Welcome to A&A. There are 22 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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

A&A #238 reviews
(February 2003)

  • Donn Aaron Like a Feather in a Hurricane (Black Cottage)
  • Bastards of Melody Break Up (Face Down-Ransom)
  • Count the Stars Never Be Taken Alive (Victory)
  • Damone From the Attic (RCA)
  • Fabulous Disaster Panty Raid! (Pink & Black)
  • Glasstown Your Trendy Dump (Bitter Stag)
  • The Gloryholes Want a Divorce! (Dirtnap)
  • Tom Hedrick As If! (Freedom of Speech)
  • Thomas Helton Doublebass (self-released)
  • Hilltop Distillery ...Died in the Woods (self-released)
  • IMA Changes 'Comin EP (self-released)
  • Jet Black Crayon Mean Streets 7" (Function 8)
  • The Majesticons Beauty Party (Big Dada)
  • Cass McCombs Not the Way EP (Monitor Records)
  • Michael The Day After My Confidence (self-released)
  • Miranda Sound Engaged in Labor (Standard Recording Company)
  • MURS The End of the Begining (Definitive Jux)
  • Petracovich .Blue Cotton Skin (Red Buttons Records)
  • Ramallah But a Whimper EP (Bridge Nine)
  • Re:Cooperation Transatlantic Collaboration (Uncle Buzz)
  • The Sound of Rails Night Time Simulcast (Caulfield)
  • The Unnameable But of That, I Will Not Speak... (Shame File)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Donn Aaron
    Like a Feather in a Hurricane
    (Black Cottage)

    So the first four songs remind me of Happy Mondays (I just watched 24 Hour Party People, so that's on my mind), Greg Garing, no one that comes to mind and the Replacements, respectively. In other words, Aaron has written some solid songs and then used technology to highlight what he's really good at doing.

    Like crafting soulful, rootsy hooks. Even when the drum machine is pulsing, an earthy feel permeates everything. Another way to put it is that no matter how slick and refined these songs may sound, the center remains grounded in the real.

    Some folks might think that he stole from Beck. Well, inspiration certainly flowed from that direction, but Aaron is really very much a rock and roller, even though he's been wandering the wasteland for a while. These songs easily fit into conventional slots, but they're still really damned appealing.

    It's a tough trick to make good music that is simple and processed enough to gain wide acceptance. Donn Aaron has the writing skills, and he's hit upon a production style that just screams major label--in a good way. Really. I mean it. This is one of those "oughta be huge" albums that you'll want to hear many times over.

    Black Cottage
    P.O. Box 190806
    Atlanta, GA 31119
    e-mail: meetus@blackcottage.com
    www: http://www.blackcottage.com

    Bastards of Melody
    Break Up

    Speaking of the Replacements (or, more accurately, Paul Westerberg), here come the Bastards of Melody. They have that Sire-era 'Mats style down (slightly sloppy, but still tuneful and generally recognizable as "normal" music), and they write nice three-minute pop songs.

    With titles like "Fuck Wakin' Up." Though, to be honest, most of the songs are relatively clever. Take "Cheat," a song which details the quintessential high school experiences of cribbing for a test and trying to impress a girl. They write it better than I explain it. Trust me.

    I'd like to hear just a bit more clutter in the sound. These songs aren't clean, but there just isn't much messing about, either. And with the garage guitar-slinging style, well, a bit more distortion and reverb would add a bit of "authenticity" (yes, folks, the quotes denote irony) to the proceedings.

    But hell, these songs are too fun to pick on excessively. Just ragged enough to play at top blast on the car stereo, and with tight enough hooks to sing along--just out of tune so as to sound really cool. A bright blast in the middle of winter.

    Ransom Records
    31 Griffith Street
    Jersey City, NJ 07307
    e-mail: ransommusic@yahoo.com

    Count the Stars
    Never Be Taken Alive

    From what I can tell, the mainstream definition of emo is pop-punk played with verve and produced so as to make the guitars fat as hell. Ergo, Count the Stars is an emo band.

