunburnt
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    While Roadrunner canned most of its ethereal pop acts, the Moon Seven Times has stuck around for its third album. This Champaign, IL, act shares plenty of similarities with such cheesy stuff as the Sundays, but never quite verges into that nasty, cloying territory.

    Just contemplative pop music, with Lynn Canfield's vocals floating a bit over the music. I never heard the second album, but I heard plenty of not-so-complimentary things which bummed me, as I quite liked the first set. This album is not as strong as the first, but still a worthy effort.

    As before, a strong hand at the production board (provided by Trina Shoemaker) keeps the band grounded and focused. The resulting sound is mellow, but not fluffy. Good work.

    The main difference is the songwriting, which wears a bit thin at points. Still, the overall effort is strong. I generally don't like bands that tread these waters, but I like the Moon Seven Times. And this album.


    Moonshake
    Cranes CD5
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96

    Polished Brit pop that melds together many of the big U.K. trends of the past few years. A little My Bloody Valentine psychedelia, a little of that pure Blur pop, a little of the artsy messiness of the Fall (without the attitude, though, and that is a problem). And since a couple of the folks here have done stuff with Stereolab, I would be remiss in not noting that influence as well.

    Cool stuff that overwhelms me with its lack of passion. I want to hear a sign of life from the band, and all I get is more production room magic. The sound is great, the ideas solid, the playing acceptable. But these three songs just do not give me enough space to really understand what is going on here.

    I'll reserve full judgment until the album. What I hear here is a collection of good players who haven't the slightest feeling for the songs they perform. We'll see how a full set plays out.


    Moonspell
    Wolfheart
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #86, 9/11/95

    Tending an atmospheric death-doom sound that lies somewhere between Tiamat's first and second albums, Moonspell weaves just that.
    Sure, many of the tracks are long. If you get bored, then you just aren't listening. Yeah, so the over-the-top success of bands like Type O also creates a cool market for this album.

    The guitar lines are fluid and graceful, the songs sound positively composed, and yet there is also a romping playfulness present as well. These boys are having fun, and so am I.

    Not a new direction, but this is death-doomy stuff done particularly well. The production left just the right amount of rough edges, and the performances are good as well. A well-crafted piece of work.


    Britney Moore
    Home for Story Time
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    It's not everyday that you hear someone who has decided to take the whole Half Japanese experience and translate it into the present day complete with electric piano, samples and noise. Britney Moore (this may or may not be her name; her web site references "people I have been," and the music is credited to a certain Sabrina Tillman) isn't the most diverse songwriter in the world--many of her songs seem to sound alike, although all are decidedly unique unto themselves--but she certainly has a distinctive writing voice.

    There's a sing-songy quality to the melodies (that's the easiest HJ touchpoint, as far as I'm concerned) that will either grate or enchant. I'll admit to a little of both. What won me over in the end was the way the songs rarely did what I expected them to do. Despite that "sameness" I described earlier, there are surprises everywhere.

    For reasons I can't fathom, Moore drenches some (but not all) of these songs in scratchy white noise. Most of the pieces are quite well recorded, and I'm guessing she did almost all of the production herself. A nice, if at times curious, job.

    There are a few bad Ani DiFranco-esque moments, and every once in a while Moore seems to simply run out of energy within a particular song. That's to be expected with a young artist. With time and encouragement, Moore might blossom into a fine songwriter. She's taken her first steps quite nicely.


    Vinnie Moore
    Out of Nowhere
    (Mayhem-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #102, 3/11/96

    Vinnie Moore is technically a Sony artist. Hard to tell, as his last album came out on Relativity (before the complete buyout), and this one has been licensed to Futurist. A weird way of doing business.

    But if Vinnie wants to get treated better, he'd better start writing more than one song per album. And actually, everything here he's done before. You know, Vinnie's the AAA (Adult Alternative something--it stands for shit radio format, in any case) of guitar instrumentalists. Play nice, but not in a jazz style, because that's too hard.

    So dull I could hear my laser losing focus on the disc. Vinnie tries to make everything pretty with a gauzy production, and it just makes the whole thing some sort of gruel. Bleah.


    Mooter, Wholesale and Manufacturing
    "Free Box of Steaks w/..."
    (Jindra Estate)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Rather goofy and complex music, a messy sound, but one that has order, and not chaos, at its core. I was thinking Primus meets early Mr. Bungle crossed with some of that Skin Graft dosage, but these guys are from Minneapolis. Oh well. The description stands alright, anyway.

    Somewhat undermixed, I think (or my ears might just be readjusting from the Miss High Heel, who knows?), with plenty of goofy bits hidden behind layers of tape hiss and other walls of distortion. Mooter (etc.) doesn't bother much with regular song structure. Some pieces are short, and some wander around for ages before finding the land of milk and honey.

    The sort of thing that mothers everywhere call "very creative" while patting the kid on the head. Old folks without a clue as to what's going on, but they can recognize a spark of something. I'm not entirely sure what the trio is trying to accomplish, but it's more than intriguing.

    Wonderfully wacko, without getting particularly over the top. Yeah, the songs themselves are a mess, but like I said, there is always an underlying structure, even if that is hard to recognize at first. Completely uncommercial, and I'm pretty sure that's where the band wants to be.


    Mop Mop
    Isle of Magic
    (Agogo)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Andrea Benini is the producer, and Mop Mop is his product. He collects musicians and ideas and then spins a shimmering stream of funky, burbling songs. Jazz? Sometimes. Latinesque? Sure. That vague notion that is "world music?" Yep. Fred Wesley, Anthony Joseph and Sara Sayed are among the headlining contributors on this latest not-quite-anything-but-really-awesome set of songs. Glorious.


    The Mopes
    Accident Waiting to Happen
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    A Lookout supergroup, if you will. Members of the Queers, Screeching Weasel, Squirtgun and the Riverdales come together to do what those bands do best. (sound of shoe dropping) Come on, folks. It's sugar-coated pop punk.

    And it goes down so damned smoothly, too. Hooks spun from purest honey and three-chord symphonies that would make Beethoven proud. Don't believe me? Look at those band names in the first paragraph and then think again.

    Yeah, it sounds all so free and easy, but it if was, then everyone would do it. That ease of delivery is just one of the joys engendered by this disc. Quite simply, this music will put a smile on the face of anyone who hears it.

    That, by the way, is not hyperbole or exaggeration. It's simple, objective fact. I mean it. Discs like this come along only once or twice a year. Don't miss it.


    Moral Crux
    Moral Crux
    (CM)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    The band's first album, recorded in 1987. Back when this sorta pop-punk wasn't terribly in vogue. And, as a bonus, a few tracks from 1991 are added on. Twenty-seven tracks over 50 minutes. Sounds like punk to me.

    Reasonably tuneful, reasonably aggressive, Moral Crux just doesn't do much to really impress me. The stuff is solid and tight, the lyrics appropriately political and philosophical. All the pieces are here, but the simple fact is that there is no chemistry. All the pluses add up to average.

    Not terrible, not bad, just average. Undistinguished. Maybe it's the production, though I can't really identify anything that sticks out. Oh well. Time to review the second album (coming up next).


    The Side Effects of Thinking
    (CM)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    This is the second Moral Crux album, recorded in 1989, along with a couple of bonus tracks from the same era. And now I know: it must have been the production, because this album sounds great. There is chemistry here.

    And the songs are written in a bit more coherent fashion. You can hear a big Bad Religion influence. But that's not what I noticed at first. The production really kicks out the sound, punching up all the parts all the right ways. If you want a primer on the difference a knob twister can make, check out these two Moral Crux albums.

    The songs fit in the same pegs as the ones from the first album, except that they sound much better here. If you want to hear a good pop-punk band, check out this Moral Crux disc. It does the band justice.


    Morbid Saint
    Spectrum of Death
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    In the vein of newer Napalm Death. But the copyright notice on the inside claims the songs were written in 1988, which would put them slightly ahead of their time.

    The songs are fast and vicious, but the riffs are kept under control. This sounds great. If only more death metal bands would allow their sound to be stripped down, to be the slightest bit vulnerable. It really makes for a more impressive production.

    These guys are pretty big in Mexico, and if there is any justice, they'll get noticed here. Grind Core has serviced this only to those who ask for it, so why not give them a call and score a great album (if they have any promo copies left).


    Morcheeba
    Who Can You Trust?
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    Brit takes on American soul music somehow always manage to leave most of the soul out. Whether we're talking about Sade, Soul II Soul or whatever, the albums have this cool edge that always seems to overpower any possible feeling.

    Skye Edwards has a nice voice, but she rarely really uses it, preferring instead to trill along with the pulsing music provided by Ross and Paul Godfrey. Indeed, the backing music is pieced together wonderfully, with plenty of short asides and nods to current convention while maintaining a cool, funky feel.

    But the boys don't let Edwards get anywhere. She certainly isn't singing about much of consequence, and it seems her wonderful voice is being used as window dressing for the overall sound. She deserves better.

    It's hard to rip too hard on such a well-made album. Were that it was of some greater consequence, I suppose.


    Mordred
    Vision
    (Noise-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    It's been a couple of years since the last (brilliant) album, so I was hoping for more than six tunes from these S.F. boys.

    Well, six will have to do. They have further evolved from a thrash band with a little funk and the occasional scratch to a funk band with a little thrash and the occasional scratch. Not much thrashin' any more, really.

    Not that I mind. Scott Holderby has a great voice, and he should be singing, not screaming, anyway. But I must say I was not prepared for the mellowness inside this case.

    I like it as far as it goes. Please, boys, don't start emulating the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Faith No More just to score a quick payday. Please continue to do what you do. Please.

    P.S. - This disc contains rather creative uses of metal. Use extensively.


    More Fire for Burning People
    Sitting Breathless in New Chairs
    (!Ruido!)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    More Fires flicks of bits of eclectic noise pop, and then rips into an edgy sludge sheen for the singing parts.

    The music is quite good, at least until it comes time to sing the songs. Then everything gets much more mundane and dull. I'm kinda amazed that such an inventive band can't seem to keep up the solid songwriting when the vocals kick in.

    Actually, "Daddy's Girl" is a great example of how More Fires should do most of its songs. The basic experimental ideas stick around the whole song, even when the vocals kick in.

    It's not that the sung parts are horrible. They just pale in comparison to the intros. More Fires has a whale of musical insight and talent. The members simply need to have more faith in their unusual ideas.


    More.ca
    More.ca EP
    (Utopian Vision) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Just in case you were beginning to get the idea that Utopian Vision is just an "extreme" (we used to call it "death metal") label, here' s More.ca (you know, like More--Canada). Something like a more prog Sisters of Mercy (the early years). The goth guitar and singing styles are omnipresent, but the technical precision of the delivery accentuates the spookiness of the whole.

    Just enough echo on the guitars to lend that spooky air to things, but in all, More.ca doesn't take to excess. These songs are immaculately crafted, and the playing matches. Even with all that care, the emotional impact is still solid.

    Just enough here to make me crave more. More.ca sure has a cool way of piecing together a song or few. More is certainly wanted from this corner.


    Moreland & Arbuckle
    1861
    (Northern Bues)
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    The label may be Canadian, but the band hails from central Kansas. The sound is even more southern than that. This is pile-driving Delta blues, with some added brighteners here and there.

    Dustin Arbuckle sings and handles the harp, and Aaron Moreland handles a variety of stringed instruments--guitar, most often. They've got a drummer (Brad Horner), who provides a beat when necessary, but the real attraction here is the stellar interplay between Arbuckle and Moreland. Their rapport is electric.

    The sound is electric, too. What I mean is that there's some organ, and the guitars are wired as often as not. This is a lot closer to the Allman Brothers than Muddy Waters, and that's just fine. There's a real 70s groove to these songs, something of a blues power thing going on.

    So, yeah, fans of John Mayall or even Led Zeppelin might well find kinship here. Moreland & Arbuckle aren't purists by any stretch of the imagination, but they know their way around the blues and they play like their souls are on fire. That's more than enough for me.


    John Moremen
    EP
    (The Bus Stop Label)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    John Moremen has been playing eclectic pop (on guitar and drums) for a long damn time. He's gigged with everyone from Half Japanese to the Jimmy Silva Goat 5 to the Neighbors. At the moment, one of his jobs is drumming as a member of the Orange Peels.

    Moremen shows a great feel for light pop here. There are a few fun goofy tangents, but the emphasis here is on making truly pretty and effervescent music. Not that the songs threaten to float away; they simply dissolve like cotton candy.

    But they're much more filling. I wasn't sure about that after my first time through, but return visits reveal a few hidden textures in the songs. These songs are good-to-go for the long haul. And even if this is just another rare solo shot for Moremen, it proves he doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone. He's got chops to spare.


    Morgana LeFay
    Knowing Just As I (advance cassette)
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Karl said this was different from anything they have put out so far, and he's right. The proof? They cover "Razamanaz" fairly straight. Sounds like a harsher, trippier Accept to me.


    The Secret Doctrine
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    More black than death, Morgana Lefay cranks out a fine set of music. The band adheres to traditional hard rock riff schools and merges those thoughts with smatterings from the nether reaches of the metal universe.

    Kinda like old Mercyful Fate, really, except ML kicks out the jams a little heavier and with a little less satanic silliness.

    But ignoring the lyrics (which at times are interesting), ML just jams. Sure, there's a lot of that early eighties Euro-styling, but I like it. The playing is immaculate and with feeling, so you aren't overwhelmed or bored. Dig in.


    Maleficium
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Euro-style metal with elements of industrial dance, doom and death metal wandering into the mix. A fine brew for the melodic metal connoisseur.

    Talented and excessive, Morgana Lefay has moments of brilliance that are often overwrought by everything the band is trying to do. I can hear precisely what the guys are going for, and even when they get there, they're simply not satisfied. There is a skill at knowing when to say when.

    Still, I'd much rather a band scrape and crawl over the edge than lie back in the easy chair. Morgana Lefay has ripped out some fine tunes, and on the whole the album is very good. If the guys hadn't tried quite so hard, the album might have reached epic proportions.

