Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 290 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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  • S.O.D.
  • Sabalon Glitz
  • Sabot
  • The Saboteurs
  • Sacrifice
  • Sacrifice Isaac (2)
  • Sadaharu
  • The Saddest Landscape
  • Sadus
  • Saeta (2)
  • The Safes
  • Saga (French)
  • Saga (Canadian)
  • Sages of Memphis
  • Sahara Hotnights (2)
  • Saint Chaos (2)
  • Saint Kristofer
  • St. Monday (2)
  • St. Thomas (2)
  • St. Van Cortlandt
  • Saint Vitus (2)
  • Salmon
  • Sam Black Church (2)
  • Samael
  • San Agustin (2)
  • San Cisco
  • David Sanchez
  • Sanctum
  • Lisa Sanders
  • Erik Sanko
  • Sapien
  • Sarkoma (3)
  • Sarmoon Brotherhood
  • satanstompingcaterpillars (3)
  • Satanics
  • Satellite Inn
  • Satellite 66
  • Joe Satriani
  • Saturna
  • Savage Henry
  • Savath + Savalas (2)
  • Savatage (2)
  • Save the Clocktower
  • Saw Doctors
  • KJ Sawka
  • Garrett Sawyer
  • Saxon (2)
  • Say No! to Architecture
  • SC
  • Scanner
  • Scanners
  • Scar Tissue (3)
  • Scarecrow
  • Scared of Chaka
  • Scaries
  • Scarring Party
  • Schatzi (2)
  • Scenic
  • Scheer Energy (2)
  • Jeff Scheetz
  • Schema
  • Michael Schenker Group (2)
  • Schleusolz (2)
  • Tina Schlieske
  • Dietrich Schoenemann
  • The School
  • Schooner
  • Schooner
  • Kate Schrock
  • Schubert
  • Sebastien Schuller
  • Ben Schultz Band
  • Sci-Fi Romance
  • Scissorfight (3)
  • The Scooters
  • Scorn (4)
  • Eric "Scorch" Scortia
  • The Scotch Greens
  • Cal Scott
  • Scott & Charlene's Wedding
  • Scout
  • Scream
  • Screamfeeder
  • Screaming Bloody Marys
  • Screaming Politicians
  • The Screeches
  • Screeching Weasel
  • Screw Radio
  • The Screwdrivers
  • The Scruffs
  • Scully
  • Sea Dragons
  • Sea of Green (2)
  • Seade
  • Seafarer
  • Seafood
  • Seahorse
  • Seam (4)
  • Seance (2)
  • The Search for Saturnalia
  • Seasick Pirates
  • Season to Risk (5)
  • Seasons of the Wolf (2)
  • Seaweed
  • Seawind
  • Brigitte Secard
  • The Second Academy
  • Second Left
  • Second Skin
  • Second Thought
  • Kevin Seconds (3)
  • Secret Army
  • Secret Colors
  • The Secret Process
  • Secrets Between Sailors
  • Sect
  • Section 3 1 5
  • See Through Dresses
  • Seed
  • The Seedy Seeds
  • Seely
  • Greg Segal
  • Josh Seib and Satellite 66
  • Seki
  • Self-Evident
  • Semaphore
  • Semisonic
  • Senator Flux
  • Sense Field (6)
  • Senses
  • Sentenced (2)
  • Sephiroth
  • Sepultura (5)
  • Sgt. Rock
  • Set on Stun
  • Seven
  • Seven Hearts
  • 7 Seconds (3)
  • Seven that Spells
  • The 757s
  • 764-HERO
  • Seven Storey Mountain
  • 7 Year Bitch (2)
  • 17 Reasons Why
  • Sex in Taboo Creek
  • The Sexy Accident
  • SFB
  • SFT
  • The Shackeltons
  • Shades Apart (3)
  • Shadow Gallery
  • Shadows of Me
  • Shaft.
  • Shai Hulud (3)
  • Aaron Ali Shaikh
  • The Shake
  • Shake Appeal
  • Shaker
  • Shaking Tree
  • Shakuhachi Surprise
  • Sham 69 (2)
  • Shana
  • Joey Shanks
  • Sarah Shannon (2)
  • Shapes on Tape
  • Shapeshifter
  • Max Sharam
  • Sharashka
  • Sharks Speed
  • Sharkiat
  • Sharks and Minnows
  • Sharon America
  • Sharp Nine
  • Jodi Shaw
  • Matthew Shaw
  • Shawn's Friends from New Jersey
  • She Bears
  • Shearwater
  • Sheavy
  • Zeek Sheck (2)
  • Sheer Terror
  • Phil Sheeran
  • The Sheila Divine
  • Michael Shelley
  • Shellito
  • Shelter (4)
  • Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
  • af Sherp
  • Shig & Buzz
  • Shihad
  • The Shilos
  • Shiner (3)
  • The Shiners
  • The Shining Path
  • Shinjuku Filth
  • Shiny Toy Guns
  • Shinyville
  • The Ship Thieves
  • Shipping News (3)
  • The Shiv
  • Shock Box
  • Shonen Knife (4)
  • Shorty (2)
  • Should (3)
  • !Shoutbus!
  • The Shrouded Strangers
  • Shrunken Head
  • Mishka Shubaly
  • Shuggie (3)
  • Shunt
  • The Shut-Ups
  • Shutdown (2)
  • Shuteye Unison
  • Shuttlecock
  • Shylock

  • S.O.D.
    Live at Budokan
    reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92

    Why is this great album so far back in the issue? Well, all of you are going to play it, for one reason. Another is that over half of the songs on here have been released before, and the covers aren't really the reason for the album. They're funny, but not anything special.

    I know they put the little asterisk after "Kill Yourself" as a joke, but still. This is the true soundtrack to the movie Bob Roberts (a must-see). In the words of a friend of mine, "Somewhere in there it stopped being funny and started getting scary." There are idiots who believe every word of "Speak English or Die." Like Pat Buchanan, a real Nazi for our times. Enjoy the joke, but realize some people believe the bullshit.

    Sabalon Glitz
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Meandering pop that, when aided by a cool moog organ, gets really spooky.

    Most of the tunes are somewhat psychedelic enough, with most of the ethereal effects coming via the regular instruments and not their feedback. The mix keeps everything wild competition, and it takes a few listens to figure out just what the hell is going on here.

    Which is a great way to do things. Music shouldn't be easy. And while the average listener could pass by Sabalon Glitz and say, "Hey, that's pretty cool", if she actually sits down and listens to the disc, her reaction might be even more ecstatic.

    I like the way the band puts things together. I wonder if it can be replicated live, but for now, I have to say this is a really wondrous album.

    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Similar in construction and intent to the Orifice album reviewed earlier, Sabot features much stronger songwriting and a brilliantly realized studio sound. The songs rely much less on the percussion and instead utilize a wide array of wind and string instruments as the main accompaniment.

    There's also a nice emphasis on sound experimentation. Check out the intro to "Live", for starters. The soundscape behind the lilting vocals is often stunning. In fact, the musical construction of Sabot songs is the best thing on this fine disc.

    No weak points that I can hear. Alright, if you're not a fan of the whole post-Dead Can Dance movement, you might not like this, but this is some brilliantly realized dark music. Spooky and inviting, exactly as it should be.

    Top-notch in all ways. Sabot has crafted a gorgeous and immensely satisfying album. Beauty comes in many packages, and this is one of them.

    The Saboteurs
    Espionage Garage
    (American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Led by Mark Brodie (of Mark Brodie and the Beaver Patrol fame, if you want to call it fame), the Saboteurs are three English-speaking guys who live in Japan and play in a surf pop band.

    I've got the same problem with this disc as I did with the Beaver Patrol record, and that is that the songs just don't have enough fire in them. They're perfectly good tunes, played with workmanlike skill and the requisite amounts of reverb. But I don't hear any passion, and that's pretty important when you're playing stuff that lends itself to generic qualities rather quickly.

    Well, the spoken introduction at the start didn't help, either. But putting aside that dreadful (and embarrassing) moment, the album just never picks up steam. Surf stuff for stoners seems a bit too, well, hackneyed, but it fits well enough. Too laid back for me.

    The Saboteurs are not horrible. In fact the playing is nice, and I rather like the sound they got. But the tunes need more oomph. Not volume, but intensity. As it is, this would lie at the top of (but still, a part of) the anonymous surf pile that sits in the corner.

    Apocalypse Inside
    (Metal Blade/WB)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Incorporating some of the riff styles and drum work of death metal, but mostly sticking to a thrash base, Sacrifice sound a little confused much of the time.

    Actually, I'm sorta bummed, because I remember liking the advance tape at least a little. Now, they do get a little better as they go into a semi-doom mode. At least it's a little more coherent. More work is definitely needed.

    Sacrifice Isaac
    Tough Row to Hoe
    (Acme Recording Co.)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    A few years back, Lawrence, Kansas got to be known as "Seattle Jr.". Bands like Paw and Stick got signed and released albums. My only problem is that these pseudo-grunge bands generally weren't very good.

    I thought the time had passed, and some bands in the Lawrence/Kansas City are were actually cranking forward with a whole new sound. Unfortunately, Sacrifice Isaac is mining the old territory.

    And it's even old style as far as grunge goes. There's just nothing new or original here, and this sound has been done to death. Repeatedly. Now, for a self-recorded album, this sounds quite good. Everything is very sharp; this is high-quality production. I wish I could say the same about the music.

    I hate to run down bands from my old stomping grounds, but that's the way it goes.

    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Still hoeing the grunge path, Sacrifice Isaac issues forth a somewhat evolved sound. Evolved in that the band has discovered some of the joys of emo, though those moments are quickly eclipsed by truly excessive pounding.

    Indeed, I can find many small bits and pieces in this sound I like. But the overall temptation to wail away with full sonic abandon does not serve the more delicate pieces well at all. There¹s no dichotomy; Sacrifice Isaac is about loud music all the time. It just slips u once in a while.

    Well-produced, at least to say that the music comes across very well, with a decent mix for the grungelism. The band has moments where it proves it can do things other than rehash Black Sabbath riffs, but those tend to get washed away in the excess.

    I¹m confused. Is this still a viable commercial sound? I didn¹t think so, but I don¹t pay a whole lot of attention to such things. On any other scale, the stuff in general isn¹t particularly interesting. I wish the band would give in to more of its "strange" notions. That would make for much better music.

    Resist. Revolt. Reclaim.
    (CI Records)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Sadaharu has always reminded me of the Refused, except not so self-consciously arty. The power, the anger, the blistering guitar licks...there's an awful lot to like.

    Best of all, these boys don't know how to let up off the throttle. The songs themselves have somewhat sparse arrangements, but the rhythms pulsate ceaselessly. This album is constantly in motion.

    And while not arty, Sadaharu doesn't really stick to any conventional songwriting structure. The songs are all over the place, kinda like Rage Against the Machine at its best. And rather than get stuck in repetitive riffage (as Rage did more often than not), these guys are always changing things up.

    Never a dull moment. Never a quiet moment, either. Sadaharu doesn't go for introspection. This album is all about anger and action. I can get into that. In a big way.

    The Saddest Landscape
    Darkness Forgives
    reviewed 12/10/15

    As this album opened, I kept thinking, "Could you get just a little more distortion on the top end of the lead guitar?" This is a really nerdy desire, I know, but the squeals and squalls in the upper register of the guitar were what drove "Once We Were Immortal."

    See, the kinetic drive of the band was easy to hear. These songs are propulsive, and they just needed a bit more dissonance to make them enthralling. Needless to say, I got more from the lead guitar and then some.

    That said, this is strictly for fans of the scream/extreme hardcore side of the musical universe. The Saddest Landscape doesn't try to make this sound more appealing for tender ears. Rather, it straps on a jet pack and blasts straight into the heart of the sound. If getting your eardrums shattered every second isn't your cup of tea, please go elsewhere.

    Because while this stuff sounds great at normal volume, it creates its own temple of desire when the knob is cranked and the needles are pinned. There's nothing wrong with music that should be heard loud. In fact, I'm a strong proponent of volume in all aspects of life, with the possible exception of my two-year-old at three in the morning.

    First-rate stuff. This album turned my brain to jelly, and then I listened again. Sometimes you just have to submit to the pain in order to receive the pleasure. Chain me down again, please.

    Vision of Misery
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    It is their best album yet. That said, even with the excellent rhythm work put forth by Steve DiGiogio on bass and Jon Allen on drums, this pales next to labelmates Defiance.

    On the other hand, this is a fine piece of work when considered independently of that. It really is too bad Roadracer had to release two fine thrash releases at once.

    At times this gets truly inspired, especially in the middle of the album. I really enjoyed listening to it.

    I'm sorry. I just finished listening to Defiance for the fourth time in two days, and my senses are a bit distorted. This is good. Play it.

    Resign to Ideal
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Rarely has grand music come from such understated arrangements. Saeta relies on acoustic guitar, piano and strings, and yet these songs have a power unmatched by the most ear-throttling bands.

    Some credit, certainly, must go to Kramer. He provides Saeta with the perfect setting for its songs. But the bulk of the acclaim must go to those songs themselves, and by extension, the writers.

    Sure, the lyrics are poetic. Moving, even. But the music is what drives everything. Deliberate and utterly without subtext, the simplicity of the arrangements is what, in the end, helps to underscore the complexity of what Saeta is trying to get across.

    Simply beautiful songs. A pure pleasure to hear. Saeta isn't likely to become a buzz band or anything like that. These songs are too good, too real, for that to happen. Those in the know, however, will be eternally grateful for the experience.

    We Are all Waiting for Hope
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    I was hanging out in Albuquerque the other day talking to a cello player, and I remarked that cello rock was a coming thing. It was kind of a joke, but there are a number of bands that utilize cello as an integral part of their sound. Saeta, a most unusual guitar-piano-cello trio, is one of the most striking.

    In some ways, the music isn't all that surprising. The folks picked two covers for this album--"Grand Canyon" from the Magnetic Fields's 69 Love Songs and the Smiths's "Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me"--which fall right into the band's strengths. Not the fact that the songs are moderately overwrought romantic songs written by gay icons, of course, but simply intricate pieces of music that lend themselves to a sense of drama and the judicious use of strings.

    Or am I falling all over myself here? Probably. Albini did the production again, and this is yet another stellar job. The man isn't about noise, he's about sound, and this album sounds great. In particular, the weaving of the acoustic guitar, cello and piano--sounds which don't always work well together--is impressive. Albini manages to keep the core sounds of each instrument at the fore while not overshadowing any other element. This may sound simple, but it really isn't.

    Beautiful. Simply. Without adornment. A delight for the ears and the heart. All that and gunches more. Saeta is part of a group of interrelated bands along with Ms. Led, Rope Inc. and Roxy and Clark. All are pretty damned good, and this album continues that string of success. Most impressive.

    The Safes
    Family Jewels
    reviewed in issue #249, January 2004

    Just some brothers named O'Malley from Chicago (or thereabouts). Playing power pop that ranges from basher punk to rockabilly to dreamy 60s stuff (sometimes even in the same song), these boys simply refuse to let this album get dull.

    There is something of a stock Safes sound, though, and it's not too far off from the more tuneful moments of Screeching Weasel or the Queers. Which does, in fact, make a lot of sense. The other bits are a fine window dressing touch, but that crunchy core is what keeps these songs moving.

    The production is shiny, but not excessively so. The pieces pop out easily, and the mix gives every part the proper space. Nothing mindblowing, but good enough to impress me.

    As do the Safes. Some folks know how to do punk well. Some even manage to lift themselves above the faceless masses. The Safes accomplish both, kicking out a most enjoyable album along the way.

    Saga (French)
    Face a Face
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Obviously, not the Canadian power rockers. This Saga is a Frenchman (singing in French), sending out cool-sounding songs. Yeah, this is sorta cheesy pop (in the sense of "popular") stuff, but it just sounds better in French. Sue me.

    It doesn't hurt that the music is relatively complex and involved. Everything still trends toward the middle, but at least it's fun. As long as guys semi-whispering French don't get your hackles up.

    Really, Saga does a lot with his sound. He keeps the same basic notions going throughout, but he's not afraid to add a little here and there. Just enough to spice up the mix.

    One of the more mainstream things I've reviewed in a while, but I gotta say I had some fun. Must be that expatriate fantasy I've been cultivating for years. Or something.

    Saga (Canadian)
    House of Cards
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    As in the Saga? Canadian contemporaries of Triumph and such? As soon as I heard the first note, I knew. Yes. That Saga. The original lineup, even. That's pretty impressive.

    Not much has changed. The songwriting is fairly sophisticated (kind of a "prog lite") for pop metal, but it's hard to really start pounding when you use so many keyboards.

    I'll say this: If you still pull out Worlds Apart now and again and think "Hey, that's not so bad," this album will impress. If you found that kinda stuff pretentious and a little tedious back then, well, stay away. The formula hasn't changed that much.

    It's hard to believe there was a big movement of bands that sounded like this (the aforementioned Triumph, Marillion, even Rush to a certain extent) almost 20 years back. It's not that this is bad. Actually, I fit into the former category I discussed above. But it's strange to think that a million people would buy an album like this. Kinda cool. Thing is, it's not gonna happen now, no matter how good this album is.

    Sages of Memphis
    Year of the Elephant
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    A dose of that college-boy funk a la Billy Goat, Trip Shakespeare or Blues Traveler, though with a level of complexity that all those bands lack.

    Sharply produced, Year of the Elephant flips though more range than the average band of this sort, and the various background textures add immensely to the overall sound. Most impressive is the virtuosity exhibited on all sorts of stringed instruments. Astonishing at times.

    The basic construction of the songs is still bogged down in that form I mentioned at the top. This reliance on just a few rhythms is a problem, though the band does overcome it somewhat with all the other work.

    And perhaps this is better for the average consumer. Sages of Memphis can offer both artistic experimentation and a sense of the familiar. I wish the band was a bit more "out there", but I'll happily settle for this. I never know I could like this sort of thing.

    Sahara Hotnights
    Jennie Bomb
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    A Scandinavian version of the Runaways. Perhaps you might prefer a Swedish Go-Gos. Whatever you want to call it, this foursome knows how to crank out tight licks and ragged, garagey hooks.

    More Runaways than Go-Gos, but better produced than either. The sound is stripped down, but that only enhances the pedal-to-the-metal songwriting style. These tunes burn rubber and never look back.

    Not yer typical Jetset signing, and to be honest I smell something of a need to catch up to a trend here. Maybe I'm all wet there, but while Sahara Hotnights are perfectly enjoyable (and even moreso on repeat listens), there's this "next big thing" kinda feel to the entire package.

    That doesn't do justice to the band, which is quite simply four young women who know how to bash out songs in a most appealing fashion. Which is more than enough to bring a smile to my face.

    Kiss & Tell
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Four good-looking Swedish chicks who rock? Of course they got the major-label deal. But you know something? This is their best album--by far. Yeah, the whole thing is utterly throwaway, but it's much more fun than their earlier work. That plastic "big time" sound is exactly what the girls needed. Solid and entertaining.

    Saint Chaos
    Total Chaos
    reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91

    Bob sent me a tape containing Saint Chaos' two most recent demos, "Contents Under Pressure" and "Obsessed With You," plus a couple more songs. The sound is very crisp and tight, a lot more so than I expected. Their sound lies somewhere between Fates Warning, early Queensryche and not a little Judas Priest. Sounds I can definitely get into. The only thing holding these guys back from a major deal is their refusal to become Bon Jovi sound-alikes (hear me, Poison and Motley Crue?). If they keep up this level of performance, they should have no problem finding ink in the near future. One hint, though, guys: ditch the stupid nicknames. If I had a beer for every band who has a guitarist named "Fingers"...

    Songs from the Crab Couch
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Sorry so little space, but you know Saint Chaos from the last review. Still good, heavy, commercial metal. If you didn't score any earlier demos, do yourself a favor and play this one.

    Saint Kristofer
    Saint Kristofer EP
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Saint Kristopher is the project of songwriter Chris McCarty. Probably his most famous song is "Swingtown," a collaboration with Steve Miller. That song is here, as are three other pieces McCarty wrote with Miller. The other two are right in that same vein.

    In other words, a set of breezy, bluesy country-rock songs that subtly make an impression. McCarty doesn't have much of an edge, but his songs are excellent illustrations of the writing craft. He takes basic forms and then shifts them just enough to put his own spin on an idea.

    A bit too easy-going for me personally, I guess, but I have to admire McCarty's songwriting skills. He knows what he's doing, and on this disc he sells his pieces quite well.

    St. Monday
    St. Monday
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    If Eddie Vedder got strung out on PCP, killed Les Claypool and replaced him as Primus' frontman, well, that wouldn't be weird enough.

    A hybrid of grunge, funk, fuzz and some of the stranger lyrics you will ever hear. These guys are very odd, but a lot of fun. One of the songs on this tape, "Fonzie," was an airplay staple at KCOU late last fall. Because, as you know, "All the girls wanna fuck Fonzie..."

    Or as another goes, "It's all heavy shit to me...". Eminently quotable, even if some folk wouldn't play it on the air, this comes with my highest recommendation.

    Pops 7"
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    One nice thing about these guys is you cannot put them in any category. The demo I reviewed last spring had four almost completely different songs on it, and the same goes for this.

    The A-side is a fast, pop-punk kinda thing. Accessible, yet high-quality. The flip reprises the seventies wank guitar they used on their earlier tune "Fonzie", but this is more of serious funk grind.

    Despite my personal connection to these folk, I must say objectively that they are about the most creative and cool-sounding unsigned band around. Hopefully some over-eager A&R freak won't fuck with their weirdness just to sell a few records.

    St. Thomas
    I Hate... Part One CD5
    (Tony Nicole Tony)
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    A reporter said he didn't know if this was a major release or what. I really don't either, but I've never heard of Tony Nicole Tony Records, and it came in an envelope from Skateboard Marketing, which if I remember correctly is Munsey Ricci's gig.

    This is a cool single, kinda glam for all of you to be adding, but then again who am I to say anything about that. I liked it a lot.

    If there's an album coming or what, I can't say. This is the one time I wish there had been a little press along for the ride. Oh well.

    Electric City
    (Tony Nicole Tony)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    After a (deserved) friendly lecture from Munsey, I found out that Tony Nicole Tony (never refer to it as TNT, I learned) is indeed an indie with major connections. Fair enough. Now to judge the music:

    Well, the single left me with the impression this could be glam or real heavy. It turned out to be glam, on the weird side.

    I think I almost liked just the single better. The album is rather pretentious, and it doesn't come close to meeting the goals it seems to set for itself.

    I like acoustic guitar work as much as the next guy, but when you start off acoustic and go heavy in every song, it gets real old real fast.

    Potential, but not realized at all here.

    St. Van Cortlandt
    The Lion Tree EP
    reviewed 11/28/16

    While Daniel Van Cortlandt is undeniably the leader of this outfit, he gives his mates lots of room to roam. These tightly-wound songs overflow with emotion and energy. What could have easily been a sterile exercise in chamber pop (Van Cortlandt's songs have fussy underpinnings) is instead a raucous and joyful affair.

    There are only four songs here, but the range and spread gives this short set the feel of a full-length. The sheer number of musical and lyrical ideas within four-to-five minutes is breathtaking. This is overstuffed music at its finest.

    I had an immediate positive reaction to this set, but it took me a few listens to really figure out why. First off, I've reviewed a ton of EPs lately, and I'm beginning to wonder if that's because four-to-six awesome songs trump four-to-six awesome songs plus other stuff. And then I tell myself that I'm way overthinking things. The four awesome songs here are more than worth a mention.

    Perhaps at its finest when all the pieces don't quite fall together, The Lion Tree is a tumbling, blistering thing of beauty. Just let it wash over you.

    Saint Vitus
    (Hellhound-Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    Co-produced by Don "Breaking the Chains" Dokken. After that sinks in, I'll be back.

    Of course, this is a rather tame NB release. The call and response between vocals and guitars is reminiscent of Circus of Power (again) and Masters of Reality, both of whom have new major label albums out.

    Not to be really rude or anything, but I can't find a shred of originality wandering anywhere in this disc. It's a good representation of seventies anthem-metal, but I thought we are all past that. If you can't improve on the past, leave it alone.

    This is alright, but just barely.

    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    No, of course this is a re-issue. Some bands apparently become legendary just by sheer persistence, because St. Vitus doesn't really have a load of talent.

    A load of something though. The production here is reminiscent of the first Sabbath albums (and who would really want that now?), and the songs seem to be some sort of attempt to make a wimpy doom sound.

    I simply struggle to find anything worthwhile in what these folk do. If you can explain to me why St. Vitus is even worth the time of day, please do. I'm very curious.

    Paco... Drop the Chicken
    (Red Ant)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Thick-as-mud funk/rap with enough guitars to keep the kids happy. The sound is damned hard to get through, but the overall effect is pretty impressive.

    A lower-key, lo-fi version of Rage. Well, the guitars are in funk, not metal, mode, and Lawrence Martinez seems intent on making his vocals understandable. Both are improvements, in my book.

    The more I hear, the more I like. Instead of getting dreary and repetitive, Salmon kicks the sound around different rhythm cores and even drop down low every once in a while. My goodness, some real feel for good music here.

    Don't get me wrong; Salmon gets as raucous as anyone. But the abusively thick sound helps drive the music to a place I've never quite been before. Fun and thought-provoking at the same time. Here's something to watch.

    Sam Black Church
    Superchrist EP
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    One listen to that Into Another-meets-Poison Idea sound, and you know it's Sam Black Church. While this stuff is most often mentioned in metal circles, SBC is still a legitimate hardcore band. But man, that bass is heavy!

    Just about what I expected from the disc. The boys crank up the speed now and again to keep things interesting, and, yes, this is a more metal outing than before. But see the note above.

    Sam Black Church doesn't have the ability to really make life-changing statements about the state of the universe. But who asked 'em to? This stuff is fun and really loud. Much better enjoyed at the higher volume levels.

    The Black Comedy
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    My goodness, these guys have been around so long they're almost venerable. It's been ages since I head anything from the boys (they've gone up and down the ladder in the intervening three years), but, you know, the formula is still intact.

    If these guys weren't the progenitors of the Boston metalcore sound (distinctly different from the NYC school), they're pretty close. I hear a bit more songwriting and somewhat less power in the grooves (the songs sound a bit more calculated, that's what I'm saying). I'm not sure if I like it better, but it's pretty good, nonetheless.

    I'll tell ya, the band looks old in the liner photo. And perhaps this is how the music ages. Just a bit more serious, a bit more contemplative. At least as introspective as this sound can get, which isn't much, really.

    Fans will definitely eat this up, and while I'm not knocked out, I've got to say that this is a good album. I'll have to let the sound grow on me a bit (I still can't quite identify what it is that bugs me, but there's something odd somewhere), but that's not a bad thing. I'm just kinda amazed this album exists at all.

    Blood Ritual
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    As a rule, I don't espouse any religion. So I can review Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and yes, Satanic recordings without any problem. The lyrics are a little silly, but they are well-written, which beats the hell out of Deicide, for sure. I mean, the fact they use metaphors alone says something...

    The music really helps here, too. It shows a style and intelligence not found in many bands, Satanic or otherwise. Kinda like comparing the fashion sense of some dork in flannel to a guy in an Italian suit.

    On this album, itss the music that gets to me. Each song, I hear myself muttering "Damn, that's good..." I must say (put on Ed Grimley mask) I don't do that very often. This is one record that gets a rave based solely on itsstyle. It simply blows me away.

    It doesn't matter what kind of loud music you like; Samael will leave you satiated.

    San Agustin
    (Family Vineyard)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Three guys who make rather haunting, introspective music that often sounds like it's on the verge of collapse. Often long songs that aren't nearly as interminable as their length might indicate.

    Yeah, San Agustin does remind me of Dirty Three (without the violin). These guys are bit more experimental and out on the edge, but there is some resemblance. Probably why I kinda dig the disc so much.

    It's so easy to get lost in the songs and start seeing them from the inside out. This does lend somewhat of a new perspective, but in my opinion, that's what music like this is all about. There's no need to apologize for its complexity or its seeming rejection of reality. Just get inside and follow your mind.

