Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 487 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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  • V-3
  • V. Sirin
  • Vader
  • Gregory Vaine
  • Valender
  • Valentine Saloon
  • Valina (2)
  • Valve
  • Vampire Rodents (3)
  • The Van Gobots
  • Johnny Vance
  • Vancougar
  • The Vandalias
  • Vanish Valley (2)
  • Vanishing Point
  • Vaporhead
  • Variable Unit (2)
  • Variac

  • Various Artists and Compilations: (361)
  • Varnaline (2)
  • Varukers
  • Jonathan Vassar
  • Vaughn
  • Vegas DeMilo
  • Vehement
  • The Vehicle Birth (2)
  • Vehicles
  • Velocity
  • The Velour Motel
  • Vendetta
  • Veneficum (2)
  • Venerealectric
  • Venice Is Sinking (3)
  • Venom
  • Venus Beads
  • Jules Verdone
  • The Verge
  • Carl Verheyen Band
  • Vermouth
  • The Verna Canon
  • The Vernicious Knid
  • Versailles
  • David Vertesi
  • Veruca Salt
  • Very Be Careful
  • Veve
  • The Vibrators
  • Sid Vicious
  • Vicious Fish
  • Victims Family (3)
  • Victory at Sea
  • Victims of Internal Decay
  • Viewmaster
  • The Vigilantes
  • Vincent Vocoder Voice
  • The Vindictives
  • Violent Femmes (2)
  • Violeta Vil
  • Virginia Coalition
  • Virtualizer (2)
  • Visible Shivers
  • Vision
  • Vision of Disorder (3)
  • Visions of Excess
  • Visitor Jim
  • Vital Remains
  • Vitreous Humor (3)
  • Vitriol
  • Michael Vlatkovich (3)
  • Vodka (2)
  • Voivod (4)
  • Volebeats (2)
  • Volume
  • Volumizer
  • The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
  • Von
  • The Von Ehrics
  • Kurt von Stetten(2)
  • Sarah Vonderhaar
  • Voodoo Gearshift (2)
  • Voodoo Glow Skulls (5)
  • Voodoo Love Mint (5)
  • Voot Warnings
  • Vowel Movement
  • Vox Americana!
  • Voyager One
  • Mick Vranich
  • Mick Vranich & Wordban'd
  • The VSS
  • Vulgar Pigeons
  • Vulgaria
  • Vuurwerk

  • V-3
    Photograph Burns
    (American Recordings)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #2, 3/11/96

    Disjointed, haunting pop tunes that really remind me of the Magnetic Fields. Oh, sure, there's the occasional punky rev-up, but mostly this album is about not being very happy.

    Okay, I can dig. Simple music that still manages to evoke a depth that many excessively-produced bands cannot achieve. And it's that depth which really set V-3 apart from the pack.

    A nice, well-rounded effort. The average fan will find this stuff quite sparse and possibly disturbing. Cool. Allow the music to weave its way into your concscious being (the subconscious is way overrated, anyway) and have its way. Mood modification, perhaps, but after a while you'll feel much better.

    And I don't want to leave you with the idea that V-3 is as eclectic as, say, Roger Miller. Not by a long shot. The simple fact is that in order to really get this album, you must listen. That's all. Nothing more. It can't be too much to ask.


    V. Sirin
    Sandy Truth 7"
    (Moment Before Impact)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    This puppy plays at 33, and the grooves still take up most of the sides (side two does have two songs). V. Sirin really wanted to make the most of its slab of vinyl.

    And why not? The folks have a cool way of mixing 70s pop with the stridencies of emo and the general loopiness of garage rock. Don't believe me? Yeah, it's all here. This is one unique set of circumstances, let me tell you.

    Did I mention that the songs are rather long and disjointed? I guess when you mix and match as much as V. Sirin there are some compromises. The stuff kept my interest. I didn't look at my watch once.


    Vader
    The Ultimate Incantation
    (Earache)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Okay, so this one is pretty old. I finally got hooked up with Earache and I have this policy of reviewing everything I receive (as long as it's indie). So a little backlog won't hurt.

    Tight, but still standard death metal. The regular double-fisted bass drum attack and ripping riffs. Occasionally it wanders into interesting territory, but then comes the all-too-predictable tempo change, and we're back where we started.

    It's alright, but aggression is not enough.


    Gregory Vaine
    The Ballad of Bobby McStone
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    A pop-song opera? Why not? Bobby McStone grows up, tried to get a deal, gets screwed, but finally ends up with a hit record because he's so damned talented. Or something like that.

    Alright, so plot summation isn't one of my strong points. And to be honest, the plot is almost ancillary. These are nice jangly pop songs, chock full of hooks. Sure, there is something of a point, but if you don't want to be troubled, you won't be.

    The production sound could be better. The middle ranges are somewhat muddy, but that lends a nice, homebrew feel to the songs (which helps to cut down any pretension inherent in a pop opera). Me, I wish the sound was a bit sharper. Just a bit.

    But a cool project nonetheless. Somewhat over the top, but again, that comes with the territory. Might was well aim high.


    Valender
    The Giant Slingshot
    (Smokeylung)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Minimalist pop with plenty of ringing reverb. An interesting sound, one that I haven't heard used quite this way before. Though I'm sure some Pavement fans are going to start screaming at me at any moment now.

    I guess that's a backhanded reference. But Valender isn't particularly pretentious in its songwriting or playing. Indeed, these songs are astonishingly understated. At times, I wish the guys would let themselves crank things up a notch. But then I realize what's going on.

    Restraint has its own power. By not rocking the masses, Valender is writing by omission. While these songs are beautiful for what ca be heard, the beauty is enhanced by what the band doesn't do. I hope this concept makes sense to you, because I'm doubting it even as I write it.

    Ah well. I'm gonna stick with it. Simplicity has its virtues, and one of them is the ability to make pretty music without a raft of tricks and effects. Let the music be the star. Valender's tunes certainly deserve at least that much.


    Valentine Saloon
    Mind Bomb EP
    (Pipeline)
    reviewed in issue #34, 5/15/93

    You folks have been reporting these guys for quite some time, and this is my first chance to hear them.

    I really liked the title track, which I believe was from their last album. I hate to say it, but the rest is just about completely forgettable.

    They get some credit for trying to sound different than all the other commercial metal bands wandering around. Too bad they just aren't much better, at least here.


    Valina
    Epode
    (54-40 or Fight!)
    reviewed in issue #269, October 2005

    Valina is the other side of the post-rock coin from Ticonderoga. These guys are all about rhythm and keeping the songs in motion. They've got a lot ideas, but they make sure that those ideas spin in the blender of the rhythm section rather than strike out on their own. Which method is better? Depends on your point of view.

    I happen to like both approaches, and bands that dabble (or dabbled) in each (June of 44 comes to mind) are among my favorites. Valina isn't afraid to follow the occasional tangent, but the lines are kept on a tighter leash.

    Which doesn't mean the thoughts are any less vital. The intensity of this album is almost overwhelming. It blasts out of the gate and never looks back, even when things get a wee bit contemplative.

    There are more than two ways to rock, even post-rock. Valina has taken one road (by and large) and it has paved that path most impressively. Grab the handle and hold on.


    a tempo! a tempo!
    (Joyful Noise)
    reviewed in issue #305, March 2009

    I'm beginning to think that the ol' strident guitar sound of the early 90s is on the way back. Or maybe it's just that Steve Albini recorded this album. Hard to say.

    Or maybe not. I've been hearing a lot more of this throbbing, quasi-atonal, rhythmic rock of late. I loved the stuff back in the day--whether talking about the Jesus Lizard or June of 44 or the Shipping News or Trans Am...damn, those were good bands.

    So's Valina. Anatol Bogendorfer has just a hint of the Jello in his vocals, which adds another cool sound to the mix. He and his mates hail from Austria, and they play together with intelligence and purpose. They even get some friends to throw in a bit of brass and wind. Most importantly, they rock.

    Yes, it does come down to that. You can noodle around with intersecting lines and see where unconnected ideas might lead, but in the end you have to rock. And Valina rocks with a vengeance.


    Valve
    Parallel You
    (Mood Food)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    I must say that I've never heard of Valve before, so the fact that this is something of a reunion album doesn't do much for me. What does impress me is the music itself, which is just about as great as the gushy press notes claim.

    If this is the reunion, how come I never heard of these guys before? Just a question. Anyway, Valve plays vaguely atmospheric pop (basic song construction with the occasional intrusion of strings or keyboards or whatever) in a refreshingly straightforward way.

    But that simple method of presentation doesn't lead to simplistic songwriting. In fact, Valve takes advantage of its spartan skeleton to wander around a bit (though never getting far from the nest). There's a nice undercurrent to each song, a piece that runs contrary to conventional theory. Perhaps it's a slightly off hi-hat cymbal or a bass line that bounces oddly every once in a while. Just enough to really hook a listener.

    Boy, I am impressed. This is some fine stuff. I don't know where Valve has been, but I'm glad I got to have this taste. I think delve back in now for a deeper meal.


    Vampire Rodents
    Lullaby Land
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    While most industrial bands stick to a few tried and true rhythms and basic song structures, a few dare to experiment.

    Until a couple of years ago, this was, in actuality, an experimental genre. Now that NIN has sold untold millions and Jourgensen is a Seventeen pin-up, I guess it's finally time to get back to the underground.

    Just remarkable texture to the songs here. Much like P.E.'s Fear of a Black Planet, there are about ten levels in each song. Layer upon layer of samples and instruments combine into an almost symphonic orgy of sound.

    It's heavy; it's dance music; it's sheer pleasure. You can bathe in this untold times, and it will never get old. Like a favorite movie, you will discover a new feature with every play. How many times can you identify the "Don't worry-be happy" sample in Fear? I'm up to 133. Such devotion will certainly be rewarded on this disc as well.


    Clockseed
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    I was completely prepared to be disappointed. After all, how could VR top Lullaby Land, an album that I (and many other critics) consider perhaps the best industrial album ever recorded.

    But instead of giving up, the Rodents called up 18 of their closest friends to guest on vocals. And the vocals are a little more relevant this time out, though as always you have to listen to the undercurrents to understand what Vampire Rodents are all about.

    The liners say it all: "All VR compositions are Sample Based Compositions (SBC). So wake up and smell it, folks!" The beats are generally contain a world beat flair, and much of the surrounding orchestration is calculated to leave the listener stumbling. While a little more accessible than Lullaby Land, Clockseed is still a compendium of discord and sonic discrepancies.

    Twenty-one fucking songs. I'd be happy with an album that had just a couple pieces of this quality on it. VR may not be everyone's cup of tea, but to ignore this disc would be a crime punishable by death, in my book. There isn't an adjective I can use to compare this with other albums. Nothing comes close.


    Gravity's Rim
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    The usual array of guests (Athan of Spahn Ranch and Jared from Chemlab among them), the usual awesome sample work from Daniel Vahnke and the usual result: a great disc.

    Try as I might, I keep running into folks who don't quite get the Rodents. I guess this is an acquired taste, though I didn't have any problem succumbing years ago. On this album, Vahnke has managed to vary his beat work even more (perhaps inspired by his recent Ether Bunny project), making the songs even more intriguing.

    As sample-heavy industrial acts go, no one can touch the Vampire Rodents. The level of sophistication in the sound is simply sublime. In another move somewhat reminiscent of the Ether Bunny album, there is a more jazzy feel to some of the tunes, adding to the goth and aggro elements already in abundance.

    I've never been quite able to properly review a Rodents CD. I simply am too in tune with what Vahnke and Co. are doing to be terribly objective. Another CD I love. Can't bitch about that at all.


    The Van Gobots
    Guantanamo Beach Party
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #322, November 2010

    The title sounds like a joke, but the Van Gobots are as serious as any band I know. These math-y songs pop and prickle with deadly intensity, and there's not even a hint of a smile in the lyrics.

    All that makes me like this more. No need to be jokey when you can make music that clicks in like this. The Van Gobots are almost as kinetic as the ALL/Descendents axis, though they mostly stick to rhythms and somewhat amelodic lead lines.

    Very tight and lean production, too. These songs simply keep moving, and I get the impression that they speed up slightly as the album rolls along. I could be wrong about that; I know I couldn't keep up the pace.

    Leaves me breathless. While the sound is relatively innocuous, the energy of these songs is almost unfathomable. Definitely worth the ride, though you might want to check with your doctor to make sure your heart can take the strain.


    Johnny Vance
    Johnny Vance EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    The whole story of this tape can be distilled in the first song, "One Dance with Mia Farrow." Vance writes lines like "I found it hard to resist someone who was Frank Sinatra's lady and then had Rosemary's Baby" and "I'd never chase your offspring," puncutated with the requisite "Mama Mia" exclamations.

    The music is well-crafted, if somewhat routine, roots rock. The thing about it is that Vance is so damned earnest. I mean, he really means all that silly stuff he's singing. Listen, I know that even the best songs have their silly moments that have to be carried off by the artist, but really, Vance's lyrics are beyond the pale.

    Too many howlers. And I'm not saying that to disparage the feelings behind them. I watched Shadows and Fog last night, and I must admit I felt some similar feelings for Mia Farrow. But there's a better way to express them.

    Damnit, though, he is sincere. This isn't phony or calculated. And while it is heavily crafted, the music is good enough to attract attention from the more mainstream folks. Vance just needs to work on making his lyrics a bit more credible.


    Vancougar
    Canadian Tuxedo
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    Four women of a certain age (including drummer CC Rose, once of the Cinch) playing intricate, bounding pop songs. Quite possibly what the New Pornographers might sound like with a bit more estrogen in their fuel.

    Actually, a lot like that. Vancougar doesn't rely on quite as much melodic trickery, but the obsessive, in-your-face approach to hook-laden music is unmistakably from the same school. And given the geographic proximity, it's not surprising or bothersome in the slightest.

    And given the obvious love these ladies have for bands like the Primitives, most of these pieces are just that much more straightforward. They're also often keyboard-driven, which is interesting considering their aggressive nature.

    Women of a certain age, indeed. Vancougar stands up strong and takes no prisoners. These songs demand respect, and I don't know anyone who'd deny it. Thoroughly satisfying. the stomach ache.


    The Vandalias
    Buzzbomb!
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Three brothers (and a drummer who is not a blood relation) who infuse retro power pop with punk sensibility. Kind of imagine the Sweet (first album, Chinnichap stuff) played in a sanitary fashion but still with a Replacements-style attitude. All the requisite musical cliches intact, of course.

    And those cliches get kinda annoying fast. When the band lets go and really focuses on its own ideas, rather than reaching for the grab bag f what has already passed, the results are quite a joy. The title track is a great raver, but the next worthwhile song comes four tracks later with "Hey Kari G".

    This inconsistency drives the album. Are the Vandalias a retro act, or are they bringing the music forward? It sounds like the band itself cannot decide. And that wrenching question never gets answered.

    Oh, there's some wonderful pop stuff (among the retroid stuff, "Anywhere You Go" is awful keen), but the Vandalias wore out quickly. Tasty, but watch out for the stomach ache.


    Vanish Valley
    Vanish Valley
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #319, August 2010

    By and large, Vanish Valley is Andrew McAllister. A veteran of the northwest music scene, McAllister moved down to L.A. to reboot.

    This album is more sparse and intimate than Conrad Ford, McAllister's previous outfit. Maybe that's just because it is more "him." Dunno. Still, the mellow (yet intricate) roots sound comes through just as strong.

    Quiet is the watchword here. McAllister doesn't rush the pace, and he rarely feels the need to shout. This album is all about nuance. And McAllister deftly wields that stick.

    It might take a while for these songs to properly imprint. Once their supple curves have adapted your ears, however, the game will be over. Quality fare.


    Get Good
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #331, October 2011

    Another Vanish Valley album. Another outstanding Vanish Valley album. Yawn.

    So, yes, if you happen to adore well-fashioned songs that have settled somewhere between americana and modern rock, you'll be thrilled. And, y'now, a lot of folks seem to groove on that. I know I do.

    The band's ability to shift gears is impressive. A raver here, a more introspective piece there and plenty of gorgeous licks in between. Best of all, whatever mode a song might be in, it always sounds like a Vanish Valley song.

    I've been down on the boring bands that seem to exemplify indie rock these days. Vanish Valley is anything but. Perhaps the hipsters might get hip to this, and life would be much better.


    Vanishing Point
    Tangled in Dream
    (Limb-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Though some of my readers might not believe this, I do think that it's possible to overdo lush, symphonic metal. The easiest way to do this is with a heavy hand on the keyboards. American fans might refer to this as the "Europe effect" (referring to the band, not the continent). Vanishing Point dances all around that dangerous line.

    Because these are grand songs with operatic (read: simple and big) themes. The guitar lines soar and swoop with ease, and the vocals also travel similarly predictable lines.

    But all that might be alright if Vanishing Point didn't trick out the sound with all those keyboards. What is acceptable from a guitar (even a MIDI-ed guitar, from time to time) just sounds silly on a keyboards, particularly when they crank out drenching chords. I can't exactly explain why, except that it's all too true.

    This is a case of more creating less. The songs are all decent, if workmanlike. It just that the production is just a bit too over-the-top. A little more guitar, a little less keyboard and I might have been moved more.


    Vaporhead
    Vaporhead
    (Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Vaporhead takes the gang vocal theory from glam metal and grafts that onto various sorts of pop sounds. Catchy as hell, though there's little under the surface.

    The songs shift through various punk and pop styles (coming damned close to stealing riffs often enough), but always keeping the tempo up and ending up with a shouted chorus. Going nowhere fast with a big smile on my face.

    God, this is so throwaway. But a great summer record, nonetheless. If you want depth or musical development, well, go somewhere else. Vaporhead is out to amuse, and it does a fairly good job.

    I'll probably get real tired of this in a few days, but until then I'll be just happy. I like this much more than I should.


    Variable Unit
    Handbook for the Apocalypse
    (Wide Hive)
    reviewed in issue #241, May 2003

    Variable Unit is a set of seven folks from the SF area , including Wide Hive founder Gregory Howe and former Tower of Power drummer Ron E. Beck. VU is hip hop, to be sure, but the beats are (mostly) live and the feel is more Parliament than P.E.

    Musically, that is. In terms of tone, VU is as strident as anyone--though the cultural references are astonishingly impressive ("you know Gary, Indiana...the place that Opie Cunningham sang about"). Anyone who can shove "The Music Man," "Andy Griffith," "Happy Days" and an industrial wasteland into one short sentence gets full props from me.

    Understand that the apocalypse mentioned is as much existential as it is temporal, and then you will understand what it is VU is really going after. This is an album of thought, both in the lyrics and the music. The band jams with authority, and the rhymes and samples pose one pertinent question after another. The assault has no letdown.

    One of those albums that sounds great today and will sound astonishingly prescient ten years from now. Hard to get much better than that.


    Mayhemystics Outbeaks
    (Wide Hive)
    reviewed in issue #264, May 2005

    The latest from Variable Unit, a new disc and not remixes of Mayhem Mystics--just so you're not confused.

    This Bay-Area hip-hop/jazz collective knows how to craft some truly inspirational jams. Some smooth and some rough, but all decidedly incendiary.

    If it seems like I'm not writing a whole lot about this, you're right. Variable Unit is best experienced on its own merits. I could write reams, but it would all boil down to the fact that VU is something unique in the hip-hop world: a set of experienced pros who have the singular mission of making important music and important rhymes.

    Yeah, the lyrics are great, but the music behind them is even more impressive. Play it again. And again. And so on.


    Variac
    Hard Starward
    (Rustbelt)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Thick, fuzzy and loud. But if you're thinking Variac is some kinda stoner rock outfit, you're way off base. The fuzziness here is relative; the loudness is almost accidental. These songs take their time to develop, hiding just about every element behind an almost opaque wall of distortion.

    Kinda like a low-tech version of My Blood Valentine. Well, the songs are written in a completely different manner (spacey is the best way I can describe it), but the use of the sonic scrim is similar.

    Beautiful songs, and in saying that I'll emphasize that the writing focuses on beauty. There's nothing harsh to the heavy riffage or distortion layer. Sure, this stuff is very loud, but it's so damned pretty it'll shock you.

    I like it when bands play with expectations like that. I also like it when a band puts a new spin on a solid idea. Variac is a lot more subtle than most Detroit bands, more like Morsel in that way. Dead solid, in any case.


    Various Artists and compilations:

    The Absolute Middle of Nowhere Volume 17
    (Limited Potential)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    There are sixteen bands on this thing, thus LimP 012 is Volume 17. Make sense?

    From the famous and sublime (Smashing Pumpkins) to the somewhat obscure and tasty (The Luck of Eden Hall), this collection of Chicago-area talent reeks of a most pleasant odor.

    I could list the other cool tracks and bands, but why don't you just check this bastard out for yourself? There is something here for everyone, and I couldn't find a clunker in the bunch.

    Don't be an asshole and play only the Smashing Pumpkins tune. It's not the best one here (though it ain't bad). Why don't you search through and find something else even cooler.

    Smile, Godspeaks loves you.


    The Absolute Supper
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    A celebration of one of the great gothic labels in the world. Twenty-two tracks from 20 bands, spread over two discs. I'm not sure how much of this is previously released (the gorgeous liner notes give extensive biographies of each artist, but don't say where the actual songs came from), but my guess is there's a bunch of stuff here that has been damned difficult to get on this side of the Atlantic.

    Now, when I said gothic, I meant the real thing. None of that silly Marilyn Manson stuff, and none of the gothic pop (a la the Cure) that is so popular with the kiddies. No, this is sonic structure stuff, with a little black industrial and black metal thrown in for kicks. As the liners note, label founder Roger Karmanik is interested in the art of music, not in aligning with any rigidly-defined genre.

    The Absolute Supper is a wildly expansive exploration into the true intellectual and emotional potential of music. No rules, just pure sonic power. A walk down the stairs into the dank basement of the musical experience, where a mad scientist works, readying his latest creation.

    Stunning, really. I assume you can get the through Projekt (who distributed most of the CMI releases), though I got this puppy direct from Sweden. If you even pretend to be interested in the music of the mind, well, this is simply a must. No excuses.


    Ambience is Where You Find It
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    This stuff will be on a disc someday (perhaps when the folks think of a label name, for starters), but I figured I could do better with a demo review.

    Three acts: Urban Ambience, Emile "Dr. T" Tobenfeld and Beyond the Pale.

    Urban Ambience is more of a jazz act than a strictly ambient one. For me, this makes it much more interesting. Sax, clarinet, flute and other instruments combine with the electronic to create some really innovative stuff.

    Dr. T is a full-blown sampling and sequencing freak. He takes snippets from everyday life and melds them into some really intoxicating pieces.

    Beyond the Pale is a prog-rock vision of ambience. The work is intricate but well-played. It should fall apart into a mess, but it doesn't.

    Three acts with completely different ideas as to how one should approach the ambient ideal. And three ways of looking at that ideal that I've never heard before. If you are at all interested in electronic music, give these folks a yell immediately.


    Ambient Rituals
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    Well, this is techno's answer to new age music. So once you get over that, then you can really start to hear what is going on.

    A lot of this is decent, but uninspired. However, check out the A.S.A., Digital Poodle and Synaethesia. For the beginner just checking this sort of music out, these are not as initially mind-numbing as some of the other pieces.

    To make me really dig an ambient piece, there has to be a lot going on. It doesn't have to be fast or even coherent, but I want to know someone is trying. Just mushing around keyboards for ten minutes doesn't wash with me, and I'm happy to say these artists all do much better than that.

    A decent sampler of what's around. You can probably find better, but you can also find a lot worse.


    Ambient Voids
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    If you've been reading A&A for the past couple of months, you've seen my reviews of most of the artists on this compilation. These are the spacier of Hypnotic's vast array of ambient talent.

    If you haven't had the heart to wade through all the discs on your own, then this compilation will get you started. Personally, I'm not a space music fan, and even ambient acts who aren't generally spacey picked their most "out there" tracks for this disc, so I wouldn't call all of the tracks even representative.

    But if space is your game, I don't know why you wouldn't check this out. Go for the Synaethesia, Cluster & Eno (!), Virtualizer and Nik Turner for starters.


    Anti-Hero 2XCD
    (6X6-Platinum) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Ten bands, three songs apiece (well, one has two). The sounds wander all over the pop and punk regions (ESP Allstars, Puller and Sequoyah are three of the acts, if that helps), and they're rather inviting.

    Not really a label sampler, and maybe that helps. The extensive times given each band is exemplary. There are plenty of chances to dig into a particular band's sound.

    This approach is a good one, especially if this is basically an overgrown sampler. The music is top-notch and nicely varied. No dull moments here, only multiple entry points.


    Archives of Space
    (Purple Pyramid-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Some old (like 1971 old), some new. All stuff that Cleopatra has license to, and so one way to take this set is as a sampler platter of the rather large space music catalog held by the label.

    That wouldn't tell the whole tale, though. Yeah, there are ancient tracks from Hawkwind, Chrome and Guru Guru, but also new stuff from Pressurehed and the Cosmic Couriers (featuring Dieter Moebius and Jurgen Engler). The collection is rather diverse, showing off all sorts of takes on the whole "space rock" concept, and the large time frame also helps to illustrate the long-lasting appeal of this largely overlooked sound.

    Part of that diversity can also be applied to the quality of the songs, though most are quite good. Sure, this may be just another marketing ploy, but it's not a bad space mix tape, if you're so inclined.


    Armed & Hammered
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    While Tub and Antimony are the big highlights on this compilation, check out other bands like Ff and Pet UFO. Punk and disorderly all the way.

    Double Deuce has a rather strong lineup, and this set takes two from each of eight bands. If you haven't been formally introduced, here's your chance. And let me say, if you like D.C. post-hardcore bands like Jawbox, Fugazi and Girls Against Boys, there's plenty here for you to dig.


    Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music 1930-1973
    (Shame File)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    Clinton Green has been sending me tapes, mini CDs, CDs and more ever since I started A&A more than 17 years ago. Even considering the decidedly eclectic (and even bizarre) music that I turns up in my mailbox, his stuff is consistently some of the strangest and most challenging.

    This 14-track set is something of a career capper for Green. He did an outstanding job on the liners, and the music on this disc is positively mindbending. If you care at all about interesting music of any style, these pieces will say something to you.

    I'm just knocked out by everything. Like I said, the liners are exquisite. Green distills his knowledge into short descriptions that illuminate and intrigue. A perfect job. The track selection, likewise, is simply brilliant. Every single piece here is electrifying. All but the first three tracks come from the period of 1965-1973, so there's plenty of jazzy improvisation and general fusion (before fusion was even an articulated concept). But it's not that hard to hear how these works presaged a lot of mainstream music.

    That is the point of the underground, of course. Those of us who lurk beneath are always searching for a new way forward. There's a lot of dreck, but as this compilation shows, there's plenty of exceptional material as well. I'm completely blown away. This is utterly amazing.


    Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music
    Volume II: 1974-1983
    2xCD
    (Shame File)
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    The second in this series of compilations documenting experimental music in Australia is even more impressive than the first. One reason, as series editor Clinton Green explains in the liners, is that this music had finally found a foothold by the mid 70s.

    But the other part is that many of the artists on this set are still alive and contributing to the current scene. That helps to make the set as complete and diverse as possible.

    There are a total of 28 tracks here, many of them (by necessity) excerpts of longer pieces. The diversity of sound and thought is completely mind-boggling. I don't think you have to be a fan of this kind of music to appreciate the historic nature of this set, though I suppose you have to be a little crazed (like me) to really go nuts about it.

    That's cool. The most interesting thing about experimental music is how much of it actually enters the mainstream. It's not hard to hear how bits and pieces of the ideas in these works have wormed their way to a wide number of ears. Looking back, it's much easier to look forward. This is easily one of the most important releases of the year.


    Assimilation 12"
    (Epidemic-Fifth Column-Metal Blade-Reconstriction)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Chemlab. Diatribe. Malhavoc. And, of course, Skrew. Some pleasant remixes to crank your industrial listeners out there. I got this from Metal Blade, though I assume Cargo has a few of these things as well. I think you can also find most of the tracks somewhere else, but I sure don't mind having them here.

    This is a good introduction to a couple of bands that a lot of you probably haven't heard before. And good bands at that.

    Why is it I can sense this real big industrial takeover of the metal universe. Matt at Relapse has been preaching this for a while, and I'm inclined to go along. After all, didn't Nine Inch Nails win the metal Grammy this year?


    At Death's Door II
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    To start the year off right, Roadrunner trot out their spring death metal collection. Well, except for Death (of Relativity) redoing a Kiss song that has already been done too many times. Check out the new tracks from Cynic and Disincarnate for a hint of their forthcoming albums. Were but there was more.


    AthFest 2000
    (Ghostmeat)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    The festival itself takes place at the end of June (6/22-6/25 to be exact), but this is the official compilation. One track each from 21 Athens, Ga., bands, all of whom I assume will be in attendance at the gathering.

    Despite being the stomping grounds of folks like R.E.M., Indigo Girls, Matthew Sweet, Golden Palominos and plenty more, the Athens scene has remained astonishingly fertile since its "coming out" some 20 years ago. Daemon Records may be the best-known local label, but Ghostmeat has been putting out local stuff for five years. I looked at the catalog; it's impressive.

    As is this compilation. These bands do not fall into one or two simple categories. These folks are professionals, in every good sense of the word. The people not only have a vision for their sounds, but they are (generally) able to pull of that sound in studio.

    An enticing invitation to the festival. "Something for everyone" often means a piece of crap for every fool on the block. Not here. Sweetmeat for those who desire a piece.


    Athfest 2001
    (Ghostmeat)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Most college towns have some sort of music scene. Athens, Ga., has been a music center for well more than 20 years. What's cool about Athfest is that the festival focuses on up-and-comers rather than the tried-and-true.

    There are a couple of old-line Athens bands featured here, such as Five Eight, but none of the "big" names that might totally overshadow the event itself. As a celebration of music, Athfest gets bands of all sorts. This preview compilation doesn't flow very well due to the wide variety of sounds propagated by the bands, but that diversity bodes well for the festival itself.

    One of these days I may make the trip south to check out Athfest. The music I heard on this disc (and last year's preview as well) have given me the itch. If you're in the area from June 21-24 this summer, you owe it to yourself to catch some new music.


    Awakening--Females in Extreme Music
    (Dwell)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Plenty of folks have asked me why there aren't any all-female or woman-led death metal (extreme, whatever terminology you wish to use) bands. I usually don't answer that question directly, instead saying that there are some, but none of them have made it much past the self-released album stage.

    The good folks at Dwell are trying to change that. Most of the bands here are merely guys with a female lead singer, but even that's fairly innovative.

    And while the goals may be high-minded, this compilation also shows why many of these bands aren't well-known: they're not very good. While Gehenna is one of the most accessible bands on the disc, it's also one of the few with a coherently written and performed song.

    I also liked the tracks from Witches, Demonic Christ and Damad. The rest were merely middling, if not worse. Extreme doesn't necessary mean shitty, now.

    Enough good stuff here to satisfy anyone searching for this sorta thing. But once you take the novelty appeal off, this compilation is merely average. I'm not going to say that women don't belong in extreme music. Not at all. It's just that not many of these bands will convince people otherwise.


    Various Artists/Blue Oyster Cult
    Bad Channels Soundtrack/ Score
    (Moonstone-Red Light)
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    Two-for-one: a soundtrack and original score thang. While most of the soundtrack is eminently forgettable, Sykotic Sinfoney has a wicked FNM/Bungle-ized kinda groove that makes me truly smile. And DMT is not too bad.

    You must know: this is a soundtrack for one of those direct-to-USA (and Gilbert Gotfried) things. So you can expect the cheeziness of the vocal tracks. But the BOC score is something else again. Yeah, it's commercial at times, but I haven't heard Buck and Co. this adventurous in at least a decade. Hang with the score: it is the goods.


    Banned in L.A.*Band Together*Mosh on Fire
    (PMRC-Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    That's Pat McKeon Record company, just in case you get any ideas. A collection of the heaviest L.A. has to offer. Production leaves some of the tracks a little muffled, but that rather adds to the flavor. Most of this is your traditional thrash, but death and grindcore are beginning to make inroads even in the aerosol capitol of the world.

    If you don't find something you like here, you didn't listen very hard. My personal fave is the Psychosis track, but everything here is worth a listen. And maybe you can say "Hey, I played a song by them a long time ago..." when they get deals.


    Best of All Possible Worlds: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson 2xCD
    (PIAPTK)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    The best tributes take the songs of the original artist and give them a completely new spin. About half the tracks on this generous set (28 tracks in all!) do just that. And when the more "traditional" renditions are by the likes of Simon Joyner and Wooden Wand, well, you begin to understand that you're in good hands. Most enjoyable.


    Better Read than Dead
    (Epitaph/AK Press Audio)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    Why would suck diverse bands as the Levellers and Napalm Death show up on a benefit compilation disc? When the proceeds go to AK Press.

    Cool tracks also arrive via NOFX, Pitch Shifter, Propagandhi, Cain, Chumbawamba, Tribes of Neurot and many other cool bands. From punk to pop to noise to death metal and beyond, these bands are helping to celebrate one of the more interesting presses around. I've got a really cool book they published some time ago on how to sabotage your corporate bosses. Lots of great ideas there, and I even used a few.

    As for the music, well, plenty of covers and other messy things. Some really nice stuff (I did mention a few highlights; you can find yer own), but the point is, you should get yourself exposed to some revolutionary thinking. Sure, you could just go to your local with-it bookstore and pick up AK Press books by Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, John Yates or Jello Biafra, among others. But hell, why not buy a CD with cool songs on it, to boot?

    Whatever. This is a good collection for a great cause. And in case you're one of those Abba freaks, there's a rendition of "Waterloo" by the Agnetha, Bjorn, Sven, Frida and Lars Fan Club, aka Bjorn Baby Bjorn. Such weirdness as I couldn't have invented in my most drug-induced hyperactive mental state.


    Big Fish Music Sampler Vol. 1
    (Big Fish Music)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    A year or so ago, I got an e-mail asking "Do you like music from Japan?" I said sure. And so I've been getting these updates from Big Fish Music. Finally, a taste of what the folks have been talking about.

    Fourteen songs from many of the labels Big Fish Music deals with. Most of the tracks are somewhere in the electronic pop universe, though there are a few dissenters from that stereotype. All of this is stuff which is unknown over here in the U.S.

    A bit off-beat for the average American, I'm afraid (though anyone reading these reviews shouldn't be scared off). In short, even the pop bands make their music a bit complicated. Me, I like complicated.

    As with most samplers, the quality (both musical and sound) varies widely. There is something to attract most any music fan, and this confirms my answer to that e-mail. Sure, I like music from Japan.


    Big Fish J Sampler Autumn 1999
    (Big Fish)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    I'm always stoked to get a new sampler from the Big Fish folk, and this set is no different. There is the requisite pop punk element (Big Fish's stock in trade), but plenty of other cool sounds as well, stuff that wanders all over the map.

    Not exactly a label, Big Fish is more of a distributor, and these are songs from CDs and tapes in the store. The set is most tastefully done, with an obvious eye to including some of the more original and interesting items lying about.

    Just another quality set. Big Fish is a great place to start scoping out the Japanese music scene. They don't have everything, of course, but what's there is quite good. This sampler simply proves that more.


    Bite Back/Live from the Crocodile Cafe
    (Pop Llama)
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    A big chunk of (mostly) Seattle talent donates tunes recorded live at the Crocodile Cafe to a compilation benefiting the Northwest AIDS foundation and Planned Parenthood of Seattle-King County. Not a bad idea.

    And while the hipsters will check out the Presidents of the USA, Spinanes and Mad Season, those with a more pop mood will like the Minus 5 (featuring Scott McCaughey, Jon Auer, Kurt Bloch and Peter Buck), Built to Spill, YFF and Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver. Yes, plenty for everyone.

    The live production is sparse, which benefits the lighter bands, showcasing some nice songwriting. But there isn't a bad tune (or even a bad band) in the set. A nice load of fun, and a good cause to boot. Why not get happy?


    Black Mark Attack
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    The only unreleased track here is from Edge of Sanity (and I'm NOT bitching about that one). The only reason to buy this is if you're interested in hearing what one of the top European metal labels has to offer you this year.

    Plenty, really. I've been knocked out by the Edge of Sanity, Cemetary and Necrophobic albums recently released, and much of the other stuff is pretty good. But if you know what Black Mark is all about, this set is useless (unless you want a preview of stuff you haven't bought).

    Cheap compilations bum me out. The Edge of Sanity track ("Murder Divided") is quite fine, but as the rest of the set contains previously released (though some is excellent) stuff, I can't get too excited.


    Black Mark Tribute
    (Black Mark Production)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    The biggest names of the Black Mark line-up doing covers. That's the whole theory.

    And when you consider that some of this has been released before (including Edge of Sanity's awe-inspiring cover of "Invisible Sun"), well, there's very little to get excited about. Honestly, who cares about Necrophobic doing an Autopsy song (though it is much better than the original) or Quorthon doing "God Save the Queen"?

    More interesting are bits like Soulquake System doing The Prodigy's "Firestarter" or Corporal Punishment sludging its way through the Pet Shop Boys's "It's a Sin". Other odd pairings include Hexenhaus doing "War" (a truly weird track) and Morgana LeFay giving the hardcore techno treatment to "Parasite", one of the rawest Kiss tracks ever.

    There are a few good laughs (that Morgana LeFay track in particular is simply bizarre, particularly considering what that band usually sounds like), but unless you are a big fan of this sort of stuff, I'd stay away.


    The Blackest Album--An Industrial Tribute to Metallica
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    I hate to quibble, but most of the tracks here aren't exactly industrial. Gothic, sure. Electronic, okay. Industrial? Well, that's a tired term. But with acts like Die Krupps (a remix from the band's own Metallica tribute), Razed in Black, Birmingham 6 and Spew, well, maybe industrial isn't such a bad term after all.

    Not nearly as cool as I figured it would be. Back in college, I tried to craft a Metallica house mix, splicing samples and beats on tape. Didn't work real well. I'm not so good with my hands. But I figured these folks would do better.

    But I don't hear any real nuances to the music. And there are a couple repeated tracks. Metallica has recorded a ton of songs. There's no need to repeat on a 13-track tribute album. I understand the process, but still.

    Didn't blow me away. Kinda dull. Which is really too bad.


    The Blasting Room
    (Owned & Operated)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    The Blasting Room, of course, is ALL's house studio in Ft. Collins, Colo. When Bill Stevenson and Stephen Edgerton finally figured out that it would be cheaper to record in their own place, they built this puppy. And so a multitude of bands has made the trek, and this here's a collection of some of them.

    Also helping to propagate the ALL sound is Jason Livermore, who engineered a good number of these tracks as well. There's stuff from ALL and the Descendents (duh), My Name and Wretch Like Me (I wondered where those guys went), MxPx, Welt, Lagwagon, Drag the River, Shades Apart and more.

    This is mostly just a way of saying, "check us out". It's also a testament to the yeoman's duty that Stevenson and Edgerton (and Livermore) have done in putting young bands' ideas down on tape. I'll be looking forward to many more years of blasting.


    Blessed by the Night 2xCD
    (Zoomica-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    The cover calls this a "dark metal" compilation. Everything from the goth edge to traditional death metal to black metal to folks who kinda throw in the kitchen sink. Tiamat, Amorphis, Mayhem, Love Like Blood, Danzig, Hypocrisy, the Gathering, Therion, Umbra et Imago and others are present.

    What I like is the diversity of sound present. All of these bands do have a few things in common, but the relationships aren't obvious at first blush. This set helps a listener to sit down explore connections on his or her own.

    And, really, the quality of the bands and songs just can't be overstated. Some of the best in the business, really. This set is joy to hear. Some folks put in a lot of hard work, and it paid off. Quite the toy box.


    Blitzkrieg Over You!
    (Nasty Vinyl-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    A German tribute to the Ramones. Not all of these are Ramones songs, either. Included is Motorhead's "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (from 1916), Nina Hagen and Dee Dee Ramone singing "Lass' Mich in Ruhe", the Badtown Boys' "Dee Dee Took the Subway" and the Dirty Scums' "I Wanna See the Ramones".

    There are also a few Ramones tunes translated into German or Finnish or what have you. That's pretty interesting. But what isn't as good are the run-through performances. I mean, almost all of these bands are monster Ramones fans. And these versions (even in different languages) don't sound terribly different that the originals.

    But I've gotta give some creds for the inclusion of the songs about the Ramones. They're all fun, though most can be found elsewhere. In sum, this disc is about average when it comes to tributes. Amusing, but not vital.


    Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix
    (Ruf)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Big names play songs that Jimi Hendrix made famous. Michelle Shocked, Eric Gales, Vernon Reid, Walter Trout, Eric Burdon, Trudy Lynn, Taj Majal and more dip into the blues pocket for this tribute.

    For the most part, the artists tack a different direction than Hendrix on these renditions. No one tries to replicate his guitar work. Rather, the artists seemed to want to tap into the spirit, not the sound, of Hendrix.

    That's the best way to go with a collection like this. There was only one Jimi Hendrix. His writing, playing and singing has inspired just about every guitar player of note in the last 30 years. He can't be replicated. Bu he can be celebrated.

    And so he is here. I certainly didn't expect to be moved anywhere near as much as I was. I've heard three previous Hendrix tributes, and none of them did anything for me. This one works. Extremely well.


    Blues Power: The Songs of Eric Clapton
    (House of Blues-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Part of the "This Ain't No Tribute" series (I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'll go with it), this set features 12 blues artists doing E.C.'s stuff. Well, except for Bo Diddley, who simply has rerecorded a song of his which Clapton made a bit more famous ("Before You Accuse Me").

    Like a lot of Clapton's "blues" stuff, a lot of the tracks sound a bit overproduced and excessive to me. Clapton came of age as the "more is more" production style first reared its ugly head, and he's always seemed to succumb to its influence.

    As Clapton himself so aptly proved on Unplugged, there's just no good reason to rerecord "Layla". Eric Gales and Derek Trucks do a decent version, but it lacks the fire and pain of the original. It is nice to hear Koko Taylor, Otis Rush and Pinetop Perkins, among others, but I've heard them better in other places.

    Tribute or no, this disc still suffers from being precisely what it claims not to be. The comparisons are inevitable, and here, no one has really improved on the original. Which is too bad, because I think some stripped down versions of these songs might sound good.


    Bond Beat & Bass: The Elektronika James Bond Themes
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Um, just what it sez. Acts like Para Despues, Martin O., Bonehead, Seelenluft and Voight Kampff take on various James Bond theme songs. From the familiar basic tune to some of the better-known big-name artist themes. "A View to a Kill" and "Goldfinger" each get done twice, for reasons that aren't quite apparent to me.

    The renditions are amusing enough, though they all follow the same layering technique, slowly adding one track after another until a comprehensive whole is achieved. I know, this is common in electronic circles, but at least one of the songs might have gone a different way, hunh?

    At best a novelty collection. The songs are all rather well-done, but I'd rather hear these same acts working on some truly inspired music instead of stuff like the worst Duran Duran song in existence.

    Oh, sorry, I let my personal feelings drip in again. Whatever. If you really like that old James Bond stuff and want to hear it reinterpreted in rather rote electronic fashion, well, here it is. Cheers.


    Bored Generation enhanced CD
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    A few Epitaph bands and some friends (Helmet, Beasties and more) contribute mostly covers, live tracks or previously released material to this disc. I don't have a CD-Rom, but my brother does, and he says the computer element of this thing is rather underwhelming.

    As a compilation, the stuff is alright, but I've heard most of these songs before. They can found in other places, often with a better version. I applaud the idea of merging the possibilities of computers with the spirit of punk music (um, well, that's what I'm doing with A&A, after all), but the execution just isn't right.

    Maybe next time. The one thing that bugs me is that this reeks of monster label-itis. Now, in general, the folks at Epitaph are just as cool as they were three years ago before the Offspring sold a ka-zillion copies, but this seems a bit contrived and below the Epitaph spirit. Better luck next time.


    Boston Hardcore 89-91
    (Taang!)
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    While now hailing from warmer climes, Taang! has long been known as THE Beantown hardcore label. Whether introducing the world to the Bosstones, Bullet LaVolta and Sam Black Church or releasing retrospectives from SSD, Battalion of Saints and others, Taang! has been the first and last word on that scene.

    Eleven bands; 12 songs (Wrecking Crew has one original and covers the Battalion of Saints tune "My Mind's Diseased"). You get to hear early Only Living Witness, Sam Black Church, Eye for an Eye and much more.

    Not really an essential collection, but a nice historical compilation nonetheless. And you can't argue with the tunes. If somehow you missed out on this scene when it was most fertile, this disc will give you a primer lesson.


    The Broken Machine
    (Vitamin)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    My general opinion of tributes oughta be well-known by now. They're best when they focus on a rather less well-known artist. Even better is when the bands doing the tribute don't sound much like the artist getting the tribute treatment. That way fewer obvious comparisons can be made.

    Neither is the case here. Everyone knows just about all of these songs (and if you don't, well, why are reading this?). And the bands recruited all fit (loosely) into the electro-industrial complex.

    The renditions are all similarly good, but they don't rework the originals much and as such come off as very pale imitations. The album did make me want to pop a NIN disc in the changer--just to get rid of any memory of hearing this tribute.


    Camp Skin Graft
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Thirty-three tracks from 33 bands. A good number of the songs are taken straight from the bands' Skin Graft albums, but hell, as a label sampler, this is still most impressive.

    Few labels have had the prescience or guts to release music of this caliber. As exemplified by U.S. Maple, Dazzling Killmen (whose former members are involved in quite a few SG bands), Zeni Geva, Yona-Kit and Space Streakings, the Skin Graft roster of releases is second to none. It's music regular folks hate, but that's exactly why it's so important. These folks take serious chances.