    An easy recommendation nonetheless. The guitar lines are soaring and majestic, the songs crafted for maximum exploitation of sound and thought. Keep it up, guys!


    Morgion
    Among Majestic Ruin
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Well, sure, I dug the stuff on the Celtic Frost tribute album, but I just wasn't prepared...

    But how could I? I mean, it's been years since doom metal like this has been launched against the American people. And by some of its own, too. The subversive bastards.

    My Dying Bride hasn't been this heavy since the first album, and Paradise Lost... don't even talk to me about that. Morgion flails through five tunes, which clock in for a total of almost 35 minutes. Pain, suffering and mortal ruin follow.

    Gorgeous, hideous, mind-bending and more. Morgion has accomplished what I thought couldn't be done: to faithfully and confidently tread the doom trail. One of the finest expressions of the sound ever, and these guys have only just begun. Well, it did take them six years to get to this point. Better not take that long for the next one.


    Morgoth
    Cursed
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #1, 10/31/91

    When I first heard the In the Eyes of Death compilation, I knew I had to hear more Morgoth. A friend I knew who rambled back from Europe could not remember much about a certain show that kicked his ass, but he thought the band's name was More Butt (he had a habit of frequenting pits and making them even more violent). He must have meant Morgoth. Cursed fully lives up to my expectations. Morgoth have learned it is okay for death metal bands to mix up the speeds a bit, not to mention enunciate just a little bit.

    I haven't heard a better death metal album this year, and for my money, what is currently coming out of Europe stomps most of the staid Florida crowd into the dirt (tho' I must hear the new Deicide album before passing final judgement). My pick for death metal song of the year: "Sold Baptism." Other tracks that made me strain my neck: "Isolated," "Body Count," "Opportunity is Gone" and "Unreal Imagination." Fuckin' great!


    Odium
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Speaking of yanking cranks (see Pestilence review), Morgoth pretty much can do that whenever. I'm willing and submissive.

    They've picked up a spot from the doom crowd, but not enough to get annoying. This is still straight-ahead death metal, and it's surprising how good it can sound when put together by folk who know what they're doing.

    Cursed is still one of my favorite albums, and I have a feeling they surpassed themselves here (and by the number of your reports, I see you've noticed as well).

    Prepare for the ascension; Morgoth has claimed the title as king of death metal.


    Morgue
    Eroded Thoughts
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Fairly solid if unspectacular death-doomsters. Sometimes things completely slow to a crawl, which is refreshing in this age of speed.

    On the other hand, it comes precariously close to dull-dom many times. The chords run through much the same progressions each time.

    Things are much better when the tempo picks up, which is different than most bands. And as the album progresses they try a few new things.

    Experimentation, oddly for them again, works very well. I think they should put the pedal to the metal and fly all the time.


    Morning Glories
    Morning Glories
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    Headhunter. The label known for great San Diego post-punk bands. Right. So what's a great New York pop act doing here?

    Note the similarities between the words "great" and "great" in the sentences above. And anyway, Morning Glories have a buttload of attractive distortion to send your way along with their tuneful ditties.

    Completely randomly chaotic, sorta like a Yo La Tengo show, this makes for interesting listening. Okay, so if I was a commercial programmer I'd probably fade the feedback endings some of these songs have, but since I'm not, I'll just revel in the mess.

    Morning Glories bloom in the spring (eeew, not a cliche!). But this is a pretty fine pollen machine.


    Fully Loaded
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Where bands like Laughing Hyenas take the blues and wrap cool sheaths of distortion and rock and roll riffs around that base (while keeping it whole), Morning Glories prefer to flay the blues with a caterwauling orchestral grunge attack.

    But the MGs do revere the blues format that they deconstruct. Like Johnboy or the Cherubs (or other bands found on the Trance Syndicate label), Morning Glories take a while to appreciate. This is about as far from easy listening as a blues band can get.

    And yet, that's what this is. I think the sound is much more mature than their first album, and everything simply comes together much better. The more you listen, the better it gets. If Morning Glories keep improving like this, I can only imagine what the next album will sound like.


    Let the Body Hang
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    A little more restrained than previous outings, the Morning Glories are back for a third full-length stab at fame. The pop base is as solid as always, but instead of always going for the jugular, on this set the band just as often drops off, choosing to leave the moment alone.

    More mature, more sophisticated, further down the road. At times I do kinda miss the utter free-wheeling nature some of the earlier stuff had, but in general this album is the band's most satisfying.

    Just enough craft to work in a few subtleties. Anyone can scream and holler. Talent is saving those wild moments for when they're really needed. The Morning Glories seem to have picked up that skill nicely. About time, too.

    Never fear, the songs are still somewhat rambling and idiosyncratic. It's just that the guys seem to be handling that trait much better these days. A solidly satisfying album.


    Morningbell
    Sincerely, Severely
    (Orange Records)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    Mid-60s pop that flies straight through a new millennium art rock filter. The pieces are then reassembled into something that resembles greatness.

    The easiest reference point is the Flaming Lips, but Morningbell is much more minimalist (Flaming Lips circa 1988, let's say) and a bit less crafted. Just as crafty, though, and the asides (musical as well as lyrical) are gratifying.

    The ambition of this album is stunning, and Morningbell pulls it off better than anyone might have imagined. The melange of sound that rolls through the speakers is simply overwhelming.

    One of those albums that provides an immediate rush and then continues to bring pleasure for years to come. One of the year's best, to be sure.


    Basso Profundo
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    Took me a while to get on board with this one. Morningbell isn't straightforward with its approach. That's cool. I'm used to soundshifters. But these folks simply refuse to stick to any consistent sound whatsoever. Well, except for the upper register-to-falsetto vocals. Those are pretty constant.

    Juxtapose those vocals with the title of the album, and you are starting to understand the humor that underlies both the music and lyrics. This stuff is drier than the Sahara, but it is infinitely more amusing.

    On the whole, this is modestly poppy rock and roll, but Morningbell infuses so many other influences (and unusual instrumentation) that it can be hard to get a real handle on any given moment. Acceptance of this state is essential if you plan on enjoying this album.

    And you should. Morningbell has all the cool of Steely Dan combined with the modern wigginess of Radiohead. Sly grooves and brain-tickling lines. And then some. Ultra solid.


    Danny Morris
    The Golden Prize
    (New Moon)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Danny Morris is stuck in the pop of the late 50s and early 60s. He borrows from Chuck Berry, Dick Dale and many more. What he doesn't do is make these sounds his own.

    Which is not to denigrate his playing. Morris is a fine guitar player. Few could replicate the wide variety of sounds and feels that he does. I'm impressed by the way he's able to morph himself through such a variety of sounds.

    And the production has given this disc a "modern oldies" sound. Basic recording techniques without many extravagances, but still much sharper than they could achieve in forty years ago. Just the way it ought be done, if you ask me.

    I'd just like to hear more of Danny Morris. Yeah, these songs are written by him, but he's consciously working off of a variety of different models. And he changes the way he plays and even the way he sings to suit those styles. If he could bring all of those ideas into a more coherent personal sound, I'd be really impressed.


    Valarie Morris
    TransFormations
    (Skyblue Productions)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Unlike many electronic composers who try and cram their music full of wildly varied melodies and sounds, Valarie Morris rarely ventures past a single melody. Her songs are simple and unadorned, beautiful in their starkness.

    Morris also has a wonderful ear for what sounds will best express her melodies. We all like experimenting with sampling keyboard to make cool sounds, but Morris has gone far beyond this, crafting sounds that truly fit her musical ideas.

    The songs are self-contained bits of mystery and wonder, with many joyous moments to spare. Sometimes it's easy to forget how beautiful simple music can be. It takes real self-assurance to craft music such as this.

    A real treat. Some 30 pieces, ranging from a few seconds to three minutes in length. Nothing is redundant, and no time is wasted. A supreme effort.


    Reeding Between the Lines
    (Skyblue Productions)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    When the accordion hit, I wondered if I was remembering the same person. I looked it up. I was. So anyways. This time out, Morris sets a number of scenes, often jazzy and contemplative, using many players. Piano, sax and accordion are the preferred instruments.

    And so, instead of using a synthesizer to crank out her compositions, Morris leads real folks. The result is more satisfying than TransFormations, if only for the earthy feel, something which may have been present on the other album, but which couldn't have been or wasn't quite expressed.

    I still can't get over the difference. I liked her earlier album an awful lot, but this is just so much more appealing to my ear. Just more playful, more endearing. Maybe I'm just a sucker.

    Maybe. But what can't be missed is what I'm hearing. Top-notch compositions and playing. Effervescent bits of joy and goofiness. A candlelit dinner in Paris. And who knows what else. Another album to explore and enjoy.


    Wayne Morris
    Alive!
    (City Folk)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    There's this notion among many that folk rock is this sickly-sweet stuff with cheesy easy-listening acoustic guitar licks and sing-songy vocals. Wayne Morris goes the other way, taking more of an R.E.M. approach to the sound.

    That means less focus on strict construction and more emphasis on using the music to make a point. Indeed, Morris even sounds a bit like Michael Stipe at times (which kinda gets a bit unnerving), so the comparison is easy.

    But while I'm sure even Morris would admit the influence, this isn't rip-off fare. Indeed, the one cover is of an Amy Ray tune, though this rendition moves past the Indigo Girls version.

    Alright, alright, there's still an incestuous Athens connection (strange, I guess, for a guy from Vancouver). And there are times I wish Morris had worked a little harder to find his own sound. Even so, this is hardly pedestrian fare.

    The ambition and drive are apparent, and Morris obviously isn't afraid of taking chances (when he goes into the R.E.M. bag, he borrows from the band's less commercial side). A thoroughly enjoyable set, with some solid writing and performances.


    Morsel
    Noise Floor
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    The title says it all. Sure, there are moments of melody, but with Albini producing, not much chance of extra takes on those vocals.

    And who needs 'em, anyway? Morsel prefers to investigate the finer points of noise. There's the recurring sound of an electric drill (really). Not a sample, but a real-live drill grinding to the music.

    Nothing is as it seems here, and once you set in expectations another weird thing comes along to kick your ass. To say much more would spoil the surprise.

    While Albini is not known for helping to craft textured albums, he may have inadvertently let one get past his watch. Morsel has a real grasp on the finer points of noise from white to black, and the members feel compelled to let you in on their secret.

    Bask and feel the glory.


    Para Siempre
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    A long time ago (five or six locations ago as the A&A timeline runs), I reviewed a great album by Morsel. Noise Floor. Still one of my favorite albums. So you might surmise that I've got high hopes for this disc.

    Fulfilled, though not in the way I expected. Morsel has evolved into a drum machine-driven noise rock band, though still fronted by Miriam Cabrera's most-inviting vocals.

    The musical inventiveness and creative ferment is still present. The sounds aren't the same, but the ideas behind them are just as potent. Morsel is still creating songs around eternally-moving lines, finding significance in the chance intersections as much as the planned confluences.

    A good album to hop in and drive. See where it takes you. I watched and listened as thought after thought crashed into each other, always creating something new and intriguing. Indeed, this disc is just the starting point. Your mind will do the rest.


    Mortal Remains
    Mortal Remains
    (Tender Stone)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Man, this reeks of marketing advice. It sounds like the three tracks were assembled so as to show off the band's ability to play jut about any sort of metal a label might want. Of course, this leads to haphazardly constructed songs and an obvious lack of personal musical direction by the band.

    Yeah, the guys can play, and the package is nice and slick, but the music is as generic as it comes. I don't know who got to these boys, but they sure fucked something up. I'd love to hear some songs that aren't completely over-produced to influence some major label A&R flack.


    No Cash Flow (America the Beautiful?)
    (Tender Stone)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    Christian hardcore in the NYC vein. Not too preachy (I mean, most punk is pretty damned message-oriented; this doesn't go any further than most). No chants of "Jesus" and such, anyway.

    The music is nice and crunchy, but it doesn't separate itself from a thousand other bands with the same groove. The production has left some grime, which I think is a good thing (man, I've been saying that a lot this week), but there's nothing in the playing to really kick Mortal Remains away from the masses.

    Well, other than "the message", and these guys have done a pretty good job getting that across without resorting to sermonizing. The lyrical content is solid; now it's time to work on the music. That's where most overtly religious bands fail, and Mortal Remains is no exception.


    Mortician
    House by the Cemetery EP
    (Relapse Underground)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    Attempting to merge the heaviness of Godflesh with the utter disregard for enunciation of classic death metal, Mortician has crafted a slimy mess. Is it good? Well, the music is expertly performed, though it does get a bit repetitive. It is, also, as heavy as anything I've heard.

    And the guys cover Celtic Frost and Napalm Death. Both covers seem a bit cleaner and more techno than the other stuff on the disc, though that is probably by design. One thing this disc shows is Mortician's expertise in the studio.

    An interesting experiment; one that almost works. I'm not the biggest fan of the "grunting and growling" form of death metal, but I really like the throbbing music included with the silly vocals. And, at times, even the vocals work for me. If you like this sort of thing, I can't imagine why you wouldn't fall in love with Mortician.


    Hacked Up for Barbecue
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Utterly silly. Or completely gross. Either way, these boys have a slasher mentality toward women. Judge that as you like.

    Odd as it may seem, this is the first Mortician full-length, after years of renown and not so much output. After losing drummer Matt Sicher to a fatal case of death quite a while back, remaining members Wil Rahmer and Roger Beaujard decided to continue using a drum machine (and a few other electronic effects, too).

    The end result is a merging of classic death metal riffage and expectorating with the electronic chaos of black metal. The lyrics are gory, but not particularly satanic. Plus, these guys are from Yonkers, not Norway.

    The thank yous are the longest I've ever read (they make up more than half of the liner notes, in really small type), making this a certain death metal classic. I like the way the electronics work with the rest of the output, but the music doesn't terribly excite me. Still, good enough for barbecue.


