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 #242 reviews (June 2003)
  • Amerikan Made Amerikan Made EP (self-released)
  • Armor for Sleep Dream to Make Believe (Equal Vision)
  • Astoria When I Know You Will Too (Asuaurus)
  • Fred Avril That Horse Must Be Starving (PIAS America)
  • Blue Sandcastle If You Only Knew... (self-released)
  • Clarence Bucaro Sweet Corn (Burnside)
  • Camarosmith Camarosmith (Dead Teenager)
  • Dream Into Dust The Lathe of Heaven (Chthonic Streams)
  • I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House Put Here to Bleed (In Music We Trust)
  • Last Days of April Ascend to the Stars (Crank!)
  • Lewis and Clarke Bright Light EP (SunSeaSky)
  • Britney Moore Home for Story Time (self-released)
  • NOFX The War on Errorism (Fat Wreck Chords)
  • A Northern Chorus Spirit Flags (Sonic Unyon)
  • P.I.C Sexy Picnic (Riding Mower)
  • The PB Army Inebriates, Equivocators and Mockers of the Devil Himself (Sin Klub)
  • psi psi (Evolving Ear)
  • Shai Hulud That Within Blood Ill-Tempered (Revelation)
  • small a.m. small a.m. (Childlike)
  • Step Softly, Ghost Ruined in Repetition (Able-Anomer)
  • Stereo Three-Sixty Enjoy Your Life Poolside (Baby Pea)
  • Throw Rag Desert Shores (BYO)
  • Toshack Highway vs. Sianspheric Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age 2xEP (Sonic Unyon)
  • The Young Antiques Clockworker (Two Sheds)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Amerikan Made
    Amerikan Made EP

    These boys cop to liking Bad Religion, and that's a good thing. They've got that whole slick oozin-ah sound down, and they make sure that their songs have something to say.

    I wasn't trying to rip these guys by saying they're slick. If you want to make sure that people can understand what you're saying, say it clearly. This is ultra-tight pop punk, chunky and melodic all at once--with quite a few unusual touches (keyboards, samples, etc.) as well.

    And Amerikan Made has managed to take a crack at an original sound. These boys are exceptionally dense songwriters (in the sense that they throw a lot of things into their work) with a fine ear for extravagant arrangement. Amerikan Made should have a fine future.

    e-mail: webmaster@amerikanmade.com
    www: http://www.amerikanmade.com

    Armor for Sleep
    Dream to Make Believe
    (Equal Vision)

    The distillation of emo into a number of non-competing schools has created a niche for the noodly power pop band. The Appleseed Cast and Elliot are but two bands in the burgeoning ranks of this exceptionally fine movement. Armor for Sleep makes its case to join the few and the proud.

    It's a great case to make, too. These guys have a great ear for hooks, but the songs are so much more than three chords and a dream. There's a depth to the construction and plenty of fun little prog touches as well. These songs are utterly gorgeous, but they can be temperamental, too. I like that.

    Best of all, there are lots of impressionistic studio touches that nicely fill out the audio pictures presented. The sort of keyboard riffs and other little bits that keep a song turning nicely without attracting any attention to themselves. Subtlety is always welcome when it comes to post-production.

    Hard to be subtle about my enjoyment of this album, though. These guys hit the puppy right on the head. I think they've got a bit more in them--these songs, while excellent, aren't always quite fully-formed. That's okay. Give Armor for Sleep a couple of years on the road and plenty of off-time in the practice room and I'll bet the result will be mindblowing.

    Equal Vision
    P.O. Box 14
    Hudson, NY 12534
    www: http://www.equalvision.com

    When I Know You Will Too

    There's a sector of the outer edge of music that I like to call "plausibly real." This refers to music that would sound normal if one or two things were changed. In the case of Astoria, it's the choice of instrument (and, more specifically, the sounds emanating from the synthesizer) that sets this stuff apart.

    A certain S. O'Neill is the creator of Astoria, and he (I'll use the male pronoun just because) has created electronic sounds of the ambient that would be most acceptable to the mainstream if only it weren't so obviously electronic.

    There are chimes, bells, gurgles and so forth. Some songs are languid and others a bit more jaunty--but, mind you, nothing that even approaches midtempo. It's the ethereal nature of the sounds and the arrangements that makes Astoria so otherworldly.