    A damned good band, no matter what you really want to call the music. These boys have written some deceptively deep pop ravers and cranked up the energy level. There's no let up, even during the mid-tempo pieces.

    The sound, as I noted, is full and seemingly ever-expanding. The guitars are as thick as George W. Bush's skull. The hooks are tight, sweet and yet just the slightest bit messy. I like that. After all, art lies in the little incongruities.

    Um, yeah, this is the sort of album that I eat like candy. The quickest way to my soul is to play pop music with style (well, that or play truly weird shit). I'm a sucker for this kinda stuff. But hell, I only fall for the good bands. At least, that's what I want to believe. So don't tell me any different, okay?

    346 North Justine
    Suite 504
    Chicago, IL 60607
    Phone (888) 447-3267
    Fax [312] 666-8665

    From the Attic

    Every once in a while a major label sends me a disc. Every once in a great while I actually like what they send me. Damone is one of those bands.

    Rather than stick to the under-produced sound of the current garage trend, Damone plays the style but goes for the over-the-top sound (mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, which is really all you need to know there). Full of reverb, with lots of extras on the edges. And then there's the vocals of a certain Noelle, who is apparently still in high school. Even though the guys in the band appear to be well toward 30, if they aren't there already.

    I don't say this to be mean. It worked for Garbage, right? And anyway, I really like this stuff. It's simple, it's loud (almost glam metallic at times, which is perfectly cool with me) and there's serious amperage in the playing. A fine rush.

    Okay, maybe I wouldn't have gone for the tenth vocal overdub on a couple of these songs. If you want me to be picky, that's about what I have to work with. I'm not in love, but I'd sleep with this band in a minute. Cheap and slutty is a fine way to go.

    1540 Broadway
    New York, NY 10036-4098
    www: http://www.rcarecords.com

    Fabulous Disaster
    Panty Raid!
    (Pink & Black)

    What the Go-Go's might have sounded like if they were a pack of butch lesbians produced by Alex Newport. Okay, so I'm just guessing as to the sexual identities of the band members (which are irrelevant in any case), and Fat Mike also twisted the knobs, but I think you get the point.

    Beautifully simple melodies played at an almost-breakneck pace. Hooks with grit and just a little grace. And guitars that sound just right (thank you, Mr. Newport).

    As for the style of the band members, well, that comes across more in the attitude than the music itself. Sure, this stuff has balls, but it's not pure buzzsaw. There's a sweet side to Fabulous Disaster, and it comes out at all the right moments.

    These songs wouldn't have worked if they weren't written so well. All the attitude and great production and all doesn't matter if the songs themselves suck. Fabulous Disaster is anything but. Quite the happy pill for my aching head.

    Pink & Black
    P.O. Box 190516
    San Francisco, CA 94119-0516
    www: http://www.pinkandblack.com

    Your Trendy Dump
    (Bitter Stag)

    Strangely crafty pop stylings. Glasstown plays astonishingly crafted stuff, but it comes across as fresh and exciting rather than dull and stilted. And a damned good thing that is, too.

    The writing is what's crafted. Which is not to say that the playing sucks, but it's looser than the songs themselves. And that serves to make everything sound much more energetic and lively. The lyrics are occasionally long-winded, but they're always pleasantly sly, which is good enough for me

    I have the feeling that I'm making no sense whatsoever. Let's see if I can rectify that. Glasstown worked its ass off in the studio to come up with this disc (there are plenty of little touches here and there), but I'd say these songs would work just as well live and somewhat less prettified. Though they're dreadfully wonderful as they are here.

    That didn't work at all. Maybe I'm simply overcome. Anything's possible. Whatever the case, I'm really knocked out by what Glasstown does. This is some really fine work. And if I don't get anything else across, perhaps that message with suffice.

    Bitter Stag
    P.O. Box 190008
    San Francisco, CA 94119-0008
    www: http://www.bitterstag.com

    The Gloryholes
    Want a Divorce!

    Straight-ahead two-minute pop-punk with a side order of goofiness. Perhaps the band name tipped you off there.

