Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 405 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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  • T.H.C. (2)
  • T*H*D
  • T-Model Ford
  • T. Raumischmiere
  • The Tabloids
  • Tad
  • John Taglieri
  • Taking Back Sunday
  • Taking Pictures
  • Talking to Animals
  • Tamara
  • Tammany Hall Machine (2)
  • Tandym
  • Tanger
  • Tanner
  • Tappan Zee
  • Tar (3)
  • Tarantel
  • Tarantula
  • Avey Tare
  • Tattoo of Pain
  • Tattoo Rodeo (2)
  • Taureau
  • Derek Taylor
  • Johnny Taylor
  • Kim Taylor (2)
  • Otis Taylor (2)
  • Paul "Snowflake" Taylor
  • Sally Taylor
  • Scott Taylor
  • Team Me
  • The Tearaways (2)
  • Techno Animal
  • Teedo
  • Teen Fortress
  • Jennifer Tefft
  • Tekulvi
  • Telefunk
  • Television Power Electric
  • Telto
  • Temp Sound Solutions (2)
  • Tempest
  • The Templars (2)
  • Temple of the Times
  • Templebeat (2)
  • Temporary Hero
  • Ten Benson
  • Ten Foot Pole (3)
  • Ten Hands
  • A Ten O'Clock Scholar
  • Ten Story Love
  • Ten Words for Snow
  • 10cc
  • The Tender Idols
  • Tenderloin
  • Tenki
  • Tennessee Twin (2)
  • Tension
  • Tera Melos (2)
  • Terminus City
  • Terminus Victor
  • Terra Diablo
  • Kat Terran
  • Terrene
  • Katie Terrio
  • Terror
  • Jesse Terry
  • Test Dept.
  • Testament (3)
  • Tetherball
  • Alice Texas
  • Texas Instruments
  • Texas Is the Reason
  • Texas Terri & the Stiff Ones (2)
  • Textile Orchestra
  • Ron Thal (2)
  • Thawfor
  • The Theater Fire (2)
  • Thee American Revolution
  • Thee Annoying
  • Thee Goblins
  • Thee Hypnotics (2)
  • Thelma
  • Theory of Abstract Light
  • Theory of Ruin
  • Therapy?
  • Therion (3)
  • Therios (2)
  • Theselah (2)
  • They Walk in Line
  • Thick Black Theory
  • Thick Shake
  • Thin Lizzy
  • The Thin Man (3)
  • Thin White Rope
  • Thine Eyes (2)
  • Thingy (2)
  • Thinking Machines
  • Third Day
  • 3rd Degree
  • Third Stone (2)
  • 3rd Window
  • Thirteen
  • 13 Faces
  • 30 Amp Fuse
  • Thirty Ought Six
  • 31 Knots (2)
  • 32forty
  • Thirty-Two Frames
  • This Beautiful Mess
  • This Is Benji...
  • Thistle
  • Thollem/Rivera
  • Aaron Thomas
  • Zack Thomas
  • Mayo Thompson
  • Thor
  • Thorazine (3)
  • Thorcraft Cobra
  • Thorn (2)
  • Beth Thornley
  • Amanda Thorpe
  • Those Unknown
  • Thought Industry (3)
  • Thousand Foot Krutch
  • 383 Stroker (3)
  • Three Finger Cowboy (2)
  • Three James Morgan
  • Three Mile Pilot (3)
  • Three Piece Suit
  • 360's
  • 3crease
  • 3Ds
  • Thrill My Wife
  • Throneberry
  • Throw
  • Throw Rag
  • Thug Angels
  • Thug Murder
  • Thumb
  • Thumbnail (3)
  • The Thumbs
  • Thunderegg
  • Thundering Lizards
  • Thunders
  • Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
  • Thursday
  • Tiamat (4)
  • Tic Tic Boom (2)
  • Ticonderoga (2)
  • Tidewater Grain
  • Tiger High (2)
  • Tigerella
  • Christopher Tignor
  • Todd Tijerina
  • Tiles
  • Tilt (2)
  • Miles Tilmann (2)
  • Tiltmaster
  • Tiltwheel
  • Time in Malta
  • Time Sensitive
  • Time's Expired
  • Tin Armor
  • Tin Hat Trio
  • Tin Horn Prayer
  • Tincup Prophette
  • Tinfed
  • Tinsel
  • Tiny Lights
  • Tips Fourteens
  • Anna Tivel
  • TNT
  • To Live and Shave in L.A. (3)
  • Today
  • Today Is the Day (2)
  • Toe
  • Toenut
  • Toilet
  • Tom, Dick and Harry
  • Tomahawk
  • Too Much Joy
  • Steve Peregrine Took
  • Topaz & Mudphonic
  • Tora! Tora! Torrance!
  • Torch Song
  • Torchure
  • Torn Skin
  • Bobby Torres
  • Tortoise (2)
  • Toshack Highway
  • The Tossers (2)
  • Total Babes
  • Total Chaos (3)
  • Total Transformation
  • Totally Blind Drunk Drivers
  • Touch Is Automatic
  • Tourniquet
  • Matt Townsend
  • Toy Bombs
  • Toy Dolls
  • Toy Gun Cowboy
  • Track a Tiger
  • Track One A.B.
  • Tractor Hips
  • Tracy & the Hindenburg Ground Crew
  • Tragic Romance
  • Trailside Rangers
  • Training for Utopia
  • Tram (3)
  • Tramps Like Us
  • Trance Groove
  • Trance to the Sun (2)
  • Transatlantic (2)
  • Transglobal Underground
  • Transilvia
  • Transit
  • Transition.
  • Transmetal
  • Transmisia
  • The Transport Assembly
  • Trapdoor Social
  • The Trashed Romeos
  • Trauma
  • Tony Travalini & All the Rage
  • Pat Travers (5)
  • The Abby Travis Foundation
  • The Chandler Travis Philharmonic
  • Travis Pickle
  • Travoltas
  • Treacherous Human Underdogs
  • Tree (2)
  • Tree Wave
  • Treehouse
  • Treepeople (4)
  • Joe Treewater
  • Tren Brothers
  • Barbara Trentalange
  • Treponem Pal
  • Trews
  • Trial by Fire
  • Trial of the Bow
  • Triathlon
  • Tribe After Tribe
  • Tribe 8 (2)
  • Tribes of Neurot
  • Tribes with Knives
  • Tricky Woo (2)
  • Triclops!
  • Trigger
  • Trip to Dover
  • Triple Fast Action
  • Tripwire
  • Tristan Psionic
  • Trotsky Icepick
  • Trouble (2)
  • Trouble Dolls
  • Walter Trout (3)
  • Trummerflora
  • Trunk Federation
  • Trust/Obey (2)
  • Tryyo
  • Yagihashi Tsukasa
  • TTNG
  • Tub
  • Tubalcain (2)
  • Tube Top (2)
  • Kate Tucker
  • Tugboat Annie
  • Tumbleweed (2)
  • Tunji
  • Turbo A.C.'s (2)
  • Turf War
  • Luca Turilli
  • Jon Turk
  • Turn On
  • Eddie Turner
  • Joe Lynn Turner
  • Nik Turner
  • Turnerjoy
  • Osei Tutu
  • TV Pow
  • Tweezer
  • Twelfth of Never
  • 12th Planet
  • 12 Pearls
  • Twelvetrees
  • 20 Dead Flowerchildren (2)
  • Twenty Miles
  • 20 Minute Loop (3)
  • 25 Ta Life
  • 24-7 Spyz
  • 22 Brides (2)
  • 22 Jacks (2)
  • The Twenty Twos
  • Twin Barrels Burning
  • Twin Trip
  • Twinstar
  • Twisted Helices (2)
  • Twisted Roots
  • Twistid
  • Twitch
  • II Big (3)
  • Two Cow Garage (2)
  • Two Harbors
  • Two Hours Traffic
  • Two Lone Swordsmen
  • Two Man Advantage
  • 2 Mex
  • Two Wounded Birds
  • Twothirtyeight
  • Type O Negative (3)
  • Tyranny Is Tyranny

  • T.H.C.
    Death by Design
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    Hyper-aggressive elektro stuff from former members of the awesome Stereotaxic Device.

    Cranking things up to the Ultraviolence or Numb level, T.H.C. packs enough distortion and speed into the songs to satisfy any fan of that kind of electronic madness. Coherence is not a virtue; simplicity is a sin.

    And I'm kinda bummed by all the aggro. When T.H.C. slows down (you have to sometimes), the lack of songwriting skills really shows up. Yeah, this will work for the speed freak, but T.H.C. is not terribly innovative, and the songs tend to degenerate into beat frenzies just a bit too often for my taste.

    A little more work on the composing would do wonders. T.H.C. has the sound and attitude down. All it needs are some contemplative skills.

    Consenting Guinea Pig EP
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Those unfamiliar with T.H.C. will be happy to know the music fits the name: trippy electronic dance music, also known as trance.

    And not just any trance. Some of the cooler stuff around, cranked up by George Sarah, an ex-Stereotaxic Device guy. So you know there's an animal rights thing going on here.

    Bigod 20 (Zip Campisi) remixed "Need to Destroy", a track from the Death By Design album. The other five songs are pure T.H.C. consciousness. The sort of thing I like to hear.

    Not many folks do this stuff better. T.H.C. is up there in the Ob1/Virtualizer realm, and that's a fine place to live. The best trance refuses to repeat itself, and that sort of creative energy is in full form here. A cool set.

    Mechanical Advantage
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    Highly accessible industrial dance grooves. Sure, the subject matter is still alienation and pain, but the beat and bass keep inviting you onto the floor.

    This is about as good a mix of techno, house and industrial sounds as I've heard in a while. After some time you just start to flow with the music and refuse to consider the implications.

    Like are these guys trying to bring me down or just complain about their own crappy lives? Should I care? Or should I just lose myself in their creation.

    Easy answer there. T*H*D's fine execution makes the questions moot.

    T-Model Ford
    Pee Wee Get My Gun
    (Fat Possum-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    When I got this package, I wasn't sure how it had made its way to my door. Two blues CDs from a label I'd never heard of before. A couple days later, I saw the Epitaph (must be them cataracts acting up again or something) on the case and this made more sense.

    What makes less sense is that while T-Model Ford has spent almost all of his 75-plus years in Mississippi, he sounds like he belongs on Chicago's southside. In fact, his delivery and guitar playing are highly reminiscent of John Lee Hooker.

    If you're gonna emulate someone, well, John Lee is as good as anyone. But this is an interesting example of how the blues have traveled in the past 50 years. With the advent of the cheap record player and the 33 1/3 album, just about anyone could (and can) afford a decent blues collection. And one listen to the Alligator Records roster will show how diverse even the Chicago blues community is nowadays.

    All this is tangential to the issue of Mr. T-Model Ford, however. The sounds on this album varies wildly (most of this was done in a studio, but a few tracks were cut), but the spirit of the blues is alive and well. For all the suffering in his life, T-Model Ford seems intent on using the blues to sing songs of joy. Most of the time, anyway.

    Wipe away all the strangeness, though, and what is left is a fine blues record. Something I'm always happy to hear.

    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Some people use electronics to create pop music. Some use it to create entire new sonic universes. And some, like T.Raumschmiere, use electronics to create entirely new sorts of music.

    It's not that the pieces aren't recognizable. The beats themselves are generally simple, and most of the little bits here and there are hardly revolutionary. What's special is how all of this is put together in a most fetching manner.

    What I mean to say is that these most experimental of pieces are almost criminally accessible by the mainstream. If, say, a Madonna fan got a hold of some of William Orbit's stuff and liked it, said fan would probably salivate upon hearing this.

    Not many can fly right off the edge of the world and then return bearing a resplendent cornucopia of gifts. But such is the skill shown on this album. Would that all techno fiends could come up with a disc even one-tenth as warm.

    The Tabloids
    Train of Thought
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    The songs of Michael Robinson, played by Robinson and a couple of friends (with plenty of help). Somewhat arty pop music. In any case, Robinson really likes his lyrics.

    And he is trying to say a lot of things in rather pretentious ways. Most of the time, that's not a problem. He achieves what he's going after. Particularly when the band cuts loose. When you're trying to be serious, sometimes the best thing is to get silly for a moment or two.

    The album drags in the places where the band follows the script to the letter. The tempo doesn't matter so much as the energy level. Robinson's writing style is rather intense, and he needs to provide a few more outlets for the sound to get punched up.

    It is nice to hear someone with such a clear vision. The Tabloids don't quite reach transcendence, but most of the time the stuff is pretty good. These piece do need a few more live airings, but Robinson is on the right road.

    Live Alien Broadcasts
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Tad has always been loud. Some would go further and add a "and stupid". But I won't. I'll merely note the lack of subtlety in anything ever recorded by the band.

    When I last saw Tad live, I thought the big man had been listening to way too much Skin Yard for his own good. His vocals will never match Ben McMillan's, but the sludge guitar attack so popular when the Melvins were in their teens (has it been so long?) seemed to be creeping in to Tad's sound.

    The guitars on this disc are so distorted it is pretty hard to hear what's going on. There's your lack of subtlety again. The live renditions are pretty much by rote, just sloppier than in the studio. Barely.

    I can't imagine how this will increase the fan base, but I know a few Tad freaks who will really enjoy the feedback. Cheers.

    John Taglieri
    Leap of Faith
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Somewhere between 38 Special, Survivor and Journey lies this anthemic AOR sound that allows an acoustic guitar to riff on and melodies to get downright silly. John Taglieri lives in this world, and while it's really not my thing, I've got to say he knows what he's doing.

    I mean, he's got some serious hooks. The stuff is kinda cheesy (okay, really cheesy), but Taglieri sells out every line. Yeah, there are plenty of cliches (like, say, leading into a chorus with a rising "yeah, I'll love you 'til the end!"), but that's just part of the genre.

    It's really easy to laugh at stuff like this, but that would be missing the hard work and craft that went into this album. Some might call that a shame or a tragedy, but this is what Taglieri wants to do. And you know, he really does do it astonishingly well. My only real complaint is that the drum machines sometimes sound a bit too much like drum machines.

    There are plenty of folks out there who still listen to this sorta music. And Taglieri is worthy of attention. It may not be my bag, but I'll give Taglieri his props. He's got some serious chops.

    Taking Back Sunday
    Tell All Your Friends
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    So the thing about emo is that it is a decidedly simple punk form. At least, that's how most bands approach it. But when you consider that Jawbox and Treepeople certainly qualify as major influences--and when you think about bands like the Appleseed Cast--well, that theory just all goes to hell.

    Which is fine. Taking Back Sunday is an emo band. Hard to say otherwise. But the guys throw so much into each song that any label is a tenuous one. There's plenty of power pop, complete with ragged-but-true harmonies. There's the standard unadorned guitar sound, though the lines that instrument creates are all over the map. And then there's the way the songs fall together in a loosely manic fashion.

    Beautiful and crazy, sure, but utterly crafted. I just love it when a band can hide all the seams the way these guys do. Ideas flit to and fro, crashing into each other and creating entirely new thoughts. The definition of good music. And the lyric themes are just as strong.

    Heartbreaking in its pure, gorgeous intent, this album extends the sound of emo. And that is never a bad thing. The potential here is immense; the present achievement is unbelievable. In the end, I'm rendered speechless.

    Talking to Animals
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Juliana Nash has the huge alto voice to kill for. And Talking to Animals does its best to give that voice a context in which to make a big statement. And the songs float and swoop in a pretentious anthemic dance, hoping to catch onto some scrap of importance.

    Big rock in the biggest of ways. Like the last couple Concrete Blonde albums, perhaps. The main problem is that most of the songs aren't about much of anything at all. The lyrics aren't so much mystical as simply mystifying. Never confuse incomprehensible with deep, okay?

    I kinda like the huge sound. It's pretty cool, and Nash's voice is certainly impressive enough to carry even the most inane of lyrics. It's just that there seems to be the implication here that something grand is going on.

    And it's just not so. Hey, I appreciate shooting for greatness as much as the next fool. As long as true greatness isn't bestowed upon mere pretenders. Talking to Animals has the tools, but not the game. Yet.

    A Little Space Left
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Tamara (Feinman, just to be formal and all) sings basic folk songs, strumming a guitar and singing with a voice that reminds me of Nanci Griffith (high-pitched, but strong).

    The songs tell stories, just like they should, and the stories are wonderfully subtle in the telling and wise in the philosophy. The sort of stuff that could be easily washed away by a big recording budget and lots of studio tricks.

    But luckily, Tamara either didn't have the cash or (I hope) has the wisdom to know how to present her songs. Doesn't matter which; the results are great.

    I do wish the songs had a bit more bite. Occasionally, Tamara seems to hold back a bit, and that extra notch of intensity might really kick the songs up another notch. Still, these are nice pieces. A well-done set.

    Tammany Hall Machine
    Tammany Hall Machine
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Four guys from Austin who sound like four guys from anywhere trying to make old-fashioned rock and roll. Well, more like an indie-rock take on the bar band ideal. Which is something I can handle in an instant.

    So there's a bit of navel-gazing and then some tambourine jangle. The lyrics aren't too complicated, but they tell some fine stories. You know, kind of a comfy suit sorta sound.

    The production is where the band does show its true stripes. This is a stripped down, simple sound, with just a bit of reverb and enough electric piano to fill in the gaps. Oh, and there's a bit of lap steel, but let's not screw with my theorizing, okay-dokey?

    Just a fine album put together by some folks who obviously know how to make a song really sing. It's not complicated or pretentious or anything like that. Tammany Hall Machine is simply good. And that's more than enough.

    Amateur Saw
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    More seriously rocking piano music. Well, Tammany Hall Machine relies a bit more on its guitars, but the piano is front and center often enough. And these boys do rock. Seriously.

    Did I mention the trombone? The vibes? For band geeks (sorry, but it takes one to know one), these guys like to make things really loud. Reminds me a lot of a looser, more vicious version of ELO. Good hooks with a ferocious bite.

    Some of those hooks do get a little lost in the mix. The sound here can be slightly flat (as in texture, not key), but that is resolved somewhat when the volume is increased. And, truly, this is music best appreciated loud.

    I've finally figured out the theme for this issue: throttle pop from the 70s. Or, you know, folks influenced by the folks who were influenced by Abbey Road. Tammany Hall Machine fits right in with that description, and I have to say, it does this sound proud. Don't forget to play it loud.

    City Out of Time
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    I haven't listened to stuff like this since I was in junior high school. Keyboard-drenched AOR stuff, from the Journey and Survivor schools of thought. Which should prove that while I may not like it, I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there would groove on it.

    Though if Tandym really wants to move up into the world of big league music, the songwriting will have to sharpen up significantly. The choruses are too weak to really support that "sing-along" appeal, and in my opinion, the guitars need to make a bit more of an appearance.

    On the other hand, this stuff is a perfect recreation of the biggest sound of the mid-80s. A frightening thought in my book, but then, I've got a Toto album on my shelf.

    (Owned & Operated)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Yer regular sludge trio, with just enough grooves to keep the sound moving in the right direction. This album was recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini. No complaints there, but I've gotta wonder why not record at your label's home base with Bill Stevenson and company at the helm?

    But why worry about such silliness? There's an entire album here to critique. And while this is competently executed fare, it doesn't often rise to a decent level of excitement. Oh, the bashing is all good; I mean, crashing about is good for the soul. But past that, I'm not thrilled.

    The production is typical Albini. A wonderful guitar sound (a wonderful musical sound in general) and merely average treatment for the vocals. Though I can't say that there is a whole lot of be done with throaty hollering. That's not a put-down, by the way. I like a good hearty howl as much as the next guy.

    This just doesn't get me hard. It happens. It's decent, most certainly listenable. Just in the average range, that's all.

    (Germo) Phobic
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    I have this theory that Albuquerque is a long-lost suburb of San Diego. I mean, Rocket FTC and Drive Like Jehu have been through there a gazillion times, and my brothers (the Lies guys) have been raving about Tanner for as long as I can remember. The first gig they saw was at the Dingo, though don't quote me on that.

    Whatever. Tanner sounds a lot like the San Diego punk ideal, which means lots of extra sauce. Oh, the chords are basic enough, but they're never played the same way twice, and most songs have a rambling sorta construction that only makes sense if you let go of your seat and grab the big sound wave pipeline.

    A little clunky at times, but generally chock full of action. As with RFTC, the band is at its best when all of the extraneous nonsense is dropped for two bars and the band simply clicks on a basic groove before once again departing for the nether regions of good musical sense.

    And never without a big-ass punch. Tanner is best appreciated loud, turned up to 11 or even 12. There isn't a whole lot of distortion in the sound, but when you crank your stereo right up against the limit, enough gets generated. Trust me, the sound is sublime.

    A head-first drop into adrenaline madness. Don't ask Tanner to make sense, and the guy won't put you in the hospital. Otherwise, all bets are off.

    Tappan Zee
    The New Luxury
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Subdued, somnambulistic pop. But just because it moves slowly doesn't mean there aren't some truly intriguing ideas flowing. In fact, the band's flow is one of the more impressive features of the disc.

    And that's what Tappan Zee does best: Connect the dots. Putting all the parts together into a coherent and attractive whole couldn't have been easy, and yet, here it is, all done up in a neat package.

    And when I say subdued, I'm not talking Codeine subdued. More like the Moon Seven Times (Anne Viebig's vocals in particular), with perhaps an additional kick. This is not dull stuff; it's just not bouncy power pop.

    A bit more introspective, and that's fine with me. Tappan Zee takes its time to explore a few thoughts, and the process is a pleasant one. I'll take this ride any time.

    Static 7" split with Jawbox)
    (Dischord/Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    Each band does the other's song called "Static." A really brilliant marketing idea. Imagine if this caught on. Laura Branigan doing the Shadows of Night tune "Gloria" (and vice versa, if any of those folks could be rounded up). Or if Helen Reddy and Samantha Sang traded places on the "Emotion" tunes they released close to each other. Or if you could hoist Tennessee Ernie Ford from the grave to record Genesis' "That's All" (and back again). I think I'll stop while I'm ahead.

    The Jawbox song is much better, by my reckoning, or perhaps I should say the Tar performance is better. Whichever. Who ever thought this up is a fucking genius.

    Now if only My Dying Bride were to write a song called "Tragedy", and Barry and boys decided to give it a whirl...

    The future is boundless for this stuff. Amazing.

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

    I've always thought of Tar as down'n'nasty, with the occasional pop overtone. This EP is showing definite signs of anthemitis.

    Yes, the same thing that struck almost all the "big" Seattle acts a couple of years ago. Now, this can lead to some great pop tunes, as it does here. And if it stops at this level, everything is bliss, because this is more attractive and tighter than the Tar I once knew.

    I really thought the sound on the split single with Jawbox was odd, but it flows right into this effort. Cleaning up is not necessarily bad. Less ranting and more raving are okay by me.

    The hardcore fans may be a little disappointed, but I see big things ahead if Tar stays right where it is.

    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Consistency. When you get a Tar record, you know exactly what you're getting. The tempo rarely changes, and the noise level is altered even less. What's most amazing is that the songs are rather distinct anyway.

    Part of that has to do with an excellent rhythm section that simply pulverizes anything in its path. And the vocals are still evolving, even more clear and melodic than on Clincher.

    Another T&G band that deserves more play on the loud side than it gets, Tar have become one of the better post-punk outfits around. Well, their record deal proves that. But their output is also rapidly becoming most impressive. If you listened to them three years ago and didn't get it, give 'em a try now.

    Over and Out
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    Purportedly the end of Tar, but then, that's what Killdozer said some years back. Now, I would rather have Tar around any day, so this kinda bums me out.

    Over and Out continues the fine Tar tradition of awesome rhythm work and almost-tuneful vocals while sticking to the regular T&G noise universe. The songs are a little more crafted and better produced this time out (this is certainly Tar's most mature album, and the band has had a tendency to improve over time), which might lead to more mainstream acceptance even as the folks have called it quits.

    Well, never say never. If this is so long, it's a hell of a send off. Easily the best Tar album of the bunch (though not quite as noisy as the early ones), Over and Out does the band proud.

    Paper White/Big Black Square EPs
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    While I got these two EPs on one CD, I'm guessing they'll be available separately. Which is the right thing to do. Because while Paper White and Big Black Square consist of pieces recorded during the sessions for the band's last album, We Move Through Weather, they are two completely different works.

    Paper White is four songs. Actual songs, that is, composed and crafted and all that. Tarantel's near-obsessive attention to detail is in full force here. These songs may wander, but only along a carefully prescribed path. I love the way these guys manufacture an environment and then move within it.

    Big Black Square is an extended improv (45 minutes in all), and it sounds like one. The feel is loose and very amorphous...a completely different side to the band. It's interesting to hear how ideas get worked out amongst the members of the trio. While this doesn't sound a bit like the band's well-sculpted "composed" works, the thought process of the band remains. A most interesting piece.

    Like I said, I think these EPs will be available separately. Paper White will be instantly accessible to all fans, and certainly carries on the ideas of We Move Through Weather. Big Black Square is a much more difficult work to get into, though I think those who find the time and the energy to do so will be justly compensated.

    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    Cello. Violin. Guitar. Bass. All sorts of percussion. Four people making music that has classical underpinnings but branches out into jazz (many varieties), rock (ditto) and folk (in the old old-fashioned sense of peasant dances and such). Which means, of course, that it's "classical" after all.

    Think Dirty Three on steroids. Whereas that trio is roughhewn and ragged (and wonderfully so), this quartet is shiny and tight. The songs are produced with a "big rock" sound (the almost clinical bass takes preeminence), and that adds an extra element of drama.

    Five songs. Twenty-nine minutes. These folks call it an album, and I'm in full agreement. The sweep and grandeur of these pieces is mind-blowing. Just when I figure a song has riffed its final variation, another ace summation comes along. Sometimes a surfeit of creativity can make music sound cluttered. Tarantula somehow spins all those ideas into gold.

    There is a market out there for great music, regardless of genre. Tarantula really can't (and, I think, doesn't want to) claim any particular label for itself. It shouldn't. "Great music" should suffice. Let the posers wilt. Brilliance like this can't be hidden forever.

    Avey Tare
    and Panda Bear
    Spirit They've Gone Spirit They've Vanished
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Whereupon the experimental electronic musings of Panda Bear come into contact with a certain Avery Tare. The result is recognizable as pop music, if only barely.

    What's much more obvious is the penchant of all involved to push the envelope of (possibly) accessible music. The casual listener might be confused by the substitution of distortion for a lead guitar lick or by the general lack of a discernible bass line.

    But that sort of thing won't matter to the intrepid, the brave few who actually enjoy spelunking in a musical cavern such as this. Tare and Panda Bear (kinda weird how that rhymes) have concocted a stirring stew of noises, all vaguely put together in the same format as your favorite power pop songs.

    Except, of course, this sounds nothing like that. I like the effort, though. Creativity like this is highly invigorating. However these folks come together, this album is proof that it was a very good idea, indeed.

    Tattoo of Pain
    Vengeance Is Mine
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    AKA the further adventures of the Lords of Acid. Personally, I have been extremely disappointed by all LOA releases since that classic first album, and it's nice to hear Adams and Khan move on a bit.

    Well, there's still a model growling a bit, but the predominant vocals are male. This is much more industrial metal than heavy house. Kinda like KMFDM meets Pantera meets the Lords of Acid, ranging through all the common and uncommon terrain.

    The best moments are catchy, upbeat anthems like "Live My Life" or flat-out speed rushes like "Age of Corruption" (the latter reminds me of Bloodstar). Stuff that rolls out and pleases immediately. Most of the songs are horribly overwrought, with excessive guitar pyrotechnics and horribly sloppy songwriting. Indeed, this emphasis on mindfuck riffs completely obliterates some songs that otherwise had potential.

    This rates slightly better than recent Lords of Acid, simply because about half the songs are at least listenable. Still, on the whole, this rates as a disappointment. That bums me out more than you might guess.

    See also Lords of Acid.

    Tattoo Rodeo
    Too Daze Gone CD5
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    I thought this band was made up of a bunch of posers when it was on Atlantic. The dropping seemed appropriate. The guys played silly anthemic glam music that even Poison in its prime couldn't sell to the masses.

    And that's what this single is. A warmed-over rehash of why metal in the late 80s sucked.

    End transmission.

    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    I know exactly who this sounds like, but I remember hating that band so much that the name is burned from my memory.

    This is so calculated the liners include a picture of the slide rule used to find precise glam trends used in the production of this disc. And man, does it suck.

    To actually list the reasons why this album is dreadful would be pointless. It takes only listening to the first song and single, which turns out to be one of the better things here. Overwrought, overproduced and way too pretentious. The timing is curious: these guys want to be big arena rock star gods when the only bands who fill arenas are hypocrites who claim that being a rock star is stupid.

    I'll give them one point for honesty. That still leaves them in the red.

    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    I got this e-mail a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to hear some experimental electronic music from Germany. I'm sure you can imagine my reply. Two words, beginning with the letter "f" and ending with the letter "h".

    So I've been waiting on this puppy for a bit, and now I've slotted it into the discer. There are three pieces, each segmented into movements or something. The liners don't really have any explanation, and even if they did, they'd probably be in German. Not much help.

    What I can say is that the stuff is wonderfully experimental, playing with both beat and musical conventions. The pieces are built around unusual sounds, strange samples and some great imagination. Rather than sticking to any one style, Taureau rambles... a lot. But in this mellow, trippy, take some chances style, that's probably the only way to go.

    My answer to the question is still "fuck yeah," by the way. I'll take sonic musings like this any day. Lotsa fun and even better, it put my mind in some strange places. You just can't find good drugs like that every day.

    Derek Taylor
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    Perhaps this is what a James Hetfield solo album might sound like. Lots of thick, chunky chords and not much silly fret burning.

    But then again, some coherent lead work would be nice. The songs aren't constructed as much as simply spliced together. Here Derek played a heavily distorted sitar, here Derek slings sludge, here Derek runs his fingers up and down the neck of the guitar a couple times.

    And the same riffs keep getting recycled. Some tracks, like "Elasticity", show off the best of what this form can offer: a thick yet fluid lead line, decent (if a little repetitive) riffage and a solid line through the song. But much of the rest just doesn't quite come together.

    A noble effort. I wish more people would try to create truly original solo guitar albums, which Taylor has done very well. I'm afraid I just don't like the end result here.

    Johnny Taylor
    Tangled Up in Plaid
    (Stand Up!)
    reviewed 2/11/15

    I have pretty high standards when it comes to stand up albums. Bob Newhart, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby (yes, I know, but "Spanish Fly" aside they're still brilliant), Eddie Murphy and, of course, George Carlin. I actually prefer albums to videotaped "specials," but most folks do not write good enough material to warrant an album. I'm much more forgiving when it comes to live shows. Some styles of comedy don't translate well to recording. Lenny Bruce's skit albums are hit-or-miss, and Don Rickles should never have made an album. Don't even talk to me about Dane Cook. Just don't do it.

    Observational humor works best on an album, and the greatest routines transcend the subject material. Most comics talk about themselves, but the best create a character that serves as their proxy--and they work that character so well that you believe they're talking about the real person.

    Johnny Taylor wants to be old school. His album cover is a spoof on Newhart's Button-Down Mind albums, but he's a storyteller like Pryor. His humor relies a bit too much on the specifics of his set-ups and at times doesn't get to that second level, but the way he delves into the dark sides of personal embarrassment is impressive.

    The highlight of the set is "Gay," a rumination on Magic Mike and the not-irrational desire to have rough sex with Channing Tatum. His constant refrain of "I'm not gay, but. . ." is hilarious and illuminating. Sexuality is complicated, but Taylor's character tries to keep it simple. He builds up his straight cred even as he blurts out his desire for Channing Tatum--a desire that manifests itself only when watching Magic Mike. It's fall-over hilarious and true.

    Taylor is willing to go where most comics don't. He's unafraid of any subject, and he's able to generate laughs with stories about how awful he is. Or at least how awful his "Johnny Taylor" character is. Taylor is completely convincing as the schlub who blunders his way through a serious of awkward situations and then proceeds to completely fuck up. In order to make his stuff transcendent, he needs to find a way to make his embarrassment more universal. Right now, these are more his stories than our stories. But many of his routines ("Gay" is the standout) show his potential. I'd go to one of his shows any time.

    Kim Taylor
    I Feel Like a Fading Light
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    Standard woman-with-a-guitar singer-songwriter stuff. Kim Taylor sings songs of personal experience and puts them in a contemplative musical context. Sounds perfectly ordinary. But it's not.

    Part of it is the exceptional production on this album. The mood is generally restrained, but there are some fine arrangements here. Plenty of piano and organ, harmonica when needed and even a few electronic beats. Everything fits perfectly together and gives Taylor's songs room to shine. And they do.

    While I'm not much for lyrics, Taylor's are impressive precisely because they fit perfectly within the songs. There are no manifestos here, nothing mawkish or absurd. Just a woman speaking her mind in a calm conversation. How...adult.

    Maybe that's not what you want to hear, but I'm always in favor of real ideas expressed confidently rather than with bombast and pomposity. Somehow, subtlety impresses me more than shouting. And by being subtle, Taylor should earn a lot more attention. Most intriguing.

    Little Miracle
    reviewed in issue #321, October 2010

    Kim Taylor's voice is a bit ragged and raw. That fits her folk-pop songwriting style quite well. Indeed, these songs are served well by the lack of polish. Lends an air of authenticity. This album may be quiet at times, but Taylor smolders throughout. She sings from a source of power.

    Otis Taylor
    White African
    (NorthernBlues Music)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Otis Taylor plays the rural blues in the fashion of Robert Johnson, ringing out a lead line and a rhythm line at the same time on an acoustic guitar. He does dress up his songs now and again with some banjo, harp, bass, electric guitar or mandolin, but the power of this music comes from Taylor's picking and howling.

    And can he howl. Taylor has a raspy, yet resonant voice. His guitar was recorded so as to emphasize the lower notes and the echo, and his voice rings out above the growl of his picking.

    Taylor writes the blues. Songs about death, pain, suffering and the odd mystical experience. He brings his issues, his messages to the forefront without being preachy. Rather, he's just telling a story or few. Unpleasant stories, to be sure, but his presence compels attention nonetheless.

    A testament of rage and anguish. Much like Patty Griffin's Living With Ghosts, Taylor doesn't shy away from heavy subjects. He leads with his playing and then follows with his voice, a vicious one-two punch. Few artists could match the power of Taylor's presence on this album. For once, the term "awesome" is an understatement.

    Respect the Dead
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Otis Taylor's White African is one of the great blues recordings of all time. His storytelling prowess is all but unmatched. His voice is a perfect, expressive rasp. His willingness to experiment with both vocal styles and musical forms is impressive. Any album of his is welcome in my house.

    Anyway, that's how I felt after hearing just the one album. After just one listen to this disc, I sit in amazement, wondering just how it is Taylor hasn't been hailed as one of the greatest musicians of our time.

    These songs transcend time and place. Yes, each is its own story, with specific plot and angle. But Taylor turns each one into a living lyric, with themes that will stand even after the particulars are forgotten. I haven't even begun to really discuss Taylor's use of guitar, banjo, harp and voice. He likes to create loops--loops that are played, not simply spliced together. He generally plays these cycles off of each other. Sometimes he has more than one loop on a single instrument. The collisions are mind-blowing.

    No matter what sort of music you love, Otis Taylor plays music that you cannot ignore, music that will burn itself into your heart. Good music is good music, but brilliance like this is simply too awesome to hide behind a label. Someday Otis Taylor will get his due. I just want to be around to see that happen.

    Paul "Snowflake" Taylor
    Share It!
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Having played for many better-known artists, Paul "Snowflake" Taylor is now striking out on his own. He's a great musician with a spectacularly unsteady voice.

    He knows this, and so he writes songs that give his reedy and often off-key vocals a fair cushion. This is rock and roll, after all, and having nice pipes has never been a requirement. As long as the proper emotion is conveyed, technical ability is secondary.

    More remarkable, though, is that the music is often almost unbearably gorgeous. And when Taylor's voice starts warbling, the first instinct is often to run and hide. But after a few bars, everything starts to make sense.

    Perhaps the best label for Taylor is "songwriter-singer." That's certainly the proper order, though I think a case can be made for the vocals on this album. They're not great, but they serve the songs well. Which is all anyone can ask.

    Sally Taylor
    Apt #6S
    (Blue Elbow)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    You might think that the daughter of Carly Simon and James Taylor might have an aptitude for music. That she'd have a nice voice. That she'd tend toward a mainstream sound.

    You'd figure correctly, though that last assumption isn't quite right. The music is grounded in anthemic roots rock (a strange, but viable combination), and Taylor's voice is brassy and supple, not unlike her mother's. While not exactly what you might expect, the result is still within what might be anticipated.

    The production created a strong, aggressive sound, exactly what Taylor's voice requires. Anything less would have been utterly overwhelmed. But the vocals are also treated correctly, overdubbing some harmonies to thicken the sound even more.

    Not a throwback or a marked departure from the music of her parents, Taylor instead created a confident and smart album that plays directly to her strengths, inherited and otherwise.

    Scott Taylor
    Blues Kitchen
    (Fetal Records)
    reviewed 1/11/17

    I recently reviewed Harvey Mandel's new album, which is a kaleidoscopic look at the blues. Scott Taylor takes a much more single-minded approach, fusing John Lee Hooker-esque licks from Tony Fazio with some fine harp and organ. This is a trip through the southern urban blues, and Taylor is a fine guide.

    Or, as one of my friends put it, "That's what the blues are supposed to sound like." In a way, that's true. Taylor sticks to the tried and true, and he howls with the best. This is an album almost overflowing with emotion. Taylor does wrong and is done wrong in equal measure. Life is a series of trials and tribulations. And at the end, the listener is bound to feel a lot better.

    Taylor hails from D.C., but his sound is much more Memphis than Maryland. He's careful to throw in plenty of Chicago as well, as the second city was the home of southern blues for decades. Now that it's safe (ish) to move back, the blues have resettled the south. Which just means more marinade for all of us.

    Taylor doesn't reinvent anything on this set, but he sure serves up a fine blues platter. Plenty of greens, plenty of pork. If anyone is in need of a soul infusion, this album can cure the most anemic blood. Get down, then get on up.

    Team Me
    Team Me EP
    reviewed in issue #329, August 2011

    Alright, so there is a pretty serious Arcade Fire vibe to these electronically-tinged Norwegian rockers. Team Me does pretty well to move past that with the five songs here.

    Of course, "moving past that" means moving more into Flaming Lips or Shins territory (depending on the song). There's only so much room to maneuver in this somewhat limited sound. Which is why it's that much more impressive that these songs pricked my ears so.

    Lovely stuff, buffed up to a brilliant shine. And there's just enough soul to keep these songs from getting brittle. I'll have to hear a full-length to see if my enthusiasm is justified.

    The Tearaways
    The Ground's the Limit
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Lost in the 80s. At least the Tearaways improve on the model. This is rootsy pop-rock that meanders somewhere between the Hooters, Tom Petty and Night Ranger. Now, that said, the songwriting here is a lot more solid (well, at least it's much closer to Tom Petty quality-wise than the other two), and the songs don't get into heavy cheese.

