Welcome to A&A. There are 24 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 #241 reviews (May 2003)
  • a.m. vibe a.m. vibe (Silver Girl)
  • Aceyalone Love & Hate (Project Blowed)
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow Falling Through a Field (self-released)
  • Brandtson Death & Taxes (Deep Elm)
  • Cardia Cardia (SilverThree)
  • James Cohen High Side of Lowdown (NorthernBlues)
  • Elliot Song in the Air (Revelation)
  • Ex Models Zoo Psychology (French Kiss)
  • Eyes Like Knives Eyes Like Knives EP (Secret Fire)
  • Fall Out Boy Take This to Your Grave (Fueled by Ramen)
  • Felt Desert Center (self-released)
  • Garlands Bedroom Music (self-released)
  • Light Sleeper Light Sleeper (self-released)
  • Local H The No Fun EP (Thick)
  • James Mason Carnival Sky (Sonoface)
  • Nina Nastasia Run to Ruin (Touch and Go)
  • Playing Enemy Ephemera (Escape Artist)
  • Kat Terran Lion & Blue (self-released)
  • Beth Thornley Beth Thornley (self-released)
  • Variable Unit Handbook for the Apocalypse (Wide Hive)
  • Kimmon Waldruff Kimmon Waldruff (self-released)
  • Everett Young The Ground (self-released)
  • Youngblood Brass Band center:level:roar (Ozone-Layered)
  • Zeromancer Zeromancer (Cleopatra)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    a.m. vibe
    a.m. vibe
    (Silver Girl)

    There's something about the way dusky female vocals color light alt. pop that simply sounds right.

    I'm not talking about a venture into Lisa Loeb territory, but if you recall a band by the name of the Moon Seven Times, well, a.m. vibe fits right into that territory.

    The reason this works is that the music and lyrics have a hidden depth. At first listen this stuff sounds almost ephemeral. It's just that there's a certain something underneath that lends itself to repeat listens. There's a there there, after all.

    Jesus, did I just write that? Well, it does make sense. And I think it conveys the unusual charm of a.m. vibe quite well. This stuff shouldn't work, but it does. Hard to argue with that.

    Silver Girl Records
    P.O. Box 161024
    San Diego, CA 92176
    www: http://www.silvergirl.com

    Love & Hate
    (Project Blowed)

    All right. Aceyalone drops some seriously funky electronic beats and then lays some truly smooth rhymes on top. Just the sorta thing I like to hang with now and again.

    And when you've got pals like Sayyid and Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium and El-P who are more than willing to stop by and lend a little help, well, maybe you've got something.

    Indeed. Aceyalone isn't afraid of trying out any number of innovative beat ideas and then introduce some polyrhythms with his rhymes. All while kicking some interesting ideas.

    Quite impressive. If this is just the beginning, then Aceyalone may well have a great future.

    Black Moth Super Rainbow
    Falling Through a Field

    That which was once Satanstompingcaterpillars is now Black Moth Super Rainbow. Or something close to that, anyway. The same cool graphic design on the CD sleeves, the same idiosyncratic approach to moody pop (a goofily morose electronic tangent, if you can believe that), the same great results.

    Some folks just know how to make interesting music, no matter what name appears above the title. And in this case, interesting also is good. The songs generally fall into the noodly electronic realm, but there's a nice scratchy feel to the sound. And the vocals are half-whispered in a droll sort of way (that's where I get "morose," I guess).

    The key is how it all is put together. These songs would fall apart if there wasn't a kernel of coherence in the center of it all. And there is. The far-flung ideas never quite escape the orbit of the central themes. The pieces are loose, but not lost.

    Like I said, it doesn't matter what these boys decide to call themselves. The music is what's important. And stuff this good will make a name for itself.

    2290 Linwood Drive
    Allison Park, PA 15101
    e-mail: blackmothsuperrainbow@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.blackmothsuperrainbow.com

    Death & Taxes
    (Deep Elm)

    While some emo bands have decided to pop out with a vengeance, Brandtson has consistently kept a nice rock edge to its bright melodies and sharp hooks. This might be its best set of songs yet.

