Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 325 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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  • Sianspheric (3)
  • Siberian
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Sick of It All
  • Sick on the Bus (2)
  • Todd Sickafoose Group
  • Sickboy
  • Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys
  • Siddhartha
  • The Sideshow Tragedy
  • Sidemen
  • Siege
  • Rodrigo Sigal
  • Signal Aout 42
  • Signal Hill Transmission
  • Signals Midwest
  • Signing Einstein
  • Paul Silbergleit
  • Silencer
  • The Silent Goodbye
  • Silent Kids
  • Silent Radio
  • The Silent Type
  • Silkenseed (2)
  • Silkworm (4)
  • Silo
  • Silo the Huskie
  • Silt Fish
  • Jimmy Silva's Goat 5
  • Silver Jews (3)
  • Silver Scooter (2)
  • Silver Sun
  • Silver Sunshine
  • Silver Tongues
  • Silverscene
  • Silverstein
  • Sim_01
  • Simon
  • Alina Simone (2)
  • Simple Aggression
  • a simple colony
  • Frankie Lee Sims
  • Sin Ropas
  • Since by Man (2)
  • John Sinclair & Ed Moss with the Society Jazz Orchestra
  • Sinclaire (2)
  • David Singer (2)
  • Liam Singer
  • Sinister (4)
  • Sinister Luck Ensemble
  • Sinkhole
  • Sinks of Gandy
  • Ballake Sissoko
  • Sister Machine Gun
  • Sister 7
  • Sister Sonny
  • Sisters Grimm
  • Sit n' Spin
  • Six and Violence
  • Six by Seven (3)
  • Six Feet Deep
  • Six Feet Under
  • Six Fing Thing
  • Six Foot Six
  • Six More Miles
  • Sixer (2)
  • 6L6 (3)
  • Sixteen Horsepower
  • 16 Volt (3)
  • Sixty Acres
  • 63 Crayons
  • 6X (2)
  • Size 14
  • Phil Skaller
  • Rob Skane and His Guitar
  • Skatenigs (3)
  • Skeptical Cats
  • Skin Chamber (2)
  • Skin Yard (2)
  • Skinny Puppy
  • Skipping Girl Vinegar
  • Skrew (2)
  • Skull Fuck Reality
  • Skull Kontrol
  • Eddie Skuller
  • Skunk Anansie
  • Skunkbudz
  • Skunkweed
  • Skuzzy Cable
  • Sky Corvair
  • Skyclad
  • Skygod
  • The Slackers (3)
  • Vivian Slade
  • Slambook
  • Slang
  • The Slants (3)
  • Slapbak
  • Slapdash
  • Slaraffenland
  • Luke Slater
  • Slaw
  • Slayer (2)
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Whale
  • The Sleep-ins
  • Sleeper (2)
  • Sleeper Car
  • Sleeping in the Aviary (3)
  • Sleepy River
  • Sleepy Vikings
  • Sleeve
  • Slept
  • Kevin Slick
  • Slick Lilly
  • Slicker
  • Slimer
  • Slint (2)
  • The Slip
  • Slipstream
  • Sloan
  • Sloe
  • Slogun
  • SloMo Rabbit Kick
  • Sloppy Wrenchbody
  • Slot
  • Slotek (2)
  • Slow Gherkin
  • Slow Jets
  • Slowride (4)
  • Slowtrain
  • Slughog (2)
  • Slumber
  • Tha Slumplordz
  • Slush
  • Slushpuppy
  • Tony Sly
  • Josh Small
  • small a.m.
  • Small Arms Dealer (2)
  • Small Axe
  • Small Ball Paul
  • Small Cities
  • Smallspace
  • Smart Brown Handbag (4)
  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Smears (3)
  • Chris Smentkowski
  • Smile (3)
  • The Smithereens
  • Drew Smith's Lonely Choir
  • Smithwick Machine
  • Smitten
  • Smog (4)
  • Smoking Pets
  • The Michael Smolens Sextet +4
  • Smoother
  • Smoothies
  • The Smooths
  • SMP (2)
  • Smudge
  • Smugglers (3)
  • Snake Snake Snakes!
  • The Snap Dragons
  • Snapcase (5)
  • Snares and Kites
  • Snaut
  • Beth Snellings/Yehudit
  • SNFU (2)
  • Snog
  • Snothead
  • Snow Machine
  • Snowglobe (3)
  • Snubnose
  • Snuff (2)
  • Snuka
  • So Adult
  • So-Called Artists
  • Jill Sobule
  • Social Act
  • Social Distortion
  • Society Burning (2)
  • Sodafrog
  • Sodom (2)
  • Sofa Kingdom
  • Soft Reeds
  • Softball
  • Soilent Green
  • Solar Coaster
  • Solar Enemy
  • Solar Spine
  • Solid Home Life
  • Solitude Aeturnus
  • The Soloman Grundy's
  • Solstice
  • Scott Solter
  • Soltero
  • Solus (2)
  • Solution A.D.
  • Solution Science Systems
  • Someday I
  • Somehow Hollow
  • Somerset
  • Sometime Sweet Susan
  • Werner Sommer
  • Somnambulist
  • Son of Slam
  • Son of Sun
  • Son of the Velvet Rat
  • Songs: Ohia (4)
  • Sonic Youth (2)
  • Sonichrome
  • Jon Sonnenberg
  • Sonogram
  • SONOIO
  • The Sonora Pine (2)
  • *Sons
  • Sophia
  • The Sort of Quartet
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Sorry About Dresden (2)
  • Soul Pit (2)
  • Soul Position
  • Soulfly
  • Soulhat
  • Soulquake System
  • Souls at Zero (3)
  • Souls She Said
  • Soulstorm (2)
  • The Sound of Rails (2)
  • The Sound of the Union of a Man and a Woman
  • Sound on Survival
  • Soundtrack Instrumentals
  • Southern Culture on the Skids (3)
  • Southern Gentlemen
  • Southkill
  • Southport
  • Souvenir
  • The Souvenirs
  • Soylent Green

  • Sianspheric
    Somnium
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Heavily-crafted mood-crashing pop. Not quite so affected as the pop psychedelia movement of a few years back, Sianspheric relies mostly on basic rock instruments (with occasional distortion and noise elements) to create its mellow feel.

    The synth sounds a lot like the sort of thing you'd find on an ambient disc, but the music is merely lolligagging about, slowly shifting from cloud to cloud. And not nearly so boring as Codeine and all that, though I'd need some serious crank to get through a live show.

    For what the band is obviously trying to do, Sianspheric accomplishes a lot. And compared to, say, the last 10 years of Pink Floyd, well, there is no comparison. Sianspheric isn't trying to be dull and "arty".

    Not what I'd have on the stereo as I head down the road, but not bad for an evening of kicking back. Ambient folks looking for a rock equivalent might also be very pleased.


    There's Always Someplace You'd Rather Be
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    "Hey guys, let's be really cool and start our new album off with three minutes of manipulated white noise." If I were in a band, this is a thought that just might occur to me. The folks in Sianspheric said, "Okey-dokey."

    And went from there. The noise never quite kicks out, or maybe it's just that the distortion is lowered just enough to understand what's being played. In any case, there are plenty of references to the pop psychedelia movement which passed by a few years back.

    And this appreciation for pure noise (I think it's laid on top; my instrument distortion theory doesn't seem to hold water) is quite cool and forward thinking. Pop in a noise context just might be a coming trend.

    But I don't think Sianspheric is playing the trend game. This album shows an evolution from earlier work, but it's in the same continuum. Just keep moving, and someday someone will figure out that you're cool.


    Else
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Not exactly an odd and ends release, but pretty durn close. There's three remixes of "Where the Planets Revolve" from Somnium, three live tracks and something called "10/3/79." No, I don't know, either.

    But that's alright. The remixes do go a number of ways, from electronic to full-on atmospheric. Which, actually, isn't too far from the regular range of the band. This disc doesn't really take Sianspheric anywhere it hasn't already traveled, but the voyage is pretty cool.

    Not necessary, really, but still fairly entrancing all the same. For standing in place, this is a fairly fun set.


    Siberian
    With Me
    (Sonic Boom)
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    I've said it a thousand times (though it feels like a million): If you're gonna play far-reaching, pretentious music, you've got to follow through with quality. Siberian heads out to the edge with the first note of this album, and by and large it fulfills its ambition.

    I'd like to hear a bit more quiet and loud here. Siberian sticks mostly to the middle sonic dynamics, though it does shift through intensities nicely. Still, you can't compare this to The Bends (as the sticker on the cover does) when these guys don't go from a whisper to a scream in .5 seconds.

    It all sounds so pretty, though. Siberian does create some lovely pictures, and it fleshes out its ideas with admirable clarity. Highly crafted, but not entirely obvious about it.

    A little more abandon, and Siberian would really have blown me away. As it is, I'm rather impressed. I'll be keeping an ear out for these boys.


    Sibling Rivalry
    In a Family Way CD5
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Joey Ramone and little brother Mickey Leigh trade off on vocals, singing two of Mickey's tunes (one co-written) and a Mick Abramson song.

    Well, they sound an awful lot alike. And while there is nothing particularly bad about the songs, none of them are particularly sparkling, either. "Don't Be So Strange" is the best, but it's still stuck in the middling lane.

    The Ramones have made a career of trafficking in this kind of stuff, but there is a little spark much of the time that makes you overlook the problems. This is average, and there is no way around it.


    Sick of It All
    Call to Arms
    (Fat Wreck) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Calling Sick of It All stalwarts of the scene is easy. After all, these guys have been cranking out albums for ten years now. More tuneful than your average hardcore band, but certainly miles away from the more aggressive pop punk bands. A recipe for some sort of success, as SOIA has massed a sizable following throughout the years.

    Not enough to justify a major-label deal, but who needs one? This album sounds just as good, and now the boys can start regaining whatever scene creds they lost when they signed the (relatively) big deal.

    This disc? It's a SOIA disc, perhaps a bit more frenzied than recent fare, but nothing compared to the olden days. I've never been a huge fan, but I dig the vaguely melodic gang vocal choruses just like everyone else. Like I said, this is a SOIA disc. Period.

    And that can hardly be a bad thing. Welcome back to the fold, guys. Back to folks who appreciate what you do. That's important, you know.


    Sick on the Bus
    Punk Police/Suck on Sick on the Bus 2xCD
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    I think it's admirable to pop out a double-disc re-issue from a fine band like Sick on the Bus. Just one question: These two discs are short. Very short. You coulda almost fit them both twice on one disc. So why two?"

    A couple reasons, I guess. For starters, one album, one disc makes people take each album on its own terms. The songs don't run all together, and so idiots like me have to pop in two discs to write a good review. Makes me think more, I'll tell you that.

    And what I can tell you is that Sick on the Bus is one of those sloppy, haggard-sounding punk bands that somehow manages to wrap its less-than-tight songs up with enough attitude and energy to sell them effectively. There's no good reason to like these songs except that they'll probably make you feel like getting up and bouncing around for a couple of hours.

    That's enough of a recommendation for me. Simplicity would've called for a single disc, but I think the double does serve a purpose. As for the music, well, it speaks for itself. Can't wipe the smile off my face.


    Set Fire to Someone in Authority
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    I guess I ended up reviewing the Sick on the Bus albums in reverse order. This is the first album. It opens up with a crying jag and then breaks full speed into the raw fury of "You Lie."

    Right. Subtlety isn't a virtue here. SOTB plays fast, loud and often out of control. Not that any of that is a bad thing. Hardly. Sometimes you've gotta make a mess to get your point across.

    And anyway, if this stuff wasn't so messy, it just wouldn't be any fun. There's hardly any craft to the writing, and the performance focuses more on attitude than consistent riffage. What I'm saying is, you gotta take what you can get.

    What you get here is a quality punk album. Nothing less. Have I heard better? Probably. But this sure does get the ol' nads in a bunch. Ride hard.


    Todd Sickafoose Group
    Dogs Outside
    (Evander Music)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Free-flowing, if not actually free, jazz. Todd Sickafoose plays bass, and like most bassist composers, he's careful to make the bass a more integral part of the group sound without dominating. After all, no matter how hard you try, the bass cannot sustain a melody part for very long without sounding rather out of place.

    But what the bass can do is create counter rhythms and play off the guitar, sax and trombone. Oh, yeah, by the way, the instrumentation is basic ska, though these guys don't come anywhere near a skankin' groove.

    No, Sickafoose has crafted a sound somewhere in that early 60s Miles Davis/John Coltrane axis. Cool, with some flights of fancy. Nothing particularly harsh or grating. Even the technical runs are presented with style, though not slurred and blurred into "smooth jazz" territory.

    An engaging and exciting album. The surface may be calm, but there are plenty of sly undercurrents to ride. Don't underestimate these pieces; when the big man is on the bass there's always something going on down there.


    Sickboy
    Stripwalk CD5
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    I've not quite heard something like this before. Sickboy plays emo with a folky edge. There's a definite country-rock dimension to the sound, but then again, the guitar lines are pretty much in the strident emo sound.

    Took me a minute to really understand what I was hearing, but once I was there I enjoyed myself immensely. Sickboy takes a number of chances with unusual melodic lines and other tricks. Most of the time, the ideas work out.

    A most creative way to take this sound. Sickboy's sound is most unique, and the guys do it well. An interesting way to fly emo airlines.


    Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys
    Soft Time Traveler
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #347, 4/7/13

    Meandering in whatever territory lies between Nick Cave, Tom Waits and the Mekons, Walter Sickert and a cast of thousands (well, more than a dozen) blast out one raggedy anthem after another. The tension seems to rise inexorably as the album progresses, and the final release hardly resets the mood. Intensely arresting.


    Siddhartha
    If It Die
    (Neurotic Yell)
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    When in doubt, do something completely different. Siddhartha blends raga-style riffage, throbbing percussion and a decidedly psychedelic use of vocals. But this is no wannabe anything. Siddhartha cycles any number of ideas through each song, and so each piece is radically different than the one that preceded it.

    For example, "Her Useful Dream" is a stunning deconstruction of doo-wop, while the track that follows it ("I Who Can Recall Past Lives") is a running commentary on the varied legacy of Jimi Hendrix. And that's just the music.

    The guys have taken to calling this music dashiki shoegaze, which makes as much sense as anything else. My sense is that this idea is constantly evolving, and that the band tends to refine (if no redefine) itself with every show.

    One of the most exciting albums I've heard this year. The creative ferment is positively explosive. My skin is crawling and my brain is on fire. Glorious.


    The Sideshow Tragedy
    Capital
    (Old Soul)
    reviewed 5/18/15

    There's a template for guitar/drum duos. First and foremost, play loud. Second, embrace the lore of the garage. Nathan Singleton and Jeremy Harrell are all over the first. But they trend more toward the blues side of things (Singleton's affection for the Resonator probably doesn't hurt there). These songs aren't so much anthems or bashers as they are fluid, changing beasts.

    The adventurous nature of these songs really sets the Sideshow Tragedy apart from most duos. The sounds go almost everywhere. It helps that the boys aren't doctrinaire about their dual status; they have a few friends step in to fill out the sound now and again.

    Some of these pieces are obvious winners. The first track (and first single) "Number One" is a balls-out bluesy asskicker. I'm more partial to things like "Keys to the Kingdom," which falls somewhere between Otis Taylor and Slint--though much more kinetic than both.

    I'm always listening for intensity. Some of the quietest albums are wrapped up tighter than a diamond. This is not a quiet album, though Singleton and Harrell aren't afraid to go straight acoustic if the vibe calls for it. It is, though, one of the most driven and energetic sets I've heard in some time. When the pedal is released even just slightly, I realize just how much adrenaline has been flowing.

    These boys have been around for some time, and this is their fifth set together. That's easy to hear. Each knows what the other is going to do, and their interplay is invigorating. I have no idea where to stick this stuff in the genre blender, but I really don't care. Let's say it's "good music" and call it a day.


    The Sidemen
    Rattlebag
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Paul Reddick leads the Sidemen with a harp in hand. The growls, then makes that little piece of metal wail. There's nothing nice or easy about the way the Sidemen play the blues. Strictly for those who crave pain.

    Or, as the liners say, "hard blues for modern times." Slinky guitar work, a rhythm section that's tighter than Laura Bush and that most expressive harp. All originals, too, save for "Blind River Bound."

    These guys sure know how to dip into the blues and stay in the bag. There's nothing fake or phony about the way these songs rock. Rock, by the way, in a blues sense. These aren't blues rockers; the Sidemen are blues men, pure and simple.

    I fell into the music and had to claw my way out. Otherwise I woulda just played this thing all day and never got any more reviewing done. The blues rarely sound so good.


    Siege
    Drop Dead
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    So you wish Napalm Death would go back to the grind? Try this instead.

    Siege still retainS a few hard core conventions, but the glory hole here is when it kicks into a true grindcore blitz.

    Nine songs in 17 minutes, every one a serious blast. Siege manages to find the groove in the grind and also competently manage the adrenaline rush.

    A more than pleasant surprise lurks in this disc.


    Rodrigo Sigal
    Manifiesto
    (CIEM)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Not what most folks would think of when the term "classical music" comes up. Sigal likes to keep his compositions simple (usually based around one instrument, be it piano, guitar, flute or whatever), but hardly conventional. He dribbles in sampled and taped sound as he sees fit, and his melodies are not easily described, either.

    While unusual, Sigal's music is rather inviting. He easily draws in the listener with a simple entrance, and then proceeds to slowly, but completely, shatter reality and craft a new world. There are elements of the noise and ambient movements in his pieces, but he uses those ideas in wholly new ways.

    And while he sets a pretty opening, he never fails to challenge thoughts, ideas and perspectives. Sigal is certainly a modern composer, and he uses every tool at his fingertips to create his music.

    Music which never fails to dazzle. Most impressive composition. Worth searching out and cherishing.


    Signal Aout 42
    Immortal Collection 1983-1995
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Seriously overdramatic techno collection, of which a third are new tracks. The most compelling feature is how little the band has changed its sound over time.

    With obvious goth overtones melded into a hard techno groove (like a moodier FLA at times), Signal Aout 42 does much better when it focuses on music and doesn't whip out vocals. When the singing comes in, the music drops off to a generic level. But the instrumental tracks and breaks within the songs are great.

    There's a couple rare 12" remixes from the 80s, but most of the retrospective tracks are straight from the three LPs, albums I wouldn't mind hearing in full. And a new set of songs would also be cool, as much of the best here is the most recently-recorded material.

    I'd never heard of the band, but this set makes me want to do a little scouring for previous output. A good starting point, certainly.


    Signal Hill Transmission
    An Empty Space
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    When you're something of a basher band, it might be a mistake to open up with a subtle (if still quite active) soft burner like "Pipe Dream." Not for these guys. Rather, it simply prepares a listener for the coming wonderment.

    And Signal Hill Transmission is, in point of fact, much more than a basher band. The songs here do share a certain sense of urgency, that kinetic feel that almost always pricks up my ears, but the band is almost always under control.

    The sound is very professional. Not quite shiny enough for the majors, but in the same ballpark. It works here. These are songs that manage to be important without sounding exceptionally pretentious.

    And the subtle shifting of gears helps to make this something more than a nicely tuneful rock and roll album. More specifically, the shadings on this album help to tell the story of today. I suppose that is pretentious, but Signal Hill Transmission manages to pull it off with style. It ain't bragging if it's true.


    Signals Midwest
    Latitudes and Longitudes
    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    Back in the day, indie rock was actually rock and roll. Members played instruments and albums were recorded live-to-tape because the bands had $500 and that was it. Some of those albums remain utterly essential.

    Signals Midwest continues in that tradition. This album was largely recorded live-to-tape, and these boys sure know their way around rock and roll. These songs have the electric, near-bludgeon feel of some of the finest Touch and Go bands of the mid 90s. There's a ton of power here, but the boys are careful to wield it with great care.

    It's difficult to balance the need to craft with the impulse to throttle. Signals Midwest rides that edge with more skill than most. The results are occasionally more math-y than inspired, but I've never been turned off by the occasional blistering noodle.

    Realized ambition is a beautiful thing. This album trends toward the grandiose at times, and that feeling is well-deserved. Exceedingly well done. I'm knocked out.


    Signing Einstein
    Signing Einstein
    (JNI)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Atmospheric prog. Sorta. The main players are on bass and keys, and those are the instruments which dominate. Gina Gonzalez's vocals add a nice, lush touch to the songs.

    Indeed, the sound here is so thick you could fall into it for days. I really hesitated calling this prog at all, because the song constructions are fairly basic. But the playing is rather intricate and I think that's what Signing Einstein was going for, anyways.

    It's an odd sound, the sort of grandiose operatic style that generally appeals to prog and hard rock fans. But Signing Einstein rarely gets particularly loud, though the guest lead guitars do shred now and again. The songs don't have big ups and downs, but mostly ebb and flow instead.

    And I suppose if I have a big complaint that's it. I want to hear less detachment and more intensity. These songs could have more power than they do without sacrificing any of the mood. Still, the feel here is good. There's plenty to like.


    Sigur Ros
    Untitled #1/Vaka CD/DVD
    (Play It Again Sam/MCA)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    This is, technically, a single. The CD section contains four songs, though I think we¹re talking about one song with three movements and one single-tracked song. Hard to tell, since the CD doesn't tell me a thing. But that's okay, since these Icelandic types make music good enough to take my cares away from mundane issues such as tracking.

    Meditative (or moody to the extreme--you make the call), Sigur Ros creates some seriously haunting sounds. This isn't the sort of thing that translates well to club performances, which may be why the guys have done a few shows with string accompaniment.

    But hey, any band with a guitarist whose first song was Maiden's "Wrathchild" (the spring trivia question on the band's web site: http://www.sigur-ros.com) can't be all about intellectual noodling and nothing else. The DVD contains three videos which provide a nice overall snapshot of the band. This is a cool little package, the sort of thing that ought to get quite a few more people excited about Sigur Ros.


    Paul Silbergleit
    Silberglicity
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    Moreso than any other instrument in jazz, the electric guitar seems to be an awesomely inhibiting force. Keeping exceptions like Pat Metheny in the back of my head, most all other jazz guitarists have kept pretty much to the tradition set down by Charlie Christian when he played with Benny Goodman. Keep the sound smooth, with an emphasis on proper technique and established sounds.

    Silbergleit has surrounded himself with a fine set of musicians, and they, not he, take most of the musical risks. This isn't happy jazz territory, but the guitar work, while accomplished, isn't groundbreaking.

    I'm not sure what it is about the guitar that seems to influence its top practitioners to stick in the same ruts. After all, most instrumental guitar rock albums also sound pretty stilted, passing through the same town over and over again. Yeah, Silbergleit wrote some nice melodies, and he sure can play, but the sound stays the same, and that really inhibits the expression of emotion. He leaves that to his sides.

    Plenty of good work, but the road is well-worn. This isn't challenging, but merely entertaining, playing. I ask for more.


    Silencer
    Stereo CD5
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    The second in Earache's series of "New Chapter" single releases, Silencer merges very linear pop with the best attributes of the Brit hardcore sound we all love.

    Yeah, when the band mellows (and hits the pop groove) it tends to sound a little like Primus, but at least the guys emulate the good Primus. That shows taste, not trendiness.

    The music is not terribly marketable, but I like it. I'd love to hear a full set. Any time, boys.


    The Silent Goodbye
    A Ring for Each Finger
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Sometimes I get an album and it so piques my curiosity that I just can't quite place where my interest is coming from. The Silent Goodbye plays overly long songs in a somewhat clumsy and ham-handed style. The chord progressions (not to mention to lyrics) are astonishingly pretentious. And yet I'm strangely drawn.

    Part of it is the absolute conviction of the band that this music is not just great but world-class. These guys play this decidedly affected material with the energy and style of true rock stars. And while that might make simpler music sound half-baked and overdone, here it simply amplifies the creative energies of the band.

    The songs are dreadfully long. They're often turgid. The band plays them with an almost operatic touch, wringing every bit of drama from the wings. And damn if the stuff isn't utterly compelling.

    I have a feeling a lot of folks will disagree with my opinion of this stuff. For some reason, the twisted zeal of the band has won me over. There's no good reason for it (and certainly no accounting for my taste), but I find the Silent Goodbye beguiling in the most vulgar of ways.


    Silent Kids
    Tomorrow Waits
    (Cur on a Glider-Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Remember Sister Lovers? You know, the last Big Star album, the one where Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens pretty much deconstructed the pop music they (along with Chris Bell) had perfected on the first two albums? Great hooks stripped down to plaintive wails, fine riffs reduced to out-of-tune rumblings and (on "Downs") a flat basketball used as a drum kit.

    Silent Kids remind me of that final burst of warped pop greatness. These songs are much more together, of course (nothing like Sister Lovers would likely get released today, even by the most indie of indies), but there's an anarchic spirit lurking in the heart of these grooves that seems to ache for collapse.

    There's also a fine sense of ragged glory. Silent Kids rely on a Moog for a lot of the atmosphere here, but that ancient implement is also what helps me hark back to the olden days. The kicker is that these songs are played extremely loosely. Not sloppily, just loose. Like a bunch of guys who've been doing this forever. And while I know this isn't the case, these songs do sound live to tape.

    There are also those moments when everything pulls away from the center and the songs threaten to blow apart. Silent Kids keep things together, but the guys don't force the matter. If something is spinning out of the nucleus, they let it go willingly. Fresh and invigorating. If you're gonna play old school pop, you might as well shoot for the moon. Silent Kids have landed.


    Silent Radio
    Swimmingly EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    A nice three-piece with an astonishingly tinny drum sound. The stuff sounds artificial, except that sometimes the beat doesn't hold. Not many folks would take the time to program inconsistencies, y'know? So I'm guess it has something to do with weird microphones.

    As for the songs, this is basic back-beat college rock, the sort of thing I heard when I was in college 10 years ago. Eleventh Dream Day, that type of outfit. Silent Radio doesn't quite have its songwriting chops worked out right (picking the most obvious instrumental break is a telltale sign), and the recording in general leaves the sound very thin.

    Still, there's a great deal of enthusiasm. These songs have to sound better live. Silent Radio has to sound better live. I can hear bits and pieces of something good.

    This is an EP. The first 20 minutes are regular rock stuff, and the second 20 are a general mess of goofiness and stuff that just might come back to haunt the band. Like the Cretins always say, too much Budweiser.


    The Silent Type
    Hot and Bothered
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #266, July 2005

    So if I happened to mention that the Silent Type and Kingsley (reviewed earlier in this issue) were two sides of the same coin, would you castigate me for fomenting a cliche? Yeah, I guess so. And you should. Nonetheless, there are a lot of similarities in philosophy, even if the execution couldn't be more different.

    Basically, the Silent Type crafts some wonderful anthems and borrows a good amount of its sound from the early 90s. But rather than crafting its sound, including deftly-placed keyboards, these boys decided to simply amp up the attitude and the energy.

    Strangely enough, though, Brainiac is one of my main touchstones for these boys. And like Kingsley, we're talking about earlier rather than later. There's plenty of GvsB and other fashion punk stars as well--including a surprising dollop of emo here and there--but in no way can these guys get around the fact that they're playing sharp, cerebral rock and roll.

    I suppose that sort of compliment is akin to the kiss of death. I'm sure it doesn't matter that this stuff gives me a visceral rush that is at least the equal of the intellectual satisfaction these songs give me. Whatever. Let's just slap a "good music" sticker on the Silent Type and call it a day.


    Silkenseed
    Spawn
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    College kids (I assume, as the publisher is listed as "Sharp Hall Records") working their way through the various moods of a guitar band.

    The mastering is pretty damned low, which doesn't help things. The production itself is fairly sharp, allowing the guitars a little bite. The main problem is the songwriting, which sounds something like Jethro Tull meets Alice in Chains.

    And yet a lot mellower than you might guess. These kids are trying their collective ass off, and it pays off on strong songs like the title track. Most of the songs have some good moments, but Silkenseed hasn't quite figured out how to consistently write good stuff. That comes with work and time.

    I applaud the adventurous spirit. Perhaps someday Silkenseed will accomplish what it's setting out to do.


    Hurry Home
    (Rainforest)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Highly crafted roots pop. Sorta like if you took the Posies and grafted a jangle sheen on to the works. The rhythm section is pure power pop, but the lead guitar and vocals kinda waft a bit.

    Which is a cool enough way to go. I haven't heard this particular combination before, at least done this way. It's just different enough to prick my ear and make me muse.

    Sometimes the extra bits (flute, acoustic guitars) can be a bit oppressive, but when Silkenseed keeps to a fairly basic sound the songs come across very well. No need to get lost in the dressing, these songs are solidly written.

    A cool take on a fairly well-tread path. These folks know how to craft some fine music.


    Silkworm
    ...His Absence Is a Blessing
    (Stampede)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    While currently hailing from Seattle, this deserves no backlash. It sounds like nothing I've heard from that area. More of a midwestern college rock band, really.

    Semi-amusing stuff at times, but nothing that really makes me sit up and notice.


    Blueblood
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Regular A&A readers will know that I'm rarely less than effusive when talking about Touch and Go albums. And if you parse the archives carefully, you'll find a tepid review of an early Silkworm release. That review pissed off someone at C/Z records (who has Silkworm under contract at the time), and I got very little from the label after that. I noted the band's subsequent rise to fame on Matador, though honestly I didn't think that much about it.

    So when this arrived, I wondered. Had the band really changed? Well, I last heard it five years ago. And anyway, I often change my mind about bands. So I plunked the puppy in and listened.

    Still sounds more like a midwestern rock band than a Seattle outfit. There's a definite Archers of Loaf kinda groove overlaying the Replacements base, and that's pretty cool. Oddly, the worst songs seem to be at the beginning of the album. Certainly, the weakest track leads off. Doesn't give a good picture of what follows and it just doesn't quite come together. But what does follow...

    Not exceptional or anything, but good. Good enough for me to listen to a couple more times and try and figure out what's up. Not a worldbeater, but better than I expected. There's some meat here.


    Lifestyle
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    I was listening to a compilation of 80s guitar rock (of the indie sort) a couple days ago, and it finally struck me where Silkworm fits, and why so many people are fans. This also explains why I've never been knocked out.

    There is very little attention paid to melody. Often, the vocals or guitars or anything purposely miss the note they should hit. But see, that's true to the garage tradition, even though Silkworm is so far past that the conceit is getting a little silly.

    On the other hand, even moderately contrived energy has its pleasures. My epiphany has allowed me to like this disc a bit better than I might have otherwise. There are a lot of fun tunes here, the ragged rocker types. Probably serves as a nice bit of nostalgia for a good number of folks.

    Because people don't play like this any more. I tried to turn some younger folks on to the Replacements a while back, and their response was "Those dudes suck. They sound horrible." All I could say was, "That's sorta the point." The kids, of course, decided then and there that I must be some sort of musical moron.

    Wait a minute, that puts me on the other foot entirely. Whatever. This sounds a lot like the other Silkworm albums I've heard. There's some nice noodling and plenty of strange side trips that fans should dig. And then, of course, there is that whole garage thing I brought up earlier. Did I dig it? Yeah, I guess.


    Italian Platinum
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    As Silkworm becomes more and more a studio creation and less a traveling outfit, I seem to find a greater affinity with the band's output. In this version of events, Matt Kadane of Bedhead and the New Year fame has been installed as keyboard player, and Kelly Hogan stops by to nail a few vocals.

    The trio of Andy Cohen, Tim Midgett and Michael Dahlquist is still at the core of things. In particular, Cohen and Midgett have developed songwriting styles that really work well. I thought early Silkworm was a bit high on concept and low and execution. There are still some noodly moments here, but for the most part these songs sound great from start to finish.

    In particular, the addition of Kadane and the contributions of Hogan really add some spice to Silkworm's usual chunky rock paradigms. The pieces are just so much more coherent than what I heard from this band some 10 years ago.

    But you can forget all those words of derision (I really wasn't very nice, as I recall). Maybe the music has gotten better (strike that "maybe" and insert "certainly"), but I think as much as anything my tastes have broadened and expanded just as Silkworm's range and skill has. Thinking man's rock never sounded so good.


    Silo
    10
    (Dogfingers/Uncle Buzz)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Just James Sidlo and Warren Rivera playing guitars and messing about with effects and electronics. Of course, when I say just, I am being facetious.

