Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 198 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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


  • N.I.L.8
  • Nadir
  • Nailbomb (2)
  • Nails
  • Naive
  • Naked Aggression
  • The Naked Hearts
  • Naked Lunch (2)
  • Namanax (2)
  • Namelessnumberheadman
  • Napalm Death (3)
  • Narcoleptics
  • Andy Narell
  • Nina Nastasia (2)
  • Neil Nathan, Inc.
  • Natural Calamity
  • Willie Heath Neal & His Cowboy Killers
  • The Neckbones (2)
  • Necronomicon
  • Necrophobic (2)
  • Necrosanct (2)
  • Need New Body
  • Neglected Sheep (2)
  • The Negro Problem
  • Casey Neill (3)
  • Vernon Neilly
  • Alva Nelson
  • Bill Nelson (2)
  • Nemesis
  • The Neon Judgement
  • Nerf Herder (4)
  • Nero Circus
  • The Nerve Agents
  • Nerves Junior
  • Nervewomb
  • Ness
  • Nete
  • Neurosis (5)
  • Neutrino (2)
  • Nevada Bachelors
  • Nevermore
  • New American Farmers
  • New American Mob
  • New Americans
  • New Black
  • New Bomb Turks (3)
  • New Duncan Imperials
  • The New Grand
  • New Mexico
  • The New Mexikans
  • New Mind
  • The New Pornographers
  • The New Rags
  • New Roman Times
  • The New Sound of Numbers
  • New Sweet Breath (3)
  • New Town Animals
  • The New Tribe
  • New Wet Kojak (2)
  • The New Year
  • The New York Trio Project
  • Matthew Newbold
  • Kenneth Newby
  • Newlydeads (2)
  • Colin Newman
  • The Newsboys
  • Newt
  • Next Level X
  • Niacin
  • Niagara (2)
  • Niblick Henbane
  • Nice Guy Eddie
  • Nigel
  • Night Driving in Small Towns
  • A Night of Serious Drinking
  • The Nightcaps
  • The Nighthawks
  • Nightingale
  • Nightstick
  • Nihil
  • Nile
  • Nillah (2)
  • Nimrods
  • Nine Dollar Melon Baller
  • 9-Iron (2)
  • Nineteen Forty-Five (2)
  • 90 Day Men (2)
  • 98 Mute
  • 999
  • Ninewood
  • Willie Nininger (2)
  • Nirvana/Jesus Lizard
  • Nite Nite
  • Michael Nitro
  • Nitzinger
  • No Apples for Adam
  • No Bird Sing
  • No Device
  • No Forcefield
  • No Fun At All
  • No Innocent Victim
  • No Knife
  • No Merit
  • No Second Troy
  • No Use for a Name (3)
  • Noah's Red Tattoo
  • Noahjohn (2)
  • Noel the Coward/Circle 9
  • Noertker's Moxie (3)
  • NOFX (9)
  • Noise Box (3)
  • Noise Unit
  • Nomeansno (5)
  • Non
  • Non Compos Mentis
  • Non-Aggression Pact (2)
  • Non-Fiction
  • Nonoyesno
  • The Normal
  • North American Drum and Steel
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • A Northern Chorus (2)
  • John Norum (3)
  • Nosferatu
  • Not from There
  • Not Rebecca
  • The notwist
  • Novadriver
  • November 17
  • Novembers Doom
  • Novillero
  • The Nowherenauts
  • NRA
  • Nuclear Assault
  • Nudeswirl
  • Nudge Squidfish
  • Null_Objct
  • Gary Numan
  • Numb
  • Tom Nunn (2)
  • Sally Nyolo

  • N.I.L.8
    Hallelujah...I'm Gonna Kiss Myself
    (Fuse)
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    Pretty catchy metalcore with just a hint of the funk. The production is a little weak (still kinda wimpy, really), but the solid material mostly makes up for that.

    And while the music is none to original or innovative, N.I.L.8 makes sure you know it's just out to amuse. The topics are heavy into the social issues, but never preachy. Just pictures of a place that is less than paradise, with an easy-going backing track.

    If this album were pretentious in the slightest, I'd have a problem with it. But it's not, and because of that I can simply bask in the simple pleasures afforded. Uncomplicated loud music with cool riffage and a bouncy bass.


    Nadir
    Rust
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    A New Zealand band which moved to Australia to broaden its horizons. But before you start getting all Chilly in your expectations, you might like to know that Nadir is a post-grunge outfit. Meaning that the songs have a definite grunge feel, but since grunge is dead it has to have some kind of new name.

    And the guys do it well enough. There are innovative uses of instrumentation, which may or may not have something to do with primitive studio conditions. In any case, the sound isn't overblown, and there are plenty of cool bits sprinkled on top.

    One of the few things I liked about grunge was the resurgence of Black Sabbath as a major influence on music. At times, Nadir likes to throw powerful riffs and tight rhythms together, just to see what happens. And so after a couple minutes of stuff I'm not so hot on, there's usually a cool bridge. Something redeeming, in any case.

    I'm not a big fan of the sound, but Nadir is doing it as well as anyone these days. Good enough to make the big time? Probably not in the states. But that shouldn't stop the guys. Artistic satisfaction can be cool, too.


    Nailbomb
    Point Blank
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    In case you didn't know already, this is Max from Sepultura and Alex from Fudge Tunnel. They mess around with a drum machine and a few samples, but once the guitars and such kick in, all hell breaks loose.

    Loose is a good word. While I still have yet to hear the full Sepultura, this sounds a lot better than the snippets I have caught on MTV and the like. With Sepultura, Max was under the gun to come up with a big album. But here, it's him and Alex fucking around.

    And it sounds a lot like Max fronting a more industrial Fudge Tunnel, really. That is a good thing. Barely controlled aggression the likes of which I haven't heard in a while.

    Like the Meathook Seed, this is at least as good as the "official" recordings these guys have put out in the last year. While the glut of side projects (most not nearly this good) has become a little annoying, Nailbomb is one worth repeating. Like I need to tell you to play this.


    Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    The one and only live performance Nailbomb, which is Max Cavalera (Sepultura) and Alex Newport (Fudge Tunnel). Of course, since these guys are playing the guitars, some special guests have to fill in behind them.

    Dave Edwardson of Neurosis fills in on bass, and Igor Cavalera (Sepultura), Barry C. Schneider (Tribe After Tribe) and D.H. Peligro (D.K. and more recently, Peligro) switch off on drums.

    I liked the sterile, heavy sound of 1994's studio disc, Point Blank. The liver versions are much fuller, but in all, Nailbomb sounds just like an imagined confluence of Sepultura and Fudge Tunnel. Most tasty to my buds.

    The two studio tracks are the last Nailbomb recordings ever, as raw and dirty as the live recording. It seems Alex and Max wanted to get a real scratchy sound, and they found one. If you have Point Black you probably don't need this, but if you're a completist type of fan, you won't be disappointed. And if you have never heard this project before, then by all means dig in.

    See also Fudge Tunnel and Sepultura.


    The Nails
    Corpus Christi
    (Safehouse)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    You might remember these guys for "88 Lines About 44 Women", which even I'd heard of. I like the bit of trivia about Jello Biafra being their roadie back when they started in Boulder (Colorado).

    Well steeped in the school of the Talking Heads and other American "New Wave" artists (back at the old KCOU we called this stuff retro; don`t ask why), the Nails had more of a rock take on things, and very few of the songs here really reflect an early eighties way of thinking.

    Most of the songs here are about religion, but not in the positive way certain people might like. They question faith, which is about the only thing I can see holding religion anywhere together.

    I'm not sure how old all of these recordings are, but they keep well. This is a fine collection of what used to be called alternative music before Seattle came along. One listen should get you addicted.


    Naive
    Post Alcoholic Anxieties
    (Kool Arrow) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    They sing in Russian. They play in punk. Or something silly like that. To be perfectly fair, the most interesting part about these guys is the language barrier. I have no idea what they're singing. It sounds alright, but a bit faceless.

    Pleasant and rollicking enough, though Naive never quite breaks through. There's just not much in the way of personality. Basic basic, with just enough tuneage to carry the sound.

    Speaking of which, this is fairly well-produced. The edges are sharp, and the lines are thick. Not enough to really give these guys a unique sound, but at least serviceable.

    And that's what this is. Pretty good, but still somewhat in the generic punk walls. Naive may be one of the great Russian punk bands, but that doesn't necessarily translate. I enjoyed the ride, but the thrill was extremely fleeting.


    Naked Aggression
    Gut Wringing Machine
    (Grilled Cheese-Cargo)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    The one Cargo album that doesn't contain a reference to death in the title is the one where a band member died. Phil Suchomel, guitarist and main songwriter, died on April 25th of a massive asthma attack. Not fair, of course, but that's what happened. So this is another lame duck album (following on the heels of the Monorchid in the review list).

    And just as invigorating. Naked Aggression uses its guitars to full effect, playing a full force punk attack with lots of skillful asides. At its most basic, the music throbs with power. But often enough, the band pulls back and exposes some more subtle ideas.

    Folks who know how and when to kick the ass. And with a sound that is almost-but-not-quite out of control. The sound of a buffalo herd just before it plunges off the caprock. And Naked Aggression holds it together admirably.

    As a final testament, Gut Wrenching Machine is more than adequate. Awe-inspiring is more like it.


    The Naked Hearts
    Mass Hysteria
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Oh, goodness. It's been a while since I've heard some honest-to-God indie rock. The Naked Hearts are Amy Cooper and Noah Wheeler (Cooper handles the guitar, Wheeler the bass and drums; both sing). Grungy, bouncy, lo-fi, sparkly, you name it. The Naked Hearts do it all in a minor key, and they make it snarl.

    Pop songs for the truly disaffected, I suppose. These are brittle pieces of brilliance pasted to the ceiling of a disillusioned teenager. I think we've all been there. The Naked Hearts have moved on a bit, but not so much that they cannot tap that primal pit of pain.

    The sound isn't quite as sparse as you might imagine. These songs grind along with plenty of weight on the bottom. The vocals don't quite balance things, which leaves the sound quite unsettled. That's one hell of a production job, really.

    Okay, so it helps to have a love of the late 80s, back when it seemed the world was falling apart at the rifts. Since we seem to be right back there again, it's only appropriate that the Naked Hearts should appear to sour our smiles and brutalize our psyches. Stellar, indeed.


    Naked Lunch
    The Illuminati
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94

    As soon as I had reviewed frontman Tom Brignall's last band, Konnichi Wah, I heard of its untimely demise. But now here's a new load of industrial goodies to chew on.

    Same exquisite production; everything is clean and tight. Perhaps a bit sample heavy at times, as the songs could really stand on their own merits. But that seems like nitpicking; this is highly appealing music. Folks should really perk up and take notice.


    Everything Dies
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    I first met Tom Brignall outside a club in Grand Rapids. Well, actually, that's the only time I actually spoke to him face-to-face. He gave me a tape of his then-band, Konnichi Wah (I have missed the performance by a few minutes), and I was knocked out by the music and particularly by the sound.

    That band died days after I got the tape, but I've heard bits and snippets of his new project, Naked Lunch (demo and a couple tracks on compilations), and I've remained impressed. Okay, so he goes by the moniker Mxyzptlk these days, but the music is the same sample-heavy monster guitar industrial stuff that has always amazed me.

    There are gothic elements (Naked Lunch is very cold wave in that respect), but the core at each of the songs is the heavy riffage. The songs don't rely so much on samples as before (an improvement), though at times I do detect the impulse to do too much, rather than leave the sound a bit more sparse. I'm a big proponent of "don't disturb the groove", and that does happen too much for my taste.

    But, as usual, I'm bitching at very little. This is a most impressive disc. Brignall knows how to craft fine music, and even more importantly, he knows how to put it together in the studio. My high expectations have been met.

    See also Konnichi Wah.


    Namanax
    Multi-Phase Electrodynamics
    (Release)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    One track: 34 minutes of electronic disturbances. The only notes on this thing war you not to turn your stereo up too high or you might destroy it.

    Okay, but really. As 30-minute things like this go, I would rather listen to Arc again. But then, I really like Arc. This is alright, but it does get repetitive after, say, a minute.

    Experimental, yes. But listening to the sound electricity makes as it passes through circuitry (or whatever this is) can get a little monotonous. It will freak out anyone listening on the radio, though.


    Cascading Waves of Electronic Turbulence
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    The Relapse kids have been playing in the house too long again, so we get another Namanax album. This one doubles the output of the last one: two tracks here.

    "Contaminating Influence" (the 11 1/2-minute track) is a cool industrial basher, with Godflesh-like pulses and plenty of awesome noise. The title track runs over 47 minutes, and often resembles a lo-fi ambient recording as much as the noise ideal. Way cool.

    I played the last Namanax at a party; scared some folks half to death. More thought my CD played had wiped out. A couple actually liked it tons and wanted to know where to get it.

    I did my duty. Perhaps even got a CD sold. Who knows? This album is much more varied, and quite a creative success. The title track particularly would make for a real spooky Halloween soundtrack to scare the kiddies. The noise isn't omnipresent; it comes in waves and wallows in the occasional eddy. Precisely what I'd expect from the guys.

    My favorite noise disc of this issue. Namanax has the complete package.


    Namelessnumberheadman
    When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been
    (Urinine)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    The NCAA moved from Kansas City to Indianapolis, and Urinine Records moved from Indy to K.C. I'd say my old stomping grounds between the Kansas and Missouri rivers got the better end of the deal.

    All personal notes aside, Namelessnumberheadman follows in the footsteps of a number of Urinine bands, playing esoteric pop with verve and an eye for the unusual. Indeed, while most of the songs here could be characterized as understated, they're all mellow in different ways.

    Some have a folky feel, other utilize instruments like marimba or simply trip out electronically. All of this floated over a core that is grounded in a Slint-like devotion to off-kilter song construction.

    I'm not entirely sure that Namelessnumberheadman has quite established its own sound with this album. On the other hand, the diversity on this disc speaks reams for the talent within the band. A wonder that continues to unfold.


    Napalm Death
    Hung CD5
    (Earache/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    They traded in the grind for pure riffage an album ago, and this is more of the same.

    While no longer trendsetters, Napalm Death can bash it out with the finest. Album comes soon.


    Fear, Emptiness, Despair (advance cassette)
    (Earache/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Focusing more on the riffs than the death, ND is on the verge of a commercial breakthrough. God damn, this is clean.


    Greed Killing EP
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    The concept of Napalm Death as a real forerunner in the death metal/grindcore scene is very accurate. But it's been years since any incarnation of the band has released anything that is truly groundbreaking.

    "Greed Killers" is a great track, loaded with industrial tendencies and the occasional sample. Sounds a little like Fear Factory. In fact, "Self Betrayal" sounds a lot like Fear Factory's first album. And "Finer Truths, White Lies" takes a page right out of the Fudge Tunnel book.

    All this means the guys who now call themselves Napalm Death are making pretty decent music. Behind the times, but then, that happens when you get old. The new album should be worthy of consideration, though Napalm Death's days as a trailblazer are long past.

    See also Blood from the Soul, Godflesh and Scorn.


    Narcoleptics
    Monkey Steals the Peach
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    When the songs have titles like "You Can't Polish a Turd" and "Kill Your Parents, Eat Your Dog, Do Drugs," I think it's excusable to wonder just what the creators are on. Narcoleptics churn out a loud, distorted version of hardcore that might be called metal, or it might just be called modern proggy rock.

    I hesitate to use this reference, but Narcoleptics are something of a shaggy Tool with a Bullet LaVolta personality. The same grand vision, but with a decidedly less scrupulously executed sound. The world is still falling apart, piece by piece. In fact, this vision is much darker.

    By kinda dancing between the genre labels, Narcoleptics have created a nice niche. I've never heard a band that sound exactly like this. The chalk-on-board production gives each song a tight edge, but the writing leaves plenty of leeway.

    Some wonderful aggression allied with fine playing. I found it rather hard to move on from here. This is one of those albums that sticks, no matter what else lies down the way.


    Andy Narell
    Behind the Bridge
    (Heads Up)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    A steel pan jazz album. You, know, steel drums. I know you know what I'm talking about here. Anyway, Narell (who is also a member of the Caribbean Jazz Project) does a good job with what to my mind is one of the more limiting instruments in the world.

    Yes, it takes a good amount of skill to play the steel pans well, and it takes an obscene amount of dedication to do what Narell does, but the fact remains that steel pans are not versatile. When I hear them, I always get transported either to New York (where they are played by some street musicians) or some tropical isle.

    The only way to combat this is to utilize some skilled sides. Narell is usually joined by a percussionist and a pianist, and he allows those players to do the attacking work. There is simply no way to make a steel pan give off a terribly percussive sound. That would require damaging the instrument.

    And despite the weakness I described, Narell has created an enjoyable album which doesn't always bring thoughts of some deserted island. Almost by definition this is accessible, but Narell's skill and artistry are more than enough to endow this album with the enduring mark of quality as well.


    Nina Nastasia
    Nina Nastasia's The Blackened Air
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Reminds me most of Molasses, that excellent post-roots outfit out of Montreal. Nina Nastasia takes haunting melodies that are most at home out on the lone prairie and then strips them down, making them even more effective and dramatic.

    She then adds just the right amount of accompaniment. The right kind, as well. She's got a saw player. That sort of thing. So she's built these impressive, arched songs. She has to fill them somehow. And so she does, with poems mournful or just plain sad. This isn't exactly a pick-me-up disc. That's not the intent. Nastasia does have a few stories to tell, and she relates them with expert care.

    Simply gorgeous music. Baleful at times, sure, but possessed of a terrible beauty, to be sure. The kinda songs that make a person tremble. Power, unblemished by any false steps.


    Run to Ruin
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Nastasia's first album for Touch and Go was quite impressive. She's got a real handle on the dark folk blues, and her deliberate, noisy approach is quite unique.

    Part of that approach is an almost symphonic instrumental array. Plenty of strings (cello and violin for sure, and I'm pretty sure I hear a viola as well), not to mention horns, harp (that would be harmonica) and percussion as well. These songs are dramatic as hell--in a good way. Nastasia ratchets up the tension like a master.

    The production has left plenty of holes in the sound, which allows the large variety of instruments their own spaces in which to shine. This wide-open approach does bring a certain spookiness to the songs, a quality that is quite desirable.

    Though studio tricks aren't what makes these songs haunting. Nastasia's writing and voice would be enough for that. I had high expectations, and this album more than fulfilled them. Quite the stunner.


    Neil Nathan Inc.
    Sweep the Nation
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    So, y'know, if Joe Jackson had been remotely political he might've recorded this rather than I'm the Man. Neil Nathan incorporates plenty of Bowie, Bolan, Neil Young, Lou Reed and Stooges in his muscular homage to the current "times."

    There are plenty of references to the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring (which, of course, has morphed into the much less pleasant Arab Summer) and the general anti-Man rumblings everywhere.

    And while this is most definitely rooted in the 70s, it sounds modern. Nathan lets his influences flow without aping anyone. The thick, yet sharp, production is one sure modern touch.

    Pretty damned cool. Nathan may go a little overboard with his "Overlord" persona, but it's in the service of a good cause. One swell album.


    Natural Calamity
    Peach Head
    (Nickelbag)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    As anyone who listens to the vast array of "electronica" knows, there ain't one sound that defines the entire genre. Actually, there are genres inside genres inside genres, which seems to be the whole point.