    And make no mistake--this stuff is crafted with extreme diligence. These songs are precisely-cut gems, subtle enough to be truly beautiful.

    I find it kinda interesting that Brandtson has veered toward a early-80s arena rock feel. Poppier, sure, but with plenty of punch as well. If you can imagine Night Ranger with well-written material (the first couple of albums, say) and a decided lack of keyboards, then you're getting close.

    I'm sure the boys really won't like that comparison, but that's the way I hear it. And I like what I hear. These songs aren't bloated and overblown--which is where they're clearly superior to 80s AOR--but they really do a nice job of communicating within a mainstream sound. Top notch.

    Deep Elm Records
    P.O. Box 36939
    Charlotte, NC 28236
    Phone (803) 631-6319
    Fax [803] 631-6314
    e-mail: info@deepelm.com
    www: www.deepelm.com


    Hoo boy, these Cardia boys are sure their songs are damned important. This album is just drenched in that dramatic "you are now listening to the greatest band in the world" sound. And, well, Cardia isn't quite up to that billing.

    But the boys are pretty good. Good enough to pique my interest despite my general aversion to such over-the-top pretentiousness. There are plenty of layers to peel, and as I get closer and closer to the core sound, the more impressed I get. Underneath the late 80s U2 vibe lies a vibrant heart.

    One which is willing to take chances. More chances than the producer here allowed to creep out, but hey, there's hope for the future. These songs are quite well-written--witty as well as finely tunesmithed.

    Like I said, good enough for me to overlook that glitzy, excessively overbearing finish. I'd advise the boys to strip off a couple layers and allow the brilliance of their songs to shine. As it is, though, they just might get the attention they so obviously desire.

    Silverthree Recordings
    P.O. Box 3621
    Fairfax, VA 22038
    www: http://www.silverthree.com

    James Cohen
    High Side of Low Down

    Is flamenco the blues? Maybe, maybe not. But, as proven by its recent gospel compilation, NorthernBlues is about much more than some narrow definition of the blues. If you're interested in great guitar playing, James Cohen will more than suffice.

    And this isn't yer everday flamenco album. Yes, that's Cohen's style, but he places his dramatic picking and strumming in a number of settings. There's the Django Reinhardt-esque "Mock Pollock," for example, and "Elsie," which flies through jazz, flamenco and blues structures in its four minutes.

    It all comes down to whether or not the music is good. This is not good. It is great. Cohen is an astonishingly expressive player, so much so that his virtuosity is hardly noticed. I can't think of a higher compliment than that.

    And so I'll take my leave. Cohen's playing and songwriting are exquisite, and his bandmates are spectacular. This is an album of the highest order, no matter how you wish the classify the music within.

    225 Sterling Road
    Unit 19
    Toronto, ON M6R 2B2
    Phone (866) 540-0003
    Fax [416] 536-1494
    e-mail: info@northernblues.com
    www: http://www.northernblues.com

    Song in the Air

    Elliot is one of those bands that seems to be incapable of writing a mundane song. The sound is generally understated, but the impact of these pieces is immediate and intense.

    Maybe its just me. I've passed around that first CD to a few friends, and all of them were decidedly ambivalent. Perhaps I'm one of those music critics who falls in love with bands no one else understands (or wants to understand, for that matter). Well, hell, I know I'm one of "those" critics, but still. Elliot makes music that sounds rather universal to me.

    Okay, maybe the rush isn't quite so immediate on that first album. Maybe you've gotta let the greatness sneak up on you just a bit. Not here. The pieces are midtempo more often than not, but they've got more energy and fire than most extreme bands I hear these days.

    Another stellar album. Elliot makes the kind of timeless rock music that few dare attempt these days. Contemplative and yet compelling at once, an exquisite blend of sense and sensibility. Hey, if you listen to this album and aren't blown away at once, there's nothing I can do to help you. Not a damned thing.