    Mortification
    Scrolls of the Megilloth
    (Intense-Frontline)
    reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92

    Intense. Home of great bands like Vengeance Rising and Tourniquet. Here is the debut of Australian Christian grindcore band Mortification.

    It is possible to grow up in a slam pit and still be Christian. Or Jewish. Or Muslim. Or whatever. No matter what kind of music you listen to, your religion can handle it. After all, God can't be sitting in heaven saying "A one and a two and a..."

    Well, I hope he isn't. These guys are true believers, and their music is rather vicious. Nothing terribly original, mind you, but good. And the sound effects are a nice touch.


    Post Momentary Affliction
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Sure, there's the novelty of this being a Christian death metal act. But Mortification need to play more interesting music for me to get truly excited.

    Not that this is bad. But it gets a little banal at times, and I get the feeling they still don't quite have a feel for death metal yet, or at least enough to begin really experimenting, a la Believer or something like that.

    As much as I want to like these guys, I just can't. Not yet, anyway.


    Mortiis
    Reiser av en Dimension Utjent
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Two songs, over 52 minutes. Talk about high concept.

    The gothic overtones on this album make Edge of Sanity sound positively poppy. Indeed, there's a lot more new age flutes and keys than anything else. Oh, I shouldn't forget all the moans and groans of the choir.

    If you like stuff like the "Behrial" on the last Pan-Thy-Monium, are simply into overblown gothic stuff that goes on forever or happen to be reading the Lord of the Rings again and want suitable music, you'll get it here. I think this is pretty excessive, but there is that part of me that says "Take it to the edge, man!". Mortiis certainly has.


    The Stargate
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Mortiis, the onetime leader of Emperor, has ventured further and further afield into the world of electronic (well, synthesizer, if you get the distinction) music since helping to define the sound of black metal.

    This is somwhat more accessible than his 1996 album on Cold Meat Industry, but mostly because the songs are shorter. The compositions themselves are as excessive and dramatic as ever. Mortiis isn't a man to subjugate his vision for the sake of clarity of mass appeal. And for that, I've got to give him credit.

    Who knows? With the resurgence of gothic fare (and an Earache deal), perhaps now is the time for this master of the ethereal to make a grand splash.

    Me, well, I'm not as entranced by rather overbaked music which sounds like it was recorded for a sci fi b-movie. No, I take that back. Written for the movie, but recorded for the masses. The lush sounds are impressive. I just wish they went, well, anywhere.


    Crypt of the Wizard
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Boy, the bastard is prolific, ain't he? I get the feeling that he kinda just craps this stuff out. Or, at least, I would get that feeling if I didn't think there was something interesting going on.

    Not hyper exciting, mind you. Mortiis is just as enamored of keyboards now as he was with Emperor. The sounds are a bit too artificial to be truly frightening or intriguing. But I do like the way he can string chord progressions together into this martial-style fluff.

    Fluff is a good word. Mortiis doesn't have the depth of most things you might find on Cold Meat Industry these days, but he's still got some oomph when it counts.

    Some, mind you, not a lot. If you're thinking about delving into the black side of gothic sounds, well, this is a fine place to begin. Just understand that your journey has a long way to go before you rest.


    Moses Guest
    Moses Guest 2xCD
    (Aufheben)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Some kids today won't believe me (I became convinced only after years and years of skepticism), but back in the late 60s and early 70s a few bands like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers took American roots music, messed around a lot and created some truly astonishing fare. Music the likes of which most folks won't attempt these days.

    Moses Guest does. Taking roots, folk, blues and jazz, and then squeezing those ideas through a modified prog sensibility (does anyone remember the Dixie Dregs these days?), this quartet of accomplished musicians turns the trick nicely.

    There are nods to the Dead, the Allmans, the Doobies (back when that band was at its creative high point), but what Moses Guest does best is define its own rules. Its own sound. These pieces are given the "modern" roots sound, which is considerably stripped down compared to its 70s predecessors. I like that touch.

    I like most of what's here, and there are two full CDs worth of songs to dig. A double album (well, on vinyl it'd be more like a triple album). Yet another nod to the progenitors. With faces pointed toward the future.


    Best Laid Plans
    (Aufhepen/Montrose)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Less sparse and a bit more "jam-y" than I've heard from Moses Guest before, this one plays a bit more like the Dregs. Which is cool, especially since almost no one is trying to make music like this anymore. Not so much a new direction, I suppose, as simply a refinement. In this case, refinements are nice.


    Bret Mosley
    Light & Blood
    (Woodstock MusicWorks)
    reviewed in issue #293, February 2008

    Bret Mosley does the singer songwriter thing, filtering James Taylor tendencies through a fairly coarse rural blues filter. That's cool. I'm all for adding as many rough edges as possible..

    I like the bluesier side of Mosley--he does a blistering take on Son House's "Preacher Blues"--but even his more whitebread moments have charm. He's earnest, but not cloying. And Mosley is often subtle, though he doesn't hesitate to step right out front when appropriate. There's a lot going on here, more than a first listen can identify. Good thing I'm about ready to spin this puppy again.


    Moss Dog
    Moss Dog
    (CM Records)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Three guys from the wilds of Washington who have a vision of grunge that borrows heavily from the Skin Yard and Soundgarden legacies.

    For starters, the music rules here. There are vocals, but it can take a while to get to them. The music has a Louder than Love feel (and, of course, this is about the time Soundgarden started to become irrelevant). The chords are at once heavier and more mellow (a softer production touch, I think), and they follow more Skin Yard-like progressions.

    I'm not sure how this isn't completely redundant, but my gut likes it. As the reasoning part of my brain can't find any outright theft, I have to go with that. A nice sunny day album. Play it loud and hoist one (or smoke one, as the band would prefer).


    Midnight Forest Run
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    It's been a couple years since I've heard these guys, and they're still treading the same waters. For those who don't remember, that's Louder than Love-era Soundgarden. With a touch of the Skin Yard, though I don't hear that as much.

    And, in fact, Moss Dog has gotten a bit more melodic and a bit less plodding (which probably explains the lessening of the Skin Yard vibe). Honestly, this is the sort of thing that I generally can't stand, but Moss Dog does something right, because I kinda like stuff. Just like before.

    Sure, this puppy sounds good (and better when really cranked), but the music is really dated. I'll just have to chalk up another guilty pleasure, I suppose.

    Moss Dog probably won't get too far keeping this sound, but hell, it sounds okay to me. As far as the whole post-grunge thing goes, I'll take Moss Dog over about anyone else.


    Mostly Other People Do the Killing
    This Is Our Moosic
    (Hot Cup)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    Four guys from Moosic who really like playing jazz. The liners say this explicitly, but it's even easier to hear. They don't stick to any particular style, they don't seem to hold to any particular theory...they just like playing jazz.

    And having fun with it. So one song might steep itself in New Orleans, while another jumps straight into deconstruction. There are plenty of hard bop moments interspersed with some gorgeous melodies and smooth rhythms. There's also a version of "Allentown." The Billy Joel song.

    Most jazz musicians take music far too seriously. Most of them play good stuff, but the best are willing to let go a bit. Branford Marsalis in the 80s and 90s comes to mind, I suppose. MOPDTK pays copious homage in the liners to Ornette Coleman, another artist who has defied all labels. The quartet's skill and writing isn't quite up to those standards, but its sense of adventure certainly is.

    The reason this album works so well, though, is that the guys had so much fun making it. That feeling is infectious. It makes listening to this album a real blast. Don't worry. It's okay to smile when listening to jazz. In fact, it ought to be required.


    Mother and the Addicts
    Science Fiction Illustrated
    (Chemikal Underground)
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    To reference two of the bands listed on the promo sticker, Mother and the Addicts is nothing less than Roxy Music fronted by Mark E. Smith. The music is all over the place--most often giving off a vague new wave vibe. You know, bouncy with lots of keyboards and the occasional guitar.

    No harmonies to speak of, of course. There are background vocals, but they really don't harmonize much. These songs have enough hooks in the music without worrying about finding them in the singing.

    I really like the sound of this album. The production is just lush enough to evoke an 80s feel, but there is a modern edge that places these songs in the now. One more check in the "Yesssss!" column.

    One of those albums that will either immediately charm or utterly annoy. Kinda depends on what you think of the Fall or P.I.L. or the like. Dissonant vocals paired with tight melodies have always made me smile, and so I thought this album went down as smoothly as single-barrel bourbon on ice.


    Mother of Moth
    Mother of Moth
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Three songs, all acoustic in instrumentation and yet showing a definite feel for the electronic ambient nonetheless. Mother of Moth is mostly one person (who has asked not to be named, a request I'm happy to heed) who has assembled acoustic guitar and a wide range of percussion into dronelike song structures.

    It's strange, but I get a definite Led Zeppelin feel from the guitar riffs. Combined with the unusual structure, this simply adds to the intriguing sound. Something to get lost inside.

    Quite well produced and assembled, this is a seamless presentation of some innovative music. A quality set all the way around.


    Moths
    Moths
    (Wagon Train-Ment Media Group)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Disjointed, snarling fare. Moths don't really stick to any one style much, except to completely destroy any resemblance to a regular sound. Oh, there's bits and pieces here and there that come through coherently, but this is one noisy set of stuff.

    The excessive mess adds complexity to what would otherwise be drearily ordinary songs. And that veneer of scrap metal makes all the difference, as these songs sing and soar with a vibrant intensity.

    Moths aren't in any hurry to get anywhere. Many songs have fairly extensive intros, which then lead into that whole deconstructive pop ideal the band so epitomizes. Um, in the course of all this you should read that I really like these songs.

    Yeah, it takes a few minutes to get accustomed to the sound, but once bored in, the soul takes over. The sound may be kinda crusty on top, but the whole is, in reality, gorgeous. Far too wondrous to properly describe.


    Lepid Opera
    (LunaSea)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    I reviewed Moths' first album a couple years back, and I've been getting e-mails from the guys ever since. They play in NY almost exclusively, and the one time they trekked out to where I live, I was out of town. These sort of things seem to happen to me a lot.

    In any case, Moths play a layered, vaguely garage style of pop. I say vaguely, because while the boys really bash things out, the arrangements are fairly sophisticated. So they're trying to sound more ragged than they are.

    Which is not a bad intention. And when songs have the depth and power of the ones here, well, dirtying them up a bit simply helps to smooth their acceptance. The energy stays high, and the songs sound great.

    The thing I like best about these guys is the conversational tone of the music and the lyrics. Both, really. Listening to this disc is like talking to a good friend. You fall into a familiar rhythm and tone, and the afternoon goes by like in no time. A pretty good way to pass some time.


    The Motion
    Cold Heroes
    (Sad Loud America)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Three guys from Chicago who want to play hardcore fuzz pop. Somewhere between Pegboy and Naked Raygun and early Afghan Whigs. Man, this stuff is thick. And it's so damned tasty.

    For starters, there's Brent Larson's hoarse pipes, which lend a certain Archers of Loaf feel to these songs. And then there's the chunky way that the trio plugs out the music. Not sledgehammer-like, but more of a herky-jerky machine in effect.

    The sound is thick, but it allows all three instruments (and Larson's vocals) to shine equally. There's enough space to lend some breathing room--but enough power to really kick these songs into another realm.

    Adrenaline with a kick. The Motion is appropriately named. This disc never even begins to slow down. Tap in and ride the mainline.


    Motion City Soundtrack
    split EP with Schatzi
    (Doghouse-Redemption)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Two bands whose stripped-down old school approach to emo is almost archaic. The commitment to anthemic choruses and the occasional nice melody remains, but the focus (to my hears) is on how the parts of the band work together.

    Motion City Soundtrack is the more adventurous of the two. Of course, its songs were recorded last year, while Schatzi put down its tracks in the summers of 2000 and 2001. Still, there is a solid resonance between each band's work.

    I ought mention that Schatzi throws in a decidedly straight rendition of "Any Way You Want It" that still sounds punk. Must be the flat tone on the guitars. Very cool. A nice way to wrap up a fun set of songs. This puppy is way too short.


    Motion Picture
    'For a Distant Movie Star'
    (Words on Music) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Guitar (mostly acoustic, but sometimes electric), bass, drums and cello. Crafted melodies, heartfelt lyrics. Not syrupy, though, but thoughtful and affecting.

    Alright, so nearly every song is some sort of rumination on love and relationships and the weirdness of people caught in the throes. They work, simply because there's no pretense. Free verse (the lines don't necessarily rhyme and there isn't consistent meter) can do that for you.

    Yes, it sounds so real, like I'm talking to the band. Just a conversation on a cloudy day, airing a few thoughts before heading back into the cave. Always a good pursuit.

    More folks should use cello. It sounds so good here. In fact, the arrangements of these songs are quite good. The whole package is framed very nicely, in a most attractive and arresting way. Just sit and let it entrance.


    A Paper Gift
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    The fixation on now-obscure movie stars continues, with Carroll Baker gracing the cover. The fixation on complex, involved pop music also continues, with Motion Picture spinning eleven entrancing tunes.

    The pieces are generally built around acoustic guitar, with tightly crafted string arrangements adding an extra layer or two. These songs sound easy-going at first. And then you hear the words.

    Written in character as if they are pieces of old movies (at least, that's what it sounds like to me), the conversational lyrics are at once evocative and haunting. The phrasing and idioms are dated, lending a black and white feel to the songs.

    Another way to put this is that Motion Picture has crafted an album to match For a Distant Movie Star. Stay in the groove, boys. This stuff is too good to give up on.


    Motley Crue
    Greatest Hits
    (BMG)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    The press release repeatedly says this is Motley Crue's first "Greatest Hits". Strictly speaking, but only if an album has to be named"Greatest Hits" in order to be such a thing. I thought that's what Decade of Decadence was. Silly me. Personally, I like to think of the first two albums (and a couple other bits, like the make-up boys's musical tribute to Kiss, "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)") as the band's best stuff. I know a large number of people who agree with this assessment. And yet there are only two songs total (plus last year's boring remake/remix of "Shout at the Devil") from those two classic albums.