    Yes, I am talking about highly abstract improvised fare. But the pictures painted by the sounds on this album are extremely discrete and vivid. Some folks know how to work within this type of construct, and some don't. These boys know what they're doing.

    This says it was recorded live at Silo 10. I don't know if we're talking about a real grain silo or simply a studio, but wherever it is, the acoustics are pretty spooky. The choice was a good one.

    I'm always at something of a loss reviewing albums like this, as appreciation of this particular style of improvisational music is very much in the ear of the beholder. I liked the contemplative nature of the pieces, and I found myself quickly sucked into the atmosphere of the work. That's good enough for me.


    Silo the Huskie
    Silo the Huskie
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Coming in from the kick-ass side of Neil Young, Silo the Huskie sure does bash it about. Like Eleventh Dream Day (also heavy Young-philes), these guys play in a rather reckless fashion, hoping that will give them a less calculated feel.

    It works, of course. And while singer Brian Bariny does sound a lot like Young, the guitars are much more into Replacements territory. Some of you might remember the first Uncle Tupelo album. This sounds a little like that, except that instead of a tight, sparse production, Silo the Huskie has gone the other way.

    Heavy distortion and other effects somewhat shadow the band and vocals, leaving a shroud hanging over the songs. That, too, works. Indeed, most of what the band does here is first rate.

    Does it quite leap out of the shadow of the obvious influences? Nope. But Silo the Huskie comes close. I'm not sure what would kick this over the edge for me, but maybe one more little shade in the sound, something that would put a definitive stamp on the sound. For now, though, this is pretty damned good.


    Silt Fish
    Zabaranda
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    There's a song on this album called "The House with the Dreadful Nibbling in its Roots." In a way, that says more about Silt Fish's intriguing music than anything I might write.

    And yet, I ought to fill in a few spaces. These songs are jaunty with a warped wackiness about them. Imagine if King Kong and XTC were to down some peyote and put the post-puke results on tape. Except, you know, even more so.

    The kinda utterly self-absorbed stuff that either completely entrances or utterly disgusts. I can understand how many folks might find Silt Fish tiresome. Tiring, in any case. You've gotta commit completely if yer gonna truly get into this stuff. No half gestures.

    I took the plunge. I'm one of those folks who find self-congratulatorily clever music to be one of the few unfettered joys in life. And so I dove so deep into this disc that all that silliness at the top of the stew was nothing more than a shadow on the surface of the sea. Down where the critters reside there are jewels aplenty.


    Jimmy Silva's Goat 5
    Near the End of the Harvest
    (Pop Llama)
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    A sometime songwriting collaborator with such folks as Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, Silva saw his songs recorded by such luminaries as the Smithereens (and YFF, of course). He died in late 1994 (after this album was recorded), but it has taken a while for this final collection to see the light of day.

    As his credits might show, Silva had a knack for writing the perfect pop song. This is exhibited all through the album, from the country-tinged "Longshoreman's Hall" to the Big Star-ish "Christmas Is Holy" to "All the Places (I've Never Been)", which is right down that Young Fresh Fellows lane.

    Silva was one of those people who could simply write songs that people refuse to forget. If you haven't heard of him before, don't feel too bad. He's one of those guys who everyone likes, but no one can sell. He's gone now, but there are plenty of reasons why folks should never forget Jimmy Silva. Fourteen of them are on this album.

    .


    Silver Jews
    Starlite Walker
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Great pop music that simply keeps rolling down the river. Everything seems so simple at the surface, you get lulled into a false sense of complacency. Oops.

    See, like many a Drag City act, the music and the lyrics are both poetic. The whole has a meaning unto itself. If you think you get it the first time, then think again. There's another meaning. Which is right? Listen again and find yet another passageway. That's what good poetry can do to you.

    It would be too easy to label Silver Jews' sound as hypnotic pop, but then, it does relax your mind and invite your subconscious to stop by for tea. Of course, Silver Jews claim no responsibility for what you do while under the influence of their music. After all, lawsuits can be nasty.


    The Natural Bridge
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    Much more coherent than the last outing. David Berman's tales of weird people are pretty much as amusing as before, but the music is much more orchestrated, with real lines this time out.

    While the sound is fuller, the effect is to make the lyrics even more spooky. Everything sounds almost normal. That's when you notice exactly what the hell Berman is singing about. Yow.

    There are four other Silver Jews, by the way. Berman just happens to write and sing and such. The other folks have filled their roles more than admirably, fleshing out the vision that Starlite Walking merely hinted at.

    Boy, do I like this album. I'm not sure where the Silver Jews are going next, but they've got me following the whole way. Folks have often compared this band to Pavement (a band I'm not crazy about). Yeah, but the Silver Jews are much better. There is vision here.


    American Water
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Silver Jews doesn't record often, but when an album trickles out, a big ol' load of folks "in the know" get really excited. Comparisons to the Velvet and Pavement (yeah, yeah, I know...) abound, but what is really impressive is that Silver Jews has always been master of its own sound.

    Like many Drag City concoctions, the Silver Jews is pretty much the brainchild of one person, in this case David Berman. But instead of obsessively recording each instrument and crafting a wonderful self-crafted album, Berman surrounds himself with talented bandmates (the only repeater has been Steve Malkmus, who appeared on the first album and this one, the band's third) and pounds out song after song.

    Berman also doesn't like to stick to any one mood. Well, the first album, Starlite Walker, was pretty melancholy. But this album follows well in the footsteps of The Natural Bridge, which was a much more diverse outing. Silver Jews careens from moody wail (it's impossible to completely avoid that, I'm afraid) to bluesy howl. The band, as ever, has a wonderful consistency, intuitively bringing out the best in the songs.

    An immensely powerful album. There is a reason Silver Jews albums attract a load of critical acclaim. They are great. And there's not much more to say than that.


    Silver Scooter
    Cup and String 7"
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Rather understated pop, more emo-core than minimalist. So the pop elements are a bit more pronounced, even if the dynamics stay low.

    "Cup and String" sticks mostly to guitar and vocal, though toward the end it picks up into a more fully fleshed-out song. Very nice.

    The flip, "Whatever Happened to Me", begins where the a-side left off. The playing begins light, but there are four parts from the start. As the song progresses, so do some heavier elements, including (gasp!) electric guitar. Another cool tune.

    It's like the two songs were placed so that as the vinyl is played, more parts get added on. An amusing concept, and it works well.


    1353-1355 7"
    (Swingline)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    The strangest thing about this 7" is that a photo of the residences that bear the numbers "1353" and "1355" were also featured (in a somewhat modified format) as the cover art for Boys Life's first album on Crank!. They aren't from the same photo (the Boys Life cover has snow on the stoop, and there's none here), making this likely a very weird coincidence. That or these residences have some significance that is beyond my grasp of trivia.

    The band is from Austin, but the music lies in the same realm as Boys Life: sparse, moody pop. The recording levels bounce about a bit, but nothing too annoying.

    All three songs are quite good, and the performances are good enough, as part of the charm of this sort of music is the raw feel. Silver Scooter seems to have a solid grasp on what it wants to say.


    Silver Sun
    Dad's Weird Dream
    (Invisible Hands)
    reviewed in issue #288, August 2007

    Brit popsters who sound positively Canadian--a la New Pornographers, of course. I suppose turnabout is fair play, and these guys play more than fair. Fairly. Whatever. Freakin' grammar, man.

    Thing is, Silver Sun pays attention to the little details like that. The songs turn on small ideas that you might miss the first time. Could be a wrinkle in the hook or the lyrics, but these guys are more than willing to shift on a dime. Muscular riffs take flight, manic harmonies disappear without warning...don't try this at home, folks.

    The production is pleasantly shiny--again, think New Pornographers or similarly bouncy complex pop fare. That serves these quirky songs quite well; the wacky ideas bound out with abandon.

    Summer might be ready to begin its slow fade, but Silver Sun is on the rise. Take the top down and drop the pedal. Your ticket to fun is here.


    Silver Sunshine
    A Small Pocket of Pure Spirit EP
    (Empyrean)
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    Hard to imagine a band name and title more appropriate. These folks play a brand of psychedelic pop with a winsome shine. Might've been pals with Love or (more likely) the Zombies, but with much better production.

    Still, the sun on this album casts long shadows--not unlike this most pleasant time of year. Underneath the pretty exterior lies a pretty rough undertow. These songs are pretty, not happy.

    But damn, they sound good. And I like a little bite with my pop, anyway. A most invigorating short set. Next time, bring a full plate.


    Silver Tongues
    Black Kite
    (Karate Body)
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    Some bands play music in a certain style. Some set a mood. And some just play. Silver Tongues is a band that just plays. The only thing that really ties the songs in this collection together is their obvious quality.

    Yes, Silver Tongues play good music. It is rock and roll, in the loosest sense, but at times that description fades to the edges. On the whole, these songs pile on the drama, but I think I prefer the term "intense" instead.

    There are some songs centered on guitar, but a lot of these pieces revolve around keyboards or drums or some other element. On the whole, this stuff trends toward the unapproachably beautiful, even as it burbles along on the bubbles of the universe.

    An astounding album. Silver Tongues is one of those rare bands that can skip around and still create a more impressive album. Put it all together, and the greatness becomes even more apparent.


    Silverscene
    The Pendulum Demos
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    What might have been just another pop record found something glorious. Silverscene's songs are generally basic fare, with somewhat waifish vocals. But instead of laying some sheen on the guitars and going for the hooky kill, the guitars themselves wig out into dissonant waves of distortion, waving a discordant flag behind the vocals.

    A great idea. Now, this isn't to say that Silverscene would have been dull without the guitars, but those make the deal. All of a sudden, it's a lot easier to fly away with the vocals and dive into the lush sounds presented by the band.

    Indeed, there's very much a My Bloody Valentine thing going on here. More Glider than Loveless, if you can dig. The songs roll on, just enough echoes to trip the mind into a trance. Something makes most songs sound like they're on a tape that's about to snap (another reference to the guitars, I guess). Quite the effect.

    Just understated enough to really kick my ass. Silverscene comes on slowly but locks in tight. I tossed this in without expectation, and I came out a massive fan. This is some really fine stuff. I hope whoever picks these folks up doesn't overdo the studio tricks. No use ruining a good thing.


    Silverstein
    Discovering the Waterfront
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    I love Victory's lineup, everything from peppy pop tunesters to some of the most extreme hardcore around. Silverstein does a nice job of bridging the gap.

    By and large, this is melodic--and rather complex--math-y emo stuff. And then these hoarse, almost vomited vocals blast through for a few bars. Not just a nice counterpoint, either. Every piece of these songs seems to have been calculated for its fullest effect. I'm not slagging with that comment, either. Silverstein is exceptionally efficient with its work.

    And so, yes, there's the occasional feeling that these songs have been manufactured rather than written. But I think critics hear more of that than most folks, and in any case the energy in these songs burns away any misgivings in no time at all.

    Most impressive. Few bands would try to accomplish as much as Silverstein actually does. Highly enjoyable, and wonderfully complicated as well. Well done.


    SIM_01
    Radiophonic Oddity
    (Cyclotron)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Some cool collage-style electronic music, with SIM_01 functioning as the conductor of the mosaic. The compositional style is very much like Chemical Brothers, though the sound trends toward lush techno and away from an organic feel. There's no mistaking that just about everything here is electronically-produced.

    Which isn't a problem at all. The ideas expressed on this disc are complex. They require a large canvas to explore, and SIM_01 takes up every inch. The sound is full and inviting.

    And ever-changing, to boot. Even individual songs are thoughts in constant evolution. There's always a new angle to consider, another corner to turn. Kinda like what people say about the weather (just about anywhere): Wait five minutes and it will change. Well, here it's more like 30 seconds.

    Those changes fit; they're not simply jammed up against one another without any coherent transition. This is an immaculately crafted disc. Few sounds were left to chance, and that attention to detail raised the quality bar significantly. Lots and lots to explore here. Get lost.


    Simon
    The Harlequin
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Bands often write and ask if they can send me something to review. They describe what they do in their own words, and with few exceptions (say, if a band were to say "We want to be as much like Alnis Morrisette as is humanly possible) I simply say, send it in, I'll give my thoughts.

    So then I feel bad if it turns out that the band plays a style I really don't dig. Simon is on the borderline there. There is a definite Dead-again, Blues Traveler sorta riff working, but rather than cheesing out, Simon keeps tightening the grooves. I like that part, and while there are elements of the sound that annoy me, on the whole, this is a strangely appealing set as well.

    It's the tightness of the lazy grooves that works, a nice dichotomy which keeps the songs spinning from one point to another. And these songs are certainly in motion at all times.

    This puppy surprised me. I really didn't dig the way it started, and I ended up impressed. It's always nice when that happens.


    Alina Simone
    Prettier in the Dark EP
    (Fractured Discs)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    It is something of a cliche to take a woman's raw voice and leave it out front, accompanying it with the barest of essentials--or at the very least, leaving the music well down in the mix. Think Edith Frost or Shannon Wright or PJ Harvey (at times) or plenty others. This technique does raise the emotional quotient, but it can come off as a cheap studio trick if the song doesn't actually have the necessary punch.

    Not here. Simone's open, direct voice is perfectly suited for this treatment. And while the music on this EP does take a back seat, there's plenty of interesting stuff in there as well.

    Sometimes cliches are true. Simone's talent is very real, and this six-song set proves it. A harrowing ride direct to the soul. Hang on at your own risk.


    Placelessness
    (54-40 or Fight)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Alina Simone has a bit of that Ani DiFranco affectation to her delivery. I'm not a fan of that. Her songwriting, though, is another story completely.

    The songs themselves are more along the lines of Joni Mitchell or (particularly) Alice Despard, perfectly encapsulated episodes with fully fleshed-out characters and story arcs. Simone's occasional wailing actually helps, making these songs seem a bit more unformed than they really are, which lends a greater emotional impact to the pieces.

    By and large, the instrumentation is sparse. Guitar (electric, most often), percussion (sometimes electronic, sometimes not), bass and maybe a little piano or other keyboards. Simone's voice is always front and center, and even though I'm not in love with her singing style, that's the sort of arrangement these songs need.

    Perhaps this album sounds a little more important than it is. I don't think so, though. Simone demands attention from the very start, and most of the time she earns it. A most solid first full-length.


    Simple Aggression
    Gravity
    (Leviathan)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    The main problem with this album is that I reviewed it after the Sepultura album. No chance.

    Simple Aggression harkens back to the days when "metal" meant guys playing reasonably catchy songs at high volume. Hair optional.

    There are a few concessions to the present: a greater emphasis on rhythm, topical songwriting (as opposed to historical epics) and a grungy bass. The last one gets a "bleah" from me.

    Decent enough. The playing is good, and the sound is a fairly decent one. The songs are passable, if rather uninteresting at times. Nothing is dreadful, just dull. And that's a big mistake, because when this sort of music loses its punch, all the shortcomings inherent in traditional metal (silliness chief among them) come to the fore.

    Simple Aggression needs to make its songs meaner, nastier and catchier. Everything else is pretty much in place. It's not like the guys have pretensions of high art or anything.


    a simple colony
    make it start
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/10/13

    I don't really like the ee cummings thing with the band name, etc., but that's how it does things. What I do like is the music, which sounds like fleshed-out versions of minimalist folk. That flesh includes all sorts of plugged-in instruments and layered vocals, so the bones are somewhat obscured. But I'm really impressed by the tight construction of these pieces. Oh, and the full sound is gorgeous. Quite the set.


    Frankie Lee Sims
    Walking with Frankie
    (AIM)
    reviewed in issue #282, February 2007

    AIM's re-issues tend toward classic rock or 60s r&b types (I've liked the latter much better, in general), but this one goes much deeper into the roots of rock and roll.

    Frankie Lee Sims was a one-time sideman of Lightning Hopkins who recorded for a variety of labels in the 1950s. This album was recorded for Bobby Robinson, who ran a group of labels. The songs encompass much of Sims's career, and as such comprise something of a final document. After these sessions, Sims went back to Texas and faded out, dying in 1970.

    The liners here say these sessions have never been released, and if that's true it's a real shame. Sims has a rugged feel for his songs (the notes say these renditions are significantly more rough-hewn than most of his 1950s recordings), and he sings and plays with the grit and fire of the great bluesmen.

    Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Albert Collins and many others popularized the Texas blues, and I'd say Sims deserves a spot on the list as well. Quite a nice set.


    Sin Ropas
    Trickboxes on the Pony Line
    (Sad Robot)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    A duo which did most of its recording in Germany--but some in Chicago. I'm guessing there's some sort of military connection, though the music is hardly martial in any sense. I'm just going on the addresses.

    Maybe one of the guys just likes Germany. That's cool, too. Anyway, these dark little songs rumble on about plenty of personal subjects, often using sweets as metaphors in the titles ("Butter on Cane," "Syrup Coat," "Candy Cobra" and "Crumbs"). I like the thematic consistency.

    I also like the way Timothy Hurley and Danni Iosello populate their songs with all sorts of distended sonic objects. The odd clunk or squawk here and there, and sometimes the noises even constitute a twisted sort of descant. Sometimes the best melodies are only hinted at by the musicians themselves.

    There is an element of connect the dots to these songs. I like that. When an album forces me to think it requires that I get personally involved. Sin Ropas isn't for everyone, but anyone who takes it on will not forget the experience. Let the songs crawl into your ears and rearrange your brain. As you pick up the pieces, you'll discover even more things you never thought you heard in the first place.


    Since by Man
    We Sing the Body Electric
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    You've gotta figure that any band clever enough to proclaim "Helvetica is the typeface of bourgeois consumption" (using Helvetica, of course) on the back cover of its album has to have something interesting to say. Lucky for me, Since by Man also insists on creating interesting music.

    Think of a more musical (at least, more reliance on music) Refused. Since by Man is a fine extreme hardcore band, but these boys are also most willing to experiment with drum machines and other sonic disruptions. No samples (so the liners say), but electronic disturbances abound on this album.

    The riffage is stellar (these boys know how to find a groove--in the most basic sense of the concept--and stick to it), and the songs leave enough room for the vocals to make their points. The politics are more internal than external; the lyrics are much more likely to challenge the thoughts of the listener than provide a call to arms. I'm always happy to ponder some cohesive thought.

    This disc fits together extremely well. Since by Man isn't afraid to test the limits, and the results are uniformly impressive. If you like your extreme hardcore tempered in subtle ways, well, this squall of anger ought to do just fine. Important noise, indeed.


    Hate You
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    Four songs from one of the more engaging extreme acts around. Since By Man never stints on the aggression, but the band is also sweet enough to include the slightest hints of grooves in each piece.

    I'm not saying you're gonna be dancing yer ass off or anything, but the riffage does have a certain swing to it. It's the difference between loud and dull and loud and magnificent.

    I know, this is just a spacemarker, a little something for the fans between albums. But shit, man, it's still incendiary as all get out. No slacking off here for these boys. This EP is short, sweet and enthralling.


    John Sinclair & Ed Moss with the Society Jazz Orchestra
    If I Could Be with You
    (Schoolkids)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    No-bullshit big band music (composed by Ed Moss) accompanying the poetry and prose of John Sinclair. A good combination.

    This isn't silly "get up and dance like a moron" music, but stuff more along the lines of Thelonious Monk or Duke Ellington. And Sinclair's work is bright and exuberant, covering all facets of existence.

    Contemplative stuff, and all very fulfilling. The poetry fits in well with the music (they did rehearse before this was recorded live), and the live music sounds as good as stuff relentlessly overdubbed in a studio.

    The music is good enough to be more than enough on its own, but Sinclair's addition makes this an even more attractive package. Easily the best music and spoken word album I've heard.


    Sinclaire
    Sinclaire EP
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    As if you were wondering, emo is an international phenomenon. Sinclaire is from Toronto, which isn't as exotic as, say, Zimbabwe, but it's still outside of the U.S.

    Sinclaire approaches the sound from the pop side, not afraid to use piano or fairly emotive guitar lines to craft a song. The emo feel kicks in with the hoarse-yet-expressive vocals and some really fine strident rhythm riffage.

    I do get the feel that this has been "groomed" somewhat. The edges are refined, and Sinclaire generally errs on the conventional side. Still, there's plenty of fine moments here. I'd be interested to hear if the band heads more in the basher or contemplative direction, or if it continues to straddle the yellow line.


    Attention Teenage Girls
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Fuzzy, almost to the point of grunge. But these are heartfelt garage pop songs, just with a little extra distortion in the guitars. The hooks? Solid, if a little flat. That probably comes from the emo wash the guys give the sound.

    And so, what is Sinclaire trying to do? Take emo to the masses or present a stripped-down, fuzzy version of alt. pop? I still can't tell, and I've heard a bunch of songs from these guys by now.

    The problem I'm having is that the stuff is pretty good. Not great, not horrible and not mediocre. Better-than-average, but still a little milquetoast. As if the title of the album wasn't so much sarcasm as subconscious intent.

    What I'd really like to hear from Sinclaire is a focuses effort. I think the playing gets a little lost at times, and the songwriting certainly could be sharper. Like I said, these guys are pretty good. They could be much better than that.


    David Singer
    The Cost of Living
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    The first Deep Elm release in some time that really has nothing to do with emo. David Singer plays "straight" trip pop. You know, stuff that lies somewhere in the continuum between the Beatles and the Flaming Lips.

    Gorgeous songs, the kinda stuff that can melt snow when it's below zero outside. And not only is Singer adept at finding the absolute prettiest way of kicking out a melody, he knows how to fill in the rest of the parts. There's a fine balance between simple execution and complexity overload. This disc walks the line.

    Indeed, just when I thought Singer might be heading into overkill territory, he pulls back, seemingly aware of the problem himself. The production is cluttered at times, but on the whole I'm impressed with the cleanness of the sound. Even when the sound gets dirty, the parts never obscure the whole.

    Just about glorious, I think. The songs soar, swoop and glide in for a gentle landing. Hey, anyone who's not afraid to make a tough melody pretty is a winner in my book. David Singer not writes a good game; he puts his thoughts down on tape as well as anyone. This one'll make you laugh, scream and cry. It's impossible to listen to this album impassively.


    (and the Sweet Science)
    Civil Wars
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Idiosyncratic (mostly) acoustic pop musings. Dramatic as hell and just as affecting. Reminds me a lot of Gerald Collier, though Collier tends to get really loud when he makes a point, and Singer is more likely to be quiet. Also, Singer is rarely overtly mean. Still and all, there's a definite resemblance.

    And that's a high compliment from me. I loved his last album, and this one runs down the same alley. Songs that immediately entrance and then continue to seduce until the final devastating chord.

    One improvement is an acceptance that less is more. Singer makes sure that his arrangements don't get in the way of his writing. He lets his ideas float freely, without restraints, on a cloud of utterly gorgeous melodies.

    It's funny. When I reviewed his last album, I said that Singer didn't really fit in well with the rest of the Deep Elm roster. But this album and the Red Animal War I reviewed in this issue compliment each other nicely. They're similar in the almost suffocating craft of their creators. And in both cases, that craft has resulted in a work of stunning brilliance. Breathtaking.


    Liam Singer
    Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek
    (Tell-All)
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Singer isn't afraid to whip out a classically-inspired piano bash to start his album. And that's as good a way to introduce himself as any. He's got a real showy piano style, and his songs reflect that. Which is cool. Might as well aim high, right?

    Thing is, the songs are more than just art school trips. Yes, there's a lot of weirdness going on here; the songs do not always follow traditional pop construction--at times, they seem like pure formless drama. I can do that.

    Scott Solter, who does know his way around this sort of thing, does a great job of bringing out all the important elements and leaving the window dressing where it belongs. He's done a fine job of shaping the sound here, ensuring that what might have been maddening is instead inspiring.

    Out on a limb? Absolutely. But the chances pay off. Singer has created a wonderful set of pieces here. I'm not sure I want to live in his world, but I sure enjoyed the visit.


    Sinister
    Cross the Styx
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    Pure adrenaline rush. Just jump in the stream and be carried away. Forget Calgon. This will remove any sense of your true surroundings.

    Following tradition for European bands, Sinister is more experimental in its songwriting than most American death metal bands. I"m not sure if it's all that business about a unified Europe or what. While nowhere near the wackiness of Disharmonic Orchestra, it is nice to hear a truly distinctive riff now and again.

    And the speed. You can't miss it, nor would you want to. Goodness gracious, works better than mini-thins (trucker speed, still legal in Missouri).


    Diabolical Summoning
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    While the cliches show like well-worn artificial turf seams, at least they pick the good ones.

    And they keep the manic energy of Cross the Styx going all through this one as well. Sinister must wear themselves out at their shows, because this more activity than humans should have to endure.

    Not that it's all so fast, but just everything that's going on is pretty amazing. This is another winner from these guys.


    Hate
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    If you like your death metal full of crashing riffs, pounding double bass drum work and just plain pain, then Sinister is the band for you.

    And this time out things have taken a vaguely industrial feel, which is a real improvement in my book. Sinister still has no idea how to craft a fine death metal opus like Gorefest, but then, almost no other band can live up to that standard. Most songs here has the same formula, and the music crashes along until the inevitable smash-mouth finish (though, actually, "Art of the Damned" shows some real nice songwriting work).

    For what Sinister does, which is pure death metal (no apologies asked or accepted), this is a good album. The new touches put Hate a notch above the band's previous output. Certainly worth a look-see.


    Bastard Saints EP
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Five tracks, just enough to get the blood flowing and make me forget that Sinister still hasn't changed much over the course of three albums and this EP.

    Not al a bad thing, as Sinister does crank out basic death metal (which hardly anyone is doing these days). The songs follow the familiar form (dirge, midtempo mosh, high-speed thrash and back again), and if that's your idea of a good time, well, Sinister is still providing the goods.

    I'm always amazed, though, by my visceral reaction to Sinister. I know the music is, at best, pedantic and a rehash of much better stuff. And yet the guys know just how to move my corpuscles and heat up my brain. If they could bottle the stuff, I'd be hooked.

    Aggression, pure and simple. Works for me, though I'm not exactly sure why.


    Sinister Luck Ensemble
    Anniversary
    (Perishable)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    When they say "ensemble" ... Right, so the regular sounds include accordion, upright bass, vibes (and other melodic percussion) cello and pedal steel. The songs are dramatic and dark. Imagine an artier sort of Dirty Three.

    Arty, but not ostentatious. Brilliantly played (as would be expected when you've got pals like Ken Vandermark stopping by), both technically and in terms of emotional impact. Most of the pieces evolve slowly, but they immediately draw in a listener. The haunted, yet strong, nature of the melodies just can't be resisted.

    And such a full sound to things as well. This album sounds more like a jazz recording--the dynamic range is astonishing. Sure, a lot of that comes from the writing and arranging, but even the smallest sound is captured by the mikes and put in its proper place in the mix. That comes from skill in the booth.

    This album sets a mood and then explores it. There are no vocals, but a story is told nonetheless. With a little imagination it's very easy to fall into the world described by Anniversary. Getting out is a little more difficult.


    Sinkhole
    Core Sample
    (Ringing Ear)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    Ripping into that whole punk-pop thing, Sinkhole keeps the speed up and the melodies nicely twisted. For me, little could be more glorious.

    Oh, man, this just totally gets me off. You know how sometimes a band just seems to click into your head? I'd keep getting this thought, "It would be so cool if the next song would sound like this..." and then it did. Yow! Call the psychic hotline!

    A little too loose to make the Five A rating, Sinkhole nonetheless has cranked out one of the fine albums of the year. The disc rolls on, the great songs keep arriving, and the attitude and tuneage just gets better. Thirteen songs, almost 28 minutes. True punk glory in a fuzzy pop setting.

    Not much more to say. Sinkhole simply knocks me out. There's no reason this band can't be fucking huge. Completely over-the-top fucking huge.


    Sinks of Gandy
    Trust=Damage
    (Tiberius)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    Jaunty pop with plenty of edge. Edge by way of distortion, attitude and raggedy riffage. Good edge, in other words.

    Not unlike the Klee I reviewed earlier in this issue, I had a strong feeling I'd like this album about two seconds after the first song started. There's just something about hanging loosely--all the while keeping everything in order--that makes me happy. Just enough toss off, in other words, to make the music utterly human.

    Sinks of Gandy have spent plenty of time listening to bands like Superchunk and Eleventh Dream Day. There's an insistence to the performances here that demands attention. And that attention is repaid in full.

    Quite a wonderful album. It probably helps that I'm 36 years old and spent my college years listening to, well, Superchunk and Eleventh Dream Day. The fuzzy visage of this disc, though, ought to attract folks from other, um, eras. One can only hope.


    Ballake Sissoko
    At Peace
    (Six Degrees)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Sissoko plays the kora (a Malian instrument that looks a bit like a harp but has a sound somewhere between that and a guitar--often a combination of both at the same time). Sissoko and cellist Vincent Segal put out a fine album a few years back (Chamber Music) and Segal produces and appears on a few of these tracks. But this is Sissoko's album, and his steady and enchanting playing makes these songs a joy. You really have never heard this.


    Sister Machine Gun
    The Torture Technique
    (Wax Trax!-TVT)
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    With a veritable industrial who's who helping out, you figure this might have a little more punch.

    The vocals are strangely buried at times, but this booming bass just keeps emanating from some subterranean source.

    And, at times, things really get kicking. In all, a very stripped down sound that makes more sense after a while. And by the time the final track rolled around, things started to make more sense.

    Experimental enough to get me hard, bouncy enough to make me dance, Sister Machine Gun is rather good.


    Sister 7
    This Is the Trip
    (Arista Austin)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    So you take a band that has made its reputation through live shows, and you get Danny Kortchmar to produce them? Oh, my.

    The music is something like Melissa Etheridge meets Trip Shakespeare (or, more correctly, Janis Joplin meets the Grateful Dead) filtered through that noxious techie sheen that Kortchmar seems to love throwing over his charges. Imagine, if you will, what Don Henley's albums might have sounded like if they had been produced in the style of the early Eagles albums.

    But while a producer can fuck up good material, it takes a songwriter to craft bad stuff. Perhaps these songs work live, but it just sounds way overblown. I can imagine settings in which some of these songs might sound good, but they're nowhere near where they are now.

    Like a big clank. The playing is nice enough, and Patrice Pike certainly seems to have the ability and appearance to be a major star. Not with this album, though.


    Sister Sonny
    Love Songs
    (Jet Set)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Is it moody or is it ponderous? Does it really mean something or is it just morose? Well, here's there's no contest. Sister Sonny does draw out a phrase (and a musical line) to its fullest extent, but these songs do move. They go somewhere. They're not wallowing in anything.

    So, see, the Nick Cave references might begin to flow. But no, we're not in that territory. Not quite. There's a kinda retro 60s-90s feel to the sound. Maybe channeling a bit of the Syd Barrett. Though not that warped.

    And not terribly excessive. These are slow songs, sure, but they're still intense as hell. There's a feeling of impending doom, and sometimes it never arrives (lending to an increasing paranoia as the songs bloom--nice trick). All I can say is that the songs themselves do fully flower. And whether it's into beauty or horror, well, it's still one hell of a display.

    Mesmerizing is a word that gets overused. But it fits here. Judging just by the stuff I've reviewed this issue, I'd say that psuedo-psychedelic pop is on the rise again, and while I didn't like it the first time out, I've warmed to the stuff now. Indeed, I'm happy to embrace albums like this.


    Sisters Grimm
    Grimm by Birth, Sisters by the Grace of God
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    Twins in hooker outfits playing silly, stupid music and singing about chicks, dudes and how stupid the music industry is. Whoa, not a Cycle Sluts from Hell spinoff!!

    Probably not, since none of the Cycle Sluts actually played an instrument. And the guitar work on this album is so simple even I could play it (something I don't think I've ever said before.

    With enough beers this might be funny. Maybe. Like a case of Milwaukee's Best or something. Long-haired chicks in hot pants may make a nice stage show, but the album is a completely different story. I usually try to give some constructive criticism, but in this case that would be: quit. Don't make me listen to shit like this any more.

    Careful readers will note this is my first single-A review ever. It deserves every last bit of that derision. This makes the Cycle Sluts sound talented.


    Sit n' Spin
    Enjoy the Ride
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    Unlike most girl groups these days, Sit n' Spin isn't grounded entirely in punk. This is straight-up rock and roll, complete with guitar god licks and plenty of pretty snarls.