    P.O. Box 5232
    Huntington Beach, CA 92615
    Phone (714) 375-4264
    Fax [714] 375-4266

    Zoo Psychology
    (French Kiss)

    Perhaps you are aware of the whole "no-wave" movement. Perhaps not. The idea generally seemed to be to make music that the members of the Jesus Lizard would find to be unlistenable.

    That's a joke. Mostly. In any case, I love the stuff. Loud, noisy, mostly incoherent--but there's almost always a keen sense of rhythm in the stuff. Even if the beat is kept by, say highly-distorted guitars or spoons or sampled gunshots or whatever. Ex-Models actually employ a drummer and use him every once in a while. The main rhythmic elements are in the guitars, though, and they kick ass.

    Brevity is a virtue. This album squeezes 15 songs in the space of 20 minutes. The lyrics aren't inane, but I'd say the vocals are generally used more for their musical (as it were) elements than any real expression of ideas. Again, this is most palatable to me. The screechy, throbbing sound is strangely danceable and a joy to my ears.

    I know, most folks would find that last sentence almost unbelievable. But if your tastes run to the lunatic fringe of the music world (and you like to shave the fur off your eardrums with high doses of distortion and high-treble squalls of feedback), then Ex-Models are about as good as it gets. My heart brims with joy.

    French Kiss
    111 East 14th Street
    Suite 229
    New York, NY 10003
    www: http://www.frenchkissrecords

    Eyes Like Knives
    Eyes Like Knives EP
    (Secret Fire)

    Eyes Like Knives combines the strident guitar work and edgy vocals of early emo with the insistence and throbbing beats of the news school. Sorta the best of both worlds, if you ask me.

    The stuff is catchy in a raucous sort of way. Eyes Like Knives remind me a lot of Vitreous Humor, that vaguely legendary emo band from the mid-90s that broke up "before we became Weezer," (as the band members themselves put it). I've always liked that line, even if it is bullshit. Anyway, this band is in no danger of becoming Weezer. There's just too much power rumbling through these songs.

    Another excellent reference would be Jawbox--in that bands more accessible moments. Eyes Like Knives take care to include at least one kick-ass melody in each song, as if to say "hey, we're just a pop band like everyone else." A nice little proletarian instinct. Or something like that, anyway.

    Secret Fire
    P.O. Box 2163
    Des Plaines, IL 60017
    www: http://www.secretfirerecords.com

    Fall Out Boy
    Take This to Your Grave
    (Fueled by Ramen)

    These folks are a wee bit too clever for their own good. Take the label name (Fueled by Ramen) or the title of the first track ("Tell that Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today"). Okay, so I 'm sure the boys didn't name their label. It sure is appropriate, anyway.

    These songs aren't all jokes, but there are a few that venture into Nerf Herder territory. The music itself is tight punk pop with just a hint of an aggressive edge on the guitar. The pieces do come together nicely.

    And much of the reason for that is the production, which doesn't overdo anything. Rather, the band's natural exuberance is preserved without allowing the proceedings to get out of hand. There's a nice live-to-tape feel here--though I don't think that's how this was recorded. No matter. The final product is quite nice.

    Solid songwriting and plenty of energy to pull off these well-crafted pieces. Fall Out Boy isn't the most distinctive band around, but these songs are more than worth a listen or few. Give the boys some time and they just might come up with something better than very good.

    Fueled by Ramen
    P.O. Box 12563
    Gainesville, FL 32604
    www: http://www.fueledbyramen.com

    Desert Center

    Felt plays pop rock the way it was meant to be played: All over the map. There's a little power pop, a little faux-funk wank, some scattered hints of ska (hints, mind you, not the real thing), some anthemic roots stuff and even a wee bit of psychedelia just to round out the package.

    So whether you like the Spin Doctors or Hootie and the Blowfish--or you're like me and you like neither--there's something to appreciate here. The songs themselves are written quite nicely, and there's very little resorting to old cliches. Rather, the boys seem to have worked very hard to find an original edge to their music.

    I do get a sense that these folks play better than they feel. The proficiency of the musicians sometimes overshadows any emotion that might be present, but that tightness also helps to ratchet up the hook quotient. I'm not sure I like that trade off, but I have to admit that it works pretty well for these guys.