    Instead of relying on the good stuff, there's a lot of mediocrity here. The two new songs are positively dreadful (I haven't heard last year's album, and given what I hear of it here, I don't want to), overblown and turgid. The reason the first two albums were so good is because they were fast and mean. As the band members have become older and slower, so has the music. There is no more spirit of fun and adventure, merely bumbling dopers.

    Motley Crue hasn't put out a decent album since Dr. Feelgood, and it hasn't put out a good one since 1983. Fifteen years of coasting, and I guess some label hacks are still willing to bet on future success.

    The sad thing is, I can still go back to those first two albums and hear the greatness. I know where it all went (up Nikki's arm, down Vince's throat and out of Tommy's hands), but it's such a damned shame. Greatness squandered is always a horrible thing.


    Live: Entertainment or Death 2xCD
    (Motley Records-Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Two whole discs of Motley Crue live. The first disc is composed of performances in the early and mid 80s (when the band was actually interesting), songs from the first two albums. While Vince Neil seems to have the idea that some of these bits are actually great anthems, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars keep most of the songs moving at breakneck speed. That's good.

    Unfortunately, the band got too much of a sense of self-importance and the songs became overly grandiose. What was once a punk band with a metal edge and a sense of style had become a rock icon. And the music started to blow chunks.

    Disc two consists of performances in the 90s (with the exception of the first track, "Smokin' in the Boys Room,"), and instead of pushing the tempo the stuff drags even more than the studio versions.

    Hey, that first disc could've been released ten or more years ago and actually been a nice document of a scrappy rock band. This two-disc set is just as bloated as the band has become. Not worth the cash.


    New Tattoo
    (Motley-Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Alright, so this isn't the original lineup. Tommy Lee is history, replaced by Randy Castillo (who shares a passing resemblance with his predecessor). Produced by Mike Clink, who I thought might bring back a leaner, meaner Crue sound. I mean, they even cover the Tubes' "White Punks on Dope."

    None of it works. The cover is laughably dreadful, and the original songs aren't particularly good. But the Crue has never been about intellectual fulfillment. The problem is the bloated production. Damn. I know I've been saying the same thing since Girls Girls Girls, but jeez, haven't the boys figured out that the only way to spew out these puerile rhymes is with venom and not endless overdubs?

    I would also question using a ballad as the title track , but that's more of a philosophical argument. There are a number of tracks here that would have at least been a guilty pleasure if the tempos had been pumped up 20 bpm and the sound stripped down to just a singer, a guitarist, a bassist and drums. I know, the Crue has never been that clean, but wouldn't it be a fun experiment?

    Ah well. I wasn't expecting this to be particularly good, despite the refreshing sound of Nikki Sixx's 58 project. Unfortunately, New Tattoo fell below my meager expectations. I could have said, "Makes you look back on those Vince Neil solo albums wistfully," but this disc isn't that bad. Not quite, anyway.


    The Moto-Litas
    For the Greater Good
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Reminds me a lot of the bands Maow (where the world first heard Neko Case) and Cub. Stripped-down, effervescent, almost reverbless riffage. Nice, though somewhat ragged harmonies. Just basic, non-offensive rock and roll.

    I don't mean that last bit as a dig. It's more descriptive. The Moto-Litas aren't out to piss anybody off. They're just out to play hard and have fun. They play by the rules and excel by putting everything they've got into the songs.

    Very few missteps here. But it's not rock by numbers. The Moto-Litas are simply basic and fun. Nothing complicated, but plenty of punch.

    A big wad of fun. Large smiles on my part, to be sure. There can be great pleasure in simplicity, which the Moto-Litas have certainly discovered. No need to complicate matters when the stuff is this good.


    Motocaster
    Acid Rock
    (Fistpuppet-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    I'd put this more on the MC5 side of things, which was "stoner rock", right? I'm not sure.

    Motocaster blends catchy riffs and melodic tunes with reality-bending distortion. If this sounded clean, it might be a little dull, but the production folk did it right.

    Six songs, every one a lot of fun. This isn't socially redeeming, and there is no pretension that way.

    Whatever your poison, imbibe or indulge and crank this one to eleven. So you weren't born when this stuff was popular. That doesn't mean you can't like it now.


    Motorhead
    Bastards
    (ZYX)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Apparently tired of major-label bullshit, Lemmy and company crank out their best album in years on their own thing. I think. I got this in an envelope with no press or anything, and the return address was rubbed off by general post office abuse.

    Their last album was so bad I couldn't listen. 1916 was pretty good for a major release, but this goes so far past that I can only wonder where these songs have been hiding the past few years.

    Instantly infectious and still heavier than they have been since the early eighties, this has a fairly slick production that still manages to convey some jagged edges.

    I've been a fan for ages. I don't know if this quite matches up to the late seventies stuff, but it does a fair nineties approximation of that, with good songs to boot. All hail our returning heroes!


    Sacrifice
    (CMC)
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    While not quite as good as the self-released album Bastards!, Motorhead cranks out eleven more bass-in-your-face rock tracks here.

    Lemmy has had about 20 years to hone the process, and I think he's learned a few things. First, he can't sing, so keep the tracks short and fast. Keep the guitar licks lean and vicious, and always lead with your bass. As usual, this formula works.

    Nothing new from Motorhead, as could be expected. The songs are catchy enough, some more forgettable than others, but all in all a solid effort. Perhaps the ultimate "Turn it to 11" band, Motörhead slogs through with another good effort.


    Motormark
    Chrome Tape
    (Digital Hardcore)
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    An electronic garage band. Of course. What else is necessary to drive a nail into this most overblown of trends?

    Still and all, electronic garage is just another way to say "new wave," and so Motormark manages to leap from a dying bandwagon onto a coming flavor of the month. Now that's style!

    Of course, it wouldn't matter if the songs weren't tight, mean and atonally melodic. Just enough processing to give the sound a post-modern sheen, just enough feisty whining to leave a whiff of early Berlin.

    Some seriously attractive noise. I'm not sure there can be a discussion of Motormark without getting into current trends, but in any case, I like what I hear. The throb may be the thing, but here it bulges quite nicely.


    Motorpsycho
    In the Fishtank with Jaga Jazzist Horns
    (Konkurrent-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    For those not in the know, Konkurrent is a Dutch label. Every once in a while, it invites a band to jam in the studio--often with another band in tow. The results are chronicled by the In the Fishtank series. This is the tenth such jam.

    But which Motorpsycho would show up? Perhaps the horn section provides a hint: These sessions are all about cool jazz, funky soul and, um, prog rock. Of all the thousands of ways the boys might have gone...

    To be sure, Motorpsycho is just about impossible to pigeonhole, and the five songs here (including the 21-minute behemoth "Tristano") defy easy description. Let's just say that the horn section is an ace addition to Motorpsycho's unique sound. This album sounds nothing like any other Fishtank session. These are no improvisations; these songs are burnished to a shine.

    Wow. I suppose any moron could have predicted this outing would, indeed, be mindblowing. But come on, man. This is one of the great albums of the year, period. If Motorpsycho has the creativity to put together something like this in a week's time, then their next "planned" project ought to be a real stunner.


    Mount Moriah
    Mount Moriah
    (Holidays for Quince)
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Pitch-perfect americana. Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller (who have been spinning with and around each other in the Chapel Hill/Durham scene for quite a while) simply do no wrong.

    The songs are utterly gorgeous. Full, rolling bass lines. Not-quite slinky lead guitar. Punchy percussion. And McEntire's mezzo-soprano (not quite alto). Wow. Sometimes things click. And sometimes bombs go off.

    Mount Moriah is one of those bombs. A few seconds of the first track really ought to do the trick. And if that doesn't work, there are seven more songs that ought to stop your heart.

    I needed the defibrillator more than once. I know, central NC americana is an old flame of mine, but still. I dare you to find a more satisfying album that has been released this year. I just don't think it can be done. Electrifying.


    Mount Shasta
    Nodule 7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    A low rumble kept a-movin' with an unstoppable beat. My only caveat to a lot of the Skin Graft things: the vocals are sometimes almost mixed out. It goes for here.

    Of course, the music will eat its way though diamond, so can't really bitch. I think it's time to flip the record over again.


    Put the Creep On
    (Skin Graft-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    This album was recorded in an hour and 45 minutes last fall. Must be a tight live band, hunh?

    From the sounds of this. Mount Shasta takes a post-punk position similar to Alice Donut, with lots of distortion and sometimes faded vocals. And unlike the other Skin Graft release, this one plays up the comic book connection to the hilt.

    Just a real load of fun. Music to brighten anyone's evening and give things that "just shit upon" feel. Tasty doesn't begin to describe what transpires.


    Who's the Hottie?
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    Like much of the Skin Graft line-up, Mount Shasta owes a big chunk of what commercial acceptance it has to the Jesus Lizard. But on this album, the band moves past mere caterwauling vocals and crashing guitars and into, dare I say it, pop music territory.

    Well, not that you'd equate the sound with even such awesome dissonant popsters like Alice Donut, but Mount Shasta does appear to be constructing its songs in somewhat the classic pop form. Now, the execution of that contains the chi-core noodlings mentioned before, but much more emphasis is put on coherence than blind faith in noise.

    Talent. Wow, like a breath of fresh air, Mount Shasta rises from the increasing hordes of Lizard imitators and clearly defines its own sound. This is pretty damn necessary for artistic survival (but not, of course, commercial success), and I'm happy to see the folks grasp the concept so fully. Who's the Hottie? is not going to be mistaken for anglo-pop any time soon, but I can remember when almost no one wanted to call GuiltRegretEmbarrassment pop, and now that album is part of the alternative music canon. Quite a set of tunes.


    Watch Out
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    It's been too long. Well, there was the astonishing Shakuhachi Surprise album (a collaboration with Space Streakings), but the time has come for another sermon from the Mount.

    The songs are a bit more tightly constructed than on Who's the Hottie, but this semi-reliance on established forms serves only to heighten the sense of unease. Most songs have two or three main melodic elements (and the vocals are almost never one of them). Yeah, still rhythm-heavy (no getting away from that), but with a bit more lunacy from the lead guitar slot.

    And there's no getting away from the whole craft concept. Take "Tang Dynasty". The opening sequence builds its dissonance wonderfully, and by the time the song really kicks in, the parts are all in place and functioning perfectly. Intentionally off-key and definitely off-kilter, Mount Shasta plows forth.

    A fertile ground for harvesting. Proof that musical competency and more structure surroundings don't necessarily make for dull music. Of course, I use all such terms as loosely as possible. Mount Shasta has climbed out of the Chicago-rock swamp and established a beachhead of its own. The consequences for humanity are unknown as yet.


    Mount Washington
    Mount Washington
    (Reify)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Chris Heenan and seven friends just hanging out for an afternoon last spring. An improvisational mini-orchestra, if you will.

    Every sound is represented: percussion, strings, brass and reeds. Now, these folks are crafty; they often do things to their instruments that "normal" players would never dream of doing. Which is why this is so cool.

    For me, improvisations work if they engage me. A lot of improvisational music is just about making noise. That's not very interesting. These folks are making noise, but they're doing it in concert with each other, reacting to what they're hearing.

    That these folks have years and years of experience in this type of music is also important. The uninitiated ear might hear just the jumble, but there is a line of thought that is being passed around individually and collectively. It's easier to find that line if you don't try. But then, this music is about letting go. And the faster you fall, the better the trip.


    Mountain Goats
    Tallahassee
    (4AD/Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    It's not often that I totally punt on an album. I received an advance of this disc some time back, and it just didn't do a damned thing for me. Then I kept seeing all these rave reviews from people I respect, and I began to wonder. And so, when this disc (with liners and all that) arrived, I decided to give it another shot.

    I'll admit it: I was wrong. This isn't a case of me deciding to go along with the flow. After all, I'm still convinced that Pavement is the most overrated band in the history of the word. But I was wrong about these guys. I blew it, plain and simple.

    Which is not to say I don't understand why I didn't dig it first time out. The songs are built by swiftly-strummed acoustic guitars, a style that generally I can't stand. But I've been doing some listening to Robyn Hitchcock the last couple of weeks, and maybe that's what made this click with me. See, the key here are the lyrics. They're not merely clever. They're damned insightful as well.

    And so when I popped this puppy in a second time, it worked. I forgave all the cramming of lyrics into tight spaces (melody and rhythm are often sacrificed, though not in an entirely unattractive fashion) and that infernal strumming, actually giving the stuff a chance to work. It does. Beautifully, really. There's a good reason why I'd miss an album like this, but I'm glad I didn't. Even if it took a do-over.


    Mourn
    Mourn
    (Rise Above-Flying)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    A Sab rip-off with a real twist: it sounds like they got Kevin Cronin to quit REO and join up. Eee-yow!

    Riffs right out of the Iommi songbook, Ozzy-esque vocal lines sung by the aforementioned reedy-Cronin impersonator. Um, this is too fucking weird.

    And a special note: I'm very tired of bands that have nothing better to do than get stoned, write lyrics that are not mystical but merely insipid and then proceed to rip off every decent riff Tony Iommi played (the number of which is exactly 11). Come on. Get a life. Okay?


    Mourning Sign
    Alienor
    (Godhead-Flying)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Hack-and-slash old school death metal musings spliced together by bits of classical mellowness. Much like an Iron Maiden tending to greater extremes.

    The playing is technically awesome, even when things get moving quickly. The spots of acoustic guitar and singing are nice, but they really aren't worked into the songs very well. Just another bit of tile in the mosaic.

    I like this disc, but it doesn't make me cry out in joy. Worth spinning, definitely, but the flashes of brilliance do not carry throughout the disc. With more attention to songwriting and song flow, Mourning Sign may really have something going. Just give the guys time.


    Mourning Sign
    (Godhead-Flying)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    A bunch of Swedes who emulate Fear Factory more than Entombed. This sort of thing could certainly help the death metal balance of trade.

    And while Mourning Sign really doesn't have the chops or innovation to match Fear Factory (perhaps the top death metal band in the world at the moment), at times the sound is pretty cool.