    And while there have been some serious artistic messes along the way, this disc is ample proof of Skin Graft's place in the space-time continuum. The folks at the label call it Now Wave. They're riding that wave into the breaks. Taking risks is the only way to advance, and Skin Graft has provided one hell of a stage. One trip through this disc should make that perfectly clear.


    The Center of the Universe
    (Owned & Operated)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Another "what's on tap" sampler from the O&O compound in Ft. Collins. Three tracks each from Wretch Like Me (which features ex-members of My Name), Someday I..., New Rob Robbies, Tanger and Bill the Welder. Every single song recorded at the Blasting Room, thus paving the way for an ALL/Descendents world domination plan to take effect.

    There's a reason the Wretch Like Me tracks are at the top. They are amazing. The My Name connection can't be missed, and the writing is as complex and sharp as ever. I can't wait to hear the album.

    The rest isn't quite so amazing, but impressive nonetheless. Someday I... is a nice emo outfit that knows when to kick out the jams. New Rob Robbies have a great off-beat pop feel that wouldn't have been out of place on C/Z back in the early 90s. Tanger turned to Steve Albini to record their album (these tracks are merely demos or something), and he's a perfect fit for their strident hardcore grooves. Bill the Welder is the almost-legendary ALL/Descendents roadie band. Nuff sed there.

    Um, a pretty impressive lineup. I mean, there re very few things connected with the A/D boys that suck, and these bands are up to my expectations. I do hope the buying public agrees. Fine music always deserves an audience.


    Certified Dope Vol. 3
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Further into the dub. Some Wordsound acts here, some folks like Bill Laswell, and some pals from around the world. The past few weeks I've been seeing some extremely well-deserved press on the whole Wordsound crew and the experience it kicks out, and this disc gives the reasons why.

    Well, this is just the dub side of the works (or the "Crooklyn Dub Outernational" side, as the disc says), but it's more than impressive. What all the acts here show is that a genre or sound should be merely the starting point, not an all-inclusive and limiting structure.

    See, this disc is all dub, and while there are elements that each track shares, often enough it would also be quite easy to say that no track sounds at all like another. The creativity is the thing, and this set has that. All that.

    So don't think of this as merely another dub collection. This does come from the mighty Wordsound laboratories, after all, so you know the concoction is of the highest quality. Trust and ingest.


    Cheap Shots and Low Blows--TKO Singles & EPs Vol. 1
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Being a set of 11 singles and EPs that TKO put out in 1997 and 1998. If you never found these releases in the first place, well, see if this collection pricks up your ears.

    Among the bands: One Man Army, Templars, the Truents, the Forgotten and Dropkick Murphys. The recording quality varies from band to band and sometimes even song to song. Not all of it is stellar, though much of it is.

    More for the completist, I suppose, but there is plenty here to recommend the disc on its own merits. Lots of good songs and few fun covers. Can't ask for a whole lot more from a package like this.


    Chemical Reaction
    (Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    A host of stuff licensed from One Records in England. Like, say, Primal Scream and St. Etienne remixed by the Chemical Brothers. Actually, there are six Chemical Brothers remixes, and the other five tracks borrow heavily from the big beats laid down by Rowlands and Simons.

    And once again, my favorite kind of electronic music, stuff which relies on innovative beat work. Rather than using a drum machine, most of the tracks here are sampled and reassembled, leaving the sound somewhat more organic.

    The sounds are so similar that it's hard to distinguish one act from another. It all sounds like lesser Chemical Brothers work. Still good, but without the highest spark of genius which characterizes the real thing. Remixes are nice, but not the best part of the story.

    A pretty cool collection. If you're having troubles finding big beat stuff in your area, chances are this puppy will be in stores. And maybe it will lead to greener pastures.


    !Cinco Anos!
    (Trance Syndicate)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Twenty songs from 17 acts celebrating five years of the wildest (and quite possibly coolest) Texas label.

    Most of the tracks are unreleased, and those that aren't are pretty damned obscure (like off some 7" you never had a chance to buy, probably). For those future-looking sorts, check out the new Pain Teens track and the two songs from Starfish, which just about completely rule.

    Quite nice of the folks to end with the Roky Erickson track "You Don't Love Me Yet". This is one of my favorite Erickson songs (I love the Bongwater version on the tribute album of a few years ago), and he does it so well.

    If you're on the consumer end of things, this is a cheap thrill ($6.99 or less), and all net profits (good legal terms) go to charity. No good reason not to enjoy this disc.


    City Rockers: A Tribute to the Clash
    (Chord)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    Punk bands playing Clash songs. I know, I know, there's a great straight line that follows such a pronouncement, but hell, why go there?

    What I will say is that Chord did get a nice, diverse set of bands. And when you kick off with Dave Smalley's minimalist version of "Death or Glory", well, it is apparent that this won't suck. On the other hand, is it necessary to do a tribute to the Clash? I mean, I don't think there's a person under 40 who doesn't know who the Clash are. Really, now.

    If you crave hearing Clash tunes cranked out by generally less-talented punk bands, be my guest. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Now, if a bunch of Tejano bands got together for such a set, I might be interested. A little. Maybe. If I had a couple beers in me...


    Cognitive Mapping Volume II
    (Friction Media)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    Friction is out of Chapel Hill, and most of this is college pop that sounds influenced by the likes of Superchunk and R.E.M. and other southeastern superstars. And many of the acts take off in rather cool directions.

    A cool collection of 25 songs (with some odd interludes thrown in). Some of this goes out on the edge of pop reality, and for that I commend the compiler. Balls is a good thing to have when putting this sort of gig together.

    Yeah, sure, old-timers and name-droppers will jump on the Kirk Ross & Chris Stamey track, at least until they notice the length (nice joke, folks). But there is plenty more to find whilst wading through the mire. A real treasure trove for the adventurous pop fan.


    Coldwave Breaks
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #86, 9/11/95

    A collection of club-ready stuff that has enough guitars and general noise to satisfy the staunchest loud music aficionado.

    Yeah, so Chemlab is here, too. Also great stuff from Gracious Shades (though the track isn't new), Hate Dept., Schnitt Acht, 16 Volt (yet another Hate Dept. remix of "Skin"), Naked Lunch and more.

    The moods range from goth to metal-hacking-industrialism (I know, I stole that). Fourteen tracks, about half-and-half old and new. But as you probably haven't heard most of the re-released stuff, then dig in with abandon. A good set.


    Coldwave Breaks II
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Fourteen more tracks, constituting a follow-up to one of the better compilations of the past few years. Hate Dept. and 16 Volt take a second bow, but the rest of the bands are new (or at least have new names). "Coldwave", if you're still not familiar with the term, is a sorta catchall category of vaguely gothic industrial music. This can take the form of regular band, like 16 Volt, or seriously modulated electronica, like Acumen Nation. The main point of reference is a tendency toward aggression.

    As before, most of the tracks here are unreleased, at least in the U.S. There is a decent showing from the Fifth Colvmn and Reconstriction labels, with plenty of overseas help as well. Once again, this set has been put together with maximum care and quality control.

    Most sequels suck. This one carries forth the same attitude from the first, and works to find new and innovative electronic-oriented bands. Good stuff abounds.


    Colloquium{1
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96

    A set of coolly electronic tracks from the likes of Martin Rev, Severed Heads, Carlos Peron (Yello) and more. Very European, kinda dated in sound.

    But still compelling. The tracks selected are fine works, and on the whole the set shows off how many different artists can paint around the same approximate center. The sticker on top calls this stuff ambient, and some is, but more of it falls into whatever Kraftwerk was doing way back when (and "electronic" doesn't do it for me).

    If you want to have a sense of history and hear what a few "old masters" have been up to in recent years, then this set should help fill that gap. Intriguing tunes by artists of great renown.


    Corporal Blossom Presents a Mutated Christmas
    (Illegal Art)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Corporal Blossom is Layng Martine III, and he's put together perhaps the finest Christmas carol compilation since A Lump of Coal (still the gold standard for "alternative," yet traditional, recordings of carols).

    The Corporal Blossom tracks (there are four) are assembled from a wide variety of previous recordings. So you get Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and many others singing "White Christmas." The other artists come at the songs from similarly inventive viewpoints, reinventing the pieces even while giving homage to them.

    A few of the songs have been deconstructed a bit more than others, and certainly the collage style of most of these recordings can be a bit off-putting. Also, Lustmord's version of "Silent Night" is much more Simon and Garfunkel than Mormon Tabernacle Choir (if you've never heard the S&G, dig up a copy of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and throw on the last track. It'll give you a whole new appreciation for those boys).

    Not the sort of album that would be welcome in the Cleaver household, of course. But for those who have a little tolerance for truly inventive (and not insulting in the slightest) renditions of old holiday favorites, this set should be a happy present.


    Corporate Death
    (Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    The finest compilation I have ever received. The only one with as much good music that I can remember was the Epitaph one of a couple of years back, but what really separates this from any competitors is the work that was put into the design.

    The whole "Relapse story" and succeeding bits of information are cool and also funny. Especially amusing are the pictures of the "suits" in charge of this enterprise. And topping everything is the "Relapse Building" photo (with computer enhancement). Very nice.

    As for the music, if you put Dead World, Candiru, Anal Cunt, Disembowelment, Deceased, Amorphis and others on a disc, how can you go wrong? I mean, really.


    Crawling from the Wreckage
    (Howlingbull America)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    A sampler from Howlingbull. This gives me a better idea of what the label is all about. Strangely (or perhaps not so), a lot of these bands fall under the "prog death metal" or "prog extreme hardcore" sound, or at least somewhere along the continuum thereof.

    Basically, these bands approach the extreme from a technically advanced standpoint. There isn't a lot of mess and fuss in these songs, but rather there's power and rage. The heaviness of the sound comes as much from the production as from the playing itself.

    I really haven't heard that many bands ply these waters, and here Howlingbull has an entire lineup. Certainly worth a listen if the idea intrigues you.


    Crazed Management Sampler
    (Crazed-Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    It's no secret: Crazed is the management arm of Megaforce (or is it vice versa by now?). And this brings two tracks each from seven artists on the Crazed roster.

    A special note: Dog has now changed its name to Love in Reverse, so make sure you don't fuck that up.

    Personally, I dig the Bif Naked tunes (easy pop that just makes me smile), and the Love in Reverse (formerly Dog) is pretty interesting, if a little overproduced. I'd already heard much of the stuff here, so no big surprises. A cool listen.


    Cream of the Crop
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Got a load of good guitar players together? Why don't you have them play Cream songs note-for-note, just in case no one has heard them like that before.

    The cool thing about Cream was the way Bruce, Baker and Clapton reinvented blues as hard rock and made it popular. Jimmy Page took note, changed his style just a bit, and there was Led Zeppelin. Funny how things work out.

    Anyway, there just isn't anything fresh to these takes on Cream's takes. Sure, if anyone is going to do this tribute, it should be the folks at Shrapnel. But where their tribute to Albert King brought a whole new audience to a (relatively) underappreciated performer, this and the Deep Purple tribute seem to be mere cash-flow accelerators. I'm just not a fan of that.


    Crossfire: A Salute to Stevie Ray
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    I really don't understand. Blues Bureau put out a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn a few years back, containing many of the same songs reprised here. The guitarists represented include Steve Stevens, John Sykes, Steve Morse, Trevor Rabin (?!?) and Stanley Jordan.

    The tracks are mostly insipid run-throughs, with truly dull vocals. The production has left everything fuzzed out, which isn't the best way to appreciate the music. The blues is almost always better sharp, with all the imperfections out in the open. These performances are rote and boring.

    This was licensed from another company (Triage), which might explain the repeated tracks and such. It doesn't explain, however, why the folks at Blues Bureau (which also means Shrapnel) thought this collection was worth releasing.


    Cue's Hip Hop Shop Volume One
    (Dogday)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Cue's is a record shop in San Francisco, but this disc features nationwide talent. While the vocal styles varied, one common trend is that these acts sure know how to lay down the grooves.

    The production rules. These songs all sound great, and many of them feature sharp rhyming as well. A wealth of creativity flows from this disc. Whoever selected the tracks for this set did a great job. The songs are complimentary in styles, and the sequencing keeps everything moving right along.

    Anyone interested in hearing some fresh new talent ought to pick up on this album. Sixteen tracks, and they're all good. Not a clunker in the bunch. Quality of the first order.


    Cue's Hip Hop Shop Volume 2
    (Stray)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Much more so than the first collection, this set from Cue's focuses on the DJs. These songs are DJ-driven, if not outright instrumentals. And like that first set, the beats here are absolutely divine.

    That's pretty much the key to the set. A big boatload of slammin' beats, from the experimental to the secular, if you know what I mean. There's plenty here to enjoy, use and abuse.

    Alright, so perhaps this one will appeal most to DJs. Any beat fan will find something here to get off on as well. Just keep cycling through; something you'll like is bound to show up sooner or later.


    Cyberpunk Fiction
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Alright, this is high concept. Pulp Fiction dialogue and songs reworked in a cyberpunk context. For example, the "Royale with Cheese" segment is reworked into a discussion of German music terminology (industrial vs. electro body music, etc.). The music is typical Reconstriction fare from the likes of 16 Volt, Society Burning, Christ Analogue and many more.

    The spoken parts sound a little hokey. The folks aren't great actors, and they overwork the stuff. Though I did like the Gibson-esque patter. An interesting interpretation.

    And while some of the music sounds like rote walkthroughs, Collide's take on "Son of a Preacher Man" is thoroughly original. I still prefer Dusty myself, but this is complete makeover.

    There are a few glitches. Some songs get done twice (including "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", which was already a cover on the soundtrack), and like I said, some of the stuff isn't particularly overwhelming. Still, I like the idea, and in general, the execution. I don't know what inspired this, but it sounds good to me.


    Daemon Records: A Decade of Independence video
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    A short (40 minutes) primer on the history and line-up of one of the more eclectic labels around.

    Daemon, of course, was founded by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls as a label devoted to the Atlanta scene. As the video shows, the focus has widened quite a bit, though remaining true to the vision of spotlighting young and unheralded talent.

    Forty minutes really isn't quite enough time to tell a complete story, and most of the time is spent reminiscing about the various artists who have been involved with Daemon. A lot of little thoughts, if you will.

    The bits are tied together by interviews with Ray and the Daemon staff. The observations are thoughtful, but not stilted. After all, running a record label should be fun. The focus should be on the music. And if you know anything about Daemon, you know that's the case.


    Dark Techno--One/Nine-Nine
    (Quantum Loop)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    If you want to know where Quantum Loop intends to play, this here's a good blueprint. A number of 21st Circuitry acts (as you should expect) and plenty of other sorts. The tracks here are generally remixes, although there are some exceptions.

    A nice showcase of experimental electronic stuff, all on the very mechanical and sterile side. While certainly there are references to Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, etc., all of the music here can directly be traced to the early days of FLA (whose influences include, well, see above...). That's not a bad thing. And while the roots may lie in Vancouver, the threads have spread worldwide, with plenty of variation and improvement.

    Some of the best tracks are by folks apparently without recording deals. I really dug Octaine's "Reflecked to Dust" and Nerve Filter's "Ritalin", and neither of those has any reference to a label or such.

    Dark techno? Well, not really in a gothic sense. But the level of originality is high. A good sampler, one that makes me want more.


    Death... Is Just the Beginning II
    (Relapse-Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #27, 1/31/93

    Like you could pass this up. 21 tracks from some of the finest death metal and grindcore acts in the world. This disc shows just how fucking amazing the lineup is on these labels. Moving from track to track, your brain is slowly pulverized into a hypnotized mush. Twenty-one fucking great songs! How can you resist?


    Death... Is Just the Beginning III
    (Nuclear Blast-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95

    This monster compilation contains 38 tracks (from 38 acts), 23 of which have not seen the light of day before this release. Some of these are on upcoming releases (like the title track of the new Benediction), but some are just for this set.

    Far too much to go into any detail, but it is nice to hear new stuff from Dead World, Dismember and Pungent Stench. And while I had reservations, the Pungent Stench track is quite good. I'm still a little wary of the upcoming album, but "Tony" does easy my concern somewhat.

    Lots of young bands on here as well. If you want to hear the future of the Nuclear Blast-Relapse stable, dig into tracks from Konkhra, Cradle of Filth, Enemy Soil and others. A great set of deathly sentiments.


    Departure
    (Wright Music Group)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Eight bands, two songs each. Most of the bands are from Connecticut, but a couple are from New York and one is from all the way south in Virginia Beach. Fairly commercial fare. One band says (I hope as a joke) that it is the best thing to come out of Connecticut since Michael Bolton.

    There is a nice variety of styles, though like I said, all of this sounds like it is aimed at a fairly mainstream audience. Most of the songs were at least listenable, though nothing really knocked me out. Some solid work.

    For those who like to hear what the great unwashed unsigned are doing. There is a second collection (reviewed below). And if you want to be on a future set, write the label. Simple as that.


    Departure Gate 2
    (Wright Music Group)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Six more relatively unknown bands, two tracks each. Some of the bands here have sent me discs for review, with Green & Checkers' rating as the best of the bunch. Lunar Plexus is also interesting, and the rest are decent representations of different sorts of music, though nothing spectacular.

    I like the concept behind these discs, even if the music isn't always inspiring. Unsigned bands need space to grow, and this is as good a place as any.

    Again, if you're a band looking for exposure, send your tapes in to the label (address in my label info section). Good luck.


    Disarming Violence
    (Fast Music)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    A bunch of punkers get together to help the Pax Organization, an anti gun violence group. And not just any punkers, either. Dag Nasty, ALL, NOFX, Blanks 77, Youth Brigade, Pinhead Circus, Agnostic Front, Divit and 17 more. Plus 15 mp3s on the CD-ROM part of the disc.

    Did I mention that every song here is unreleased? Yeppers. A whale-load of adrenaline and it's for a good cause, too. Hard to go wrong.

    I just finished jamming through the songs, and most of them are great. I didn't hear any that outright sucked. Hard to find such a solid compilation anywhere. If it were ust the cause, I'd be recommending this. But shit, the music's pretty damned good too. A winner all the way around.


    Dissolve: A Work in Progress Compilation
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    The first U.S. release for an experimental/noise compilation featuring tracks from Merzbow, Fat Hacker, Zoviet France and Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth, you dork!). Nice pedigree, nice set of, ahem, tunes.

    More of the well-produced tape loop style here, as opposed to the general chaos of the Peach of Immortality. Many of these tracks are immaculately and meticulously produced sets of noise. You can feel the texture and luxuriate in the quality.

    And due to the obvious effort, this is the sort of experimental compilation that your average listener might start to comprehend, with great effort. Not accessible to the mainstream, mind you, but the sort of person who thinks old Sonic Youth is cool (though he's not quite sure what's going on) might find this to be an acceptable doorway to the electronic Pandora's box that is this music.

    A very well-considered set. Worth whatever the price stated.


    Document 01-Trance/Tribal
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #110, 5/27/96

    Not a whole lot of what I'm used to calling trance (which I understand to be your basic ambient wackiness with the odd house beat behind it), but why quibble? Plenty of cool stuff inside.

    I particularly dug the Synapse Interrupt track, "Beyond", which threatened at times to get into the trance zone at times. Samples of William S. Burroughs, George McGovern and other folks going on about freedom, activism and life in general.

    And there are other high points as well. Obviously, as this does come from the ambient universe, the tracks are generally long and you have to wait them out to get the full effect. But you already knew that.

    This one's worth the effort. A good set of musicians who try to expand the realm of the subconscious, without offending the intelligence of the conscious. A good idea, that.


    (Don't Forget to) Breathe
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    A cool roadmap to the emo universe. Plenty of previously released stuff, but chances are you never saw it in stores. Bands like Boys Life, Mineral, Christie Front Drive and Drive Like Jehu (in a special this-time-only indie setting) helping to define and expand upon one of the trendier sounds around.

    Simply put, a great idea. If you kinda like this moody, kinda excessive form of punk, well, this is a good spot to start your education. Alright, so some big names like Texas Is the Reason and (insert your favorite band here) aren't included. Big deal.

    Mostly because this is already a horn of plenty. Instead of being just another cheesy label sampler (hey, I know they've got their purposes, but still...), this disc fulfills a higher purpose: collecting history. And unlike those nasty techno collections that now fill cutout bins, there's no filler here. Just good music.

    A pretty decent blueprint for similar collections, really.


    The East Village
    (East Village-Marinex)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Cardinal Woolsey, Jenifer Convertible, Baby Steps and more. Plenty interpretations of the alternative pop ideal, many leading back somewhere into dB's territory. Can't complain about that.

    Now, of course, these bands are in NYC, not north Georgia. And most of these bands have come a long way from simple, sweet harmony land. Particularly cool are tracks from Bite the Wax Godhead (traditional anglo-pop laid over hip-hop beats) and Baby Steps (guitar by Kris Woolsey of Cardinal Woolsey).

    Obviously, there is some carryover between bands, but most of these acts are the main projects of the people involved. A nicely diverse set from a group of NYC bands (um, okay, East Village bands). If you're wondering what that scene is doing these days, stop by for a drink. To check out the cyber soap opera that kind of inspired this set, go to http://www.eastvillage.com.


    Echo
    (Full Contact-Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    A cool way to learn a bit more about the electronic side of Fifth Colvmn, a nifty side label by the name of Full Contact.

    Rare and unreleased tracks from the likes of Chemlab, C17H19N03, Shinjuku Filth and more. In case you've missed recent releases from all those artists (and more), this compilation will get your head in the right space.

    The range of possibilities in electronic music is pretty wide, and this set shows that quite well. Even those in the know might well be interested in giving this the once over. A worthy set, indeed.


    The Electronic Tribute to Pink Floyd
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    Cleopatra did something like this a few years back, and it wasn't really great. But much of that was more industrial, and too many of the folks tried to ape the Floyd. Never good for a tribute.

    The 'electronic' referred to in the title fits more the current definition, lots of drum 'n' bass with other subgenres mixed in. Even though the arrangements are rather close to the originals (there aren't any wholesale reworkings), the modern rhythms put a whole new spin on the Floyd.

    I'm not the world's biggest fan of the band (don't own a single album, actually), but I know all these songs. In fact, if you know Pink Floyd at all you know these songs. The compilers didn't dig deep into the vault. But then, if you're going to put together a club-ready tribute, you probably shouldn't.

    I kinda like this better than I think I should. It is fun, and these renditions put a peppy finish on the pieces. I had agood time. A bit of a surprise that way.


    Elektro-Industrial Sounds of the Northwest
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    An outgrowth of the Northwest Elektro-Industrio Coalition, this disc showcases rare tracks from bands like Kill Switch... Klick, SMP and Noisebox. Oh, and plenty more.

    The liners note the industrial heritage of the area (Skinny Puppy, FLA and Numb, for starters) and give an informal history of the NEC. If you still think Seattle is about grunge, you've missed a lot. From pop to this stuff, the Pacific Northwest is home to many diverse sounds. This disc gives great notice about many members of the NEC.

    Of the bands that I haven't heard before, I'd like to recommend the tracks from And Christ Wept and Waiting for God. You should plow in and find a few favorites of your own.


    Emerging Bands Made in Japan 2000
    (Big Fish Music)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Another sampler from one of the top distributors of Japanese music. Not only are 10 bands represented here, but 10 labels as well. And in case you were thinking that there was any one type of music on the menu, free your mind.

    Because these 10 tracks have very little to do with each other past the fact that they were recorded in Japan. From pretty pop to jazzy torch to blistering post-punk blues (and plenty more), this set has just about something for everyone.

    In the good sense of that phrase, of course. There's no pandering here, no presentation of mindless goo for the masses. Big Fish Music finds the good stuff lying underneath the surface and then drops me a line every once in a while to show off. Showing off is called for; there's a lot of good stuff here.


    Enchantments
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    A nice collection of recent and soon-to-be released stuff from Cleopatra.

    This is stuff from their industrial/techno/etc. line of things. So you get pieces from Laibach, Spahn Ranch, FLA, Digital Poodle and more.

    I've heard almost all of this already, and I liked most of the tracks the first time. But if you're trying to figure out what you dig, then get in.


    Energy Records 1997
    (Energy)
    reviewed in issue #129, 3/3/97

    Yeah, another cheap-ass compilation to introduce the label's first-half of 1997 releases. The Sunshine Blind is already in stores (and reviewed a couple issues ago), but there's plenty more to appreciate.

    April sees the release of the new Hanzel und Gretyl, and I really can't wait. Two tracks from Transmissions from Uranus appear here, and they but whet the appetite. I'm ready now, damnit...

    Bile has one track from the forthcoming new album, and one from the last album. It's Bile, and I think you already have an opinion there.

    And finally, a couple bands new to me. Heavy Water Factory is a somewhat poppy industrial outfit, and the tracks here sound pretty damned good. Fueled is also an industrial band, with plenty of gothic and metal overtones. The mix on the tracks here seems a bit weak, but perhaps that's just a function of the sampler.

    This puppy is priced at under $4, so if you really need to hear some new Hanzel und Gretyl (and I sure did), then that alone is worth the cash. And the rest is a nice bonus.


    Engine Engine Number 9 cassette
    (Rhinestone-Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Presented by Miss Pussycat (procurer of that most strange Flossie album I reviewed not long ago), this set of tunes from New Orleans bands proves that weirdness exists just about everywhere.

    With such artists as MC Trachiotomy, Larry Lamborghini and his Hate Brigade and Inky Blinky & the Kind Bros., well, I suppose you can guess what's coming. The names are only the beginning.

    Oddly, the songs have plenty of access points. But once reeled in, there's no way out as the pieces spin out of control. Not silly, not inane, but certainly strange. Weird. Trending toward bizarre at times.

    Thus, of course, a cool little mind trip. If you need to get rid of some annoying yuppies who have mistakenly happened upon your house, this might work better than serving chardonnay with steak. Unless they jump into the groove. Then you might be in trouble.


    Ernie B. Schaeffer presents... A Gift of Mourning
    (Interference)
    reviewed in issue #73, 3/31/95

    Five bands with three tracks each (well, two for Dysphoria). Down the list...

    Cruxx: Decent chunky riff band, trying hard to sound like Anthrax, Pantera, Metallica, whoever. Great sound, need work sounding original.

    Soul Grind: Death metal guitar riffs with hardcore vocal style. The sound is a little muffled, but I like what these guys are doing. Great sense of the potential of rhythm.

    Suiciety: Clanging death metal, with a brilliant sense of distortion. Nice production, great songs. Definitely the high spot.

    This: Heavy funk (descending into metal) that wanks a bit much, but isn't completely insufferable. The guitars do have a cool sound, and I'm pretty sure these folks don't take themselves too seriously. Goofy lyrics.

    Dysphoria: A real in-your-face death metal attack that needs a little more beef from the knobs (a la Incantation). Still, the two songs are completely vicious and speed-driven. Not terribly original, but this is adrenaline overdrive city.

    A nice collection of bands, certainly worth checking out.


    Essential Blues 3 2xCD
    (House of Blues-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    An impressively appointed set, two discs filled with House of Blues artists, other blues greats and a few classic tracks. It's precisely a set like this which shows that Dan Akroyd's heart is in the right place, even if the actual Houses of Blues are garish tombs which more often than not feature rock bands.

    Ah, but I'm not here to be mean. I don't know what this retails for, but the breadth of sound and quality of the songs rivals those great Alligator anniversary sets. Anyone who wants to get closer acquainted with some of the finer blues artists around today (and hear some of their influences) would do well to check this out.

    All colors of the blues are represented here, branching out to folks as eclectic as Taj Majal and Dr. John. Enjoyable listing, as the very least.

    A good starting point, and in any case a fine blue mix. Like I said, it's stuff like this which makes me feel good about the House of Blues, no matter how excessive parts of that enterprise can get.


    Essential Sunday Gospel Brunch2xCD
    (House of Blues-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    One of the biggest problems with a lot of spiritual music is that the message overshadows the music and the performance. Another way to put this is that the stuff is boring. Now, it's important to realize that the vast majority of soul superstars of the 60s, from Sam Cooke to Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner, started their careers performing in church. So if such exciting folks could "do God," why is so much religious music dull?

    Well, this disc kinda answers that question, and probably not in the way it would like. Folks like Andrae Crouch and Walt Whitman and the Soul Children show off the good side with exciting performances (the live tracks here far outshine the studio recordings), but much of the material here is, well, uninspired.

    When I was growing up, "joy" was a big word in church. There was joy everywhere. If someone was "on fire for the Lord," that was considered a pretty good thing. And yet, much of this material is keyboard-drenched ballad stuff, and the singing just doesn't have the requisite fire. It's almost as if the performers and the producers alike just don't want to offend anyone.

    Let it loose. There's a reason Crouch and the Mighty Clouds of Joy have been mainstays on the gospel scene for ages and ages. They spread the joy, not worrying about what people think. They're proud to get up, get down and holler in praise. I wish there was a lot more of that here. I hear bits and pieces, but the package as a whole is merely spotty.


    Estheticks of Cruelty
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    The subtitle here is "An explicit odyssey into Swedish agricultural sounds". Well, I don't know either. But this Cold Meat Industry, which means extreme music, dark in all senses of the word.

    And the darkness here sounds a lot like Japanese noise. You know, Merzbow, that sort of thing. Heavily distorted electronic stuff, with some strange spoken-word bits that pop in and out.

    Twenty-two tracks from 22 bands on two discs. Enough pain and suffering to kill all the cats in the neighborhood. And as ever, the gorgeously-appointed liner notes.

    Plenty to go around. Oh, I know, this is an acquired taste, but it makes me happy. Just the sort of thing to send my brain reeling. And we all need that from time to time.


    Evensong: A Vampire Rock Opera
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    If yer gonna write a vampire rock opera, you might as well go all out. Write grand songs with big guitars and lots of broadly-drawn characters. Make the stuff sound like "Hair" meets Meatloaf. Well, in any case, that's what Thomas Kugler did.

    And for all the cheese, this is fun. The recording is uneven (mostly in the vocals; the music generally sounds smashing), and that's a bummer. But generally, I'm amused.

    I'm not going to go into plot details. That sort of close inquiry would really detract from the fun here. As a musical, "Evensong" is way too overwrought. But as a couple discs of overly grand 70s flashbacks, well, there's plenty here to love.

    I'm probably not giving the rave Kugler and company wanted. To be honest, I wasn't wrapped up by the story at all. Dramatically, not much is going on. But the music has an intense charm all its own.


    The Event Horizon T (tau)
    (City of Tribes)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Much more than just an ambient collection. City of Tribes seems to specialize in getting these folks who practice a form of experimental music that bridges the world beat and ambient worlds.

    Yeah, I like folks like Loop Guru, who take all this and add addictive dance grooves. But the artists here rely much more on unusual instrumentation and a live-sounding arrangement to make their musical points. Whereas almost all ambient music has definite sequencer roots, these songs are much earthier.

    Not to say that this stuff wasn't cribbed together in studios. Of course it was. But great care was taken to keep this music grounded in the "real", as it were. And that care has real results.

    Ten different artists, ten different tracks. All impressive, which makes this set indispensable to anyone who cares about innovative music. One of the most impressive compilations I've heard this year.


    The Event Horizon (Theta)
    (City of Tribes)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Another trip through the organic ambient, that region of space where folks use electronic and exotic instruments to create unique soundscapes. And unlike many label compilations, this disc is not exclusive to City of Tribes artists, and most of the tracks here are previously unreleased.

    The COT folks have immaculate taste in these here parts, picking the best of their roster (tracks from Stellamara, Trance Mission and Kenneth Newby albums) and combining those with, well, stuff they like. A top-notch compilation is the result.

    If you're even the slightest bit interested in this side of the electronic universe, then this or other COT compilations will give you a great introduction. A new universe awaits.


    Exposed-Collection of Toledo Area Bands
    (Sin Klub)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    As you might expect, this is an uneven set of songs by young bands.

    And with that negative comes the positive: some of these guys are really trying to go beyond the obvious and derivative. In another word: potential.

    Much like the Columbia (Mo.) compilation I reviewed earlier this year, there is everything from metal to mellow to an odd retro-eighties sounding band.

    You can find something you like, and probably something you'll hate as well. I'm sure half of these bands are no longer together. But remember: this is the ground floor of the music industry. One must always keep in touch with the source.


    Extra Yard: The Bouncement Revolution
    (Big Dada Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Something of a dancehall reggae variety show, complete with skits and everything. I have to guess (I can't find the press info that may or may not have arrived with this disc) that the twenty or so people on the cover are the folks who have worked very hard to take a well-established sound to the next level.

    Or maybe a few past that. There's everything from a P-Funk kinda grooves to truly inventive beat work--dragging in jungle, drum-n-bass and other electronic trends.

    The rhymes don't suck, either. In fact, one of the things I've always liked about dancehall (and despite all of the new wave ideas, that is where this disc resides) is that the rapping is on the beat. Rhythmic. Call me old school, but you've gotta at least acknowledge the music when you're laying down some rhymes. If you're just talking over music, you sound just as dumb as those beatniks did back in the 50s.

    There isn't a consistent sound or feel on this album. The songs really jump all over the place, through the sequencing does provide a great flow. I'm still not entirely sure what brings all of these people together, but whatever that may be, this is one fab album. Absolutely smashing.


    Farewell Fondle 'Em
    (Fondle 'Em-Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Back in 1995, Bobbito Garcia started Fondle 'Em Records as a way to kick out some of the best New York underground hip hop. He's decided to hang up the label, but not before dropping this shout out.

    A wide representation of the stuff Fondle 'Em has released over the last six years, including the track featured on the final 12" (reviewed in this issue), "Fondle 'Em Fossils."

    The production quality is uneven, and certainly some of the tracks are stronger than others. Only makes sense. After all, when you're in the underground you're taking more chances. And sometimes those don't come off.

    But most do. And this collection can blister at times. A worthy celebration, to be sure.


    Fascist Communist Revolutionaries 2
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    Another compilation from the Fifth Colvmn folks, featuring tracks from the new Chemlab and Final Cut albums, along with stuff from Vampire Rodents, T.H.C., Acumen and more.

    Unlike the Echo compilation, this set relies much more heavily on tracks from albums. Just a nice a starting point for the uninitiated, but not as important for current fans.

    As for the unreleased stuff, there are remixes of Dessau and Trust Obey songs, and "Blind Acceleration" by Vampire Rodents is previously unreleased. Worth the price of admission, I might add, but I've been hyping VR for ages.

    A reasonable set, but not enough unreleased stuff to move it past simple commercial sampler appeal.


    Fat Music Volume IV: Life in the Fat Lane
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    Just another label compilation, mostly featuring stuff from recent and upcoming releases. Of course, this is a Fat wreck compilation, which means the music is tasty and tuneful punk rawk.

    There are unreleased tracks from No Use for a Name and Avail (and a NOFX tune that was previously available only on 7²). After that, just a track apiece from most of the Fat Wreck lineup. Which ain't bad.

    A nice little mix tape. Okay, so they didn't use my favorite Ataris song ("My So-Called Life"), but I'll forgive them. This time.


    Fat Music Volume V: Live Fat, Die Young
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Yes, it's another set of songs from the Fat Wreck roster. All 20 songs can't be found anywhere else. Like "original" movie soundtracks and stuff like that, that does lead to some ups and downs.

    Still, when you get stuff from NOFX, Lagwagon, Swingin' Utters, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Frenzal Rhomb, Propagandhi, Sick of It All, No Use for a Name, Tilt and more, well, it all doesn't suck.

    For the price, I'd say this puppy is more than worth a spin or few. I found plenty that I liked. Would that all samplers worked out this well.


    Feast of the Sybarites
    (Lotuspool)
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    If all you think Lawrence (Kansas) bands sound like Paw and the soon to be heard Stick (bleah), this should shake you a few nice ways.

    Well, actually, some of these bands are from places like Milwaukee, but most are within a stones' pitch of Lawrence, so why quibble.

    A lot of what wanders in here is truly strange fare, almost indescribable. Some of it was obviously recorded on a jam box (or at least it sounds that way). These are things that work in favor, obviously.

    Many of you know Hum and Dis (once called Dig), who are now resting comfortably on Poster Children's 12 inch records. I would steer you towards Kill Creek and Dracomagnet, just as starters.

    (Mostly) Kansas rock (etc.) that doesn't suck. Sounds like a bad MTV concept, but it is a fine disc.


    Firestarters: Journeys into the Underground 2xCD
    (Continental Drifts)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    This collection is split into "dance/dub" and "festival stage" discs, though most of these bands are so deep into sound collage that even those distinctions don't always hold water.

    Like the British Underground disc, this set is financed by the Arts Council of England. Hey, if that's what it takes to get these sounds out, fine by me.

    Because just like the other Brit compilation, the artistic experimentation is high. These bands are not into copying someone else; they're into moving a wide variety of sounds forward. The ferment is tangible and exciting.

    A wide-ranging set, utterly breathtaking in scope and intent. There's just about something for everyone, but this is no milquetoast arrangement. Rather, these bands take music to the edge. Where it should be.


    A Fistful of Rock 'n' Roll Vol. 7
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Nineteen tracks from some of the new generation of punk rawkers. Leads off with the Donnas, but what follows are bands with much less pub. Many are unsigned. All of them know how to blister ears.

    And that's about what they have in common. I mentioned the "punk" label, but some of these bands earn that only in spirit. There's some straightforward rock here (as the title might express) and a couple of real curveballs.

    It's all good, though. Don't worry about labels. Just enjoy yourself. I mean, if this stuff doesn't get you going, you need to start listening to Mantovani or something.


    Fit for A. King
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93 (advance cassette review)

    The Shrapnel line-up plus some take on Albert King's legacy of tunes. While definitely produced, this is still rather faithful to King's sound.


    5 Years Nuclear Blast
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Between Nuclear Blast and its American cousin Relapse, there are a ton of great bands. Twenty-one of them are found on this disc.

    And a few new tracks, too. You'll be hearing the full Pungent Stench album soon, but enjoy "Fuck Bizarr" now. Yeah, there is the previously-released set, but even that is well-chosen. And it sure was nice of Matt, Bill and Co. to lend Dead World, Candiru and General Surgery, among others, to this set.

    I think Corporate Death is a little stronger overall, but this is still a fine death metal compilation.


    Flammable: A Tribute to the Red Hot Chili Peppers
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    The key to the Red Hot Chili Peppers has always been presentation. The songs themselves are utterly simple and often inane. It's just that the Peppers occasionally managed to spice up such mundane material by messing with tempos and generally getting a little hyper.

    You might guess that I haven't been a fan in about 10 years. Even so, the problem with this tribute is that it rarely gets manic. The songs drag and they sound, well, ordinary.

    I'm not sure that electronic is the way to go with this tribute. In any case, the arrangements didn't add any spice, and a lot of that is necessary to pull off a project like this.


    Flex Your Specs
    (Ringing Ear)
    reviewed in issue #106, 4/15/96

    Eleven tracks from Ringing Ear singles (I think). The production varies widely, but you get two tracks from the awesome Sinkhole (neither of which is on the album), two also from Doc Hopper, New Sweet Breath, Bender and the A.G.'s, and one from Huffy (which is a pretty great tune).

    All this for $3 postpaid in the U.S. I don't usually mention the price, but this collection is as good a label sampler as I've heard in some time. If you even think you like that whole punk-pop thing (a la Edsel, Jawbox, etc.), then I can't imagine how you could pass this up. Ringing Ear has a cool selection of singles, and this gives you ample reasons to check them out (not to mention the amazing Sinkhole album).

    The address is on the label info page. No reason to pass this one up.


    For a Fistful of Yen
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    A nice collection of pop-punk bands from the states and the U.K. I know this is a license deal, but why not license some of these bands instead of stuff like Chaos U.K. or the English Dogs?

    Particularly good are Alloy (check out their recent album on Engine), Cock Sparrer, Poison Idea and Zero Boys. Of course, I assume you checked out the Vic Bondi track almost immediately.

    Yeah, a lot of this is kinda weak, but with 33 songs, you can easily brush aside a little chaff and find the good kernels. Just because it has a nice tune doesn't mean it sucks.


    4 on the Floor 7"
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93

    Part of a series of seven-inches which feature the artists of the ultra-great C/Z roster. Treepeople, Dirt Fishermen, Gnome and Alcohol Funnycar make up this set, and there is no disappointment in my camp.

    Each band sounds a lot like their other work, with no real surprises. Of course, that means four great songs! (Note that I am rather loath to use exclamation points, so this one must mean something)

    Some days I don't smile so easy (especially after getting pounded 8-2 by the Brewers). But it only took a few licks of the Treepeople's "Boiled Bird" to get the happy juices flowing. And I kept right on through the night.


    14 Tracks from Beyond the Mainstream
    (British Underground)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    You know, when music like this has government support (the Arts Council of England helped out), you know the country just doesn't suck. As any music aficionado knows, the U.K. is the source of some great new ideas. And the 14 tracks here show just how diverse those ideas can be.

    Yeah, a good amount of the stuff is electronic. And it's utterly amazing stuff. These folks do things with beats that most only imagine. Nothing dull or straightforward. Everything on the edge and gaining.

    There's also "post rock/experimental" and "experimental/post rock" stuff here (each track has some sort of genre label, though as those show, there's only so much that can be said about unusual music). Oh, yeah, and some hip hop, a little punk and more.

    You can go to www.britishunderground.net for more info on this organization. If the bands on this disc are any indication of the talent in the pool, this is one formidable confederation.


    Future Sounds of Chicago 7"
    (B. Sides)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    B. Sides is the project of Billy Sides, one of the fine people at Skin Graft. This single is one of the extra goodies I got in the Skin Graft mailing. Sides says he started his new label to further foster the whole Now (!) Wave sound, and that's what can be found on this little slab.

    Topside is F'Stein and the Grouchos. The F'Stein track was crafted to sound like a skipping record. And that's exactly what it sounds like. It didn't fool me (my record player makes ancillary noises when it skips, and those were absent), but it still sounds cool. That song sounded best at 33. The Grouchos piece sounded much better at 45, until the last minute or so, which works better at 33. I might note that there is no indication of a proper speed, so I just experiment. Generally, I'm at odd with the actual proper speed, but whatever.

    The flip contains Zeek Sheck and the Torture(d) Machine. Now, while I think the proper speed is indeed 45 (the voices sound, um, human), I like the strangely stretched out gothic effects achieved by playing the thing at 33. I apologize for fucking with Miss Sheck's art, but I think that's part of the point, anyway. Oh, and the Torture(d) Machine sounds good at either speed. Lotsa cool noise to round out the set.

    Sorry if my ruminations about speed sound cavalier. That's just one of the beauties of the 7" form. More room for experimentation on the part of the listener. Never assume the music you hear is a finished product. You must supply the final ingredient: Your mind.


    Fuzzy Logic
    (RPM USA)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    A huge collection (26 bands) of garage rock bands, stuff that falls into all sorts of sub-rock genres. Punk? Some of it. Pop? Yeah, that's here too. and plenty more.

    The main emphasis is on cool guitar licks and hooky choruses, though often one or the other. Some folks you might know (Dragline, the Piersons, Latimer), some bands from Greece, Denmark and Australia and a number of acts from the extended Baltimore-DC area (where RPM honcho Greg Colburn--and me, for that matter--happens to reside).

    A really solid set. The music flies all over the map, though all of it is nicely raw in the finest garage tradition. This is the only place to find any stuff by many of these bands, and Colburn is cool enough to include contact info for folks interested in making a personal connection.

    The best compilations are created because of a passion for music. Certainly true here.


    Georgia Soundtrack
    (Discovery)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #6, 7/1/96

    I didn't see the movie, so I'm not exactly how all of these bands supposedly interact. Doesn't mean I can't like it, though.

    The first thing done right was that the music was recorded live, with no overdubs. While this probably had as much to do with financing as anything else, it makes a set of covers (like this is) much more charming than the smarmy "Commitments" soundtracks. And with folks like John Doe (whose band seems to specialize in Lou Reed songs here) doing a large chunk of the playing, you know you're in competent hands.

    Mare Winningham has the perfect folky voice for what I think her character is supposed to be, and she acquits herself well. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a little less convincing, particularly when she isn't howling. Still, the stuff sounds nice and real, and the song selection is a cool set of tunes that you only wish local bar bands might pick up and play.

    And, by the way, when Sadie introduces "If I Wanted" as Georgia's song, she's not fibbing: the tune was actually written by actress Mare Winningham, who plays Georgia. Ah, the amusement.

    I guess I'll be renting this puppy when it comes out on video in late July.


    Getting into the Grooves
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Another tribute set from Vitamin; this one, obviously enough, involves Madonna. Much like the NIN and Floyd sets, some folks take the old songs and place them in current electronic settings, often without much in the way of new arrangements.

    Actually, that's not entirely true. Often enough, the only vocal parts of songs to survive are the choruses. This tends to undercut what was already rather lightweight material.

    Now, some of the pieces are extremely creative and take a new approach to the originals. Some, as might be expected, are closer to dance remixes than anything new.

    In terms of quality and vision, this set falls between the Floyd and NIN tributes. I'm not sure a new picture of Madonna emerges from these renditions (and that's the main point of a tribute, I think ), but this disc is fairly engaging.


    Gimme Indie Rock, v.1
    (K-Tel)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    You might remember K-Tel as the pop schlock version of Time Life Records, collecting all those crappy disco songs you thought you'd never want to hear again.

    But see, K-Tel was right! You do want to hear them again, it seems. Disco, disco all the time. Anyway, here's a collection of all that cool indie stuff that's on dead labels these days.

    Bands like the Feelies, the Pastels, Squirrelbait, the Minutemen, Scrawl and more. Of course, there are those that survived to become (semi-)legendary: Husker Du, Dino Jr., the Meat Puppets, Mekons, Yo La Tengo and Black Flag.