    Hey, I'm the first to say that this album is a bit too accessible for my tastes. But Felt does one hell of a job crafting its voice, and I never got bored. There are so many shades of sound on this album that it would be impossible to accuse these boys of falling into a rut. Surprisingly enjoyable.

    Crescent Avenue Music
    P.O. Box 5516
    Buena Park, CA 90620
    Phone (714) 642-0209
    e-mail: markwein@felthq.com
    www: http://www.felthq.com

    Bedroom Music

    Garlands prefer to consider their music to be a direct descendent of the Velvet Underground. There's certainly a wee bit of VU in here, but I've always heard a more direct connection to the dreamy side of the Smiths. There's something about the guitar work that just screams Johnny Marr to me. And that's not bad at all.

    However you slice it, I'm guessing you've got a good handle on the sound. The next question is quality, and Garlands have never disappointed in the writing department. These songs are gorgeous, shimmering works that trip along the edges of the brain. It's pretty difficult to make such soft rock insistently appealing, but Garlands manage nonetheless.

    Maybe it's in the rich texture of the sound. The production is quite good, lending a plush depth to the music that reverberates over and over until it becomes hypnotic. Easy to fall into and very difficult to leave.

    As the disc rolls on, I'm hearing more and more Lou Reed in the lead work. Maybe the folks know more about their music than I do. That's cool. The simple truth of the matter is that Garlands is a 21st century band, no matter its influences. This is music that speaks to today.

    138 W. 11th #5
    New York, NY 10011
    e-mail: info@garlands.com
    www: http://www.garlands.com

    Light Sleeper
    Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper plays that Bacharach/David-style of pop music. Lots of strummed guitars, lots of restrained energy. Angst channeled into "ba ba ba"s and "koo koo ka choo"s. That sort of thing.

    And there's this loopily kinetic lead guitar that sorta drops in and out at the most appropriate of times. It's the guitar that really sets Light Sleeper apart. There are a lot of bands that do a nice job of channeling the early 70s, but not many are able to update the sound as well as these folks.

    The production is stock for this kinda music. Vaguely fuzzy with an emphasis on the treble. The only part that doesn't fit is the exceptionally flat (some might call it "clean") sound on that lead guitar, and that counterpoint works astonishingly well.

    What might have been simply another fine pop record climbs a notch above. Light Sleeper is aptly named; just when you think you've settled down there's something that pricks up the ears and wakes you up. I like that, myself.

    Shmat Records
    P.O. Box 1191
    Alhambra, CA 91802
    www: http://www.lightsleeper.com

    Local H
    The No Fun EP

    Been a while since I've heard anything from these boys. I've never been particular knocked out by Local H's brand of fuzz rock, but this disc is making me reconsider my position.

    'Cause these songs are great. There are nice covers of the Ramones, Primal Scream and the Godfathers thrown in amongst three originals. And while the covers are fine, the originals are better.

    I'm guessing the title is meant to be ironic (well, it's also the name of the first track, but still). Any time a band throws this many covers into the mix it's certainly not trying to keep things serious. Like I said, this short disc makes me think I oughta give Local H a bit more props. Color me impressed.

    Thick Records
    409 N. Wolcott Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60622
    www: http://www.thickrecords.com

    James Mason
    Carnival Sky

    This is the sort of contemplative album that requires a bit of getting used to. I probably would've skipped right over the puppy except that I've been swapping e-mails with the Sonoface honcho. There's a hint there for young bands: Make a personal connection. It can't hurt.

    Actually, I'd probably have come around on this album without that all that electronic communication, but still. James Mason's songs are moody but not maudlin. The sound is more dusky than dark. There's more than a little resemblance to the minimalist pop of Silver Jews and folks like that.

    Which is another way of saying the stuff is purty damned good. These songs don't always have well-defined centers, but they come together quite well nonetheless. Part of that certainly has something to do with the intimate sound of the recording. That feel isn't lost when bass and drums and electric guitar join Mason's voice and acoustic guitar. Rather, there's just a bit of a claustrophobic feeling, driving the music deeper into the skin.