    Still, it's hard-rockin' fare with some of the edges dulled by keyboards and earnest vocals. And it is right out of high school for me. I've heard a few bands the past couple of years that have tried to do exactly this sound, and they to a one failed miserably. Usually there was an overemphasis on the keyboards and a tendency toward insipid choruses. But even on a ballad like "I'm Lost", the Tearaways manage to keep things from getting too, um, icky.

    Another big advantage is the reliance on the songs and not on punchy production. The sound is fairly sparse, and when the keys come in, they are used as an instrument and not as some drenching effect. Nothing is overstated, proving that at least one 90s trend is helpful in resurrecting an older sound.

    I still play Midnight Madness from time to time (the only decent Night Ranger album, of course), and the Tearaways fit in that tradition very nicely. Yeah, it helps to have been inculcated in that sound, but hell, why not revel in reminiscence from time to time?

    In Your Ear
    (Pinch Hit)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Living in L.A., it's easy to hit a time warp. The Tearaways have updated their sound somewhat, but the basic roots are still in basic 80s AOR (the first Bon Jovi album, with a healthy dose of Tom Petty). Not a bad thing, really.

    Still, the first song is "Angelyne", which may be one of the better-known L.A. inside jokes, but it's still tres. For some reason, the band never really kicks into top gear here. Almost all of the songs are midtempo or slower. Gotta rave up now and again.

    Now, the guys do real well with what they're doing. The sound is great, and the songs are tightly written, though played with some abandon. Yeah, a kick in the seat of pants now and again would help. But this is still quite enjoyable.

    You know, I grew up on stuff like this, and so I'm not the most objective guy in the world. The commercial viability of the sound isn't high, and even I wish a few things had been done differently. No matter; I had fun anyway. That's always worth something.

    Techno Animal
    The Brotherhood of the Bomb
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick provide the beat-ly brutality and a slew of guest MCs (El-P, Toastie Taylor and Sonic Sum among them) provide the rhymes.

    You know, it's about what you might expect. Loud, crazy loud, profane and excessive as hell. I mean, if you're gonna do it, you might as well do it all the way, right? Yeah, of course.

    And the beats are the bomb. I'm not using vernacular; I'm referring to the title. Earth-shattering, mind-thumping beats with plenty of sonic fire behind them. Gets me in a bit of the ol' Wordsound frame of mind. Boy, do I love creative beastly beat work.

    That's what's going on. Gotta ride this thrill pony all the way into the radioactive sunset. No other choice. Techno Animal hooks quickly and then simply won't let go. These boys have quite the pedigree. This disc is more than worthy.

    See also Godflesh.

    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    If Urge Overkill had been more into Chic than, say, ZZ Top, it might have ended up sounding like this. Teedo wears funk like a cheap suit, blowing away its grooves with plenty of guitar and falsetto.

    There's something kinda sweet about a punky soul band that is most sincere in everything it does. Teedo Bilecky's versatile voice is able to carry the songs as they whip around the stylistic universe. Yeah, it all comes back to soul (and in particular, late 70s soul), but there's so much more going on.

    And yet the sound itself is anything but complicated. The funk is simple and straightforward; the guitars slink around in their shiny suits and Teedo weaves above it all. The combo is tight (there is a core trio, though guitar and drumming duties are shared by many), and the songs never lose their focus.

    A nice, laid-back bit of fun for the end of the summer. Teedo is probably a bit too creative for the masses--certainly, the hands-off production leaves out that oft-annoying commercial punch--but I had one hell of a good time.

    Teen Fortress
    Learning (Everything Has To End For Some Reason I Don't Believe It)
    reviewed in issue #324, February 2011

    Ten songs, twenty minutes. Very punk.

    Well, in theory, anyway. It is true that these songs were recorded primitively. At least, they sound primitive. This album is a solo effort from Zach Doney, singer for Bang Bang Eche, a New Zealand band. And at closer listen, it's obvious that the "primitive" sounds are a result of some serious production work.

    I like that. Maybe he pinned the levels in the mastering, or maybe the distortion came in a little earlier. I dunno. These songs take well to the mess. Kitchy, but cool.

    Doney has described this album as the songs he needed to write so that he could write the songs for the new BBE album. Sometimes catharsis can be even more productive than what comes later.

    Jennifer Tefft
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Jennifer Tefft has a big voice, and she's using it to sing fairly generic anthemic rock. Yes, Alanis and Melissa made big bucks with this kinda stuff, but both of their careers are in turnaround. So why do folks still try to play this sort of thing?

    There are two options. First, there are those who honestly like the stuff. Second, there are those who think they can make money rehashing someone else's stuff. Tefft is definitely one of the first. How do I know? Every once in a while she sheds the mid-tempo cloak and really gets loud.

    Not exactly Hammerbox loud, but more than enough to get me excited. "Control Freak" is a nicely rousing song. The difference isn't just the added aggression of the music. Tefft also sings with full-throated confidence, as opposed to her usual method of shackling her vocal cords.

    I just wish that Tefft would put a little more energy into her other songs. She's got a fine voice, and when she uses it, she sounds great. These songs just don't provide a good enough showcase.

    In Recognition of Your Significant Accomplishments EP
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    I wonder if these guys named themselves after the old Pirates pitcher Kent Tekulve. You remember the series of '79, don't you? The dude with the funny glasses and the submarine throwing motion? Oh well. Anyway, these boys play a nicely rollicking version of noise pop, the kinda stuff that could be called emo. Except that the guitars are a little too melodic.

    That and this music consists of lines that bob and weave, creating meaning at the points where they intersect. Tekulvi has advanced that theory by introducing competing rhythmic lines as well. The overall effect can be distracting--at least when the lines are meandering. But often enough the whole comes together for a minute of serious distillation. Might even call it a shakedown.

    A pretty mess. A mess that isn't messy at all. Just good. When I wondered if the guys knew where they were going, I always received an answer in the affirmative. Nice of them to pay attention to my needs so well.

    with Willard Grant Conspiracy
    In the Fishtank 8 EP
    (Konkurrent-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Most of the time, the liner notes describing a particular project are overblown and excessive. They hype the album more than describe it, and the whole thing ends up sounding like a blow job. On this disc, there's a short description on the back. And it says everything I'm going to say a whole lot better. So if what I say intrigues you, just go find this disc and you'll be properly enlightened.

    In the Fishtank, of course, is a long-running series of short improvisational encounters between bands. Except this time the Willard Grant Conspiracy and Telefunk rehearsed beforehand. The result isn't so much a wild sound that whipsaws between slammin' electronic beats and acoustic guitars but rather a muted confluence.

    The rehearsal allowed the artists time to research and arrange some very old songs (with a couple more modern ringers). The recording sounds almost fragile, which fits the material very well. This disc doesn't have nearly the synergistic improvisational energy of others in the series, but the quality of the collaboration more than makes up for that. Another more than worthy addition to the canon.

    Television Power Electric
    Television Power Electric
    (Gentle Giant) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    If the words "produced by TV Pow" mean anything to you, you might have an idea of what to expect here. Of course, the Gentle Giant moniker ought also to give a clue. A number of noise cognoscenti (including the amazing Otomo Yoshihide) get together to, well, jam.

    If that sounds like an odd concept, you ought to try listening to this puppy. All of the sounds are basically various forms of modulated noise, generated by a host of different means. The photo in the liners is most instructive as to methods.

    Now, if you're expecting harsh, scratchy sounds, think again. This is subtle, often melodic fare. Well, as melodic as controlled distortion can get.

    The control here is what's remarkable. There's a lot more silence than sound here. I'm just knocked out by the subtle shadings these folks have been able to create. This is a noise album that, while not compromising any principles, really has the potential to find a waider audience. Really, really wonderful.

    (D Squared)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    A kinda rambling sorta band from San Francisco. I guess what I mean to say is that Telto's languid take on the groove sound (imagine if Don Caballero and the Cowboy Junkies got together to play Blues Traveler songs. I'm not kidding).

    I think these folks really do have a thing for groove rock; it's just that they don't play it much. There's this almost subconscious feel thing going on, something that I have to ascribe to instinct rather than any solid piece of sound.

    Another way to look at it is that Telto works very hard to not sound like anyone else. These songs lurch, stumble, roll and slip along, sometimes smoothly and sometimes not. I think that the way that works is largely instinctual, as well. Sounds good, anyways.

    And just when I think I've almost got a handle on things, Telto goes and does something different. That's pretty much priceless. As long as these folks keep trying to best themselves, I have a feeling they'll be making good music.

    Temp Sound Solutions
    I. Yobot
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    Kinda like Emperor Penguin on an overdose of noise, served up with a decided deficit of funk. There's this playful aspect to the music and the song titles that makes me smile.

    Still, we're not talking about pleasant pop music. Temp Sound Solutions prefers the dirty side of the spectrum, embracing distortion and just about every other form of electronic disturbance known to mankind.

    And it sounds so...crunchy. Despite the messy results, I think great care was taken in the recording of this album. Whoever twisted the knobs has a finely-tuned ear for harsh sounds.

    The sort of album only the insane can love. I include myself in that group, of course. So it's shuffle off to Thorazine for me. Just don't forget to turn the volume up to 11.

    Pain Based Lifeform 7"
    (Terra Firma)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    This is also meant to be played at 33, and it's much better that way. The TSS boys are in fine form, blasting out power metal riffage in the finest punk style. Raggedy, loud and majestic. Fuckin' hell, man, is this not why we listen to music? The slightest dose of this ought to raise yer testosterone levels a couple hundred percent. Ladies, this slab will grow hair on your chests.

    Turn of the Wheel
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    Combining traditional Irish and British Isles music with traditional prog rock concepts, Tempest tries hard to create a technologically advanced folk music.

    The easiest point of reference is "Bogey's Bonnie Belle", a live version of which appeared on Richard Thompson's boxed set a few years back. Thompson's version was more faithful (and his playing was much more impassioned). Tempest's rendition is much more upbeat, and the band throws in an English dance and a couple Irish reels to boot.

    The notes on each song (as to origins, and exactly what pieces are thrown into the mix) are wonderful and should help anyone who is interested in getting closer to the more traditional forms of the original material.

    I think the prog-rock production is a bit heavy, but Tempest makes up for that with spirited playing. This gives some of the songs, despite the excessive keyboards and such, an almost live feel. And a most successful hybrid album.

    The Templars
    Biaus Signors Frers EP
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Digging into the vaults, the Templars pull out some sessions with other oi boys (The West Side Boys, Asociale and Yesterday's Heroes) and then add some songs that were on the Oi! This is Dynamite! compilation.

    The material is five or six years old, and some of the tracks (in particular the collaborations) sound absolutely horrible. I mean, the songs themselves are better than passable, but the quality of the tapes (and perhaps the recordings themselves) isn't that good.

    Very much a catch-up set for real fans, but still with enough energy to captivate. A worthy run into the past.

    The Horns of Hattin
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Not so much oi as I heard on their recent retrospective EP. There's still a hint, of course, but mostly this is quite melodic hardcore. The music is melodic, the vocals haggard hardcore (though it does sound like Carl is trying to sing in tune). Rough as all get out, and a lot of fun.

    One thing the Templars can do: Crank up the energy level. Even though these songs tend toward midtempo, there's a lot of power in them. Easy to get sucked in by the riffage.

    The sound is much better than the EP. It's professionally done, something that can't be said for parts of those earlier recordings. Not so professional, though, that it takes away from the primal energy of these boys. Hardly.

    Nope, the joy that is Templars rings out true. You can find better players or songwriters, but I think it would be hard to find a set of guys who play with such easygoing passion.

    Temple of the Times
    Requiem for the Lost Children remix EP
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Some more excellent cyber-edged hard techno. There are five songs and four remixes of the title track. Among all nine tracks (not counting the intro) there's a nice amount of differentiation. Hard to get bored, even with the remixes.

    I know, the band doesn't have full control of how the remixes are going to sound, but still, the four creative new takes are good. As for Temple of the Times, it keeps the sound shaken up a bit.

    Like I said, hard to get bored with this set. If you're in the mood for a little icy techno with a razor edge, this might be worth a taste.

    Black Suburbia
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    The guitars and beats scream "German industrial types", and that's exactly what Templebeat is.

    But this isn't just a rehash of all that has come before. Templebeat has been paying attention to industrial dance and techno trends, and has decided to improve upon a few of them. So while one song may pile-drive you into the carpet, the next is just as likely to be a club-ready mondo disco tune.

    With plenty of experimental touches all around. Templebeat hasn't so much crafted a new sound but provided a worthy sampler of the state of dance music today. Guitars, drum machines and synthesizers coexist in peace, but there's not much harmony. After all, we don't live in a pretty world.

    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    Any album that comes with a replacement cover must have something interesting flowing through it. This is the second Templebeat disc I've had cross my desk in the past couple years, and this puppy is much more experimental than the first.

    And the extra messiness helps downplay the obvious generic nature of the riffs and vocal distortion. Without all the little tricks, Templebeat would be merely mediocre. But all that "stuff" more than makes up for a generic base formula.

    Add in a weird cover of "You Spin Me Round (like a Record)", one that is so ponderous that it's almost impossible to imagine any club play. Of course, this plays right into Templebeat's avowed media manipulation campaign.

    All the bells and whistles don't lift Templebeat up into the stratosphere. Mediasickness is a fine concept, with a few nicely realized tracks, but the overall effect is left understated.

    Temporary Hero
    reviewed 12/29/15

    Did you catch Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong's almost note-for-note remake of the Everly Brothers second album? It was great fun, though on an artistic level one had to wonder why their rendition hewed so close to the original.

    Temporary Hero leaves no such questions with Chet, his reimaging of Chet Baker Sings. Rather than a band, he uses multitracked vocals and his rather sterile electronic arranging style to come at these standards from a completely different perspective. Indeed, there's no purpose to listening to the two albums back-to-back. Nothing is the same, starting with the sequencing.

    Well, almost nothing. The sense of pleasure listening to an artist find something unique and amazing within well-worn tracks is always entrancing, and both Baker and Temporary Hero solve that puzzle with seeming ease. These arrangements create entirely new songs--not to mention a growing sense of wonder.

    Given his track record so far, I wouldn't be surprised if Temporary Hero took a deep dive into something like Bad Religion's No Control. I can only imagine how he might approach "You." But it's the genius of an album like this that brings such flights of fancy. Right now, it seems that Temporary Hero can do almost anything. Time will tell if that turns out to be true. Until then, we have magic like this.

    Ten Benson
    Benson Burner
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Just when I was worried that Jetset was succumbing to the ugly disease of trenditis, here comes Ten Benson. The stuff is nothing less that southern-fried kick-ass rock and roll. Except, of course, that these boys are from England. Kinda like the Cult that way, I guess.

    And there is a "basic rock and roll played really fucking loud" ethos that these boys share with the early Cult. Ten Benson is decidedly cruder (one song is a ode to "teenage tits"), but that just makes these boys so much more charming.

    I'm a sucker for this kinda full-frontal attack, myself. Why hide behind pretense when you can just lay everything on the table (and lay it loudly, to boot)? The production has left a serious edge of distortion on the sound, and that, too, simply adds to the mystique. Damn, this stuff sounds mean.

    Goddamn, what a big wad of fun. I haven't been on such a fine joyride in months. Ten Benson will never win a Grammy or be invited to play the "Old Time Gospel Hour," but fuckitall, man. This stuff is simply concentrated ecstasy.

    Ten Foot Pole
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/14/94

    When you do pop-inflected punk, there are but a few real classy influences. Ten Foot Pole fall dead into the Bad Religion school (you can hear riff and bass line references in nearly every song), ending up somewhere around the Suffer sound.

    Clean enough to understand, with the philosophical bent if not the vocabulary, Ten Foot Pole lives up to its high aspirations quite well. The boys are more than competent musicians, and many songs are unquestionable classics.

    Bad Religion hasn't been down this road in some time, and Ten Foot Pole does a great job of carrying on the pop-punk flame. When an album sounds like this, every jock at the station wants a piece of it.

    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    New singer (Scott is doing Pulley--not to mention the Dodgers--full-time now), but the same old same old. Which is not bad at all.

    The songs are a little looser than Rev, but I don't think that's a terrible thing. The new singer (a certain "Dennis") sounds a lot like Dave Smalley, which lends more of an ALL (or probably more specifically, Down By Law) sound to the whole proceeding. Not that I'm complaining.

    Fun and good. Good and fun. All that stuff. Ten Foot Pole has always been missing that certain "kick" to break them out of the pack, and that doesn't change here. Everything is solid, but there is a little piece that's still missing. Of course, I'm also comparing the bad to the new Pennywise, and it doesn't quite match up (though it's closer than you might think).

    A fine effort. Perhaps I'll find what I"m looking for next time around.

    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    Another dose. Still working that anthemic Bad Religion groove (which I'm not gonna bitch about, oh no), with a somewhat sparser sound. The songs are still laden with muscular hooks, and the lyrics still have a catchy cogency.

    And the band spreads its wings a bit, experimenting somewhat here and there. Take the intro to "Another Half Apology". Hell, the fact that there is an intro makes it experimental in a punk context. The band threw in only what worked. I like that sort of attention to detail.

    I mentioned the sparse production sound. Each instrument and each vocal is clear and distinct, with not much in the way of distortion or mess in any way. Clean and clear. It works quite well with that the band is doing.

    Wow. This has been a fall of great punk albums. Some nice numbers from Asian Man, Fat Wreck and of course, Epitaph. Don't know who to credit with this resurgence in punk quality, but I'm more than willing to reap the rewards. This is easily the best Ten Foot Pole album, and that's saying something.

    Ten Hands
    Be My Guru
    (Slipped Discs)
    reviewed in issue #10, 3/31/92

    I started off listening to this disc by wondering where the real Elvis Costello had been hiding for years. Then the funk slowly settled in and I realized I hadn't heard stuff like this since the first Bourgeois Tagg album (which I still love).

    Oh, this has a little reggae thrown into the mix, and the lyrics are a little more serious than clever, but that feel is there. Hard to describe, really. I think it's the way the instruments combine in a way normally seen as cacophonous, but in reality is a perfect blend.

    On the writing side, the songs jump around stylistically, but the vocals are always coolly understated. No grandiose pomposity. Just honest readings.

    Okay, so this isn't the next huge mondo-seller. It's a nice little album. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's rather cool, actually.

    A Ten O'Clock Scholar
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    Moody pop stuff that veers from really dull (and annoying) to fairly interesting. With little warning at all.

    A constant is the highly distorted vocal track and fairly messy guitar playing. Actually, it's not like anything about A Ten O'Clock Scholar is tight. I prefer the band when it gets going, because then at least the stuff isn't whiny. But it's still not terribly good.

    Art music for the garage set. Pretentious tunes by people who don't have a lot of musical talent. A lack of talent does not preclude anyone from a career in music, but in that case it helps to write songs that don't expose your lack of skill. A lesson missed somewhere here.

    On the plus side, these guys play with a load of panache and really believe they are making a statement. While somewhat adding to the horror, I applaud their stab at greatness. It just didn't work.

    Ten Story Love
    Ten Story Love
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #178, 3/15/99

    "We're a guitar-powered pop band." You know, for as long as I've been doing this, I've never had anyone be so succinct. Well, of course, the letter goes on to drop a number of influences (nicely diverse, as any list which contains both Wilco and Todd Rundgren is likely to be), but I like that core description.

    Of course, they sound most like another of the influences, Cheap Trick. And I mean that in a good way. I don't know that any band has been able to match Cheap Trick's mastery of the pop-rock form. And Ten Story Love doesn't. But these songs roll along very well, with some great riffage and nice, tight hooks.

    The sort of band you know is great live. These songs sound like they've been worked out on more than a few stages (even if only three people were in the audience). The production sound is great, better than some major label albums I've heard. Raw enough to keep that essential ragged feeling, but sharp enough to bring everything into clarity.

    Um, this is pretty damned good. If I had a label, I'd sign them. And you know I don't say that a lot. These guys are very good at what they do. I think I'm gonna listen to the disc all over again. And maybe a few times after that.

    Ten Words for Snow
    reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    Back when indie rock cut its teeth, the Cars were huge. Lately I've been hearing a lot of "modern" indie rock artists that sound like Ric Ocasek and company.

    Most of it is probably an extension of the increasing use of piano and keyboards (one of those cyclical fads, I suppose, but one I wholeheartedly endorse), but that combination of punk guitar edge, pop melody and constantly-moving keyboard work was infectious back in the early 80s, and it still is. Ten Words for Snow rips into this sound with both barrels firing.

    To be sure, these guys aren't above going all minimalist now and again (more Luna than Galaxie 500, if you get my drift), but there's a lush feel to many of these songs that helps the basic structures of these songs transcend the "regular" indie rock sound.

    In the end, it is just music. Labels fade and the question becomes "Is it good?" Um, yeah, this is good. Sometimes it's even great.

    (Creative Man-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    The production on this disc is far superior to the punk live recordings Creative Man has released recently. The liners don't tell me who is in this edition of 10cc, an important point. I mean, these can't be all the original members. At least one of them has to have found some sense and given up on playing 20-year-old songs that weren't all that popular way back when.

    What's the point of this disc? Money, I guess. Whatever.

    The Tender Idols
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Seems like more and more Britpop bands are coming from America these days. The Tender Idols take large chunks of the Charlatans, T. Rex and Blur, generally spinning the sound into a downbeat cast.

    And that's my one big complaint. The Tender Idols don't quite have the sonic depth to play moody music quite so much. Though they do give it a game try.

    The songs themselves are well-written, though the arrangements need a bit more heft if they want to connect emotionally. Now, when the tempo picks up and the guitars come to the fore, well, the Tender Idols sail along fine.

    It's just that the boys don't seem to want to play that game. They want to be taken as serious artists or something. This album doesn't quite have that much substance. The potential is there, but there's work to be done.

    (Time Bomb/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Tenderloin was one of the first Lawrence bands to get the major record deal, and it's one of the last to still have one. Probably has something to do with the fact that Ernie and the boys play a version of the blooze an' boogie (they cover an early ZZ Top tune here) and not grunge.

    Funny coincidence: Tenderloin once recorded a song called "Time Bomb", and now it's on Time Bomb. Coincidence? Dunno. Anyway, my memories of this band go all the way back to a predecessor known as the Sin City Disciples.

    That act recorded some stuff for Headhunter, but never quite made it big. Still, it was a lot of fun to get loaded at the Blue Note and place money on when Big Ernie would next edge his jeans down the crack of his ass. Good sport, and always a great time.

    This album is pretty good, but nothing near as much fun as the show, which is one thing Tenderloin has in common with the Disciples. The riffs get a bit clunky, and Ernie gets a little too excited about roughing up his voice for the next holler. And, honestly, these songs were made to played live. They sound okay here, but let me assure you, they'll kick ass down at the pub.

    We're Not Talking About the Universe, Are We (#1)
    (Future Appletree)
    reviewed in issue #280, November 2006

    If there was such a thing as revisionist post rock, these guys are playing it. Rather than using guitars as jazz bludgeons (a la June of 44, one of my all-time faves), these guys let the organs and electronics take the fore. The result isn't really jazz, but it's a good deal removed from the whole rock and roll thing as well.

    It's that whole "good music" idea. Tenki plays interesting, literate music with rock instruments. Every song contains references to rock, jazz, the blues, you name it. And it's all held together by a tenuous system of melodic lines that threaten to break even before they take hold.

    That's where I'm hearing the ol' Chicago via Louisville school of thought. and whaddyaknow? These guys recorded this in Chicago. Alright! So my thesis holds more and more water. As if that matters.

    It doesn't. All I care about is how good any given album is. Tenki has a quiet intensity that burns through this album. Once it grabs you, there's nothing you can do but hold on.

    Tennessee Twin
    These Thoughts Are Occupied 7"
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    A double-shot of traditional country music. Cindy Wolfe fronts this eight-piece. She penned the tunes, too. Good ones. The kind that make listening to trucker radio a pleasure now and again.

    The kinda stuff that made Loretta Lynn a star. Lead line provided by pedal steel (is there a cooler instrument? I think not), with plenty of help from fiddle, guitars and mandolin. Wonderful melodies and some glorious harmonizin' in the choruses.

    If all country music sounded like this, there'd be little disagreement about its quality. Tennessee Twin makes timeless music. This tiny slab of vinyl is hardly enough to satisfy me. Most invigorating.

    Free to Do What?
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Old school old school country, if you know what I mean. Cindy Wolfe (songwriter and field general for the Tennessee Twin) has a penchant for somewhat cutesy clever lyrics, which can get a bit annoying. Thing is, these songs sound too damn good to get mad at for any length of time.

    Almost a full-blown Texas swing orchestra, the Tennessee Twin features fiddle, pedal steel, accordion and mandolin in addition to the usual guitar, bass and drums. Wolfe writes some wonderful two-step melodies, and her arrangements are full and fun.

    Sometimes she tries to say too much with her lyrics (or, more accurately, she tries to use too many words for the rhythm she's established), but most of the time she's dead on. And while the cleverness can grate, it's hard not to smile at a song like "Big Emo Eyes."

    Or the rest of the album, for that matter. This puppy isn't perfect, but its ragged sincerity is refreshing. Exciting, even. Grab your best bolo and go out two-stepping tonight.

    War Cry
    (Grilled Cheese)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Made up of former Exploited, Filth and Lager Lads members, Tension epitomizes the no-frills school of punk. Steady, if fairly pedantic riffage, vocals that range from a growl to full spew and one tempo: fast.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course. I must admit that I kinda started to nod off a bit, but it might have been the massive burrito I just ate. The adrenaline just didn't kick in. And there is plenty here to feed on, certainly.

    Workmanlike production. Nothing exceptional, but good enough. The songs similarly basic. I think fans of the guys' previous bands would be reasonably pleased. No sell-outs here.

    But this doesn't really roust me about, either. A quality disc, though not particularly distinctive. Plug in, though, and see what you get.

    Tera Melos
    Complex Full of Phantoms split LP with ...By the End of Tonight
    (Temporary Residence)
    reviewed in issue #290, October 2007

    ...By the End of Tonight bashes its way through near-manic angular instrumentals. Tera Melos is just as geeky, but there are vocals. Sounds like a winning recipe to me.

    And it is. BTEOT is something of a lighthearted Don Caballero, featuring plenty of strength but also remarkable agility. These songs turn on a dime, but they make sense all the way through. I like the way these songs think.

    Tera Melos plays music that's even more intricate and involved, and the guys play it faster. The vocals tend to be used more like instruments rather than lyrical vehicles--I've always like that approach, myself. Sound at the speed of light, with added brighteners.

    If I haven't lost you yet, this album might. It's high-octane, well, music. Lots of speed, lots of power...almost a sensory overload, really. My brain is bleeding and I couldn't be happier.

    Trash Generator
    (Sargent House)
    reviewed 9/21/17

    Holy King Crimson, Batman! It's a new Tera Melos album!

    Okay, so that's way too simplistic, but the guitar on the first track, "System Preferences" (and, what the hell, the song title itself) is positively Frippian. The full band itself is much more noodly (in a math way) and kinetic (in a can't-help-rushing punk way), but those chords, man. Primal.

    These boys aren't afraid to head out into a good falsetto drone (a la OLD), either. In short, Tera Melos is the epitome of technical, ultra-crafted rock. And yet, its songs are often slinky and mischievous. Such is the glory and mystery of this trio, which has amped up the sound and pared down the histrionics over the years to end up in this wonderful space. Still not particularly accessible, but awfully engaging on so many levels.

    Most of you are probably thinking, "Why haven't you mentioned Ween yet?" No good reason. That's another obvious touchpoint, though I'd reach back to Brainiac for an even better comparison. It really doesn't matter the names; what matters is the company Tera Melos keeps. And increasingly, that company is legendary.

    If you are even slightly interested in how far the concept of rock can be stretched, Tera Melos will do you a solid. This is not music for the masses, but it sure will nourish parched souls.

    Terminus City
    Justice Isn't Always Fair
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Atlanta oi boys who use a "Crazy Train" riff to introduce their theme song. Cheeky, to be sure. And Terminus City doesn't shy away from any of its targets. The chords slash and the lyrics burn.

    It's easy to feed off the energy here. Just pick a song and feed on the adrenaline. Every once in a while, the boys reprise their "Crazy Train" habit, lifting a line from another familiar song. A joke? I dunno. The music just bounds out from the speakers. The sound is sharp, yet thick enough to carry the power of the songs. Just about dead solid perfect.

    Terminus City doesn't worry about rules or anything else. The guys just strap it on and let the riffage fly. Who cares what lies in the wake when the destruction burns so quickly?

    Terminus Victor
    Under Surveillance
    (Innocent Words)
    reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    Back when I was a youth and the world was a garden of earthly delights, there was a band called Arcwelder. I guess Arcwelder is still shambling about Minneapolis, but it's been a while since I've heard this particular mechanical punk sound.

    Which isn't to say these boys are any sort of carbon copy. The drum machine alone is a huge change (Terminus Victor is two guys, and the programming completes the trio), but there's just a certain epic something that provides a pleasant echo to my ears.

    The sound itself is sharp and technical, but not sterile. The guitars wail, the bass slides in next to the drum machine (as it should, as Scott Kimble handles both tasks) and the vocals have that half-AOR/half-industrial sound to them. Very cool.

    So, yeah, maybe this is some sort of bastard child of Arcwelder and Bloodstar (a Swiss metallic industrial duo from years--many, many years--past). That's just fine with me. Loud, vaguely melodic and sweetly acerbic. Ah, yes, that's how I like my tea.

    Terra Diablo
    Deluge Songs
    reviewed in issue #292, December 2007

    Driving, melodic rock with a hint of drone. That last bit is mostly just buzzed-out riffage layering over insistent drumming, but it adds a cool feel to these songs.

    And the key here is insistent drumming. The writing is pretty good, but these songs need to stay in high gear or they'll get lost. Luckily, most of the stuff here keeps punching the pedal.

    Yes, I'm feeding on the energy. But the sound is just as important. A strong (but not overwhelming) guitar and bouncy bass really complement the arrangements. Solid work all around.

    Yes, I know. There is a certain resemblance to Pearl Jam in a raucous mood. I happen to like that sound, and since Pearl Jam doesn't stay in pocket like this for long stretches, I guess these boys will have to do. I'm always happy to bite into the wire and feed on the fire.

    Kat Terran
    Lion & Blue
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Ani DiFranco has a lot to answer for. There are so many women wandering around these days with an acoustic guitar and severely affected vocals--and most of them aren't even a pale imitation of the righteous babe herself. Kat Terran has obviously listened to the DiFranco canon (and more than a little Sinead O'Connor, for that matter), but what she's done is find her own slot in the sound.

    For starters, she likes to populate her songs with unusual lines. An extra guitar here and there. Bits and pieces that combine to create a nice collagey whole. And Terran doesn't warp her voice to the extreme. I think she could sing a little straighter, mind you, but she's nowhere near annoying territory.

    For all the extras in the sound, the production leaves the cores of the songs alone. Good move. Terran has a fine writing voice, and her lyrics match her melodies quite nicely (this is a lot more difficult than it seems).

    Not exactly my cup of tea, but Terran's ability impresses me greatly. She's got a great start on creating her own sound, and she can write with the best of them. As long as she stays adventurous, she's got a shot.

    The Indifferent Universe
    (Wax Orchard)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    Fans of the New Pornographers and the Shins will recognize some similarities. For that matter, fans of Straightjacket Fits will cock their heads when they hear this. Dreamy, excessive pop is all the rage these days, and it seems I get fifty of these albums every month.

    Few do it as well as Terrene, however. It's one thing to promise dramatics and then peter out at the hooks--I can't tell you how many people seem to have been sleeping in English class, or they would have a clue as how to sustain suspense through a song (or story). Terrene's writing builds from both the music and lyrics. Sometimes unevenly, which actually makes the tension that much more intense.

    Phil Ek produced, which is either a stamp of approval or simply proof that some folks are working too hard. I can't speak to the latter, but this stuff should impress anyone who hears it. I wish Ek and the band tried a little harder to craft a more distinct Terrene sound, but that's a quibble. The music is more than inspiring.

    So many bands like this simply create an unholy mess. Terrene manages the chaos and brings each song to its proper conclusion. These boys were paying attention when their teacher was discussing dramatic tension. Good for them.

    Katie Terrio
    Songs from the Overground
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Katie Terrio has the ability to roll her voice in some most endearing ways. She really tries to sell these songs with everything she's got.

    And the songs themselves are pretty good, better lyrically than musically. The problem I hear is that the production job tries to subdue some of Terrio's natural talents. Much of the time her voice is allowed to roll and tumble, but sometimes a heavy hand even drops that in the mix.

    From time to time, there seemed to be this idea that making songs sound more generic would be a good way of getting attention. That much more cheesy guitar, a particularly overfamiliar drum track, that sorta thing. Terrio dosn't need to sound like everyone else.

    When the arrengements are kept simple, Terrio shines. When the bombast arrives, well, even her unique voice gets lost. And that's really a shame.

    Lowest of the Low EP
    (Bridge Nine)
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    My own personal take on extreme hardcore is that the stuff has to get your blood going. Thus, fast stuff with exciting (and often catchy) riffage is what really grabs my ears. If the music actually has something to say, well, that's a nice bonus. Terror scores on all fronts.

    Reminds me a lot of early Anthrax, though this stuff is much better produced. There are some fine, throbbing mosh moments (there's a term I haven't used in ages!). Nothing complicated, just fire-breathing guitar licks and pile-driving rhythms. The power is palpable.

    And the songs themselves are some of the better alienation anthems I've heard in a while. Maybe "You think you fucking know me, but you don't know a fucking thing" isn't Milton or Yeats, but it does pack a nice punch of its own. These guys don't fuck around. Which is one of the reasons I really dig this disc.

    Jesse Terry
    reviewed 11/13/17

    I suppose shoegazer americana indie pop isn't a thing yet. Perhaps Jesse Terry will change that.

    I spent a lot more time than usual with this album. Its warm approachability was immediately apparent, but I had plenty of questions about the depth. Repeat listens do, in fact bring a fuller and wider appreciation.

    Part of it is the genre-blending that Terry engages in. Anyone who could open for Galaxie 500, the Jayhawks or Arcade Fire with ease obviously knows how to blend ideas into a song. The sure-handed performances on this set are proof that Terry understands that presentation is just as important.

    Do not be fooled by the easy-going, spacey title (and first) track. It's great, but the album that unfolds is so much more impressive. This one was built for the long haul.

    Test Dept.
    Legacy [1990-1993]-The Singles Plus More
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    If these are the singles...

    Test Dept. is pretty uncompromising, merging world beat melodies and rhythms, samples of political speeches and other noises along with mellow techno (even ambient at times). This is not unattractive, but also not terribly commercial. The songs are usually constructed to build to a point where all of the various samples are interacting, and then a slow retreat from the whole.

    Sounds like orchestration? Well, that's a fair approximation. Test Dept. blends many sounds together, some sounds that normally do not wander through the same planes together. But it works here.

    When things really cook, Test Dept. shows its true mettle. The sound approaches discordance, but at the precipice things pirouette back towards our universe.

    Highly worthy listening.

    Live at the Fillmore
    (Burnt Offerings)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    A big part of me wants to tell these guys: Wake up! Metallica was first, and they won! Give it up!

    Of course, Testament has always had more European metal influences (even with James Murphy taking over lead duties), and that's why I've also had this soft spot in my heart for the band.

    This set of 14 live tracks and 3 acoustic studio pieces (Unplugged schedulers listening?) is a decent representation of Testament's career, though I think it relies a little too much on the lesser later albums. The production is decently clean, and while I liked Alex Skolnick, Murphy's guitar work is rather impressive.

    But now wither the Testament? Perhaps a final bow is in order.

    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    I figured something had to give. It has been years since Testament recorded an interesting album, and as Metallica has moved on to mellower pastures, I figured Testament might follow suit.

    Instead, a direct 180 from there. This is an album of technical death metal. Chuck Billy's vocals have been processed into a rather ominous growl, and I don't think any more Metallica comparisons will be coming down the pike.

    Fear Factory, perhaps, although Demonic has more of the feel that the most recent Death and Suffocation albums had. So technically proficient and anthemically melodic that it almost isn't death metal, but for Testament, this is quite the move.

    Surprised the shit out of me. After that dreadful live album, I couldn't imagine anything good coming out of this camp. I don't mind saying I was absolutely wrong. This is more than enough to jumpstart the Testament bus and get it moving toward the top again.

    Signs of Chaos: The Best of Testament
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Remember those heady days in the late 80s when bands like Testament and Exodus (and Faith No More, to a lesser extent) were put forth as the next big San Francisco metal band? Well, this disc brings it all back for me.

    I really liked Testament. Sure, there are plenty of Metallica references, but hell, that's pretty much unavoidable. My own personal fave album is Practice What You Preach, which managed to combine the raw power of the band's two releases with a more melodic and commercial approach. And it featured the utterly silly (and yet, strangely compelling) tune, "The Ballad". If that wasn't a complete rip of "Fade to Black", well, I can't say.

    The thing is, for all the metallic pomposity required of such hard rock studs, Testament always seemed to be giving the audience a wink as well. Take, for instance, the previously unreleased covers included on this disc: "Sails of Charon" and "Draw the Line". Yeah, the band showed it's Aerosmith allegiance with a version of "Nobody's Fault" that did appear on an album, but still.

    Testament is one of those bands that perfectly embodied a certain time in music. Yeah, the guys are still soldiering forth, but this collection features mostly stuff from the 80's albums, and that's the right way to go. The best way to put thing is to say you had to have been there. Otherwise it makes no sense at all.

    Physical Violins EP
    reviewed 6/6/16

    Steve Voss is Tetherball. He hangs in Nashville, but his sound is much more 80s indie pop. He has committed to releasing six four-song EPs this year, and so far he's made good. Physical Violins is #2, but a far stronger release than the earlier Pheromone Food.

    Stronger in both quality and the simple muscularity of the songs. Food was a fairly free-form, loose affair. Not bad at all, but a bit too diffuse to make a big impression on me. As an introduction to this set, however, I am starting to hear its virtues.

    And, oh boy, are these four songs great. Tightly-wound minor-key tumblers that always find another darker layer beneath the surface. This EP is where Voss really starts to bare his teeth. In the most tuneful way possible, of course.

    By the end of the year, Voss will have a double album's worth of songs. Given the distance between the first two sets in this series, I can only imagine what leaps are yet to come. I do know that I won't be looking past Tetherball again.

    Alice Texas
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Alice Schneider (who is Alice Texas) has one of those voices that might be described as "dusky." But she doesn't work it in that direction. Rather, she imbues her vocal cords with a much wider range of pitch and dynamics. In other words, she blows that idea away.

    Most of the songs build slowly to a rather shattering climax. But Schneider doesn't stop there. She also throws in a couple of silly pop tunes (played with maximum distortion and disjointed aplomb) and then flitters about a bit. Doesn't matter, though. This album just has that feeling.