    Natural Calamity is one of the drifty, but poppy, creations inside this electro soundscape. They've got nice, light vocals going over drifty guitars and pops and bubbles and bounces. This was one of those albums that helped me get over a terrible sickness (okay, the flu) last week. So, for that I'm eternally grateful.

    With a remix by the Dust Brothers (they own the damn label), and guest vocals by Kool Keith (Dr. Octagon, etc.) on another track, this one's got the treats. And a few tricks as well. Maybe a little bit on the mellow side sometimes, but haven't you ever been mellow? Ahh, Olivia.

    -- Matt Worley


    Willie Heath Neal
    & His Cowboy Killers

    Willie Heath Neal & His Cowboy Killers
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    If yer hankerin' for a little boom-chicka-boom country music, Willie Heath Neal is happy to oblige. A collection of originals (with some help from his bandmates) is punctuated by a cover of "Guitar Town." Most appropriate, as Steve Earle has become a poster boy for retro country music now that he's kicked the smack and gotten back to making music.

    Neal has a great, throaty voice that almost roars. His songs concern women, drinkin', cheatin', lyin' and other sorts of pain that most men fall into without thinking. You know, country music.

    Recorded so that it sounds like an old time Johnny Cash album. A lot of echo in the studio, but still plenty of space between the notes. Fits Neal's writing and personality perfectly.

    Most enjoyable. The problem with a lot of modern country music is that it left the country and moved to the suburbs. Neal takes the music back where it belongs, and does a whale of a job while he's at it.


    The Neckbones
    Souls on Fire
    (Fat Possum-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    I had kinda gotten the idea that Fat Possum was a blues label, but the Neckbones are punk through and through. No complaints about that, by the way. I was just clearing the air.

    Now, there is a good chunk of wildly distorted slide guitar work, and some of the songs seem to have a call and response thing going on, but then, so do some Weezer songs.

    God, where did that reference come from? Jesus. Anyway, the playing is very sloppy, the production even more so, making it almost a miracle that any of this is recognizable. My main complaint is the songwriting, which isn't terribly interesting from either a musical or lyrical standpoint (man, I've been complaining about lyrics a lot, haven't I?). The band's infectious energy carries this puppy, but there isn't much substance on which to stand.

    Close enough for rock and roll. Or the blues. But just barely, in either case.


    The Lights Are Getting Dim
    (Fat Possum-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Much tighter than the band's earlier Fat Possum outing, but don't take that to heart. That first album was one of the messiest discs I've ever heard. This one does adhere to some basic stylistic points, and there is an obvious effort to try and play certain notes at certain times. It retains the spirit and the, shall we say, verve of Souls on Fire though, making for a cool package.

    The sound is a crunchy version of the rock and roll blues (more blues in the lead guitar than the rhythm section), and the songs borrow from a variety of stripped-down rock and roll traditions.

    Like I said, the skill has improved even while the general looseness and feel remained. Takes the band from marginal to pretty damned good in one fell swoop.

    I feel I need to make myself clear: The Neckbones kick out some seriously messed-up fare. Sloppy enough to be finger food, but not so bad as to require a shower afterward.


    Necronomicon
    The Silver Key
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Nicely doomy death metal, heavy vocals but more friendly riffage. I can't quite hear this as well as I'd like (that demo-sound tape muffle), but it takes me back a ways.

    To cool bands like Morgoth. Folks who understood the power of a good riff and yet still weren't afraid to kick out the speed every now and again. Necronomicon's greatest asset is its versatility. This is a band that has a strong sense of what it wants to do, and obviously the playing is good enough to accomplish those goals.

    I really do wish the sound was a bit clearer, but what I hear is great. This is a band with a top-notch feel for the power of death metal. Simply more proof that heavy doesn't equal stupid.


    Necrophobic
    The Nocturnal Silence
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    The advance tapes (or discs) charted a couple of months ago, so I figure there is some interest out there for this stuff. And with this release, Black Mark sets a record for most bands with a "Necro" prefix.

    Ace production here, combined with a nice selection of grinding and riffage. Just a full platter that can't fail to please even the most critical. Unless, of course, you aren't into diversity of sound in death metal. While there isn't anything new, they do combine the two diverging schools into a great sound.

    You can hear Sabbath and old Napalm Death here. It's just that simple. And in the same song, the same sequence. A master stroke by any definition.

    Let it destroy your soul. You'll be glad it did.


    Spawned By Evil EP
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    Necrophobic has always walked the line between black metal and death metal. The lyrics have always been on the black side, but the albums have been well-produced and the music isn't completely one-dimensional. Reasons to like the stuff, indeed.

    One new song here, the title track. And then covers of "Die By the Sword" (Slayer), "Nightmare" (Venom) and "Enter the Eternal Fire" (Bathory). All well done, but not really all that necessary.

    This reeks of "let's get the band back in the public's eyes" things, as Necrophobic's last album The Nocturnal Silence came out three years ago. Oh well, with an album due this fall, I guess there's no need to bitch. Necrophobic sounds like it is in fine form, and the album should be worth the wait.


    Necrosanct
    Incarnate
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    A bloody mess. Don't get me wrong; this is a lot of fun to listen to, and I really groove on the live-sounding recording. But an incoherent mix of guitars, drums, (maybe) bass and vocals tend to wear on me after a while.

    The energy level is extremely high. If you get off on speed and love to crash over the edge, this is the album for you. And, again, I must commend the outstanding production. The album came over my stereo sounding like a great show. I just wish there was a little more variety, that's all.


    Desolate
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    As plain out ass-kicking as their last one. Complementing the Cemetary, this is absolutely no different sound-wise than Incarnate, and I know you folks really grooved on that one.

    So after a little of the more modern approaches to the scene, check out with a little of the grind, which seems to be making a comeback, judging by the stuff I've gotten for this issue.

    What can I say? The adrenaline rush provided herein is simply addictive, and the production makes sure I hear every blessed note. Blessed? Well, why not. Everyone needs a bit of luck now and again.


    Need New Body
    Need New Body
    (File 13)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    This is the sort of thing that happens when five creative people get together and create music without any sort of plan or method. Need New Body is more than content to kick out musical pieces that bear no semblance to the concept of a song, except when it seems a song is precisely what is called for by a particular situation.

    Which is to say that the pieces found on this disc might be assembled, or they might be played live to tape. They might have discernible melodies, bass lines and lyric themes. Or they may be simply a series of vaguely connected noises.

    Coherence is not a virtue here. And I've happy to revel in the chaos. As with most projects of this nature, there are underlying thoughts which connect the astonishingly disparate sounds that fill this disc. I can hear them. I don't know what they're saying, mind you, but that doesn't bother me much. I'm just happy to groove on.

    Not the sort of disc for those with ordered minds. Need New Body respects no convention on song construction. But it does propagate some wondrous sound, stuff that is a joy to behold.


    Neglected Sheep
    Geno Died
    (Livestock)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    The first full-length from this Charlotte band. Chunky pop riffs peppered with some of that rootsy country feel. All that and some of the more affected vocals I've ever heard. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but Kevin Harrison sounds something like a down-home and howling version of Sinead O'Connor who can't carry a tune to save his life.

    While the singing may not be polished, the production on the music is solid. And the combination of slick southern pop-rock and highly unusual vocals is a nice one. I can't think of any band that has tried to sound anything like this.

    The songwriting is solid, if fairly nondescript. And the lyrics are fairly generic, if heartfelt. Pleasant stuff that is most noteworthy due to the way Harrison's odd vocal prowess meshes with the band.

    A big-time producer could clean this up and have another one of them "Hootie" bands. And lose all the charm along the way. Not sure how Neglected Sheep can hit the big time with this sound, but stranger things have happened.


    Ghostman on Third
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    A new singer, and that bit almost immediately cleans up a few of the problems I had with the band in the first place. This is still vaguely southern chunky pop music, but now it lies somewhere within the realm of "regular" music.

    Some of the weird charm of the first disc was lost, but it's easy to hear that the band is working much harder on craft, trying to get better in all ways. The songs are much tighter, the playing is under control. And the singing is, well, singing.

    Add to that a professional production job, and it's pretty easy to hear Neglected Sheep's ascendance to the realm of "bands with a chance". Yes, they did sacrifice some quirks, but these songs are better, and they're much easier to sell.

    It's kinda nice to hear a band make a progression. A couple more steps and Neglected Sheep could really be doing something great.


    The Negro Problem
    Welcome Black
    (Smile Records)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    For his next project, Stew decided to get together his old band. And so the Negro Problem rides again.

    I'm not familiar with this particular band's previous outings, but it is highly reminiscent of the Stew album I reviewed a few months back. Tightly-written songs that dabble in country, soul, pop and rock--played by a crack band and sung with all appropriate style.

    I suppose the band name and album title are wry comments on the obvious. Stew is black, and this music just doesn't sound, you know, black. Never mind that the greatest pop and rock bands ever (the Beatles and the Stones) made no bones about the fact that they were playing black music. And I'm sure I don't need to mention Elvis...

    See, it doesn't matter if this is white music or black music or green music or purple music (didn't Sly and the Family Stone say something like that once?). The only important question is quality. Stew and the Negro Problem make great music. Period. And that's all that needs to be said.


    Casey Neill
    Memory Against Forgetting
    (AK Press-Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Casey Neill combines traditional roots music themes and sounds and merges them almost seamlessly with the power of modern technology. The recording simply pops out of the speakers--I haven't heard production this fine on a roots album in ages.

    And that spectacular sound pales in comparison to the grace and strength of Neill's writing. He's adept in all sorts of styles, from bluegrass to reels to folk to ballads, and he infuses his songs with a depth of lyrical detail that is rarely found. The richness of each song is almost overwhelming.

    Then we get to the amazing sound. While this sort of music does sound pretty good when presented unadorned, this album is proof that an outstanding producer can punch up the material without overdoing the job. The sound on this album is truly alive; these songs throb with life.

    One of the finest albums I've ever heard. Period. Every part is spot on, and Neill proves himself one of the best songwriters around. A must not only for the roots fan, but for the fan of great music in general. Neill has been doing this for more than 10 years...I've got to get my hands on that back catalog. This album is truly sublime.


    Brooklyn Bridge
    (In Music We Trust)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    Neill's last effort was a striking minimalist (yet modern) folk album. He sang songs about the down and out, and he painted pictures of the west and south (though not exclusively). As the title of this album indicates, he's gone in a slightly different direction.

    The songs are still about the down and out, but the focus is more global. There is a lot more electric guitar, but even more striking is the extended instrumentation (not to mention background vocals).

    Working with an expanded sound palette works well for Neill. He doesn't overreach or try to make his songs more important. He just allows for a bit more shading in the corners. It may soften the sound, but not his approach.

    Memory Against Forgetting has become one of my favorite albums. My sons love it, too. I'm thinking they're gonna like this one a lot, too. Neill is really coming into his own, and that's most exciting to hear.


    (Casey Neill & the Norway Rats)
    Goodbye to the Rank and File
    (In Music We Trust)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    The latest from Casey Neill, who's one of the best songwriters operating today. He's managed to latch on to some of the finest musicians in Portland (the aforementioned "Norway Rats") and put out another incomparable set of songs.

    Quite honestly, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't jump in headfirst after hearing just one song. My kids know Neill's songs by heart (even if they don't quite understand all the lyrics) and I've passed him along to countless friends.

    This is the sort of music that inspires such devotion. Neill's sensibilities are folk (there's plenty of politics--personal and otherwise--in the songs), but he's picked up plenty of other influences along the way. The best reference I can think of is Steve Earle--and he's in that league, to be sure.

    There's great music, and then there's great music that demands attention. Neill's been great for a long time, and it's about time he got his due. One of these days, the levee's gonna break. Maybe this album will open the floodgates.


    Vernon Neilly
    Kaleidoscope
    (Boosweet)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Vernon Neilly plays guitar. And this is his album. But instead of laying down track after track of blistering playing, Neilly instead is content to stand back and serve as writer and producer (and, of course, staff musician--including guitar).

    As he says in his liner notes, he wanted to include all of his favorite types of music, a diverse list, to be sure. The main problem I hear is that one of those is "easy listening," and about the only way to use that as an influence is to kinda mute everything else to the background.

    So, for example, he's written a beautiful Santana-like blues lead guitar line on "Para Carlos," but the song is a half-step too slow. The backing music is electronic (drum machine, keyboards, electronic bass) and even the sax added in by a friend doesn't really bring the song into the realms of the "real." It's just a bit too "easy." I have to say, though, that this is one of the more unique albums created by a guitarist. Neilly does a fine job of sublimating his guitar ego, but I think he may have gone a little too far that way. This disc needs a little fire, a little something burning throughout. These songs don't need to be this "easy."


    Alva Nelson
    Soul Eyes
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    Nelson is a pianist and leader of an old-school jazz trio. Well, piano, bass and percussion. The players switch out. Which only makes sense, as these tracks were recorded between 1993 and 2003.

    Nelson's touch on the keys is warm and inviting. Even when his playing gets manic, there's a roundness to his sound. Melody is his coin, and he plays it well.

    He takes on a few standards ("'Round Midnight" closes out the album), but most of these songs are his own. He slips into a little boogie woogie and locked hands style now and again (most impressively on "Sanctified Blues"), but the easiest reference would be Vince Guaraldi. You know, the guy who scored the Peanuts TV specials. Guaraldi was a serious jazz pianist who played with plenty of heavy hitters. No shame in any comparison, at least in my book

    This is fairly accessible, but hardly "happy jazz." Nelson isn't exceptionally adventurous, but he's willing to push himself more often than not. A most satisfying album.


    Bill Nelson
    What Now, What Next? 2xCD
    (Discipline Global Mobile)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Subtitled "The Cocteau Years Compilation," this set puts together Nelson's singles from his label (including the first "hit", "Do You Dream in Color?"), music recorded from 1980 to 1990.

    Americans not quite so familiar with his work will be surprised to discover how much British new wave bands took from Nelson's approach to sound and songwriting. Cocteau was his own label, and along with his own stuff he released records from the likes of Flock of Seagulls.

    But where most new wave bands eventually wandered back into the sentimental pop fold (leaving behind the brave new world of sharp synth sounds and eerie song subjects), Nelson instead forged forward, creating music which can hardly be categorized at all.

    Which is probably the greatest joy of listening to this set. Nelson has never stopped searching for new ways to express himself. The music is vibrant and pulsating, impossible to put away. Music history, sitting right here.


    Atom Shop
    (Discipline Global Mobile)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Not surprisingly, this new collection of Nelson recordings (put to tape in 1996 and 1997) fully embraces all of the technology that is available. Nelson sounds like something of an electronica bluesman, his guitar work cut and intermixed with a wall of samples and sound snippets.

    Disjointed and lush all at once. Nelson doesn't often leave his listeners feeling comfy. He likes to wander, and so this disc does, all over the reaches of his mind. Wherever he wants to go, he does, and the result is an album of almost unimaginable scope and imagination.

    You don't even need to be tripping to get lost here. The immaculate production presents the illusion of some counteruniverse, where only Nelson's notions are the rule. Unconventional music for the demanding listener.

    Overwhelming. Nelson takes in so much land with every stride that it is heard to keep up. Listening leaves me breathless. But it has to be done. Again. Very soon.


    Nemesis
    Eden?
    (Sensory)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    An awful lot of bands wish they were Yes. I know why this is, and I also understand why an equal number of people would turn up their noses and ask, "Why the hell would you want to do that?" In any case, Nemesis owes a big debt to that most popular of prog acts, but rather than rehash an old sound, these boys thrust modern ideas into a tried-and-true formula.

    Not unlike Fates Warning some 15 years ago, Nemesis utilizes sharp metal guitars, mechanistic drumming and thick drums. The keyboards provide both electronic washes and something approximating an acoustic piano. Zoltan Kiss (that's really his name, poor guy) does sound like a poor-man's Jon Anderson, but he wisely doesn't try to push his range. He lets the music do the soaring.

    The result is a most attractive blend of modern progressive metal and 70s sensibilities. Yeah, these songs are awfully long. They don't seem like it. Rather, each piece draws the listener in by creating an entirely new world. Each song is a new experience.

    One that I kept wanting to hear. Prog is not one of my favorite sounds (I'm always happy to sacrifice a little precision for a more intense connection to the music), but Nemesis makes music that really reaches out to me. When something works, it works. Labels just don't matter.


    The Neon Judgement
    Dazsoo
    (Kk-Chipie-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Techno, assembled nicely in the current electronic style. I have a feeling these folks would be just as happy cranking out purely sequenced stuff, but as long as cut-and-paste is the idea, well, why not give it a shot as well.

    The strange roots of the band are best illustrated on "Itchy", which uses a basic funk guitar groove, whips out an old Prince-style drum track and then tosses in some techno bass and keyboard bits. It works, which is sorta surprising. I guess these folks know what they're doing.

    This is the first single-band album I've gotten from the new Kk connection to the U.S., and it shows that the label hasn't lost its touch. Give people what they want, with a brand new shine. The Neon Judgement may still be a techno band at heart, but it proves itself more than able to riff through most of the wildly cascading electronic trends of the day.

    My only complaint is that in trying to be all things for all people, The Neon Judgement doesn't establish its own sound particularly well. Very few electronic bands of any stripe do that. I'll settle for good music this time around.


    Nerf Herder
    Nerf Herder
    (Arista)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Pop is pop, and Nerf Herder has a handle on the good stuff. Nice and crunchy, if you don't mind, with a healthy dose of irreverence. Yeah, it's over-produced (the guitars are too thick and the vocals are mixed a bit too high), but for something that Arista would find fit for release, Nerf Herder is certainly a stretch.

    "Golfshirt" should answer any questions about punk credibility, and "Van Halen" should seal the deal for the dyed-in-the-wool DIY sorts. Fuckit. This is amusing and fun, and a notch better than a lot of the crap that the big boys think they can foist upon an unwitting "alternative nation".

    Plenty tasty, and more where that came from. I've been hearing lots of buzz, and while I won't put Nerf Herder in the "godlike" category, the band is more than acceptable. don't ask the boys to change the world, and you should have a pleasant afternoon with the tunes cranked up real loud.

    Simple pleasures can be the best, sometimes.


    How to Meet Girls
    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    I'm guessing the Arista thing didn't work out. Oh well. The nerdcore boys have returned to their indie roots. Probably where they belong, really.

    The "nerd" tag has to do with a lot more than the dork look the guys cultivate. Nerf Herder specializes in pop-punk novelty songs. Tons of pop culture references (where the last album did numbers on Claire Danes and Van Halen, this one immortalizes Courtney Love, Pantera fans and even references Sleestaks) and silly, if amusing lyrics.

    In fact, the music sometimes is forced around whatever clever line the boys have written. The hooks do suffer. It's almost like the guys have better ideas than they can execute.

    Even so, there's a big wad of laughs here. In 20 years, the lyrics will be incomprehensible, but perhaps pop culture archaeologists will take the time to decode the message. Message? We're all pretty silly. Might as well laugh.


    American Cheese
    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    If you need a reason to like Nerf Herder, try this line on for size: "Non-stop no-girl action without you!" Clever pop never sounded so damned good.

    I think these boys got picked up too early. Their Arista album was kinda funny, but neither the jokes nor the hooks were complete. They sounded a little half-baked.

    But since getting dropped and finding a home at Fat Wreck, these boys have really perfected their style. There's a barrel of laughs here, and the hooks are sweet and tight. If this album got released on a major, well...