    There are the requisite pop-punk moments, but even those are somewhat obscured by more traditional rock stylings. Songs like "Jaded" sound like Cub as played by a Rolling Stones (specializing in the early 70s period) cover band.

    But Sit n' Spin is all Stones attitude, even when the music is not quite deep enough to warrant such posing. I applaud the intuition; these women have a very clear notion of where they want to be. It's just that this disc doesn't quite reach that point.

    Even so, the stuff is enjoyable, if often not much more than piffle. Sit n' Spin should remove all of its pop-punk impulses; then it just might crank out a great batch of tuneage that would make the rock gods jizz.


    Six and Violence
    Petty Staycheck
    (Giant Explosion-Striving for Togetherness)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Nicely sludgy hardcore with some sampling on the edges. The singer is Kurt Stenzel, who also plays keyboards for Beyond-O-Matic. But there isn't much that these two bands share.

    Sloppy to the extreme, Six and Violence hacks its way through songs that satirize everything from television to suburbia to the general fact that everyone grows older every day. Neither the music or the lyrics have much in the way of subtlety, but I'm generally satisfied with what I hear.

    Think of a heavier version of Scatterbrain, with humor and general intellect a bit higher. I also hear musical echoes of Gwar, but again, the subject matter differentiates well enough. Six and Violence may not be venturing into any new territory, but at least something useful is being said.

    A little too randomly chaotic to get everything across, Six and Violence does manage a decent turn as merry pranksters. Amusing, if nothing else.


    Six by Seven
    Six by Seven EP
    (Mantra-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Like the Truxters, three songs. And in another bit of resemblance, Six by Seven relies on some severe self-indulgence to craft its somewhat derivative sound.

    My Bloody Valentine, dead up. Ultra-processed sound, lots of echo and reverb and long songs which seem to wander off into nowhere. Well, except for the third one, which is more conventional in every way.

    Pretty cool, though. We haven't had a nice psychedelic revival in at least five years, so the trend is something that's overdue. There's not enough here for me to make a real judgement about the band, but I like what I hear. I'd like to hear some more. That's enough for now.


    The Closer You Get
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Imagine a Britpop band that embraced the entire noise and rhythm revolutions that have swept up the U.S. the past five years or so. These ARE traditional pop songs. They're just dressed up in some amazingly complex and discordant clothes.

    Goddamn if it doesn't work. I mentioned My Bloody Valentine when I reviewed the band's three-song EP a while back, but that only conveys one part of the sound. There's so much more to this than simple distortion overload.

    The trigger for the music is the band's manic energy. Even when the songs slow down to midtempo, they swirl and whoosh like dervishes. There's so much going on it is almost impossible to catch all of it in one or two glances.

    And that's the mark of great music. The kind of sounds that demand repeat listens. At times like this, I've just gotta obey my instincts. Hit repeat and get slammed all over again.


    The Way I Feel Today
    (Mantra-Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    If you like yer Britpop with more of a rock edge, Six by Seven might turn the trick. This album finds the boys a bit more contemplative and laid-back than previous efforts, but that hasn't slackened the overall focus of the work. Well-crafted and gorgeous, as usual.

    Not many bands can flit from a Smiths-style ode to a Fall-ish rant to a Weddoes-type strummer without sounding absolutely daft. Six by Seven shifts gears effortlessly, and because the band's context has been so deftly presented, climbing up and down the ladder makes perfect sense.

    Methinks calling this album more laid-back was a mistake. It's more like the sounds are more diverse. The band has matured, and it is now capable of playing a wider range of songs with confidence. Every piece here is a little gem, and while perhaps some might have sounded out of place before, on this album all of the bits fit just right.

    Pastiche is a well-worn Britpop staple. Six by Seven uses the technique more in putting together an entire album, rather than just a single song. All of the different songs here click when heard as a piece. They're great separately, of course, but together they really make a statement.


    Six Feet Deep
    Struggle
    (R.E.X.)
    reviewed in issue #63, 9/30/94

    Infusing a basic hardcore mentality and sound with splotches of cheez and grind here and there, Six Feet Deep have crafted a cool and accessible hard rock sound.

    Sure, there are similarities to Biohazard and that ilk, but those are mostly superficial. Six Feet Deep is a lot heavier and more metallic than most of the New York-style new hardcore wave.

    There is little straying from the path, which is the only real drawback. I suppose that's a plus as far as programming goes, but I would like to hear these guys let up for a moment and try something different. Oh well. Sometimes you have to settle for merely liking an album for being quite good. Ain't that a shame?


    Six Feet Under
    Haunted
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    A Tampa all-star team, headed by Chris Barnes of Cannibal Corpse and Allen West of Obituary. Not exactly promising, in my eyes.

    But Scott Burns, Scott Slagel and the boys kept the sound tight, and West wrote some really fine industrial guitar licks that Sepultura would love to get a hold of. Yeah, there's only so much you can do with Barnes' vocals, but even those are toned down and not nearly as silly as usual.

    The obvious limitations are still around, but in general Six Feet Under cranks out a fun, if not terribly accomplished album. The riffs just keep grooving along (and groove is a really good term here). Six Feet Under almost challenges Cathedral for cool driving record of the year. The fact these boys came close shocks me. But I'm not afraid to admit it.

    See also Cannibal Corpse and Obituary.


    Six Fing Thing
    Self-Portrait As a Venerable Shrub
    (Dogfingers)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Six Fing Thing is mostly James Cobb, with plenty of assistance from the likes of James Sidlo, Gabe Herrera and other folks who have done something or other for Dogfingers in the past. At least, I think that's where I know their names.

    Cobb handles reeds (saxes of all sizes, clarinets and a few exotic-sounding things) and percussion. He grounds his pieces in a bass groove or a particular beat pattern and then goes off. This isn't free jazz. Not exactly, anyway. But the structure is often more imagined than real.

    Often, Cobb's compositions approach the ambient, which is kinda cool. He does use keyboards and other electronic gear at times, but the sound is always organic at the base. Cobb borrows from all sorts of musical traditions, but mostly he invents his own.

    Which is more than fine by me. Every piece is different. Different in substance and in personnel. Everything bounces back to Cobb, of course, but that free-spirited approach has served this album well. The unexpected arrives almost every minute and is almost always welcome. Most impressive.


    Six Foot Six
    Six Foot Six EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Workmanlike extreme hardcore. Six Foot Six obviously did this on a small budget, and the sound is a little thin. But that does give me a pretty good feel for the writing behind the songs.

    And each of the four songs has at least one piece that clicks. The problem is that the band subscribes to the shifting gears theory of songwriting, which only works well if you've got a handle on how to make solid transitions. These guys don't.

    I hear potential, but my suggestion would be to work on the songs some more. Changing things up can be a way of keeping the material fresh. Too many stops and starts without context just makes a mess of things.


    Six More Miles
    Veldt
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    So you've gotta wonder how an emo band from Newark, Del., couldn't manage to get a deal. I mean, it's not like the area doesn't have a track record or labels or anything. After listening to this album, I can only ask the question more insistently.

    It's not that these boys reinvent the wheel or anything. This is standard emo of, say, 1996 vintage. Tres-strident, atonal guitar work and slow, meandering verses that culminate in loud, if not apocalyptic, choruses.

    The structure of that last sentence was an attempt to illustrate how these songs are put together. The syntax sucks, but it makes sense in an elliptical way. Same with this stuff. You've gotta hang in there a while and figure out what's going on, but every piece is in place.

    The kinda album that sneaks up on the listener. With a vengeance. Not a grabber by any means, this puppy is still chock full of charms. Just takes a while for them to appear.


    Sixer
    Busted Knuckes & Heartbreak EP
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Ragged, anthemic punk that's rather reminiscent of Rancid when the latter band gets into sing-along mode. The hooks are solid, though the songs are on the lightweight side.

    They're just kinda throwaway. Decent enough for a listen or two, but not particularly memorable. The energy level is only middling (Sixer never really kicks the sound into overdrive), which really spells doom for me.

    I just couldn't get excited. And that's the whole point of music like this. If there's no good kick in it for me, then the throwaway tunes just get thrown away. This is average, and Sixer's got a ways to go to break out of the pack.


    Saving Grace
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Thick, melodic riffage and gravely hooks. The sorta thing that makes punk music a big wad of fun.

    Sixer keeps the songs moving along at a mid-tempo or faster. There's not even a hint of turgidity here. The pedal has been pushed all the way to the floor.

    The sing-along choruses are like crunchy candy, and the slightly refined sound gives Sixer a modicum of sophistication. Not a whale load mind you, just enough to make the boys distinctive.

    Just enough to break Sixer out of the pack. These guys aren't trying to change the world. They just want to play a few good songs. On that scale, they succeed admirably.


    6L6
    Not Even Warm
    (Summit-Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    I really thought this was some reincarnation of Bullet LaVolta. It sounds just like their first Taang! EP.

    But no, merely another Boston-area band that applies a scattershot hardcore attack to anthemic wandering and nearly screeching vocals. In short, I think it's great.

    I don't know why the masses never seemed to pick up on BLV, but perhaps 6L6 will be more fortunate. Every song is chock full o' tasty riffs. The rhythm section keeps things moving at a furious pace, and Ted Condo (also bassist) screams like he knows his vocal chords will be gone tomorrow.

    Quite a find. 6L6 rocks me up, down, sideways and on a staircase. I just can't stop hitting repeat.


    Superstar
    (Summit)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    Another shot of Beantown hardcore from the 6L6 boys.

    The songs are a little more polished and less strident than on Not Even Warm, but the same sense of urgency and vicious attack wander through nonetheless.

    Every once in a while I can hear the band struggling with pop song construction (within the regular raucous surroundings, of course), and that's not a bad thing. Much of the time, however, the boys are playing around with whatever cool noises they can introduce into the sound.

    6L6 still reminds me of another (long gone) Boston band by the name of Bullet LaVolta. I liked that band a ton as well, and this album keeps 6L6 on a path toward greater accessibility and success without compromising any principles.

    Another for the "don't miss" pile.


    Incendio
    (Wonderdrug)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Take a traditional Boston sludge attack and add a serious case of uptempo grooves. Make sure each song is as addictive as frozen blueberries on a summer day and turn it loose on an unsuspecting public. Come on, folks, this is 6L6's third album, and I'm getting the idea you're not listening to me.

    This disc combines the raw appeal of the band's first offering with the surer songwriting shown on the second disc. Yes, comparisons may be made to Kepone, as those Virginians also hit their stride on their third album. And musically, they're speaking dialects of the same language.

    Somewhere where the hardcore pop, noise and sludge universes collide. 6L6 just keeps the great songs coming, and the trick is the amazing rhythm work. This kinda music sounds better when played at a fast (but not too fast) tempo. The grooves become that much tighter and the natural anthemic tendencies of the songs dissipate just enough.

    Think an album full of fuzz chords and general discordance can't have monster hooks? Try "Nothing Special" on for size, and you'll be convinced. Hell, any song here will do. And there's plenty of stuff to enjoy, 14 regular songs and three demos, just in case you're not satiated. Even that wasn't enough for me, but I'll have to accept it.

    In case you missed the message, this is one of the great bands of our time, so quit fucking off and buy this disc! Now, motherfucker!


    Sixteen Horsepower
    Folklore
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Somewhere between Wil Oldham and Billy Bragg and Uncle Tupelo's March 16-20, 1992 falls Sixteen Horsepower. I would've guessed these guys were from Montreal, but in fact they're based in England. Which makes sense, given that they're on Jetset.

    And once again, that fine record label has identified a coming musical trend and then picked an outstanding representative for its roster. Sixteen Horsepower specializes in dramatic folk readings, with plenty of deft musical touches driving the sound.

    Very crafted, and yet still quite emotionally satisfying. This isn't drama for drama's sake. This is music that delves into the deepest human emotions and examines what people do when driven to extremes.

    Not nice music. Beautiful, but not nice. I've heard plenty of bands try to do this whole folk noir (a term I stole from a Molasses poster) thing, and these boys have as good a handle on it as anyone. Quite the ride.


    16 Volt
    Wisdom
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    It's been a while since Wax Trax! was the head of the industrial universe. That ended sometime before Chapter 11. While Third Mind has a pretty good lineup, they are a little more diverse. I think the best pure industrial label around is Reconstriction.

    Lately, the Numb (last issue), Clay People (this one) and these folk just kicked my ass.

    Sure, there are bpm for the club types, but just because you can dance to something doesn't mean it's boring or bland. 16 Volt combine great beats with a vicious intensity that crawls under your skin and proceed to eat out your soul.

    Like it or not, metal radio is diversifying, and for God's sake, you should take advantage of something different AND good when you can. Steal this from your dance dj and jam.


    Skin
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Where Wisdom showed off the technological prowess of the band, this disc proves the boys can play live. The sound is so full and real (as opposed to a synthesized lushness) it just grabs you.

    And 16 Volt also refuses to stay put in one mode. Take the first four songs. "Skin" is almost a metal anthem, "Perfectly Fake" would be right at home on Pretty Hate Machine, "Uplift" has a Land of Rape and Honey feel and "Slow Wreck" kinda reminds me of a Pigface grind.

    This industrial diversity is refreshing. And 16 Volt doesn't rip off NIN or Ministry; the guys merely approach their different songs in ways that kinda remind you of others. In fact, the only band that tries more things on one album is Pigface, and that's not a fair comparison. Pigface is a collaborative effort with a multitude of members; 16 Volt is three guys, with the occasional guest.

    In all, a stunning display of musical and creative power. Industrial outings can sometimes get monotonous, but Skin has so many divergent sounds, it would take years to get boring. There's something for everyone, and every song is something special. Sometimes I can't say enough.


    Letdowncrush
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    The last album was very dirty and live-sounding. Plenty of diverse moods and feels. This edition is even more diverse, and while obviously not a live-to-tape session, more immediate-sounding.

    All the usual influences can be heard: NIN, KMFDM, Ministry, EN, whatever. 16 Volt manages to meld all the different ideas into its most seamless sound yet. The songs are tight and vicious, with a definite 16 Volt style permeating the mass.

    I'd like to hear the guys get a little more "out there". This stiff is still a bit too ordinary to send me into orbit. Yeah, great jack beats and some awesome club tunes make for a very good album, but 16 Volt still hasn't found that last piece to really burst out into the open. Everything necessary is here. I'm just waiting for the payoff.

    Until then, I'll just amuse myself with this very good piece of work.


    Sixty Acres
    Banjos and Sunshine re-issue
    (Dren)
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    I rarely give full reviews to re-issues, but I wasn't familiar with this album, and it really knocked me out. So there.

    How's this for a line-up: Matt Felch, Niall Hood, Dana Kelly, Brian Seith and Mark McKay? Not bad. Flech and Hood are still plugging away today with the band--Hood, of course, is also the person behind Dren Records--and Mark McKay has a number of outstanding solo works (which feature some of his old bandmates) out on Dren.

    Sixty Acres obviously listened to a lot of Uncle Tupelo (and even contributed a version of "Gun" to a UT tribute album), but these boys softened the punk edges and added some serious technical chops. These songs are wonderfully-crafted pieces, with every ringing guitar line and raggedly-sweet harmony falling almost casually into place.

    I dunno, this just speaks to me. Maybe it's because Uncle Tupelo was the house band for my college years at Missouri, but I prefer to think it's simply because the music is awfully good. Six years haven't taken the luster off this album. It still shines--and with six new tracks, it might glow that much brighter.


    63 Crayons
    Good People
    (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    There aren't many bands that could sincerely claim both the Carpenters and Frank Zappa as primary influences. If 63 Crayons doesn't, then they ought to. The album is dedicated to Carl Sagan, which kinda proves my point.

    Jason NeSmith helmed the production, and he's a perfect choice for the warped pop music of 63 Crayons. He seems to have a real feel for how to ensure a loopy--but not lunatic--sound. There's no need to add a bunch of extraneous noise to these songs; the band has already crafted some wonderfully twisted arrangements.

    I think I'm pretty much dead on with my initial assessment, though if you like, substitute Jan and Dean and Captain Beefheart. Not the same, but close enough. I haven't heard sincere pop music this crazed--yet controlled--since I got a Wallmen disc six years ago. This stuff is just normal enough to keep most people in the room.

    But there's so much just beneath the veneer. I'm not sure how deep all this is in the end, but it's so pretty and weird and wonderful that I really don't care. I'll be in the corner wearing headphones and a whacked-out grin.


    6X
    Kung-Pow!
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Pop music for pop heds. Power guitars and semi-atonal vocals with lots of pop culture references. And while the album starts a bit slowly, the songs keep getting better as the album rolls on. Or perhaps I'm just getting used to the scheme.

    Enough jangle to jingle the pleasure centers, and enough cleverness to stimulate the brain. Not quite straightforward (there always seems to be a hint of, well, something odd), but that simply increases the charm factor.

    Plenty of bounce, and the hooks sink in. The sound is great, just understated enough to really let the tuneage shine through. There's really no need to overly clean up power pop. It's better when it's a bit dingy.

    A well-made set of tunes. Forgotten tomorrow? Probably not. I had too much fun on the ride.


    Thunder Bomb
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Full-throttle, thick-throated punk pop tunes. Lara Kiang has a great voice for these tunes, just think enough to hint at the melodies contained within the music. Did I mention that this stuff really moves?

    That's really the key here. 6X doesn't try to dress up these three chord gems. Instead, it revels in the beauty of simplistic power. Without sounding like any other particular band. These folks have style.

    Not to mention an impeccable ear. The MC5 cover is of "High School," a song which fits the 6X band sound perfectly. Let everyone else kick out the jams. 6X is gonna be original. Without sounding forced or stilted, of course.

    A simple joy, to put this album in the plainest terms. 6X doesn't try to reinvent punk rock or even take it into strange waters. The band just finds a nice niche for itself and bashes away. Keep on bashing this way, won't you please?


    Size 14
    Size 14
    (Volcano/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Much like Nerf Herder, these guys are much more cultural commentators than a pop band. They're competent (if somewhat uninspired) as far as the music goes. The lyrics are amusing but rather clunky. The end effect is a car wreck that's still damned funny. Kinda like NASCAR, I guess.

    On the other hand, I simply can't get too mad at a band that leads off an album with a song called "Claire Danes Poster". The lyrics never seem to fit into the rather pedantic music, but hell, at least the stuff is legitimately funny.

    An album that kids in 20 years might listen to and try and figure out just what the fuck the guys are talking about. Not unlike anything Dennis Miller has ever said.

    It's just a shame that whenever Size 14 finally figures out how to write a decent hook, as with "Shane", the corresponding lyrics are so weak. The whole thing is maddening. Still, I gotta go find a Claire Danes poster now.


    Phil Skaller
    Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller
    Endless Pie
    2xCD (pfMENTUM)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Precisely the sort of improvisational carnage you'd expect from these guys. What you might not expect is that I found a couple of songs to throw in the radio rotation--and they shouldn't scare off all my listeners. It's not so much about coherence as the simple brilliance of the ideas present. Long, strange and totally engrossing. One word of caution: The second disc is much scratchier than the first. Which is quite wonderful for me. Rob Skane and His Guitar
    Nowheresville
    (Montague Records)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    He's already got a catchphrase: Garagefolkrocknroll. I like that. While all you hear on this disc are Rob Skane and his guitar (imagine that!), the sound is pleasantly dirty (this almost had to have been recorded live to two-track or some other simply scratched up a bit), which lends a pleasant fullness to the sound.

    Skane sings about whatever seems to pop into his head. Mostly personal tales, it seems, with a few little bits of observation thrown in for good measure. He's got more attitude than your usual "guy with a guitar", and that gives his songs a nice bite.

    He gives a special shout out to the original Gotham fearsome foursome, Kiss, and there's a bit of a kinship I can hear. While Skane is a bit more subtle than the greasepaint boys and doesn't crank out tune like "Love Gun" and "Lick It Up", his music is acoustic rock, not folk. electrify him and give him a band, and he would probably sound a lot more like Ace Frehley than Paul Simon.

    Am I getting weird already? Sorry. I like the way Skane punches out his songs, not worrying about how he is supposed to sound. His style, attitude and intriguing songwriting make this album a nice breath of poisoned air.

    Montague Records:
    P.O. Box 8844
    Albany, NY 12208
    e-mail: robhisgtr@aol.com


    Skatenigs
    Stupid People Shouldn't Breed
    (Megaforce-PLG)
    reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92

    As you may have surmised from my thoughts on the cassette advance, I loved this album. Now, don't get me wrong; this isn't a new sound or even terribly original. It's just damn fun. If clubs around here would play this album, I would dance for a long. I would probably destroy what is left of my knees.

    Sure, "Chemical Imbalance" is positively infectious, but as that is an old song, the rest of the album contains the test. And it passes. While it is currently PC to hate racism and not be sexist, I also agree with these sentiments.

    One weird thing: I get a real Gwar kinda vibe off this. Sorta like the Go-Go's thing with the Offspring. No good reason, but it's there. Thought I should mention that.


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

    Returning to a Chicago home, Skatenigs come out a little more like a glossy Black Sabbath. Same crunchy guitar sound and fun lyrics.

    I personally think these folk are highly addictive. If the new album sounds anything like this, then I'll jack in for another long fix.


    What a Mangled Web We Leave
    (Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    After a short sojourn with Megaforce, the Skatenigs return to another Chicago label. The music stays consistent.

    Cheeze-metal riffs and industrial beats power these folk as always. Phil(do) Owen spits out the pissed off/often puerile lyrics with reckless abandon.

    In other words, highly addictive. While "Chemical Imbalance" is the ultimate Skatenig song, this set is just as fun as Stupid People. If you have never acquainted yourself with the Skatenigs, get it together and throw this in the discer. You'll come away a fan.


    Skeptical Cats
    Record Record
    (Skeptical Cat Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    Um, prog-pop anyone? The Skeptical Cats have a weird kinda Yes-lite sound. And come to think of it, perhaps the more loopy take on this stuff is the right way to go. I mean, just imagine Squeeze playing "Yours Is No Disgrace", and you might get the idea.

    I mean, I like the musical diversity and the willingness to take lots of chances. And the Cats are consummate musicians and songwriters. Each tune is meticulously performed, with sharp production to boot. And while there is a huge amount of crafting involved, the stuff still sound fresh.

    Perhaps that's because the songs are so self-consciously wacky. Of course, once you get past the looniness on the surface, there are a few serious points to be taken. And with the complexity of the music, a few takes are recommended, anyway.

    These guys should hook up with Plastic Mikey (reviewed above). The Skeptical Cats rely on a fuller sound and somewhat more complicated arrangements, but otherwise the two bands have a lot in common. I give the Cats a slight edge, just because everything is just a bit... moreso, I guess.

    A fine disc and a band with a great sound. Not much more to ask for, is there?

    www: http://www.erinet.com/musnick/cat.html


    Skin Chamber
    Wound
    (Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91

    What Godflesh wishes it could be. For a real taste of the industrial madness, Skin Chamber is as good as it gets. Not that this is in any way intended for the timid. After all, this duo was known as Fat Hacker until someone got them to change it.

    In any case, the name change hasn't changed the music. This is nastiness incarnate, and the noise is terrific. Start out with "Carved in Skin (Apt. 213)" and "Mind Grinder" and eventually you can progress to "Swallowing Scrap Metal (Pt. 2)," which is nothing less than a chainsaw turned inside out.

    Don't turn your back; Skin Chamber is gonna get you.


    Trial
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    The festering dark overtones of Controlled Bleeding have released their second Skin Chamber album, this one as harsh as the first.

    There is no continuity, nothing to make a real good dance track here. And it sure isn't easy to keep in the discer. True evil distilled into one piece of plastic and silicon.

    For the uninitiated, Skin Chamber present their view of the world, which is completely unfettered by idealism and hope. One of my uncles, in a vain attempt to pull me from the "morass of my music" (I kinda like that), said that heavy metal (oh, how the terminology has changed) focuses on the negative too much. And he was talking about Bon Jovi. I think this album would probably drive him to suicide.

    But for those of us equipped to handle such visions, we simply plod along and say, "Life's a bowl of shit, and we have to slurp it down." So perhaps we aren't Bill Clinton's happy campers. We know no one will butter our toast but us, and we call those black chunks "sprinkles".

    See also Controlled Bleeding.


    Skin Yard
    Undertow CD5
    (Cruz)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    A truly seminal band who called it quits over a year ago. This is their farewell, even though Cruz doesn't exactly admit that (though they are a little more forthcoming than previously).

    While rather entertaining, I think it makes sense that SY quit before they became a cliche. Ben and Barrett are now in Gruntruck and Screaming Trees, respectively, pursuing careers in bank account stuffing. Jack Endino is, well, Jack Endino, and I'm sure Pat Pedersen is making good use of himself. (Sorry, I sure as hell don't know everything)

    While an era is over (and Skin Yard has been for some time), we might as well celebrate what was, because this is pretty decent stuff.


    Inside the Eye
    (Cruz)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Many great performances on this, the last Skin Yard album. As most of the universe knows, this consists of songs recorded in the last two years before Ben McMillan formed up Gruntruck and Barrett Martin joined Screaming Trees.

    Not universally overpowering as 1000 Smiling Knuckles, Inside the Eye is still more than enough to show why the Seattle sound is so popular. It also points out how the original noise was watered down for the masses.

    This band is not legendary just because Jack Endino has become the "architect" of the Seattle sound. It is legendary because, as a band, they laid the blueprints that folk like Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilot mellowed.

    A worthy end note to an amazing run.

    See also Endino's Earthworm and Gruntruck.


    Skinny Puppy
    The Process
    (American Recordings)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #2, 3/11/96

    I've heard more stories concerning this release than I can process. I'll outline the extremes. One side is that American rejected these tapes, and then shrewdly accepted them after Dwayne Goettel died, so as to cash in on his death. The other is that the remaining members and the folks at Cleopatra made all that stuff up so that the Download release could be the one to cash in on Goettel's demise.

    The truth is obviously somewhere in-between. My take is that American rejected the first version of this album (much like DGC rejected the first version of Nevermind) and asked the guys to remix it. That did happen last September, after Goettel died, so I'm sticking to my take. You can judge as you like.

    All that crap doesn't change events. Skinny Puppy is no more, and the remnants are now performing as Download (you can check out the A&A archives for a review of that disc). And so I have this disc to review.

    A big buttload more commercial than the Download set, though I can certainly hear many similarities. The Process is aimed at a mainstream audience, with accessible melodies and experimentalism kept to a minimum. And obviously, a song as simple and catchy as "The Candle" would not find its way into the Download concept. But it sounds pretty cool here. A good club track, for those who want to remix.

    Sure, the rough edges have been smoothed over. Skinny Puppy historically has been all over the map as that sort of thing goes. No bitching from me. There's still plenty of interesting bits, and lots of cool industrial dance jams. A worthy postscript to a legendary collaboration.


    Skipping Girl Vinegar
    Keep Calm Carry the Monkey
    (Secret Fox)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    The American release of an album that did quite well in Australia a couple of years ago. Let's hope we get the next album a bit sooner next time out. This sunny, punchy pop has enough depth and purpose to last a long, long time. I've meandered through this album a few times, and I have yet to find a clunker. The future is very bright.


    Skrew
    Dusted
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    I know, I'm not supposed to mention it, but this band is a descendant of Angkor Wat, one of the most prescient metal bands of five years (and beyond) ago. If you have those albums, dig them up and appreciate the genius.

    Skrew retains that core and adds even more excellence to the mix. The first album was just a hint at the power possessed by this band. Dusted puts Skrew at the head of the industrial class.

    At once more commercial and more aggressive than the current industrial poster boys, Skrew eschews the artsy feedback for a straightforward balls-out sound. Simply put, the guys want to pulverize your soul.

    And it works, to great effect. This is more addictive than crack. And a better high.


    Shadow of Doubt
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #108, 5/6/96

    One of the better metal-industrial complexes around. Skrew winds back with its usual mix of commercial guitar flailings and pounding production. A combo well-appreciated in these parts.

    Especially since the recent Ministry sucked so badly. So it's nice to see Skrew can be counted on for consistency. Fans of old will like the new. Maybe not love it, but certainly be pleased, nonetheless.

    My main gripe is that many of these songs are about a minute (or a minute-and-a-half) too long. There are nice ideas that work for a three or four-minute song. But not the five-and-a-half minute average that sits here. It's just excess, and some editing would be nice.

    Still, the sound is great, and I like the way many of the songs get going. Skrew has always been a fairly inventive band (as far as this stuff goes), and that continues nicely. I detect just a bit of silly pretentiousness sidling in, and that doesn't make me happy. But that will have to be addressed next time out, when trends become clearer. For now, just turn it up.


    Skull Fuck Reality
    Wall to Wall Fuck All
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92

    Psycho-delic. Real tasty. And I wish they had included an address. But alas, the only hint I have is Rubber Room Records, somewhere in Philadelphia. I wish I could direct you to the house of pain this came from. Sorry.

    Members of Substance D (including two drummers!) and a former member of Mr. Softie (if this info means anything to you) combine with a guy named Scott Stuart and two vocalists, Eddie Love and Mark Wiles. Why am I giving you the names? So you might be able to figure out how to get a hold of these folk.

    So if the good guys who sent me this somehow read this rag, please send me your address and I will be glad to print it. And a hint to everyone else out there: no one can write you if you don't enclose an address.

    A lot of aggression, some of it misguided but mostly fun. Hitch a ride, if you can.


    Skull Kontrol
    Deviate Beyond All Means of Capture
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    The second album in this batch with a seriously mismatched cover. I mean, this is about what you'd expect from former members of the Monorchid and the Delta 72. Abrasive rock without much in the way of social graces. Razor blades and gorilla heads? Not really.

    Aw, whatever. My main complain here is that the songs are so deconstructed, at times almost utterly disjointed, that the music kinda falls apart. Knowing the pedigree, I'd say that's kinda the point. So, it worked. But not always for me.

    There is an interesting British sneer to some of the tunes (I'm using that to describe "sneer", not the members of the band). That, more than the music, really lends a punk feel to parts of this disc. The utterly unique guitar work (which sometimes disconnects from everything else) is interesting. I'm not converted, mind you, but I'm listening.

    The album, with all of its contrarian impulses, did grow on me. I was reasonably happy with it when it finished. Still, this isn't smooth drinking. There's sparks as it goes down.


    Eddie Skuller
    The Soul of Eddie Skuller (Greatest Hits)
    (Breath of the Earth Records)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    A fine collection of songs recorded in the last decade (or so). Eddie Skuller has more than a hint of the Smiths in his songwriting style, but his songs are more punchy and confrontational. That new wave-meets-modern rock sound works quite well for him.

    And at the center of it all are his songs. There are a few covers, and Skuller does well with them, but he really shines brightest delivering his own uniquely-styled material. That's the meat of this meal.

    What saves these pieces from getting too morose or maudlin are both the bright sound and Skuller's keen sense of wit. Not so much as in humor, but just in using words to cleverly make a point. Skuller knows how to turn a casual phrase.

    A fine set. Skuller has done a lot of quality work, and here's hoping more is on the way. Songs with grace such as these are uncommonly rare.


    Skunk Anansie
    Post Orgasmic Chill
    (Virgin)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    So I see Andy Wallace is the producer, and I'm expecting some seriously thick sounds. And I get that, but the overall feel is a sparse one. What instruments that do appear are heavy, but there isn't an overwhelming amount of overdubs.

    Let's see if I can make sense. Skunk Anansie is a metal band that incorporates hip hop, electronic and Indian (as in the subcontinent) influences. But not in a Rage style, but just the opposite. The sound is extraordinarily tight, each instrument appearing only when needed. Often enough, the songs consist of one guitar line, some drums and singing. Oh, the choruses can get a bit cluttered, but the verses are very clean.

    Reminds me of the first Warrior Soul album (you know, the really damned good one) in the way it takes the genre and forces it to change for the better. Constraining Skunk Anansie to one genre isn't really fair, but there it is.

    This would fit in quite well with the Drown album I reviewed earlier this year. Twisting around notions of what metal is going to sound like in the next century. And making some really fine music along the way.


    Skunkbudz
    Free the Weed
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Three basses and drums. I sure wish there was some production here, because the sound is rather interesting. The lyrics are a bit cliched, but that sound!


    Skunkweed
    Keep America Beautiful
    (Royalty)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    When the first track, "Stealing" cruised on, I thought I might be in for an epic album by a band that had decided turn music on its ear. Perhaps something akin to the way I felt the first I heard the Masters of Reality debut.