    I must admit a certain yen for women who know how to use an alto voice. And Schneider sure knows how to work hers to the hilt. But she also writes songs that perfectly fit her style. Some people try to force themselves into a sound. Schneider knows what works for her, and she just dives right in.

    Alright, if intense singing (sometimes howling) blaring out over moody music doesn't do it for you, stay away. But I think most folks will be won over by Schneider's full-tilt singing and writing. She went for broke and came up sevens.

    Texas Instruments
    Magnetic Home
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    I can remember giving their last album a mediocre review at KCOU. But I like this a lot better. I can't put my finger on it, but it just seems a lot more interesting.

    Again, for you pure metal types, this is not in that area. Country-tinged college pop is the name of the game here, and I know a lot of MDs around the country who love these folk.

    While they are not necessarily among my faves, this album sure is a purty thang.

    Texas Is the Reason
    Do You Know Who You Are?
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Distortion-drenched guitar pop with an emphasis on heavy hooks. And the shit clicks. Almost every time.

    Best of all, the band refuses to stick to any one tempo or idea, leaving the album with a wide variety of moods and feels. My God, is that fine old world craftsmanship I hear?

    Well, they're from New York, but what the hell. TITR knows how to reach into a songwriting bag of tricks and make sure everything comes out just right. And above all, nothing sounds calculated. With all the obvious work involved, the songs are seamless slabs of pop glory.

    Not sure what else to say. I think the guys could pick the tempo up a bit more often, but the current diversity suits me well enough. Give them a tour and another album, and who knows where these folks will be next time out. Could be legendary.

    Texas Terri & the Stiff Ones
    Eat Shit!
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Straight-ahead punk rawk, with Terri Laird's vocals high in the mix. The production is fairly sharp, with a musical emphasis on the guitars (the drums almost get lost sometimes, which is certainly unusual). And the songs are energetic, if somewhat rote.

    Basic. As basic as basic gets, really. The band hasn't quite figured out that instead of a minute-long live-style song wind-up, they should just fade out, but hell, it's that energy that appeals to me in the first place.

    The songs aren't anything special, except that they are amusing enough to keep me listening, cranking the volume up almost constantly. And trust me, this tape sounds better as the knob limbs higher.

    Loads of fun, if nothing else. Texas Terri & the Stiff Ones crank out high-energy punk with some serious smoke. No nuance, but none is really desired.

    Eat Shit!
    (Burning Tree)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    All the songs from the demo I reviewed last year (newly recorded, I think), plus a nice raft of new ones. Same story as before, hi-octane punk rawk featuring Terri's gravelly hollers.

    No let up in the attack, which is precisely what I want to hear. This isn't music which provokes an evening of deep thoughts. Nope, it is the sound of action, and Terri and the Stiff Ones provide plenty.

    We are talking about mid-70s punk here, thick chords with sand on top. Very basic, and executed to perfection. Sometimes just the facts does the trick. Sure does here.

    What else to say? If primal punk is what's called for, Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones deliver. Turn it up and piss off the neighbors.

    Textile Orchestra
    For the Boss
    (Beta-Iactam Ring)
    reviewed in issue #309, August 2009

    Four players, two songs, forty-five minutes. This is improvisational noise, and it's some of the best I've ever heard.

    Part of that is what the members "play": percussion, violin, "mixing board" and turntables. There's a lot of sound to explore there, and this quartet isn't afraid to go right for the jugular.

    As with any album like this, it helps to sit back and let the music wash over you. Thinking too much about any particular squawk isn't a good idea. The key is the totality of the sound. And these folks really know how to set a tone.

    This really gave my mind lots of room to roam. The long pieces allow for plenty of contemplation, and they also tend to bring thoughts into focus. I don't know how you use this sort of music, but I like to give my mind a tune up. This puppy helped flush the pipes as well.

    Ron Thal
    The Adventures of Bumblefoot
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Bumblefoot is a reference to a thimble Thal wears on one of his toes in order to play a guitar with his foot. This creates some interesting sounds, but I would imagine it would be more entertaining live, just for the spectacle.

    Thal works much more at making his songs sound like, well, songs than most guitar instrumentalists. His style is more laid back and jazzy than much of Shrapnel's lineup (though he does have his shred and prog moments), and I like the feel he imparts into his songs. I can sense a real person behind the playing.

    At times the music does get overbearing and repetitive (particularly when loud; I'm not sure if this is just me or not) and I lose interest. But for the most part, Thal has the best traits of the instrumental guitar player. Above all, this is a fun album (with each song symbolizing a particular animal disease, oddly enough).

    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    One thing I've liked about Ron Thal's work is his willingness to try different stuff. But once he finds something he likes, sometimes it's hard to get him off that kick. You take the good with the bad, I guess...

    That continues here. His instrumental work is a bit stronger, overall, than his last effort. But most of the time on this album he's singing. This isn't that bad, but it does detract from the guitar work. And he's not as good a lyricist or singer as he is a guitarist.

    Still, as a progressive metal album, this scores fairly well. As I noted before, Thal likes to mix things up, and that carries through here. And I'm not trying to rip on his singing; it's more than adequate. I think he might get a little further if he focused on his playing, but that's about it.

    He's not quite to "major statement" phase, but this album is a step in that direction. Thal has talent to spare. More exploration can only help him find more hidden gift repositories.

    Where Thawght Is Worshipped 2.2 12"
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    The title track features Slug, Rob Smith and Mike Ladd. The beats are slow but insistent, all the better for the rhymes laid on top of them. There's an interplay between the guest rappers (sometimes they're even running over each other) that is most impressive. The second track, "Left Behind," follows in the same vein. The intent is knowledge distribution, not bombastic braggadocio. The beats say "Take a chill and have a listen." Good idea.

    A thoughtful pair of tunes, produced with consummate skill. The lyrics do matter. So pay attention.

    The Theater Fire
    Everybody Has a Dark Side
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    The sticker on the jewel box references Calexico, Smog, Giant Sand and Lambchop. And those are reasonable. But I'd add the Silver Jews. In fact, the Theater Fire sounds to me like an almost perfect amalgam of Calexico and the Silver Jews.

    The boys like to play things straight, but in as indirect a way as possible. The vocal melodies are about as stock as it gets, but the arrangements and instrumental lines weave all over the place. Some horns here, a lubricated bass there and plenty of variety in the stringed accompaniment.

    Kinda like a freaky campfire band. Sure, these songs could be basic fare, but the performances lift them to more inspired level. The sound is round and full, which is in stark opposition to the spare arrangements. But it works. All the pieces can be heard, and the sound gives the songs more depth.

    The sort of album that slowly worms its way into your heart. Or, perhaps, storms the barricades right away. You've just got to be open to the possibility, I guess.

    Matter and Light
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    The songs sound like gentle breeze, the eclectic roots music rambling over vaguely-familiar terrain. The subjects of the songs are rather a different sort. This is one hell of a bait-and-switch.

    One that works exceptionally well. The arrangements of the songs are along the lines of Tom Waits's late 90s albums, and that's the direction the lyrics take. Dark days, indeed.

    And so those pleasant sounds are morphed into the dissonant universe of the Theater Fire, and the result is highly unsettling. The spine tingles almost constantly. I interpret that as pleasure. You might see things another way.

    What can't be disputed is the quality of the writing and production. This is complex, intelligent fare that packs a massive emotional punch. The songs suck in the listener immediately and do not let up. Blistering.

    Thee American Revolution
    Buddha Electrostorm
    (Fire Records)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    A couple of years ago, the duo of Robert Schneider (of Apples in Stereo) and Craig Morris put out this album. Fire has decided to give it a further push, including some added brighteners (extra tracks and such). I'm just glad it reached my ears.

    Fans of the Brian Jonestown Massacre will immediately recognize the chaotic references to 60s psychedelia--though these boys take the game much futher. How far? "Grit Magazine" opens up with a stoner rendition of the lead riff from "Smoke on the Water." Yes, it's funny, but there's an even slyer purpose for the rip: The music actually informs the lyrics.

    Indeed, the music sometimes takes a holiday in the land of the absurd, but it is always saying something that words cannot. There's an energy and fire in the fuzzy throb, and I find much more meaning in the music, no matter how far it crawls along the limb.

    One part Zombies, one part 13th Floor Elevators and one part Cheap Trick (not that hard to imagine, is it?), this set is a blistering set of music at its most basically complex. Everything sounds so simple, and yet it's not. Tune in, turn on and turn it up. Dude.

    Thee Annoying
    Composition I
    reviewed in issue #329, August 2011

    Three guys who blister melody into delicious noise. The pieces don't have titles, but rather are listed as "Movement I," "Movement II," etc. That's the first hint that something intriguing is afoot.

    Hint #2 is that one of the members is named "Ten Ticklish Ants." and another is "D.A. Leech." The final member is Michael Mersereau of 15 Degrees Below Zero. So this was either gonna be completely whacked out or pretty damned great. Wait. It's on Edgetone. And so--

    Oh yeah. Great. Undeniably. Meshily melodic and blisteringly noisy (with uber-meta discussions of the songs filtered in as the songs themselves are being played). How many layers are there in this? And does that matter?

    This album can be appreciated on the visceral level alone. The songs throb with excess power. They are pulsating creatures of beauty. Then the deft lyrics and sampled commentaries take the "movements" to the level of greatness. If this doesn't move you, then you need to find some Metamucil or something. Mindfuckingly awesome.

    Thee Hypnotics
    Heavy Liquid CD5
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    Given the current spate of Black Sabbath clones we've had whirl around lately, one question occasionally wandered by: would Thee Hypnotics come around to take advantage of a favorable trend.

    After all, they were Jimi and Iommi when it just wasn't cool. This is just slick enough to entice AOR, while keeping enough wank on the guitar to keep the college types amused. Personally, I'm getting a little tired of this sound, but I have to admit that this is every bit as overblown as the original.

    The Very Crystal Speed Machine
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    As retreads of the late sixties hard rock explosion go, Thee Hypnotics have about as good a feel for the originals as anyone.

    Who could miss the many references to Black Sabbath, Cream and Iron Butterfly (not to mention Deep Purple, Mountain, Uriah Heep and even some Rolling Stones moments)? When a couple of Black Crowes sit in, the bombast gives way to blues for a moment.

    They play the revival game as well as anyone, and this is a fun album to crank real loud (and the mastering does that anyway). Not an original bone in the machine, it still satisfies a certain craving.

    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed 4/10/17

    Natasha Jacobs sings in that affected, dramatic style preferred by a number of avant-folk types. Except that she's leading a minimalist rock band. So, y'know, heavy VU-esque stuff with acrobatic and occasionally ethereal vocals powering the process.

    I've been listening to this for a few weeks, and I really can't get it out of my head. Most of the time, this kind of stuff drives me batty. I'm not a flights of fancy kind of guy, but the combination of Jacobs' vocal wanderings and the spare power of her band is immediately arresting.

    There's plenty of staying power, too. As I said up top, I have been unable to shake this album. And I've tried. Oh man, have I tried. But I finally gave in. The combination of ideas here is unique and powerful. The songs are intricate, playful and intense. And, well, pretty great.

    It's my job as a critic to explain why I like (or don't like) something. My opinion is irrelevant. The reasons for that opinion are what matter. I say all that as an explanation as to why it has taken me so long to write about Thelma. I liked this from the start. I just didn't know why. And I'm still not sure, but I think I'm getting on the right track. Thelma has been there for some time. Bravo!

    The Theory of Abstract Light
    The Theory of Abstract Light
    (Odd Halo-Tortuga)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    It has often been my observation that bands with truly interesting packaging are generally quite intriguing themselves. The Theory of Abstract Light is no exception. Its packaging is two-tone: Blue paper and silver ink. The notes are Spartan, just the personnel (a certain Ben Carr), contact info and song titles. Very stylish.

    As is the music. Carr couldn't have chosen a more appropriate moniker. He likes to play with sonic lines, but generally he's only got one or two in the air at once. Might be a piano and guitar, guitar and electronic noise or some other combo, but he rarely spins too many webs at once.

    The sound range is awesome. This album will test the dynamic limits of your stereo. There are some exquisitely quiet moments, and there are some truly mindblowingly loud portions as well. They rise and fall in somewhat predictable patterns, but being able to guess what might be coming in no way prepared me for what I actually heard.

    Um, yeah, this is another of those abstract music things I love to write nice things about. I figured the name of the band (or, rather, artist) might've tipped you off. If you want to teeter over the edge before being brought back to some semblance of normalcy, this puppy will serve as a fine tour guide.

    Theory of Ruin
    Outfit 7"
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Remember what I said about the Jesus Lizard being an influential band? Well, here's living proof. Theory of Ruin replciates the rumbling, staggering feel of a Jesus Lizard tune and then adds a little bit of its own chaos into the mix.

    The trick with this sound is to keep the groove going. Theory of Ruin does a wonderful job, blowing out these throbbing, burning songs with a stylish panache.

    Oh, the joy of the noise! There are a lot of similar bands who neglect to keep the bass working with the drums. Not here. And once those are tied nicely together, everything can go to hell and complete the sound. Quite well done.

    Caucasian Psychosis
    (1/4 Stick/Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    When the cute sorority girl goes up to the dj and asks for some industrial, she would not expect this. But not only is Therapy? ozone hostile (to borrow a phrase), they have some cool dance beats as well. Yes, moshers and technoids can unite in the love of one band.

    Where FLA and NIN have paved the way for stuff like Godflesh's "Slavestate" and all, this really brings it all together, and adds a bit of the alternative rock sound as well. The songs are mellow enough to have real melodies and (yes) real drums at times, this is cool. And it comes at a time when drinking and dancing are good cure-alls for what ails college students most this time of year: papers, finals, and morbid visions of a jobless future (oops, let that one slip in).

    Trust me: don't ask if you need Therapy? It's a given that you do.

    Of Darkness
    (Deaf-Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #20, 9/15/92

    Grind Core reaches across the pond to strengthen its already-strong lineup. This Swedish death outfit is firmly entrenched in the metal side of things, but they show a great amount of creativity. At times singer Christofer Johnsson manipulates his vocals, not to distort, but just to make them sound more interesting. I can't really describe it; you'll have to hear the results for yourself.

    At times this wanders into the wall-of-sound area, a la Incantation. But then Therion changes course and mutates into another sound. Some definite Cannibal Corpse influences here, and I'm sure you can find many others. But, unlike a lot of other bands, Therion mixes it all up, so you don't get bored. Good show!

    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    When Therion threatens a death-metal opera, it appears the folks mean it. Two full-blown choruses, an orchestra and loads of special guests (including the ubiquitous Dan Swano) accompany the classically-influenced music.

    Yes, it's heavy. And yes, it's good music. Sure, real opera fans would turn up their noses (as would conservative death metal aficionados), but hell, music can't stay stagnant.

    Way overblown, Therion still manages to bring this puppy under rein, keeping the sound light enough to stave off excessive pomposity. And the influences here don't stop at classical music. "Cults of the Shadow" could easily be a Sisters of Mercy tune (and yes, it is one of the songs Swano appears on, and much of the proceedings have a lot more to do with Iron Maiden than Entombed. But Swedes in general have been pushing the extreme envelope for years now.

    Pretty, powerful and extremely well-crafted. Therion seems to have achieved exactly what it intended, and I'm damned happy about it. If this issue is any indication, this whole gothic metal trend is merely picking up steam. And with purveyors as diverse and creative as Therion, Cradle of Filth and My Dying Bride, the future can only hold even brighter moments.

    A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming
    (Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    A sort of odds and ends collection. The main album has a couple of alternate and live takes along with Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden covers. The last seven tracks consist of the soundtrack for "The Golden Embrace".

    These recordings are much more melodic and "retro" metal sounding than the most recent Therion releases. The covers are interesting, I suppose, although "Children of the Damned" is pretty awful. This is certainly one of those "collectors" type packages.

    And as such, there's more than enough to satisfy the basic Therion fan. The level of musical sophistication and sense of adventure is missing, but what remains is solid musicianship and an ear for power melodies.

    The soundtrack portion is mostly instrumental, with some vocal parts singing mostly German or nonsense syllables (la la la, etc.). The music is, well, about exactly what is expected: synth heavy hard rock with lots of classical overtones. Good, but not great.

    For what it aspires to be, this is a good album. I still want to hear more of the latter-day Therion, which is certainly a couple notches above this set.

    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    This is kinda like the usual DHR fare, except less cultured. Therios is really playing over-the-top death metal, but completely torching the recording. Distorting the vocals, underplaying the drums and dropping in the guitars at a strange pitch. Did I mention that this is also highly edited?

    So it's electronic, by proxy anyway. It don't make sense. That's by intent, methinks. I have a feeling that Therios would love to be known as "out there."

    And well, the stuff sure is. What I like about most DHR stuff is that the percussion and beats are generally intriguing. Therios is all about the distortion and vocals. At least, that's what is on top. The songs do have structure, but that's buried in the wail of noise.

    A true mess. That is, of course, the aim of the band, so I figure victory has to be claimed on that point. Am I stoked? Well, strangely, I kept trying to divine more of the structure. And that didn't excite me. There's plenty of noise (in fact, be sure to turn down your stereo; this puppy just about shredded my speakers), sure to get plenty of rocks off. I remain only slightly amused.

    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    The back cover states simply, "Therios does not sample the work of others." I think just about all of the others are saying "Thank God!"

    This, of course, should not in any way be seen as a slag on Therios. These boys crank out some pile-driving, electronic distortion-burning, ear-shredding industrial metal. There's one hell of an unholy racket going on.

    And damn if it doesn't sound fuckin' great. Yes, you do kinda have to be into this sorta extreme sound to really jam on it. This isn't music for the meek-hearted and the tender-eared. Not at all. Therios makes no concession to the mainstream. N'Sync girls will not be grabbing this disc in droves. Hell, Rage Against the Machine fans won't be coming near this thing, either, despite somewhat similar songwriting styles.

    It's a question of execution. Therios refuses to stint on the brutality, and the result is an album of uncompromising aural assault. I really can't exaggerate that point. If Therios isn't the meanest band in the world, the boys are on speaking terms with whoever might be. Ever so lovely.

    No Sleep More Fun
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Talk about split personalities. Theselah begins the album by taking a bit of Codeine, splicing in some of Galaxie 500-style rhythm guitar and then slipping in the elongated lead guitar lines of the mellower side of emo. Bringing down the house, indeed.

    A couple songs down the line, Theselah grinds gears and plasters the speakers with walls of distortion and some stuff that was recorded in most inventive fashion. And then there are songs somewhere in between.

    A song toward the end of the disc seems to sum up what Theselah is all about: "Take It Fast or Take It Slow." Yep. That's about it. Ringing throughout the disc is this really great production job that captures more echo and reverb than I thought possible. While the songwriting isn't exactly consistent, that sound pervades the album.

    Thus saving Theselah from sounding like a rootless band. Much easier for a dolt like me to figure out what's going on here, besides music that sounds way too cool for words. I had some fun and worked my brain as well. Bravo.

    Nice International
    (K.O.A. Records)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    The last Theselah album I heard was all over the map. Not so this one. These are (mostly) soft pop tunes with a real undertow. Alright, so sometimes that sound is accomplished electronically and sometimes it's a band effort. The overall effect is the same.

    And the production sound is just as impressive as I noted last time out. There's this ringing quality to the stuff that must be heard to be believed. As for the sentiments expressed, well, they're hardly sentimental. This is no docile kitty.

    Just because a band plays sophisticated, urbane pop music doesn't mean that it is devoid of emotion or angst. Theselah simply lets everything hang out in the lyrics. Not the vocals, mind you. Generally, those are sung with the same smooth veneer as the music. The thoughts, however, are hardly tame.

    Thoughtful is not a bad word. Even when it might be used to describe a rock band. Theselah makes its listeners think. It pokes and prods until some nerve gets plucked. Being the sneaky bastards they are, the band members often serve this wallop in an underhanded manner. All the more cool that way.

    They Walk in Line
    Medical Necessities
    (Rock Ridge Music)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Rock Ridge Music is an enterprise headed up by Chris Henderson of Three Doors Down and a couple of experienced music industry pros. I don't know much about the other bands on the label lineup, but They Walk in Line does a pretty nice job of balancing a commercial sound with solid and sometimes unconventional songwriting.

    The writing is what gets to me. The songs are generally built around the rhythm in the rhythm guitar, and the vocals are allowed to float freely above the music. This is not unlike what U2 did 20 years ago, but They Walk in Line has a much more modern, stripped-down feel.

    Interestingly, these boys have more of a new wave approach to melody than U2, though the guitars are wonderfully discordant--I like that sort of juxtaposition, myself.

    The production is pretty much stock major label sheen, which does dull some of the more interesting edges. But most of the good stuff is still there, even if it is hiding a bit. And anyway, the boys have a right to sell a few albums. If the world was just--which we know it isn't--Medical Necessities would do just that.

    Thick Black Theory
    Thick Black Theory
    (Hidden Hand)
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    The ambient intro left me with one feeling. But then the real music arrived, and it's something like generic roots-pop that sounds astonishingly artificial. Mostly due to the really cheesy drum machine, I guess.

    There's an odd "electronic hoedown" feel to a lot of the music here, and I like that. At times, it reminds me of Magnetic Fields without the spooky lyrics. But Thick Black Theory gets old fairly quickly, and the music doesn't get much beyond its initial accomplishments.

    I really don't know if the band wanted this rather cheesy sound, or if it was forced upon it because of a general lack of members. I get a really poppy Gary Numan feel here. Not good, really.

    Still, the lyrics are amusing, and once I accepted the limitations of the music, I kinda liked it a little better. For so much going on, this should be better.

    Thick Shake
    Soft Spot
    (Ballyhoo Guns)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Crude, thick chords resonating through walls of distortion. A mean, harsh voice announces its presence. Could this be... an artsy Killdozer?

    Well, no, since Thick Shake has a much more complicated sense of song structure. But the guitar sound is similar, even if everything else is much more "out there".

    Sure, fans of AmRep and Touch and Go bands will groove on this like, um, a nice thick shake, but Thick Shake has enough flair to transcend any simple description and enough musical competence to wield the instruments most impressively.

    Often enough, Thick Shake seems to be grinding towards the apocalypse, with no real destination in mind. I'll certainly tag along. The ride is well worth any personal pain.

    Thin Lizzy
    Black Rose
    Thunder and Lightning
    Life - Live
    (Metal Blade/WB)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    God damn it's so exciting! The Warner Brothers side of the TL catalog had yet to see the light of CD, and then Metal Blade reaps the harvest of their deal. While it could be argued that their best work was behind them, I don't think Thin Lizzy recorded a better complete album than Black Rose.

    "Thunder and Lightning" remains my favorite tune from these folk, and so I was rather happy to see that song as the emphasis track.

    No need to turn your station into a boring classic rock signal, but it wouldn't hurt to dig into the more unknown side of Thin Lizzy now and again.

    The Thin Man
    H.M.S Mondegreen
    (Skin and Bone)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    This sounds a bit like one of Jon Langford's side projects that generally ends up on Bloodshot. Hey, the guys are even from Chicago. Geez. What are the odds?

    Pretty good, actually. Kennedy Greenrod wrote the songs and plays the omnipresent accordion. There's this weird Irish reel/klezmer meets country vibe to the songs that's highly addictive. Imagine Firewater doing Hank Williams, and you might be getting in the ballpark.

    I like that reference, except that the Thin Man relies on exotic instrumentation even more than Tod A and company. There is this loose, ragged feel to the songs, kinda like they were recorded in a bar after one too many beers. Greenrod's somewhat slipshod singing contributes to the effect, though I'd have to say it complements, rather than detracts from, his songs.

    As any regular reader knows, if I'm comparing an act to Langford or Firewater, I'm duly impressed. It's true. This is a fine album. Greenrod has impeccable writing skills and a most unusual and effective way of presenting them. Have a couple whiskeys and feel free to join in.

    Greasy Heart
    (Contraphonic) reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    More rambling, rootsy observations from these folks, who sound an awful lot like Jon Langford's loopy cousins. Which is an awfully good thing. The songs keep a rolling, and the smile keep a coming. And just when you think you're lost, you arrive.

    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    This is the third Thin Man album I've heard, and it's just as warped and twisted as the first two. This isn't americana. It's americana gothic. These songs drive straight for the rotting souls of your friends and neighbors. There's a song called "Optimist's Blues" that is so caustically ironic it corroded my CD player.

    Not that I'm complaining. I'm a sucker for black humor and dyspeptic debris of all sorts. My favorite book is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This sort of dreary attitude makes me feel warm all over.

    And, in fact, I think these guys have gotten darker and meaner...a lot darker and meaner, actually. That's a good thing. There's no point in being kinda harsh. Don't stop at the nose; blast the whole face off, if you know what I mean.

    The Thin Man just might scare the pubes off your privates. These are songs for people who can toss back a scotch without blinking, people for whom the sour juice in a bottle of Duchesse du Bourgogne is truly mother's milk. Life is a twisted joke that simply heaps misery upon misery. And damned if stuff like this doesn't make me feel a whole lot better about that.

    Thin White Rope
    The One the Got Away
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Few legendary bands have the presence of mind to record their final show. Most don't realize their last show has passed until after the fact. And as chemical problems as often as not lead to splits, those last shows usually suck. I heard a tape of the last Husker Du show (I was studying that night; how was I to know?) in Columbia, and they were awful. Now, I saw what might have been the last ALL show in Lawrence last summer (it was the last of their tour and I don't know if they did any other one-offs before their recent split), and they were great. So who can tell?

    Well, Thin White Rope got both right: they called their own demise beforehand and taped a fantastic show. Twenty-six songs, two CDs chock full o' fantastic music. Not every song from every album, but not too bad, either.

    The liners say something about them sounding like goats. I prefer to think of them as a tuneful, country-ish Sonic Youth. This is not your typical loud music, but it is certainly enjoyable at high volume levels.

    Thine Eyes
    Christian Sex Loops
    (Doppler Effect)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    Electronic pieces that play with sounds from the edge of melodic comprehension. Lots of distorted bass grooves and heavily manipulated beat noises. Slow grooves, not much in the way of booty shaking material.

    Impressive all the more so because of that, really. This is highly conceptual fare, music deeply steeped in undercurrent and heavy thought. The use of stark melodies (and naked vocals, when there are vocals) adds the finishing touches to the bleak atmosphere.

    One of the few notations in the liners is the question "What is a Christian sex loop?" Other than a nicely facetious title, I have no idea myself. Doesn't really matter. The music more than explains itself on its own terms.

    Despite the aggressively excessive sounds used to create much of the music, this is a very accessible album. Thine Eyes has used the tools of the edge to craft a forward-looking disc which still has one foot in the present. One of the most creative electronic albums I've heard this year.

    My Knobs Taste Funny
    (Doppler Effect) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Some originals and a few remixes of other folks' material. In either case, the sound is purely Thine Eyes. This is painfully calculated techno, melodies and beats so carefully thought out that the map was left in the carnage.

    And by being so artlessly excessive, Thine Eyes manages a truly original electronic sound. I've never heard anything like this. The only parallel I can think of is the sound of bubbles popping. Highly amplified, of course, with a few accouterments, but still. Bubbles are what keep flitting past my mind.

    Sterile is just the beginning. This is sound which has had all the organic life sucked out and spit into a pile on the side of the road. What I'm trying to say is that much of pieces sound hollow. Not exactly with echoes, but nothing is quite solid. I return to the bubbles popping.

    An unusual trip, to be sure. Thine Eyes is truly unique, and that alone earns it high praise from me. There is also the notion that this might be wondrous fare. I'd have to concur there.

    Staring Contest CD5
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Seven tracks from Rob Crow's new outfit. Sounds a lot like Heavy Vegetable (his last group), and with the tunes clocking in at 12 and a half minutes, that form holds as well.

    Where his solo thing was completely unproduced and not well thought out, Thingy returns Crow (and compatriots) into a more controlled and constrained environment. I think his songs work better with a little extra craft. The unusual pop melodies that interact with each other really have to be meticulously sung and played, and if one little thing is off, it doesn't sound nearly as good.

    But, of course, all the cards are in the house. Thingy has knocked off seven gorgeous songs, And Rob Crow is in the house once again. Happiness is imminent.

    Songs About Angels, Evil and Running Around on Fire
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Thingy is just another word for Heavy Vegetable. Rob Crow is still the songwriter, and Elea Tenuta still sings all the pretty stuff. The other side folks have changed, but the sound hasn't.

    The EP was just enough of a taste to get me slavering for another full dose. Once again, a huge load of songs (24) that average a little less than two minutes in length. Complex, melodic pop music that is always in motion. Elea and Rob's voices compliment each other perfectly, lending an almost alien sound to the music.

    I'm still at a loss to explain how Crow's solo album could have been so bad when he was working on this and other project which have turned out so well. Weird. But hell, as long as we get stuff like this, he's allowed a few back alleys.

    As good as expected, and my expectations ran high. If you claim to be a pop music fan, you simply have to get cozy with Mr. Crow, who is one of the few true masters of the form.

    See also Rob Crow, Heavy Vegetable and Optiganally Yours.

    Thinking Machines
    Extension Chords
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Ringing, distortion-laden songs that tend to hide behind a scrim of distortion and modest production values. I like the straightforward songwriting style, but I do wish the boys had put a bit more into the engineering and mix. I can't help but think a slightly-sharper edge to the sound would clear things up a bit.

    Third Day
    Conspiracy No. 5
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    Some guys who never got over Ten. Add in some obliquely religious lyrics (a little more overt than King's X, whose original producer Sam Taylor is behind the boards here), and you get a weird post-grunge version of Christian contemporary.

    Now, I like Ten better than anything Pearl Jam has done since (with the exception of the Neil Young dalliance), but there's no reason to utterly replicate it. And that's what Third Day has done. There is some outright riff theft, and the general feel of the album has certainly been lifted.

    I know, lots of bands have done this before, but that doesn't make this right. The playing is good, and the songs are at least interesting, but I can't shake this feeling of deja vu. Over and over again. And again.

    Worst of all, this continues the general trend of contemporary religious music, which seems to be much more worried about getting a message across than innovating musically. Remember when religious music influenced popular culture? It wasn't that long ago. Would that those days might return.

    3rd Degree
    Radio 7
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    They're not kidding with the title. This is stuff aimed directly at AAA radio. Soft jangle groove with perfect harmonies. Slickly produced. Already sounds like major label product.

    I used that last word advisedly. 3rd Degree sounds like the stuff that sometimes plays down at the gym. It's a satellite deal; no particular station on the dial. I don't know the names of the bands (it's really not my scene), but think you might get the idea.

    Boy, is this stuff overdone. Extra keyboards, strings, the whole deal. Dramatic intros leading into sparse, syncopated verses which leap headfirst into (of course) choruses with harmonies so thick they pretty well drain all the fun out of the hooks. It's all so calculated. I wonder what the demos sounded like. There's just no way to tell.

    That said, I think 3rd Rock has a real shot at (at least temporary) fame. I mean, this disc is ready for radio now. No post-production or re-recording necessary. By necessity, it's generic. That's part of the point. You can't be too interesting if you want to grab the brass ring. You just have to give the people what they want. 3rd Degree succeeds.

    Third Stone
    The Stuff
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    Nice, winding, guitar-driven tunes that end up screaming at you. Gets a little too Skin Yard-y for me at times.

    Then again, they do this stuff fairly well, and they do have their own flair for the material. It gets heavier than SY at times, and at times it's mellower. Yes, we have to the "D" word: diversity.

    That's the reason I can get into this. Third Stone is not afraid to try stuff on and see if it takes. Most of the time it does, but even when it doesn't, it's not too bad.

    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Odd thing about musical movements: Often the artists who do the most with a particular idea where nowhere near the genesis.

    The most innovative and creative grunge sounds have come from bands in the midwest, and whether they've added pop-punk, industrial or classic hard rock overtones, the result is consistently more interesting than any Seattle band.

    Third Stone has the heavy bass and melodic style of the Temple of the Dog set, but the boys also rip things up, layering a melodic heavy metal style over the grunge base. Catchy and most appealing.

    This stuff hasn't been consciously created to be commercial, but the sound is addictive. You've heard all these parts before, but never quite in this way. Thoroughly engaging.

    3rd Window
    Tell Me Why EP
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Consummately crafted songs, each little bit placed just so. The playing is pristine, the singing dead on key. These folks are real professionals. What's missing is the passion.

    And yet, there is passion. I can tell that singer Bryn cares about what she's singing, but too often her intensity comes off stilted. Is she holding something back, or can she not quite work up the emotion necessary? Hard to say.

    The music itself is basic popular-style roots pop, replete with acoustic guitars and the odd sax. The production isn't too shiny; it really provides a nice base for the songs. The problem is that sometimes the playing is a bit too precise, too careful. 3rd Window needs to cut loose just a bit more, find a more personal feel.

    Perhaps the studio got the band uptight. Perhaps these songs haven't had an extensive live workout. Don't know. There is talent here. I just wish the recording showed a bit more sparkle.

    This Is Thirteen CD5
    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    Sounds like a hippie version of the Lemonheads, who I last found interesting about five years ago, when they were a real band and not just Evan Dando's ego.

    Weird meshing of Manchester rhythms and pseudo-psychedelic acoustic guitars. And that wimpy keyboard sound that I thought went out with the Mamas and the Papas.

    I smell a marketing plan here, and I don't like it. I think the songwriters could do a much better job if they wrote what they believed in, not what they think will garner them a record deal.

    13 Faces
    These Bloody Hands
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    Just some Cleveland boys who like to kick out a little extreme hardcore. And the way these guys play, they can kick out as much as they damn well please.

    These guys play songs with more than one tempo. I know, that's not exactly revolutionary, but it does reduce the faceless factor. More importantly, 13 Faces realizes that this sort of music is all about the riffage. If the rhythm section is good, then the rest will follow.

    And the riffs are tight and tasty. The sound is just fuzzy enough to impart a definite taste of doom, but still sharp enough to leave a vicious bite. As for the playing, well, it's intense enough to keep this album rolling along at a fair clip.

    Nothing complicated or revolutionary. Just solid loud music. 13 Faces probably won't set the world on fire, but with music like this, it will make more than a few people very happy.

    30 Amp Fuse
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    By now, you should know that Melted puts out only the finest in power punk pop. 30 Amp Fuse is a bit heavier (fuzzier, anyway) than the usual Melted band, but when you've got the chance to release an album this strong, well, it seems to me you've got to do it.

    Like plush velvet, 30 Amp Fuse plys fuzzy riffage into gorgeous power pop. Sure, it's easy to hear references to Husker Du many more greats, but these guys have their own sound. And a wide load of great songs.

    Just keep a rolling, too. All the way through. I let the songs fly by, each one a piece of chocolate for my ears. Tasty, and even somewhat filling. God, I love the guitar sound on this puppy.

    One of those primal need discs. 30 Amp Fuse satisfies my desire for hooky power pop with shag riffs. Well, for a couple minutes, anyway. This stuff is way more addictive than crack.

    Thirty Ought Six
    Hag Seed
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    I first caught 30-06 on some compilation out of the Seattle area (C/Z? Something else? I can't remember). I recall liking the stuff. This album reminds me why.

    Mixing the raw bass power of such Trance bands as Johnboy and Ed Hall with the anthemic song structure of the grunge culture, 30-06 creates some interesting soundscapes. This is definitely a Pacific NW product, but with enough soul and power to escape most of the anti-Seattle rants.

    Which places the band square in the middle of the current "alternative" sound, which has a lot to do with Pavement attitudes about song construction and Jesus Lizard beliefs about dissonance. From this, 30-06 doesn't escape.

    But when the band keeps the music moving and doesn't degenerate into sonic madness, the stuff is good. I understand the need to feel artsy and innovative, but wanking around with fuzzy guitars has been done by people more and less talented than 30-06. Unless such musings are in the hands of masters (and there are so few of those), they uniformly sound silly.

    31 Knots
    It Was High Time to Escape
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #244, August 2003

    Proggy post-rock (I continue to use this term under protest) that is so intensely played it almost sounds improvised at times. I can't imagine how this trio managed to get this sound. Lots of hard work, obviously.

    The concepts are extremely dense at times. This is really attractive to me, which means these boys have absolutely no chance at the big time. But in any case, I'm impressed by the deftness of the writing, which allows so many different ideas to be expressed without making the songs sound cluttered.

    Also, the pieces generally roll, rather than lurch, along. There's nothing pretentious or "we're so fucking smart" about all this. 31 Knots steps up on the stage, says "here we are" and lets rip. That's a great attitude.

    Nothing simple. Just way I like it. I can only hope that a few other folks share my opinion. The talent here is just astonishing. This is an album where everything came together in just the right way. Luck is rarely a factor on such occasions, and it certainly wasn't. 31 Knots is in full control.

    The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    Very mathy, very noisy and firm believers in the art of collage, the members of 31 Knots have charted a course that's pretty much inimical. Wags might say no one else would want to sail these seas, but let's ignore the haters, shall we?

    Reminds me of June of 44, except a whole lot messier. The most interesting thing to me is how the band has trended more and more toward deconstruction as its career has lumbered on. Most telling (perhaps about me) is how I've liked the band more and more as its songs devolved.

    In a way, this music is the ultimate extension of the indie rock revolution. With no apparent fear and a fervent desire to make music with as strong a visceral appeal as possible, 31 Knots works its ass off to craft these pieces into songs that sound like they were dropped off the top of a building.

    You know, it works. I like the hyper-aggressive approach on this album. You'll either love it or run screaming...and don't apologize for where you stand. 31 Knots isn't apologizing for anything.

    Hearts and Mirrors
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    Back in the olden days (say, the early 90s), I got an album by a band called Ff. Don't ask me how to pronounce it (if you insist, I always say "ef ef"). The stuff was hardcore pop with particularly hoarsely-sung vocal harmonies. Throbbing and insistent, it was.

    As is 32 forty. The vocals remind me of Ff more than the music, though there are guitar breaks here that surely do spur the firing of a few memory synapses. 32forty also borrows a bit from emo theory, though the entire sound is funneled into this great power tool pop sound.

    The tunes just keep bubbling up, breaking out into astonishingly pretty baubles. Considering the rough edges, it's really amazing that any of these songs can achieve beauty.

    I thought the same thing about Ff. We're full circle here. I'm not saying 32forty is ripping anyone off. I'm just saying these boys elicit the same response in me. It's a good reaction. A real good reaction.

    Thirty-Two Frames
    Thirty-Two Frames EP
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Some of the best pop I've ever heard comes from a hardcore base. A long time ago (well, a few years, anyway) there was a band called Ff. The stuff was great. Thirty-Two Frames uses the same buzzsaw approach in crafting its songs, but adds enough melody and the slightest hint of hooks to really sweeten the pot.

    When I saw "slightest," I mean it. These songs are raw, ragged and mean. But there's honey at the heart. Not in sentiment, of course, but in the music. Crack that angry flak jacket and there are some wonderful treats inside.

    A great adrenaline rush and big smiles to boot. Sometimes life doesn't get any better than this. Six songs don't even begin to do these boys justice.

    This Beautiful Mess
    Falling on Deaf Ears
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Crashing, tumbling, bursting atmospheric rock music. This Beautiful Mess is not only the band's name, but it pretty well perfectly describes the way the members write and play the songs.