    It's a solid compilation of good songs. Plenty of hits ("Touch Me I'm Sick," "Black Coffee," "Ghosts of American Astronauts"), but they're still great songs as well. I'm betting there's three or four songs here you've been trying to find. I got some found, anyway. Yes, this is K-Tel. But pretty cool K-Tel, you've got to admit.


    Give 'Em the Boot
    (Hellcat-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    This compilation is the coming out party for Hellcat Records, which is pretty much run by Tim Armstrong of Rancid, with lots of help from Bret Gurewitz and the Epitaph clan.

    There's a new Rancid track (giving a taste of what the new album-due in September- may be like), stuff from the Hellcat lineup and plenty of the better ska and oi acts around (the Skatalites, the Business, and Voodoo Glow Skulls included).

    Twenty tracks in all, with widely varying quality. The better stuff is actually from the Hellcat bands (including Hepcat, the Pietasters and U.S. Bombs). Union 13 does a mostly-Espanol cover of the Rancid song that inspired the title of this compilation.

    With friends like the folks at Epitaph, how can Hellcat go wrong? This is a generous sampling of the current ska scene, with enough diversity to satisfy anyone lookin' to skank.


    The Glory of Destruction
    (Catastrophe)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    A collection of some edgy industrial/electronic music acts. Some signed, most not.

    The sounds vary greatly, as does the general quality. For the most part, however, the bands involved felt no need to pander to any ideas of "popular" music and instead cranked out some truly interesting fare.

    And so, while the collection is not particularly cohesive, it does a fine job of exploring the frontier of electronic music, from pop to experimental fare. There truly is something here for just about anyone. And I mean that in the best of ways.


    Go-Kart vs. the Corporate Giant 2
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Yeah, it's yer usual label sampler, complete with tabloid-style liners and even a few unreleased tracks. With the disc bulging at 25 songs, there's a whole lotta stuff here.

    And Go-Kart has some names: Down By Law, Buzzcocks, Lunachicks, Vision of Disorder and plenty more. If you haven't taken the times to scope out the rather diverse punk sounds expounded by Go-Kart bands, well, this is a fine primer.

    The unreleased tracks are nice additions, but probably only of interest to completists. The main attraction here is the breadth of the Go-Kart lineup. That is what truly impresses.


    Godmoney Soundtrack
    (V2 Records)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Music from a "hardcore coming-of-age movie". Starring Rick Rodney of Strife (who appears here, natch). With folks like Pennywise, Stanford Prison Experiment, MxPx, the Descendents, Rollins Band and lots more bands, leaning heavily on the Tooth & Nail and Epitaph rosters (not bad places to take up residence).

    Most of these songs are previously released, but at least the liners are cool enough to say where the song appeared originally. A nice mix tape project, cutting across the punk landscape and providing a nice snapshot of some of the best bands around.

    Twenty-two songs by 22 bands. An earful for even the most jaded and knowledgeable fan. One of the rare piecemeal soundtracks that works well together. Darren Doane, known for his video work with many of the bands represented here, directed the flick and picked out the music. That guiding hand makes this a most worthy disc, indeed.

    Not essential for the rabid fans, but like I said, this is a pretty cool mix set. It's interesting to hear these bands in juxtaposition with each other.


    Gosh, I'm So Punk
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    A cool compilation with 23 songs from 15 Australian bands, most of them wandering somewhere in the punk universe. Almost universally sloppy and not great recordings to boot, but the spirit of the thing is rather fun.

    Shame File is much like Spill Records (which I profiled a few issues back) in that it is as much a way of bands to hawk their demos and such. While I wish more of these songs didn't sound like they were recorded on a portable tape player, I suppose it all comes down to the title of the compilation. If you really like surfing the underground, this tape is for you.


    Goth Box
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Even with four CDs, you know folks are going to bitch that so-and-so didn't get included. I'm not the world's greatest authority on goth pop music, so I'm not going to worry too much about that, except to say that almost everyone I expected to be here is.

    Sure, much of this is just stuff from the Cleopatra back catalog. But even if the set had stuck to that, you'd have a good set. And like I said, there is no such thing as a complete set. And plenty of licensed stuff from other outlets make appearances, so while there may be a few too many ex-Christian Death folks here, the diversity is just fine.

    Obviously the compiler got to the original tapes, so the sound pops out possibly even sharper than on your original discs. Much of the stuff here is rare or remixed, so direct comparisons aren't always possible, but I'm still impressed by the mastering job.

    Alright, I couldn't sit through the whole thing. So much of similar sorts of music tends to drive me batty. But this is a good set for anyone who digs goth pop (or dark wave, or whatever it's called these days). The inclusion of rare tracks will probably entice even those with sizable collections. Hey, you even get a poster. The folks thought of everything.


    Gothic Club Classics Volume One 2xCD
    (Oblivion-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Just what the title says. At least, these are goth dance tunes, and many of them are classics. Certainly, "Wasteland" (The Mission"). "Godstar" (Psychic TV), "Love Like Blood" (Killing Joke), "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (Bauhaus) and "The Weeping Song" (Nick Cave) qualify.

    There's also quality stuff from Einsturzende Neubauten, Diamanda Galas, Alien Sex Fiend, Fields of the Nephilim, Type O Negative and more. Alright, so Oblivion did reserve a few spots for lesser talent from its own ranks, but not enough to get pissy about.

    Nope, this is a pretty decent commercial goth sampler. Certainly, it provides a nice way of taking some first steps into a darker world. Pretty useful that way, I'd say.


    Gothic Industrial: Alternative Visuals video
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    One of the reasons more real alternative videos aren't shown on MTV (apart from no kickback money and general lack of taste) is that alternative songs often actually say something, which is not a problem most major label videos are encumbered with.

    While a few of there videos are interesting (the Die Krupps and Spahn Ranch, among others), many are just fake performance clips or so astonishingly amateurish you can't watch without laughing (the Electric Hellfire Club clip ranks highly in that category). The lush, erotic feel of Big Electric Cat's "Christabel" is completely missing from that video, which features the band standing in billowing clouds of dry ice and mouthing the words to the song. A real disappointment.

    Which brings me back to my original point. This stuff is too complicated to really get across in a video. Listen to the music. The pictures in your head beat a video any day of the week.


    Gothic Rock 2
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    A total of 35 bands and songs, most of which are readily available somewhere else. This two-disc set is a companion to a book, and so I guess hitting the high notes is more important than unearthing lost treasure.

    But there is some of that as well, including a Creaming Jesus track that sounds nothing like the band I remember from the early 90's. But that's life.

    If you're just getting into this sort of music and want a primer, this is a decent set. For the devoted fan, nothing new is presented.


    The Gothic Sounds of Nightbreed 2xCD
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    A collection of bands from the English Nightbreed label. Peppy Goth music, for the most part, more Sisters of Mercy than Dead Can Dance.

    But good, really. Corpus Delicti, Suspira, Midnight Configuration, Faithful Dawn and Every New Dead ghost lead the line-up (each has a number of songs on the set), with many other bands kicking in as well.

    Yeah, I wish the beats could vary just a little bit, but hell, small labels often engender a common sound and musical theory. Even with the homogenous content, the stuff measures up.

    A decent picture. There's treasure to be found in here.


    Gothik
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Thirty-three tracks from 33 bands on two discs. Some new, some old and some in between. The sound? Well, if anything, this set proves that goth or darkwave or whatever you call it is a varied musical universe.

    Everything from dance mixes to the ambient. Cleopatra kinda just threw much of their current music roster into the blender and this sampler came out.

    Like any such sampler, the output is varied in quality as well. You can't please everyone all the time, so Cleopatra seems to have tried to please everyone some of the time. Not a bad strategy. There's plenty to choose from here.


    Grease: The Not So Original Soundtrack to the Motion Picture
    (Dummyup/Lint Screen)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Um, talk about high concept. A bunch of punk bands play the songs from the Grease movie soundtrack (along with stuff from the original musical and some of the period pieces also used in the movie).

    Almost uniformly sloppy, many of the songs are rendered basically unrecognizable. which is odd, because the basic three-chord style of the songs would seem to fit well with punk. Maybe the bands were having too much fun, maybe the stuff was just too complex for some of the folks.

    Can't say, really. This is a reasonably funny idea, and some of the renditions are pretty decent. Not enough, though, to get a big recommendation from me.

    Laughs are to be had, but this could have been done better. Fucking up just to fuck up isn't really funny. It's more on the dumb side of things.


    Guitars that Rule the World
    (Metal Blade)
    reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92

    Winger. Mr. Big. Extreme. Bon Jovi. What comes to mind? Well, I shan't describe it in order to save your stomachs. Someone at Guitar World magazine thought it would be cool to invite a few guitarists to create what they usually don't: instrumentals. So they called up Reb, Paul, Nuno and Richie. Oh, some other names: Yngwie Malmsteen, Albert Collins (!!), Alex Skolnick (Testament), Zakk Wylde, Dickie Betts and Warren Hayes (Allman Brothers), Earl Slick and Richie Kotzen.

    This really proves some of these guys are better technicians than songwriters. And some of them have cooler friends than others: Les Claypool of Primus backs Skolnick, and you can hear Gary Stewart hollering (that's what they call it) behind the Allman duo.

    Some surprises: Chris Cornell of Soundgarden is on the cover, but he's not a full-time guitarist. (Okay?) Elliot Easton of the Cars puts in a great acoustic track, Richie Sambora actually rocks out for once, Skolnick and Claypool end up somewhere funkier of Satriani Territory and Zakk Wylde tries his hand at pickin' with decent results.

    The expected: Reb Beach is hopelessly overmatched by the competition, Paul Gilbert seems lost in valley of too many guitars, Richie Kotzen is too impressed with his amazing ability to find soul and Nuno Bettencourt's piece is way over-produced.

    Of course, the old guys sound great, especially the great Albert King's tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn.

    If you folk are looking for an album with more invention and more tunes, check out Guitarrorists, on No. 6 records. This album proves some guitarists have more mettle than others.


    Hard Core Logo soundtrack
    (Velvel/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Almost all the songs here are performed by the lead actor (Hugh Dillon, who in his real life sings for The Headstones) and Swamp Baby. There is a Ramones track and one song each from Teenage Head and Chris Spedding. Still, most of this is music from the film.

    A film about a fictional punk band in Vancouver. This band (Hard Core Logo) sounds something like a cross between D.O.A. and the Humpers. My main quibble is that everyone knows that the "Vancouver sound", at least as far as punk goes, is characterized by massive bass. See Nomeansno and D.O.A. for a better explanation.

    The Hard Core Logo music is a bit more generic, but certainly energetic. The other songs are basically filler. In fact, the Ramones track is a perfect melding of "Rock and Roll High School" and "Rockaway Beach", simply splicing the batchiest bits of each together and adding astonishingly retard lyrics.

    Whatever. If I an find the movie, I'll check it out. It's got to be better than what's down at my local gigaplex.


    Harpsichord 2000
    (S.H.A.D.O.)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Well, a lot of bands get together and play harpsichords. Or at least the electronic equivalent. We're not talking about slouches here; Momus is just one of the stellar acts who contributes.

    The pieces are generally vaguely baroque, sounding much like something off a Magnetic Fields album. Musically, anyway. Stephen Merritt is just about unmatched lyrically.

    Trippy, as the cover indicates. There is a decadent 60s feel to much of these pieces. Formal constructions presented loosely. Exciting in an almost inexplicable way.

    A strange concept that simply works much better than it should. If you've ever wondered how a harpsichord might be used by thoroughly modern musicians, start right here in your quest for knowledge.


    Hats off to Stevie Ray
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Same line-up as the Albert King tribute. Same results: a fine remembrance of a great guitarist and songwriter.


    Head Start to Purgatory
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #10, 3/31/92

    Olivelawn. The 411. Holy Love Snakes. Is your mouth watering yet? This compilation is a celebration of sorts for Headhunter. And while not all (if any) of the tracks are new or previously unreleased, you have to admit San Diego has a real cool scene.

    Dig into any of the tracks and sample some of most southern California's finest cuisine (and don't forget to check out the full-length albums by these bands).


    Heide Sez (Lookout Records 1996 Sampler)
    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #124, 12/2/96

    I know, the rating seems a bit low for 26 tracks of Lookout greatness. Particularly when you only have to pay $6 for the privilege of owning this ready-made mix tape.

    But the stuff is, indeed, all previously released (from Lookout's 1996 release roster, if the title didn't help you out). And despite some of the obvious great points (the Queers, Cub, Pansy Division, Sweet Baby and such), I've heard almost all of these songs already.

    Of course, if you just can't get enough of that East Bay sound (and its far-flung friends), then you simply must plop the six down. Almost as cheap as making the tape yourself.


    Hell City, Hell
    (Diablo Musica)
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    Complete with a comic book. I guess this is a companion to that, or something. Folks like the Supersuckers, Samiam, the Havalinas, Likehell, Puff Daddy & the Family (um, yeah) and Kirk St. James. Songs which have something to do with the comic book, for the most part.

    A pretty boring comic book, despite all the sex and such. Sorta like a lame take on the Crow. As for the songs, well, this plays like a soundtrack. A wide variety of sounds, mostly filler. I'm not particularly impressed.

    If you want to see a project where comics and music come together in good ways, check out the Skin Graft AC/DC "sides" cover series. Innovative drawing and generally interesting tunage. Stuff you won't find here.


    Heralds of Oblivion
    (Roughage-now Dwell)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Five bands on a new label. And while they would be the last to mention it, four of the five bands consist of either black or hispanic members. Not to make too much of that, but I find that cool.

    And the music is rough, not polished. These are young bands who obviously recorded on a shoestring budget. That's probably a good thing, too. It sounds real.

    I understand full-lengths from these bands are due in the next year. I think there is a load of potential here. Southern Californian death metal. While that seems like a contradiction, it works very well. And sounds even better.


    Holidays in the Sun
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Really terrible live sound permeates this disc, generally rendering all vocals utterly incoherent. The one good thing is that this collection of music from the Holidays in the Sun festival focuses on lesser-known acts. Perhaps the big names (The Godfathers, Buzzcocks, The Damned, etc.) cost too much, but who knows.

    It's not so much that these bands are horrible (though many are), but the general poor quality of the mix pretty much obliterates any good things that might exist.

    True punk fans will have the (generally) better studio recordings (where they exist), but even the unusual bit here just aren't worth savoring much.

    Better sound would have made this at least a good set. Hey, I'm all for true punk spirit, but I'm quite sure there is one competent punk sound guy in England. Really, now.


    Homebrew Volume One: Adventures in Lo-Fi
    (Buttmunch)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    Twenty-seven songs by 21 bands (if my counting is correct). Most of this stuff is truly "lo-fi", with plenty of demo muffle and more. And some of the bands aren't very good. But all that is overshadowed by the sheer volume of the tape.

    Hey, and some of this stuff is good. There are a couple of tracks by Twisted Helices (one of my favorite acts, period), and many of the bands try to escape the bounds of normal music. Yeah, there's some regular rock stuff, too, but again, look at the numbers.

    A fine set of stuff. Maybe the tape should be of a higher quality. Maybe it would have been nice if some of the acts bothered to produce their stuff at all. Maybe, maybe. Whatever. This is a cool tape with plenty of great songs. Hard to ask for much more.


    Hot Rock Action Vol. 1 7"
    (Reptilian)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    A four-band, four-song sampler EP that plays side A at 33 1/3 and the flip at 45. A nice gimmick, though it probably had more to do with the length of songs on the a-side.

    Blank rips through "Super Spy Mode", a great pop raver from the Treepeople post-punk school. The guitar work is sharp and provides the perfect counterpoint to the song itself. A great tune.

    Headlice is a little more rude, sludging its way through "Sooner of Later". If you can decipher the lyrics through the amazing wall of static and distortion laid down by the band, you're doing better than I. The riffage here rains fire on my head. Totally wild.

    "Kemo" is the Listless offering, one straight from the Jesus Lizard school of thundering bass work. Amusing, if highly derivative.

    Horse Breed closes out the proceedings with "Male", a song that follows the same sonic structure as the Headlice song, but with less success.

    I'd stick with the a-side, though the songs on the flip are worth a spin or two. That 33 1/3 side is well worth the price.


    House of Blues Swings!
    (House of Blues/Polygram)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    What this collection does is just merge all of the different varieties of "swing" that folks play these day. From the jump blues (which is most of what folks play) to a couple honest-to-god swing big bands.

    Interestingly, the press letter is much more subdued and accurate than the liners. A case of proper marketing strategy, I guess. But anyway, there are some cool songs here. Stuff that is a bit more creative than most swing collections I've heard lately.

    This is cashing in on a trend, sure, but I think its heart is in the right place. All of the bands are relatively unknown, and all of them are at least pretty good (a couple are outstanding). Trendy, but good.


    A Houseguests Wish:
    Translations of Wire's "Outdoor Miner"

    (Words on Music)
    reviewed in issue #259, November 2004

    Nineteen different acts contribute a version of Wire's seminal "Outdoor Miner." This is one of those high-concept tribute albums that has an equally high chance of utter failure. Didn't happen, though.

    I guess when you get folks as diverse as Christian Kiefer, Laura Watling, Should, Timonium, Fiel Garvie, Lush, Flying Saucer Attack and Polar, it really shouldn't be surprising that this album hardly sounds like the same song over and over again.

    Sure, the same lyrics reappear (for the most part) from track to track, but the melodies are sliced and diced (and occasionally whacked or fuzzed out altogether) so much that each track is its own new song.

    Hard to believe that a nice little hummable ditty could inspire so many wildly diverse renditions. Then again, maybe it isn't. For once, the exceedingly overused term "seminal" is actually accurate.


    Houseptic
    (IRMAmerica-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Some more dance music from Italy. Nice, mindless stuff that the frat boys down at the local meat market will like, I suppose. No chances taken, and no advantage gained.

    It's all so generic. Oh some songs are better than others, but nothing breaks out of the mediocre realm. This is the sort of stuff that puts me to sleep if I'm at a bar. Monotonous and safe. Bleah.

    Only for those who are interested in cheesy Italian electronic music. I'm sure there's a market. I just don't want to think of what it is.


    Hymns of the Warlock--A Tribute to Skinny Puppy
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Um, industrial and electronic artists doing a tribute to Skinny Puppy? I mean, I'd rather hear Garth Brooks do "Assimilate". I'm not joking, either.

    The danger in having bands directly influenced by an act doing that tribute album is that the renditions will not really find new ways of looking at the songs. And even with such great acts as FLA, Spahn Ranch, Dead Voices on Air, Kill Switch... Klick and Leaether Strip, most don't break through the barrier.

    A band like Skinny Puppy is particularly difficult to "tributize", if you'll allow my tortured English. A band so revolutionary that it played a large part in inventing a new form of rock music is best celebrated on the merits of its own accomplishments, not through the generally lesser thoughts of others.

    A bad idea. And even with some solid contributions, a tribute that just doesn't quite work.


    I Guess This Is Goodbye:
    The Emo Diaries Chapter Five


    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    One of the longest-running compilation series just keeps on chugging along. And pay no mind to that title--Chapter Six is in the planning stage right now.

    As the Deep Elm line-up shows (a line-up that includes many bands "discovered" in these compilations), the definition of "emo" keeps changing. The songs on this set bear a familiar resemblance to the ones on this first, but the lines of descent aren't exactly clear.

    Which is what makes this series so valuable from a historical standpoint. It's easy to hear how bands on the street level are interpreting "emo" and thus continuously evolving the sound. Of course, this disc is also valuable simply from the musical standpoint. The songs, as always, are great. Which is enough of a reason for me.


    Ice: The String Tribute to Bjork
    (Vitamin)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    From the folks who brought us the electro-acoustic tribute to Bon Jovi comes this strange disc. String instrumental versions of songs that Bjork made semi-famous.

    I'm not big into Bjork, so I really can't compare these versions to the originals (I kinda know, like, two of the songs here). The feeling I get is that the arrangements are not exactly faithful. I mean, they're in tune and all (I know; cheap shot).

    They do work. As sorta pop-classical fare and in the way that they're intended, as a way to appreciate Bjork's songwriting on a different level. I'm quite sure I like this more because I don't know the originals, but that's how it is.

    I think tributes should take chances. This one does, and it succeeds. Pretty well, I think. In any case, I enjoyed listening to it. I can't speak for Bjork fans, but hey, this thing can stand on its own.


    Identity II
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96

    Another sampler thing. Century Media has collected some of the better tracks from its bands most recent output (songs I would have picked if I was in charge of that sort of thing). The main problem is that a good chunk of these bands aren't very good.

    But no need to rehash old reviews. There are a few demos and stuff (I'll take another helping of Eyehategod, thankyouverymuch), but most of this is stuff I've heard before.

    If you're curious, check it out. This does provide a good picture of the current Century Media line-up. One that I wish was a little stronger.


    In-Flight Program
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    A 26-track set of some of the finest stuff to pass through Revelation's doors. All tracks are previously released, so you can't get too excited. But the suggested price is $4.99, so perhaps a little agitation is in order.

    Bands like Iceburn, State of the Nation, Engine Kid, Into Another, Texas Is the Reason, Sense Field and Farside. Oh, and if you didn't know it, Quicksand recorded these folk, too. An early track is here.

    The quality of the music is undeniable. If you haven't yet gotten into the RevHQ stable, then this set provides the perfect opportunity. The converted need not venture in, but then, that's not who these sets are aimed at, anyway.


    In Flux: Drum 'n' Bass in Movement
    (IRMAmerica-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    IRMA is an Italian label, and most of these tracks are produced by Italian DJs. Still, this is as good a representation of where jungle music has gone in the past couple years.

    Like everything else, terminology shift quickly, particularly in the trendy world of dance music. So jungle is now drum 'n' bass, which is what the masses call all such stuff now that a couple artists are beginnning to break into the American mainstream.

    This collection doesn't break any new ground, but it's chock full of good stuff. Fans of the truly unusual will pick up on the remix of AWB's "Livin' on Borrowed Time", which is quite impressive.

    As generic as most dance collections, but the Italian connection here gives these tracks a bit of a different feel. Not essential, but an interesting diversion.


    In Goth Daze
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #62, 9/15/94

    A good sampling of the past and the future of the Goth scene, with an emphasis on the lesser known. Not like there has been any real major goth breakthrough on this side of the Atlantic, anyway.

    For the uninitiated, you will notice that like all subspecies of music, goth has plenty of variation. There's more here than bone-white singers whining about death (or a bad hair day). And the music is similarly varied.

    The liners are not quite as helpful as they could be, but since most of the bands on the disc have albums that can be ordered through Cleopatra, I assume the hope is that those interested will merely order up scads of music.

    After all, the best way to learn about music is not by reading reviews or even scholarly works. You just have to listen.


    In Memory of Celtic Frost
    (Dwell)
    reviewed in issue #102, 3/11/96

    As it's been about 10 years since the last good Celtic Frost album (read the cool band history in the liners), a lot of folks are only aware of Celtic Frost in terms of legend. This compilation brings it all back.

    Back when only Bathory and Mercyful Fate were the only other "evil" bands around. And it's not like you could find any of this stuff at the local Sam Goody. But most of the Celtic Frost catalog is available one way or another (okay, so the easiest to find is 1988's Cold Lake, aptly described within as "The worst glam record in history." Remember "Cherry Orchards"? Eee-yow! Anyway, no songs from that album are here.

    The bands paying tribute include Inner Thought, Mayhem, Cianide, Grave, Emperor and Slaughter (the Canadian band, not the American one). Obviously, much heavier than the original Celtic Frost, but a realistic progression from that time. And you can't deny that Celtic Frost has been a big influence on death metal in general, and black metal in particular.

    FYI, I understand the guys in My Dying Bride are pissed that they weren't asked to contribute. That would have been a unique sound, compared to what lies within now. A nice counterpoint, perhaps. But even without my favorite band contributing, this is exactly what a tribute should be: bands recognizing a somewhat obscure predecessor and interpreting the songs in their own style. And I must say, even the black metal bands got enough money to provide adequate production. The stuff sounds pretty good.

    You know, Voivod would have been a pretty good choice for inclusion here, too. But why quibble? This is as well-executed a tribute as I've heard in some time. Lovingly crafted evil. How could you ask for more?


    In To the Mix
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Two discs. The first features remixes by folks such as Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy, Orbital and Front 242. The second is simply somewhat related stuff by acts like Din, Xylon, Bypass Unit and Anubian Lights.

    All decent enough, with a few very nice tracks. The thing is, this is a lot like the techno discs I spoke of in the last review. Now, as you get two discs for the price of one, there's more good stuff than usual. And more filler.

    There are better places to look for this sort of thing. This compilation is for novices, only.


    Incredibly Strange Music Vol. II
    (Re/Search-Asphodel)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    And this is what happens when you cross over past Dr. Demento, into the far reaches of strange (but not necessarily bad) music.

    From the Mantovani-esque Nirvana Sitar & String Group's take on "The Letter" to color-coded hep jazz-poetry from Ken Nordine, this is a fun collection.

    If you are curious about what all this means, then read the book (for which this disc is the companion). Oh, and a quote from the man extolling the virtues of digging through the Salvation Army record collection (and perhaps finding a Don Ho-Oral Roberts duet) for all you Jello-philes.

    This isn't golden throats material. After all, most of these folks weren't even marginally famous. They actually believed in this music. As should we all.


    Industrial F**king Strength
    (Industrial Strength-Earache)
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    Earache presents this selection of material from the Industrial Strength label. Plenty of the ga-ga-ga sound that Earache fans will remember from Ultraviolence.

    And yeah, it does get a little dull. There is only so much that can be done with this sound, as recent Ultraviolence has shown. But still, this set is rather entertaining nonetheless.

    And as a cool gesture, a second disc containing two DJ mixes is enclosed. So if the clubs in your city won't play this stuff (and the folks here are still afraid of NIN), then this gives you an idea of what club life in certain parts of England is like.

    More than I needed of this sound, but quite fun nonetheless.


    Into Topological Space
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    A two disc set. Disc one has tracks from such ambient-space (the WD folks like the word "organic") types as Shriekback, Perfume Tree and Loveflag. That set of 11 tracks is wildly diverse and mostly good. The second disc consists of three Sky Cries Mary remixes, and that is positively amazing.

    Hey, this puppy is worth the cash just for that second disc. The stuff on the first disc is mostly remixes as well, although a couple tracks come directly from previously released albums. So don't get excited; that Loop Guru track isn't new.

    If you'd like to get into the more muted forms of electronic music, this is a reasonable starting point. I'm completely knocked out by the Sky Cries Mary work, but the rest isn't half bad, either.


    It's All Good
    (Striving for Togetherness)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    A compilation of the first four SFT releases and some extra tracks of cool stuff the guys found and upcoming S.F.T. releases.

    As a document of non-metal northeastern hardcore, these four releases make for interesting listening. Intent to Injure and Headfirst are no longer around, and Without a Cause has mutated into Fahrenheit 451, but you still can get an idea of where today's ideas moved through.

    Of the new tracks, the two from The Six and Violence have the finest production and really rip; Roguish Armament reminds me of the Beastie Boys with a Patois bent, and Steel Fucking Morticians (Uncle Al from Murphy's Law, Scott Lewis from Brutal Truth, Gary Miles and Morgan Liebman) simply take a Zornian approach to hardcore and make glorious noise.

    A total of 27 tracks from all over the hardcore universe. There's something for everyone, and if you're a hardcore fan, you're sure to like most of this.


    Jam Down Vibrations
    (Scratchie-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Roadrunner releasing a dance hall collection? I smell cashing in on a (fast fading) fad here...

    Shabba Ranks is the main attraction, and his track is surprisingly basic. Kinda jarring if you're expecting what MTV has defined as the current reggae sound. And then the rest of the disc rolls in.

    Kinda catch as catch can. Some tracks are real filler, some, like the ones from Cocoa Tea and Terror Fabulous, are pretty good examples of what can be done with the genre.

    All in all, this is not the exploitation disc you might expect, particularly considering the cover. The bad songs here are counterbalanced by some real gems, and on the whole the set is a good one.


    The Japanese/American Noise Treaty
    (Release-Relapse)
    reviewed in issue #91, 11/6/95

    No, not K.K. Null and Zeni Geva and that sort of thing. Real fucking noise. Electronic disturbances. Overmodulation. Walls of feedback that put Arc to shame. That sort of thing.

    Sure, those who got through the Namanax disc understand, but that's a limited audience. And this is one ambitious (and wonderfully illustrated) package. Who the fuck is going to guy this?

    Sure, I know a couple of folks, and so do Matt and Bill, but this must be simply a labor of love. Perhaps the most radio unfriendly compilation every released, as anyone who plays this will be accused of simply going off the air. Sure, there is some cool work, but only a connoisseur will notice. And there aren't that many true noise freaks around.

    But this one appreciates the effort. And just in time to scare the holy living shit out of the kids on Halloween.


    Jeffology
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96

    One of the more intriguing tribute ideas: songs that Jeff Beck has played guitar on. He wrote or co-wrote four of the 11 tracks. Beck has made his career re-inventing great songs other folks wrote, and that gives this tribute a little credence in my book.

    And imitation would have been a sincere form of flattery here. If only the folks involved would deviate from the Beck norm...

    Occasionally it happened. Warren DeMartini's rendition of "New Ways Train Train" is certainly spirited, and Steve Salas' run-though of "Shapes of Things" (with Sass Jordan on vocals) is pretty damned cool. But they sound a good bit like how Beck recorded the songs originally.

    Steve Lukather, Bruce Bouillet and Jake E. Lee also turn in good, if also too-similar, performances. The Mick Mars (with John Corabi singing) version of "Happenings Ten Years Ago" is at once the most dreadful and yet most arresting song on the set. It certainly doesn't sound like Motley Crue, and it doesn't sound much like the Yardbirds, either.

    Well-intentioned, at least. And the liners encourage the listener to search out the original versions of the songs (as do I). The execution, as on all tributes, is uneven. And ultimately disappointing. Nice try, though.


    Johnny Hanson Presents... Puck Rock Vol. 1
    (Wrong)
    reviewed in issue #53, 4/30/94

    It takes a lot of hard work to be this silly. Those (NoMeansNo) silly Hansons have put together their own league of punk (er, puck) rock-playing teams. Twenty-one tracks of absolutely wacky (though sometimes brutal) paens to the game of the Great White North.

    A few people wondered how far the whole Hanson concept could go. If they keep thinking stuff like this up (and don't repeat themselves), I see a long run.

    This disc is chock full of fun, plain and simple. If you have a low tolerance for goofiness, then I suppose you should try and find a sense of humor. This stuff is absolutely hilarious. I can't wait to see the Goombah Cup Finals.


    John Fogerty Wrote a Song for Everyone
    (Rubber Rabbit-Pravda)
    reviewed in issue #102, 3/11/96

    A Finnish label gets all sorts of folks to cover John Fogerty songs. Hey, I'll give it a shot.

    Some folks try and do something different (like the first track, the Jolly Jumpers of Finland doing "Fly Away"), and others (mostly the American bands, really) are more respectful of the legend. Your average tribute effort. Some brilliance, more just run-throughs.

    And Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver and the New Duncan Imperials both do "Hey Tonight". Both do it alright, both try and take on the song in a new way. Though I'm not sure the pop sludge-anthem version the Imperials try is so good, but it is different.

    Good enough, but still suffering from the usual tribute album blues: Too many folks just didn't try hard enough. Or maybe they liked Creedence too much to really fuck with the music. Who knows?


    Kansas City Misery
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Well, I saw Germbox and Sin City Disciples (both long defunct) live, as well as Season to Risk, Molly McGuire and Cher U.K. in my year-long tenure in Kansas City. I've reviewed discs from Boys Life and Shiner. I know of about half the bands here.

    Which puts me in a position of the know, I suppose. I should note, for the record, that many of these acts started in Lawrence, Kansas (home of the University of Kansas), if they are not still based there. But since silly bands like Paw and Stick got left off, I'll not gripe.

    You might get the idea that Kansas City bands take their musical cue from Chicago and/or D.C. Perhaps, but bands like Pamper the Madman and Tenderloin (what's left of the Sin City Disciples) show some diversity. But while the title of the disc had to come from the (K.C. band) Rainmakers song "Doomsville", there is little left to show for that scene of ten years gone. This is young and angry stuff.

    Sure, a few of the tunes are derivative, but I don't mind listening to newer acts who are just feeling their way. If you thought the heartland was merely full of cows and country music (which does indeed rule the commercial airwaves), then dig into this.


    Khat Thaleth
    (Stronghold Sound)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    "Khat Thaleth" means "third rail" in Arabic, and this collection of hip hop from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia attempts to find a path through the Middle Eastern political mess. I have to trust the press notes on this, since I don't much Arabic. What I do know is music, and the disparate beats and backing tracks to these songs are most impressive. Even if you didn't know this was political in nature, the songs would grab you with their originality and intensity. Arresting.


    Editor's note: This is a second (and longer) review published after the 2013 format change
    Khat Thaleth
    (Stronghold Sound)
    The Risin' Cost of Livin' High and Lovin' Hard
    (PIAPTK)
    reviewed 5/1/13

    I've always been attracted to the expression of politics in music. I didn't much care about P.E.'s incessant references to the "honorable" Elijah Muhammad, but I liked the rhetoric of revolution that swirled around the beats.

    As I hacked through the past in my own attempt to craft a personal music history, I discovered that rock and roll was hardly the first revolutionary music. Hank Williams' "I'm Still Here" is one of the main templates for Johnny Cash's talking blues songs (the greatest of them being "Man in Black," a song whose expression of solidarity with the sinners and the downtrodden would seem radical if released today by, say, Brad Paisley or Keith Urban), and jazz was itself a revolutionary movement. Going further back, there are plenty of examples of composers who dabbled (or dove right into) politics.

    There are some folks who believe that politically-themed music has disappeared, that all we have today are a bunch of processed clones who sing stupid songs about stupid people. They're wrong, of course, but political music isn't at the forefront of the mainstream these days. At least, not in the United States.

    "Khat Thaleth" is an Arabic term that means (roughly) "third rail." The artists on the new collection of the same name from Stronghold Sound rap in Arabic (largely) about the events in their homelands. As near as I can tell from translations, most of these songs call for peace and freedom. Gotta love idealism. In most of the world, peace means repression, and freedom means unsettled lives--if not outright war. But these artists have dreams, and they're worth examining.

    The beats are old school (there are plenty of Bomb Squad references, and the use of sampled speeches predominates), while the thoughts expressed are presented as a new way of thinking about and within the Middle East (I have to trust the translations on this).

    If all that seems a bit pretentious, it probably is. But hey, music is one of the best ways to advance change within a culture. "Let's Spend the Night Together" wasn't a revolutionary thought, but it was a thought that wasn't expressed in public (and polite) society. By that measure, Ice-T's "L.G.B.N.A.F." is probably still ahead of its time--even if all of us would like to GBNAF more often than we actually do.

    Forgive the digression. I doubt that the songs on Khat Thaleth are going to sow the seeds of revolution or even cultural change. They're probably just artifacts of this moment in time--a time when almost anything seems possible in the Middle East. These artists prefer to dream of a better future, rather than the still-dark present.

    Kris Kristofferson was never a revolutionary. More than once he mentioned that selling a song to Johnny Cash was all he wanted from his music career. That's almost certainly a lie, but Kristofferson has always portrayed himself as possessing a calculated diffidence. He recently released a memoir, and he said that he wouldn't be doing a late-life song cycle a la Cash because people didn't really buy his records because he had a great voice.

    Ah, but he did have a great voice. A great writing voice. As the twenty-eight tracks on The Risin' Cost of Livin' High and Lovin' Hard show, Kristofferson articulated a certain wry amusement at the follies of the sixties like nobody else. The artists on this tribute do a fine job of capturing the wrenching political discourse of the late 60s and early 70s that permeates many of Kristofferson's songs.

    "Sunday Morning Coming Down" isn't a political song, per se, but given the audience for country music (then, as now, church-going white folks in the South), a song that celebrated sleeping in on Sundays while nursing a hangover could certainly be seen as bucking the culture. Getting Johnny Cash (whose religious beliefs were fervent, if disheveled) to sing it was another coup. And yes, it has always sounded better in Johnny's voice.

    Twenty-eight songs is too much to digest at once--unless you simply let the music flow and don't pay close attention. That will allow Kristofferson's gift for the conversational song to meander through your brain without causing your logic centers to snap.

    Khat Thaleth is an overtly political compilation. The Risin' Cost deals with personal politics and showcases Kristofferson's unique mind. They're not the same, but they compliment each other quite nicely. And both are a reminder that no matter how dreadful the music might be at the top of the pops, there's always somebody out there saying something worth hearing.


    Kissed Soundtrack
    (Unforscene-Nettwerk/EMI)
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    Not many new tracks, but the bits of philosophical observation from the movie (identified as "origianl score") are intersting, and most of the songs, even if old, do flow together pretty well.

    Obviously, everyone has heard "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy", which I'm guessing is something of a touchstone song for the film. There's a track from the last Delerium album ("Flowers Become Screens"), a couple songs from Ginger, and stuff from Kristy Thirsk (who also is heard on the Delerium song), the Ids, Mark Findler, Tara MacLean, Suzanne Little and the Aquanettas.

    I wouldn't have put these songs together quite in this way, but they do have a nice fit, and along with the film bits do make for a decent soundtrack. A liking for things spacey (in all the ways that's possible) will come in handy, but there's enough good music here to go around.


    Kk in the Mix
    (Kk America-Chipie-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Kk has been distributed in the U.S. by Cargo, Restless and other labels. Now Tinder is stepping up to the plate and giving a platform from which a number of European technomeisters will crash onto our shores.

    Kk has generally been ahead of the waves when it comes to the techno side of electronic music, and the mixes on this disc are no different. At once more insistent, organic and loopy than most of the techno I'm hearing right now. In a year or two, folks just might have caught up to the sounds here.

    Or you can sample now and get an idea of what is about to arrive. Kk is a good label; there's lots to approve of here.


    l'Age d'Or
    (l'Age d'Or)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    The little postcard inside this disc asks what music I like. Among the choices is "krautrock." I guess that's what l'Age d'Or puts out. Indie rock and electronic stuff (often mixed together) from Germany.

    This compilation is a selection of the label's 1999 releases, and the fare is uniformly inspiring. The acts take on various sounds, from new wave to techno to punk to basic Anglopop. There's also a rendition of "Autobahn" played on a banjo. This is immediately followed by a fuzzy punk version of "Rollin & Tumblin" -- the verses in German and the chorus in English!

    See, those tracks tell me these folks must be slightly crazed. Which is always a good thing when listening for new music. You've gotta be a little off-kilter to dig something different.

    I'm already a big fan. Anyone who cherishes the original really has to scope this label out. There's some wonderful stuff here.


    L.A. Blues Authority
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    More talent than you can shoot on a good day here. And I must say I often like rock covers of blues songs. But sometimes it comes off sorta overwrought and overproduced.

    For the most part, this is tasteful and sparse. No extra overdubs, no soul stripped. The originals, of course, are better, but this is at least as good as the last couple of Gary Moore pseudo-blues albums, at times a lot better. This is a good way to get the kids to appreciate a music form that has been a lot more influential on what they listen to than they think. Bravo.


    A Land of Sweeping Sound
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    A compendium of mostly dark pop, with some quite strange stuff mixed in. The sound quality is mixed (as can be expected), but there are some fine moments. The two New Waver tracks are awesome (they play "instrumentals with people talking"; the first is a radio transcript of a St. Kilda-Essendon AFL match, and the second is an odd psychological paper on how people die).

    Those in the mood for something aggressive should check out the Scroungers. Other cool bands include Undecisive God and Wank Engine. A lot of cool experimental stuff going on here.


    Laundry Room Records Sampler
    (Laundry Room)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Includes the a-sides of the Tube Top, Stella and Contraption singles reviewed in this issue, with a song apiece from Churn, Harlingtox A.D., Walkie Talkie and The Chauffeur. The collection, as it were.

    Obviously, the label head has a thing for pop music, as all seven bands end up somewhere in that catchall category. the Contraption tune is easily the best, and I rather liked The Chauffeur's tune, "Super Girl".

    Much of the rest I've already reviewed, and it suffers from bland disease. There's plenty of potential in these bands, but they really need to take a few chances and find original territory. Playing it safe just doesn't cut it.


    The Lawhouse Experience--Volume One
    (Lawhouse-Street Life/Warner)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    Laylaw has been producing jazz and rap superstars for quite a while. He's got his own label, and now he's putting out what he considers to be his first "solo" album.

    Of course, when you've got friends like Ice Cube, Ice T, Pharcyde, Coolio and Above the Law, why play with yourself? Laylaw drops 13 tracks, with a few short interludes to keep the ride rollin'.

    I'm not the world's biggest fan of the current "faux soul" rap sound, and Laylaw isn't bucking the trend. But he does more within that feel on this disc than most producers have done during their entire careers.

    And while this disc might be intended to showcase some of the younger talent, it's the legends here who do the damage. A few of the tracks wallow in mundane grooves, but on the whole this is a worthwhile set. There is some talent going down here.


    LBC Lounge--A Tribute to Sublime
    (Vitamin)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    On the opposite end of the tribute spectrum from The Broken Machine is this set of tunes from the Lounge Brigade and Gringo Floyd. The two bands swap tracks here, each kicking out truly laid back and swinging versions of Sublime tunes.

    Indeed, while most folks do know these songs, the two bands here give a whole new spin to such familiar material. Reminds me a lot of the Grunge Lite album put out by C/Z years and years ago. Heavy on the kitsch, but with a nice kicker.

    Amusing, and not in a stupid way. This album presents a whole new way to look at Sublime, which is one fine function of a tribute. Good stuff, and fun to boot. Hard to argue with that.


    Leonardo--The Ultimate Man
    Original Cast Recording
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    A prog opera, I suppose. Written by Trent Gardner and performed by a large and impressive cast, this sounds more like a concept album than a dramatic presentation. But why quibble with minor things like labels?

    Especially when it's so much more fun to talk about the music. When writing about Leonardo da Vinci, I suppose prog is as good a medium as anything. And while this is certainly technical and intricate, there is plenty of emotion and feeling in the performances.

    Overwrought? A little. But, you know, that's kinda built into the genre. What I like is that Gardner has used some of the more excessive elements of prog to help flesh out his story and to add some dramatic flair.

    If this isn't intended to be an actual musical (I really can't imagine a high school putting it one any time soon), nonetheless it works as an album. Rousing, exciting songs built into a solid story. Good work.


    Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music 2xCD
    (Arista)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Just in time to promote this year's concert string, this set has twenty-five tracks from last year's participants, recorded live. Almost everyone is here, from Sarah McLachlan and Jewel to lesser-known artists like Autour de Lucie and Patty Griffin. In fact, the better tracks here are from the folks you may not know.

    Because, really, who wants to hear what the Cardigans sound like live? I'll give you a hint: it's not good. And I'm not really needing to hear anything else, period, from Lisa Loeb or Meredith Brooks. I'd prefer not to discuss the Susanna Hoffs track, a bland rehash of perhaps the worst Bangles song on record.

    But dig in and you'll find Abra Moore, Lhasa, Griffin and Emmylou Harris. Harris's voice is always welcome in my house. The small gems easily outshine the bluster of the big guns (which was one of the intentions of the Fair in the first place).

    Woefully inconsistent, as any collection like this is bound to be, this set does make a nice case for this year's tour. I mean, everybody can find something to like here.


    Lilith Fair Volume 2 and Volume 3
    (Arista)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Last year's lineup was a bit more coherent, and so the songs on these two discs (sold separately, which is an unfortunate attempt at scamming extra cash, I'm afraid) fit together better. There are fewer tracks from lesser-known acts, but there are also no absolutely dreadful moments (such as suffering through another live Cardigans track).

    Alright, there is a Holly McNarland track, and I'm not a big fan of Shawn Colvin or Natalie Merchant, but there's more than enough from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Liz Phair and Luscious Jackson to make up for that.

    Okay, the discs are simply promo tools for this summer's festival. They can also serve as something of an audio tour book for last summer's set. However you want to look at it.

    The recordings are quite good, and while I wish there were more tracks from lesser-known folks, well, money has to be made somewhere. For what this is, it does the trick nicely.


    Living in a Box
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    This is a play, written by Chris Kessler and produced by something called Lynskytology Ink. This play attacks the media overload, taking a trip into a woman's mind. With the help of more than a few controlled substances.

    Highly opinionated, the script takes aim at just about every piece of our mass consciousness, with a particular interest in the news. Some of the jokes are a bit too easy (the ditzy broadcast reporter is a bit hackneyed; I should know. I've got a few of them in my own repertoire), but on the whole the stuff is pretty amusing.

    Considering how scatterbrained the subject matter can get (which is a necessity when you're satirizing media excess), the play hold together pretty well. There's really not much of a plot, but there is plenty to think about.

    Not a spoon-feeding operation, to be sure. Living in a Box challenges the listener to assimilate a good chunk of material and make a few personal judgements. This isn't yer traditional stagecraft. Indeed, the CD is probably the best format for presenting this material. Plenty of cool ways to drop into this stew of ideas.


    Lounge Ax Defense & Relocation Compact Disc
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    If you don't know the story, the Lounge Ax is one of the cooler clubs in Chicago. It has the problem of existing in trendy Lincoln Park area, and thus has been hauled into court on various noise (and other silly) violations. Well, the liners tell the story better than me, anyway...

    So I'll stick to music. And with folks like Jesus Lizard, Superchunk, Sebadoh, Mekons, Archers of Loaf and Coctails contributing original tracks (14 bands in all, the only non-original is Yo La Tengo's live take on "Attack on Love"), well, I'm not sure how much better a set could be.