    Quite simply, this is one well-crafted disc. There's just enough looseness in the playing to keep the feel personal, and the attention to detail keeps the songs from spinning out of control. First rate.

    Sonoface Records
    919 N. Buchanan Blvd.
    Durham, NC 27701
    Phone (919) 641-3255
    www: http://www.sonofacerecords.com

    Nina Nastasia
    Run to Ruin
    (Touch and Go)

    Nastasia's first album for Touch and Go was quite impressive. She's got a real handle on the dark folk blues, and her deliberate, noisy approach is quite unique.

    Part of that approach is an almost symphonic instrumental array. Plenty of strings (cello and violin for sure, and I'm pretty sure I hear a viola as well), not to mention horns, harp (that would be harmonica) and percussion as well. These songs are dramatic as hell--in a good way. Nastasia ratchets up the tension like a master.

    The production has left plenty of holes in the sound, which allows the large variety of instruments their own spaces in which to shine. This wide-open approach does bring a certain spookiness to the songs, a quality that is quite desirable.

    Though studio tricks aren't what makes these songs haunting. Nastasia's writing and voice would be enough for that. I had high expectations, and this album more than fulfilled them. Quite the stunner.

    Touch and Go
    P.O. Box 25520
    Chicago, IL 60625
    Phone (773) 388-8888
    Fax [773] 388-3888

    Playing Enemy
    Ephemera EP
    (Escape Artist)

    These boys have a fun sense of humor. Rather than listing their instruments, they "play" Moon, Entwistle and Daltrey/Townshend. Rather fitting for an extreme combo that throws all sorts of prog and classical references into its fierce attack.

    And they do "You've Got to Be Crazy." Alright, so a Pink Floyd cover isn't exactly news, but the way these boys deconstruct that piece into a squall of guitars and drums is impressive. This trio knows exactly what it's doing.

    I know, I've said it a thousand times before, but just because a band plays loud and mean doesn't indicate a lack of intelligence. This is smart music that happens to have a real bite to it. Dig in.

    Escape Artist
    P.O. Box 472
    Downingtown, PA 19335
    www: http://www.escapeartistrecords.com

    Kat Terran
    Lion & Blue

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

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

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

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

    Little Roar Records
    P.O. Box 31253
    Seattle, WA 98103
    www: http://www.katterran.com

    Beth Thornley
    Beth Thornley

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

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

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

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

    www: stiffhipsmusic@aol.com
    www: http://www.beththornley.com

    Variable Unit
    Handbook for the Apocalypse
    (Wide Hive)

    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.

    Wide Hive
    P.O. Box 460067
    San Francisco, CA 94146
    Phone (415) 282-9433
    Fax [415] 282-6432
    www: http://www.widehive.com

    Kimmon Waldruff
    Kimmon Waldruff

    Kimmon Waldruff plays acoustic guitar. He sings every once in a while. That's just about all that you hear on this album. And that's more than good enough for me.

    Waldruff is an exceptional player and a very good songwriter. His style lies somewhere between roots and jazz and classical (the instrumental pieces are more to the conceptual side, and the pieces with vocals are more rootsy), which means he likes to wander a bit from piece to piece. Thanks goodness.

    Waldruff's real skill is how skillful he is at infusion emotion and passion into his playing. He's not just a skilled player, he's an expressive one. It's the expression that gets to me. The power is such that these songs speak to me without words (he sings on only two tracks out of 13).

    A lot of folks can play guitar very well. Waldruff knows how to use his guitar to communicate. And he's able to write songs that make his feelings very clear. This intimate album is a most fulfilling experience.

    920 Allen Drive
    Winchester, VA 22601
    phone: (540) 678-3863

    Everett Young
    The Ground

    Sometimes it's cool just to sit back and bask in the wonderment that pours through my headphones. Everett Young plays conceptual pop rock music, stuff with understated hooks and a wicked wit. Songs that are constructed piece by piece and then meticulously finished by a master craftsman.