    Come on, no major label would allow a song like "Jenna Bush Army." It's not particularly offensive or anything; it's just that for some reason the major media outlets don't want to celebrate the First Party Girl. Whatever. It's not like Fat is bush league (sorry about that). My guess is plenty of folks out there are ready for a little bantha fodder.


    Nerf Herder IV
    (Oglio)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    The latest album of highly competent punk pop (or is that competent highly pop punk?) from these boys. Silly, cheesy and far too much fun to relegate to the benches. Geeks rule, man.


    Nero Circus
    Human Pigs
    (Godhead-Flying)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Very much Alice in Chains meets Pantera while having an affair with Chastain.

    Oh my.

    Obviously the pretension factor is through the ceiling. These boys have artistic arrogance sweating through their collective crotch, and that stuff can be highly corrosive.

    And I'm afraid the results are mindnumbingly dull. The anthems are nicely performed, with requisite angst and (I assume) hair dancing. But I've heard it all before, and better back then. Everything is fine here, but I'd just stick with the band name article. A little more time in the salt mines to refine a personal vision is my recommendation.


    The Nerve Agents
    Days of the White Owl
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Here's a new schitck: Hardcore boys throwing on goth makeup and playing kinda spooky music. Horrorcore, if you will.

    Soon enough, of course, the band shifts gears into overdrive and kinda forgets about the doom and gloom. Then it becomes just another call and response hardcore act. A good one, really, but kinda back into the run of the mill.

    I kinda liked the idea of horrorcore. I wish the Nerve Agents would stick a little more to that concept. But they didn't. And what's left is lightly-produced hardcore. Some nice riffage and fine shouting, but I've heard that before.

    Enjoyable, certainly, but a lot of potential left untapped. If the boys would stick to the spooky stuff a bit more, they'd sound much more original. I know, the temptation to kick out the jams is intense, but sometimes the sacrifice must be made.


    Nerves Junior
    As Bright As Your Night Light
    (sonaBLAST!)
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Imagine ringing, flowing pop songs with trippy electro backing. And then throw in just about every sonic disturbance imaginable. Nerves Junior refuses to leave its pretty songs alone, and the results are utterly electrifying.

    I'm not entirely sure how these songs play out live (the extraneous sounds would require at least one extra member), but I'm reviewing this disc and not a show. And this disc sounds fabulous. The underlying feel is mellow and unhurried, but things can change in a harry. Kinda like those thunderstorms that whip up out of nowhere.

    The chaos here serves to bring the listener further and further into the whirl of the band. These pieces build into almost indescribably intense climaxes. Quite the release.

    Whew! Don't listen to this one if your heart can't take the strain. Nerves Junior knows how to rattle the soul. If you weather the storm, you'll be grateful.


    Nervewomb
    Nervewomb
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    One of the nice things about listening to demos is sometimes people really are trying something new. Or, in the case of Nervewomb, trying everything.

    I could list the various influences I hear in this, but I don't have the space. And all produced wonderfully. The only problem is that they try to cram all of these sounds into each song, which will tend to leave a listener with a bad case of whiplash.

    Of course, they are trying, and I really like much of the sound here. I do wish they could stick to just a couple influences per song (and they do better on a couple, especially the real stylish "Edgewise"). Obviously some talent wandering around here.


    Ness
    Up Late With People
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    So I'm listening to the first song, "Where the People Kick It," and I notice that it keeps going and going. I'm thinking to myself, "Man, these guys must have mainlined Cheap Trick when they were younger." And I wander over to the band's web site, and, indeed, these Illinois boys describe themselves as a combination of said Rockville heroes and the Sweet.

    I may one of the few people alive today who thinks that's a good thing. But that's okay. And Ness doesn't really venture into straight pop territory--there's always a Nielsen-esque curve in there somewhere. Which kinda eliminates early Sweet. But, say, the goofy progginess of Off the Record and Level Headed? Yeah, alright. I can hear that.

    Please don't take from my words that these guys sound just like Cheap Trick. Ness simply has the same off-kilter approach to massive rock. There's always a way to undercut the most pretentious riff, and Ness rarely fails to find it. This stuff could be bombastic and dreary, but instead it's clever.

    More exciting clever than funny clever. Ness is that rare band which manages to take an exceedingly old and rusty saw and turn it into spun gold. Well done, boys.


    Nete
    Greatest Non-Hits 1
    (Shame File)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Guitar-driven noise, though since the quality of the tape is pretty poor it's hard to tell exactly what Nete sounded like. The percussion is provided by a drum machine, and the guitar work is almost entirely rhythmic in nature. The vocals are spoken as much as sung, which lends the whole thing something of an early 90s industrial feel at times.

    Clinton Green (the guy behind Shame File) is issuing these "Greatest Non-Hits" tapes in the hopes of keeping the music of now-defunct bands alive. It's a noble mission.

    And there are sounds here worth saving. Nete does a lot more than crunch along in mindless fashion. Many pieces here are fairly abstract in nature and do deal with noise in the more traditional sense. The sound quality also varies (as would be expected on a set like this), but it rarely is very good.

    There is more to music than pristine production and razor-sharp songwriting. Nete provides a most compelling proof that way. Travel to the edge, if you dare.


    Neurosis
    Souls at Zero
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    Meandering and majestic, Neurosis wanders around a loud musical playground, playing whatever comes up. They can whisper or blow your mind away. It just depends on the situation.

    While most songs return to a brain-splitting Sabbath-esque riff, the trip there is always just as fun. Few bands have the diversity found in just one song. And the funny thing is that everything just flows together. There are no harsh starts and stops. It just keeps moving. Like Mind Over Four at its best.

    To use a cliche for an ending here would not do the album justice. Suffice it to say this is an incredible accomplishment. Play is a must.


    Enemy of the Sun
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    While Sleep may be the S.F. band who has immersed themselves in the Sabbath mystique, Neurosis has proven it can start with Sabbath and move eons further.

    This is not radio-friendly music, the songs are long, and to get a real sense of the whole, you have to pay attention. God, not focus on a song for six or seven minutes (or more)!

    The production here is immaculate, and the use of samples at times helps to bring about a slightly industrial feel. You can feel the pain pulsating from this record.

    Absolutely must listening; if you don't play this, then you are giving your listeners short shrift and assuming they are morons. All the reports I received for this are high in the charts. But don't play it because you are following the trendy thing to do. Play it because you have found a spot in your soul that recognizes genius.


    Pain of Mind
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    This is a re-issue of their 1987 album (which up until now has been fairly difficult to obtain). And it does vary significantly from their current sound.

    As you might expect, the samples are gone, and there were no keyboards. There is a distinct overt hardcore feel that has become more subducted in recent years.

    And yet, you can still hear where Neurosis's current doom-blast sound came from. Instead of composing entire dirges, the bands preferred to use such moments as intros to their punk blasts.

    Many of you know I consider Neurosis one of the finest bands on the planet. In fact, I've been cranking their more recent A.T. albums a lot lately. Pain of Mind is fascinating, because I can hear the evolution of the band. And while it is not where the band is today, one thing is similar: outstanding music. Neurosis has always known how to create greatness.


    Through Silver and Black
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    Probably the ultimate extension of the Neurosis ideal. Songs stretching out past the 10-minute mark; lots of brooding and despair. Neurosis fans know what they're gonna get, and the band delivers.

    A bit to much for me. I never thought I'd say this, but the excesses have finally caught up with Neurosis. Oh, this is a wonderful work of pain and suffering. I'll be listening to it for ages to come. But it doesn't match up to the last two Neurosis albums, and the reason is simple: With all the emphasis on distortion and electronic stuff, the band has lost the ability to create subtlety in the chaos of its compositions. The soft piano line in the background, a singular guitar track wending its way down the apocalypse. Stuff like that is missing here.

    Like I said, this is still one of the better albums this year. But it's still a big letdown for me. I absolutely love Neurosis and everything that came out on AT. And this album satisfies my base needs for new Neurosis. My finer needs of great music from the band, however, are left somewhat wanting.

    I want to love this so much. I feel the need to just immerse myself in its being. But as the disc rolls on, I long for the brilliance of Souls at Zero and Enemy of the Sun. And that's just not here.


    Sovereign
    (Neurot)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    It's been a while. I kinda lost track of the guys after Neurosis moved over to Relapse, but let me say quickly that all is forgiven. I mean, it's hard to stay mad (especially when I wasn't) when the music comes in like this.

    Neurosis has decided to leave the heavy-duty electronic noodlings to the Tribes of Neurot side project and is back where it started, creating long, rambling apocalyptic hardcore masterpieces.

    Now, this is not to say that the production notions learned along the way have been forgotten. Not at all. The boys still use effects and noise and samples, but they've been integrated nicely into the churning, crushing pieces that are a Neurosis trademark.

    Four songs clocking in at about 32 minutes. Man, this stuff sounds great! I was wondering if the guys would ever match Enemy of the Sun. They might have. No one makes music like this, and I'm not sure that anyone else could make music like this sound so great. All hail the masters!


    Neutrino
    Flight Paths 7"
    (Box Factory)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Featuring members of the ex-bands Big'N, Pencil and Lustre King. so you might have an idea of what this would sound like.

    Indeed, noisy, rambling, mostly instrumental songs. The whole "June of 44 thing" (a misnomer, I know, but I'm sticking to it), if you will. Not quite the range of that band, but still a nice set of tunes, nonetheless.

    Sometimes winding, sometimes soaring fare. Always with a tight bass-drum rhythm connection. Very satisfying. Thoughtful music, if you will.

    A full-length is due soon on Reptilian. Should be something to scope out, certainly.


    Improved Hearing Through Amplification
    (Reptilian)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    Some more gorgeously-appointed noise pop. A little sludgy on the uptake, but with lots of movement and soul. Generally instrumental, though not exclusively. What vocals do exist act almost as an extension of the rhythms involved. Not rapping, precisely, but certainly forceful speaking.

    A wonderful racket, indeed. The sound is something like the second Don Caballero album, still heavy, but with some sophistication, particularly in the guitar lines. Neutrino doesn't mind losing itself from time to time, and that sense of exploration makes this disc a fun listen.

    The sound is traditional noise pop, heavy in the bass, but with a light hand on the distortion levels. The key here is on the interplay between the instruments, not on any one player in particular. And that's also how the vocals fit in. The music makes no concession for the singing, and thus it's a much stronger, much more cohesive sound.

    I could say "wow" a few times in a row here. I just love this kinda stuff, bass, drums and guitar noodling around some tight rhythmic notions. Neutrino does it right, and the result is an impeccable album.


    Nevada Bachelors
    Carrots & So On
    (Pop Llama)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Seattle-style pop music, more in the eclectic Built to Spill mode, with more than a dose of U.K. snottiness. All over the place, but surprisingly cohesive. Lots of good songs.

    And that's despite the fact that the band refuses to play any particular style. At least most songs stick to the same influence. Most, anyway. One unifying factor is a jangly atmospheric feel (I'm not kidding about that, even though it is something of an oxymoron) which lends most songs a melancholy edge.

    Another important factor is the strong songwriting. The music and the lyrics are fused together, stylistically. There's no way to take one without the other. The mark of greatness, really. And the playing is solid. With some truly unusual licks from time to time, that's something to appreciate.

    The best pop albums have range. The Nevada Bachelors are lucky to stay on the map. This album does more than impress; it inspires.


    Nevermore
    Nevermore
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    First time I heard this, I said, "Wow, another great German import."

    These guys are from Seattle.

    And they sound like they've been listening to Skyclad, Iced Earth, Coroner, Celtic Frost and cool European bands like that.

    I haven't dug a Euro-style album like this since Night of the Stormrider (and that was a classic). This is not what the headbangers are listening to anymore, and in fact the very idea of high craftsmanship is anathema in this era of grunge and punk revival. But good music can overcome the fads. And enough people out there know great music when they hear it.

    Every song has a wonderful mixture of attention to detail and human flow. These songs are alive, vibrant and exciting. Let us feed.


    New American Farmers
    The Pharmacology Sessions
    (self-released)
    reviewed 3/3/15

    Nicole Storto and Paul Knowles have been making music together for more than 15 years. For a long time, they were known as Mars, Arizona. This is their second effort under this name. More interesting to me, this is their first solid rock album.

    Storto and Knowles have been noodling around the edges of Americana for ages, but this effort goes straight back to early 70s pop/rock. Think Big Star with a Gram Parsons or Clapton chaser (depending on the song). In other words, this album sees the Farmers go big.

    There's a bit of the ol' Neil Young as well, but on "Just a Note," that tendency is tempered by a dash of the early-70s Neil Diamond melancholy as well. That may sound like a train wreck, but it works perfectly on this song.

    I wouldn't say this album renders the past unrecognizable, but I think fans may be surprised by how fully the pair embrace straight-up rock. What was an occasional side trip before has become the main course. I think that's a good thing. The sound on this album is more confident and complete. The songs are strong and confident, and they just burst out of the speakers.

    Over the last ten years or so I have come to a much greater appreciation of the 70s--especially the early part. It sounds like Knowles and Storto have done the same, and they have incorporated it into their music beautifully. Quite the ramble.


    New American Mob
    All Mob Cons EP
    (R.A.F.R.)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Just yer basic punk rawk. Nothing particularly inventive, nothing particularly notable. Simply six songs kicked out with just enough of a sneer to keep my toe tapping.

    The stuff is often fairly catchy, even within its fairly generic constraints. I know, punks not all about taking chances, but hey, some sort of difference from the musical norm would be nice. And no, a female drummer doesn't count.

    Ah, hell, I'll give the folks a break. There's nothing wrong with this stuff. It's just not the most exciting fare in the world. Somewhere in the decent-to-good range, hailing back to the late 70s style of pop punk. Could be worse. Coulda sucked.


    New Americans
    New Americans
    (David Fufkin)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    The liners tell a tale of two guys who love listening to American pop music. so they start a band and begin playing it. The band name, apparently, is simply a way of acknowledging an influence. Alright. So you know where these guys are coming from, in any case.

    More Bread than Alex Chilton, or perhaps more accurately, more Jeff Tweedy than Matthew Sweet (all of these and many more were listed in the liners). The hooks are a little ragged, but the musical sound is sort of a rootsy easy-listening style.

    I haven't really heard anything quite like it. Now, I'm not sure I like it entirely, but when the guys break into a particularly Jayhawks or Chris Stamey-sounding song (like "Take Me Back"), well, I can appreciate that.

    Not quite a "No Depression" band, New Americans has positioned itself in what might be a good spot along the road. These guys do have commercial potential, and the recording is top-notch. It's not quite what I groove on, necessarily, but it's pretty good.


    New Black
    New Black
    (Thick)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Maybe it's just my youth playing tricks on me, but New Black reminds me of P.I.L. A lot. There are these goofy new wave moments, a number of wonderful thrashy punk bits and a general disregard for sonic integrity.

    All in the same song, mind you. It's that anarchic spirit that touches off my Lydonic reminisces, I suppose. New Black doesn't really sound much like any band from the early 80s, but it does echo a few.

    The sound is quite restrained, which tends to make the music sound even more warped than it probably is. After all, New Black generally keeps its songs fairly well-focused. It's just that some of those foci are desperately diffuse.

    Alright, now I'm just talking shit. No matter. New Black is exciting, and it refuses to conform to anyone's idea of respectable. That along oughta earn it a few stripes.


    New Bomb Turks
    Scared Straight
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    Epitaph finally reaches out to the heartland and plucks one of the best. The New Bomb Turks have been hanging around Columbus for what seems like forever (when they're not touring, of course), and it's nice to see them move up to the big leagues.

    And the guys didn't pull any punches. The famous buzzsaw attack is still there, and the tunes as raw and catchy as ever. Easily the most consistent album of the Turks career.

    Plenty of non-traditional punk fun wandering about here, as well. Horns and piano flit through now and again, just to remind you this is, indeed, rawk and rool. The Turks rip the whole current pop-punk scene a new asshole, and then have time yank the entrails out for tomorrow's chit'lins. A simply glorious experience. Avoid at your peril.


    At Rope's End
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Recorded in Columbus and Sweden, the results are the same: the usual unique New Bomb Turks punk approach to bar music. Fast, thrashing and tuneful, with the occasional flash of piano or horns.

    The songs themselves don't always live up to the band's best, though at the breakneck paces some have been put through, perhaps I'm not getting a great idea of what the songs really are. I will say that there is a definite sound difference between the two studios used. The songs done in Sweden are missing some power in the middle. They're also, in general, done a bit too fast.

    Too uneven to call brilliant, this disc suffers from a serious lack of focus. Perhaps it's the sequencing, perhaps I'm just not quite able to launch myself into the band's energy. Dunno. Something bugs me.

    On the whole, though, a satisfying album. New Bomb Turks are a band that must be seen live to completely appreciate, anyway. Oh, these recordings are good (their previous Epitaph outing, Scared Straight, was great), but the show's the thing.


    New Bomb Turks
    Nightmare Scenario
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    These guys have been around almost forever. But ever since the move to Epitaph, New Bomb Turks have been making the best music of their careers. That trend doesn't change here.

    Straightforward buzzsaw riffage, bounding skin pounding and vocals that whip off the sonic wave with abandon. Somewhere between punk and good ol' rawk. I've been blown away by every Epitaph album these guys have done. If anything, this release ups the ante just a bit more.

    Mainly it's the frenetic attack that pervades just about every song. Not exactly explainable by nature. I mean, a couple of these guys are old enough for regular prostate examinations. And yet the concoctions keep getting faster, meaner and better.

    Not unlike the solid journeyman pitcher who discovers his best stuff in his mid-30s and becomes unhittable (say, Randy Johnson), New Bomb Turks keep making a case to enter the pantheon of great rock bands. A couple more albums like this and I'll punch the ticket. With pleasure.


    New Duncan Imperials
    In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas
    (Pravda)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Um, you can take these guys seriously if you like, but if you do, then you're missing the whole damn point.

    What possesses these solid popsters to don hillbilly outfits and cover country classics (not to mention some rather obscure shit) is beyond me. Now, there aren't as many covers here as on previous outings, which might make you think the boys are trying to make their mark as "real musicians".

    With originals titled "Tip-A-Cow", "Makin' Out With My Dad" and "Nose Maul Problem"? I think not. The music is straight ahead pop with a bit of the old rock riffola, and the humor is utterly sophomoric. Got a problem?

    Jeez, I'm dishing out way too much attitude. Must be stress. Anyway, if this is your bag (and it sure is mine), then you should be happy. If not, then go buy the new U2 or something equally pretentious (not to mention dull). Oh, man, there I go again. Somebody knock this chip off my shoulder, please. And feel free to check out this disc.


    The New Grand
    Incognito
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Jangly power pop, generally disjointed in an amiable way. The vocals are just out of tune, and often enough the guitar and bass are just that much off.

    But it's not calculated or anything. My guess is that's just what works for the band. The songs themselves probably wouldn't sound very good if given a letter-perfect treatment, but they sound good enough as played by the band.

    Which still doesn't mean this is anything great. The lackadaisical sound is cool, and every once in a while true bliss flits through my mind. Inconsistency haunts the album, particularly the writing. The material just isn't that strong.

    Put into a garage context it works, if barely at times. The New Grand has an amusing way of hacking through the songs, but it needs to come up with more inspiring fare if it wants to really impress.


    New Mexico
    Have You Met My Friend? EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Having a few roots in the Land of Enchantment, I'm a little chagrined that a trio from San Diego has claimed the name. Of course, Nantucket was from North Carolina, so there's some precedent for this sort of theft.