    What I mean is that there are a ton of different ideas and sounds going into each song, but they're blended together so expertly that what results is a shimmering blast of incandescent beauty.

    Reminds me a bit of what U2 was trying to do in the early 90s, though not quite as pretentious. And a lot more human. The one thing these songs do is connect. Right from the start.

    Yeah, it sure is pretty. But there's a depth here as well. Solid writing and a collage style of arrangement ensure that. This Beautiful Mess certainly lives up to its name.

    This Is Benji...
    Far Too Honest
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    The band's name is This is Benji, but in truth, this is mostly Benji. With some help from a few friends and producer Ken Stringfellow. Steeped in the sounds of early 70s pop and (not as strange as it sounds) Steve Earle, Benji throws down one rootsy pop gem after another.

    Not strange, perhaps, but I've had this disc around for a while. After my fifth or sixth time through, it finally clicked. I found I couldn't take it out. Maybe it is the unusual interplay between pop hooks and the looser rootsy song construction. Maybe it's Stringfellow's reverb-laden sound. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

    I've played this for some friends, and they picked up on it much faster. I like the way Benji enters his songs sideways, and I really like the way he sings. It's not quite desperate, but there are hints here and there. Stringfellow recorded this so as to peg the levels as often enough--sounds a bit like the Capstan Shafts, except with much better post-production.

    Now that my brain is clued in, I'm utterly smitten. That's how it works. Sometimes, the best albums sneak up on you. Once you've noticed them, it's all over. Benji writes some great songs, and he's recorded a great album. Give it a little time, and you just might feel the same way.

    Sea Legs EP
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Six great-sounding songs from this band which plays in the emo new wave. Power pop with just enough stridency to sound punk. Thick and juicy.

    The songs themselves are tightly constructed and played with controlled abandon. Did I mention how good this sounds? Most band would kill to have such a lustrous, full sound.

    And when combined with such solid writing and playing, well, this doesn't sound like yer average self-released product. These three guys know what they're doing, and they do it extremely well. No need to wait; Thistle is ready for a solid deal.

    I'll Meet You Half Way Out In the Middle of It All
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Thollem McDonas plays piano and sings. Rick Rivera plays the drums. The songs themselves have a certain manic mutant bent that is highly reminiscent of They Might Be Giants--fronted by Jello Biafra. Completely goofy and a little strange to boot, this album has all sorts of genuinely gorgeous moments. Geek popsters unite!

    Everything's Going Everywhere
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    I reviewed an earlier album by the duo of Thollem McDonas and Rick Rivera a couple months back, and this new effort is even more impressive. McDonas's piano playing is bright and expressive, and Rivera's drumming holds these songs together with tight rhythms and an almost virtuosic repertoire of sounds.

    And, yes, this is almost entirely drums and piano. That's a pretty good thing, in my book, as the piano (played properly) is an orchestra unto itself. McDonas and Rivera riff off each other, trading licks and adding layer after layer to these pieces. But don't get the idea that these are improvisations. They're well-crafted.

    The sound is very sterile--jazz studio, essentially. After all, this is--at its heart--a jazz record. That it appeals to so many folks on the outside is just a plus.

    Lots of fun, which is sometimes hard to say with so many notes flying by. These guys know how to make exciting music, no matter what you want to call it.

    Aaron Thomas
    Follow the Elephants
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    So Aaron Thomas recorded this in Madrid. He lives there, though he seems to be an American. The name would certainly indicate such a thing. But his songs have a definite continental sensibility.

    Mostly in the construction, I'd say. Thomas tends to start a song off on a roll and then see where it goes. Some of the pieces do stick to a rough form of verse-chorus, but many simply ramble on in a most appealing fashion.

    A large part of that appeal is the percussion/bass work, which is almost jazz-like in movement and sound. Django Rinehardt sorta jazz, the stuff that's eternally in motion. When the rhythm section is rolling, this album soars. When Thomas pulls back a bit, the sound is a bit more pedestrian.

    I like his style. Don't know why he's in Madrid, but it seems to have served Thomas well. A fine gem of an album.

    Zack Thomas
    Zack Thomas EP
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Well-executed hard-edged soft rock. Boy, if that's not pulling a punch or two... See, this is just a bit more amped up than mid-80s MOR, mid-tempo rock with a hook.

    Thomas' voice is pretty good, and his band sounds great. The sound is sharp and songs flow nicely. The problem, for me anyway, is the lack of bite anywhere. While presented as best as possible, the music lacks bite. The lyrics are fairly deep into cliches (titles like "Never Been Good at Goodbye," "Girl in the Mirror," etc. don't help) and there doesn't seem to be much depth to them.

    You know, commercial rock is a superficial enterprise. I think Thomas is trying to do something a bit more unique. He's just not there yet.

    Mayo Thompson
    Corky's Debt to His Father
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    Drag City's signing of the Red Krayola (a band that has been around longer than Deep Purple) yields this chestnut.

    Thompson, Red Krayola singer and guitarist, first released this thing in the year of my birth, 1970. Needless to say, I missed it then.

    About eight years ago, the Glass label across the ocean re-released Corky's Debt, but not to many people noticed.

    It shouldn't take 24 years for a cool album to get noticed by people, but that's how it flies sometimes. Thompson shares much the same psychedelic pop philosophy as Roky Erickson, but unlike Erickson, Thompson has managed to surround himself with people who can really play! And they are meticulous in their proficiency.

    You can hear many sixties influences flitting about, but this is an oddly modern-sounding album. Perhaps yesterday's pop sensibilities have come 'round again. Whatever. With music like this, why worry where it came from?

    See also Moebius, Conny Plan and Mayo Thompson, The Red Krayola.

    Ride of the Chariots (an-THOR-logy)
    (Star USA-Local Music Store)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    This looks too horrible to even contemplate. A bulked-up bodybuilder and his sidekick with a chunky stripper's physique. Hell, it's obviously going to be cheese metal. The hope is that the music doesn't totally suck.

    Sounds like Manowar, except I don't think this is a joke. Of course, I know plenty of folks who think Manowar is serious, too. The playing is adequate, the lyrics utterly absurd. The vocals have a sing-song quality and are overdubbed (way too high in the mix), but this could be worse.

    Well, I guess I hope Thor understands how silly this is. If so, I'll give him some credit. Songs like "Ride of the Chariots" and "Thunderhawk" are entertaining enough if I can imagine them performed with a wink.

    If you don't go looking for anything, then nothing will disappoint you. Thor is utterly goofy, but that's enough to make me smile. No heavy rotation or anything, but I'm reminded of this band called Skrapp Mettle, whose album featured the tune "Muff Diving in the 80's". Way too dumb to even cause offense. The same goes here.

    Coffee, Tea or... 7"
    (Hell Yeah!)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    If it's Hell Yeah!, it must be punk...

    Well, of course. Thorazine is a four-piece from Philly, and these folks play with a stripped-down, up-tempo sound.

    Jo-Ann Rogan's vocals are quite good, though her alto (almost contralto) growl does bring to mind Donita Sparks, but Thorazine is a lot more raw than anything L7 has put out in a long time.

    Four songs, all great. No way to lose here.

    Crazy Uncle Paul's Dead Squirrel Wedding
    (Hell Yeah)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    More Philly punk that's not afraid to mix humor with serious subjects. I quite liked the Thorazine 7" I heard a couple years back, and this full set merely draws me further into the net.

    The music is boisterous, almost to the point to excess. Jo-Ann Rogan hurls out the vocals with the venom or glee appropriate to the situation, though occasionally it seems like she's merely trying to keep up with the remarkably fast tempos set by the band.

    Blue-collar punk that is a good fit with the folks at Hell Yeah. Thorazine doesn't try to prettify any of its song subjects, and the music is similarly no-nonsense.

    Just good.

    Vicious Cycle
    (Hell Yeah)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Roaring out of Philly, Thorazine is just as impressive as ever. The lyrics are alternately amusing and contemplative, though I'm not sure how introspective I can get listening to this basic buzzsaw attack.

    Punk in the most base sense, and Thorazine draws blood as it bashes out the chords. Plenty of attitude, plenty of hard-drivin' riffwork. Glorious noise, and even the lyrics are worth digging.

    The sort of album that reminds me precisely why punk music is still viable. Certain ideas and subjects need to be howled out at top volume in full sneer. That Thorazine manages to tackle some more serious topics and still retain credibility is even more impressive.

    Nothin' fancy, nothin' crazy. Just hard-driving punk music with a better edge than most. A band I keep going back to again and again.

    Thorcraft Cobra
    Count It In
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Bill Zimmer and Tammy Glover are Thorcraft Cobra, though they've recruited a number of friends and old bandmates to help out. The thick sound of these songs lends itself to the indie pop/rock styles that predominate. This is hardly complicated music, but it has a power that's hard to ignore.

    Pacing CD5
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Mix metal guitars, cheesy keyboards, industrial beats and an anthemic way of putting all this together, and you begin to get the idea.

    Honestly, Thorn is most interesting at the beginning of the songs, before the guitars come in and drown all of their interesting sequencing out. There's a nice pop feel to all that. But I suppose the guitars are necessary in someone's mind.

    A lot of potential. The album should be interesting. By far, the best track here is "She Rises Like the Sun", which doesn't bang you over the head with the guitars so much. And it has a killer groove.

    More of that will move Thorn out front and center.

    Bitter Potion
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Where Grotus takes eastern rhythms and musical ideas on the minimal tack, Thorn tries to cram all sort of ideas into each and every song. Perhaps some sort of attempt to orchestrate chaos.

    Oddly, Thorn succeeds best when the guitars are used sparingly. Once the big attack starts, the songs start to run together and sound like a bad version of latter-day Ministry.

    There are, of course, stranger moments, like the power industrial ballad "Desire", which sounds like FLA grafted over a base of Great White.

    My favorite song from these guys is still the third track on the single, which managed to get away from all conventions and is quite cool.

    This album isn't bad, but I've heard a lot of it before. Because I heard "She Rises Like the Sun", I know Thorn can be creative and innovative. Too bad it surfaces all too infrequently on this album.

    Beth Thornley
    Beth Thornley
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    The thing I like best about Beth Thornley is the way she undercuts her own hooks. Just when I think she's finally cheesed out, she throws in a sly bit. A little wink, as it were. So we know that she doesn't really buy into the whole major-label pop thing.

    She oughta, really, because she sure can write songs that could garner loads of airplay. But I'm guessing there's a wee little something called integrity keeping her from dumbing down her songs that far.

    This isn't to say that she doesn't use catchy hooks, booming backbeats and fuzzy guitars. It's just that she uses more. These songs are deceptively simple sounding. There's something behind the facade, and that's what you oughta be paying attention to, anyway.

    Ear candy that doesn't leave a guilty feeling at the end. Thornley has all the chops. Catch her now before, you know, she realizes how much money is on the table.

    Amanda Thorpe
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Like her labelmate on Cropduster, Patti Rothberg, Amanda Thorpe has big-time aspirations. But Thorpe dresses her well-penned tunes in just enough clothes to get in the door. The sound is still loud in that commercial style, but Thorpe has plenty of room to maneuver and express herself.

    Her songs are like forest paths, meandering amongst bushes and leaping across streams. They are fairly free-form in their construction, but with enough traditional focus to keep average listeners interested.

    And here, like I noted, the production is spot on. A bit too glossy for my tastes, but right where a mainstream artist wants to be. Thorpe's voice is always the key element, and it is never overshadowed, even when the guitars come out to play.

    It does help that Thorpe writes in a somewhat sparser way than Rothberg. And she managed to keep her voice (and thus, her lyrics) in the forefront of the sound. It's amazing the difference that makes.

    Those Unknown
    Malice and Misfortune EP
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Four songs, four ragged but tuneful anthems. Quick and nimble songs with the hooks hotwired into the lead guitar lines.

    Vaguely Irish in flavor, particularly on "Dirty Old Town," which lies somewhere between Uncle Tupelo and the Pogues. The sound is fairly thin, particularly in the higher ranges (the upper parts of the rhythm guitar are often not much more than fuzz). Not quite as full as I'd like.

    But the blistering pace and great writing save the day. A thoroughly enjoyable set of tunes. These guys must be just amazing live.

    Thought Industry
    Gelatin 7"
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #39, 9/15/93

    These two seven-inches (see Broken Hope) are Metal Blade's attempt to convince us they are really underground. That or it is a cool way for the bands to score a little cash with collectibles. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

    Thought Industry are one of the few "experimental" kinda bands that still manage to really sound great, much in the way Last Crack did. No, they don't sound like Last Crack (well, the a-side kinda does), but they do sound verra, verra cool.

    The flip is a Gary Numan piece called "Metal". In case you were wondering if TI was cool or not, you have to hear it. I'd better get the new disc real soon.

    Mods Carve the Pig: Assassins, Toads and God's Flesh
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Not to rip on Metal Blade (really!), but why did they ever sign such a cool band as this. MB is a pretty big indie with money to make, and there is just no coherent marketing plan that will sell this.

    Perhaps the most mordant melodic work since, um, I don't know. This stuff is a mutation of the late-eighties Euro thing, gone all fermented on thrash and some twelve-tone theory (listen to Frank Zappa). Add vicious vocals to scream out almost insane lyrics and you get my favorite album of the year. I can say this now without hesitation. And these folk live but twenty minutes away. Really weird.

    TI is not for the timid. If you like your music to make sense, stay away. Leave the lower reaches to those of us who appreciate genius.

    Outer Space Is Just a Martini Away
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #108, 5/6/96

    The latest from Kalamazoo's finest. I actually ran into these guys when I was stationed in Battle Creek, and they were rather cool. Had real ideas on how to change music. Weren't too concerned about fitting their stuff into a mold.

    Which is good, because I have no idea how to characterize Thought Industry's music. I suppose it fits somewhere in that whole "prog rock" thing, though fans of Yes and Pink Floyd probably wouldn't like this stuff at all. Old Into Another fans, on the other hand, already love it.

    The songwriting is at once more coherent and much more diverse than before. Thought Industry hasn't changed its musical concept much from Songs for Insects, but the guys have kept incorporating more and more into the base, and have managed to season the stew just that much better successive times out.

    As always, a truly wonderful conglomeration of sounds. And that's not even discussing the lyrics, which are among the most thoughtful and literate in music today. And actually, to call the music literate would be accurate as well.

    If you like simple music for facile minds, go buy an Alice in Chains album. If you prefer to be challenged, I can't imagine a better band than Thought Industry. I wish I could say more, but I want to listen to the disc one more time.

    Thousand Foot Krutch
    Set It Off
    (DJD Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Thousand Foot Krutch can ape everyone from Limp Bizkit to Blink 182 (and thus by association, NOFX). The lyrics are somewhat vogue, but upon closer reflection, there's a definite Christian bent.

    I'm not against that, mind you, but it might explain why this music just doesn't do much. It's all derivative. Perhaps, and I'm just guessing here, the guys were working a bit too much on their rhymes and not quite enough on the riffage.

    That's a problem with message music of all ilk. Plenty of punk bands are so focused on their political message that they forget to be interesting. Thousand Foot Krutch kinda falls into that same trap.

    There's even a cover of "Unbelievable." Might this be connected to Orgy's riff on New Order? I dunno. But the truth is, despite chunkier guitars and an extended pro-Jesus rap, the guys don't do much with the song. Just like the rest of the record. The musicianship is competent, but not terribly engaging. Got some work to do there, boys.

    383 Stroker
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Noisy pop from NYC, though this carries a lot of Pacific NW baggage. A little grunge, a little Posies-style Big Star homage going on.

    Unfortunately, 383 Stroker leans a little hard on the heavy side of things, and songs that might have been fleshed out a bit better turn into riff fests. Not terrible, mind you, but not terribly interesting, either.

    Obviously, though, this is what the band wanted. The songs trend grungier just as the production does. There are nice nuggets of songs in here, but they're lost in the whole riffola shuffle. Too bad.

    I wish the guys had more confidence in their songs. This would have been much better if the band didn't hide behind walls of guitars and knob tricks.

    Jersey Whore
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    I reviewed an album from these guys four years ago. I said they should rely on their songwriting and not studio tricks. And the sound should not be so heavy.

    So, well, four years later the band is putting its songs forward and varying the sound quite nicely. I don't think they took my advice, mind you. I just think they found a better way to do things.

    What had been a crunchy version of the Big Star style has been transfomed into a eclectic take on a wide range of pop styles. There are more studio tricks on this disc than the first one, but the band hasn't allowed the songs to be overwhelmed. The extras are more subtle, adding to the pleasure rather than obscuring the view.

    A lot of times my concept of what bands should do is so far out of whack from reality I ought be shot. This time, I was right. And I couldn't be happier. This is one of the more sophisticated and creative self-released discs I've heard in quite a while.

    You Keep Yours
    (Space Ape)
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Time for one last blast of summer. 383 Stroker plays a wonderful sunny brand of rock and roll that packs a tuneful punch. The key to this kinda stuff is to keep things loose. Don't get complicated, and when in doubt, push the tempo.

    These boys execute to perfection. Fizzy three-chord chunks of joy, with just enough power to provide that right bit of heft. When done right, this kinda stuff sounds effortless.

    As it does here. Sure, we're talking about confection, but dessert is a vital part of meal time. 383 Stroker doesn't need to apologize for making people tap their feet and smile.

    Simple pleasures can be some of the finest. These boys don't plan to take over the world, but they'll entertain for a while. And that's just fine with me.

    Three Finger Cowboy
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Basic garage rock, played with loads of energy (if not skill). Raucous and jarring, these songs are a simple joy to hear. Proof that emotion beats formulas every time.

    And there's very little that the band does particularly well. Katharine McElroy rarely sings on pitch (which provides for some jarring overdubs), and the guys in the band aren't always on the same page, either.

    But it doesn't matter. These are basic rock songs, played with far more verve than anything I've heard in ages. Three Finger Cowboy believes in its music, and that sells the stuff.

    Great? Nah. But a big ol' wad of unrefined rock candy nonetheless. Satisfies the need for uncomplicated and rowdy music that always seems to rise up about this time of year. Wish I could take the top off of the T-Bird and jam this real damned loud.

    Hooray for Love
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Jaunty fuzzpop punctuated by Katherine McElroy's casual vocals. She finds the pitch just fine, but she's not concerned with holding it for any length of time. Something of a conversational tone, really, and it gives Three Finger Cowboy an intimate feel, something like swapping stories over some beer.

    Unlike the band's first disc on Daemon, which featured one amazing song ("Kissed") and then dropped off a bit (though still solidly above-average), this album is more consistent. While there isn't a song quite as immediately grabbing as "Kissed", there are a number of very good songs. The band is definitely finding its way.

    The sound is deceptively simple. Fuzzpop, like I said, but a layered version. There are a few things going on behind the wall. Listen, and you'll find a few ideas waiting to be discovered. It's in this area that Three Finger Cowboy has really improved.

    A better disc than the first, and I liked that one a lot. Three Finger Cowboy sounds like it has what it takes to really make a mark. The right sound at the right time. Now if folks will only pay attention. See also Nineteen Forty-Five.

    Three James Morgan
    Three James Morgan
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Jerry Garcia-influenced lead guitar, combined with a wide variety of influences in the backing band. Like from the Doors to XTC. And lots of stuff in between. All arriving somewhere in the quirky pop universe.

    Obviously, the lyrics are the key to this endeavor. The music is generally mixed well behind the lyrics. And more of the time, the lyrics say something important, though not as well as I might hope. Take the song "Old", which ridicules the generic teenage impulse to fit in with the crowd. I agree with that, but to say that no good acts have arrived in the latest punk resurgence is going way, way too far. There's a Kiss t-shirt I've got that has a proper retort for these sentiments...

    In general, Three James Morgan tries too hard. Most of the songs are at least a little reminiscent of some band of yesteryear (the aforementioned Dead, Styx, Steely Dan and more). And while I don't mind borrowing from influences, there is no need to sound quite so similar.

    Particularly with the clumsy lyrics. I can generally make out the point of the songs, but that just means that the stuff needs a bit more work. These guys can play, and they've got some good ideas, but it just doesn't come together for me.

    Three Mile Pilot
    No Vucca Do Lupu
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    I didn't get any of the accents in the title, but I don't think any of you could pronounce it anyway. As for the music, which is the important part, anyway, it smokes like Kansas City barbecue. That is, eight hours at 200 degrees produces perfect beef, and while this takes a while to get going, the end result is very tasty.

    This is one of those few bands who really cannot be related to anyone. They simply sound like nothing in particular that I've heard before. Sure, there is a vague funk rumbling in there, some jazz and the roars that eventually overtake all are sorta familiar. But this is really something original. And damn fine. Listen more than once. You will be impressed, especially by the great basswork.

    Another Desert Another Sea
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    After a few albums with major label types, Three Mile Pilot returns to its home base. The esoteric yet atmospheric approach to pop music continues, as do the paths of experimentation that probably sealed the band's potential popular acclaim.

    Unlike other punk-pop contemporaries of a relatively similar vintage (Jawbox, Treepeople, etc.), Three Mile Pilot likes to add sounds and ideas to its music, rather than strip the sound down. So there's plenty of organ, keyboards and other little bits used to fill out the sound. This reliance on keyboards leads to songs like "The Year of No Light", which has a real Supertramp feel. That such an approach ultimately works is only greater testament to the talent on display here.

    Three Mile Pilot isn't afraid of any tempo or influence. The songs are fast and slow, with nods to seventies art rock and nineties punk. And plenty more. The band does employ something of a kitchen sink approach to its work, but the talent is sufficient to the ambition, resulting in resplendent displays of multi-flavored pop music.

    Simply music of the highest order. Three Mile Pilot crafts pop as well as anyone around, and there's no mistaking its imprint. The wonders cease only when the disc leaves the tray.

    An Old Town We Once Knew 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    The new Black Heart Procession album is due out soon on Touch and Go, and perhaps that also heralds a move for the "regular" band, Three Mile Pilot. Maybe not, but if so, this set is one hell of a send-off. Two discs of 7 inches and unreleased songs, with all the attendant excess such projects usually imply.

    And it's not like TMP was ever at a loss for going overboard. Indeed, that's one of the joys of listening to the band. No matter how far out it went, it always came back.

    But not here, man. Pure left-brain action, with little in the way of mitigating structure. For that and a few other reasons (mostly having to do with the sheer amount of material present), this is a fans-only set.

    Of course, TMP fans tend to be kinda, um, fanatic. For good reason. The music may be out there, but it only opens the door to a new world of alternate consciousness. Really. Set these discs on and take a trip. Or few.

    Three Piece Suit
    It Just Struck Him EP
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Oddly, the press that accompanied this disc preferred to lay Three Piece Suit down into the loungecore set. I don't really hear that, though this is mellow pop music, for the most part.

    But way too weird to be lounge. TPS tries an awful lot of things, sometimes succeeding ("Anna" is a really cool pop tune, and "The Minus Tune" is a pleasantly warped instrumental), sometimes not (A surf tune called "Son of Surftastic"). The rest of the stuff is solid, if not overwhelming.

    But, you know, it is an EP. An introduction. TPS is going a lot of directions at once, and perhaps it should pull back off the reins a spot and focus. Maybe not. Experimentation is never a bad thing.

    TPS intrigues me. I'm not sold, not yet. But I'll definitely take another helping.

    reviewed inissue #14, 5/31/92

    If you have not heard the 360's before (and that would be rather odd), placing the sound seems obvious at first. Audrey Clark has a kinda Kim Deal-ish sound, and the band dredges up images of both Soundgarden and My Bloody Valentine. Producer Sean Slade is known for making Buffalo Tom and Dinosaur Jr. dorm-hold names. So this is about what to expect.

    Now claiming Salem, Mass., instead of Boston, except for the vocals they could be from anywhere. And since this is getting the big label distribution push, the 360's seem primed for the big time. Noise freaks of all kinds should enjoy this one.

    Colored Green cassette single
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Just a couple songs, enough to get a taste. 3crease uses a groove style for the verses and then shifts into a sludgy anthem sound (almost metallic) for the hooks. A bit jarring, to be sure.

    Kinda like what some of the funk-glam bands tried to do right around the Living Colour crzae, though tending more to the extremes both ways. I like that the band is blazing a new trail. The songs don't quite work for me (within each style 3crease doesn't show much originality), but I can't think of anyone who sounds like this.

    Interesting, at the very least. I think 3crease may need some polishing, but the basic idea has promise. Maybe if the sounds could be melded a bit more than they are now. A more natural confluence would probably tie the songs together better.

    The Venus Trail (advance cassette)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    The unusual: a Merge band that really kicks out the jams. Sounds like a young Superchunk with a little more sixties pop attitude

    Thrill My Wife
    Thrill My Wife EP
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    More of that power punk-pop thing, which makes this a nice segue from the Splitsville. Thrill My Wife is much more solidly in the punk category (the sparse production is a key here), and so it's easier to laugh along with the band.

    The music is hardly inspiring, though its good enough to keep me bouncing along. The lyrics are generally amusing. And once again, I feel like I'm staring at a doughnut. There's something in the middle missing, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

    The four tunes here are more than acceptable, but less than exciting. Perhaps that's the deal. Thrill My Wife has a good start, but it is going to have to work on the craft a bit more to really make a mark. Good enough for rock and roll, but with plenty of room for growth.

    Squinting Before the Dazzle
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Power pop with lots of rock excess. The sweet tones are drenched in distortion and extraneous guitar lines, yielding a unique concoction. Shuffling and staggering toward some unseen goal.

    Really, more of a British approach to the current pop resurgence. Throneberry throws all sorts of references into each song, tying each package up neatly enough (though always with a couple threads undone). Rather sophisticated fare.

    Music that bathes with a glow of splendor. Oh-so-over the top, and yet still subtle when understatement is necessary. Delicate and crashing, aggressively appealing, Throneberry simply refuses to settle for the easy road.

    Add in a lush sound and immaculately crafted songs (all that extra stuff is just dressing), and the result is damned near irresistible. The band went for the gusto and got something even more impressive.

    All Too Human 7"
    (Limited Potential)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Swirlin' guitar pop stuff. Rocks pretty damn well. The melody keeps coming back to me. I like this. Side two.

    Well, nothing out of the ordinary, but something about this is very attractive to me. Not sure how to explain it, so I won't. Give it a listen and see for yourself. If nothing else you'll feel good.

    Throw Rag
    Desert Shores
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    Some folks like to think of punk as a "movement," something to be revered or worshipped or, worst of all, something dogmatic. Jeez, folks, it's just folks who can barely play instruments abusing their equipment, right?

    Well, thank goodness for Throw Rag. These guys know exactly why they play punk music: Because it's goddamned fun, that's why. These songs aren't trenchant critiques of society or heavy-handed screeds. This shit is 100% pure enjoyment. If you don't like that, get your ass off the bus.

    The sound is punchy yet greasy, that sort of bar-band sound that the New Bomb Turks liked to use. Works great for these boys. And hey, you can hear the washboard loud and clear. You gotta love that.

    Unless you're one of the aforementioned folks who takes any sort of music far too seriously, you've gotta love Throw Rag. Even the name is a finger in the face of propriety. Top-notch gutter trash. Never change, boys.

    Thug Angels
    7" EP
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    Are they pop punk or just punk-influenced pop? Is there a difference? I'll quit asking questions now, since the bio claims they don't play either. Fair enough.

    Thug Angels crank out great songs for a summer evening, beer at hand. Since that's exactly my situation at the moment, I love the stuff. This is a sampling of four songs from their upcoming full-length, which is titled New Rome.

    If you feel the need for music that makes you smile (pretty often for me), Thug Angels are a pretty good fix.

    Thug Murder
    The 13th Round
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Melodic hardcore as played by Japanese women. The sound remains the same. Tuneful enough to harbor sing-along choruses and fast enough to get the heart racing. That's pretty much right in the formula.

    Thug Murder doesn't do a lot to distinguish itself from the pack. These songs are much too spirited to be tagged workmanlike, but there still isn't much originality here.

    Even so, as the album wore on, I became more and more hooked. There is something about Thug Murder that does bring this band to the fore. I can't say what it is, but I'm a sucker for "it." The identity of "it" will have to remain a mystery, I guess.

    Way too enjoyable, really. That's the whole ticket. Yeah, Thug Murder follows all the rules, but it just blisters the songbook. Some bands have that ephemeral "something." Thug Murder is one of them.

    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Some German hardcore for ya. Thumb doesn't really stick to any one concept, with the exception of the loud mosh (sometimes during the chorus, sometimes in the verse, sometimes in the bridge). Otherwise, there are nods to the technical aggro of the Refused, general NYC rapcore, even the grungy distorted howl of Season to Risk (and others; that 's the example that pops off the top of my head).

    The important thing is that these guys write songs. Sure, there's turntable and sampling work in there, but that stuff is used properly, as flavoring. The basic cores of the songs are rooted in riffage. Like they should be.

    Most bands aren't willing to try what Thumb does as a matter of course. Then again, most bands wouldn't be able to make this material sound so good, either. Thumb's greatest strength is in its writing, but the playing and production are a close second (and third).

    The total package. This isn't yer average American hardcore band. Duh. This isn't yer average hardcore band, period. Thumb's adventurous spirit and top-notch skills make this album a real thrill ride. Just gotta hold on, because the cars are swinging side-to-side and upside-down at about a hundred miles an hour. Leaves me breathless.

    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    Loopy hardcore rantings that share as much with eclectic pop construction and sound as more "punk correct" icons. But is this a good thing?

    Not most of time here, anyway. Thumbnail can't decide what riff it wants emphasize in any given song, and the general sound is one of complete anarchy.

    I'll give the guys points for trying something unusual. Now, sane people don't do things like this, but if it had worked, I'd be calling it genius. As it is, I'll call it pile-driving pop. With a Creedle chaser.

    Striving for greatness is a wonderful thing. And I can appreciate such stuff, even if it goes bad. But I don't have to groove on it.

    The Sound of Tomorrow--Today 7"
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    The two songs here are somewhat more cohesive than the stuff on the band's debut album. Of course, that's all relative. Thumbnail is still a purveyor of jumbled jams and chaotic creations.

    The a-side, "Station No. Last", works the best. Hell, the band almost follows a standard pop format, even while layering the sound with plenty of extraneous noise. These guys are trying really hard to find something unique, and who knows they just might get there one of these days.

    But not here. Not quite yet. This is a step forward, in my estimation, but no brass ring. Progress can be a painful thing.

    Red! Dead!
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    I've always wanted to like Thumbnail. I'm a big fan of noise pop in general, and Thumbnail's technical approach to chaos is one that quite appeals to me.

    For some reason, though, things just don't work out between us.

    I just get the feeling that something isn't quite there. I think it may be the lack of a central idea. Is it possible that Thumbnail is too "out there" for me?

    Maybe, but I don't think that's really the case. For all the obvious care and concern, Thumbnail is often inexcusably sloppy. Not in the playing or the writing, but in the feeling part. The guys seem more than detached; they seem absent much of the time. As if the original mechanical band had been reincarnated as a distortion-laden noise pop outfit.

    I can hear plenty of good things here. Indeed, I think the talent in Thumbnail is second to none. One of these days I might even really like an album.

    The Thumbs
    All Lesser Devils EP
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Seven songs, 11 minutes. Talk about crammin' as much punk as possible into a small space. The Thumbs have that tuneful snotnose sound down, with a somewhat reckless delivery.

    And that's okay. In fact, it's desired. These Annapolis boys don't have many refinements on their side. The playing is ragged and the writing is fairly basic. So give it your all and see what happens.

    Here? Well, the disc is more than listenable. There's a great electric vibe. A lot of energy. I don't know how this would sustain over a whole album. The writing would have to get more consistent. But as a snack? Boy, this sure satisfies.

    The Envelope Pushes Back
    (Orange Entropy)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Imagine the vaguely bossa nova soft rock of the early 70s. Now imagine it acoustic. That's just about exactly where Thunderegg has hoisted its standard.

    Lyric heavy, to the extent that words come more rapidly than anything else. Rather hypnotic, really, the way the vocals serve as their own rhythmic device, playing off the throbbing of the band.

    It is a muted throbbing, actually, as is just about everything on this disc. Thunderegg doesn¹t really seem to believe in kicking out the jams in any way. There's an almost suicidal impulse to mute any excess whatsoever.

    Thunderegg has found a unique sound, and after a while (a good while, to tell the truth) I finally started to get into the mood. While easy-going, this isn't particularly easy music for me to like. But the unstinting quality of the writing turned the trick. Fall in.

    Thundering Lizards
    Eyeball Sandwich
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Completely mordant pop music with caterwauling violin, harmonica and sax laid over a traditional rock band. Kramer produces a few of the tracks, and some of his friends drop by to lend a hand (or a voice).

    Utterly chaotic, Thundering Lizards must have decided early on to simply go with the flow. Let whatever happens happen. And that's not really a bad thing, either.

    But the ultimate result is silly loopiness, and nothing more. The ride is fun, but just like a roller coaster, it comes to an end, and you either wonder just what it was you waited in line 45 minutes for, or you look at your pals and scream, "Let's do that fucker again!". Just a matter of personal preference.

    Beautiful Baby in the Bummer of Love
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    Too clean to be retro proto punk, and a bit too straightforward to be purely garage, Thunders has staked out a nice little spot for itself. These songs develop in straight lines, and pretty much nothing is allowed to get in the way.

    The lead guitar work is quite impressive. Most songs begin with a defining lick, and then the sounds develop apace. There's not one complication anywhere on this disc, which is both a plus and a minus. Largely, though, that allows the band to properly ride the wire.

    The sound is pretty clean, though crunchy enough to add some bite. These songs sound very good at maximum volume.

    Further proof that pushing the envelope can be overrated. Thunders is miles away from terra incognita, but it delivers wonders aplenty.

    Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    These are the original mixes, not the ones found on an earlier release (but later-mixed) album of the same name.

    It is one of life's eternal ironies that Thunders is dead and David Johansen (ex-Doll, now Buster Poindexter) is still around on those Entertainment Weekly commercials lip-synching "Hot Hot Hot". But then, Johansen has proven how much talent he had.

    As this disc does for Thunders. While the set isn't as fresh and exciting as the earliest New York Dolls songs, this mix leaves no doubt as to the simple power of Thunders' writing and playing.

    Thousands of kids have tried to somehow find what Thunders seemed to have inside of him: the essence of a punk guitarist: raw, simple and powerful. Very few have even approached his standard. This set reminds all of us why we should miss Johnny Thunders.

    Full Collapse
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Victory dives face first into the emo ocean. Thursday is as good a band as any to ride. In fact, I'd say these guys are better than most. The vocals are genuinely melodic, as are some of the auxiliary guitar lines, though the riffage throughout is still generally more rhythmic than tonal.

    And, of course, the churning still rules. It's just that Thursday really makes these anthems utterly hummable. Not in a pop sense, but something more along the lines of a purer distillation of the emo concept.

    Indeed, what Thursday really does is add more lines. The songs are complex, with multiple vocal tracks competing with the somewhat freeform nature of the musicians. Like the best bands, Thursday often sounds like it has exploded past the point of no return, only to coalesce and pull the whole song back together in one deft motion.

    Music from the heart and the brain. The creative fire burning within these guys is something to behold. Just when I thought emo itself had evolved past the point of no return, here comes Thursday to prove me wrong. Blisteringly beautiful.

    The Astral Sleep
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    I reviewed this a couple of issues ago as an advance, and now I finally have something with track titles. My opinion hasn't changed (note my report). In fact, I'm quite sure this album will be right up there with Morgoth, Cerebral Fix and Atheist as the best death metal of the year.

    If you don't have it, give the CM folks a yell now. If you aren't playing it, get off your ass. This is fine, varied death metal, which makes it great, as far as I'm concerned. Tiamat is (are? I've never been sure of that grammatical rule) great.

    Play every cut, but if you want to pick and choose, I like "Ancient Entity," "Mountains of Doom," "On Golden Wings," "Lady Temptress" and the soft one, "Angels Far Beyond."

    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Striding boldly where they only started to tread on "The Astral Sleep," Tiamat sound even more like the perfect doom/death metal combo than before.

    The riffs are simply outstanding, and the further delving into classic hard rock roots lends an interesting feel. It's like the comfy chair. You know, the supreme instrument of torture put forth by Cardinal Fang? All non-Python worshippers may skip on to the next paragraph. It feels so good and then proceeds to rip your soul apart.

    Yes, I really am a big Tiamat fan, but I hold my favorite bands to high standards. No, this is not your average doom/grindcore/death metal album. It is much more in all facets. This is the real future of this genre. I see a huge fan base building behind these guys. Damn if it ain't great.

    The Sleeping Beauty Live in Israel
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    Words of their demise were essentially correct, but singer Johan Edlund and bassist Johnny Hagel are keeping the name alive with new members at the other posts.

    This is supposed to tide us over until the end of the summer, when the new Tiamat is tentatively set for release.

    Somewhat muddy production, which is hindered further by not quite getting the sound on the keyboards right. The performances are nice, but only five songs? As a momentum-saving release, this is barely passable. Tiamat is (Was? We'll see) one of my favorites. This live set does rekindle my desire for new stuff (not a difficult task). But if it had to stand alone, it would be a disappointment.

    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    Words of Tiamat's demise turned out to be rather premature. The band did split, with Johan and Johnny deciding to keep the name Tiamat alive as a duo. They recruited some studio musicians (and, I assume, some for a live tour) to fill out the orchestra.

    And that's exactly what's going on here. Wildhoney is a the next progression from Clouds, with almost no references to death metal, a few passing nods to doom, and a real embracement of the world of lush, beautiful sound.

    No, Tiamat didn't go new age. And yes, this album is still best listened to LOUD. But there are many parts that can only be described as gorgeous. Old Tiamat fans with an open mind can get into this, and many new folks should also discover the wonders of that Johan and Johnny have put together.

    An intriguing and exceptional album. Wildhoney isn't death metal, it isn't space music, it isn't new age, it isn't anything that can be defined. And therein lies the wonder.

    Tic Tic Boom
    Reasons & Rhymes EP
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Five guitar-driven, electronically-finished pop songs that satisfy on every level. These pieces start hot and then go critical.

    I know, this stuff is radically overstuffed--but in that quirky, "we're not ever gonna blow up" style. Tic Tic Boom isn't a throwback to anything. It's a few steps into the future.

    And if the future sounds like this, then we're in for some good times. These five songs arrived in my mailbox just in time for summer. My cup runneth over.

    Before the Sun Rises EP
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    Let's assume you didn't believe my review of Tic Tic Boom's last release. Let's assume you didn't immediately wander over and download the stuff. Let's assume you're really behind the curve.

    Tic Tic Boom assembles some of the most intense and inventive electronic indie rock you'll hear. There's layer upon layer of thought, and each song is its own self-contained universe. Here you get five brilliant songs that blister the ears and the mind.

    If any of our assumptions were true, you have no excuse now. Go to the site below and download the EP. Free. You're not gonna get a better deal this year. And then when the next Tic Tic Boom release comes around, spot the folks some cash. It's the least you can do for music this good.