    Reminds me a bit of the most recent New Order album (you know, the really good one that no one actually heard), or maybe some of the Pet Shop Boys's more graceful moments. There is, of course, the fact that these pieces aren't electronically created. But nonetheless, there's a certain soaring quality to these pieces that brings echoes of that sort of sound. And, strangely enough, Young's use of orchestration brings a lushness that electronic acts often try to replicate.

    I have a feeling that I'm simply failing at my task here. Young has created a truly stunning work, the sort of album that can be played over and over without even a chance of burnout. The execution sounds effortless, which is all the more amazing considering how much work went into making these songs the gems they are.

    Like the notes on his web site say, few people even try to write music like this these days. Truth is, very few folks have ever tried--it's just that we remember those that succeeded. Young has not only succeeded, he's triumphed. This is one of those albums that cannot be forgotten.

    e-mail: everett@everettyoung.com
    www: http://www.everettyoung.com

    Youngblood Brass Band

    Imagine a New Orleans brass band teaming up with a DJ and an MC or two. And then imagine it actually being pretty damned good.

    The rhymes flow in something of a native tongue style (how's that for old school?). They move in and around the fairly authentic jazz blues of the band. And when there's the need for a little kick, there's a kick from the booth.

    At least, I think that's what I'm hearing. Maybe the band is good enough to fool my ears. Wouldn't be the first time. I know I'm completely knocked out by the sound here.

    Just the sort of thing to drop into the stereo and let slide by while enjoying a Sazerak or few. Fun stuff that makes a point or two along the way. Just the way good music always does.

    Ozone Music
    199 Lafayette St.
    Suite 3B
    New York, NY 10012
    Phone (212) 965-1901
    Fax [212] 965-1912
    e-mail: ozone@inch.com
    www: http://www.ozonemusic.net

    Clone Your Lover

    I'm just one of those folks who digs Dead or Alive. You know, the band that did "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)." Zeromancer captures that early industrial-goth feel quite nicely, complete with snarky vocals. I mean, the attention to detail is stunning.

    And to be honest, there are many more good songs here than Dead or Alive ever came up with. Zeromancer is something of a guilty pleasure, what with all the keyboard breaks and metallic guitars and breathy vocals--but geez, a guy's gotta live sometime, right?

    The sound is stellar. This is party music--if your idea of a party involves people wearing a lot of black. It's not the next big thing or anything like that, but the stuff more than stands on its own. There's plenty of quality here to be had.

    And, damn, I don't think I need to justify my jones for drum machines and crunchy guitars. These songs are utterly infectious, and this album keeps lurching along at a fine pace. There's very little here I would change. Cheap and trashy is just my style.

    13428 Maxella Ave.
    Suite 251
    Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
    Phone (310) 577-1480
    Fax [310] 821-4702

    Also recommended:

    Betty Blowtorch Last Call (Foodchain)
    A disc chock full of songs remembering the late Bianca Butthole (I didn't really try and figure out what her real name was). There are a few Butt Trumpet bits (Bianca's gig before Betty), some interview sessions and lots of full-on rock and roll. It doesn't get more basic than this, and in a way, that's just the way it ought to be.

    DW Project Emerge (Essence of Now)
    The sort of trippy guitar rock that people just don't even try to make these days. Rather than cheese out in some kind of jam mode, DW Project tightens everything up and then lays this cool flamenco-style guitar on top. Kinda like the 60s meets the new century, all in good form.

    The Exploding Hearts Guitar Romance (Dirtnap)
    Another disc that's right up Dirtnap's alley: Crunchy pop punk that reminds me of Buzzcocks and the Clash and all that. In fact, there are a few moments that are a wee bit too close for comfort. Still, anyone who looks back at classy Britpunk with admiration can't help but smile at this.

    Jad Fair and Jason Willett Superfine (Public Eyesore)
    I've never been convinced of Jad Fair's genius, but there are a number of brilliant bits among the 70 pieces on this disc (I didn't even get to the 135 mp3s tacked on as a bonus). Quantity can never replace quality, but even so there's plenty of fun here.