    Enough silliness. These boys uphold the San Diego garage scene tradition well. There isn't the craziness of the early 90s, but then, this is a new millennium. These guys play fast, tight and occasionally loud. Mostly, they play off of each other in interesting ways. Not quite math-y, but you can hear it from here.

    Indie rock for the new decade. Or something like that. I dunno. It's just music that goes down well at any time of the evening. Do be sure to play it loud. You can thank me later.


    The New Mexikans
    Paradise EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    I have to say that, as a New Mexican for five years, I'm not sure what to make of the band's choice of monikers. What I can say is that it doesn't have much to do with the sound.

    The band is built around the guitar playing of Gabriel Marin. He's good. He's young, and right now he seems to be in a 70s phase, heavy on the Sabbath. Helping to fulfill that notion are the Ozzy-esque vocals of Brian Anwar.

    Now, the New Mexikans don't get all caught up in excess. These are tastefully-arranged pieces, heavy but also expressive. Derivative, too, but at least the boys seem to have picked some cool stuff to recycle. A band of the future? Quite possibly. I'd like to hear where these guys go in a couple of years.


    New Mind
    Forge
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    As the album title suggests, this is mutation of old school industrial, finding its joy in varied beats and gothic sensibilities. Sure, there are a few nods to the club set, but New Mind worries most about sonic sculpture, not simplistic dance music.

    Great care is taken to ensure that all of the creative excesses are funneled into crafting intriguing music. New Mind doesn't stick to any one sound, wandering all over the German electronic landscape, from Kraftwerk to Einsturzende Neubauten to KMFDM, often using elements of each in any one song.

    Very cold and sterile, as intended. This music is not nice, pretty or simple, but it is engaging. An appreciation of the unusual is needed, but donĀ¹t fear: New mind is simply out to craft its own sound, not be weird for strangeness sake.

    At times, the different elements clash more than mesh, leading to a couple confused-sounding songs. On the whole, however, New Mind has done a good job of updating the German Engineering standard, even if its members are Brits.


    The New Pornographers
    Mass Romantic
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Songs written by Dan Bejar (Destroyer) and Carl Newman (Zumpano) and sung by the varied and sundry members of the group (which also includes Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Kurt Dahle and Neko Case). The songs themselves were written and recorded over a relatively long period of time (the notes and press are cagey on the subject), but the sound is effervescently pure.

    There are elements of new wave, but more along the lines of Elvis Costello or Marshall Crenshaw. There's a big wad of 60s pop wandering through these pieces. Just a big load of fun waiting to explode.

    The album itself is built around "Letter from an Occupant," which is a utterly buoyant Blondie-style blast that has been earning raves since appearing on a Mint compilation. It is, unquestionably, a great song. But there's so much more where that came from.

    An easy album to love. These folks know how to kick out tight, blistering pop tunes that are simply impossible to forget. Required listening. And I mean it.


    The New Rags
    Take Jennie to Brooklyn EP
    (Silent Stereo)
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Tom Merrigan on Rhodes and vocals and Andy Pierce on drums. The rock duo can often be a maddening trip through the limitations of sound. Or it can something of a liberating experience. You might reference the White Stripes; I'm more of a Flat Duo Jets kinda guy.

    Either way, the key is to play as energetically as possible. As long as the songs stay in motion, it's a lot harder to notice that there's only a drum kit and an electric piano. The New Rags know this and fill each of the six songs here with raggedy hooks and plenty of vavoom. The slowest song is a peppy midtempo, and most of the pieces here simply race by.

    Which makes for a fine (if short) set. The New Rags have a fine handle on the whole duo thing, and these 60s garagey songs are the perfect antidote to a cloudy day. This disc is guaranteed to raise your spirits.


    New Roman Times
    On the Sleeve
    (New Granada)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    A couple of the references on the press sticker are the Church and Arcade Fire. About three seconds into the disc I think, "Um, yeah. That's about it."

    So, you know, laconic pop with impeccable melodic sense. With plenty of reverb. It's a simple formula. What always shocks me is how often people screw it up.

    Not New Roman Times. This Austin outfit channels its influences nicely and proceeds to build on them. I do get the sense that these boys might wish they'd lived in New Zealand in, say, 1990, but hey, who wouldn't?

    I suppose this is the sort of album that appeals to geezers like me. I'll take that. But even without the nostalgia factor, this is stuff is worth a listen or few. Slip into the sea and see if you can fight the current.


    The New Sound of Numbers
    Liberty Seeds
    (Cloud Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Hannah Jones decides to get really weird. As if her work with Circulatory System isn't unusual enough. Funny thing is, the stranger the sounds, the closer the songs seem to come to standard pop.

    See, Jones likes to take bits and pieces of strange sounds and build songs around them. But she does have a background in percussion, so each song is built around rhythm. And when you do that, you can never escape into deep space.

    And the way she likes to assemble her drone-like vocals tends to simulate a verse-chorus construction. So what I'm saying is that while this album gets more and more bizarre as I deconstruct it, when I sit back and let the sounds wash over me, I hear Brian Wilson.

    Er, no. I don't. But fuzzing out does help to bring the songs into focus. And the less I think about the songs, the more I like them. Kinda the opposite of my usual experience, but then, this isn't any kind of usual album. Just one I happen to like an awful lot.


    New Sweet Breath
    Blessed 7"
    (Major Appliances)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Part one of a New Sweet Breath single overdose in this issue.
    "Blessed" sounds, to my ear, like a young Tom Petty trying to do "that alternative pop thing". Which is pretty cool, really. Hook-laden, catchy jingles merged with that popular veneer of distortion and crappy production values.

    The flip, "Back to Blue", is astonishingly short, and just as sweet. Good enough, though the production washed out some cool guitar work, and the vocals just plain sucked (sound-wise, anyway). It's okay to be a garage band and still have some semblance of production savvy. Still, the tunes are alright.


    Silka 7"
    (Ringing Ear)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Punchier production than the Major Appliances single, but still muddled. Three songs here, all really short. Odd, when you consider that the band isn't really punk at all.

    "Silka" takes the a-side all by itself. While clocking in at around two minutes, it still manages to really impress. Uptempo tune with squealing guitars (you can actually hear them on this single), but the vocals are still terribly fucked up.

    "Late" and "News to Me" comprise the flip. Both are cool, catchy tunes that would be immensely improved if the band decided it wanted even reasonably clear vocals. The production of the band, as noted earlier, is much better here, but the vocals are incomprehensible. I like some distortion as much as the next fuck, butthis is silly. These are great songs. Wish I could make them out better.


    A Shotgun Down an Avalanche
    (Big Top)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Totally uncontrolled pop. The guitars fly all over the place, the production is a bit treble-heavy (accentuating the mess) and the vocals are often distorted beyond recognition.

    And still fairly entertaining. I think New Sweet Breath can only play one speed real well, and that's a notch or two faster than what is really called for by the music. Still, this is a band with an utterly unique sound. Messy and annoying, sure, but still all its own.

    And that's the biggest positive, really. I don't think all of the odd elements really blend together well, and many songs are seem so disjointed that they don't end as much as fall apart.

    Again, though, that's almost appealing. Yeah, this is truly messy, but there's also a good amount of exhilaration that has to be accounted for at the end. Not totally fulfilling, but certainly intriguing.


    New Town Animals
    Is Your Radio Active
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    So imagine if some of yer favorite early 80s new wave songs were played by the Ramones ... or perhaps more correctly, imagine if some of yer favorite early 80s bands played the Ramones. what I'm trying to say is that these songs are very basic three-chord fare played and sung with that high-pitched. snotty 'tude.

    Complete with fake British accents, even. Oh, I'm not complaining. The stuff is way too much fun to really bitch about. Good 'n' chunky even while the motor revs up. No let up in sight.

    Right. That's the secret--keep everything in motion. Don't slow down and don't look over your shoulder. Eyes straight ahead and knees churning. The rest of us can pogo around deliriously.

    Nothing complicated or difficult; just a big wad of rock and roll fun. Stripped down to the essentials and fed high-test fuel. Loud is better. Don't forget to smile.


    The New Tribe
    Club Trance Dance
    (Big Mouth-Wise Guy)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Band leader Curt Victor Bryant's expressed purpose behind this disc is to incorporate traditional American Indian chants and rhythms into dance music. Thus, see, the New Tribe.

    A good idea, I suppose. I mean, Gregorian chant and traditional Arabian songs have been adapted successfully. Why not give this a shot?

    The problem is that there is very little use of any rhythm other than generic club beats, and while the chants work very well, the music behind them is so faceless that this music just doesn't sing. Of course, as mindless club music, it succeeds.

    But I ask for more than that. This could be better. If Bryant had spent more time worrying about his modern music component, this disc might have been impressive. Right now, it sounds like a thousand other sets of club music.


    New Wet Kojak
    New Wet Kojak
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    A couple of Girls Against Boys whip out similar grooves with other D.C. pals. Hell, I'm game.

    Not quite so driving or heavy as GVB, but every bit as addictive. That sly beat keeps everything moving along quite nicely, and the added emphasis on the sax is quite welcome.

    Like beat jazz on hallucinogenics, really. New Wet Kojak is just the sort of thing to play at a party where all your friends are asking for the new (insert cool MTV grunge clone here). It will surprise them, and then they will realize that they really dig it.

    A little free-form feeling now and again also adds to the chaos, and the collective that is New Wet Kojak simply keeps cranking out cool tune after cool tune. There is no good reason for the affliction of this affection. I simply love the music.


    Nasty International
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    The moodier side of Girls Against Boys, with a sax as the main instrument here.

    Other than that, the GvsB groove rides on. This puppy is immeasurably louder than the last New Wet Kojak album, but even when loud, the feel is cool and mellow.

    Far too entertaining to be dismissed as a mere "side project", New Wet Kojak is a fine outfit unto itself. The shared musical ideas are good ones, and the somewhat more "out there" sound is welcome to my ears. And if you want to hear one of the drop-dead great songs of the year, track up "Get the Curse". It's further down the riff line from "Kill the Sexplayer", with everything pumped up to a higher level. Amazing.

    And the rest is merely damned good. One thing's for sure: Scott McCloud hasn't lost his sense of musical style. Flows like a river.

    See also Girls Against Boys.


    The New Year
    Newness Ends
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    This could have been the fourth Bedhead album, except that Bedhead kinda blew up a couple of years ago. So Matt and Bubba Kadane pulled together this new band in order to continue their musical musings.

    Really, for all intents and purposes, this might as well be Bedhead's fourth album. The insistent, yet languid, guitar lines, the just-above-a-mumble vocals, the astonishingly enveloping sound--all here. The songs are silent assassins, as expected.

    Interestingly, I do hear a hint of "classic" Britpop (somewhere between the Smiths and the Wedding Present, I guess). Perhaps that had something to do with the Kadane's collaboration with Macha some time back. Not that Macha's from England or anything. It's just that I think of the band in that way.

    Before I confuse anyone further, let me also note that Touch and Go has managed to get the rights to the first three Bedhead albums (originally released on Trance Syndicate and distributed by T&G) and is putting them back in print. Newness Ends is more than simply a continuation of the Bedhead ideal. It outshines even Beheaded, one of my favorite albums of all time. I'm blown away.

    See also Bedhead.


    The New York Trio Project
    Fifth House
    (Imaginary)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Adam Rafferty on guitar (electric), Jeff Siegel on drums and John Menegon on bass. Not yer typical jazz trio. But one that makes sense, nonetheless.

    Two takes on the Coltrane-penned title track, with Rafferty flying in and around Coltrane's sax parts. He has a light, expressive touch that is suited perfectly to the task. And without perfectly aping Coltrane's riffs, he manages to capture the idea of the song and also restate it in his own way.

    Rafferty and Siegel contribute a track each, with Menegon writing two. And while Rafferty's guitar is the principal solo instrument, Siegel and Menegon don't simply sit back and vamp. Their interplay with each other and Rafferty is what ties the album together.

    The sorta album with appeal for a wide variety of jazz fans. The sound is smooth, but certainly not cloying in any way. The players rip off blistering solos without disturbing the mood. The quiet intensity of this project is most impressive.

    See also Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson.


    Matthew Newbold
    The Road
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Seven songs from a guy who seems to want to get into the pro songwriting game. The pieces bound about in the commercial pop universe. Most of the time Matthew Newbold exhibits a pleasant sense of humor. When he doesn't, the stuff can get awfully generic.

    Take, for example, the second song, "Save Me." This sang has a vague Latin groove, one that's just about been lifted from "Livin' la Vida Loca." And it's not like that puppy was particularly "authentic."

    But writing pop songs can be a noble undertaking. It's not my idea of heaven, but I'm not going to knock it. I know that the demo versions of these songs have to be performed in a basic way, so that the singer who will take one of them can find his or her own "voice" in the piece.

    These songs, however, are regular enough that Newbold would do well to inject a little more personality. I think his future is in writing songs (he shows a fine grasp of craft, if not inspiration) and not performing. But with more work on both ends, who knows?


    Kenneth Newby
    Sirens
    (City of Tribes)
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    You could call this stuff world beat-ambient (or something akin to that), but you wouldn't be even close.

    Newby establishes his songs with either eclectic percussion grooves or some sort of drone, and then adds layer after layer of voices and unusual instruments until he has created a fine melange. A stew of musical ideas that simply gets better with age.

    A good amount of the musical thought comes from the Indian subcontinent (with a digeridoo thrown in for kicks), but Newby isn't a slave to any one sort of music; he has a vision of the whole that makes this project sing.

    While this must have been processed electronically, Newby has kept the sound from getting antiseptic. On the contrary, the end result is something close to symphonic, full and vibrant. It is this talent for production that gives Sirens its lush, living and breathing feel. Simply beautiful.


    The Newlydeads
    The Newlydeads
    (Mutiny-Bubble)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Since the implosion of Faster Pussycat, Taime Downe has skirted the industrial waterworks, contributing to such acts as Pigface and the Final Cut. And now it's time for him to debut his new forum (along with co-conspirator Kyle K--aka Kyle Kyle, formerly of Bang Tango), the Newlydeads.

    Goth glam industrial stuff. Kinda like if Faster Pussycat had mixed things up with Nine Inch Nails. This is not a bad idea at all, and the Newlydeads have created a rather addicting concoction of accessible beats and wicked guitar licks. I mean, it just makes sense, doesn't it?

    I mean, this could have turned out as dumb as last year's Danzig album (one of the ten worst albums ever recorded, easily), but the Newlydeads keep the music light enough so that the moments of excess seem merely silly and not absurd.

    Reminds me a bit of the Whorgasm album, which I quite liked as well (though judging by the response from other folks, perhaps that's not a compliment). There's definitely something cool going on here.


    Bound remix LP
    (Mutiny)
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    The Newlydeads is Taime Downe's gothic/industrial project. The debut album was quite good (surprised the shit out of me, actually), and the original versions of these songs (except for one) appeared on that disc.

    In general, the mixes add a couple layers of electronic beats and punch up the pieces a bit. Nothing extreme, but nice jobs all the way through. highly enjoyable, moving the Newlydeads right into the clubs.

    This disc (and the follow-up Newlydeads album, due soon) has been held up for some time. I'm now just in a holding pattern waiting for that second full-length. I continue to be most impressed.


    Colin Newman
    Bastard
    (Swim~/World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    As in the guy from Wire Colin Newman. Instead of packing in his musical inventiveness and sticking to familiar territory, though, Newman trips out into the vagaries of highly-overdubbed self recording.

    Newman uses plenty of loops to create his sound here. He adds one after another, sometimes distorting or otherwise manipulating existing bits. It's kinda hypnotic, but also a little dull in its obsessive orderliness.
    He's got some interesting ideas, but once they've been subjected to the whole looping process, all the vitality seems stripped. I can appreciate the time and effort necessary to create such a sound, but it doesn't completely appeal to me.

    Well-executed, nonetheless. I don't agree with his destination, but I have to say it sounds like Newman got exactly where he wanted to go.


    The Newsboys
    Step Up to the Microphone
    (Star Song-Virgin)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Plenty of folks have plenty of theories as to why overtly Christian music is so popular these days. Some chalk it up to the religious right, others to a general return to religious values by the country. Mostly overlooked is the notion that the music might actually be better than it used to be.

    I attended high school in a city that had one church for every hundred people. I did all the requisite Christian things, including buying the Satan Seller book (now known as a notorious fraud) and Stryper and Petra records. Ah, sweet insipid youth.

    The Newsboys actually care about the music (almost as much as the message). And while the stuff is still a bit commercial for my tastes (think of Live, heavy on the cheese factor), it's much better than the stuff I had to suffer through years ago.

    About the same groove as the band's last release. Average rock music, sometimes even above average. Which means Jesus rock has come a long way.


    Newt
    -273C
    (Quantum Loop)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    While the enclosures for the two Quantum Loop albums reviewed in this issue don't say so, I would guess that QL is associated (if not run by) the fine folks at 21st Circuitry. They do share the same address.

    But I can understand the differentiation. Newt is full-on electronic, completely sterile in sound and processed in nature. There aren't any vocals to speak of (with the exception of some unintelligible samples), and the songs live or die in their electronic terrarium world.

    Hard to handle. Oh, the songs themselves are entrancing, but assimilating all of the information presented is a bit difficult. Which sounds odd to me, because Newt rarely has more than three sonic elements in motion at any one time. I'm just trying to find a motive, a creative reason for what I'm hearing. It's there; I just haven't found it.

    Oh, did I mention this sounds a lot like the FLA of 10 years ago or so? Yeah, I like it. Retro-futuristic. Like Brazil, y'know? Cool enough.


    Next Level X
    Dissonance Amid the Reconstruction
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    Gothic industrial rantings that would probably be better if the production ranged better than demo quality. I like the echo-y effect on the vocals, but I think this is more an accident than intention.

    The songs are a cool romp through that trendy goth world, flitting from dance floor musings to introspective keyboard flights. About what you'd expect from this sort of band, but Next Level X easily exceeds expectations.

    Well, except for the muffled production. I like what I can hear in the songs, but too much lies behind that invisible barrier that far too many demos carry as excess baggage. If that gets taken away, who knows what might be heard. On the whole, though, the songs are strong. Worth a listen.


    Niacin
    High Bias
    (Stretch-Concord)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    A nice fusion trio, Billy Sheehan on bass, John Novello on keys and Dennis Chambers keeping time. Sheehan is up to his old "play guitar licks on a bass" trick (something which made most of his solo work interesting, if nothing else), and Novello spends most of his time (though not all) on a Hammond B-3, which gives a nice early 70s prog feel to the stuff.

    The band runs through a cover of "Birdland" and also does a Chick Corea tune, "Hang Me Upside Down", with Corea himself sitting in on a Fender Rhodes. To be honest, though, I like the original fare better. Sheehan and Chambers have a natural interplay which produces a number of intriguing rhythm combinations. And when each player starts playing off the other two, the songs really take off.

    Pyrotechnics of a soulful sort. Yeah, these guys can play fast and loud, but most of all they play well. With feeling and passion. In a jazz, as opposed to a prog, key, but I'm not gonna complain.

    A showcase of skill and soulful interplay. Niacin delivers music that musicians and fans alike can appreciate.


    Niagara
    Niagara EP
    (Monotreme)
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    If you're gonna call yourself Niagara, you might as well be an experimental trio from Italy. Just sayin'.

    These songs are pretty much impossible to describe accurately. They do stick to a rhythmic core, but otherwise the lines diverge into a variety of streams. Vocals are part of those lines, and they can be shouts, moans or even something approaching the melodic.