    The Asaurus web site describes this disc as "...perfect for sleeping, careful listening, or otherwise." Precisely. I prefer to take a field trip to my frontal lobes. You can do whatever you like.

    Asaurus Records
    P.O. Box 0664
    Allen Park, MI 48101-0664
    e-mail: records@asaurus.org
    www: http://www.asaurus.org/records

    Fred Avril
    That Horse Must Be Starving
    ([PIAS] America)

    Whether he goes by Fred Avril or just plain Avril, the boy sure does know how to put together songs. Which is to say that he's generally the man behind the sound. He makes the music and while he does a good chunk of singing, he's not afraid to let others take the mike.

    Call him maestro, if you like. This is the sort of electronic music that sounds so natural, so off-the-cuff, that it seems an insult to simply attribute the exceptional arrangements to the glory of the Powerbook.

    The Chemical Brothers used to make music like this (in spirit, anyway), the sort of thing that wouldn't be wasted on a stage. Avril uses all of the tools at his disposal, but his roots are firmly in the real. These songs are completely grounded.

    But what pretty pictures he paints. The press calls Avril an outsider to electronic music. I guess that means he doesn't run with the right crowd (if he's in a crowd at all). Who gives a shit? Good music is good music, and great music deserves to be experienced by as many people as possible. Time for Avril to stand up and be acknowledged.

    [PIAS] America
    Phone (212) 337-0466
    e-mail: usinfo@pias.com
    www: www.pais.com

    Blue Sandcastle
    If You Only Knew...

    Ten years ago, Erik Schuman and Jean-Paul Vest were in a band back in Texas. A couple years ago they met once again--this time in New York--and decided to play some music once again.

    The duo is somewhat stuck in that whole midwestern roots punk thing. Think the first couple Uncle Tupelo albums or maybe some early Husker Du. Maybe. These guys make music that falls right into Still Feel Gone territory, though Vest's vocals are much more reminiscent of Walter Salas-Humara of the Silos.

    Mostly, though, these guys simply make fine roots-flavored rock. The sound is nicely chunky, though it isn't excessively loud or feedback-laden. The sort of stuff that's a bit loud for the porch, but just right for the back yard.

    A fine set of songs. There are a couple of covers, done with cool new settings (why else would you do a well-known song, anyway?). Just right for the onset of summer.

    Phone: (718) 218-8691
    e-mail: jp@bluesandcastle.com
    www: http://www.bluesandcastle.com

    Clarence Bucaro
    Sweet Corn

    Clarence Bucaro is a guitarist. He's spent hours upon days upon weeks upon years practicing his guitar, playing all sorts of styles until he got them down straight. How do I know this? He sounds as comfortable playing an east African jive lick as he does showboating a little old-timey jug-band bit or a flamenco-tinged Mexican/Spanish blues.

    He wrote all of these songs (and arranged one piece that has passed into the public domain), which is almost as impressive as his playing. There are times that I think he's simply showing off, but then the next song comes along and puts me back under the spell.

    Each song is produced so as to be true to the sound that it borrows, which lends this album a bit of an uneven feel. But that teeter-totter of styles provides just the right gait for listening to these songs. After all, music shouldn't always be comfortable.

    Bucaro is a certifiable man out of time. This is one of those albums that would be pretty damned good as a multi-artist compilation but that is positively astonishing when you consider that it sprang from the hands of one man and his band. Something else, indeed.

    Burnside Records
    3158 E. Burnside
    Portland, OR 97214
    www: http://www.burnsiderecords.com

    (Dead Teenager)

    The further evolution of Zeke, in a manner of speaking. In any case, these Seattle boys (including a couple of ex-Zekesters) take that nice, fuzzy stoner rock and give it a serious kick in the ass.

    The songs run almost three minutes apiece, epic by Zeke standards, but they fly by with all the fury of an April tornado. There's a big whoosh and then everything is blown to bits.

    To my ear, Camarosmith gets back to the basic core of rock and roll: loud guitars, bashing drums and kick-ass bass lines. If you've got all that, why do you need anything else?

    Got me. Camaosmith certainly qualifies as a guilty pleasure, but I'm gonna indulge myself as much as possible. Dive into the sludge and cavort to your heart's content.