    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Speaking of navel-gazing moments, here comes Ticonderoga. A disc with a press note from the weekly newspaper whose web site I administer. That notice does do a nice job of describing this local (for me) band and what it tries to do. So I thought I'd give reviewing these boys a whirl as well.

    Ticonderoga takes its time recording, and it's quite apparent that there's a good amount of editing involved. Some of the tangents (and even some of the main lines in the more coherent moments) are kinda out there, but somehow the boys manage to bring the entire ship into port by the end of the song. And they use everything: strings, horns, the kitchen sink (literally, I think), whatever. Anything at their disposal to complete the song.

    My understanding is that these songs also work live, though I'd have to hear that myself to believe it. I love the way Ticonderoga puts together these collages. It's another byway on the post-rock highway--one of the more scenic ones, at that. I'm afraid I can't wrap my head around this in the time I have, much less write a review which does this album justice.

    Nonetheless, I feel confident in saying that adventurous listeners will eat this up without utensils. (Feel free to insert your own mixed metaphor here). And I leave you with a taunt: Ticonderoga lives here, and not where you do. Nyah, nyah, nyah nyah, nyah!

    The Heilig-Levine LP
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    There are a lot of bands in my neck of the woods, and a lot of them are very good. Ticonderoga is one of them, and slowly the boys seem to be gaining buzz. I haven't seen any shows (two kids younger than four will do that to you), but the two releases I've heard are most impressive.

    The medium is post-post-rock, I suppose, a noisy mutation from the late 90s ideal of jazz-rock fusion. But this trio does work together like a jazz combo, even if the sounds produced are fully rock and roll. Lots of lines crashing and clashing, plenty of ideas resolved (or not) in the final restatement.

    Yes, any reader of A&A will know this is the sort of thing that makes me instantly soil my shorts. But even so, Ticonderoga impresses almost effortlessly. These boys move the sound forward by incorporating a strong sense of melody into the stew of dissonance. Take a trip on the first song ("Fucking Around") and you'll immediately understand what I'm saying.

    Yeah, the boys do follow a few tangents. That's gonna happen, and in truth, those tangents are impressive. They add depth and range to these already complex songs. Every once in a while something comes along that utterly kicks my ass. Like this album.

    Tidewater Grain
    Here on the Outside
    (Ruffnation/Warner Brothers)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Accessible hard rock, sort of a modern version of Bon Jovi (or Collective Soul, I suppose). The songs generally build to a slow burn. They're built with blocky chords and the hooks are more muscular than pretty. Kevin McNamara is more a growler than pure singer, and the sound carries that post-grunge taint.

    And yet, Tidewater Grain is just the latest hard rockin' band to come down the way. The songs come together pretty well, and the lyrics have something to say, even if sometimes they aren't as artful as they might be.

    There are shouts out to the Who, the Boss and Black Sabbath. These guys aren't anywhere near those leagues, but they do know how to play by the rules. There's a version of a power ballad ("Rocket Ship"), a Diamond Dave-era Van Halen rocker ("Annie Helicopter") and plenty of blue collar blasters.

    These guys have more personality than most of the faceless hard rock heroes wandering around these days. I don't know if that's a help or a hindrance, but hell, I had a pretty good time. I certainly didn't expect that.

    Tiger High
    Myth Is This
    (Trashy Creatures)
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    Some Memphis boys who appear to have discovered the missing link between doo wop, garage and synth rock. Kinda like if late-era OMD had produced the Box Tops. Yep. It's that weird. And that good.

    To be fair, these boys really like their guitars. It's just that there's plenty of electronic noise on top. And while the harmonies are there, they don't predominate.

    The other way to look at this is if My Bloody Valentine had produced the Soft Bulletin. Or maybe if Brian Wilson had kept up with the kids (and not gone batshit crazy), he might have cranked out a solo album something like this. I dunno. I've never heard anyone attempt something quite like this. I'm a little stunned as I listen.

    Utterly engrossing. This is an otherworldly album, the kind that doesn't arrive every year. I'm not entirely sure that the sounds come together, but I kinda like the caterwauling effect. The louder you listen, the more your brain melts. Lovely and gooey.

    Catacombs After Party
    (Trashy Creatures)
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    The second album of 2012 from this Memphis outfit, and things are humming along smoothly. More sludgy garage stuff, with occasional bursts of prog. This album is sequenced somewhat the opposite as Myth Is This, which opened up with more conceptual pieces that faded into more standard bits. This time out, it takes a few songs for the wiggy side of the band to take flight.

    Ah, but it does. "Get the Picture" (track five) heads right into Love and Rockets-ian psychedelia, and the next track ("Be the Indian") rolls into a nice Zombies/13th Floor Elevators groove. The album continues apace.

    What I like about these folks is that that apart from an almost-crippling addiction to fuzz, these folks pretty much play what they like. The sound is consistent, but the songs come from all directions. And that consistent sound? The fuzz bombs and heavy reverb in the vocals are distinctive and incredibly inviting.

    This album doesn't quite kick into overdrive, but I don't think that was in Tiger High's plans. I believe the idea was to crank out another set of solid sounds and lay more groundwork for world domination. Chalk it up as a complete success.

    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    Mannered pop music with the necessary clever lyrics and slightly off-kilter delivery. Reminds me a lot of the band Clockhammer (a reference that few will recognize, but whatever), with a the Wedding Present coming in on slight return.

    The songs are built around the lyrics, but unlike most band who focus on what their songs "say," Tigerella makes sure to keep the music fresh and interesting. You'd be surprised how many folks can't do this.

    The sound is simple and undecorated. Bright, but without any shiny extras. Right where a band like this ought to be. Give the vocals the space they need, and give the stellar playing all the room it needs as well.

    Quite simply, a joy to hear. Tigerella has a modest vision of itself, but high standards for the end result. The work paid off. This is one fun, quirky album.

    Christopher Tignor
    Core Memory Unwound
    (Western Vinyl)
    reviewed in issue #307, May 2009

    Better known as the leader of Slow Six, Christian Tignor steps out on his own for the first time. The sound is similar to Slow Six (meditative pieces that spin multiple lines into a coherent thread), but on this album Tignor relies more on computer editing than a band.

    I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes. Tignor is composing pieces much the same way he has in the past, and he's still in charge of the final product. I don't want to make too much of this, though.

    Because the music is paramount. It doesn't matter how many tracks you use; if the music's no good, it's no good. And Tignor definitely knows how to make good music. These songs ebb and flow as they slowly get to the point, but there's never a dull moment.

    Artsy? Sure. But almost absurdly engaging as well. Tignor knows how to write music that matters. It doesn't really matter whose name is above the title.

    Todd Tijerina
    The Lowdown
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Todd Tijerina knows the blues. From the first note he strikes on his guitar, it's apparent that something great is happening. Tijerina knows the blues can be hot, cool, happy, sad and just about everything in between. He can play shuffles, call and response, slow ballads and bright celebrations.

    He shows off all those sounds and more here. Even more impressive, all of the songs on this disc are original. They're close enough to the classics to provide a frame of reference, but Tijerina's guitar playing and singing are all his own.

    Now, he is from the Chicago area, and it's pretty apparent that Tijerina has picked up a few mannerisms from a number of area players. What he does is take those pieces and assemble them into his own, unique style. A fluid, yet sometimes fiery sound, Tijerina plays with an almost-incomprehensible intensity.

    Laid back? Not here. Tijerina and his band charge hard, even in the slower numbers. Can't fault the guys for effort, and the results stack up in the positive column as well. One quality set of songs.

    Presents of Mind
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Grunge and industrial-influenced prog, though produced to an almost sterile degree. I like the way the band infuses the sound with plenty of outside influences. I just wish there was a bit more soul to the sound.

    Feeling, I mean. The playing is wonderful in a technical sense, but it is not expressive. And the same with the singing. Paul Rarick has a great range, but his vocals are simply conveying words, not emotions.

    Part of this, certainly, is the fault of the production. It is so tight that very little expressiveness could escape, if it was there in the first place. Yeah, I know, that's something of a prog ideal, but I don't have to like it. Just wish there was a bit more of a mood to this.

    These guys get plenty of credit for trying to rework the prog songwriting style. The compositions work, often enough. It's just the way they're presented here that bothers me. Too staid, too rote. Too bad.

    Miles Tilmann
    Underland EP
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Been a while since I headed this deep into the electronic ambient. Miles Tilmann does the trance thing as well, orchestrating his moods and then dropping in some fine beats when the time calls for it.

    Both pieces of his sound are impressive. Tilmann manages to be contemplative without getting sullen or dull. And like I noted, his beat work is great. Not terribly experimental, but it fits right in with what he's doing. He paints very pretty pictures.

    And not in any pedestrian fashion. Tilmann offers a highway to his innermost thoughts. That sort of integrity should be rewarded, just as the sounds he creates reward any discerning listener.

    (Steven Hess/Miles Tilmann)
    Departures LP
    (Other Electricities)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    True story: When my wife and I were preparing for the birth of our first child, our childbirth instructor suggested we bring some CDs that might help my wife meditate during labor (so as to have a natural childbirth). The disc she liked best was Miles Tilmann's Underland EP. For a variety of reasons, we never used the CDs, but I've always had a bit of affection for that EP.

    This album is much more abstract than that EP, but I still feel some sort of kinship with Tilmann. The sounds are subtle, but the ideas have force. You just need to wait for them.

    Well, and perhaps turn up the volume. This one isn't going to surprise you with sudden lurches into fortissimo; it's merely going to amaze with the breadth of its thought.

    This one would be good for the hospital, too. Lots of meditative possibilities, but hardly boring. Quite stirring in its own way, actually.

    Viewers Like You
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    A female singer named Cinder Block? Anthemic punk tunes which have a certain mass appeal? Yep. Replete with overdubbed vocals, wailing guitars and all the sorts of things which more punkers eschew, Tilt revels in the excess even while living the punk rawk life.

    Buddy, you know there ain't nothing better. Fuck all that self-righteous suffering nonsense. You know any punk band worth its salt wants to pull a Clash, cheesing out so completely by the end that it's sold a few million records.

    Ah, well, I'm getting ahead of myself. All that needs to be said here is that Tilt cranks out utterly tasty gems, with guitars of caramel and hooks of nougat. Ms. Block adds the peanuts, I suppose. Whatever. Unlike like a real Snickers bar, however, these folks truly satisfy a craving.

    The sort of album which breaks all of the punk rules and still raises the flag proudly. Fat Mike and Ryan Greene did a great giving Tilt an amazing sound, and the band did the rest. More than first rate; these folks are completely irresistible.

    Been Where? Did What?
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    The requisite "odds and ends" package, going all the way back to 1992. Singles, demos and some stranger material (including the "Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard").

    Right. The stronger material comes on the old 7" songs. That stuff is polished and sounds, you know, complete. Some of the demos are interesting--some are great--but the sound quality isn't always great and some of the songs sound a little unfinished.

    That's the fun of an album like this, hearing the process by which a band refines its work. And don't let anyone kid you. Punk music is punk music, but writing good punk songs requires hard work, lots of practice and even more editing.

    And so hearing these songs in various stages along that path is certainly a treat. And since it's Tilt I'm examining, well, the added bonus is that there's always a good idea in every piece, even if it hasn't quite been buffed up to perfection. One for the fans, to be sure, but still more than worthwhile.

    Swan Girth
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Ragged and schizophrenic fare, way out on the edge of the crazed singer-songwriter sound. D. Leigh Blood is the mad genius behind these sounds, and he just doesn't hold a damned thing back.

    Artistically, that's absolutely the right way to go. But while I sit here listening to the often disturbing lyrics and music, I wonder if he might have spared me just a bit. There's a stridency to Blood's singing and playing that slices straight to the bone.

    But even as I want to turn away now and again, I'm drawn back in again by the wide range of sound and thought expressed. And, of course, the almost impossibly pure train of ideas churning down the rails. I can't get myself out of the way. I'm pretty sure I want to lie across the tracks.

    Some albums shine a light directly into someone's soul. Blood has crafted an eight-lane highway into his innermost thoughts and desires. It's creepy sometimes, but always exhilarating. Got to take a breath before I lose it.

    Twice the Dose split EP with Watch It Burn
    (Attention Deficit Disorder)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Watch It Burn cranks out some solid emo tracks, and Tiltwheel bashes forth some basic pop punk songs. A bit of a contrast, one that makes for a most enjoyable disc.

    My little attempt at labeling kinda glosses over the fact that Watch It Burn likes melody a lot. For that matter, Tiltwheel has the strident guitars (a la a Naked Raygun) that a lot of emo bands use.

    Right. What I really need to mention is that there six great punk songs on this EP. If you've never heard of either of these bands, this release will get you to picking through the back bins looking for old albums. Truly.

    Time in Malta
    A Second Engine
    (Equal Vision)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    There's this notion among some folks in the music mainstream that loud music can't actually be good, that simply because a band deals in volume it can't also be thoughtful and creative as well.

    Strangely, most of those sorta music critics worship Neil Young (I do too, just so you know), which kinda blows their argument to shreds. A band like Time in Malta does the same thing. Taking the brute strength of hardcore, adding some of the anthemic qualities of grunge and then allowing the mixture to ferment, this trio has crafted one blistering disc.

    Good music. Great music. The lyrics are constructed and phrased as a poem might be, and similarly, the music is put together layer by layer (not unlike a symphonic work). The production sound varies from song to song; some pieces are rough and edgy, while others contain round edges and ring like a bell. Even so, the core sound of Time in Malta is never lost.

    There's a new Snapcase album coming out this fall. This album rivals anything those boys have done. Coming from me, that's a high compliment. And believe me, Time in Malta has earned every accolade it receives.

    Time Sensitive
    You're the One CD5
    (Nickel City)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Something of a personal track from the guy also known as the Marksman. He's trying to do something of a kicky urban ballad (you know, a bit uptempo).

    Now, I'm not real big on gooey love songs, and Mark Baranowski doesn't have the world's greatest singing voice. It's kind of ordinary, and that's the one thing I like about this. He's not trying to bowl people over with excessive production or shrill howls. He's just kinda singing. That's cool.

    What he does best is kick out the backing instrumental tracks. Those sound real good. Very much rooted in classic hip-hop. Quite nice. Most folks probably won't dig the singing, but hell, that's the way it goes.

    See also the Marksman.

    Time's Expired
    Time¹s Expired
    reviewed in issue #86, 9/11/95
    While easily fitting into the ³same-old NYC rap-hardcore² mold, Time¹s Expired takes the time and effort to meld its varying influences into a seamless wall of sound.

    Yeah, this isn¹t some lame toss-off effort (and I¹ve heard a lot of those lately). Many of you know I don¹t really like this sort of stuff, but I really like this album (tape, whatever). And mostly because the band refuses to stay in any typecast area long enough to be pinned down. There are some positively thunderous metal moments, and some smooth jams rap moments. Enough variety to tickle anyone¹s fancy.

    Variety and creativity from a NYC hardcore band? Believe it. And that¹s what makes this a great set.

    Tin Armor
    Life of Abundance
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Peppy, often elegiac americana that is reminiscent of an introspective Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or perhaps a punchier Connells. Damn, look at those references. I am getting old.

    But this music sounds old. In a good way. It has that classic rock feel, in that I can imagine listening to these songs twenty years from now and thinking, "Damn, that's still great." I dunno. Some stuff just sounds great right from the start.

    The band's players are most complimentary, working exceptionally well with each other. The arrangements pass solos along from one member to another (and, really, there's something awesome about alternating solos between piano and guitar) without missing a beat. The production allows every member plenty of space, and yet everything comes together in the end as well.

    Like I said, some stuff just sounds great. And some stuff will sound great years from now. This album fits quite nicely in both camps. One side note: I gave this a short review three months ago. I've grown in appreciation so much that I gave it a full review this month. That's what I call staying power.

    Tin Hat Trio
    Book of Silk
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    There's something most evocative about rock trios that include a string instrument. Dirty Three, of course, was one of the first of these such outfits I'd heard, but there are plenty others. Tin Hat Trio plays a much more delicate brand of post-roots music, but the quality is just as high.

    There are plenty of differences. First, Rob Burgher plays accordion, organ and other keyboard instruments. Carla Kihlstedt plays both violin and viola (though not at the same time). Mark Orton plays guitar, dobro and banjo. Which does point out one similarity among many of these groups--the absence of bass.

    The Trio does accede a bit on this point, adding a tuba player from time to time. Most often, however, it's just the three players wending their way through demented cafe music. Kinda like Sergio Leone discovered his long-lost gypsy roots and started wearing a beret.

    So is this the first French and western album? Probably not. But that's what it sounds like to me. This album is a dark delight.

    Tin Horn Prayer
    Get Busy Dying
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Denver punk survivors get together to record a raucous americana-type album. In keeping with my earlier observation about the geographical differences in americana, Tin Horn Prayer plays it loud. And without even a hint of bluegrass.

    There are some occasional nods to Irish reels and plenty of foot-stompin' riffs, though. Just what I'd expect. The bonus here is that Tin Horn Prayer keeps its game face on for the entire album.

    The sound is full and lush, with a muddy-enough mix to let the instruments blend together nicely. That makes this album sound like some sort of a happening. Indeed, this is probably one of the loudest and most intense americana albums I've heard. More likely, this is just something else entirely. Something very good, in any case.

    Tincup Prophette
    Liar and the Thief
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    Being, for the most part, Amanda Kapousouz, with help from Daniel Rickard and a host of friends on drums and cello, Tincup Prophette lurches through a surprisingly vast array of sounds and ideas.

    Surprising because most of these songs plod along at a funereal pace (thus the "dirge" reference in the press notes). You'd think this stuff would be dreary. Some of it is, of course, but many of these songs have fun little pieces that pop out of the speakers to shake listeners out of their black coats.

    Kapousouz is an obvious fan of Brian Eno and early Peter Gabriel--and if she's not, she fakes it very well. These songs are meticulously arranged and produced with an often ethereal sparseness. Often, they seem to belong to another world.

    And, who knows, they might. Doesn't much matter to me, as long as I can hear them. Quite solid and creative work in an area that could get repetitive and dull in a heartbeat. Well done.

    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    About as analog-sounding an industrial act I've heard in ages. Even more remarkable considering three of the four members are listed as programmers. Tinfed blows out the technological barriers; too bad it doesn't have the musical chops to go along with the electronic prowess.
    Despite superlative sound, Tinfed just doesn't have enough creativity in the songwriting department. These songs are cliche-ridden exercises in industrial pile-driving, not unlike the last Ministry album. The wonderful production can't hide that fact.
    And that problem is exacerbated by utterly incoherent lyrics. I rarely pay attention to such things, but Tinfed focuses on them so much (an unusual attribute for an industrial band, I know) that I gave a serious listen. And the words are seriously lacking.
    A lot of good going on here. Too bad there's so much that isn't. No compromise between the two; just waves of combat. Wish I could like this more.

    The Lead Shoes
    (Keyhole/Broken Face)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Sort of an electronic soundscape opera. The music is sampled, looped and played, spinning a picture of a world not quite like ours. The vocals are minimalist and simple, spoken as much as sung. And yes, they do tell a story.

    A journey. Between songs with vocals are "instrumental" tracks, fairly experimental in construction. They help transport the listener on a trail much like that of the protagonists.

    I must say, those "instrumental" (I use the quotes because of the collage style of the sound, I guess) flights of creative fancy are much more satisfying than the simpler, less complex tracks with vocals. Tinsel can really leave the plane of the Earth. But generally not when someone's singing.

    The dichotomy is a bit too much for me to overcome. Tinsel has obvious skill and talent, and large portions of this disc are inspirational. Even some of the songs with vocals work well, such as "Here I Was." Would that the rest of the vocal songs matched up as well with the impressive sound work.

    Tiny Lights
    Milky Juicy
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #56, 6/15/94

    Determined to get rid of that power-pop-to-perfection mode their releases had been in, Doctor Dream presents the latest from Tiny Lights, a band that is more eclectic than, well, King Crimson.

    Oh, hell, now I've gone and compared them to KC, and Tiny Lights don't sound anything like them. TL prefer to bounce around the pop idiom on flights of jazz, folk and maybe even a little r&b at times. There is the occasional pop gem like "I Don't Enjoy Life" which would have fit in very well on a later Simon & Garfunkel album, but Tiny Lights never stay in the same place.

    To truly appreciate Milky Juicy you have to zone out, letting the songs merge together into some kind of higher form. Individually, they are nice. Collectively, this is amazing.

    Tips Fourteens
    You're So Famous
    (self-released) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Back in the day when there was a Double Deuce records, this is the sorta thing I'd get from that label. Rough-hewn riffage laid over a pop construction. A little bit moody, a little bit mad. Tuneful, in a ragged sorta way.

    Actually, sometimes the hooks wallow in splendor. Tips Fourteens aren't afraid to pop out, nor are they afraid to let a deconstructive nature take its course. I like the way the album wiggles and waggles about.

    Dirty enough to be interesting. I hate clean pop records; they don't make sense to me. Tips Fourteens have the right idea: keep it simple and don't worry about a few imperfections. In fact, those flaws are what makes the sound work.

    I'd meander with these folks every day. I just like the way the songs sound. Sure, the odd profound moment flits by, but mostly I'm just enraptured by the surface sound. There's plenty here to behold.

    Anna Tivel
    Heroes Waking Up
    (Fluff & Gravy)
    reviewed 6/20/16

    I've rambled through this album about five times. I've been on the fence about reviewing it, but then I realized that I was looking forward to my next listen. So there's a pull to this album that I can't quite describe.

    I think my issue is that Tivel sings ruminative folk songs that aren't entirely sung. In general, I'm not a fan. But Tivel uses her alto range to full effect, affecting clear or raspy tones as the mood fits. And while these songs are often quiet, they are hardly still.

    Indeed, there's a fire burning under these songs, one that took me a long time to perceive. Tivel isn't showy or demonstrative. She performs her songs in a deceptively simple manner. But that simplicity is belied by exceptional arranging and lyrical construction.

    There's no shouting, no hollering and no wailing. Tivel holds her emotions close. But when they do seep out, the effect can be devastating.

    It took a while for me to come around. I'm glad I did. And I'm still looking forward to my next session with this album.

    Firefly and Live!
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Even in my days as a glam metal fan, I never got into TNT. Yeah, I might've tapped in through my affection for the European layered approach, but that didn't happen. This disc helps confirm my feelings.

    It's too bad, because in the midst of some dreadfully silly songs are cool musical moments. Even on a cheap Warrant-style wanker like "Somebody Told You" there's a great drum line. The guitars are quite well-presented, but a little overly reliant on technical prowess to impress me.

    This stuff is just dead cold. The production doesn't help, giving the guitars and drums very sharp edges and leaving a bit too much space that all the overdubbed vocals in the world can't help. The live stuff is fairly well-produced, though the arrangements of the songs are rather self-indulgent. Yes, that's almost a requirement, but still. And that stuff is five years old. Why not just the studio effort?

    Kinda too bad, because the players are astonishingly proficient. The songs themselves sound so dated I really can't bear to listen. Like anything else, some glam metal has become timeless. But it didn't sound like this. It's music like this that caused the backlash.

    To Live and Shave in L.A.
    Helen Butte vs. Masonna Pussy Badsmell
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Noise, and you probably already know. Plenty of screaming and other tricks of distortion to keep you occupied.

    And some tape loopiness to keep things interesting. This is obvious high concept (or is that low concept?) stuff. You either want to like it or not. I like it, but it doesn't knock me on my ass. I keep wanting that extra... well, if I know what it was, I'd probably be hearing it.

    Still, a nice collection of random musical violence. To Live and Shave in L.A. already has a fine reputation for this sort of musical mayhem, and this album doesn't disappoint.

    Sounds a little more thrown together than previous stuff I've heard (and that's saying something). The spontaneous nature of the songs is nice, but I'm still in search of a unifying concept. Not that any such thing was intended, of course.

    Where a Horse Had Been Standing and Where You Belong
    (Western Blot W/L)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    And I thought the Strangulated Beatoffs album was disturbing. Well, at least I knew what was coming here. This purports to be 12 tracks from a forthcoming double disc titled The Wigmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg. How much of that I can trust is unknown. Now I will speak to the music. As such.

    Also big loopers, To Live and Shave in L.A. takes the loops and other pieces of sound and severely distorts them. Whatever the stuff sounded like in the first place has been rendered into what you hear when you shift radio stations on the fly. Lots and lots of split-second pieces of sanity.

    Oh, yes, it's easy to get lost in this stuff, too. Start wandering and thrashing out spots of "reality" from the carnage. Hey, they're talking about Larry King! Or maybe it was Stephen King. Shit, maybe it was the Lion King or Disney's same-sex partners policy. Quite honestly, I don't know anything at this moment. I'm pretty sure I hallucinated that Larry King bit. But whatever.

    Like I said, I knew what I was getting into here. Severe sonic mutilation, with a side order of schizophrenia. Bitchen.

    Tonal Harmony EP
    (Western Blot W/L)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    A couple special guests (John Morton of Electric Eels plays guitar on the first track and Simeon from Silver Apples is on the second) decorate this EP. Instead of the usual noisy chaos, these songs focus on cool vocals, sliced and assembled in a nicely emotive fashion.

    Proving that random carnage can be applied to voice as well as instrument. Does this stuff make sense? Well, not exactly. I'm still trying to puzzle out the Kansas City references from "The Snake Whose Head Would Not Be Crushed", and even though I have a lyric sheet I'm still not on top of the situation.

    Aw, but hell. I've found that To Live and Shave in L.A. is best appreciated in a holistic fashion. Let all the assembled noises waft through the various membranes of your head and settle in your brain. And then, maybe, try to make sense of it.

    But I shan't. Not today. I'll just enjoy and leave contemplation for some other time. Nothing wrong with that, you know.

    Today EP
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    If college rock was still a valid description of anything, it might fit Today. Songs with a premium on lyrics, to the point of planning the music around the most theatrical presentation of the vocals.

    Very theatrical all the way around, really, in a lo-fi sorta way. Ambling music, with very deliberate guitar lines and rhythms. The drums are almost martial in the way they keep time. Every bar is one step ahead of the next.

    I hadn't heard anything like this in quite a while. It does sound like folks who are desperate to make a statement. And Today does pretty well. Maybe not as emphatic as hoped, but still stirring, nonetheless.

    Today Is the Day
    (Amphetamine Reptile)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    With all the subtlety of a Sam Peckinpah climactic sequence, Today Is the Day rumbles through a vicious and distorted vision of modern life that would scare even Oliver Stone.

    As near as I can tell, this is an album devoted mostly to necrophilia. Well, that and the way you kill your loved one in order to make love to the corpse. The lyrics are as convoluted as the music, so it's kinda hard to tell. But that's my take.

    Thirty minutes of raw hardcore chaos. I've heard of the band before; now I know. Destined to wallow in the gutters of society, Today Is the Day has created a loving portrait of a rotting, bloody corpse. I'd say that's pretty cool.

    Temple of the Morning Sun
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    When I last heard Today Is the Day, I was struck by the utter disregard for any form of undue influence, be it societal norms or merely song structure. This puppy is much more technologically advanced than the last album I reviewed, but the absolute hatred for instituted order continues.

    And the folks have obviously found lots of new toys with which to spread the message of death and decay. Like Neurosis before them, the band moved to Relapse and has now released an album that is very good, but perhaps a bit too impersonal. There's a band hiding somewhere behind all the studio trickery, and I'd rather hear more of that.

    Still, I've got to acknowledge the sheer power and grace of this disc. It's a rambling mess that is a bit too processed, but few bands would dare to consider traveling this way. I'll take the risk-takers every time.

    Like the most recent Neurosis album, this disc gets point deducted because of my high expectations. It's still an amazing exploration of sound and ideas, no matter if I'm not quite satisfied. Definitely worth a listen.

    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    David Pavkovic controls the drums and keyboards which lie at the heart of Toe. Yoko Noge provides the vocals. But these facts do nothing to describe the wonderful sonic journey this disc provides.

    The drums might be termed tribal, but that's not right. Instead, they're expressive, doing much more than holding a beat. Rather, they provide much of the melody and delicate pacing of the songs. Noge's vocals, sweet one moment, rough and throaty the next, also span a wide gamut of sounds.

    Toe also is happy to play trippy pop music, as on the appropriately-titled "Non-Variant." There are plenty of other asides, with friends sitting in and providing an impetus for the sonic departure.

    The band just never quits trying. Despite the full range of styles, Toe has crafted a feel all its own. From the sounds of it, Toe never needed anyone's encouragement to go all out. This Variant is a wonderful experience.

    Two in the Pinata
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Completely twisted pop music, the sort of stuff that would appeal to fans of Heavy Vegetable and (now) Thingy. The guitar lines are fluid and eternally moving, sometimes even having something to do with the rest of the chaos. The tunes are generally upbeat and loony-sounding. Sounds like a recipe for greatness.

    Well, this stuff is a bit simplistic compared to Rob Crow's compositions, but the spirit is similar. The choruses are wonderfully catchy, and when interspersed with the verses (which generally consist of instrumental licks, strictly speaking) create a sorta evolving chaos effect.

    More scrambling of the brainwaves, I'm afraid. Still, I can't think of a better way to describe Toenut. On one hand, an unholy racket, and on the other, woefully pretty stuff. The paradox of my dreams.

    Mordant and masterful. I wouldn't want to be in the head that conceived this, but I'm happy to listen to the results.

    Toilet Boys
    Living Like a Millionaire EP
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Take a cheap and trashy Kiss sound and throw in a lead singer in drag. Oh, can you smell the irony? Well, the problem is that you've also got to deal with the music.

    It's not so much bad as simply uninspired. The riffage has been recycled so many times you can still hear Mick Mars' fretting squeaks. The stuff is peppy, in a tres pop way, but not enough to really kick start the chain reaction. The songs end up sitting on the floor, waiting to rev.

    Ah, well. Worth a few cheap thrills, perhaps, but not much past that. Easy come, easy go.

    Tom Dick and Harry
    The Blue Album
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    Combining the lighter side of acid jazz with the blue-eyed soul pop of, say Spandau Ballet, Culture Club or Simply Red, Tom Dick and Harry takes me back to some of the most frightening moments of my adolescence.

    Yes, I'm talking about the slow songs at the junior high school dance. A real rough time when you're not exactly socially adept. I know, I know, the band has nothing to do with my neuroses, but fuckit, that's where my head is. The playing is nice, and the sound is dead-on, but man, this groove creeps me out.

    So my skin is crawling from sensory memory recall, and I find it really hard to concentrate on the music. I don't listen to stuff like this as a prophylactic against this sort of reaction, and I'm going to have to bow out.

    Mellow, tightly-played pop with falsetto vocals and a nice horn section. Hey, these guys do it well enough. But I've got too much weirdness in my head right now.

    Self Titled
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    The advantage of releasing albums on your own label is that you are able to put out exactly the recording you created. The disadvantage is that there isn't much in the way of constructive criticism during the recording process.

    Ipecac Records is Mike Patton's baby, and Tomahawk is his new band. He and pals Duane Denison, Kevin Rutmanis and John Stanier (past members of Jesus Lizard, Melvins and Helmet--among many other bands--respectively) got together and made some music.

    Not as uniformly strange as, say, Mr. Bungle, but quaintly adventurous nonetheless. Patton's voice is one of the great ones in the past twenty years of rock, and for the most part Tomahawk takes advantage of that, giving him plenty of room to roam and growl. This does have the feel of latter-day Faith No More, though without the over-the-top excess.

    And that's a good thing. I think there are a couple of clunkers here--experiments that don't quite pan out--but the vast majority of the stuff here is solid to great. Music for basking. Lay back and let it envelop you.

    See also , Firewater and Jesus Lizard.

    Too Much Joy
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #1, 2/19/96

    Oh, a new Too Much Joy album. It used to be that such things promised a couple really funny tracks, a cool pop tune or two, and the rest at least acceptable. Not so in recent years...

    Of course, the guys sound really unpretentious recorded. This does not carry over live, where the members of Too Much Joy look and sound like frat boys who have gotten far too successful on meager talent.

    There aren't any belly-thumpers here, though faux-subversive choruses like "I Want to Poison Your Mind" are kinda funny. It sounds to me like the band is trying to make a few more real points than usual, but the sound is so throw-away it's hard to take such things seriously.

    A perfectly average album, which is what Too Much Joy has always been good at producing. Keep your expectations low and you'll be pleasantly amused.

    Steve Peregrine Took
    The Missing Link to Tyrannosaurus Rex
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    After Steve left (was kicked out of, whatever) Tyrannosaurus Rex (soon to be T. Rex), he did what came naturally: got stoned a lot and played some music.

    This disc comes from sessions recorded in his house for was to be a Warner Brothers solo lp. Apart from the fact that the music is too disjointed to sell to the masses, Took never bothered to even let the Warners people listen to his tapes.

    Well, the ostensible producer of these tapes (Tony Secunda) has finally decided to get them out. And honestly, the songs do sound 23 years old. The idea of acoustic psychedelia hasn't really come back, and certainly not in such a raw form. Took is a decent guitarist, and some of his songs have a little appeal.

    But as a musical document, the disc has little use other than to show strange ramblings from another age. Steve Peregrine Took was an interesting fellow, but he wasn't a genius. Just a nice guy who got stoned a bit too much.

    Topaz & Mudphonic
    Music for Dorothy
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    Somewhere between the blues, soul and funk lies Topaz & Mudphonic. These songs have some serious grooves, and a heavy load of harp to boot. It's not pure anything, but that sort of mutt pedigree is always welcome.

    This album is a grabber from the start, and even when the songs drop down for a spot of introspection there's no letting up. This is the perfect album for slow summer evenings watching sweat bead up on a glass of bourbon and ice.

    Oh, and it sounds that sweet, too. There's nothing complicated or tricky about the production. Topaz's vocals have plenty of space, as does the rest of the band. That open, airy feel accentuates the power of these songs. When things get raucous, they really roll.

    A nice way to wrap up reviews. This is exit music most sublime. Wish I'd had it at the beach last summer. Oh well. Put it down for next time out.

    Tora! Tora! Torrance!
    A Cynic's Nightmare
    (The Militia Group)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    A long time ago there was a glam metal band called Tora! Tora! Tora! I mention this only to point out that these boys have nothing to do with them (though I imagine both groups's names were inspired by the 1970 movie). There's no makeup and spandex here; these guys play insistent, clunky punk.

    The kinda stuff that should break down almost immediately, but instead manages not only to survive but thrive. The songs have this electric pulse flowing through them, the sort of energy that's almost impossible to create on purpose. These guys just have that special something.

    I can hear the groans out there. Screw all of you. The point is that these boys make their songs far too complicated for their own good, but they still work. Whether it's by sheer personality or some sinister force, I can't say. These songs are charming, in a messy, convoluted sorta way.

    So, see, we're not talking about the next coming of anything. My own personal feeling is that these boys got a little lucky here. Then again, there's nothing to say that they didn't earn that luck with countless hours of hard work. They even got Grant Hart to help produce the title track, which must mean something to someone, right? Shit, even I don't understand what the hell I'm saying now. So I'll shut up. Listen to this album. I bet it'll make you feel the same way.

    Torch Song
    Toward the Unknown Region
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #1, 2/19/96

    Laurie Mayer, William Orbit and Rico Conning. Orbit at the knobs, of course. Unlike the Strange Cargo project, Torch Song is a true ambient outfit. And Orbit and Co. do the right thing by this stuff, keeping the commercial influences out and really branching into the various shades of the subconscious.

    While not quite as inventive as Aphex Twin or Synaesthesia, Torch Song whips its tunes into coherence even while traversing the universe for ideas. A tough trick, only turned by quality folk.

    I particularly liked the usage of the beats. Torch Song meanders its way between true ambient sound and trance, usually sticking to the mellower side of things. A nice set of sounds, to be sure.

    Beyond the Veil
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    Another album cut off by the Rough Trade folding, this is an extremely sophisticated death metal album (not just because of the presence of synthesizers). But they do help the doom atmosphere, and when things get rolling, they really go!

    One of the finer death metal releases this year. Not terribly experimental, but certainly on the forefront of the death metal universe (and it was recorded a year-and-a-half ago). Since then, their bassist and guitarist have died, but they plan to record with a new line-up soon. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    Torn Skin
    Mislead remix EP
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    A bit more on the goth side than Fatal Blast Whip, the other Blacklight band I reviewed earlier in the issue. And when I say goth, I mean the kinda techno-spooky side of things. There aren't a whole lot of guitars meandering about.

    Much like the FBW disc, the remixes are all over the map, most often reflecting the personal vision of whoever is messing with the tracks. There are a total of seven remixes here, by such folks as 16 Volt, Culture Whore and the aforementioned Fatal Blast Whip.

    The b-sides (all two of them) are a bit rougher than the title track. It's nice to hear some variety from the band as well as all the special guest producers. In fact, it may turn out that Torn Skin is a bit more aggro than I guessed at the start. Hard to say from three songs.

    Interesting, enough so that I'd like to hear a full length from these folks on their own. Remixes are great, but the artist is always the real deal.

    Bobby Torres
    Bobby Torres
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Another piece of my youth coming back to haunt me. Bobby Torres trucks in various forms of prog metal, in general the sort of thing Europeans have always liked better than us Yanks.

    Bruce Dickinson is an obvious influence, though Torres (like almost everyone else on the planet) doesn't have the range. Indeed, the second song here has a defininite "Flight of Icarus" feel.

    The playing is good, better than competent, though still a bit stilted. The sound is demo-quality, but at least I can hear what's going on. Torres needs to work a bit on his songwriting, perhaps relying on his influences a little less and his own instincts a bit more.

    Still, I like the style and his willingness to be a bit adventurous. Lots of work left. In particular, the band really needs time to work together and get a bit more cohesive. But there's good stuff here.

    100 Richards St.
    West Haven, CT 06516
    Phone (203) 931-0459
    e-mail: Tower17@ix.netcom.com
    www: http://www2.netcom.com/~tower17/torres.html

    (& The Ex)
    In the Fishtank 5
    (Konkurrent-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    In the Fishtank is a series from the Dutch Konkurrent label. The idea is to give two bands two days to sit in a studio and see what they can work out. The label asks for about 20 minutes or so of completed music and then releases these improvisations to the world.

    This is the first of the series to get released over here. And it sounds about like you'd expect: Highly technical, incredibly involved musical meanderings, with an amazing range of sonic fury displayed. Each side of these two highly creative bands is shown at one time or another, often in stark juxtaposition to what the other set of musicians might normally do at the time.

    But, come on. Anyone who knows these two bands knows to expect the unexpected. It's not like these folks are used to holding ideas back or conforming to any sorts of musical norms. Their albums already sound like refined improvisations. Which is a pretty good thing.

    As is this set. While I could have guessed the result, I had high expectations. This fulfills them. In every way. Really, really cool, in other words.

    (and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy)
    The Brave and the Bold
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    I've heard two reviews of this album and read three more. Rest assured, anything I say will disappear into the ether just as soon as I post it. But what the hell...