    The jokes are simplistic and, more often than not, juvenile as well. The music is basic, but nonetheless executed with energetic style. There's a point where the vocal whine kinda gets to me, but I never stopped listening.

    Hey, it's produced by Jack Endino (yes, you idiots, he's still alive). And any band that names its publishing company FuckLars Music (think about it for a minute) can't be all bad. Even if the jokes are, you know, a wee bit puerile from time to time.

    Of course, the Gloryholes are the sort of band to take a critic who uses the word "puerile" in a review and strings him up by the balls. Which is pretty much all that needs to be said.

    P.O. Box 21249
    Seattle, WA 98111

    Tom Hedrick
    As If!
    (Freedom of Speech)

    Loopy little pop ditties that always play by the rules. Perhaps this sounds dull to you, but Tom Hedrick manages to infuse each song with a wacky (and decidedly nerdy) sense of humor.

    For example, the first line of the title track is "If I were a Vulcan..." "Little Saturn" could be that Beach Boys-flavored jingle that GM has been dying to hear. And then there's a song about our greatest president, James K. Polk.

    In the liners, Hedrick admits to being a control freak, and he's certainly dotted all his I's and crossed all his T's. The sound is tight and very, very studio. Hedrick crafted the graphic on the cover, and that same sort of sunny un-reality pervades his music.

    You might think I'm complaining, but the strange thing is that Hedrick's wonky, obsessive sound works simply because the guy is so damned earnest. He makes music this plastic-sounding because he likes it that way. And his enthusiasm rubbed off on me in a big way.

    e-mail: thomas.hedrick@attbi.com

    Thomas Helton

    The title says it all. Thomas Helton wails on his double bass for an hour. Three pieces, each of which is rather distinct from the other.

    What I like about Helton is that he actually plays the instrument. He's not picking or whacking or trying to make noises that the thing was never meant to play. He's simply composed some songs and he plays them.

    I'll amend the "noises" statement. He does come up with a few cool screeches and whines, but only while he's also playing another line. Mostly, though, he's wandering through bass territory I've not heard before. He doesn't push the envelope all that much (this statement doesn't exactly contradict what I just said), but he sure does know how to get the most out of his instrument.

    Fans of the truly avant garde won't really dig this, and certainly those with a toe in the mainstream will run screaming. But those who like to hear a nice workout on the double bass (which, after the baritone sax, is perhaps the coolest instrument around), Helton provides plenty of fine listening. I had a fine time, myself.

    Free Bass Productions
    1711 W. Main #3
    Houston, TX 77098
    Phone (713) 528-8449
    Phone (713) 240-8686
    www: http://www.thomashelton.com

    Hilltop Distillery
    ...Died in the Woods

    A long time ago, bands like Slint and Rodan crawled out of the slime. Or Louisville. Whatever you want to call it. I have a feeling that if you asked anyone in 1980 where two of the most influential bands of the final two decades of the 20th century might arise, Louisville would have been way down on the list.

    I don't know where Florence is, but it's in Kentucky. And these folks certainly have learned at the knee of the Slint/Rodan axis. Three guys, two of whom are named Joe, Hilltop Distillery does a nice turn on that whole noise rock fusion thing (I understand that some folks are calling this stuff "post rock." That seems a bit simplistic to me. But I digress...). Not a lot of distortion (though there is some, from time to time), and very little singing. To the point of there being no singing, actually. The three clean lines played by each of the band members meander about, but they always come together at the right moments. Put another way, some folks know how to fuck off brilliantly, and the boys of Hilltop Distillery are among them.

    Think June of 44 in a noodly mode. That's how good these guys are. They don't really change the canon much, but this stuff is so well done that I can hardly complain. Just a fine set of songs for the end of the universe.

    7408 Dixie Highway
    Florence, KY 41042
    e-mail: hilltop@commonwealthaudio.com
    www: http://www.commonwealthaudio.com

    Changes 'Comin EP

    Lisa Thornton wrote all five songs here (she had help on "Working Woman" from Mia Noble). She sings on three of them. But she didn't sing on the standout track, "Walk All Over You," which is one of the best country/blues tunes I've heard in ages. Bonnie Raitt (pre-mega fame) would have been proud.