    Alright, I was wrong. This is an album by a bunch of guys who seem to think Badmotorfinger is the best Soundgarden album of them all. And, appalling musical taste aside, the members of Skunkweed can't even escape the two grooves of that album.

    Totally derivative, and it's not like this is a good sound to emulate. It worked once for Soundgarden at a time when Soundgarden could do no wrong. For a band starting out, I would not recommend this collection of cheap hacking riffs. As you might expect, Skunkweed has little to say.

    Almost without any merit. This is the sort of thing that gives guitar rock a bad name.


    Skuzzy Cable
    Deep-Raved EP
    (Bomb Sniffing Dog)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    This is electronic dance music, but certainly not rave. Trance-like vocals draped over a fairly standard set of grooves. What I do truly dig is the sax, which really colors the stuff nicely. Hey, just more musical ramblings from the fertile mind of R. Langston (Bob) Xark

    The overall effect is somewhat disconcerting; at least, it is unnerving. And unlike a lot of electronic stuff, these lyrics say something. They're there for a purpose, and they're quite intriguing. Along with the sax, they lend a beat (as in the poetry) feel to the sound.

    Which might begin to explain my vague discomfort. The sort of twisting of the stomach which tells me I'm listening to something truly cool. I can't explain precisely what I'm hearing or what I'm feeling, and that usually signifies something good.

    So I feel quite comfortable pronouncing this cool. Highly unusual fare, and well-executed. The sort of trip I like to take as often as possible.


    The Sky Corvair
    Unsafe at Any Speed
    (Divot)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    This album came out on Actionboy Records back in 1998. Even then, the sky Corvair had become something of a legend. The band began as a side project for members of Braid, Gauge and Cap'n Jazz in 1994. By early 1995, the band was no more.

    But, considering that members of the Sky Corvair went on to play in such acts as Joan of Arc, Traluma and Haymarket Riot, well, it shouldn't be too surprising that the original pressing sold out. Thus this reissue.

    Think back, if you will, to the heady days of early emo. Almost (though not quite) before the sound had a real name. Songs with intense dynamics, from the sound of pins dropping to mind-bending apocalyptic crashes. Long songs. Short songs. Songs that travel a great distance. And songs that go nowhere.

    This album sounds like it could have be recorded tomorrow. Way ahead of its time, and yet also a document of a time that has passed. Most worthy of a spin or few. Sometimes "historic" recordings are kinda stilted or dull. And sometimes, as with this disc, they're anything but.


    Skyclad
    Prince of the Poverty Line
    (Noise)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Due to circumstances beyond the band's control, Skyclad albums have had little exposure to the U.S. market. Yeah, there was that one through BMG a few years back, but it wasn't worked. Most of the other sightings have been through import gigs.

    But now, as you probably have noticed, Noise has a U.S. office. So all those great European metal bands like Coroner and Kreator and Skyclad will get their U.S. due.

    Not having heard the band in a few years, I'm rather struck by the meticulous attention to detail. Unlike a lot of technical bands, though, Skyclad plays with plenty of emotion. These songs are anything but sterile and dull.

    Taking all the best from the eighties Euro-metal invasion, and throwing in new instrumentation (which has been copied by many other bands), Skyclad is perhaps the finest example of current European hard rock.

    This album is about a year old. A new one is in the works (the band enters the studio in about a month or so), but since us yankees haven't gotten much of a shot at Prince, the Noise folks decided to warm the waters. Perfectly fine by me.


    Skygod
    Episode 1
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Passing the rhymes around like a dinner plate, Skygod is more of a hip hop collective than anything else. Is this the underground? Well, sure. Does Skygod have something to say? Well, sure. Is it really advancing the cause? Well...

    Rhyming around (rather than on) the beat is an interesting idea, but not a new one. Some of the MCs are more creative than others, but even that gets frustrating when, once again, the mic gets passed. A good minute gets wiped out by a bad one.

    As for the beats behind the rhymes, Skygod hearkens back to more old-school days, with some nods to the styles of today. This is the area where the disc just didn't excite me. There isn't a high degree of invention in the music. It's just fine, but I'd like more than that.

    Not so much bad as simply muddled, Skygod is just too unfocused to really score a lot of points with this album. The scattered pieces don't fall together in a mosaic. They simply fall. A few nice moments do not an album make, and that's where Skygod needs the most help.


    The Slackers
    Redlight
    (Hellcat-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    The first band to find its album released on the Hellcat imprint, the Slackers kick around some seriously old-school ska.

    Like Desmond Dekker old school, ya know? This goes all the way back, complete with swingin' beats and rusty guitar sounds. From time to time various r&b and Latin elements work their way into the mix, which simply further instills the traditionalist moniker.

    And in this case, I'm not complaining. Instead of slavishly imitating, the Slackers have utterly recreated the sounds of the original ska stars. These folks have done their research, and then taken that knowledge to take this music that necessary one step further.

    A ska album the likes of which hasn't been heard in 30 years or more. So retro it's revolutionary. And utterly impossible to put down. A revelation.


    Live at Ernesto's
    (Hellcat-Epitaph)
    reviewed in isue #199, 5/8/00

    Tuneage from all three of their albums, a vaguely fuzzy live sound and, well, the fun of the Slackers. From the outset, this puppy sounds like a winner on paper.

    And it works out pretty well. My only complaint is the MC, who also kicks in plenty of background vocals. There's too much of him too much of the time. Out-of-tune backing vocals do lend to a party atmosphere in the club, but I'm not so sure they help the recording.

    Otherwise, though, the light mood and loose arrangements do keep the party alive. As recording artists, the Slackers are better in studio than live, I'd say, but this does the studio stuff justice. I'm sure I'd have a different opinion if I saw the shows in person.

    On paper, this looked good. And that's how it turned out. Not overwhelmingly great, but certainly worth giving a listen. The quality songs alone are worth it.


    International War Criminal EP
    (Thought Squad)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    I've gotta hand it to the Prez--he's managed to inspire some of my favorite bands to find new reserves of creativity. The recent Bad Religion album The Empire Strikes First is that band's best album in more than 10 years, and this EP finds the Slackers in fine form as well.

    And while the songs are decidedly political, the tunes are just as jaunty and bright as ever. So nothing bogs down, like, say, two-thirds of Sandinista. Rather, the boys have crafted some of the catchiest protest anthems around.

    Big smiles, my friends. Yeah, the subject matter is heavy, but this album is a breath of fresh air. Throw it on at your next party and rock steady with a few of your most "subversive" pals.


    Self Medication
    (Indication)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    A somewhat restrained outing for the Slackers. The balance of ska and soul remains about the same, but the boys seem more in the mood for contemplation on this one.

    It works, too. At first, I was missing the insistent, in-your-face version of the Slackers I'm more used to hearing. But a few songs in I slipped into the feel of the album and joined the party.

    It is a low-key joint, and the minimalist sound (at least for these guys) forces the songs to perform. They do, most admirably. If you never thought the Slackers could pen (much less play) a delicate, introspective piece, check out "Stars." It's perhaps the most extreme example of the change I hear on this disc, and it's a knockout.

    Why not try something a little bit different? The musicianship is, as always, admirable, and the band jams together as well as anyone. Lower the lights, slide something cool into a glass and let this one wander by. More than once, if you have the time.


    Vivan Slade
    Vivan Slade
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    What might happen if Ann Manguson played and sang Ani DiFranco songs. Self-conscious lyrics, replete with cultural references, laid over spruced up folk-funk rock.

    I'm not so excited about the music (gets a bit deep into the wanks, if you know what I mean), but Slade's voice is pretty damned cool. She's able to wrap it around whatever tune is presented to her quite well.

    And it's so lustrous and multi-faceted. A lush experience to behold. And often enough, the music works, too. Not as much as I'd like, but I'd listen to about anything in the background to get a snatch of this voice.

    A weird sort of excitement for me. I like what she sings and certainly how she sings it. I just wish the music did more for me. Still, that first bit is so strong, I'm not gonna bitch too much. Just get lost in the voice.


    Slambook
    With Riddle & Shears EP
    (Lorem Ipsum Productions)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Strident pop tunes, some mellow and some more raucous. This would be one of them "Pavement" type of things, I guess.

    Though I find Slambook more interesting. Thirteen tracks and thirty-five minutes of music means only an EP? I like these guys' attitude already...

    And they try so hard, you can hear it. Slambook is straining to make a really important statement, and things just didn't quite work out. Plenty of nice tunes; plenty of nasty sentiments. But something rings funny.

    Can't put my finger on it (that's been a problem this week). Maybe it's just the obvious stretch marks on what is supposed to be minimalist pop. Too much undisguised work went into this project, I think. A bit looser sound would have helped out bunches. And still, a pretty good set.


    Slang
    The Bellwether Project
    (Terminus)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Mostly Layng Martine III, who I last heard on his self-released Corporal Blossom project. He's still hacking out the beats and pieces, creating some of the grooviest and most enchanting electronic compositions around. He got plenty of help from co-producer David Schools and guests such as Pete Droge, Lori Carson, Eric McFadden. Plenty more where they came from

    What I liked about Martine's work then and now is the way he's able to create an organic sound in his constructions. He actually seems to conceive his works on guitar (sure sounds like it) and then figures out a way to put it all together electronically.

    I dunno. When you think about it, that's a pretty damned good way to use technology. You know, make it work for you. Don't let it dictate terms. Definitely don't let it write songs for you. Martine keeps a firm hand on his songs. They turn out exactly the way he wants.

    And that happens to be in a way that I, too, like very much. This laid-back, twangy shuffle recalls the fine work of Greg Garing, though Martine lets the music do the talking without adding in vocals. The large number of collaborators simply adds to the texture of the sound. Martine and Schools (and whoever else is officially Slang) have really outdone themselves here. Just beautiful stuff.


    The Slants
    Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #298, July 2008

    Straight back to the 80s, with just a wink and a nod toward the 90s. The Slants create stellar grooves and dress them up sharply with a pair of keyboard players and a healthy dose of crunchy guitar.

    A simple formula for pop music, but it only works if the hooks kill. By and large, they do. The Slants have conjured up something of a concept album, with lyrics that refer to a very short graphic (as in pictures) story that ends the liners. The whole Yakuza (well, mafia of some sort) wife taking revenge on the family tale is delicious, but it doesn't have anything on the songs themselves.

    Reduced to the basics, the Slants are pretty much Duran Duran melodies dropped into New Order rhythms. The good Duran Duran, I might say. Y'know, back when the boys could drop two or three haunting melodies into one song and still make it sound good.

    The Slants make this sound plenty good as well. Quite an audacious album. We'll have to wait and see if these folks can keep up the excellence.


    Slants! Slants! Revolution!
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    Eight remixes from the stellar first Slants album. There's another full-length due soon, but this puppy is out there just to wet the whistle a bit.

    These mixes are much more dance-oriented than most of the material on Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts, but that's to be expected with such a project. The songs themselves survive the translations exceptionally well--largely because of the outstanding hooks of the originals.

    A joy ride, pure and simple. And while I expect the new album to blow this away, I'm happy to get this small fix. A fine reminder of just how good these guys really are. Surf the pleasure, dudes!


    Pageantry
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    The new album from this Portland (Ore.) outfit, and it's a bit disappointing. The greater emphasis on guitars isn't a problem. It's more the lessening of the groove factor. Too many of these songs sound like they could have been recorded by just about anyone. Nonetheless, I've been so impressed by their previous work that I have to keep the faith. Evolution can be a wonderful thing, even if the details are a bit messy.


    Slapbak
    Ghetto Funkography
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Everything Slapbak does, P-funk did better. That said, there aren't many practicing funk bands around these days, and very few are as clever both musically and lyrically as Slapbak.

    Jara Harris is the ringleader, and he's a tough taskmaster. These songs often start off sounding quite au courant, but there's always a subtle twist. Which is, you know, exactly how a certain Mr. Clinton wrote his best stuff as well.

    The sound is quite restrained, which makes the funk that much more greasy. Why blast out a listener when you've got music this complex? No reason, really. Slapbak does it right.

    I'll repeat my earlier assertion: Slapbak isn't doing anything original here. But the songs are unique. Even when they echo a classic track, there's always a switchback waiting around the corner. Cool stuff.


    Slapdash
    240.25 "Actual Reality"
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A regrouping of the old Black Mark band Rosicrucian. The technical approach continues, though this is much more straightforward. Almost Anthraxy, in a good way.

    So you get more of a classic heavy Euro sound, with enough melodic lines to sound sophisticated and enough raw power to impress today's metal fanatics.

    As this wears on, the Pantera connection becomes obvious. I think this sounds much better than recent Pantera, but the imitation factor is still there. I kept waiting for a song to break out of the rut, but it didn't happen. Too bad, really.

    I think the guys need to focus more on their unusual tendencies and forget trying to play the marketplace. Trends are set by bands who dare to experiment, like Rosicrucian did. This has all the hallmarks of a cash out. Bummer.


    Slaraffenland
    We're on Your Side
    (Hometapes)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    These guys are Danish, but that doesn't even begin to explain things. After all, conceptual pop is one of those styles that tends to weird people out. Seriously. Put some of this stuff on at a party and you'll clear the place.

    But that's not really true of this album. Slaraffenland still crafts its songs with exquisite care and isn't afraid of anything atonal, but there's a surprising amount of melody here. And, more importantly, the rhythm section keeps things moving along nicely.

    Pervious efforts have been interesting, but often herky-jerky. We're on Your Side is as smooth as Auchentoshan with a splash of branch water. There are plenty of intriguing notes and ideas, but the exteriors are immaculate.

    I suppose purists might argue that scraping off the veneer reduces Slaraffenland from art pop heroes to just another pretentious band. Hardly. This is an assured effort from guys who really know what they want their music to sound like. I've been waiting for this one for a long time.


    Luke Slater
    Freek Funk
    (NovaMute-Mute)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Well, yeah, another DJ type crafting some sparsely populated electronic universe. Slater is tougher than most, filtering even organic elements through synthesizers, leaving a totally dry and dispassionate feel.

    And he's not much for straightforward songs. His general mode of construction is to ride one element for a while, add another and so forth. The song builds by accumulation, not due to any inertia. This guy knows his Kraftwerk.

    While I like the sounds he gets, Slater isn't moving through uncharted waters. He's kinda treading water in a nice swimming hole. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I guess I'd like to hear something I haven't before.

    Not many folks are making music this sterile these days. And to give Slater credit, this stuff sits pretty well against the German stuff of the 70s. It's just that we're now in 1997, and some evolution would be nice.


    Slaw
    Snakes & Ladders
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Perhaps you remember the game of Snakes & Ladders. You keep trying to advance your piece to 100. You move up if you land on a ladder space. You fall back if you land on a snake space. In case you don't remember, the liner notes are a Snakes & Ladders game.

    The important reference is 100. There are 100 songs here. In the space of 67 minutes. Well, perhaps songs is a bit presumptuous. There are 100 pieces, and they all run together. Funny thing is, if you hit random rather than listen in order, the album still makes sense.

    Maybe because there's only so much sense that Slaw wants to make. These pieces are generally realized electronically--plenty of keyboards, processed vocals and assorted sampled noise. The sound is absolutely great, a wide-open and far-reaching feel that makes the pieces jump out from the speakers.

    Trippy is also a fair description. This stuff is strange, but in a most congenial way. Can't imagine a live show, but who cares? What's here is damned impressive. And whenever you want a new perspective, just hit random. The blender is a great way to experience Slaw.


    Slayer
    Divine Intervention
    (American)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Many folks have claimed Slayer has been wallowing in self-parody since that cover of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on the Less than Zero soundtrack. Artistically, I'm inclined to agree.

    But I liked Seasons in the Abyss. It had lots of fat riffs and amusing songs. You can't take it seriously, but as a big slab of gooey cheez that offended lots of people, it was great.

    Divine Intervention seems to be an attempt to return to the faster, heavier days. But all that I can hear is an abandonment of basic cool riffage while adding more fast songs.

    Will the average listener notice a difference? No. But I just couldn't get into this disc, even after a few plays. I really wanted to hear it, but in the end, it bummed me out.


    Undisputed Attitude
    (American)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #5, 6/10/96

    Slayer does lots of old punk and hardcore tunes, with one new song and a couple that Jeff Hanneman wrote ten years ago. And the point is?

    I dunno. Slayer is a cool punk band? Slayer is cool because they like TSOL? Slayer is cool because they are a metal band that wants to be a punk band?

    Like I said, I dunno. These are slickly produced versions of songs that, for the most part, were charming mostly for the dreadful recording conditions involved. Yeah, the thick sound doesn't hurt, and Slayer has at least become competent musically (though that's not necessary to play most of these songs).

    It all seems like a blatant attempt to cash in on the punk bandwagon. The songs aren't cheesed out or anything, but Slayer doesn't add much to the new versions, other than expensive studio time. Reasonably enjoyable, but there's no good reason for this.


    Sleep
    Sleep's Holy Mountain
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    They don't just borrow from Black Sabbath, they bathe in it. Not just the heaviness, but the whole stoner philosophy.

    Yes, it's cool to smoke pot again (I never noticed it going out of style, but then all of my friends are too poor to get hooked on coke) and Sleep should cash in. If I could get stoned, I suppose this would be good music for such an activity.

    By the way, I did not notice any direct theft of riffs or themes, which means these boys have done a good job. One listen and you'll go, "I haven't heard that Sabbath tune." And it will be Sleep.


    Sleep Whale
    Houseboat
    (Western Vinyl)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    Sleep Whale is a couple guys from Texas who play spacey (and occasionally bombastic) western rock. Think Calexico filtered through Sigur Ros, though somewhat more restrained.

    The decidedly ethereal songwriting can be difficult to parse, but in the end I just let my mind wander where it would. And I got around to a number of fine places.

    This is hardly music for the impatient. Sleep Whale doesn't do vocals much (one track here), and the songs take quite a while to resolve. But resolve they do, and those resolutions are often stunning in their revelations.

    A journey, to be sure, but one well worth the effort. Sleep Whale challenges listeners to both hear and think. If you can do both at the same time, you'll find yourself well rewarded.


    The Sleep-ins
    Songs About Girls & Outer Space
    (Ingot Rock)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    For those who remember the joys of 90s no wave and 80s indie rock, the Sleep-ins are a lovely tonic. Loud, raucous, seductive and often a complete mess. Glorious.

    The album title is a reasonable description of the themes of this album, but it doesn't begin to explain the musical density of the songs. While these songs generally build around one sludgy guitar riff or another, that riff may or may not have much to do with the song by the end.

    About half the time, the Sleep-ins stick to a relatively traditional rendition of jaunty pop--albeit played as a series of caterwauls. The other half, though, is deconstruction in one form or another. Yes, there's a lot of thought behind the carnage, though you can also simply ride the wave of slow-burning anger if you like.

    Unlike almost anything that I've heard recently. The Sleep-ins seem to believe in punishing the listener, and I'm down with the program. On my knees, actually. Submission comes naturally when listening to songs like this.


    Sleeper
    featuring ID
    The Crawlspace
    (Ransom Notes)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    I'm not sure how this is different than the iD and Sleeper that I reviewed a while back, but the credit listing is different. And I guess there is more Sleeper (he's the one who creates the sounds) than iD (or ID or whatever). In the end, it doesn't matter whose name is on the spine. The music is the only thing that concerns me.

    And boy, does it. Sleepers distorted electronic vision is astounding. Something dark and vicious this way comes, and it comes hard and fast. You want to scare the kids on Halloween? Play this. You'll make their parents shit their pants, too.

    Quite the ramble through the darkness that is life. The sound feel is oppressive and leaden, punctuated by sharp beats and a wide variety of found audio. ID weaves some verse here and there, but as the credits point out, this album is all about the madness that is Sleeper. Or the madness created by Sleeper. Something like that.

    There are people who like to live shiny, happy lives unblemished by untoward thoughts. Sleeper is not one of those people. Neither am I. And if you aren't, then this album might speak most eloquently to you.


    Behind Every Mask
    (Mush)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    One of my favorite hip-hop collaborations of recent years was Id & Sleeper's Displacement. Sleeper (a.k.a. Carlos Ransom) shows here that he hasn't lost his touch with innovative beats.

    But beats are just the beginning. This is more about a complete sound. It's noisy as hell, what with all the distortion and such, but all that crackle simply makes it that much easier to ease into this world.

    Not a pretty world, but one that is populated by spectral rhythms and disjointed melodies. I like it. There's a lot going on, but everything is connected to the main package. Sure, a DJ ought to be able to craft some fine music, but often enough they can't.

    Sleeper can. Indeed, this is one of the most full-realized sonic projects I've heard in ages. After full immersion, it becomes clear just how much Sleeper is able to say. The deeper you dive, the more you find.


    Sleeper Car
    Love & Anxiety EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #290, October 2007

    Another side of americana altogether. Where Jeff Hatch and Ponyno play it loose and free, Sleeper Car is tightly crafted. The results, however, are surprisingly similar.

    The songs are written to the bone, but the band's feel for the material keeps it from becoming stilted. The precise-yet-warm playing allows a listener to peel back the layers to find some treasures within the bones of the songs. Most often, that's not the recommended method of listening to this sort of thing, but it works here.

    Sleeper Car laid down six songs worth hearing many times. I'd like to hear a full-length, if for no other reason than to see if the band can find some continuity in a longer form. These songs are great, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with each other. Perhaps a longer format would allow for more filling in the spaces. In any case, this disc has me primed for more.


    Sleeping in the Aviary
    Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel
    (Science of Sound)
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    The album title is fairly indicative. These are songs of caustic wit and even more corrosive loathing. The venom seems to be delivered at both the subjects of the songs and (perhaps) other band members as well. I'm not sure about that last part, but this album is tension city.

    Which makes for compelling listening. Sleeping in the Aviary plays a raggedy sort of rock of roll, one that dips its toe into folk and the blues before galloping back into the world of cranging guitars. Sonic tension, if you will. And like I said, it works quite well.

    Indeed, just about everything works here. The songs are tight, the band is just loose enough to give some room to breathe and the sound is a couple steps above demo-quality--exactly what these folks need.

    The easiest touchpoints would be the Brian Jonestown Massacre or the Flaming Lips (circa 1993 or so), though these folks are more anarchic and antisocial. This one sounds good from the start, and then it grows on you. Loverly, kids.


    Great Vacation!
    (Science of Sound)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    There are many ways to play eclectic pop. You can throw in the kitchen sink (like Seafarer, reviewed above) or you can mess around with the notes in the music. Sleeping in the Aviary does both, tossing in all sorts of electronic mess and taking liberties with the melodies within the songs.

    The press sticker makes reference to the Lips, and I suppose that's fair. But these boys aren't that trippy. They're more straightforward in their musical experimentation. Not better or worse, but simply different.

    The pieces are catchy as hell, which makes the tangents that much easier to accept. After a while, I stopped questioning where the music was heading and simply hung out for the ride.

    Whatever the approach, it's impossible to deny the quality of these songs. Lots and lots of fun, with plenty of substance to boot. Very nice.


    You and Me, Ghost
    (Science of Sound)
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    Ah, Sleeping in the Aviary! Last year's album, Great Vacation!, was a real blast a fresh air. And this one keeps the pedal mashed all the way through.

    These jumpy, herky-jerky pieces sound like they're eternally on the verge of collapse. But, kinda like a satellite in orbit, they are simply falling just fast enough to keep forward motion going. In other words, the "mess" you hear is completely intentional. And it's highly addictive.

    The open sound makes these songs explode. There's more than enough room for all of the crashing and wailing elements to blister through, while the core is more than tight enough to keep everything spinning quite nicely.

    Less layered than bands like the Wrens, I suppose, but just as manic and dense. There's a lot more going on here than simple rawk and noise, which is why these songs hold up so well on the fiftieth listen. Well done!


    Sleepy River
    The Funeral Birth of a Tree
    (Swingset)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    The sort of half-trippy, half-hippie jangle guitar pop that often sends me into spasms of incoherence. Really. Generally I can't stand the stuff. But Sleepy River does a little something with the sound, coming off more as acoustic Posies wannabes than, well, crap.

    I suppose the obvious Posies reference is the reliance on harmonies (and not necessarily tight ones at that). And there's the flair for the dramatic as well, though that nicely undercuts my initial description. Indeed, Sleepy River may be vaguely mellow, but it does follow the map.

    In other words, these songs make sense. And they are pretty, in a fuzzy and kinda non-descript way. If it weren't for the songwriting craft, though, I wouldn't give this a second look. These folks have some serious chops.

    It's always something like this that makes me wonder if I'm writing off an entire sound. And then I remember that I am listening to this album, and I like it, and that means I'm not completely closed-minded. I like getting turned around like that. Makes me like these folks that much more.


    Sleepy Vikings
    They Will Find You Here
    (New Granada)
    reviewed in issue #327, May 2011

    Insistently quiet songs that simply force their way into the room. There's no good reason such seemingly innocuous music should prick up the ears, but boy does it.

    These songs simply trip by with their mid-tempo beats and their dialed-down sound, and yet they're utterly compelling. There's nothing spectacular going on, except that's exactly what it feels like while listening.

    Such a conundrum. And I'm afraid I can't quite solve the mystery, though a fair chunk of the arresting sound comes from having a guy and a gal sing most of these songs in unison. That's always a winner.

    But there's more to it than that. Sleepy Vikings structure these songs for maximum impact, and while there aren't any stirring climaxes to speak of, there's plenty of emotional intensity. And that's where Sleepy Vikings truly shine.


    Sleeve
    Cellophane Persona
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Basic rock with grunge pretensions. The sound itself is not thick in the middle, but the chords and vocal style sure do conform to type. An interesting idea, admittedly. I kinda like that part.

    But the songwriting is too clumsy. The band never quite finds a groove, and in any case, the songs lurch from section to section without much in the way of decent transitions. It just sounds... awkward, I guess.

    Again, though, the use of relatively distortion-free guitars in this anthemic grunge style is a pretty good idea. I don't know if it was intentional, but I like it. I wish the guys had done a bit more with the sound, that's all.

    Competently played (better than that, really), but I just can't find the soul. The meaning behind the music. It sounds empty to be. A subjective judgment, to be sure. But that's what I hear.


    Slept
    The Doosies

    split 7"
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    These bands win on gimmick points alone. The sleeve folds out into a game that attempts to replicate the experience of touring across the country. It's completely hilarious, and not at all inaccurate. I've always wondered where bands parked when they played in New York. The game has the answer.

    As for the music, Slept plays a poppy form of emo, peppered with creative asides. The songs sometimes get a little lost with all the shifts, but all loose ends are tied up at the end in a rousing finale. Fun, fun.

    The Doosies utilize some sludge riffs in crafting their own vision of pop wonderland. Their one song, "Amateur Night", is a long, meandering tune full of great riffage. Pretty amusing, too. Kinda messy, but why complain?

    Both songs could easily have benefitted from better production (the songs are rather muffled, though not enough to obliterate the general idea), but the underlying talent cannot be ignored. And, hell, the game is worth the price of admission.


    Kevin Slick
    Songs in Search of a Home
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    A collection of songs that didn't fit on any album. With an introduction like that, I was guessing the stuff might not be terribly cohesive. But it turns out that Kevin Slick doesn't really venture far out of his circle of comfort.

    Which is somewhere in the acoustic guitar-driven singer-songwriter world. Slick is happy to dress up his songs with some harp or piano or the occasional electric guitar lead line, but generally he leaves the work to his low (but not quite gravely) voice and hollow guitar.

    There's nothing spectacular here, but Slick does have a knack for creating quietly affecting material. This isn't dull, milquetoast folky fare. Well, it is somewhat folky, but Slick provides more than enough meat to flesh out his bare-bones approach.

    A quiet charmer. Slick is soft-sell all the way, and that fits in perfectly with these (supposedly mismatched) songs. Just let the music soak in.


    Slick Lilly
    Brotherhood
    (Zeal Records)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    This is an example of what a good local scene can do for you. These boys have done shows with the Black Crowes and Drivin' N Cryin', as well as a bunch of dates around their hometown of Birmingham. The guy who sent this to me said they had moved 600 units in a couple of weeks. Damn impressive.

    And why not? This is a good album. Straight-ahead, three-chord rock and roll. In fact, if the Easy Beats had been from Alabama, I bet AC/DC would have sounded a lot like this.

    Not to say they rip anybody off. A definite southern feel, but also just good rockin'.


    Slicker
    The Latest
    (Hefty)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    I kinda have to take the album title with a grain of salt. This might've been "the latest" in 1976 or so, back when Tangerine Dream was a cool techno band (before they called it techno, of course) that played around with beats and melodies. Back when a sterile electronic sound generally meant something more serious or less human, in some sort of Kraftwerkian sorta way.

    I don't know if you get my distinction (or if it's valid--I wasn't listening to either band back then, I was 7), but Slicker also plays with mechanical techno conventions in rather unconventional ways. There's a sense of fun and discovery here, like something new might be just around the corner.

    And usually there is something. Slicker plays with fire. This sound isn't new, and an awful lot of bands (if that's the right term) have plied these fields before. But that's where some real satisfaction can be found, in reinvigorating old ideas. These songs do just that.

    I'll note, for the record, that Slicker is Hefty honcho John Hughes. As might be expected, this album fits right in with what I perceive to be the Hefty style: Do something interesting, and do it well. Few albums go on explorations such and this and remain vital. Slicker does, and I'm quite impressed.


    Slimer
    Adult Cabaret
    (Grilled Cheese-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Heavy and hooky punk. The guitars have a bit of a metal edge to them, but I guess that's the style these days. I prefer the duller sound. Other than that, prepare for my rave.

    One caveat: This is pop punk. Gotta accept that. Once you do, well, this crashes in such tasty waves that you're not gonna worry about it. and the more I think about it, the sharper guitar sound meshes nicely with the tight harmonies of the choruses.

    Just try to keep up. The tempos are peppy to downright fast, the hooks are sweet and clever and the riffage is just the sort of thing to crack the back. I find this stuff utterly irresistible. Punk is passe? Tell that to these boys.

    This is one of those instant likes for me. I'm kinda vulnerable to this sort of sound. Especially when it is done so wonderfully. There are plenty of commercial elements, particularly in the production, but they didn't worry me excessively. I just enjoyed myself. Period.


    Slint
    Tweez
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/95

    There are a few truly weird bands out there. Slint is one of them. Or was. But no matter, as this was their first album, anyway.

    I checked my Trouser Press to see what those dorks had to say about Slint. They listed Spiderland (a really great album), but the whole essay was spent savaging Tweez. Something about there not being any real songs or something.

    Maybe not, but this is sure pretty fun stuff, nonetheless. Crashing guitars, almost overpowering bass and all sorts of great sounds make this a treat for eardrums tired of normal music.

    Were this not a reissue, it would be on page 2. A real document (of what, I'm just not sure yet).



    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    No, the two songs are untitled as well. As a matter of fact, without the little "made in Canada" stamp, you might be confused as to which side of the disc is up.

    While I generally like to tear down the cult status of bands (enough Pavement shit, okay?), I like Slint. Perhaps mostly because they don't exist anymore. That makes the folk truly ideal.

    Why this disc? Well, there were these outtakes, see…no I mean it. And all those little Slint freaks out there wanted to hear them. But does that mean they're good, or even worth the cash outlay?

    Not to my ear. Two long and not particularly noteworthy songs don't cut it for me. I still like Slint and consider Spiderland to be one of the greatest albums of all time. But I think it's time to move on. This is not worthy.


    The Slip
    Eisenhower
    (Bar/None)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    More of that electronic math thing that seems to be cropping up more and more. Unlike the Argo reviewed above, these folks sound better when they're relying on the guitars. I don't know if it's a matter of confidence or writing (probably both), but the songs are much stronger when they're rocking out.

    The Slip tends to use orchestrations and electronics as a means to an end, which is something I usually applaud. For some reason, though, here it sounds like a cop out or perhaps an overreach. These songs don't need the extras--even the ubiquitous guitar noodling can be a bit much--they just need to be played.

    Which they are. Because the production is so sharp and pointed, I feel confident in making these pronouncements. I can hear everything (or so it seems), and so I can guess at what this might sound like if it was just a bit stripped down.