    Largely, though, this is all about the rhythm. The EP is a selection of four songs from a concept album based on the Marilyn Monroe movie Niagara (my brother has a poster for this movie in his house, which is a very random connection for me). Personally, I think I'd like to hear the whole album. But for now I'll stick to these tracks. Stunning.


    Otto
    (Monotreme)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/10

    The latest set from this Italian act just furthers its place among the most intense and accomplished bands around. Whether the sound is acoustic, electronic, straight-up rock or any combination of the above, these are compelling songs. Niagara continues to impress.


    Niblick Henbane
    Go Away
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    There's a song on this album called "Happy Happy Oi Oi." That pretty much sums up what's to be heard here. Jaunty, fresh oi presented with just enough of a sneer to keep things honest.

    First-rate writing and good quality performances. Most bands skimp on one or the other, but Niblick Henbane has taken pains to make sure this is a top-notch outing.

    Nothing complicated, I swear. The songs are bare bones oi, delivered with plenty of panache. Fine stuff that just leaps out of the speakers.

    There's really not much more to say here. Niblick Henbane simply does oi proud. That's good enough for me.


    Nice Guy Eddie
    Past Modern
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Two main singer-songwriters for this band (and they almost alternate track positions, too). Jangle-pop grooves and loose hooks. The rhythm section, however, is uniformly tight. These songs have to stay together somehow.

    And they do. The pieces are just quirky enough to provide a spark, and the lyrics are pleasant with the slightest hint of a bite. Again, about what is to be expected with top pop stuff.

    Generally, the sort of songs that really make me smile. And in fact, I've been bounding about a bit while giving this puppy a listen. There's a lot good here. The writing, playing and production are all good, sometimes even great.

    Just what a band starting out should do: play great stuff and take a few chances. There's nothing to apologize for when you crank out pop music like this. Some first-rate stuff.


    Nigel
    Nigel
    (SilverGirl)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    There aren't many bands who completely key off the drums. Love and Rockets--when it was good--had an uncanny way of locking into the skins, particularly when playing live. Nigel sounds nothing like those boys, of course. These folks sing at a near-whisper, and piano seems to dominate almost as much as the lean, clean lead guitar.

    Centering on the drums gives these songs a deliberate feel, an easy cadence that makes it much easier to fall into step with the somewhat unconventional construction and use of melody. I have a feeling this is intentional.

    If not, it's still purty durned impressive. Nigel keeps the sound ultra-clean, but just a wee bit fuzzy. What I mean is that there's plenty of space between the instruments and vocals, but the sound remains slightly rounded. Very nice.

    I'm not always a big fan of mannered music, but Nigel is simply too good to resist. Top-notch writing and clever arrangements will carry the day every time. Sure did with this album.


    Night Driving in Small Towns
    Serial Killer
    (Lower 40)
    reviewed in issue #316, April 2010

    Colby Wright and Andrea Rodgers wind their way through what can only be described as (largely) acoustic renditions of laptop pop songs. I like the idea, and the execution is even better than the concept.

    The songs flow freely and sound almost effortless. Rodgers and Wright have a rapport that is astonishing. Every song here is immediately arresting--and immediately reassuring. These two have a real feel for pretty songs that take a nip now and again.

    It's one thing to try to create the "simple" sound found here. Most producers try too hard, and going too minimalist would strip most of the pop fun out of these songs. I'm knocked out. This sounds great.

    No, there's nothing complicated here. But everything works, and there's plenty going on. I have a feeling I'll be smiling along for a long time to come.


    A Night of Serious Drinking
    One After Another
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Here's a way to record an album: Walk on stage for a sound check (or at some other time when there are no patrons present) and play all of your songs straight through. One after another, if you will. That's what A Night of Serious Drinking did. Though it hardly sounds that way.

    And this is three guys, three people who manage to create an intimate yet lush sound. On a stage. Guitar, bass, drums (with the occasional special guest). Introspective pop music that does evoke thoughts of Nick Drake (I hate aping press notes, but they're right this time) or large chunks of Sister Lovers.

    So now I've also said this is really great stuff. Well, it is. No doubt about that. The novelty of the recording process is impressive enough, but the music is what really makes an impression. Piercing and haunting all at once.

    Tell you what: If the method works this well, then A Night of Serious Drinking ought to seriously consider using it for every album. Must've been one hell of a sound check.


    The Nightcaps
    Gambler's Game
    (Rendezvous Records)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Now that I've laid the slab on the table, it says the a-side is "For Me". This despite the fact that the obvious front of the sleeve says "Gambler's Game". Perhaps I'm being a little neurotic here.

    The Nightcaps sound just like you might imagine a band of that moniker might. Lounge music with just a bit of shake appeal. Not enough get me to shake a lot, but I know it's the style these days.

    All you hep cats who like to slouch out and yell "Hey, now!" a lot, you just might take a bit of a groove on this. That's a guess on my part. No more of that silly talk, now.


    The Nighthawks
    Still Wild
    (Ruf-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    I saw the Nighthawks years ago, when I was in school. Down at a local bar, where college kids weren't exactly welcome. The food was fried, and the clientele was easily 20 years older than me. Those folks could dance. And Mark Wenner blew me away with his harp.

    He still can. Alright, there's only two originals, and Wenner's voice doesn't have the range it once did (though it might be argued "range" was never one of its more impressive qualities). No matter. The harp (well, harps, as he has a huge collection) is still golden. And Pete Kanaras can play an expressive guitar even while maintaining the boogie.

    The song selection is impeccable, designed to show off the finer elements of the band. This is a working band. I knew I was back in civilization one afternoon while walking in Baltimore when I saw the Nighthawks on the marquee of a dingy dive. For the night before, I'm sorry to say, but that sight still made me happy.

    Blue-collar blues with some of the finest harp playing on earth. Wenner and the Nighthawks are as vital as ever. Yeah, I'd like to hear some more originals, but I'll happily settle for this.


    Nightingale
    The Closing Chronicles
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    Yet another side project for Edge of Sanity's main man, Dan Swano. This is the second installment of the Nightingale saga (with I could have gotten my hands on the first) "The Breathing Shadow".

    Swano has been incorporating more and more of his prog-rock influences into Edge of Sanity's output, so side projects like this (with an obvious nod to stuff like Marillion, ELP and such) are becoming less surprising. Swano says in his press notes that he's been trying to purge his system of the goth influences that have been creeping into Edge of Sanity, and so he did the first Nightingale album.

    Sure, but despite what the black-clad denizens of the dark wave might want to claim, there just isn't that much between the two sounds. Both are overly dramatic and ponderous. The main difference is that the lyrics whine about different things. Whatever.

    Here, Swano has recorded the album Asia never could. Heavy keys that are used as stilettos, not machetes. Enough guitars to keep things amusing, and drum work that keeps the whole set in motion. Yeah, the tracks are long and occasionally a bit self-indulgent. This IS a side project, after all. Swano is one of the great musical minds of this decade. His ability to simply write in whatever idiom he chooses is amazing, and he has yet to crank out a bad disc. I never cease to be astonished.

    See also Edge of Sanity and Pan-Thy-Monium.


    Nightstick
    Blotter
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Rob Williams of Siege is behind all this, and Siege members figure prominently in the press, whether as temporary members or merely cash sources.

    Oh, but the sound? Mutant guitar and bass squalls, punctuated by occasional drumming. Songs like "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?" and a cover of Lydia Lunch's "Some Boys" are the norm here. Reality is not a concept.

    I'm faced here with music I just can't get my head around. Nothing makes sense, and I have a feeling the band likes it that way. I enjoyed listening to the mess, though, so I guess that counts for something.

    Not really noise, grindcore, metal, punk or anything else, Nightstick has a sound all its own. 99.9 percent of the world will say, "And thank God for that!" I won't go that far. We need folks to take us to the edge, wherever that may be. All I know it that Nightstick is pirouetting at the precipice.

    See also Siege


    Nihil
    Drown
    (Slipdisc/Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    Fairly traditional pile-driving industrial fare. Neil Kernon produces, which brings an even shinier metal sheen to the sound (not to mention more brain-rattling power as well). And while I'm not always a fan of dirges, Nihil does them rather well.

    And sometimes the tempo is picked up a bit. I do wish there was a bit more originality in the use of guitar washes and the beat, but the deathhunt attitude keeps this disc moving right along.

    Yeah, this is what industrial sounds like after a bit more cash than usual. A more commercial form of Godflesh, perhaps. Everything about the project is fairly rote, except for the wild aggro vibe that climbs its way out of the sound. That's something that cannot be taught or faked.

    So it works for me. I still wish the band took a few more chances, but for some reason I'm happy enough with what's here. Another album whose charms I can't quite quantify.


    Nile
    Black Seeds of Vengeance
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Nile is currently on tour with Cannibal Corpse, and that makes sense. This is just the next step in the evolutionary process started by the Tampa terrormeisters.

    Which also means that these songs lack, um, style. The brutality is unquestionable, and the musicianship is pretty solid. But the songwriting lacks panache. There are interesting moments in the introductions and interludes, but these creative ideas aren't really incorporated into the songs themselves.

    What I'm saying is these guys have no aspirations to become a Fear Factory (which isn't the worst thing in the world, mind you). Nile plays death metal, Nile plays it fast and Nile plays it loud. In fact, it plays this particular style pretty well. I just get bored when all of the songs tend to run together after a while. The thought "You might want to ease up on that double bass drum work sometimes" keeps running through my head.

    But see, I'm a prissy death metal fan. Back in the day I scorned Cannibal Corpse and Deicide in favor of European bands like Morgoth and Edge of Sanity (when the latter was still a death metal band). So my lack of enthusiasm here shouldn't be a surprise. Nile puts on a solid show. The diehards should be impressed.


    Nillah
    Heart Attack Special
    (Shut Eye)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Only a perky pop band would bother to point out that the song "February" was written in April. Nillah has two regular members and a rotating cast of drummers (or so the liners say). What is solid is the tuneage.

    Greg Gentry and Elisabeth Eickhoff (GG and EE? No way!) have a good knack for crafting lush hooks, and their voices work together quite well. The songs have a vague psychedelic cast to them, just enough to spread out the sound a bit. A good thing, by my account.

    Deep? Hardly. This is just past bubble gum, with enough serious intent and subtext to make repeat listening bearable. The disc spins, the toes tap, the head bobs. That's pretty much the cycle.

    But they do it well. As uncomplicated as it sounds, this isn't easy. Manufacturing sweet hooks isn't simple, but Nillah has that down. Can the duo keep this up? I'm not gonna worry about that. I'm just gonna bliss out for the moment.


    The Power of Pop
    (Shut Eye)
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Hard to imagine that such glorious pop music springs from the hands of just three people. Perhaps I'm just under the spell of Elisabeth Eickhoff's lush (yet slightly raspy) vocals. I dunno. They are fantastic.

    But Nillah knows how to write songs around that fantastic feature, tuneful little ditties with hooks that grab immediately. Nice guitar riffage, too, though such an addition almost feels like an indulgence.

    What is pop, though, if not an indulgence? Nillah keeps on giving and giving, stuffing me full with more reasons to fall in love with the band. And when I think I've had enough, there's something new rounding the bend.

    Simple pleasures are hard to beat, and Nillah is chock full of 'em. Funny how so many bands work so hard to dress up something good and end up muddying the water. The stream of pop is crystal clear here, all ready for an early spring dip.


    The Nimrods
    Once Again Saving the World
    Takes a Back Seat to a Good Beer

    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Relatively clever lyrics and easy-as-pie three chord punk pop. The Nimrods don't have much in the way of a serious set of messages, but they manage to leave a smile along with their harmony-laden hooks.

    Not too tight, though, because that would sound dreadfully processed. Naw, the Nimrods simply ply their wares with workmanlike skill, not worrying about the odd dropped chord or grating shout.

    Sounds a lot like Green Day's Lookout says, though with more punch in the guitar (probably because this is a quartet, and there are two six strings). Enjoyable, and not too filling.

    Good music for taking the top down and cruising. Of course, it's winter now, so maybe you can drop this in the discer and imagine a sunny paradise somewhere. Though, as the Nimrods would probably point out, paradise ain't what it's cracked up to be.


    Nine Dollar Melon Baller
    [riding the ephidrine horse]
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    A variant of the midwestern rock I remember from my college days (geez, all those years ago). The chunky chord work and manic rootsiness remind of bands like Ditch Witch (albums on the departed Grass label). Anthems, but the music is too herky-jerky to really impart any pomposity. A good solution to that problem.

    Solid songwriting. The tunes unfold in a familiar fashion, relying on strong lead and rhythm guitar work and a light touch on the drums. always in motion, always going some place else. Loud and fast, but still basic rock music.

    The production brings out all of the necessary elements, The guitars do take center stage, but they don't drown out the rest of the band. A thick sound, but with plenty of space between the instruments. A tough trick, but one that impresses greatly.

    I'd call the sound somewhat fated, I guess (especially since I heard it 10 years ago), but I still like it, and no one has really taken it over the top. Still a fresh noise for the kids. These guys have all the parts necessary.


    9-Iron
    Movie Tonight? 7"
    (Feed Bag)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    A couple of the highlights from their full-length (see page 2) and two other very nice songs. These guys have an almost perfect feel for pop music.

    I wonder where these guys have been that I haven't heard word one about them before? Well, it's not like that's so difficult. What I do know is I'll be paying a little more attention to these matters from now on.
    Same verdict as the disc: absolutely great.


    9-Iron
    (Safehouse)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Guitar-driven pop music (but then, isn't it all?). Here, though, the guitar seems rather heavy in the mix, which gives it that early-eighties Marshall Crenshaw/Nick Lowe sorta feel.

    The lyrics are pretty damn goofy, but like any good popsters, there is something past the surface that makes it stick.

    Everything just keeps rolling along, and I keep noticing that things are getting just a shade darker. Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I hope not. A little depression never hurt anyone.


    Nineteen Forty-Five
    Autumn Leaves
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Kinda the predecessor to, and now the progeny of, Three Finger Cowboy. Hunter Manasco and Katharine McElroy were part of an early incarnation of this band, and Manasco joined McElroy for the second 3FC disc (one of the great albums of 1999). So, now that 3FC is no more, McElroy and Manasco have come together once again.

    My first reaction, before even reading any of the press or liners, was that this guy (Manasco) was singing just like McElroy. He's got the same imperfect, crackly singing style. I like her voice better--probably just because she's a she--but Manasco's cords have a similarly endearing quality.

    And the songs, well, I think it's fair to say at this point that the addition of Manasco to 3FC is what solidified the songwriting on that second disc, and the maturation continues here. Not to discount the contributions of new bandmates Larry Holt and Will Lochamy, but it sure sounds like Manasco and McElroy are in the lead during the writing process.

    I do wish I heard more from McElroy. She sings mostly backup here, and I could easily listen to her sing all day. Nonetheless, Manasco is almost as impressive up front, and this album sounds great. Wonderfully ragged rock and roll. Some folks just know how to play, no matter what the surroundings.


    I Saw a Bright Light
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    I think I said something in my review of the most recent Nineteen Forty-Five album that I wanted to hear Katherine McElroy's voice a bit more often. I don't know if a lot of folks mentioned this as well, but she does seem to do a bit more singing on this album. Of course, Nineteen Forty-Five is hardly about vocals.

    Not that McElroy and Hunter Manasco don't have cool pipes. Both seem to have a strong aversion to singing in tune. In fact, most of the vocal work here sounds more shouted than sung. But no matter. These folks have a line on what made the "indie rock" of the 80s so cool. Take a simple idea, drag it in the dirt for a while and then play the hell out of it.

    There is an energy which carries these records, an energy which remains constant no matter the tempo or mood of the song. As soon as I hear a Nineteen Forty-Five song (or anything off the second Three Finger Cowboy album, for that matter), all the hairs in my ears stand up straight, ready to receive vital sonic information. Maybe I'm weird, but this music strikes me in the most basic of ways. I simply cannot control my response.

    Which is overwhelming. To say I am in love with this band and what it does is an understatement. As of yet, I've been unable to burn out on these folks no matter how many times I play everything I've got from them. This makes me rather compromised when it comes to making a value judgment on the music, but hell, for what it's worth I think these folks are one of the greatest bands rolling right now.

    See also Three Finger Cowboy.


    90 Day Men
    split CD
    with Go Go Go Airheart (Box Factory)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    Some wonderfully noisy mayhem. 90 Day Men lead off (I'm just listing this in alphabetical order, because I'm a dork), sounding an awful lot like a somewhat more coherent and subdued U.S. Maple. The three songs aren't always in motion, but they're always going somewhere.

    The guys sound like they're trying to explore the grimy underground. And as far as I can tell, they're succeeding. Whether lumbering or skipping along at a nice clip, these songs chip away at the footholds of conventional thinking.

    Go Go Go Airheart gets six songs and just a bit more time. Its sound fits in well with 90 Day Men, though the songs have a somewhat lighter touch. Almost effervescent, really, in comparison.

    But the depth is still there. While 90 Day Men come at music from underneath, Go Go Go Airheart swoops down from above. The intent and the mayhem produced is one and the same. Those who have a noise pop jones simply must prepare this solution immediately.


    Panda Park
    (Southern)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Obsessively working riffs (in the classical sense, not in the chunky guitar way I usually use the term) to their natural extreme, 90 Day Men approaches the prog ideal of post-rock.

    Which is weird, because other than the odd noodly keyboard, there isn't much here that says "prog." However, there is a lot of "art rock," that other bastard child of the late 60s and 70s which has been roundly scourged by the public at large.

    So there's really no way these boys can strike it rich. That's a shame, I guess. Well, not really. I'd rather folks follow their collective muse than make music they think people want to hear. Be yourself. Make a statement.

    And damn if this isn't one. I couldn't tell you exactly what it says--there are moments here that get a bit obsessive and warped even for me. Of course, those are the parts I like best. If I can't get my mind around something the first time, I have to keep trying until I do. 90 Day Men have given me quite a bit of homework.


    98 Mute
    Slow Motion Riot
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Take that thick, tuneful hardcore sound of Bad Religion's early days, add a more traditional punk singer and gang vocals and voila! Man, this stuff sure does smoke.

    Sure, it's about what you might expect from Epitaph, but then, that rarely sucks. And in fact, 98 Mute has crafted some really tight songs and then muscled up and delivered some top-notch performances. This is a great adrenaline rush.

    And the lyrics are thoughtful and intelligent. There's a passion in the music and the vocals. Sure, that's the point behind punk music. Feeling, savage intent, that sorta thing. But most bands can't quite muster up the real thing. 98 Mute is overflowing with intensity.

    Some awesome potential here, and this is just the band's second album (the first was on Theologian). There's room for growth, but this thing is just blistering. Keep it coming, boys.


    999
    Homicide--The Best of
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    I think perhaps the most amazing thing about 999 is that it is still a going concern. The music is easy-going late 70s Britpunkpop, a significantly lightweight version of what the Clash, the Buzzcocks and Elvis Costello were doing.

    Twenty tracks, and most of that is filler. There are a few decent moments, but at its best 999 wasn't very good. And it's so easy to hear the many different acts the band and its producers were trying to imitate, it's silly.

    It's amazing that 999 is still doing shows 20 years after embarking on such a minor voyage. Of course, some people are still clamoring for Gilligan's Island, too.