    And since this is Touch and Go, you know Corey won't be skimming some personal profit off the top. All the money here goes where it's supposed to go.

    Um, I didn't hear a song that sucked, either. Worthy cause, more than worthy disc.


    Love & Napalm (the album)
    (Trance Syndicate-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    As opposed to the seven-inches or the video. Just so you know.

    Six of the coolest bands you should've heard of be now. I really grooved on the Ed Hall and Pain Teens, but tracks from Crust, Drain, Johnboy and the Cherubs are pretty damn nice, too.

    All of the tracks are unreleased. I wasn't special enough to warrant a copy of the CD, which the press points out has two more songs (what they are and who they're by is anyone's guess), so I can only review based on the twelve songs I heard.

    Be happy with what you get. The twelve songs here range from the vicious to the truly wacky. What else did you expect?


    Lucky #13 Sampler
    (Hardknocks)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Hardknocks is more a collective than a label, and the variety of sounds here attests to that. There isn't any cohesion to the sounds, and there's not supposed to be. This is compilation of bands who want to get their music out. Period.

    And the quality of recording and music varies almost as much as the styles. I will say that much of this tends toward the heavier side of things (hardcore more than metal), but that simplification isn't entirely accurate. There is something here for most anyone, as long you like guitars.

    It's always cool to wander through and listen to young bands trying things out. That's what this disc is all about.


    Magnets at the Bottom of the Sea
    (Westside Audio Laboratories)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    A cool tape which contains bits and pieces from 28 different bands (including Morsel, one of my personal faves). As you've probably noted in my recent reviews of WAL releases, this stuff is not for the faint of heart. It's not even for most of the folks who claim to like "alternative" music. This is for folks who like weird shit for its own sake.

    I'm in that group, and I've been getting e-mail from a number of folks count themselves in the congregation as well. The styles on this tape range from fairly coherent noise pop to utterly insane electronic disturbances. A real range of warped possibilities.

    The note I got with this drop shipment sez this is the last cassette-only release for the label, and that, indeed, all copies of this tape are covered in (cheap and fake) fur. As for the Easter Seals stamps, well, they weren't mentioned. I don't know what these cost, but I'm guessing about five bucks. Well worth the green if you like exploring the agonized subconscious worlds of some seriously disturbed folks.


    Mailorder Is Still Fun!
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Yep, this is another "So unbelievably cheap it's positively insane" exposure-grabbing discs. Four bucks for 28 bands. Most of the Asian Man roster, some stuff from Tomato Head records and some other odds and ends.

    Those familiar with Asian Man know what's gonna be here. Some pop punk, some ska, some stuff that kinda trends toward hardcore and, well, some other stuff. The sheer number of bands ensures a good variety, but the quality is high throughout.

    A nice way to sample Asian Man's fine offerings. Unlike many samplers, this one was put together with care. A marketing gimmick? Sure. But one that begs to be bought, certainly.


    Make 'em Mokum Crazy
    (Mokum-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    Subtitled "This is the new sound of popcore". Un-huh. And this is from the same sorts of folks who brought us such wonderful things as Milli Vanilli, Right Said Fred and all those rave and "This Is Techno" compilations that still fill the bins at crap record stores everywhere.

    The main reason for this set is two versions of "I Wanna Be a Hippy", which wasa big European dance hit and is amusing enough as a novelty tune. Almost everything else here doesn't quite live up to that standard, though the Party Animals' bouncy techno version of "Hava Nagila" is pretty amusing--the first time through.

    If you're really wondering what the Benelux boys are doing these days, well, look no further. Belgian and Dutch technicians have been percolating this sorta stuff for some time, and they don't seem to want to let up now. Most normal folks can miss this without a second glance.


    Many Miles Away
    (Solarmanite)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    As you might have already guessed, this is a tribute to the Police. Most of the hits are included (though, thankfully, no one did "Every Breath You Take"), along with a couple lesser-known songs (as lesser-known as any Police tune could be, I suppose).

    The usual problems that plague tributes flit through this one as well. Some of the bands simply rerecorded the songs in their original styles without adding much. Some, though, like Blinder, picked a more obscure song ("Does Everyone Stare") and then turned a little twist on it. On this disc, there are more of the latter than the former.

    Just when I would get worried that the album would simply cheese out or descend into cover band territory, another scintillating rendition would emerge. The production quality here is top-notch, and most of the work is as well. I'm not a big tribute fan, but this one is worth a spin.


    Megaforce Christmas Sampler
    (Megaforce)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    So what does the revitalized Megaforce have in store for 1993? This begins to tell the tale.

    Nudeswirl is a nice band that has sorta a Saigon Kick groove going on.

    Tribe After Tribe was the only old band that didn't end up on Atlantic. That should cover it, although I actually like this song.

    The rest you've already heard of or probably won't worry so much about, okay?


    Megasoft Office 97
    (Chipie)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    A collection of electronic acts from the French label F Communication. Unlike most electronic sets wandering around, this set is definitely on the mellow tip. Not ambient or anything like that; just slower and more contemplative.

    Many of the bands employ an r&b groove, finding more soul than most contemporary U.S. "smooth groove" artists. Using the same sampling and song construction techniques as more uptempo acts, these artists merely apply a musical sophistication to a slower form.

    And what a wide array of sounds. Some acts use a number of real-time instruments (not sampling, but actual playing),while others are completely sequenced. There are experimental trips, mood progressions and even a couple ballads. Everything you need to explore the mellower side of the electronic universe.


    Melt-Scandinavian electro/industrial compilation
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #110, 5/27/96

    You can add "goth" to that description, as there are plenty of them sorts hanging out here.

    The obvious headliners are listed on the sticker: Birmingham 6 and Leaether Strip. The mixes may be new, but the songs are not. Still, the names are worth getting on the disc.

    The rest is maddeningly inconsistent. For every decent gothic pop bit like Neuroactive's "Obsession" there's at least one song that just doesn't work. On the whole, the pluses outweigh the minuses, but not by enough to get me wildly excited.

    But if you're interested in hearing what kids in Scandinavia are playing these days, then this is a decent trip to take. Just don't expect a mindblower.


    Metalo
    (Grita)
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    Along the same lines as the Spanglish 101 disc I reviewed a couple issues back. This is more pure metal (and yes, there is a Brujeria track), but the idea is to get Hispanic (or Latin, or whatever term you want to use) bands a showcase.

    This disc is more metal, like I said, but also much more international in its scope. Bands from all over Central and South America as well as Europe. I do wish the liners were a bit more informative, but the music does a fine job of speaking for itself.

    And if Spanglish intrigued you, then grab this puppy as well. There could be 20 of these things put out and that would still be scratching the surface. Music is universal, and different languages can't create a barrier. Not when the pull is so strong.

    A most worthy set. The music is first rate, and that's the real key. Time to go exploring.


    Midnight in the Patch: A Tribute to the Smashing Pumpkins
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    As you might be able to tell from the one Smashing Pumpkins review I've got in the archives, I'm not the world's biggest fan. Though the album I reviewed wasn't exactly well-received.

    The reworkings here are generally, though not exclusively, of an electronic, goth or industrial nature, and so they don't really stray a long ways from the originals. They're quite competent, and in a couple cases I have to say I like the version here to the originals. Still, I'd like to hear more than simple run-throughs.

    This is a well-executed tribute, but there just isn't enough of an adventurous spirit to carry the weight of the entire disc. Interesting at times, but too uneven to really get behind.


    Might As Well... Can't Dance
    (Adeline)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    A nice little compilation from yet another Bay-area punk label. If you've paying attention to my reviews during the past year, you'll notice that I've had generally kind words for Adeline bands. There's 15 tracks here, and I like them all.

    And with bands like the Dillinger Four, One Man Army, Samiam, Pinhead Gunpowder and the Criminals, what is there to complain about?

    Just some nice, raw punk rawk. That's what Adeline specializes in, and that's what you get here. Enjoy.


    A Million Miles Away:
    The Emo Diaries--Chapter Two

    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    The second in a continuing series, this set finds emo branching out in a number of ways, probably to such an extent that the genre (as it were) is becoming increasingly blurred. Which is just fine with the folks at Deep Elm, and me, too

    Unreleased tracks or stuff that has been available only on singles. Bands you've probably never heard of (though Brandtson, reviewed above, is here). Some of the bands have Deep Elm deals, but most don't. Like I said, the idea is to present as complete a snapshot of the music as possible.

    And what is becoming increasingly obvious is a trend toward Big Star-style pop, while retaining the meticulous lead guitar work and rather atonal melodic style. Back to Jawbox, if you will.

    The songs are uniformly wonderful, but with a wide range of approaches and sounds. This musical movement is mutating rapidly, and it's a lot of fun to hear. This series helps provide a road map.


    Mindfield
    (Third Mind-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92

    If you've been on the Third Mind mailing list for the last year, you have heard all this. If you haven't, then this is a good introduction.

    While not as exciting as the 26-track Epitaph compilation just released (I wouldn't mind reviewing that, either, hint, hint), this shows the artistic range of Third Mind. While all of the music is rooted in the techno-industrial craze, you might be surprised how diverse this movement really is. Don't be an idiot; listen to more than one genre of music, alright?


    The Miracle of Levitation
    (Gentle Giant)
    reviewed in issue #107, 4/22/96

    Twenty tracks of that "eclectic experimental noise pop thing". The "pop" in that description separates this collection from the equally fine (but sonically different) Japanese/American Noise Treaty. There, the purpose was the extension of the noise idea. Here, the purpose is expanding folks' conceptions of pop.

    And with cool folks like Jim O'Rourke, the Flying Luttenbachers, Melt-Banana and U.S. Maple, well, you know this is going to be an awesome set. Not for the faint of heart, certainly, but a must for anyone who wants to traverse the rim of the pop universe.

    Best of all, this is just the beginning from Gentle Giant. Located in Kalamazoo (a town I am intimately familiar with), many of the artists here will be recording for this fine outfit. Let's hope the stuff starts rolling out soon. This collection is too amazing to be just a one-off.


    Mixed Traxx
    (Kk-Chipie-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    More tunes from the Kk roster. This time, a set of remixes. Lots of hard techno, amped up for your dancing pleasure.

    I'm not the biggest fan of faceless techno compilations. And while the stuff here is better than average, it doesn't have the stamp of individual vision. These songs do not relate to each other, except that they're all here on this disc. And that's not enough for me.

    If you like going out and buying loads of compilations, well, this is one you might want to consider. Personally, this is all a little too disconnected for me. Give me an album by a single artist any day.


    The Moment of Truth--The Emo Diaries Chapter Three
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Perhaps the best continuing compilation around. First, because instead of being a hard-liner on the question of the emo sound, John at Deep Elm prefers instead to simply let the music determine its own course. Quality is the question, not blind obedience to some arbitrary rules.

    But choosing 14 songs from the multitudes submitted isn't easy. On each of these discs, the songs have been among the best representations of emo, whatever that might actually mean.

    There are a couple of bands here I've heard before (Sweep the Leg Johnny and Cross My Heart) and a couple I wish I had (Starmarket and the Saddest Girl Story). Well, all of the songs are great. Those two just made the biggest immediate impact.

    Crank and Deep Elm have taken a bi-coastal approach to propagating the emo sound, and both do it oh-so-well. This is just one more point in the east coast corner. A compilation to be snapped up with all due haste.


    Monochrome: A Tribute to the Sisters of Mercy
    (Khazad-Dum/SPV)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    A lot of the same bands as the Bowie tribute come together here. The one great move? Not attempting to present "This Corrosion." I mean, that would really be silly.

    The reason the Bowie tribute sounded alright is because most of the bands sounded a lot more like Sisters. That's one reason this puppy doesn't fly so well. I mean, why hear similar, but lesser, versions of good songs?

    I dunno. Buy the Sisters' greatest hits. That way you get to hear the superior originals. And, of course, "This Corrosion."


    The Moon Revisited
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #82, 8/14/95

    The basic story: prog rock bands (one of which is named Dark Side of the Moon) get together to record a new version of Dark Side of the Moon, track by track. The ultimate tribute? Or just a really stupid idea.

    Both, really. Cleopatra has a goth and industrial tribute to the Floyd that walks the line of cheesiness, and this is simply too much. Bands who worship Pink Floyd far too much as it is re-recording the longest-charting album of all time. Not a good idea.

    Now, they do a decent job of reinterpreting the songs, but a lot of the technological excesses that Pink Floyd hadn't quite gotten into back in 1972 are dumped in here, and that is certainly to the detriment of the music. Many of the versions on this disc sound like they were created in a studio by a machine, not by people. Before 1980, Pink Floyd had a decent knack for making spacey music sound human. This collection strips these songs of their humanity.

    A hell of an idea, alright. But not what I'd call a terribly good one.


    The Mudball Compilation
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Eight bands, twelve songs. Mudball is a cassette only label, and the sound is pretty much demo quality. Most of these bands are obviously young and just starting. Most of the time they just don't recognize when they have hit upon something really good, and the song returns to the same old same old.

    One bright spot was something called "Orpheus". I don't know if this is the name of the song or the band (the liners aren't helpful on this note). This is a sort of Nick Cave-y goth narration piece. Quite different from the rest of the fare, approaching brilliance.


    Music from the Succubus Club:
    A Soundtrack for Vampire: The Masquerade

    (Dancing Ferret)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Another one of those video game soundtracks, this one features such industrial goth bands as the Cruxshadows, Sunshine Blind, Seraphim Shock and even a track from the Mission UK.

    It probably does help that a video game requires uptempo music. This disc absolutely does not drag. And the bands stick to fairly similar musical and lyrical themes. Pretty much anything to do with vampires. Not that that's terribly difficult for these folks, mind you.

    Movie soundtracks should sound this good. This is a fine collection of good (and often great) songs that flows as smoothly as the best mix tapes. Not sure how all of it will fit into the game, but I'm quite pleased with the disc.


    Music to Listen to Music to By
    (Coldfront)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Just about what it looks like, a sampler from one of the Bay Area's less well-known labels. Don't let a relative lack of name recognition keep you away. There's some great bands on the label, many of which you've seen reviewed on this site.

    With the exception of a couple track from forthcoming albums, these songs are previously released. So if you haven't heard this font of punkdom before, this disc will point you in the right direction.

    And while this is stuff I've heard before, the folks did pick out some of the best bits of the bunch. A more than serviceable introduction to Coldfront.


    Musicians for Children
    (Pines Bridge Records)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    A benefit disc that evolved out of a benefit concert for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The hospital, of course, is located in Memphis, but the show was at South Street Seaport at the bottom of Manhattan.

    The bands: The Flying Penguins, The Hush, Green & Checkers, Valve 18, Live Perl and Diesel Powered Poet. Three songs each, all scattered throughout the disc in no particular order.

    The six bands are as eclectic as those found on the Departure series (Pines Bridge is associated with Wright Music Group), and strangely, the recording sound really varies from band to band as well. At times, the sound is sharp and dead-on, other times there are tons of crackles and instruments fading in and out. The joy of live, I guess.

    Once again, a trove for those who like to dig around and hear new stuff. And it's hard to ignore the good cause, as well. Despite the blemishes, this is a worthwhile set.


    MyOhioActionPalBoyGoldGod300
    (My Pal God-Ohio Gold-Action Boy)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    A compilation from three Chicago labels that have been passing among themselves many of the artists contained within. The best known of the acts would be Hurl, Dianogah and Lustre King (and this, no doubt, is why these three bands kick off the set), but 90 Day Men, C-Clamp, A Minor Forest and Dis- are all worth a listen as well.

    About half the songs are previously released. With the exception of Dis- and A Minor Forest, each band has two tracks, one new (or at least previously unreleased) and one that appeared on a recent album or 7". If you are completely unfamiliar wth any of these bands, the style meanders about on the emo side of noise pop. Fans of stuff like June of '44 and the like would be well-served by checking this out.

    For amusement value only, check out the A Minor Forest cover of "Lady". Maybe not as twisted as Engine Kid's rendition of "Rocky Mountain High", but definitely awfully creepy. Almost too straight, if you know what I mean.

    These things are being dispatched at cheap prices so folks will check out the bands and the labels. Definitely worth the price of a good pint.


    The My Pal God Holiday Record
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    Almost 20 songs from a disparate group of artists. Silkworm, Lustre King, The Goblins, Sweep the Leg Johnny, C-Clamp and more. Some originals, some covers. Some traditional, some contemporary. Some well-produced, some, um, not.

    Like the first track, mastered from a cart (old radio hacks will know what I'm talking about here). But I'm not gonna complain. Because this is easily the weirdest and most expansive Christmas (or whatever) set I've ever heard.

    Take Atom & His Package's "What WE Do on Christmas", which details how the world Jewish conspiracy uses Christmas as its annual planning day. Way too funny to miss out on. Or you might want to try on "Santa Claus Is Coming (and You're on His List)" , "(I Was) Drunk (on Christmas Eve)" or "Something's in the Chimney". Reverent, it ain't.

    But it is a big-ass load of fun. Incoherent, perhaps. A total mess? At times. But still worth lots of smiles. And be sure to turn up "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" when the folks arrive.


    The My Pal God Holiday Record 2
    (My Pal God)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Not quite so sprawling (or idiosyncratic) as the first My Pal God set, what this one misses in numbers is probably made up for in quality.

    Plenty of My Pal God talent (Drums and Tuba, Emperor Penguin, The French Kicks) and lots of other like-minded bands (Oxes, Neutrino, Atombombpocketknife) lend a more coherent sound to this set.

    The stuff generally (though not universally) lies somewhere in the emo-noise-pop realm, if that makes any sense at all. Well, and having a little fun with familiar, somewhat obscure and original holiday songs.

    Not at all a standard sequel. This set tells its own story, and still advances the spirit of the series quite nicely. Try playing this one for your parents during Christmas dinner.


    My So-Called Punk Life
    (Melted)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    Thirty songs from 30 bands. Some of the bands are on Melted and many are unsigned. Oh, there are a few "names" (Squirtgun, Gotohells, Darlington, Jon Cougar Concentration Camp, etc.), but there's a good number of folks here I've never heard before.

    And I'm so excited. This is the sorta stuff Melted is known for: Sugary hooks and punk riffage. Simple and to the point, not letting things like guitar solos get in the way of a good time.

    I'm bouncing off the walls here. Way, way too fun to sit on my ass. I suppose there may be a track or two that's a bit weak, but the vast majority of tunes here are good, and most of those are great. This is the kind of disc that just might permanently plant a smile on your face.


    Natural Born Techno
    (Kk America-Chipie-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    The second sampler set from the newly formed Kk America division of Tinder. A much more clubby group of songs, heavier in the bass and somewhat less intellectual than the other sampler.

    But plenty of cool sounds nonetheless. There's a wide variety of percussive sounds here, something that is unusual in the world of techno. Yeah, these tunes were made for dancing, but there's plenty going on behind the grooves.

    This is not another mindless techno compilation. Dig in and you'll find some serious shit.


    NE VS NC 2 xCD
    (Redemption)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    Volume one of Redemption's "Versus" series features bands from Nebraska and North Carolina. Or, to be more specific, bands from Omaha and Chapel Hill. There are a few bands on each disc who don't hail from those precise locales, but I think there are obvious reasons why eastern Nebraska and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh areas are the centers of musical creativity in their respective states.

    And, strangely, I've been rather well-connected to each of those scenes at different points in my life. As a college student at the University of Missouri some 10-15 years ago, I heard a ton of Omaha and Lincoln bands in the clubs. And now that I live in the Triangle region of North Carolina, I must admit to being familiar with almost all of the bands on the NC disc.

    I can't argue with the quality of what's here. But I do wish there was a bit more diversity to the sets. Both discs are emo-heavy, and I know both scenes have up-and-coming bands with different sounds. In particular, around here Chapel Hill is probably better-known as the home of the Mayflies USA and the place where Ryan Adams got his start. And for a long time, Nebraska was known as the home of the Millions.

    Which isn't to say things can't and don't change. There's no way to completely document a scene on one CD. Redemption has pulled together 17 bands from Nebraska and 17 more from North Carolina. All the bands are good, and all the songs are interesting, if not great. My quibbles are just that; this set is so good, I wish it were that much better.


    Newer Wave
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    The sounds of yesteryear (well, the 80s, anyway) as done by the acts of tomorrow. Folks like Hate Dept., Battery, 16 Volt, Templebeat and Acumen do the nasty to Duran Duran, the Vapors, Depeche Mode and more.

    A good idea, and the bands here try real hard to create new versions of well-worn tunes. Much of the time, though, the new renditions just don't work. The first track, 16 Volt's run-through of "Turning Japanese" transforms a pop tune into a cybermarch, complete with an almost unrecognizable reworking of the chorus. Well, it beats the version I heard on some major-label soundtrack recently. But it's still not great.

    Still, enough of the songs turned out alright, and with less hits like the Fixx's "Red Skies" and Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" (so it's a cult fave; sue me) next to "Whip It", "Relax" and "Cars", you can't say the selection sucks.

    All more than a bit silly, really, but what the hell. I mean, this is the music I heard in high school, and it carries a weird sort of nostalgia. Even if I don't like to admit such things.


    Newer Wave 2.0
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    The first was so successful, why not another? Interestingly, the tracks here focus more on real influences of 21st Circuitry's "cold wave" focus than the first set.

    Like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Eurythmics, Landscape and Depeche Mode. There are some truly goofy outings, like The Razor Skyline's take on "One Night in Bangkok" or Xorcist doing "1999" (that one's pretty damned cool, indeed).

    Better than the first, both in song selection and in execution. I still think this sort of disc is kinda cheap, but hell, it does rate highly in the fun factor. Time to go bask in my youth some more.


    1988.93 Can You See It Yet?
    (Invisible)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    This could just as easily be titled Martin Atkins' Recent Greatest Hits, as this is his label, and he had a hand in most of these recordings, performing on most.

    Of course, Invisible has always struck me as a kind of community thing, with different folk pitching in a different times to make amazing things happen. While Pigface is the most famous (and perhaps best) example of this, the other fifteen bands on this disc deserve a listen. Sure, some of them don't exist (or never really did, except in studio), but they all reflect the attitude.

    Chicago is, of course, industrial dance hq. Invisible is, at least artistically, the lord of that scene. If you don't believe me, then one trip through this will convince. This is a musical edge, folks.


    Nod's Tacklebox o' Fun
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Way, way back when the earth was green, there was an album called Shut Up Kitty. Lots of dark industrial/synthcore/whatever acts doing popular songs of the previous ten years or so. And now, as Chase is wrapping up things at Reconstriction (the albums will still be available from Cargo, but no new releases are forthcoming), we get this final valentine.

    The same incoherent mix of covers (everything from "MMMBop" to "Ice Ice Baby" to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" to "Diamonds are Forever"), the same sorts of bands. The same mixed results.

    Tinfed's "Policy of Truth" is real impressive, as are the WFG All-Stars's "Ice Ice Baby" (really) and Oneiroid Psychosis' "Animal Magnetism". There isn't anything up to the level of Non-Aggression Pact's astonishing reworking of "Boy", easily the highlight of Kitty, but since that's probably the most amazing cover I've ever heard, well, that's alright.

    A first class send-off. Lots of fun, plenty of things to smile at. And, without getting too cheesy, this is the perfect moment to thank Chase for his tireless efforts at getting some amazing music to the masses. Good luck in whatever it is you're up to next, man. It's bound to be great.


    Noise Ordinance: Columbia Artists Compilation
    (Three Minute Dog)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    So does Columbia (Missouri) really have thirteen acts running around it creating the next big college music scene? Yes... and no. At least one of the bands on this compilation has finally called it quits, and a couple others are based somewhere other than Columbia but have members who go to school there. But there's everything from traditional college pop to folk to rap to wacky funk to grunge.

    While some of this does seem rather derivative, you must remember this scene is rather young. And much of this is really great music. Just like Austin and Seattle, there is a definite sound, but not everyone chooses to conform. If you add in Lawrence and St. Louis, this area is rife with great bands. Paw is just the beginning (and there are more than a dozen bands around here better than those guys).


    Northwest Post-Grunge
    (Elemental)
    reviewed in issue #69, 1/31/95

    A group of 17 songs by bands that are united only in the fact that none of them can be considered grunge bands. Oh, and they hail from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

    Most of the tunes are your basic college-pop stuff, the sort of thing bands in the Pacific Northwest own the patent on.

    But there are a few surprises, and of course, appearances by some of my personal favorite bands, Dirt Fishermen, Built to Spill and Medicine Hat.

    Plenty to adore here, as the bands seem to be stretching their sounds instead of playing things safe. My compliments to the chef.


    Nothing Left to Lose: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson
    (Incidental Music)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    And I thought everyone worth doing (and plenty not) had gotten their own tribute album by now. But hey, a tribute to Kris Kristofferson? What a good idea. Most of his songs are better-known as recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin, and folks of my generation are as likely to know his as "that guy in the Amerika movie" as anything else.

    But damn, man, he wrote some good stuff. Especially in the years from 1968 to 1973, which is when (with one obvious exception, "Shipwrecked in the Eighties") these songs were penned. And when you recruit folks like Calexico and Califone and Handsome Family and Radar Brothers, there's a good chance what results will not only be good, but interesting and varied as well.

    The best tributes not only show off the fine works of the tributee (I think that's a word), but also puts those works in new and creative contexts. And while much of what's on this disc might be called country-rock, there's a lot that's certainly on the fringes of that appellation.

    I don't often recommend tribute albums. This one is worthy. The songs are great and the performances are generally outstanding. This album not only celebrates an artist, it celebrates art in general as well. Well done.


    An Ocean of Doubt: The Emo Diaries Chapter Four
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Emo goes international. This latest installment from the newly relocated Deep Elm find five international bands of the twelve on the disc (Sweden and Spain with two each and one from England), and near as I can tell, not one Deep Elm band in the bunch.

    Not that these samplers have exhibited any favoritism in the past. The purpose, it seems to me, has been to simply further document the advancement whatever it is that we're all calling emo these days. And that definition has certainly expanded during the past year.

    Hell, there's even a K-Tel emo sampler out now (and it's not nearly as bad as you might think), but nothing comes close to the Emo Diaries. Once again, John has found 12 great songs and crafted together a disc which does a great job of exhibiting just what's been going on in this side of the punk universe.

    Bottom line: melody and craft are definitely on their way in. If you want more specifics, get the disc for yerself. This series has rapidly become the standard by which samplers are judged, and this chapter simply extends an already compelling storyline. I can't wait to turn another page.


    Of Things to Come soundtrack
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Right up front, one complaint before I spooge: Almost all of these songs are taken from albums. Not much in the way of new material here. Okay, prepare for me to get way overexcited.

    Talk about your quality mix tape. Pegboy, SuperSuckers, Zeke, Dillinger Four, Voodoo Glow Skulls and plenty more. A wide-ranging array of punk styles, ska to hardcore to emo to whatever it is you call Zeke. Yeah, so I wish some of this was new (only Pezz's "Pucker Factor" is new), the songs are great.

    I don't need to see the movie. This little batch of punk classics is more than enough of a meal for me.


    Old School Punk
    (Neurotic)
    reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    A nice collection of "classic punk" tunes. In fact, if you don't have these tunes in your collection, you really have done much of a job collecting early 80's punk. From X ("Los Angeles") to Suicidal ("Institutionalized") to Fear ("I Don't Care About You"), this is really a primer on punk's early greatest hits.

    You have to remember that a lot of this stuff was considered pop even way back when. There's no DK or many of the heavier and faster hardcore acts of the same period. But hell, you can only fit so many songs on one disc, and this does alright.

    I do wish that more attention had been paid to some of the more overlooked punk bands of the past, but if you're just digging in, then you have to start somewhere. A good compilation for the novice.


    Old School vs. New School
    (Jive Elektro)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Jive was the home to some of the most innovative rap acts around. Kool Moe Dee, Boogie Down Productions, Whodini, Tribe Called Quest. And, yeah, Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. This set has some of the DJs and electronic artists on Jive's Elektro imprint do some remixing and recreating.

    And it works. The transitions are seamless, the pieces themselves obviously a labor of love. Today's artists "borrow" shamelessly from some of the old sounds, and here, they can do so with everyone's approval.

    Who, you ask? Norman Cook, Grooverider, Aphrodite, Rabbit in the Moon, Bad Boy Bill, the Freestylers and more. Names you may or may not know, but they've got the goods.

    A fun set, one which celebrates the ways in which music creativity is pollinated.


    Oldies But Goodies
    (Negative Progression-Vagrant)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Sixteen covers of 50s rock tunes by today's punk bands. Remember The Shangri-Las, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke? Well, probably not when they first hit the scene, but you're familiar with these songs.

    Your parents probably had all of these 7-inchers, back when they were called 45s. Lots of cool bands and good renditions. Although my random player kept going back to "Be My Baby" (covered by Lounge), this is good for a quick shot of energy mixed with nostalgia. Bracket's version of "My Boyfriend's Back" is particularly heavenly. As is "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter," covered by Cooter.

    That shit goes straight to the radio, man.
    --Matt Worley


    Ominous Guitarists from the Unknown
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    There's a problem inherent in the music industry. Well, it's a business. That means if you are creative and refuse to play what the people want, then you don't make money. Unless you're really lucky. Then you establish a new sound. And then everyone copies you.

    These are completely (almost) unknown guitarists who are out to make their mark on the music world. But they mostly sound like those who have come before. Especially present is the Joe Satriani school of thought, but there are a few Steve Vai devotees as well. It is all mostly a San Francisco thing.

    These guys can play, no doubt. But they should pick up their own styles. Makes for longer (if less profitable) careers.


    On Guard for Thee:
    A Collection of Canada's Youth Gone Bad

    (Au-Go-Go)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    A lot of Canadian bands, many of them Mint (or former Mint) acts. Names like Cub, Pluto, the McCrackins, Huevos Rancheros, the Smugglers, the Forbidden Dimension and the Stand GT you've all seen in these here parts before. For the most part, the tracks aren't new, but they do present a pretty picture of the punk scene in the Great White north.

    In general, the songs are good examples of the bands, and so this 18-track sampler is a nice little pack for someone who hasn't quite caught on. And there's at least one or two songs here that you haven't heard, no matter what your failiarity with the scene is.

    A good, diverse set. I wish more of the tracks were previously unreleased, but hell, my guess is that most Aussies (not to mention Americans) haven't heard any of these folks. Cool enough.


    On the Brink of Infinity
    (Cthonic Streams) reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99

    Subtitled "A Compilation of Death and Rebirth," it's pretty obvious that the pretensions are running high. And while the word is overused, this puppy is chock full of gothic soundscapes to die for.

    Acts like Dream into Dust and 4th Sign of the Apocalpyse I've heard before. Ones such as Empyrium and Kerovnian I've haven't. Some utilize a small number of instruments and effects, others head into whole hog territory. These differences in execution, however, do not detract from the overall purpose.

    Yes, yes, in a way this is so cliche. The ultimate goth compilation has to be one that rhapsodizes about death and the afterlife. Alright, so this falls right into the laps of the cynics. The thing is, there's no faulting the content here. It's great stuff. Dreary? Overwrought? At times. We are talking about spirits unknown, remember.

    With no nods to commercial acceptance or mainstream appeal, this compilation actually manages to live up to its lofty ambitions. The key, always, is to make people think. These songs do just that.


    One Bag, Two Lumps, Three Cozies
    (Beggars Banquet)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    I don't know if this compilation is available in stores or if it's one of those radio/promo only deals. What it does do is drop a track from 15 releases, many of which have already been reviewed on this site.

    And so if you're wondering what one of the premiere (mostly) British music labels foisted upon an unsuspecting American public this year, these songs will give you a good idea. A lot of great stuff (Mojave 3, Natacha Atlas, Tommy Guerrero, Sgt. Rock and Simon Fisher Turner among them) worth hearing.

    Beggars Banquet is never afraid to take chances with its selections, and this disc shows off that tendency quite nicely. There's nothing new here, but more than enough good music to fill out the set. prove that point. May the pits be fast, furious and friendly.


    Only the Strong MCMXCIII
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #30, 3/15/93

    (voice off camera) Welcome to this week's edition of Victory of Chicago's Wild Punkdom, with your host: Marlon Perkins's corpse.

    Well, you never know.

    Some of America's finest punk talent is showcased here, with only one band from the west coast. Yes, hard-core does exist elsewhere, and it's pretty damn good, too. From the ripping Warzone cut to Victory's own Snapcase to the always amazing Bloodline, this compilation bleeds the ears in a pleasant fashion.

    You folks have played your share of death metal compilations lately; now why don't you get it on for the hard-core universe? Despite some nutty pronouncements, this is not a dead genre, and these young fucks are out to prove that point. May the pits be fast, furious and friendly.


    Operation Beatbox
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96

    Cybercore artists ripping through rap songs. An interesting idea, one that works best when the song has something to say.

    I'm afraid I'm a big fan of what has become "old school", stuff like Paris and Public Enemy (both represented well here). See, even cool folks like Clay People can't do a damned thing with House of Pain's "Jump Around", which is about as inane a song as has ever appeared.

    The strangest choice was Abstinence's selection of the B-Boys "Two Three Break". That is really reaching back. The rest goes from the sublime (SMP thrashing out "Prophets of Rage") to the utterly silly (as any cover of "Gangsta's Paradise" was bound to be).

    In final analysis, this puppy is so uneven I couldn't stand to play the whole advance tape all the way through in one sitting. Same result with the disc. I like plenty of rap music, but not all the pop crap that makes up about half of this collection. Yeah, so Numb's version of "Push It" is quite good. I'm just quite sure I don't need to hear a Beastie Boys song ever again.

    Now, mixing and matching styles is a good idea, particularly for marketing purposes. It just doesn't work for me here.


    Our Heat (Your Moisture)
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    A couple of the fine folks from Pineal Ventana put this compilation together. Seventeen of the 26 bands hail from Atlanta or Athens (Ga.), with the rest coming from places east of the Mississippi.

    If you know Pineal Ventana, then you might know what to expect here. Plenty of rather unusual (most would use the phrase "fucking weird") music (again, some might disagree with the term "music"). Heinous Bienfang (reviewed earlier in the issue) is here, as is Pineal Ventana, Go Is My Co-Pilot (see?), William Carlos Williams (also reviewed in this issue), Tweezer and one of my favorites, Morsel (from Michigan).

    Pretty much indescribable as a whole, but if you're a Skin Graft fan, or otherwise someone who digs the whole noise pop movement (emphasis on noise, probably), well, there's a trove of treasure on this disc.

    It may be fucking weird, but others might use the word "brilliant".


    Out of the Box Volume I
    (Black Mark)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    This compilation hold together much better than the other Black Mark set reviewed in this issue. For starters, this puts together a lot of unsigned metal bands. Consistently good stuff, which isn't always the case with this kinda stuff.

    A lot of this is black metal, although certainly not everything. In fact, it would be correct to say a nice variety of style appears here.

    The production varies wildly, and it certainly doesn't bring down a couple of the tracks. But what's nice to hear here is that the bands aren't trying to conform to any ideal. Instead, these acts are charting new paths into the metal wilderness.

    Great care and concern went into putting this compilation together, and it shows. Not just a cheap knockoff. This is worth searching out if you're interested in hearing what metal will sound like in a couple years.


    Outlaw: The Electro Acoustic Tribute to Bon Jovi
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Not just electro acoustic, but instrumental to boot. So what we have here is a set of Bon Jovi songs (heavier on the early days) rendered by guitars with heavy echo effects.

    It's a unique idea, I'll say that. Also, in all fairness, it doesn't work. Not at all.

    Bon Jovi's songs are about as simple as they come. Listen, I was a massive fan back in 1985. Loved the stuff so much I tried to get me a Jon Bon Jovi hairdo. Didn't work. Kinda like this album.

    There just needs to be something more. The minimalist approach simply exposes the huge flaws in these songs. This is one of the nobler efforts I've ever heard in the tribute realm. But, man, try it again. Please.


    Over the Wire
    (909 Records)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    The nice folks in the Bellrays sent me this disc (because it had one of their songs on it), but I figure I'll give a little notice on the entire proceedings.

    Mostly Valley bands (as in San Bernadino), though one band has an address in the city. The stuff is fairly varied, though generally tame. A lot of these bands sound like they're trying to catch up on the trends, and most don't make it.

    The Bellrays song is also the first one on the single, and it's easily the best of the bunch here. Honestly, the only other bands that sorta impressed me were High Horse and Los Infernos. Both straight up punk rawk (and what I said about the Infernos last year still stands).

    A noble idea, but the bands just aren't solid enough.


    Ozzfest: Live
    (Ozz/Red Ant)
    reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97

    Obviously, this makes for a good promotion tool for this summer's Ozzfest tour (many of the same bands are back), but if bands like Neurosis and Earth Crisis can get a boost from appearing on a disc with Sepultura, Fear Factory and Ozzy, well, that's fine by me.

    Live in a fairly real sense. I don't think there was much in the way of overdubbing (you can hear a few flubs here and there), but the sound is bright and punchy like a live album should be. And these folks were nice enough to give Neurosis a full seven minutes to get in the full effect of "Locust Star" (I'm betting the deadly silence you can hear throughout accompanied most of the Neurosis set).

    Oh, yeah, Biohazard, Slayer, Cellophane and Powerman 5000 also appear to round things out. I'm generally not a big fan of this sort of marketing gimmick (or live albums in general), but this puppy has been put together quite nicely, with solid performances to boot. Cool enough.


    Papa Nez: A Loose Salute to the Work of Michael Nesmith
    (Dren)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    He didn't start the roots rock rebellion of the late 60s. He was a Monkee. But Michael Nesmith wrote some of the best country rock songs of that era, and since then he's been an innovator in movies, on television and yes, even music.

    It takes a sorta masochism to really get into the career of a guy who made it big early doing something dumb and then kinda faded away into, well, greatness. If you never anything about Nesmith other than the Monkees, this disc might turn you on to something you weren't expecting.

    The performances are heartfelt, and while most are fairly true to Nesmith's own renditions (of the songs that are his, in any case--this is a "loose" tribute), I don't have as much of a problem with that here as I do with tributes to better-known artists.

    Indeed, most folks could listen to this album and say, "Hey, I know that song," a couple times. But again, most folks would think, "Hey, this is good shit," throughout. Nesmith's greatness can kinda sneak up on you. The quality, however, is undeniable.


    The Passion of Covers: A Tribute to Bauhaus
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    The slavish devotion many folk have to Bauhaus still eludes me. Sure, the band was one of the first true goth bands (back when the term didn't exist), but come on.

    Well, I suppose there have been sillier tributes (the Eagles and Kiss ones come to mind, mostly for the similar personnel), but Bauhaus was always this close to being a self-parody (a fact admitted in the liners here) it strikes me as strange so many would take the band so seriously.

    Alright, my revision of music history aside, this is still a redundant and absurd tribute. Goth bands wrapping even more pretension around Bauhaus songs that are hollow in the core. There is simply so little substance here, the songs blow away with the first little breath of wind.

    The goth-industrial reworking of "Dark Entries" by Kill Switch... Klick is about the most interesting bit here, and it's one of the lesser things that band has ever done. Take away the pun in the tribute's title and there is even less to like in the set. I've never made any bones about it: Tributes are mostly crap, in my opinion. This once certainly doesn't change my mind.


    Peaceville Vol. 4
    (Peaceville-Caroline)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    The more I hear from this label, the more I like. And the best of their past and present roster are featured here. While there aren't really any rare or special tracks here, this is a great introduction to a label that is just establishing itself on this side of the Atlantic. Much like what Grind Crusher did for Earache and In the Eyes of Death did for Century Media, this sampler should open a few eyes to the great sounds on Peaceville.


    Planetarium 2xCD
    (Planetary)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    I may have mentioned this compilation in my review of the Spinvoid disc last issue. So here it is: Two discs full of the finest electronic fare from the Richmond, Va., area.

    No scraping the bottom of the barrel here. The discs are packed and the stuff is inventive and fun. Most of the tracks are uptempo, but even so they're balanced. This isn't mere club fare. There's plenty of exploration going on.

    A solid set. I could have gone for a few more contemplative pieces rather than all the drum 'n' bass and other speedy styles. I know at least some of these acts are a little more versatile and creative than the tracks here show.

    Ah, but that's petty carping. This is a more public-friendly set than I would craft, and it certainly jumps through all of the creativity hoops as well. That's why I don't run a record label. I'd never sell a damned thing.


    Porn Star--Hell Bent for Pleasure
    (Grilled Cheese-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    Twenty-three melodic punk bands contribute tracks to this, which I can only surmise is a "soundtrack" for the Porn Star clothing company. With bands like Blink 182, Good Riddance and the Ataris, well, there are plenty of reasons for checking this out.

    I don't think this puppy is overloaded with unreleased tracks or anything. Actually, I'm not sure what the point is, past a cool mix tape.

    It does work as that, though, so there's not much room fer bitching. Can't complain about a nice pile of bouncy, aggro tuneage.


    Prime Cuts: From Funky Beats to Funky House
    (IRMAmerica-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Italian disco of recent vintage. So you not only get old school bouncy grooves, but a good dose of latter-day dance music as well. Very poppy, but hell, it's dance music.

    And that's all this stuff is intended to be. It works, too. The beats are fresh and inventive, and they never let up. I can't say that there's a real "Italian" sound here, but all of the DJs involved do have a deft touch and they know what keeps people on the floor.

    Fun. That's all. There's plenty of faceless dance compilations wandering about, and this is one of the better ones. Good grooves to go.


    Probe Mission USA (advance cassette)
    (NovaMute)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    A compilation of +8 Records artists. This means electronic dance music coming out of the Detroit area. There's a reason this stuff is undergound: it is a challenge to listen to.


    Punch Drunk II
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    A lot of stuff from the TKO stable, and some licensed stuff thrown in for good measure. As near as I can tell, most of this has been previously released, but still, there's one hell of a raggedy punk mix tape going on here.

    Yeah, it's just another label sampler. But since TKO specializes in punk with a bite, there's no shortage of energy here. The 25 tracks provide a nice overview of what it is that TKO foists upon an unsuspecting earth.

    Probably more of a treat for those who aren't familiar with the TKO lineup, this set nonetheless stands quite well on its own. Blistering in the wind.


    Punch Drunk III
    (TKO)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Just yer basic label sampler. Almost. TKO always takes care to jam its collections full of music, and this is no exception. Twenty-six bands grace this disc, and about half the tracks are previously unreleased or available only on vinyl. So completists have a reason to plunk down their change.

    TKO specializes in aggressive, tuneful punk, ranging from oi to hardcore with plenty of stops in between. A veritable cornucopia of punk on this set.

    I like to think of the Punch Drunk series as solid mix discs, the sorta thing I'd make more of if I had the time. Glad the kind folks at TKO did it for me.


    Punk Archives
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Cleopatra has licensed so much punk stuff, it keeps cranking discs like this out. Not that there aren't decent tunes here. These tracks are taken from Jungle Records, featuring such acts as UK Subs, Manufactured Romance, Johnny Thunders and the Adicts. There is stuff with some sort of historical significance.

    And there's a lot of crap. I could go through the vault and cull a similar album simply by rolling dice. The songs don't match up together well. This has all the personality of a K-Tel hits compilation.

    I'm really not trying to be mean, but this just isn't inspiring. It's bleed the contracts for the cash. Not a terribly punk thing to do, now is it?


    Punk Chartbusters
    (Wolverine-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Well, these are popular songs played by punk bands. A lot of the recordings kinda blow. And some of the songs won't be particularly familiar to American audiences.

    Do you really need to hear a punk band (in this case, Terrorgruppe) play "As Tears Go By"? I don't.

    But if you do, this puppy is out there. Enjoy.


    Punk Chartbusters Vol. 2
    (Wolverine-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Uniformly better produced than the first set. Once again, I have to ask the question, do we really need a punk version of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down?" Probably not. There is also the added translation problem in that many of these "chartbusters" never made it across the Atlantic. The designers didn't pay a whole lot of attention to detail (it's Don Henley, not Don Hanley, guys), which simply adds to my perception that this is a slap-dash affair.

    Still, it is more enjoyable than the first edition. Whoever cranked these out did learn from the initial offering. That's always a good sign.


    Punk Chartbusters Vol. 3 2xCD
    (Wolverine-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    You know, sequels generally don't outdo their predecessors. But this Punk Chartbusters is bigger and better than the first two.

    For starters, there are a few American (MxPx, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Samiam, etc.) and better-known European (Millencolin, No Fun at All, Snuff, etc.) bands on the set. The sound is better. Even the songs are better. There's even a version of "She Loves You" in German (one of two songs the Beatles actually recorded in that language as a tribute to their Hamburg days).

    Everything from A-Ha to Frank Zappa, with plenty of non-American "hits" as well. There are 50 songs on this set, and most of them are great, spirited renditions of cheesy pop songs. That's right in the punk wheelhouse. It took three tries, but the folks finally got this idea right.


    Punk Chartbusters 4 2xCD
    (Wolverine-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    The covers compilation series that has spawned a clothing line. I'm not kidding. Look in the liners.

    Ah well, this is one of those series that has gotten better with age. More music, higher production values, more intriguing choices. I mean, how many discs do you know that would segue from "Eve of Destruction" to Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" to the Pet Shop Boys' "Suburbia" ?

    So if pop punk versions of all sorts of songs get you off (there are 53 tracks here, including a version of "We Are the World"), this is the best Chartbusters yet.


    Punk-O-Rama
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    A few folks on the Internet have been slagging on Epitaph (and its bands) because these folk are supposedly sell-outs.