    These songs tell stories. Some are happy, some are sad and some just are. Actually, they're all three at once. San Agustin does a hell of a job in putting complete musical thoughts together. Most folks just skim across the surface. Albums like this plumb the depths.

    with Suzanne Langille
    Passing Song
    (Family Vineyard)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Suzanne Langille has often recorded albums that rejected any conventional sort of form or structure. I didn't like those much. That's probably a failing on my part, but also a question for the past. I really like Langille's work when she's got a band behind her that has a wee bit of melody in what it does. Her blues work with Loren Connors, for example.

    And while San Agustin is hardly the rowdiest outfit around, there is a commitment to melody. Understated, certainly, but a commitment nonetheless. And when Langille drapes her voice over the sonic landscapes painted by the land, the result is a more complete picture than might have been imagined before.

    This is mostly San Agustin, with Langille on the edges. But her work is integral to every song on which she sings. Whether as a counterpoint, a continuation of a theme or a simple exclamation point, her voice completes the work.

    A fine collaboration that brings out the best of all artists involved. There's plenty of ideas here to savor over and over again.

    San Cisco
    Awkward EP
    (Island City)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    A short blast of loveliness from these Aussie popsters. These songs crackle with even more bliss than Golden Revolver. Seriously, if you can resist the title track, then nothing is going get your blood flowing.

    What I really like about the band is its restrained sound. There is no mess, just lean lines that simply explode out. San Cisco sees no need to obscure the core of these songs, and I concur. Let the writing shine forth.

    And just for fun, the folks do Arctic Monkey's "505." That's easily the weakest song on this set, which should tell you how good the four originals are. Keep your ears open for these folks. They're comers for sure.

    David Sanchez
    Cultural Survival
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    The life of a modern reed man is almost unfathomable to me. Every stone has pretty much been overturned, and yet folks are expected to come up with something new. David Sanchez seems to follow in the footsteps of Branford Marsalis: Take the old as given and insinuate yourself into every crevice you can find.

    Most artists don't have the chops or ambition to make this approach work. Sanchez does. This album is dedicated to Mario Rivera and Cachao (Lopez), two jazzmen who were at the forefront of adding Caribbean rhythms and melodies to the canon. There are echoes of those rhythms and melodies from time to time, but Sanchez is more of a traditionalist. He sets forth his ideas and lets the band work them out.

    His rendition of "Monk's Mood" is a perfect example. Less formal than Monk, but languorous rather than sloppy. And while Sanchez's tone is one of the silkiest I've heard in ages, there's nothing "smooth" about these pieces. Lage Lund's guitar work is wonderfully complimentary, serving as either backbone or counterpoint to Sanchez's musings. Their interplay is fantastic.

    The centerpiece is the last track, "La Leyenda del Canaveral," 20-plus minutes of sublime exploration. The piece flew by for me, lasting perhaps five exhilarating minutes in my mind. It's a fitting summation for the album, and worthy of a disc of its own. Mindblowing stuff.

    New York City Bluster
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    What happens when gothic industrial experimentalists tour America and decide to record a live album at CBGBs? Well, this happens.

    Sanctum hasn't stuck with one sound during its career, and the songs here reflect that. There are the lush, abstract "soundscapes," the crunchy industrial rockers and a few spacy things in between.

    The more abstract pieces are the ones that the notes say could be part of the new Sanctum studio effort. The one true "space" effort is part one of the 50-minute composition "Parca Pace." Serious Floyd overtones, even while sticking to a spartan gothic ideal.

    You know, if these guys actually sound like this live (the notes don't mention whether any "fixing up" was done in post-production), I'm very impressed. The sheer breadth of sound is breathtaking, and the quality of execution is impressive. Even if there was some "touching up" done, this is a high quality effort.

    Lisa Sanders
    Life Takes You Flying
    (Earth Music-Cargo) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Lisa Sanders specializes in a form of music that seems to be fading from view. That whole folk rock-pop thing, in a very seventies style. Yeah, there are people like Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan, but they're slicker and just have a slightly different feel.

    Sanders has more of a timeless sound, which makes it even more difficult to describe. There's nothing distinctive here, just the solid songwriting and impassioned singing. Some might say that's enough.

    And it is close. I will quibble a bit with the occasional heavy hand, mixing the acoustic guitars a bit high for my taste from time to time. Still, if this had been a major label, the bombast would be much worse.

    A major label is Sanders' dream, and she certainly deserves a shot. She can write and she can sing. With the right push, she could easily fly.

    Erik Sanko
    Past Imperfect, Present Tense
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Just when I think I've heard about everything I thought possible from the minimalist singer-songwriter crowd, here comes Erik Sanko. His songs are simple, direct and awfully spooky.

    The songs key off rhythms, generally Sanko's sharp guitar playing. The production has given these songs a ringing quality--a lot of work went into making this album sound "small."

    The songs are just gorgeous. There's a hint at a lush sound, and that merest of notions really colors these songs. Sanko's lyrics are subtle, but not nearly as much as his music. The stuff creeps up from behind to do its dirty work.

    A real find. Well, that'd be true if this wasn't on Jetset. I think by now the secret's out about that outfit. Oh well. Erik Sanko more than lives up to the expectations set by his label. The quality and emotional impact couldn't be more impressive.

    Under the Dark End Sky
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Sapien is Vincent Serati. All by himself. Serati is obviously a big fan of early 80s technopop (emphasis on the minimalist German style), though he updates the sound with more rap-like spoken word vocal bits and a more emotionally involved feel.

    Still, the stuff takes me back. And in a good way. Serati crafts seductive beats and drops some great keyboard melodies right in. When the music gets really involved, it sounds more than a little like the dark wave techno movement of the mid 90s. Which, of course, had its roots ...

    Precisely. There are very few truly new ideas. What you've gotta do is use the past to make good music today. Serati has chosen a somewhat esoteric set of predecessors, but he sure knows how to make the stuff shine.

    First rate fare. There are a thousand legit reasons to make fun of techno, from idiotic, incessant repetition to moronic melodies and more. Sapien doesn't fall into any of the traps. Instead, this disc shines from within with its own light.

    Completely Different
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Opening with the final strains of Sousa's "Liberty Bell March" (the Monty Python theme) and John Cleese's famous line (hence the album title), is a bit cliche. But I have always appreciated those who steal from Python, especially Creaming Jesus's song "Preacher."

    Only six songs here, and it's a real shame. This is some fine, grooving, thrash. Yes, a little funk or something, something that makes it innately danceable. Not just slamming, but real, synchronized motion. A question: why do both GC bands reviewed in this issue have misspelled names? Doesn't matter.

    I hope there guys release a full-length one of these days. This truly is fine music. It is the finest moment so far for the Grind Core label (just edging Crowbar).

    Blue Horizon CD5
    (Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    There was a time I though Sarkoma was the only great band with Red Light. Now they have some company, but this keeps up the tradition of their EP of two years ago.

    A little slicker production here, but the musical creativity still abounds. Sarkoma still manage to take stale metal conventions and twist them into a great sound.

    Waiting impatiently for the full disc.

    (Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    Their first EP was rather great, straight-forward hard rock dabbling with some funk.

    Well, now it's hard rock, a little funk, and more than a little Skin Yard/Melvins. That's distressing on its face.

    Dig in, though, and you'll find those grungy riffs doing things they're not supposed to, like changing during a song. Sure, I wish Sarkoma hadn't colored itself with a trend, but this isn't that far from where they were. And as you get to the end of the disc, you find more of their old sound coming through (which isn't that far from where they are now).

    Solid work from a great band. These boys should definitely be watched.

    Sarmoon Brotherhood
    Reverse Healing
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Sludge bass and rhythm guitar combined with MIDI-ed lead and shouted vocals. Not unlike latter-day Anthrax with Tony MacAlpine on lead guitar. An interesting concept.

    The songs follow more of a metal-sludge construction, which makes the lead work all the more anomalous. It works, amazingly enough, though I'm not that amused by the fairly generic songwriting.

    Good enough to rouse fists into the air and stir up a small pit, the Sarmoon Brotherhood needs to break out of this trendy metal sound and find a way to provide a creative counterpoint to the lead guitar sound that is very cool. I mean, there's a reason the last Anthrax album slipped by without a lot of notice.

    Fun and easy, but it could be so much more.

    Flower Slides
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    I'm using this term a lot this issue, but it seems to fit every time: Minimalist. The music is, indeed, similar. Satanstompingcaterpillars sound nothing like their name. Rather, the folks play textured, contemplative pop. Not unlike, say Silver Jews.

    The languid feel of the songs isn't really undercut by anything at all. These songs are as thoughtful and rolling as they seem. There's nothing to slow the hypnotic flow, just beat after beat from the endless sea.

    No halt, that is, until Satanstompingcaterpillars decide there should be one. The guys aren't above playing with noise, albeit in a most restrained and understated fashion. There's pretty much one mode here, and it really works.

    A most impressive set of songs. Right down the middle of the minimalist pop style, but with a style all its own. I likes.

    The Autumn Kaleidoscope Got Changed (Album, Sing to Us)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    A couple guys playing that ol' minimalist pop. Keys and guitar, mostly. Subdued. Or introspective. You make the call.

    The note enclosed with this disc says "We're a little folkier this time...," and that's about right. More of a focus on interplay between the keyboards and guitar and less on the vocals (or lyrics). In general, the instruments don't range far from the base but rather dance in parallel squiggles. Not a lot of intersection, but some good movement.

    There's something about the way these songs come together that I really like. For one, the guys are very deliberate about the way they construct their songs. They don't rush their thoughts, giving the ideas plenty of time to germinate.

    Contemplative. Meditative. There are plenty of words to describe this music. Just don't come away thinking that because the guys aren't the loudest or fastest around that this stuff is anything but intense. Cause this stuff can get so hot it burns.

    The Most Wonderfulest Thing
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Understated pop music, full of electronic bits and strange snippets of manipulation. Vaguely psychedelic, but it's pretty hard to put a finger on what causes that impression to form.

    There's a constant mystery to the sound of Satanstompingcaterpillars. Part of it is the fact that the band shifts its sound from release to release. Here, most of the music seems to be created electronically. The vocals are stage-whispered, and there's this odd feeling that the tape is about to snap.

    Of course, I'm listening to a CD. I'm talking about the manipulation of the music to make it sound like a tape in distress. More extreme and uneven than simple tremolo, this effect causes the notes to waver (both in pitch and speed) and produces something of a sinister shimmer.

    I like what I'm hearing from this edition. Satanstompingcaterpillars has constantly surprised and delighted me; this disc is no exception. Delve into the bushes and see what you're missing.

    Speak of the Devil
    (Limited Potential)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/92

    With more than a passing resemblance of the Titanics, the Satanics cruise out of Boston sounding like they've cruised out of the delta.

    Oddly enough, this reminds me of the Circus of Power's first album: production a little muddy (but it sounds best that way), cheap riffs and wacky lyrics. And while COP wasn't kidding, and thus became a sort of bad joke, these boys are kidding and the joke is on us.

    Just in case you're curious, the humidity is what will really fuck you in Hell, the Devil has been known to have a candle sticking out his ass and selling your soul can leave you a lifetime supply of good barbecue sauce (where do I sign?).

    What else can I say about this except: Enjoy!

    Satellite Inn
    Cold Morning Songs
    (Mood Food)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    The press notes that these boys were inspired by Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone, and that's easy to hear. Perhaps a bit too easy. Too many of these songs not only echo stuff from the second (and first and third) albums by the Belleville band, they just about steal them. Each Satellite Inn song has a direct antecedent, even to the point of keys and riffs.

    Now, if I hadn't spent five years in college literally watching Uncle Tupelo transform itself from just another band to a movement-inspiring juggernaut, well, I'd probably dig this stuff. But Satellite Inn is way too close to the original. "Sometimes in the Morning" is a pale echo of "Screen Door," and "Who Are You to Say for Sure?" takes every piece of "Fall Down Easy" but the chorus.

    Now in these boys' defense, they are from Italy, and they're not stealing songs as such. They just love Uncle Tupelo so much that they haven't bothered to find their own sound. That's really the issue here. Satellite Inn needs to differentiate itself from its American heroes. Somehow. Because this is way, way too close.

    Perhaps some more seasoning, more exposure to other bands in this general musical area (the Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets, etc.) will help Satellite Inn find its own grounding. These songs are fine, but a little too close to comfort for me.

    Satellite 66
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    This is still Josh Seib's outfit, and while it's been a while since we last heard from Satellite 66, the music is still as involved and engaging as ever.

    Seib has traveled through the likes of Brando and Marmoset, and he applies a similar noisy art of pop to his own tunes. The production here leaves soft edges everywhere in the sound, but the lyrics always cut straight to the bone. Clever bit, that is.

    I like the way these songs always keep moving. There's a graceful old-school country feel to the rhythm of these songs--not anything particular, but rather the way that these mid-tempo songs manage to sound eminently danceable. Two-step or whatever, the movement is constant.

    And the songs keep quietly impressing. Not the longest of affairs--eight songs in 24 minutes--but more than enough to ramp up my jones for more Satellite 66. This one snuck up on me...even though I was fully prepared to receive greatness. Kinda cool that way.

    Joe Satriani
    The Extremist
    reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92

    Joe Satriani is without a doubt the most popular instrumental guitarist in the world. And one of the most imitated, as well. While some people see that as a way to break out of an artistic mold, Satriani keeps on keeping on.

    This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. This album is as good as Surfing with the Alien or Flying in a Blue Dream (but still a little behind Not of this Earth, which ironically was originally marketed with a laudatory blurb from former student Steve Vai).

    Actually, it is indistinguishable from his last two works. There is no singing here, but the playing is as tuneful and forceful as always. But with all of his technique and power, Joe Satriani has never made me go "Damn, that was really amazing." I know he can. Maybe next time.

    Some Delicious Enemy
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    Sophisticated sleaze. Hair slicked-back, chords-ringing-over-cowbell, fuzzy gang vocals on the chorus kinda stuff. Oh, and just enough electronic accouterments to make it sound big time. Shit, works for me.

    This is precisely the sort of music that, to my ear, ought to have mass appeal. But whenever anyone tries something like this on the big stage (Girls Against Boys, for example), it falls flat. Maybe it's the fact that this isn't just ear candy, that there's some substance behind the tasseled pasties. If I knew what the problem was, I'd be running the world's most successful record label.

    There are moments where Saturna ventures into the fringes of Loveless territory. That's not exactly commercial nirvana, though skipping through distortion has a certain sonic appeal to my ears. It's pretty, kinda like watching a woman walk through fog. You imagine more than there is...and by using your mind, you get attracted that much quicker.

    But this isn't all mind games. Saturna's stuff is most pleasurable. And you won't have to go to the doctor three days later.

    Savage Henry
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Plying the funk-pop thing, sorta like a much lighter version of 311 or something. The mix is very odd, with the (rather flatly sung) vocals way above the music, and only the lead guitar and drums making any sort of impact at all.

    The guys get some creds for plenty of attempts at humor, both musical and lyrical, but almost all of them fall flat, sounding a bit too contrived. A function of trying too hard, I think.

    That theme keeps running through my mind. The songs are well-crafted, too much so, really. The band is wound up way too tight to make the humor work. There is a certain level of looseness needed to carry off the joke, and Savage Henry isn't able to get there.

    The whole disc just sounds unnatural. Like the band doesn't really play like this live, but they thought this is how you're supposed to sound when you record. Hard to say, really. I just can sense this high level of unease. I don't know exactly where it's coming from, but there it is.

    The strange thing is that Savage Henry prowls through the same forest as King Kong. One listen to each of those albums should make all this bumbling rambling make sense.

    The Wake of Magellan
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Lots of band changes and some lean years behind, Savatage returns with its (really?) 15th album, another way-too-ambitious rock opera. Hey, gotta give the guys credit for thinking big.

    It doesn't work, really, either in terms of drama or music. Much of the music is sacrificed for plot advancement, and even then much of the ideas and conflict seem contrived. A lot of cribbed riffs and artificial situations.

    Still, there are some nice spots. I've always liked the Savatage style of Euro-metal (though, of course, the band hails from Florida), and even if some of the music lurches into cliches, the overall power metal sound is pretty cool. I wish just one song had come together for me, but snatches are all I can find.

    Probably not as far away as I think. The guys put a ton of work into this album, and it's very easy to hear all the care and craft. Perhaps a little less of that and some more emotion might have helped. I don't know. It's so frustrating to hear an album that has many nice bits, but nothing substantial to show off.

    Poets & Madmen
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    One of the most venerable epic metal bands around, Savatage returns with yet another operatic outing. It's a ghost story, of sorts, the tale of a photographer who can't separate his emotions from his job. He goes insane.

    The songs are generally told from the main character's point of view, which tends to make the lyrics somewhat confusing. Not a bad thing, as long as everything comes together in the end.

    And it does, to a certain extent. As with most Savatage albums, the focus is on the music and making it sound good. No worries there; the stuff sound great. It's technical and bombastic, but again, that's Savatage being Savatage. No complaint from me there.

    The usual problems do crop up. The songs do tend to sound like after a while, and they certainly don't deviate far from the well-worn path the band has been treading for all these years. Another solid effort from Savatage. The fans should be pleased, though I don't think this album will win over a van new army of believers.

    Savath + Savalas
    The Rolls and Waves EP
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Savath + Savalas is Scott Herren, who might be better known to some as the man behind Prefuse 73. Herren has a number of guises, all of them most intriguing. On this effort, he is the composer/conductor/arranger of jazzy pop.

    Light in tone, but not in intensity. These instrumentals wax and wane with an almost incandescent fury--but the tone stays mellow. It's just the thoughts that burn.

    Herren has a way of taking basic forms and adding new levels of complexity. These pieces could have been written by Burt Bacharach, but the arrangements are much fuller and more stylish than even the best 70s pop. That's why those in the know always pay attention to Herren. No matter what he calls himself at any given moment.

    reviewed in issue #248, December 2003

    Being the duo of Eva Puyuelo Muns and Scott Herren (aka PreFuse 73). Has that cool Stereolab-style eurotrash feel, though Herren adds plenty of American hip-hop to the jams. Muns has one of those voices that immediately entrances. Which means that...

    Right. These songs ought to get just about anyone in the mood. Seductive doesn't even begin to describe the sound. I have no idea what the songs themselves say (my high school Spanish begins and ends with "dame cabeza"...or is that "dame cerveza"?), but man, someone's getting something somewhere.

    I know, I'm overdoing it a bit. To call this album a bedside jam ignores the high art appeal of the stuff. The playing is exquisite, and Herren's added touches flesh out the sound most beautifully. There's a grace and power to these pieces that is missing from the likes of Stereolab.

    As should be obvious, I worked my ass off to come up with reasons to listen to this album other than simple, visceral pleasure. Hey, it works for me. And if you really need to exercise your brain at all times, there's plenty here. Just let the love flow.

    Save the Clocktower
    Taboo EP
    Dam Gila
    Face the Sun EP
    reviewed 5/6/16

    The death of physical music transmission has brought about a blinding increase in the number of less-than-album-length releases. This particular week (as I write this) saw seventeen cross my desk. The advantage of a six-song (or three-song, or even one-song) effort is that there's no need for filler. And since digital transmission has eliminated the economic disadvantage of the "short" release, we're seeing a lot more of them. I'm all for that.

    Dam Gila is Adam Gil of YAWN (I'm sure you see how that works. . .). He dials back the psychedelia a bit in favor of some bombastically-produced 70s-flavor glam. The production here is over-the-top, and it fits these raucous, infectious songs perfectly. I have no idea how much these songs changed in the post, but however it worked, it really worked.

    This is Gil's second outing as Gila, and it serves to confirm where he wants to take his music. Whatever YAWN might do, there is a real future for Gila. And not unlike his fine 2014 full-length album, this six-song (plus one "interlude") set piles brilliance on brilliance. This is no throwback. Face the Sun remixes some awesome old ideas into a sound for the future. Overwhelming and breathtaking.

    Save the Clocktower is another Chicago outfit that uses an old palette to create modern art. In their case, they use 80s synth washes and slap-dash funk to augment an intricate take on laptop pop. The sound on these three songs is the polar opposite of Dam Gila--restraint is the name of the game here. But if you're curious what it might sound like if Steely Dan and New Order were to jam, this would serve as one possibility.

    The band's tendency to find one soaring hook steps out of that world, but it works for me. There's nothing wrong with a little craft and focus. Save the Clocktower is supremely mannered, and it serves these songs up with real style.

    As I listened to these sets back-to-back (and then back-to-back again), I was struck by how complimentary they are. The sounds aren't the same at all, but they do rhyme in a most pleasing way.

    The Saw Doctors
    Sing a Powerful Song
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    An Irish band which is happy to meld traditional-sounding melodies with punk and country music, The Saw Doctors are pretty damned huge in their homeland. Most Americans, of course, still identify U2 (or, if they're actually somewhat enlightened, the Pogues or the Waterboys) as the epitome of an Irish band. The Saw Doctors fit the bill much better.

    There's an eerie resemblance to Uncle Tupelo, particularly on such upbeat bashers as "Macnas Parade". Mainly, the ability to merge a number of seemingly incompatible musical ideas into a seamless and unique sound. But, as Black 47 has shown, traditional jigs are pretty malleable, indeed.

    This disc is a compilation of the first three Saw Doctors albums released in Ireland, and it includes its two biggest hits, "N17" and "I Useta Lover" (the second isn't related to the phonetically identical Gunners tune). Personally, I'm for releasing all of the albums over here, and perhaps if this album does well enough, that might happen.

    Rock with its roots in a completely different century. The Saw Doctors is more than a good Irish band; it's a good band, period. The perceptive songwriting skills and sure grasp on the musical wheel keeps the boat steaming straight ahead. A real find.

    KJ Sawka
    Cyclonic Steel
    (Wax Orchard)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    There's techno for the dance floor, there's techno for the geek and then there's the rare techno that manages to be both experimental and accessible as all get out.

    Alright, some of these pieces are probably a bit diffuse for the floor. They're still packed with punchy beat work and the occasional solid vocal. Sawka doesn't reinvent the sequencer or anything, but nonetheless, these pieces are most impressive.

    Mostly a case of good music done well, I suppose. There isn't anything surprising here, just an obvious attention to craft and an inquisitive mind wandering into new scenarios.

    Oh yeah, and it sounds nicely chilly. It fits with today's music, just as it would have fit in just fine 15 or 20 years ago. Well turned out.

    Garrett Sawyer
    Chronicles and Vanity
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Sawyer has the whole easy-going semi-prog folky sound of Dire Straits down nicely. These tracks trend much more toward the americana side of things, but that's cool. Sawyer does not vary his approach much, so by the end there is the feeling of a rehash. But in small doses, there's good stuff here.

    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    A not particularly inspired title from what I figured was an already spent force. I mean, the best Saxon albums were pretty derivative, and I haven't heard anything from these guys in about 10 years (when they were already pretty damned old).

    One old-fashioned Eurometal trick is to doll things up in keyboards and then crank out the power riffage. Saxon plays that right by the book. The vocals have been processed to achieve an Ozzy-esque quality, but this fare would be too pedestrian even for today's geriatric Ozzman.

    It's immaculately played and produced. The sound is nice and thick. I mean, all of the elements are in place. The stuff just isn't that interesting. Entirely predictable for the most part, depressingly so at times. A couple times I was able to predict the riffage of a song based on the finish of the previous one.

    I don't blame the guys for this calculation. Any way to sell a record is what it takes. In my book, Saxon was never a first-line act. That it has survived until today is amazing. Sure, that makes this album remarkable. Just not good.

    Killing Ground
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    I must admit, I wasn't really looking forward to reviewing this disc. Then I noticed that the guys covered "Court of the Crimson King." And then I read the liners, which read "All songs written by Saxon." I know, I know, such a complaint is nitpicking. But still.

    Kinda emblematic of Saxon's entire career. Here's a band that's made a living (I assume) from recycling. The Saxon version of Eurometal is rarely exciting or invigorating, but it is consistent. You know what you're getting.

    And if turgid riffage and guitar cliches rock your world, then Saxon will do the trick. I know there are plenty of Saxon freaks--some of them have written me protesting my review of last year's Metalhead. I'm glad the guys have such a truly devoted fan base.

    I just wish those folks would figure out that there are better bands around. Saxon is generic to the extreme. Every once in a while a good song pops along--I'll happily give them credit there. But that doesn't happen often enough to get me excited. That's just the way it goes.

    Say No! to Architecture
    reviewed 4/25/16

    Allen Roizman has recorded as Say No! to Architecture off and on for the last decade. Lately, this has been mostly off, but this new album proves that he really should be more on.

    Roizman builds his songs as a series of loops and sounds, and there can definitely be a raga or drone feel to the way some of the elements repeat. Hypnotic, yes, but also propulsive. Unlike the ambient, these songs have a definite direction. There is always an arrow forward.

    Which means that these songs are thrilling on the first listen and even more satisfying on the tenth. Roizman crafts his songs immaculately. Not a single piece is out of place, and every sound has a purpose.

    That propulsive feeling is what keeps these pieces from sounding stilted. They're something like indie rock in an alternate universe. Familiar, and yet . . . off, somehow. It's that vaguely off-kilter feeling that really gets me.

    Given the achievement here, I may revise my initial statement. I think Roizman should put out new music with abandon, but if it takes a few years to come up with something this amazing, then he should take all the time he needs. You can't rush greatness.

    2000 S.C.
    (Products of tha Streets)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Lotsa braggin', lotsa slaggin'. SC does have a few things to say, but he works his real ideas in between what he seems to think are the most important parts of a rap: boasts and disses.

    I could forgive some of that if the flow had something going for it. But SC is just borrowing from all over the place without really making any sound his own. The production is cheap (sounds that way, anyway), which does shine a light on the rhymes.

    And they may be the strong point of this album. Which is too bad. SC sounds like too many others, obsessed with everyone but himself. Where is he? Who is he? All I hear is static.

    He does have a good sense of rhythm, and he delivers his rhymes with a very real sense of style. Just wish he had something original to say, that he put a little more of himself into the raps.

    Wave of Light By Wave of Light
    (Sulfur-Beggars Group)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Back in the day, we used to call stuff like this techno. Technically proficient techno, rather adventurous techno, but still the sort of stuff that falls into that territory.

    Generally a meditative sound, almost in the realm of the ambient electronic, but with hints of many other styles. The beats never take precedence, but they are creative. Seductively hypnotic without getting overly repetitive.

    Not the easiest trick to achieve. Scanner also does well with the sound, twisting the mix to build something of a 3D feel to the songs at times. This isn't full soundscape mode, but there are moments.

    Indeed, the album is full of fine moments. If the idea of techno (harking back to Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream) doesn¹t frighten you, Scanner's modern take on the sound is astonishingly addictive. The hook sets quickly.

    Violence Is Golden
    (Dim Mak)
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    As I mention from time to time, I came of age in the 1980s. Which means I love new wave, punk and tuneful pop music more than a "serious" music critic probably should. But shit, man, it's hardwired into my system. And when a band like Scanners comes along, it's hard for me to keep my pants clean.

    The guitars are more early emo, but the construction is pop, the hooks are mind-bending and the straight-up drumming takes me back to any number of high school dances where I was lucky to find the courage to ask anyone out on the floor. So, y'know, it's not like my opinion is free of emotional bias or anything.

    But, come on, these strident little songs pack one hell of a punch. Stripped down and completely tight, the stuff here is incendiary. Music reduced to its most volatile components. Sets my skin on fire.

    Oh, yeah, and these folks have a woman named Sarah Daly at the mic. I know, this plays to all the worst stereotypes about men, but come on. For me, it's just the icing on one hell of a cake. Which is a cliche, especially since I detest cake. But I love Scanners. A lot. This one goes right into heavy rotation.

    Scar Tissue
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Moody industrial dance stuff. Not moody in a Goth sense, but in a more sparse way. As in the absence of emotion, but still depressed. I suppose that makes no sense at all. Sorry...

    Still, I try. There are some seriously quiet moments here, and I quite approve. Scar Tissue knows how to make use of every tool at its disposal. The beats are from scattered influences, and the music rather foreboding, in a sterile way.