    Ninewood
    American Salt Lick
    (Vaccination)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    With the possible exception of Nihilist (and its handmade cases and sleeves), no label packages albums as well as Vaccination. Not only is the art appealing and the structure inventive and functional, but the contents are quite well-written. The liners for this include a coupon for a "Catalog of German Bands I've Never Heard Of." And it's not a joke! At least, I think I'd actually get a catalog if I wrote the address.

    I'm getting so far ahead and behind myself I've almost forgotten to review the music. Like most Vaccination bands, Ninewood plays complex, intense music. The rhythm section often slips into hypnotic grooves, while the lead bass (!!) takes care of the melodic duties.

    From time to time, Angela Coon sings. But her voice and the lyrics are more pieces in the overall composition and not a focal point. The songs don't "dumb down" when the voices come in. And the vocals themselves are as well-conceived and performed as the instruments.

    The sort of thing that might be classified as prog grunge if there was any distortion. But there's not, and this remarkably clean sound of two basses, drums and vocals is left to simply define itself as remarkable. Like just about every Vaccination band I've heard, Ninewood is utterly unique. In a really, really good way. This album is gleefully astonishing.


    Willie Nininger
    Almost Home
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    I met Willie Nininger while I was on vacation in England. He and Tim Wechgelaer (who sings and plays fiddle and mandolin on this disc) were playing in a pub where my wife and I were staying in Lyme Regis. Willie and Tim played mostly old American country songs, with some Paul Simon and James Taylor thrown in for good measure. A fine troubadour show in every sense of the word.

    Nininger cemented his musical career by selling a few songs to the "Captain Kangaroo " show (amazing how those royalties last), and he's pretty much spent the last 25 years playing music, some of this and some of that. The songs here fit that folk rock meets Sesame Street sound. Easygoing, jokey fare that rolls along nicely.

    The lyrics do tend toward the clever and sentimental, and those impulses do sometimes clash. Also, the jokes occasionally venture too far into backslapper territory. But most of this stuff is gentle, good fun, and the playing is simply wonderful. Nininger's strumming and picking sets a nice tone, but Wechgalaer's fiddle and mandolin really color the songs nicely. His touch is a treat to hear.

    If you're looking for something edgy, you ought to have figured out by now that this is not your disc. But Nininger has a nice ear for a classic American sound (his live repertoire is impeccable), and this disc shows that off nicely. Oh, and there is a live version of one of his "Captain" songs. You just might recognize it.


    Middle of the Road
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    A 1995 disc from Willie Nininger, the troubadour I met while drinking my way through the south of England in May. His letterhead reads simply "country-folk-rock" and that's about where he plys his songs.

    At first listen, it might be easy to describe the sound with the title of the album. But the playing (especially from Tim Wechgelaer on fiddle and mandolin) is just exquisite, and these songs simply have too much earnest intensity to be dismissed as MOR.

    Not to say that Nininger doesn't dig into his bag of sentiment once again. Of course he does. But the lyrics are incisive and hardly self-important, even on the "serious" songs. And when the mood picks up, the comments get sharper in a hurry (in all the good ways).

    I know a lot of folks who have little patience for fare such as this. But Nininger is just another example of how it's impossible to dismiss an entire genre. His dedication to the craft alone is enough to recommend this disc. And that's just the beginning. He's never going to be world-renowned, but those who hear his stuff will probably treat him that way.


    Nirvana
    Jesus Lizard
    Oh, the Guilt/Puss 7"
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    You know the Jesus Lizard tune, as it is straight from their latest album. But the Nirvana thing can only be found here (for now).

    Production-wise, it lies somewhere between Bleach and "Sliver". I like it alright, but I must admit I can take only so much self-indulgent noise. And it shares a rhythm with over half of their other tunes, so you'll be sure to recognize it right off.

    As for the Jesus Lizard tune, I like it better, but all of you should have been playing it off Liar long ago. I suppose that's all.


    Nite Nite
    How to Touch the Moon
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    Nite Nite riffles through the synth-goth-punk-disco styles of the early eighties with astounding ease. It's one thing to be a revivalist; it's quite another to actually do something different (and interesting) with established sounds.

    Hewing to a ragged Blondie/Cure axis (singer Davis Chatfield has a pleasantly expressive alto that does cross into Debbie Harry territory at times), Nite Nite creates bounding pop gems set deep in a synth universe. The band doesn't have a full-time drummer, and that leads a reliance on guitar and bass for a larger load of the rhythm work than normal.

    That keeps these songs in motion. And there are drums, of course. After all, this stuff is pop music. But the emphasis is on the instruments in the rhythmic periphery. That keeps things nicely off-kilter.

    Bouncy and fun, with enough bite to please. Nite Nite may be something of a revivalist, but I like the way it spins its influences. This spell has been cast quite well.


    Michael Nitro
    Counting the Days
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    A little blues, a little soul, a little rock and a nice dose of pop. Michael Nitro puts plenty of interesting sounds in his songs, and the playing is top-notch. For all the craft, though, there seems to be a spark missing.

    Just that something that would kick these songs from workmanlike to really inspiring. The fault isn't in the preparation. Like I said, Nitro and his mates can play and the songs are careful to include lots of great elements. Perhaps too careful. There just isn't that loose feel that would really spin all those influences into a great stew.

    Instead, it's just a little too easy to hear the individual parts. Nitro's voice is a little thin to carry this sort of music, and it sounds like he's working awfully hard to get where he's at.

    Most of the parts are here; I really mean that. I would suggest that Nitro get another singer and that the band jam a bit longer on the songs before putting them on tape. Maybe that would erase the slightly stilted feel. Just a couple step away from something great.


    Nitzinger
    Going Back to Texas
    (Record Heaven)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    John Nitzinger has been around. Some of these songs are almost 30 years old. No problem with that. Nitzinger likes to play Texas-style rock-blues shuffles. No problem with that either. He's got an incendiary way of making his guitar scream. Again, no worries.

    As long as he sticks to the shuffles and keeps his songs in motion, Nitzinger sounds pretty good. Great, on occasion. But when he slows things up and tries to play more traditional blues, all the bombast that works so well with the fast material just gets in the way.

    And the problem is, Nitzinger seems to want to play that traditional stuff as much as the shuffles. So the good and the bad kinda cancel each other out. After a while, I just get a little tired.

    I have to applaud a guy who tries out different ideas. But it's plain to hear that some things work better than others. Nitzinger needs to figure out what works best for him.


    Mojo Nixon-see Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon with the Toadliquors


    No Apples for Adam
    No Apples for Adam
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    The sort of earnest, jangly college rock that I heard 10 years ago when I was, um, in college. Takes me back a ways. I haven't heard a band like this in a while.

    The real key to the sound is to create these little underhanded anthems with as little over-the-top stuff as possible. No Apples for Adam throws in a bit of the groove rock, but as everything is stated so simply (almost muted), it just sounds like rustling in the reeds.

    There are, of course, modern touches and improvements on the theory. Digital instruments blend in (as a window dressing, really) and the production is really quite sharp. That low-key sound is no mistake. It really places the focus on the songs themselves. And the stuff easily acquits itself.

    Alright, part of my affinity here is something of a nostalgia trip. But No Apples for Adam knows how to write and perform intimate pop songs. Period. This stuff works because it's good. Any resemblance to good music past is just a bonus.


    No Bird Sing
    Theft of the Commons
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    The obvious reference is Michael Franti, but a better one might be Stetsasonic, the original rap band. But in any case, this is rock and roll. The vocals may be rapped (somewhat), but this is a band.

    And anyway, what this really sounds like is a darker and less snarky Girls Against Boys. No Bird Sing fuzzes out a liquid bass and simply booms out these kinetic songs.

    Always in motion, these boys have found a simple, modestly lo-fi sound for this album. It works. There's no need for sharp edges when the pieces move this easily.

    The songs never let up, and neither does this album. The songs follow through all the way to the finish. I'm breathless.


    No Device
    Wowflutterfly
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    All the usual demo problems: muffled production, rather flat vocals and basic musical structure that is kinda lost behind the veil of fuzz.

    And yet, there are some nice moments. No Device bashes out some pleasant quirky pop. This tape isn't terribly good, but there is reasonable promise.

    The main guy behind No Device is Matthius Rheame. He wrote the music (the best part of the tape, easily) and had his hands in just about everything else. I'd suggest paying for better production next time out, but if he can keep writing such interesting songs, Matthius just might have something.


    No Forcefield
    Lee's Oriental Massage 415-626-1837
    (Stray)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    I mentioned in the Magnetoscope review that the music sounded utterly inhuman. That goes double for here, though the results are about 180 degrees from that puppy. The turn around does not, however, refer to quality.

    It's just that instead of reflective, entrancing work, No Forcefield prefers a manic, crazed sound. Kinda like Atari Teenage Riot with less distortion and a lot more fun.

    If I was a DJ at a dance club, this is the sort of thing I'd have going all night. Inventive beats and pieces with a whole lotta sweet stuff on top. The only word for this rich stew is infectious. I'm guessing the progenitors (which include members of Primus and El Stew) had a blast putting this together.

    The main reason for that assumption is that I had so much fun listening. The complex, bubbling songs just can't be held down. There's a whole lot to appreciate, and trust me, the disc just gets better with time. Something truly wonderful.


    No Fun At All
    Out of Bounds
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    If someone could explain to me why Swedish punk bands seem to be so much more adept at ripping off huge chunks of American-style music than the kids in southern California, I'd be most gratified. Not unlike Millencolin, No Fun At All pounds out plenty of punk ravers (kinda derivative of the Offspring, which brings them down just a notch) in a familiar sound.

    And, of course, the singing is in a perfectly American accent. The music could pass, obviously, and the stuff is pretty infectious. Cut down on the Offspring-style stuff, and the guys would really be somewhere.

    Play it loud and you just won't care. I'd like to say more, but I'm afraid the adrenaline is pumping a bit too fast, and I have to go grab a beer to mellow out for a few. This puppy is a real blood-pumper.


    No Innocent Victim
    Tipping the Scales
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    There should be a picture of No Innocent Victim next to the definition of "extreme hardcore." These boys tread the line, adding a bit of a metal edge to the guitars without letting that shrapnel cut through the rest of the band's sound.

    That said, another reason why these guys should be near the definition is that they're cranking out a prototypical sound. Sounds a lot like a number of other bands. From time to time (say, on a great track like "Cast Down"), the stuff really soars. Other times it sounds like the guys got a little stuck in the songwriting department and simply did what everyone else does.

    Which is not to say that No Innocent Victim is lacking in energy or attitude. Hardly. My only real complaint is an occasional lapse in writing. Sometimes the easiest path isn't the best one, and that's a lesson that needs to be learned here.

    On the whole, though, these guys are above average. With some more attention paid to small matters (like making every piece of a song fit), they could be great. Just a step away.


    No Knife
    ...Drunk on the Moon...
    (Goldenrod)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Blissfully overwrought pop. No Knife cranks out the decibels and pounds chords into your brain, and then insists on singing wildly catchy choruses. Does life get better than this?

    Not often, anyway. The feeling I have listening to this record is much the same as when I first heard Treepeople (the Toxic Shock record). And, sure, No Knife travels a similar road. But the songs are put together in completely different ways, even though the result (my effervescent mood) is the same.

    I've heard some great pop records this year, but I'd pretty much stick this up against most of the others. Okay, Alice Donut may still have an edge, but not by much. No Knife has simply blown me away. The truly amazing thing is, you don't have to drop the laser on an emphasis track to be impressed. Pick a song. Any song.

    You will be impressed. Trust me.


    No Merit
    Fomunda
    (Flat Five Press)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    When the jam band gets grungy. No Merit has a lot of the feel of a prog band wanting to go roots by way of Seattle. It's certainly a unique sound.

    I'm not sure it works. For starters, the grunge elements dominate (by default), so the intricate bass and guitar work get kinda washed over by distortion. And the hooky harmonies never take flight because they can't get past the background noise.

    Perhaps it's a function of the recording, but I don't think so. The band hasn't quite gotten a handle on what it wants to do, and so when crunch time comes, the grunge is an easy crutch. Just lurch into a few bars of cheap riffage and distortion and the kiddies cheer real loud.

    Damn, that was unnecessary on my part. Sorry. Anyway, No Merit has a lot going for it. But it needs to decide what it wants to sound like and then work toward that feel. Right now it's simply wallowing, and I can hear a lot more potential than that.


    No Second Troy
    Narcotic
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Melding together all sorts of "serious rock music" sounds--many of them from the late 80s and early 90s, when indie rock trended toward the intense--No Second Troy manages to make an album that ought to kick in some nostalgia for geezers like me and still prick up the ears of the kiddies.

    I don't know why Aztec Camera keeps popping into my head, but the rhythm guitar work here does remind me of that sorta thing. There's also more than a bit of the Unforgettable Fire U2, though the production smooths out more of the rough edges.

    Do people still play music like this? I mean, many people? I haven't really heard it in a while. No Second Troy does whip out some nice piano bits and garage breaks to update the sound. but even so I keep going back to the mellower side of Peter Gabriel and, well, Mike + the Mechanics (though without the dead solid perfect hooks).

    I dunno. I can't really put my finger on it, but I like this disc. There are lots of little things that sound cool to me, and the band has sewn all that up into a solid sound. Interesting stuff.


    No Use for a Name
    More Betterness!
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Hyper-slick, ultra-tight pop. Punk? Well, there are some overtones. Still, this sounds like a big-budget affair. Hell, they got Ed Stasium to mix the puppy. That ain't cheap.

    But hey, when it works, it works. This does sound like a major-label pop effort, but at least it's a good one. And even the strange touches (an extended Andreas Cantor sample on the first track which doesn't seem to related to the song itself, for example) aren't too egregious.

    Plus, there are the guest shots, like the amazing Cinder Block from Tilt on "Fairy Tale of New York." Quality fare all the way. If yer gonna make such a slick punk record, might as well do it right.

    And No Use for a Name sure did. Hard to argue with results like this. Sure, it's a long ways from ragged pseudo-harmonies and chunky riffage. But hey, we've all gotta grow up someday. And this is a better way than most.


    Live in a Dive
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Recorded in a couple clubs with a few edits but not much (if anything) in the way of overdubs. Ryan Greene produced, ensuring a thick sound that's not far removed from the last studio album.

    There are some interesting bits. "Sara Fisher" has some changed lyrics, though the song still conforms to the 30-second limit. "Room 19" does not have a drum machine intro (duh). That sorta thing.

    As the liners confess, this an exceedingly cheap and easy way of making an album. It's a nice retrospective, though, especially with the reissues of earlier albums coming along in the fall. Not to get too much into a marketing mode, of course.

    This is a fun outing. Nothing spectacular, but it does prove that No Use for a Name has been around long enough to be just as tight live as it is on albums. Also, the fans are rabid enough to know the lyrics. But of course, you already knew that part.


    Hard Rock Bottom
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Not many punk bands would open an album with a slow, lumbering, almost nostalgic song. Pretty straight, too. I didn't detect a lot of irony. Then, of course, the usual speedy-yet-tuneful songs commence.

    More Betterness was one of the great pop punk albums of the past few years. Right up there with Don't Back Down and any number of NOFX efforts. Any follow up almost has to sound a little hollow and somewhat wanting, if only because I haven't listened to it 2000 times.

    But Hard Rock Bottom fares better than I figured it would. The songwriting is still sharp and the sense of humor still biting. Just about everything I could hope for, to be perfectly honest.

    Another big wad of fun, truly. The Shinehead O'Connor cover is about what you'd expect (not as scintillating as "New York Fairytale," but then, that Pogues tune was already a classic), and in general the songs live up to the high standards of the band. Good, verging on great.


    Noah's Red Tattoo
    Heartbreak Traveling Band
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    The bio enclosed seemed to intimate that the band lay somewhere between the Replacements (the good years) and Tom Petty (same qualification). I couldn't agree more. When Noah's Red Tattoo is clicking (about three-quarters of the time), the songs explode with a raucous effervescence.

    Now, there are weak spots. Particularly when Noah's Red Tattoo slacks off the tempo a bit. Garage bands (and that's how this one describes itself) often have problems with such things, and NRT is no different.

    But there's plenty here to recommend the band (including one good slow song, just to show the guys aren't completely inept there). Certainly, there is room for growth, particularly in defining a band sound. NRT ranges a bit and sometimes doesn't come home at the end.

    Most of the difficulties, however, are growing pains. These songs have a real nice sparkle, jumping out off the disc with abandon. Keep on keepin' on, and NRT has a real future.


    Noahjohn
    Tadpoles
    (Speakeasy)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Something of a one-man band with lots of friends helping out. Carl Johns is the main guy, and he spews out a wide variety of folk and country-tinged rants and wails. Some songs are just him, some are fully-orchestrated anthems. The versatility of the songwriting and his performances is impressive.

    Alright, so he takes himself and the songs a tad too seriously. Johns seems to think he's making a big statement much of the time, and I don't think he quite gets there. But what does work is the way the various instruments work together to create the sound.

    Yeah, the sound is really great. The lyrics can get a bit full of themselves, but the backing tunes are amazing. Meandering bits and pieces assembled on the spot (or so it sounds). That stuff is very cool.

    And so I'm more than willing to forgive the odd pretentious lyric. And even those aren't so bad once I get used to Johns' regular style. The more I hear, the more I'm knocked out. Quite impressive, indeed.


    Water Hymns
    (Killdeer)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    What is there to say about a band that uses a saw as one of its main instruments? Um, perhaps that the music is really damned cool.

    Spooky, of course, as that's really the only emotion a saw can add to any work. Maybe that little whine might also evoke something of a dust devil on a dry dirt road, but these days very few folks even know what that is. Which makes that memory, um, spooky.

    Add in some occasional cello to the mix and the songs veer toward Dirty Three territory. Which is hardly a bad thing. I suppose the clearest I can get is to say that Noahjohn plays some pleasantly whacked-out roots stuff.

    Sometimes we're talking about actual songs, and sometimes the pieces are just fragments of an off-kilter imagination. I like both moods. The songs are quite well-written, but I really dig the more experimental stuff as well. The complete package, this one is.


    Noel the Coward
    Circle 9
    split 7"
    (No-Fi)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Circle 9 delivers a dose of solid feedback-filled pop on "Agreement Song". The distortion only makes things sweeter. A nice driving tempo and truly outstanding lead work (by the far the highlight). Great song.

    Noel the Coward crams four songs onto its side, including a real short one titled "(Why Are All the Cool) Rock Chicks (Dead)". So you get the idea: loopy humor that's not necessarily in good taste.

    The music is also in a pop way, with more attention paid to the lyrics and song construction than Circle 9. I get YFF vibes from some of this, which isn't a bad thing. None of the songs are great, none suck. A nice collection.


    Noertker's Moxie
    Sketches of Catalonia Vol. 1: Suite for Dali
    (Edgetone)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    Bill Noertker plays the bass, but he writes songs for the ensemble. So while there are a few kick ass bass solos, the important stuff here lies in the whole. That sort of old-school approach is a bit unusual coming from Edgetone (whose releases tend to be a bit more off-track), though the quality and intensity certainly fits the label's profile.

    I don't know enough about jazz to be able to pin a distinct reference on Noertker and company, but this does remind me of the sorta thing Coltrane was doing at Atlantic back in the late 50s--traditional fare with a few added brighteners. Certainly, the two-sax attack (Annelise Zamula and Jim Peterson play both flute and sax, and they often play the same instrument in a given song) doesn't hurt in making that connection in my ears. Then there's the title and cover, which mimic "Sketches of Spain," the classic Miles Davis album. This is a quartet, not a "big" band--as on that record--but I suppose you could make an argument for a similarity in feel. Me, I just think it's a sly joke.