    The rest of the songs are pretty good--"Working Woman" is a nice modern country version of "She Works Hard for the Money," and "Knife Across Your Back" has a solid groove, though it does try a bit too hard at times.

    Thornton proves herself to be a versatile songwriter, but she ought to let someone else handle the singing. And boy, she oughta get down to Nashville and sell "Walk All Over You." It's just the sort of boot in the ass today's country music needs.

    Phone (323) 851-98997
    e-mail: info@ima-music.com
    www: http://www.ima-music.com

    Jet Black Crayon
    Mean Streets 7"
    (Function 8)

    The beats aren't that impressive. There aren't any real hooks to speak of. But Jet Black Crayon has nonetheless crafted a couple of the most impressive electronic hip hop pieces I've heard in quite some time.

    The sound is utterly organic. And my guess is that despite all of the sampled street noise on "Mean Streets," there's a band behind most of the music here. Sure sounds like it to me. Maybe it's a lot of nice studio work, but no matter. These two songs are quite cohesive.

    The slow burn is a great way to write a song, and both tunes here make excellent use of that style. Jet Black Crayon never quite reaches a climax, but it doesn't have to. The songs are complete just as they are. Completely wonderful, that is.

    Function 8
    P.O. Box 411195
    San Francisco, CA 94141-1195
    Phone (415) 552-8881
    Fax [415] 552-8882
    e-mail: info@function8.com
    www: http://www.function8.com

    The Majesticons
    Beauty Party
    (Big Dada)

    There's a trend among certain labels to drop audio "watermarks" into promo discs. The worst of these can really distract me when I'm trying to review the album in question. Strangely, though, I really dig the noises grafted over the songs on this disc. In a way, the version of this album that I have is more interesting than the one you might buy.

    Whatever. The Majesticons apparently conceived of this album as something of a dancehall/r&b sampler. Each song is a sort of "party." Like "Piranha Party." Or "Brains Party," which cleverly references the Pet Shop Boys's "Opportunities."

    As for the execution, the Majesticons never forget to include the grooves. A lot of modern "soul" music is more a display of artless singing or dull, repetitive hooks. These pieces are smooth and slinky, with plenty of sly attitude at the bottom end.

    I still must confess I like the almost constant interference from the anti-piracy overlays. They actually complement the songs rather well. But I figure I'd like this puppy even without the promobot going off all the time. Majesticons sure do know how to throw a party or 15.

    Big Dada
    222 Dominion #20
    Montreal, QUE H3J 2XI
    www: http://www.ninjatune.net

    Cass McCombs
    Not the Way EP

    Six fine tunes played in a jangly, rootsy ball of fuzz. Ever wondered what T. Rex might sound like if the songs were all acoustic? Well, Cass McCombs really isn't that. Though for some reason, that's exactly what came to my mind.

    I've always liked pop played with acoustic guitars. But the heavy fuzz on the bass and relatively large rattle coming from the drums really fleshes out these songs quite well. Perhaps that's what pricked up my ear. Can't really say, except that I really like the sound of this disc.

    The songs themselves are quite impressive as well. Imagine Will Oldham consciously playing pop music. Pretty straight, I mean. McCombs isn't a dour troubadour, he's simply a guy with some fine songs in his pocket and a creative way of playing them. Let's hope he's got plenty more rolling around in his head.

    Monitor Records
    P.O. Box 2361
    Baltimore, MD 21203
    www: http://www.monitorrecords.com

    The Day After My Confidence

    Back in the dark ages (the late 80s), there was this relatively obscure movement that favored contemplative rock music. Galaxie 500 is perhaps the best-known (and probably dreariest) of these bands. Later acts such as Seam and (at times) June of 44 kinda took the thoughtful elements of this sound and fused it with stylish and adventurous music. Michael follows in those footsteps quite nicely.