    And again, it's the overall strength of this album that makes it easier for me to voice these quibbles. I doubt many people would bother with my minor whines, preferring to simply revel in what's here. That's cool. Know what? I can do that, too.


    Slipstream
    Slipstream
    (Che Trading-Carrot Top)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    More of the psychedelic-pop wave that still has the U.K. in its throes. But unlike the bands that have been brought over by the U.S. biggies, Slipstream is more stripped-down and earthy.

    Plenty of emphasis on acoustic instruments and less on studio-enhanced distortion. So it sounds like, say, music created by humans.

    The songs have a definite Neil Young feel in their construction-plenty of focus on the dominant riff, and enough asides to keep you interested. Sure, they get a little too trippy for me at times, but overall Slipstream has the right idea.

    Psychedelic pop music that can be played live without a cabal of cables. What a concept.


    Sloan
    The Double Cross
    (Yep Roc)
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Four guys from Canada. Four guys who all write songs. None of them are named Sloan. So far, this makes complete sense.

    And it explains how the band can veer from Cheap Trick riffola to Look Sharp-era slick Joe Jackson to something that resembles what some folks like to call Canadian pop. Of course, if you mix all this together…

    Yeah, I know. In any case, all of the songs here are utterly irresistible. Sloan is one tight outfit, and these songs blaze by all too quickly. While it is easy to pick out which songs were written by each member, the interplay between the members helps to create something of a cohesive sound.

    Though, to tell the truth, one of the most appealing things about Sloan is the set of songwriters it boasts. You'll never get bored listening to a Sloan album, even if this one boasts only 13 tracks (the previous one had 30!). Way too catchy to put down after just one listen.


    Sloe
    Careless Wispers CD5
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Yeah, a cover of the George Michael/Wham! (different U.S. and U.K. credits) song. Oddly affecting, really. Whoulda thunk such a thing would translate into a heavy emocore song.

    The other two tracks are more of the aggro emocore stuff (like Treepeople back when that band was on Toxic Shock) that rolls off the speakers in a most pleasant way. Nice tunesmithing and ace playing, all with a high energy that is simply addictive.

    Pretty tasty stuff. Sloe has studied this sound and replicates it wonderfully. The songs are fresh and tight, and the interaction between the players is beautiful to behold. I hope a full-length is on the way soon.


    Slogun
    The Pleasures of Death
    (Death Factory-Cold Meat Industry)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    Death Factory is a new imprint for the fine Swedish label Cold Meat Industry. Slogun traffics in the sonic excess of acts like Namanax, except that the cascading pulses of white noise also have lyrics which echo behind the wall of sleep.

    The band (straight outta Brooklyn) calls the sound "True Crime Electronics", and that's fine for me. Obviously on the outside edge of the extreme, Slogun's incorporation of lyrics into this sound is a new twist, and it works pretty well. Though I have to admit I found myself waiting for the lyrics rather than getting lost in the sonic chaos.

    Yeah, yeah, 99.9 percent of humans would call this unlistenable crap. So what? I groove on the carnage, and there's plenty here. Fans of some of the more edgy Japanese noise acts (Otomo Yoshihide and Merzbow come to mind right away) should know exactly what I'm talking about here.

    Music which immediately reverses the effects of Prozac. A good thing, if you ask me.


    SloMo Rabbit Kick
    Horatory Examinations EP
    (Kittybox)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    Five playful, bouncing songs that probably ought to be called "new wave new wave," or something silly like that. Jaunty pop with plenty of keyboards. That sort of thing.

    Jay Chilcote is the mind behind all of this. He wrote the songs, and he got a few pals to play them for him. This does have more than a bit of the eccentric feel of a one-man outfit, but I've always been partial to that kind of obsessive sound. SloMo Rabbit Kick (the name is telling, isn't it?) does dull a few of the most extreme edges, but there are plenty of nudges and winks within this exceptionally approachable sound.

    A nice set of songs, played with verve and produced with a forgiving hand. Just the sort of thing to warm up a cool autumn day.


    Sloppy Wrenchbody
    Obstacle 12"
    (Kk Records-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Fairly aggressive dance music. The short version of the single is positively infectious (and rather heavy, as well). The 7 and a half minute re-mix is a bit long and redundant for my taste, but the other two tracks are better than gets played in clubs around here.

    Less heavy keyboards and more emphasis on the beats. Sounds good to me.


    Slot
    Rule of :45 EP
    (Third Gear)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Four moody, thick pop tunes. The sound is lo-fi, and the mood is dark.

    When Slot finally kicks in, like in most of "Of Strikes and Spares", the stuff is pretty acceptable, if uninspiring. Vocalist Sue (no last names given) prefers to croon along in a sort of monotone, not bothering much with concepts like melody or emotion. That bugs me a little, mostly because the band also plays that way. The sound is constant and unchanging. While perhaps interesting as a side note, to hear this sort of thing over and over again gets kinda numbing.

    If you're into pain, a numbing sameness and that sort of thing (say, you're an old Codeine fan), Slot will fill the bill. I want more, myself.


    Slotek
    7
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    If Codeine were an experimental electronic outfit, then it might have sounded something like Slotek. The name is instructive; while the beats are merely in the adagio range, most of the musical sounds are recordings electronically slowed down, sometimes in exponential magnitude.

    Turn out the lights and crank this stuff up, and the effect is something like a sensory depravation tank. Any need to race or act quickly is replaced by a thick, throbbing desire to hold back and simply move in slow motion.

    Powerfully addictive, with a solidly-constructed set of backing noise, Slotek erases the conscious world and imposes an order of contemplation and slow grace. The bass lines groove on and on, allowing the rest of the sculptures to really define the outlines of this alternate plane.

    Simply dreamy. A gorgeous rendering of another world.


    Hydrophonic
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    The album cover is utterly correct. Slotek plays music which sounds like it has been filtered underwater to some sort of marine community. The beats and bass lines are almost impossibly thick. In fact, nothing has a sharp edge. Slow, pulsating and utterly unavoidable.

    Music from a sensory depravation tank. These are thoughts which fly though the mind when there is no conscious sensation available to the body. The heartbeat is omnipresent, it rules all. But between the beats, an eternity elapses. Slotek exploits that eternity to the hilt.

    With all sorts of unusual sounds and musical bents. A good amount of middle-eastern stuff, plenty of hip-hop, soundscape pieces and pretty much everything else flies through at one time or another. It doesn't seem like that, as the beats are slow and deliberate. But when all is said and done, so much has passed that it is almost incomprehensible.

    Whew. I've been waiting for a new Slotek disc for ages, and this still manages to blow me away. A communal disc, where cultures and ideas are shared and digested equally. Immerse yourself. You may not want to return.


    Slow Gherkin
    Shed Some Skin
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Very much influenced by two-tone ska, Slow Gherkin rips off tuneful chunks of meat and presents them in a most appealing sauce. I'm not a big ska fan, mind you, but this approach works for me.

    Plus, the songs are pleasantly witty and the horns nice and tight (Never underestimate the power of tight horns). Oh, a real early 80s rush coming on here. Takes me way back, and I keep hitting the next track button.

    Just can't slurp up enough, you know? Basic pop rock tunes with ska underpinnings. Most delicious. Almost like a buffet without end.

    What's with all the food references? Must be hungry. But the serious truth is that Slow Gherkin has all the chops necessary to really impress. I'm already converted.


    Slow Jets
    Remain in Ether
    (Morphius)
    reviewed in issue #253, May 2004

    The second track here is "Famous Flaws of King Ubu," and indeed, these boys must have been raised on a steady diet of Pere Ubu. Slow Jets's vaguely-twisted take on pop rock reflects more of philosophical rather than structural influence, but I think it's fair to say that fans of one will smile at the other.

    At times, I worried that the complicated and off-kilter concepts would overpower Slow Jets's obvious devotion to the hook. The songs take a while to develop. The fifth track, a three-part suite, is amazing, but it doesn't exactly light up from the beginning.

    Patience, then, is the key. And that goes for the sound as well. There is almost no distortion--but plenty of reverb--in the guitars, and at times they sound almost as if they've been processed through a MIDI interface--just for kicks. Or maybe that's just the tech dork in me.

    A tough sell for the masses, but like I said, fans of Pere Ubu (and the entire gang of 80s geek pop rock) oughta lap this one up. A big ol' heart resides inside all the mannered loopiness. It just takes a while to find it.


    Slowride
    As I Survive the Suicide Bomber
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    There are two surefire ways to prick up my ears. The first is to play music so strange that I can't quite explain what I'm hearing. That doesn't happen often. The second way is to play uptempo tunes with crashing cymbals. I'm a sucker for that.

    Slowride does the emo thing a la power pop. There are a few nods to the old school (particularly in the vocals), but for the most part this is new theory. One that I've been hearing more and more lately. One that really makes me smile.

    The most important change is the quickening of the tempo. These songs would sound dreary and maudlin if played at a middling speed. But they soar with the punch the band provides. My brain is producing all of those happy chemicals.

    The kinda thing that makes me giggle and bounce around and reconsider my theory that the world is full of assholes and idiots. This euphoria never lasts, but if I can get a good fix now and again my wife can safely take me out to parties. As for Slowride, well, the stuff is damned good. Blisteringly beautiful.


    split EP with Red Animal War
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    The artwork is a series of photos from 11/22/63. Another one of those "famous" dates. I'm not sure what the Kennedy assassination has to do with the songs here, but whatever. The art sure does look cool.

    Red Animal War focuses on the rhythmic side of emo. Indeed, its exceptional focus on a tight center really impresses me. This particular style always seems to invoke passion for me. Slowride, on the other hand, is all about thick riffage, power pop and soaring anthems.

    Three songs each in an alternating format, and the sound counterpoint that arises is quite refreshing. I like both bands equally in this context, and the differences point out each act's strengths. This is the sorta disc that gives the split EP a good name.


    Building a Building
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Highly-crafted power pop rock, turbocharged with a heavy dose of garage attitude. How's that for combining yer trends?

    In short, the tempos are just short of breakneck, the riffs fuzzy and the hooks sharp but sweet. The vocal melodies are vaguely atonal--that's part of the garage bit, I guess--and that just adds to the dirty feel of this album.

    Which is where the sterling production comes in. Slowride writes great songs, but these things could have had the life produced out of them. Instead, this grungy (you know, as in greasy and gritty) mess scrubbed into the songs gives them a cool, "authentic" sound.

    A whole lot of fun, with songs that have a bit more heft to them than might be excepted on first listen. This album is yet another example of how good these guys are at making good music.


    C/S
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    More goodness from Slowride. Tunes that veer from the ominous to angry to flat out purty purty. And then back again via different routes. Enough bash to be properly punk (if that's what you want) and enough texture to impress silly critics like me.

    Mostly, though, I'm impressed by the loudness of it all. This album sounds fine at the normal decibels, but when you roll the knobs higher and higher, the thing starts to take on an inspired aura. The glow that surrounds the sound at high volumes is a wonder to behold.

    Works well on headphones--maybe that's the point. But even when the waves travel through a spot of air the power is untrammeled. And we are talking about power here, not some shiny, happy nonsense. Slowride takes no prisoners. If you lose the battle, you won't survive.

    What a terrible metaphor. Oh well. Maybe I'm due for a stomping as well. And if an album is gonna kick my ass, it might as well be one as raucous and energizing as this one. Geez, how could anyone resist?


    Slowtrain
    Bound to Find You Out
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Adoniram Lipton knows his way around the 70s. Not many folks can channel Led Zeppelin and Elton John in the same song, but Slowtrain does so with ease.

    The sound is loud, but with a light touch. The riffage can be brutal, but it's couched within a pop sentiment. On the whole, piano and a tight rhythm section predominate. That's where references to the Band make sense.

    And while Lipton did the writing, the band as a whole is a most impressive unit. These guys trust each other, and they really click once the songs get rolling.

    Out of time, but hardly out of place these days. Slowtrain simply puts one great song after another. That enough for me.


    Slughog
    Grit!
    (Wonderdrug)
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    Taking some real pointers from the Chi-town hardcore set and incorporating them into the maelstrom of the Boston sound, Slughog has some serious ambitions.

    And they come through often enough to keep it on my stereo. Naw, this ain't Kepone or Mount Shasta, folks who have really expanded the Chicago feel, but it's not bad. There's something comforting about pure aggro noise every now and again.

    If you play it loud, no one will notice. That's the beauty of most of this stuff. Kinda why I like it. Average? Sure, but still a big wad of fun.


    Ungodly Amounts of Meat
    (Wonderdrug)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    More sludgy revisionism of the Jesus Lizard idea. This album is even thicker and messier than Grit!, and the songs are just as uncoordinated. A cavalcade of musical gore.

    And as such, Slughog still cranks out an amazing racket. I'm still not hearing anything terribly innovative, but the volume knob kept creeping higher as the disc wore on.

    Guilty pleasures are often the best. There aren't many artistic or aesthetic reasons to recommend Slughog, but if you like music that will clean out your bowels faster than a Tabasco enema, well, this here's the ticket.

    Glorious throbbing. Precisely the sort of music that keeps the generation gap up to date.


    Slumber
    Too Much the Same 7"
    (Wishing Chair)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Moody, distorted pop that perfectly fits the name of the band. Even when the band finds itself at a climactic chorus, the decibels remain restrained.

    But there is a nice fuzz level at the more aggressive parts. I've heard quite a few bands with much the same idea fail, and Slumber pulls off the trick, if barely.

    Slumber will need to craft its sound a little more in order to find a distinctive niche, but these two tracks are a fine start.


    Tha Slumplordz
    Present: Tha Yakuza in Don't Worry About the Kaliber
    (Stray)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Stunning beat work, though the raps could use a bit of a charge. These pieces sound great, and the songs hold together quite well. The Slumplordz are more thoughtful than brutal, but there's plenty of attitude.

    The basic sound is a modified dub, cranked up a bit but not sped up. The Slumplordz take their time, though the intensity is still high. Don't worry, everything still hits like it should.

    The star is still the music, a really great mix of dub and other electronic ideas. The beat work here is just great, driving the raps to higher places than the ideas would reach by themselves. Both compliment each other, lending to the superior sound of this disc.

    I still don't think these guys are world's greatest rappers. The lyrics are better than average, and the delivery fits the sound well-enough, but still, the stars are the hands that turned the knobs. For me, that's fine. This is a great disc to hear.


    Slush
    North Hollywood
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Hooky alterna-pop with just enough cheese to attract the kids of today. Yeah, there are plenty of other trendy styles meandering about, not to mention an almost slavish devotion to the backbeat rhythms of the Godfathers. The lyrics do not match up, but hell, that's hardly unusual.

    Astonishingly catchy, and almost immediately forgettable. Pop without soul or even a reason for being. Oh, the riffs are good enough, but Slush is hollow in the middle. Absolutely no core.

    The sound is sharp and crisp, with some distortion tweaked in as a concession to today's trendy reality. Too bad this fine production work can't do anything to improve the quality of the songs. They sound gorgeous, but have nothing to say.

    I kept waiting for the one track to really kick this album into overdrive. It never happened. Slush is a band of competent mechanics, but art is well beyond its grasp. Merely a cheap thrill.


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

    Crunchy, poppy guitar rock. Brassy and slightly ragged female vocals. A real good formula, if you ask me. Slushpuppy certainly thinks so.

    Too bad the songs just don't have a lot of life. They're not terrible, but they don't jump out at me, either. There's a certain faceless quality to the playing and the production, as if anyone could have done this. And since my copy doesn't have a picture of the band or anything, this seems to me to be very possible.

    Slushpuppy is going for the major label bucks. That what it sounds like to me. I just wish it had settled on its own sound before trying to grab the brass ring.


    Tony Sly
    (and Joey Cape)
    Acoustic
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    The frontmen for No Use for a Name (Tony Sly) and Lagwagon (Joey Cape) strip away the electric guitars and plunk down simpler versions of their songs. Well, sort of.

    Sly's six pieces (each guy recorded five old songs and one new one) are just him and his guitar, with a little keyboard and percussion here and there. Not stripped down, though. The guitar has an astonishing amount of echo to it, and ubiquitous producer Ryan Greene multitracked both the guitar parts and the vocals. All that's missing is the rest of the band. I'm not sure this stuff is better than NUFAN, but it is still interesting.

    Cape's tracks are even more adventurous. For starters, he's brought in a number of his Bad Astronaut cohorts to play strings, banjo, piano and whatever else needed to be done. And while the five "old" songs here were originally done by Lagwagon, these tracks are steeped in that proggy, art-punk Bad Astronaut vibe. Which is just fine by me.

    Acoustic? Well... let's just say two talented guys decided to goof around. And they goofed in most excellent ways. This isn't punk music, but it's good music. In the end, nothing else matters.


    Josh Small
    Tall by Josh Small
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    At first listen, music doesn't get much more simple than this. Josh Small whips out his banjo or guitar or resonator (guitar) and sings along. Of course, from time to time there's some bass or drums or something, but again, at first listen this stuff sounds primitive.

    That's the secret to its effectiveness, I think. The songs themselves are anything but "classic" folk or bluegrass. The folks at Suburban Home detect a 70s vibe, and I heartily concur. Sometimes it's more Elton John than James Taylor, but that sense of solid melody and harmony rolls through.

    Oh, yeah, and there's the Fender Rhodes that drops in from time to time. That kinda completes the sound. In short, Small writes great songs and then has the presence of mind to present them in the best light possible.

    Hardly simple, really. There's more sophistication here than on any other album I'm reviewing this set, I'd say. And yet, most of the time this sounds like Small is singing out on my back deck. That, friends, is genius.


    small a.m.
    small a.m.
    (Childlike)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    There's nothing complicated about what small a.m. does. This is rock music, performed with consummate grace and skill. The songwriting isn't particularly incendiary, but the arrangements of the songs are exceptional.

    There's a grandiose sound within, but the songs themselves are so basic any sense of pretentiousness is lost. Good thing, too. Because these guys obviously want to make an "important" record.

    The songs build to a climax in the standard way, but the lyrics often undercut the dramatic rise of the music. In other words, whenever small a.m. begins to get full of itself there's always a balancing action which brings everything back to the center.

    That's pretty cool. You get anthems and irony in equal doses. And often at the same time. All this is a lot harder to accomplish than you might guess, and I must admit to being very impressed by the boys. The hard work did pay off.


    Small Arms Dealer
    A Single Unifying Theory
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Somewhat conventional pop hardcore--my way of describing this particular emo variant--Small Arms Dealer keeps up the interest simply by never letting up off the throttle.

    Pedal to the floor is a good way to disguise mediocre songwriting. And, to be fair, the songs here are good. But the band's energetic reading of these songs is what raises this album above the teeming masses. The craft is excellent, but craft doesn't always serve punk well.

    Indeed, there ought to be a level of uncertainly, something unstable at the core. The instability here is simply some ragged playing and singing--and that's enough. Cuts a few jagged edges and bloodies up a few noses.

    Solid, with enough spirit to overcome any shortcomings. Not necessarily an inspired album, but one that is immediately approachable and exciting.


    Patron Saint of Disappointment
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #290, October 2007

    Much more of a pop feel than I've heard from recent Deep Elm bands, but no matter; Small Arms Dealer is awfully good.

    Just enough buzzsaw to lend a hard edge to the sound, and more than enough attitude to fill three albums. Try these song titles on for size: "Small Arms Dealer Makes Baby Jesus Cry," "Harry Houdini Says No and Proves It" and "Venkman, Burn in Hell." Oh, and "Fuck You and the Cross You Rode in On" for good measure.

    So these are true two fingers straight up punks, right? Not really. These songs have some serious hooks, even if they're somewhat obscured by the scratchy guitars. The choruses can be awfully sweet, after a ragged fashion, and the riffs themselves bounce along nicely.

    A swell package all the way around. It does require a tolerance for attitude and blasphemy, but I'm down with that. Otherwise, this stuff is muscular and tasty enough for just about anyone. Full throttle is just the beginning.


    Small Axe
    A Blow to the Head
    (Hoex)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    The advantage of recording your own CD (without heavy input from a label, anyway) is that you can do whatever you want. Small Axe has done that.

    The songs are all over the map, though generally characterized by a distortion-heavy guitar or bass line (often both). The songs come off as jokey, and some of those jokes are funny. Some sound a little worn.

    There are a hell of a lot of ideas wandering around here. I mean, anyone who can reference T. Rex, Black Sabbath and the Mothers in one song is doing something right. And when the very next song sounds like something out of a Pavement PCP nightmare, well, maybe you begin to get the idea.

    Not brilliant. There are too many dead moments here. But the sheer number of ideas attempted is impressive. I give this advice a lot, and I still think it's good. Try a few live shows. Edit -- if just a bit. Find a little consistency. There's a lot of good here; it just needs to be supported better.


    Small Ball Paul
    Gotta Change 7"
    (Faye)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    A heavy St. Louis band who has been rumored to sign a pretty big record deal recently (though my ear is not as close to that grapevine as before), these guys arose from the ashes of a fairly disastrous KCOU Springfest gig, which ended with the guitarist's equipment scattered across the Ag school's parking lot, to record this real gem. (What a sentence!)

    As they mention the Whigs in a song, I might say they do remind one of those Cincinnati boys a little, but they have a little bit more riffola action going. A real fun disc to jam to, cool rockin'.

    But going back, my favorite memory of Springfest was these guys' manager, who said, earnestly (after watching a couple of guitars and tons of effects crash into asphalt), "You know, the one thing that would make all this better is a joint." A line and situation which are destined to be immortalized in film someday.


    The Small Cities
    The Small Cities EP
    (Common Cloud)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    Four tunes that wander through four sides of the pop-rock sound. There's the tuneful tapper (#2), the jangle waiting to happen (#3), the morose arty waltz (#1), and the almost-ethereal summation (#4). That's all well and good.

    Actually, it's better than that. The Small Cities do a great job with each of these sounds, and perhaps more impressively, the guys manage to maintain a cohesive band sound throughout. That's no small task.

    An interesting set. I have no idea where this trio might find itself in the future, but I'd venture to guess it will be finely-crafted and expressively played. A fine introduction.


    Smallspace
    No Matter
    (Speedywagon)
    reviewed in issue #267, August 2005

    I did a year in Battle Creek, Mich., from September 1, 1993 to September 20, 1994 (and yes, there's a reason I remember those specific dates). If I wanted to catch a show, I had to haul over to Kalamazoo, or, more often, up to Grand Rapids, to hear something cool. Smallspace hails from that metropolis on the semi-frozen tundra, and I can't say I'm surprised I like this so much.

    The prog-laptop feel of the songs is intriguing. Kinda like Air meets Radiohead by way of (you knew it was coming!) the Beta Band. Not exactly the sort of thing I usually dig, but these boys have a nicely abstract way of approaching their material that really appeals to my ears.

    The sound is wonderful. Not too spacey, but certainly not of this world. Plenty of room for shoegazing, but still leaving plenty of activity for more exuberant listeners. The production is subtle enough to allow all sorts of minor ideas entrance into the songs, making the results that much more fulfilling.

    There are a lot of good things about western Michigan. Bell's beer. The lakeshore. A number of good bands--a number which has been joined by Smallspace. Something interesting going on here.


    Smart Brown Handbag
    Lullabies for Infidels
    (Stonegarden)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Cool, assured pop, with liner blurb from the senior editor of High Society. Bad taste? Irony? Blatant humor? Who knows.

    I only mentioned the blurb because it was actually pretty funny and fit the sound of the band rather well. Alright, so this is very much by-the-numbers. It's got enough around the edges to keep me occupied and intrigued.

    And here is one album in this issue with nicely incisive lyrics (hallelujah!). Yes, yes, that's what this sort of music is supposed to have, but folks seem to have been forgetting that lately.

    It's kinda strange. I feel like saying this isn't anything particularly special, but I liked it lots. I guess both can be true.


    Little Things Are Everything
    (Stonegarden)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Moody, involved pop music. With all the lyric intensity necessary to carry off the sound. A nice, full sound for a three-piece. Great songs played to their fullest extent.

    And that's the key here, strong songwriting. David Steinhart has been doing this sort of thing for 15 years or so, and he's got the trick down, though obviously he hasn't lost his passion. The lyrics ooze with feeling.

    As for the music, well, it is a reasonably modern update of the mellow British invasion of the 80s. The Smiths. Aztec Camera. Etc. The stuff that did not catch on with the kids. Though, of course, it was monstrously popular with those contorted college radio types.

    All this writing around another solid album for the band. I noted in my review of the band's last album that I really don't go for stuff like this. Except that I dig Smart Brown Handbag. Still true. Both ways. I really like this album.


    Just Like Driving Backwards
    (Stonegarden)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    David Steinhart has been making these records with some friends and has been putting them out on his own label for some time now. I sure hope he's doing well with that. Music like this deserves some serious attention.

    Yeah, it's that involved, moody college pop stuff that was vaguely popular 10-15 years ago. In fact, if I recall correctly, Steinhart had a regular contract a long time ago as part of the band Pop Art. He's been doing SBH since 1993 or so, and that band simply has never disappointed.

    I'm really not exaggerating. Steinhart has a way of bringing a number of complex ideas together into rather catchy tunes. And, of course, the lyrics weave and sting. There was a time a long ways back when I didn't like such things. Now, as you can tell, I adore them.

    Like I said, Steinhart and compatriots do this style as well as anyone I've every heard. The sound is somewhat pretentious, but really, any true pophead should find easy access into these pieces. The shimmer never ceases.


    Harry Larry
    (Stonegarden Records)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    David Steinhart has the band back together, and Smart Brown Handbag has produced another fine set of lilting, pretty pop songs. Damned if it doesn't work every time.

    Steinhart is the songwriter, singer and general force behind the band, but when SBH records, you can be sure Cindy Albon and John Glogovac are there as well. And they're hardly contract players. Glogovac produces here, and there's a very strong feeling of collaboration among the band members.

    I've been reviewing SBH albums for almost 10 years, and the consistency of quality is astounding. Perhaps it's just that Steinhart doesn't record until he's got enough good songs. And perhaps it's simply that these folks know what they're doing and are somehow able to maintain the highest standards.

    Doesn't matter. Sometimes when I say a band hasn't progressed much, I mean that as a criticism. Here, however, it's a complement. Few bands or artists have a track record as solid as Steinhart and company, and in this case, same-old same-old means "amazing."

    See also David Steinhart.


    The Smashing Pumpkins
    Adore
    (Virgin)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Every once in a while comes a band which can do no wrong. After the astonishing success of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double album, no less, the Smashing Pumpkins (a.k.a. Billy Corgan and some other folks) can pretty much put out anything and sell a few million records.

    So it's no surprise that the album opens with a dirge, "To Sheila", before progressing to the wide-ranging pop songs upon which the band's success has been based. Terribly pretentious stuff, superficial and somewhat dull. But then, that's the sort of thing that has always sold. The kids want to believe they're deep, but they also want to understand what's being said. A serious conundrum.

    Ah, hell, I don't need to be this cynical. Everyone who reads this will expect me to rip the album to shreds. And I don't like it much. I do like grand scope, but I simply wish there was substance on the stage. What I get is opera without anything to say. That's all.

    I don't think this album quite measures up to the other Virgin albums, but then, I didn't like them, either. So I'm not the best judge. Personally, I liked James Iha's album a lot better. At least that one sounded honest.


    Smears
    Smears 7" EP
    (Hell Yeah)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Very low-tech punk, though I suppose that's being redundant. Very energetic and rude, which could also describe the cover art.

    The band is made up of three women from Indiana, which isn't really that important except some folk seem to make a big deal of such situations. I prefer to abstain.

    No more analysis. These are pretty amusing tunes and I'll leave it at that.


    Love Is fer Suckers
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    I really likes their single on Hell Yeah! a while back, and this continues that feeling.

    All-over-the-place punk that makes sloppy a big understatement. The Smears aren't much for technical grace, but more in the mood to blast and rip their way through a nasty world.

    Many will compare these women to L7, mostly because of their gender. But I think the Smears do owe a lot more to L7 than other female punk stalwarts like 7 Year Bitch and Lunachicks. At times the Smears get awful heavy and just plain threaten speakers with eruption.

    Completely uncrafted, the Smears have managed nonetheless to put together an amazingly entertaining set of songs. After a few beers, it gets even better.


    Like Hell
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #108, 5/6/96

    The Smears have always had some of the funniest lyrics extant in music today. I mean, song titles here give some evidence of that: "Not Fucking Happy", "I'm a Whore" and "Cheat on Boyfriend" are just the beginning. But there's something I didn't expect.

    Fairly tight production, which proves that, indeed, the Smears have learned how to play their instruments. Rather well, actually. And the harmonies are harmonies, rather than alley-cat screeching. And the songs are actually written, sounding pretty cool. Whoa.

    I think the production may have taken just a notch out of the attitude kicked out by the Smears on previous efforts, but as a piece of music, Like Hell is way ahead of anything that came before. And it's still damned amusing.

    Surprisingly good. I got what I expected, and a big chunk more. This isn't a classic punk record or anything, but it's a damned good one. which is ahead of where I put the Smears before.


    Chris Smentkowski
    Worms CD3
    (Absit Omen)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Chris Smentkowski, who might be better-known as part of the Panicsville and Brain Transplant phenomena, launches forth a short (in time) assault on the concept of sound itself.

    The pieces here are mostly quiet, consisting of a dim industrial hum or other such noise. Every once in a while, Smentkowski brings in some heavier electronic disturbances, but mostly he's content to lurk in the background.

    Which is cool. I'll admit, this disc is for fools like me who like to burrow into sound to see what lies beneath. There's plenty of subtext within the rumblings here. And if you don't want to dig it, then don't. But for the few of us who don't mind thinking about our music, worms leads to treasure.


    Smile
    Maquee
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Extra-chunky punky grunge stuff coming out of Southern California (imagine!). But jeez, that guitar is THICK!

    The songs are in the pop vein and have great hooks and lyrics. There isn't anything to complain about, and a lot to rave on about.

    As a slab of punk glory, Maquee is tops. But Smile has a little more in mind. The production makes the sound heavier than any similar band I've heard. Well, Fluf came close, but this still piledrives that sound to the dust.

    And the songs are positively addictive. It's like eating chocolate ants, or maybe drinking good beer. You just know this stuff is good for you. Jump around all you want, get an aerobic workout. Keeps you singing along in the car so you don't fall asleep on those late-night commutes. Whatever.

    Smile makes me do just that. Wow. A really great album.


    Masterlocks +3 CD5
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    After bouncing about (their debut album was released first by Headhunter, and then later got distributed by Atlantic), Smile comes back to a comfy punk home.

    "Masterlocks" is a good enough punk-pop raver. Included with this a-side is a cover of the Inbreds "She's Acting", which sounds a bit listless here. The other two "b-sides" are somewhat better, though a song called "Crispin Glover vs. Tom Snyder" should be a little more interesting than it turns out. And anyway, Crispin Glover kicked Letterman (years ago), not Tom Snyder (unless something happened in the last year).

    Alright, but nothing special. Smile is going to have to work to regain my interest.


    Girl Crushes Boy
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Smile still has Seattle on the mind, but this album is a lot more Posies than Nirvana. Actually, the band has always been a pop outfit, but here the grungy fuzz overtones are whacked back a bit, letting the power pop base come through a bit clearer.

    I guess last year's five-song single was an anomaly. These songs are strong and focused, crafted but played with a cavalier attitude. Couldn't tell you why I like this so much better, other than to speculate on the quality of the music.

    The loss of the fuzz excess is welcome. Smile is able to utilize some nice vocal work and round out its sound more completely. All of its weapons are now at the ready. Smile is ready for war.

    With a good album, to boot. Not yer usual pop outing. This one's a bit heavier. But well-appointed nonetheless. A most welcome surprise.


    The Smithereens
    God Save the Smithereens
    (Velvel-Koch)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    There are those who cherish Green Thoughts. I mean, light a shrine to it every day and such. Let's just say that it's one of three or four albums which presaged the current pop revival (even if by almost 10 years). The Smithereens never quite hits those heights again, but they surely didn't suck enough to be dropped.

    And so, a few years after the inevitable breakup, the original lineup is back together, plying the same old fuzzy pop music. These sort of reunions generally suck, creating a vague sense of queasy deja vu. Kinda like "I know a band that sounds like that, only they don't blow." I'm not getting those vibes here.