    The production sound, too, is somewhat dated. Well, not exactly. But these tracks do sound like old recordings. The tone is very warm, which is probably an effect of the two-track live recording. Whatever the reason, the feel is very inviting.

    Each piece is named after (and inspired by) a Salvador Dali painting. Again, these songs aren't particularly surreal, but the complexity of the writing is more than enough to give a good sense of the visual originals. Quite well done.


    Sketches of Catalonia Vol. 3: Suite for Gaudi
    (Edgetone)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    Bill Noertker's Catalan series is easily the most accessible stuff ever put out by Edgetone. But that's okay. It's awfully, awfully good, too.

    These songs were recorded live between 2001 and 2008, but they fit together quite well. Bill Noertker is a fine writer, and his many associates have a solid feel for the work. The album flows by seamlessly, despite the many years of recording.

    Just as remarkable is the consistency of said recordings. Yes, they were all done at the same venue, but the recording and mastering are impressive. There are slight differences, but not enough to distract.

    Noertker plays the contrabass, but he's got a fine sense of melody. When these pieces get cooking, they really start to soar. I'm impressed by the beauty and inventiveness here. As I've been before. The three-disc Catalan suite (of which this is the third) is one solid set.


    Some Circus
    (Edgetone)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    The usual combination of jaunty jazz compositions (with occasional improvisation) from Bill Noertker and friends. This collection of live recordings from the last decade is peppier than most, thus (I'm just guessing here) the "Circus" in the title. Engaging as always.


    NOFX
    White Trash Two Heebs and a Bean
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Originally titled White Trash Two Kikes and a Spic, the album's new name was probably intended not to offend those uptight Camelot Music managers who somehow have managed to sell the entire Epitaph catalog for a few years.

    Okay, enough harping on the semi-(self?) censorship. I've been on the NOFX bandwagon since S&M Airlines. "You Drink, You Drive, You Spill" to be more exact. This is much more produced than those days. The music is better, the lyrics are funnier - the whole thing almost reeks of maturity (gasp!).

    What? You mean your satire can be funnier if it isn't sophomoric and stupid? Well, yeah. And the songs aren't all minute-and-a-half thrashin' rants (not to mention raves).

    Highest quality punk, even with the occasional trumpet solo. These days were made for smilin'.


    Punk in Drublic
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Once they were perhaps the sloppiest band with a record contract. Now the sound and playing are clean, but all the early spirit still crams though. At times you wonder if the center will hold together, and it always does.

    This is a little looser than their last album (which had an official name and a less-sensitive one), both lyrically and musically, but still on the sharp side of the line.

    Crass, insightful and a big wad of fun. I'm so pissed I missed their show last month (I thought it started at 10; I was wrong). The perfect blend of tuneage and pissed off punk angst (even with a couple of songs about those who have, ahem, "moved on"). Positively glorious.


    Heavy Petting Zoo
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Puerile, tuneful, and pretty damned amusing. If you think the CD cover is somewhat rude, you should see this poster the kind folks at Epitaph sent me titled "Eating Lamb". It involves man, beast and the number 69. Surely I don't need to elaborate.

    The latest installment in the phenomenon that is NOFX is cleaner and tighter than previous, as usual. Sure, there is even a real live serious point now and then, but not unlike a NOFX show, most of this is around just for fun.

    Anyone who claims to like punk music should already have heard of these folks, and really, Heavy Petting Zoo will not garner the band any new fans. It is a solid album, but probably not the band's best. I still vote for White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean by a nose, but this is really splitting hairs.

    NOFX will never be counted among the best bands of all time. But in terms of total entertainment value, so band works harder or comes up with more. These boys surely know how to keep smiles on the faces of teenagers (and teenagers at heart) everywhere.


    So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    NOFX made its reputation on the road, but along the way the guys figured out how to craft some fine punk. This album is easily the band's most energetic since S&M Airlines, and I'd have to say this puppy is likely the band's best album, as well.

    The formula is simple: Riff through most of the different sorts of punk (ska, hardcore, pop, etc.), with an eye toward screeching melodies (no one ever accused Fat Mike of really singing), with plenty of oozin' ahs. Oh, and don't forget the odd trumpet outbreak.

    In all seriousness, it's pretty astonishing that a band that has been around as long as NOFX can still find the energy and inspiration to keep cranking out superior albums. And even as the punk bandwagon sinks into the mire, I can guarantee that NOFX will continue to pull in massive crowds.

    Why? Go to a show and find out. These boys know how to work a crowd, and the songs are pretty damned great as well. This disc is but the latest exhibit in the massive pile of evidence. A classic album from one of the all-time greats.

    And it's not like I'm kissing ass or anything. Really.


    The Decline EP
    (Fat Wreck Chords) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Punk rock hasn't heard such an epochal blast since Jello Biafra teamed up with D.O.A. for "Full Metal Jackoff." If you pick this puppy up, you may notice no track listing. There's only one, the 18-minute title track.

    Punk doesn't normally react well to the symphonic treatment. And make no mistake: NOFX pulls all the stops out here. This is a blistering thrill ride through the dark side of society. No target is left standing, and at more than 150 bpm, the shots come fast and furious.

    Not many bands would even think of attempting something like this. Even fewer could pull it off. Yeah, some will call it overblown, but I just can't agree. Not with these results. The merry pranksters have grown up. At least for now.

    My mind is blown. I expected something great. I wasn't prepared for a once-a-career sort of effort. And when you stop to consider NOFX's place in the music pantheon, well, that's really something. Avoid at your eternal peril.


    Pump Up the Valuum
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    I'm thinkin' NOFX may have finally hit its stride. Taking a step back from the thickly-produced, oozin-ah laden sound of the last decade or so, the boys first released the stunning The Decline EP last fall. Now this.

    Don't let the completely absurd song titles fool you ("Take Two Placebos and Call Me Lame," "Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don't)" and "Stranger than Fishin" are de rigeur). These songs are funny only in the darkest sense. The band with a broad (and I mean that in oh-so-many ways) sense of humor has decided that it has a few points to make after all.

    Oh, I know, every album has had political and cultural comment, but it was often couched within some really funny jokes and a comfy punk-pop sound. This album sounds stark and empty compared to those efforts (really, the guys haven't been this stripped down since S&M Airlines), and the leaner, meaner feel extends to the lyrics. This stuff isn't easy to laugh off.

    I'm not sure how these songs and The Decline will fit into the intimate party atmosphere that the band like to cultivate live. But that's a secondary concern. After lending sonic inspiration to such insipid acts as Blink 182, NOFX has stepped back and taken a big move forward. In case you were wondering, this is one of the greatest punk bands of all time. The legacy continues to grow.


    with Rancid
    BYO Split Series/Volume III
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Rancid plays six NOFX tunes. NOFX plays six Rancid tunes. Fat Mike writes the liners. A winning formula all the way around. Lots of fun, and that's pretty much the whole point.


    45 or 46 Songs that weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records 2xCD
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    The title explains everything. This is the 7", b-sides, compilations and EP tracks collection for all those who never saw the original vinyl. Okay, so this set doesn't truly collect everything (Fat Mike sez he didn't want to piss off those who put out for the vinyl too much). No matter. There's a lot of fun to be had here.


    The War on Errorism
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    In a way, this is your daddy's NOFX. Not the recent stripped-down sound of The Decline and Pump Up the Valuum, but the muscular riffage that drove White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. The humor-laden outrage that has always permeated NOFX is as potent as ever.

    The songwriting style is more in the hardcore vein (there are very few oozin-ahs in the hooks), but there's no problem mistaking what Fat Mike is singing. There are even a few keyboards and vibraphone here and there (the latter of which may well be a first for the boys).

    As political diatribes go, this puppy is pretty amusing. The album's title is an instant classic (and probably had a little something to do with the boys notching a #44 debut in the Billboard charts), and the humorous treatment of the current "situation" is a welcome relief to the anguished screeds I've read (and, um, written). And when a typical left-field song like "She's Nubs" (about a woman without arms or legs) comes along, well, it's hard not to think that all may be right with the world, after all.

    Lest you think this album is simply a wail against the dumbest president since Warren G. Harding, there are also cool tunes about gated communities, the increasing dullness of the punk scene and, of course, a fun little ditty about the dead end of drug abuse. In short, NOFX is back, the album is great and anyone who gives a shit about punk music should buy it. 'nuff sed.


    Noise Box
    Monkey Ass
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Why leave the industrial dance movement to all those sissy-boys and their wanker keyboards? Noise Box uses a lot of guitars to create a pretty hellacious noise. The sound reminds me of Bloodstar without all the keyboards.

    Noise Box is fairly experimental, though most of the songs could be played at more avant-garde clubs. The sound is more vicious than aggressive. The beats aren't always in place, but the sound is.

    Things do get a little more mainstream towards the end (filler?), but then once I expected something, another jolted me off my ass. Noise Box is a lot of fun. Kill me again.


    nuffnutz EP
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Some alternate takes, remixes and demos. If you dug the album, this set of goodies will provide even more incentive to admire the creativity of Noise Box.

    The sounds range all over the place, from sharp and totally underproduced to techno-industrial thrills. The Northwest industrial scene is alive and well, and Noise Box is one of the top bands in that arena.

    Perhaps most important for the completist, nuffnutz is a cool slice of the wide variety of music that Dolores C. Tucker calls "violent trash". Now if we could only focus vitriol on that bitch like we did on Tipper, the world would be a much better place.


    The Biginning
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Another member of the increasingly technical northwest industrial scene. Noise Box uses guitars, keyboards, sequencers and lots of other tightly-edited sound producers to craft this sound, and the painstaking efforts are successful, as usual.

    Experimental as always, Noise Box has put together quite a few club-ready tunes as well. This set has a nice selection of all sides of the band. Such a willingness to explore the possibilities of sound is welcome.

    The final production has given the disc an artificial sound, and that bugs me a bit. Sparse is fine, and surgeon-quality precision is a nice skill to have, but I'd like to hear just a bit more of the human element. This isn't a big complaint, mind you, but I have to voice it, nonetheless.

    On the whole, though a high quality outing. If Noise Box continues in its mission to merge the accessible with the experimental, I'll be around for the ride.


    Noise Unit
    Strategy of Violence
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Just in case you thought the momentary downtime between Front Line Assembly side projects was getting a bit long, here's another.

    Very hard techno (this stuff is more than merely aggressive; it draws blood), Noise Unit is often heavier than regular FLA releases, but with this incessant techno beat plowing everything underneath.

    A big change from other, more ambient, FLA sides that I'm more familiar with. I think their experience re-mixing Fear Factory shows up here, because the is a nice use of guitars (not all the time, but well-placed) and as often as not the vocals are rather strained. It sounds like someone's pissed, and that's a new trick in this genre. I was expecting something good when I cracked the case; it turned out to be great.

    See also Front Line Assembly.


    Nomeansno
    Why Do they Call Me Mr. Happy?
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    After their diverting set as the Hanson Brothers (check out the press for the story of their "feud"), Nomeansno returns with a "regular" album, which means very wild indeed.

    As usual, there does seem to be a punk base somewhere, but the boys are kind enough to stretch that sound all the way to hell and beyond. After their track record, why didn't you rip this out and play it immediately upon arrival?

    You should have. The songs are a little long, but do you really give a shit? When it sounds like this there is no need to quibble with small details like length. Of course it isn't metal. But it is loud enough to put most hard rock bands to shame.

    And a lot more interesting. When a band is as talented and prolific as Nomeansno, all I can say is thank you.


    The Worldhood of the World (As Such)
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    The return of (easily) the most innovative punk band of all time. And all the expected elements are here: wacky experimental bits, catchy pop-punk tunes with off-beat lyrical content, long overwrought songs that are best understood while in the throes of a serious drunk and the completely indescribable.

    For a chunk of folks out there (including me), it would be unthinkable to compile a list of the great punk bands of all time without including these Vancouver boys. Hell, they've only been at it for over 15 years, and still each new release blazes with artistic fury.

    The Worldhood... is a little more pop oriented than the last AT release (Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? EP), but pretty close to the Mr. Right & Mr. Wrong career-long compilation on Wrong records (where you can find all sorts of cool Nomeansno side projects and other keen stuff).

    In other words, the mindless masses out there just might get on the slap-happy heavy bass sounds of Nomeansno. Tracks like "Angel or Devil" are easy fodder for the kiddies, while those of us in the know will even groove on the prog-punk musings of "My Politics" and other such tracks.

    Just looking at the disc brings me pleasure. Listening causes a neural overload of happy sensations that pretty much wipes me out for a good chunk of time. With albums like this, bliss comes cheaply.


    Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie
    (Wrong-Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    These Canadian boys ride my kind of wave length. Heavy on bass and percussion, the rhythms thump and spill along as evidenced on the nine minute title track instrumental, but the lyrics are what sucks me in. Going nowhere, being an asshole, disappearing, and not being able to stop talking. That's just a taste of the internal madness oozing out in bouncy verses.

    If you're one of those folks who contemplates too much about life to no avail, feel lost in a world that continually changes in the wrong ways, spend days stumbling to an unknown destination, or just like to listen to that sort of thing, you need to give this band a listen. They may even make you smile about being the strange person you are.

    In case you didn't know, NOMEANSNO is the Hanson Brothers + 1, and they are waiting for your lost soul to latch on to their bumbling ride.

    --Aaron Worley


    The People's Choice
    (AntAcidAudio)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Fifteen songs from the breadth of band's career. A couple of my favorites (including the stellar "Angel and Devil") are here, and a number of them aren't. That's cool. While I think a collection like this is a good way to get into the band, Nomeansno is best appreciated in the entirety of its output. If this is your first taste of the boys, then by all means go back and buy the original albums. You won't be disappointed.


    All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt
    (AntAcidAudio)
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    I must admit to hoping that the copyright bug next to "Nomeansno" on the cover is a joke. I can deal with it if not, but still. Well, actually, hearing three gray-haired malcontents filter our world through an unreconstructed punk filter is rather invigorating, though I must admit to missing a bit on the bottom end. Boost the bass in the mix, and this might be damn near perfect.

    See also Hanson Brothers, Mr. Right & Mr. Wrong and Mr. Wrong.


    Non
    God & Beast
    (Mute)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    While this disc has been segmented into nine tracks, the reality is that the piece runs all together. Non uses a series of electronically-processed drone structures to cement the foundation, and then runs some other stuff on top. Sometimes, you can even understand what's being said.

    But that's not the important part of the plan. Non's focus is on the music, and how sound can be used to speak just as eloquently as Cervantes. Indeed, sound can convey thoughts and ideas, and most of the concepts disclosed on this disc are of the dark variety.

    You already figured that out by looking at the cover? Okay, then. The philosophical basis of the album is to explore the areas where the beast and god in Man intersect. Hiroshima comes to mind, as does the American holocaust of the "civilizing" of the West. You can come up with plenty more examples, I'm sure.

    The sounds are unsettling and disturbing. That would be the point. If you don't want to explore the dark recesses of your own mind, then go buy the Hanson Christmas album. Those of us who feel like doing a little grout work in our minds and souls will take the Non, thankyouverymuch.


    Non Compos Mentis
    Smile When You Hate
    (Wonderdrug)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Heavily-fuzzed extreme hardcore. Or sludge squared. I'm not particular with my labels. Non Compos Mentis surges through nine pain-seething songs without relent, imposing it's notion of music upon anyone within a ten-mile radius of my speakers. Cool.

    And these guys (or someone they know) have passed through St. Petersburg. The insert picture is a close-up of a Florida Highway 666 sign. That two-mile long road is one of the non-toll connectors between the mainland and the beach. I drove it reasonably often in my time there.

    Enough of the tangent. There's plenty of fuzz on the sound, but in general the songs pop out quite clearly. A nice trick, one that I appreciate. Turning up the music only makes things clearer.

    Alright, so the songs themselves are sonic wastelands of crashing chords and thick grooves. Fans of Eyehategod, Buzzov*en and Earth Crisis should approve. A cool trip through musiopathic minds.


    Non-Aggression Pact
    9 mm Grudge
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    I first heard these folk on the Shut Up Kitty compilation, where their savage reworking of "Boy" was a real highlight.

    In all, a pleasant industrial-dance outing, with lyrics more biting than the background noise. No complaints from this side of the aisle.

    Many of the songs are rather vicious attacks on racism, but not preachy in any way. Just the facts. I wish I could say more, but once again I am stymied in the face of great music. Damn my blocked pen.

    Highly addictive listening.


    Broadcast-Quality Belligerence
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Speaking of your hip-hop/electronic fusion, Non-Aggression Pact is perhaps the prototype act. I reviewed the duo's first album almost five years ago (wow), and finally, part two arrives. If nothing else, it is everything as before, only more so.

    The beats are thicker, the guitars heavier, the attitude turned way, way up. The samples are edgier, and they're used much more aggressively. The lyrics are even darker, touching not only the scourge of racism but the politics of sex and much more.

    That's really the story here. The sound is thicker and fuller, the overall impact utterly devastating. This makes 9mm Grudge, one of the tougher albums I've heard, sound lightweight in comparison. Hey, if you're gonna wait five years to make a second album, it might as well be fucking great, right?

    Yeah. That's the tale. A new rap-industrio complex, flourishing right before my ears. Something wonderful this way rips.


    Non-Fiction
    In the Know (advance cassette)
    (Grand Slamm)
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. Non-Fiction displayed a number of Seattle-esque tendencies with their debut disc, but now the Gotham-based band has absolutely capitulated. And I like them better this way.

    Now they combine the best sides of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, which automatically means the songs move faster than they did before. This stuff is unremarkable, but grinds the earlobes well. If I'm not raving, I'm not bitching, either.


    Nonoyesno
    Deepshit, Arkansas
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    While I'm not sure if these guys have ever been to the U.S., much less Arkansas, they still win the album title of the year award-so far.

    These boys seem to be Harvey Keitel fans, as the liners contain a monologue from Bad Lieutenant and the album title comes from Thelma and Louise ("I'm in deep shit. Deep Shit, Arkansas").

    This is simply wailing industrial warfare with no let up. Kind of a less technical sound than Pitch Shifter, which manages to sound even more immediate and menacing.

    More of a slow burn than an explosion, Nonoyesno have cranked out a fine album with full sonic arsenal. Damn.


    The Normal
    Warm Leatherette CD5
    (Mute)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    This was the first release on Mute records 20 years. And so the folks have decided to celebrate by releasing it on disc in the U.S. for the first time.

    Inspired by J.G. Ballard's book Crash, these songs sound very much influenced by bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. The electro-pop of The Normal is upbeat and almost tuneful, despite the atonal vocal delivery. In short, a few years ahead of its time.

    But great to hear now. Much more than a historical curiosity, these two songs made a splash in England when they came out, and it's so easy to hear how this sound evolved into what my friends like to call "retro" music, the synth-pop of the early 80s.

    Worth searching out, if you like to hear how music evolves, or if you like good music, period.


    North American Drum and Steel
    Allahrama
    (Brigade)
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    So, like, if Pearl Jam would succumb to the industrial revolution and use a kicky rhythm track and loads of samples. Well, actually, there's a bit more going on here, but Kristian Roebling is way too enamored of that whole grunge anthem style of singing.

    The songs cycle through a number of hard rock influences, even resorting to sitar and other unusual instrumentation. That stuff doesn't work so, mostly because the songs themselves are written in a stock style.