    Cold hate, as the song goes. I'm not sure if this was the intent, but I can almost read electronic dreams into what I'm hearing. Years after the fact, Scar Tissue has created a perfect soundtrack for Bladerunner.

    The odd dynamics will throw off folks looking for a more conventional electronic attack, but that's a casualty of life. Scar Tissue has a very good feel for its sound, and I like that sound quite a bit.

    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Scar Tissue is a band that knows exactly what it wants to do, and then goes about fulfilling that ambition, usually with complete success.

    Almost sound construction posing as songs. This is fully realized in the final 13 tracks, collectively called "The Devices". The listener is advised to either listen to the set as a piece or as filler in a random play situation.

    It works both ways, and the rest of the album is pretty damned good, too. Scar Tissue is one of the rare industrial-type bands to really understand the power of dynamics. Silence can be just as devastating as a woofer-blowing assault. The use of subtlety is underappreciated these days, and an album such as this one point that out only too much.

    A wondrous labor, even more incredible when you consider Scar Tissue's last album came out a little more than six months ago. To realize works of such power in such a short period of time is amazing. There is far too much happening here to give full credit. Suffice to say this is one of those "important" albums.

    Rebuild remix album
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Ten remixes and six new tracks from one of the better experimental electronic bands around. The songs have a haunting quality, something that is aided by the spectacular use of silence.

    And the remixes don't diminish the greatness at all. I don't think they add a hell of a lot, but as the level was pretty high to begin with, I don't have many complaints.

    The new stuff travels in the same vein as before, subtle brain scraping songs which have as much impact on reflection as they do when first heard. Basic explorations of sound, the sort of intense quest that few are willing to undertake.

    Top notch, as usual. Scar Tissue is a band at the top of its game. And this game is itself one of the most challenging around.

    (Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #2, 11/15/91

    Ex-Nuge drummer (not to mention mega-producer) Tom Werman is listed as "Production Consultant" on this puppy. The sound is commercial, but since most of you play the Crue, Tesla or Queensryche (and why not?) give this a listen. It's certainly as interesting as those.

    The real attraction here for me was the cool vocal style. There is a nice gruffness, not anywhere near grindcore or death metal, but nowhere near the producer-pumped sound lots of majors are cranking out these days. Dig it.

    Scared of Chaka
    Tired of You
    (Sub City)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    The fuzzed vocals and strident guitars remind me strongly of the Lee Harvey Oswald Band. As do the little techno touches (fuzzed out organ, etc.). The sound is simply altogether distorted. And the speed is high.

    Energy galore. Scared of Chaka hails from Albuquerque, and in fact, the band's contact address is reasonably close to my brothers's pad in the Big Q. I get the feeling I know where these guys are coming from, and I sure like tapping into the source.

    And that's the key here. Electric. Scared of Chaka is fast but tight, a live wire act where the mess is in the sound and not the playing. The only way is all the way. Dive in. Experience the rush.

    Truly invigorating. One of those cool discs which rises out of nowhere to bit you on the ass. Yep, I'm pretty stoked. And definitely amped. All the way.

    Scaries 7" EP
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    The press calls this rockabilly. So that's what it is.

    It's not rockabilly. Perhaps something more akin to stridently sparse post-punk pop. But then, that's getting silly. The honest truth is that the band itself probably has no idea what to call its music. It's always better that way.

    A two-song EP. Whatever. The A-side, "Scenes of Broken Things" has a great rhythm track, with just a little guitar and some hyper vocals added. Way cool.

    The flip, "Too Few", rips a little more with the guitars. but the rhythm section is just as manic as on the A-side. I think this sound might have been aided by a little more aggressive production (you really have to crank up the volume to hear anything), but too much would have killed the coolness. I'll settle for this slab.

    The Scarring Party
    Come Away from the Light
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Any band that features accordion, banjo, tuba, a variety of reeds and strings and something called a "tongue drum" is a winner in my book.

    True enough, this stuff is extraordinarily mannered. Daniel Anthony Bullock sounds like the bastard child of Leon Redbone and Les Claypool. Maybe that's what he imagines to be "old timey" singing. Or maybe he just thinks it sounds cool. But again, when played off the accordion and tuba and the like, it works.

    Nonetheless, there's no escaping the novelty nature of this stuff. The Scarring Party is interesting because it's so weird. And if I'm calling something weird, you know it must be true. The songs are a bit clunky, which might also be part of that whole gimmick. The sound is immaculate, giving lots of space to each of the instruments while remaining intimate.

    All qualifications aside, this is a stirring album. It does help to have a preference for the unusual--but if you didn't, you wouldn't be reading this, would you? Give the accordion a few minutes and see how it grows on you.

    Death of the Alphabet EP
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Four tracks from the band's upcoming album and four tracks just fer the hell of it. Schatzi (not named for Marge Schott's dog, or they would've spelled it differently) plays a most pleasant form of power pop. The sounds bound forth with aplomb.

    There is a hint of the emo, though that's been mostly processed out in the production. Which is okay. These guys have a way of making vaguely atonal hooks snap in tight.

    There's nothing here that specifically grabs me, but on the whole the package is impressive. I kept wanting to hear the next song. Which is to say: These boys know how to make this kinda music really swing. A full-length would be more than welcome in these quarters.

    split EP with Motion City Soundtrack
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Two bands whose stripped-down old school approach to emo is almost archaic. The commitment to anthemic choruses and the occasional nice melody remains, but the focus (to my hears) is on how the parts of the band work together.

    Motion City Soundtrack is the more adventurous of the two. Of course, its songs were recorded last year, while Schatzi put down its tracks in the summers of 2000 and 2001. Still, there is a solid resonance between each band's work.

    I ought mention that Schatzi throws in a decidedly straight rendition of "Any Way You Want It" that still sounds punk. Must be the flat tone on the guitars. Very cool. A nice way to wrap up a fun set of songs. This puppy is way too short.

    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    Veering from acoustic ambient to atmospheric pop (all mostly instrumental), Scenic sounds like nothing less than an odd pairing of Pink Floyd and Pavement. Of course, I've never liked Pink Floyd or Pavement (hey, no death threats, okay?).

    Man, are these folks really trying their asses off. You can hear it in every song. Massive instrumentation and overdubbed everything, like My Bloody Valentine at its most masturbatory. If it only went somewhere...

    Well, actually, I guess it does. But still, this seems like an awful lot of work to arrive at a sound that differs from easy listening only in the number of instruments used. Perfectly pleasant, but far too often perfectly dull.

    I give the folks higher marks than they probably deserve just because they worked so damned hard. I just hope they think they got their money and time's worth.

    Scheer Energy
    Hollywood Notions
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Somewhat clunky guitar pop, infused with a very overt religious message. Not a particularly preachy one, but just a lot of ideas. Those ideas are the best part of the disc.

    Because the music is not great. James Taylor thrice rebuked, or something like that. But Scheer Energy is a "good news" spreader, and that fairly non-judgmental message is refreshing to hear.

    Even on the title track, the lyrics don't condemn, but attempt to enlighten. A much more effective way of operating, if you ask me. Alright, there's a bit too much "Lord Jesus" for my tastes (us born-again atheists are a strange breed). But the presentation is fairly good.

    The music, though, is just too milquetoast. The melodies aren't particularly good, and the nuts and bolts in the rhythm department can get downright awful. Still, the message is well-presented, if not coupled with good tunage.

    Video World
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    Musically, Scheer Energy hasn't gotten much past its 80s synth-laden guitar pop sound. The songwriting is a bit clunky. Milquetoast is the word I used before, and it still fits. But I didn't expect any musical revelations here. What I liked about the earlier Scheer Energy disc was the way the lyrics presented Christianity as a positive, and not a negative, faith.

    And that's still here, but faith is presented as a solution to all of life's problems, without any real corroborating philosophy. "Believe and life is automatically a lot better" is the message. No Christian I know would subscribe to that argument. Any faith takes work: Spiritual, mental and physical.

    I wish there was a bit more here than Jesus as some spiritual superhero. Well, there are plenty of diatribes against empy Hollywood values (not exactly virgin territory), but I find the solutions presented as less than convincing.

    Hey, I'm a born-again atheist, but I can recognize that there are plenty of good arguments for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, you name it. I've read and heard a number of them. Scheer Energy does not make its case very well.

    Jeff Scheetz
    Pawn Shop
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Instrumental guitar, with a greater emphasis on feeling than pyrotechnics. Always a plus, in my book.

    Scheetz isn't the world's greatest songwriter. His basic structures are a little shop-worn, and at times he kinda resorts to familiar lines as a way to extricate himself from a particularly tough spot in a song.

    But he redeems those fairly serious problems with his playing style. Scheetz is quite good at evoking a mood and then working within that sound. Sometimes the musical ideas aren't the greatest, but I can hear him trying.

    He's got the right idea, if not the perfect execution. I'd prefer to hear impassioned playing than wild fingering exercises any day. And there's plenty of feeling here.

    (5 rue Christine)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Instrumental in form, even when vocals intrude into the universe. I guess what I'm saying there is that these songs don't conform to the usual verse-chorus format. Rather, they meander around in the more abstract way that a lot of instrumental bands do.

    Some truly long songs, too, including a near-12 minute stunner called "Echolalia... Curvilinear." An awful lot of ideas are spinning around these here parts, and they don't always connect in the most rational of ways. You gotta let go to see the underlying form.

    Moving back a few steps doesn't help much. You've got to cede control to Schema, to let the band take you where it wants to go. Follow all the side paths. Don't let your mind try and impose some sort of false order. Like I said: Let go.

    And then Schema will begin to make sense. The music works as a series of lines, but their points of contact aren't always sharp. There is as much parallel thinking as contrapuntal. Schema doesn't make it easy. But boy, does it satisfy.

    Michael Schenker Group
    Live Unforgiven World Tour
    (Shrapnel) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    You might ask, "Why?" It's a fair question. I suppose the easy answer is that MSG has fallen so out of favor that there isn't much to be found in stores outside of the used vinyl bins.

    Two singers are used. Keith Slack handles most of the chores, but Kelly Keeling sings the songs from the latest MSG opus (where he is the singer). I don't understand, but I can say that Keeling belts the tunes out much better than Slack. I wish he'd been singing the whole show.

    I still don't know why, though. Schenker can still rip off nice guitar solos, and his current band does better than simply run through the old war horses. There's some spirit in the sound.

    That's all well and good, but still. The old stuff still impresses more. Maybe that's nostalgia speaking, but with MSG, that's all there is.

    Be Aware of Scorpions
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Not sure what to make of that title. I mean, most everyone know the history, right? Whatever. What I can say is this is right in the same vein of what Michael Schenker and his various bandmates over the years have played.

    Solid, melodic rock with the occasional incendiary guitar solo (though Schenker does seem to have learned that faster isn't necessarily better). The songs are fine, but somewhat generic. Which is much the same complaint I've often had about his stuff.

    The production values are solid. There isn't an overwhelming sense of ponderous pomposity (as, say, with recent Aerosmith), but rather a "same as it ever was" kinda feel.

    Now, if you're still stuck in the 70s and think that thick riffage and midtempo rockers are still the rage, well, this probably would do you right. I find it a bit dull is all.

    Running Out of Time
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Worsel Strauss and Zodi Paulinen have created an album of electronic wonder. The songs are generally written in the style of swinging 60s instrumental lounge music, but the execution is largely electronic.

    The German members of Schleusolz had the impeccable taste to send their tunes to Kramer for mastering. I'd guess that Kramer found a couple ways to bring out even more of the whimsical nature of these songs. In any case, this is just the sort of project I associate with the man.

    I suppose many folks would find the incongruity of electronic (almost to the point of techno, at times) renditions of lounge-y stuff far too off-putting. It is a little weird. But this duo infuses so much fun into these pieces that I cannot imagine people running away.

    This disc is a wonderment. Silly, certainly, and also a bit on the odd side. Right up my alley, I guess. All I can say is that it left me with a smile that's hard to erase.

    The Weinheim Experiment
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    A couple guys from Frankfurt who use the entire palette of electronic music to create songs that are absolutely impossible to turn off.

    Really. These pieces are impossibly bright, impossibly catchy and impossibly virtuosic. I loved the first album, and this is one of two that will be released this summer. The eighteen tracks meander over all sorts of territory, from old school Krautrock techno to stuff that sounds like a campy Kurt Weill. With plenty of jazzy, lounge and booty-shakin' beats in between.

    Yes. All that is true. This might be the most accessible art music you've ever heard. There's a lot of experimentation, but it is cached within some of the tastiest hooks and slinkiest grooves around.

    Pick a track, any track. If you're not hooked, then it's more than possible that you're not human. This music creates something of an automatic response in everyone I've exposed to it. Folks get giddy, if not downright turned on. Good times are had by all.

    Tina Schlieske
    Slow Burn
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    A few folks in my neck of the woods wondered what the hell Tift Merritt was doing last year when she released the funky country soul of Tambourine last year. I'm sure a few of Tina Schlieske's fans might be wondering the same thing when they hear this.

    The longtime leader of Tina and the B-Sides steps out solo here, and she gets much, much more soulful than any of her previous albums even thought about going. There's just no holding back, and Schlieske proves herself to be one hell of a soul belter.

    Perhaps it is the, shall we say, indelicate timbre of Schlieske's vocals that make this modest shift in sound even more remarkable. She's got power, but not a lot of subtlety. But that's okay. She lets the background singers do their work, and she simply wails. Comparisons to Janis Joplin or Melissa Etheridge are obvious (especially considering her "regular" gig as a lesbian activist), but Schlieske has a feel all her own. She can pull back from time to time, and she's more roots and soul than Etheridge ever was.

    A better comparison would be Bonnie Raitt--without the stinging guitar, of course. Schlieske sticks to acoustic work, and she uses that guitar quite well. By any measure, this is the most mature and assured album of her career. Quite a step forward.

    Dietrich Schoenemann
    An Agenda and a Beat
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    A studio mix disc, though Dietrich Schoenemann's notes say that he tried to put this set together as if he was mixing for a club floor. Well, of course.

    All snideness from me aside, Schoenemann did a pretty good job of making this set sound "live." The segues are fluid and the music choice is solid. Schoenemann sticks to fairly sterile, more European-sounding stuff (the sorta music that grew out of Kraftwerk, etc.), which make this disc something of a sonic exploration for those of us over here in the U.S. who don't get exposed to such things on a regular basis.

    Enjoyable, surely. I'm never quite sure how to judge these types of albums, but I can say that I like Schoenemann's taste and the way he puts together a set. That can't be bad.

    The School
    Loveless Unbeliever
    (Minty Fresh)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Borrowing from almost every effervescent pop sound since the 60s, the School floats its way toward a certain sort of heaven. The songs themselves do get a bit dark in terms of lyrics, but the music is pretty much pure spun candy.

    And I'm not complaining, either. The key is to do it right, and these folks have a handle on something special. The songs are simply gorgeous. Better yet, they have a bit going on under the surface. You can bop, and then keep coming back for more.

    The sound is very late 60s Beach Boys (though with largely female vocals) done up in a post-millennial shine. There are hints of Spector, some Bacharachian cheese and other additions, but largely these songs are bouncy and bright, with a few overdubbed harmonies to sweeten the mix.

    Immediately arresting and continuously engaging. The School may seem to simply be a bit of fluff, but I think these songs will stay around for the long run. It's all so wonderful. (**sigh**)

    Hold on Too Tight
    (54-40 or Fight)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    I was hooked with the first song (second track), "Carrboro," and its first lines: "You moved to Carrboro so you could find/Places to go that were not so unkind." You kinda have to know the whole Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area for that to make sense, but I thought it was funny.

    The opener for the next one, though, convinced me this is a great album: "You said tonight/That God was on our side/So I prayed for you to die." Damn. Wish I'd thought of that one.

    Schooner reminds me a lot of Magnetic Fields, but with more of an eclectic indie rock musical base. Indeed, the songs themselves cycle through most of rock history ("Pray for You to Die" is something of a 50s ballad, and it works really well that way), even as the lyrics wax post-modern (and blackly witty) all the way.

    You gotta listen to this one, but as the examples I threw in should tell you, it's worth the effort. Albums this cutting come along seldom. Albums that make you smile while eviscerating the human race are absolutely devastating.

    Kate Schrock
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Somewhere between country, rock and folk. The songs are slowly-building emotional bits of self-exploration. Amusement, anger, angst and plenty of other feelings course through the music and the lyrics.

    Precisely the sort of music that is too often rendered overblown and bombastic by an inept hand at the boards. Schrock and co-producer and Steve Drown do get a little happy with some of the extras, but the guitars and keyboards are kept in check.

    And since the main attraction here is Schrock's voice and lyrics, there's no need for anything to drown them out. Sure, she occasionally loses flow, trying to say more than necessary in one line, but not enough to grate.

    A beautiful album, one that doesn't compromise in any way. Heavy hands would have wrecked it, but Schrock knew what she wanted, and the results speak for themselves.

    Toilet Songs
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    A really nice Euro-metal take on American rock trends of the past 10 years, from glam to industrial and everything in between. Weird and wildly diverse, but still fairly amusing.

    It doesn't work all the time. Schubert is trying on too many hats to really settle down on a simply style, and there simply is no center to the disc. But the many bits of silliness (particularly the intros that had nothing to do with the songs) kept me going.

    Schubert tried, and occasionally succeeded. This isn't any worse than most cheesy American "metal" albums of the past few years, and on inspired moments like the bizarre rendition of "Cheek to Cheek", it's much better. With some consistency, Schubert could really do something.

    Sebastien Schuller
    Sebastien Schuller
    (Minty Fresh)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Another Minty Fresh offering, but one that is utterly different than the Poems. These are slightly chilly electronic pop musings. The extremely arty side of pop.

    Just as impressive, in its own way. And as this stuff is hardly accessible, I was constantly amazed at how quickly each song wormed its way into my brain. There's something almost stream of consciousness about Schuller's writing style...or maybe it's just that his brain and mine are kindred spirits.

    The sound is spare and often minimalist. Not isolated or anything like that, but not enveloping in any way. This one comes at the listener straight through the brain.

    So if you like your pop visceral and intuitive, Schuller is not your man. But I dig the way he expresses himself. I'm tuned in to his wavelengths, that's for sure.

    Ben Schultz Band
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    Even the press admits the band will "tramp heavily in the footsteps already paved by the likes of Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson." If you like those guitarists, then you'll like this album.

    Commercial fare, non-threatening or offending. Like all guitar "gods", Schultz tends to rely on speed more than content, but then isn't that what all the little headbangers are after?

    Sorry to be so rude. This is a decent, (mostly) instrumental, guitar album. I just wish someone would have the balls to walk outside the already paved footsteps.

    Sci-Fi Romance
    The Ghost of John Henry
    reviewed in issue #340, September 2012

    Veering from the jaunty punk-country of mid-80s Mekons to the more lurching, dirgethemic sounds of 16 Horsepower, Sci-Fi Romance digs some serious furrows in the americana sound.

    Definitely not happy-go-lucky. Even the more uplifting songs tend to be downers (thus the obvious references to Nick Cave in the press notes), but like the blues, that simply lifts the spirits of the listener. Sci-Fi Romance sings about the dark places, but addressing these themes seems to suggest that there might be light just around the corner. Even if the corner seems like it might be miles away.

    An original take on this sub-sub-genre. The stripped-down, minimalist punk sound brings a haunted feel to these songs. The darkness is certainly intentional. And it brings even more depth to these songs.

    Lovely in its terror, The Ghost of John Henry leaves a mark with its passing. I imagine it will do so with repeat listenings. I can't wait.

    Human Head 7"
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Throbbing grind that uses basic hardcore rhythms and metal riffs to decent effect. The production leaves a little to be desired, but the band's attitude is what keeps these two songs buoyant. The flip, "Tempest of Skulls", is a notch better than the a-side, but both are good.

    Good, not great. The band is obviously trying to bridge the gaps between grindcore, metal and hardcore, and if the knobs had been twisted to allow a little more clarity, it just might have worked.

    And good idea, and the musicians' execution is right on the mark. The songs are well-crafted and even catchy (a real anomaly when talking about this sort of thing). I'd love to hear more.

    Guaranteed Kill
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    I bitched somewhat about the production on the 7", and I was informed that this is exactly the band and producer wanted. Thick, sludginess that obscures any subtlety in the performance.

    But Scissorfight isn't in the game to be subtle. This is Eyehategod territory, except that this band has a knack for making the extreme sound almost accessible. I mean, it's got a beat and I can dance to it...

    And that's really the surprise here. There have been plenty of hardcore sludge bands come out of the northeast (my personal favorite is Glazed Baby, though Sam Black Church and obviously Seka--Mind Bomb, whatever--also come to mind), but Scissorfight really twists the concept into a whole new shape.

    A good shape, by the way. This is pure fun, and any other reaction is silly. Off the scale on the amusement factor. Okay, so it's low-class crap that makes Killdozer sound sophisticated. Doesn't mean you can't have a good laugh. I think the boys would approve.

    Ball Deep
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Even more into the sludge blooze 'n' boogie than before, Scissorfight thrashes out another set of impossibly heavy tunes. And see, they've still got these wonderful grooves. Hard to explain, even harder to believe.

    Oh yeah, this is an acquired taste. And as many purveyors of this sound have fallen off in the past couple of years, it remains somewhat surprising that Scissorfight is able to soldier forth and keep kicking through the goo.

    Ever moving and amusing, this disc is the best Scissorfight yet. The songs blare forth with fury and surprising deftness. The guitars are agile, though awfully thick. And talk about getting down. Hard to believe a boogie can be so heavy. But there it is.

    Perhaps it takes a couple massive head traumas to really dig this stuff, but fuckit. I'll wade into the morass any day of the week. Scissorfight has gotten heavier, and yet found even more addictive riffola. Like the glory days of Agony Column. With better production.

    The Scooters
    I Can See Your House From Here
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Lush, fuzzy pop with a pleasant underbite. The sound is glorious and full. The lyrics tend toward dark and cynical, though there is the occasional spot of light--just to mix things up.

    But wow, this stuff is so thick and chewy! I just love the way the songs ooze out of the disc. There are plenty of fast pieces to accompany the almost-symphonic mid-tempo blooms, but everything is well-conceived and executed. The Scooters give solid craft a fine live feel.

    And that's about as good a compliment as there is. A massive effort went into the creation of this album, but these songs sound as if they were just tossed off two minutes ago.

    That kind of nonchalant brilliance always brings a smile to my face. These folks sure do play the hell out of this style. Who cares what the kids are buying. Good music will never go out of style. It just doesn't always pay the bills. Guess we'll all have to live with a great album, and let the chips fall where they may.

    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    Ex-Napalmer's Michael Harris and (current Godlesh member) Nick Bullen return with another installment of the Scorn saga.

    There exists deep in the subconscious of the death metal movement an experimental side. Scorn and Candiru (a member of which was on a previous Scorn project) are the finest and best-known progenitors.

    This is difficult music. It demands your attention and makes you conform your ideas about music to its ideal. Challenging your sense of music and reality every step of the way, Scorn has once again created a truly original piece. Would that everyone else had such standards.

    reviewed in issue #64, 10/31/94

    If you don't know who the folks behind Scorn are by now, then you should ask someone. There is a serious musical history.

    That note aside, a new Scorn disc is always a reason to celebrate. No, it's not terribly heavy all the time, but things are always more than interesting. Messrs. (M.) Harris and Bullen have, as usual, collected a nice array of sounds and presented them with their usual panache.

    If there were such a thing as ambient industrial (and I suppose there is), then Scorn should be the embodiment of that ideal. Here's a party tip: crank up your stereo and drop a couple Scorn discs in. Watch the mood shift. People will actually be attempting to speak intelligently, not just picking up the nearest available bedpost.

    Well, maybe this music wasn't intended for social engineering, but it's worth a shot. And even if you don't throw massive bashes, Scorn will do right by you, expanding both your musical and your sub consciousness (es).

    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Yes, the remix album that will not die, and I finally get a change to piss all over it.

    Well, actually, anyone who knows me knows my opinion of Scorn (something like a dose of Scorn away helps keep a person sane and happy), so you will not be surprise to find out that I dig the remixes almost as much as the originals.
    Well, except for "Silver Rain Fell". That is my all-time favorite Scorn piece, and Meat Beat Manifesto kinda dulled it out a bit. The thing is not bad, but I do prefer the original. Most of others are such departures from the original songs that it would be hard to really compare. So I won't.
    Earache calls Scorn an ambient project, and I guess it fits in somewhere there. But like the best of the genre (a good chunk of Aphex Twin comes to mind), Scorn insists on taking artistic chances and writing interesting, if long, drawn-out and mellow, pieces. Scorn may be ambient, but it's still not terribly AAA listener-friendly. Ain't that a shame.

    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Scorn is just Mick Harris, now that former cohort Nick Bullen has left the scene. I was curious what difference this lack of creative tension would bring.
    Harris is unparalleled in creating beat-driven noise. And that continues here. But what's missing on Gyral are the subtle textural shadings that made Evanescence so cool. Gyral has the simplicity of early Scorn without the occasional bombast that helped those early albums along.
    And what's missing is the tension inside me. I never could predict where a Scorn song would now. Here, though, everything seems programmed by the numbers, which is why a lot of ambient/industrial projects sound dull. Harris throws enough stuff in to keep things lively, but he forgot to feather the edges with goodies. As bummed as I am to say it, this is an average album. And for Scorn, that's a real letdown.
    See also Godflesh, Lull and Napalm Death.

    Eric "Scorch" Scortia
    Vital Organ
    (Heads Up)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    This is one of them enhanced CDs, the ones that play on your computer as well. They don't play on mine, though, since I don't have a CD-ROM. Oh well, I'll just stick to the music.

    There's a silly rumor that lounge music is monstrously popular among the kids these days. Scortia plays a form of lounge jazz that harkens back to the glory days of Booker T. and the MGs. Unfortunately, this sounds much more like the recent Booker T. comeback attempt.

    Just not a lot going on here. The musicians are certainly competent, and Scortia is a nice enough guy to let all his sidemen shine. But the music is completely non-offensive, to a fault. Nothing here makes me perk up and take notice, or do much of anything else. It's just kinda dull.

    Ace production; the stuff sounds great. Just wish it said something, too.

    The Scotch Greens
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    The true western side of rockabilly. A little slide guitar, gruff and raspy vocals. And the feel of sitting around a campfire trading stories with some mean mothers.

    And the Scotch Greens play the archetype for all its worth. There are songs about drinking, a song called "The Bitch," songs about riding the trail (and life) along. Just about covers the gambit, I think.

    A lot of fun to hear. This sort of stuff can get silly, and the Scotch Greens do fall prey to some excessive use of western cliches, both musically and lyrically. But still; the disc just rolls along its mostly charming way.

    A nice hangout disc. Very male and macho (moreso than just about anything I've heard in ages, but that's the way it has to be. Kinda brings the right colors to the palatte.

    Cal Scott
    Fierce Joy
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    The difference between cheesy jazz and good jazz: the use of drum machines, keyboards and bass lines. If drum machines are used to keep the tempo even, watch out. If the keyboards only flay out mealy-mouthed chords, you're in trouble. When the bass is used to bounce the song along instead of an instrument in its own right, you know you're in happy jazz land.

    All of 'em hit here. When jazz is used as a term for non-offensive music, I take exception. Good jazz has always moved the course of music forward, not provided the backdrop for yuppie dinner parties.

    Every five minutes or so there is about ten seconds of a good jazz idea. Kinda like mining a spent shaft. No use.

    If you like your music to have even the slightest hint of a bite, don't wander down this path. This dog doesn't even have dentures.

    Scott & Charlene's Wedding
    Two Weeks EP
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/10/13

    Loopy indiepop from Australia. Largely the work of Craig Dermody, these songs lope along with an insouciant grace. The title track is the only instant stunner, but I like Dermody's conversational tone. More fun.

    Plague Dogs 7"
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    A completely self-assured performance. Scout knows exactly the spot it's mining in the pop universe, and keeps hitting the mother lode.

    Ashen Keilyn has that smoky alto voice that is positively intoxicating, particularly when mixed with sharp fuzzy guitar (which she also plays). Scout is smart enough to keep mixing things up, though, so no overdose on cheese.