    Perhaps if the guys stuck to the more industrial side of things and did more Maiden-esque choruses (as on "Ashes of My Relics", which also sounds a lot more like Entombed), they might find a little more of their own sound.

    Merging the Swedish and NYC death metal traditions can be a bitch. On the previous EP and this album, Mourning Sign has shown real progress towards that goal. Only time will tell.


    Mouth
    Foreword CD5
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    There is this little blurb from Raygun on the back. "A staggering E.P." Raygun falls back on that tired excuse anytime they hear anything heavier than Porno for Pyros.

    Some definite Seattle vibes come through, usually to slow things down even further. I can't find anything unique or even real interesting going on. It's just... okay.


    Movers and Shakers
    Larrabee
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    Raggedy roots-inflected punk songs--or is that raggedy punk-inflected rootsy stuff? Movers and Shakers don't seem to know the difference, so I won't worry about it, either.

    And that's okay. This is music best savored while drinking cheap beer or cheaper bourbon. It's loud, often fast and generally tuneful. There are a few moments where I think the boys might've cribbed a bit too much from early Uncle Tupelo, but at least their hearts are in the right place.

    The band has a fine take-no-prisoners attitude, and the production reflects this. The Wurlitzer (or, sometimes, unbranded organ) is a fine touch, but oftentimes the levels are just about pegged. That slight descent into distortion lends even more power to these pieces.

    Line up your quarters and play. Don't worry about tomorrow. Just drive it home tonight. Okay, then.


    Movie Star Kiss
    Starting Over
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Formerly known as Supercrush (and formerly from St. Louis), the now-rechristened Movie Star Kiss hails from Los Angeles. And does its best to play melodic riffola.

    It's best is pretty durned good, too. Pleasantly fuzzy guitars combined with insistent 80s AOR-ish choruses (think more Cheap Trick than .38 Special) all played with just the right level of insouciance.

    This is the sort of sound that still persists in the midwest, even if the boys are now trying to make it on the coast. And since I spent a good chunk of my formative years in that vicinity, I'm more than sympathetic to the sound. More importantly, I'm always happy to hear good music.

    Solid rock and roll. Nothing more, but that's good enough for me. Don't know if there's a big market for the stuff (Didja know Cheap Trick released a new album back in June?), but hell, I'm impressed.


    Sunset Junction EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #291, November 2006

    Throbbing rock and roll with just enough of a punk edge to give the set some attitude. Don't let that fool you, though: This is straight-up L.A. rock and roll. And when it's played with this kind of breezy confidence, it's very hard to ignore. Loads more fun than you might imagine.


    Moviegoer
    Moviegoer
    (Noisebox)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    I know, it doesn't count for a whole lot here on the web, but this is one gorgeously appointed package. The paper disc holder has been silkscreened with what feels like tempera paint (the screens themselves were designed on a computer and retain some of the jagged edges). It looks and feels way cool.

    The music, as the band name implies somehow, is in that whole emo pop thing. The strident chords and atonal singing are the key elements, though the songs also follow emo's abrupt construction style.

    What really separates Moviegoer from other bands is the way it incorporates rhythm into its pieces. The rhythm guitar works wonderfully in counterpoint to the bass and drums, providing a complexity that most emo bands never bother to find.

    The consistent quality of the songs also elevates these boys from the mundane. Wound up tight as a clock, but skilled enough to discharge without exploding. The sort of tunes which make an immediate impact on the psyche.


    The Movielife
    This Time Next Year
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    These boys may hail from Long Island, but the sound is early 90s Bad Religion, without all the ultra-tight oozin' ahs. The songs do have a bit of the emo anthemic construction, but the chord progressons and bass lines are straight outta L.A.

    Actually, I've always wondered what this music would sound like without the BR's technical precision. Turns out it's pretty good. The looser feel drops some emotion into the songs, though the hooks obviously don't set quite so deeply.

    What does help the hooks is the emo. Not the same, of course, but that's okay. A bit more of an insistent, strident attack does the job. Gets the point across, anyway.

    An invigorating romp. The twisting of styles works quite well, and the writing is first-rate. The enthusiastic playing shows off the songs in the best way possible. Top quality all the way around.


    Movietone
    The Blossom Filled Streets
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    There's something to be said for a band that utilizes full-time clarinet, viola and piano players in addition to somewhat more expected rock instruments. What that something is depends on your tolerance for musical exploration.

    I won't say experimentation, because Movietone doesn't really vary far from accepted music theory. But this certainly isn't yer average indie rock platter, either. The musical and lyrical ideas are expressed poetically, and this roundabout way of presentation can be unsettling.

    Unless, of course, you're already attuned to a similar wavelength. Nothing here, from the guitar lines to the lyrics, is quite what it seems. Every piece feeds into another, and entire thoughts are often folded within larger concepts as the songs progress. The "big picture" is never revealed; you have to see it for yourself.

    Exquisitely recorded, this album sets sail and never returns to shore. And why should it? There are always new lands, and new idea, to explore. Just be sure to get on board.


    The Mowgli's
    Sound the Drum
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    If you happened to pick up on the recent "San Francisco" single, you'd know already. But that was just a couple of songs. This is an entire album of Mowgli's goodness. And my goodness, is it good.

    The Mowgli's tend to do vocals in a sort of hippie gang style, layering those over impeccably bouncy orchestral pop. Peppy, perky--use whatever word you like. The simple fact is that this is good goodness.

    "Good" is a word that is overused. But it is the perfect word to describe the Mowgli's. Yes, the quality is "good," but the soul of these songs is good, too. Even the darkest, roughest beast would be cleansed.

    Blissful to the extreme. The single rather knocked me out, but this is on an entirely different level of awesome. Hard to keep up such an energetic stream of goodness, but the Mowgli's have proven up to the task. Most excellent.


    Moxi
    In My Dreams EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Well-crafted songs that seem almost self-consciously idiosyncratic at times. The shiny production leaves Moxi sounding a bit generic, though some of her songs ("Terrible Disguise," in particular) manage to transcend the goo. Moxi needs a bit more of her namesake, the stuff that has an "e" at the end.


    Mucho Macho
    The Limehouse Link
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    If you need any more proof that today's electronic artists owe at least as much to Public Enemy as Kraftwerk, you need only scope this disc out. High energy (but not hi-NRG, of course) electronic constructions, heavy on the samples. Very much a more sterile version of Chemical Brothers, without so much rhythm experimentation.

    So, yes, this doesn't rate as highly with me. But then, little does. What Mucho Macho does is craft great dance songs in a fairly creative way. Generally using sounds rather than full samples (though there are a few interpolations listed in the credits), the songs are full of boundless energy, even if there doesn't seem to be much more point than motion for motion's sake.

    And still very much a bridge between hip-hop and whatever it is you like to call today's electronic music. It's so easy to hear the influences here, and they fit together so seamlessly.

    Fluff, sure, but a really, really fun sort of piffle. The kind of thing which makes evenings on the dance floor pass by quickly. And it's not bad for generally getting the blood going, either.


    Muckafurguson
    Chevrolet 7"
    (Edelstein)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    I've been getting these gushing e-mails from the Deep Elm office (where Muckafurguson is preparing a full-length) for ages, and now finally a taste.

    First things first: don't expect anything. I mean, if you think you can anticipate what's coming next, let me just emphasize that you're sadly mistaken. The band is a trio. All three sing, and apparently they like to switch instruments almost as quickly as they cycle sounds.

    I generally don't like to do this, but the only way to make sense of these proceedings is to go track by track. "Chevrolet" is a keen little punchy pop song about, well, a Chevrolet. Nothing terribly unusual, with the exception of a Dick Dale-style riff that appears out of nowhere. "Forsyth St." starts off with the premise that "John would kick the ass of all the other Beatles" and then proceeds into a fairly rude Beatles parody. "Sweetie Pie" is a Jolson-style crooner piece that is utterly loony. Then comes "Bad Ass Fucker", which is a clunky pop song that seems to want to rock out, but doesn't quite make it.

    Add in the fact that all the lyrics are terribly clever (the one true unifying factor), and you get something like the Dead Milkmen with talent and brains. I hope that doesn't become a sad catchphrase.


    Tossing a Friend
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    I thought the seven-inch was a wild ride, and there were only four songs there. This disc has 14 (three of which are from the single), and while the sequencing makes the shift between songs somewhat less jarring, there's no escaping the fact that Muckafurguson is one of the most inventive bands around.

    Mostly pop, though with more side references than you can imagine. The liner picture is of a mixing board, with labels such as "country", "rap", "old timey" and "indie" taped over the slides. I'm not sure the levels indicated are dead-on, but you get the idea. Muckafurguson ain't much for genrefication.

    The main point here is humor. Sophisticated and crude, taking on just about everyone around. The thing is, the funny bits lie in the music as well as the lyrics. This is highly referenced stuff. Keep peeling back layers and there's still more.

    Quite simply, there's nothing else that comes even close. If these boys don't become the darlings of college radio (and hopefully more, since that doesn't really mean much, after all), I'd be surprised. Brilliant. Not much more to say than that.


    The Gay EP
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    I opened the package from Deep Elm quickly (that in itself gets my heart racing) and then I saw the Muckafurgason. Well, I simply couldn't wait to tear into this puppy.

    As ever, genres and everything else get blended into a truly tasty stew. Even the title isn't quite accurate. The songs generally cover love and loss, from all sides of the sexual spectrum. With as much wit as about anyone could stand.

    Muckafurgason specializes in writing wacky songs about reasonably serious subjects. That wackiness turns out to have more depth and feeling than the most heartfelt songs written head-on. You gotta be able to tweak the stuff to really get some perspective, I guess. In any case, this works.

    As ever, utterly unclassifiable. Muckafurgason continues its string of wildly varied performances, and I hope that never ends. The band's strength is its diversity and wit, and straightening that out (dig the pun!) could only fuck things up.


    The Pink Album
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    Muckafurgason is far too jokey, and it relies too much on criminally attractive hooks. Yet I still find myself listening. This album is more of the same, and while one part of me hoped for something a bit less goofy, the other part of me was happy to hear that nothing had changed. Definitely an acquired taste, but one that does wonders for my constitution.


    Mucky Pup
    Act of Faith (advance cassette)
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Where most of their earlier material had roots in hard core, this album goes more on the metal (and otherwise).

    At once a more varied and more coherent album than Now! and their others, the lyrics are a little more serious and thought-provoking.

    Where this kind of change made the Dead Milkmen simply boring, for Mucky Pup a modicum of maturity rounds out their sound quite well. They still won't know how to pigeonhole the band. That's good.


    The Muddle
    The Muddle
    (SST)
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    In instrumental mode, this sounds a bunch like Gone. When Gerard (no last names, of course) starts singing, wanders off in all directions, from grunge to hardcore to pop.

    But everything runs around a strangely discordant base, one where keys and song structure are not really prized. I guess this should be loosely termed pop music, but the Muddle likes things left, well, in a muddle. And I'm not going to argue.

    This is simply one of those discs that grows on you like a barnacle. Once you start playing it, someone has to come scrape it off your stereo before you'll stop. And I don't know why this is so addictive. Must be the (lack of) tuning.

    Stunning, in a perversely understated way. Kinda like listening to Bleach for the first time. You knew something was there, but you had to listen over and over to find it. No recess, man.


    Muddy Frankenstein
    Dance With Evil
    (Rock Boss International)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Utterly sloppy and woefully inconsistent, Muddy Frankenstein whips out one of the more mordant versions of rockabilly that I've heard.

    Well, probably more punk, but the drumming is straight out of Buddy Holly. Sometimes the mess congeals into a great tune like "It's Up to You", which is simply amazing. But more often the guitar and bass lose track of each other, and the drummer keeps on keeping on.

    My brain gets lost trying to keep up. There is an astonishing energy flowing through the music; I just wish I could make a little more sense of the proceedings.

    When they're good, they're good. When they're bad, they're execrable. Yow!


    Mule
    I'm Hell 7"
    (1/4 Stick - Touch & Go)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Fifty ways to fuck around on guitar. I'm not sure why I wrote that, but following that old SAT rule I'm leaving my first answer. Of course, the lyrics are kinda spoke-sung and the music accompanies all that rather oddly. Verra keen.

    And I can't begin to describe the Bee Gee's cover on the flip. Oh, by the way, a Mule album out in early 1993. This is a fine introduction.


    Mule
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    The great comic book that comes with this is worth a good review, but the music earns that as well.

    Consisting of the ex-rhythm section of Laughing Hyaenas and some other guy named P-Bone, Mule power their way through psycho-powered country blues grunge. Well, clean grunge, I suppose, but the speed is turgid and I can feel another one slowly slipping out.

    Sorry about that. The first rule of reviewing is never do it on the toilet. After all, any reference to fecal matter is likely to offend someone. Oh well. Shitting aside, this album smells better than a sweet fart and has meandered its way right up my colon. It's currently resting somewhere in my small intestines, where it resembles the flu. But I have no plans to remove it any time soon.


    Wrung EP
    (1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    A pleasant four-song outing from the boys. With the herky-jerky style going strong, you begin to wonder if the guys can even finish the song they're playing.

    But, of course, they do, and by the time you're through it, you realize it was a hell of a fun time getting there.

    I've never been able to properly dissect Mule's style, and I sure am not beginning to here. It's heavy, it moves and I love it. That's all.


    If I Don't Six
    (1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Hoarse vocals, rough-yet-rolling guitar licks, and a brutal bass and drums attack that will leave you gasping. Something somewhere in the mix screams "Freedom Rock on PCP!" And, well, Mule's a lot better than that.

    If you're like a lot of people out there, you'll say "yeah, Mule's really cool" 'cause Spin said so and then forget to play them.

    But if you really listened to Mule, you would have no choice in the matter. Because even the slightest devotion to the musical slave-driver that is Mule will compel you to become a disciple, or apostle, or whatever. You will evangelize; you will spread the faith.

    Because, in the end, that's what college radio is all about. Bands like Mule that are so great you just can't keep them to yourselves. Tell your friends down at the bait shop or crack house or wherever. They'll be glad you stopped by. And so will Mule.