    Excuse me? Yes, Epitaph has made a big wad of cash, mostly from people like you and me who love the bands and shell out the bucks for good music. Sure, most of the bands are pop-oriented as opposed to hardcore, but then everyone loved Green Day before they signed...

    And the point is, Epitaph is the best example of a truly successful truly independent record label. Yes, Brett has been really lucky. He's picked mostly great bands to record for his label. This compilation is the perfect exampler. Yeah, so I've heard all the songs here (though the Wayne Kramer and RKL are pretty new). I think the folks at Epitaph deserve a cheap celebration. Brett and Co. have earned it.


    Punk-O-Rama Vol. 2
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    A nice stack of quality tunes from easily the most successful and quite possibly the best punk label in the world.

    With a current roster that includes NOFX, the Voodoo Glow Skulls, New Bomb Turks and Pennywise, with catalog action from Rancid, the Offspring and Bad Religion, well, I'm not sure how you could doubt the quality. All of this stuff has already been released (with the exception of the Humpers, which comes out in a couple months, and the Thought Control), so collectors don't need to worry too much.

    Still, a fine celebration of the glories of Epitaph. A nice little trinket to stuff in Bobby's stocking.


    Punk-O-Rama 3
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Two unreleased tracks (from Pennywise and NOFX, the latter contributing a quaint track called "We Threw Gasoline on the Fire and Now We Have Stumps for Arms and No Eyebrows"). Plus 23 other songs, mostly from recent and upcoming releases.

    Basically, this is an Epitaph family portrait for 1998. As the company has grown more successful, the brood has grown and swelled. And this large collection doesn't even really touch on the Hellcat stuff.

    If you want a tastefully done Epitaph mix tape, this disc is primed for the purpose. I prefer the albums, myself, but then, I'm funny that way. Jut another reason to celebrate one of the cooler labels around.


    Punk-O-Rama 4: Straight Outta the Pit
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    The first track, a toss-off from Pennywise's recent recording sessions, is the only new thing here. Otherwise, this is an Epitaph class photo. Which is pretty good.

    This is only the fourth such disc. You really should know what to expect here. Twenty-five songs from 25 bands, all previously released except for the aforementioned Pennywise track. A good song, but not worth the price of admission if you've got the other stuff here.

    If not, though, you might want to check out what Epitaph's been doing the past year or so. That what this is all about, anyway. I really don't think much more needs to be said.


    Punk O Rama #5
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Yes, another low-priced mix disc from the folks at Epitaph. The only curiosities are the previously unreleased title tracks to the recent NOFX and ALL albums.

    That is a little weird, to say the least. And both songs are good, which makes me wonder if the wasn't some sort of marketing decision involved in withholding the tracks until now.

    Ahhh, I doubt it. I hope not, anyway. The rest of the disc, well, a track from most of the Epitaph lineup. Twenty-eight songs in all from the usual suspects.

    Is it worth buying for the title tracks? Depends on how badly you want to be a completist. The previously released stuff is, as usual, completely solid. A great big wad of fine punkage.


    Pure Spun Sugar
    (Candy Floss-American Pop Project)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    Power pop straight from the garage. The production values vary from mediocre to horrible, but the songs themselves take more chances than the average pop act.

    Which is why it is necessary to dig through the detritus to find some good stuff. None of the tracks here are great, but most of them have a quirk or two that easily impresses. Generally lighter in tone than most of the pop I've been hearing lately (this may also have something to do with the generally bad sound).

    Only 14 tracks, which makes this collection seem a bit skimpy compared to some I've reviewed recently. Still, there's enough here to keep a pophead on a sugar high for a good while.


    A Purge of Dissidents DVD/CD
    Art and storyboards by Dalek
    Animations by Jesse Olanday
    Soundtrack by Haze XXL

    (Ipecac)
    reviewed in issue #287, July 2007

    Haze XXL, of course, is another name for Tom Hazelmyer, the man behind AmRep and who was mixed up in just about everything that made the upper Midwest punk scene of the 80s so goddamned great. Which explains why folks like Buzz Osbourne and Grant Hart played with him.

    Oh, and why folks like Jon Spencer and David Yow dropped vocals for some singles. That's just a hint at the mind-bending music (everything from pile-driving terror to frontal-lobe-seizing keyboard bits) contained here.

    But then, of course, there's the art. The movies. Whatever. I've watched them twice, and I haven't figured them out yet. They're not surreal and they're not realist...I can't remember anything from art appreciation, so I can't really explain much except to say that there's a lot of carnage surrounding something that looks like Mickey Mouse after he spent a night partying with Hunter Thompson. Thompson, not Ralph Steadman--these pictures are computer-precise.

    As for the story, I dunno. I couldn't quite figure out if there was symbolism in anything or if the story (such as it is) should be taken as is. In the end, I watched it again. And that didn't help, either. But it sure looked cool and sounded better. Let's hope projects like this are the future of entertainment. Beats the shit out of Shrek 10: The Donkey Is an Ass.


    R.A.F.R. Volume 3
    (R.A.F.R.)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    A compilation designed to celebrate punk music. I can't divine any further intention, really. Of course, that's as good a reason as any. Especially when you've got stuff from the Humpers, Darlington, Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, the Bell Rays and more.

    Most of the bands here aren't R.A.F.R. bands. But all of the songs here are at least pretty cool. Some are real rippers. Even the covers have a solid edge. As a "mix tape" sorta set, this one really satisfies.

    Good music is a great reason to put together an album. Why worry about ulterior motives when there are so many fine sounds to enjoy? Radiant Decay: A Tribute to Nine Inch Nails
    (Vitamin-CMH)
    reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00

    This is unnecessary. Much like the Floyd disc, the arrangements are fairly similar to the originals. Except that here the percussion is rather similar to Reznor's. Which makes sense on one level: NIN is very much a rhythm-driven act. So where can the inspiration come in?

    I don't know, because I don't hear it. These are mostly watered-down covers, stuff that sounds suspiciously like factory seconds. There's just nothing here that provides any further insight to the music. And since there isn't that much NIN around to begin with, why not spin one a real disc instead of these leftovers?

    Boy, that little warm fuzzy I got with the Floyd thing has entirely disappeared. A lot of this probably comes from the fact that I actually like NIN, I'm sure, but I just couldn't tell you why this puppy exists. These are just run-throughs. There's no original thinking, no reworking going on. Bleah.


    Radio Oddyssey
    (Ichiban)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    A cool radio station (WRAS, Georgia State) has recorded tons of tapes of famous big-name artists, and asks their permission to release the set as a benefit. The cool, big-name artists agree. We get this set.

    Folks like G Love (sans the Special Sauce), Lisa Germano, Spearhead, Low Pop Suicide, the Wedding Present and Throwing Muses. A pretty diverse crowd. Mostly (but not all) unplugged. A few unreleased tracks, but mostly stuff you've heard before, if not in this kinda form.

    The only real drawback is in the press, which contains some real pretentious quotes from Shachar Oren, who produced this thing. Down boy. It's still just college radio.

    A nice set for a good cause. A disc for lay on when you've got company on the porch drinking beer. And some of the best times I had in college were like that. Dig this up and fly.


    Radio Oddyssey 2: The Georgia Music Show
    (Altered-Ichiban)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    The first Radio Oddyssey featured lots of famous bands playing live on WRAS (Georgia State's college music station), so #2 shines a spotlight on local talent. Right nice of them, really.

    And this disc does provide an interesting picture of the variety of music within the Peach State. And almost any sort of music you'd like to have represented is here; the compilers have done a nice job. The production is better than you might expect from a live-to-air recording in a college radio station, and the performances, while uneven, are generally good.

    And if you really dig one of the bands on the disc, contact info is printed right in the liners. No need to go searching high and low. These folks have done their jobs and crafted another fine set.

    A lot of fun to hear, and a fine bit of musical education to boot. The music is the star here, and there's plenty of that (and more) to go around.


    Reach the Rock soundtrack
    (Hefty)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Most of the music is performed by John McEntire, but Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Polvo, Diagonah and Bundy K. Brown all add one song each. So you should know what's coming.

    Inspired music which doesn't conform to any established norm, of course. McEntire's connection to Tortoise and Sea and Cake is well-established, and the other tracks meld in nicely. A cool set of complex, contemplative musical pieces. Not quite rock, not quite anything else, either.

    Moody, for the most part, but that simply sends the neurons properly on their merry way. This is a soundtrack which maintains its focus, so it also works very well as a stand-alone album. And unless you happen to live in a center of culture, you're much more likely to see this disc than the movie for which the music was produced.

    And, like I said, the music is more than worth the effort, movie or no. A fine exploration into the potential of musical expression. Got me spinning.


    Records for the Working Class: Deep Elm Sampler '98
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Yeah, one of those samplers without much in the way of previously unreleased stuff. Well, the Appleseed Cast and Flanders albums haven't come out yet (or I haven't gotten them yet, anyway), but this is a really nice picture of one of the top small indies.

    With such amazing bands as the recently departed (sigh) Walt Mink and up-and-comers Muckafurguson and Camber (all placed at the end, so as to create the highest sonic impact), there is plenty of good music. Deep Elm has a lot of good music to share with the world, and anyone who hasn't figured that out would do well to dig into this disc.

    Not much for collectors (or old fans, for that matter), but as a primer on the latest punk and pop waves, this is hard to match.


    Records for the Working Class No. 2
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    The only gimmick here is that this sampler is $3, postage paid world wide. That works rather well for me.

    I know John's not making a cent on the deal, but here's what you get: 19 songs from the Deep Elm catalog. If you even pretend to give a shit about emo and you haven't scoped out this label before, then by all means plunk down your three bucks. Don't even read the rest of this review.

    I don't usually go for the hard sell, but come on. If you are familiar with Deep Elm, then, you too can leave. I mean, there aren't any rarities here or anthing.

    Still around? Try this: Camber, Muckafurguson, Walt Mink, Appleseed Cast, Planes Mistaken for Stars... is this helping? Well, I've done what I can.


    Rev It Up!
    (Local Music Store)
    reviewed in issue #122, 11/4/96

    The Local Music Store produces a show for cable radio called Music Choice Unsigned. Now, some of these bands have been signed in the past (like the first band, Stick) and since dropped, but the current status is all that matters.

    This is, by design, a very uneven and wildly diverse set of music. About half of these bands are unsigned for a reason: They aren't doing anything original. Yeah, it seems like major labels keep releasing the same crap over and over again (it's true), but that stuff has been in the pipeline for quite a while before it hits the fan. I can assure you that few grunge (of which there are a few here) bands are getting the time of day from any label, much less a major.

    Some of this stuff is pretty cool, though. Toy's "Everything Seems" is a nice little ditty, though I'd have to hear more to be really taken. I didn't really find much else that pricked up my ear, though plenty of this stuff is good enough to wander past a few A&R desks, I guess.

    That's not enough to satisfy me, though. This set of tunes is rather excessively commercial-sounding for "unsigned" bands. Wish there was a bit more of a creative spark.


    Revelations Book II: Popaganda, the Second Coming
    (Which?)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Not exactly a various artists outing, as Ron English wrote (or co-wrote) all the lyrics on these songs. He then recruited a number of bands and artists (from Daniel Johnston and Mojo Nixon to Phoebe Legere and Railroad Jerk). English produced many, but not all of these songs.

    As you might have guessed, all the songs are ruminations of a sort on the whole notion of religion. Something of an idiosyncratic vision of a certain Second Coming. Thoughtful, but not reverent. Indeed, the loose sound of most songs lends a more "realistic" feel to the ideas.

    And so, despite the rather disparate musical roots of the artists, the songs hold together with the strength of English's writing. Each song takes a different musical tack, but in the end, the songs still come together.

    A refreshing (if somewhat sacrilegious) take on the mess that our country (and planet) has made of religion. Eloquent and engaging, which isn't exactly the easiest trick to turn.


    Right in the Nuts 2xCD
    (Small Stone)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Really, if you're gonna do a tribute to one of the most excessive bands around, you might as well be excessive in your own right. A two-disc tribute? Oh, fuck yeah!

    Showing some taste, the tribute focuses on Aerosmith's classic 70s output. There are a couple of songs from the stillborn Rock in a Hard Place album, and a nice run-through of "Let the Music Do the Talking," which has already done double duty as a Joe Perry Project and Aerosmith song.

    The names aren't particularly well-known, with the exception of Raging Slab. Many of the bands come from Man's Ruin, Tee Pee and Small Stone lineups, with plenty of unsigned bands around as well.

    The only problem is that many of these renditions are merely badly-produced straight covers. There's a lot of rocking hard, but not much attention paid to reimagining the songs. Is this better than a mix tape of these songs? Nope, and the performances sound way too much like the originals to be much else.


    Ripped Up and So Sedated 7"
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #40, 9/30/93

    Four bands, only one of which has a regular contract with the Cargo folks. You all should know 16 Volt from their fine Wisdom disc, but don't miss the other bands, especially Eggbound, which really took out my gluteus and maximized pain upon it.

    If you don't play seven-inches, you are really denying yourself some of the best bands and songs around. I know I soapboxed on the Faye single as well, but come on, folks! Every band on here deserves airplay. It's up to you to give it to them.


    The Risin' Cost of Livin' High and Lovin' Hard
    (PIAPTK)
    Khat Taleth
    (Stronghold Sound)
    reviewed 5/1/13

    I've always been attracted to the expression of politics in music. I didn't much care about P.E.'s incessant references to the "honorable" Elijah Muhammad, but I liked the rhetoric of revolution that swirled around the beats.

    As I hacked through the past in my own attempt to craft a personal music history, I discovered that rock and roll was hardly the first revolutionary music. Hank Williams' "I'm Still Here" is one of the main templates for Johnny Cash's talking blues songs (the greatest of them being "Man in Black," a song whose expression of solidarity with the sinners and the downtrodden would seem radical if released today by, say, Brad Paisley or Keith Urban), and jazz was itself a revolutionary movement. Going further back, there are plenty of examples of composers who dabbled (or dove right into) politics.

    There are some folks who believe that politically-themed music has disappeared, that all we have today are a bunch of processed clones who sing stupid songs about stupid people. They're wrong, of course, but political music isn't at the forefront of the mainstream these days. At least, not in the United States.

    "Khat Thaleth" is an Arabic term that means (roughly) "third rail." The artists on the new collection of the same name from Stronghold Sound rap in Arabic (largely) about the events in their homelands. As near as I can tell from translations, most of these songs call for peace and freedom. Gotta love idealism. In most of the world, peace means repression, and freedom means unsettled lives--if not outright war. But these artists have dreams, and they're worth examining.

    The beats are old school (there are plenty of Bomb Squad references, and the use of sampled speeches predominates), while the thoughts expressed are presented as a new way of thinking about and within the Middle East (I have to trust the translations on this).

    If all that seems a bit pretentious, it probably is. But hey, music is one of the best ways to advance change within a culture. "Let's Spend the Night Together" wasn't a revolutionary thought, but it was a thought that wasn't expressed in public (and polite) society. By that measure, Ice-T's "L.G.B.N.A.F." is probably still ahead of its time--even if all of us would like to GBNAF more often than we actually do.

    Forgive the digression. I doubt that the songs on Khat Thaleth are going to sow the seeds of revolution or even cultural change. They're probably just artifacts of this moment in time--a time when almost anything seems possible in the Middle East. These artists prefer to dream of a better future, rather than the still-dark present.

    Kris Kristofferson was never a revolutionary. More than once he mentioned that selling a song to Johnny Cash was all he wanted from his music career. That's almost certainly a lie, but Kristofferson has always portrayed himself as possessing a calculated diffidence. He recently released a memoir, and he said that he wouldn't be doing a late-life song cycle a la Cash because people didn't really buy his records because he had a great voice.

    Ah, but he did have a great voice. A great writing voice. As the twenty-eight tracks on The Risin' Cost of Livin' High and Lovin' Hard show, Kristofferson articulated a certain wry amusement at the follies of the sixties like nobody else. The artists on this tribute do a fine job of capturing the wrenching political discourse of the late 60s and early 70s that permeates many of Kristofferson's songs.

    "Sunday Morning Coming Down" isn't a political song, per se, but given the audience for country music (then, as now, church-going white folks in the South), a song that celebrated sleeping in on Sundays while nursing a hangover could certainly be seen as bucking the culture. Getting Johnny Cash (whose religious beliefs were fervent, if disheveled) to sing it was another coup. And yes, it has always sounded better in Johnny's voice.

    Twenty-eight songs is too much to digest at once--unless you simply let the music flow and don't pay close attention. That will allow Kristofferson's gift for the conversational song to meander through your brain without causing your logic centers to snap.

    Khat Thaleth is an overtly political compilation. The Risin' Cost deals with personal politics and showcases Kristofferson's unique mind. They're not the same, but they compliment each other quite nicely. And both are a reminder that no matter how dreadful the music might be at the top of the pops, there's always somebody out there saying something worth hearing.


    Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 2xCD
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #257, September 2004

    Twenty-eight songs (20 of them rare or previously unreleased) on one CD, and six videos, three comedy pieces and six political shorts on the other. Fat Mike isn't a fan of the Prez, and he's enlisted an army of punkers to his cause.

    Well, it's not like we need encouragement, right? Of course this stuff is preaching to the choir. I suppose the proper political term is "energizing the base." Whatever. The tunes are good. The cause is righteous.

    I'm pretty sure I don't really need to say much more. I think I can count the fans of the Prez who read A&A on one hand (if that), so this one's a no brainer. If you like tuneful punk music, this stuff is priced to sell.


    Rock Outside the Box, Vol. II 2xCD
    (Socyermom)
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    A note of disclosure: My brothers's band, Old Beans, has a track ("Republican Girls", click to hear) on this compilation, so feel free to discount anything I say. But given that "Republican Girls" has garnered a good amount of attention from the local (Albuquerque) press, mostly due to its--ahem--unrefined humor, perhaps my opinion isn't completely biased.

    Whatever. I do like these "scene-based" compilations because they give bands that might never commit anything to tape (like Old Beans) a chance to be immortalized, even if only on a couple thousand discs destined to fill the local pawn shops. And believe it or not, Albuquerque has a fairly strong and diverse music scene.

    The Shins once hailed from the Big Q, and I myself have reviewed releases from a few of the bands on this compilation (which merely says they're fairly obscure). Nonetheless, this set does a fine job of showing off the depth and breadth of sounds in the area.

    Thirty tracks, and within them something almost for everyone. The sound quality of these recordings is remarkable--all bands recorded at Stepbridge Studios with Tim Stroh heading the knobs. Yeah, that's something of a windfall for the studio (even if the work was done at a discount), but it also provides a stable baseline for all the bands. I think the quality results speak for themselves. This is a fine snapshot of a scene in motion.


    Salsa Mundo
    (Candela)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    This collection brings together salsa bands from the Caribbean, Scandinavia, Africa, Japan and Western Europe. While there are a few differences (having more to do with personal taste than regional traditions), the more interesting fact is that all these bands are obviously playing out of the same canon, no matter what language is used.

    That uniformity of approach is something of a detriment, really. I would have preferred to hear bands that are a bit more disparate. Sure, I can hear minute differences, but what this collection is more a testament to the pervasive international music industry than the triumph of salsa.

    Still, the bands here are talented, and the songs don't condescend to the listener. This isn't silly, cheesy stuff, but music that any aficionado would appreciate. It's not everything I would have wanted, but this set is pretty good.


    Sample This! The Best of BYO and Big Daddy Records
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    This sampler shows off BYO's impressive catalog (Big Daddy is the "alternative" wing of BYO, showing off swing, ska and other sounds). Bands like Bouncing Souls, SNFU and Hepcat have moved on to the Epitaph universe (and greater fame), and most everyone has heard of Royal Crown Revue (and its new label's vendetta against any band with "Royal Crown" in its name).

    So, a quality sample for your hard-earned $4.99. Yeah, okay, this puppy is a year old at this point, but if you haven't climbed on with BYO yet, this should provide a decent entry point. I mean, if tracks from 7 Seconds, Jon Cougar Concentration Camp and Aztlan Underground don't get you going, I'm sorry.

    Of course, this stuff is previously released. No need for fans to plunk down a fiver. But a pretty picture, in any case.


    A Saucerful of Pink (advance review)
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Lots of goth, industrial and space rockers do Pink Floyd tunes. All done well, but personally, I'd rather see the roster of Epitaph do Pink Floyd. Something different, ya know?


    Scavengers in the Matrix
    (If It Moves-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    A little more club-oriented than most of the stuff on Re-Constriction (the Cargo label run by Chase, If It Moves being actually owned by him), things range from merely upbeat to truly experimental dance music.

    There are a few Reconstriction artists here, and a cool song by Recliner, a Vampire Rodents-Babyland side project (sounds like an early version of a tune from Lullabyland).

    Like most compilations, production values and music quality do vary, but as usual, Chase has brought a load of great stuff together, weeding out the chaff. Crank it, enjoy, and pick your own favorites.


    Scene Killer Vol. 2
    (Outsider)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Thirty whole songs from 30 bands, most of which are unreleased. Punk, of course, bands like Anti-Flag, Dropkick Murphys and Bonecrusher (the latter reviewed in this issue). A whole lot of bands I've never heard before.

    For the most part, though, I'd like to hear more. As can be expected with a compilation like this, the production quality isn't always the best. And some of the songs trend toward the generic.

    But surprisingly few, really. Quite a taste of the real punk underground.


    Schizoid Dimension: A Tribute to King Crimson
    (Purple Pyramid-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    Some of the more creative minds in space and industrial music take on the highly regimented and technical legacy of King Crimson. Now, here's a tribute that actually makes sense.

    Pressurehed, Chrome (the new Helios Creed-only version), Controlled Bleeding, David Cross and others leave their marks on this often incomprehensible set of musics. Now, if anyone could make sense out of the random atrocities committed by King Crimson, it's these sorts of folks.

    My biggest problem with the Crimson was that the music seemed to be executed without a great deal of emotion. And while that carries over somewhat to the performances here, most of these acts do a pretty good job of actually finding a spark of life in the vagaries of King Crimson.

    Certainly, at least, these bands aren't replicating. They're re-creating. And that's the only reason for a tribute. I've been highly critical of many Cleopatra tributes, but this one makes the grade. For once, the concept is good


    Secret Agent S.O.U.N.D.S.
    (Mai Tai-Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    Sticking aS much as possible to the sixties (where there is plenty of stuff to mine), the compilers of this set got a load of the coolest instrumental acts (and a few that sing sometimes, too) to cover themes from spy shows, cop shows and a few movies.

    Personally, I'm damned happy to hear that spooky guitar sound (and wacked out vocals) promulgated by Deadbolt. And such luminaries as Huevos Ranchers, Los Straitjackets, Man or Astroman?, Forbidden Dimension and Combustible Edison also take part.

    The tunes are pretty much straight run-throughs, in each band's personal style. In other words, you recognize both the tune and the players. That's a decent way to do a cover.

    A nicely put set that seems a bit cheap, but not enough to worry me. Radio commercial fodder for years here.


    Sell Out With the In Crowd
    (Pinch Hit)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Twelve bands from the Bay Area. Cool pop rock, for the most part. Bands like Applesaucer, Red Planet and more.

    Not unlike the Cue's compilation reviewed earlier, this set was expertly selected and sequenced. If you like thick, chewy pop songs with plenty of guitars, I think you'll find this stuff pretty hard to resist.

    Compilations this good are hard to find. Usually there are way too many clunkers and the stuff doesn't quite fit together. Neither of those issues exist here. Just some cool tunes by bands who could use some exposure. Dig in.


    Shake the Nations 2xCD
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    A celebratory retrospective, taking a track from every Wordsound release, re-mixing most. I've been hooked up with these folks for about a year, and I've been terribly impressed. The releases are consistently creative and inventive, with an excellent ear for moving the whole concept of electronic music into a whole new realm.

    As could be expected, the remixes on this set take large chances. This compulsion for reinventing the wheel does result in some tracks that don't quite live up to the originals, but with the bar as high as it is, that's not a big concern.

    Within the two hours of music here lies a lifetime of ideas and emotions. Wordsound is merely the conduit for this traffic in dreams, but I'm overjoyed such a path exists. These artists go to the edge; it's great that there's a label who is only too happy to venture right along.


    Shanti Project Collection
    (Badman)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    A benefit for the Shanti Project of San Francisco, which has a number of programs for those living with HIV and AIDS. Five bands: Red House Painters, Low, Idaho, Hayden and Misc. The sounds don't match up exactly, and about half the tracks have appeared on various albums and such.

    It is a good cause, and that's what the disc is here to promote. The songs chosen are good, and if you're up for some meditative music (not dull, just introspective), that's the mood here. Think. Or something.

    Good songs and a good cause. A fine reason for a benefit disc. Fans of the bands involved (and others) would do well to scope this out.


    Short Music for Short People
    (Fat Wreck)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Perhaps the finest concept album of all time. A hundred and one bands singing songs that clock in at less than 30 seconds apiece. Okay, CDs can only hold 99 tracks (so the last three songs are crammed into one segment). Minor problem. I'm not going into and extensive list of who's here, except to say that the Fat Wreck, Epitaph, and Lookout band of importance is here, and most of the real heavy hitters: Bad Religion, Green Day, Lunachicks, D.O.A., Gwar, Samiam, Black Flag and Circle Jerks.

    Every sort of punk music is represented, though all of the songs are fairly poppy (how else can you do a 30 second piece, unless you emulate Napalm Death's classic "You Suffer", a relative of the Descendents "All"). This collection is guaranteed to get the blood flowing and the brain smiling.

    I wasn't kidding when I said this might be the best compilation ever. When I heard about the project, I thought it sounded brilliant. The execution is even more impressive. There is no way to be disappointed by this album. Period.

    I know, I'm dripping spooge all over this, but hell, it deserves devotion. Kudos to whoever thought of it, and most of all, to whoever coordinated it. I said it before. Brilliant. Fucking brilliant. No two ways about it. My heart abounds with joy. Goddamnit, this is amazing.


    The Show: Volume One video
    (SideOneDummy)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    "The Show" is TV show produced in L.A. by the SideOneDummy folks. Even if I didn't know that at first, I'd be able to tell by the SideOneDummy.com ads in between every segment of this tape. Those ads are really, really annoying.

    The segments themselves, however, are pretty cool. Host Joe Sib doesn't take his guests seriously, and since we're talking about real punkers here, the guests generally don't take the interviews seriously, either. After each interview is a video or (most often) some life footage from the band. The sound is pretty good and the camerawork is amateurish.

    Which helps to lend a certain charm to "The Show." After all, this is punk rock, and punk ain't perfect. If it weren't for all the unnecessary ads (which really began to grate after a while), I'd give this my unqualified approval. As it is, I still have to say I liked "The Show" loads.


    Shut Up Kitty
    (Reconstriction)
    reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93

    Lots of digi-core (new term to me) acts tear up a lot of well-known tracks, from "She watch Channel Zero?!" (A-Politiq) and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Xorcist) to "Good Vibrations" (Fleshhouse) and "Paranoid" (16 Volt). The only real clunker is KMFDM's oddly faithful version of ooT's "Mysterious Ways". It just doesn't make any sense.

    On the other hand, a lot of this is pretty cool, especially when songs are just completely deconstructed. One of my faves is Diatribe's metallization of Sugarcubes "Cold Sweat." Very weird and fun to hear.

    As for the concept behind this, I find it a little dubious. Oh well. At least the music is more than worthy.


    Sides 1-4 double 7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    Four cool bands rip through AC/DC material. With more similar 7"s to come. This is either a brilliant idea, or perhaps the dumbest one of all time.

    Well, let's see. Shellac does "'95 Jailbreak", Big'N does "T.N.T.", Brise-Glace cobbles together a few songs as "Angus Dei Aus Light" and U.S. Maple tosses off "Sin City." Oh, and a cool comic book (the story continues throughout the series).

    Alright, so it's brilliant. Shellac does a decent noise-deconstruct of its song, alternately annoying and groovy. Big'N simply degrades "T.N.T." into a gooey mess. The Brise-Glace thing is perfectly wild, and U.S. Maple wraps up the set with a perfectly chilling performance.

    It goes without saying the coolest thing about this set is that the bands did only Bon Scott-era tunes. Getting into the '80s is still passe. One of the strangest and coolest tribute sets around. Catch on to the series.


    Sides 5-6 7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Two more installments on the Skin Graft AC/DC tribute plan. And if two more disparate acts could be found to share one small slab of vinyl, I can't think of it.

    Yes, that's Palace (with another somewhat new moniker) rambling through "Big Balls", turning the heavy blues piece into a very weird, wailing lament. Definitely over the top, but highly amusing nonetheless.

    Zeni Geva pounds out a surprisingly rote version of "Let There Be Rock" (though the initial riff employed sounds a lot more like "You've Got Another Thing Coming" than anything AC/DC has played). Oh, once the verse kicks in it's 100 percent Zeni Geva, but I was still surprised by the straightness of the delivery.

    Not quite as enthralling as the initial double 7", this puppy still keeps the whole project going strong. That Palace bit should really start some heads scratching when it hits the airwaves. Cool by me.


    Sides 7-10 2x7"
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    The final, epochal conclusion to one of the more inspired tribute sets in the history of music. Well, maybe that's overstating the case. But what the hell. On this set, Mount Shasta does in "Whole Lotta Rosie", Denison Kimball Trio does something called " Back in Blanc", Zeek Sheck checks in with "Wowy-The Love Song" (a take on, well, your guess is as good as mine) and Killdozer fittingly closes the cycle with "Let Me Put My Love Into You".

    The Mount Shasta take is straightforward and raucous. A lot of fun, if nothing else. Good and messy. The Denison Kimball Trio deconstructs various AC/DC riffs, providing one of the more eerily astonishing moments in the series (right up there with Palace's howling of "Big Balls"). Really, the thing is damned spooky.

    The Zeek Sheck (along with her Cloud People) contribution is a barely recognizable mish-mash. Of course, expecting any less would have been silly. It's the sort of song which gives children nightmares. But the simple masterstroke of the series was to leave Killdozer for last. And what a song. Just the sort of slow grind which the 'Dozer rode for years. This rendition simply makes me miss the guys that much more.

    Add to these wondrous musical gifts another cool comic (continuing the series as well), and you've got a superlative package. I believe all these 7"s will be collected in a compilation CD someday, but personally, I'd suggest grabbing the vinyl. You don't want to wait.


    The Silence in My Heart
    The Emo Diaries, Chapter Six

    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    John Szuch has put together an amazing track record with Deep Elm. A lot of great bands, most of whom practice that ever-amorphous sound some call emo. The Emo Diaries series focuses on young, generally unsigned bands who have a great song that lots of people should hear.

    This is the sixth installment, and the stuff is as solid as ever. The evolution of the sound is apparent, especially if you play the compilations one after another in order. Almost an anthropological survey. A pleasant one, of course, one that is very easy on the ears.

    I think of this series as public service as much as anything else. The bands need the publicity, other folks like to know where emo might travel next. Some of us just like cool discs chock full of outstanding music. Whatever your reason, you know this is a must.


    Silver Lake... What a Drag!
    (Neurotic)
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Eight bands, two songs from each. Generally in that pop way, by way of punk.

    Widely varying in sound, too. Bands like Fluorescin and the Negro Problem make some really gorgeous pop music, while Velouria and Pop Defect crank out the punk gems. Extra Fancy throws in a couple more experimental pieces. Lutefisk, Touch Candy and Snap-Her complete the line-up.

    The only thing that keeps this set together is the geographic area. And that serves well enough. None of the songs suck, and many are quite good. Honestly, this is much better than I expected, even though I already liked a couple of the bands here.

    Much cooler than anticipated.


    Skins & Pinz Volume II
    (GMM)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Just yer basic label compilation. Of course, when your label has releases from Dropkick Murphys, Agnostic Front, Anti Heros, Templars, One Way System and the like, your compilation is likely to be good.

    And so this is pretty solid. Mostly previously released material, though you might find a couple gems you haven't heard. Solid stuff from a label full or working-class bands.

    That's pretty much what's to found here. No grand bits of philosophy. No musical wizardry. Just crunchy punk rock. Good fiber for the colon, you know?


    Skratch Trax 1 1/2
    (Hapi Skratch)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    The "1/2" is in reference to Skratch Trax 1, which was available only as sound files on the internet. All but one of the acts on the disc is from Colorado, and compilation co-producer Dave Beegle (Morris Beegle also produced) played guitar on most of the songs.

    So I'm not sure how many of these acts are still around or if albums are forthcoming from very many of these bands. Beegle's main project, Fourth Estate, has two tracks, so I'm guessing there might be an album there at some point.

    Much of the music fits into some sort of hippie rock groove (particularly if you blend in folk, acoustic blues and the like), though there are exceptions, particularly Fourth Estate, which is a fairly traditional-sounding power rock act.

    The wide range of sounds is impressive, even if some of the songs really aren't very good. An interesting sketch of the music scene north of Denver (with some "foreign" ringers, of course).


    Skratch Trax 2000 Vol. #2
    (Hapi Skratch)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    The folks sent me a selection of music a while back (a couple years ago, maybe?), and I'm afraid I was less than complimentary. I usually have my reasons (generally they involve me not liking the music), but I pissed the folks off right good. I don't like to do that.

    So you might understand by reticence and the generally careful way I'm gonna write this review. In general (though not universally) the music on this disc falls into that acoustic groove/post-hippie kinda sound, which really isn't my thing. Most of the songs are well-written (in terms of craft), and the sound is pretty good.

    What I do find missing is that intangible something which pricks up my ears. Perhaps it's just that these are generally (though, once again, not universally) easy-going rock and country-rock songs. Even when the tempos pick up and the guitars start ringing out, I'm not terribly excited.

    All that said, I'd like to emphasize from a technical standpoint, there are quite a few well-written pieces, and all of them are produced well as well. And not all of the songs fall into the categories that I've described. Hapi Skratch has done a pretty good job of presenting a diverse set. I really do wish that most of the music got me off just a little bit more.


    Skullcrushers
    (Relativity)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    Simply put, this is a money-whore project. Put together a bunch of previously-released songs by decent or once decent bands so that some idiot will think he's buying a new song from Megadeth.

    You've heard all these songs before. You've played them all before. This isn't even remotely new music. There is no reason for this to get airplay, period.


    A Slice of Lemon
    (Kill Rock Stars-Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Two labels hit 100 at the same time, kicking out a collection of 40 bands that clocks in at just over 100 minutes. That's quite a load.

    Anyone familiar with either of these labels knows the emphasis is on attitude and noise as opposed to real songsmithing, but intermixed with the raucous bits are songs by such tunemeisters as Pansy Division, Cub and Mr. T Experience.

    Yeah, with any collection this large there is sure to be some shit. But one person's shit is another's orgasmic experience (just ask Chuck Berry), so plow through and you're sure to find Valhalla somewhere.

    A cool way to celebrate milestones, and the two labels do it collectively, in style and in true punk community fashion.


    Slip This On & Rock Hard
    (Slipdisc/Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    A sampler giving a brief picture of what Slipdisc plans to do with its new Mercury/Polygram connection. This label has signed up many of my favorite industrial/electronic acts like Clay People, Final Cut and 16 Volt.

    The Final Cut tracks here are old. Like off their 1996 album Atonement on Fifth Colvmn. Apparently Slipdisc is re-releasing that fine disc. Okay. I was just hoping for some new stuff.

    No 16 Volt on this set, and the one Clay People track is a live rendition of "Car Bomb", which is a song I haven't heard before. And in case you wondered if the band could replicate its attitude (if not its sound) live, well, this should straighten you out.

    Other bands on this set include Nihil and Rorschach Test (reviewed in this issue), N17 (reviewed a while back), Mary's Window and 13 Mg. All residing in the industrial universe, but with plenty of different sounds. A pretty strong lineup.


    Slow Death in the Metronome Factory
    (World Domination)
    reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97

    This compilation features a wide range of spacey electronic acts, many of whom are affiliated with Swim or World Domination. The good folks putting this together were careful to include a fine selection of bands from other labels as well, which does help keep this disc up to standards.

    A variety of electronic sounds abound. Tending toward the mellow, but with plenty of dub, ambient and general far out influences in evidence. Basically, this is a collection of eclectic artists who use technology to further their sonic visions. It fits together in more of a mood way than by any particular type.

    And in this way it fits right in with the Coldwave Breaks and Chipie collections review above. The impetus isn't to sell loads of records from one label's roster, but to expose people to new ideas and bands they might not have come across before. The good reason for putting together a compilation. A good compilation, period.


    Smoke on the Water-A Tribute
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    Glam heroes of yesteryear take on the legacy of a big influence. Sure, it's kinda nice to hear Yngwie Malmsteen again. Kinda. And I was wondering what Don Dokken (not to mention Kip Winger) was doing these days.

    Of course, the "names" are plugged in over the Shrapnel house band, which does a nice job of reworking the obvious Deep Purple hits.

    The real question here: do we need this? Like the Cream collection, the answer is no. Deep Purple is a great band for drinking, but innovators? Nope. This is almost as good as listening to the scratchy LPs But not quite.


    Sociedad=Suciedad
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    A collective album crafted by five bands: The Blues Experiment, Aztlan Underground, Ollin, Quinto Sol and Ozomatli. They put together 13 tracks which tell a loosely constructed story about Los Angeles.

    Like the culture of the city itself, these songs incorporate a number of musical influences. Each piece is a mish-mash of styles and ideas. The picture is grim, but the tone is hopeful.

    A concept album, certainly, but completely without pretentious overtones. This disc easily flows from subject to subject, and culture to culture, without sounding contrived or forced.

    Oh, so impressive. This is what happens when a large group of people works together without concern for ego or personal gain. The collective result is strengthened, and in this case, an amazing statement is made. To complicated for one sentence, but perfectly expressed as an album.


    Something's Gone Wrong Again: The Buzzcocks Covers Compilation
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #8, 2/29/92

    I did spend my formative years listening to Abba and Styx, (as the press said) and missed out on the Buzzcocks when they were vital. But that doesn't mean a person can make up for lost time and great music missed.

    A note: Like this COULD suck. Sure, with the Fluid, Coffin Break, Alice Donut, Naked Raygun and the Accused contributing? Get a life. This is what life is all about: celebrating good music. I can sleep at night now.

    I know I swore off tracks, but I have to mention Porn Orchard's take on "Why Can't I Touch It?" There. I did.


    Sometimes God Smiles
    (Discipline Global Mobile)
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    Yes, it's just a sampler disc. A 30-track set including stuff from King Crimson and its various side projects. As DGM is mostly (but not completely) devoted to Crimson members and ex-memebers, that's what you get.

    Which is a lot. If you're an old-line fan, and you want to know what Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and others have been doing, well, you can either buy the discs (an advisable tactic) or pick this up.

    Some labels have a few nice things to show off. DGM's cornucopia overflows. As this gorgeously-appointed sampler amply proves.


    Somewhere in the City Soundtrack
    (Velvel/BMG)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    The score is by John Cale, and his stuff is interspersed with tracks from such disparate artists as Ani Difranco, Yoko Ono, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and Sandra Bernhard (who also stars in the film). There's a track from Cardinal Woolsey ("I Get a Rush", which can also be found on the band's excellent disc Paralyzed with Happiness, one ofmy all-time favorite albums). A big load of stuff to swallow.

    Cale's score rambles about, a string piece here, a piano dirge there. What stuff of his that is here (about 10 minutes worth) is rather interesting. Wish there was more. As most of the other tracks, like the one Cardnial Woolsey, are previously released and can be found elsewhere, there's not a whole lot here to groove on. Though I likethe sequencing, and the songs picked are pretty good.

    Soundtracks can be truly maddening. Usually the score parts are dull, but Cale's work here is rather good. I'd like to hear a lot more. The songs are good, even if I've heard some before. A weird mishmash, but a decent one.


    Songs for the Jet Set
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97

    A set of 12 "loungecore" tracks. More than a few of these tracks don't seem to be on the level, and I kinda like that subversive comment on a dreadful musical trend.

    One the other hand, there are bands here who really seem to think that Dean Martin epitomized the be all and end all of the sixties musical experienced. Even someone as establishment as Peter Sellars was able to properly satirize that notion.

    For every track as nicely goofy as Loveletter's take on "Barbarella" there is one as dreck-filled as Milky's "The Emperor of Oranges". The Wallpaper tracks are amusing instrumental (or wordless vocal) excursions, and Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper's "Schoolgirl Psychedelia" rather points out the whole futility of the sound even as it plys those waters.

    A joke or a tribute? Probably both, though any purchaser will probably be of one mind or the other. I simply find all this fascination with such sounds weird.


    Songs for the Jet Set Vol. 2
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #173, 12/14/98

    Simply proof that my taste in music is about exactly the opposite of the general public. I had a few nice things to say about the first installment in this series, but generally, I deplored the whole lounge revival.

    And I still don't like it. But once again, I do get the sense that some of the acts here are making fun of the trend, and some are dead-up serious. For example, "Zap the World", brought to us by Death by Chocolate, a quirky electronic act. A wonderfully goofy song.

    But there's not enough of that, and way too much cheesy soft-rock guitar lines which would embarrass even the great Burt B. For true trend-setters only (if this sound is still trendy, that is).


    Songs for the Jetset 2000
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Changing with the times, this third edition of Songs for the Jetset heads much more into the vagaries of Bacharachian pop. No more loungecore moping. Nope, now there's a lot of organ riffs based on "Take Five" and background singers "di di da da doo"-ing all over the place.

    The strange thing is that these are the same bands that appeared on the first two discs. I understand following trends and all, but this sort of constant morphing is a little weird.

    Still and all, these songs are an interesting recreation of early 70s sophisto-pop. There is something strangely beguiling about this stuff. And obviously, there are plenty of people who dig it, as most compilations don't get to a volume three. Strange but true.


    Songs from the Better Blues Bureau
    (Blues Bureau-Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Some of the best tracks from recent Blues Bureau releases, including Leslie West, Rick Derringer, Pat Travers and the Outlaws.

    Most of this is pretty good and doesn't succumb to the temptation to put too much rock into the blues. And if you get past the big names and check out tracks by folks like Craig Erickson and Glenn Hughes, you'll find some real nice stuff.

    Picking the best from the BB albums is a great idea, and the songs collected here fit the bill quite well. A nice set.


    Songs from the Wasteland:
    A Tribute to the Mission

    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    That would be the Mission (U.K.), of course, the group that splintered from an early Sisters of Mercy line-up and made its own waves among the nascent gothic culture. I've got a couple friends who swear by the band, though I must admit I was listening to the Scorpions and Prince during the Mission's heyday.

    Doesn't matter much. I've filled in my knowledge since then, and anyway, my judgment of tribute albums always hinges on the originality factor. Do the bands merely replicate the old songs, or do they find new ways of exploring well-tread territory.

    Now, the Mission is a fine subject for a tribute. Lots of teenage kids today who favor black makeup may or may not understand how important the band is in the development of their favorite music, and I'm all for education. But unfortunately, most of the bands on this set (the ones picked by Tony Lestat, the main compilator) are fairly generic gothic (excuse me, darkwave) runthroughs. Nothing new to hear. The only new takes come from the covers commissioned by Chase (which makes sense, as he used Reconstriction talent, which trends more to the heavier side of electronic industrial fare). Sure, some of the more gothic versions sound nice enough, but they don't have anything new to say. In fact, the slavish devotion makes me pine for a Mission compilation tape.

    A good idea, but goth bands doing songs from a gothic forerunner just doesn't make sense to me. Kinda like asking prog bands to do a Rush tribute album (which, of course, already exists).


    Songs of Freedom and Joy: A Saturday Compilation
    (Also-Ran)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    It's hard to figure out exactly what's going on here, though the sub-sub-title does seem to be reasonably accurate: "A celebration of bad music and random weirdness." Lest you think the compiler is making a judgment on these acts, many of the bands on the disc are listed as Also-Ran acts on the label's web site.

    There are all sorts of statements about the Saturday web site, Also-Ran Records and even the songs themselves. Most of them are obvious jokes (if cleverly written), and so it's hard to tell what might actually be true or not. But that thing about "bad music and random weirdness"? That's true.

    In truth, the bands listed on the Also-Ran site put out some unusual, but intriguing stuff. A lot of the rest of the CD falls into the "bad" category. Actually, mind-bogglingly annoying is probably more accurate. And so, what is the point?

    I dunno. Maybe it's the strangest label sampler I've ever encountered. Maybe Also-Ran Records is also a joke, and all of this is one big put-on. Maybe Joseph P. Larkin (the apparent man behind Also-Ran) is a raving ego-manic with nothing else to do other than drive the rest of the world crazy. Or maybe he just wants the attention. But hey, it worked, didn't it?


    Sound Spirit Fury Fire
    Sampler No. 3

    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    This is a Deep Elm label sampler. The Emo Diaries is a sound sampler. This has songs from bands who've recorded for Deep Elm. The latter has bands who (mostly) recorded for themselves. Get the difference?

    Here you get stuff from the Appleseed Cast, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Starmarket, the White Octave and many more. All previously released (all from Deep Elm albums), so don't buy this if you're already in the know.

    But if you want an exceedingly cheap entre into the world of emo, this is the ticket. There isn't a bad song here. I know. I've heard them all before. And I still like them loads. That's just the way I feel about Deep Elm.


    Space 380: Transmission Three
    (Space 380)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Kind of a sampler from a web site and promotion company, I believe. You can check out http://www.relaxonline.com to see what's going on. All of the songs on the compilation are available at the site.

    H3llb3nt and Pigface are the two bands I know on this disc. But this isn't just an electro-industrial attack. Most of the stuff is a little less edgy, trending toward alternative radio--whether it be punk, pop, world beat or whathaveyou.

    Most of it's pretty good, at worst. Alright, a couple of tracks really annoyed me, but that's gonna happen with just about any compilation. This set is good enough to get me to check out what these folks are doing. In other words, it did the job.