    It's really unusual for me to be so taken by a seven-inch. But Scout has all the tools necessary for greatness. And while this is only two songs, the band rips through so many musical ideas (while keeping things relatively simple), the only response can be rapt astonishment.

    Pick this up and prepare for wonderment.

    Live at the Black Cat WDC 12.28.96
    (Torque Records)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Yes, there was life before Nirvana for Dave Grohl. One of those lives was in a DC band called Scream, along with a few other local semi-luminaries. There's Franz and Pete Stahl from Wool (Franz is also a Foo Fighter from time to time). Kent Stax of the Suspects plays drums. Alright, on with the review.

    Hardcore, and more hardcore. This reunion show recording is intended to be something of a greatest hits shot, I guess. The thing about it is the stuff isn't terribly good. Oh, there's plenty of energy and all that, but the songs aren't anything special. Just rote stuff, really.

    And I don't know enough to say whether the problem is uninspired performance or mediocre songs. My guess is the latter. These guys sound like they're having a lot of fun.

    When speaking of "classic" bands, history is almost always better than current events. That maxim holds here.

    Take You Apart
    (Rhythm Ace)
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    Lovely Britpop...from Brisbane. I guess everyone sounds British when they sing. I mean, doesn't Green Day?

    Aw, hell, that's an old one. Anyway, Screamfeeder plays pretty, jangly and occasionally crunchy pop music. Not a lot of attitude, but plenty of energy. I suppose it is that exact trait that gives this a Britpop feel. That and the fact that it's really obvious that these boys have listened to a lot of Supergrass and the Who.

    And, hey, who hasn't, right? Nothing like a little bash 'n' pop to get the blood flowing. Screamfeeder may not scream a lot, but it still pushes plenty of buttons. The easy-going feel of the sound (my God, are those hand claps in the background?) makes this album almost too easy to drink. The stuff just slides right down.

    No hangovers, either. I'm not entirely convinced these boys have the depth to make it in the long haul, but I'm more than willing to be proved wrong. In any case, I'll be listening to this one for some time to come.

    Screaming Bloody Marys
    Get In, Get Off, Get Out
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    The latest Doctor Dream release is often a good way to gauge the current cool punk sound in Orange County. And to prove that theory, here's the Screaming Bloody Marys, produced by East Bay Ray. Okay, so they're a bit north of Anaheim.

    Not nearly so poppy as the usual East Bay sound (and since the band hails from SF itself, that makes some sense), the Marys propagate more of a classic punk sound. Pretty heavy guitars, but still decent tuneage.

    Which means the band fits right in with the Doctor Dream lineup. This is a tres L.A. sound, though the Marys crank out much catchier tunes than the average L.A. band. Speedy and in-your-face, with hooks.

    And not much more than that. Close enough for rock and roll, but not brilliant or anything. Just your better-than-average punk band cranking out plenty of attitudinal tunes. Nothing to complain about.

    Screaming Politicans
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    An interesting counterpoint of the Pokerface album I reviewed a few slots back. Screaming Politicians subtly discuss the politics of the person, not the demagoguery of the people. The music falls within the acceptable norms of that whole "alternative" rock form, with some nice keyboard texturing.

    The sound is also one of the 80s, though make that the rather late 80s in the style of those anthemic R.E.M. wannabes. Screaming Politicians does a decent enough job of updating the music, though the stuff still comes across as somewhat dated.

    The lyrics are the best part of the package, poetically written and rather affecting. While they don't get in the way of the music, the spoken thoughts far outweigh the sonic ones, by a wide margin.

    If the music were more adventuresome, I'd be somewhere near ecstatic. Screaming Politicians has plenty to say, though I wish it sounded better when making its points.

    The Screeches
    (Britsh Medical Records)
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    New name (formerly the Leeches), new singer, same old sound. Somewhere in the dingy new wave-meets-rockabilly world of the Cramps, or, as the band itself seems to like, Blondie meets the Cramps.

    That's not a bad comparison, actually. The songs are nice and sleazy, but there's an underlying cohesion that keeps the songs inexorably rolling forward. This does sometimes give the impression that you've heard a particular song before--but I was having such a good time I barely noticed.

    The formula is simple: Husky female vocals, a tight rhythms section and a couple doses of spooky guitar. The songs aren't jokey--like, say, Deadbolt--but the music sometimes is. That's cool. Keep things loose, man.

    This is the second album from these folks that I've reviewed, and I still can't quite explain why I like what I hear. There's just a vibe running through this stuff that tickles my fancy. Maybe it's the strangely slavish devotion to the understated hook. Or maybe I'm thinking too much. Better get back to the fun and forget all this silly analysis.

    Screeching Weasel
    Television City Dream
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    When I got a call from Fat Wreck asking if they might send me the new Screeching Weasel, I responded with "Screeching Weasel is still around?" I mean, this band has staying power. While never hitting the big time, it has secured a spot in the pop punk pantheon of greats. Since first recording ages ago, when no one was buying this stuff, Screeching Weasel has consistently put out tuneful, fun records.

    And no break to the streak here. The lyrics are as caustic and funny as ever, and while I'm sure the hooks are somewhat well-worn, I still salivated over each song. Oh, sure, you can hear the Buzzcocks and the Ramones all over the place. That's the point, boyo.

    What's probably more amazing is that Ben Weasel isn't quite 30. I mean, he's not old, no matter how long he's been at this game. The music is as timeless as ever.

    For the record, I also told the kind folks at Fat Wreck that I was happy Screeching Weasel is still a going concern. With albums like this, I think I'll be happy on that account for a good time to come.

    Screw Radio
    Talk Radio Violence
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Sounds like Gone (though it's mostly just Greg Ginn-Andy Batwinas cranks up the drum machine) with some odd samples from radio (and some studio-created ones as well). I think Ginn buries the samples a bit much in favor of the somewhat repetitive soundtrack, but then, I want to hear what is said, and I think he had the opposite intention.

    Sort of a hardcore-industrial reaction to the EBN. This stuff isn't for the clubs, it's headed right to the car tape decks. And since those are also being used to tune in to all the idiots on the airwaves (as opposed to significantly more thoughtful programming like Pacifica or NPR), that also seems rather appropriate.

    There's something that doesn't quite satisfy me here, but bits like "Have I Heard the Lowdown on Clinton?" are positively hilarious. And there's more than enough entertaining spots to keep me amused for some time. A noble project that is almost an overwhelming success.

    See also Greg Ginn, Gone, Hor and Poindexter Stewart.

    The Screwdrivers
    The Screwdrivers
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Just a rock and roll band from, um, Connecticut. You know, in the tradition of all those great Connecticut bands like, um, well give a minute. Or don't. I can't think of any right off the top of my head.

    But the Screwdrivers are great. The band has a basic sound, nothing complicated. There are a few experiments, I guess, but even those aren't complicated. Just proves that these guys have learned the first lesson: Get the simple stuff down first.

    Make it sound good, too. And that's where the Screwdrivers shine. If the hooks weren't so raggedly beautiful, if the riffage wasn't so energetic, well, perhaps this stuff wouldn't impress me nearly as much. But, see, this here disc is full of music done right.

    And it doesn't have to be complicated or crazy or intricate or over-the-top. None of that. The Screwdrivers play swift, powerful rock and roll. With some breathers thrown in as change-ups. Just like you've gotta do if you're gonna make a good album. Like this one.

    The Scruffs
    Pop Manifesto
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    Hard to argue with the title. Playing songs that sound like they were written by Alex Chilton and produced by Nick Lowe, the Scruffs have embraced a certain retro feel on this disc.

    But it's only a surface thing. These days you can't stick to one or three sounds if you're a cool alternapop band. The Scruffs are only too happy to use touchpoints from the 60s to last week. And hey, when used tastefully that sort of thing really sounds good.

    There's a slight preciousness to some of these songs--I know I keep saying this, but I'd like more oomph and less ahh, if that makes sense. And it feels funny to be saying that, because some of these tunes really pull out the throttle. More, please.

    Maybe I'd like to hear these folks pare down their influences to one page. A couple of the songs here sound a lot more crafted than blistered. Nonetheless, there's an awful lot here to like. A nice manifesto, to be sure.

    Scum of the Earth
    Blah...Blah...Blah...Love Songs for the New Millennium
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    This sort of elektro-industrial-metal that was popular a few years back. Which might have something to do with the seemingly dated album title ("the new millennium" is so 2001). Then again, I've always liked Cheetos, and SOTE is nothing if not cheesy and crunchy.

    Silly as all get out (when you've got a song titled "Get Your Dead On," I think you're just asking for that). There are lots of dumb songs about the devil and evil doings and such. I suppose some freaky religious folks might get all worked up, but come on. This stuff may not be entirely a joke--the music is quite stylish and fun--but I don't think there are going to be any ritual sacrifices laid on these folks any time soon.

    Fans of Electric Hellfire Club and MLWTTKK and Lords of Acid and the like ought to find a smile or two upon listening to this. I've never understood why guitars have never been a staple of dance club music. There's definitely a time and place, as this album proves.

    But whatever. I have a feeling that time has passed SOTE by, and silly geezers like me who occasionally look back with a wry smile are the main audience. Alright. Worse things could happen.

    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Formerly Spine, which was formerly Puke Weasel. Of course, I've liked whatever has arrived from these guys.

    My Mom, of all people pointed out to me that guitarist Doug Minner was a playmate of mine when my family lived in Salina, Kan., from 1973-1976. As soon as she mentioned it, I remembered. Weird how this stuff catches up to you.

    Personal reminiscences aside, Scully (the guys swear this is the last name) keeps cranking out metal that seems just a step ahead of the curve. Yeah, there are elements of Pantera and the NYC hardcore sound, but mixed together with a unique sensibility. I happened to see the CMJ write-up of this tape, and I concur. It's what I've said for years: These guys deserve a deal.

    I know, metal isn't cool right now. And particularly the heavier stuff (before you get to death metal). But there has to be a place for a band that puts out quality heavy music. Come on.

    See also Spine and Puke Weasel.

    Sea Dragons
    Sea Dragons EP
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    Five bits of rockin' roots stuff that feels so nice. Nothing complicated; just jangly guitar riffs banged out over a laid back rhythm section.

    It sounds so simple...when done right. Sea Dragons are much more rock than, say, Americana--in fact, they're pretty much all rock, except for Daryl Thurston's raggedy vocals. And that combo is most appealing, as I've noted in a number of the reviews in this issue.

    Nothing wrong with solid rock and roll, especially when it's played as seamlessly as it is here. I don't know if I'll remember this tomorrow, but it sure gives me a warm feeling tonight.

    Sea of Green
    Northern Lights EP
    (The Music Cartel)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    A long EP, but six songs clocking in at 26 minutes still fits that description. Sea of Green is another member of the Music Cartel's stoner rock stable. The riffage is straight out of the book of Iommi, but the song construction is a bit grungier.

    Kinda like Alice in Chains meets Deep Purple, or something like that. Of course, when you think about it, Alice in Chains did meet Deep Purple, at least in a musical sense. Whatever. I think you get where I'm going here.

    And, like most of the other TMC bands, Sea of Green is enjoyable. No new ground being broken, but at least all the bands can be distinguished from each other, and none of them suck.

    I'm not really the prime market for this stuff, but even I smiled a bit. Don't go looking for a masterpiece and you just might be happy.

    Time to Fly
    (The Music Cartel)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    The Sea of Green doesn't vary much from the Black Sabbath formula. The usual stoner rock heavy riffage and echo-laden vocals wailing about something or other. The thing about it is, these guys really do this well.

    Well enough to be a tribute band, except that these songs are original (except for a cover of the Floyd tune "Breathe"). This is, in truth, simply a rehash. There's nothing groundbreaking or even remotely new going on. And yet, I'm strangely attracted.

    The allure comes in the posturing, the way Sea of Green says, "We know what we sound like and that's just the way it is." There's no pretense, no hiding the origins of the sound. Just a celebration of the primal desire to play some really heavy tuneage.

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike these guys. They're playing an increasingly overexposed sort of music, they aren't particularly adventurous and, if you listen hard enough, I'm sure you can hear all sorts of minor thefts. Yet, with all of that, I can't deny the fact that I had fun listening to this puppy. Great driving music. If sheer joy means anything to you, perhaps this disc might be of interest.

    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Pronounced "shade", just so you know. Seven songs clocking in at over 40 minutes. You know these tunes are going to be long, and they should mean something.

    Sharp playing, in a somewhat midwestern style. At least, they sound like a lot of local bands I heard when I was in college at Missouri. Of course, the band lives in Baltimore or something like that. And there are a few overly dramatic touches that don't quite fit in with my description. But still.

    The songs have a cool feel, kinda like heavy jamming as the sun goes down. This is a nice album for drinking. Keeps you on your toes and not too despondent. A bit of the swirly guitar thing, but generally tuneful rock music.

    And the longer songs make for more interesting compositions. Seade doesn't repeat itself much, preferring to use the extra time to flesh out ideas. Fine by me. As is the whole album.

    Hiding Places
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    Eclectic means different things to many people. Allow me to say that just about everyone will agree that Seafarer plays eclectic pop.

    That is, the music is pop in format and sound. There's just a lot of other ideas wandering in and out as well. The feel is generally jaunty, but there's plenty of clutter to weigh down any excess of joy.

    And then there's Patrick Grzelewski's singing, which is hardly conventional. Every note is quavering, though sung with plenty of strength. The feel is most disconcerting, which is a positive. The unusual vocals simply underscore the unusual nature of these songs.

    Not too quirky in my book, although I have more tolerance than most. In the end, the songs come together. That's my only criteria. A most interesting set.

    When Do We Stop Fighting ...
    (Nettwerk America)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    With lead guitar that neatly bridges the gap between the Wedding Present and standard strident emo and a decidedly American approach, Seafood is hardly your average Britpop outfit.

    When I say "American," I'm mostly talking about the slickness of the sound. There is a real emo power pop feel that I'm not used to hearing from British bands (most of whom tend to prefer sweeter hooks and melodies). Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Eli Janney recorded this puppy in Brooklyn.

    The use of dissonant chords and vaguely atonal harmonies colors this music in a most fascinating way. There is, of course, the standard Britpop refusal to stick to the same sound throughout an album (some might call this musical attention deficit disorder, but I prefer "commitment to diversity"), but as usual that somewhat whipsaw writing style falls pleasantly on my ears.

    It's interesting; when bands remove just a bit of the honey the hooks become a bit more human, more approachable. Seafood tears itself a few tasty chunks of riffage here, much of it well outside the standard pop realms. Bravo for that.

    The Fire's Heart
    (Ravens Flight)
    reviewed 4/16/15

    Rick Swanger's second time out as Seahorse is another fine ramble. He never quite settles into a particular songwriting groove, preferring to mosey around. This is all pure "singer-songwriter," but he mixes things up as well as anyone.

    So there are a few intimate moments, some roots rockers, a couple of indie rock sorts and then some. Swanger generally comes at his songs from a folk perspective, but he builds on that most impressively.

    The generally quiet nature of this album is sneaky; before I knew it, I was hitting repeat. And realizing how much I'd missed while I was just listening "for fun."

    That's one of the "problems" of being a critic: It's important to know why one thinks something is good (or bad). Seahorse sounds like it put together with no effort. That easy feel contributes to the mellow smiles this album induces. Of course, that "easy" sound takes a huge amount of effort. It's the disguising of that effort that elevates this album.

    A simple joy. Swanger is on to something with Seahorse. This album is built for pleasure.

    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    Not knowing enough to recognize where the two covers come from (circa 1986 and 1987, when I was trying to kick a bad Bon Jovi habit), I will say the two original songs sound a lot alike.

    This is a bland version of that weird thing some of us call pop psychedelia. I can honestly say I don't like My Bloody Valentine or Lush or Ride or any of that Limey crap (Is Lush British? I don't care). Just plain dull.

    Even as this stuff goes, it's kinda boring. Now, I know lots of people who would love this. I'm not qualifying my opinion, I'm just noting this for the record. Right. Next disc, Cannibal Corpse.

    The Problem With Me
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    Their recent EP was awful self-indulgent and pretty dull. This takes the whole pop psychedelic thing and makes it more interesting.

    I still don't really like this scene all that much, but Seam is loads better than all that stoned-out mush wandering over here from England. I refuse to even discuss the stupid things most American bands have tried to do with distortion and a lack of melody.

    There is melody here, and the feedback seems to be crafted as part of a plan. I can handle and appreciate that. I can understand the words (not necessary but really nice, considering there's no lyric sheet) and they are fairly interesting.

    This isn't going to convert me into an acid-popping Blur freak or anything as dumb as that, but I like this album.

    Are You Driving Me Crazy?
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Gentle, mid-tempo pop that usually breaks out at least once per song. This is my favorite Seam release to date, mostly because the band seems to have finally gotten a handle on what it wants to accomplish.

    The riffs are less idiosyncratic, and the mood is more playful than anguished. To some, that sounds like going commercial. But Seam has never been one of those "play in a corner" type of bands, so I think this may a case of everything coming together just right.

    The production is reasonably lush, but sparse enough to keep the instruments distinct. Perhaps the best way to present this sort of mellow pop.

    With this disc, Seam has become a band that I truly like. This either means I have completely changed my mind about the minimalist pop movement, or Seam has gotten a whole lot better. More than likely a little of both, but that doesn't matter.

    This is a fine disc, regardless of my mindset.

    The Pace Is Glacial
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    It does take a while for Seam to put out a new album, so that when it finally arrives, the band has somewhat reinvented itself. The stuff is never quite what was expected.

    And from the first crashing chord of "Little Chang, Big City", I knew change was afoot. These songs are raucous and loud, meant to be played at high volume. Not that the craftsmanship has declined; the riffs are meticulously played, even though the level of abandon has increased tenfold.

    There are some of the more expected quiet moments, but even those have a somewhat different feel than previous Seam statements. The band hasn't grown up or regressed or anything like that. I mean, Seam has already proven its mettle. But the guys have moved on to new territory.

    And I like the direction. Yeah, it's something of a lurch in the direction of the current pop wave, but in Seam fashion. All the distortion that used to quietly crackle now bursts forth in full fury. and I'm not gonna complain. I will, however, hit repeat a few times.

    Forever Laid to Rest
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    Like God's terrible swift sword, this music just keeps marching on. The only comparison I can make is to a rout in battle. Seance are Sherman cutting a swath across the south. They are Attila cruising across Asia, Alexander sweeping to India.

    Not overly fast or obnoxious, Seance still crank out the speed with the best. And, like the other Black Mark album reviewed in this issue, the production is excellent, clear and not muffled. You hear every note, and believe me, you want to.

    This fills your senses and drives you to action. If only I could shoot this album up the week of the election and not sleep at all. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to crank it. Some things make me smile.

    Saltrubbed Eyes
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    This album contains a complete lack of originality that would normally lead me to whine about things such as following the crowd and the like.

    But I really dig the production. Where most death metal albums get either an over-modulated or wimpy guitar sound, the middle ground was found here. Everything is in a perfect balance. And it almost makes up for the mostly banal "bang-yer-head-until-it-bleeds" constructions found within.

    Another album I really wish I could like.

    The Search for Saturnalia
    split 7"
    with Egon (Has Anyone Ever Told You?)
    I'll start off with Egon, whose track is punctuated by punchy, almost martial rhythms and just off-pitch vocals and harmonies. "Blowing Trumpets" is actually driven by a meandering lead guitar line, which along with the vocals does lend a vague emo feel to the song. But if I had to, I'd lay this more in the general alt. pop category. Solid, but not a starmaker.

    The Search for Saturnalia is at once more poppy and more emo. The guitars are strident and assertive; the song is also much more conventionally constructed. The whole package is a bit better conceived and executed. While this, too, isn't a song to make me stand up and shout, I can hear a lot more in it that makes me curious what else the band might do.

    Not the most far-reaching music or even the greatest stuff in the world. But both songs are solid and provide an interesting picture as to the evolution of emo.

    Seasick Pirates
    Return of the Helicopterman
    (Unpop-Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    German pop punk, sung in the same fake British accent that American bands get made fun of for using. Reasonably catchy, crunchy fare, but nothing much more.

    Sounds like Lawnmower Deth without the cleverness. There is a rather thick sheen over all this, and the playing is so technically perfect that all spontaneity has been wrung out. There's nothing particularly wrong with this, except that there isn't anything unusual going on here.

    This sorta punk really needs that special kick to move things into a higher gear. And while the Seasick Pirates seem to understand what it takes to play punk, they don't have the sense of fun and abandon I like to hear.

    Perfectly adequate. And I think that's a big part of the problem.

    Season to Risk
    Biter 7"
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    The ep has been canned as far as general release goes, but this little slab of vinyl terror should hold you over until their full-length next March.

    An innovative mix of Chicago-style industrial/hard core and something that comes from deep inside these seriously disturbed boys, STR will be a major force this year, and you might as well jump on the bandwagon now. This sound is simply too fine to miss. I must qualify this by saying these guys live about a mile or so from me, but I swear that has nothing to do with my excitement.

    This is something you haven't quite heard before, but will love. Trust me.

    Mine Eyes 7"
    (Red Decibel/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    As can happen, my personal copy is warped beyond belief; it adds an interesting loopiness to the A-side, but the B-side ("Why See Straight") manages to come through alright.

    If you happen to get one of these bastards, play it. The full-length is due in late April, but why wait when you can jam to some of the dopest, deffest, hype, whack, (insert latest hip-hop slang for cool here) shit to fly off the press in a while.

    Yes, K.C.'s rhythmic merchants of noise jam with the best and totally blow me away again.

    Season to Risk
    (Red Decibel/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    I first caught these guys nine months ago. Since then I have seen about ten shows, and each has further convinced me they are the finest live act around today. Really. No local homering bullshit.

    They are from Kansas City, but they don't live here much. They do things like tour with Prong or Voodoo Gearshift (check them out with Mind Over Four this summer; a truly amazing tour).

    In case you're wondering (and missed my reviews of their 7"s), this is grunge-plus. Nice sludgy chords sped up and shit back at you, along with purely vicious vocals cranked through a cheap p.a. I've been told all of these songs are about fucked-up relationships, although I can see a little more development than that.

    Anyway, they do pack a hell of an emotional wallop, and kick your ass while they're at it. If you think this disc is intense (and you should), wait until you see them live. These folks are packing in 300-400 people at their shows here, which is unheard of for a local band that plays original music. The word is out. Season to Risk cannot be stopped.

    In a Perfect World
    (Red Decibel/Columbia)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    As many of you know, STR has been one of my favorite bands since I first saw the boys live in KC years ago. This is a LIVE band.

    Which is why the self-titled debut of a couple years back was so disappointing to me. Simply put, it sounded canned. When I talked to singer Steve Tulipana at a gig in Michigan (when I lived there), he said he would have preferred a rougher mix, but then, he was just glad to get the thing finished. The future is paramount, he said.

    And so it is. With Martin Bisi at the knobs, STR has cranked out a wall of vitriolic noise that rivals the most cacophonic moments of Jesus Lizard. Indeed, most of the grungy melodic trappings of that first disc have been completely forgotten, leaving only the bitter taste of fear and disgust.

    Which is where Season to Risk wallows best. Bisi captures a big chunk of the band's live energy and caterwauling moments, and the songs are just as mean this time around. I think STR always knew its niche, and this album places the boys right there, dead center. A fine piece of workmanship, though to catch the full experience you still must see these guys live.

    The Shattering
    (Owned & Operated)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    It's been a while. For me, anyway. I saw Season to Risk play with Pain Teens and Fudge Tunnel in Grand Rapids, Mich. Helluva show. Helped the boys spray paint some graffiti on the outside wall of the club (something Lizard, I think). Had some strange woman trying to get her hands in my pants. But that's another story.

    The tale I'm telling today is that Season to Risk has found a label that probably won't fold right after releasing its album (they can hope, anyway). The sound is cleaner (that's what a little Blasting Room treatment will do), but the basic ideas are the same: Apply a little post-industrial grunge to hardcore and see what sticks.

    This is a meaner, harder Season to Risk. The sound gets close to Fudge Tunnel territory at times, which is kinda funny because back in 1993 I didn't think these boys had anything to do with that strain of music. Shows you what I know. There's this insistent throbbing, a constant blistering of the ears that I can't (and don't want to) shake.

    Easily the band's most solid and wide-ranging album since its outstanding debut (still one of my favorites). Indeed, while stripping away some of the fat the boys have come back 'round to where they started. A song like "Deserve" is the perfect follow up to "Home" from the first disc. And I hear parallels throughout the album. Once again, Season to Risk is playing brilliant music that just doesn't fit in with the times. Hey, I'll listen. Any time.

    Seasons of the Wolf
    Seasons of the Wolf
    (Global Media)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Prog-styled metal, in the European tradition. Stuff I'm generally inclined to like in spite of myself.

    And I do like chunks of the songs. But Seasons of the Wolf is in need of some serious production help. The sound here isn't muffled or jumbled. It's pretty precise. Just very weak.

    This is music that is yearning to be cranked up to 11, but when I do that, I get an earful of keyboards. The bass and guitar just aren't there. A severe power shortage, to be sure.

    And really, without proper volume and support, songs with titles like "October Moon" and "Long Cold Winter" (not the Cinderella tune, obviously) sound impossibly silly. Even I can't get my hair dancing. And that's the real shame.

    Lost in Hell
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Prog-inflected Euro-style metal. They style hasn't changed since I last reviewed these guys. What has improved is the production. And to some extent, the songwriting.

    Where that first disc was treble-heavy, this one is a bit bass heavy. Not so bad as to really tick me off. But just a bit too rumbly. Certainly, though, an improvement. And the songs are a bit more coherent and less slapdash than before.

    The writing at times is a bit generic (predictable chord changes without requisite hooks), but the band at least is really playing together this time. Enjoyable, if not enthralling.

    Even more than the last disc, I hear potential here. But Seasons of the Wolf needs to take a few more chances with the writing. Really try to break beyond what it has done before. That's where the major growth can come.

    Actions and Indications
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    Now that I'm actually moving into the area, Merge sends me something. Well, actually, it's not fair for me to bitch like that. I'm so horrible at keeping up with folks I have no room to go off. But anyway, a package from Merge is always welcome in my house.

    And this re-emerging Seaweed (gone from SubPop to a major and now with Meerge) is another in a long line of buzzsaw punk pop bands (that description can be applied to at least one other Merge act). A good buzzsaw punk pop band, just so we're clear. Basic construction, but nicely emotive riffage and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Rollicking fare which is always perceptive and thought-provoking.

    Proof that the Seattle area has always been a pop haven. Well, since folks like the Young Fresh Fellows picked up instruments. Anyway, Seaweed mixes in dirty hooks and effervescent rhythms to fine effect. Like that "other" Merge band, though, again, I must insist on stating that Seaweed does have its own distinctive sound. There's just a few similarities.

    And when stuff is done this well, those are merely referred to as influences. Well worth a few listens.

    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Fusing fusion, R&B and simplified Caribbean rhythms, Seawind released albums in 1977, 1978 and 1980 before finally splitting up. The 1980 disc was on A&M, which is fitting, as the horn work would certainly have appealed to Herb Alpert (the "A" in A&M).

    This disc takes 10 tracks from the seventies albums and adds five unreleased songs from 1981. There are nods to disco and the Tower of Power sound (note the time frame), and as the disc goes on, you can hear how Seawind's evolution left the band nowhere near where it started.

    I like the first part of the disc, where the original musical concept of the band shines through. As things get more stylized and commercial (almost perceptibly as the tracks roll on), I lose interest.

    Brigitte Secard
    Brigitte Secard EP
    (Freedom Zone)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Smooth fusion, if you will. Secard sings in a jazzy style, but the music generally hails from today's sparse r&b sounds.

    Secard has a nice mid-range voice with particularly impressive enunciation. Which makes her choice of material surprising. She could do more.

    Anyone who can sing in such an expressive way should have better material. "In Another Lifetime," which she sings over a solo piano, probably best shows off her talent. But moments like that are rare. Most of the stuff here is very middle-of-the-road. Too bad. She deserves better.