    Now, this album doesn't have the relative abandon of Green Thoughts, but it's still pretty good. Really good in spots, particularly when the boys give up on all the studio extras and get "back in the garage." Hey, we all know the guys are great technicians, but when folks crank up the Smithereens they want to be blown away. You know, in the way that the band name intimates.

    A bit too safe. Maybe it's timidity, or maybe it's just rust. I dunno. This is perfectly fine, but I'm left wanting more from the guys. I know it's in there. Yeah, it's the same thing people have been saying for more than 10 years now, but we remember. Trust me, we remember.


    Drew Smith's Lonely Choir
    Drew Smith's Lonely Choir
    (Fat Caddy)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    (An)Drew Smith has listened to a fair amount of rock and roll. He seems to like bouncy stuff that has a bit of an edge. Which means he cribs equally from the Beatles, the Stones, Cheap Trick, etc.

    All of that is rolled into a stripped down, rollicking sound that has a truly comfy feel. Smith isn't afraid to dip his toes into a little soul or blues, and he's equally comfortable with a bit of the down home. Like I said, he's listened to a lot of rock and roll.

    The songs here are outstanding, but the arrangements and production are simply stunning. They allow the music to burst forth with no impedance. It's almost like a straight conduit from Smith's pen to a listener's ears.

    Oh, and the members of the Lonely Choir are most able enablers. They plug in and magic issues forth. This may be a new album, but it already sounds like a classic. And that's by design.


    Smithwick Machine
    High Fashion Horsepower
    (Blacklist Records)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    I looked at the cover and expected some sort of industrial thing. So when the speakers blew out this monster distortion-laden punk stuff, I did a bit of a double take.

    With a guitar sound and riffage reminiscent of the Lee Harvey Oswald Band (and Johnny Thunders, but I think that goes without saying), Smithwick Machine takes a bit of a hack and slash approach to the music. I generally look upon such efforts with more favor, but the songs keep losing energy about a minute in.

    Each one starts off with a nice groove, fine riffs and the usual sneer. By the time the tunes get to the chorus, though, things have petered out. Tunes like "High Fashion Horsepower" (which echoes Nazareth to an astonishing degree) shake up the mix, but still Smithwick Machine can't get out of the mediocre rut. A couple nice moments, but nothing much more.


    Smitten
    Stellar
    (Not Happy)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Despite the label name, this is happy, trippy pop. Obvious fans of stuff like the Lightning Seeds and the Sundays, Smitten is hard to rip. The stuff is just so, well, nice.

    There isn't a whole lot of exploration here. Smitten knows what it wants to sound like, and goes right after that notion. So if you like this kinda thing, then you're at the right place. If not, then you have plenty of other spots to visit.

    The songs have a nice, easygoing feel. Smitten rarely tries to get overly deep or difficult, preferring to stay right in its prescribed range. This is something of a problem, as some songs seem to sound a bit like some others, but in all the band has done a decent job of keeping things interesting.

    The production job is a stock one for this sort of music, keeping the swirly guitars and vocals up, with enough of the rhythm section to keep the songs moving. Well crafted, if perhaps a bit overly so. Still, an attractive album for those into this sound.


    Smog
    Burning Kingdom
    (Drag City-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Smog is Bill Callahan (with the occasional friend), a guy who is somewhat of an underground sensation.

    Self-indulgent to a fault (some intros take more time than King Crimson or ELP), there are still many wonderful moments on this disc, particularly when things get moving in a most unusual way.

    As you can expect with a Drag City artist, the pop music contained herein is most strange, denying the obvious truth that the simplest way to joy is a pure, ecstatic melody. No, for folks like this, the simplest way to joy is beating yourself, recording your agonized moans, beating yourself again, stripping those moans onto some sounds of cattle breeding, beating yourself again, releasing the thing as a song. The joy comes in listening to the thing.

    None of the music sounds like that, except for the beating yourself part. This gets so personal and strange it can be painful to listen to. It sucks to be this Bill. And we have to listen to it. If it weren't so interesting, I might even be pissed.


    Kicking a Couple Around EP
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    "Your New Friend" is from a Peel session, and the other three tracks are equally sparse thoughts from Bill Callahan, who is generally Smog.

    Much like the Palace stuff, Callahan doesn't think much of musical niceties. His melodies are a little more accessible and plain, but the stark sound of his voice and (just a little) acoustic guitar (and the odd tambourine shake) is quite startling. Callahan thinks nothing of baring his deepest thoughts. You simply must be willing to meet them. Good luck.

    Not fun, not nice, but riveting nonetheless. Sometimes galling in its imperfection, Callahan's playing and singing are the only show in town here. Albini produced the three non-Peel tracks with very nice results.

    Smog may breed nightmares, but I think that's the point.


    The Doctor Came at Dawn
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    More dreary pop from one-man band Bill Callahan. He seems to plumb the depths of human feeling, but with a wicked wit that makes the whole experience something of an upper.

    Well, just read the song notes. His bit on Jim O'Rourke and release parties is hilarious (jeez, I hope those comments show up somewhere in the commercial package and weren't wasted on hack critics like me). As for the songs, well, they wander all over the morose universe, from the almost peppy "Somewhere in the Night" ("Shoot me before I become Elvis Costello...", he notes) to the gorgeously painful "Everything You Touch...".

    Yep, all the usual subjects, produced in a haphazard and sparse way by Callahan, who seems to almost want to destroy his music even before it reaches the public. No matter. Stuff like this is indestructible, despite Callahan's best efforts. Another bravura performance.


    Red Apple Falls
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Yet another Bill Callahan album, produced by Callahan and (you guessed it) "Diamond Jim" O'Rourke. So the groundwork has been properly laid and you should know what you're getting into.

    And following his recent trend, Callahan's songs are getting more and more fleshed out. In the notes for "Somewhere in the Night", he said, "Shoot me before I become Elvis Costello." Well, Bill, compared to the Smog of even a couple years, you're getting there faster than you might imagine.

    But, of course, that relative judgment has nothing to do with reality. The songs are still brooding personal examinations, and even with the extra sides the sound is still decidedly low key. Gorgeously so, at times, as on "I Was a Stranger". That puppy has "monster hit single" written all over it, if of course, we lived in a universe where people appreciated good music.

    Oh, more of my bitterness is creeping in here, and that's not fair. Maybe it's because I haven't been drinking as much lately. Maybe it's this whole moving thing. And now it's spilling over into a review of a great album. Stop it, now.

    Hey, you knew I was going to love this puppy. The kind folks at Drag City knew I was going to love it. Hell, I had prejudicial knowledge that Bill Callahan is a pop music genius, and so I was predisposed to give this album a good review. But come on, now, the fact of the matter is this IS a great album. Don't just take my word for it. Take a chance and give Red Apple Falls a spin.


    The Smoking Pets
    Live, Worship, Shop
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    Twenty-five songs, and the emphasis is on the lyrics. The music lies in that noise-pop style that bands like Chevy Heston and Craw (you can see how diverse this movement can be) noodle around with.

    In general, the Pets stick to more pop than noise, but never underestimate the power of feedback. And these guys have no love for standard song construction or tone theory. Indeed, even on the most conventional songs the singing hardly carries a tune and the guitars trend to the strident. I like.

    Perhaps not the most accomplished musicians or writers, the Smoking Pets have nonetheless managed to record an effective work. Live, Worship, Shop is goofy yet contemplative, a real interesting find.

    Since this is a self-released disc, I'll list the band's site here (as well as on the labels and links pages): http://www.lm.com/~smopet/sphome.html. Check it out.


    The Michael Smolens Sextet +4
    Live--The Music of Vivian Quinn Sayles
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Some relatively old-timey jazz, long improvisations on standard-style songs. Sayles is on the piano, and the rest of the band swings into action and fleshes out the basic ideas quite well.

    There's nothing terribly exceptional about the song themselves. But the playing is sharp and the solos bring out nuance after nuance. While the original version of each of these tunes probably clocked in at less than three minutes, the band extends a number of the pieces upwards of ten minutes.

    Pleasant, but not cloying. No one goes out on a limb or even approaches one, which certainly keeps this in the "safe" category. But restrained and skillful playing can be just as passionate as any wild screeching, and there's plenty of enthusiasm here.

    Yeah, it's the sort of jazz that makes the old folks happy. But it's done well. Better than that. It's fun to hear.


    Smoother
    Chasing the Dragon
    (Nettwerk America)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    I'm pretty sure these guys aren't British, but if this isn't Britpop, I don't know what is. Tasty pop hooks, uptempo disco grooves and just enough guitar to balance everything out.

    Every song is a change of pace, though Smoother rarely looses track of its personal sound. It's just that the boys don't like to sit still or play the same song twice. I can sympathize.

    Generally, the lyrics are witty and sly, with only the occasional trite slip-up like "She's cute like Betty Rubble." The production is slick, as it should be, leaving the songs sharp and wicked.

    A well-written, well-played and well-produced album. Very professional, and yet there's a freshness that manages to erase most of the craft marks. Just the way a tight pop album should be.


    Smoothies
    Pickle
    (Southern)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Edgy pop with enough of that famous D.C. rhythm concept to keep the kids a-moovin'. Of course, the Smoothies call the Chicago metroplex home. Well, they ARE on Southern...

    Tight and catchy, this is. The sound never gets too carried away, but then I couldn't find a real mellow moment, either. A real fine job of keeping the mood. Wow, this is truly fun.

    I keep listening, and I keep jumping up and down (which is bad for good typing technique). I expected this album to be good ("The Smoothies? They're really good, aren't they?" my fiancee exclaimed when I opened the package. I said yes), but I didn't expect this.

    As usual, I cannot come close to writing a review that is worthy of this album. I don't have any way of responding in any sort of decent fashion.


    The Smooths
    [no brakes]
    (Dummy-Side 1)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Dummy is just the flip side of Side 1, as it were. The Smooths play that punched up ska which the kids like so much these days. This isn't so plastic as No Doubt or what the Bosstones are doing these days, but it's getting there. Lots of commercial potential here.

    But you know how I am with such pronouncements. Anyway, this isn't so light that it bugs me. In fact, the Smooths are quite careful to pack the songs with multiple grooves, even as the hooky choruses are cranked out with heavy guitar accompaniment.

    And really, it's only the choruses which bother me. Otherwise, this is simply solid pop ska. The horns are used mostly for coloring, But at least they have complex parts to play from time to time. They're not just the instrumental version of background singers.

    Ah, but still... You knew that was coming. This is an easy listen, but just as easily forgettable. Like I said, a bit too commercial in tone (if not intent; I can't judge that) for my taste, but I can think of more than a few folks who would lap this up with or without a spoon.


    SMP
    Stalemate
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    Hardcore rap beats from the late 80s, distortion from the industrial revolution, lyrics pure punk. SMP is in your face and louder than hell. The guys even throw in a deconstructed Ice-T cover.

    In other words, angry white boy heaven. And since that description fits me, I'm quite happy to go along with the program. I know I haven't ever heard anything quite like this (the beat molestation alone would rate this album top notch), and I'm not sure many other would want to sound like SMP. But I'm glad I have this disc.

    It may take a couple moments to really tap into what SMP is doing, but the sonic explosion in your mind will be well worth the effort.


    Ultimatum
    (Catastrophe)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    I remember SMP's Reconstriction album from more than three years ago. A hardcore rap take on the cold wave sound that label is well-known for propagating. There's a bit more techno in the mix here, but the rap and cybercore elements are still going strong.

    And, yes, it's still addictive as cheese popcorn. The beats and the rhymes work together exceptionally well, and what music there is simply propels the proceedings.

    Nothing particularly deep, of course. We're talking about channeled anger, angst and pain. SMP isn't out to make the world a better place. It merely complains. But at least it does so in a highly entertaining fashion.

    You know, if Devo and Ice T had a bastard baby... Yeah, I know, it sounds weird, but this is an idea too cool to miss. Pretty good, y'know?


    Smudge
    Spill
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #49, 2/28/94

    Very polished late eighties-style metal. It compares well to Armored Saint and the like. Production is quite good (amazing for a demo), and the songs are tightly written and performed.

    Very nice package.


    The Smugglers
    Selling the Sizzle!
    (Lookout!-Mint)
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    Punk-tinged rock and roll straight out of Vancouver. No DOA or NoMeansNo tendencies, though (the bass is where it belongs), but plenty of amusement.

    Nothing complicated, nothing stupid. A lot like the Hi-Fi and the Roadburners album on Victory last year, the Smugglers resurrect an older rock sound and make it fly. There are the odd surf-rock influences that come in, along with a real appreciation of the Sex Pistol sneer.

    But even with the attitude, most of Selling the Sizzle! is more wacky than rude. Uptempo, sure. Out of control, never. The Smugglers have a complete lock on just what they want to sound like. And I like it.

    Sometimes the best things are simple. The Smugglers won't win any innovation awards, but the music is good enough for rock and roll.


    Buddy Holly Convention
    (Mint-Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Kurt Bloch produced this short set of six tunes (and, I would guess, the astonishingly strange bonus track, which runs two minutes longer than the rest of the songs combined), and his rough 'n' ready style at the board warps the Smugglers to a place I've never heard them before.

    The guitars are almost completely full of distortion, and the songs themselves are more enervated than I could have dreamed. The Smugglers still focus on goofy lyrics and retro mise en scene, but this set really moves the band into the future.

    Lots of fun, and cool music to boot. I still have no idea what the hell that extra track is all about (I admit I couldn't get all the way through it), but I suppose that will simply add to the Smugglers' mystique.


    Mutiny in Stereo
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #254, July 2004

    Snot-nosed surfer punk--precisely the sort of thing these boys have been perfecting for ages. I don't hear anything new on this album, but it's as good as ever. Light, bouncy and ever so saucy. Okey-dokey, then.


    Snake! Snake! Snakes!
    Snake! Snake! Snakes! EP
    (Modern Art/Common Wall)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    Grand (and often grandiose) songs that ring out well past their rootsy roots. The Kings of Leon reference on the press sticker is well-earned, although these boys are rather more conceptual.

    And they move things along better, too. I'm all for that, by the way. It's all well and good to make epochal songs that try to encapsulate the world in four minutes, but if you forget about the groove I just can't get interested. Snake! Snake! Snakes! always keeps its songs in motion.

    One of those EPs that instantly prompts a craving for more. I don't know exactly what world these boys came from, but I'm glad they're here now.


    The Snap Dragons
    The Snap Dragons
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    These guys are trying, that's for sure. The Snap Dragons take elements of prog, glam metal and grunge, with a little of that Maiden ideal tossed in to finish things up. This actually sounds a lot like a low budget version of the last Into Another album.

    A lot of excess, basically. Adding to the problem is Ronnie Henry's voice, which isn't strong enough to carry the songs as recorded, and the producer didn't know how to punch it up enough to give it a decent sound. And despite drawing from an impressive array of influences, the Snap Dragons often resort to musical cliches in order to move their songs along.

    Leaving some serious potential lying untapped right now. There are plenty of nice moments, but those spots get crushed by the bulk of the music, which can get rote and pedestrian in a hurry.

    The Snap Dragons aren't where they want to get. My suggestion would be to break down the songs into parts that work, and build on that foundation. There is enough creativity in the band to make this stuff good, but it's gonna take some serious work. No one said being an artist was easy.


    Snapcase
    Crown of Thorns 7"
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    Lyrically, nothing special. Like most hard core bands, they have a point, and unfortunately they are rather blunt. Not much sophistication. But these guys must have listened to Venice bands a lot, because it sure sounds like they grew up there. A little more time taken on the words and things would be clicking.


    Lookinglasself
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Perhaps only the fine folk at Revelation/Crisis have done as good a job at finding good hardcore and getting it out as Tony at Victory.

    A lot of you jammed the Earth Crisis album (with good reason), and this thing jumped out of the box at the stations who played it (two #1s and a #7 a month ago). But the rest of you apparently haven't decided to join the party and are content to play spent folk like Rollins.

    Don't get me wrong; Hank deserves all the cash and recognition he is getting. But the music isn't there anymore. It is here. Snapcase do the anthemic thing a little, but not enough to annoy. And as the people who have listened will tell you, this is great stuff. Enough crossover appeal to get the metal crowd, enough integrity to keep the punk crowd. And they aren't ripping anybody (like Senor Rollins) off. A tough trick to pull off, but Snapcase does it with seeming ease.

    Um, yeah, this is absolutely great.


    Steps EP
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    One of the finer hardcore acts around injecting a little metal guitar and industrial beat noise into the mix. Not a bad idea.

    This is fucking mean music. Someone could get killed just by listening to the stuff. It simply assaults every sense and bit of awareness you have. Particularly if you play it really loud in total darkness (this is a very good idea).

    Only four songs. Makes me a little bummed. But perhaps this means much more Snapcase pretty soon. I'll deal with this right now. Maybe in a few months I'll have recovered.


    Designs for Automation
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Perhaps the top hardcore band going. I'm saying that in both a commerical and artistic sense. I've seen a ton of Snapcase paraphernalia around the last couple of years, and I really haven't been doing hardcore shows. Probably the only hardcore album of the last couple years that surpasses this is Refused. That band, of course, is no more.

    I can't believe I haven't heard anything from these guys in so long. Most of that is my own damned fault for not keeping up, but it's great to hear that Snapcase has progressed immensely from its rather fertile roots.

    Power is one thing. Snapcase has that. But the guys are smart enough to leave their sound open, to keep all of the instruments in the mix and not let things get mushy. These guys are all great players; this disc shows that off quite well.

    I haven't even mentioned the writing, have I? Well, it's not as inventive as Refused, but no one is. Snapcase winds a complicated groove and then drives it home and then some. Like I said, Snapcase is probably the top hardcore band going these days. This album simply cements that notion.


    End Transmission
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Not actually the final album from these conceptual hardcore pioneers, but if it were, this would certainly be a worthy farewell. Snapcase has set itself free from the bonds of traditional music and embarked on a voyage of discovery. And like the Refused and other greats, there are no limits.

    Snapcase has always been one of the finest, most adventurous hardcore bands around. I've compared other bands to these boys, which in my mind is a supreme compliment. To say that I was expecting great things from this album is a serious understatement. I figured this puppy had to be positively incendiary.

    And it is. The sonic assault is strident and clever, blistering and epochal. Some songs are grand palaces of wonder, others have the feel of a greasy street preacher. All have a sniff of greatness about them.

    Snapcase really hasn't evolved much. Rather, it has continued to explore, refining old ideas by infusing them with new concepts. No other band sounds like Snapcase, because no other band could create an album quite like this. Why simply be original and experimental when you can make a monstrous statement as well? Got me. Snapcase has arrived once again. Maybe this time the world will be ready to receive the message.


    Snares & Kites
    Tricks of Trapping
    (Inbetweens-Innerstate) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    Led by Mitchell Rasor and Chris Brokaw, which set off all sorts of warning bells (pinging impending joy) in my head. and I'm not disappointed. The sound here is a bit more upbeat and jangly than the last Rasor album I heard, but the off-kilter lyrical and musical approach to pop remains.

    Introspective and yet exuberant. Four the tracks are instrumentals, a couple mere interludes, but the final track, "Night Window", is a gorgeous example of how two guitars alone can create something wondrous.

    The rest of the disc is just an impressive. Rasor and Brokaw have hit upon a great collaboration. Whether this goes anywhere from here, or if it is just a stunning one-off, well, at we have the disc.

    The more I hear of Rasor's work, by himself and with others, the more I need to hear more. Snares & Kites is just another amazing exploration of the pop form, in all its vagaries. Who says three chords are all you need?

    See also Mitchell Rasor.


    Snaut
    Polvos de Odio
    (Shinola-CM)
    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    Sounding like a lo-fi glam metal band stuck on Gwar-ish subject matter, the Snaut attack rolls on towards the precipice on the wheels of a Geezer-esque bass attack.

    So this is weird and cheesy, but in a good sort of way. Like if Mercyful Fate had a sense of humor about things. I mean they cover "Like a Virgin" just like Stone Temple Pilots would, except the STP boys would be serious.

    I mean, if the band is willing to enclose a rabbit turd (and a blue feather) inside every disc, you can't get too pissed. This is highly amusing, particularly after a few beers. Nothing wrong with puerile pabulum every once in a while, particularly when it's this fuckin' funny.


    Beth Snellings/Yehudit
    Different Strokes...Live
    (Jazzheads/Edgetone)
    reviewed in issue #268, September 2005

    I'm always a bit nervous reviewing jazz records. And an album largely made up of standards played by an electric violinist and cellist? Yeesh. Anything I write is likely to be wrong, somehow.

    Still, I have to say that I like what this duo does with the songs here. Any time you remake a song with but two players, you have lots of choices to make. Snellings and Yehudit have, by and large, chosen to keep the most recognizable parts of the songs while still incorporating as many tidbits as possible.

    The notes say this was recorded live in concert, but either the audience was completely stoned or somehow the engineer kept all noise (applause included) out. I dunno. In any case, the sound is superb. Yehudit's electric violin has a fine resonance, and Snelling's cello is clear, distinct and supple.

    A very enjoyable album. Even if you don't know all the works here (and Yehudit and Snellings include some of their own as well), the artistry in the arrangements ought to win you over. These pieces were crafted to please--in a good way. They find the core essence of each song and then play a bit. Sounds a lot like a definition of jazz I once read.


    SNFU
    The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    The first note tells you these boys have paid close attention to their Vancouver neighbors, D.O.A. and particularly Nomeansno (check out the bass sound!), combining the straightforward approach of the former with the lyrical and sonic approach of the latter.

    These are good things, by the way.

    SNFU are pretty much the perfect Epitaph band of the moment: tuneful enough to attract the kiddies, and interesting enough to get guys like me excited. Their first album (for Epitaph, fifth overall) was quite good; this one steps ahead.

    Thick, chunky and occasionally wacky. The One... is a good set of tunes. Don't stop until you pass go.


    Fyulaba
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    More Vancouver-style coming right at you. Thick bass, mid-range vocals and rather literate lyrics (yeah, with songs called "Bobbitt", that's always the case...).

    I've never seen such a disparity between honest punk fans. Either the folks like Nomeansno, SNFU, D.O.A., etc. or they don't. There is no middle ground. Probably because these bands simply don't compromise their principles or their sound.

    Another solid outing from the boys. The blitz never lets up, and the topics are as timely as ever. No, SNFU doesn't really break any new ground on the musical front, but do you want the guys to do that?

    Fans will eat this up. I like it a bit better than the last album, The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed. If you've never sampled some of this (barely) great white north punkage, well, dig in. More than enough to go around.


    Snog
    Dear Valued Customer
    (Machinery)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Everyone is out to get you. Once you accept this fact, then anything Snog says will make all the sense in the world.

    Lots of interesting anti-consumer, anti-government, anti-God, anti-most any authority samples woven through a texture of techno industrial madness.

    Most folks are afraid to try and dance to music this fast. That or they aren't in shape. But I dig it. The messages may be a little silly at times, but who cares when you're dancing, anyway.

    A wonderful album for the clubs. It'll clear the pink-shirted frat boys off the floor, that's for sure.


    Snothead
    Each It and I
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Lots causes to stump for here. Snothead is donating 10% of the profits of this disc to PETA, and there's also information on fighting censorship (which is how the title track got itself written). The sound is an all-out sample-crazed industrial attack.

    And that sound is the best part. I like the way the songs are put together musically. Not infectious, but certainly intoxicating. The lyrics are bit simplistic, escpecially considering the ideas that are being expressed. In fact, this emphasis on causes at times brings the music down to a lower level.

    It's a bitch to be passionate about a message and translate that into great music. Snothead is more successful than many, but what it often comes down to is that there has to be a sacrifice somewhere. And when necessary, the music seems to be the victim.

    On the other hand, there is some simply wonderful experimentation in the interludes. That's the best part for me. I'd prefer the band to stick more to worrying about music, but I understand the need to make a point. It's all in priorities.


    Snow Machine
    Snow Machine
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    I have impossible crushes on three "rock women." The first, and most obvious, is Neko Case. There's a reason Carolyn Mark describes a dream encounter with Case and Vincent Gallo, and says, "And then Neko had to go (thank God!)." Sally Timms is another; I could listen to her voice and nothing else until I die. Then there's Katharine McElroy. She's got this slightly fractured voice (both the instrument and the way she writes songs) that is immediately enthralling.

    Mind you, I've never met any of these women, though I have seen the Mekons play a few times and did have one brief (professional) phone conversation with Sally Timms. I should note right here that Hunter Manasco, McElroy's partner in latter-day Three Finger Cowboy and Nineteen Forty-Five--as well as in life--stands right behind her playing guitar in Snow Machine. He's cool. I just love her voice. And that's all. I think.

    Aaargh! Enough of that. Snow Machine is a departure for McElroy. These songs return to the more innocent sounds of early Three Finger Cowboy, but the lyrics are darker than anything she's done before. The dichotomy is stunning, not to mention quite appealing.

    There's a lot more piano here, and more room for all the instruments in general. The sound is expansive, allowing everyone to get a few words in. Unlike Nineteen Forty-Five, which seems crowded and manic even when it slows things down (something I love about that band, mind you), Snow Machine allows itself to be rambling and unfocused at times. And through that loose approach comes greatness.

    You know, I was going to say nice things about this album no matter what it sounded like. So you can feel free to take this review or leave it. But truly, McElroy and Snow Machine and put together something special. I've listened to this thing more than 10 times already, and I can't wait to drop it into the discer again. One of those albums that will haunt my mind for ages to come.


    Snowglobe
    Doing the Distance
    Me & You

    (Makeshift/St. Ives)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Doing the Distance is a 2004 album by these guys (newly re-issued), while Me & You is a new vinyl-only (except for the promo CDs, I guess) release that consists of odds, ends and just plain doodles.

    Of course, Snowglobe doodles are still most fascinating. I'm not entirely sure of the point of putting all this stuff out here like this (and I can't find the press notes, of course), but then, I kinda like the mystery of it. I suppose all you really need is good music, after all.

    And if there's one thing you can be assured of with Snowglobe, it's mind-bogglingly good pop music. Noodly and doodly at times, but almost always unspeakably gorgeous and yet still grounded. You know, like if you walked into your local and Kate Beckinsale (or George Clooney; take your pick) sat down next to you and just hung out for an evening.

    That has to be the strangest simile I've penned in some time. Nice to be inspired, I guess. Snowglobe is good for inspiration, not to mention whatever else ails you. Large doses are much better than small.


    No Need to Light a Night Light on a Night Like Tonight EP
    (Makeshift)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    I think it takes longer to say the title of this disc than to listen to it. Pretty typical Snowglobe, really. Write a few pop songs in a variety of idioms, throw in the kitchen sink in the arrangements and then play them with lots of spunk.

    Very few "collective" bands (those with an expansive and ever-evolving membership roster) are able to create songs that sound as idiosyncratic as one-man efforts. Snowglobe is the exception.

    Seven songs just aren't enough. But, again, I suppose that's how Snowglobe likes it. Joyous and energetic, with enough craft and complexity to engage the most demanding listener.


    Little More Lived In
    (Makeshift)
    reviewed in issue #316, April 2010

    The latest from this near-mystical pop collective. Calling this stuff eclectic is like calling Alex Ovechkin good. Sure, it's true, but there's so much more to the story.

    In the case of Snowglobe, the songs borrow from so many traditions (Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star, Bongwater--all the big Bs, to be sure) that it's impossible to pin down a particular "sound." Except that I always know when Snowglobe comes on the iTunes. Maybe its because these people make weird sound so damned awesome.

    There is something to that. Each song has a brilliant hook, be it sweet, shiny, fuzzy or incendiary. The arrangements and instrumentation can range from minimalist to hippie orchestra, but the hooks will burn themselves into your brain almost immediately. Nice trick.

    Snowglobe is not a "regular" band. It's a collective of folks who get together to make crazy music. Crazy music that is almost criminally accessible. Insanity never sounded so good. The liners also note that the band is making a movie. I'm not getting in line for that (anyone out there like Christmas on Mars?), but I'll devour any new music immediately.


    Snubnose
    Snubnose
    (Sin City-Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    This comes on, and I get a little of a country-boy bluescore craving that only a Sin City Disciples show could cure. As Snubnose is on Sin City Records (an adjuct of Cold Front, but still) and this album was recorded in Lawrence, Kan., old home of the Sin City Disciples (who now record as Tenderloin, with a somewhat different lineup), I wondered about the connections.

    But my admittedly meager search didn't turn up anything except silly coincidences. Whatever. Snubnose rips out some supreme punk-inflected rockabilly, with some smashing blues lead guitar lines draped on top.

    Simple hollering and powerful riffage complete the package. Hey, this is an easy sound to assemble, but in order to make it sing, a band has to go at it without abandon. And I get the idea Snubnose never knew how to take it easy.

    So we get to hear some great primal shouts, with a great beat (yes, you can dance to it). I'm still kinda confused by all the strange similarities, but hell, any album that sounds this good is fine by me.


    Snuff
    Numb Nuts
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Tuneful Britpunk, complete with trombone and organ. Quite the punch behind the melodies. These guys may be getting on in years (they've been doing this for more than 15), but this is more than solid.

    That amazingly thick sound is a bit, um, numbing. Snuff plays hook-laden anthems, the sorta stuff that probably does play a bit better to folks like me who see their high school days as ancient history.

    That said, you've really gotta crank up the volume to get the full effect of this heavy sound. The songs are incomprehensibly dense. Not overproduced, really, but simply ponderous. Once the volume issue has been solved, however, the music becomes transcendent.

    If you play this album loud, you will never be able to give it up. About that simple, really. Snuff is a lot more complex than yer average bunch of punx, and so it only makes sense that this album requires just a bit of adjustment. Once that kicks in, though, better watch out. Blisters on my ears, man.


    Blue Gravy: Phase 9 EP
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    A short little outing from these Birmingham boys. Five new songs (even more raggedly tuneful and catchy than the stuff on Numb Nuts), two reworked pieces and a couple of live tracks. The sorta odds and ends package to keep fans happy for a while.

    The thing is, Snuff impresses even in small doses. The range of just the five new songs is impressive, from the Traffic-style keyboard jam of the title track (I'm not kidding) to the straight-up power punk pop of "Slipt" to the speed machine screed of "Emperor." There really is something here for every punk band.

    And that comes without sacrificing a cohesive band sound. Snuff is more than impressive. These guys are awe-inspiring. Play it loud. Smile a lot. Do it all over again.


    Snuka
    Snuka Bloody Snuka
    (Double Deuce-Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Three chords, and the same ones just about every time out, it seems. Nicely throbbing, but still somewhat dull. The rather muddled production and low mastering level don't help a lot.

    Extremely basic. This approach works fairly well on songs like "Twotiminsongofabitch" (say it fast), but when spread over a full album's worth of songs, well, it gets old. Hey, I like upbeat and moderately hooky punk-style pop as well as anyone else, but some variety is needed.

    And Snuka is stuck singing the same song over and over again. Ouch, ya know? God, I kept waiting for the groove to shift (or even an infusion of a new chord progression, or something). Alright, so "Fuck You (With a Song)" does provide such a respite, but then it's back to the same old same old.

    I'm guessing Snuka puts on one hell of a show. Live, see, you can change things up and use all the palpable energy in a way that can be awe-inspiring. That spirit didn't translate onto this disc. Too bad, really.


    So Adult
    Rookie cassette/digital EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    Straight outta Minneapolis, circa 1984 or so. Perhaps a bit more 'Mats than Soul Asylum, with the occasional Husker Du buzzsaw creeping in now and again. Never mind that these boys are from Bellingham. Doesn't matter. Their souls are in Minnesota.

    These rough-hewn anthems are loud, crunchy and ever-so-glorious. Nothing complicated, of course. Complications would completely destroy everything. Simplicity is bliss. Orgasmic, really.

    Four songs (with three short interludes) makes this EP a bit skimpy, but the goods are solid. Don't forget to play loud. Very loud.


    So-Called Artists
    So-Called Artists
    (Mush-Dirty Loop)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Like your hip-hop on the creative tip? The So-Called Artists complain about being called experimental, so I'll not tag them with that "epithet." Rather I'll just say the boys play around with beats like Play-Dough and they drop their rhymes in a similar fashion.

    Stream of consciousness style, really. And that wears on me after a while. The beat work intrigues throughout, but I can't say the same thing about the rhyming. The style is unique, but it gets old.

    And that's too bad, because the guys have some good things to say, and in small doses I have to admit I'm kinda knocked out. It's just the totality, the long run, that I can't handle so well.