    Spacewalk-A Tribute to Ace Frehley
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #109, 5/20/96

    Ten renditions of songs, most of them from Kiss albums and not even all of those written by Ace. Excuse me?

    And the renditions are carbon copies, except that whatever life Kiss (or Ace) managed to put into them is gone now. The low point might be the Ron Young/Jeff Watson collaboration on "Hard Luck Woman", which actually makes Garth Brooks' version sound good. Yeah, Young is barely able to get the words out of his mouth, so he's a fair replacement for Peter Criss, I guess. But why?

    As the recent Kiss Unplugged proved, the whole phenomenon wasn't about the music or even playing well. It was all attitude, ripping off anthem after anthem without slowing the beat down. And almost every song here is noticeably slower than the original, with the exception of "Cold Gin". And that song was cool because it was so slow, it sounded like a breakdown waiting to happen.

    Should never have been conceived, contemplated or completed. Perfectly dreadful.


    The Spandex Experiment
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    A few months back, my brothers Matt and Aaron devoted a whole issue of Lies magazine to the phenomenon of glam metal. I thought that was cool enough; it has turned out to prescient.

    Articles from that issue are still getting reprinted in zines everywhere, and they still get letters from folks that start with the word "Dude!". Alright, I'll admit that about 11 years ago I tried to make my hair look like Jon Bon Jovi's. To defend myself, this was before Bon Jovi had sold shit, and anyway, I lived in New Mexico, where weird stuff happens all the time.

    That tangent aside, this puppy is a hardcore tribute to glam metal. Bands like No Fraud, Farside, Sinkhole, Snuka and Jughead's Revenge take on everything from Bon Jovi and Ratt to Iron Maiden and Voivod (those last two are perhaps ringers, but what the fuck...).

    I just have to say that the Ff take on Stryper's "Makes Me Wanna Sing" is astonishing. Nothing like a hardcore pop band wailing "Jeeee-zus!" at a hundred miles an hour. Not to missed.

    All in good fun, and I had a great time. Hey, the liners are written by Rudy Sarzo. How can you avoid this?


    Spanglish 101
    (Kool Arrow)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Not unlike the Sociedad/Suciedad set, this disc explicitly tries to expose kids to the vagaries of music with Spanish lyrics. The liners are bilingual, and some of the songs are as well. The bands are from the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

    As with that earlier compilation, the strength of this set is the diversity of sounds collected. Most bands have assimilated a conglomeration of influences. Hip-hop, hardcore, salsa, reggae and plenty more. Okay, there are a couple of Brujeria tracks (Billy Gould is one of the guys behind Kool Arow), and you know what to expect there.

    But see, that's the point. There's a wide a spectrum of music in Spanish-speaking circles, certainly more than yer gonna hear on Univision or Telemundo. Dig into the underground, hear what's going on. Latch on to some vital stuff. 'Cause that's what's here.

    Done with a suitable sense of humor, this set more than accomplishes its goals. A wonderfully diverse set which shows off a part of our musical heritage which really ought to be in the spotlight a bit more.


    Spill Compilation Two
    (Spill)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Judging by the catalog, Spill is not so much a label as a nexus through which artists and consumers unite. The 29 songs (!) in this compilation range from simple pop to the extreme of electronic experimentation. With most everything else in between, of course.

    The liners say that these artists represent the best of the underground in the southeastern part of Australia. I have no quarrel with that statement. The stuff within is so wildly diverse (not to mention inventive and wondrous) I cannot imagine how this could be improved.

    Well, the production values vary (as many of these songs are from demos), but even that has its charm. The best attack: just lay this disc in your player and expect to be mesmerized for the next 80 minutes or so.


    Spill Compilation Three
    (Spill)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Twenty-four of the most "alternative" bands Australia has to offer. While a few punk and pop bands pop in and out, most of the fare is electronic and/or industrial in nature. And while the production may not be the finest (many of these are demos), the creativity is top notch.

    Like last issue's Gosh, I'm So Punk compilation (not to mention the last Spill set), the emphasis is on exposure and unique sounds. If you're expecting the latest version of Midnight Oil, then tough luck. Spill is a clearinghouse of demos and self-issued discs. This compilation gives you an idea of what to expect. If you like something, check out the catalog.

    The norm does not exist on this disc. Every band is fairly strange and "out there", and so I love it. These bands are playing true to their ideas, instead of playing for the almighty (Australian) dollar. Bravo!


    The Spirit of Cape Verde
    (Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Cape Verde's geographical history as a colonial crossroads has colored every piece of its people and its culture. The mingling of the old world, new world and Africa is evident in this collection.

    The styles range all over the place, most often as pastiches showing off a wide variety of influences. These songs don't always compliment each other, but they do present a nice portrait of Cape Verde's musical heritage (and future).

    There is no way to call any particular sound "native", and I don't think anyone on Cape Verde really tries to make that claim. This is but another case for the notion that music should be shared and explored, not put away in a museum.


    Steinway to Heaven
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    An intriguing idea: get famous rock and roll keyboard players to take on some of the most famous piano pieces in the history of the world.

    One problem: Having played keyboards (organ, whatever) for so long, these guys just don't have a feel for the nuance that a piano affords. So while the performances are note-for-note correct, there is little emotional impact. Bon Jovi's David Bryan probably comes closest, but then he did some time at Julliard. And even his rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" doesn't quite measure up to average symphonic standards.

    And a lot of this is just plain bad. Some guys can't even quite get the notes right, which would be interesting as a bluesy technique, but doesn't work here. I applaud the idea of getting kids to listen to all sorts of music (I like to listen to the Met on Saturdays, myself), and maybe this serves that master well. As a purveyor of fine music, though, it just doesn't wash.


    Strange Love
    (Deathwish Office-Nuclear Blast America)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Adventurous dance pop. Born for Bliss has a track here, and more than a few of these acts have goth and darkwave tendencies. But the emphasis is on stuff that works for the club floor, so upbeat is the word.

    Yeah, this is catchy stuff, but there's also a high level of experimentation. In fact, while all of these acts are generally related, the diversity among the songs is quite nice to hear.

    And instead of a dreary label-only sampler, the bands here are from all over. Oh, sure, there are a few Deathwish Office bands, but this music was chosen for reasons of quality, not cashing in.

    This disc shows why samplers were created, and why they can still be used in a positive way. When the goal is dispersing good music and not just stuff you're selling, it's amazing how good the set can get.


    Stray from the Pack
    (Stray)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Stray Records seems determined to give exposure to as many underground hip hop and rap acts as possible. Also, the label doesn't appear to be terribly concerned about sticking to any particular sound or style, though in general the rhymes here are positive.

    Which doesn't mean these are a bunch of pie-in-the-sky dreamers or naive, sheltered scribblers. No, there's plenty of hard core thinking going on, but thought is the operative word. What is absent is posing. These artists are actually trying to say something rather than merely shock, scare or titillate.

    Like most Stray projects, there's also an emphasis on the music as well as the rhymes. For the most part, these songs sound finished, not underproduced. I know, minimalism is a valid style, but there's a difference between doing things simply and not doing them at all.

    Stray has done a fabulous job of collecting these pieces and then assembling them into this compilation. Instead of sounding thrown together, this disc has a great flow. A first-rate effort all the way around.


    Subject to Change: A Compilation of Northwest Artists
    to Benefit Artists for a Hate Free America

    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97

    As a political and personal notion, there's nothing to gripe about here. The money goes to a good cause. But I have to consider the music.

    It's not all music, actually. There's some spoken word bits, too. And the tunes aren't grunge. Everclear, Pete Droge, Cool Nutz and others prove that point. Unfortunately, as the acoustic version of "Heroin Girl" shows, some of the tracks are almost throwaways.

    And even the better stuff doesn't get much above the middling level. This stuff gets points for saying the right thing and taking an honorable stand. But the tunes don't quite pass muster.


    The Ill Saint Presents...Subterranean Hitz Vol. 2
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    For anyone who doubts that the current spate of electronic music has roots in the hip hop underground, this collection ought to set them straight. I mean, if the Chemical Brothers weren't totally influenced by the Bomb Squad, well, I don't what. It's just obvious, y'know? I mean, what the hell you think Tricky is all about, anyway?

    Oh well, this is the New York side of things. And while the sound is often manipulated to the lo-fi side of things, the power is undeniable. And the straight-line progression from the early days of rap and even further back is so easy to hear, it's incredible. Much like the two-disc Shake the Nations set I reviewed a couple months ago, this disc is a great primer for understanding the evolution of what folks call electronic music.

    And while you're learning a thing or two, my guess is you'll be enjoying the mordant creativity present in the digital grooves. The underground is always the best place to go to find innovation, and this album is a fine portal.

    Like the Spectre album, everyone on this collection knows how to set a groove. The sort that resonates in the bones. This isn't your regular hip-hop, and it certainly ain't your average electronica. Somewhere in between, where the good stuff always lies.


    Supper's Ready
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Another tribute album from Magna Carta. But this one almost makes sense: Genesis tunes, almost all from the Gabriel era.

    But where Genesis succeeded was in keeping Gabriel's histrionics and tendency to excess under control. The bands covering these pieces have taken songs that still managed a sparse, underproduced quality at times and turned them into unwieldy anthems. The latest tune covered, "Mama" has been transformed by Magellan into something even more commercial than the original.

    Very few of the acts here have managed to really take these songs into a new direction. While I think this tribute was a better idea than the other recent ones from this label, the execution is still lacking. Perhaps if the Magna Carta stable would do a Willie Nelson tribute album. Cairo doing "Crazy"? That would be interesting.


    Sweet Emotion: Songs of Aerosmith
    (Hip Heavy Mama-Navarre)
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Certainly, if a rock band deserved a blues tribute it would be Aerosmith. And this one works, most of the time. Just depends on the song. And the artist.

    For example, no matter how hard Otis Clay tries to sell it, "Cryin'" just doesn't work real well, even as an overblown, overproduced kinda blues. On the other hand, Pinetop Perkins, Rusty Zinn and Ronnie Baker Brooks turn out "Walk This Way" in a most cool fashion.

    Some songs, like "Last Child," were awfully bluesy to begin with, and the versions of such songs here really don't get away from the original quite enough. On the other hand, Marshall Crenshaw and Sugar Blue's rip through the novelty tune "Big Ten Inch Record" (a cover in and of itself) is fun, if not particularly unique.

    There's good and there's bad. There's interesting and there's kinda rote and dull. The inspired and the insipid sit right next to each other. The usual tribute blues, I guess.


    Sweet Submission
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    The main attraction is a KMFDM remix of the Swamp Terrorists' "Dive-Right Jab". But the rest of this compilation features tracks from stuff the FCR has licensed from Sub/Mission: Meathead, Templebeat, Cold, L.I.N. and Circus of Pain.

    The back claims that all the tracks are previously unreleased, but I think that's a bit dated. Still, the 11 tracks present a good picture of the electronic madness Sub/Mission is known for. Yeah, I've heard some of this stuff before, but the collection is a good one, particularly for the novice.

    Even the collector can find a few rare tracks here. If you like the edgy electronic side of the industrial scene, this set should keep you happy for a while.


    Swine Before Pearls
    (CM)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    The Swine is a band that has a cable access show in Seattle. This compilation features five Swine tracks and 14 tracks from guests on the show. The main connection is humor and politics, and that works pretty well for me.

    Musically, many of the bands do lean toward the country-rock and folk side of things, but there are exceptions. Beluga (reviewed earlier in this issue) reprises "Let's Get High and Read the Bible", for instance. And get me right: the humor is more often gentle than harsh. A little edgier than Prairie Home Companion, to be sure, but still in that lineage.

    Focusing just on the lyrics would be a mistake. Vyola Blue turns in a great track called "Paper Airplane", and the Swine are just as accomplished at playing as making folks laugh.

    As in any compilation, not every song is a winner. But I wish I was in Seattle so that I could see how all this really worked. This album has given me more than I need to be a fan.


    Swing This, Baby!
    (BMG)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Most of the trendy names are here. There's Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (of "Swingers" fame), Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Royal Crown Revue (not to be confused with the rockabilly Amazing Royal Crowns, who recently had to change their name), Brian Setzer Orchestra and more.

    And still, all I can think of is Artie Shaw, who laid down his clarinet more than 50 years ago (never to pick it up again) because he was tired of playing this music. An extreme reaction to artistic frustration (imagine Eddie Vedder deciding he'd rather sing opera, and then chucking music altogether to write paperback novels, and you might begin to understand), but I can dig it. In the end, this music has no soul.

    Dance music can have soul, of course, but for a sound which was greatly influenced by jazz (some consider it jazz, and that's just not right) and blues, even Glen Miller's stuff sounds considerably lightweight. Today's swing bands bring some of the worst elements of rock music into the sound (even more pat song construction, for example) and everything suffers.

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm tired of the swing craze. This stuff was the equivalent of Madonna and Whitney Houston fifty years ago, and it is music dumbed down for people who don't really like music. This collection is just a cheap attempt to cash in (I mean, I know that's what major labels do, but still), and another layer on the house of cards this trend represents. One day, swing will disappear into the sunset once again. And the world will be safe for humanity once more.


    Take Action!
    (Sub City)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Not a benefit disc, per se. Just a sampler for Sub City. Includes some of the stuff I've reviewed recently (Scared of Chaka, Fifteen, and more) ad a good load of other bands. All told, 15 tracks from 13 bands.

    And if you're not up with Sub City, this disc should set you straight. Yes, it's another punk label with a good lineup and some great music. Alright, all this stuff has been released before (that's why it's a sampler). Dig in if you like.

    Quality stuff from a quality outfit. For your sampling pleasure.


    Take Warning--The Songs of Operation Ivy
    (Glue Factory)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    While the legend of Operation Ivy has grown exponentially since the ascension of Rancid, there were plenty of us around in the late 80s who quite liked this band that predated the whole skacore movement.

    Bands like Reel Big Fish, the Blue Meanies, the Hippos and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies tear through the OpIvy repertoire. Much of the songs sound like they were recorded in pretty spartan settings, but that only makes them sound more authentic.

    Add to that some seriously warped renditions of the canon, and you get a tribute that seems to have gotten the point right: Have fun all the time. No need to be overly serious. I mean, that wouldn't make any sense at all.


    Tales from Yesterday
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #84, 8/28/95

    You all know by now my position on most tribute albums. I won't get into that.

    This is not a good idea. Get a bunch of prog-rockers to try and replicate Yes songs. And with much of the Magna Carta stable, that's what you get. Now, Steve Morse's two bits are nice diversions (and different takes), Stanley Snail's riff through "Siberian Khatru" is quite nice, and the Steve Howe/Annie Halsam trip through "Turn of the Century" is surprisingly good (considering the novelty value).

    But much of this sounds like the Trevors of 90125 and beyond trying to recreate the depth of the older Yes. Some really bad rehashes are the result. Now, one of the better MC acts, Cairo, does produce a decent version of "South Side of the Sky", but it still isn't a new vision or anything. And that's what a proper tribute album should do: Produce a whole new way of looking at a band. Not just cover-band versions of old songs.


    Tangled Up in Blues:
    Songs of Bob Dylan

    (House of Blues-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    Another one of those "This Ain't No Tribute" CDs. Though, of course, it really kinda is. Lots of well-known artists (mostly blues, but Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes and other ringers show up), including the Band, which of course had something of a history with Dylan. Ahem.

    Anyway, what is good about these remakes is that the artists generally interpret the songs in their own style, not necessarily the way Dylan did it. Though these visions can merge. Hayes's version of "Lay Lady Lay" is reasonably close to Dylan's version, but it sounds like pure Isaac.

    And the same goes for most of the other tunes. Any Dylan fan knows all these songs, but the novice has probably only heard about half of them before. The renditions here just might inspire someone to check out the originals. That the part of this that, of course, is a tribute.

    Satisfying, probably in part because I already like these songs loads. But the care and devotion given to them is impressive, more than adequate to the occasion. An enjoyable, if not entirely necessary, disc. Well, no matter. I'll listen again.


    Team Mint
    (Mint Records)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Not your average label sampler. First, the fine folks at Mint crammed 20 songs onto this puppy. Second, there are five Cub songs (hell, no one called these folks stupid or anything). And third, with its Lookout linkup, Mint has access to top U.S. punk outfits as well.

    Yes, this is all previously released. And, yes, the Mr. T Experience, Groovie Ghoulies and Pansy Division stuff came from the Lookout pipeline. You still can't complain about the music.

    Some of my favorite albums of the past two years have been on Mint. Cub and Duotang, most specifically, but the stuff from Huevos Ranchers, Gob, Maow and the Smugglers was all well above average.

    If you haven't yet figured what cool things are crossing the border these days, this set might help you out.


    Team Mint Volume 2!
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    This collection from Canada's most unusual record label hits all the highlights from the past three or four years. There are tracks from a number of Neko Case projects, Duotang, The Smugglers, Thee Goblins and more.

    A lot of good stuff, all of it previously released. So if you've already tapped into into Mint's wide range of appeal, well, keep on keepin' on.

    On the other hand, if you've never managed to come across this label before, you're gonna find some of the most creative pop, punk and country music around. I've been a fan for years, and this disc vindicates my ardor.


    Techno Breakbeat
    (IRMAmerica-Tinder)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Uh, the title sez it all. Like the Houseptic disc, this is Italian dance music. A bit more experimental, particularly in the beat department, but still nothing astonishing.

    I do like this one better, mostly because I wish more folks would try out innovative beat patterns. Now, granted, this stuff is still dreadfully safe when compared to many of the better-known British and American electronic acts, but at least I can hear sparks of life.

    There are moments that almost won me over. But on the whole, this set still lies too far down the safe lane.


    Technotic Effect
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    Thirteen tracks wandering in from many triumphs in Europe. And not just techno, but hard techno, as the subtitles note. Okay, so it's nowhere near KMFDM or Bloodstar in heaviness, but it is pretty decent as this stuff goes.

    I recognize some of it from a tape a friend made in New York last summer, so you can tell how dated some of this is. On the other hand, only a handful of people outside the major techno clubs have heard this stuff.

    Techno, to me, is an exercise in extracting any possible soul out of music. Thus, it is not among my favorite in the dance genres. But some of this actually dares to bare a little emotion (see the X Marks the Pedwalk track) and ventures towards industrial territory. Adventurous listening for the uninitiated.


    Teriyaki Asthma Vols. I-V
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #4, 12/15/91

    One of the best compilations of the year. What the hell, the best. If you are clueless to the Seattle scene that exists past Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, listen up here. While not all of the bands are from Seattle, many are and this is a great mix.

    For those of you that don't know of any other singles than the Sub Pop club, then you have missed out. Teriyaki Asthma is another such series. Here is the format: take four bands and put one song by each on a 7". Simple. Perfect.

    And what a list of bands: the aforementioned Nirvana (sounding rather unlike "Nevermind"), Coffin Break, God's Acre, the almighty Alice Donut, L7, Babes in Toyland and more. The best tracks? Go for the Helios Creed take on Richard Nixon, Pitbull Babysitter, Dickless or anything else.

    That's really the beauty of this: there are no clunkers. Some strangeness, to be sure, but some really great music going on, too. Just sample your way through and heave a sigh of relief. Finals are over and God has smiled on you with this disc.

    Oh yeah, don't forget: Volume 7 (on vinyl) is out soon. What more could you ask for (besides a long overdue peace dividend)?


    Teriyaki Asthma VII 7"
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #12, 4/30/92

    Can you go wrong with songs by Poster Children, Hammerbox, Superchunk and Tsunami? Um, the obvious follows...

    Brilliance, sheer brilliance. This may the last time you even hear Poster Children and Hammerbox on an indie. PC has signed with Sire, and Hammerbox has been mulling over several offers. But what a way to go out.

    If you haven't been serviced with this, then you won't be. This was issued in a limited edition of 2,500, and only about 60 were sent to stations. If you want to buy one, better call C/Z fast. These puppies are all but gone. Or, you could wait a few years for the next (and last) CD compilation.


    Terror Farmer soundtrack
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Terror Farmer is a Troma movie. And Go-Kart is a punk label. A match made in heaven, right?

    Yeah, actually. And rather than kicking out a cheap label sampler, Go-Kart and Troma enlisted an A-list set of bands: Lunachicks, Bouncing Souls, NOFX, ALL, Girls Against Boys, Rocket from the Crypt, GWAR, Vandals, Parasites, Sick of It All and much, much more.

    Twenty-three songs. Almost an hour of music. The soundtrack makes me want to see the movie. Should be a real rush.

    This is the way to make a soundtrack. Good music, and lots of it. Yeah, most of the tunes can be found elsewhere. Don't matter. This is a fine mix tape, my friends.


    Things That Are Heavy 7"
    (New Rage)
    reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92

    Four of Seattle's finest (and heaviest) are combined on this release. Hey, just because Seattle has been deemed the hippest place in the world by MTV doesn't mean every decent "alternative" soul has left town. I know it's tough to work with all that Hollywood attention, but these four bands have done just that.

    A word of advice: put this slab o' delicious vinyl on and crank it to eleven. You'll be glad you did.


    This is Moon Ska Volume 2
    (Moon Ska)
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Moon Ska is the home of such bands as the Toasters and Let's Go Bowling (and plenty more, as this sampler shows). The folks made sure to cram enough music here, though a good amount of it is rather nondescript.

    Still, there's some very nice work here (including where Skavoovie and the Epitones combine on "Japanese Robot"). If you're a ska fan you already know about this label and so this set is likely unnecessary for you.

    If you're a recent convert, however, this would serve as a nice primer. The songs here are intentionally accessible, but that's probably for the best. A serviceable sampler that does its job.


    This Is Dojo
    (Dojo Records)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Announcing its US arrival, Dojo presents this collection of songs from albums they have reissued recently or will soon be reissuing. Stuff like the Damned, Cock Sparrer, the Selecter, the Business, Sham 69, the Exploited, Motorhead, etc. Stuff that's been hard to find in many parts.

    The effort is appreciated, even if those re-issues are probably more interesting than this compilation of tunes that have been available in many other places. Still, the announcement is welcome, and this set shows what Dojo will be offering.

    I'd put my money on the real thing and not this collection. But you can check it out and see what should be arriving at the local record shop soon enough.


    This Is Indie Rock
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #260, December 2004

    You may recall that Deep Elm shelved its "Emo Diaries" franchise after the tenth installment. You may also recall that a new series was promised. And so here it is.

    It should surprise no one that the general sound and feel of the music isn't much different than that of the Emo Diaries. Yes, the standard deviation from the norm is probably a bit higher, but Deep Elm always avoided a narrow definition of emo. And so it isn't hard to imagine "indie rock" as a nice retro reinvention of the emo ideal.

    I feel a little bad about the relatively late nature of this review. I got this disc two or three months ago, and then it slipped into a crack. Now retrieved, I can state with certainty that it is, indeed, up to the high standards of the previous series.

    Deep Elm is a label that rarely releases a bad album. That tradition continues with this new series. A fresh breath of rock and roll ready to infect a new generation.


    3 Minute Revolution
    (RPM USA)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    An earlier compilation along the same lines as Fuzzy Logic. Many of the same bands appear here, though in general there is a somewhat greater reliance on area bands. The quality, though, is the same.

    What I said before goes here as well. There's 25 bands here, and all of them have a slightly different take on the garage concept. RPM dude Greg Colburn did a great job of putting this together, filling the disc chock full of great tunes.

    Personal enthusiasm is always a plus. This and the other RPM compilation is the result of some hard work. That much is terribly easy to hear.


    The Thrillbillys soundtrack
    (Planetary)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Angry Johnny (who's also a star of the movie) and the Killbillys provide many of the songs here, but luminaries such as Trailer Bride, Drive-By Truckers and Used Carlotta (and others) contribute tracks as well.

    Can't tell you exactly what the movie is about, though the music certainly has a certain Southern Gothic feel to it. You know, like if William Faulkner had ever realized he was really writing about white trash.

    Oh yeah, lots of trash. Confederate flag-wavin', bourbon swillin', shit-dealin' kinda folks. Based on what I hear here, this movie might be a real hoot. As long as it doesn't take itself too seriously.

    The music veers from southern rock to punk to whatever it is you prefer to call Trailer Bride (ghostly southernania is what one scribe down here likes to call it), and it never gets dull. An eclectic collection, but one that never fails to entertain.


    Thugs 'n' Kisses
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #86, 9/11/95

    Yeah, so Chase has a thing for the -core (this is a synthcore compilation; Reconstriction has also released cybercore, etc.). Whatever. This thing has tracks from some of the best in the business.

    Vampire Rodents have Athan from Spahn Ranch help out on one track, and VR also remixes a Chemlab tune to great effect. Hate Dept. has a new track, plus that band remixes the 16 Volt tune "Skin" in a rather innovative fashion.

    Plenty more from the likes of Acumen, Skrew, Penal Colony, SMP and more. The music is impeccably chosen (as usual) and the result is an almost seamless foray into a nice industrial-techno subgenre. How can I say anything bad about this?


    To Cry You a Song: A Collection of Tull Tales
    (Magna Charta)
    reviewed in issue #112, 6/17/96

    Much of the Magna Carta line-up gets together to serenade one of prog-rock's eternal acts: Jethro Tull. The whole original line-up of the band, minus Ian Anderson (who many mistakenly call Jethro Tull), appears in various guest shots. And a few Tull contemporaries like John Wetton, Phil Manzanera and Keith Emerson show up to help out.

    The thing is fairly well-executed. There is an overture ("A Tull Tale", cobbled together by Trent Gardener of Magellan) and a decent choice of tunes. The production is a bit bright, though. "Thick as a Brick" wasn't just an album title but also a prod-room attitude. This is all just a bit too clean for my taste.

    I still have a big problem with the whole tribute album concept, particularly for a band as well-known and influential as Jethro Tull. Still, as this sort of thing goes, its alright. A lot better than I expected.


    Tooth & Nail Records Sampler Vol. 3
    (Tooth & Nail)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    A good set of tunes from the Tooth & Nail lineup. All of this stuff is previously released, but the sampler does give a good picture of the strength and diversity of this label's lineup.

    I've reviewed stuff like Klank and MxPx (not to mention the Puller in this issue), but there's more here to explore as well. It's somewhat hit and miss, but there's enough on Tooth & Nail to attract just about anyone.

    A fair sampling of the label's fare. It does the job.


    Trance 4 Mations
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Starting with the cool "patent-pending" blinking eye cover, this is a truly attractive set. As you probably know by now, trance is a more club-oriented form of ambient music. At least, that's how I choose to define it.

    Ten tracks by ten bands, of varying quality and danceability. The first two tracks show off the diversity; Reverse Pulse cranks out an introverted techno tune, while Hybrid takes its time in working up to a fevered club pace.

    As often is the case with European sensations, drug use is paramount. I'm not on X or anything else at the moment, so perhaps I am not quite enjoying this stuff to the hilt. I know, X is out now, but people down here in Florida seem to just be getting into it. And I thought Missouri was backward.

    Drug trends aside, Trance 4 Mations is a cool exampler of the trance sound. If you're curious, what lies within is an accurate sample, though if you want the best, check out the new Virtualizer.


    Trance in Time
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    The beats are techno, but the music is more ambient. After lengthy mellow intros, the songs on this compilation eventually kick up their heels and get throbbing towards the dance floor, even while keeping much of the ambient attitudes.

    And apparently this is called "trance". I'm very ignorant when it comes to trends and their names (I still haven't started calling "goth" by its new name: "darkwave", and I don't plan to any time soon). Life goes on.

    A good compilation for those interested in new trends in dance music. This disc is proof for those guitar-types that synthesizer music can be creative and experimental just as much as live stuff can be. Indeed, it is the practitioner and not the practice that determines the quality of the musical ideas.


    Transcendence: A Dark Culture Sampler
    (Doppler Effect)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    A collection of chilly industrial techno fare (what some once called the cold wave) from the Pacific Northwest (I'm counting Alaska and British Columbia in that designation). It's always a pleasure to hear something new from SMP (first track, even), and to tell the truth, most of the other tracks here lived up to that opening song.

    There's always been a fertile electronic/industrial community in that part of the world. I've reviewed plenty of bands from up there, and not many of those are on this set. Just proves there's a lot more where the earlier good stuff came from.

    A solid set from start to finish. This collection presents a bevy of talent, all worthy of more than a second listen. This is one of the few compilations that illuminates, and it does so brilliantly.


    A Tribute to Big Star
    Additional Songs by Chris Bell

    (LunaSea)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Alright, so Big Star has never sold many records. Everybody who knows anything about music is well versed in the band's three albums (and Chris Bell's unfinished--but released years later--solo album). Not like we're dealing with an unknown here.

    So the fine folks at LunaSea figured they'd overwhelm us with quantity. Twenty-three songs recorded by the likes of Mike Daly (once of Whiskeytown), the Moths, Marty Willson-Piper, Paula Kelley, Longwave and Nada Surf. Most impressive lineup.

    And while most of the versions here generally fall within the pop guidelines laid down almost thirty years ago, there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences. For example, Longwave's version of "Holocaust" recasts that minimalist wail as a dark power pop anthem. And it works. As for the Chris Bell stuff, well, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and the two main Posies played "I Am the Cosmos" at the reunion gig put on by my college radio station at the University of Missouri (I'd already graduated, but I did barbecue at the show). So that's fair game. It fits.

    Everything her does. These are some of the classic songs of our time. I don't think there's any way Chilton, Bell and Stephens had any idea they were creating something special, but that's how it turned out. And this disc is a fine celebration.


    A Tribute to David Bowie: The Dark Side of David Bowie
    (Khazad-Dum/SPV)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Well, about what you might guess. Goth industrial acts (the lighter side) play a few Bowie tracks. A natural, if you consider that Bowie has to be considered one of the prime influences of the sound.

    Even so, most of the renditions here don't ape the originals. They do somewhat sound alike, with heavy echo effects on the guitars and the seemingly ever-present goth beat.

    Ah, well, nothing's perfect. This tribute is enjoyable, even if it does get tiring after a few songs. Fodder for the dance floor, if nothing else. In small doses, this is pretty good.


    A Tribute to Terrible
    (Chord)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    This, of course, isn't a tribute. It's a Chord Records sampler. And I gotta say, them folks have a fairly diverse roster. Everything from hardcore to death metal (or stuff that sounds an awful lot like what was once known as death metal) to rap and more. Yeah, I know, all that stuff is vaguely related, but it's good to hear that some folks care about trying new things now and again.

    I was most impressed by Wolfpac, a band which whips out hardcore lyrics to rap grooves. Just a lot of fun, if nothing else. Same goes for Inconegro, which sorta fits the same profile. Pitboss 2000 has a nice hardcore sound, and Candira does the metalcore thang quite well.

    On the heavy side (it's been a while since I heard so much in this area), and I have to say I left fairly refreshed. This puppy is worth searching out. There's some cool sounds here.


    A Tribute to the Music & Works of Brian Eno
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Brian Eno is one of those people who would seem, on the surface, to be a good subject for a tribute album. His work, while extremely influential, hasn't exactly sold in large quantities.

    And there's a reason for that, and that also happens to be reason why a tribute is not such a good idea. Brian Eno's music is simply a direct extension of himself. Most musical artists make this claim, but Eno's music, when out of his hands, loses much of its spark. And that's where this just doesn't work.

    I could go on, using the old saw about how electronic artists are the last folks you want interpreting Eno (country artists doing Eno; now, that would at least be original), but the simple fact is that his output isn't something that is easily picked up by anyone else. And despite some fine work by Brand X and Astralasia, most of these renditions are either so straight and faithful as to bore or are simply mangled attempts at replication.

    Tributes get dull fast, this one faster than many.


    Turn Me On: The Local Music Store Compilation Volume 7
    (Local Music Store)
    reviewed in issue #137, 6/23/97

    I really like the idea of a network by which bands can distribute their self-released albums. My problem with much of what I've heard from the Local Music Store is that the fare has tended to be more mundane than adventuresome.

    This compilation, however, features a lot of bands that fall somewhere within the emo universe. I know, that's the trend these days, but I like it. And most of these artists are trying to do something original, anyway.

    And for every dull song, there are two good ones. Antihistamine Daydream's "Special K" is a great example of the leaps this compilation makes over earlier ones. The song is a loopy trip through all sorts of moods and effects. It doesn't exactly make sense, but it sure is fun to hear.

    And in general, this is good sight better than the stuff I've gotten from these folks. I'm quite encouraged.


    TV Freak Night
    (Big Fish Music)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Another sampler of Japanese music, this one pretty much focused on punk and punk-pop. Lots of rawkin' goin' on. Young bands, I guess, because it's so easy to hear the influences (the 'Mats and Epitaph apparently do well across the Pacific).

    One thing these bands have in spades is wonderful abandon. They simply rip through the songs, not worrying a bit about silly things like tuning or if a song even works. That energy sells the stuff, more than the songs themselves. That's punk rock, man.

    Really, a very nice set of stuff from some good young bands. Now, some of these folks might need to work a bit more before trying to conquer the U.S. on their own, but in this set, everything works fine.


    TV Terror: Felching a Dead Horse
    (Reconstriction-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Two full discs (36 track in all) of your favorite cold wave (digicore, whatever) artists deconstructing and just plain destroying your favorite TV show theme songs. Most of the 30-second to one minute tunes are expanded way past their normal limits. Then the songs themselves are generally rendered helpless to the sway of the band doing the performance.

    This works better with instrumentals, which usually had a better stylistic hook that can be sampled. Or themes like "The Addams Family", which has a very familiar four-note intro. Lots of these themes are simply rendered incomrehensible. First on this list (and first in the collection) is Collide's very ethereal trip through "Felix the Cat".

    On the other hand, some bands are able to rip through songs and still arrive at a tasty product. Kevorkian Death Cycle's remake of the "One Day at a Time" theme (which actually had another name, if I recall correctly) is quite cool). Also kudos to Alien Sex Fiend ("Batman"--this one is really great!), Cut.Rate.Box ("Movin' On Up"--the Jeffersons' theme), Kill Switch... Klick ("Welcome Back Kotter") and Ikon, whose goth send-up of the Gilligan's Island Theme is completely amazing.

    Honestly, there are more good shots than bad ones. This is one of those pseudo-tribute albums that actually works, mostly because the artists involved didn't feel constrained by convention. Join the adventure.


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

    A nice collection of songs from the first five years of 21st Circuitry. Bands like Hate Dept., Xorcist, Gracious Shades and (just reviewed) Scar Tissue. But only one of these tracks is unreleased, and that's just a remix.

    So if you haven't gotten acquainted with 21st Circuitry and want to delve into the more conceptual realm of industrial dance music, then by all means apply here. The 14 tracks will serve as a more than adequate introduction to the awesome line-up on the label (even if Hate Dept. has moved to Neurotic).

    If you are as aware of the great bands on this label as I am, then this compilation should hold no interest for you. A nice set, like I said, but nothing new or unusual included.


    21st Circuitry Shox 2
    (21st Circuitry)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Yet another one of those "introductory" sampler thingies. 21st Circuitry has a great stable of stuff (mostly licensed from Europe), and this set shows off some of the best. Xorcist, Hate Dept., Covenant, Unit:187, Hyperdex-1-Sect and plenty more.

    All of these are previously unreleased (in the U.S., anyway) in these forms (there are a number of remixes, etc.), but honestly, if you're familiar with the label's fine array of acts, well, this is unnecessary. Of course, if you want to hear some really fine techno, 21st Circuitry is where it's at.

    That's all, folks! Not much more to say about this one.


    Two Cries of Freedom
    (ROIR)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    The various artists are Jose Serrano and Antonio "El Agujetas". They were the first winners of a rather unusual competition: to find the best flamenco artists in Spanish prisons. Winners got some cash and reduction in sentence. Imagine a similar contest in the U.S., one where the best rappers went into intrapenitentary competition for cash and sentencing prizes.

    It is obvious from the first listen that these are deserving winners. Both sing with passion and intensity. Each had been in prison for almost half his life, and now, as a result of winning this contest, they're out (though under electronic surveillance). A good deal, I think.

    This is basic flamenco: guitar, voice and hand claps. The two have very different styles. Serrano has a stunning voice, an amazing range. El Agujetas is more of a guttural singer, but there is such soul in the way he expresses himself. It's easy to hear the pain.

    A truly strange contest, but a cool disc. Some fine flamenco. A couple guys get out of jail. What a deal.


    The Tyranny Off the Beat
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Fifteen tracks, 10 bands. All more electro than industrial, all German.

    The songs are more experimental than straightforward industrial hack fare, with a greater emphasis on keyboards and sound effects than your average KMFDM or latter-day EN.

    All this leads to a more lean and mean sound. Most tunes eschew guitars, preferring to focus on the more ethereal uses of sequencers and such. While the occasional track falls flat, that can happen when people are trying new things. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

    In general, this collection works. If you're looking for traditional metal-hacking German industrial noise, you will be disappointed. But if you want to travel a little closer to the experimental edge, then plow forth.


    UHF/VHF
    (Release-Relapse/Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    There have been so many Relapse/Nuclear Blast compilations this year, you'd think they'd run out of unreleased tracks to dump on the public.

    And, indeed, very few of the Release disc (UHF) songs are unreleased. For anyone who has not heard some of the cool new bands from the Pennsylvania German juggernaut, then here is your chance to sample Tribes of Neurot, Mindrot and Malformed Earthborn, among others.

    It's a compilation that shows off the diverse offerings from this collection of labels. That's all, but that's not too bad.


    UL IV
    (Uniao Lisboa)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    The "a" in Uniao has a tilde over it, but I have no idea how to represent that in ASCII. I'm not that worried about it, either.

    What I am concerned with is Uniao Lisboa's lineup, of which five bands are represented here. The songs are sung in English or Portuguese.

    The two Flood tracks are the most fascinating of the bunch, exhibiting solid songwriting and a real feel for airy anthems that aren't too heavy. Not metal, not pop, not industrial, but somewhere amongst the three.

    The rest is alright, tending toward the metal side of the universe. Well, Capitao Fantasma is a little more horror-punk, kinda like a Portuguese Deadbolt. In any account, this sampler is an interesting look at an international label.


    Ultimate Drum 'N' Bass
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    A much better set than the two-disc In To the Mix thing I reviewed earlier in the issue. Instead of relying on celebrity remix personnel, the focus here was on finding good material and getting a good remix.

    Now, some mixes are still better than others, but this stuff is much more representative of the possibilities inherent in the electronic beat movement. From sterile and clean to down and dirty, it all depends on the imagination of the remixer.

    And there's plenty of imagination here. With bands like THC, Spahn Ranch and Art of Noise supplying the original tracks, the output had to be decent. One of the better electronica samplers I've heard.


    Ultra Swank
    (Cacophone)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Another label sampler; this one comes from the other coast. The home of the Turbo A.C.'s and plenty more (there's 22 bands here), Cacophone specializes in the rock and roll basics, a little rockabilly here, a little punk rawkage there.

    I hadn't heard much of this stuff here, and most of it hasn't appeared on an album before. The liners are most instructive. For one band there is a note saying how much Cacophone wants to do a full-length. Other notes give some bio or other pertinent info.

    Simply a trip into the basic holes of rock. There's nothing pretentious here, just a journey on a go-cart powered by a 454 big block. Hit the gas and let it roll. There's a wealth of cool sounds here.


    The Unaccompanied Voice
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Gathering a number of luminaries (Jarboe, David Grubbs and the Grifters, among others) along with many in the Secretly Canadian stable, this collection is exactly what it promises: Vocals, and nothing but.

    One of the points of a set like this is to point out how many different ways people can sing or use their voices. There are a few artists who do simply sing in a conventional fashion, but this is offset by the majority of the songs here, which stand apart from the general concept of a capella as a gentle sound.

    Indeed, most of the these are aggressive in many different ways. It's impossible to get bored because the performances are generally quite unique. And even when you think you might guess how a particular artist might sound on a set like this, you're probably wrong. I was. More than one.

    A grand idea like this will either turn out badly or brilliantly. Since it originated at Secretly Canadian, the likelihood of the latter was certainly higher, and that's how I hear this. There is power in the unaccompanied voice, and this collection provides ample proof of that thesis.


    Undercover Presents a Tribute
    to Pixies' Doolittle

    (Porto Franco)
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    A large (100+) collection of San Francisco-area musicians play the songs of Doolittle. A inspired idea, to be sure.

    Pixies fans can be divided many ways, but the most common axis is Surfer Rosa vs. Doolittle. I'm a Surfer Rosa man, myself (I'm sure that shocks exactly no one), but I sure do like the way this album comes together.

    The best tributes take radically different approaches from the originators of the source material. Among my favorite tributes were Where the Pyramid Meet the Eye (the ZZ Top-coordinated tribute to Roky Erickson) and an electronic tribute to Bon Jovi (weird and not entirely competent, but interesting). In this case, the musicians involved come from all sorts of musical backgrounds and play the songs as they see fit.

    So folks as diverse as Seth Augustus, Japonize Elephants, Conspiracy of Venus and Dina Maccabee take their shots. The results are uneven, but then, they should be. This tribute turns the original emotional highs and lows of the original all topsy-turvy. It's an entirely new way to hear the album, and, as all good tributes do, it confirms the greatness of the original. Startlingly good.


    Up the Dosage!
    (Wonderdrug)
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    A fine compendium of Boston-area hardcore proponents. From such stalwarts as A.C., Tree, Sam Black Church and 6L6 to lesser-known (but still cool) acts like Scissorfight, Non Compos Mentis, Porn Star and Quintaine Americana.

    As you should be able to tell from the previous lists, the term "hardcore" is loosely defined. This is most definitely loud music, stuff made more enjoyable with the application of volume. But few folks would mistake A.C. for 6L6, obviously.

    As near as I can tell, all of the songs here are unique to this compilation. And the stuff is not second quality. Fine music from a wide-ranging set of bands. Exactly why compilations like this should exist.


    Versatility
    (Evil Teen)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Like the cover says, a collection of drum and bass. Featuring the drum and bass poster boy, Roni Size. With lots more where that came from.

    Size's track is excellent, as are most of the songs here. Lots of interesting experimentation with a form that could get dull in a hurry. I do wish the liners had more information (I have no idea if this stuff is previously released or remixes of old cuts or what), but I'll take the music as is.

    Hey, if you've got a rhythm jones and need some cool beats for your next party, that's what drum and bass is all about. The core of electronic music, with very little in the way of couture. This collection serves up a nice set of sounds.


    Victory Style
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #101, 3/4/96

    A big set from perhaps the finest purveyor of hardcore in the U.S. today. I mean, anyone who can claim bands like Snapcase, Earth Crisis and Guilt is a winner in my book.

    But all of these tracks are previously released (which is why the rating is lower than it probably should be), so this set is mostly for the folks who are unfamiliar with Victory's lineup. If you even think you like hardcore, you should already be into the bands on Tony's label. If not, then pick this up and check it out.

    Um, and isn't the cover cool? If you're gonna do one of these things, this is a great way to do it.


    Victory Style 4
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Victory is best known for bands like Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Hatebreed and the like. This samplers contains tracks from all of those, and some of the more eclectic (in a manner of speaking) Victory bands.

    Most of the stuff here easily qualifies as extreme hardcore. That's one of the reasons many of these bands hit the road with more traditional metal acts. The aggro riffage and ragged vocals fit right in.

    But there are also bands like Greyarea, which I discussed in the review earlier in this issue, bands that stretch the Victory format a bit. This is just a sampler; no unreleased tracks or anything. The selections are quite good (often exactly the song I would choose from an album), and if you want a taste, this should overwhelm.


    Video Sheet Metal Vol. 2
    (Red Decibel/Warner Video)
    reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91

    The first Video Sheet Metal expanded the frontiers of "heavy metal" by including such cool bands as Soul Asylum, the Black Crowes and Sonic Youth, three bands I have given lotsa play on my show. This edition doesn't go quite so far, but what is there really kicks.

    Take the first piece, featuring GWAR in a rather tame performance (I only counted one decapitation; c'mon guys, you're just not trying hard enough!). Big applause for the feature on Mind Over Four, one of the most underrated bands of all time. I also dug the fun with Agony Column, although it seemed rather restrained as well. The Tad and Skin Yard slices are very nice, too (love that chainsaw).


    Virus 100
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/95

    Okay, let's do a reality check.

    If you did not immediately drop prostrate on the floor and thank the deity of your choice upon receiving this missal, then you can go somewhere and abuse yourself while real people read this.

    I am really speechless. This is not technically a DK covers album, but more a celebration of the Dead Kennedys's spirit. And while I came late to the original party (the first time I heard of the band was in the book Wired, written about John Belushi, who loved the song "Too Drunk to Fuck"), I can appreciate this album as much as anyone else.

    You say you play metal, not hardcore? Then play tracks from Sepultura, Napalm Death and L7. For those more adventurous, dig the more obscure bands on here. Why play Faith No More when there is a far superior version by the aforementioned band L7 or other great tunes by Kramer, Sister Double Happiness and Les Thugs (yeah!). Not to mention the rest of the AT family and few other friends. Oh, and while the Disposable Heroes song is also on their great new album, you should still check it out.

    There is no excuse for missing this album. Get your head out of your ass and play, play, play!


    Warped Tour 2001 Compilation
    (SideOneDummy)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Tracks (generally unreleased) from 26 of the bands that will grace the various stages on this year's Warped Tour. Bosstones, Ataris, Rancid, Bouncing Souls, Vandals, No Use for a Name, Buck-O-Nine, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, etc. Lots and lotsa punk.

    Um, some of these songs coulda stayed unreleased. Just not up to par. Still, most of these pieces are at the very least representative, and a few are great. If you were wondering whether or not you should plunk down yer hard-earned cash for the show, this disc ought help you make up your mind. Of course, that's even more hard-earned cash...