    Second Left
    Fruitful Abyss
    (Silica Music)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    The first song is called "Happy Jam." Perhaps that gives you an idea of what Second Left does. If, by some chance, you're still confused, try this on: These guys jam, and they often do it in a pleasant sorta way.

    Which still doesn't quite give an accurate description of the goings on here. There's quite a bit of meditate, thoughtful playing going on as well. And, really, the guys do both very well.

    And while a few groove band conventions are prevalent (in particular, excessive use of a certain type of syncopation), Second Left flavors its sound with some unusual instruments. Piano takes center stage fairly often, and Bryan "Wooker" Navarro is listed as playing all sorts of percussive instruments. The diversity of feels is impressive.

    You know, this just isn't my style. I can take and leave most bands who play anything even approximating a groove sound. But I like Second Left. I mean, I really like these guys. The songs are consistently surprising, and the performances are outstanding. Just because you jam doesn't mean you wank.

    Second Skin
    Second Skin
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Hard core shouts and growling guitars make this a happy present for me. Gets a little Rollins-ish at times, but for the most part tries to make its own way.

    The production is rather clear for a demo. Color me impressed.

    Second Thought
    (Second Thought)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    It's a little strange that a record label is named after an act, but when Second Thought the band is Ross Baker and Second Thought the label is run by the same Ross Baker, well, I suppose you're entitled. Even stranger, though, is that Baker used to record under his own name before adopting the Second Thought moniker back around 2000. Anything might seem strange, however, until you hear the music. Then reality takes its leave completely.

    I've always used the term "soundscape" to indicate that than artist has created his or her or its own rules and then made music that fits those rules rather than the humdrum Newtonian physics and Einsteinian special relativity under which we exist. Baker changes the rules on just about every piece, lending to an intensifying sense of unease as the electronic journey of this album rumbles on.

    This stuff is experimental, but each piece does adhere to one or two central tenets. Taken individually, each makes sense in some warped way. Taken as a whole, I'm not sure what to make of it. And that's cool. A sense of mystery is always appreciated in these here parts.

    Often enthralling and always intriguing, Purlieu ducks its head into some of the darker corners of modern electronic music. Baker refuses to stick to any particular style or feel, and that impresses me all the more. Quite the ride.

    Kevin Seconds
    (as Kevin Seconds/5'10")
    Rodney, Reggie, Emily
    (Earth Music-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Originally intended to be a Seconds solo project, Mr. Kevin decided he liked what happened so well that he made this more of a real band. Now that the record is done, for example, he found a bassist. But there is no bass playing in any of the songs here.

    You don't miss it, really, because most of the guitar chords are centered around the low E string anyway. Kevin's songs are a little more upbeat than the last 7 Seconds album. Hell, he seems to be having a lot of fun here.

    Honestly, though, there isn't anything new. If you like Drop Acid or 7 Seconds or any of the myriad other things Seconds has done in his career, you're likely to dig this. If you didn't, then you probably won't. If you have never heard of any of there things, then shove this into the discer and press play. I like the sorta poppier sound here a lot, and I've dug Seconds about wherever he's been. Much fun.

    (Earth Music-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Very much his own recording. While the enclosed press doesn't make any mention, it sounds like Seconds recorded this puppy on his own, overdubbing the drums and backup vocals (though I think I do hear a female voice back there sometimes). The tunes are that basic: acoustic and electric guitar, snare drum and vocals. Alright, so some cymbals and bass occasionally creep in, but not often.

    And guess what? Seconds proves once again that he can write incomparably wonderful pop songs. Stripped of all potential musical bombast, his lyric musings bound into the forefront. Great, as usual.

    Indeed, while I have been occasionally disappointed with one of Seconds' many projects, he usually bounces back with a few great albums in a row. This one cuts against form to an extent, although his talent has always been in crafting pop phrasings that lie just outside of convention.

    So we get this set of pop gems. I'm not about to complain. More fine work from one of the best.

    Heaven's Near Wherever You Are
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Kevin Seconds is one of the most prolific songwriters around. He just keeps cranking out album after album, be it solo stuff, 7 Seconds, whatever. And all of it is pretty good.

    Pretty good being the operative word. There are usually one or two great songs, four or five very good pieces and a few mediocre ones on every album. This disc is no different. You gotta listen to the whole thing, though, because Seconds has a way of sequencing that doesn't allow too many average songs to cluster together. There's always something cool right around the corner.

    Like his other solo stuff, this is acoustic and restrained electric guitar fare. No punk craziness, just solid pop songwriting and Seconds's unmistakable voice. I'm always in the mood to hear him croon.

    Which probably doesn't make me the most objective reviewer for this disc. No matter. It's not a masterpiece. Seconds will likely never make even a great album. He's got too many songs and too many ideas. Tell you one thing, though: If you took just one song from each of his albums, you'd have one hell of a mix tape.

    See also Drop Acid and 7 Seconds.

    Secret Army
    It's Just a Container
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    A meandering societal kaleidoscope, rock with an electronic base. Tons of samples used almost as much as vocals, with plenty of musical musings. Kinda like an extremely trippy Chemlab with even more reliance on assembled sonic bits and pieces.

    What's truly impressive is the musical range exhibited. Secret Army can morph from hardcore industrial to something in the ambient realms to clubby techno stuff, all without sounding like much of a stretch. In fact, if there is a problem, it's that the band hasn't really defined itself very well at all.

    But I take this disc as a journey of sonic exploration and everything that comes with such an excursion. The parts don't necessarily fit when placed right next to each other, but taken as whole the project is rather fulfilling.

    Fun and substantial. Secret Army has assembled a disc full of attractive and complex electronic pieces. A mess at times, but a well-ordered one, in any case. Wowsers.

    Secret Colours
    Secret Colours
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    The first track, "Redemption," is a straight-up Brian Jonestown Massacre theft. But Secret Colours has the taste to move on to other templates, including the Jesus and Mary Chain.

    What's best are songs like "Lava," which bridge the not-insurmountable gap between BJM and JAMC. Loud, distortion-filled and crackling with snarling life. Is it nice? Hell no. And that's the point.

    Once in a while the boys pull back the dueling scrims of reverb and distortion and reveal some solid songwriting chops. Downbeat and cynical, to be sure, but most enjoyable.

    Yeah, I'd like to hear a bit more originality in these songs. But Secret Colours does this stuff so well that I'm willing to overlook the excessive imitation. Just this once.

    The Secret Process
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    Another electronic noodling project, but one that is almost the spectral opposite of Robert M. Rob Gwin (a member of the elektrojazz outfit Kooken & Hoomen and the man behind the Secret Process) not surprisingly takes a jazzy approach to electronic music. There's not a hair out of place in these compositions. Every single sound is where it ought to be.

    And yet the album sounds anything but sterile. Gwin has achieved a wonderful organic sound, so that when he decides to sing (and take these pieces into post-TMBG territory) there's not even the slightest hiccup.

    I guess normal is where you find it, and in that way, the Secret Process is just as whacked out as anyone. But the structure underlying these pieces is most impressive. It's amazing that Gwin is able to wring such a "band" sound out of his one-man effort. Hell, I can see a four or five-piece right now...but it isn't there.

    Whatever. Expectations are made to be shattered, and good music is simply good music. Gwin has created an electronic album par excellence, and he doesn't need to apologize to me or anyone else. Just keep kicking out albums like this, and there are no worries.

    Secrets Between Sailors
    Secrets Between Sailors
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Sometimes you just need a little rock and roll. Indiana's Secrets Between Sailors sounds like a midwestern band. From the late 70s or early 80s, perhaps, but midwestern nonetheless. Chunky chords, raspy vocals and plenty of volume.

    A little more Cheap Trick than Replacements, I suppose (the guitar work, in particular, is very nice), though it's not hard to hear echoes of any number of bands. I went to Missouri in the late 80s, and I can think of at 20 bands that sounded a little like this.

    So I like the sound. It's not so much dated as geographically stamped. It's true that an awful lot of folks fell in love with many of those 80s indie rock bands. But there was a scene then, a knowledge among folks across the country that something interesting was happening. That's not really the case today.

    But this is still a solid album. I like the way these guys pound out the songs. They're probably not going to be the next...I dunno, anything. But they make fine music.

    (Third Mind-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    This is what techno was supposed to be, before a few freaks threw out a bunch of compilations featuring folk who just threw a lot of beat-heavy crap underneath tons of keyboards.

    Yeah, you can dance to a lot of this, but you can also hear the experimentation with the rhythms of the songs. In a word: artistry.

    I don't like most commercial techno because it's mostly loads of repetitive crap. I prefer my music to be interesting, and that applies to dance music, death metal or anything. Sect has the talent to make interesting techno. The guys also have the brains to check out the past masters, especially Kraftwerk, for inspiration. It isn't all about "rub your ass right here and make me feel you!" shit. Actually, these are instrumentals, so you don't have any dumb vocals. True techno. Good techno.

    Section 3 1 5
    Drop Dead
    (Sin Klub)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Combining the grandiose verbal assault of White Zombie with the stripped down sound of Pantera, Section 3 1 5 seems poised to cash in on popular sounds.

    The production leaves everything muffled, though, and that's a problem as far as mass acceptance. As you also may know, I really don't like the current sounds of White Zombie and Pantera, so obviously this wouldn't register too well with me.

    On the plus side, there isn't anything terribly near plagarism going on. A lot of bands sound like this today. And more than a few are a little further down the road than Section 3 1 5. Keep working, guys. Things will get better.

    See Through Dresses
    Horse of the Other World
    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed 8/24/17

    If you expected more indie rock bliss from this Omaha outfit, you will come away from this album just a bit disappointed. Omaha's See Through Dresses have shifted into a more shimmery, contemplative sound, something that is hammered home with the diffuse opening track, "Diamonds."

    And while the "old" (if you can say that about a band which has two albums to its name) sound was punchy and pretty awesome, I have to applaud the evolution here. See Through Dresses are trying to grow, and this is simply a way station.

    What is most encouraging is how complex the sound has become. This isn't simply "shoegaze" or "dream rock" or whatever. There's plenty of the kick from the band's first album. It's just been augmented by more.

    Yes, sometimes, "more" is too much. But not yet for these folks. See Through Dresses has plenty of room to expand its palette. This solid set brings plenty of joy on its own, but mostly it begs the question: "What's next?" I'd certainly like to hear.

    Seed (advance cassette)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    A lot of buzz on this, mostly from the big boys. Good melodic post-grunge. Kinda reminds me of Kyuss. And then there are the mellow parts.

    Julie Only
    (Too Pure-American)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    A nice chunk of that echo-heavy vein of pop minimalism, marked by folks like Seam. Seely hails from Atlanta, and I can hear plenty of other area pop bands (Polvo, Golden Palominos) in this sound as well.

    Mesmerizing without getting too annoying. Seely knows when to pull away from the precipice when the going gets intense. No use jumping over a cliff when a nice jete will do.

    While Seely might be more at home on a label like Merge or Touch and Go, perhaps the big boys can really break this sound out into the mainstream. I'm not sure how I would market a video or even a single from this album, but that's what the American folks get the big bucks to do.

    Good songs, good sound, good work. Seely doesn't really move the genre ahead, but it certainly doesn't wallow in the past, either. A solid effort.

    The Seedy Seeds
    Count the Days
    reviewed in issue #313, December 2009

    A swell duo that sounds like a peppy Magnetic Fields. The intricate melodies and almost mechanical music (even if mostly played on "real" instruments) are dead ringers. It's just that these pieces are impossibly perky and hardly dour.

    Wry, to be sure. But never dour. This is feel-good music, even if the lyrics do get a bit introspective. I think it's impossible not to simply bound with joy while listening to this stuff. It's like ABBA doing americana--except really damned good.

    The more I try to explain this stuff, the worse it reads. Okay. So look at the label name. Say it out loud. Now do you get it?

    If you don't, I can't help you. I haven't heard a more infectious album all year. My fingers are tingling as I type this. I'm overflowing with joy even though the Chargers spanked the Chiefs yesterday. Hell, George W. Bush could reclaim the White House in some sort of twisted coup and I'd still be able to wrestle a smile out of my face. This stuff is that good. Listen and fall in love.

    Greg Segal
    Always Look on the Dark Side of Life
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Bits and pieces from five truly underground albums. Greg Segal is highly influenced by the heavy jam and prog bands of the early 70s (Deep Purple, ELP, etc.), but even back in the early 80s (these recordings date from 1984-1993) he showed a tendency to update his sound and try out new ideas.

    As the album progresses (the songs are tracked in vague chronological order), Segal's explorations become more and more introspective. There's a lot more silence and contemplation in the pieces. More acoustic guitar and focus on the lyrics. And a more idiosyncratic approach to structure and rhythm.

    For stuff recorded almost "on the run," these songs sound great. From the very beginning, Segal took great pains to ensure that his music sounded good. I don't think he paid a lot for the services of the studios, but he sure got more than his money's worth.

    An interesting journey. It doesn't hold together well at all; this is the work of one person, but Segal evolved so much over the ten or so years represented here that the songs don't flow together particularly. Still, as a portrait of a man with many visions, it succeeds admirably.

    Josh Seib and Satellite 66
    It Seems Like...
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    These guys want to find the hooks. The sound is thick, but not too fuzzy. A level above demo quality, but definitely heavy on the low end. That works alright with this poppy fare.

    Of course, Josh Sieb and Satellite 66 are looking to be more than just yer basic pop band. There are plenty of asides and side trips along the way to hook heaven, and in some songs, the band never quite gets there.

    Probably reminds me most of a lo-tech Brian Jonestown Massacre (yeah, even more primitive than some of the early stuff). Not quite so slavishly Stonish, but more of the Big Star Sister Lovers alternate universe feel. These aren't bad things, of course.

    The pieces don't quite fit together. I'm not sure if they're supposed to or if I'm simply supposed to accept this as is. There comes a point where the mess outweighs the benefit derived from the experience. These guys are still on the good side, but it's a tight fit.

    Before the Last Song at Wounded Hill
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Noise pop with an emo bent. That familiar strident strumming of the electric guitar, with plenty of asides to fill out the sound. Generally instrumental (though not exclusively), but the guitars do more than enough speaking for the group.

    The sort of raucous, yet contemplative stuff that I'm quite enamored of these days. Seki is more than willing to crank up the amperage, but not at the expense of the ideas behind the music.

    And when there are vocals, the music continues on as before. Treating the voice as just another instrument. I like that theory. Don't let singing dumb down the tunes.

    Understated, yet majestic all the same. Seki sure knows how to do this sound quite well. Like I said, I'm quite a fan of this sort of noodling, but the disc impresses all the same.

    What We Sound Like
    (Doom Nibbler)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    The prog side of modern pop. Taking the whole post-Slint sound and adding in arpeggios and tight playing. The singing, well, that's still deep in the shouts. But the guitar and bass, well, those are something else.

    Those are the instruments that drive the sound. They bounce around and into each other with an astonishing amount of energy. The mystery is contained somewhere between those lines.

    The pieces evolve slowly as the disc progresses, occasionally adding a new element here and there. By the time the final song comes along, Self-Evident has painted a musical picture that is utterly unique and impressive.

    A real find. These songs are bursting with life, and they're performed almost to perfection. Sometimes the calculated and the emotive can mesh. This is a prime example.

    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    Semaphore is Kirby Clements. And yes, this is an electronic album. Those who fear to tread further are excused. Wimps.

    Very much in the vein of Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works phase, I suppose), these pieces often come on softly before really kicking the ideas in full force. The beat work is impressive, but not at all overbearing, as if the beats are merely another part of the construct. What a revolutionary thought.

    Yeah, yeah, I deserve the razzing. But it is nice to hear someone with a firm grasp on all elements of a sound. Clements knows what he wants his music to sound like, and he's taken the time to really put everything together nicely.

    This one really is a sleeper, as most good "ambient" (that term dates me, I'm sure) works are wont to be. Semaphore sails through the electronic universe with elegant lines and insistent grace. And that works for me.

    Feeling Strangely Fine
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    A Minneapolis threesome which has been studying the British application of the American application of the British application of the original American innovation (insert the names "Blur", "Big Star", "Beatles" and "The Isley Brothers", and maybe that last bit will make a little more sense). Gorgeous, ringing pop songs with loads of subtext. The kinda stuff that has to be heard over and over again.

    The back cover photo shows the masking tape track notations from the mixdown (I'm assuming there) of the album. Lots of shit inside these deceptively simple-sounding songs.

    I've heard a lot of good pop albums the past couple of years, and yet with the possible exception of the Wrens (who play a much more rough-and-tumble version of pop), I haven't heard anything approaching the sophistication and, well, perfection on exhibition here. Another song issues forth, and my mind is blown all over again.

    I'd be worried about the whole "instant attraction" problem, but Semisonic has so many layers to its songs that there's no fear of getting quickly bored. Brilliance defined. An album that will entrance anyone who hears but a snatch of sound. Truly, an amazing achievement.

    Senator Flux
    reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92

    Senator Flux was originally just another D.C.-postpunk survivor. I really liked their "Spectacles, Testicles..." (I forget the rest of the title) album on Resonance of a few years back, especially the excellent tune "Move Sequence." Most of that is gone now, with the Flux-ers much more interested in the pop psychedelic movement going on now.

    Thank God they do that pretty well, and also the rambling punk rap thing as well (you know, like the history lesson(s) from the Minutemen, etc.). They can also turn a pretty pop tune at times, most noted by "Grey-Eyed Athena" on last year's The Criminal Special or "Sinking Sensation" on this album.

    There's a trove of great guitar work here, and this will fit into mellower moments of a hard rock shift. And if there is an alternative MD out there who has yet to listen to this, then don't delay. This is pretty damn cool.

    P.S. I like "Monuments," "Godwash" and "Universal Solvent," as well. Oh, and the rest of the album.

    Sense Field
    Killed for Less
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    I think they're just a little too excited about the whole grunge explosion. At times I hear really cool melodic ideas that are filtered through too much guitar and then "anthemized".

    I know this came out of the punk community, and some of the songs are solid post-punk things. It's just that the spectre of grunge seems to be inhabiting everything.

    Sometimes a nice pop song doesn't need to be cranked to the heavens and offered as a sacrifice to the classic rock god. I don't know if it was the producer or what. I hear more potential here than in almost anything else I've reviewed this month, and yet it ends up awful disappointing. Don't take it quite so seriously next time, guys.

    Sense Field
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    As most of you have figured out by now, I'm a sucker for plain-and-simple pop music. So when I didn't go nuts over the last Sense Field album, it probably didn't compute.

    I puzzled over it, and eventually tried to justify me feelings in the review. Now comes this collection of songs from the band's two self-released outings, with a couple newer songs to boot.

    The music is solid, the playing good and yet I still don't respond. Even more than before, I cannot explain why I just get no vibe from this band. A lot of people love them (and that makes sense to me), but I simply can't find my way onto the bandwagon. I wish I could really specify why.

    Papercut CD5
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Not sure what this is all about. Two demo versions of songs from the forthcoming Sense Field album Building, four songs (and one remix) from their self-released EPs, released on Revelation last year, and "Papercut" from Killed for Less.

    The release of the early EPs was a revelation for me, as I thought Killed for Less was overly bombastic and pretentious. I liked the understated way those early songs came across.

    The two demos aren't quite as heavy as the previous album, and I hope they pare back some of the mess with the new recording. I think the songwriting has always been solid, but the producer should be less worried about kicking butt.

    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Continuing its assault on the pop world via an anthemic hardcore approach, Sense Field has (finally) cranked out a new album which realizes all the potential folks like me have preached.

    Without ever really putting out a good album, Sense Field has built an astonishing following, mostly with awe-inspiring live shows. The main problem with previous efforts was a tendency to crank out plodding anthem after anthem. And when the guys wrote some up-tempo pop gems, the production was so heavy the cool melodies got lost in the morass of sound.

    The production is still a bit much, but when pop bits like "Leia" come up, the sound lightens just enough to let the songs breathe. Yeah, there are still too many anthems which go nowhere, but even those are much better crafted than previous efforts.

    Sense Field has finally recorded an album that leaves the band worthy of the hype. Everything is better: writing, production and playing. And the potential that has always been blatant is now blossoming into greatness. There's plenty of room for improvement, but these guys are on the right track.

    Sense Field
    Jimmy Eat World

    split 7"
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Mineral kicks this fine set off with an astonishing cover of the well-worn torch song "Crazy". If you think this song has already been interpreted to its full extent, you simply must hear this rendition. The finely-honed guitar lead (which is nothing more than barely-controlled distortion) sets the tone, and the rest follows. A real stunner.

    Jimmy Eat World impresses, as always, with "Secret Crush". The sound is a bit messed up because the compression necessary to fit this song and the Sense Field tune on the same side, but the song itself is a great emo raveup. Highest quality.

    And thus Sense Field brings up the rear with "Every Reason", one of its better efforts. The excessive punch that is often imposed upon the band's songs is toned down just enough (though it could be that compression thing, again) to let the song breathe.

    Beg, borrow or steal to get this slab of joy. Some of the best emo talent around with three great songs. Where to go wrong?

    Tonight and Forever
    (Nettwerk America)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Nettwerk picks up another ex-Revelation band. Almost looks like a farm team situation going on. Of course, I know better than that...

    Sense Field was always kinda commercial, and this album sees the guys continuing in that trend. The songs are still really anthemic, but the playing is more restrained. Yeah, some of that is probably calculated so as not to scare off the kiddies, but it's a good idea with these songs.

    Thrashing and bashing out atmospheric songs like these just isn't a good idea. Someone got to the band and explained that to them. This album is only vaguely reminiscent of the Sense Field I knew from years back, but it's easily the band's best and most consistent album.

    Sometimes that happens. Some bands are better cut out for the big leagues. Sense Field always sounded to me like a band that needed wider pastures. It found them, and this fine album is the result.

    Fields Unsown
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Keyboard-oriented prog, and in a good way. These are sharp, electric piano tones, not the excessive overwashes that are far too common. Oh, there's plenty of the extended jamming you'd expect, but these songs focus a lot more on coherent song styles.

    Strangely anthemic, too. And that works real well, since all prog is awfully pretentious by nature. The generally sparse sound is also a welcome relief, and it gives Senses its own distinctive feel.

    Yeah, some editing could have been done. Easily. But I'll forgive long songs when they sound like this. Understated prog rock is a rarity, but it shouldn't be. Not when something like this can result.

    A completely uncommercial sound, of course. Which is probably why I like it. Of course, I like to think that I like all good music. And Senses certainly qualifies.

    North From Here
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Fairly anthemic death metal. Kinda an odd distinction, no? But being distinct can be tough in this genre, and Sentenced are certainly talented enough to make a mark.

    A lot of movement, and yet everything stays in control. No sloppy playing here.

    Maybe too controlled at times. It gets calculated sounding after a while, like the machine that's been oiled for life. Maybe a squeak or two would help.

    Still, the songs are interesting and not at all average. Definitely worth your time.

    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Wonderfully aggressive death metal; Sentenced keeps moving in the direction of a more traditional hard rock, but Amok combines blazing speed and more elegant passages with panache.

    Extremely tight. The production keeps things popping out all over the place, and Sentenced have all the chops for what the guys want to do. Okay, this isn't terribly groundbreaking material, but you can't tell me it sucks.

    Purists will blanch at the acoustic guitar (in spots) and the increasing prevalence of Iommi-like riffs, but that's the price to pay for progress. Sentenced have nailed this sound dead. Every track cranks.

    Sentenced is cock rock 1995.

    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    The sort of soundscapes that I identify with Cold Meat Industry. Vast, ambitious and utterly engrossing. Sephiroth is Ulf Soderberg, and this is his first full-length under this name.

    What sets Sephiroth apart is the use of sounds that he has taped from different parts of the world. Chants and noises are spliced, chopped up and then used here to provide truly spooky effects. When drums are used, they are sometimes from these recordings (I think), but even the electronic (or studio-recorded) beats here sound like they're from some ancient ritual.

    All this put together with the highest degree of care. Lush and haunting sounds, the kind which easily steal minds away from the realities of this world. As this is a one-man project, Soderberg put it together himself, most impressively, I might add.

    These pieces are amazing when they come in bits. Contemplating the entire project is almost impossible. The scope is so huge, so overwhelming, it... well, let's just say it's damned good. Astonishingly so, to be sure.

    Under Siege (Live in Barcelona) video
    (Roadrunner Video)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    See, this showed up on my birthday, and I really didn't even think about reviewing it at first. It was such a cool present. But then the guilt got the best of me, and although I know I don't have to, here are a few words on the pictures.

    After listening to reports on the Earth Summit in Rio and listening to the band talk about all of the poor and the street kids, the stories about the missing street children seem all the more haunting. The observations Max and Co. have on life in a developing third world (an ancient designation, to be sure) power are very illuminating. Oh yeah, the video is nicely edited as far as the music performance goes. A helluva frenetic show (wish I could see one). But read between the lines. Something's going on here. Stop your headbanging for a moment to get a clue as to life in the real world.

    Chaos A.D.
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    I know, six months late. But I do review everything I get, so I'll check in with my thoughts.

    When a band (or artist) has a breakthrough album, like Arise was, there are three options. First is to continue doing exactly what you have been doing, and falling away from the mainstream. One of my favorite bands, the Rainmakers, is a good example. The first album got a ton of attention and decent sales, but they were dropped after three albums.

    The second thing is to totally sell out and completely ignore your musical roots. Refer to the last Soul Asylum or Metallica albums.

    Sepultura did the third, which is to keep on with the basics of what you're doing, and maybe tone things down just a touch. R.E.M. has been doing this virtually since murmur.

    Does it suck? Of course not. This is a brilliant album if you compare it to the shit wandering out from arena-rock bands these days. But it doesn't compare nearly as favorably to, say, Beneath the Remains.

    The price of popularity, I'm afraid. At least they go down fighting.

    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Back solely on Roadrunner, after a couple years spent touring, compiling side projects (which were better than Chaos A.D.). The time off seems to have done a world of good.

    As on Arise, the band incorporates some traditional Brazilian music into some songs, even utilizing musicians from a Brazilian tribe. Wonder if Paul Simon wishes to compare results of the same search?

    While I heard that Chaos would be much more industrial, the final, satisfying results of that experimentation can be found here. The rhythm section has an addictive feel, heavy and yet catchy, unlike the plodding work last time out.

    It's been years since Sepultura was really a death metal band, but Roots simultaneously pulls the band back and pushes it forward. In all the right ways. I haven't heard playing this animated and spontaneous-sounding from these guys since Beneath the Remains. And yet, this is the sharpest production of a Sepultura album ever, with all sorts of musical influences bandied about.

    The result is an attack of vehemence unheard of since Fudge Tunnel's The Complicated Futility of Ignorance. A real metal album for the thinking listener. Not only can you crank up the volume and bash your brains out, you can also sit back and appreciate this album as a true work of art. Fun and intelligent. Sounds like a recipe for success.

    Given the awesome talent of the band, I think the guys can still do better. Just a matter of tightening here and loosening there. But such matters border on the trivial. This is a whale of an album, deserving of every accolade it can generate.

    Blood Rooted
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Odds and ends from the past five years or so. There are a few unreleased songs that were recorded during the Chaos A.D. and Roots sessions, a couple demo versions of songs, an industrial-rap remix of "Lookaway" and seven live tracks. Since it looks like Sepultura (as we know it) is no more, better to get something than nothing at all.

    Mike Patton of Faith No More guests on "Mine", though his vocals are so processed you probably wouldn't have recognized him right off. The other really unusual (not to mention exciting) track is the remix of "Lookaway", which is almost as trendsetting as that industrial-groove cover of "Orgasmatron" the guys did ages back.

    True Sepultura fans (there are plenty, me among them) will pore over every little bit, attempting to put together a more complete picture of the band. While not as necessary as a new album (something we probably shouldn't be looking for any time soon, anyway), this set is nonetheless a worthy addition to the canon, if nothing more than an indexing.

    Better than I figured it would be, anyway. Blood Rooted is a step above a blatant appeal for cash. The general quality of the group's work accounts for all of that.

    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    New singer Derrick Green isn't a dead ringer for Max Cavalera, but he's in the same ballpark. And anyway, the point of Sepultura isn't beautiful, melodic singing. It's about throbbing rhythms and pounding riffage.