    I hate to piss on the parade of some folks who have worked so hard to create something original. And So-Called Artists are nothing if not one-of-a-kind. I just want a little variety.


    Jill Sobule
    Pink Pearl
    (Beyond)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Most singer-songwriters prefer sparse arrangements, all the better to show off their writing ability. Jill Sobule goes the other way, cluttering her songs with just about every studio trick imaginable. And yet, the sound remains intimate.

    Probably has something to do with the confessional nature of the songs themselves. Even on a song like "Heroes," where Sobule laments the imperfect nature of all people (even great ones), what comes through is her personal disappointment, her sincere anguish at the flawed lives we all lead. Even when she gets philosophical, her delivery draws the listener into a dialogue.

    This sort of intensity, particularly when mixed with the breezy pop arrangements of the songs, can be off-putting. Let me restate: Plenty of folks get confused. Is this just happy pop music, or is it some sort of manifesto?

    It's really neither, which is why Sobule's voice connects with so many other folks. Listening to an album of hers is something like sitting down for a long chat with a friend. A smart friend with lots of ideas, but a friend nonetheless. Allow yourself to be challenged.


    Social Act
    Spiritual Journeys
    (Why-Me/Social Records)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    A couple guys from Chicago who recruited a few friends to put out a disc. Light pop, as alterna-stuff goes anyway, but while the sound isn't earth shaking, the lyrics are incisive and intelligent.

    Kinda reminds me of latter-day Tom Petty, for better and worse. I think the sound really does get a bit treacly (the mix is more than a bit treble heavy), but that's somewhat correctable on the stereo. What Ellis Clark and John Krenger do well is create observational songs with a personal touch. The guitars weave simple but intriguing lines, and the tunes have nice, understated hooks.

    I think Social Act would benefit from a somewhat dirtier production. No distortion or anything, but the drums and upper levels of the guitars in particular are just way too sharp. All that leaves the sound with a calculated feel, and that's not what this music calls for. Other than that, these guys should recruit a regular band to showcase these great songs.

    An assured and confident set of songs. These guys know how to write.


    Social Distortion
    Live at the Roxy
    (Time Bomb)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Some people like the old Social Distortion songs. Some people like the new Social Distortion songs. It doesn't really matter because these guys have been putting out bouncy, antisocial songs for nearly two decades.

    Live at the Roxy is a seventeen song live compilation of the finest they've had to offer over the years. If you've been afraid to pick up any SD stuff because you didn't know which ones were good, this is the one for you. It has the songs you know and maybe a few you didn't. Plus a little bit of punk story telling between songs. Warms the belly just thinking about it.

    --Aaron Worley


    Society Burning
    Entropy Lingua remix EP
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    The remixes before the original versions. What an original concept.

    Apparently so many folks sent in remixes (seven are featured here, along with a radio mix of "Awaken"), that Chase decided to pump this out as a way of introducing folks to the Society Burning sound. Okay.

    I remember this act for its cover of "Stand and Deliver" on the Shut Up Kitty compilation. A cool, distortion-full sound with some nice beat work. You can hear that in these remixes, as well as the personal visions of the folks involved (three from Siebold of Hate Dept., Chad Bishop of Idiot Stare and the collective Apparatus, among others)

    And the Siebold remixes are king here. Three totally different versions of the Society Burning sound, all completely ready for the club floor.

    I'm not usually terribly excited about remix sets (though there's usually one or two that gets me off). All of these are good, and some are great. I'd have to hear Tactiq (the forthcoming full-length) to really judge this work, but what I hear is damned fine.


    Tactiq
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    The sort of sound Reconstriction is known for: heavy synthesized guitars, fast beats and mean lyrics. Society Burning leaves a few more spaces in the sound, adding a bit of a gothic feel, but otherwise, this is right out of the book.

    The faster songs have a bit of a Sisters of Mercy feel (with a cybercore twist), but the uptempo stuff generally seems to be rushed, as if there's too much to express within the speed constraints. And even at slower tempos, the highly mechanized sound can get grating. The production has left some cool holes, but that helps humanize things just a bit.

    The real downfall is the songwriting, which simply isn't up to the task. The songs are overloaded with ideas, and much of the time all that excess seems to spill over, losing track of the original goal.

    A good effort, particularly in the booth, but the nuts and bolts of writing better songs needs to be addressed. I really like the sound, but the rest is still lacking.


    Sodafrog
    Hang the Moon
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    Largely the efforts of Tom Janovitz, with the occasional contribution from a number of friends. Janovitz favors the jangly, sparse side of americana, and he's pretty happy to wallow in his roots when the mood strikes.

    What I'm trying to say is that this sounds like the quintessential singer-songwriter album. Janovitz doesn't vary much in his style, and that works very well for him. These are songs to sink your teeth into.

    The sound is somewhat fuller than you might imagine from my description. Janovitz generally doesn't get much more complicated than drums, guitar, bass and voice. The added elements tend to be some sort of piano (or piano substitute, like Moog or glockenspiel), which fills out the spaces without getting crowded.

    The sort of album that makes me kick back and smile. Slyly challenging, without making a big fuss out of it. Just really damned good, y'know?


    Sodom
    Tapping the Vein
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    Many death metal bands started out playing the thrash-style music Sodom epitomized in the eighties. And while for some reason (it was kinda boring?) they moved on, Sodom remained an almost mythical influence.

    So they figure, why not move on as well? After all, the talent is still there. On this album they trade off between vicious, death-like tracks and infectious, almost-commercial metal songs like "One Step Over the Line".

    This isn't revolutionary. Much of it has been done before, even by them. And yes, it seems thrash is a pretty dead metal spin-off these days, which dates the tracks a little. But on the other hand, it's awful nice to revel in the past a little. Especially when its done so well.


    M-16
    (Steamhammer/SPV)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Something of a concept album on the Vietnam War. Apart from being somewhat behind the times there, the disc is classic Sodom.

    The riffage churns with razor precision, Tom Angelripper's vocals growl and grumble and the songs themselves blast by with manic speed. Just like the old days.

    Which is really my only complaint. I like heavy, technical stuff like this, and I like this disc. I do wish Sodom might try something else every once in a while, as otherwise albums can become somewhat interchangeable. Still, that's a minor quibble.

    They haven't improved with age, but the boys in Sodom haven't let up, either. Another solid album for the files.


    Sofa Kingdom
    Somewhere Else
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Kinda like if Natalie Merchant sang for R.E.M. while the band played Edie Brickell. Does that make sense? Well, Sofa Kingdom straightens sound some of the hippie grooves that needed straightening and then added some nice dark and twisted overtones of its own. As for the other, singer Laura Kleffner sounds an awful lot like Merchant.

    And she's adopted some of Merchant's style and phrasing, which is a bit much. That needs to change if the band wants to really establish its own identity. Kleffner has a fine voice; a great one, really. She just needs to find her own way of using it.

    I actually dug many of the tunes, and considering that this isn't particularly my cup of tea, I think that's pretty impressive. All of the performances are good or better, and the production suits the sound very well. A quality set.

    I just have to quibble a bit with the soundalike status of the vocals. There are a lot of bands playing this sound, and establishing an original feel is difficult. Sofa Kingdom has to walk that road.


    Soft Reeds
    Soft Reeds Are Bastards
    (The Record Machine)
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    After a Nashville sojourn, Ben Grimes (Golden Republic) returned to Kansas City and got this outfit together. Aggressive, shiny and ultra-catchy pop stuff.

    Grimes does throw a fair amount of angst into his vocals, but that affectation merely pushes the feel of irresistible desperation that runs through this album. Kinda like the Fountains of Wayne on a speedball, complete with the post-party crash.

    With music this prepossessing, the songs have to deliver. They do, particularly the energetic hooks. To put it simply, this album starts fast and then melds the pedal into the floor. There are plenty of interesting elements (particularly horns) which really kick in when some of the songs devolve.

    The cacophony is outstanding. While these songs are wonderful when they come together, they're even more impressive when they fall apart. This album may bring on a nervous breakdown, but it's one hell of a lot cheaper than therapy.


    Softball
    Tenku
    (Asian Man) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Softball sounds like a pop band trapped in the cloths of a punk band. Almost hardcore at times, but with choruses that beg for the layered harmony treatment. There are a few gang vocals, but not quite as textured as they might be.

    The songs themselves are structured is standard hardcore style, which means they don't really mesh perfectly well with pop. The verses go on a bit long, and often enough what might best be called a bridge serves as a chorus (until the real chorus arrives, of course).

    Before you get the idea that I don't like this, though, I must admit that I quite admire the spirit and energy of the stuff. Softball doesn't quite get to where I think it should be going, but that's hardly a cardinal sin.

    Yeah, there are flaws, but there's loads of spunk as well (and I mean that in the best way possible). Softball may be a frustrated pop band, but at least those frustrations wear reasonably well.


    Soilent Green
    Pussysoul
    (Dwell)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Lying just one step away from the grind, Soilent Green has an amazingly technical approach to the whole death metal idea.

    Brian Patton of Eyehategod hangs out on guitar, but this isn't just his project. Soilent Green is tightly produced, and the playing is immaculate (as opposed to EHG's approach in those areas). This is what happens when you spend too much time in Louisiana.

    Differentiating between the songs gets a little difficult by the end, as the same grind and death metal conventions keep getting repeated, but Soilent Green have a good feel for what really kicks, and the guys follow those instincts. Now, will they tour?

    See also Eyehategod.


    Solar Coaster
    Zero Sum 7"
    (Turnbuckle)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Big monster fans of Treepeople. In fact, I haven't heard a band recreate that complicated-yet-messy feel of the Toxic Shock days in quite some time. Maybe it's just bad mastering of the vinyl, but it works for me.

    Solar Coaster is from North Carolina, and certainly has also benefited from the general proximity of Superchunk and Archers of Loaf. Indeed, the amazing speed at which these songs are performed outpaces even Superchunk's most manic moments.

    An exhilarating blast of thrashing pop. I'm not sure if these folks can keep this up for an entire album, but if they do, well, I'll be the first to proclaim genius. This takes one of my favorite sounds and warps it ahead to another level.

    Replay. Again.


    Solar Enemy
    dirtyvsuniverse
    (Third Mind)
    reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92

    More techno than most of the other Third Mind stuff reviewed, this is almost danceable at times, but the vocals are mostly semi-distorted chants and slogans. Our dance director ate this up like candy when it arrived. But if you're on a semi-industrial bent, this would fit in nicely.


    Solar Spine
    Solar Spine EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    The band that used to be called Gomorra. And as Solar Spine, it is no closer to really determining a personal identity than before. Indeed, there are even more influences to parse.

    Imagine a prog goth doom metal outfit, with lots of basic Eurometal tendencies. Like if Rush, Iron Maiden and My Dying Bride would get together and make an album.

    And this set of songs sounds that way, with lots of divergent moves, many that don't lead anywhere. I'm utterly knocked out by the band's sense of adventure. But it's got to stick to one or two grooves per song. All this kitchen sink nonsense is way too tiring.

    But still, I applaud the guys once again. They're trying really hard. And the more they try, the better the chance they'll really pull something off someday.

    See also Gomorra.


    James Solberg
    The Hand You're Dealt
    (Ruf)
    reviewed in isue #199, 5/8/00

    There's a sticker on the front advertising Luther Allison as "special guest." He's around for one song. So Solberg had better be able to hold up his end of the bargain.

    He does alright, particularly on the boogie pieces. Solberg knows how to put a groove in motion and keep it going. This may explain why his work on the slower songs isn't as solid.

    For starters, the guy has a nice blues voice, but it's a bit reedy. He can't quite give the vocals all the despair they need. Also, his guitar playing is often workmanlike. That sort of thing can be disguised on a faster track. Not on a slow burn.

    The track with Allison is good, mostly due to Allison's presence. Solberg is quite competent, but he doesn't quite have the charisma to pull off all the colors of the blues.


    Solid Home Life
    Solid Home Life
    (Fin Records)
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    Oh, so Portland. Greg Olin and Lindsay Schief have known each other for while, and then they started hanging out a bit more. Lindsay moved in. They wrote ten songs about chores and, well, solid home life. They recorded the songs, often with other Portland friends who stopped by to hang out, drink beer and play music.

    The last song is about Lindsay moving into her own place (not a breakup song, just to be clear). The laid-back attitude of that song pervades the entire project, which moves along at a leisurely pace.

    Schief's voice isn't particularly strong or distinctive, but it has just the right feel for these easy-going songs. These are the sounds of friends chilling.

    Like I said, oh so Portland. It's rainy in the winter, and there's always plenty of good beer right around the corner. So you might as well record an album. There seems to be little ambition in these songs, which makes them all the more endearing. This one is way under the radar, but it's a cute little package.


    Solitude AEturnus
    Beyond the Crimson Horizon
    (Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    I've been to Dallas, and I just don't see how these guys made it out of there alive. As far as metal goes, the only evidence I could find was an overabundance of "Cherry Pie" t-shirts (I shiver at the memory). So why...

    To avoid quoting a certain St. Louis brewery's ad slogan, I don't know why. "Crimson" picks up where their last album left off and takes doom to a new level. This stuff is melodic enough to be played on MTV, but SAE has far too much talent for Rikki (or whoever programs metal in that wasteland) to pick up on it. These boys rock me like few others. Since Fates Warning mellowed a couple of albums ago, there hasn't been much out there sounding this good.

    This segs with death, it segs with glam, it segs with thrash. It truly is the middle of the metal road. But unlike Barry Manilow and Amy Grant on the pop side, in-between is a great place to be in the hard rock universe. Did I mention after listening to this album I had a spontaneous orgasm?


    The Soloman Grundy's
    The Andy Bucket
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Alright, once and for all, repeat after me: an apostrophe doesn't denote the plural. Try it again and see how it feels. Okay, now we can talk about the band.

    Lightly fuzzy, lilting pop with some of the most tone-deaf vocals I have ever heard. And there are two singers, both equally melodically-challenged. But since the songs are somewhat off-kilter observational bits, that works alright. Not in any commercial sense, of course, but as interesting music.

    Now, the music is another story. The structure is basic, with lots of nice little touches. I'm sure the music was written first, and given the loose feel of the lyrics, that's probably a good thing. This is warped stuff (an odd thing to say about a pop album, really), and I like it.

    There's nothing revolutionary going on. Just intriguing music. And that's enough for me.


    Solstice
    Solstice
    (Steamhammer-Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/92

    Completely unspectacular death metal. Maybe it's just my mood. I mean, I like a lot of the riffwork, and the drumming is solid (almost industrial). The vocals are presented with the right level of animosity and bile. And even a hint of enunciation.

    I think all that may be what's eliciting this response. It almost seems calculated. Scott Burns has become such a proficient producer, perhaps he is subconsciously saying, "Now we need this here, and this here, and this..."

    Strikeouts are boring. Throw a few ground balls, guys.


    Scott Solter
    Plays Pattern is Movement: Canonic
    (Hometapes)
    reviewed in issue #279, October 2006

    Scott Solter produced Stowaway for Pattern Is Movement last year. For some reason, the band let him take the tapes of that album and create something altogether new. So every sound on this album comes from the Pattern Is Movement sessions, but it's quite safe to say that Canonic sounds nothing like Stowaway.

    This is really an intriguing project. Solter was intimately involved with the music, and yet he was also able to disassemble it and then create his own work from the bits and pieces. It is, of course, something of an electronic pastiche (kinda the only way to do this sort of thing, really), but the songs here are centered. They are songs. There may be some abstract thought, but there are no abstract songs.

    Solter punches up the sound even as he files down some of the specificity. He transforms most of the guitar he uses. Indeed, just about everything has some sort of new wash or whathaveyou added. Just another way to claim ownership.

    Of course, the band did give Solter permission, and Solter gives full creds to his source material. This is the perfect counterpoint, though, to people who say that sampling is always stealing from artists. I don't like it when people use recognizable bits of well-known songs to punch up their own lame-ass material. But building something up from the ruins? That's pretty cool.


    Soltero
    The Tongues You Have Tied
    (Three Ring Records)
    reviewed in issue #255, July 2004

    Soltero is Tim Howard and whoever he invites to play along on any particular song or tour. The comparisons on the press stuff mention the likes of Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Pavement...heavy hitters, man. I suppose the Pavement or Silver Jews references are probably most apt, but Soltero has too many hallmarks of the idiosyncratic one-man band to really fit in anywhere.

    This is intricate alt-pop with plenty of allusions to country (of the alt. sort, of course), indie rock, 60s pop and whatever else pops into Howard's head. It's that unpredictability and sonic instability that draws me to these sorts of mutant outfits. Bands have to be democratic, and they often smooth out some of the rougher edges--edges that often ought to be dulled. That isn't the case with something like Soltero, and I must say I like getting cut now and again.

    The sound is very much that late 80s indie rock sound, bass heavy with a wee bit of shimmer. It's rough, but not quite raw. Lots of echo in the overdubs. Just about perfect for songs like these.

    I'd like to add one more obvious reference: Half Japanese. Howard is a much better musician and singer than Jad Fair, but both manage to create this feeling of imminent danger that makes their songs addictive. Slide in and be electrified.


    Solus
    Our Frosting Hell EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Only three songs, but more than enough to hear some real potential. Solus, like many bands, is bringing death metal back to the masses. A more commercial, glossy sound, influences from more mainstream acts like Fear Factory and Iron Maiden, and some seriously crafted songs.

    But there is still that old standby, unregulated chaos as a means of shifting the mood in a long song. I've always thought that going straight into double bass drum work from a slow lead-in is something like cheating. And Solus cheats in "Magadan".

    Ah, but I'm quibbling a bit. The level of complexity is high, much higher than many similar acts, and I simply can't get over how cool this sounds. An almost lush feel from the producer. Really, really nice.

    Okay, so this is on the outs as far as trends go. Solus does a nice job. I'd love to hear more.


    Slave of Mind
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Um, I asked for it. When I reviewed Solus's latest release a couple issues back, I said I'd love to hear more. This is the band's 1996 release, a full-length. And proof that the band has been good for some time.

    The same muscular riffage, the same attention to creative rhythms, the same sense of power and rage. I loved the three new songs I heard, and this disc is chock full of similar fare.

    I'm really surprised that someone at a label hasn't noticed this before. I mean, this Slayer meets Sepultura sound (not too far from the heavier elements of Fear Factory, of course) sounds to me like the future of extreme metal. And no matter what you call this music, it's stuff of the highest quality.

    Well, there's nothing much more for me to say. If you like a little heaviness in your life, you must check Solus out. I don't give such unqualified endorsements often, so be sure to leg this one out.


    Solution A.D.
    Twentynothing
    (Thermal)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Meandering around the faux-funk sound perpetrated by latter-day Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction, Solution A.D. cranks out the anthems but don't have a damned thing to say.

    And the real problem with that is what is said is really artsy and pretentious. Very occasionally the band morphs into a style similar to Mother Love Bone, and Toby Costa's voice can bear a spooky resemblance to Andrew Wood's. But these interesting moments are few and far between; after all, these boys are artists, or something.

    The musicianship is quite good, although the production leaves things muddled much of the time. This sounds like a cheesy major-label album recorded on a jam-box. I'm sure they'll be as big as Candlebox someday.


    Solution Science Systems
    Solution Science Systems EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Featuring Rob MacGrogan and Andy Tegethoff of the Taybacks (with Kelly Shane kicking in on drums), Solution Science Systems sounds nothing like anything, precisely. There are Yes-like chord progressions, strange little skits that remind me of Devo (though I don't think Devo ever really did that kinda stuff) and the occasional backbeat. Just for the hell of it, I guess.

    A strange, fluffy sort of concoction, one that works only because these three guys are having way too much fun acting like loony prog gods. If this was a serious project (in that sort of "artiste" way), well, it would be annoying if not downright grating.

    But fun is on the agenda, and that's what I had. Can I take this seriously? Do I want to? Of course not. I'll just let the candy floss drift in the breeze and catch in my hair. Just like I was 11 all over again.


    Someday I
    Look Up and Live
    (Owned & Operated)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Yer basic power pop trio, with a healthy dose of punk aggro added in. As much Jawbox (not a trio, I know) as Husker Du. Plenty of both, to be honest, all swirled up in fresh packaging.

    Someday I does, of course, also owe a severe debt to ALL, particularly in the way the band percolates its songs. The notes and chords used are different, but the perky, punchy style is very similar.

    It's a good way to play, I have to say. Someday I has taken pieces from some great bands and added its own twist, something of a grand vision. The tunes are somewhat anthemic at times, hinting at something truly amazing in the works.

    Does it arrive? Well, it sure does on "Little Destroyer" and a number of other tracks. By the end of the journey, it becomes obvious that Someday I really knows its way around a good song. There is ample evidence on this disc.


    Somehow Hollow
    Busted Wings & Rusted Halos
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #237, January 2003

    Muscular, tuneful punk music. Almost enough shine to the guitars to shove these boys into the mainstream, but luckily producer Justin Koop keeps just the right edge on the sound.

    Not many punk bands write songs for dueling guitars, but that's what we've got here. Often enough, both axemen are fighting it out for lead status. That's interesting, considering the general insistence of the rhythm section. These boys sure do know how to confound convention.

    But even so, these songs are very simple. Three-chord pop at heart, with a nice, heavy punch in the gut. The kinda stuff that passes for emo these days, though I have a feeling Somehow Hollow is hoping to avoid that tag.

    Good luck. And anyway, why not use it to sell a good record? There are some solid chops on display here. Some more work, and Somehow Hollow might be ready for a breakout. I hear real potential.


    Somerset
    Discoveries and Iluminations
    (Burnt Toast Vinyl)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    I thought I had heard something from this band in the recent past. But a check of my files turned up nothing. Doesn't matter. This music speaks very well for itself.

    Well-turned emo, produced so as to leave a live-wire sound. Not sharp, but exceedingly tight and dull. Hope that makes sense. The guitar sound isn't overpowering, but the lines of attack are most impressive. Like most emo acts, Somerset works its way into the songs somewhat slowly, working up to a cascade of incoherence.

    Good that I like that sort of thing. And actually, Somerset does a nice job of varying the song structure. Sometimes it never does make it over the top, keeping its impulses under restraint. After all, this is punk music where the lyrics are important. Though, as ever, I'm more impressed by the music.

    Somerset has a deft touch with this fare. Perhaps not as accomplished as Mineral (and who is), but certainly very adept at the subtlety and nuance needed to craft fine emo. A band to keep an eye on.


    Sometime Sweet Susan
    The Coming Lights
    (Futurist)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    A perfectly respectable pop record full of crashing guitars and walls of distortion. The sort of thing the kids love these days.

    Sure, Sometime Sweet Susan panders to the masses. But is there something beneath that sheen of trendhopping? Kinda.

    Songs like "Ambivalence" almost make me think the band could write an album's worth of great pop songs that do not follow every possible MTVism. Unfortunately, even that tune is plagued by production that ensures popular acceptance.

    Someone, the producer or the A&R freak or who knows, decided that Sometime Sweet Susan was going to be big, and figured the only way to do it was make the band sound like every other college music pop band on the video screen. Too bad, because that also has ensured a damning musical anonymity.


    Werner Sommer
    Werner Sommer
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    There's a reason bands like Cinderella, Poison and Bon Jovi don't sell any more: people are bored with that sound and moronic lyric content. Too bad for this, because it is well-produced and the playing and singing are more than competent. Just wish he had something to say.


    Somnambulist
    The Paranormal Humidor
    (The Laser's Edge)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    And now, how about some extreme prog. Samples, loops, hoarsely shouted vocals; all that run though the mechanics of a prog band. Not a bad idea at all.

    Indeed, the form gives a great stage for presenting complex ideas in a leisurely manner. And so why not incorporate a number of seemingly disparate ideas? After all, there's plenty of time to write good transitions.

    This is prog, anyway, and there's no getting around that. All of the extraneous ideas are just ornaments. Integral ornaments to Somnambulist's sound, mind you, but still mere pretty baubles.

    A fairly creative way of getting beyond the basic prog sound. Somnambulist still plays technical games, of course, but it has added a level of aggression and milled the edge of its sound to razor sharpness. Quite addictive, really.


    Son of Slam
    Devil's Advocate 7"
    (Outlaw Records)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Heavy southern blues 'n' boogie 'n' bombast with a political message. An interesting mix, considering the message on the title track is an attack on Louis Farrakhan.

    Well, cheap shots are one thing, but the theme of the song is straight out of Malcolm X. Which makes the whole thing rather impressive.

    Musically, Son of Slam doesn't break any new ground, but the b-side is rather catchy (okay, so the chorus is "Fuck anything that moves", but still), showing some real potential. This is a good package.


    Son of the Sun
    The Happy Loss
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    If the Brian Jonestown Massacre trafficked a bit more in americana, it might have sounded somewhat like this. These are 60s-ish anthems drenched in organ, reverb and the odd tendency toward rootsy jangle.

    It's not an unwelcome notion, as it also recalls the Jayhawks' Sound of Lies, which remains one of my favorite albums. This album, too, is largely stoked by dark thoughts and darker lyrics. It's never grim, but bliss isn't a word I'd associate with these songs, either.

    I do like the sound, which notches a fine balance between the minimalism of the songwriting and the lushness of the arrangements. The final result is something of a "let it wash over you" feel. Certainly, standing up to the assault is not recommended.

    Just plain good, really. Solid workmanship and stellar execution. This one started well and just got better. Take a dip and you'll go in for the plunge.


    Son of the Velvet Rat
    By My Side
    (Starfish)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Quite the long name for essentially a one-man project. George Altziebler sings plays all the instruments (which generally consist of guitar and bass with some electronic texture behind). Ingrid Moser does add some vocals here and there, but Altziebler is essentially the complete show.

    The stuff itself falls into what I like to call alt.alt.country. That is, dark and somewhat deconstructed roots fare. Most of the other acts I connect with this sound (Molasses and Willard Grant Conspiracy) have a singular leader, but are somewhat sprawling collectives. Altziebler marches alone, and that gives his songs an even more disconnected feeling.

    The sound is simple and stark. Even that electronic soundscape stuff that rumbles in the background now and again sounds stripped down. You want cold and brutal? Try the take on "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Damn.

    There's nothing more arresting than a single note echoing against the darkness. Altziebler seems to have figured that out, and he's written songs that accentuate the isolation of the sound. Or maybe he found a sound that matches his songwriting. Either way, this album kills.


    Songs: Ohia
    Songs: Ohia
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    The first Songs: Ohia release was a single on Palace Music/Drag City, and that's rather fitting. Jason Molina doesn't adorn his music with much more than his guitar, his voice and the odd bit of percussion. He's got a higher voice than Will Oldham, so this sounds a little like James Taylor playing Palace Music.

    I know, the JT reference will garner sneers, but that's not fair. These songs are heartfelt, if extremely unfettered by convention, musings on the human condition. Good stuff, made better by the genuine sound of the songs.

    I do think Molina gets a little lost occasionally, losing emotional contact with the listener. There's no need to be linear, but if you're gonna take leave of earthly senses, at least keep building the feeling. There should be a sense of, well, some reason to finish the song. Most of the time he comes through, but it's the odd flat ending that bugs me.

    This is a ballsy record, though. Soul-stirring singing and playing, even if none of it can be (or wants to be) called virtuoso. Songs: Ohia seems to want to imitate life. I'm not sure I'd like to live the one depicted, but it does make for fascinating listening.


    Hecla & Griper EP
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Jason Molina is getting a bit more coherent. This EP was recorded right after a tour, and I think these songs benefited from some live workouts. The pieces are tighter and more effective. Don't worry; Molina is still wailing about despair and desolation. Even better than before.

    The Palace comparisons are still very apparent, but Molina works his voice more than Will Oldham, finding a stronger and more direct tone (he's improved a lot in this area). The songs, too, are a bit more straightforward and easy to follow. In general, this is a plus. Spacing out is no longer a requirement for finding true access.

    Before I go overboard in pronouncing Songs:Ohia the obvious successor to Garth Brooks, Let me assure folks that this is still extremely affected music. Acoustic country/folk stuff with the occasional backing band. And vocals that kinda wend their way into your subconscious.

    Molina has made it somewhat easier for folks to dig Songs:Ohia, even while continuing down a unique musical road. This generosity should not go unpunished.


    The Lioness
    (Secretly Canadian) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Recorded with Arab Strap, this time out finds Jason Molina making more "traditional" songs than ever before. Not that he was so weird before, or that these songs are terribly commercial in nature, but let's say he's a little closer to Neil Young than Palace these days.

    Organ plays an important part in these songs, and it adds an epic, yet haunting quality to the decidedly muscular songs. Yeah, the stuff is introspective, as always, but there's no moping and bitching here. Searching, but not whining.

    There's a fuller sound here than before, perhaps something closer to Molina's vision of the band? Maybe. The production keeps improving and the songs keep tightening up a bit. And, not incidentally, the added craft hasn't taken away any of the emotion.

    In fact, I think there's more. At the very least, there's a greater complexity of emotion and feel to the pieces. The good stuff just keeps coming.


    Ghost Tropic
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Jason Molina has kept the band together (or a band together, anyway) and recorded an album that explores the mystical side of life. I would've said "spooky" instead of mystical, but that seemed a bit obvious. A lot of talk about ghosts (including two title tracks) and spirits and stuff.

    A natural fit, as this stripped-down country-folk sound already sounds haunted. The band doesn't take away that quality, but merely orchestrates the unease. As usual, Molina doesn't shy away from the use of unexpected instruments and unusual melodies. He's in fine form.

    Still, this is a step away from the more commercial sound of the most recent Songs:Ohia albums. The lushness that occasionally crept into those discs isn't here. The arrangements and recordings are stark, almost bare. Every piece can be heard clearly, which also sharply defines that which cannot be heard (the spookiness factor).

    Like I said, this album lands Songs:Ohia back firmly in the camp of indie heroes. There's not much change that this album will catch fire with the masses. It'll merely serve to inspire those who are ready for its message.


    Sonic Youth
    A Thousand Leaves
    (DGC)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    There is something interesting about middle aged art rockers still jumping into the sea of pop music--even if it's still in an out of the way murky grotto filled with decomposing leaves and piss pockets. That place no one else these days wants to go because of a couple of things: radio won't play this and no one cares about caring anymore.

    Sonic Youth cares--more than they've cared (in musical form) in their lives. I don't know if it's the onset of children (which, to be honest, has been happening for a while) or taking an honest look at the future or what, but there is a feeling of care throughout this album. And if you've been listening to Sonic Youth over the last few albums, this won't be so new to you. There are jarring vocal presentations to go along with a bunch of racket strewn together between the four heads of this collective. Like they've always done.

    But it's the long songs. The ones that go from bits of pop jump to caterwalling guitars that interest me. "Diamond Sea" (from Washing Machine) is the opus, but there are a couple on this disc that manage to be large without being pompous. The best of which is "Wildflower Soul," a song that seems to be about children. The freedom of being young and without inhibitions. Which is what pop music is supposed to be about, right?

    --Matt Worley


    with I.C.P. and The Ex
    In the Fishtank EP
    (Konkurrent-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Sonic Youth you know (I'm assuming). I.C.P. is a Dutch jazz outfit (not Kenny G kinda stuff, but the real thing) and the Ex is a legendary Dutch experimental hardcore band. Bits and pieces of these bands sat in for a day and created eight pieces, each named with only a Roman numeral.

    Improvised (as are all Fishtank recordings), but still sounding surprisingly rehearsed, these pieces fall decidedly into the jazz camp. And more a traditional structured improvisation sound than straight free jazz. There are plenty of utterly whacked out moments, of course, but each piece has a center, something that no tangent is able to quite shake.

    That, of course, is one criteria in judging music like this. To my ear, these collaborations are stellar adventures in the possibility of sound. Plenty of forays into the interstellar void, but always with a map of the road home. Exciting, as is nearly every Fishtank experience.


    Sonichrome
    Breathe the Daylight
    (Capitol)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    Putting your best foot forward. The first impression must be the best. And on an album by an unknown band, put the good song at track #1. Sonichrome does this well. "Over Confident" is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in ages (well, that Harvey Danger song is catchy, but it's also so damn annoying), reminding me a bit of the feeling I had when first listening to Ruth Ruth's Epitaph EP, "A Little Death." But then the stumble happens. Sonichrome put the worst song on track two. Best then the worst. Not sure what this means.