    Aw, hell, this is mostly solid fare. A good snapshot of where melodic punk rock stands in 2001. Which is what Warped is all about, I guess.


    Welcome to Our Nightmare: A Tribute to Alice Cooper
    (Triple X)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Truth be told, the biggest moneymakers in the indie business these days are tribute albums. And now that Kiss and Alice Cooper are taken care of, how about the Sweet? Or Slade.

    On this double discer, there are a lot of interesting folks laying their pride down and strumming out an Alice Cooper tune. While the liners don't make it clear this whole thing started out as the Alice Cooper band, life goes on.

    Don't go for the obvious; Tyla is great (what happened to the Dogs album in the can years ago?), and I vote for the Sloppy Seconds (forever), Flaming Lips and They Eat Their Own, too. It's cheap and easy, but Alice has always been good for that. Grab a six pack (more if bringing friends) and head out of town to relive weird high school memories, secure in the fact you're listening to "hip" bands play that one song you could never get out of your head.


    We're All Frankies
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #126, 1/13/97

    Now, here's a tribute album I can sink my teeth into. Electronic and industrial artists paying homage to Suicide.

    The first track, though, is from Bloodstar's 1992 album. Makes me wonder how much of this stuff is previously released as well. Well, not too much, though.

    I've bitched a lot about tribute albums in the past. My main complaint is that we just don't need another Led Zeppelin tribute. Why not a tribute to more obscure artists? And so this collection fits my plea. I mean, plenty of people have an idea that Suicide existed, but the mainstream is utterly clueless. And yet the stuff here is eminently accessible.

    The bands also do well to put new spins on the Suicide sound. In all, good renditions and recognition of a sorely underappreciated act make for a good compilation. Well worth the tribute.


    What Is Eternal?
    (Middle Pillar)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    A collection of stuff which (I think) is available through Middle Pillar distribution. There's artists from Suffering Clown, Sacrum Torch and others. Oh, yeah, this is the really kinky side of dark music. You know, the stuff without the dance beats that scares the shit out of little kids.

    And, really, an incredibly solid set. Jarboe, 4th Sign of the Apocalypse, Dream into Dust, Loretta's Doll and more. And lest my description frightens you off with the young ones, let me assure you that there is a wide variety of intensely dark music to be heard here.

    Gorgeous and mind-crushing all at once. I recently got an e-mail from a reader who wanted some guidance on following the dark music path. This is a great disc to use as a compass. Contact info for each artist (most of them have web sites), more than enough to get started.

    Quite well presented. A first-class compilation, indeed.


    What the World Needs Now...
    Big Deal Recording Artists Perform the Songs of Burt Bacharach

    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    As every Monty Python fan knows, Burt wrote the music, and Hal David wrote the lyrics. For another pop culture reference to Burt's music, just sit through My Best Friend's Wedding, which uses a good number of the songs (though not the artists) on this compilation.

    As his best, Bacharach could turn out a truly hooky melody. Like "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head". Unfortunately, Shonen Knife completely butchers the tune. It sounds like they never quite figured out the requisite chords. At his worst, however, Bacharach turned out some truly dreadful examples of cheese jazz pop, like "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (which didn't make it onto this set). There's a decent cross-section of his work here, both good and bad. Played both straight and dripping with satire.

    But never jokey. In general, the artists on this set didn't outdo many of the previous renditions (no one here came close to the subtle axe-job of Ani DiFranco's version of "Wishin' and Hopin'"), though Dan Kibler's manly take on "Trains and Boats and Planes" and Mitchell Rasor's baroque vision of "I Say a Little Prayer" are quite good, and Cockeyed Ghost gets a nod for utterly whacking "Walk on By" into an incoherent bowl of goo.

    Necessary? Hardly. There are some moments, though.


    What's Mine Is Yours:
    The Emo Diaries--Chapter One

    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    Following in the footsteps of Crank!s excellent (Don't Forget to) Breathe compilation (which covered a bit more territory than the whole emo movement, but still), this puppy presents some of the finer practitioners of the movement.

    For those who doubt how widespread this sound has become, there isn't one band that appears on both collections. So the idea that 30 great bands are out there making this general style of punk music is pretty strong testimony.

    Projects like this and the Crank! disc are the real reason for compilations. I've been onto this stuff for a long time, though it took me a while to really get into it. Early bands like Engine Kid annoyed me at first, but I fell into the groove after a while (as did the music). And so if you give this disc time, I figure you'll be converted as well.

    For those who want more inspiration, this disc contains the first new Samiam to come down the pike in a while. Along with bands like Jimmy Eat World, Pohgoh, Lazycain and Camber (ooh-la-la). A labor of love, and a lovely one at that.


    Where Music Meets Film:
    Live from the Sundance Music Festival

    (Beyond/BMG) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    This has all the hallmarks of a cynical corporate ploy: Starbucks, BMG and the Sundance festival set up a faux coffeehouse at the festival and invited artists to play. Everyone from Lyle Lovett and Blondie to BR5-49 and Julia Darling played the joint.

    Yes, this does sound something like a made-for-TV recording. The audiences seem to think that whooping is the most appripriate way to show their appreciation for everything from a nice performance to simply recognizing the tune. I like to call this the "MTV Unplugged" effect, and I do not like it one bit. Fuckers like these ruined "Tennessee Stud" on American Recordings.

    Still, there are some fine performers who will benefit from this disc. Not unlike the Lilith Fair compilations, which mixed the popular (and generally insipid) with the lesser-known (and more often inspired), this disc allows some developing artists to take center stage.

    So if you can get past Lisa Loeb and Jars of Clay to folks like Mike Younger and Shawn Mullins, well this disc will have done some good. Just don't buy this puppy in the BMG rack at the local Starbucks, okay?


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

    I've always thought the idea of covers albums (or tribute albums, whatever) was to present a new generation's take on some highly influential group of the past.

    Preferably a lesser-known group, though with the proper guidance a more famous act could be done well.

    You don't get much bigger than the Who. But while many hits are present, many of the songs redone here are b-sides and other obscurities. Bravo.

    If only the bands didn't work so hard to sound like the Who. Well, Alex Chilton sounds like Alex Chilton, but he's spent his whole career trying to sound like the Who and other Brit-pop bands of that era, so I don't think that counts. Blur does a decent rave-up of "Substitute", but what I said about Chilton applies to them as well.

    After listening, I ponder how this disc has increased my appreciation for the Who (or any of the acts on the disc, for that matter). And if that's the final test, then this fails.


    Whole Lotta Blues: Songs of Led Zeppelin
    (House of Blues-Platinum)
    reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99

    Led Zeppelin was just another in the slew of British bands who wanted to play the blues real bad. Some did play badly, but most simply added a rock and roll edge to some soulful music. At times, Led Zep even managed to find some of that soul in its own performances.

    And so, in this latest installment of the "This Ain't No Tribute" series, we hear people like Eric Gales, Otis Rush and Gatemouth Brown reclaim the lifeblood. Is it necessary? Oh, probably not. But unlike most tribute albums (or whatever this IS), at its best this set actually does strip Led Zeppelin down to its original influences.

    Probably the best example is "When the Levee Breaks", performed by Magic Slim with Billy Branch and James Cotton. The laid back arrangement really brings home the song, perhaps even lending an insight into what Led Zeppelin heard when it was playing. Similarly, Gatemouth Brown's rendition of "Rock and Roll" sends the clock back to the 50s, before the blues gave up the rock in the first place.

    There are some clunkers (Rush and Chris Thomas King are both dreadfully overproduced, considering the rest of the set), but on the whole, this album comes across as one of the best tributes I've heard. Fine stuff.


    Wicked City soundtrack
    (Gypsy-Velvel/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Lots of bands from the more melodic side of hardcore. H2O, CIV, Samsara, Orange 9mm, Killing Time, Shades Apart, Sweet Diesel, etc. The tracks generally aren't up to the various bands's standard levels, but they're better than your usual soundtrack stuff.

    By a hair. This wouldn't impress me as a mix tape (unlike, say, the brilliant Godmoney soundtrack), but it's pretty good as a soundtrack. Wait a minute. Does that sound whiny or something?

    I dunno. The plain fact is that these songs are not up to snuff. The band selection is fine, but this disc will not set anyone's mind on fire.


    Wigs on Fire 2xCD
    (Nihilist)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Perhaps the most inspired and loony tribute album of all time. Those familiar with Nihilist will be somewhat surprised to hear that this most unusual and "out there" of experimental electronic labels has decided to put together an album that, um, "celebrates" the B-52s.

    Two whole discs of madness, with each track introduced by actual B-52s interview snippets. The artists here (including TV Pow, Panicsville, Brain Transplant, Cheer Accident and many more) range in styles from electronic pop to full-on digital hardcore and crazed electronic noise. Sometimes the original songs are recognizable. Sometimes they aren't.

    Remember Alice Donut's deconstruction of "Only the Good Die Young?" Well, there's plenty of that going on here. This is probably not the kinda album fans of Cosmic Thing will be buying in droves.

    Which is alright. Nihilist releases albums for the discerning electronic noise aficionado. Period. This album is for folks like me who can't get enough of the noodling. Oh, yeah, many of the pieces here are also great examples of post-modern deconstructionism, but that's really thinking too much. Better to sit back and enjoy.


    Wild Wacky Gift 2
    (Benten)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    Another care package from the Big Fish folks over in Japan. This sample celebrates Benten Records's second birthday. And if all this stuff is on one label...

    This disc has plenty from various members of the Lunachicks (birthday wishes and other drunken ramblings) and a good amount of truly eclectic fare. Some of the names are in Japanese characters (which doesn't help me much, but I'm not complaining!), and the music ranges all over the place.

    Giddy pop, odd spacey ramblings, punk and some truly unclassifiable stuff. Generally unrestrained fare, that's probably the best way to describe all of it. Goofy, raucous and wild. A weird, but happy trip.


    Wild Wacky Gift 3
    (Benten)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    The more recent anniversary sampler. This one has live tracks from a tour (Wild Wacky Party 97) and a live record previously released by the label. And, still, the predominant feature is a wide variety of sounds

    The sound quality of the live recordings varies greatly, and the performances are similarly up-and-down. But what I liked about the first sampler, the utterly unrestrained joy of the music, is still here. These people like what they do.

    And that emotion tranfers oh-so-easily. An interesting journey into the by-roads of Japanese music. Not so different from many corners of the scene of this side of the Pacific, really. It's always cool to hear how stuff translates.


    Working Man
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #115, 7/29/96

    A tribute to Rush. With folks like Sebastian Bach, Eric Martin and Mark Slaughter singing. Jake E. Lee, James Murphy and George Lynch are among those who sit in on guitar. Fates Warning contributes a track ("Closer to the Heart"), but the rest of this is another of those studio things all cobbled together.

    The pluses: "Tom Sawyer", "New World Man" and "Big Money" (the chart hits) aren't here. Of course, the aforementioned Fates Warning track and run-throughs of "Red Barchetta" and "Freewill" (the last two close the album) are. And everyone is trying really hard to sound like Rush. WHY?

    The only reason a person would buy a tribute album would be to hear how different artists interpret the songs. Here, the songs are note for note, riff for riff, keyboard shuffle for... you get the idea. Hey, the stuff sounds great, just like Rush. So why buy it?


    World Warped III Live
    (Side One Dummy)
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Here's an interesting concept: Take live recordings of bands on this year's Warped Tour and put them out as a companion. It's possible that a few of the tracks here did come from previous Warped outings, though most certainly didn't.

    So what you get is liveage from the Bosstones, Lunachicks, No Use for a Name, Bad Religion, NOFX, Less than Jake, Pennywise, MxPx, Blink 182, Supersuckers and more. The quality is generally good, the performances suitably electric.

    There are odd moments. NOFX's track was apparently recorded during a 1994 European tour with Therapy?. The irony is that they dedicated "Please Play This Song on the Radio" to the Irishmen. Alright, I found it funny.

    There's no coherence or any real reason these songs are together. Still, live tracks always lead to interesting moments, like the NOFX one I mentioned. There's a lot of asides here. Amusing.


    Yellow Pills Volume 4
    (Big Deal-Paradigm)
    reviewed in issue #145, 10/13/97

    Jordan Oakes has been cranking out the Yellow Pills mag ('zine, whatever) for a long while, and now that his area of expertise (pop music, as set forth by folks like Big Star) is coming around again, he's got a deal to release his fourth compilation. Hey, it's always been a dream of mine to release any mix tape of mine as a compilation, so I'm duly impressed.

    Moreover, Oakes knows his pop, and his taste is impeccable. There are a few well-known names here, but every song on this disc is worthy of praise. Twenty-one songs gushing pure pop. I mean, do you really need me to write anything else?

    Easily the best compilation I've ever heard. Oakes has put together a disc that any pop fan should immediately acquire, by any means necessary. Most of the tracks here are hard-to-find (if you can find them at all), and all of them shimmer. Brilliant.


    Young God Records Compilation 2000 A.D.
    (Young God)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Yes, Young God Records is a going concern, even without a big wad of Swans releases coming down the pike. This rather lengthy compilation proves that the sonic explorations are still proceeding apace.

    Tracks from Angels of Light, Calla, Ulan Bator, Flux Information Services, David Coulter and Windsor for the Derby. Overseen (as always) by M. Gira. That's one way to ensure quality control.

    A portrait of the label as an extension of the artist. Gira has never exactly shied away from unusual sounds, and his label is still the home of some of the most innovative bands around. Dig in.


    (You're Only As Good As)
    The Last Great Thing You Did:
    Lookout Records Artist Exhibit 1997

    (Lookout)
    reviewed in issue #147, 11/10/97

    In case you missed it, Lookout released albums and singles this year from teh likes of the Mr. T Experience, Uranium 9 Volt, the Groovie Ghoulies and the Hi-Fives.

    There's also a few tunes from discs which haven't yet been released (At least, I haven't heard them yet), but I assume all that will be rectified soon. Twenty-three tracks that tell part of the Lookout Records 1997 story.

    Is there really anything else to say? Lookout has been around for almost forever, and its committment to up-and-coming punk bands (particularly those with a knack for hooks) is unparallelled. This disc offers simply more proof.


    You've Got the Fucking Power
    (Digital Hardcore)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    An eight-track compilation (eight songs, that is) featuring stuff from recent Digital Hardcore releases. Like Atari Teenage Riot, Bomb 20, Ec8or and the Alec Empire reviewed earlier in this issue.

    This is stuff is available, and while I'm usually not disposed to liking such cheap samplers (particularly one with so few tracks), the $1.98 selling price makes up for my concerns.

    If you're at all interested in the hardcore side of the current electronic trend and you're not familiar with this label, then two bucks is a small price to pay for an introduction. I wouldn't be so positive, except that the stuff included is good, and the price is right. Enjoy.


    Varnaline
    Sweet Life
    (Zero Hour)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Varnaline is about to go on tour with Bob Mould, and I can understand why. Sure, the guys are much mellower than the usual Mould recording, but the tortured brand of pop still shines through.

    Earlier this year, Semisonic made a splash (with a video, but still). Varnaline doesn't sound like Semisonic, really, but the styles are in the same orbit. Varnaline tends to use the sour notes, despite the title of the album.

    And I like that impulse, myself. Reminds me a bit of the third Big Star album, full of pathos and angst. Strangely, this also reminds me at times of the first Uncle Tupelo album. Lots of these little references here and there, all stuff I like.

    Basically, Varnaline knows the past, and uses bits and pieces to crib together a unique sound. I could identify this band easily among any of the pop bands crashing about today. That distinctive, and that good. Quite the fine fare.


    Songs in a Northern Key
    (E-Squared/Artemis)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    This is one of those "quickie" promo CDs, and it took a thorough search of my paper pile to piece everything together. Varnaline, I knew. I popped the disc in right away and went to searching. Eventually I figured out what was going on.

    Well, the first thing going on is the new Varnaline album. That's what this is (I knew that). And it's better than the last album I heard from these guys. These songs are more finished, if you know what I mean. Instead of just throwing some ideas out there and seeing if they stick (most did on the last album I heard, but still), the guys seem to have figured out how to smooth out the craft without dulling the edges.

    Not that Varnaline's sound is all that rough and ready. The band specializes in thoughtful rock songs accentuated by more acoustic than electric guitar work. There's also a reliance on organ that really flavors the songs quite well.

    I really liked the last Varnaline album, but like I said, after listening for a while I kept feeling this need for closure from the songs. That's what's here. Varnaline has sealed the deal. Great songs with some real punch.


    Varukers
    How Do You Sleep????
    (Go-Kart)
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    Straight-up, in-yer-face punk rawk. Nothing particularly unusual, but the boys do have more than their share of attitude. That's what has to carry this disc, and it does.

    Blitzing riffage, howled vocals and a general sense of outrage at the world as it stands. All very standard, and Varukers don't add much to the formula. Just intensity, and lots of it.

    For me, that works. I don't hear where these guys are all that much different than most melodic hardcore bands (hardcore melodic? You be the judge), but I did like feeding on the electric wire.

    When you need some adrenaline, you'll take it wherever you find it. I found it on this disc. Good enough for me.


    Jonathan Vassar
    The Hours and the Days
    (Triple Stamp)
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    There's americana, and then there's americana. More specifically, there's vaguely rockified country music and then there's the use of folk and roots influences to create something entirely new. Jonathan Vassar belongs to the second camp.

    Don't get me wrong; I like a lot of vaguely rockified country music. But I'm more impressed when someone can write good songs while inventing something unique. Vassar travels down many well-worn roads, but he always seems to add a little something to each piece.

    Right now he seems content with folk orchestration--a little mandolin, plenty of accordion and some fiddle in addition to the usual acoustic combo--but sometimes it sounds like he's tempted to go all Tom Waits on us. Thing is, I think he'd do that well, too.

    Songwriting is king on an album like this, and Vassar has a sure hand. Whether quiet or rollicking, he knows how to cut to the emotional center of a story. Most impressive.


    Vaughn
    Identity Crisis
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Raw hardcore techno industrial sorta stuff. Vaughn brings in all sorts of electronic sounds and sets the blender to puree. A nice bit of aggro for the angry young man.

    There isn't a whole lot of range to the sound of the finished product, even with all the different styles utilized. Vaughn simply liquifies the original concepts and emerges with his own style.

    Wild, thrashing and dangerous. This is the sort of music that can change established forms. Cool experimentation from a man who knows exactly what he wants to do.

    A big fat load of pain and suffering. Vaughn is someone to keep a real eye on. Like I said, this sort of radical music-shifting can have amazing consequences.


    Vegas DeMilo
    Motel California
    (Pinch Hit)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Poppy rock tunes with a grounding in the groove. Kinda like the Spin Doctors with a more modern bent (some scratching and other sideshows). Nothing spectacular, but peppy and inventive nonetheless.

    Definitely aimed at a commercial audience. Still, Vegas DeMilo does enough to keep me interested as well. For starters, each song is its own universe. While the band has defined its sound fairly well, the pieces don't all run together. The album moves along well.

    And it sounds good, too. Not over the top, not excessively shiny, but just punchy enough to dress the songs up in their Sunday best. Which helps, trust me.

    Because while Vegas DeMilo does better than most bands with commercial aspirations, there's still a vapidity at the core that isn't always overcome. Giving a push at the right moments makes it a lot easier to overlook such deficiencies. For what this is, I haven't heard its match in some time.


    Vehement
    Unbalanced for Mankind
    (Cellar Records)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    Real live death metal. I can honestly say I don't get enough of this stuff. I don't even know what the current trends are. So strange to be out of the loop. But anyway, I've got to say something here.

    Vehement is a trio, and there weren't many overdubs (if any), which does leave the sound a bit thin. Also, as the guitarist takes a technical, almost prog approach to his riffage, there's very little distortion spread out to prove cloud cover.

    This stripped down sound, though, works. The songs are well-written, and the guys can most certainly play. There are times when I wanted a bit more power, but that's not a big issue.

    Like I said, I can't comment on trends, but Vehement plays a clean game. It's a new sound for my ears, but I like it. Perhaps more stuff like this will convince more folks that this music doesn't suck. I'm not holding my breath, though.


    The Vehicle Birth
    Tragedy
    (Crank)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Emo, sure, it's a Crank record. The Vehicle Birth is a bit more experimental with the form, sounding a lot like Engine Kid at times. The guitar lines are extremely strident, and the lyrics are a lot more existential than with most emo bands.

    The songs have very little solid structure. They move around, shifting keys and chord progressions according to some internal gyroscope. There's just no telling where the music will go next. Surprise is always a good thing.

    Muted, often enough. The Vehicle Birth stays in pocket most of the time, letting its intricate guitar lines weave their own minimalist statement. No need to bash a point home; the ideas are strong enough to stand by themselves.

    A surprisingly assured album. The band knew what it wanted, went into the studio and came out satisfied. Completely impressive, and softly devastating. Proof that quiet rage is the most compelling.


    split 7" with The Wicked Farleys
    (Doom Nibbler)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    The second cool seven-inch from Doom Nibbler reviewed in this issue. The Vehicle Birth does a tune called "Toronto," and The Wicked Farleys issue forth "How's my Driving?"

    The Vehicle Birth keeps the sounds muted for the first half of their piece, though the playing is often intense. Ever-churning, "Toronto" blazes into a messy pile by the finish. A somewhat typical construction, I'll admit, but it works well here.

    The Wicked Farleys, by contrast, open with a flourish and don't slow up. Some great strident rhythm guitar work drives the motion of the song (I'm not sure there's really a "lead guitar" anywhere). Did I mention that this is an instrumental? Yep. Top notch, too.

    The second cool seven-inch from this label. Well, when you can tap into talent like this, it's not surprising that the stuff sounds good.


    Vehicles
    This Bluebird Wants Me Dead
    (self-released)
    reviewed 5/14/15

    I'm definitely in the minority here, but I think the Alan Parsons Project is among the underrated acts of the 70s (and early 80s). Parsons, of course, engineered Abbey Road, Let It Be and Dark Side of the Moon, but the music he created with singer Eric Woolfson was often nearly as impressive. In those dark days, keyboards were often used as window dressing (or worse), but Parsons had an ear for not only how to use keyboards, but what type of keyboard to use on a particular song.

    I say this because "Projections," the first track on Vehicles's new album, is an alternate-universe version of APP's "You Don't Believe." And that's completely awesome.

    In general, though, Vehicles trends toward the more manic, new-wavy 80s pop sound. The creative keyboards are there, as are some wonderful crashing guitars. Some wags might call this Pink Floyd that actually kicks ass. I've never been a Floyd fan (gasp!), but I can certainly hear a few parallels. There's also a definite nod to the Edge's ringing guitar sound, though the lines here are completely different.

    Kinda as if Vehicles decided to take a bunch of elements from the 70s and 80s and slice-and-dice them into an entirely new hash. I'm beginning to sense a similar theme in a lot of the albums I've heard this spring, so this sound isn't as fresh as I might have thought it a year ago. Nonetheless, this is one of the best presentations of a coming sound.

    And those anthemic hooks! Plenty of soar and very little bloat. Vehicles keep the trim lean and take as much wind as possible (if that's a completely incorrect use of pseudo sailing talk, my apologies). Lovely and addictive.


    Velocity
    Activator EP
    (Dreamscape-Accelerator)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Solid modern metal with just a touch of the glam--glam metal, that is. The high vocals may growl, but when they try to soar, they have that strained quality that worked well for loads of bands in the late 80s.

    The music, too, is a bit more active than the usual grind. Velocity seems to have learned a little bit from Warrior Soul and Motley Crue (both old and more recent). Not the most distinguished fare, but it sure sounds good most of the time.

    There are a lot of studio tricks here that seem to be trying to make this sound heavier than maybe it wants to be. Velocity plays the power game well, but so do a lot of bands. Perhaps a lighter touch might give these guys a more distinct sound.


    The Velour Motel
    Wolcott
    (Throwrug)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Where the other Throwrug release reviewed in this issue (The Great Brain) showcased the "old" Chicago sound, The Velour Motel is much more in the "Chicago sound" vein of Jim O'Rourke, Bill Callahan (Smog) and cohort.

    A little punchier and less eclectic than those folks, but still in the area of low key pop music. There is serious attention paid to melody, and the songs do get closer to that Elvis Costello "mark" referred to in the Smog review.

    But that doesn't mean this stuff can't be beautiful and haunting just the same. The Velour Motel has crafted a fine set of pop songs, brimming equally with fear and hope. The sound is a bit echo-filled, but that works well enough. The songs are intended to speak for themselves, and they tell wondrous tales.

    Totally surprising. I reviewed this one right after the Smog, a tough act to follow. The Velour Motel filled in well. Hell, it knocked me out.


    Vendetta
    Vendetta
    (Reality)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Um, I wasn't sure how things could get much worse than the Lillian Axe when this dropped into the discer next. Lillian Axe are geniuses next to these guys.

    Below average glam that is plain annoying at times. And it's a whole album of the stuff.

    I was predicting chord changes entire songs before they occurred.

    Wait! I hear a new Aldo Nova album in the distance!


    Veneficum
    Dysphoria
    (Forever Underground)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Ah, yes. Real black metal. Lots of keyboards, cascading lead guitar lines and utterly incomprehensible vocals. Enter the maelstrom and prepare to be engulfed.

    The stuff is silly. Even when the lyrics are majestic and the songs roll on well past the five-minute mark. Part of it is that there's only so much a band can do with this sound. Veneficum uses all the tools it has, but it doesn't move much past stuff I heard from Quorthon and Bathory more than a decade ago.

    Which is not to say that these guys suck. They do this sound as well as anyone I've heard in quite some time. The playing is sharp, even if the production has left the sound kinda mushy, and I do like the over-the-top excess.

    That said, I think they boys need to evolve the sound a little bit. The odd Maidenesque triplet-filled riffage is a nice touch, but it's just enough. Veneficum has the talent and skill (two different things, of course), but it still needs to work on the songwriting a bit. Find some new way to color the sound. Then greatness might be at hand.


    Enigma Prognosis
    (Forever Undergound)
    reviewed in issue #252, April 2004

    Back in the day, black metal was death metal reduced to keyboards and drum machines. Not necessarily the most interesting fare, though the sheer speed and energy of the stuff was undeniable.

    Veneficum is an extreme band that uses keyboards and ultra-speedy double bass rum rhythms in a different way. Think Dream Theater meets Count Grishnakh--if that second reference is spelled correctly and means anything to you. The songs are long, the keyboards are more an atmospheric element than an instrument of aggression and the drums are almost theatrical in nature.

    The mix is a bit odd--I can hear everything, but there are times when nothing coalesces. The effect at higher volumes (which is certainly the way to listen to this stuff) can be disconcerting. Though I imagine these boys don't mind that at all.

    I think this album could have benefited from some judicious editing--more in the complexity of the music rather than the length of the pieces. At times, I think Veneficum tries to do too much. And I really can't fault the boys for that. They've created a vital and exciting album, one chock full of truly innovative songs. Hats off.


    Venerealectric
    Venerealectric
    (Nihilist)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Dreadfully lo-fi electronic beats and loony lyrics and samples. Some of the material sounds dire, but I think the intent is to amuse more than scare. I mean, this is so goofy, I can hardly sit down.

    But it's cool like that. Not at all pretentious, but just light and loopy fare. A pleasant aperitif after a heavy day. Sure, there's lots of electronic disturbances bouncing about, but in a mostly benign fashion.

    Something to wrap a sodden mind around for refreshment. I really do wish I could come up with something to describe the music, but I mean, it's noise, beats, samples and the odd lyric. The sound fuzzed and dulled out to the extreme.

    And so attractive I can't tell you. Goofy can be good sometimes, you know.


    Venice Is Sinking
    Azar
    (One Percent Press)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    Pop and such from the hearts of space. Venice Is Sinking is equally adept at playing laptop-style pop (with a band, natch), that peculiarly midwestern sort of dirge music or venturing off into the deepest realms of space rock. Without a lot in-between, really.

    The spacey stuff seems to be part of a concept ("Azar One," Azar Two," etc.). I don't know what that concept might be, but I don't care. The pieces make for interesting interludes.

    What I like is the light, utterly jaunty pop that, by all rights, ought to have been pumped out of a computer keyboard. But this is a band, alright, kicking out the chintzy beats and sing-along melodies. The sonic effect is a bit off-putting, in a good way. The center of these songs always seems to be off-balance, making the listener think just a bit more.

    But the midwestern dirges are the things that get to me the most. Think of Dirty Three with vocals, and then add in some horns. I don't know exactly what Venice Is Sinking is trying to do, but I sure like what I hear.


    Okay EP
    (One Percent Press)
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    One song from Azar ("Okay"), a couple of covers of Okay songs (that would be the band Okay, OK?) and a couple of alternate takes on Azar songs ("Ryan's Song" and, um, "Okay"). For the completist, to be sure, but Venice is Sinking is one of those bands that justly inspires such devotion.


    Sand & Lines:
    The Georgia Theatre Sessions
    May 20th-24th 2008

    (One Percent Press)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    This album was recorded live to two-track tape. No overdubs. No nothing. Even the theatre itself burned (proceeds from this album will help with reconstruction). It's another solid Venice Is Sinking effort, even though it's safe to say that this album is quite a step away from previous albums.

    Part of that is the setting and primitive recording techniques. The theatre had a great sound, something that cannot be said for many venues. The band seems to have settled in and gotten comfortable quite quickly. At least, that's how it sounds to me.

    The songs here are more, well, song-oriented than the work on Azar. There's less experimentation and more embracing the core of the compositions. There are three covers, including a striking rendition of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." It's spooky without getting maudlin. Instead of striking out on flights of fancy, the band cuts right to the core of each song.

    Everything I've heard from this band is excellent, and this album is no exception. A couple more twists in the road, and Venice Is Sinking might approach legendary status. Hear them now.


    Venom
    Resurrection
    (Steamhammer-SPV)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    How does a band stagger through 21 years of middling albums sales and countless line-up changes? Well, it helps to be one of the most-favored cult bands around. And, it doesn't hurt if the music is generally good and sometimes great.

    The formula hasn't changed much. Fans of the band's early 80s output would probably recognize large chunks of these songs, though there are some modern touches (a more grinding style of riffage, in particular). But even those "modernizations" can't completely wipe away a style written in stone.

    And these songs are good. Some, like the title track, are great. This isn't really a reunion (in fact, long-time drummer Abaddon abandoned the band just before this album was recorded), but just the next step.

    A solid album from a band that is rarely too far off the mark. I did not expect to be impressed by this, but I sure am. No novelty here; these are the venomous goods.


    Venus Beads
    Black Aspirin
    (Emergo)
    reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92

    I've been a grungy pop fan for a long time, and these guys are as good as I've heard in a while. Great guitar sound and real nice harmonies. They remind me of the Young Fresh Fellows, and not in a rip-off sort of way. First off, they're British, and have more of a gloom and doom outlook on things. But those drum breaks...

    Some of the more adventurous reporters gave this raves a couple of months back. More should. Wanna know why? Just listen to "Reckless Hope," "Blood Orange," or the rest of the album. Damn, it just seems to get more intense as you journey inward. Check this out.


    Jules Verdone
    Diary of a Liar
    (Q Division)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Punk-tinged guitar rock, with a female edge. I know, it's dumb and engaging in stereotypes to say that, but like it or not, there is a genre known as "chick rock" (though I prefer to generally avoid using such a term), and the main feature is somewhat less intense music but more impassioned vocals. The lyrics are somewhat more introspective and talk about emotions as much as anything.

    Well, Verdone's music is edgy and raucous. While simplistic and direct, Verdone also prefers to use a full range of musical sounds and vocal intensity, which gives the disc a good flow.

    There is a definite Liz Phair feel to all this, though without all of the self-conscious excesses. Verdone is able to carve out her own sound and get her ideas across. The songs are not as direct and arresting as I'd like, but they are well-constructed. I'm thinking my problem here is mostly one of taste.

    I like the disc, but it doesn't quite sing to me like I expected it would when I first heard it. Something is being held back, and I'd like to hear that passion released. Still, a solid effort all the way around.


    The Verge
    Phenomenon
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    The Verge flips through a variety of takes on the folk-pop idea, from full-on electric power to acoustic jams completed by off-key vocals.

    Is it supposed to be kinda pretty or kinda annoying? I'm not sure. The Verge never settles into the same groove twice, and that's the band's saving grace. S o a rambling, too-long lick like "Rhonda Mae & Jackie Clay" gets followed up by a clunky take on the Beatles with "Everyone Creams".

    Everything is damned sloppy, particularly during the acoustic moments when such habits are most obvious. The Verge actually sounds the best when it cranks up the volume and hides the cracks in its armor.

    The guys are trying hard to make unusual music, and I applaud that. I just wish the results were more satisfying.


    Carl Verheyen Band
    Atlas Overload
    (Provogue)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    Carl Verheyen can coax some wonderful sounds out of his guitar. But that's not the focus here. Instead, it's Verheyen's mystical prog take on the blues that is truly arresting.

    The band is a trio, and this album was recorded to highlight that fact. No there aren't many overdubs and the sound has plenty of room for the notes to explore.

    And when I say that Verheyen plays the blues, well, I probably overstate. These are rock songs that borrow heavily from the blues, but the sound itself is a laid-back rock feel. Like a mellower version of the Dregs, if you will.

    What I like best of all is that Verheyen doesn't try to impress with excess. He likes to make his guitar sing, not wail. This isn't music that excites the senses as much as the intellect. But that's okay. Sometimes, a little contemplation goes a long way.


    Vermouth
    Retrofuture Pop Exotica
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Lounge with a full demented americana orchestra. Despite the sizable instrumention, these songs retain a minimalist flair. They're often somewhat reflexively creepy, but that's part of the charm. Justine Kragen and Steve McDonald have created a fascinating little sonic universe.


    The Verna Canon
    Movie Star Faces
    (Headhunter-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00

    There aren't many good bands from South Carolina. The greater part of Hootie and the Blowfish came from the Palmetto state. 'Nuff sed. And yet, I'm confronted with the Verna Canon.

    A weird name for a fairly conventional band. Crafted, moody pop tunes with the requisite flourishes of violin. This would not work without the dusky vocals of Molly Ledford, but see, she's singing and so it does.

    The music merely sets up the vocals. And Ledford easily carries the day, delivering ironic bon mots one after another with pleasant panache. This is the sort of stuff that shallow people like to call deep, just because you can't dance to it. The Verna Canon does have its moments, of course, but Sartre shouldn't be sweating.

    Nope, this is just a simple, well-made pop album. With some killer vocals. Hey, the world has stopped for much less. I'm not trying to slag on the Verna Canon's parade. I liked the disc. It's pretty cool. Just not godhead, you know?


    The Vernicious Knid
    Days that Stand Still EP
    (AntiAntenna)
    reviewed in issue #233, September 2002

    At once both strident and yet surprisingly melodic, the Vernicious Knid brings to mind long-gone midwestern emo bands like Boys Life. The songs are complex, but that complexity is somewhat hidden by an energetic attack and an always-moving rhythm section.

    That the six songs here all find their grooves in different ways is impressive. Even more so is the fact that it's pretty easy to discern a coherent band strategy. These guys know precisely what they're doing.

    Viscerally attractive, and yet subtle enough to spur contemplation as well. That's tough to accomplish, but the Vernicious Knid seems to do it effortlessly. The sort of disc that's almost impossible to put away.


    Versailles
    Believe EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #265, June 2005

    Versailles is Diana St. Hilaire. And it is also a band which features the aforementioned St. Hilaire as singer and songwriter. This is the sort of thing that makes people snort when they talk about goth music.

    But is this really goth, or is it simply keyboard and piano-drenched orchestral rock? I dunno. Labels don't interest me. Versailles (the woman) real talent is playing piano, but she's a capable songwriter and a strong (if not particularly subtle) singer. The three songs here (with one remix) are intriguing. I have a feeling I could go either way with a full set.

    This is what I have to work with, though. This L.A. band is plying waters I haven't experienced in a while. Folks to watch, methinks.


    David Vertesi
    Cardiography
    (File Under: Music)
    reviewed in issue #325, March 2011

    There's something about most Canadian singer-songwriters. They don't play by the rules. At least, Vancouver's David Vertesi doesn't. He does wield a mean acoustic guitar, but the rhythm section might be drums or laptop. The sound might be minimalist or lush. And the style? Impossible to say.

    On the whole, he sticks to the pop universe. But that leaves a lot of room for messing about. And there's plenty of mess here. Vertesi wrote all the songs and made most of the sounds. He indulged himself as fully as most. Some of these songs kinda head down dead ends.

    But Vertesi makes them work. There's an intensity that glowers through even through the upbeat pieces, though it positively shines in the more introspective songs.

    The sort of album that might scare off a few listeners at first. Gird up, my friends, and withstand the blows. There's plenty of reward on the back end. Quite a feat.


    Veruca Salt
    Resolver
    (Beyond)
    reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00

    I understand that Louise Post was just as much the bandleader of Veruca Salt as Nina Gordon. But come on. Pick another name. Call it a solo album (which is what Gordon has done). I don't care.

    It's not even that this album sounds a lot different than previous Veruca Salt efforts. Or that Post's vocals are not unlike those of Gordon. Actually, it's more the opposite. For all the fanfare, this sounds like a rehash. Almost like Post has to defend her choice to keep the band name (which she most certainly does).

    Right. So I got that off my chest. The album? Well, it sounds like old Veruca Salt, which I always thought was kinda fun but inconsequential. Same here. Post is an able writer and singer, but she hasn't put her own stamp on the band's sound. It's just the same-old same-old. Nice, but nothing astonishing.

    Old fans will probably like this puppy the first couple of times through it. But I don't think it's gonna wear well. The older stuff, if not better, at least was a little more memorable. Workmanlike is fine, but not for an established band. Even if it is a brand new model.


    Very Be Careful
    Remember Me from the Party?
    (Downtown Pijao)
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    Longtime U.S. purveyors of the Colombian Vallenato style, Very Be Careful mixes classic songs with their own compositions. Cumbia may be better-known as a Columbian folk music form, but Vallenato and its heavy reliance on accordion has plenty of followers in El Norte as well.

    My high school Spanish is nowhere near good enough to make any sort of judgment on the lyrics, but the music is incessantly vibrant and alive. The accordion is one reason, but the liquid bass also keeps the dance alive even on the most minimalist of passages.

    The sound is a bit rough, but it pops nicely. Why be authentic if your sound is plastic? The boys in VBC don't know, either. This has the sound of a house show, electric and slightly ragged.

    Which fits just right. Very Be Careful has been perfecting its interpretation of this sound for some 15 years, and that dedication and easy handling of the style is apparent. The comfort of the musicians is impressive. The songs are dreadfully fun. A fine set.


    Veve
    Veve
    (Wordsound)
    reviewed in issue #167, 9/14/98

    Eraldo Bernocci. Bill Laswell. Mick Harris. I mean, that says a lot right there. Innovative beat work, creative bass lines and the best in spatial electronic programming. Ambient space dub, anyone?

    Or something like that, anyway. The sound structures form in front of and behind the rhythm section. A constantly changing reality, moving in and around the solid base. Beautiful and alluring, sweeping in grandeur.

    Best of all, there is no rush, no hurry. All things come in good time, and the Veve project exhibits masterful self-control. Nothing excessive or self-indulgent, but revelatory instead. The songs just keep unfolding.

    I just love the way Laswell lays down bass lines. He's able to adapt to any number of styles, and here he takes on Harris's beat constructions and fleshes them out. A most worthy endeavor.


    The Vibrators
    We Vibrate--The Best of
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    I think it's fair to say that the Vibrators best days lie 20 years ago. The first album was pretty damned good (which is why it can still be found without too much effort). The work tailed off after that.

    This disc doesn't contain any of the recordings the band made while signed to CBS. Instead, many songs were re-recorded in 1991, with the rest of the tracks consisting of demo versions or live shots recorded back in 1977.

    The re-recorded renditions are uniformly uninspired, and often insipid. The demos are pretty decent, and the quality is much better than you might expect. The live tracks have the most energy, and are also the worst sounding of the bunch. The sound was horrible, but at least they impart a bit of a hint as to why the Vibrators should have a "Best of" album to begin with.

    Search out Pure Mania. You can get it on CD. Don't mess with this.


    Sid Vicious
    Never Mind the Reunion, Here's Sid Vicious
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #130, 3/17/97

    Recorded live at Max's Kansas City in September 1978, this set teams Sid with Jerry Nolan, Mick Jones, Arthur Kane and Steve Dior (a band that went by the name the Idols for a short while). I'm pretty sure this stuff was released some time back as Sid Sings, though it's pretty hard to hear a damned thing in the incompetent mix.

    Sid riffs through such chestnuts as "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "Search & Destroy", "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" and "My Way". Oh, and the obligatory cover of the Ramones "Chinese Rock", a song I've never liked in any form.

    But even if the lackluster material and crappy performances could be improved, it wouldn't matter because this is obviously taken straight from the sound board, where it had been mixed by someone at least as fucked up as Sid was at the time.

    Positively dreadful. There's no reason why anyone should want to own this fucker, much less pay for it. Indeed, the only reason for this re-issue is cash, cash, cash.


    Vicious Fish
    Hooked
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Alright, the title is hackneyed at best. The songs themselves are pretty cool bluesy rock wails. Lots of fat lead guitar and half-sung, half hollered female vocals flying out. I've heard a lot of this stuff over the ages, but Vicious Fish still manages to catch my ear.

    The songs are written to the band's strenghths, which makes sense as Sally Leiber handles both the guitar and singing duties. There may be only three songs here, but they're arresting as hell. Songs of passion and power.

    Proof that it doesn't matter how many folks have attempted a particular sound, it only matters if you have the talent to express yourself fully. Lieber and Vicious Fish rip out mighty chunks of greatness.


    Victims Family
    The Germ
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #10, 3/31/92

    When psycho-funk-thrash is taken to its logical end, the results can be unsettling. But then, there has never been an unsettling AT release, has there?

    Well, I happen to think any discomfort that accompanies listening to this record is worth it. The prose-style lyrics fit in with the wandering (but always coherent) music.

    John Wright, drummer for Nomeansno, produced this album. The band's sound shines through, proving Wright did his job correctly.

    A great album, one that would fit in well not only at alternative but also for you metal programmers out there. Get your hands on this and listen.


    Maybe If I... 7"
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    Back from the dead and sounding better than ever (not just hype, but true), Victims Family crank this single out to prep people for their new album (due next year). The A is a new one, the flip new versions of old chestnuts.

    This sounds, um, really great. Can't wait for the full-length. Wish I could say something more original.


    4 Great Thrash Songs
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    The last VF show, live and direct from Amsterdam (in front of an amazingly small crowd, or at least that's how it sounds).

    The best and worst sides of Victims Family are showcased here. The progressive rock influences that separated VF from most hardcore bands are in full force and the live sound is even better than some of the studio records.

    But VF is also a little self-indulgent, even in the studio, and live those tendencies are only amplified. VF was perhaps the loosest hardcore band in existence, and so you must take the good with the bad.

    Twenty-three songs that wander all over the history of the band. All in all, a most fitting conclusion.


    Victory at Sea
    All Your Things Are Gone
    (Gern Blandstern)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    If Three Mile Pilot was the least bit perky, it might have sounded like this. Victory at Sea is a piano-driven rock act that is plenty moody. But those sounds are tempered by an almost maddening need to push the tempo at times. Maddening and exciting at the same time.

    There's always something happening, and indeed, almost more than three things happening at any given time. The piano can help create that illusion, but Victory at Sea likes to drop subtle hints from all corners. Nice work, that.

    The piano is recorded with plenty of reverb, so it has this great ringing tone. The other instruments are recorded in different ways (or so it sounds), which lends that much more personality to the songs. Almost like a conversation that way.

    In the end, this album turned out to be much more dramatic than I thought at first. It's hard to underestimate an album if there's so much piano, but I did anyway. Victory at Sea just keeps building and building (in intensity, not necessarily volume) until the wall gives way at the end. Nicely done.


    Victims of Internal Decay
    Victims of Internal Decay
    (Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93

    VOID manages to bridge the gap between the grind and death metal without compromising either. They do stick to the grind side of things, I suppose, but this is a pretty cool sound to get.

    A lot of it has to do with Pat Wombacher's stunning drum technique. Yes, I know any drummer can go fast, but he interpolates some great rhythms into his double-pumping bass drum work.

    One song is a reworking of a John Donne poem, and they also cover a Green River song (the obligatory Sab, too, but I'll forgive).

    Where have these guys been? Oregon is the appropriate answer, I guess. These guys are the American death metal discovery of 1993, even if most of you won't start playing it until 1994. Do not let this one slip through your fingers.


    Viewmaster
    Laughlines
    (Popfactory)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    Speaking of emo (if you're reading the reviews in order): Here's a pretty good band that wends its way around that style. Lots of punch, but the tempos are fairly slow. An emphasis on unusual lead guitar lines is particularly gratifying.

    The lyrics fly all over the place, generally delineating some source of pain or frustration, which the music then proceeds to alleviate. A good trick, one done better than many emo acts.

    I'm so wiped from reviewing the compilation that I'm almost out of words for this fine project. I'd sure like to emphasize how impressive the recording was, though. The keyboards don't sound like keys at all, but more like some sort of guitar undercurrent. Well, sometimes they sound like a broken-down organ, but that's pretty cool as well.

    Sure, this is the pop side of emo (the songs are fairly strictly constructed, though there are a few meanders now and again), but it's some damn fine stuff, and no one will convince me otherwise. A cool surprise at the end of the day.


    The Vigilantes
    No Destiny EP
    (Flat-TKO)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Blue-collar punks blowing out a few class-conscious songs. Not so much political, really, but just personal observations. Like how it sucks that your boss (who drives a Mercedes) thinks he can treat you like shit. That's definitely more human than anything else.