    As you may know, this album contains rather odd recordings of (generally) well-known songs (Springsteen's "Thunder Road," Richard Thompson's "Calvary Cross," Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Daniel," etc.). Decidedly louder than the average Tortoise or Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Wil Oldham) album, it is safe to say that no one checked their artistic arrogance at the door.

    And arrogance is what's needed to even contemplate a project like this. Why simply record a bunch of songs the way they originally appeared? My all-time favorite cover is the one Palace (again, Wil Oldham) did of AC/DC's "Big Balls" for a Skin Graft 7". There are some renditions here that nearly reach the same level of mutant genius perfection.

    It's possible to listen to this album and simply compare what's here with the originals you know by heart. And it's also possible to simply listen and appreciate the tunes as they sound here. And, of course, it's possible to do both over and over again. That would be my choice.

    Toshack Highway vs. Sianspheric
    Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age 2XEP
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #242, June 2003

    Right. There are two EPs from two bands on two separate discs in this single release. You know, like in the olden days when they used to release double albums and such. Or something like that.

    I'm not familiar with Toshack Highway, but the five songs here tell me I ought to be. This is sharply played and brightly-produced roots rock. Keyboards add an interesting edge to the sound, and what might be sullen and moody pieces are rendered just airy enough to stay sunny. An interesting set of contradictions.

    Sianspheric I know, and either these guys just keep getting better or my ears are finally coming around to what they do. Either way, the languid explorations of sonic space presented here are most appealing. A nice counterpoint to Toshack Highway, but there's just enough connection to explain this dual release.

    Well, there's great music is always worth releasing, and both bands here are in fine form. I'm not sure why the double disc presentation, but it's cool in a kitchy sort of way. Most worthy all the way around.

    The Tossers
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    A batch of folks who play relatively traditional Irish reels. Cover art by Jon Langford of the Mekons. Put out on Thick. The sort of album that might to prove to unbelievers that Chicago is, indeed, the spiritual center of the musical universe.

    When I refer to this stuff as traditional, I must admit that there are a few modern concessions. Electric bass, for example, and a high usage of mandolin. Still, the fiddle and tin whistle do evoke a certain Irish air, and the music itself sounds reasonably authentic to me.

    But why am I stumbling all over myself here? Good music is good music, regardless of roots or the tightness of connections to the "old country." The Tossers play a very enjoyable sort of Irish music. I'm not inclined to like this kinda thing; if I find myself a nice "Irish" pub, I always pray that some dingbat with a fake brogue doesn't step up to a microphone before I've finished my Murphy's. After hearing this disc, I'd love to have the Tossers accompany a pint or few.

    An album that goes down easy. I can't really put my finger on why I actually like this disc, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Tossers don't seem overly concerned with authenticity (whatever that might mean). These folks just want to play good music. And so they have.

    The Valley of the Shadow of Death
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    More solid hardcore reels and tin whistle punk. This sort of thing is kinda love it or hate it, but I have to say the Tossers do this sound about as well as anyone. Stock up on the Bushmills and raise your glasses.

    Total Babes
    Swimming Through Sunlight
    (Old Flame)
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Perky, needle-pinning pop that isn't nearly so aggressive as the distortion. Almost a Capstan Shafts-like sound, though with a bit more heft.

    This is bar pop, and good bar pop at that. There's plenty of bite in the lyrics, and every once in a while the music takes a plunge into the dark side as well.

    With one notable exception, these songs are short and tight. That sole lengthy piece, "Without Your Heart," is a wall-shattering ballad of sorts. It's the penultimate piece on the album, and it's also the song that everything on the album builds up to. And yeah, it's stunning.

    The sound is almost a novelty, but the songs are quite accomplished. Dig past the fuzz and there's plenty more to hear.

    Total Chaos
    Pledge of Defiance
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/95

    If you're used to the squeaky-clean sound more of the Epitaph bands have, then this might come as a little bit of a surprise. There is a lot of sloppiness going on.

    But if you listen closely, the production is what causes that sound. These guys have control of their instruments and are just trying to sound like hacks.

    Add entertaining, if not entirely relevant, lyrics and a straight-for-the-gut hard core style, and you find this. Perhaps not the best punk album of the year, but it sure is tasty.

    Anthems from the Alleyway
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    New drummer (Suzy Homewrecker--these folks do have fun names), same old sound. Damned sloppy punk music, highly motivated (though moderately effective) political lyrics and a gawdawful mix from the production room.

    The drumming is much more in an American style (very much an East Bay thing), but the rest of the band sticks to its down-and-out Brit stylings. And since Total Chaos prefers to recycle the five or so riffs it seems to be able to remember, predicting progressions is a snap.

    Of course, ridiculing punk music construction is like making fun of the Tampa Bay Bucs because they lose: You miss the point. Total Chaos exudes a nice bit of energy, but I've just never really connected with the band.

    Too bad. This is a decent enough record. I just don't get off.

    In God We Kill
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Yet another drummer (the band didn't even bother to picture him in the liners). And yet another instance of the Total Chaos decline. The songs are heavier, slower and generally stodgier. Musically, I mean. The lyrics are the same-old same-old.

    And I'm just kinda tired of it all. There are so few interesting moments here that a relatively banal track like "Immaculate" (which features TV preacher samples and a gothic industrial sound backing) sounds like an inspiration.

    There's a reason this one isn't on Epitaph. And it isn't because Epitaph has turned its back on "true" punk. It's because Total Chaos is one album past being particularly relevant.

    This disc is worse than bad. It's boring. The worst sin of a punk band.

    Total Transformation
    In Thru Out
    (Quantum Loop)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    The experimental techno musings of Stephan Groth. He has plenty of help on the periphery, but this disc is pretty much his alone. And the visions within are impressive.

    Much the same atmospheric feel achieved by X Marks the Pedwalk. Groth doesn't mess around too much with beats, sticking to basic fare there, but he does some really wonderful things with his synths. Lots of lines intersecting and connecting different sections of songs (he'll keep a groove going for a minute or so and then mutate, a sort of variations on a theme approach).

    Keeps the brain alive. Not exactly meat market club material, but that's not what Quantum Loop seems to be about. The idea with this imprint is to kick out some great new techno sounds. Total Transformation is just another great find.

    Just on the techno side of ambient (if you wish to split those two up; if not, then realize this does have regular beats), but with all the exploration usually associated with a good ambient album. A wonderful mind workout.

    Totally Blind Drunk Drivers
    The Breast Off
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Perhaps you might've picked up on LunaSea's specialty by now: Well-executed power pop. Oh sure, there's plenty of variation in the roster, but that's the base. And Totally Blind Drunk Drivers (a moniker that strikes me as just a tad too busy--though it's absurd to criticize a band's name, especially a band from Estonia) fit right in with Longwave, Kitty in the Tree, Moths and the other bands on the label.

    Not only in that these boys deliver thick and fuzzy riffage punctuated by outrageously hummable hooks. Well, that and the overall quality of the package. Good writing, a loose playing style and spot-on production. All truly fine.

    Ear candy of the highest order. There's just something about heavy, bouncing chords that makes me want to sing along at high volume. Perhaps you are similarly afflicted. Totally Blind Drunk Drivers will exacerbate this condition to an almost insufferable level.

    You know, one of those albums I can't resist. There's just enough of a hint of that fine 70s glam sound to kick my attraction into overdrive. According to the press, these boys are all the rage in their native land. I figure there's a few people over here who just might go a bit kooky for them as well.

    Touch Is Automatic
    32AOR 7"
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Squalling guitars and a nice, driving punk-pop beat. Enough dissonance to keep the hounds at bay, but attractive enough to turn my ears on. Well, perhaps it's the way the guitar lines howl at each other that gives me the chills, but I likes it, man.

    Kinda like a noisier Naked Raygun. Don't know why that just popped into my head, but there it is. Touch Is Automatic manages both the uptempo and the midspeed songs with ease. Actually, the flip, "Icky Vibes" has a bit of an Arcwelder feel to it, but then, that doesn't contradict my earlier statement.

    Stridence can be a good thing. Touch Is Automatic may have a chilly sound, but that stabbing pain the back of your neck is a good thing. I swear.

    Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance
    (Metal Blade/WB)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    When on Intense, Tourniquet listed Bible verses with their songs. Now on Metal Blade they don't. And the songs just aren't as interesting. It looks like they are trying to dig into the intellectual fan base band like Bad Religion have, but you can't do that just by using 25-cent words. It takes using those words in a way that makes sense.

    This album is at least a year overdue, and it's not that bad. I actually like the way they merge death metal and thrash much better than sacrifice. The vocals are certainly finer, and if it weren't for the way they stop... start... stop songs and meander through five tempo and stylistic changes in three minutes, I would probably dig this even more.

    There is still Christian content, although you really have to dig into the lyrics to find it. This is not easy music to listen to, and I must admit I couldn't find the resolve to do so extensively. Maybe it'll grow on me.

    Matt Townsend
    The Drifter and the Dream (Part 1) EP
    reviewed 1/3/17

    Overtly political musical statements can often get overwhelmed by the message. If an artist isn't careful, the passion and rage that fuels such songs wipes out the music entirely. Matt Townsend walks the line much closer than most. He is explicit in his message and ideas, but he manages to tamp down his fervor just enough to let the music enhance his fervor.

    "The Great American Madness" kicks off his set, and if it puts you off, then you're not gonna like what comes next. Townsend acknowledges many of the contradictions of the American myth, and sounds pretty prescient considering the recent election. He doesn't pull any punches with his lyrics, but he gives his band full range behind him, which amplifies his ideas nicely.

    And that's how you avoid crafting a polemic. Balance. Grace. A recognition of the entirety of the world. Matt Townsend is one person with some big ideas, and he's put together a fine set of songs. And as much as I think he wants to transcend that set of facts, he doesn't oversell. Which makes me even more interested in hearing part 2.

    Toy Bombs
    Will Work for Free EP
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Bright, bouncy songs that veer from pop to rock to grandiose. Well, all of this is very big. Very, very big. Toy Bombs aren't subtle in any way. And I can dig that.

    What I really like is the way these folks dextrously use power. Everyone of these songs has a rhythmic attitude, and not necessarily the same one, either.

    Everything is loud. And that suits Toy Bombs. Loud is a great way to get attention, especially if the goods you're selling are this good. Lotsa fun.

    The Toy Dolls
    One More Megabyte
    (Rotten Records)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Metallized punk pop from England, complete with those whiny upper-register vocals that seem to be a staple over there. The songs are extremely basic, most often with some sort of cheap humor element. And yet, they're reasonably amusing.

    With the emphasis on reasonably. This stuff gets grating very quickly, and while I could probably take (and enjoy) the odd track on a mix tape or the radio, I can't stand an entire album's worth. I guess my patience is wearing thin in my old age.

    Or whatever. This is disposable music, which even the band admits when it says "We record albums to promote our tours". If that's good enough for them, who am I to complain?

    Ten years ago I ate this stuff up and came back for seconds. I've always thought my tastes became somewhat more sophisticated. Perhaps I'm just an old fart. I'd better stop before I get too depressed.

    Toy Gun Cowboy
    Big Blue
    (Gutter Groove)
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    Certainly the wackiest album in the reviews this month. That's not saying a whole lot, as most of my choices are fairly conventional. But Matt Erickson (who is Toy Gun Cowboy) has a cool, proggy take on pop music. Kinda like Ween meets Bourgeois Tagg--how's that for fucked up?

    Actually, all it means is that the music is slightly disjointed and utterly accessible. Jambling rhythms and bouncy melodies, all tossed into a blender. Like the folks I mentioned (and others, like Was Not Was, I suppose) Toy Gun Cowboy knows how to pour.

    That is, you gotta get all the pieces in the right places. By and large, that happens here. These are some crazy songs, but they all make sense--both within themselves and as part of the album. It's kind of a cool trick, really.

    The liners suggest playing the songs in reverse order for a "conceptual effect." You should try this. It provides an entirely different way to hear this album. I like the way Erickson thinks.

    Track a Tiger
    We Moved Like Ghosts
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    And on the other side of obsessive pop music...Track a Tiger. These folks are more from the Brian Jonestown Massacre school, steeping themselves in a variety of pop forms--but always returning to the 60s. Maybe that Fender Rhodes has a little something to do with it.

    The 60s by way of Stereolab, though. Track a Tiger crafts its songs immaculately, and often enough it simply gets weird. In that laid-back, "we're not really trying to be too cool" sorta way. These folks are master of flow.

    The shimmery production helps a lot. These songs rarely get bogged down musically, but when that possibility looms, there's just enough reverb to keep the song going. It's a technique rather than a cheap trick--these songs ride the edge, and you need to keep them in check now and again.

    Reading back over this, you might think I'm disparaging these folks. On the contrary. The best music rides the edge of disaster. It just stays on the high side. Track a Tiger keeps both wheels on the ground, if only barely. Fine thrills.

    Track One A.B.
    Track One A.B.
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    With all of the components to become a wanky, faux alternative sensation, Track One A.B. instead manages to transcend the meager offerings of its influences and kick out a fairly solid album.

    That nasty backbeat syncopation and acoustic grunge-style guitar stuff is all over the place, but the band always manages to save things by the chorus. Indeed, that's easily the best part of the album. Most of the time I'm really ticked at the verse, but when the hook comes in, well, I'm there. An odd place, to be sure.

    But to remember: these guys are mere hooks away from being Blues Traveler or the Spin Doctors or something similarly nasty. I have no good reason for liking this disc nearly as much as I do, and in retrospect some of the songs do seem a bit tiring.

    Aw, hell, I'll stick to my feeling. As this sort of thing goes, I haven't heard anyone this good in ages. And I did like the thing, after all.

    Tractor Hips
    The Sovereign and the Dogs 7"
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    With this 7" and one of the cooler tracks on the awesome Cognitive Mapping compilation (reviewed in this issue), Tractor Hips are all over.

    And why not? The band sticks to instrumentals, but the inventiveness and creativity shown should keep the band from mining old shafts for years to come.

    These are folks who are not afraid to try something new and wild, tackling the melodic and strident with aplomb.

    What a find. This is positively not music for the masses, but it's right up my alley, and I'm glad to receive it.

    Tracy and the Hindenburg Ground Crew
    Margaret Dumont
    (Action Box)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    Wacky pop stuff with widely-varying production. At times the tape hiss can be deafening.

    Mostly this reminds me of stuff like Chevy Heston, though Tracy and Co. are not quite up to that level. The lyrics are kinda moronic and the melodies have a sing-song quality at times. And that Casio drum machine sound really starts to grate after a while.

    Still, Margaret Dumont is a charming enough album. It's so fucking silly I can't help but be amused. I can't imagine this going anywhere, but for nutty pop stuff it's good enough. Certainly no one else would lay claim to this sound (and I'm not sure why these folk would want that, either).

    Quirky and amusing. Creative enough to keep my interest. Strange enough to keep any normal person miles away. But I've never claimed that last appellation, myself.

    Tragic Romance
    Cancel the Future - Live
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    Paula told me "Hey, don't get pissed, but this is more straight ahead metal than our other stuff." I assured her that was alright. I can judge the dead, the quick and the glam equally.

    Some of the classic examples of glam metal are live albums, the Scorps's "Tokyo Tapes" being freshest in my mind. If a band really sucks and is poor, a live recording can make them sound like idiots. Studio production can hide a lot of errors that this sort of recording cannot.

    And the verdict: These guys have the chops. The songwriting is decent, though mostly unspectacular. And enjoyable, if rather benign, experience. I've heard worse and better.

    Trailside Rangers
    The Great Divide
    (Funky Mushroom)
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    Playing a brand of country-rock (or roots-rock, if you will) that I last heard from a Buffalo outfit called the Outriders some three or four years ago, the Trailside Rangers are primed to take over their home base of New York City.

    The lyrics are written in prose that is printed in paragraphs in the liners-a nice effect. The music is easy-going, with bluesy melodies and great laid-back lead guitar work.

    Some feel there is a trend towards this sort of music, what with the (moderate) success of the Jayhawks and Wilco and so forth. Who knows. But if the big, wide world decides to come to the doorstop, the Trailside Rangers will have some great music for everyone.

    Training for Utopia
    Plastic Soul Impalement
    (Solid State-Tooth and Nail)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    The title track (also the first track) is a collage of samples. Didn't know what would lie behind that cipher. And when it arrived, I was a bit underwhelmed.

    Really heavy grunge-like hardcore, with hoarsely-shouted anthems brightened by crashing guitars. The collage intros pop up now and again, but they really don't do anything for the music.

    Stuff that isn't too bad, but it's just not that interesting. Imagine a raw band which trucks in the extreme (Eyehategod would work), and then lighten up every part just a touch and add a large dose of Skin Yard. With the odd electronic interlude.

    Too bad it ends up sounding so, well, generic. Even when the guys try and whip up a bit of the NYC metalcore mosh on, say, "Pretty Picture of Lies", the result is a dumbing down and not a creative exploration. There's nothing past the fairly dull surface.

    Heavy Black Frame
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Moody as all get out, though with enough 70s pop kitsch to stop the proceedings well short of morose. Just sorta restrained, in a sexually frustrated kinda way. Music for college students who justify their inability to get a date by looking down at the rest of the world. Trust me. I know exactly what I'm talking about here.

    But I'm not gonna get suckered into ripping the album. Oh no. This is really cool stuff. There's plenty here to stimulate the intellect as well as the emotive center, and that's why it's so perfect for moping around the dorm room. There's just enough pretentiousness to leave the barest edge of an attitude, and that's great.

    Even past that, though, there's something intimately appealing about Tram. I guess it's that I found it so easy to identify these songs with a particular period of my life. My guess is this disc should put people in touch with the "dark and nasties," those really depressing parts of life. And what the disc does in the end is apply something of a salve to those wounds. A nice trick, that.

    So indulge the need and feed at the bowl of discontent and ravaged self-esteem. Tram will provide the transportation. You just need to open the door.

    Frequently Asked Questions
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Slow, moody, intense fare. Tram manages to achieve a semi-western feel with some of the guitar effects (lots of echo, which brings to mind steel guitar), though I'd put the actual song construction in the realm of early 70s pop. Kinda like Burt Bacharach writing cowboy songs. That may sound silly (it's not), but the real key here is a single-minded focus on each song.

    Intense is the word I'd like to drive home. A lot of bands try to create this deep, probing mood. Mostly because when its done well few types of music are anywhere near as affecting. Tram does it extremely well.

    Again, I can't emphasize enough the importance the follow through. Tossing off slow and meditative material does everyone an injustice. Tram does this stuff right, crafting the songs with astonishing care and then making it all sound simple.

    I know, I've already good things about Tram before, but by the sound of this disc, I'll be writing plenty more complimentary words in the future. Simply exquisite.

    A Kind of Closure
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Moody. Introspective. Complex. Stunning. All that describes everything I've heard from Tram in the past, and this album continues right along those same lines. Not much new to report, but then that simply means this is a great album.

    Tramps Like Us
    Wishful Thinking
    (Splash Records)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    A DC-area band that likes its Freedom Rock. Oh, that's not such a bad thing. I liked the Georgia Satellites as much as anyone. But still, there is something to updating the sound.

    Or something. These guys don't steal from anyone. The basic white boy blues rock riff concept has been around for ages. Tramps Like Us would like to be one of those classic bar bands. But the songs just don't have that important snippet of life.

    They just lie there. Perfectly nice and unobtrusive, but not exciting. Piling on one after another. Good, but in a generic way. Competently executed. Not thrilling.

    And that's the real story. Tramps Like Us are the perfect counterpoint to Three Finger Cowboy (reviewed above). These guys play very well and do a good job of sticking to concepts like solid construction on-pitch singing. But this album doesn't work. It's missing the breath of life.

    Trance Groove
    (Call It Anything-Allegro)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Splicing acid jazz riffs with the more experimental techno structures (including trance and ambient), Trance Groove probably has found as descriptive a name for what it does as can be located.

    The sound is immediately arresting, and what's probably more impressive is how well it stands up over repeated plays. From the heady club feel of "Trainspotting" to the gorgeously varied structures in the very next track "Ange Garden" (a 15-minute ride worth every second), Trance Groove has proved it is a master of music. Period.

    Whenever this many people are contributing a blip here and there, not to mention samples beyond belief, a project can sound cluttered and incoherent without much trouble. Trance Groove avoids this trap, instead melding the various sounds into a unifying piece of music.

    Difficult, but not impossible. A superb accomplishment, taking all of the technology available and making such a warm-sounding album. Trance Groove is not simply electronica, jazz or r&b. It's all of them at once.

    Trance to the Sun
    Urchin Tear Soda
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    There's this notion that real goth is stuff like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson or the Cure. Well, the Cure was peripherally on the first dark wave, I guess, but otherwise most mass-appeal artists just take bits and pieces from the real scene.

    It's stuff like this, music that is almost utterly unclassifiable that more fits into the real "goth" sound. Though I'm sure Trance to the Sun would cringe at the label. The fusion of electronic sequencing, guitars, dramatic beats and performance art-style vocals is just about impossible to properly describe.

    This disc is a world unto itself, spinning tales of an alternate universe and populating that world with some rather unusual musical compositions. Psychedelic? Sure. Dark? Of course. Out there? All the way. By the time the cover of "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" rolls past, nothing sounds out of place. Indeed, this album invents its own rules.

    So few people even attempt something this ambitious. It's almost silly to compare the musical work here with that of the Mortiis I reviewed earlier, but this puppy has depth that guy can't even imagine. Two people put this together. Amazing. Simply amazing.

    Atrocious Virgin
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    As a warning to idiots like me who get confused easily, Trance to the Sun makes it clear that while plenty of effects were used to create the impressive sounds on this disc, no sampling or looping occurred. Good thing I saw that, or I'd have made a real fool of myself.

    Because the sound here is most impressive. It's hard to imagine people playing what I'm hearing. Trance to the Sun trafficks in grand, soaring goth music, with blinding guitar lines and swooping keyboards. Oh, and the divine vocals wafting down as if angels on high had deigned to grace the land below with their presence.

    You think I'm overdoing it, hunh? You think I'm being a bit too effusive in my praise? Take a listen for yourself, man. Crank the music up, let it wash over you for five or ten minutes and then tell me I'm mistaken. You won't be able to do it. It's albums like this that legitimize the entire goth movement in all its forms.

    Truly. I don't excited like this very often. Not to this extent, anyway. Trance to the Sun not only knows the history of goth (as evidenced by a few sly passing references), the band members have a good idea of how to keep the sound modern and vital. Pretentious as hell. And well worth it.

    (Radiant-Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    This could be termed just another of those Dream Theater side projects (Mike Portnoy plays drums), but the other players are impressive in their own rights. Neal Morse is from Spock's Beard, Roine Stolt is in the Flower Kings and Pete Trewavas is a member of Marillion.

    Even with a solid prog pedigree like that, kicking off an album with a 30-minute song (in six movements) is pretty ambitious. Gotta really work at not losing people. And Transatlantic does pretty well, in general avoiding the prog trap of grinding the gears and jamming incompatible riffs right up next to each other.

    Indeed, while this has the feel of an improvised album, the songs are fairly carefully written. And as the album ventures into more traditional rock sounds (like a nicely understated ballad), it's not likely to satisfy hardcore progheads.

    In fact, I'm sure some Dream Theater fans will be a bit distressed by moments here and there. Which is a good thing. Musicians, like all artists, need to stretch out. Projects like this allow them to do just that. For a five-song album that's almost 80 minutes long, this puppy flies by like a breeze. I had a good time. Perhaps it isn't the most substantial meal in the world. Transatlantic is thoroughly enjoyable.

    Bridge Across Forever
    (Radiant-Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Another set of multi-movement works from this prog "supergroup." About what I expected, to be honest.

    To be specific, I figured the pieces would be well-plotted, played exquisitely and produced with a clean, but not sterile, sound. And indeed, that's what this is. The prog purist would be most pleased.

    And after that, well, the prog purist would be most pleased. This music isn't aimed at mainstream listeners and doesn't really try to connect with them. It is fun, which is a bit unusually considering the style, and the stuff sounds great, but I still don't see the kids lining up (unless, of course, they happen to be Dream Theater fans wondering what Mike Portnoy's doing on the side).

    That, however, is hardly a damning statement. Transatlantic takes a classic sound and infuses it with life and character. This is fine prog, but it's not stilted or excessive. Rather, the technical touch is proficient yet light. Subtlety rules the day. Transatlantic has crafted another fine album.

    Transglobal Underground
    Rejoice Rejoice
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    What happens when you throw a Middle Eastern influence in with DJ flavor? You create the Transglobal Underground. This is a solid sequel to Psychic Karaoke, and in many ways, the new release flows much better. They still have a plethora of instruments including violin, sitar, dhol, short wave radio, cimbalom, tabla, and drums, drums, drums.

    This is one of those free flowing discs that will have you fading in and out on the rhythms but never quite letting the music leave your head. Straight up good grooves with an unconventional line up. I love it when people make music from a different starting point because the sounds will be different in a familiar way.

    Good for setting a loose, smooth mood without all the pretentious snootiness of listening to distinctly different musical styles. Everyone can play in this one unless they're afraid of where the music might take them.

    --Aaron Worley

    Slugchuckles Insanely
    (Base on Balls-Tee Pee)
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    I've heard this before. From better. Who did better. Oh, it's some sort of industrial metal thing, with weird glam overtones. Well, they try to be catchy, but it ends up whiny.

    The first problem is the production, which left everything awash, sounding very weak. I'm not sure who could do much with the sound that exists here. Second, the songwriting is really derivative, and even the lyrics are boring.

    This has the feel of a band trying like hell to sell out, and not even accomplishing that successfully. Simply painful to hear.

    Folks who are absolutely clueless. I admire the effort, but I can't stand it.

    End of the Line
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Poppy prog rock stuff, influenced by Styx and early 80s Yes. Lots of keyboards and acoustic guitars, but still awfully damned punchy. Every song is an anthem with some attempt at hooks.

    Not too bad, as all that goes. The songs sound more like assembled pieces than cohesive arrangements, but at least the pieces themselves are pretty cool. Like many prog-type acts, the lyrics concern the mechanization of life and other similar techie philosophy.

    The playing and production are quite good, which gives me some hope. The songs need more work to get the obvious seams worn off, but the rudiments are in place.

    Whack off some of the over-the-top cheese (the keys do get out of hand from time to time), and Transit just might be somewhere. Hey, if accessible prog ever comes back in style, Transit should be perfectly positioned.

    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    Sparsely produced, you can feel every metallic hard core riff knife into you.

    I do hear a few metal conventions pushing their way into the mix, but these are the good parts, not poser anthemic crap that other post-punk outfits have appropriated.

    And this stuff is damned catchy. At moments I can hear a Skin Yard reference or two, but that's just about pandemic. This is fun to listen to and a blast to, well, blast.

    Not what you might expect from SST these days, but you should give it a spin. There isn't a song that won't hook someone on first bite.

    Burial at Sea
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    While the sound is nothing new, Transmetal carouse through the death meirtal genre, at times careening into chaos, other times grinding to a halt.

    And there are not too many Mexican bands who can say they've had a record released in the U.S. This was one of those limited releases on GC, so if you want it, you'd better call fast.

    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    We in America have come up with a new sort of rock music that the hipsters call industrial. Oh yeah, it all goes back to Europeans like Kraftwerk and Einsturzende Neubauten, but who cares about them. Real industrial bands are Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and their ilk, right?

    Um, no. We folk over here like to imagine a bleak existence and play dance music to shock us into a false depression. Meanwhile, over in eastern Europe, a lot of people are dying.

    This is an album by a Croatian industrial outfit. The lyrics are bleak and cynical, the music no-nonsense. Okay, so Croatians may have it a little easier than the Bosnians, but that is a matter of timing, not intent. When everyone with a gun has decided to shot at whatever moves (and things are sorta like that), then your existence can't be much fun.

    And that's what Transmisia reflects. A nasty, short and brutish life, one that might be taken away at any time. So whenever you start to feel sorry for yourself because you didn't get into Northwestern or whatever, listen to this. And understand.

    The Transport Assembly
    Improbable Songs
    (Broken Twilight)
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Anthems with polygonal structure. Math-y pieces that accidentally wandered down a 90s indie rock alley. Something like that, anyway.

    The label (which happens to be run by Transport Assembly guitarist/producer Chad Imes) calls this "angular art rock strategies." I kinda like that, too. In any case, these songs start with a low-key but insistent beat that is complemented by hypnotically repetitive guitar licks and somewhat dissociate singing.

    Sometimes these guys wander into full-blown Bauhaus territory. Most of the time, though, they noodle a bit too much for that. I can dig it. The noodling is a nice counterpoint to the tight rhythm work. Sometimes it even turns the songs inside out.

    There's a real sense of sonic exploration here. The Transport Assembly never quite arrives at its own sound, but the dance is most exhilarating. Songs worth a spin or ten.

    Trapdoor Social
    Trapdoor Social
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/24/13

    Ringing, bright pop songs that take flight almost before they begin. This SoCal duo crafts sharp-edged gems and infuses them with an indefatigable spirit. Probably not the next big thing--but you never know.

    The Trashed Romeos
    Where Dreamers Never Go
    (Trashy Creatures)
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    The Trashed Romeos are old school garage. Lots of psychedelia, heavy reverb in the sound--with the result being something akin to a "pillow of sound." Everything mixes up in the middle and sounds pretty mushy.

    So did you ever listen to Nuggets? I'm not entirely sure why you would want to emulate this sound, but these boys do and they did a fine job. There's enough separation to find most of the lines, but the scrim is decidedly heavy.

    The songs, on the other hand, are pure 60s jangle. Again, this is old school. No lip service for these boys; this is the real deal. A sound that is definitely not for everyone, but those of us with older ears might find ourselves smiling involuntarily.

    Perhaps a bit too much of a concept album (the sound could be a bit cleaner without destroying the ethos), but the fun overwhelms any craft. Find a lava lamp and turn up the volume.

    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Electronic anthems in the ambient universe. Indeed, mood music that insists you pay close attention and DO NOT space out. There's a concept.

    That doesn't mean the music can't fly into space realms, of course. And when it does, things get fairly banal. After all, there are only so many times you can hear the same swooping keyboard riff and wonder when will something happen.

    But something usually does, and by the end of the song the music has almost mutated into a mellow goth stage. If you were looking for the merging of those two musical universes, I think Trauma has found it.

    Construct got a little overbearing for me at times, but the artists involved do have interesting ideas. If you dig this sort of thing, check it out.

    Tony Travalini & All the Rage
    (Peasant Productions)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    Solid, if unspectacular, pop rock. Nothing is particularly great, but the band clicks together well, and Travalini's vocals are well suited to this bar band style.

    And, indeed, there's a long tradition of such acts along the East Coast. Bands good enough to amuse a bar's worth of patrons with original tunes, but not necessarily with aspirations much past that.

    The loose approach to the music makes it more appealing, and I could easily see myself tossing down a couple pitchers with a few friends with these guys on stage. Nothing flashy, nothing brilliant, just fairly good music.

    I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the working band, and that's exactly what Tony Travalini & All the Rage is. And a pretty good one, at that.

    Peasant Productions:
    908 Constance Drive
    Wilmington, DE 19808
    Phone (302) 998-9931

    Pat Travers
    Blues Tracks
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    Most great guitar players really dig the blues. And when they cover blues standards, it often comes off stale. The situation gets worse when original blues material is involved.

    Pat Travers avoids the second problem by recording only one original song (which isn't too bad, either). But the shiny production on the album makes everything sound too pat. The best part of those old blues albums is the creaky chair you hear in the background, the occasional slip, which the singer knew would never be dubbed over. One-shot, live recording is the blues ideal. "The Thrill Is Gone" may have been B.B. King's big hit, but his best stuff came before the strings.

    As for Travers, well, he's a good enough guitarist to make you believe he's really playing the blues. But I still prefer the originals.

    Blues Magnet
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    To his credit, Travers sounds just like he has for years, and he wrote all the songs here.

    What I've always liked about the blues is the potential for real highs and lows. The production has cranked his guitar and vocals so high there isn't much fluctuating room.

    That and Travers didn't exactly write a load of good songs. It's not that they suck, but most are mundane. It could be the production that limits the emotion, but I don't hear any real potential that way to begin with.

    Last I knew, the blues was about breathing new life into cliches, not bringing new cliches to light.

    Halfway to Somewhere
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Sharp and aggressive blues 'n' boogie, Travers cranks out some fine Eliminator-style music.

    The guitar sound is really nice, sharp enough to show off some fine style, and rough enough to convey some real feeling. Travers has only been around forever, so obviously he knows what he's doing.

    His voice is well-suited to the bluesy style, and while I would prefer a bit less bombast, there's enough boogie to keep me happy most of the time. I wouldn't call this traditional blues in any way, but Travers hits his mark right on the nose.

    Lookin' Up
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    One thing about Pat Travers: he swings for the fences.

    The songs here are complex, pounding blues tracks. The production lays everything out in a seriously bombastic style, but the result is just a series of pop flies.

    Travers has this annoying habit of writing by the numbers. This lead lick here, this progression there. And this cliche right here. Nothing has changed. The lyrics are hackneyed, and you've heard all the riffs before, generally in a better context somewhere else.

    Hey, he gets credit from me for the work, but the result just isn't interesting. Other than playing the little game of "I know what comes next", which gets old quickly.

    I know the idea, keep hacking away and eventually you win the World Series in the bottom of the ninth. But Travers is no musical Joe Carter.

    Blues Tracks 2
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Another set of covers. A fine list of songs, some that didn't become famous as blues songs ("Taxman" being the obvious example), but in general a romp through a who's who of blues writers.

    But the breezy spirit and perceptive production which has helped a couple of his recent albums are missing. Much like his last album, this thing is overblown and just too much in general.

    Is Pat feeling the blues? I don't hear it. He's wailing away, both with his voice and guitar, but there's just isn't that much feeling to what he's performing.

    Walkthroughs, particularly of songs like there, are not permitted. Nope. No way.

    The Abby Travis Foundation
    The Abby Travis Foundation
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    A definite attempt at the whole "big rock" thing. Serious, angry anthems done in an overblown, but underproduced, style. And while I think the music is way, way too excessive, the somewhat primitive sound is quite appealing. Oh, the contradiction!

    Not enough of one to make me really like this disc, though. Travis has a cool alto voice, and she sneers her way through most of the songs. When she isn't in full irony mode, you know she'll get there soon enough. The trick to making this music work is to pick and choose your moments. That and writing songs that aren't turgid rehashes of AOR days gone by.

    But is it really that bad? Maybe not. This music simply doesn't speak to me. I've heard all of the assembled pieces far too many times to find this an original sound, and as much as I like the production job (a task performed by Ms. Travis herself), that doesn't make up for the songs themselves.

    Music like this talks ships into sinking. Plip, plip, plop. I guess it is as bad as I thought. Which is kinda a bummer. But that's the way it is.

    The Chandler Travis Philharmonic
    Let's Have a Pancake!
    (Sonic Trout)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Chandler Travis isn¹t kidding about the "Philharmonic" moniker. The band is basic pop, but there's a small symphony orchestra in back. Travis takes full advantage of the extra players, crafting some really fine, quirky tunes.

    The accordion, string bass and horns help give these songs a laid back feel. Often, those horns are arranged in a vague Dixieland style, lending an old-timey sheen. And then sometimes Travis and the band take off on a loopy tangent.

    Tangents which include down 'n' dirty country ditties, a torch song or two and more. Despite all the pretty extras, Travis and his mates are raucous good ol' boys at heart. In fact, the lyrics can get a little crude at times.

    The songs just sound so great. All of the guests are integrated nicely into the pieces, and the result is a wide-ranging but cohesive album. Few people have the audacity to try so many things at once, and even fewer manage to pull it off. Travis did both, gracing us with a stylish and intriguing album.

    Travis Pickle
    Travis Pickle
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    The first release on the LunaSea label, which is brought to you by the folks at New York's Luna Lounge. If that makes a difference to you. Travis Pickle cranks out a pop sound, one mostly devoid of bounce but with added shimmer.

    If you recall what I said about Tappan Zee, a lot of that applies here. Travis Pickle picks up the tempo a bit more, but all the shiny edges have been removed. This is music which fades from the surface, but has a lot going on underneath.

    In other words, the stuff sounds simple, even though that's the furthest thing from the truth. Travis Pickle does the smooth, easy-going style right, providing enough shifts to prove that it knows how to bridge musical ideas. In fact, I'm thinking the band is quite good at most of what it does.

    All tied up in a slightly lo-fi sound which neatly encapsulates all of what Travis Pickle sets out to do. Hey, this one works for me. And that's all I need to know.

    Modern World
    (Coldfront) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    If you recall the Queers' album Don't Back Down, you might remember that about half the songs were definitely patterned after the Beach Boys. Travoltas (from the Netherlands or somewhere in Benelux, anyway) take that notion of tight harmony power punk pop about to the extreme.

    And, boy, is it like cotton candy. So tasty that you can't pass it up. The hooks are pure pastry; they melt in your ears without leaving one bit of residue. For the pure pop fanatic, it probably doesn't get any better.

    Marky Ramone did the knob work, and he's left a wonderful layered vocal sound that just can't be beat. Alright, this is something of a retread. When it's done this well, no one will complain.

    It's all in the hooks with stuff like this, and Travoltas know how to knock them out. The blistering harmonies are piled one on top of the other until you think your ears will burst. But they don't, and bliss soon ensues. A big fat wad of fun.

    Treacherous Human Underdogs
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Well, if Rollins Band found a little funk, used a more traditional metal guitar sound and Hank actually decided to sing, those folk might sound like Treacherous Human Underdogs.

    This disc was produced by Melvin Gibbs of Rollins Band. I don't know if it was his influence or what, but everything seems so mundane. The riffs are precise, all playing and singing are immaculate. But there is no fire, no emotion. When Leon Lamont Hinds sings the words "Raped at Birth", he almost mumbles them. Where's the feeling?

    Not terrible, but awful generic all the same. Treacherous Human Underdogs need to work on feeling the music being performed.

    A Lot To Fear
    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Mixing equal parts Skin Yard rhythmic grunge and SSD hard core attack, Tree are harsh and beautiful. Of course they're from the hard core headwaters of Boston (home of many great bands in this tradition).

    Well, the hard core tradition, that is. At times they sound a little like Coffin Break, who also mixes these styles exceptionally well.

    Most of you aren't playing anything that sounds close to this. Diversity rules. To be honest, excellence rules in general.

    Plant a Tree or Die
    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #67, 11/30/94

    About a year ago, the Tree EP garnered quite a bit of interest. This full-length has already gotten more notice, and deservedly so.

    While keeping fairly close to the obvious Boston hard-core roots, Tree manages to branch out and keeps things interesting. And while many bands with somewhat similar styles have been going the clean production route, Tree keeps things nice and fuzzy. A real distortion power trip to go along with in-your-face attitude.

    Keep plowing through; there's bound to be something that will please. "My Brain" is a real surprise: imagine Sam Black Church playing a Masters of Reality tune. Quite cool.

    I thought the boys might wear out their welcome with the burners at the start, but Tree proves its mettle with a wide array of sounds. Most impressive.