    Muler
    On the Rug 7"
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Some folks that seem equally influenced by Treepeople and Uncle Tupelo (two of my faves, so no complaints in that department).

    I wish the songs did a bit more than they do. I get a real feeling that something's missing, though I'm just not sure what that might be. One of those nagging thoughts that really bugs me.

    I dig the a-side ("On the Rug") just a bit more than the flip ("Slowpoke"), mostly because I like the riffwork on that tune. "Slowpoke" actually digs a lot more into that whole Archers of Loaf/Treepeople/Jawbox/etc. sound, but without really crafting a new sound for Muler.

    Good, but uninspired. Muler needs to really define itself a bit better within this sound. Too many bands sound just like this.


    Mull Historical Society
    Loss
    (XL-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Another fine British import from the folks at Beggars Banquet. Colin MacIntyre writes and sings, and he gets a few friends to play along. There are moments here that do sound like a clunky one-man band, though to be fair most of the players are consistent throughout the album.

    What is also consistent is the vaguely off-kilter slant to the songs. The music does fit into the Britpop tradition, but that's a pretty wide basket. Most specifically, MacIntyre combines his oft-quavering vocals with Big Star chord progressions. There's a definite soulful effect to the enterprise.

    The lyrics can be elliptical, though that's not a certainty. As often as not, the words mean exactly what they say. It's at those points when the music starts trailing off into tangents.

    And so a part of each song is always centered, no matter where the rest of the piece is headed. This creates a most listenable set, highly enjoyable and still deep enough to stand up to multiple listens. Not yer usual fare, but a fine one in any case.


    Muller and Patton
    Muller and Patton
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    That would be Jaye Muller and Ben Patton, two guys who appear to be about 15 years old. They're not; at least, the music on this disc doesn't sound like the work of teenagers.

    It does sound like the work of folks who love late-60s pop music--Beatles, Beach Boys, etc. Lots of lush arrangements (layers of vocals as well as a fair amount of orchestration) and some really pretty songs.

    Do the songs really say something? Well...they're pop songs. They're not really intended to be particularly deep, so it can be a bit disconcerting when the occasional profundity pops out. Still, I think most folks can handle that.

    Yeah, that was sarcasm. And there's very little of that here. This is earnest, straightforward, well-built pop music. Very pretty. Very very pretty. Bright enough to bring the sun to an arctic winter's day.


    The Multiple Cat
    The Golden Apple Hits
    (Plow City)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Calculated pop tunes, clunky hooks with an emphasis on craft. The key, then, is to provide just enough transition to keep the songs together.

    The Multiple Cat does that, if a bit tenuously at times. Some of the songs here hold together by the barest of threads, but that lends an excitement, a thrill to the songs which really enhances the overall sound.

    The writing and the arrangements don't lend themselves to loose playing, requiring instead a dedicated approach to their performance. That's exactly what comes through here, and the bare-bones approach to the production ensures that every little piece can be heard.

    The natural tension provided by the writing style drives this album, and the quality of the writing and playing makes listening a most pleasurable experience. The Multiple Cat requires a little patience, but such diligence will be rewarded many times over.


    Mulu
    Smiles Like a Shark
    (Dedicated/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    A gothic spin on the electronic sound. Trip-hop straightened out and drenched in minor-key synth. Quite arrogant and excessive, but endearingly so.

    The songs roll along, like waves on the ocean. The sound is kicked up so high, there isn't a whole lot in the way of mood shifting. Like drinking a big load of coffee (or popping a couple tabs of ephedrine) and then proceeding to gobble every downer in sight.

    Ultimately too happy to be gothic in any sense, Mulu uses the dark coloring to distinguish itself from an increasing number of acts who ply these waters. Works well enough, though I'm not sure I'd want to listen to this a thousand times in a row or anything.

    Nothing too extreme or experimental, Mulu sticks to the electronic basics, adding bits and pieces to make its sound. A sound which is destined to be dated. But why worry about the future, anyway?


    Mumble and Peg
    This Ungodly Hour
    (Vaccination)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Dark and gloomy stuff, but with acoustic guitars. So instead of getting wildly orchestrated and cranking up the intensity with volume, Mumble and Peg does it by intensifying the lyrics and music itself. And, yeah, the folks do it real well.

    For the most part, this is guitar, drums, bass. Oh, and singing, of course. The stripped-down band style simply makes these songs glow. Pain, anger, loss and all the roads in-between. It is simply impossible to fully convey the sensory envelopment produced by these three guys. The emotional impact is huge.

    And there is no way out. Like I noted before, other folks who do this (Nick Cave comes to mind) often ratchet up the ante with excess. Mumble and Peg operates on a whole different level, using imagery and ideas to entrance listeners. There is no let-up from song to song.

    It is the sound which ultimately makes this disc unforgettable. Oh, the songs are immaculately written, and the lyrics astonishing. But the fact that Mumble and Peg refused to go over the top makes all the difference. One listen is more than enough to snare.


    All My Waking Moments in a Jar
    (Vaccination)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Raucous and rancorous, the one feature of Mumble and Peg that truly distinguishes the band is the sophisticated way these guys pronounce the doom of the world.

    Really, these songs are anything but optimistic. But they sound so cool. What you've got is acoustic pop orchestrated by an array of electronic sounds. A nice counterpoint that does anything but detract from the dismal, desperate anthems themselves.

    Music for the end of the world. Not as a celebration, but as a recognition of all the crap that has come before. A tapestry describing all the good reasons why humanity should go away once and for all, if you will.

    That and a whole lot more. Like I said, Mumble and Peg populates its sound with all sorts of things, and each little piece adds to the dark beauty of its surroundings. I know I said something like this when I reviewed This Ungodly Hour, but geez, no one can create a sense of despair like Mumble and Peg. The mood is dank enough, but the dreary poetry of the lyrics just kicks the album into another dimension. I love this.


    Mumbleskinny
    Head Above Water
    (Sector 2)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Mixing all the good parts of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Skin Yard (with a little down-home funk thrown in for good measure) Mumbleskinny seem to have mutated grunge into something I find really palatable.

    The guitars wail, the bass booms and Mark Thiele hollers to wonderful effect. The production left things just a little muffled, which avoids the bombast to which many monster grunge types have succumbed.

    The songs are anthemic and bowel-moving. This usually makes me wince; I hate it when bands are overly dramatic and excessive. But Mumbleskinny really cranks things up only when necessary, and for some reason I believe in this disc.

    I liked the first Pearl Jam disc despite the anthems, and I even liked parts of the first Alice in Chains. Since then, those bands have lost touch with the anger and rage that drove those efforts, and things have become dull. Mumbleskinny is still pissed as hell at the world, and the results are simply stunning.

    This one gets a "WOW".


    Hinge
    (Needletime/Unity)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    One of the few grunge-type bands that I find irresistible. Simply put, I think these guys have as good a knack at turning potentially dreadful anthems into great stuff.

    First, everything is always in motion. Forget dirges; Mumbleskinny is stirring a pot of stewed riffs. Little bits get dropped in here and here, always in an appropriate manner.

    This strict attention to songwriting construction is one of the reasons Mumbleskinny's stuff transcends what has become a really dreary sound. Put the same ideas in the hands of another band, and you'd get Candlebox or something equally dreadful. Instead, here we have some truly fine work.

    I had hoped this would live up to the last Mumbleskinny disc I got, and it has. In fact, the songwriting here is even more consistent. A thoroughly enjoyable set.


    Mung
    Mung
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Mountain boys. Or they wannabe, anyway. Kinda odd for a Frisco outfit, but then I've always appreciated folks who play against type.

    And for music featuring overbearing, arrogant riffage played in front of a throbbing beat, Mung's stuff is fairly good. It gets dull at times, but there's just enough of a punk edge to keep the whole disc from slipping under.

    I can imagine that Mung puts on a good show. Better than the disc, I would wager. Cock rock always sounds better at a bar, anyway. Plus you get all that localized testosterone flowing, and the air gets a little heady.

    It just doesn't translate well to an album. And this is presented quite well, with near-perfect production and a decent set of tunes. I simply can't get "Mississippi Queen" out of my fucking mind.


    Munkafust
    Down for Days
    (Pinch Hit)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Dropping hints of real funk into hooky groove rock, Munkafust manages to give this tired sound a little bit of a makeover. Part of it is the indefatigable energy of the band itself. And some of it comes in the writing.

    Nothing complicated. These guys aren't particularly deep, and they're not blasting out intricately-crafted tunes. Rather, the boys just kinda do what seems to feel good to them.

    I'm not terribly enamored of this sound. And I'm not overly knocked out by these guys. But they do make attractive music that borders on infectious from time to time. Quite competent and most enthusiastic. It's amazing what that can do for an album.

    See, when people have fun making music that translates into a fun-sounding album. At least, it seemed to work here. Hey, these guys aren't going to change the world. Don't think I'd trust them with that. But for a little groove break between beers, well, I think Munkafust is more than qualified.


    Murder Inc.
    Murder Inc.
    (Invisible)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    Something of a superstar project. Recorded by the much-worshipped Steve Albini, produced by the folks in the band, this retains a heavy flavor, but not quite an amalgamation of the corresponding parts. To be honest, the only name I can figure out is Chris Connelly, who you all should know (if not, read your Trouser Press). Unfortunately, the Chicago industrial scene is not where my interests have been concentrated for long.

    I like this, though. It is more heavy mood music than real industrial stuff. There is a definite feel for emotion on here, which is kinda refreshing from folks better known for trashing feelings in order to grind away at the brain. Don't get me wrong, rocking occurs here. But listen to the whole thing. All songs are worthy of airplay.


    A Murder of Angels
    While You Sleep
    (Middle Pillar)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Just in time for Halloween comes this gothic soundscape. One part orchestral (mostly in the background) and two parts sequencing, the two guys of A Murder of Angels have pieced together some wonderfully spooky music.

    Not in the horror movie style, but more thoughtful, suspenseful. Some might even say ethereal, but that's just because this stuff isn't created with a sledgehammer. No, there's plenty of bizarre substance, creating little nooks and crannies within which to hide.

    And that seems to be the desired effect. The overt structure is utterly amorphous, but there is an underlying cohesion which binds the entire project together. Little bits and spots of melody flit in and out of the trees, daring a listener to delve even deeper into the forest.

    What lies at the center? You get to find that out for yourself. While often subtle (certainly without many aggressive instincts), A Murder of Angels is still a master manipulator. This is creepy fare, wonderfully so. So many places to explore. So many ideas to conceive.


    Murfreesboro
    Ah! That Hits the Spot!
    (Planetary)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    Every college town has a soul/funk/ska band. In fact, there are at least five down here in my corner of the New South. Murfreesboro hails from Richmond, which is not exactly a big college town (though there are quite a few small ones situated there). But maybe the exposure to the music scene there helped to broaden the sound.

    Because, in truth, these guys play rock and roll with horns. Yes, there are some skankin' grooves. There are some songs that bring to mind an Al Green arrangement. And God knows these boys would love to be compared the the P-funk. But that's not what they do.

    Nope, it's just rock and roll with horns. With plenty of hands in the pot. The collective approach works pretty well, too. The songs generally stick to the straight and narrow, with tangents addressed from time to time. So the songs are well-built but not dull.

    Just a bar band, really. A good one, to be sure. This disc has some nice songs, and as a whole it hangs together well. Nothing particularly astonishing, mind you, just good stuff. That is, of course, a high compliment.


    The Murmurs
    Blender
    (MCA)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Two young women with guitars and sweet voices. Insidiously poppy, but hard to resist. I had to listen to this one twice before I could go on to the next disk. Which was okay, because it's kind of short.

    But here's 11 tracks of pure candy sweetness. You think Natalie Imbruglia is poppy -- wait till you hear this. And these two must have some kind of agenda or something because they're produced (well, half the songs) by k.d. lang. So I'm sure there is some irony or something going on here.

    But I've always dug this kind of thing. Streetwise chicks singing sweet songs of depression and redemption (or whatever the hell they're talking about) to me in their oh so nice voices. Like canaries in a candy bowl.

    Do I play this for my girlfriend in an act of empathy, or is this just one of those things I should hide under my mattress? So hard to tell these days. But then again, I've always been attracted to lesbians.

    -- Matt Worley


    James Murphy
    Convergence
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Murphy has been the ultimate "have guitar, will travel" slinger of the past five years. He's played in more bands than even I can remember. But now he has the chance to pay back his old mates and write his own songs, playing his own music for once.

    Not entirely instrumental, as Devin Townsend, Chuck Billy and Eddie Ellis lend their throats to three tunes. The star here, though, is obviously Murphy, who revels in the chance to flit through various moods.
    Unlike many metal guitar heroes, Murphy refuses to merely play fast. He has the highly unusual ability to take a speed run and turn it into a beautiful phrase. And then slow his lines back to a crawl, while losing none of the intensity.

    Now, the styles are what you might expect. Plenty of metal cliches in the basic music construction, and that gets a bit old. But Murphy's playing is great, and he has a knack of cutting in with another brilliant line just before the music becomes interminable. Could it be better? Sure. But this is pretty damned good, nonetheless.


    Peter Murphy
    Dust
    (Metropolis)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Fresh off the "rediscovery" of Bauhaus that has come in the last few years, Peter Murphy keeps pumping out his solo work. As has been the case with all of his post-Bauhaus albums, he hasn't bowed to convention or attempted to please everyone. I've gotta hand it to the guy; he sticks to his guns.

    And so it goes here. Nine songs that clock in at nearly 70 minutes total. Murphy infuses his usual tortured pop songs with a number of influences, much of them coming from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. He doesn't worry if each idea instantly connects with the others; rather, he sorta throws the stuff into a stew and lets everything soak for a while.

    Sometimes this method does work. And even when it doesn't, the songs are arresting in their stark beauty. Easy listening, this is not. Murphy never has fit into that category, and so I'm not surprised at the aggressively ambitious nature of this album.