    Most of the songs here build to a loud, but not quick, climax. Michael likes to use particular references to drive home an idea. For example, the band isn't above using grange-like rives to make a point, but only for effect. The song construction and general feel don't fit into any neat category.

    The sound is dull, as if all the rough edges have been buffed away. There's a muted shine to these songs, something decidedly anti-climactic, even when the pot bubbles over. Indeed, the sound is almost ironic (is that possible? Maybe not) at times.

    One of those albums that sneaks up on you. There are few high points on this disc; all of the songs are uniformly good, though they are hardly carbon copies of each other. There's an unsettled, restless feel that runs through each of the songs, an edge underneath the smooth patina. I think that's what I like best of all.

    505 Sunset Dr.
    Athens, GA 30606
    www: http://www.michaelisaband.com

    Miranda Sound
    Engaged in Labor
    (Standard Recording Company)

    Taking the whole noise rock fusion concept one step further, Miranda Sound adds dueling vocal lines to the spinning, twisting spirals created by the music. At once, this makes the stuff more accessible, and yet, even more edgy as well.

    As a rule, Miranda Sound takes something of a garage approach to this sound, bashing out the songs with plenty of verve and energy. The stuff is technically sound, but not so much as to be awe-inspiring. Rather, it's the energy of the band that inspires as much as the excellent writing.

    Perhaps the best thing about these guys is the way they refuse to play the same song twice. Every song spins off in a slightly different direction--with each track featuring a different set of instrumentation. These experiments in sound work quite well, lending even greater depth.

    I think these guys are just a bit more pop-oriented than, say, the Michael album I reviewed just above. Maybe it's those vocals, but I think that even through the dissonance and abstraction these guys still like to make a pretty tune. That they actually do is a testament to an awesome talent. Most impressive.

    Standard Recording Company
    e-mail: evan@standardrecording.com
    www: http://www.standardrecording.com

    The End of the Beginning
    (Definitive Jux)

    There's a party going on. Hot as hell, it is. MURS lays down some tight grooves--some sampled, but more original--and then throws down some truly incendiary rhymes.

    Political? At times. Introspective? Certainly. A bag full of funk and soul? That's the key here. MURS is all about ideas, both lyrical and musical. And still, with all that attention paid to the details, the fun sound keeps rollin' out.

    A tough tight rope to walk, truly. I'm sure some folks might find the production and rhyming here a bit too tight, too well-done. Can't be street if it sounds good, right? It's somehow dishonest if the grooves actually work? I've heard these lame complaints too much. MURS is professional all the way, and it still manages to stay true to its roots.

    As far as I'm concerned, if you can make an album fun and thoughtful at the same time, you've really accomplished something. MURS takes on everything from the trappings of "the life" to the record industry to the dumber parts of culture in general. The shots are on target, and the beats keep slammin'. Hot damn.

    Definitive Jux
    199 Lafayette St. #3B
    New York, NY 10012
    Phone (212) 965-1901 x5
    e-mail: info@definitivejux.net
    www: http://www.definitivejux.net

    Blue Cotton Skin
    (Red Buttons Records)

    Jessica Peters wrote and sang the songs, but she's got a fine band behind her. These songs, which are sort of a post trip-hop/moody pop amalgam, combine entrancing beats, keyboard washes, solid rock guitar and half-whispered vocals to create something completely new.

    But utterly reassuring as well. After all, plenty of folks have dabbled in and around this sort of sound. They just haven't quite nailed it on the head.

    The sound simply glows, which is exactly what it should do. The keyboards are simply enhancers, the vaguest of gauze filters on the rest of the music. Peters isn't afraid to belt out the songs when that's necessary, and the band hops and trips along admirably.

    Indeed, there are enough moderate departures from the sound I described to ensure that no listener will get bored. Imagine if Brian Eno were to produce the Cowboy Junkies. Or, if you want more present-day references, how about if William Orbit produced the Moon Seven Times? If that sounds good to you, then Petracovich ought to bring much pleasure.