    The Vigilantes have that ragged melodic anthemic sound. You know, where you can sing along without being able to tell if you're out of tune. Catchy stuff, to be sure. Nothing complicated, rather, these boys succeed by keeping the ideas short and simple.

    Um, that's often what works best in punk. The best can incorporate strange ideas, but the rest do well to stick to three chords and sweaty hooks. That's not to say these boys don't have talent. They do, and they know how to use it best. That's all.


    Vincent Vocoder Voice
    Vincent Vocoder Voice
    (Father Figure) reviewed 1/23/15

    There's something about untrammelled aggression. Vincent Vocoder Voice isn't content to pin the needles on the musical side. The lyrics are similarly caustic.

    It's quite arresting to hear such attractive songs plowed into the electronic dirt over and over again. These might have once been tunes that would invite singing along, but they're simply butchered with layer after layer of instrumentation, vocals and nails on chalkboard.

    Each of the pieces here was once something bright and alive, and bits of that can be heard. But once everything has been smashed together, the result is something of a sonic trainwreck.

    A really compelling one, too. I'm not sure if this would be hurt or improved by the merest slimming down. After listening a dozen times or so, I think excess is the key to the emotional impact of this album. The arrangements are masterful. What sounds messy is actually exceptionally crafted. And removing anything might well lessen the assault that is so necessary for this album to work.

    In other words, this is no album for triflers. This is an angry, aggressive, skin-stripping piece of work. It will disturb your soul. If it doesn't, you might want to check into therapy.


    The Vindictives
    Hypno-Punko
    (Coldfront) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    The concept: Hypno-Punko is a method by which puinkers all across America might remove just about everything from their brains and be utterly brainwashed into the cult of punk. Or something like that.

    That's pretty funny. The liners are pretty extensive on the subject, and they're a lot funnier than the music, which honestly gets grating after a bit. Joey Vindictive's vocals manage to put folks on edge about ten times faster than Jello Biafra's. That's an amazing trick.

    The songs themselves are kinda amusing (as the liners note, "Accentuate the Positive" is altered somewhat from the Bing Crosby version), but most of the album is something of a takeoff on the whole Hypno-Punko idea, which is a funny for a while. Then the joke gets pretty lame.

    Ah well, humor is where you find it. This isn't a serious album, and I imagine that Vindictives performances are pretty fun. Just don't drive the laughs into the ground, boys.


    Violent Femmes
    Viva Wisconsin
    (Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    How's this for enduring underground status? The Violent Femmes' self-titled first album is the only album in history to sell a million copies without appearing on Billboard's Top 200 chart. It was a "classic" by the time I got to college in 1987. Really.

    A year ago, the band played a few shows back home. Simple arrangements, basic run-throughs. Nothing fancy. You know, the sound that everyone loved (eventually) the first time around.

    And while I've never been the biggest fan of the boys (they've sometimes struck me as too clever by half), I have to admit that this album does the songs some justice. It's goofy. It's fun. And it sounds great.

    The Violent Femmes were always a complicated folk band at heart. This disc kinda shows that off very well. Fans would do well to pick this one up. One live album that is vital.


    Freak Magnet
    (Beyond/BMG)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    It's been quite a while since the Femmes put out a studio album. Last year's Live in Wisconsin proved that the trio still has the fire, and this album shows there might be miles left in the old clunker.

    The songs on this disc were written at various times over the last five years or so. And thus there really isn't any "theme" to this album, which might be why this is one of the band's most consistently engaging efforts.

    Now, this album is not gonna make many converts. Gordon Gano still has one of the most annoying voices in rock (fans may find his warbling cute or otherwise endearing, but that whine can kill), and the songs are still written in amazingly iconoclastic style.

    But of course, the Femmes have a sound all their own. No two ways about it. I liked this album as much as any in the past, but I'm not a monster fan. Still, if you think you might still be interested in the boys, give it a whirl.


    Violeta Vil
    Lapidas y Cocoteros
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    I believe that this band is from Venezuela. And that sort of "I'm not sure" ethos extends to the music, which trends toward harsh electronic sounds melded to goth mumblecore. In Spanish, which may make this sound more exotic than it is. I do like the edgy sounds, even if I wish the songs themselves had a bit more in the center. Intriguing.


    Virginia Coalition
    Townbird
    (Flat Five Press)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Just a groove band looking to find its sound. Virginia Coalition bounces around, from vaguely soulful to simple hippie rock to understated funk. The main thing is, the guys never commit to one sound (or one singer, near as I can tell).

    Sure, it's a given that this isn't my favorite approach to music. Rather than truly dabble, Virginia Coalition sounds like it is taking small tastes and then homogenizing them. Another way to say that, though, is that the band is simply imcorporating the various influences into a band sound. It's a sound that doesn't quite become singular, but I guess I can appreciate that point of view.

    The production on this is good. It fills out when the songs need that strength, but in general it stays in the background and lets the songs do the talking.

    This doesn't come together for me, partly because I just don't like what the guys are trying to do and partly because I don't think the sound is quite coherent. Still, the writing itself is good and the playing even better. Virginia Coalition doesn't give enough of a case as to why you should like it better than any number of other bands, but at least it's headed in the right direction.


    Virtualizer
    Sex Technologie = The Future
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94

    The sticker on the cover says "ambient trance space purity". While I'm not exactly sure what that means, it does seem to be a superficial description of what lies within.

    Of course, all that lies over techno beats (I suppose that might be the "trance" part; my terminology on these things is a little weak), so things do move along. And there used to be a space music show on this station where I went to school (not the station where I worked). I used to tune in on Sunday afternoons while trying to sleep off a hangover. It worked wonders, keeping me asleep another two hours.

    But while Virtualizer certainly lies in the mellow techno universe (that's why the "ambient" is there), it is anything but boring. A lot is going on, and there isn't that much repetition.

    This may not be everyone's bag of goodies, but I like it.


    Acid Warriors Dream Crystals
    (Hypnotic-Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    The first Virtualizer disc was my experience with the trance movement, and the idea of mixing techno beats with ambient possibilities was intriguing.

    Since then I've heard much more of this stuff, and I am less easily impressed. So I pop this disc in and bang! I'm impressed all over again.

    The songs do have a bit of a tape-loopy feel to them, but the beat experimentation (much more than just techno or industrial rhythms going on) is simply stunning.

    Yeah, this is highly experimental electronic music. If your mind is closed to such things, then I'm sorry. You're missing out. With its second album in less than a year (as far as stateside release goes, anyway), Virtualizer once again establishes a tough standard for trance excellence.


    Visible Shivers
    Four Things
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    The coolest thing about this band is the newsletter, which has weird stories about the comings and goings of various band members and reminisces of gigs long past. I recommend it highly.

    Musically, Visible Shivers is one of those bands that wants to play original music, but has succumbed the economic realities of most bars, which want cover bands. So these songs have not had the live reworkings necessary to really hone in the hooks.

    The sound is college pop, with all that encompasses. A little lighter than, say, Superchunk, but a little heavier (but just as accessible as) R.E.M. Definitely a southeastern sound, with the occasional folky influence. Enjoyable, but undistinguished.

    I think these guys should really spend some time developing these and other original songs, and try and get by just that way. It's hard and it sucks, but to really move to the next level (and make truly satisfying music) it's probably necessary.


    Vision
    The Kids Still Have a Lot to Say
    (Grilled Cheese-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    A New Jersey hardcore band which, believe it or not, has played York a couple times in the year I've been living here. There's enough tuneage to make some reference to late 80s Bad Religion, say, though the production is certainly more raw and direct.

    Still, the literately political lyrics and nice lead guitar lines are straight out of Westbeach Recorders. Hey, Vision is pretty damned good at this stuff, really. The sort of amped-up pop-core fare I've been jonesing for for a while.

    Truly quality work. And the less-than-perfect sound doesn't get in the way. In fact, I'd say the rough edges give the songs a bit more punch. Few oozin-ahs, but plenty of ragged hooks, nonetheless.

    Completely kicked me in the ass. Not a direct rip-off, but an evolution of the old BR ideal. Beats the shit out of where Graffin and Co. and these days.


    Vision of Disorder
    Vision of Disorder
    (Supersoul-Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #121, 10/21/96

    Straightforward NYC metalcore, replete with musical cliche after cliche. Even a little straight singing, a la Fear Factory.

    Despite all, I kinda like this. It's not great, but the guys know how to entertain. The music is certainly not original, but absolutely serviceable. Vision of Disorder has figured out exactly what it wants to do, and the execution is impeccable.

    The tight production leaves a metallic sheen over the proceedings, and that's probably good. The playing is sharp, and the sound helps show that off.

    For something I've heard a thousand times before, Vision of Disorder still turned my head. Imagine if the band actually found its own sound.


    Imprint
    (Roadrunner)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    Even more into the metal hardcore sound than the band's previous album. I hear loads of Sepultura-style riffage, and that growl is menacing, indeed. Tight, impressive work.

    While Vision of Disorder still is a bit too heavy into its influences, it has managed to break free of the Biohazard metalfunk style and move into more straight ahead stomp tunes. Sounds like a Victory band, totally.

    And that's a nice progression. This is an album of power, purposefully omitting any grace. Moving the hardcore bandwagon in the right direction, I'd say.

    I was impressed with the debut. This disc moves VoD forward. Solid all the way through, with more than enough heart to go all the way.


    ...For the Bleeders
    (Go-Kart) reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99

    Obviously, the Roadrunner gig didn't work out so well. Just when I thought the band was stepping out into its own territory. Of course, Go-Kart isn't a slouch organization. Maybe even a few more "street" creds.

    In any case, the music continues to evolve into tighter and tighter balls of angst. VoD doesn't waste any energy on asides. Full force to the main thrusters, damn the torpedos!

    Bringing the band even more into its own. This extreme hardcore sound is kinda hard to kick after an adrenaline rush like this, and VoD makes it even tougher to turn back. The album weaves its spell stronger as the it goes on, until by the end there's little option but to start over.

    The disc seems a bit skimpy (a couple re-recorded tunes and a couple songs from a movie mixed in with the rest), but that's a sin only when the tuneage works. This does.


    Visions of Excess
    Sensitive Disruption
    (Tone Casualities)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    You want some experimental electronic music that would actually work on the dance floor? Visions of Excess comes as close as anything I've heard in a long, long time.

    The sound is grounded in techno, but there's so much more expressed in the beatwork that I hesitate to use even that decidedly generic term. Indeed, just about every trendy beat movement of the last 20 years makes an appearance here, but never in an expected setting. So in the middle of a spooky atmosphere I hear a little jungle, for instance. And that's just 30 seconds of one song.

    I like the way Paul Browse and Nirto Karsten Fischer think. They take accepted forms and turn them upside-down. I'd call these works vaguely deconstructionist except that many of them are positively infectious. There are plenty of abstract experimental moments as well, but I'm constantly surprised at the plethora of grooves present here.

    The only sound Visions of Excess has crafted for itself is one of creative electronic music. This puppy flies all over the place, but the one unifying factor is quality. Damned good, it is. And that's all I need to know.


    Visitor Jim
    Visitor Jim
    (Fortune)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    One of the fun things about this band is that every member is named James or Jim or Jimmy. The bio simplifies, saying that all the members go by "Jim". So the band's moniker is appropriate.

    Again and again I had to keep telling myself that only three people (with a little help from some friends) made this music. It's a lot more than just the sound. These songs move all around the pop and rock universe, stopping to groove one moment and then pull a Zappa another.

    Without ever losing the center of the sound. Visitor Jim has a firm handle on its feel, and despite the wide wanderings this is a very cohesive album. Central to everything is a sense of whimsy. This music may sound serious from time to time, but these guys are just having fun.

    That's infectious, too. Visitor Jim brings smiles in no time flat. That the music is complex and well-crafted simply means that it will keep bringing those smiles for a long time to come.


    Vital Remains
    Let Us Pray
    (Deaf-Grind Core)
    reviewed in issue #29, 2/28/93

    So it took a trip to a European label to get this released in the U.S. (Deaf being the euro-entity), the wait was well worth it.

    I honestly didn't know Rhode Island was big enough to protect its citizens from monstrous music like this, but I've been wrong before. Not, however, when I say this is some great stuff.

    The cover made me wince (kinda sophomoric and all), but the music is first-rate, covering all the major bases of traditional death metal. Not a lot of outside influences here, just solid up-yer-ass sound and solid riffwork. Quite worth a few listens.


    Vitreous Humor
    Vitreous Humor EP
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    A lot of post-punk pop bands out there today, and many of them are decent. Vitreous Humor lies a little above that group.

    This sort of music requires a sly wit. Nothing overdramatic or bombastic, but little sill jokes you get five minutes later. Cool titles like "She Eats Her Esses" and "Applaud Water".

    Vitreous Humor has all the tools to fight the good fight and escape above the fray. These seven songs are all strong pieces, and the performance and production are all up to par. I hope these folk stick around, because I want to hear more. This is a band with real potential, and this is a great EP.


    The Vitreous Humor Seven Inch 7"
    (Mute)
    reviewed in issue #104, 3/25/96

    One of my favorite pop bands, straight outta Lawrence. Kansas.

    And they're still on Crank!, despite this single. At least, that's what the sleeve sez. Anyway, this stuff should be played at 33. It doesn't warn you anywhere (okay, it does, but the numbers are really small), and I blissfully played the a-side (mostly instrumental) at 45 before the vocals finally came in. Honestly, it sounds damned good at both speeds. Never ran into a song that did that before.

    Both songs are cool "emo-core" (which is what Crank! likes to call this stuff, though I don't like the term much) in the style of such cool folks as Jawbox and Treepeople. Punk-pop is what I used to call it (as opposed to pop-punk, the difference being the same as the difference between green-blue and blue-green in the crayon box).

    Damn, all this digressing and still no review. The flip has vocals, and it's pretty cool, too. Vitreous Humor is one of the better bands playing this sort of music today, and this single showcases that talent quite well. Can't wait to hear an album (whenever and from wherever that may happen). I wait impatiently.


    Posthumous
    (Crank)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Getting everything out of the vaults. Vitreous Humor is now (three out of four, anyway) the Regrets, but no matter. This Lawrence, Kan., band supposedly changed its name "because they didn't want to become another Weezer". That's a line from a press note I'll never forget.

    And quite honestly, this stuff is really good and quite accessible (unlike the Regrets album, which is much more idiosyncratic fare). About half of the tracks here were recorded live, either for the Lawrence commercial alternative station or for the KU radio station. Some are basic studio tracks, and the first track is from a single on Mute records (I've got that one!)

    For a band which never released an album (until now), Vitreous Humor had one hell of a rep. These songs prove why. Power pop overwashed with the dull, emo sound. Recorded at a time when Lawrence was getting over its period as a "little Seattle". This band is one of the reasons I started listening to Lawrence bands again.

    The recording quality varies, but the songwriting doesn't. For a band with so little recorded output, Vitreous Humor still stands tall. This set can only increase the legend.

    See also the Regrets.


    Vitriol
    Vitriol
    (Neurot)
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Seven tracks. Titled "I," "II," etc. These folks want me to pay attention to the music. Easy enough.

    There's some really great electronic noise experimentation going on here. Vitriol tends to focus on one (at most two or three) disturbance at a time, so there isn't a lot of complexity in the pieces themselves. Within the noise generated, however, there's a wealth of sound to explore.

    These are more feedback and distortion chords than simple lines. Vitriol even throws in some seriously manipulated vocals, just to heighten the tension. I have to say, just about everything these folks do works.

    Deceptively simple sounding, Vitriol really knows how to burn out the noise. This is some of the classiest stuff of its kind I've heard in ages.


    Michael Vlatkovich
    Vlatkovich Tryyo
    Pershing Woman
    (pfMENTUM)
    reviewed in issue #339, August 2012

    The trombone is an almost criminally overlooked instrument in jazz. And Michael Vlatkovich sure knows his way around a jazz trombone. Also, the idea of teaming up said trombone with a cello (listed as an "electric cello") and drums is truly curious.

    The cello is the trombone of the string section, the instrument that expected to carry the mid-range bass clef lines. It plays in much the same range as the trombone, though with a completely different feel.

    These inventive pieces don't stray much from the lower ranges (though Jonathan Golove pushes his cello into the treble clef now and again), but Golove and Vlatkovich have an amazing rapport, and Damon Short is masterful in his use of the drums as glue. The sum is almost always greater than the parts, as this generally sounds more like a quintet than a trio.

    Exceptionally creative and easily accessible for any jazz fan. Vlatkovich's trombone is tender and forceful, and he makes the most of his most malleable instrument. Likewise with these songs, which give the players plenty of room. These boys like playing with each other, and the combination is explosive. Mind-throttling.



    Vlatko
    Subjective Experience in a Commercial Free Zone
    (pfMENTUM)
    reviewed 2/5/15

    Michael Vlatkovich has recorded with all sort of combos and collaborators, and he has proven to have a facile ear for that fine line between improv chaos and inspired genius. It helps that he's a trombonist, which is perhaps the most versatile of jazz instruments.

    On this set, Vlatkovich is joined by Tom McNalley (guitar and, um, voice), Dominic Genova (electric bass) and John Hernandez (drums, etc.). This is a more modern jazz quartet than is usual for Vlatkovich, and he does make use of a few old-fashioned fusion sounds. McNalley isn't a typical guitarist, though, and so any attempt to say these pieces "sound" like anything else would be silly.

    What I like about Vlatkovich in general is that he is able to bring accessible ideas into the extreme improve realm. Sometimes, these pieces can sound like "regular" jazz. That is, they are largely indistinguishable from some of the better-known, forward-thinking artists out there. But just when the groove seems settled, there's often a shift. Not a dive off a cliff, but a sense that life is not quite so ordered as it seems. Vlatkovich sets up his compositions to allow for examination and rumination, but he also keeps the trains running. And so while the journeys end as they should, the side trips can be quite the affair.

    Vlatkovich has been managing this trick for years, and he seems to be a standard-bearer for those who want to keep feet in both the traditional jazz and extreme improvisational worlds. Both arenas have their charms, and both can learn quite a bit from each other. Vlatkovich seems to have cherry-picked the best from each.

    As usual, each member has plenty of time to shine on this set. As I noted earlier, I am a sucker for a good trombone. While I played many other instruments, I think that the trombone may have the loveliest and most expressive sound around. It can coo or roar on command--and sound convincing either way. This is a lively, hang-out set for Vlatkovich. He and his mates aren't breaking new ground, but they've sown a fertile plot nonetheless. They've done all the work for us. All we have to do is enjoy.



    Michael Vlatkovich Septet
    ask 7
    (pfMENTUM)
    reviewed 4/13/15

    I like jazz, but I like music better. That is, I prefer good music to any particular idea of music. And I think Michael Vlatkovich is of the same mind.

    He's a trombonist, which is the greatest jazz instrument in my book. Sure, that's a weird personal bias, though trombone is not among the many instruments I have attempted to play. I just really like the sound of trombone in jazz. Delfeayo Marsalis's first album, Pontius Pilate's Decision, is one of my favorites. But I like Vlatkovich's work better. He isn't afraid to range.

    And he's not afraid to let his compadres shine. All the greats give space to their sides, and Vlatkovich gives ample space to the other horns in his outfit. The bass and percussion can be a bit more rote, I guess, but the horns do shine.

    This is a more contemplative set than the last album I reviewed. But this is also a completely different set. The horns have a direct dialogue with the listener, which is the great treat of a bigger jazz band. When things work, it seems like one is hanging with the crew.

    Vlatkovich isn't afraid of missteps. That's why his albums are always intriguing. They might not quite hit the mark--not a problem here--but they are always worth a listen or ten. There are those who would like jazz to be some hidebound enterprise. Vlatkovich is making sure it it isn't.


    Vodka
    King Jesus EP
    (Brain Disc-Oblivion)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    Pop music, at various times strident or mesmerizing, with the emphasis on a vicious rhythm attack.

    Four songs on this EP, and each is quite different from the other, not only in sound but structure. With is disc, The folks in Vodka show their versatility, songwriting as well as playing. I'd like to hear is Vodka can shift gears as easily live. But for now I'll stick with this.

    King Jesus proves that pop music is truly an inclusive musical form. If Vodka can come up with an album that even approaches this, those folks will have triumphed, indeed.


    She's My Dream
    (Brain Disc-Oblivion)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Pop music destined to stay underground. Sure, Vodka pays lip service to the three-chord convention, but for starters, Jenny Wade's voice is far too harsh and wavering to gain mass acceptance. But then, the people who make M&Ms said that about E.T.

    Anyway, if you picked up the wonderful King Jesus EP, you've heard three of the tunes on this disc, though I believe the versions here are newly recorded. And Vodka continues to play with minimal melodies, wild swings of distortion and strange uses of instruments to a good effect.

    Yeah, this fits into that whole Pavement movement, I guess (like Pavement was the innovator, but let's not get me started on that band). But unlike many of the "let's wank around for forty minutes and call it an album" bands, Vodka really does write beautiful music, and despite all the extras (perhaps because of) the songs survive and glow with an added sort of sheen. I can't get enough Vodka.


    Voivod
    Angel Rat
    (Mechanic)
    reviewed in issue #1, 10/31/91

    It took me longer to consider Mechanic's case as an independent than any other label. But, as they have their own offices and staff, and some semblance of history before MCA, they're in for now.

    So is the new Voivod. I think I see why Blacky left. Nothing against the boys: this is a great album: but it sounds a lot more like Rush than Voivod. Of course, Voivod has a rather long history of musical re-directions in the relatively short period the band has been in existence.

    No need to review cuts here; you fuckers are playing the shit out of this. Keep it up. (Christ, Nebraska leads MU by 36 at halftime.)


    The Best of Voivod
    (Futurist-Mechanic)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    Certain bands shouldn't be relegated to "Best of" status. If you want to hear the best of Voivod, pick up their entire catalog and listen through Nothingface. If you want to listen to Angel Rat, go ahead, but I do think there was a reason Blacky took off.

    Aside from that, the only logical reason for this album is that the band is not continuing, though of course the press is mum on future plans. Personally, I think their place in history is assured without future recording. This disc attests to that, even with what's missing.

    Like the Celtic Frost collection of a year ago, I think this is a little absurd. But what the hell. You can't beat almost an hour of Voivod.


    Negatron
    (Mausoleum-BMG)
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    I haven't liked a Voivod album since Nothingface, and I haven't been really blown away since Dimension Hatross. I thought the band had been delving into Rush territory for years, and the press said the new lead singer had been chosen to fill out a "real power trio sound". Let's just say I wasn't expecting much.

    This album is a real step back. In time. Combining the aggression, power and songwriting style of Hatross with the technical precision of Nothingface and the later albums, Voivod has finally put out another album I can sink my teeth into. Walls of sheer noise combined with searing guitar licks and Michel Langevin's metronomic timekeeping.

    The disc also has CD rom capabilities, but I have an old piece of shit computer, and I haven't scored a CD rom drive yet. So I can't say anything about all that. But the music is nothing short of wondrous. Negatron may very well be Voivod's ultimate expression, a stunning synthesis of all the ideas promulgated in the past. I'll not worry about that now and just listen, enraptured.


    Phobos
    (Slipdisc-Mercury)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Back toward the end of the MCA days, I was a bit worried about the boys. But Negatron was a blast, and this album picks up where that left off.

    Perhaps a bit more into the technical side of things once again (but more in a Nothingface kinda way), with more emphasis on straightforward songs. This is not as aggressive and imposing as Negatron, but what it lacks in venom it gains in style.

    Lots and lots of extraneous noise. A real industrial feel to many of the songs (no wonder Slipdisc licensed this puppy). Voivod is not the sort of band to wallow in its past. Indeed, the once thing about the band I've always liked is its ability to face the future without flinching.

    And so Voivod stands here, once again massaging its sound into a slightly newer arena. Still amazing, still trendsetting all these years down the road. This one is worth the cash.


    Volebeats
    Up North (advance cassette)
    (Safehouse)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Great country pop. A little boom-chicka-boom, a little boom-boom-chick-boom. Very nice.


    Bittersweet EP
    (Third Gear)
    Reviewed in issue #94, 1/8/96

    Kicking off with a bluesy version of Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby," Bittersweet serves notice that the Volebeats really are back.

    I got an advance of the band's last album (never saw the disc), and I quite liked it. Blending a nice ringing guitar sound with that college country rock feel bands like the Jayhawks have propagated, the Volebeats really take this stuff to a new level.

    Every word is earnestly sung (sometimes achingly so), and the music is a seamless amalgam of country, rock, folk and blues. What's even more astonishing is that Keir McDonald is also the guy behind the awesome Medusa Cycle album I reviewed a couple issues ago. You might remember that as a wonderful industrial ambient pop album. Many of McDonald's Volebeat bandmates helped out on that disc as well.

    What all this means is that these folks simply know how to make great music, regardless of genre. The Volebeats are worth searching out, even if you have to drive to Royal Oak, MI to find Third Gear Records (I can give you the addresses of a couple cool records stores there, if you want to make the trip).

    See also Medusa Cyclone.


    Volume
    Stampone
    (Choke, Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    Members of Truman's Water and Azalia Snail sitting around for three days playing whatever comes to mind. As you might expect, a lot of this is pretty weak.

    But, surprisingly (I've never been a fan of "jamming" albums), there are some nicely coherent and tasteful moments as well. You just have to cut through the meandering and find them.

    And, honestly, this is not presented as any sort of masterpiece, but just a sort of "we were here" disc. Fans of the two bands will probably listen to this after new albums come out to hear the genesis of some of those tunes. Others will just ingest and mellow. Whatever works.


    Volumizer
    Gaga for Gigi
    (Mint)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Volumizer is made up of a few geezer types (Rodney Graham was the guitarist for U-J3RK5, whose only EP came out in 1980; Bill Napier-Hemy was guitarist for the Pointed Sticks, the first Canadian band to sign with Stiff; songwriter Jade Blade was a member of Dishrags), most of whom are artists in the visual sense in addition to their obvious musical talents.

    This is basic tuneful punk with plenty of Vancouver bass (there really is such a thing, you know) and a straightforward approach to playing. There are no tricks or hidden surprises. When the first chords of the riff blisters forth, the song has been defined.

    I don't have a problem with that, particularly when the pieces are as tight and sweet as these. Many times, simpler is better. Volumizer's members learned that lesson a long (long) time ago and put it to good use here.

    Play it loud and play it often. There's no need to apologize for basic rock and roll. There's just the need to let it overtake your soul.


    The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
    Black Date
    (Cleopatra)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    The problem with "must-see" show bands is that the music is most often a secondary concern. Such has always been the case with the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.

    The songs generally do not progress past blatant AC/DC and Kiss rip-offs. The lyrics are calculated jokes, and they often come off flat. To put it mildly, this is not a fun disc to have to sit through.

    On the other hand, I'll be at the show in the heartbeat. For the spectacle. And I promise you, there will be one. As arresting as a Gwar, though without such a large reliance on fake body fluids.

    Just don't do something stupid like buying the album. There's no need for that. Buy the video instead.


    Von
    Von
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    A cool trio that goes about as far as a guitar, a bass and a drum set can go. No singing, no aspirations for pop or power trio fame. Just intricately constructed songs, and fairly long ones at that.

    Following in the footsteps of such bands as Slint, Don Caballero, June of 44, etc. There isn't one particular sound the band espouses, any single style that predominates. There is merely a starting point and an ending point for each piece, with lots of exploration in between.

    The exploration is what's important. Von's aspirations seem to be utterly artistic; after all, no one actually buys music that sounds like this. That's one of the reasons I like stuff like this: I know the bands are utterly earnest in their ambitions.

    The music has to come to you, but you have to let it get there in the first place. Give Von a little time, and you'll find yourself rewarded. Give Von a lot of time, and, well, your mind will thank you.


    The Von Ehrics
    Loaded
    (Crustacean)
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Hard-rockin' rootsy stuff that brings to mind Social D, early Uncle Tupelo or some of the Meat Puppets straighter moments. The Von Ehrics have an ear for melody, but they save their passion for speed and power.

    There is a hint of twang, to be sure, but this is mostly throttleneck territory. Wring as many chords out of the guitar as is humanly possible and turn it up to 11. Oh, and mention drinking every other line or so.

    This is a strikingly attractive approach, of course. Plenty of adrenaline and enough bad habits to clothe a convent whorehouse. Um, the mixed metaphors are free--and a nice bonus.

    Best not to analyze this sort of ear candy too closely. After all, rock and roll is all about emotion, and the Von Ehrics have plenty of that. Take down the top and let the sun shine in.


    Kurt von Stetten
    Cyclops
    (Static Motor)
    reviewed in issue #334, February 2012

    Something of a Capstan Shafts of the laptop pop set, Kurt von Stetten assembles utterly minimalist avant-pop with short, often distorted songs full of asides and wonderment.

    The framing of the pieces is quite tight, which allows von Stetten to really crash around on all sorts of tangents. The lyrics also hold the manic music together at times. Each song has a touchstone, and nothing escapes that central gravity.

    Still, the feel is that of a glorious mess. Almost degenerate in a way, these songs have a way of sounding like they've just been written. Apparently, some were put together just that way.

    Not lovely, and certainly not pretty, but awfully enchanting nonetheless. Von Stetten knows how to write songs that mean something, even if that meaning isn't easily discernible. Sometimes, that's where the best stuff resides.


    Androlafi
    (Static Motor)
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/17/13

    Another year, another von Stetten album. This one is a bit more polished than the last I heard (and when you release seven albums in seven years, you might expect some changes), and the writing is a bit more focused. The songs themselves appropriate many of the forms of modern alternative pop, and von Stetten once again acquits himself well. He's just enough off-kilter to make is difficult to fall in love all at once, but those with a little wisdom know that makes for a better long-term relationship. Don't commit, but keep your ears open.


    Sarah Vonderhaar
    Are You Listening Now
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    I really went back and forth on this one. Not about liking it--I love it. But it is so similar to albums by Sarah Shannon and Paul Kelley and others. That whole "big pop" thing, women singing loudly over vaguely-Bacharachian constructions.

    Vonderhaar actually trends a bit more modern, spinning some wanky back-beat guitar into her post-disco confections. And, you know, as long as you're going to cheese out, you might as well go all the way. Vonderhaar dives in and doesn't even think of glancing back.

    Which is what sells this as a full review for me. It's utterly enjoyable, but I'm a sucker for this kinda thing. What kicked this over the edge for me is Vonderhaar's complete devotion to her songs. Mostly her songs, anyway, as a couple are written by members of her band. But that's no matter. She sells these babies hard. And that turns the merely attractive into something exceptional.

    Fun fare that might well leave a hangover in the morning. But as long as I'm getting a buzz off this, I'm not putting it away.


    Voodoo Gearshift
    Nu Gum/ S.W.L.A.B.R. 7"
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    I've loved these guys since their album on Link records of a couple years ago. You may have heard the song "China Wall" somewhere. These are the guys who put that out.

    Nice single. The first side showcases a fine Midwestern twist on the Seattle grunge thing, and side two is a rockin' little thing that I blasted over and over. If you never play seven-inchers, give this one a shot!

    The word on the boys is that they are indeed moving from Iowa to Seattle and will be recording an album for C/Z in the near future. I couldn't think of anything cooler.


    Glue Goat
    (C/Z)
    reviewed in issue #25, 11/30/92

    See, the original incarnation of this band had guys with the last names Roth, Page and Tyler. And Roth sang!

    Well, Tyler and Page are gone, and their '89 album for Link is far in the past. Now a trio, these transplanted Iowa boys rock in more of a traditional Seattle way.

    Actually they remind me of old Soundgarden, which is not too surprising as they avow the same influences. Now, VG are leaner and meaner (and fuzzier) than Soundgarden ever was before they metal-ed out for mass acceptance.

    The most amazing feature is the epic bass work. You really have to have spent years listening to Geezer Butler and John Paul Jones to get the idea, but Mr. Roth has it down. And while they don't particularly sound like any one band, you know these boys were wide-awake musically in the days of "the wet look" and bad polyester (is there good polyester?).

    Slowly your brain cells will succumb to the hypnotic power of the Voodoo Gearshift. Never fear, the trip is a hell of a lot of fun.


    Voodoo Glow Skulls
    Firme
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #88, 9/25/95

    These guys have been around forever, and yet this is the first release to reach most of the U.S. I have gotten so many scattered VGS reports over the past few years, but rarely more than a couple stations at a time. Epitaph should fix that problem.

    The unknowing would like me to describe the music. It's a particularly manic version of the hardcore ska gig, heavier and faster than any other such and I've heard.

    Including previous VGS albums, which did not have the cash to create the awesome sound found here. This is thick, full and messy, the sort of disc that would inspire you to earn your Hell's Angels red wings.

    The version of "Trouble Walking" is not a cover of the Ace Frehley bit, but "Charlie Brown" is that sixties novelty thing, spun almost into incoherence. After this disc gets out, though, no one will be picking on Voodoo Glow Skulls.


    Baile de los Locos
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #136, 6/9/97

    The second Epitaph outing finds VGS running in place. Oh, the usual skacore abounds, and these guys are about as good as it comes. And hell, the shows are great. But I wanted more.

    Perhaps it's just because I've been hearing this sorta thing from these guys for so long. I think they've been hearing it a bit too long as well, because there are a few too many cliches imbedded in the music. The guys have done it before, they've done it again, but it all seems too similar.

    All that whining aside, this is a fairly good album. But when compared with the Blue Meanies album (reviewed last issue), well, it pales. This is easy stuff for the masses, and I thought I might get a little something more.

    Workmanlike skacore. VGS has done better and will do better. This is fun, but nothing to get all hyped about.


    The Band Geek Mafia
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98

    The latest from one of the early members of the hardcore ska movement. Voodoo Glow Skulls have been doing this for so long, an entire generation has made it through the American education system. Well, maybe not, but almost. And the album's title pays tribute to all those kids who played the horns in high school. They're cool now if they blow for a ska band, but back then, well, some of us are rather aware of the ridicule. Too bad clarinet still hasn't become a hip rock and roll instrument (a personal sigh).

    I found the last VGS album to be a bit rote. Don't know why, it was just a feeling. This one is a bit more energetic and fun. Again, I really can't delineate the reasons (I know that's my job! Get off my back!). Just how I feel. This album is hitting me in all the right places. Scattershot horns of power and completely howled vocals.

    Yeah, this album is truer to the VGS live experience. I've seen the band in Florida and right here in York (believe it or not), and these guys put out every single night. That hard work and devotion comes through on all channels here.

    And it's a big sack of fun, to boot. Goofy, with the most active horn section in rock and roll today. These guys wail. This is what every other punk ska band wishes it could do. No wonder these guys are legends.


    Symbolic
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    The first track takes a few spoken-word cracks at the out-of-favor skacore sound. Which, of course, is what the Voodoo Glow Skulls play. And that's why these guys are still going strong: They can laugh at themselves.

    Not to say that there aren't serious moments here. VGS is as good as anyone as making statements while wearing wry smiles. But the real treat is the way these guys belt out muscular skacore anthems. No one plays ska thicker than this. No one.

    And the ska is never quite left behind. In other words, the boys don't cheese out. This album is at least as spirited as the last. I'm beginning to think I might have been a bit harsh with my words on Baile de los Locos. Maybe not. Albums like that simply show how good ones like this are.

    Back in the groove, solid as ever. These guys have been doing this forever, and yet they still do it better than anyone else. Great stuff. Just like I expected.


    Steady As She Goes
    (Victory)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    The Voodoo Glow Skulls take their show to Victory, and this disc is just as fast and furious as anything they've done before. Another solid outing from the Casillas brothers and friends. Don't miss the show (that can't be said often enough!).


    Voodoo Love Mint
    Voodoo Love Mint
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Punk-tinged pop that shows strong songwriting skills and above-average production for a demo.

    This sound is sort of a Midwestern specialty (VLM reminds me of bands like Ditch Witch and Bent), one that I like. The songs are so complex as to almost be orchestrated (various musical and vocal lines crossing each other), while the spirit is fast and loose. Not easy to accomplish, but very impressive when done correctly, as it is here.

    If VLM can put out more stuff like this, I can't imagine why labels would pass on it.


    Something in French
    (Angry Seed)
    reviewed in issue #111, 6/10/96

    Far-too-thick chords punch through a basic pop-punk song construction, with the odd backing noise elements. Catchy tunes with squeals of pleasure echoing from behind.

    The pride of Eau Claire (well, that's probably overstating the point), VLM cranked me a demo tape a couple years back. I liked it a bunch, and they sent this along. I like it a bunch, too. A bit more tuneful (there are discernible harmonies and honest-to-God backbeat drumming, after all), but still high quality. I can see the fine folks at a few Chicago labels taking note.

    Perhaps the folks should clean up the production room sound just a tad, so all the stuff in the back can get a better voice. Or perhaps that stuff is a by-product of the mess involved. I can't say for sure on that subject, but I will give a big thumbs up to this album. Anyone from heavy pop heads to true punk rockers to just aficionados of fine music will dig this quite well enough.

    Not a bad song in the bunch, and plenty of outright stunners. Knocked out all over again.


    Alien Harvest
    Voodoo Love Mint

    split 7"
    (Erosion Records)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    I'm a big fan of Voodoo Love Mint, and I figured any split they're on must be good.

    No disappointment. Alien Harvest has a Soul Asylum (vintage 1985) feel, with hooks hidden amongst the dirt. Scratchy, error-filled and utterly fun. This is what garage bands want to sound like. A joyous romp into the summer sun.

    VLM provides two songs, both showcasing the growth of the band. The songs are a little more calculated, though the loosey-goosey feel is still lying about somewhere. VLM manages to whip out the most serious lyrics with a non-chalant style, smiling through the angst. Of course, a song like "GB" is nothing but loopy fun. Ain't nothing wrong with that.


    The Dreaded California Icepick Tests 7"
    (Sterling)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Four whole new songs from one of my favorite bands. The basic Voodoo Love Mint song structure is to find a good groove and stick with it. Kinda like industrial songs (you know, all chorus and no verse) done in a punk milieu. Well, sometimes there's a verse, but there doesn't have to be one. And if there is one, it generally gets repeated.

    I'm making this sound bad or simplistic, and that's not what I'm saying. These folks have the good sense to find what works and keep kicking until the song is done. A concept I wholeheartedly endorse. Cut all the fat and keep the meat.

    And there's a lot of meat. The lyrics are generally humorous, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes goofy (I'm backhanding again, I know), and the songs simply work together indescribably well. Sometimes the simple ideas do work best, after all. Really.

    I was jumping around all over the room the first time I heard this, skipping the record a couple times (I have a cheap turntable). That's how much I liked it. Just so you don't get the idea I hated it.


    Small Pet O.K.
    (Erosion)
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    I got a call from band member Noel Hanson thanking me for reviewing a recent 7" (you can find it a few issues ago). I thanked him for sending it to me. It was a nice chat. The upshot of the conversation was that there is a lot of Voodoo Love Mint yet to be heard. Which is fine by me. I like this band. Lots and lots. A self-possessed punk pop band with very little pretension to the music or lyrics. Everything I hear is impressive.

    This album is a bit thin in the sound, more like demo quality (though not muffled or anything). But the songs are so sharply written and played, I can easily overlook any production issues. So funny, so funny. With just enough of a subtle seriousness to be resonant.

    And unlike many bands of this ilk, I never get bored. Voodoo Love Mint is always trying out new ideas, even while keeping its own sound perfectly safe. Not an easy task, but I have a feeling these guys just have a knack for the shit.

    Once again, I'm happy. More than happy. I want to hear more. And that seems to be something that is assured.


    Voot Warnings
    Platinum
    (Charm School)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Featuring songs like "Dance Motherfucker Dance" and "Jesus Christ Is My Wife", Voot Warnings are the most amusing and irreverent punk outfit I've heard since the Lee Harvey Oswald Band.

    On a few tunes, a fairly off-key horn section drops in, adding to the chaos. Well, the sax player is decent, but those trombones... yow!

    As you might be able to tell from the cover, this is not music intended to be taken seriously. Voot Warnings is in this for the fun, so you might as well hitch on the ride. The stuff is astonishingly warped and funny, and while the music is absolutely unaccomplished, it serves the purpose.


    Vox Americana!
    Vox Americana!
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Vox Americana! is Jim Bowley and Tracy Calhoun. They play a grand style of roots rock, plenty of harmonies and keyboards (sometimes organ) complimenting the jangly guitars. The sorta songs that sound like they're supposed to be saying something.

    And they do, though the lyrics aren't the most eloquent. Sometimes they're a bit clumsy or simply overstated. You know, these songs sound great. The production lends a ringing quality. Added bits of pedal steel and other instrumentation are also a big plus.

    But with all such buildup, there's gotta be a payoff. Sometimes there is. Some of these songs really score. Some of them, well, don't quite make it. There's not one culprit. Sometimes the songs are just a little too crafted, too rote. Sometimes the lyrics just don't connect.

    Little things. But when you're making a big statement, the little things are important. I think maybe Vox Americana! ought to keep a bit of a looser feel. This would reduce the overcrafting, I think, and also help with some of the stilted lyrics. There are a lot of good things going on here. With a little work, there cold be a lot of great things going on.


    Voyager One
    Afterhours in the Afterlife
    (Loveless)
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    Stellar electronic pop that relies on guitar for most of its punch. That's a combination that almost always makes me smile.

    So yeah, Jesus and Mary Chain comes to mind, but Voyager One is much more ethereal and melodic. Think Pink Floyd meets the Charlatans, with an emphasis on the groove. These are songs for dancing. They're always in motion.

    Which isn't to say there aren't moments where ideas take flight. Voyager One does get a little trippy now and again. Those meanders stay within the sound of the band and ultimately make for some intriguing songs.

    In truth, the entire idea behind the band's sound is rather fascinating. I have a sense of having heard this kinda stuff before, but when I dissect it, I realize that there's something unique going on here. And, you know, it kicks my ass into gear. When you hit the head and the heart, you know you're on to something.


    Vowel Movement
    Vowel Movement
    (Mammoth)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    In case you're curious, Vowel Movement is Holly Vincent and Johnette Napolitano. Chances are you're heard of them.

    The story goes that about a year ago their bands were touring together, and for some reason they decided to wear goofy wigs and open up the show as Vowel Movement. It apparently worked, so they then decided to record.

    About as self-indulgent as any good side project, the music slides all over the stage, hitting you with pop anthems, punk screeds and lots of cool guitar noise. Disjointed may be an understatement. Vincent and Napolitano seem to have wanted to perpetuate chaos, and it worked.

    As for any grand artistic statements, there aren't any. This is an album that has fun at its core, and the lack of pretension is quite cool to hear (particularly when you consider their day jobs). Just grab a beer, turn up the volume, and prepare to be bathed in random acts of musical kindness.


    Mick Vranich
    Idols of Fear
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    The voice is completely nondescript. Vranich could be anyone, anything that speaks to you through an odd wind.

    His thoughts seem to affect me the same way. I'll be listening to him speak, paying attention to the words, and then the idea wafts into my head. Sorta like those 3-D stereo images. You're looking at all these dots, and then when you defocus enough, you see the real picture.

    It doesn't even matter if you find the same thing others do. It's what you find that's important. And after a while, Vranich's voice becomes almost hypnotic, daring you to find the soul inside his words.

    Some folks find plain spoken word albums dull and interesting. Some people just don't listen.


    Mick Vranich & Wordban'd
    Cloak of Skin
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    Poetry and minimalist jazz. Good poetry and good minimalist jazz. Pretty cool.

    Vranich is an underground poetry legend. I was perusing an Andrei Codrescu book, and he related an evening in a Detroit bar with Vranich. A lot of beer passed through. Both of them are guys that seem like they would be good beer buddies.

    Vranich's poetry has an internal rhythm that translates very well to the musical accompaniment. While sometimes the music can get annoying, it really brings out the best in Vranich. And that can be very, very good.


    The VSS
    Nervous Circuits re-issue
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    A re-issue (and remastering, I believe) of the original 1997 album. The music sounds as uncompromising today as it must have back then. The use of electronics and synthesizers in hardcore punk is still unusual today, and it lends this album (and the band) a truly unique sound. Next month I'll be reviewing the band's new album. I just figured I'd throw this one out first.


    Vulgaria
    Vulgaria
    (Reelin' Records)
    reviewed in issue #195, 2/14/00

    Good to hear that the Baltimore pop scene is still surviving. Vulgaria is a fairly polished band, not afraid to change up tempos or even experiment a bit with chord progressions. That bodes well.

    The hooks come almost as an afterthought at times. Which might be an underhanded way to get folks to listen to the rest of the songs. That works, by the way. Vulgaria focuses on the entire piece, not just a catchy singalong.

    Which leads to songs of uncommon complexity and depth. This is not yer ordinary pop band. There is an ambition to be something more. Exactly what, well, I don't think even the guys themselves know. But this is one hell of a first step.

    Quite fine, in that rough-hewn sorta way. I don't think the boys need to sand off many corners. Kurt Deemer needs to keep mining the same territory in his songwriting sojourns, and his mates just need to keep up. Truly something special.


    Vuurwerk
    Me/Plus EPs
    (Mush)
    reviewed in issue #335, March 2012

    Jealov decided to become that much more inscrutable, and so Vuurwerk (Dutch for "fireworks") was born. These two EPs came out in the last half of 2011, and each of them is bizarre, glorious and transcendent.

    The beatwork is sharp, if trippy. The samples and assembly create shifting palates of sound that leave the mind nimble, not unstable. Indeed, these EPs are astoundingly stimulative in nature despite their chill-out grooves.

    Sure, this is the outer edges, but you've never had a more comfortable seat at the rim of the galaxy. Fireworks, indeed.


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