    And as such, well, Sepultura has straightened out. There are still remnants of the "tribal" rhythm underpinnings, but the stuff on top is very much rote death metal ramblings. A little disappointing there.

    Roadrunner is in an odd position, playing Max's new project, Soulfly, against the franchise, Sepultura. Soulfly sounds more like Sepultura, honestly, and this Sepultura sounds more like someone trying to rip off Sepultura. Some element of soul is missing.

    Not bad by any stretch, but a little dull. Kinda like Chaos A.D., an album which simply didn't live up to the band's standards. After everything the guys have been through, it's amazing there is still a Sepultura. Perhaps the next album will properly restore the roar.

    See also Nailbomb.

    Sgt. Rock
    Live the Dream
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    Part of the Native Tongue side of electronic stuff (if there even is such a thing). What I'm saying is that Sgt. Rock employs a trippy, bouncy feel with its beats 'n' bass, and whatever vocals or other noise laid on top just roll around happily.

    Unlike, say, De La Soul, Sgt. Rock doesn't have much substance lying beneath its funky grooves. Just the grooves, ma'am, and not a thing else.

    Oh, the fare is most awful fun, bounding about as it does. It is rather hard to sit still or frown while this stuff kicks out of the stereo. It's just that a minute after the disc shuts off, I don't miss it.

    This is, however, the summer silly season. And that movie aphorism applies to music as well. Why not get a little goofy? Sgt. Rock will happily oblige.

    Set on Stun
    Reveals the Shocking Truth...
    (Distance Formula Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    It's been a while since I've heard a band that hearkened back to 1992, when bands like Treepeople and Jawbox were taking pop music into hardcore territory. Yeah, this stuff is that good. Proof? The album was produced by J. Robbins (he once of the majestic Jawbox) and Martin Bisi (say no more!). The songs attack, spread out, and then set their teeth into your soft, meaty shoulder.

    The first track didn't quite work for me, and so I was a bit concerned. But after that, well, pure bliss. While great bands like Polvo and Archers of Loaf have mutated this tradition, Set on Stun moves back into a more pure pop realm, populating its territory with lots of great lead guitar lines and manic rhythm work.

    And the atonal hooks. Wondrous anti-anthems. Thrashingly gorgeous songs full of anger, pain and pathos. When life kicks you in the ass, it's time to kick back. And Set on Stun is the perfect mode of psychic transport.

    Yes, okay, this is perhaps my favorite sound, the whole heavy, meandering pop thing. But these bastards are astonishingly adept at manipulating the form. Set on Stun takes me to levels of bliss I had forgotten about. I'm on my knees, begging for more. And that don't happen too often.

    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/94

    Seven songs, see, titled "One", "Two", "Three"... you get the point. Seven is Zip Campisi, by the way.

    Ambient to the extreme. And really, to the generic. Campisi does all the usual little things with rhythm and kinda subliminal noises, but I want to find out what's in his head, and he's left this project too sterile for that to happen.

    Not bad, just not terribly interesting. It would definitely put me to sleep, and I don't think that's what ambient is about.

    Seven Hearts
    Broke My Hand 7"
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    A truly primitive recording. Not muffled, but simply rather spotty. Which works when you're trying to play the spooky blues (with a touch of Kepone), as the Seven Hearts do.

    The songs are somewhere in the Dead Bolt vein, though less jokey and more mean. And while I can't hear a lot of what's going on (the sound is just not there), what I can make out sounds cool enough.

    The flip is a bit more disjointed, with a much more creative rhythm going on. That's the one that made me think of Kepone. Though there is also that blues element. I'm not sure these guys know exactly what they want out of their sound, and that may explain this slab.

    Or maybe not. I can say that these guys are more than likely quite entertaining live. If they wander this way and I'm available, I'll mosey over and check them out.

    Mots de Faux Coeurs
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    There's something to the notion that your vocals do not have to match up with your music. Seven Hearts don't bother much with the pretty things; the guitars warble in a sorta psychotic rockabilly style and the tempos don't let up. And then those gravelly, occasionally howling vocals. Oh, how they impress.

    Perhaps the easiest way to describe would be if U. S. Maple had something of a rockabilly jones. This is raucous, noisy stuff, with plenty of energy to spare.

    Perhaps my judgement of pretty is a bit off. Seven Hearts actually do work at craft a bit; songs like "Gypsy Moth" have definitely been worked over a few times. Still, to majority of the fare is nicely discordant. Randy enough to excite just about anyone.

    If you like yer noise barely palatable, Seven Hearts should do the trick. There is a complex science behind the madness, and that lends to improved listening over time. More than adequate, and bordering on great.

    7 Seconds
    Out the Shizzy
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    Kevin wrote the press, and for once that sheet wasn't a total waste of my intelligence. It wasn't godly or anything, but I like the trend.

    These fine folk have been merging hard core and the wending ways of the music scene for (really?) 14 years, and I can hear a lot of the popular sounds of today wandering around with traditional 7 Seconds sensibility. Like an occasional grunge riff (not grunge sound) or pop-punk whirl (though they've been on that tip longer than almost anyone else).

    It's not metal, but it sure is loud and powerful. My goodness, I sure didn't expect something this solid and downright fucking great. My friend Dave (a big fan) should be really pleased.

    Good to Go
    (Side One Dummy) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    After a few years of solo outings and other projects, Kevin Seconds decided to trot out the marquee name again. And, well, why not get back in pocket with some real rippers.

    Drums blazing, guitars screaming and lots of howling. Yeah, the stuff calms down a bit in the middle (the breakneck pace is probably a bit too much, even for guys half their age), but just enough to showcase some Seconds harmonies.

    Quite the change of page from recent Seconds outings. The mellow pop songs have given way to the power of his youth. Perhaps these reunion things don't all suck, after all.

    I will quibble a bit: While this album is suitably blistering, there isn't a real grabber in the bunch. Good stuff, but nothing truly outstanding. Still, even average 7 Seconds is pretty damned good.

    Scream Real Loud ... Live!
    (Side One Dummy)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    The title pretty much sums it up. Twenty-six songs, everything from classics to a nice chunk of stuff from the most recent album. This is 7 Seconds live.

    The sound walks the line between high production values and the rawness required by a live recording. What emerges is a vivid, engaging feel. This does, indeed, sound like a show. Turn it up louder, and you can almost see the band.

    In fine form, I might say. The songs just flow out so fast and furiously, it's almost impossible to keep up. Again, this helps to create that live show feel.

    A pretty fine effort, and a nice document. The sound is good enough to use this as a greatest hits, but still ragged enough to replicate the energy of the live show. Indeed, this was recorded at one show. Sounds like it. And that is, indeed, a good thing.

    See also Drop Acid and Kevin Seconds.

    Seven That Spells
    Future Retro Spasm
    (Beta-Iactam Ring)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    Churgling proggy stuff that may (or may not, depending on your point of view) veer a bit closer to jazz than rock. In my book, this is rock. But of a very specialized kind.

    Imagine, if you will, the Jesus Lizard as a prog band. With a saxophone replacing David Yow's vocals. But the same pile-driving, groove-laden rhythm section and the same aggressive tendencies. Something like that.

    Far more visceral and emotionally-engrossing than most prog bands. I'm not sure that label really fits, anyway. But there's some serious technical precision here, and the songs bristle with bits and pieces of classical music theory. So, you know, there's that.

    More to the point, great music is what there is. Outstanding stuff. If the first ten seconds excite you, then this album will blow your mind. Otherwise, well, look somewhere else. I'll be right here, turning the sound up another notch.

    The 757s
    Freeway Surrender
    reviewed in issue #310, September 2009

    The second song on this disc is "Shirley MacLaine," as in, "She's got visions just like Shirley MacLaine." And I began to think that these guys just might be older than me. The more I listened to the up-and-down beats and raggedy harmonies, the more I got into an 80s-era Minneapolis state of mind.

    So there's a guitarist named Seth Zimmerman (yes, nephew of that Minnesota Zimmerman) and a bassist named Paul Pirner (and yes, brother of that Pirner) and, well, everything is good. These guys play raucous rock and roll with an attitude that has been earned. One look at the pix and you'll see the mileage. Every wrinkle comes through in these energetic and wise songs.

    The songs are well-crafted before the band hacks them to pieces, which puts the band closer to the 'Mats than Soul Asylum, though probably most similar to Chris Mars's solo work. The production makes the sound well-rounded, but leaves enough frayed edges to stay comfy.

    And that just what this album is, comfort food for geezers like me who grew up thinking that Minneapolis was the center of the musical universe. Know what? We were probably right.

    Weekends of Sound
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Another band further down the emo road. The strident pop guitar work is here, but the choruses are fairly hooky. Even the verses rely on melody more than power.

    The cumulative effect of these songs, however, is powerful. 764-HERO is in full command of its game, blasting holes here, there and wherever it wishes. These are solid songs delivered by a confident band.

    The sound is also spot-on. Just a little distortion and reverb on the edges, lending enough of a rough edge to take some of the shine off the melodies. Gives the boys that much more oomph.

    Wonderfully solid, approaching brilliance more often than not. This is one of those albums that sounds good the first listen and then gets better. The subtleties are such that even a multitude of spins won't wear away the charm.

    Seven Storey Mountain
    Based on a True Story
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Some glorious buzzsaw power punk. Seven Storey Mountain is just living in a Husker Du world without dipping too deeply into the well. Just enough to craft some utterly incandescent tunes.

    The real trick to this is to write lyrics that matter, stuff that sounds great when shouted very quickly. I think those are some of the most arresting hooks, and these boys seem to agree. Each song is a coiled spring, just waiting to be set loose.

    Add to that a sense of foreboding, suspense that rather brings out the power of the songs. Some of that is in the writing, to be sure, but the dark sound accomplished in the studio should also be recognized.

    Young bands often imitate their heroes unconsciously. Seven Storey Mountain has deconstructed the Husker Du monolith and incorporated a few pieces into its own machinery. That's the real way to pay tribute: Remind without ripping off.

    split EP with Brandtson, Camber
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    One song from Brandtson, three from Camber and two from Seven Storey. Very punchy stuff, though it's interesting that the Brandtson stuff sounds a bit more cerebral than usual, while the (quite similar) Camber pieces sound much more off the cuff. Must be my expectations of the band in question.

    I'm not sure if there's really a theme to this set, other than really fine songs by great bands (well, Seven Storey is a one-man affair, but still). While each band did its recording separately, the sound achieved by each is startlingly similar to the others. I don't know if this intentional, but it sure does aid continuity.

    A great introduction to these three great acts. Fans will certainly want to hear this stuff, but this is the sort of release that brings in new admirers in exponential numbers. Simply outstanding.

    7 Year Bitch
    Lorna 7"
    (Face the Music/Rathouse)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    Very strong rhythm section keeps this Seattle outfit together. Short, tight songs on basic themes: poverty, fucking, etc. In order to quell cries of "sexist bastards" I should mention this is an all-female band. And a pretty damn good one, too. Look for a 10" coming out soon on C/Z.

    Sick 'em
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    As most of you already know about the death of guitarist Stefanie Sargent last summer, I shan't dwell on the details. While 7 Year Bitch manage to avoid the traditional "Seattle" sound, Stefanie couldn't escape the traditional Seattle jones.

    But the remaining three members have found a new guitarist and are forging forward. This album combines material recorded last spring with their previous 7" and EP.

    Their snarling punk attack is refreshing, and they're good, not just because they're women. After all, in a blind sonic test, they compare favorably to male punk bands. The songs at times have a distinctly female point of view, but is that any different than the mostly male...

    Okay, off the soap box. You just play this album, not because the guitarist overdosed or because it's trendy "foxcore" (what a stupid term). Play it because it is one of the best releases out.

    17 Reasons Why
    The Dark Years
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Easygoing (musicwise) pop, acoustic guitars high. Sattie Clark delivers to obligatory alto vocals well, but what makes the difference is what she sings about. These songs are written to showcase the lyrics, and these songs of love gained, lost and thrown away are immediately arresting.

    And whether the tunes go midtempo or a bit slower, each one is another brilliant set piece. The music is more than good enough to support the intense lyrics, and the whole is very good.

    Each track lures me in further. In fact, the songs seem to gain intensity as the disc rolls on. A fine job of song sequencing, in any case. Highly crafted, but the sound is so easy.

    Most people who try to pull off this sort of music get tripped up in the lyrics. Or they don't pay enough attention to the music. 17 Reasons Why gets both spot on. Which is why this one is worth hearing.

    Sex in Taboo Creek
    Soft 7"
    reviewed in issue #28, February 14, 1993

    Listening to this makes it hard for me to believe these folks live in the Midwest. The guitars on side one are a thick fog, and it takes a rather unique singing style to piece that mood.

    Side two shows the more common country-rock thing coming through, but it's so fun I hardly notice.

    This should have been called "Three Sides of Sex in Taboo Creek" since there is no song titled "Soft." But it stands nicely as great music.

    The Sexy Accident
    Ninja Ninja Fight Darth Vader
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    Easily the best thing I've heard from this Kansas City outfit. What were once modestly-disjointed indie pop throbs have become well-crafted rock jaunts. The tendency to run to tangent is intact, but the central themes of the songs simply hold together better.

    In short, the Sexy Accident has found the root of "cool." These generally understated songs loop and circle around, always retaining just the right level of distance. Perhaps another way to look at this is that I've finally caught up with the band's inherent eccentricities.

    And then every once in a while there's a song like "Sauvingnon Blanc," which reminds me a lot of The Hungry Mind Review (of Wilmington, N.C., one of the lost great pop bands). The song never quite kicks into overdrive, and the hook sets like a soft caress.

    It's always fun to hear a band grow and get better over the years. Another step forward like this and the Sexy Accident should be getting attention from the big leagues.

    The Last Dance...
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Grunge in its most technically proficient form. Plenty of prog influences, with the odd spaces nod as well. This is extremely well-played; the musicians hit their marks throughout. It's the marks themselves I have a problem with.

    You knew there had to be something. Well, this sound just doesn't excite me the way Skin Yard did some 10 or more years ago. Yes, these guys are more sharply produced. But maybe that's the issue.

    At times it sounds like the band has disassociated itself from its song subject. The emotion gets lost behind a wall of guitars and effects. Turning up the volume doesn't necessarily increase the visceral attack.

    To put it simply, I'd like to hear the band get into the songs a bit more. Right now, the guys are playing the pieces (very well, as I noted up top), but there just isn't that emotional hook that grabs. I need something to draw me in.

    The Shackeltons
    The Shackeltons
    reviewed in issue #291, November 2007

    One-two, one-two. Up and down punky screamers that are pleasantly loud and just tuneful enough to keep the ears from bleeding.

    Oh, and the Led Zeppelin references. Very odd, but rather appealing. Every once in a while a Jimmy Page-like lick materializes and then disappears. Kinda like fog, except much more enticing.

    Meanwhile, the rhythm section keeps pumping out these insistent rhythms that pretty much demand strict obedience. I mean, they tie you right into the songs and don't let you go. Struggling against the restraints is most pleasurable, but futile nonetheless.

    These central Pennsylvania boys have something. They know what they want to play, and then they do. Then dorks like me fall in love and the chase begins. Who knows where the sordid tale will end, but this is one fine beginning.

    (Sulfur-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Music in motion. SFT (Simon Fisher Turner and Robin Rimbaud) uses a number of electronic styles to paint something of a travelogue. The idea isn't so much to describe actual places, but places that should be.

    Or, perhaps or accurately, places in the mind. This disc facilitates contemplation. It's very easy to get lost within the ideas and sounds of this disc. A bounding car commercial-style track can morph into a glorious landscape. You can hear the wind blowing through the trees.

    Well, not exactly. This is a self-contained universe. You have to bring your own ideas and thoughts and let the music guide your personal painting. Actually, I preferred to use the image of a train ride, imagining what I was seeing as the cars rolled along a multitude of scenes.

    As you can tell, I had a great ride. There are a couple of club anthems here along with the more meditative fare. A great slice of mind-bending material. The deftness with which SFT changes gears is astonishing. Nothing sounds forced. Just, well, natural.

    Shades Apart
    September Burns CD5
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    The familiar with Revelation will recognize the sound. Rave-up punk rawk with all the trimmings.

    The single is short, sweet and has no real meaning that I can comprehend. The b-side is an instrumental that is far superior to "September Burns", perhaps just because it doesn't have any lyrics.

    Bring on the album, boys.

    Seeing Things
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    My God. The fourth album in a month with a direct connection to ALL Central in Ft. Collins (Steven Edgerton and Bill Stephenson mixed the Pollen album reviewed above). The thing is, those guys know how to make great pop records. Okay, so the guitars do take on a somewhat similar sound. It is a pretty good one, you gotta admit.

    And with the excellent production, the only thing left to evaluate is the music itself. Shades Apart is nicely adept at the whole power-pop thing. In fact, this puppy sounds a lot like one of the many great ALL albums. Well, the guitar lines aren't as affected, but then, that just adds to the straightforward pop appeal.

    I'm fairly impressed. Shades Apart has crafted a good pop album that's bouncy enough to keep just about anyone bobbing along nicely. Much better than anything I've heard in the past from these guys.

    Solid, and solidly good. Shades Apart has an album that justifies the hype surrounding the band.

    Sonic Boom
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    I'm always curious what makes bands go major. Money, of course, has something to do with it. But then, maybe things are easier. Someone at Republic obviously came up with the "diner" theme for the liners and cover. I suppose it's nice to have someone do that work for you.

    As for the music (that's what's really important here, after all), same old Shades Apart. The production is sharper, punchier. The songs are shorter, tighter. The boys are no longer a grungy hardcore pop band but simply a pop band that deals in chunky chords and the odd grungy mood.

    I remember hearing Urge Overkill's first album for Geffen. I liked it, even though I was an old fan. It was different, but good. I've often had issues with the old Shades Apart, but I think even the old fans might agree that these songs work better. They are less complex, but in the olden days, the guys had a tendency to get lost in complications for no good reason.

    Will the kids buy it? Don't ask me such silly questions. I thought Saturation was a brilliant rock and roll record. The kids didn't exactly agree. Shades Apart has come through with a solid and often exciting disc. There isn't a breakout smash, though, at least to my ears. Have to wait and see if the Republic/Universal marketing geniuses can do something with a good album.

    Shadow Gallery
    Carved in Stone
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Lush keyboards overpowering the occasional urge to really delve into the deeper issues of doom metal, Shadow Gallery is content to run through Fates Warning territory without adding much to the formula.

    Long songs, by-the-book major key solos, powerful vocals and esoteric lyrics. And yet, I am somewhat intrigued.

    The package is just so solid. Nothing terribly inspired or even creative (I've heard all this before too many times to mention), but a decent presentation of the idea. The production keeps the music from getting too sugary (those keys are omnipresent but never overpowering), and the players rip through the material. I'm willing to forgive the spot Kansas-esque moments.

    Not great, but reasonably enjoyable. Accessible enough even for AOR, Shadow Gallery has good radio potential.

    Shadows of Me
    Lovelies Bleeding
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    A truly bizarre sound. All of the instruments and vocals have been modulated to sound like plates of tin, distorted, but way on the treble side. The band then proceeds to flail away through all sorts of punk-pop stuff (with the odd emo sidetrack).

    The songwriting is alright, though at times it is really hard to hear what's going on. And yet, I kinda like this noise. No way a major label would release this sort of thing (they'd probably put out a contract on the producer), but it works fairly well here. Not as a distraction, really, but more of an integral part of the process.

    The best pieces involve a goth-like synth overlay with morose lyrics. This kinda butts heads with the punky stuff, but Shadows of Me is able to make sense of it all. Most of the time, anyway. And that's good enough.

    One of the more unusual albums I've heard in a while. It seems odd to say so, because the band is aimed in fairly traditional directions. Amazing what some direction behind the boards can do.

    (Evil Teen)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/08/00

    Just basic melodic hardcore, thankyouverymuch. Nothing particularly notable, either good or bad. Shaft writes songs of nice construction and energy, and the band plays them perfunctorily. I can feel the vibe coming off these guys, but strangely, it just isn't doing anything for me.

    There are just no distinguishing marks. The guys can play, and the songs have no glaring flaws. There just isn't a spark, that something which would give Shaft a face in my mind.

    And, thus, the lack of obvious mistakes becomes one in itself. Shaft isn't taking chances. This isn't "by numbers" or anything as dull as that, but neither does it sound inspired in any way.

    Just alright. I don't know about you, but if my hardcore doesn't get me all worked up, I go elsewhere. Gotta find a fix somehow.

    Shai Hulud
    A Profund Hatred of Man CD5
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    While the band hails from Florida, the sound is pure NYC metalcore. Throaty, almost death metal vocals over the expected up-and-down bounce mosh. Fairly competently executed, but not terribly exciting.

    The sound is quite nice, just chaotic enough to convey a sense of urgency, but clear enough to bring out all the various voices. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot being said.

    The three songs are almost indistinguishable from each other. Shai Hulud doesn't make any real change in the established sound, and even pales when compared with the Killing Culture reviewed in this issue.

    Just not enough here to make me care. The songs have no life.

    Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Still stuck in the turgid metalcore that characterized the EP from earlier this year, Shai Hulud does exhibit better musicianship and shows signs of progress, particularly in the area of songwriting.

    While still not as punchy as a Pro-Pain (which is, admittedly, much more metal by intent), Shai Hulud does manage to make these songs at least listenable. The band, somewhat stung by criticism and comments on its previous releases, felt compelled to write a lengthy statement in the liners stating that any and all viewpoints expressed are not necessarily felt by all members of the band, etc. Methinks that's a bit too much of a protest.

    Once again, the most intriguing piece of the puzzle is the lyrics. Of course, given the singing style, they're damned difficult to discern. Which wouldn't be so much of a problem if the music had a bit more life.

    Yeah, but even with my bitching, Shai Hulud has managed to actually write some coherent and appealing songs, rising above the murky muddle of the recent EP. Great? Nah. But on the move, to be sure.

    That Within Blood Ill-Tempered
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    Perhaps more than any other band, Shai Hulud is the spiritual and musical heir to Fudge Tunnel. The songs writ large, the grand themes and the epochal noise. Very few even try to work such prodigious thought and effort into music, and even fewer succeed.

    Shai Hulud does more than that. It triumphs. These are songs of rage, terror and pain. There isn't a person, place or thing left unscathed from the wrath of this album. If you want to know how the world looks from a darkened lens, go no further.

    Yet there's more than simple anger here. The songs are blistering attacks, to be sure, but there are layers of subtlety and creative thought woven into the tapestry as well. A first listen may well catch only the venom. Further sessions reveal constructive ideas, paths out of the madness.

    I've been waiting for this disc for, like, forever. These boys don't do a whole lot of recording, but when they do, the results are always worth hearing. The pain of the world resides within this disc. Do you have the courage to feel it?

    Aaron Ali Shaikh
    (and Dan DeChellis)
    Under Careful Watch the Spoken Words Fly
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    Shaikh plays sax (alto, soprano and sopranino) and Dan DeChellis plays piano. These are improvisations, and two-man excursions such as this can really get out of control fast if the folks involved don't pay attention to what they're doing. Shaikh and DeChellis don't shy away from pushing the envelope, but they're most meticulous when it comes to keeping their pieces in line.

    Generally, one or the other takes the lead and holds it for an entire piece. The second player on a given song chimes in when necessary and even occasionally wrests temporary control. But that's only temporary. When the crunch comes, the leader is in charge.

    I'm not sure if this is because one or the other has a particular theme or melody in mind before the start of the session (certainly, many of these improvisations do have a variations on a theme feel to them) or if Shaikh and DeChellis simply have a stellar repore. But there is a level of unspoken communication that is impressive.

    Improvisational music doesn't have to be manic (or even egomanical). It can be contemplative at times. The sounds of sax and piano complement each other quite well, and on this set, DeChellis and Shaikh do the same. Fine listening.

    The Shake
    Kick It
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    Located somewhere between 70s party rock, 80s indie rock and 90s nugarage rock (or, perhaps more accurately, amongst said sounds), the Shake cranks out midtempo rockers that, um, rock.

    There's not much more to say about these guys. This is three chords and a wink kinda stuff, basic riffola bashed out with almost as much power as attitude.

    The Shake never gets too heavy, but this stuff is pleasantly loud. In fact, despite the somewhat forced angst of the lyrics, this is one hell of a pleasant album. Sunny stuff for the impending summer. Even the breakup songs (such as they are) are pretty damned bright.

    I dunno. Sometimes it's nice to simply listen to music and not worry so much about it. And if yer gonna do that, the Shake will do nicely. Not much past the surface, I suppose, but we're talking perfect skin here.

    Shake Appeal
    My Danger 7"
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Like nothing else than latter-day 'Mats, Shake Appeal cranks out two, pleasant but undistinguished pop tunes.

    Hell, "My Danger" could even come from the Cheap Trick portfolio. That's not necessarily bad, but the band really doesn't breathe a lot of life into a by-the-numbers tune.

    "Everything Counts" follows in the same vein, although it is a bit more spirited. It's a little more catchy and little less anthemic. Fun, but forgettable.

    Which is pretty much a fair summation of the single. No distinguishing marks.

    Progress Ave.
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    I could ask a silly question like why would a band want to imitate Blues Traveler or Hootie and the Blowfish, but then those $$$ flash in front of my eyes. Which still leaves the question itself...

    Anyway, that's what Shaker sound like it is trying to do. The songwriting is solid (as far as groove/AOR goes, anyway), and the playing is quite good. These guys have a good grasp on what they're doing. I just kinda wish they were stretching themselves a bit.

    'Cause, well, everything is so well done. I mean, I really don't like this sorta music, but Shaker definitely has some skills. It's just that I'm not really in the mood for the stuff. But that's my personal problem.

    So there you are. As this sort of band goes, Shaker has all the tools. I just don't really want to hear it. Sometimes I simply cannot overcome my biases. It happens.

    Shaking Tree
    Sound of Rain
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    I've got this to say for the folks at Degy Management: They're consistent. All four bands they sent me fit loosely into that white boy funk/Dead again circle of stuff. Shaking Tree is the most interesting, and yet probably the most flawed of the bunch.

    I really dig the vaguely bluegrass song constructions. The bass and guitars move around in very attractive ways. Some references to South African township jive, even. I can dig.

    But the vocals are breathy and restrained. The music is alive ad full of joy, and the vocals are constraining. They don't fit. The lyrics aren't too bad, but the singing style just doesn't work for me at all.

    Get someone else to sing. There's real potential in the music, but I simply can't countenance these vocals.

    Shakuhachi Surprise
    Space Streakings Sighted Over Mount Shasta
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    I had a pretty good idea of what a collaboration between Mount Shasta and Space Streakings would sound like. A somewhat more pounding version of the Nintendo jazz that Space Streakings is famous for rendering, perhaps.

    What seems to have happened instead is that everyone played a few songs, and then the creative types went into the booth and spliced up something completely new. Sample-driven in a nicely organic way, with more layers of subtext than an Umberto Eco novel.

    Still wildly enjoyable, of course. And, actually, "Shacho" comes kinda close to what I figured this would sound like. Not that I'm complaining. After all, half this composite band's name is "Surprise", is it not? Why should I have expected anything less?

    These rhetorical questions are going to clog my arteries and kill me one of these days. Fans of both groups will have already flocked to the stores to score these puppies. Like me, they trust that two great bands can't completely fuck up when playing together. They're right, and in fact, the combination of the two is at least as good as both bands are separately. A large accomplishment in and of itself.

    See also Mount Shasta and Space Streakings.

    Sham 69
    The A Files
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    More Brit punk licensed for the U.S. market. Sham 69 does a fair job of approximating the Ramones and Sex Pistols, but certainly nothing more. The really sad thing is that this is one of those "reunion" gigs, as Sham 69 last recorded an album in 1980.

    Honestly, "approximating" is being generous, as plenty of riffs are utterly copped. Yeah, alright, so the stuff is reasonably catchy. It's also been done, and almost 20 years ago at that.

    Punk is not the home of the world's most original music. But most bands aren't outright thieves. Sham 69 steals without compunction, and the sad thing is, these songs sound much worse.