    Red Buttons Records
    P.O. Box 761
    Carpinteria, CA 93014-0761
    Phone (805) 684-8164
    www: http://www.redbuttonsrecords.com

    But a Whimper EP
    (Bridge Nine)

    I'm guessing the cover tells you what you need to know about the subject matter. Rob Lind has written a short (14-minute) but intense meditation on the situation in Israel. He does take sides, but his thought is cogent and well-conceived. You can quibble with his conclusions, but not the argument itself. As for the music, this is precisely the sort of rage that extreme hardcore coveys better than anything else.

    Simply blistering. Imagine The Decline, only banded (there is some short space between the songs). Lind performed most of the instruments (Neil Dyke played drums and J. Bannon added some vocals on about half the tracks), and that single-minded focus really shoves these songs into overdrive.

    An intense experience. No matter your personal feelings on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (and I must confess sympathy for Lind's point-of-view here), this shattering EP is worth experiencing. Good art can convey so much more than reality. This isn't merely good; it's fucking great.

    Bridge Nine Records
    P.O. Box 990052
    Boston, MA 02199-0052
    www: http://www.bridge9.com

    (Uncle Buzz)

    David Cooper Orton and James Sidlo have been trading tapes for five years. One of them would start a loop, the other would add a little something, then the first would drop in a little more and so forth. In the end, we get the 15 tracks on this disc.

    My description probably tipped you off, but you've gotta want to really listen to get into this album. Sidlo and Orton didn't send tapes back and forth across the Atlantic in order to craft three-minute pop songs, although the songs do average four minutes in length. You've just gotta love listening for the points of intersection, those places where the ideas cross and then pollinate entirely new thoughts.

    Yes, this is abstract fare. Often pretty, but decidedly without structure. Each little loop contains its own rules of physics, which is why it's always interesting to hear how the different pieces come together. The clash is rarely cataclysmic, but it's always intriguing.

    I know, some of you out there are calling me some kind of artsy-fartsy freaky music critic who only likes unlistenable music. Well, I think I've made the case for listening to this outstanding album. Thinking about music while you listen to it isn't that hard. In fact, it's damned enjoyable. Especially when two talents guys like Orton and Sidlo are purveying their ideas.

    Uncle Buzz Records
    5014 Arbor Ridge
    San Antonio, TX 78228
    www: http://www.unclebuzz.com

    The Sound of Rails
    Night Time Simulcast

    The Sound of Rails does more to bring that whole late-80s Louisville sound up to date than just about anyone I know. Rather than simply keeping to the Slint/Rodan axis, these boys venture into the movement's present-day home of Chicago (June of 44, etc.) and then blasts off. If this reminds you of what I said about the Michael album, thanks for paying attention.

    Which is to say these songs blister, rock, crash, burn, electrify and even dazzle. There are some exciting post-prog moments, and there are a couple of glisteningly pure melodies as well. Everything is in the pot, and it's bubbling over.

    Each song has its own feel. The rough pieces pin the needles to the red, while the more contemplative ones are almost surgically clean. There's no need to reconcile these styles; they make sense when experienced as a whole. And for me, that's the real excitement of this axis in the indie realm. The possibility to play music that's never been imagined before. The Sound of Rails refuses to be beholden to the past, though it certainly acknowledges a great debt. Honor the past and then blow out the windows. Sounds like a plan to me.

    P.O. Box 84323
    Lincoln, NE 68501
    e-mail: info@caulfieldrecords.com
    www: http://www.caulfieldrecords.com

    The Unnameable
    But of That, I Will Not Speak...
    (Shame File)

    Clinton Green and Andrew McIntosh decided to write some Lovecraftian music. Or, shall we say, some music heavily influenced by Lovecraft's writing. Something like that. And if you recognize the names of the players, well, you probably already know this is hardly ordinary fare.

    Indeed, Green and McIntosh populate their songs with rumbles, dull thuds and somewhat irregularly-repeating whirrs. These pieces really inspire a mood of dread and ill-feeling. They're creepy, with a decided sense of impending doom about them.

    And if you know Lovecraft, then that should come as no surprise. The boys have created their own little world--not unlike the creator of Cthulhu-- and it speaks to the demons that must have inhabited Lovecraft's mind (for more on this, check out the McIntosh's excellent deconstruction of the master in the liners).