    The Hyperions Under My Sombrero (Surprise Truck)
    If you've ever wondered what hyper rockabilly might sound like with horns, strings and marimba, well, it sounds fucking great. The Hyperions rip through some astonishing pieces, and then there's this cover of "Paint It Black" (complete with the aforementioned marimba) that much be heard to be believed. And acquired taste, surely, but a fine one nonetheless.

    Ken Mode Mongrel (Escape Artist)
    I'm thinking these Escape Artist folks might be one to something. Ken Mode is another fine thoughtful extreme artist. There's a tasty wit to the lyrics (songs titled "Words Not to Say to the Queen" and "Brainstem Pitch Fork" might give you a hint) that I haven't heard in this kinda stuff since Fudge Tunnel. Truly wonderful.

    Kings of Leon Holy Roller Novacaine EP (RCA)
    RCA signed these boys thinking they just might be the next great band. You know, they might be right. Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Tift Merritt) produced, leaving a bourbon-and-ice feel to these down home rock and roll tunes. Damn if it ain't great, but will it sell? Shit, that's not my job.

    Lagwagon Blaze (Fat Wreck Chords)
    Um, this is another Lagwagon record. It's, um, really good. Just like, um, most of the other Lagwagon records. Can't say, um, that the boys have progressed. But, um, you know, this puppy is darned good. Um, that's all.

    process23 Premonitions (self-released)
    The core of a Canadian band called Io moved to Californy, picked up some new mates and became process23. The band whipsaws between highly processed pop and more low-key jangle pop. I prefer the songs with electronic interference; they're somewhat more original sounding. The centers of these pieces, no matter how they're arranged, are dead solid. Nicely done.
    P.O. Box 444
    La Honda, CA 94020
    www: http://www.process23.com

    Raymond 01 EP (self-released)
    Bouncy pop rock that employs some serious aggro riffage. It's almost like these guys want to obliterate the pretty hooks they've written. They're not the first to think of this deceit, of course, but they do it very well. A most engaging set of songs.
    e-mail: raymondrock@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.raymondrock.com

    Rise Against Revolutions Per Minute (Fat Wreck Chords)
    Produced with the usual flair at the Blasting Room, Rise Against starts out blistering and then gets hotter. The intensity never lets up, and neither does the cogent thought. Seems to me that albums like this are what punk is all about.

    Sahara Hotnights C'mon, Let's Pretend (Jetset)
    The first album from these Swedish garage queens. Now I think I understand why so many people were excited about their U.S. debut. This earlier album (now available on these shores) is far superior. The band shows off a fine range of songs and delivers them with the requisite energy. It surprises me how good this is.

    Settlefish Dance a While, Upset (Deep Elm)
    I liked this one a lot, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that Settlefish is trying just a wee bit too hard to be Slint. The jumping bass lines, the spoken-sung vocals, the high-pitched squeals of guitar. I'd never really thought about how those Louisville folks might have influenced the likes of Mineral, but this album bring all that home to me.

    Suffrajett Suffrajett (In Music We Trust)
    Pleasantly lo-fi garage stuff, fronted by the incredibly snotty Simi. She's got a great voice, but for some reason she seems to prefer dosing those pipes with enough attitude to melt granite. The music is so distorted it sounds almost prehistoric. An interesting set, to say the least.

    Sullen Pain the Moon (Thick)
    Very loud, vaguely tuneful and strangely compelling. There is something of a Sonic Youth thing going on (right around the time that band went major and cleaned up its act somewhat), but more than anything Sullen sounds like it comes straight out of the post-metal movement of the early 90s. Think the first Warrior Soul album--you know, the fucking great one. There's more potential here than anything else, but the future just might bring something wonderful.

    Wonderful Johnson The Authentic Memphis Samich (self-released)
    The boys didn't stick any contact info on their disc, so I can't point you in their direction. I can say that the sound is bright and jumpy--a lot like the first couple of Cars albums. Not quite so reliant on the guitar, but you get the idea. The songs often build slow, but when they get where they're going, the effect is brilliant. A sunny day all unto itself.

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