    There's nothing worse than incompetent kleptomaniacs. If you're going to appropriate a riff or hundred, at least use them in a proper way. Sham 69 commits the ultimate sin: stealing music and then making it dull, besides. No need to return.

    The Punk Singles Collection 1977-1980
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Yeah, another Cleopatra retro punk offering. At least this time, we're dealing with the genuine article. Sham 69 was a well-known Brit act at that all-important time, even if in retrospect you might wonder why.

    Many of these songs are pretty decent, certainly much better than the recent reunion effort, The A Files, which was excreble. Most of the songs are at best pale Ramones imitations, though bits like "Borstal Breakout" do have appeal.

    The best songs are in the middle of the disc, when the band hadn't yet begun to repeat itself, but they had learned the basic rudiments of songwriting and tuning instruments. There's some decent stuff to be mined there.

    A worthwhile historical document. Sham 69 is not one of the greatest punk bands ever, but it wasn't not bad, either. This set shows all sides.

    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Shana and her guitar, occasionally accompanied by a few other acoustic instruments. She has a very affected singing style, probably heavily influenced by Ani DiFranco. The singing is definitely folky, but the music is more like the later pop days of Michelle Shocked and k.d. lang.

    Am I making sense yet? I get the feeling Shana would like to flesh out the music behind her songs a bit more, though she's done a pretty good job with what she has. As for the lyrics (which are easily the focus of this project), they cover a wide variety of subjects, with varying results. Sometimes it sounds like Shana is trying to pander a bit too much to a pop audience, and sometimes she hits the nail just right.

    Basically, though, her adventurousness keeps the set lively. While not the greatest singer or guitarist, Shana does a good job of selling the songs. I do think some live seasoning would help curb some of the more idiosyncratic impulses, or at least help her figure out which ones work with an audience.

    Most importantly, Shana knows how to write songs. That's something that can't be taught. It has to be learned.

    Joey Shanks
    Joey Shanks
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Cool, understated pop songs. The tunes just roll along, helped by a strange mix and some unusual sounds. Like a very round guitar sound (thick with little distortion) and almost Casio-style keyboards.

    If that's a guitar and not a bass. I can't tell. I just know I like the way to music moves. It's easy. Nothing complicated or tricky, just basic tuneage. Shanks has a few interesting things to say, but he doesn't labor over points.

    I don't think there's much commercial potential here. Just a little too mundane. In a good way, though. Shanks doesn't start screaming or anything like that. He speaks his mind and lets the music follow. Sounds good to me.

    Sarah Shannon
    Sarah Shannon
    (Casa Recording Co.)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    It's been a while since Velocity Girl faded into the past (I vaguely recall seeing Sarah Shannon in a post-VG group at the Black Cat in D.C. sometime in the late 90s, though I'm not entirely sure if that's what I saw that night), and now Shannon has recorded her first solo album.

    Not necessarily what you'd expect. The orchestrations (yes, I said orchestrations) are tres-Bacharachian, and the songs are full of that late 60s-early 70s faux-innocent feel. Blake Wescott (once of Pedro the Lion) is Shannon's producer, writing partner and jack-of-all-trades in the studio. Frank Lenz (whose outstanding album The Hot Stuff I reviewed in January) drums and helped write two tracks as well.

    The result is a breezy affair, which allows Shannon's fluid and expressive voice plenty of room to find its feet. Much more than an exercise in nostalgia, these songs evoke the past with an eye toward the future. This stuff hardly sounds dated.

    It's good to hear Shannon once again. I wouldn't have predicted this sound for her, but it works so well I can find no reason to complain. She and Wescott created the perfect platform for her voice, and she just nailed the audition.

    City Morning Song
    (Minty Fresh)
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    Further falling into a Bacharachian haze, Sarah Shannon (once of Velocity Girl) exhales dry wit and lush melodies. Piano pop all the way, with some sweet horn arrangements to set the mood.

    As with Lee Hazlewood (reviewed above), the key to this kinda stuff lies not only in the pretty music (and boy, is this stuff gorgeous) but the lyrics. A fine tune is one thing, but if the lyrics hanging on it are stiff, the entire enterprise will fall flat. Shannon is a deft writer, and she never sacrifices music for lyrics (or vice versa).

    That balance is impressive, really. Very few folks can carry it off, and given the time between the last album and this one, it seems Shannon has worked quite hard to make sure these pieces are stellar. You can't hear that work in the songs, though. These pieces are breezier than spring on the Chesapeake.

    Ever smooth even on the more contemplative pieces. Kinda like a souffle that never falls flat, Sarah Shannon simply provides pleasure for what seems like an eternity. Impressive doesn't begin to describe this disc.

    Shapes on Tape
    No Bummers EP
    reviewed 2/29/16

    Three songs of electro pop-rock bliss. This sounds a lot like some of the stuff my kids are listening to, except that there's much more density. Every melody has a counterpoint, and there are plenty of contrarian lines throughout. So, it's ruminative as well as peppy and catchy.

    I mean, that's what the title implies, right? Unlike a lot of more ephemeral pop music, these songs have some heft. I think they'll stand up to repeat listens quite nicely. To be more precise, these songs will be leaving smiles for some time to come.

    Sometimes there's not a lot more to say. The songs aren't profound, but they're filling nonetheless. Jason Matuskiewicz and Adam Kruckenberg have found a nice little niche for their music. Now the trick is to see if these good feelings can extend to a full album. Here's hoping.

    Opiate Sea
    (Pinch Hit)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Self-important pop music. The kind that backs up its pretentious nature. I like that. Shoot high and follow through. Nothing wrong there.

    The hooks are highly anthemic, in that vague grunge kinda way. But the sound is restrained, which keeps the stuff from getting overbearing. Reasonably predictable, but in a good way. Just solid craft, really.

    This would be grunge, really, if the producer had used a heavier hand. And I don't think it would have worked as grunge. But then, I don't think much works as grunge. So I'd say Shapeshifter has morphed just enough in the right direction.

    Quality stuff. I do wish the guys had worked a bit harder at carving out an original sound, but the writing and playing are solid. I'll let astonishing inspiration come later.

    Max Sharam
    ...A Million Year Girl
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #7, 7/29/96

    One of them conceptual, intellectual chicks from across the pond who write songs in whatever current pop idiom makes sense at the time. Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor, that sort of thing.

    Well, Sharam is across the other pond (and thus is from Australia), but like the aforementioned singers would probably do physical damage to your person if you referred to her as a "chick" in her presence. Sharam isn't afraid of taking on a whole set of musical ideas and trying to accommodate pop sensibilities. The results are mixed, as they have to be with a young songwriter, but I'm always impressed by the effort.

    Yeah, stuff like "Purple Flower" shows a knack for pabulum that would be more distressing if most of the other songs weren't much better. Sharam isn't going to impress anyone looking for something revolutionary, but she plays her field pretty well. An intriguing debut.

    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    A set of that ethereal pop stuff, filtered through a Midwestern mindset. Not unlike the Moon Seven Times, really. And since Sharashka isn't that far removed physically from M7X, well, I suppose that makes sense.

    The songs are pretty, and the vocals are evocative enough to keep the music from fading into the walls. There is the usual demo production job, which leaves much of the details muffled, but I can hear some intersting stuff behind the dull wall.

    I'm not sure, though, if there's enough to break Sharashka out of the pack. This sound has sorta gone by the waysides, and what few practitioners are left are a bit more mature and established than Sharashka. Of course, I'm not about to trample on anyone's muse.

    Shark Speed
    Education EP
    reviewed in issue #316, April 2010

    Four songs with the lilting hooks of latter-day new wave and the punch of the Blasting Room. Okay, so the album was only mastered in Ft. Collins. It still has that certain something.

    A certain complexity, to be sure. Shark Speed wastes no time in staking out its territory, but each song wanders in a different way. Once you've heard thirty second, you'll never mistake Shark Speed for anyone else. And yet there's plenty of room to roam.

    Four songs is not enough to stake a claim on much of anything. But these four songs are quite impressive. Bring on the full length!

    Camel Road
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Described as "contemporary" Middle Eastern music, I must admit that this is much more accessible than some of the more "authentic" recordings I've heard. Sharkiat does stick to acoustic (with the exception instruments, though, and so doesn't completely cheese out.

    I'm sure purists wouldn't be terribly happy with the way Sharkiat incorporates western musical thought into its music (there is an interesting fusion of jazz ideas with the more traditional influences), but I think it works pretty well. After all, Arabic music and jazz both have roots in northern Africa.

    The players sound like they are enjoying themselves immensely, playing their hybrid music. And I found myself joining in that attitude. This is fairly infectious stuff.

    No matter the origins or even where this music falls under the genre umbrella, the playing and the enthusiasm can't be beat. Good fun.

    Sharks and Minnows
    The Cost of Living
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Buoyant, joyous pop music with a deep undertow. Bright and shiny on the surface, these songs have some very dark corners. Just when I'd been lulled into a sense of security, I got bit.

    And that's cool. Good pop music must have at least two levels of access. The best, of course, is exceptionally complex even while it maintains a surface of sheer simplicity. This sounds impossible, and actually it's harder than that to accomplish.

    Sharks and Minnows aren't quite up to godhead status, but these boys are awfully good. The hooks ring out straight and true, and the little subversive bits provide a welcome balance.

    First rate. I had a blast listening to this album, and I heard plenty that will engage me in the future. A blissful summer's day--with occasional thunderstorms.

    Sharon America
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    A very Seattle sort of roots rock. You know, like the mellower moments of Temple of the Dog or similar bits from Alice in Chains. Clunky chord work at reasonable volume. Obviously, this is supposed to be "important" music.

    At least, that's what it sounds like. The pristine studio sound doesn't really help here, because something needs to come around to dirty things up a bit. The slacker guitar work doesn't do it, mostly because it sounds a bit contrived that way. I need to hear some more heart, more emotion.

    Very well done. Every part perfect (even that guitar thing I keep mentioning). There needs to be some blue notes, something a bit off. Like I said, some soul, something to make me feel these songs. Right now, all I hear are mellow anthems. Nothing to wrap my heart around.

    Sometimes perfection isn't what is needed. Sharon America (a band name, not a person, BTW) is just a bit too on. Ease up a spot, hoss.

    Sharp Nine
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Five Swedes who take the basic sound of Louder than Love and then add a bunch more Sabbath references.

    Not bad as all that goes, though I get tired of anthem after anthem very quickly (one reason I haven't listened to a Soundgarden album in years). Sharp Nine has aced the production, giving the sound a full and thick feel. Just like... you know.

    For unabashed theft, Sharp Nine is pretty good. As usual with this sorta thing, I just would like to say I hope the band eventually finds its own sound. The guys won't get too far without it.

    Jodi Shaw
    The Pie-Love Sky
    (Big Head)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    There are lots of people who believe that all modern folk singers sound alike. Jodi Shaw is the sort of singer who can prove that notion wrong the moment she opens her mouth.

    Her lyrics are tightly-wound, thoughtfully-considered and astonishingly easy to comprehend. She sings with a melodic style that manages to drop in a wide range of notes without sounding forced or mannered. Her voice is lithe and supple enough to wander all over the map and still sound off-the-cuff.

    The production here allows her voice and guitar to do most of the work. There are the usual latter-day folkie accouterments (scratchy percussion, loops, etc.), but Shaw's voice and guitar accompaniment reign supreme. As they should.

    Shaw has the assured presence of a 20-year veteran of the club wars, but she's just starting out (this is her second album). With stuff like this, I can't imagine what will stop her.

    Matthew Shaw
    Convenience EP
    (Burning Building)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Not exactly laptop pop, but somewhere in the vicinity. Matthew Shaw sings pop songs, but he really geeks out the electronics in his music. The two styles don't always mesh, and it's that fissionable feeling that really drives this disc.

    Tension is always a good thing in art. A landscape isn't a good landscape unless there's something there that shouldn't be. Same goes for music. Pretty music is fine, but there's got to be something else (within or without) to provide a sense of unease. Otherwise nothing happens.

    A lot happens here. Shaw writes simple melodies and sings them in a nice, wavering emo style. Then he cracks out the computer (or whatever) and assembles some really crackling music. Lots of pops, snaps, screeches and trickles. Yeah, it's all in the same key, but the sounds often grate against each other. And that is what makes this one hell of an EP.

    Shawn's Friends from New Jersey
    Cafe Improv
    (Orange Entropy)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    A take on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, complete with crowd noise and the occasional stolen guitar lick. There's a reference to the hippo (as opposed to the walrus). Even the studio sound is tres George Martin, though in a somewhat tinny way.

    Really, the whole thing is tied to the Beatles and old rock and roll (there are also references to the Stones, the Kinks and doo-wop groups, among other things). Without knowing the source material, this album does not make sense. Period. The songs are alright, but really not much on their own.

    More than 30 years ago, Frank Zappa led the Mothers on a thrill ride through a stilted culture and overwrought music, managing to parody the great even while creating lasting, relevant music. Shawn's Friends from New Jersey are jokey and crude for no reason that I can discern.

    The crime here is that this stuff isn't even that funny. There's not even a transitory laugh to enjoy. Oh well.

    She Bears
    I Found Myself Asleep
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    A fine Athens (Ohio) fivesome that favors the complex in pop music. This leads to a few anxious moments at the start of the album (at least for me), but after a listen or two I really started to get into the swing.

    And sing these folks do. These songs move in unusual ways, but there's generally a solid groove somewhere. More importantly, She Bears always seem to want to say something IMPORTANT, if you know what I mean.

    Musically, I mean. The lyrics are good, but I much prefer to wallow in the indulgently crunchy sounds of the songs. She Bears drops layer upon layer of musical thought into these songs, but it does so in a strikingly minimalist fashion. You might think the lines burbling around are simple. You ought to think a little bit more.

    She Bears have obviously thought a lot, but these songs are anything but oppressive. Rather, they're often spontaneous raptures. I kinda dig that. Burrow into this and enlightenment just might follow.

    The Dissolving Room
    (Grey Flat)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    There's a deliberate feel to these songs. They do not hurry. Shearwater plays delicate, folky songs, but they're anything but simple. They sound like they were recorded in something akin to an echo chamber, which makes the sound much fuller than the instrumentation would indicate.

    What I mean is, sometimes you can hear the chairs creak. This homey touch is just one of the things that makes Shearwater so inviting. The songs themselves are rather dark and, like I said, deliberate. Not naturally appealing on first listen.

    The emotional intensity and the sound easily overcome any initial difficulties I had. Also, more time spent with the album works as an acclimatizer. Once I got into the mindset of these songs, I really started craving the album. I needed that next song.

    Shearwater might sneak up on you like that. Let it. This is one of those quiet albums that sometimes screams.

    Celestial Hi-Fi
    (The Music Cartel)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Apparently the Music Cartel is trying to corner the market in Black Sabbath-influenced bands. An interesting and legitimate niche.

    Sheavy, like Orange Goblin, takes a few bits of the Sab retinue without utterly wallowing in retread city. The singer (unidentified in the liners) does have an Ozzy affectation to his voice, but the music is move straight 70s, with as many nods to Mountain or Deep Purple as to Black Sabbath. You may call that quibbling, but there are some of us that can tell the difference.

    Another thing that Sheavy shares with Orange Goblin is a love of (relatively) uptempo songs. This album just keeps moving along. There's no letdown, no slack moment that would encourage someone to jump off the tracks. Merely pure driving satisfaction.

    Alright, so the opening riff to "Solarsphere" is a strange amalgamation of "Sweet Leaf" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath." I never said these guys were breaking new ground. They're just tending the plot extremely well. This week, I'm in the mood to approve of such things.

    Zeek Sheck
    Hot Lines for the Children
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Utter insanity. Not merely crazy, the sort of thing that would annoy all those Bush fans out there. I mean stuff that I, as a serious aficionado of all things wild, woolly and loopy, cannot get a handle on.

    Sure, I can separate this into its looped parts. There is very little actual music in each song (some drums from time to time, though those are looped as well), relying mostly on strange vocal samples and monotonic vocals. And lots of extraneous noise.

    I've read the lyric sheet a few times, and that makes less sense. So I take the opposite approach, zoning out and trying to grasp this disc by leaving my body and reaching toward the sound with my wraithlike, ghostly hands. That didn't work, either.

    When it happens, I have to admit it. While I really like the weirdness inherent in this album, I can't make heads or tails of it. I find such confusion comforting, as it means my place in the world isn't set yet. But I think at this point I'm imposing my own set of deficiencies on this album. If you listen, perhaps what I'm saying will make sense. Hey, if you want something truly wild, Zeek Sheck is out there, waiting.

    Zeek Sheck's Cloud People
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    There are at least three mutations of the title scribbled all over the disc and casing, so I'm not sure if it's quite right. But then, we're talking about Zeek Sheck, who seems to revel in creating maddeningly curious music.

    But as the nice press note says, there are actual songs here. Stuff makes sense, if you happen to like digging through all sorts of cacophonic mess. Which, of course, happens to be my job.

    Lots of friends to help out, folks who are fairly well-known for a high level of musical ability. And a few who probably aren't. Once again, the contradictions of Sheck abound. Even so, the strong sense of rhythm (the bass and drums consistently drive the proceedings forward) keeps all of the madness on the right track.

    Okay, this one makes sense to me. Tight rhythms and lots of loopiness besides. The sort of album I can really lock into a groove on. And while everything else may be going to pot, the groove is always there. Wow. This is a truly fine piece of work. Locate at all costs.

    Sheer Terror
    Old, New, Borrowed and Blue
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Slickly produced hard-core death, lying somewhere between Paradise Lost, the last Ministry and Motley Crue.

    There's an awful lot of attitude for something that's almost more catchy than heavy. The pre-song samples don't really help things much, but I have to admit I was almost humming along, especially when they broke into a crunchy ska-core tune (complete with simulated horns) at the end.

    This sounds like a compilation of two or three bands, not a four-tune disc by one band. The one uniting factor if that this shit sticks in your head. A very weird disc, but in the end I have to say I really dug it.

    Phil Sheeran
    It's a Good Thing
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    More happy jazz for the sedated masses.

    Sheeran looks a little like Yanni, but he can't even live up to that level of creativity. Yeah, the nicely strummed guitar and light drum machine rhythms remind me vaguely of the samba and other such things, but those influences are kept at a minimum. You get too weird, and you lose Aunt Bertha.

    That's enough from me on this.

    The Sheila Divine
    New Parade
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Roadrunner seems to be clocking into the Boston scene a bit. First, there was that re-issue of a couple Chevy Heston albums (and probably some other things I haven't seen), and here's another pop outfit hailing from the area.

    Languid, even when kicking out the jams. The Sheila Divine has cultivated a sort of quiet intensity, even while tossing off the songs like they were just secondhand goods. I kinda like that.

    Basically, this thing was recorded real well. Sure, the songs are good and the trio knows exactly how it wants to sound, but it all came together on tape. What might have been another nice little pop album became somewhat more impressive.

    Really, I'm not trying to belittle the band, because no knob job can turn prunes into chablis. The Sheila Divine plies its post-Big Star pop in fine fashion, a gritter version of the rather popular Semisonic style. The songs do speak for themselves. Even if they sound really, really good.

    Michael Shelley
    Half Empty
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    Basic pop music, with a wry twist. Shelley has obviously done his homework (years as a radio DJ couldn't hurt), and he knows how to set a hook.

    Good as it goes. There's nothing complicated going on here, but as you know, making simple pop music is anything but. Shelley matches his lyrics and music well, maximizing the catchiness potential.

    Nothing more and certainly nothing less. Shelley keeps everything on an even, easy keel. The production leaves the music laid back, though still quite full. Just where you want it to be.

    I have a hard time describing albums like this. I like the stuff (a lot, actually), but once I get past white guy pop, well, there's only so much I can say. Give it a listen. You won't be disappointed.

    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    That XTC sorta thing. Done quite well. I know, I know, you'd think someone like me could come up with a better reference for complex, restrained-yet-jaunty pop music than that (say, the Church?), but I'll stick to my guns. And anyway, we're just talking about a starting point.

    Shellito is mostly Mike Shellito, with some help from his pal Jeff Tanner. The songs are very much stream of consciousness, little observed bits from everyday life. The lyrics don't always tie up neatly, though they always fit very well into the tightly-structured songs.

    And man, these are some pretty pieces. Shellito (the guy) sure knows how to craft songs. Which is not to say he adheres to formula. It's just that even the smallest part of each song here is there for a reason.

    When such well-constructed songs skip and bound like these, well, you know you done good. These pieces are much more complex than they sound, which is one of the higher compliments I can bestow. First rate. Joyous, even.

    Message of the Bhagavat 7"
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Standard metal-core circa 1990, accessible, rhythm heavy and loud as hell. Of course, the a-side tosses a load of silly takes on eastern philosophy, and the flip is more of a rant about how stupid we all are.

    I couldn't agree more. The music is reasonably catchy, though obviously a retread. Enjoyable enough for a few spins, but the folks should delve a little deeper into their creative bag to really make a mark.

    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Mostly your basic NYC hardcore spiel, except on specific tracks, where the influences turn into photocopy material. For example, "Civilized Man" is a basic rip-off of "Waiting Room", except that the chorus is lame. "Empathy" sounds like a cheesy version of about three ALL songs, and the verse of "Here We Go" sounds a shitload like Green Day (and thus, the Buzzcocks), though once again the chorus peters out. And I'm not even going to talk about "Not the Flesh". Yikes.

    Wading through the morass of this disc, I am struck by how many times Shelter tries to re-invent itself, even while staying moderately close to the NYC ideal.

    At times, particularly when the band is really trying to write a pop anthem, Shelter sounds decent. But I'm just not sure where the guys are heading. A little more work and they could be really quite good. Or the wrong A&R guy will tell them to follow another 10 trends and the next album will sound like this one.

    Perhaps if Shelter could get comfortable in one mode, then the attempts to borrow from influences wouldn't sound so contrived.

    Beyond Planet Earth
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Still stuck on its influences, Shelter manages to slash some strokes of its own sound this time out.

    Indeed, much more focus. And while I'm in favor of bands who reach out for more, Shelter's first album bugged me with its slavish devotion to just about every corner of the punk universe. This album sticks mostly to the pop stuff, which is what the band does best.

    Shelter is following in NOFX's footsteps, amping up some of the poppier punk movements, though without ripping anyone off this time. I like this better, although it's still so lightweight I worried about the disc floating out of my machine.

    An improvement. Shelter shows some potential with this album.

    When 20 Summers Pass
    The Roadrunner hardcore exodus to Victory continues. In addition to the label change, Shelter has changed its sound, if only slightly. There's a definite 7 Seconds vibe, that whole hardcore with melodic vocals thing.

    Once again, rather than ape a vast variety of influences, Shelter has tried to refine its sound and focus on creating something of a consistent feel. This disc does stick together quite well, even if I might say that Kevin Seconds ought to be rather flattered.

    Yeah, well, Shelter is one of those bands that I can simply never get along with. I always hear something interesting, but that always seems to be sitting in the context of derivative or simply uninspired material.

    This is probably the guys' best outing yet, though once again I feel like I have to mark that statement with an asterisk. Sometimes, that's just how it goes.

    Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
    Trouble Is...
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    The second album I've reviewed in this issue that has been cranked through the Tom Lord-Alge machine (the Holly McNarland is the other), and, boy, is he the wrong guy to produce a blues singer from Louisiana.

    Shepherd is an average guitar player and decent songwriter, but Noah Hunt is a pretty damned good singer. And he's given proper space. The problem is that the album has been produced like some arena rock thing, with no room for subtlety or grace.
    The easiest place to hear this is on the cover of Dylan's "Everything is Broken". The original, from one of Dylan's best albums of the last 20 years, was produced by Don Was, who, like Alge, likes to punch things up. And the tune is a nice little shuffle. But Jerry Harrison (the producer) didn't leave much room for expression, and Lord-Alge cranked the mix up to levels so excessive it's hard to figure out that the song is actually a lament.

    Noah Hunt is the star here, but this is an album that didn't have to be nearly so bad. The urban blues (which is what Shepherd plays, no matter how much he wants to play the country boy role) can sound great, but they need room to breathe. Instead, all life was drowned out by the men behind the knobs. A damned shame.

    af Sherp
    I Woke Up
    reviewed 1/11/16

    Every once in a while, this Swede kicks out a new album of American-style Anglo-pop. Which is to say that he sounds a bit like Peter Adams or Smart Brown Handbag, but everything is a bit off. Part of it is his accent, which is so close to being perfect that his rare deviations into a Swedish accent can be startling. All of which is just the beginning of his charm.

    Sherp doesn't just play a mellower version of the whole Beatles/Big Star/Posies continuum. He ventures into folk and americana sounds as well, sounding more than a little like a European Johnny Bertram (or even Hiss Golden Messenger) at times. This introspective streak serves him well, especially when he's channeling his inner Joe Jackson on a song like "Everyone Is Someone." His ability to draw back a step from his songs lends them depth.

    The range of this album is impressive, and Sherp certainly knows how to write and craft his songs. He drops an album every three or four years, so he certainly gives himself enough time. But all the time in the world won't fix crap. Sherp's talent is obvious from the first notes; he's just made sure to give his craft time to marinate.

    Or something like that. Sometimes these long-gestated efforts can sound stilted, but I Woke Up is brilliantly alive. At times the orchestrations can lend a twee edge to the songs, but that's just another of the elements that charms me.

    The funny thing is, I don't think Sherp is out to charm. His music is accessible, but it's also idiosyncratic. He pushes his songs into places most people wouldn't imagine. This is pop, yes, but pop with intent. It just happens to soar brilliantly as it entertains. Often startling, and always impressive. I'm sold.

    Shig & Buzz
    Double Diamonds
    (Mai-Tai-Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Nice to see some of the original types getting up with the new surf wave. Shig & Buzz have been playing since the sixties, though under the names Peter Miller and Shigemi Komiyama and not their new moniker. Never heard of them? Well, that's because they were mostly session guys who merely managed to absorb the true feel of early sixties instrumental rock.

    The playing is so smooth and flowing that at times this does sound like a couple of session guys. Miller is a good guitarist, but at times his precision doesn't allow room for the soul of, say, a Dick Dale.

    But if you want something like the Ventures (a studio creation in itself), the Shig & Buzz should fit the bill. This is a nice set of tunes that evokes the sound of a time gone by. I wasn't blown away, but this is great stuff for sunset listening.

    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    The first Kiwi grunge band to cross my desk. And they sound like a lot of U.S. bands trying to cash in on the whole trend.

    To be fair, Shihad finds a really gripping guitar sound that fills the head, but the really dull anthemic grunge song construction (these boys have listened to way too much Alice in Chains) starts to grate immediately.

    Perhaps the best pure grunge disc I've heard this year, but I've only heard a couple others, and they really sucked. I'm glad most folks around here are over the stuff. Noise usually has been a trend-setting label, and it bums me out to see them sign and release something so far behind the times.

    The performances are adequate, but I'm tired of the sound. Nothing moves forward here, it's just plowed into the ground. Sorry about the rhyme.

    The Shilohs
    So Wild
    (Light Organ)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Not wild at all, but kinda charming nonetheless. These understated pop rockers often fail to ignite--kinda like those Lou Reed songs that keep going without finding a hook. Actually, there's a big VU influence here, and I like the vibe. I like it even better when the songs actually go somewhere.

    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    As you may have noticed, Kansas City has been emerging as a real center of bands who take the punk ideal and then tear it a new asshole. Shiner follows nicely in the footsteps as such cool bands as Season to Risk and Cher U.K.

    Shiner prefers to stick to a little more alternative pop format than either of those bands, with more emphasis on the guitar work as well. The result is a stringent sound that is right at home on Jawbox's DeSoto label.

    Some nasty anthems, some rave-up types and a few completely indescribable (yet wonderful) pieces make up this disc. Shine shows range and a good command of their sound. Some of that Lawrence grunge stuff flits by, but it passes quickly. Shiner's too cool to sound anything like Paw. Thank goodness.

    Now I only wish these folk had been around when I lived in the area, so I could catch them live. One of these days, I guess.

    Lula Divinia
    (DeSoto-Hit It!)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    More hardcore pop that accesses emo and plenty of other sorts of styles. From Kansas City, which is beginning to seem something of a Mecca for these bands. This is the second disc I've heard from these guys, and it tops the first (good) one in every way.