    Not for everyone, which is something I say just about every time I review one of Green's works. That's just fine with him, I'd wager. This sort of project appeals to people who want to truly troll the dark edges of the electronic underground. The sign says "beware" for a reason. Do not pass through these doors lightly.

    Shame File
    Clinton Green
    15 Neil St.
    West Footscray 3012
    e-mail: morrigan@labyrinth.net.au
    www: http://clintongreen.tripod.com/index-3.html

    Also recommended:

    Hollis and the Mighty McGregor Miss the Plane (self-released)
    That would be Hollis Webb and Andrew McGregor, who strum their way through a meaty course of acoustic pop music. Reminds me a lot of the first Posies album, though with the focus on the guitars rather than the harmonies. Intense and exciting.
    e-mail: hollismusic@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.hollismusic.com

    The Jack McCoys All the Weeping Cameras (Ambiguous City!)
    Solid rock stuff from this Baltimore fivesome. The riffs are always just a hair off-kilter, which really sets these folks apart. I'm not sure all the hooks quite come together, but journey is certainly worth hearing.

    Moreland Audio Turbogold (54-40 or Fight!)
    There's something about the upper midwest that seems to bring out the best in noisy, dissonance-laden music. Moreland Audio avoids vocals, and its approach is a bit more cerebral than Don Caballero. Fine stuff that is easy to get lost in if you give it the chance.

    Saint of Killers Saint of Killers (Edgetone)
    If it's on Edgetone, it must be out there. And, indeed, Saint of Killers comes through. This three-piece (drums, guitar and generally non-verbal vocals) just blasts its way through the songs on this disc. Brute strength and attitude carry the day. The energy on this disc is absolutely huge.

    Slapshot Greatest Hits, Slashes and Crosschecks (Bridge Nine)
    A fine snapshot of these Boston hardcore survivors. There's little subtlety in the music or lyrics (sample titles: "Shoot Charlton Heston and "Punk's Dead"), and that actually works to the band's advantage. Twenty-two shots of pure hardcore, a commodity which is increasingly endangered these days.

    Solace 13 (Meteor City)
    Every once in a while I get a stoner rock jones, and this month Solace fills the bill. These boys are very much in the Ozzy-era Sabbath mode, with all the levels fuzzed out to the max. Nothing new or original, but compelling nonetheless. Satisfied my cravings, anyway.

    Spooky Pie Audios (Boo Records)
    So imagine Deadbolt fronted by Shonen Knife. Yes, the women are American and not Japanese, but the three-part harmonies are dead on. And the sludgy, campy pseudo-surf is quite a pleasure. Silly and harmless, perhaps, but decidedly entertaining.

    T.M. Stevens Shocka Zulu (United One)
    Stevens plays a mean funk bass, and his songs borrow liberally from rock, metal, hip-hop, reggae, gospel and plenty more. Sometimes I think he keeps his influences just a bit too separate (the stuff oughta blend better), but I like the way he takes chances. An ambitious album that works out quite nicely.

    Thomas Truax Full Moon Over Wowtown (Psycho Teddy)
    Exceptionally-crafted songs of a decidedly eclectic nature. I think if I gave this disc a couple of months, I'll really like it. As it is, Truax's astonishing ambition fills these tightly-written songs with a sense of wild abandon. That paradox is what makes me want to spend a lot more time with this puppy.

    Undecisive God Undecisive God (Shame File)
    If you read my review of the Unnameable, then you have a sense of what Clinton Green is all about. Six songs in 70 minutes, each populated with a sense of wonder and the bizarre. I'm pretty sure there isn't a better tour guide to the edge than Green.

    The Young and the Useless The Young and the Useless EP (Thorp Records)
    I love the name of the band, and these hardcore boys flirt with the extreme, but never quite consummate the deed. Instead, there are cool sidetracks into samples and even the occasional anthemic hook (even if sung quite hoarsely). A bit disjointed, but always amusing.

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