    And like I said, even if he's not completely successful, Murphy is always worth hearing. He has a sense of sound that always impresses me. Suffice it to say if you've been a fan in the past, this album should satisfy. He may not win over a lot of new converts, but then, he's never tried to do that. It's always good to be true to one's nature.


    Rian Murphy (& Will Oldham)
    Almost Heaven EP
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Will Oldham, of course, is the man behind the Palace pantheon, and Rian Murphy's name graces countless albums as a contributor, a producer or (most often) both. Their names are at the top of the marquee of this short disc because of their direction and not just participation.

    There are more guests on this EP than the number of minutes it lasts. The usual suspects, including Bill Callahan (Smog), Thymme Jones, David Grubbs, Edith Frost, Darin Gray, Archer Prewitt and (but of course) Jim O'Rourke.

    Considering the huge number of artists involved, it's kind of amazing that these four songs sound so intimate. Goofy, even, at times. Murphy and Oldham have done their directing jobs well: This is a terrifically affecting disc. It plays much longer than its short duration.

    I don't know who else could have captured so many thoughts and emotions in a 15-minute span. Sure, most folks in the know would have guessed this effort would be good. But the greatness present surpasses even my high expectations.


    Murphy's Law
    What Will the Neighbors Think? 7"
    (Another Planet)
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    These guys have been scrapping around New York for what, ten years? Since I was born, it seems like. And back where they started, on a subsidiary of Profile.

    Strangely straightforward and catchy. These guys have always been funny and filled with an obviously posing attitude. Made the spotty music bearable. But here the music is quite adequate. And the lyrics just as silly as ever.

    I can detect something approaching maturity, but not enough to offend. The flip, a faux-ska tune called "Reefer Man" has the Law back with a bong. Just where it belongs.


    MURS
    The End of the Beginning
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    There's a party going on. Hot as hell, it is. MURS lays down some tight grooves--some sampled, but more original--and then throws down some truly incendiary rhymes.

    Political? At times. Introspective? Certainly. A bag full of funk and soul? That's the key here. MURS is all about ideas, both lyrical and musical. And still, with all that attention paid to the details, the fun sound keeps rollin' out.

    A tough tight rope to walk, truly. I'm sure some folks might find the production and rhyming here a bit too tight, too well-done. Can't be street if it sounds good, right? It's somehow dishonest if the grooves actually work? I've heard these lame complaints too much. MURS is professional all the way, and it still manages to stay true to its roots.

    As far as I'm concerned, if you can make an album fun and thoughtful at the same time, you've really accomplished something. MURS takes on everything from the trappings of "the life" to the record industry to the dumber parts of culture in general. The shots are on target, and the beats keep slammin'. Hot damn.


    Museum Mouth
    Tears in My Beer
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Frantic, raucous songs that barely make sense musically or lyrically. Despite all that, I fell in love almost instantly. Maybe it was more "because of" than "despite," to tell the truth.

    Rock and roll is a simple enterprise. Three chords, tight rhythms and the occasional melody. Museum Mouth might be even less than occasional on the melody part (these songs are sort of talk-shouted, if that makes any sense), but the chords fit together well and the rhythm section is pure bliss.

    Indeed, that is what kicks this into my happy zone. I suppose there's a bit of the Sleater-Kinney minimalist thing going on, but there's at least as much of a no wave sensibility, though these songs aren't deconstructive at all. On the contrary, they're almost perfectly-constructed pieces.

    Just performed in a way that might be a bit off putting to those who like their music handed over on a platter. Museum Mouth insists on its own sound, and I like that sound. These songs churn by all too fast. Quite a glorious squall.


    Mushroomhead
    XX
    (Filthy Hands-Eclipse)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Back when I was a skinny kid who knew little about music other than what I heard on the radio, I started working at my college radio station. Not long into my residence as the "loud music" director, an album by Faith No More crossed my desk. The Real Thing. Perhaps you've heard of it. Blew my fuckin' mind, it did.

    Twelve years down the line, that album sounds tame. It's hard to believe how forward thinking it was at the time. Mushroomhead incorporates much of the same material--drenching keyboards, ultra-heavy guitars, a smooth singer who also raps--and adds more: techno keys, scratching and sampling (which later FNM did use), real death metal raging and a need for speed and synthesis that puts even the masters to shame.

    This is what FNM should sound like today, if it was still an operative unit. The sonic shifts are brilliant, and the way it all fits together is awe-inspiring. I don't think these guys are really going anywhere new, but they're certainly pushing the envelope of some of today's finest ideas. Plus, you know, it sounds amazing.

    I don't hear the breakout single that might make big waves on MTV (if MTV even showed videos any more). But bands like Static X have shown that there's still a market for genre-pushing material. Mushroomhead is way out in front of the pack, just waiting for the world to catch up. I'll be playing this one an awful lot this summer, of that you can be sure.


    XIII
    (Universal)
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    I reviewed Mushroomhead's first album, and I was somewhat surprised to watch it get picked up by Universal and then break out. It wasn't that I thought the music wasn't good enough--rather, I just didn't have the confidence in the masses. Foolish me.

    So anyway, here's the second Mushroomhead album. The boys have cleaned up their sound a bit, but for the most part that crunchy Sepultura meets Fear Factory meets Faith No More sound is still in fine form. The songs are tighter--if not better, exactly--and the production is slicker.

    Which makes this something like the band's Angel Dust, to take that FNM comparison further down the road. I don't get quite the visceral thrills that arrived with XX, but I do feel a deepening appreciation for what these guys are doing.

    So I like this moderate evolution. I think this album might stick with me a bit longer, even if it doesn't get my blood steaming quite so quickly. Rarely does metal this catchy have a soul this deep.


    The Mustard Seeds
    Red
    (Radio Mafia)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Power pop that wants to make it big. Highly crafted, chunky chords and shiny production values. I generally don't like the overtly commercial approach, but see, these songs are pretty good.

    Not great, but good. Catchy enough to attract the attention of the average listener. With enough hooks to keep me on the ride, too.

    At least, as long as the tempo stays up. When the band kicks into midtempo (read "We're trying to be deep here") mode, it loses me. Those songs simply don't work so well. This is not music which invites examination. Thus the slower speeds just don't match up well at all.

    I liked it better than I figured, really. Good luck selling to the masses. That's obviously the aim. And there's nothing wrong with that. Really. I mean it.


    Mustasch
    Latest Version of the Truth
    (Regain)
    reviewed in issue #294, March 2008

    This one just missed the cut for the last issue. I guess I was more in the mood for some good ol' Swedish metal this time around.

    And this is Swedish. And good. Power chords with a technical sheen and just enough melody to make the songs vaguely hummable. Oh, and the disco strings. I love the disco strings! Something about these European boys that allows them to show their sensitive side while they're kicking ass serious.

    Not subtle. Not even particularly sophisticated (disco strings excepted, of course). But these boys sure know how to pile drive awesome riffage into one song after another. Lots of midtempo burners here, but with more than enough energy to keep the wheels turning.

    I dunno. I've been a fan of this kinda thing for decades (really). Mustasch doesn't really try anything new or anything, but it doesn't have to do anything like that. It's just gotta steamroller anything in its path. No problems there.


    Mutiny Mutiny
    Constellation
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    The power trio is dead. Has been dead. Is no longer an issue. The indie trio, on the other hand, is alive and well.

    Mutiny Mutiny may hail from Seattle, but their discordant rhythms and sharp-elbowed riffage bring to mind a certain scene in a biggish city one state south. The low-slung bass lines are very much Green River, but the attraction to well-produced chaos is a more modern affectation.

    I'll be honest; I've been all over the map on this one. Sometimes I really dig it, and sometimes it annoys the shit out of me. What I do like is the endless antagonism. These folks are endlessly pushing the limits of good sense.

    The sound is a bit nostalgic for me, what with all the nods to "college radio favorites" of the early 90s. Yeah, I've heard it all before, but not thrown together in such an aggressively forceful package. My brain is still rattled.


    MU330
    MU330
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Ah, yes, a nice hardcore band with ska inflections. More in the Voodoo Glow Skulls school than Bosstones. Much more. MU330 deals out unrestrained, muscular riffage, colored by a couple trombones. Completely joyous, my man.

    The songs scream out one after another, full amperage and high speed tilt. The disc simply blisters a path. Not as eclectically anarchic as the Blue Meanies, but they would make one hell of a double bill. I'd pay good money for that.

    A very thick sound. Like I said, this in the same line as VGS. But these boys are from St. Louis, and there is the odd midwestern lick (I went to school in Missouri; I know these things) mixed in with the punk riffola. Only a couple of times, but I enjoyed the reference.

    Alright, forgive the aside. Personally, I prefer my rock and roll horns to swing with feeling. They can be slow, fast, soft or loud, but they have to be expressive. MU330 does that. A wonderful touch with a nice and crunchy sound. Quite fine.


    Muy Cansado
    Falling Down
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Well-crafted pop-rock songs that edge into other territories (alt-country, disco, stuff like that). Despite the variety of sounds, this is a little dry for my tastes, but there's no denying the professional writing and playing.


    MxPx
    Teenage Politics
    (Tooth & Nail)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Smooth pop hardcore, in the fine tradition of Bad Religion and latter-day NOFX. Lotsa oozin-ahs, lotsa cogent lyrics. Plenty of great tunes.

    Obviously, this sound has become universal. Earlier this year some guys from Sweden (Millencolin) did a great run-though of this sound, and MxPx proves that the punk spirit is still alive in the Seattle area. Not only that; these guys move the mass forward a touch.

    Without borrowing too much from the obvious influences, MxPx also avoids sounding too much like a Pacific NW punk outfit (though the guitar lines occasionally find a D.O.A. groove). A good introduction to the band, this disc was released last year. Now I get to move on to the new album and really roll some heads.


    Life in General
    (Tooth & Nail)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Just as earnest and upbeat as its predecessor, this MxPx outing shows just a bit of maturing in the songwriting area (less reliance on easy tricks, with more focused tunesmithing). The lyrics are as astute as before, which bodes well.

    Plenty of songs once again. These albums have 19 and 17 tracks, respectively, running over 40 minutes each. Almost epochal by punk standards. And still no sign of pretentious preachiness. Amazing.

    Taken on its own, this is a most impressive album. The band is tight (which doesn't always happen with punk trios, for some reason) and the songs are great. And this one got recorded West Beach, which means some folks are taking an interest in these boys. Not surprising.

    High quality all the way. MxPx has the tools that it takes to take the next step. Now all the guys need is a little luck.


    The Renaissance EP
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Just to make things clear: MxPx hasn't changed labels. This is just a one-off EP with Fat. So you know.

    I haven't heard much from these boys in a while (their regular label hasn't been sending me stuff for a couple years; it happens), but this is much more impressive than the early albums I reviewed a while back. The songwriting is tighter, and yet the band retains the loosey-goosey feel that makes punk pop so inviting.

    There also isn't adherence to any one style, so you get everything from 7 Seconds-style hardcore ravers to fairly stripped-down pop. Quite the selection for a 9-song disc. I'm impressed. Perhaps I'll even be moved to change my earlier opinion of these boys. There's definitely something going on here.


    My Brother's Keeper
    Shoulder to Shoulder
    (Hammerhead)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    What Sly might sound like on acid. Jazz, that is. My Brother's Keeper mixes some smooth horn sounds with a loosely funky rhythm section. Mellow but agile, smooth and sophisticated.

    This is the perfect counterpoint to the Lovecraft disc I reviewed in this issue. Everything that band was trying to do, MBK does. The horn section is fuller, and the basic band seems to simply understand funk and soul much better.

    Retro without being a mere retread, MBK kicks out jam after jam, from ballads to master blasters. The range is astonishing, and the playing even more so. This is what a horn group was meant to sound like.

    Nice to hear a band that knows what it wants to sound like and manages to get there. Five studio tracks and five live tracks (the sound quality is almost as good with the live songs, and the horns prove they can do it in any setting), but still nowhere near enough. A wonderful surprise.


    My Dying Bride
    Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium EP
    (Peaceville/Caroline)
    reviewed in issue #11, 4/15/92

    If you only listened to the title track, you would be blown away. Of course, there are only three songs, and the last two just don't measure up. For one, that cool violin is almost nowhere to be found. And the vocals seem a bit forced.

    But let's compare those two tracks with other death metal. (time lapse) Not bad at all. I really hope these folk record a full album soon, because this, especially the Symphonaire, is pretty keen. And as you know, keen is right up there with fuckin' awesome.


    As the Flower Withers
    (Peaceville-Caroline)
    reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92

    If you did not groove on their recent ep, then you are a true Philistine. This is a full-length piece of work: seven songs, fifty minutes. So if you're not going to sit and listen to brilliance, go into your bedroom and jerk off to the new Firehouse record.

    One of my reporters assured me this was better than the EP, but I was rather skeptical. I mean, the Symphonaire really created a new level for death metal, and how could they improve upon it?

    Crank into the first (well, second after an instrumental into) song, "Sear Me." Nine minutes of sheer despair and rage. You can only sit there and say, "God-DAMN!"

    Well, that's what I think, anyway. And the rest of the album keeps cranking just as well. A new standard has been set, there is no doubt. Let's see Morgoth, Atheist, Malevolent Creation or Pungent Stench top this one with their next albums. I dare you.


    Turn Loose the Swans
    (Peaceville-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    This has been in my deck since its arrival in Michigan. And if you have been reading A&A for a while, you know what I think of these guys.
    Nice to see Peaceville hook up with someone who can get their records to stations and in stores. It seems the first MDB EP got to more stations than their full-length (both planted my butt into granite).

    While the whole doom-death movement is picking up steam, no one does it nearly as well as My Dying Bride. Perhaps it's because these guys take chances. About half of this album could more correctly be called goth, as it does get pretty atmospheric.

    So that when the hammer comes down, your brain is pulverized. These folk know how to set up a listener, and they know how to finish the deed.

    Death or otherwise, the finest album of the year so far. Period.