    The playing is altogether more assured. Shiner sounds like it knows exactly what it wants to play and how to play it. The execution is dead-on, and the production has left juts enough of a dirty edge to make the disc interesting.

    The range of the band is astonishing. One moment an almost-sweet melody rings out, the next is caterwauling, pure and simple. And Shiner isn't afraid to wander in-between when appropriate.

    Shiner showcases the finest of the various "punk" sounds in existence today. Yeah, the guys learned at the feet of Jawbox (guess who owns DeSoto, anyway) and other bands like that, but this album takes those ideas and finds a whole new way of expressing them.

    Unclassifiable, except perhaps merely as "excellent music". One of them "don't miss" albums.

    Making Love EP re-issue
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    Four live songs and the title track (yes, the Bad Company song). This EP was recorded back in 1999 and kinda disappeared...sorta the way Shiner did, sadly. This set is a nice addition for fans, and probably not a whole lot more than that. Still, it was nice to go back and remember, even if only for a moment.

    The Shiners
    See Rock City
    reviewed in issue #237, January 2003

    The Shiners play a certain version of southern-fried roots music. There's banjo and there's lap steel and there are screaming electric guitars, too. The tag-team vocals of Wes and Jyl Freed add a nice spark of originality.

    The more rockin' side of the Shiners reminds me of the Georgia Satellites. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, though I always thought those boys were processed one notch too far. But then come songs like "Test Drive," a fine western swing number, and I'm impressed all over again.

    Thing is, the Shiners bounce all over the road. I'm sure there are plenty of fans who wish the folks would crank it up a notch. I'd rather hear more fiddles and banjoes and such.

    And I get enough of that to keep me happy. I do wish the Shiners would shed some of their polish, but that's not gonna happen. So I'll just have to appreciate this disc for the nice piece of work that it is.

    The Shining Path
    The Shining Path
    (Which? Records)
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    A couple guys from Roguish Armament and Hoops McGraw of Dog Eat Dog. The result is somewhat expectable: Hardcore hip-hip, albeit with a cool early-80s feel.

    That is intended, as the album relates the story of a son trying to rediscover his father. There's plenty of travel to the land of the 70s as seen by a Vietnam vet, as well as the current realities for the son. Definitely a dark view.

    The grooves are thick and heavy, befitting the subject material. Yeah, there are Rage moments, but this is a more contemplative project. The idea is to explore the inner, as well as the outer, realities.

    And the Shining Path succeeds. By keeping the music simple, but the surrounding ideas complex, this is a work that manages to get a message across. Not exactly a happy trip through memory lane, but a fascinating journey nonetheless.

    Shinjuku Filth
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    The titles consist of generally unpleasant situations, and the sound is reconstructed industrial noise. About what you might expect from the package.

    Astonishingly creative mixing, I might add. Perhaps that comes from a lot of free time in Australia (which is where the band hails from). No matter. All of the stuff is stunning.

    The finest work here is in the percussion sequencing. Anyone who thinks a drum machine means dull beats will be converted here. The trends range all over the club scene, usually mixing and matching within each song. Obviously, the furthest thing from dull.

    Strident, brutal and ultimately beautiful work. Shinjuku Filth has sonic construction (and reconstruction) down, and has ventured into a few previously unexplored territory here. Enough cannot be said about the resplendent brilliance of this album. Words could never satisfy.

    Shiny Toy Guns
    We Are Pilots
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    Rock-solid electronic band fronted by a pretty lady who sports blonde-on-black hair. Man, I haven't listened to Berlin in ages.

    And yes, there is more of a resemblance than many (including the band, I'd guess) would like to admit. There is a male vocal counterpart to Carah Faye's electronic liplock, and that's always a good thing. Also, the music here is less self-consciously pop. In other words, these folks take a few chances.

    Not too many, of course, as this is a major label release. But the adventurous spirit I hear here impresses me. There are a few songs with real radio potential--"When They Came for Us" and "Don't Cry Out" are exceptionally crafted pop gems, even though both each ignore a (different) key element of song construction. Those (I assume) intentional "flaws" are part of what make the songs work so well.

    Are we really in the midst of a real electronic music revolution? Laptop pop has been around forever, and it hasn't made a huge dent in the collective consciousness. Dress it up a bit, have a real band play the songs and give the stuff a bit more heft and you've got Shiny Toy Guns. Don't know if the masses will buy it, but I do.

    No Sleep Till Babylon
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    While I stand by Mushroomhead as the foremost metal incarnation of Faith No More, Shinyville might make the same claim on the "weird" music front. This trio of folks throws more ideas into the pot for one song than most bands do during a career. It's truly hard to believe that three people could replicate this stuff live.

    And maybe that's not the point. What is undeniable is the power of the music, a bass-heavy, keyboard-drenched throb infused with all manner of eclectic sounds and ideas. Every song lurches in a different direction before the three manage to corral it and bring the thing back into the fold.

    The writing is almost impossibly complex...and it works. The production has left the sound somewhat flat, which helps to highlight the wide-ranging flights within each song. Not one tidbit gets lost in the shuffle. You can hear everything, even though processing everything might make your brain explode.

    Exciting is an understatement. Invigorating doesn't begin to explain things. Shinyville is a truly unique beast, one that must be experienced to be believed. Shouldn't you be doing that right now?

    Ship Thieves
    No Anchor
    (No Idea)
    reviewed 3/3/16

    Once known as Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves, this album sees Wollard take the sound much closer to his Hot Water Music roots. The music is very much middle-era Bad Religion without the oozin ahs, (perhaps something more like Pegboy or Naked Raygun--or HWM, duh).

    Funny thing about this kinda stuff. There are tons of bands who play vaguely tuneful uptempo punk. And there are very few who manage to write even one memorable song. I love this sound, but even I have to admit that far too many bands are faceless and generic.

    Not a problem here. Wollard has a fine growl, and the lead guitar work is simply spectacular. I'm talking about the sinewy licks throughout the songs and not solos. Ship Thieves blazes away with abandon, but it does so with impressive nimbleness.

    So is it better than Hot Water Music? Geez. The earlier incarnation of this band was much more folky and introspective, though it would be hard to say they sounded very much "alike." This is much more in HWM territory, but perhaps played in a different key. A similarly-talented cousin, perhaps.

    Which is dancing around the question. Forgive me. Ship Thieves have forged one of the best crunchy punk albums I've heard in a while. Plenty of muscle, plenty of thought, plenty of fun. You analyze all you want. I'll be in front of the stage, jumping up and down.

    Shipping News
    Save Everything
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Whenever Rodan alumni get together, the music cognoscenti start salivating. I heard about this disc well before the package arrived in my mailbox. Unfortunately, it seemed someone in the U.S. Postal Service also had been awaiting this release, and my package contained only a letter explaining to me how great this album is. Needless to say, I got on the phone that minute (even though it was a Saturday) and left a message requesting a re-send.

    The good folks at Touch and Go were generous enough to help me out. And so I am listening. Originally conceived as background music for the NPR series "This American Life" (hosted by my favorite NPR dude, Ira Glass), this project took on a life of its own, leading to this album and even a tour. I don't think Jason and Jeff will permanently leave their gigs with Rachels and June of '44, but this music is certainly good enough to give a person thoughts.

    The songs shift easily from strident tones to almost hypnotic interludes, not unlike any of the members past or present bands. The spell is certainly addictive. Once this popped into my discer, I didn't want to take it out. I'm not sure how this stuff works as background music ("This American Life" airs in York at 9 a.m. on Sundays, which is about four hours too early for me), but it's a great album.

    And yes, the band was named after the book. And while I found that novel to be rather tedious, the band Shipping News is anything but. There's a reason people get excited about Rodan's progeny.

    Very Soon, and in Pleasant Company
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Well, really, there's only so much for me to say about Shipping News, and I've said most of it before. If you aren't familiar with the legend of Rodan (whose line-up is somewhat reconstituted here in smaller form with a new member), well, just understand that more than 10 years ago, a lot of great musicians lived in Louisville. Many of them moved to Chicago after a while.

    But I'm still dancing around the point. These musicians (and the groups they were in, such as Slint and Rodan and many more) helped to kind of create and refine the abstract noise rock movement (including such byways as no wave) that is now centered (vaguely) around Chicago. I'm imparting all of this information, and yet somehow I think I'm not quite getting to the point.

    If you didn't know, Jeff Mueller was a member of the now ex-June of 44 (not to mention Rodan) and fellow former Rodanite Jason Noble is a member of the currently functioning Rachel's. Those two first got together to write music for the radio show This American Life (which ought to be recommendation enough) and then recruited Kyle Crabtree to help fill out the sound.

    And yet, I get the feeling I'm missing something. Oh, yeah! These guys are absolutely great! These are contemplative, involving songs of the highest order. Three guys who create amazing tonal portraits. I get lost as soon as I put on a disc from these boys. My mind just takes off and flies in new directions. I love this band. I have from the first second I heard it. So don't go looking for anything objective from me. I'm just blissing out in the corner.

    One Less Heartless to Fear
    (Noise Pollution)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    It's been a while. Too long. Years and years ago, I fell in love with the whole post-Chicago-via-Louisville-oriented heavy groove rock thing. June of 44. Rodan. Jesus Lizard. And, representing both a figurative and literal distillation of all that, Shipping News.

    Don't expect anything new here. In fact, this album hearkens back to the pre-Shipping News days of hyper-heavy, bone-throttling rhythms. The notion of these boys being some sort of math rock influence? Sent to a neutral corner. Any pretense of melody? Pretty much wiped away. What's left is mind-crushing riffage, utterly infectious rhythms and generally shouted vocals.

    House-crushing, too. I turned up the volume a bit too loud, and the vibrations sent glasses flying off the shelves. For a few seconds I wondered if the tinkling sound I heard what something on the album. Then I turned around. Oops.

    I'm always happy to sacrifice glassware in the cause of good music. Shipping News has returned with easily the most powerful album of its career. Special bonus: There's no need to think. You just have to survive. Good luck.

    See also June of '44 and Rodan.

    The Shiv
    Short Order Crook
    (self-released/Cosmic Debris)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    This album has been co-released with a label (Cosmic Debris). I've never heard of such an arrangement, but it sounds interesting. There must be something going on with these guys.

    And indeed there is. The guys call themselves "gritty post punk pop" and cite influences such as Joy Division, the Jam and the Pixies. I'll bite. Though I have to say the Shiv is a bit more refined than any of those bands.

    Such refinement doesn't detract from the raw energy of the band. Indeed, these three guys have taken those early influences and melded them somewhat with the more introspective rock flowing down the interstate from Chicago (The Shiv being located in Joliet and all).

    All the idiosyncrasies add up to an intriguing sound. The Shiv has created its own feel, and it's a pretty good one. It does take a few minutes to get used to the proceedings, but once that's taken care of, it's smooth sailing. Well, maybe not, but at least the music's good.

    Shock Box
    Droppin the Bomb
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    I thought we got rid of shit like this in the mid-80s. You know: cheesy, overmodulated guitar; whiny sneers for vocals, dumb music and dumber lyrics.

    This stuff is really bad. "Outta My Face" is the best if the bunch, and that is saying very little. There is no creativity anywhere near this disc. Indeed, I'm afraid of contracting shitty disease if I keep listening. So I won't.

    Shonen Knife
    Brand New Knife
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Seventy minutes (when you count the seven extra tracks) of pop bliss. I can't think of any other band in the past ten years that has such a consistent record of cranking out unadulterated pop. Shonen Knife is the band so good that after coming to mass fame with a big-name tribute album (Every Band Has a Shonen Knife Who Loves Them), it still continued to whip out gem after gem.

    I can't imagine that there are many folks out there completely unfamiliar with the band (their Carpenters cover was used by Microsoft during the Windows 95 ad blitz), so I'll get to the specifics of this album.

    The colors are a bit more blue, with some almost introspective musing wandering past from time to time. Sure enough, most of the fare is light-as-air music combined with wacky lyrics replete with non-sequiturs. There's only so much charm in Japanglish idiom forms, but Shonen Knife has progressed a long way from 15 years ago.

    Love 'em or hate 'em, really. Shonen Knife is a known quantity, and this album is fully representative of the band's past. The 20 songs are more than enough to make me happy, and if you've got a problem with cheery pop, then go somewhere else.

    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    This disc presents the English and Japanese versions of "Explosion" (both of which are on the recent album Brand New Knife). There's also four live versions of tracks found on that album.

    "Explosion!" is a nice enough pop song, though not one I would have chosen for a single. The sound on the live tracks is a bit muddled, but it's not like Shonen Knife music is terribly complicated. After a rambling two-minute introduction to the first live track, the band works through the songs with a workmanlike effort lacking much flair.

    A disc like this really points out Shonen Knife's deficiencies: very basic songwriting and not terribly accomplished musicianship. The live tracks sound like the band is working so hard just to play the music that all the fun is leached out by the effort. A bummer.

    Happy Hour
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    After opening with an odd little drum machine-dominated ditty, Shonen Knife kicks back into it's familiar bubble gum power pop mode. I mean, if you don't know Shonen Knife by now, then your head has definitely been in the sand. I mean, Microsoft picked the band's cover of the Carpenter's "Top of the World" (originally released on the If I Were a Carpenter tribute album) for a major ad campaign. That's pretty good, right?

    Sure. And remember, this is the band which had a tribute album before it even had a major label deal in the U.S. Break out the cultware, alright.

    But even past that, Shonen Knife has been cranking out this silly, amusing pop music for more than 15 years, and this album is as good (or bad, depending on your perspective) as any that have come before. The production is sharp, and the lyric subjects are as superficial as ever (hot chocolate, cookies, banana chips, etc.). Um, same old Knife.

    The once-Presidents did a nice Beach Boys backing vocal stint on "Sushi Bar", but past that this is a cameo-free zone. And just as well. Shonen Knife sounds best when the sound is at its most basic. Simple joyous tunes. Like you knew they would be.

    (second review)

    Little bundles of sugary sweet Shonen Knife sounds. These are the happy Japanese girls, happy to be singing, happy to be playing, happy to be happy. Nothing difficult about this pop trio, and they end the CD with a cover of the Monkees "Daydream Believer." That should explain how the songs go.

    But I can't bring myself to downgrade these ladies. They've been doing this stuff for awhile now. I like the way they say hot chocolate, banana chips, and tasty history. The songs bounce, bubble, and pop in a way that makes me grin. I feel like I'm four years old with a pin wheel in my hand and ice cream smeared all over my face when I pop this on.

    What can I say? It's a happy hour. Go into it with a child-like attitude, and you'll have a big smile on your face at the end. It beats the crap out of Barney, That's for sure.

    --Aaron Worley

    Kaput 7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in isse #37, 7/31/93

    A bass-heavy groove permeates, and a high-treble guitar screech adds to the fun at times. This is aggression at its finest.

    Check out the flip: a great rendition of "Hot for Teacher", with guitars helping out the drum solo at the start. Perhaps the chops aren't quite there, but the energy more than makes up for it.

    Fresh Breath
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    Um, yeah, these guys do come from the same town as the Jesus Lizard. Why do you ask?

    It's not a rip-off, though, as Shorty is much looser (and stranger) than JL. Sure, these boys crank out a stool-grinding version of Chicago hard core, but instead of being overpowering, you can hear the space between the notes and the instruments. That and Al Johnson doesn't so much sing as hurl his vocals.

    Once again, a certain S. Albini rimmed the knobs, and here he does the band justice. Chaos is born, and it shall forever be. If not, I'll just listen to Shorty a lot.

    See also U.S. Maple.

    Feed Like Fishes
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    The band once known as shiFt (not to be confused with Shift--the reason for the name change). Fuzz-pop with a vaguely psychedelic twist. Sorta like if Seam started playing My Bloody Valentine songs or something.

    The references should clue you in to my take. I like this. Music which takes its time to exhibit its power, but powerful it is. The songs have a way of building and deconstructing at the same time. I think you'll have to hear them to really understand.

    Both a somewhat retroid and very current sound. Back when I was in college (a decade ago? geez), this sorta stuff was quite the rage. The same can be said for today. But when music is this impressive, it can succeed no matter the trendometer.

    Haunting and entrancing. I wish the sounds went on forever.

    A Folding Sieve
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    A re-issue of Should's original A Folding Sieve (which came out in 1995), with a 7", some unreleased tracks and a song from a compilation added to the list. Not the most coherent of discs, of course, but this is Should. And the music is compelling.

    And if you happen to be wondering just what sort of stuff Should does (shame on you for not knowing!), well, it's much along the same lines as another Austin outfit, Bedhead. These are dreamy songs full of intense distortion and emotion. Dreamy and intense are not entirely mutually exclusive, as it turns out.

    This set does sound a little dated to me, and it should. The stuff here was recorded between 1993 and 1997, which does make the "bonus" stuff here something of an odds-and-ends completion exercise. Not like the stuff is filler. It doesn't necessarily fit in with the first 7 songs (A Folding Sieve), but even so exhibits the same sort of quality.

    Something of a time machine. Even Should and the Kadane brothers (the guys behind Bedhead who more recently have used the moniker The New Year) don't play quite like this any more. Which is all the more reason to give a listen and celebrate greatness past.

    Like a Fire Without Sound
    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #327, May 2011

    Should made delicately-beautiful electro-pop ages ago. Well, the last full-length album came out in 1998. Ah, but it's so nice to live in the future. Should brings just enough laptop accouterments to soften the edges, and just enough "real" band sound to pretty up the sounds.

    Oh, and some dreamily beautiful songs. The second track, "Turned Tables," is one such song. Taking a bit of the bass line and melodoy from "(A Whisper to a) Scream," throwing in just enough New Order-esque beatwork (in the background) and then adding in some gorgeous vocals, Should has created one of the most stunning songs I've heard in ages. Simply wonderful.

    The sound takes its cues from the 80s, but this is modern all the way. All of these songs point forward rather than look backward. In other words, the mood isn't "Wasn't it great?" but rather "Isn't this great?" A subtle difference, I suppose, but one that makes Should pretty damned awesome.

    Lovely to imagine these fine songs meandering out of Baltimore. Hey, folks, lets have another album sometime before 2024, okay?

    !Shoutbus! 7" EP
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    There's plenty of music crammed into the grooves of this single (six songs in all), and the main unifying factor is utter discord and madness, executed at breakneck speed.

    And, actually, right before the band abandons all rational hope and kicks each song into overdrive, the sound is pretty cool. Yeah, so none of the instruments seem to be on the same planet, much less the same page. There is something I can't quite put my finger upon rolling about here.

    But then the need to impart a hyperspeed chorus break in, and I'm left with the sound of a sloppy hardcore band (though this hardly describes the band fairly).

    I think there are a few jokes being told, but perhaps the only joke is one me. I like too much of this to rip it, but when it comes to an overall motive, my brain cannot compute. Certainly fascinating.

    The Shrouded Strangers
    Lost Forever
    (Izniz Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #338, June 2012

    Well, yes. And no. And just what the hell am I talking about, anyway? The Shrouded Strangers play some gloriously peppy fuzzpop, and they even throw in some hooks. But if you really want to make sense of this, you have my condolences.

    Oh, the boys aren't that. These songs adhere to a basic musical structure (mostly) but the lyrics often verge on manic incoherence. That makes the vocals something closer to an instrument, and I'm down with that.

    The sound shifts from utterly reverbed out to almost pristine. Depends on the song, and sometimes it depends on the moment in the song. I like the adventurous use of the studio; it really helps flesh out these songs.

    Indeed, I like just about everything these folks do to and with their music. Things do get a bit trippy here and there, but again, that's all good with me. Expect to be wowed, and don't worry about the wigginess that abounds. That's just part of what makes this album so stunning.

    Shrunken Head
    Offering (advance cassette)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    It seems the new trend is to merge punk and grunge. While Rocket FTC is the only band to get it completely right so far, ths isn't too bad. Fun to listen to, anyway.

    Mishka Shubaly
    How to Make a Bad Situation Worse
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    Sounding like a gruffer, if less depressive, Gerald Collier, Mishka Shubaly grumbles his way through some darkly witty songs. There's not a whole lot of structure going on, but that's okay. The only thing these pieces really need is that voice.

    Which is to say that Shubaly is more of an artist than a songwriter. The music is pretty much guitar (acoustic or electric), with the occasional percussive backing. Minimalist to the extreme, but that allows Shubaly to wring the most out of his marginal musical ability.

    I don't mean that to be pejorative. The question at the end is simple: Does this work? And the answer is a definitive "yes." Shubaly puts everything into these songs, and they are solid reflections of him.

    Okay, so he's probably not going to sell any of these songs to, well, anyone. That's not the point. Shubaly has a few things to say, and he's found a format that works. Ramble along, if you will.

    Working for MCA CD5
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Shuggie is Andrew McKeag of Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver and some friends. He got fellow Seattle-type Kurt Bloch to work the knobs on three of the four songs here. Songs which pick up where U.J.B.O.D. left off.

    Somewhere between the big-ass rock of the 70s and the big-ass Minneapolis punks of the 80s. Sung with sneering sincerity. Truly a mesmerizing thing.

    The first two songs are from a forthcoming full-length, but the "b-sides" are the better tracks. A bit looser, a bit more carefree. And, yes, a bit more arrogantly presented. I mean, it takes a cock to rock, right? There you are.

    I'm warmed up and ready for the big disc. I'll rip that package open as soon as I see it.

    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    As the press so deftly notes, one part Uncle Joe's Big O'l Driver (singer-guitarist Andrew McKeag) and two part Posies (Rick Roberts and Mike Musberger, who a while back occupied the "other guys" slots in that band). As this is McKeag's project, it's hardly surprising that the result is U.J.B.O.D., mark II (or III or IV, whatever).

    This means a more muscular rendition of the Soul Asylum sound of, say, 1986 (the press says 1987, but I'll stake my reputation on the difference), with lots of silly 70s references just to keep the proceedings light.

    Joyous and rollicking, over-the-top and still strangely affecting. The sound is wonderful, a full and ebullient glow applied to these virile songs. Yes, cock rock in the biggest way, a pulsating, shimmering phallus to worship.

    Um, perhaps I am getting a bit silly here. But this is one hell of a disc. The CD5 only touched the surface. Scratch this and prepare to be invigorated.

    What It Is... And How to Get It
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    The latest from Andrew McKeag and company. Not sure why Shuggie is out on its own at this point--the music is as good as it has ever been. And that includes McKeag's old outfit, Uncle Joe's Big O'l Driver.

    Maybe it's because Shuggie insists on rehashing 70s-style southern-fried rock. Crunchier and more soulful than anything Lynyrd Skynyrd ever did (it's amazing what some well-placed organ will do that way), Shuggie has taken an archetypal sound and completely updated it.

    The more I listen to this disc, the more I realize that the first Shuggie album was just a taste. A few years down the line, McKeag and pals have really figured out what they're doing with this sound. These songs sound like instant classics, still glistening from the morning dew.

    A big wad of fun, with just enough substance to stave off any pangs of guilt. Sure, this sound is so far away from what's hot right now that it might as well reside in Greenland or something. There's only one thing I know: Good music is better than bad music. Period. And Shuggie's work is simply exceptional.

    See also Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver.

    Profane Groove
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Hard-edged techno, produced by Sevren Ni-Arb (X Marks the Pedwalk, Hyperdex-1-Sect, etc.). And well, given the pedigree of the producer, the sound comes as no surprise.

    Intense, upbeat (even for techno) and completely mesmerizing. The beat work is infectious and inventive (not an easy combo) and the songs are distinctive enough to help flesh out a fairly inclusive sound for the band.

    Sometimes bands which try to bridge the gap between techno and industrial sounds simply graft incongruous elements together, neglecting to connect the dots. Shunt, however, does the right thing, finding pieces from those and other electronic movements and making those pieces work together. Result? Lush symphonies of intriguing sounds.

    I'm impressed. The sound is great, and each song is given an individual refraction of that sound. The goods, right here.

    The Shut-Ups
    The Shut-Ups
    (Lookit Meee)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Another bit from the strangely twisted pop world of Jason NeSmith (you might recall my review of Casper Fandango a couple issues back). He and someone named Don Condescending are the Shut-Ups. The production sound is dreadfully limited, but that seems to only have emphasized the goofy joy of the songs themselves.

    Vocals that sound strangled (if not emasculated) in songs that rely on a single thin guitar or keyboard line. Imagine a minimalist version of the Fixx crossed with the Beach Boys or something. But like I said, it all works, no matter how silly.

    And a lot of it is silly. Songs like "My Brother Gets All the Girls," "No One Understands My Guitar" and "I'm Still Living at Home" might help you understand the loony ironies that abound.

    And even with the near-demo sound, the quality of the writing comes through. In fact, the primitive, simply production may be the best way to present material like this. Just put it out there and see what happens. What happened here was that I come away impressed once again.

    Something to Prove EP
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Just four songs (only three if you don't count the "intro"), but that's enough. I can hear what Shutdown has to offer. As in the title of the last song: No compromise.

    Uncompromising riffage, confrontational lyrics and a skin-tearing buzzsaw production job. The sorta thing I always liked to hear when it came from Earth Crisis. Shutdown is a bit closer to the anthemic hardcore side of things, but that doesn't mean this puppy doesn't pack an awesome aggro punch.

    Indeed, adrenaline is the order of the day. The song construction is basic and by the book, but Shutdown just kicks the ass out of the tuneage. There is no letdown in the attack. None whatsoever.

    Few and Far Between
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Squeaky-clean hardcore. The playing is ultra-tight and the sound is rather loud. Shutdown never allows itself to get out of control, instead focusing inward on the songs themselves.

    As far as construction goes, this is classic hardcore. One or two riffs per song, with a tendency to find the mosh. A bit more complex, perhaps, than what might have come along in days gone by, but still recognizable.

    The sound is probably the most impressive part. The songs just pop out, vivid and bright. Like I noted, the playing is spot on, and the band doesn't use too much distortion, so the lines are easy to hear. The mix also keeps things separated and clean.

    I think that's what helps to make this such an energetic outing. Rage and anger have rarely been expressed so rationally. Shutdown doesn't cut much loose much, but that didn't limit the aggression. If anything, the songs intensify as the guys tighten down the lid. This is one serious album.

    Shuteye Unison
    Our Future Selves
    (Parks and Records)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Shuteye Unison comes on quietly. With great intensity, but quietly nonetheless. These insistent, intricate songs didn't immediately impress me, but I couldn't shake them. And after I got through the album, I had to listen again.

    Think math without all the noodling. The precision of these songs is impressive, but the quiet nature of the songs takes away a lot of the natural pretension in such an approach. And when the songs hit their climaxes, well, they're really climaxes.

    The sound is a bit muddy, which helps file down some of the edges. These songs are written with a basic, but elongated, rock construction. They can take a while to get to the point. That's the plan, and it works quite well here.

    A most unusual album. It's hard to be both this kinetic and this quiet. That's an impressive achievement. I like the way these folks roll.

    Shot of Your Love 7"
    (Cold Cock)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A most unusual sound. Shuttlecock plays traditional rock and roll with drums and various electronic implements. Keyboards? Plain sequenced stuff? Hard to say. But it sure is intriguing.

    The vocals are rather screechy and are probably manipulated in some way. The best way to describe the whole is something like early Devo as a hardcore band.

    I can't forget about the "flute jazz" moments. Is it a flute? A recorder? Some weird electronic thing? I don't care, really.

    Utterly weird. I have no idea if Shuttlecock can convince very many people that this is a useful musical direction, but hell, I'm in the bag. If you have a desire to scope out the bizarre, here's one right up your alley. Enjoy.

    Cold Cock Records:
    1408 Brookline
    Canton, MI 48187

    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    The liners are much more belligerent than the music, which sounds a lot like Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray thing. Not quite so produced, but it sounds good for a demo.

    So Eurometal is alive and well in Michigan. Something has to be going better than Chris Webber's counting method (one... two... uhhh... two?).
    I don't know if these guys are going to be able to do anything, as the market for this sound passed a few years back. If they wait out the storm, maybe their time will come again.

    But for what it's worth, I like this stuff.

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