    Tree Wave
    Cabana EP
    (Made Up Records)
    reviewed in issue #261, February 2005

    Tree Wave combines the ethos of simplicity and the penchant for plinky melodies of laptop pop (a Commodore 64 synthesizer program is included on the CD) with the lush psychedelic distortion that seems to be returning in full force.

    I haven't heard this combination of sounds before, and when you add in Tree Wave's decidedly nonconformist song construction style, the result is an exciting and intriguing set of songs.

    After a few more listens, I'll probably be able to figure out how substantial this set actually might be. For now, though, I'm quite excited. Tree Wave has happened upon something truly wonderful.

    Courtesy Laugh
    (Hell Yeah!)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Great minimalist pop. These folks sure know how to craft a fine tune, all the while leaving a sheen of roughness that can serve but to endear them to listeners. Um, sorry about all the verbosity this issue. Back to the review.

    Yes, Washington's best crop is not apples or grunge, it is fine pop music. From the Young Fresh Fellows to My Name (or most any other C/Z act, like Dirt Fishermen) to these folks (from Olympia), I can't think of better shit. If Superchunk could see their way clear to hopping a time machine and starting in Tacoma this picture might be complete.

    Ten great originals and a slightly out-of-tune Paul Simon cover (which, while great, should NOT be overemphasized). More than enough to make any fool completely delirious with music envy.

    Something Vicious for Tomorrow/Time Whore
    reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92

    I first noticed Treepeople on their last Toxic Shock release, which struck me as amazingly cool. And then I learned later in the week that C/Z had them folks all signed up to do an album. Imagine my ecstasy!

    Side one is the aforementioned set of songs, and side two is 1989's Time Whore ep, produced by none other than the omnipresent Jack E. Let's examine side one first, shall we?

    Some great grunge-pop with amazing guitar work. Not your usual overblown, bombastic Eddie Van Halen stuff, but lines that connect with the rest of the band.

    Right. This is a band. Of great musicians. The sum here is the parts. And the parts are very impressive, indeed.

    Oh, and if side one isn't enough for you, then flip it over and see where the boys came from. Makes me want to go back to their last album. And salivate at the prospect of another.

    Outside In 7"
    reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92

    This is their new direction, or so says the press. Well, then I like it. C/Z has done a job presenting the top pop bands in the northwest, and the Treepeople are at the apex of that heap. Nice, discordant pop music that finds its way into your soul. Take your Superchunk and Pavement, I'll keep my Treepeople (actually, since I can, I'll take all three). This is what college music is all about.

    P.S. This is CZ 50. A collectors notice.

    Outside In CD5
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    Before I get to the important musical part of the review, I will note for the record that the Treepeople have scored another milestone for C/Z - the label's first promo CD single (see the number on the spine). The good folks at C/Z must dig the Treepeople even more than I do (hard to imagine).

    Two versions of "Outside In", both the 7" one and a mostly acoustic reworking from the new album. Plus another album track, an amusing cover of a Carly Simon tune and a cover of a song by an obscure Boise band (and if you're obscure in Boise...) which is the highlight of the disc for me.

    Is it pop? Yes. Is it loud? Yes. Will you want to play it? Yes, and so will every other dj at your station. I can feel this crazy momentum for the Treepeople starting even as I sit here at my terminal guzzling de-caf iced tea. It's coming, I tell you!

    Just Kidding
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    I really didn't need the disc to do this review, but I'll gladly accept it. I've already inadvertently committed most of the lyrics to memory, a consequence of wearing my advance tape out. And I still want to keep flipping that thing. Over and over and over and...

    The beauty of CD technology is that you can just hit "repeat". For those of you who don't know yet, Treepeople are the next goddamn huge independent pop band to beat America senseless. Wonderful melodies, often combined in the same song, wind their way around this masterpiece. No, your average R.E.M. fan won't get it, but that's the great thing. Treepeople don't sound like R.E.M., yet they carry on the alternative pop banner, with more interesting tunes and not a small amount of buzzsaw guitar.

    To my way of thinking, anyone who even catches a note of this album (like the CD5 issued a month ago) will be instantly entranced. If not, you might as well go buy your gun in Virginia now before that new law is passed. If you don't enjoy this, you might as well start your new career as a seriously disturbed sniper.

    Joe Treewater
    The Ice Cream Social
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Dreadfully earnest and overtly "philosophical," Treewater manages to deflate his own balloon quite deftly. Yes, this can sound like a parody of excessive 60s-ish folk, but the wink is so pronounced as to almost induce pain. And the musicianship is most solid. Not my cup of tea, but much more interesting than I thought it would be.

    Treiops Treyfid
    Reach the Explosion!
    (Deep Reverb)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Jangly, precise pop music which sounds something like Bowie doing emo, with lots of extraneous weirdness abounding. Oh yeah, we're talking something tres unusual here.

    I can't really describe it any better than that. The overall sound is rather cluttered, with a number of effects and samples simply clogging the works up further. There's a hell of a lot going on, and I can't make much sense of it most of the time.

    Treiops Treyfid is complex, not complicated. A million ideas at once, and they don't add up. I rather enjoyed trying to find some sort of unifying theory, but in the end, I failed.

    That doesn't mean the album failed, mind you. But I don't think it, well, works. The intellectual acumen is unchallenged. The music simply doesn't move me.

    Tren Brothers
    Gone Away/Kit's Choice 7"
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    Not brothers, but two guys who play sparse, contemplative instrumentals. Drums, guitar and the odd extra bit or two. Kinda like a stripped down Dirty Three (?!?).

    And that formula works just fine. The playing is often inexact, lending a highly improvisatory feel to these tunes, though with the tape loops and such in the background, I have a feeling these songs were carefully constructed. In any case, the effect is a haunting sound, one that seems to emanate from the subconscious.

    Tren Brothers would have to shift up a bit more to make a full-length sound more than mere noodling. As a seven-inch, though, this music pulls all the right switches.

    Photo Album of Complex Relationships
    (Coco Tauro)
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    That would be Barbara Trentalange, once of Crooked Fingers. She's crafted an album that reminds me a bit of her old mates, but has more bite. As an old Archers fan, I kept waiting for the Fingers to really get mean. Didn't happen. But Trentalage starts on the edge and then heads off the cliff.

    The sound is similar, but the content of the lyrics and music are more daring. I know, it's always lame to make these sorts of comparisons, so perhaps I'll simply speak to the present. Which is that Trentalange has made some of the more compelling rock music I've heard this year.

    The little sticker on the cover makes reference to the Floyd, Nick Cave and Peter Gabriel. Yeah, yeah, but this isn't a 70s album. Or even an 80s one. It's modern music. Arty and dramatic, to be sure, but modern. Pretty, engaging and often challenging. Try getting all the pieces on the first listen. I didn't.

    But I liked it from the start. And repeat listens confirm my instincts. This is a inspired work, the sort of album that will sound better five years down the line. Gorgeous, strong and unwavering. I'd put it in a vault to save, but I just have to hear it once more.

    Treponem Pal
    Excess & Overdrive
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Produced by Franz Treichler from the Young Gods, this is much more coherent than their last release. Everything seems amped up to a new level of viciousness.

    It's been quite a while since I've heard an industrial album that was this hostile (well, besides Skin Chamber). Hostile and still club-accessible, I meant to say. Let the guitars rule!

    And everything else as well. I must say, this sounds a lot like a Young Gods album, except that the songs are not written around guitars. I'm sure the production had a bit to do with that. But not a complaint. After the sparseness of their last album, this attention to walls of noise is welcome.

    Plainly put, this is fine. Like, f-i-i-i-n-e. I know, that's a silly way of putting it, but don't miss out here.

    The Trews
    Hope & Ruin
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Reminds me most of the early 90s bands Law & Order and Judge Nothing. Strangely, those two bands sound nothing alike. But the Trews bridge the gaps quite wonderfully.

    Law & Order was a bluesy, somewhat mystical hair metal band that was perhaps a bit too accomplished and serious to succeed in its assigned slot. Judge Nothing was a punchy midwestern pop act that aspired to be something akin to the indie rock version of Cheap Trick. That didn't work out, either. Both bands released a couple of fine albums and disappeared.

    This is the fourth full-length for the Trews, who hail from Nova Scotia. Perhaps this combination of tightly-crafted rock, distorted funk and acoustic flourishes is still popular up north. I'm not sure. The music is stellar--I'm completely knocked out--but fleshed-out AOR isn't exactly burning up any charts these days.

    In a perfect world, it would. And in any case, I'm always loathe to make commercial predictions. What I can say is that anyone who likes real rock and roll ought to find a lot of smiles with the Trews. The songs are great, and the playing is expressive. Solid, and often incendiary.

    Trial by Fire
    Edge of It All EP
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    A Rockville (Maryland) three-piece, Trial by Fire fuses a lot of 70s influences into a stripped down sound that avoids just about all the excesses of the time. The guitar playing is good, but not flashy. The singing is passable but hardly pyrotechnic. The drumming is, well, the drumming is bombastic. Hard to avoid that, I guess.

    A guilty pleasure, really. Trial by Fire manages to impress by simply making songs like this sound pretty good without going nuts. Just solid, professional workmanship presented with a minimum of flash. The songs, too, don't really fly too far afield (though "Harmonic" does have some nice proggy moments).

    Just yer basic hard rockin' three-piece. Nothing wrong with that. Now, I'm not going to be silly and proclaim Trial by Fire the next big thing. It's not. But that doesn't mean the boys don't have a few interesting things to say before the night is done.

    Trial of the Bow
    Rite of Passage
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    I remember some years back when I got the Disembowelment full-length, and the good folks at Relapse told me that two band members had an ambient project, a project that would pretty much mean the end of the first band.

    Disembowelment was ahead of its time, and that album still stands as a landmark death metal album. Many of the small touches that made it so fine are also evident with Trial of the Bow. There are plenty of influences, from Australian Aboriginal melodies to tunes more reminiscent of the Middle East. And back again.

    All performed on fairly primitive instruments, lending an authentic feel. Yeah, it could fit under world beat, but this is one generation removed, really. Perhaps you should call it simply "good music".

    A wondrous and moving album. I could expect no less from the guys in Trial of the Bow. Worth searching out.

    Bandit/Triathlon/Ivadell/Slow and Steady
    Everything Melts Eventually Vol. 1 7"
    (Broken Circles)
    reviewed 1/22/16

    If you thought the era of record labels was over, you're only slightly mistaken. But while the "major" labels have receded, there are still plenty of small (or even tiny) labels that help bands get their music out. Broken Circles is one of those. And if you've spent any time with a favorite label, you're familiar with the "sampler" album. Samplers often come out in December, and they're often free.

    This isn't a sampler. It's four top-notch songs from bands on the Broken Circles roster, and it's not free. But it's more than worth some coin. These four songs are somewhat vaguely winter themed (the label calls this "Christmas songs for the people who don't like Christmas songs"), but I didn't worry about that. I just dove headfirst into these brief tracks.

    Bandit and Triathlon serve up shimmery pop on side one (this is properly served up on 7-inch vinyl, of course) , Ivadell wanders into crunchy post-punk territory and Slow and Steady closes things out with a moody drifter. The range of sounds and ideas on this short set is impressive. The songs are jewels unto themselves.

    I rarely get excited about this sort of thing. And I almost never pay any attention to anything that remotely resembles a sampler. But there's something about the artists, songs and presentation here that really trips a nerve. Absolutely lovely stuff.

    Tribe After Tribe
    Love Under Will
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Their first album was a mishmash of stereotypical African rhythms and wailing guitars. No coherence, nothing special.

    I'm not sure how special this is, but it is a marked improvement. Everything at least seems to fit together, and some of it is even rather good.

    The constructions here remind me, oddly, of the Grateful Dead. A lot of junk piled on top of each other, and the occasional good song. Perhaps this is no coincidence, as the liners thank the Dead for their spiritual guidance, or something like that.

    This album is worth playing, something I couldn't say for their first. If their live act is as improved as Love Under Will, Tribe After Tribe could become a formidable band.

    Tribe 8
    Fist City
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Self-proclaimed "all-dyke" punk outfit whose music is as fast and sloppy as its attention to the cares of mainstream society.

    With titles like "Butch in the Streets", "Neanderthal Dyke" and "Barnyard Poontang", Tribe 8 is pretty much assure of being branded a one-issue band. Which is too bad, because while the playing isn't spotless, the women have a good grasp of what's catchy, and most of the songs demonstrate a decent (if rather raunchy, and that's just fine with me) sense of humor.

    Tribe 8 does have a little work to do if its members want to get attention outside of their sexual orientation, but for where they're at, they're doing just fine.

    Roadkill Cafe EP
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    The point of this? Got me.

    Four tracks. The first is a tale of walking in the women's restroom and finding a guy there. It's not even funny or perverted. Just a guy who wanted to take a dump in the ladies'.

    Add live covers of "Radar Love" and "Ice Cream Man" (um, okay), and a live version of "Manipulate" (which was one of the better songs on the LP). Of course, the live recordings are muddy as hell, with "Manipulate" being almost incomprehensible, though the fault may be more the band's than the engineer (what engineer?).

    Attitude and "dyke rock" will only get Tribe 8 so far. Some talent will be required one of these days.

    Tribes of Neurot
    Silver Blood Transmission
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Fans of the Namanax release of some time back should groove on this in a big way. Tape loops, delays and general electronic noise make up most of the sounds on this 75-minute disc.

    In other words, this is highly experimental electronic music, the sort of thing rational folks eschew. But I've never been accused of that sort of thing, which is why I dig this.

    By the way, if you want to play something remotely resembling a song off the disc, then check out "Fire of Purification" (track #3). "Achtwan" is by far the coolest track on the disc, but it runs for 24 minutes, which might cause a few problems with format requirements (though it's a great song if you've got a nasty case of diarrhea).

    For those of us who appreciate electronic noise and other such things, Tribes of Neurot is essential. We'll leave the rest of the world to shake its collective head.

    See also Neurosis .

    Tribes With Knives
    You May Safely Graze
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    They've got that guitar sound that just screams metal, rather entertaining rhythmic workings and decent lyrics.

    I know the sometime-semblance to Alice in Chains will get them some airplay, but Adam Marfisi will have to get over that husky, moaning vocal style of his before TWK can establish their own style.

    I know a little about these folk, and they are just getting their shit together. They have their chops pretty well established, but there is more than a little room for growth. There are some really hot spots on this disc, and at times I can hear their own sound just starting to emerge.

    Give 'em time. And give this a listen.

    Tricky Woo
    The Enemy Is Real
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Completely over-the-top high energy rock and roll. Throbbing songs that skewer just about everything there is to jump. Very loud and chock full of distortion, this disc makes my skin dance.

    That is, by the way, a good thing. The songs simply keep flying out, one after the other, the intensity and riffage piling on like frat boys on a dying keg. Frenzied and frenetic, with no end in sight.

    Well, one comes, of course, and I was damned sad to hear it. Hell, I know this stuff isn't particularly serious or anything, but that's why I dig it so much. Off the cuff songsmithing can be quite seductive.

    Do I need to mention that these folks are Canadian? Probably not. Doesn't matter. But I thought you'd like to know. Some great stuff, gets the ticker kicking, fer shur.

    Sometimes I Cry
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Not much different than the disc I heard last year. The music comes on fast and furious, withstanding waves of fuzz and wails of distortion. Acid-washed rock that has been cleaned with punk rock stones.

    And there's not much more to it than that, really. Dreadfully infectious, of course, but geez, it seems so simple. Though as I've observed many times in this issue alone, nothing could be further from the truth. Making such easy music is anything but.

    Pounding, howling, hell, pleading for more, more, more. Tricky Woo has taken a simple formula and executed it to near perfection. In any case, I haven't heard this sound done so well in ages.

    Simple pleasures can sometimes satisfy the best. With this disc, Tricky Woo proves that it can crank out this stuff almost at will. Would that it could be so. I'm hoping, anyway.

    Cafeteria Brutalia EP
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    A long time ago, I got a lot of stuff from Cargo Records and Touch and Go. A fair portion of that was master basher material, music that gives the ol' adrenaline a fine workout. Jesus Lizard, Rocket from the Crypt, Kepone, Olivelawn...lots of great stuff.

    This is right down that alley. The title is most apt, even if it "Brutalia" isn't exactly a word. These songs throb and flow, and three of the four are nicely long to boot.

    I wrenched my neck listening to this. Haven't done that in years. Feels great. Now I need a beer. Or two. Who said loud music is bad for you?

    (Hellfire Records)
    reviewed 1/25/18

    Well, goddamn if this isn't some spectacular guitar-driven, melodic heavy metal. And while there are a few thrash elements thrown in, this is straight out of the Iron Maiden playbook. Seventh Son era, but with better production and no keyboards.

    The occasional black metal guitar/drums runs remind me that this is still 2017, but this takes me right back to the late 80s, when you could hum along while you bashed your head into a wall. It's been years (decades?) since I've heard a band embrace this sound so fully and successfully.

    There is a place for this stuff in the realm of commercial music. I know a few kids who are more than willing to dive deeper into heavy stuff as long as there's a hook somewhere. I don't know how the Australian scene is doing these days (these boys hail from Melbourne), but here in America there's a huge gulf between commercial poppy hard rock and extreme metal. Trigger expertly shoots the gap.

    Each song simply draws me in further. These songs are well-crafted and expertly performed. The production is sharp, but with enough rounded edges to allow the melodic elements to bring brightness. I don't think I could have programmed this better. Lucky for all of us, Trigger puts all of its flesh, blood and soul into great music. Thoroughly invigorating.

    Triple to Dover
    Fade Into Gold EP
    (Final 500)
    reviewed 8/10/17

    Their web bio describes the sound as "man vs. woman -- guitar vs. DJ." Which describes the elements of the "band," but hints at something other than the complete meshing of sensibilities that Trip to Dover actually accomplishes.

    These are astonishing electro-pop confections, with soaring anthemic choruses and some experimental elements dropped in here and there. I'm thinking I'll be tossing this one over to my second son, whose brain seems programmed for precisely this sound.

    I'm always amazed at how most pop songs are slogs though recycled hook after recycled hook. When I was a kid, I wondered why it was that most pop songs were as replaceable as chewing gum (thank you, Annie!). Over the last three decades, I've become aware of how hard it is to create infectious hooks--and how it is even harder to strip away the dross to reveal glowing, pristine pop perfection.

    The songs here are not perfect pop, but they're much, much closer than anything else I've heard this year. Chilly keyboards, monster guitar riffage, vocals that both sooth and seethe . . . it's kinda like listening to all of the Eurythmics albums compressed into one lengthy EP. Which is kinda really awesome. And it is.

    Triple Fast Action
    Cattlemen Don't
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    Alternately raucous and brooding punk. With that noisy melodic minimalist thing that the emo sorts like, though generally much more upbeat. Raggedy pop, I suppose.

    The music surges and retreats throughout the album, like the tide. My God, there's someone out there who gives a shit about proper sequencing! I can't believe it. Everything about this album is appealing, from the first crashing chords to the deep, introspective moments on the interior.

    But most importantly, good music has been properly shepherded. The production fits the songs perfectly, leaving the bright spots bright, and turning the lights down low when that is required. And finally, the proper sequencing of the songs. And album sounds completely different when songs are put in different orders, and this one was constructed perfectly.

    Great stuff. Deep Elm is usually a sign of good things, and this disc is no exception. Amazing what attention to details can do for an album.

    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    Karl from Cargo in San Diego sent me this, admonishing me to look past similarities to other bands. He wrote "NONE of the members have long hair or wear flannel shirts."

    Obviously touchy about something. Well, they sound like a San Diego band to me. And as you may have noticed from my rave for Rocket From the Crypt I have a healthy respect and worship for stuff from there.

    These guys should have a disc out. That's all there is to it. Write them and play this bastard on the air. A lot.

    Kirk out.

    Tristan Psionic
    Mind the Gap
    (Sonic Unyon)
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Some nice melancholy pop music. Even when the band really amps up the jams, there's this sorta angry cloud hanging over stuff. The really heavy bass probably has a lot to do with that feel.

    In fact, the rather pronounced guitar distortion at the more excitable moments also colors the joy. Tristan Psionic is pretty rambunctious, really, but these songs really don't fall into the joyful category.

    What they do, however, is communicate in the language of today. That may sound like some weird backhanded compliment, but it's not. The pieces merely reflect a less than optimistic viewpoint. Works well.

    The sound? Somewhere between Superchunk and Radiohead. These songs do their damnedest to fill in all the cracks. Tristan Psionic has put together an energetic downer of an album. I like that a lot.

    Trotsky Icepick
    Hot Pop Hello (advance cassette)
    reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94

    Not a new album, but a collection of outtakes from the past ten years. Interesting as history, some of these songs are even worthy of serious consideration.

    Manic Frustration
    (Def American)
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    When you live, breathe and feed by the riff, they have to be good or you die. Trouble has put out (at least) four albums where they thrived by their riffs, artistically if not commercially. This is their chance to cash in the success of their last album.

    And I hope they do. The riffs are as crunchy as always, and Rick Rubin is masterful as always with the knobs. The three-track sampler was just a taste of this masterpiece.

    There is a flow to the album. Every song seems to connect to the next one, without actually bridging the tracks. Kinda building to a climax, and then winding down. You finish, spent, but happy to have had the experience.

    Plastic Green Head
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96

    Three years after the second of two sales disappointments for Def American, Trouble has extricated itself from legal affairs and put an album out. And the band that has been perpetually on the verge of being a Sab clone has edged even closer to that precipice.

    But I'm happy to say that Trouble is still on the good side of that divide. The sound is crunchier and less melodic than you might recall, but Eric Wagner's voice is still one of the cooler tools around. And in keeping with the band's 60s pop interests, they cover the Goffin/King tune "Porpoise Song" and the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows". The first is done with way too much bombast; the second is more experimental (with a weird expletive-laden intro) and satisfying.

    At times Trouble still has this anthemitis problem, turning songs that would be nice catchy upbeat things into far-too-heavy wail-fests. It's that Sab thing again. But when the band sticks to turning pop songs into innovative metal blasts, well, everything works much better. Trouble is too idiosyncratic to really find a mass audience (and their Def American venture is proof of that), but Century Media should provide a good home for cool guys to keep trying to find that perfect musical buzz.

    Trouble Dolls
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    One thing you can almost always count on Doctor Dream records for: great pop music. Pleasant three- or four-chord stuff with raspy harmonies and toe-tapping beats.

    I know a lot of you metal folk don't necessarily get into this stuff, but I do. I don't know what I would've done without the Treepeople this year, and I can see the Trouble Dolls making it into the nightly random discer set into the fall.

    I was not expecting this in the slightest. I wasn't expecting anything. So you can imagine my pleasure. Especially if you play this disc.

    Walter Trout
    Livin' Every Day
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Classy blues, if you will. Tinged with organ and horns and steeped in the rock and roll. A nice commingling of styles, really. Alright, this isn't "pure" blues. But it's pretty cool music.

    All of the songs here were written by someone in the band, and most by Trout himself. If you still can't get a handle on the style, imagine Robert Cray's lush sound with all the smoothness roughed up considerably. Trout does not have a velvet voice, and his guitar style is more jarring than fluid.

    But it still works. These are songs of pain and redemption, the classic style, and Trout sings and plays with more than enough emotion. His heart is in the right place, right in the middle of the notes. Even with some of the cheesier material ("Sweet Butterfly" comes to mind), though, Trout manages to wring out an honest performance without getting too treacly.

    Most of the time, though, the blues here are mixed nicely with the boogie and just a little rock and roll. Trout serves up a nice dish, indeed.

    (as Walter Trout and the Free Radicals)
    Live Trout
    2xCD (Ruf)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Walter Trout plays his blues by the book. One note of his guitar, one word from his lips and you know this is the blues. He¹s not trying to fool anyone, he¹s just wailin¹ to his heart¹s content.

    He doesn¹t try to dress up the blues, either. There are a few rock cliches, but they don¹t sully the sound. Even with the sometimes pyrotechnic guitar solos, this is about as good as the rockin¹ blooze gets. Live, Trout leans on his solos a bit more, but the band sounds great and so does he.

    Probably most impressive is that Trout plays his own material. There are only a couple of covers here, and they fit nicely into his style. The show, recorded at the Tampa Blues Festival, was a good one. The crowd and band were obviously playing off each other. There¹s something going on.

    A full success. This set documents Trout¹s writing and performing abilities about as well as can be done. A joy to hear, positively inspiring.

    (as Walter Trout and the Radicals)
    Go the Distance
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    I've often railed against what I call the "white boy blues," stuff that uses blues construction but features mostly guitar pyrotechnics and rock beats. Walter Trout plays the white boy blues. With one exception: He keeps his soul solidly in the blues camp.

    Part of it is that Trout doesn't resort to simple rock chords whenever he gets stumped in songwriting. Part of it is the great organ slung by Bill Mason. And part of it is that these songs simply work, whether your call them blues, rock, soul or whatever.

    Trout writes songs that connect with, and not simply shout at, the listener. He plays with skill and emotion, not just relying on loud, fast runs to "express" what's he's saying. These are little things, but they're what's required to play the blues right.

    And yeah, Trout and the Radicals do play the blues. They play their own stuff, and it sounds great. There are no hackneyed cliches, no recycled riffs. Just inspired work. Trout is one of the best, and this album adds another trophy to his mantel.

    Rubble 1
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    The labels releasing this CD are well-known for kicking out some of the most innovative and unusual music around. And so it is with Trummerflora, a wide-ranging collective of folks who traffic in electronic constructions.

    The tracks are listed by the names of the acts involved, although all of them also put themselves underneath the Trummerflora banner. So what you have is a mix tape created by folks who aren't quite a band, but are more than passing acquaintances.

    And there are some folks who appear on multiple tracks. Nathan Hubbard performed on or produced a good number of songs here, and quite a few other folks are likewise engaged in many of the Trummerflora "subcommittees." This cross-pollination has led to some seriously exciting ruminations.

    When this many people get together to share ideas, the result is generally either a mess or truly exciting. Trummerflora is more than exciting. There's so much going on here that I can't begin to describe much of any of it. But that's okay. The revolutionary nature of the sounds on this disc speak amply for themselves.

    Trunk Federation
    The Curse of Miss Kitty
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Completely disjointed pop, in much the same style as labelmates Archers of Loaf. Though Trunk Federation throws in a lot of extras, like organ and something that sounds like strings (but might be a synthesizer, who knows?)

    The songs lurch and reel, paying only lip service to basic verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. Trunk Federation's idea of fun is to graft a couple different verses (completely different styles to each) into one song, and tie them together with a chorus that relates to nothing that came before it.

    Now, from time to time, a conventional pop gem struggles free (say, "Truck Lover"), but the band throttles whatever joy might have been exuded by dropping in fuzz in great magnitude. The cops have a word for it: murder. Me, I kinda like it.

    Trunk Federation works real hard to warp pop music into another dimension. Not unlike Polvo or other great bands. Does it work all the time? No. But when it does (and that's more often than not) the results are glorious. Strange and beautiful, a wonder to behold.

    Trust Obey
    Hands of Ash
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Five years ago, this is what "industrial" meant: pounding beats, wailing guitar screams and pain-inflicting lyrics. Stuff that doesn't really lend itself to the latest dance club move.

    Reminds me a bit of Dead World, and obviously older Godflesh. The production is quite good, leaving just enough of a dull edge on the sound to create an ominous feel. This puppy just keeps throbbing and throbbing, with no respite until it concludes. Amazing.

    Gothic in the sense of spartan arrangements and black overtones. Trust Obey (from Kansas City, of all places) shows us where the dark spots on the soul of humanity really are. You may not want to look, but truth is a good thing sometimes. Just don't get in the way.

    Fear and Bullets
    (Grinder Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    This is the soundtrack to a special edition of The Crow comic book. Makes for much more appropriate listening than either of the two movie soundtracks.

    The music is of an earlier vintage than the Trust Obey album reviewed above, and the production level shows. There are quite a few seams, and the sound isn't anywhere near as impressive. I'm missing that sense of foreboding Hand of Ash produced. And here, John Bergin and friends haven't hit upon the sound that really impressed me on their later album.

    Still, there are a few tracks that stand out, and this is damned fine music for reading a comic (or whatever). The progression of the band is interesting to hear. Indeed, that's one of the best things about this disc.

    If you get this with your comic, you shouldn't be disappointed.

    Flying Box
    reviewed 6/26/17

    Michael Vlatkovich is almost incomprehensibly prolific. He's got a septet, a quartet and this Tryyo. He also records under his own name and with a number of other artists. The man is busy.

    He also plays my favorite jazz instrument, the trombone. The Tryyo adds Jonathan Golove on electric cello and Damon Short on drums. This unusual instrumentation is the perfect ensemble for Vlatkovich's sweeping, propulsive music. This is not mainstream, exactly, and it definitely isn't smooth. But Vlatkovich and friends aren't just making random noise. These are meticulously planned-out pieces, and they are insistent in their storytelling.

    Ignore the song titles (which are funny) and simply dive into the music. The shifts of mood and tone within each piece are breathtaking, and the need to always be moving forward (even in the most introspective moments) means there's never a dull moment.

    Vlatkovich's compositions lie somewhere between the anarchy of pure improvisation and the rigidity of formal jazz. He dances between the lines, and his Tryyo is nimble enough to capture that spirit perfectly. There might be someone in jazz I like better these days, but I can't think of who that might be. Another engrossing set.

    Yagihashi Tsukasa
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #275, June 2006

    So here's the deal. Tsukasa recorded himself drawing and then effected all that noise to the nth degree. That's it. Twelve tracks of a guy drawing.

    Hoo boy. If ever there was a question as to what is music and what is not, this album illustrates it better than anything else. I won't wade into that argument--I know what I believe. But I also believe that just about everyone who hears this will agree that is is art.

    And not just the drawings, which might be best described as "abstract Steadmanianism" (if the two included on the sleeve here are any indication), but the sounds themselves. After a while, a primal rhythm begins to flow from the deep scribbling. There is structure and purpose. And the added processing doesn't hurt, either.

    Folks like me will hear this and orgasm immdiately. I mean, this is some of the coolest shit I've ever heard. You want melody? Go somewhere else. This is for the true believers, those who treasure unique sounds and those who make them.

    (Sargent House)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Formerly This Town Needs Guns, TTNG changed its name in mid-January. In any case, here are some lovely math progressions woven into folk-rock constructions. Or would that be math constructions salted by folk-rock conventions? Maybe both. There are also many jokes within the song titles (my fave is "Nice Riff, Clichard") to keep things lively. Patience is required, but there's a lot going on here, and it's quite engaging. Surf the chaos--especially when it's not chaos.

    Why I Drink.
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    The press mentions such cool bands as Tar, Steelpole Bathtub, etc. I get that feel, too, though Tub has a little more melody flying out of the vocal arena. Not to complain, of course.

    The shit is not only fast, noisy and aggressive, but catchy as hell, too. A real decent trick. The lyrics are pretty much "lots of assholes are in charge of the world, and they piss me off". Um, no argument from this corner.

    The cover has a shot of Newt Gingrich at a "Black journalists roundtable" from C-Span, along with other pictures of the slimy amphibian speaker, Barney, McNeil (or is it Lehrer?), a nun with a gun and others. The title speaks for itself.

    Truly inspiring. Mean and vicious with choruses that just don't leave your brain. Jeez, it can't be this good (run back to turn up the volume). Um, okay, so it is.

    25 Assorted Needles
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    I'm not sure how this came my way, but mucho thanks all around. Fine, fine tunes.

    Combining some industrial tendencies (and drum programming) with pure riffola and real percussion, Tubalcain have a fresh sound (awesome production, better than most major releases) and even better songwriting.

    Every once in a while you reach into the bottom of the box and pull something out that just blows you away. This is that album for me. This falls between every genre I can think of, and the only band I can think of that kinda sounds like this is a Dallas outfit called Course of Empire, whose album I really dug (when it came out the FIRST time). But I would hate to imply there is some sort of rip-off game going on here; these folks are rather original and have recorded one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

    Where have they been? Who cares... they're here now!

    (Funky Mushroom)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    Quite a few good folk noticed the first Tubalcain release, 25 Assorted Needles. There, traditional hard rock riffs were merged with Athan Maroulis' somewhat goth vocal style and a nice underlaying of industrial dance beats. If you missed it, the disc was quite tasty.

    Now comes Left, an EP with four original tracks, one re-mix of a song from Needles and a cover of Bowie's "Andy Warhol".

    Yes, the style has shifted somewhat. With acoustic guitar getting at least as much play as the electrics, things are mellower, but just as intense. The production is just as immaculate as before, layering the sounds and still keeping things distinct. If you wanted to focus on this little guitar lead that seems to have buried itself, well, you can.

    With the caveat that I prefer Treepeople's rendition of "Andy Warhol" a little better, Left picks up right where Tubalcain, um, left off. If there were only more songs.

    See also Spahn Ranch.

    Tube Top
    Love Germ 7"
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    The art is indicative: Tube Top has a thing for rockabilly-pop and themes from the 50s and early sixties. Bouncy and kinda fun, with a guitar sound I've only heard from one other band, the Boorays.

    And my memories of the Boorays keep me from getting too excited here. Tube Top simply pales in comparison, lacking the infectious goofiness that really kicks this sort of stuff over the top.

    If Tube Top could kick the sound into overdrive (enough of the mushmouth recording) and find some inspired silliness, then I might get more interested.

    Three Minute Hercules
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Among other Seattle luminaries, Posie Jon Auer helped out on the boards here. Tube Top sounds exactly like what you'd expect with such a revelation: moody pop with exquisite harmonies.

    Indeed, this sounds a lot more Posies-like than the 7". While I like the sound, I'm not so sure that's the best thing for the band. Yeah, this is a nice trip in Big Star-style pop, but that's been done a lot.

    I've got to say the execution is pretty damned good, though. As much as my rational side tries to tell me Tubetop's just a bit too derivative, my emotional mind just keeps jumping up and down. This is a big wad of fun.

    Well, you know what you're gonna get here. Make up your own mind.

    Kate Tucker
    White Horses
    (Red Valise)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Few people have the raw material for fame that Kate Tucker appears to have. For starters, she's gorgeous. Not pretty or good-looking. Traffic stopping. Then there's her voice, which has just a hint of gravel within her sparkling projection. No swallowing her vocals.

    Oh, and the songs? Merely some of the best I've heard in years. Her style reminds me quite a bit of Tift Merritt, though a bit more on the rock side. The quality, though, it right up there. There seem to be a million singer-songwriters in the naked city, and I can't stand almost all of them. Then I hear someone like Tucker, and I fall in love all over again.

    The production is just muscular enough to provide a nice pop to the sound coming out of the speakers. Tucker's voice provides most the power, and it always seems to be sitting at just the right spot in the mix. The studio job is solid and brings out the best in these songs.

    And yes, the songs are the star. There are a few people who can write songs with this much range and grace, but not many. Tucker is a true find. I don't like to predict stardom, but unless the music business is completely broken, Tucker ought to be everywhere in a year or two. Damned impressive.

    Tugboat Annie
    Wake Up and Disappear
    (Kimchee-Big Top)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Heavily constructed pop music, with waves of guitars and high-concept lyrics. The idea here is to make a big statement. The music wallows in anthemic excess, but the ideas behind the songs are indeed impressive. Which leaves the overall project in some kind of a mess.

    The album leaves me with a good feeling, though I can't really define why. There are plenty of flaws, though most of those have to do with some serious ambition. I try not to fault people for trying, after all.

    But unlike such ace practitioners as the Wrens, Tugboat Annie tries to mix things up without much success. Oh, no song is an abject failure, but a song like "Suicide Shoes", which tries at first to be a change of pace, ends up in the same territory as the rest.

    Right now, Tugboat Annie has dreams beyond its means. All the basics are covered well, but there are a couple steps needed to hit a higher level. More time in the steamer, I think.

    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    I was told if I had survived seventies music I really shouldn't listen to this, lest I fall into a LedZep coma, always playing them or Bad Company in my tape deck. Well, this isn't that bad. After all, they're Australian, and in the seventies Australia gave us Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees.... I should try again.

    So they're really into that late-sixties "psychedelic" sound thing and there is this nagging feeling you've heard it all before. But then again it's not like they're stealing anything from anybody.

    If you don't like seventies music, fine. This does the genre well, however you may interpret that statement.

    reviewed in issue #44, 11/15/93

    More seventies cheez from these Aussies, who nonetheless do seem a bit more modern here than on Weedseed. This new direction, though, cranks them right into the path of about a hundred other bands who want to be the next big post-grunge outfit.

    They're still not terribly catchy or original. And in between those towers lies the detritus of many obscure bands. I think there is talent here somewhere, but it will take more effort than I've heard so far to bring that to the light of day.

    Take a chance, guys, and find your own sound!

    One & Only Me
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Reminds me a lot of those early r&b/hip-hop groups. Like the Timex Social Club (remember "Rumors"?) or Oran "Juice" Jones ("The Rain). I suppose some of that comes from the barebones backing sound of drum-machine and synthesized bass (with some synth strings dropping by now and again).

    You know, I liked those folks. Didn't like what came later, the New Edition/Bobby Brown/Boyz II Men overproduced stuff. Tunji seems to understand that "soul" comes from feeling, not wall after wall of sound.

    The songs are simple. Easy beats, Tunji's singing and a few vocal overdubs. Not in an overdone sorta way, but tasteful. Soulful. The kinda sound that delivers an authentic emotional effect.

    I don't think r&b has any intention of heading back down this road. But I'm glad Tunji did. Because he reminded me what it was I really don't like about may of today's big stars. Simple is better.

    Turbo A.C.'s
    Supercharged Straight to Hell EP
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    Finding love with the current pop-punk sound and yet dragging around a ball-and-chain from the glam days of the 70s, the Turbo A.C.'s pretty much have my ass in a sling.

    As regular readers know, I'm a complete sucker for this shit. The songwriting is cheap and easy, and the riffs are slung out like so many shots of whiskey. I'm already addicted.

    Six songs, all making me jump out of my kneel-chair and bounce around on the floor. A beastly image, and I apologize. But no mea culpas for the music; this stuff is simple, to-the-point, and dead solid perfect. Exactly what you need to find love in a pitcher of beer at a seedy bar.

    A small note: playing it loud sure won't hurt, either.

    Winner Take All
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    A bit different feel than the taste I had four years ago. More of a rockabilly-surf feel injected into the punk-glam stuff I heard back then. The lead guitar, particularly, has that thick Dick Dale sound. And it simply kicks all of this stuff further ahead into the night.

    The is music that doesn't look back. It's not complicated, and there's no rocket science to be found here. Simply adrenaline-pumping rawk and enough distortion to put hair on yer girlfriend's chest.

    Oh, yeah, this is great stuff. Guilty pleasure, perhaps, but why apologize for liking simple music. It's pretty hard to make music like this sound great, and the Turbo A.C.'s (I'd like to speak to them about the grammatical problems with the name, but that's another story) have managed to do it once again.

    Wow. No kidding. Play loud and play often. Goes down crunchy, and yer not gonna mind one bit.