    For an unabashedly pop band, Sonichrome has its moments. There is a bit of Matthew Sweet-ness to the singer's voice, a bit of disfunction to the guitars (a la Altered Beast?), and blasting energy through every song. Sometimes it gets supremely Beatle-esque (not bad for a pop band, but do we need more of that blatant reference?). Sometimes it gets 70s indulgent ("Dirty Water"), sounding as if these are the 90s sonic counterparts to the new Fox Sunday night line-up.

    But these are the lakes and rivers pop is swimming in these days, so what can I say? Even though I sometimes feel evil and dirty when I like an album like this, I cannot tell a lie. These guys are a lot of fun. Instantly disposable and singable. Give 'em a video in heavy rotation, and they'll be in every teenager's CD player.

    --Matt Worley


    Jon Sonnenberg
    Acoustic Selections
    (Old Man Records)
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Better-known as an electronic artist, Jon Sonnenberg decided to revisit some of his pieces in an acoustic context. The results are interesting. It's still quite possible to hear pacing and melodic ideas that are more at home in the electronic universe, but the "real" instrumentation does bring out something new.

    The liners take pains to say that there is no qualitative difference between electronic and analog. Both are good and useful. I'd insert that combining the two approaches can lead to something really intriguing. Perhaps Sonnenberg will try that approach next time out.

    Sonnenberg's pieces are relatively minimalist to begin with, and that makes the transition here much easier. He seems to have used the electronic approach as a means to an end, and now that his talents and recording technology have caught up to his ideas, he's able to make a record like this.

    Truly beautiful stuff. Sonnenberg's compositions are exquisite, making the most out of a simple, aching melody or subtle shift in rhythm. This context brings a whole new dimension to his music. And like I noted earlier, he might climb to greater heights if he can combine the electronic and analog. I know I'd love to hear that.


    Sonogram
    Arrival Lounge
    (Simulacra)
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    Todd Gautreau is Sonogram. Everything on this disc, from the understated beats to the wide range of electronic sounds, is him. And he sure knows how to paint a fine picture.

    Music for an evening of slightly-inebriated thinking. That's my take. There's a loose feel to the arrangements of the song, a wait-and-see attitude that leaves just enough room for some new thought to creep in and inspire something entirely new.

    This is tres-electronic. There's no mistaking that Gautreau works in a virtual realm, but he makes the translation of thought into music sound almost effortless. That's a real accomplishment.

    Not a world-shaking album, but one that satisfies quietly. Give Gautreau a minute, and he'll have you entranced for an hour.


    SONOIO
    Red
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    Hard to imagine edgy electronics being sliced and diced into absolutely fabulously infectious pop songs. And yet, here's SONOIO (a certain Alessandro Cortini, who did some time with Nine Inch Nails during the past decade) doing just that.

    The quantity is almost overwhelming; the quality takes my brain to a new dimension. The razor-edged melodies soften up my receptors, and the gooey goodness of the hooks just oozes right in.

    There are enough plainly experimental moments to keep the hobbyists rocking as well. Red is a bit less spacey than last year's Blue, but both do one hell of a job making challenging electronic fare totally accessible.

    A more than welcome addition to my establishment. I'm a firm believer that there's always room for improvement, but I'm not sure exactly what that might be here. Pristinely beautiful.


    The Sonora Pine
    The Sonora Pine
    (Quarterstick)
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    A couple members of Rodan (ex-members, I suppose, since that band is long gone) move to New York, meet a violinist, put together some cool songs and then go back to Louisville to find a drummer and record an album.

    So who knows if this is a one-off or the beginning of something grand. I sure don't. Anyway, for those unfamiliar with the legend of Rodan, it was a really cool band that put out one great album (full of wildly explosive noise and the occasional pop inflection) and then splintered into the wind. Other members have done cool things since then. No need to rehash that here.

    The Sonora Pine is a bit more contemplative and introspective than Rodan (and it helps to have the patience to get through the first song, which is about as close to ambient I've heard this kind of band attempt). The songs follow pop song structure fairly loosely (you get a chorus now and again), allowing the various members of the band to wander around and then find each other by the end of the piece. Most of the time.

    More of the famed Louisville sound that never made it big. And I still like it bunches. The band gets into trouble at the start of most of the songs, and then spends a few minutes trying to dig its way out. Pretty cool, if you're into chaotic stuff like me.

    Not a perfect album, by any stretch, but a lot of the beauty lies in the imperfections. The Sonora Pine is not for the average listener. But those with courage and patience just might be overjoyed.


    II
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    A few years back, the "next big music town" was Louisville. One of the exciting young bands from that locale was one known as Rodan. That outfit disbanded after one Quarterstick album, and then reformed (sorta) as the Sonora Pine. An album arrived soon after.

    A really minimal album, one that brought to mind a lot Drag City acts like Silver Jews or the really quiet Palace moments. Here, though, it sounds like this immensely talented trio has been listening to the Dirty Three a lot, deciding that it's actually okay to get a little crazy from time to time.

    If you never heard the Rodan album, then you don't understand what a radical departure much of the first Sonora Pine album was. While most everything remains understated and calm, on this album there is a nice tension that wraps all the pieces together. While often quiet, this second album is anything but dull.

    Now that these folks have had time to work together and flesh out this concept they call the Sonora Pine, the results are even more impressive. An album of strange beauty and depth.


    *Sons
    Viracochas
    (Fractured Discs)
    reviewed in issue #285, May 2007

    This information comes straight from the website: "*SONS is a Chapel Hill/Carrboro band featuring current and former members of Boston's SUNTAN (Kimchee Records) and A Problem of Alarming Dimensions." I'm not sure how you can be a Boston band and an NC band, but then, BC is a member of the ACC these days, so maybe that's they explain it...

    What a stupid little tangent. But the music inspires it. *Sons plays that languid, ringing sort of pop I associate with New Zealand (Straitjacket Fits, particularly in "Down in Splendour" mode). The press notes mention Swervedriver, among others. It's all good, 'cause we're talking about the same damn thing.

    Music that drives your mind to new and interesting spaces, even while it blisses out the pleasure centers. Pretty stuff that manages to inspire, well, inspiration. Or something more insipid perhaps, judging by the dross of this review.

    Oh well. I dug it, even it didn't exactly inspire genius to flow from my fingertips. The ride is well worth the journey. Or something like that.


    Sophia
    Sophia
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    The first solo project for Arcana's Peter Pettersson, Sophia applies lush orchestration to martial themes. In fact, the bulk of this disc is taken up by the nine movements of "Sigillum Militum" (though since the last track is subtitled "Last Movement," perhaps the entire disc is made up of this piece).

    Alternately brooding and galloping, the works have a definite battlefield flair. It's not hard to imagine standing out on some ancient meadow, feeling the hooves of an opposing cavalry careening down toward you.

    What has not been changed is Pettersson's ability to use sound to paint astonishing visceral pictures. This is music with eyes and touch. Indeed, even scent and taste react. Once enveloped, it is hard to regain entry in the real world.

    Sure, it was pretty easy to predict a quality showing from Pettersson. He's established his talent many times before. But now, in moving in new directions, he's also demonstrated his ability to shift gears without grinding. An enthralling work.


    The Sort of Quartet
    Planet Mamon
    (SST)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    The reason this isn't a quartet is because there are seven people in the band. Of course.

    A little more up-tempo and jazzy than the Squonk Opera disc I reviewed about a month ago, TSOQ plays fun music with cool horns like trumpet and clarinet. And that instrumentation is obviously taken into account when the tunes are written and arranged.

    And this is very much a musical theory-driven band (unlike the Bazooka reviewed in this issue). These folks are good musicians, and they play to convey a sense of fun and propagate a real party atmosphere (the whole thing has a weird New Orleans vibe-like if the Dirty Dozen Brass band played Mothers of Invention tunes). While the more conventional may not appreciate the dissonance and volume TSOQ puts out, this stuff is as cool as anything I've heard in some time.

    Jazz? Sure. Rock? Well, kinda, at times. Music for a nice romantic evening? If you have a thing for making a real mess of the house. Something wild and crazy to scare the neighbors with? Absolutely.


    Sorrow
    Forgotten Sunrise
    (Roadracer)
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    I wish this would have been a full-length album, but I understand accidents happen. To be honest, however, I see no death metal band that even comes close to Sorrow as far as lyrical content. Their vocabulary is large, and not just twisted like Carcass (though those guys are great, too).

    The almost rollicking nature of "Awaiting the Savior" is very nice, but my favorite tune is "Curse the Sunrise." Hey, folk, dig this one. I've talked to a few of you about it, and we've been in agreement: Sorrow will be huge someday. So why don't you get on this today?


    Hatred and Disgust
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    Sorrow roared out of the gate with their EP earlier this year. And I was looking forward to their full-length release. Justifiably.

    You can understand the words here, and it's a good thing. Sorrow are the most lucid and articulate of the doom-death genre. "Illusion of Freedom" details the problems of wrapping yourself in the flag and blindly following the government. Even the requisite anti-religion song is not simply "Jesus had anal lust" or anything as dumb as that. After all, Satanism is a religion just like all others, and Sorrow is out to stop all worship. Seems fair to me, even if I don't happen to agree.

    Doom-death creates a hell of a grind, and this album kinda rips away at your sense of security. The unexamined life is not worth living. Sorrow make us examine the very tenets of existence for many people. Damn straight, baby.


    Sorry About Dresden
    Rock School! split 7" with Strunken White
    (Moment Before Impact)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    One song from Strunken White, and two from Sorry About Dresden. The medium is emo. An early version of the form, if you will.

    Strunken White's constant coloration reminds me a lot of Senator Flux's first album. Kinda half-spoken, half-shouted vocals blurted out over a roiling, bubbling bit of tuneage. Most agreeable to my constitution.

    Sorry About Dresden is a bit more traditional, starting softly and slowly and then building to a nice burn. Both songs are well-crafted and tightly played. Kinda like they should be.

    A solid slab. Takes me back a few years, and I'm not complaining. Just smiling.


    How the Cold War Began EP
    (Moment Before Impact)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    It's pretty rare that I get to pass judgment on a local band. Even though, it is true, I live in one of the more fertile music scenes in the world. Sorry About Dresden, however, is not a "normal" Chapel Hill band.

    First, of course, the band hails from Carrboro. Even people who live in those two towns can't always tell the difference (it's not like there are a lot of signs or anything). But really. Sorry About Dresden is (mostly) a power pop band with heavy emo overtones and a penchant for the blues. So the hooks don't soar, they merely roar.

    And roar they do. These are well-crafted songs played with intensity and a sense of adventure. There's a tension in the music and the lyrics that few bands can achieve. Most don't use this sort of music to tell stories. Most power pop bands can't slow songs down and still hold everything together. Sorry About Dresden, once again, isn't a "normal" band.

    Rather, it's an extraordinary band. These six songs contain more power than most full-length albums. They're gems just waiting to be discovered. What a treat.


    Soul Pit
    Orangapoontangy
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #7, 2/14/92

    Where many punk-funk-metal kinda bands focus a little heavily on the bouncing bass and ignore real rhythmic innovation and lyrical content, Soul Pit manages to score all three, finding a real sense of power most bands lack. The press says these guys have been around in one incarnation or another for seven years or so, and it shows. There is an obvious tightness and understanding between the players. These guys must put on an incredible live show.

    I really must compliment the cover art and liners. Instead of the usual shit job, this is a stylish (still b&w) Macintosh job that is eminently readable and attractive.With all the care put into this release (art-wise and musically) I wonder why someone hasn't noticed these folk yet. I'm sure someone will soon.


    Log o' Poop 7"
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    I grooved on their Orangapoontangy demo for the longest time, and was rather bummed to hear they had lost their bassist and were not sure what they would be doing next.

    This would be that, and it jams quite nicely. A different bass style is in evidence, but the sound is amazing as usual. These guys can write a tune. Or two. The third is the Kiss thing "Strange Ways". Read the bio to understand.

    Why someone hasn't really picked up on these folk is beyond me, but at least now it's a lot easier to play them on the air.


    Soul Position
    Things go better with RJ and AL
    (Rhymesayers)
    reviewed in issue #274, May 2006

    RJD2 and Blueprint picking up where they left off with 8 Million Stories. I know I've referenced the former a few times in this issue, and it's nice be able to return the love in this review. No one is more eclectic and exciting as a DJ. And Blueprint spins his rhymes with just as much skill and style.

    The breadth of sound and subject on this album is breathtaking. Politics, sex, culture, philosophy...no subject is out of bounds. And on the musical side, RJD2 blasts from old school R&B to hard rock to the occasional classical riff. For a set with such powerful ideas, the songs sound awfully playful.

    Which is perhaps the secret to the greatness here. These guys don't take themselves too seriously. It's that whole "spoonful of sugar" bit. Let the good times roll and drop a little science while you're at it.

    Science...Jesus, am I old school these days? Probably. And that's cool. As long as I get to hear great sets like this one, I'll play grandpa any day.


    Soulfly
    Soulfly
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    The immolation of the original Sepultura line-up is well documented. Probably not a good idea to marry your manager and then expect the rest of the band to listen to your dictates. Of course, any suggestions from me in that area are way out of line. Let's talk about the music.

    Soulfly is Max Cavalera's new band. Roy Mayorga (formerly of Thorn, another Roadrunner band) on drums, Jackson Bandeira (formerly of the Brazilian band Chico Science) on guitar and Marcello Rapp (a Sepultura roadie) on bass. Lots of special guests, including members of Fear Factory, Limp Bizkit, Dub War, Cypress Hill and more.

    And yet, the sound is merely an extension of what Sepultura propagated with Roots. Merely, of course, is sarcasm. The melding of hardcore, death metal, folk songs, indigenous rhythms and electronic effects is pretty fucking amazing. Powerful, moving and incendiary. Song after song rolls out, and the only thing I keep thinking is that Cavalera hasn't missed a beat. If the upcoming Sepultura album is anywhere near this good, then perhaps the split was actually a good thing for music.

    An album of uncommon ferocity and tenderness. Pain, yes, in large quantities. And yet surprisingly human. Cavalera knows how to bring all of his disparate musical ideas together into one amazing sound. Soulfly is just the next step in his astonishing evolution.


    Soulhat
    Experiment on a Flat Plane
    (Terminus)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Soulhat publishes its songs with chickenfriedeggmusic. That's as good a description of what the boys do as I've heard. Basically, this is nice roots rock laid over a bluesy rhythm section.

    The two sections don't always match up, at least not as first. Things get even screwier when the bass and drums do a little dub, but even that comes together soon enough. What's strange here is that these guys aren't trying very hard to make their sound coherent. They seem to like the conflict.

    The sound helps out. Quite lo-fi, with plenty of rustles and ambient noise included. The use of some electronic devices is done quite well. The stuff is blended in so naturally that your ears swear they're acoustic, but your mind knows better.

    I'd be remiss without mentioning the soulful vocals of Kevin McKinney, which really put the final bit of glorious color on the sound. Pretty damn fine, indeed. Some albums are simply a joy. This one is much better than that.


    Soulquake System
    Angry by Nature, Ugly by Choice
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Five Swedes who try and cross Rollins Band, Fudge Tunnel and Black Sabbath with mixed results.

    The production is quite fine, though, giving Soulquake one hell of a sound (it took Fudge Tunnel three albums to get to this level of sonic violence). When the songs really kick in and get nasty, well, that's pretty fucking fun.

    But Soulquake has moments where it wants to wank around a bit and get artsy. All fine and good, I suppose, but the band doesn't do that very well. Songs like "Mawha" come across as pale imitations of the sorta stuff Season to Risk did so well. Soulquake has the ability to work well with speed and volume. Why not take advantage of that?

    Well, the guys do, for the most part. I just wish they would forget the other stuff (pretentious punk rants are pretty hard to justify, in my book) and get on with the vicious stuff.


    Souls at Zero
    Souls at Zero
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    As Wrathchild America, they foundered on the rocks of a major label. You know, it is a bitch to be taken seriously at those places if you don't get endorsed by Revlon or write songs about wearing the skin off your dick.

    Personally, I thought 3-D was a great album. It wandered everywhere and went nowhere. So after being shown the door at Atlantic, they found Energy.

    A good fit. They are in the same musical territory as Piece Dogs and Pro-Pain, although their influences are much more diverse. And even more so than 3-D, everything works together without hurting the brain.

    I still don't think they have completely found their collective voice. If Souls at Zero keep putting out albums like this, I hope they don't.


    six*t*six EP
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    The one thing that bugged me about these guys when they were Wrathchild America was the woeful inconsistency of the songs. The Souls at Zero disc was an improvement there, if nothing else than a coalescing of their preferred styles. But there was still this nagging feeling that sometimes they wanted you to notice their (great) playing rather than what they were laying down.

    Which leads to this disc. The original songs (three new, one demo from the LP) are pretty good, but the covers really suck. That's both playing and rendition-wise. I guess I never liked those songs in the first place.

    I'm still curious where Souls at Zero is going to wander. That's why these little EP releases are so damned aggravating. What hints you get as to the direction of the band are all washed out in the shit you have to wade through. Here's to an album soon.


    A Taste for the Perverse
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    With this release, Souls at Zero now has more releases under its belt with its current name than as Wrathchild America. And with this release, Souls at Zero has pretty much put to rest all of the old Wrathchild America sound.

    SAZ now favors grunge bass work, serious hollering and bluesy, yet strangely linear, riff work. And in the process everything has gotten a little generic.

    Sure, the playing is immaculate (which is impressive, considering the difficulty of what is being played) and the production sharp and polished. And some songs really rip, like "My Fault?" But there are many other spots where the musical ideas runs together in a blur, and I end up not really caring what happens.

    The EP was good, because it presented these ideas in a short burst. But to make a whole album of the same, well, it gets redundant. This doesn't suck, and there are a couple of great songs, but it just doesn't move me as much as the previous work.


    Souls She Said
    Rub the Sleep Out EP
    (Buddyhead)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Remember Robert Plant's big "comeback?" The one with lots of Zep samples and a guest shot from Jimmy Page? Okay, good. Do you remember the follow-up, Manic Nirvana? It was a blast of seriously weird 60s blues throttled by drum machines. I liked that album much better. Anyway, Souls She Said takes the same psychedelic blues attitude and features a singer with a few fine Plantian moments. Pretty cool stuff.

    Of course, there aren't any drum machines, and to be fair there's very little here that is mechanical at all. The sound is a big, fuzzy mess that rarely stoops to mere coherence. And why should it, when a higher calling is, um, calling.

    For all the mess, though, the band keeps things together pretty well. These songs don't self-destruct. Rather, they explode with the brilliance of ideas held under pressure. The dull, rusted sound is a nice counterpoint to the band's frenetic pace. Quite good.

    I'm sure plenty of folks will compare this stuff to Jon Spencer. Souls She Said makes a much bigger mess of things, and on the whole, it also makes a bigger splash as well. Incendiary.


    Soulstorm
    Darkness Visible
    (Epidemic-Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #31, 3/31/93

    Where does it say the next big industrial revolution will arrive from the land of Bob and Doug? Right here, I suppose.

    Malhavoc has two great albums (compilations of various Canadian releases) out, and now this. If Godflesh and Fear Factory got together, the unholy spawn would have to sound like Soulstorm. Real heaviness that impacts my sternum, and a lower version of the sing-song thing Fear Factory does.

    An album that will not stop until all first-born Republicans are slain. The undercurrent here will drag you into the silt. I haven't had this much fun since Streetcleaner.


    From Euphoria to Paranoia
    (Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Yes, another cool industrial band once licensed by Metal Blade has returned to the Canadians. Soulstorm sounds kind of like a lower-tech version of Godflesh. Lots of hollering, distorted guitars and nasty industrial beats.

    I saw these guys when I lived in Michigan, and they pulled the sound off exceptionally well live. And they played just as hard even though there were about ten people in the club. Nice guys.

    Much like other bands who do the metal-industrial thing, the lack of melody tends to make some of the songs run together. There isn't always a big difference between the beats, and, well, you can get confused. Of course, then you come across a track like "Mass Murder Culture", and you know all is well with the world.

    Occasionally dreary, you should persevere and find the real gems included within.


    The Sound of Rails
    Prelude of Hypnotics
    (Caulfield)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Some bands are aptly named. The Sound of Rails plays music that, well, makes me think of diesel Santa Fe engines hauling huge loads of grain across the midwest. That a spent a good portion of my youth watching trains roll by probably helps me here.

    For those not so blessed, the Sound of Rails has a Pell Mell feel to it, albeit in a midwestern dialect. The songs generally consist of a ringing guitar line as a melody that runs nicely over a slowly churning rhythm section. Elegant doesn't begin to describe this properly.

    But that's alright. Maybe you're beginning to get the idea nonetheless. Just to throw you off, there are vocals now and again, but they're not a full-time concept. And in any case, the vocals don't replace the guitar work. They just add a few verbal thoughts to the mix.

    Good thoughts, which goes for just about everything here. The Sound of Rails is hypnotic, indeed. Falling under a spell like this is always a pleasure.


    Night Time Simulcast
    (Caulfield)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    The Sound of Rails does more to bring that whole late-80s Louisville sound up to date than just about anyone I know. Rather than simply keeping to the Slint/Rodan axis, these boys venture into the movement's present-day home of Chicago (June of 44, etc.) and then blasts off. If this reminds you of what I said about the Michael album, thanks for paying attention.

    Which is to say these songs blister, rock, crash, burn, electrify and even dazzle. There are some exciting post-prog moments, and there are a couple of glisteningly pure melodies as well. Everything is in the pot, and it's bubbling over.

    Each song has its own feel. The rough pieces pin the needles to the red, while the more contemplative ones are almost surgically clean. There's no need to reconcile these styles; they make sense when experienced as a whole. And for me, that's the real excitement of this axis in the indie realm. The possibility to play music that's never been imagined before. The Sound of Rails refuses to be beholden to the past, though it certainly acknowledges a great debt. Honor the past and then blow out the windows. Sounds like a plan to me.


    The Sound of the Union of a Man and a Woman
    The Sound of the Union of a Man and a Woman
    (Jagjaguwar)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Ooh, the lovely squalls of feedback drenching strident riffage. Actually, that's about all that's going on here. The vocals are more spoken than sung, and the lyrics are more stream-of-consciousness than crafted.

    But there is this screeching rhythmic quality to the songs which keeps my ear attracted. This ain't no pretty racket now; it's downright mean. Incoherence can be a virtue, but sometimes it just gives a headache. The UMW kinda walks that line, slipping every once in a while.

    Sounds like an Albini knob job, though it isn't. The focus is on the guitars, most definitely. They have a great sound, even as they squeal out in pain through most of the tunes. Not exactly thick, but strong. These guitars have some real attitude.

    Adventurous listening, to be sure. The UMW isn't traditional in much of any sense, and the songs simply fall as they're thrown. There are plenty of intriguing moments ("Sing Along Your Heart Out" is a fascinating mix of conventional and unusual sounds and constructions), more than enough to invite a visit. Just be sure you're ready.


    Sound on Survival
    Live
    (Henceforth)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    Lisle Ellis on bass, Marco Eneidi on sax and Peter Valsamis on drums. Three guys, four improvisations. That ought to be enough to either entice or drive away most of my readers.

    Those of you who stuck around will be happy to know that while these pieces are improvised, they do have structure and form. These songs adhere to principles set down by the musicians--consciously or subconsciously, though I'd bet the former. I'm not entirely sure what these principles might be, but I can here more than mere personal familiarity in this music.

    These songs explode with life and vibrant ideas. As the liners say. "...more often than not...the songs come to an arbitrated (not arbitrary) ending." Exactly. All tangents aside, these men know what they're doing and, more importantly, where they're going.

    Not that this disc is going to make a believer out of someone who eschews improvisation. Hardly. But this is improvisation of the highest order, the type that inspires on repeat listens just as much (if not more) than the first.


    Soundtrack Instrumentals
    Music for Driving and Film Vol. 1
    (Kingtone)
    reviewed in issue #278, September 2006

    Kinda just what it says...instrumental music that has, by and large appeared in films and whose electronic and vaguely rootsy feel makes it a natural for listening while driving.

    A visit to the Kingtone site didn't enlighten me as to the secret identity behind this music, but whoever it is has a nice, light touch with the pieces. Kinda on the Eno side of things, but with more of a sense of motion. Going back to the album title again, I guess.

    The sort of album that either drives folks up the wall or leaves them agape in amazement. I'm actually in between, though obviously closer to the latter. I needed to intellectualize a couple bits here and there, but then, I like to do that.

    So. Music for movies you'll probably never see. Stuff that would sound great with the top down (if you're into vague meditation in an automobile). Fine work that's heard enough from me already.


    Southern Culture on the Skids
    For Lovers Only
    (Safe House)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    One dose fifties country blues, one dose alternative excess and one dose of what can only defined as "that damn incest thing." Inbreeding is the only reason these folks could or would want to make music like this.

    Of course, you don't have to have an uncle as a cousin to appreciate this stuff. While the brain waves going into this are definitely scrambled, the results are great. No one else dares make music exactly like this, and the world is probably happier for it. But my life would be a lot sorrier without.

    A friend of mine played their "Santo Sings!" seven-inch for me a couple of months back. As I knew of the folk and had rather appreciated their earlier stuff, I sat in rapt amazement. If you haven't heard of the Mexican pro wrestler (from the way-olden days) of the same name, then it probably won't mean as much to you. And if you have a tendency to cross your eyes without trying, well, you just might not understand either. But the rest of us will.


    Ditch Diggin' (advance cassette)
    (Safehouse)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Renowned for their live shows, SCOTS also puts together some of the loosest albums around. Great "skuntry" (term first used by Enormous Richard). Yowza.


    Liquored Up and Lacquered Down
    (e-Music/TVT)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Strange as it is to say, Southern Culture on the Skids is one of the more venerable acts on the Chapel Hill scene (using that term in the most general sense possible, now that SCOTS is based at the Kudzu Ranch-- a good few miles from the "triangle area" proper). These deep-fried rockabilly kings (and queen) have been blasting out socially-unacceptable albums for more than a decade.

    On a more personal note, I'm awfully happy to see that Chris Bess is playing keyboards for SCOTS these days. I remember the times (about a decade ago) when Bess played accordion for the St. Louis band Enormous Richard. He also sang ER's classic "Tamp that Fucking Driveway, Richie!" Anyway, he fits in very well, and while I'm not sure how long he's been with this band, it's good to know he's still as warped as ever.

    As for the album, well, it's the usual assortment of self-deprecating Southern jokes and wonderfully tight rockabilly swamp boogie (I'm sure there's a term for this sound, but it's not coming to me right now). This disc is much looser than anything the band did for that (unnamed) major label. In fact, I'd say getting dropped just might have given the folks a reason to enjoy playing once again.

    That's the psychoanalysis part of the review. The music side sez you can't go wrong with SCOTS, no matter what album you pick up. This is one of the better ones; it swings, but the band also has learned a thing or two about writing and playing over the years. Sometimes, experience can add a wrinkle or two that makes the music just that much better. In any case, enjoy while drinking a jar of your finest moonshine.


    Southern Gentlemen
    Exotic Dancer Blues
    (Leviathan)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    David Chastain's latest group, and he's trying to sling the metallized blues. Kinda like a crunchier and heavier version of what ZZ Top's been selling for the last 15 years or so.

    The playing is top-notch (did you expect less?), but I'm not so sure about the sound. The more traditional metal guitar sound just doesn't translate well into the blues. Put it this way: You can write a metal song based on a blues shuffle, but don't try to write a blues song based on metal guitar. It just sounds weird.

    To be honest, the songwriting here is fairly faithful to the blues. At least, the guitar lines are authentic. The rhythm section, however, is straight up rock and roll. Which causes a few more translation problems.

    Not at all bad, but some what miscast, I think. I don't think Chastain is pushing this as a straight blues album, but there's a bit too much of a "white guy blues" thing going on here to really get me excited. Can't complain about his guitar work, but after that the project just doesn't have much soul.


    Southkill
    Southkill EP
    (Noreaster Failed Industries)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Two guys who love distortion and reverb--and know how to use each to its separate advantage. John Dudley takes skins and Jason Kerr handles the guitar. At times, a third instrument wanders by, but I would guess that these guys are able to replicate this stuff live with just the two of them.

    Which isn't to say that it sounds the same live. In many ways, this album reminds me of Storm & Stress, a Don Cab side project (sort of). There are the rolling waves of sound, the songs that don't really end--even when the sound quits--and the general attitude that "louder is better, unless it isn't."

    I do detect a somewhat subversive sense of humor here. Can't say why, exactly. This music is much more awe-inspiring than funny. But there's just something about the way these songs were written that makes me smile in a sly little way. That sort of thing never hurts.

    One note: The boys call this an EP, even though its five songs take up more than 36 minutes on the disc. Sounds like an album to me, but like I said, the guys are funny. And pretty damned good at making abstract music that translates to concrete reality quite well.


    Southport
    Nothing Is Easy
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    A nice trio from England. These boys play some terrific power punk pop. Nothing complicated, nothing ambitious. Just bounding songs featuring a tasty hook or two.

    And always in motion. Southport seems to have figured out that any minor songwriting problems can be greatly ameliorated by simply blitzing through any trouble spots. Get back to the hook as quickly as possible.

    But there aren't too many writing breakdowns. The playing itself is ragged and energetic, about what this sound requires. Not too thick, but certainly not thin at all. As Goldilocks might say, "just right."

    Depth? Well, I wouldn't go looking for a whole lot of that. Southport plays an easy sort of style that, while hardly mindless, doesn't require much thought to enjoy. Latch on to the adrenaline and enjoy the hooks. Anything after that is gravy.


    Souvenir
    Soviet Opiate
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Emo-core from Orlando. Based on the stuff I've gotten from that area in the past year, I'd have to say that scene beats the Tampa Bay one all to hell. Of course, I'm sure plenty of Orlando bands would suck once signed to a big contract and told what to play.

    Souvenir keeps up a nice drone from the guitars, and incorporates the rest of the band nicely within that framework. The production here is standard demo muffle, which inhibits my hearing somewhat. But honestly, what I hears sounds pretty damned good. The nice folks at Crank! and Revelation should take notice.

    The best thing is the song construction, which is very sophisticated and yet comes off as simple. A nice trick, usually accomplished by folks after years of trying. Souvenir has it down.

    A surprisingly strong demo. This band is utterly signable. Won't someone please get on the ball?


    The Souvenirs
    King of Heartache
    (Will) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    A little Texas swing, with all the suave coolness that's required. A sweet pedal steel, songs about heartbreak and loose lips and throaty, soulful vocals. Sure, this is highly crafted and tightly produced. Almost has to be, really, for it to work just right.

    And it does. The Souvenirs swing and wail as well as I've heard in some time. Sure, there is a formula. The boys use it as a canvas, adding plenty of personal ruffles and flourishes to create some beautiful works.

    The production incorporates a good balance of sheen and folksy appeal. Slick enough to attract more mainstream country fans and ragged enough to keep from totally pissing off the roots music fans. A difficult task, but one that sounds like it was accomplished with ease.

    Sultry and fun, the Souvenirs swept me off my feet almost from the first note. This is some great drinking music, the "drown your sorrows" type. And once you pick up this bottle, you won't stop until it's finished.


    Soylent Green
    Nutrient
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Usually, when I get a press release that refers to "Dutch hardcore", I assume it means that hyperbouncy dance pop as epitomized by Aqua. I don't expect a funky version of Stone Temple Pilots. But then, I kinda like being surprised.

    The songs throb with energy and purpose. And while the metal wailing on the choruses gets a bit annoying, I rather like the way these boys find a groove. It's nice to hear a band that knows how to incorporate keyboards into a sound without getting saccharine.

    There's a spacey rendition of "Fly Like an Eagle", and it fits right in with the songs that precede it. After that, though, the songs start falling off. In fact, on the second half of the album, the only real standout is "Higher Ground" (not the Stevie Wonder song), which manages to impress despite lasting for longer than nine minutes. The rest of the disc starts sounding like an uninspired Whitesnake playing Hendrix and the Doors. Now, as drummer Jos Zoomer played with Vandenberg, I suppose that makes sense. Still, it doesn't do the trick for me.

    Boy, after such a strong start, it's too bad the rest of the disc peters out. There is some serious potential here, though.


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