    Any innovation to be found is in the intros and the odd short piece. Once the real songs kick in, it's a ride everyone has been on before. The sound is excellent, even a bit heavy, which is what the stuff calls for, anyway. I just wish the songs had a little more to them.

    Because these don't measure up. Not bad, but not original, either. North American Drum and Steel suffers from generic disease. In trying so hard to find a unique sound, the band has ended up sounding like a hundred other bands on the same mission. I've heard that one too many times.


    North Atlantic Oscillation
    Grappling Hooks
    (Kscope)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    Ben Martin and Sam Healy comprise this two-man prog-psychedelic-laptop-pop-rock onslaught. And while the songs tend to stick to the same noodling-quick-build-rockout-fullbliss construction, there are more than enough ideas and sounds to keep a listener interested.

    My eight-year-old (a full-blown Lips fan, so he knows of what he speaks) declared his affection for the more blasty, rock and roll sections. I have to share his feelings there. NAO probably dicks around a bit too much, but when the songs some together, they really kick.

    The sound is full of synths and the like, but it feels more organic. That's probably due to the use of live drums. The more laptop sections are a bit jarring at first, but take them as a tonic. There will be more brain pounding later.

    Solid stuff. A bit of editing might have made this album otherwordly, but it's awfully good as it is. And with this type of fare, a heavy editing hand is often the death knell. So I'll take this as it comes, and hope there's plenty more where it came from.


    A Northern Chorus
    Spirit Flags
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    I'm so glad that people have decided to make "music that matters" again. I don't mean that bloated, excessive stuff that all the kids with the trendy hair like. I mean stuff that has so many layers it takes at least a dozen listens to pick up everything that's going on.

    A Northern Chorus sounds a little like Joshua Tree-era U2, but with a My Bloody Valentine chaser. The music is poppy, but it's also convoluted and complex and, at times, simply a mess. I like those moments, myself.

    Sometimes the folks sing, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the songs are loud and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the songs are fast and sometimes they aren't. The point I'm making here is that A Northern Chorus knows how to make good music that doesn't sound like everything else, even if it isn't exceptionally hard to figure out where the folks are coming from.

    Oh, yeah, don't think that just because of the bands I referenced that these folks can't be as contemplative as, say, Nick Cave or Dead Can Dance. The amazing thing is that all the songs on this disc actually sound like they were written and played by the same group. Most impressive.


    Bitter Hands Resign
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    Another moody Canadian collective. Seems like there's another one popping up every week. I didn't even know there were that many people in the whole country, man...

    Cheap joke, and a bad one at that. A Northern Chorus is hardly "another" anything. Yes, the music is contemplative, and yes, the band is large and features a number of "non-rock" instruments. But the results are something else again.

    There's just enough studio manipulation to render these songs otherworldly. It's like I can stand within shouting distance of A Northern Chorus, but I can't quite reach it. There's a sense of mystery about these songs (and this album in general) that is palpable. I pull back one veil, and another falls into place.

    Not exactly magical. These folks seem to be rooted quite solidly. Nonetheless, that sense of elsewhere is most invigorating. Quite pretty, with plenty of character to back it up.


    John Norum
    Another Destination
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    As the guiding creative force behind Europe, Norum managed to set back the cause of melodic hard rock at least one decade. Maybe it was the excesses of whiny vocals and Uriah Heep-esque keys, or maybe it was just the stupid songs. I don't know.

    But after that band's demise made the world safe again, Norum has embarked on a solo career. And this time, he's singing.

    Well, he's a decent singer (sounds a lot like Gary Moore, to whom this album is dedicated), but now he's flinging bluesy Thin Lizzy riffs, though the lyrics haven't improved one bit.

    I bet the 12-year-old European boys are just nuts about this stuff, but I think I worked out my affection for such things about 10 years ago. Norum is more than competent at songwriting, singing and guitar playing, but this is still a pretty dull album. Lots of bombast can't cover up an empty soul.


    Worlds Away
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    This puppy is quite bulked up when compared to his album of a couple years back. More of that American Pantallica style, though merged with the rather overloaded sound that catapulted Norum and his mates in Europe to fame some years back.

    I like this sound a little better, but Norum still sounds like a diva in search of a sound. His chops as singer and guitarist are good enough, but he really doesn't seem to have much to say in his songs.

    But he's headed in the right direction most of the time on this album. It's a notch better than Another Destination, though that's not really saying a whole lot, and songs like "Where the Grass Is Green" bring to mind the most insipid moments of his old band.

    Another reference I'm getting is White Lion. The third album. The one that no one wanted to hear. Maybe this is a bit more worthwhile than that, but I'm not going out on a limb or anything.


    Face It Live '97
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    I'm always suspicious of credits on a live album which read "lead and backing vocals". Hunh? Overdubs, I guess. So this isn't terribly live? I dunno.

    The songs are mostly from his two recent solo albums, with a couple covers thrown in for the hell of it. Recorded in Japan, of course. Probably the only place a big enough crowd could be found. If it wasn't, though, I guess they could just dub in crowd screaming.

    Alright, alright, I'll calm down. A little. The playing and even the singing are competent, but the songs are horrible, and the covers are simply run-throughs. A complete lack of emotion. No soul to be found.

    And if not on a live album, then where?


    Nosferatu
    The Prophecy
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Pretty decent gothic pop that really cranks things from time to time.

    Odd thing for this sort of band: it is guitar-driven. Sure, there are plenty of keyboards, but much of this sounds like an early-80s Cure with a metal jones.

    And when the guitars click, the songs are quite nice. Occasionally, the songwriters got lazy and forgot to really specify what the guitar should do, and things sink into the traditional goth guitar wanking. But thankfully, this isn't too terribly often.

    And don't misunderstand: this is still a goth band. The songs are presented dramatically, with lots of choirs sings and such in the production. Sorta like if King Diamond wanted to front Sisters of Mercy (earlier more than later).

    In all, a very attractive set. Things are a little silly at times, but you have to get into goth to really like it. Let yourself go. You can always come back.


    Not Rebecca
    Three Feet Thick 7"
    (Thick)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    A couple doses of meandering pop music. Not Rebecca has serious ties to the Chicago punk community, but the sound is pretty damned polished smooth. This is not a bad thing.

    In fact, the boys have a very good feel for the pop song. The b-side. "Side You", is quite reminiscent of a crunchier Green Day (and remember, at one time Green Day was also the pop band for a punk community). Lots of reasons to like this one.


    Not from There
    Sand on Seven
    (Kool Arrow)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Not exactly what I was expecting from Kool Arrow, but these Australian boys and their brand of electronic punk do have a cool sound.

    But is it really particularly electronic? Is it really punk? I mean, the drums are of the skin variety, but there seems to be a haze of sorts draped over the songs. Samples and the such. Though more noise than anything recognizable. It's all kinda, well, disconcerting.

    So you've got the Australian version of an amped-up noise-pop band (or maybe emo-pop, but probably somewhere in between) with an engineer who's listened to a lot of Man or Astroman? Am I making any sense here yet? I'm afraid not.

    The simple, objective truth here is that Not from There isn't a conventional band. There are plenty of descriptors which can be applied, but really, this has to be heard to be believed. It's really good. And so, when I think about it, that's exactly what I was expecting from Kool Arrow.


    The Notwist
    Shrink
    (Zero Hour)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    The Notwist likes to start its songs off with unusual sounds. Sometimes a scratchy beat, sometimes an emo-style instrumental lead-in. Almost always, however, the basic song itself is a bit more mundane. Kinda lounge-pop with a kick, though the more intriguing elements usually loll about in the background.

    I'm not sure what purpose of the explorations at the beginning of the songs serve, but then, this is a band whose liner booklet consists solely of extreme close-ups of a computer chip, shot in a blue duotone. Interestingly, when the song is an instrumental, the unusual styles persist throughout the piece. But when there's singing, eventually the creative elements of the song head a bit south.

    Not too far, at least, not always. Like I said, the more creative elements do stick around, if only in a reduced role. But these intros are very inventive. Really good stuff. The sort of thing I'd like to hear comprising a whole album. That's not to denigrate the lyric content, really, but the instrumental moments on this album are brilliant. The rest is merely good.

    If the Notwist can reconcile some of its conflicting impulses (and stick with the more adventurous ones), it might be truly great. Of course, very good isn't exactly a failure. There is so much potential here, though, I just wish the band had fully followed through.


    Novadriver
    Void
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Spacey stoner rock. Thick thick thick in the grooves and shiny hoarse in the vocals. Just the way things should be, you know.

    Really, there isn't much of a trick to making this kinda music. Just write some slow-building anthems, make sure your guitar lines are long and languid and be sure to keep the songs in motion. That's about it.

    Novadriver does all that and adds some style as well. There's a bit of a glam feel at times. I like that. Adds a bit of fun to the proceedings. Too many times bands make the mistake of taking stoner rock seriously. Can't do it.

    And that doesn't happen here. These boys can jam with the best, but they make sure to play songs, not extended solos. This is summer music, man. Crack a beer, light a j, whatever. Kick back and enjoy.


    November 17
    Trust No One
    (Slipdisc)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    November 17 puts a metallic sheen over the techno-heavy industrial approach of James Cavalluzzo and Malhavoc, ending up with a sound that is both highly accessible and rather cheap-sounding.

    Five years ago, the lack of warmth and breadth in sound was acceptable. In fact, it helped to move along the themes of isolation and despair propagated by most of the bands who utilized this sound. But for a guy like Neil Kernon to produce an album with this level of aural inadequacy seems absurd.

    I don't think this album was done on the cheap, but that's what it sounds like. When a more pronounced gothic influence is present, as on "Creation", I think all this works better. But most of the album is just sorta redundant cheez metal riffage and mindless drum machine work. No sophistication at any point.

    I liked this kinda thing five years ago. Now, it sounds dated and weak. The songs themselves are fairly well-written; it's just the execution that brings everybody down.


    Novembers Doom
    The Knowing
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    The glowing review on the back of my promo disc compares Novembers Doom to the "big three" of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. I'll go along with that, at least to say that Novembers Doom most reminds me of early Paradise Lost (before the boys started overproducing their albums).

    But really, this band stands well on its own. Not many folks out there are crafting gorgeous doom symphonies (I'll use that word here), and even fewer are putting together such alluring ones. The trick, at least when using a thick sound, is to use power to make things pretty. A lot of folks don't seem to know how to do that. Novembers Doom does.

    That thick sound is what keeps the album on the Paradise Lost side of the divide. There isn't a lot of emotion baring; instead, canvasses are painted with both strokes. And boy, are the results beautiful.

    It's easy to get lost. The sound quickly enveloped and transported me to a new space. I rode along most willingly. I haven't heard stuff like this in ages. I'm so glad this came along.


    Novillero
    A Little Tradition
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    So I'm listening to this and all of a sudden it comes to me: that's Duotang's singer!

    I suppose that doesn't mean much to you, but Duotang was one of the great pop duos of the 90s. A bit eccentric--two people playing mostly just organ, bass and drums will do that--but a lot of fun. The band's first single concerned the impending destruction of Earth by unseen beings who reside in the atmosphere. Or something like that.

    These songs are much more fleshed out. Indeed, the reference to the Jam in the press notes is dead on. These guys still sound awfully Canadian with their almost subconscious prog bits, but there's lots of rock'n'soul driving the heart of these pieces.

    Noisy, tuneful and toe-tapping. Highly-crafted, but in the best way. These boys play with plenty of energy, giving these songs lots of crackle. I guess Canadian pop does say it all...except possibly to add that these boys do the sound proud.


    The Nowherenauts
    Warned You
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/28/13

    Punchy pop with plenty of harmonizing. I almost said pop punk; the Nowherenauts kinda skirt that sound at times, but I suppose this is more "indie" than "punk," if those labels mean anything anymore. A pleasant jaunt.


    NRA
    Bunk 7"
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Thick, tuneful punk stuff, with a touch of the anthemitis. Works alright for the guys, though. Certainly got something of a radio song in "Fuel", I'd say.

    The a-side is pretty damned good, too. Basic, but with enough on the bottom end (almost a Vancouver-style bass attack, though with the descant style of Generator-era Bad Religion). Very short (Two songs are less than a minute, I think, and "Fuel" is not two-minutes long), but again, it works for these guys. Why try and change a good thing?

    Short package, good package. If these guys can crank out groves like this, a 20-track album ought to be pretty cool, indeed. One can only hope.


    Nuclear Assault
    Something Wicked
    (I.R.S.)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    In the last couple of years, founding member Dan Lilker split the band to do something a little heavier with Brutal Truth, and a new generic guitarist wandered by. John Connelly put out a brilliant solo l.p. and Glenn Evans put out the pretty awful C.I.A. album.

    This sounds glam to me, but of course I thought the last Metallica album sounded awful glam, too. There was a time when Nuclear Assault were among the heaviest guys around, and they put out good albums.

    Well, this makes the second bomb since Survive, and I guess Connelly and Evans are just hoes to the cash. While there is no horribly-out-of-place cover like the God-awful rendition of "Ballroom Blitz" on their last work, it sounds like folks going through the motions, copying everyone and not sounding one bit original.

    (sigh) I used to really like these guys.

    See also Brutal Truth.


    Nudeswirl
    Nudeswirl
    (Megaforce-PLG)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    If Ned's Atomic Dustbin ever got the idea to hook up with King's X and Soundgarden, the results would be really awful. But Nudeswirl does combine a touch of Manchester with grungy riffs and some harmonies (though more in the Saigon Kick mode, I suppose), and it actually turns out alright.

    This is commercial music. I see major MTV attention coming soon. The self-indulgence here is called art by the masses, and to be fair, it should be worse.

    I have to put this in the guilty pleasure category. Cheap, but pleasing. Like slamming the Beast on a hot summer day. After a few, it starts to taste pretty damn good.


    Nudge Squidfish
    Shitcanned
    (Orange Entropy)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    One of the many contributors to Tommy Jay's album, Nudge Squidfish ventures fairly heavily into that psychedelic pop sound that the Brian Jonestown Massacre pretty well perfected a few years back.

    You know what I'm talking about. That lurching, wailing, fuzzy stuff that seems bent on reaching some far-off apocalypse. The songs are much more about the journey than on any particular highlight (like, say, solid hooks).

    And the decidedly lo-fi sound helps to smooth the passage. Gives that vaguely "old-timey" feel to it (if its possible to say such a thing about music from less than 40 years ago) and a sense of otherworldliness. I do like that a lot.

    A pleasant traveling companion. Nudge Squidfish doesn't seem to have the grandest of ambitions. He just plants some fine seeds and hopes that we stick around to watch them grow. Sounds like a plan.


    Null_Objct
    The Blind Clockmaker
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #258, October 2004

    That's "Objct" without the "e," something I realized I've been screwing up for a while now. Whatever. The key here is that Gary Hebert (the man behind the sound) makes music that sounds like almost nothing else I've ever heard.

    The general feel is that of the most recent New Order album. That is, there are guitars, drums, all that sort of "real" stuff mixed in with just about everything in the electronic playbook. Hebert is a bit less devoted to traditional song structure, but don't hold that against him. He still manages to make even his most extreme moments utterly engrossing.

    I just love the rounded, full sound he gets on his electronic elements. And once the "analog" bits are tossed in, the whole mess has accumulated something of an organic feel. A band could play this stuff live, though there's no way it would sound anywhere near as good.

    There's a voice in the back of my head that tells me I've been neglecting Hebert's outstanding writing and arranging. Without a skeleton, these pieces would be formless ear candy. But they're a whole lot more. The depth within is simply amazing.


    Gary Numan
    Exile
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    It's been 17 years since he blazed across the common consciousness with "Cars". Most folks haven't kept up with Numan much since. And yet, he's continued to help shape the sound of electronic music through a number of progressions.

    On this disc, Numan's robotic voice gives a gothic edge to his fully orchestrated electronic industrial sound. Yeah, it's easy to hear elements of the early 80s new wave sounds mixing it up with the guitar-heavy sound of German engineering. With nods to New Order and Bauhaus as well.

    An engaging set. Numan doesn't really break ground, but he does mix a number of electronic music movements in his personal blender, finally arriving at a sound that is undeniably his. Sterile? Overwrought? Sure. But at his best Numan has been able to use technology to further a unique vision of pop music, engaging and addictive. Exile goes down easy.

    Numan staked his claim to electronic music some 20 years ago, and he's still mining a solid lode. That he's been able to ride through all the changes is a testament to the breadth of vision. That he's been able to make good music for much of that time is even more impressive.


    Numb
    Death on the Installment Plan
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    When I called for a full-time techno band in the Fear Factory review, little did I know I would find one that is damn close just a few discs down the line.

    Floor-ready death, with the proper amounts of distortion and aggression. This still lies more on the techno side of things, as it is completely created on a computer, but the occasional sampled guitars sound good, and to be honest with all the noise, you hardly miss real instruments.

    This could bring slam dancing back to clubs, where it should never have left. Somewhere between the last FLA album and their FF remix, Numb still manage to assault the eardrums with a barrage worthy of airplay.


    Tom Nunn
    Burning Palms
    (Garuda)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Tom Nunn likes to build his own instruments. Once he's constructed something new, he likes to improvise on the thing. On this disc, he's playing something called the octatonic t-rodimba. The instrument is a bit too complicated to explain fully here, but here are the basics: three sets of 11 bars set in a V shape (like a thumb piano, only bigger), three "zing trees" (which make gong sounds when struck) and a collection of other metal thingies that make lots of glorious noises.

    Sometimes, Nunn plinks out melodies on the Vs. Other times he plays with the metal pieces to discover new and cool scraping sounds. The best part is when he uses many pieces at once to create simply otherworldly sounds.

    That's what can happen when you build your own instrument. When Nunn focuses on the tuned rods, his melodies often sound like something you might hear of out west Africa. Then he'll introduce some of the resonant scraping and an entirely new sound is achieved.

    Creativity is a wonderful thing. Nunn not only had the imagination to build this astonishingly versatile instrument, he's figured out how to play it like a virtuoso. Don't believe me? Wait until a series of bird chirps arrive. You might think he got lucky, except that he repeats those chirps--exactly-- throughout the piece (in this case, "Fricticious Critters"). Sit back and be amazed.


    Identity
    (Edgetone)
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    Tom Nunn makes instruments and then writes songs for them. That does lend a vague sort of professorial feel to some of this stuff, I suppose, but there is a constant sense of surprise and discovery that very few others can match. Weird? Yeah, but dreadfully exciting as well.


    Sally Nyolo
    Multiculti
    (Tinder)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    A former member of Zap Mama (her old mates help out here), Sally Nyolo is at home singing in English, French and Eton (one of the languages of Cameroon, Nyolo's home), and she is equally adept at incorporating a wide variety of musical influences into her music.

    Her songs follow a variety of structures. Some sound suspiciously like American pop (though extremely Africanized), while others are almost otherworldly in their form. Nyolo's confidence in her ability to communicate no matter the sound or language eases the transition, making it easy for me to understand what she means, no matter what I'm hearing at the moment.

    Particularly striking is the emphasis on a variety of African, European and Latin rhythms. Most of the songs are extremely rhythm conscious, and even as Nyolo's voice runs fluidly along her own path the grooves take on a life of their own. I've been charmed.

    While not necessarily authentic (whatever that means), Nyolo's music thoroughly expresses what she feels herself to be, a mixture of many cultures and ancestors. Cultural "purity" wasn't the goal, and we should all be thankful for that.


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