    Turf War
    Years of Living Dangerously
    (Old Flame)
    reviewed in issue #333, December 2011

    Imagine the Replacements steeped in southern rock and iced with raucous gang harmonies, and you might be getting close. Turf War is a strange name for this project (it simply doesn't fit the sound), but no matter. The album is a stunner.

    Most of these songs have that "haven't I heard this one somewhere before?" feel, but that deja vu is a result of the exceptional genre blending (not to mention bending) going on here. Key to the experience is the solid musicianship, which allows the band to get as rowdy as it wants without sacrificing any quality.

    Ian St. Pe of the Black Lips produced, and he gave the band a full and open sound. It's damned near perfect. These songs ring out with glorious attitude.

    Want some old-time rock and roll that will seriously chafe your ass? Look no further. And if you think you're playing this loud enough, you're not even close.

    Luca Turilli
    King of the Nordic Twilight
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    This album is labeled "epic fantasy metal" so as to distinguish itself from the "symphonic epic power metal" of Turilli's old band, Rhapsody. To be honest, the only difference I can hear is that the guitar is more pronounced and the melodies are just slightly simpler.

    Reminds me even more of Helloween and Gamma Ray than the Rhapsody did. There aren't as many silly new age interludes (though they do persist somewhat), and there isn't quite the sense of a band. This sounds a bit more sterile, I guess in the way that a solo project should.

    Turilli still doesn't sing, but he wrote all of the songs and played all the guitar (and some keyboards). There is the feel of a more singular vision, and that is for better and worse. Better in that Turilli is more focused on a straightforward sound. Worse in that some of his idiosyncrasies are more pronounced on this album.

    Call it epic fantasy or symphonic epic power metal. I still love the stuff, and Turilli has amply proven that he can write and play it. Not many folks in the U.S. are trying to make music like this these days. It's too bad, because into every life some operatic metal should fall.

    Jon Turk
    My Special One
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Back in the days when r&b meant music sweated out by a real live working band (and not some studio-created harmony group), the blues element was as important as the rhythm. Jon Turk remembers that often enough to give his songs a nice edge.

    Turk is more convincing on the boogie numbers, laying his lean guitar licks down and letting loose on the vocals. When the songs slow down and Turk tries a ballad or two, well, the results aren't as impressive. In particular, the lyrics aren't particularly emotive or smart, and without a driving beat, you're forced to confront that fact directly.

    But when Turk keeps to the more uptempo pieces, his playing and singing more than carry the day. Much of the time, Turk is responsible for all guitar and bass parts, with a session drummer chipping in. The sound isn't quite as tight and intimate because of that, but it is adequte.

    Turk's talent is slinging guitar, and he certainly proves his mettle there. His songwriting is often rather pedestrian, though, and he's gonna have to improve that is he wants to really expand his sound.

    Turn On
    Turn On
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Take one member each from the High Llamas and Stereolab, and what do you get? Well, loopy music, but not in the sense you might expect.

    While the music is constructed mainly of tape loops, this is hardly repetitive fare. Indeed, whenever I began to think that the stuff was getting just the slightest bit dreary, the disc seemed to sense my antipathy and shifted into something completely different. And I use that phrase advisedly.

    Few acts have both the technical know-how and the artistic vision to take full advantage of the latest in music technology. The members of Turn On have already proved themselves master of both in their "regular" gigs, and here they seem intent upon taking everything just a step further.

    Pop, some mutant form of jazz or something that is simply undefinable? Hell, I shan't hazard a guess. This earthy electronic music is simply a joy to behold. Wacky, transcendental or simply amusing, Turn On pushes all the right buttons with me.

    Eddie Turner
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Eddie Turner has played with Otis Taylor for some time, and now he gets to step out on his own. He tapped Kenny Passarelli, Taylor's bassist and producer, to do the same on this album. The results are a disc that sounds like it could have been Taylor's, but isn't. And the differences are worth noting.

    For one, Turner's guitar playing is a bit more incendiary. He isn't as conceptual a songwriter, but rather he simply lets the ideas groove for a while. Add that to the spectral, otherworldly sound created by Passarelli--a hallmark of Taylor's albums--and you have all the makings of a fine piece of work.

    Turner's voice is a classic blues instrument, raspy and baritone. You get the feeling he could be a tenor if he pushed it, but that wouldn't sound right. Instead, almost haunts his songs as he sings. Very nice.

    Yeah, yeah, this is another "modern" blues album a la Otis Taylor. Yes, it's possible to say Turner should have branched out further. But I don't. I think he's made a nice mark here for himself. And I think he ought to continue making these marks. He's earned the right.

    Joe Lynn Turner
    Under Cover
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Turner has been around. He's sung for Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen, Fandango and on his own. He's got the ability to add some smoky soul to what otherwise might be faceless rock music.

    And he can still sing. It's nice to hear him howl once again, but I wish he'd decided to do something other than an album of covers. And I wish his backing band had the ability to play something other than, well, faceless rock music.

    Each and every one of the performances here, from "Unchained Melody" to "We're an American Band" to "Sunshine of Your Love", are most notable for Turner's earnest and impressive delivery and the equally impassive playing of the band. There's a wide range of styles represented in the songs on this album, but every song sounds like the next.

    There's something magical about a working band. With a heart and a soul. No matter how talented the studio musicians are, it's awful hard to create a feeling in such a situation. Turner needs to get back on his own track and hash out some really great music with a regular band. Then the results might befit a singer of his stature.

    Nik Turner
    Space Ritual
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    If you don't know, Nik Turner was around at the genesis of Hawkwind, whose vision of "space rock" is quite different than the new age freaks of today. Turner got a few of his old friends from Hawkwind (and a few other folks) to help out on the latest tour of his personal vision.

    This disc is sorta a greatest hits thing; many of the tunes are from early Hawkwind days. But Turner tries to breathe new life into these forms, and as even the originals were somewhat nebulous (by design), some of the new renditions are a long ways from the originals.

    One of my complaints about the whole concept of "space rock" is the fascination with cheesy sci fi sound effects. These are in full force here, and live, Turner can really get full masturbation effect from them.

    On the other hand, the live forum allows a sort of spontaneity that has seemed absent from most of his solo work (not to mention Hawkwind). Turner knows how to put on a show, and while this is but the audio portion, you can almost see the stage.

    The great production should satisfy the old fans. Those kids who think all classic rock is boring and stodgy should get a kick out of this set, and maybe Turner will get "rediscovered" like contemporary David Bowie did. Of course, Bowie has always courted the mainstream to an extent. And I just don't see Nik Turner even sitting for a Rolling Stone cover shot. Good thing, too.

    See also Anubian Nights.

    Cigarettes and Serevent EP
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    The organ (or, these days, the keyboard masquerading as organ) has always had a place in pop music. The ringing quality, the ability to add depth (not to mention obscure minor flaws) and just that cool sound work so well with three chords and a dream.

    Turnerjoy relies on keyboards (sometimes keyboards masquerading as organ) to craft its dark pop vision. These lurching, dreamy songs immediately set the mood and then expand upon it. It's all too easy to drop into the dank world of Turnerjoy and wonder whose reality is, um, real.

    This isn't dark in a goth sense, but rather dark in a cold, rainy night sense. There's some glorious experimentation (within a pretty pop song, natch) and plenty of despair swooping in from the shadows. Rarely have four songs said so much.

    Osei Tutu
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Taking some of the bounce of township jive and running it through a wide variety of filters, Osei Tutu has crafted a sort of music which is part African, part European and part American. Just another piece of the polyglot.

    Very pop, no matter what the groovy percussion might be doing. There are moments when the drum licks, the choir-like backing vocals and the guitar come together to forge a really wonderful sound (try on the tile track), but as often, the influences are watered down so much as to really lose their flavor.

    Then the songs are more stale Europop. Now, this isn't the case with most of the disc, but it's enough to bug me. I know, some folks like that sort of thing, but I really don't. I wish Tutu's music bounded more than shuffled. That's all.

    Often enchanting, there are still too many moments here which don't really work for me. Too bland? That's harsh, and not really accurate, either. Just a bit too much rounding of the edges, I guess. It happens.

    TV Pow/Liminal
    split 7"
    (Gentle Giant)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    This isn't two completely different bands, really, as the three members of TV Pow are now part of the greater being that is Liminal. This is Gentle Giant, so you should know what's forthcoming.

    Tender explorations of the wild noise frontier, of course. Both tracks were recorded live, which adds another layer of grime to the already speckled sound. The TV Pow track, "A Brief History of Flashing Light", which was recorded four years ago, incorporates a white noise base and then slowly adds and subtracts background sounds. Very subtle, and very effective.

    The Liminal song, "Atoms Are Not Things", has a lot more going on. There is no underpinning of noise, but simply the effects of a wide variety of sounds playing off each other. This lends to a much deeper sound, one which doesn't seem to have any real end. It's real easy to get lost here.

    Sonic adventures of the highest order.

    How to Live in a Day of Moral Chaos
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Nicely crunchy hardcore with lots of extraneous noise. The only thing that holds all this together is a totally grooving rhythm unit. The vocals and what passes for lead guitar are pretty damned near incomprehensible. Awfully compelling nonetheless.

    There are plenty of pop culture references and general comments on society. Now, reading of the lyrics is certainly required to figure that out, because the presentation isn't terribly recognizable. But like I said, hoarse wailing laid over a nice throb.

    The production has left stuff a bit muddy, which fits with what the band is trying to do (if I'm guessing correctly, that is). Sounds kinda like Ff, except much more sloppy. Still entertaining and all.

    If you like to hook onto an adrenal line and bite down, then this disc should satisfy completely. Yeah, the total result is messy, but the underlying drive is awesome to behold.

    Twelfth of Never
    Blowing Bubbles Though Broken Windows
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Dreamy pseudo-goth tunes, centered around Robin Tinker's vocals. Without them, this project really wouldn't fly. But with them, all the pieces fit together exquisitely.

    A lot of my hardcore goth buddies probably wouldn't like this. There isn't an overwhelming sense of doom in the sound; in fact, nothing overwhelms. But it isn't the intent of Twelfth of Never to create an entire new world. All this band wants to do is put together some good songs.

    And, indeed, that's exactly what it does. To be more specific about the style, Twelfth of Never lies somewhere near latter-era Dead Can Dance. Plenty of interesting ideas, even if they're not the most adventurous on the block.

    Executed exquisitely, however. That's why this works. Simply put, a well-done album.

    12th Planet
    Global Refugees
    (Surprise Truck)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Playing very much in the same grooves as Living Color, 12th Planet merges soulful vocals with somewhat understated rock. Probably a bit poppier, but really, this really does share a lot.

    Gabriel Gordon wrote or co-wrote all the songs, and he's obviously a big fan of the same bands as Lenny Kravitz. What Gordon is able to do, however, is translate those influences into his own sound. In particular, the intricate drum and bass lines (within a relatively mellow context) set 12th Planet apart.

    The production gives the band plenty of time to build its songs to their logical conclusions. There is room to grow within each song, plenty of space to fill with emotion and dynamic changes. This disc is anything but overblown.

    Right in the middle of the mainstream, but done quite nicely. 12th Planet has its own voice, and it's an attractive one. Gordon is a guy with definite songwriting skills, and he's just waiting to explode.

    12 Pearls
    Down to the Last Drop
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    I've always got a soft spot in my heart for midwestern bands, having gone to school at Missouri. A lot of the best stuff we heard in clubs was from central Oklahoma. Bands like the Chainsaw Kittens and Flaming Lips. Good stuff. For some reason, Oklahoma bands always seemed to have a real fascination with fireworks.

    I don't know if 12 Pearls lights up its shows with pyrotechnics, but the sound is basic rock and roll, much in the same vein as the Kittens (without the transvestite lead singer) There's nothing terribly unusual about what these guys play, but they sure do make the stuff sound good.

    Just yer basic bar band kinda fare, with a little extra kick. 12 Pearls has gotten a good, raw sound on this disc, which compliments the punchy songs. Just enough of a ragged edge to take the shine off.

    There's nothing here that really jumps out at me. This is just a comfortable album, the sorta thing I've heard plenty of times before but am always glad to hear once again. 12 Pearls makes these songs sound good. In the end, that's what matters most.

    Boy on a Cloud
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    What might be expected from an ambient album on a major label. Fairly decent soundscape work, but when it comes to the beats, well, just basic does it.

    Flipper Dalton is the man behind Twelvetrees, and he creates some really lush sounds. He does have a penchant for using a variety of chant singing styles in the backgrounds (some vaguely American Indian, some middle eastern, some, um, other). All very nicely done. And a little bit tame.

    I want to hear just a little bit of experimentation. I want to hear Dalton stretch himself. Even a little bit of unusual beat work might pull the trick. But at the moments where Twelvetrees just might say something, the music always lurches into the mundane.

    Nice background music. And I don't like my music in the background. This is missing that extra bit of oomph.

    20 Dead Flowerchildren
    Here I Am CD5
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    Way too many remixes that sound an awful lot alike.

    The tune itself is a cool industrial hardcore thing, and a couple of the remixes (track 5, for example, the techno-pop remix) are pretty good. I'd love to hear a full-length.

    Certainly a band worth checking out from the folks who brought you Universal Stomp (and you know that didn't suck). So take this medicine and wait for the cure.

    20 Dead Flowerchildren
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    Boy when this is good, it's pretty damned good. Sure, a total Ministry clone, but 20 Dead Flowerchildren has a good idea how to make this stuff work.

    And it does, at times. See, the reason the new Ministry sucked so much is that it never got out of first gear. Yeah, the occasional dirge is fine and all. But 10 straight full songs, with a dreadful Dylan cover thrown in? Come on.

    Enough about Ministry. 20 Dead Flowerchildren are also highly enamored of the dirge, enough to cause me some distress. When the tempo picks up and the riffs get above Pantera rip-off territory (which only happens some of the time), this is pretty cool.

    Oddly, the promo people also realized this, and tagged a faster song as the lead track. This should be a hint to the band. There's some obvious talent riding around here, but the guys need to find their own sound, and part of that includes writing their own riffs and speeding the whole process up. Sludge is not only a silly musical concept (except in the hands of masters, which isn't the case here), it doesn't sell either. And I have the feeling these folks want to sell.

    Work for a year and call me then. We'll see.

    Twenty Miles
    R.L. Boyce Othar Turner Fife & Drum Spam
    (Fat Possum-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    The second set of blues coursing through the mighty Epitaph distribution pipe. I¹m not sure if I got the title right, but that¹s what it seems to be. Perhaps someone will set me straight.

    Twenty Miles utilizes the same instrumentation as T-Model Ford, guitar and drums, but instead of recruiting extra sides, the Bauer brothers (Donovan and Judah) play this straight. Sounding as rough and raucous as an old Flat Duo Jets album.

    As you might guess, this isn¹t really much of a blues album, although there¹s plenty of slide on the guitar and plenty of pain in the lyrics. On the other hand, I haven¹t heard such an inspiring barebones rock album in ages.

    Flaying the air with wild riffage and waves of distortion, Twenty Miles cuts to the quick, stripping rock and roll to the minimum. And that minimum can be quite uplifting when done correctly.

    As it is. Twenty Miles could have easily gotten sidetracked into one particular mode or another (drum and guitar only allows so many possibilities, you know), but instead the brothers Bauer use their limitations as a liberating force. Impossibly fine.

    20 Minute Loop
    20 Minute Loop
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Kinetic pop music, kind of a somewhat relaxed version of Heavy Vegetable. The writing is just as idiosyncratic, but not quite as manic. The effect is almost as invigorating, however.

    As loopy as the individual parts can get, they all feed together into this highly-oiled whole. Each song comes together like clockwork, inviting the listener into its own strange little mechanical world. And repeat scrutiny reveals some brilliance in the design.

    Really, that's the key here. These songs are tightly penned and even more precisely played. That does limit the emotional feel to an extent, but 20 Minute Loop still manages to create a human sound even within the narrow constraints. Somehow, the penned-up tunes sound even more fragile due to their shackles.

    Gorgeous, really. The songs bloom into brilliant flowers, spewing their pollen to the winds. I'm just a bee spreading the love here.

    Decline of Day
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Almost impossibly catchy songs, richly arranged (there are tons of sounds in these pieces) and expertly played and sung. With abandon.

    It's that bit of exuberance which really draws me in. These folks are astonishingly good at what they do, but these songs are tossed off like a bag of popcorn. Such nonchalance is rarely found in combination with thick textured music.

    I'm getting chills. That good? Absolutely. The songs drill their way into my head and simply refuse to leave. I'm trying to dissect the stuff so that I can explain my state of bliss, but the real truth of the matter is that it's the almost impossible combination of characteristics which really makes 20 Minute Loop so astonishing.

    I know, I said kind things about the band's last release. Add those to this and then multiply. Maybe then you'll begin to get an idea of just how good these folks are.

    Famous People Marry Famous People
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    Intricately crafted, occasionally proggy power pop. I've liked these guys for ages, largely because of the dual vocals. There's something awfully appealing about a guy and a gal singing lead at the same time. Some bands can't make that work, I suppose, but 20 Minute Loop has had plenty of practice and does the concept proud.

    And while the little asides might encourage other bands to get lost, these folks always remember to wrap up their pieces with harmonies and bouncy guitar riffs.

    I do hear where the New Pornographers have influenced these folks just a bit--these songs are wrapped up tighter than the ones on their earlier albums. This isn't a bad thing, and there can be no question of ripping anyone off (I first reviewed these folks nine years ago), but it's an interesting evolution.

    Solid, just like everything else I've heard from this band. Few do this sound this well, and no one does it better. I'm still riding the rush

    25 Ta Life
    Keepin It Real EP
    (We Bite America)
    reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96

    Six wall-of-noise midtempo hardcore anthems. The vocal presentation at times is so incoherent it resembes a grind sound. And this is certainly heavy enough (with enough such leanings) to be considered on the fringes of grindcore, though the guitar work is much more of a death metal style.

    Wonderful drumming saves this disc from wallowing in silliness. The acute percussive attack keeps things moving reasonably well, even if the tempo is slower than I would like. The production is not overly bombastic and features each of the band members quite well. A very clean job.

    Sure, there are moments of incoherence and some riff shifts that are positively grating. But 25 Ta Life has created a competent, if not outstanding album. A little more diversity in the sound, and I would be very impressed.

    24-7 Spyz
    reviewed in issue #102, 3/11/96

    The main problem 24-7 Spyz has had is its music. I mean, white and black guys playing funk-metal for the new America? The perfect marketing tool. But for some reason, the kids have been smart enough to say, "Um, but why can't you play better music?"

    Still a fair question, as the sound careens from pooly-executed samples to sludge riffs to a bit of that fonky stuff to mosh riffage. In the first song. What a mess. And the rest of the album doesn't fare much better.

    When the guys can keep it together for most of a song, at least the stuff is listenable. But the playing is pretty sloppy, which negates anything the funk elements might want to accomplish. And the metal stylings are five years behind the times, and that doesn't mean they were good even back then.

    Now, Doug Pinnick provides the vocals for the second and third tracks, which only further points out how lacking 24-7 Spyz is in the talent department. Tack on yet another (terrible) cover of Love's "7 and 7 Is" and one of the Association's "Along Comes Mary" (Oh, man, I just don't understand) and you get a perfect finish to a bad album.

    The only reason this gets two As is Doug Pinnick. Otherwise, well, I'd just prefer not to say.

    22 Brides
    22 Brides
    (Zero Hour)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Pleasant folk pop, somewhere between the Moon Seven Times and the Indigo Girls.

    The production isn't overly lush, which helps focus attention on Carrie and Libby Johnson's voices. A good place to start.

    The Johnsons also write songs that complement their vocal talent and also manage to affect the listener. It's easy to cheese out when you're playing music like this, and 22 Brides manage to simply keep a nice, mellow feeling rolling along.

    A lot of things combined at just the right level to make this album wonderful. Hopefully the future will be as kind to 22 Brides.

    (Zero Hour)
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    The first album I liked well enough, though it was far to close to stuff like the Indigo Girls for me to understand how Libbey and Carrie Johnson were saying anything new.

    But Beaker brings it all home for me. First, the Johnsons have recruited two other full-time band members. The guys have really helped flesh out a "band" sound, which was missing before. And this album is much more upbeat and poppy. I don't recommend that career move for everyone, but the songs prove that the Johnsons are versatile writers.

    There is still a tendency to sink into moody harmonizing, but a little of that is alright, I guess. 22 Brides has carved out its own spot in the acoustic pop world, serves notice with this album. If the next album progresses as much as this one has, 22 Brides could really break out.

    22 Jacks
    Over Served
    (Side One)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    This is ska. Just wanted to warn you. This is not the second album from 22 Jacks. This is kinda like those U2 albums between the real albums (y'know, Zooropa, Rattle & Hum).

    It's got some live tracks, some covers, some other stuff. "Message In A Bottle" by the Police. "3 A.M." which they claim as "stolen" by Clowns For Progress. "I'll Be With You Tonight" by Cheap Trick. "Tracks Of My Tears" by Smoky Robinson. And some of their own stuff. Like I said, this is ska.

    And this is of the rock ska variety. Some people think this stuff is played out. And maybe it is. But I kept buying glam rock records long after the bands knew what reality was, so why they hell can't you buy another ska record? What are you? Some kind of hipster swing guy now?

    -- Matt Worley

    Going North
    (Side One Dummy) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Just in case the oddities disc Over Served got you confused, this here 22 Jacks album is back in the basic power punk pop arena. Solid hooks, exceptional riffage and a driving backbeat. Over and over again. I fall.

    I kept waiting for a song that might bum me out a bit, that might tell me to be a bit less effusive in my praise. Then I started to pay closer attention to specific elements, wondering if I could pick it apart that way.

    That's a stupid way to review this kinda stuff, but even so I didn't find any weakness. Well, there is the occasional tendency to write in a vaguely anthemic way, but even then the drums don't let the songs get dreary and overworked. Nope, just a kickstart back into overdrive. Which puts things just as they should be.

    This puppy just blasts off and doesn't look back. Now, one bit of warning: This album will not reveal the meaning of life. But that's not the point of course. A good time to be had by all, that's the key. And it most certainly is.

    The Twenty Twos
    Surrender 7"
    (Submit Records)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Speaking of Scream and it's legendary status in D.C. parts, here's a band from the Maryland suburbs (now deceased) with two of their own songs and a Scream cover.

    So it should come as no surprise that the Twenty Twos play raucous hardcore, with just enough melody to keep the chicks around. The originals ("Moment of Truth" and "Surrender") are catchy, but still rather generic. The Scream cover ("New Song") isn't much more interesting.

    There's a reason this band isn't around any more. If this slab is any indication, it wasn't terribly good to begin with. Maybe it's just me. Somehow, I doubt it.

    Twin Barrels Burning
    Bleed On 7"
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Yes, New York hard core sensibilities meet the latest in Seattle grunge, just like the press intimates. Mostly the cool parts of each, with a tight rhythm section and nicely hoarish vocal style (howzat?). Well produced, too.

    They are planning to record an EP soon. Get on the gravy train. You can write the band (see the usual spot) or call up Paula at Century Media (a different coast). You'll be glad you did.

    Twin Trip
    Twin Trip
    reviewed in issue #336, April 2012

    Talk about a throwback. Twin Trip (which is Felix Penny, pretty much) takes its cue from the college rock of the late 80s and early 90s. Imagine fusing the power of Nirvana and the stellar pop instincts of the Posies, and then dressing them up in slightly more accessible form.

    There are echoes of bands like King's X, Jellyfish, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr. and plenty more. It's like I'm back sitting in the studio at KCOU and spinning the latest and weirdest.

    Except that Twin Trip is anything but weird. This is mainstream all the way, with just enough tangents to keep the proceedings honest. Penny is an exacting craftsman, and these songs hew tightly to plan. But the sound and playing are decidedly loose for what is essentially a one-man recording.

    The anthemic structures are awe-inspiring. Penny really went for it with this album. He got there, too. I haven't heard anyone encapsulate that particular time period as well as Penny has here--and best of all, he's done it in such a way as to make all of it new again. Easily one of the best this year.

    (Jet Black)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    I love bands that go for broke. Twinstar starts off this disc at breakneck speed and never lets its foot off the pedal. The songs tumble by one by one, each attempting to paint a picture of a great band doing great things.

    I'm not going to argue with that. These songs sound important, as if they ought to be taken seriously. They should. There is greatness here. These songs shake, rattle and shimmer. As often as not, the songs veer in unexpected directions. And yet, by the time they're finished, it's quite apparent that no other course would have been nearly so right.

    This is no perfect recording. Tim Hanke is a shaky singer much of the time, but he has the emotion, the sense of timing that sells these songs like no one else could. Likewise, the band hits a few wrong notes now and again. If that's not intentional, it should have been. Perfection isn't interesting. Flaws are what make pop music art. Twinstar know just where to drop in a mistake in order to give a song that extra emotional boost.

    Ten years ago--no make that fifteen years ago, I keep forgetting how old I am--this sort of album would have paired well with what Soul Asylum was doing. Some of the best rock music ever recorded. I don't know if Dovetailing will match up with Made to Be Broken or And the Horse They Rode in On in 10 years, but I'll be keeping my ear on it. I'm not kidding. This is one of the great albums of the new millennium. I know, that's not saying a whole lot as of yet. But this puppy does leap to the top of my "Best of 2002" list, and only a truly astonishing effort could knock it from that perch. Brilliant. Wonderful. Amazing, Awesome. Fanfuckingtastic. Use whatever adjective you like. This album smokes. Period.

    Twisted Helices
    Twisted Helices
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    The music is pretty standard electro-pop, but Samudrala does so many odd things to his vocals with the production that this has to be considered rather experimental. Many of the vocal lines have Eastern melodies, which when combined with the odd effects makes for an unsettling listen at times. Just what I like.

    I'm not at all sure what he's going for, but Samudrala is a highly creative guy who makes cool music.

    Traversing a Twisted Path
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Twisted Helices is Ram Samudrala. I reviewed a five-song demo some time back, and so he sent me this 22-song release.

    Four of the songs from the demo appear here in different forms. And the way Samudrala works, there's no way they could sound the same way twice.

    One of the reasons I like Twisted Helices a bunch. Samudrala isn't afraid to challenge his listeners. Every bit of vocals and instrumentation is altered, or twisted, into the shape he wants. And with plenty of eastern (particularly Indian) musical influences infused into his unusual concept of electronic pop, it's not like the music started out sounding like your average American stuff.

    A definite acquired taste, one that many will not want to venture into, I suppose. Too bad. I can only think of a handful of folk who have such an original vision of music and manage to successfully pull it off. Twisted Helices cranks out not only strange music, but music with a powerful beauty.

    Twisted Roots
    (Cherry Disc)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Perhaps the best name for a band that plays music like this. Wrapping up elements of Kiss and grungy alterna-rock around a core of the least subtle hard rock I've heard in some time.

    It works well some of the time, like on "Creature I.T.R.", but more often it sounds like a band trying to play music. Too much effort; the seams are showing.

    But AOR could really go for this in a big way. Twisted Roots are too pop oriented to really attract a metal audience, and too simple to really snag an alternative one. But Twisted Roots beats the shit out of Live and Van Halen and whatever else them big rock stations are playing these days.

    Not my bag, but I know some folks who would dig in and be satiated.

    Freek Show
    (Island/Def Jam)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    If there were such a thing as industrial metal goth pop rap, that's about what Twistid does. In other words, a sillier venture could hardly be imagined by anyone.

    The songs are vaguely catchy. Really stupid, generally, but amusing. Some of the time, at least. The problem for me is that the backing tracks often sound like they were created on someone's $50 keyboard. Not a good thing.

    Particularly when the rhymes just don't get beyond ridiculous boasts and crude observations. The point? I dunno. I think someone is trying to have fun. And I'm sure some folks do.

    But not me. This just didn't get me terribly excited. Just kinda dull, really. Twistid isn't so much twisted as merely tired. I'm bored. Let's move on.

    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Muddy production lends this a grunge sound at times, but it is more just plain jumpy. The rhythm section reminds me a lot of Poster Children, and the vocals are typical atonal shouts. All in all a perfect sound for today's alternative nation.

    The thing that saves this for me is that the people making it sound like they give a shit. There is an energy that the cold metal of the CD has managed to capture.

    All you dorks still playing Gruntruck should latch onto this. It's just as heavy and a lot more interesting.

    II Big
    Sound of the Highway CD5
    (Russian River)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Singer Ron Hedley sounds a whole lot like Steve Winwood when he was with Spencer Davis. Not quite as soulful, perhaps, but close. The music is more reminiscent of Winwood's solo stuff in the 80s. More punchy, if you know what I mean.

    Both songs here are just basic fare brightened up by Hedley's voice. The band is just fine, but it doesn't have anything exciting to play. The stuff sounds fine, but it's undistinguished.

    It's not just the lack of edge that bugs me; II Big sounds like a whole lot of AOR bands from the early 80s (Huey Lewis and the News and that sorta thing). There's nothing wrong with that. The sound is just a bit generic for my taste. That's all.

    Always in TroubleCD5
    (Russian River)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    About the same as the last CD5 I heard from these folks. Keyboard and guitar-driven AOR rock, just like everybody loved back in the 80s. A little on the light side (with better harmonies), but right in that Huey Lewis groove.

    Rock by numbers, with pretentiously silly lyrics. The songs have that bouncy bass line that drove a bunch of dances when I was in junior high.

    Listen, I bought a lot this kinda stuff when I was a kid, and I have to say that II Big does the sound pretty well. It's fun after a few beers, I guess, but just not my regular cuppa.

    Sound of the Highway
    (Russian River)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Sort of a compilation of the CD5s I've been reviewing for the past year or so. II Big plays that big 80s AOR game, somewhere between Steve Miller in his "Abracadabra" mode and Bruce Hornsby.

    And if you like that kinda stuff, these guys play it well. The songwriting is by the book, but still good. Likewise, the playing is great. The members of II Big have playing in any number of bands over the years, and their skills cannot be questioned.

    The sound is right in the groove, too. Takes me back 15-20 years. A lot of folks bought this stuff back then, and I'm sure plenty are still interested in it now. This disc is as good a representation of that era as I've heard.

    Not my bag, but a fine set of songs nonetheless. II Big nails the time and place on the head. If you ever wondered what happened to rock and roll music, well, it's still around. Just have to look a bit.

    Two Cow Garage
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    So what might happen if you melded some seriously rockin' roots music with seriously whiskey-soaked vocals? Like as if Faces-era Rod Stewart were to hook up with Armchair Martian? Something like this. Or something, anyway.

    The tunes themselves are, well, quite tuneful. As tuneful as the vocals are raspy and often nearly atonal. But this sort of dichotomy has often worked well, and it does so here. The music provides the hook and the vocals the soul.

    And it's produced with just enough insouciance and recklessness to keep these songs infectious as hell. It sounds like the band was throwing a party as it was recording this album...come to think of it, that's not a bad idea at all.

    The sort of album that sets its hooks early and never lets up. Good, old-fashioned bootkickin' tunes. Stock up on the beer, and don't let it get too cold. Speaking in Cursive
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    Another fine outfit from this country/punk/rock/etc. outfit. There isn't a genre that can contain these boys, and few folks write better songs. Goes down like a $2 bourbon with Beast chaser--always best when repeated a few times.

    Two Harbors
    The Natural Order of Things
    reviewed 1/2/15

    Does this sound more like Oasis or Supergrass? I have been going back and forth for quite a while, and the answer seems to be "Yes."

    This Minneapolis band decided to go full Anglophile on its third album, even trekking over to Abbey Road for mastering. Oh, and the boys insist the album sounds best on vinyl. Of course, this is true of almost anything, but why cramp a romantic style?

    Oh, and this is just as crunchy, tuneful and powerful as Two Harbor's influences. The production isn't quite as muscular, but then, the budget is lower. These days, though, indie production comes a lot closer to the major ideal than it used to. And truthfully, I like the little bits of space that crop up from time to time. Reminds me that a human made this after all.

    I always hesitate when I hear something that so obviously apes a particular sound. But if you play enough Blur, Pulp, Oasis and Supergrass, it can be hard to immediately distinguish who is who. Not all the time, but often enough. This is a type, after all.

    And Two Harbors doesn't work too hard to present its own spin. This is wallowing in a glorious feel without any apology. If you aren't down with that, I understand. But I don't mind entering a modern wayback now and again. Lovely.

    Two Hours Traffic
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    Yep, another one of those Canadian pop bands. More straightforward and hook-driven than most, though. Hook-driven in a laid-back, almost minimalist style. I can dig it.

    Largely because Two Hours Traffic doesn't push things at all. It lays out its goodies without an pretension at all and simply lets the listener bask in the glow. The performances themselves are quite energetic, and the arrangements leave little to chance. But the band is anything but insistent.

    This style only works if the songs are well-written, and that's no problem. Joel Plaskett (he of the recent triple-album Three) has produced a real gem. He doesn't get in the way of the band, but rather simply lets the music shine on its own.

    Nothing complicated. Just some fine jangle pop for a sunny afternoon. Not all Canadian pop has to twist itself into knots. Some folks in the great white north can kick back just as well as their southern cousins. All righty, then.

    Two Lone Swordsmen
    Peppered with Spastic Magic
    (RGC Records)
    reviewed in issue #251, March 2004

    Unlike the other remix album reviewed in this issue, this disc is a set of remixes crafted by one act. Two Lone Swordsmen, to be specific, marking up stuff by Calexico, Six by Seven, Texas, St. Etienne, Stereo MCs and other similar folks.


    So you get the idea. A lot of folks who play all sorts of music have allowed the Swordsmen to so a little slicing and dicing. Not surprisingly, there are a few themes that keep recurring. For starters, TLS likes to keep things as minimalist as possible. There are a lot of electronic bloops and pops, but not a lot of bombast.

    More importantly, TLS remakes these songs completely. At times, it's hard to even tell what the original source material might have been. Not exactly great for the original artist, but pretty damned good for the cause of art.

    Two Man Advantage
    Don't Label Us
    (Go Kart)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Remember the first Zeke album on Epitaph? Full-tilt buzzsaw riffage and no breaks between the songs? Two Man Advantage does, and this album races past at full speed.

    The lyrics do concern things other than hockey, but ice time take up the bulk of the material. Not quite as jokey as Nomeansno's Hanson Brothers, Two Man Advantage is a lot heavier as well.

    Which is not to say that these songs get bogged down. On the contrary. The stuff just flies past, the pedal pinned to the floor. Indeed, there's just not much more to be said about the music. It's fast, it's loud and it'll leave just about anyone gasping for air.

    My kinda disc. Don't ask questions, and you won't hear any stupid answers. Bite down on this wire and feed until you're sated. Feel the rush.

    2 Mex
    B Boys in Occupied Mexico
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Not exactly b boy-style hip hop, but 2 Mex sure does come on with the party grooves. Plenty of "Jump Around" kinda funk twisted up with some vaguely political rhymes.

    A pretty good way to approach things, really. Always keep one eye on the groove and one eye on the wisdom. 2 Mex accomplishes that with skill and ease.

    He also incorporates a few Latin elements into his beats, though to be perfectly honest they're merely window dressing. These grooves don't vary much from the current hip-hop norm.

    All told, though, this is a fun album. Nothing particularly deep or original, but simply bouncy enough to provide a little ear candy. Works for me.

    Two Wounded Birds
    Two Wounded Birds
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    A mod-ish folk-surf outfit from Margate (the location means nothing to me, but apparently it says everything if you're British) who get some key help from the Drums. Whatever the formula, it sure works.

    The whole tuneful garage-surf sound? Utterly addictive. These songs are put together to achieve maximum mood presence, and they succeed wonderfully.

    The ringing tones of the guitars, and the tight pickwork of the lead guitar in particular, lend these songs their classic air. The driving work of the rhythm section keeps the whole show moving nicely.

    One of those albums that just sounds right. Not complicated, and not even particularly ambitious. But right nonetheless. Most fetching.

    Type O Negative
    The Origin of the Feces
    reviewed in issue #16, 6/30/92

    The most tasteless cover (and inner) art I've ever seen. Well done, boys. And the music is the same way. Those seeking the next Brill Building hits (check yer history books) should (and already have) run screaming. This is not average, mundane music. This is not even normal "metal" music. There's some serious experimentation going on.

    "Not" live, but sort of compiled from a live show, this album (or ep, no one could decide which) is a challenge to listen to. Just not a challenge to appreciate. Eat some beans, chow down on lots of fruit, and get into that fecal rage.

    Mmmmm... tasty!

    Bloody Kisses
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    I've found my favorite album of the year so far. And that's saying an awful lot. And it's really odd, because this is very cleanly produced, dramatic to a fault and includes almost overpowering keyboards. Any one of those things is often enough to make me hate an album. But not here.

    Combining Goth, industrial and a keen love of sixties Brit groups the Beatles and Black Sabbath (ultra-heavy pop music), Pete and the boys have concocted a masterpiece. These songs go on for ten minutes at times, and yet you don't get bored, simply mesmerized.

    And let's talk about Peter Steele's voice. He goes lower than almost anyone I've ever heard (so I guess basso profundo or whatever the press said was pretty accurate), but it is most impressive when he lets it loose into the stratosphere. To call it a roar is to castrate it.

    This is not a metal album. But metal (sucka) djs should certainly play it. If this isn't a big alternative hit as well, somebody fucked up the marketing.

    Just listen. You can't help but go absolutely insane.

    October Rust
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    The thing I really liked about Type O before this album was that the band had audibly progressed from album to album. Of course, where do you go after Bloody Kisses?

    Well, nowhere. Yeah, "Cinnamon Girl" is a much cooler song than "Summer Breeze" ever was, but then stuff like the first single, "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend", tends to bring the package down to the same level. The sound is still this astonishing mix of wild keyboard washes, epic guitar lines and Pete Steele's unmistakable voice. And "Love You to Death" is a worthy successor to "Black No. 1".

    Yeah, there's a lot of filler, including the lead track, and the intro and outro stuff is just plain annoying. But what the fuck. If you really want to take all this seriously, then read Andrea Dworkin's analysis of Steele's sexual fears. Me, I'm just turning up the volume, turning out the lights and letting the stuff hit me full force. No other way to go.

    Tyranny Is Tyranny
    The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
    reviewed 8/10/15

    And now, let us pause to sing the praises of epic, loud music. Or epically loud music. Personally, I prefer both.

    Tyranny Is Tyranny plays long songs (four of the five pieces here clock in at more than seven minutes) and from the first note the band's ambition shines through. After a while, it sounds like listening to an album of Iron Maiden epics.

    Which, for me, is a very good thing. Tyranny Is Tyranny sits squarely in the middle of prog-touched sludge punk, which isn't as far from the prog-ish sludge blues of the Paul Dianno-era Maiden as you might think. These boys have a more orchestral feel to their arrangements, even as the sound is hacked away to crudeness as often as not.

    I think there's a message in the lyrics (I mean, there has to be, given the album and song titles), but I think the music advances the band's ideas much better. This is the sound of collapse; structures rise and fall, but entropy rules.

    If this is the way the world ends, pour me a beer or two and pull up a chair. The show is awesome.

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