    Trinity
    (Fierce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    A re-issue of three EPs, two of which never got any official U.S. release. Two of the three EPs have three tracks, and a bonus track is added to bring the total number of songs up to nine. Trinity cubed. So the title makes sense now? Let's hope.

    The obvious reason for the CD is the 11-and-a-half minute fury and passion of "Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrum". This song blew me away three years ago when I first heard it, and it still one of my favorite pieces of all time. It defines the whole doom-death genre, and in a way, it is the only real doom-death-goth song ever recorded. My Dying Bride has yet to surpass it. Of course, no one else has even come close.

    Feel free to surf through the rest of the offerings, which are high quality (you wouldn't expect any less from this band). Only whets my appetite for the new album, whatever turns it may take. And if you have not yet heard the "Symphonaire", prepare for soul destruction. The only comment I've gotten from about 20 folks who heard it for the first time recently was, "Oh my God."
    Nuff sed.


    The Angel and the Dark River
    (Fierce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    Not many bands can get away with having the first track on an album run 12 minutes. My Dying Bride fans would be disappointed if it wasn't.

    "The Cry of Mankind" isn't just any 12-minute song, either. It sounds like a real attempt to replicate the epic angst and fury of the "Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium", which I consider to be one of the greatest musical compositions of all time (yes, going up against al the music the world has ever known). Ever since that moment, My Dying Bride seems to have attempted to stay away from such an all-encompassing (and soul-wrenching) statement. Not here. And the most amazing thing is that "The Cry of Mankind" comes damned close.

    Turn Loose the Swans was a wonderfully sparse goth/doom album. The Angel and the Dark River has moments that harken back to such ideas, but the definite emphasis here is on re-establishing the band as one of the heaviest in the universe. The production is lush and full (like the first full-length, As the Flower Withers, and there is much more usage of guitar and epochal songwriting. My Dying Bride really came out swinging.

    And I couldn't be more pleased. By taking all of the varied sonic elements of its past and throwing them into this stew, My Dying Bride has finally lived up to the promise of its first widely-released EP. Not to say the other albums, EPs and singles have sucked, but the "Symphonaire" left big shoes to fill, shoes that no other band could even touch. The six songs over 52 minutes leave me utterly drained physically and emotionally. Perhaps the best album I've ever heard, period.


    Like Gods of the Sun
    (Fierce-Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    When this puppy arrived, I immediately dashed out to a local record store owned by a couple friends and gave it a listen. They had three pre-orders from customers before the disc finished. Such is the power of My Dying Bride.

    This album finds the band reverting to a guitar-driven style, the sort of sound found on Turn Loose the Swans. Plenty of the gothic metal (tinged with organ and violin) to give rabid fans the accustomed thrill. I count myself as a huge fan, and I like this album, but it does bum me out just a bit that My Dying Bride has moved even the slightest bit away from the edge. I don't worry too much, though.

    Uncompromising music of uncommon power. My Dying Bride is consistently superior, and Like Gods of the Sun does nothing to harm that reputation. This is the third Fierce release in this vein that I've reviewed for this issue, and like the others, it more than satisfies; indeed, all three surpassed all rational expectations.

    It's a mundane statement, but this is just another great My Dying Bride album. That alone speaks volumes for the band's prowess.


    My Education
    My Education
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Five songs. Nearly forty minutes of music. If you guessed that My Education takes its time to get to the point, you'd be right.

    The beauty, though, is in how this collective (which includes string and piano players) gets to the point. Ideas are stated and restated. They dance along a shimmering path, sometimes wandering into the grass and sometimes going a bit further afield. Nonetheless, every time the song ends right where it should.

    Think Don Caballero meets Dirty Three and they go out for drinks with the Fucking Champs. Lots of noise, lots of pretty pictures and enough power to get the entire party to the moon and back. After listening, I think the reason the songs are so long is that it just takes a while for everything to percolate perfectly.

    Which is how I hear this disc. There's nothing simple or easy about this music, but nonetheless it's accessible on first listen. Not a dumbing down, mind you, merely some outstanding writing and playing. The sound will ring for days in my ears.


    Italian
    (Thirty Ghosts)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    A more fully-orchestrated version of that haunting, high lonesome sound that I described in my review of the Esmerine above. My Education actually sounds a lot more like Dirty Three--the guitar and viola help. Of course, with six members this stuff really fills the sonic canvas at times.

    Like a midwestern spring day, these songs can go from full sun, to hail, to rain, to snow and then back to sun, all in the course of a few minutes. Some pretentious farts might even call that storytelling.

    Gosh, all this sarcasm just keeps rolling out. I don't know why. These songs are great. They have that rolling rhythm that, well, reminds me of the prairie. You look in any direction and you think you can see forever.

    I suppose the test with music like this isn't so much "Do the songs tell stories?," but rather "Are the stories compelling?" Yes, they are. Gorgeous, heartwrenching, compelling...you name it. A most impressive set of work.


    A Drink for All My Friends
    (Haute Magie)
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    Some folks from Austin who never quite gave up on the whole post-rock dream. These rambling pieces rumble through some truly gorgeous territory before finally pulling into the station.

    So. Lots of strings (guitar, bass, fiddle/violin, etc.), needle-pinning engineering and an epochal sense of scope. Kinda like Dirty Three on steroids. Except, of course, not.

    It's not fair to compare My Education to anyone else. Few bands are ambitious enough to try their hands at songs this intricate and far-reaching. Each piece tells a story, and most of the time the plot has risen and fallen at least a couple of times before the end of the song. Some of the longer songs are more like five-acts.

    A bit exhausting, but utterly thrilling as well. This album teases out of the gate, but the short introduction hardly gives notice of what is to come. The album itself moves with sure feet, and the ideas are nothing short of miraculous. Thunderously lovely.


    My Favorite Martian
    Shining Down 7"
    (Meddle)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Crunchy pop with a nice, thick bass sound. Not quite ALL territory, but you can hear it from here.

    With a real sense for how to put together a song. Don't push an idea too hard, and don't forget to kick out the hooks. Both tunes are nice, uptempo ravers with clean guitar lines and infectious beats. Solid musicianship and a nice, muted production sound.

    The main difference between the two is that the b-side, "Snakecharmer" is instrumental. But like Treepeople, My Favorite Martian manages to speak well enough without using words.

    An auspicious single, to say the least.


    My Name
    Megacrush
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    Trying to avoid the dread "Seattle band" label, My Name moved to Tacoma. I think this find band would have made a name for themselves without the change of scenery, but U-Haulin' didn't hurt them in my book.

    Pick your favorite innovative loud band, be it Mind Over Four, Libido Boyz, Porn Orchard, whatever. Add these guys to the list. They refuse to be pigeonholed, playing heavy, meandering pop songs that please my soul immensely. And the word that they will be touring with ALL this summer (and Bad Religion on the East coast, what a bill!) means I will have to find the fuckers somewhere down the line.

    Already this year C/Z has two of the best albums out, with My Name and the Treepeople. Look out, it could be a killer autumn!


    Wet Hills and Big Wheels
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Their first album was a collection of rushed pop tunes with hints of jazz, punk and lots of other stuff mixed in.

    Bill and Steven of ALL have taken the kids under their wing, producing this thing and asking them back on tour this fall (though Cruz edited my review of the My Name-Jawbox-ALL show in the new ALL pressbook to leave out the first two bands).

    I guess you can't promote someone else's band, or maybe it was a spatial thing. I don't care, though anyone who's read my shit knows if you leave something out you're liable to get confused. Tangent closed.

    Right. I can hear a definite ALL influence grooving through here. While the influences are as diverse as always, everything is tighter. Not too tight, but at least up to a Treepeople standard.

    This would be up there on my list of fave albums; I've been jamming the advance for some time now. I know many of you have shied away from C/Z stuff as too poppy. Not so here; get off yer ass and play it!


    My Own Victim
    Burning Inside
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    While hailing from the home of such roots-rock bands as Buffalo Tom, Louisville-based My Own Victim goes its own way, riffing through its own vision of the metalcore concept.

    More of a Boston than New York sound, if you can glean that distinction. The rhythms are more grind than rap oriented. But for most, that's just quibbling.

    Personally, I prefer Sam Black Church or Snapcase to My Own Victim, mostly because those bands have really stamped out their own ground. My Own Victim relies more on metal conventions at times than those acts (which is why Century Media is releasing this), but still the band is more generic than original. A little more work, boys.


    My Teenage Stride
    Ears Like Golden Bats
    (Becalmed)
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    There's an awful lot of the Go-Betweens, Straitjacket Fits and the Cure here. Oh, and why not throw in the Smiths, too? Yeah, why not. I mean, as long as you're trafficking in cliches and all...

    These folks take the concept of the electro-pop song and knock it just that much askew. Kinda like all the other bands mentioned. In fact, My Teenage Stride doesn't break much new ground and at times it seems to be aping particular songs.

    And yet I don't think these folks are ripping anyone off. The stuff is so steeped in its roots that the obvious connections just seem to keep reappearing. I do wish there was some sort of update or modern translation, but hey, there really isn't. This is stripped-down keyboard pop, laden with spartan melodies and herky-jerky hooks.

    But, y'know, I graduated from high school in 1987. So this is, in a very real way, the music of my youth. And it still sounds good. These boys aren't the second coming or anything, but they make fun music. I'll buy that any day.


    Mycomplex
    If We Keep Moving
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Strident and insistent, Mycomplex plays something that almost has to be considered a prog form of hardcore. The lead guitar licks are speedy and intricate (way too complex for regular punk), and the guys tend to write songs that turn on a dime.

    Reminds me a little of that fine Kalamazoo outfit Thought Industry (these guys are from Michigan as well). But a little less refined. Like I said, something in the prog hardcore realm.

    Which is a mighty unique sound, let me tell you. I couldn't have predicted this even if I had been told what Mycomplex does. Indeed, a truly singular vision.

    But not so strange as to scare away folks. Just cool enough to prick up the ears and beg the question: What the hell is that? Well, it's some fine fare. Time to dig in.


    The Mysteries of Life
    Anonymous Tip EP
    (Flat Earth/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Basic old-style rock and roll stuff (no piano, but with plenty of country influences). The first song features Lisa Germano (the whole thing is built around her fiddle playing), but the rest of the songs are regular guitar-oriented pieces.

    Pretty good, particularly the production, which is full but not overwhelming. The songs themselves occasionally trend to the generic, but usually a nice guitar lick or drum break manages to stave off boredom.

    While plying the same trade as the Jayhawks or post-Tupelo, the Mysteries of Life doesn't quite measure up there. The sound is a bit too calculated, the songs not consistent enough. More chances need to be taken.

    Still, on "I Need To Know Where I Stand" the band shows its willingness to expand past basic music. A few more shots like that, and The Mysteries of Life might even begin to live up to its name.


    The Mystics
    Remnants of a Lost Culture
    (MeanStreet)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Takes me back. A long ways. The Mystics happen to believe that it actually matters what you're rhymin' about. In other words, they express ideas in a most poetic manner.

    With such an emphasis on the rhymes, the backing tracks do suffer. They often consist of not much more than a beat and a keyboard line. This seems a bit odd to me considering the decidedly stylish soundscapes that introduce many of the songs.

    I understand the impulse not to overwhelm the vocals, but geez, there's no reason to dumb down the tunes. Most of the time, the sophisticated thoughts are more than enough to overcome any musical shortcomings. Even so, I wish there was a bit more there there.

    In any case, I can't rip on the intent. Ripping off big ol' ideas and rhymin' them to the beat isn't easy. The Mystics have a most impressive way of expressing themselves. If they put a little more effort into what bounds behind the thought, the entire package might shine like a star.


    The Mystix
    Blue Morning
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #292, December 2007

    Almost 20 years ago, I took my then-new girlfriend (and now wife) down to a local joint in Columbia, Mo., and saw the Nighthawks tear up the place. The crowd was mostly thirty and forty-something townies. We'd never seen "old" people get so hot and bothered about music. I mean that literally. The folks were sweating so much that dancing became something of a Twister match. I think that was kinda the idea.

    The Nighthawks still tear up the joint wherever they play. And the Mystix remind me a lot of that night years ago in Columbia, even if they and (especially) singer Jo Lily remind me a lot more of Bob Dylan's recent output.

    Not so much in the lyrics--Lily takes a more traditional and stripped-down approach to those. But the rollicking blues sound is in the same general corner of the universe, though the Mystix are certainly more rambunctious. Bobby Keyes's guitar work is stellar, impressive both in terms of skill and feel. He knows how to set the table--and when to snatch the tablecloth from underneath the settings as well.

    I'm sure these boys would be a good time down in the corner saloon, and they've put together an exceptional album as well. And now that I'm the same age as many of those "old" people I saw grooving to the Nighthawks all those years ago, I understand that it's not only possible for us oldsters to get down, but that sometimes it's absolutely necessary. And bands like the Mystix make it much easier for us to do our duty.


    Mythic
    Mourning in the Winter Solstice
    (Relapse Underground)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Mythic had one report (from various stations) most of last year. When one station dropped off, another had picked it up. Of course, even by then the three-woman lineup had disbanded.

    Relapse is good enough to inform folks that Mythic is no more and still release this three-song disc. The production is a little weak, but despite being over two years old, the songs are still fresh.

    A nice bit of history.


    MZ.412
    Nordik Battle Signs
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Electronic disturbance theater. MZ.412 is unabashedly satanic (or in any case, the folks are completely anti-Christian), singing and speaking of pain, murder and war over a mass of modulated white noise and highly distorted recordings.

    As an old college friend of mine would say, "Yummy." This stuff sounds evil because it is. It would be rather difficult to argue otherwise. But that's just fine with me. I rather enjoy the theatrics. And I certainly dig the underlying noise.

    That's really the treat here for me. Oh, I'm always good for a "Hail Satan, well met" at any party I attend, but what keeps me interested here is the great fuzz and noise which rumbles beneath the showy presentation.

    Dark and nasty, just 'cause it wants to be. Sqaulls of noise rumbling off into the distance. Clouds of pain gathering on the horizon. Sounds like a great time to me.


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