    Dead Teenager
    P.O. Box 470153
    San Francisco, CA 94147-0153
    www: http://www.deadteenger.net

    Dream into Dust
    The Lathe of Heaven
    (Chthonic Streams)

    The gothic industrial edge of pop is a scarcely-populated place. Few bands really want to get down and dirty and truly explore the horrors of everyday existence. Dream into Dust is more than happy to take up the slack.

    These songs are assembled in the studio, but there's always a solid core of "real" music around which some really cool structures have been erected. Plenty of acoustic guitar, which makes for a nice counterpoint to the sampled percussion.

    When I say industrial, I mean it. These songs sound like they're being played inside of a factory. Rather than being distracting, the extra pops, whacks and whistles add a pleasant grain to the sound, dirtying everything up just right.

    These folks have been wandering around these woods for quite a while, and this is their finest effort yet. Nothing sounds remotely contrived or forced; this is music that exists in precisely the right surroundings. Rarely have I heard an album that falls into place as well as this one.

    Chthonic Streams
    P.O. Box 7003
    New York, NY 10116-7003
    www: http://www.chthonicstreams.com

    I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House
    Put Here to Bleed
    (In Music We Trust)

    The name may be silly, but the music is anything but. Hard-drinking, bloody-knuckled blues with a couple sledgehammers back. Imagine the Dogs D'Amour with about twenty times the attitude.

    I know, the reference is semi-obscure, but hell, that's what popped into my head. The music is a throbbing thicket of riffage, based in the blues but basted in hardcore. There's a fine bit of harp work that keeps the stuff vaguely honest.

    The production as designed for maximum power. Not much subtlety here, but I don't think that sort of thing is necessary. This is music for the iron of heart. Why pretty things up when the folks who might like something flowery won't bother to pick up the disc in the first place?

    The more I hear, the more I'm convinced the band's name is singularly appropriate. This stuff is pure bluster, walls of sound thrown up in front of a surprisingly basic rampart. Pretty damned good that way, too.

    In Music We Trust
    15213 SE Bevington Ave.
    Portland, OR 97267-3355
    www: http://www.inmusicwetrust.com

    Last Days of April
    Ascend to the Stars

    Another album from these Swedish emo boys. They like bright, peppy melodies and aren't afraid of using keyboards to assemble songs. In short, there's very little keeping Last Days of April from breaking huge.

    It's not just that folks seem to be digging this sort of thing lately. These guys simply know how to craft great pop songs. There is just the slightest hint of distortion, that wee bit of reality creeping into these brilliantly-colored pieces.

    I'm not sure how Pelle Gunnerfeldt managed to infuse such power into the light sound he created for this album, but he did it. These songs are grounded; they won't fly away with the smallest breeze. The amplitude is a handy way to throw a little depth into the work, to be sure.

    At times, I get the feeling that Last Days of April wants to be the Swedish version of the Flaming Lips. That's not the case, not quite, but there is a similar strain of genius at work. Quite the pretty picture.

    1223 Wilshire Blvd. #823
    Santa Monica, CA 90403
    www: http://www.crankthis.com

    Lewis and Clarke
    Bright Light EP

    Solid contemplative pop. Lewis and Clarke makes no pretentious statements, harbors no ulterior motives and doesn't browbeat at all. Nonetheless, this is one compelling disc.

    Rarely do three songs grab me like these. Lewis and Clarke uses all sorts of guitars, pianos and even a Hammond organ to create its shimmering sound. The songs come on with a whisper and have the impact of a bomb.

    Sometimes it's the stuff that sneaks up on you that you remember. Lewis and Clarke has created an unforgettable little disc. There'd better be a whole lot more where this came from.

    SunSeaSky Productions
    307 West Lake drive
    Random Lake, WI 53075
    www: http://www.sunseasky.com

    Britney Moore
    Home for Story Time

    It's not everyday that you hear someone who has decided to take the whole Half Japanese experience and translate it into the present day complete with electric piano, samples and noise. Britney Moore (this may or may not be her name; her web site references "people I have been," and the music is credited to a certain Sabrina Tillman) isn't the most diverse songwriter in the world--many of her songs seem to sound alike, although all are decidedly unique unto themselves--but she certainly has a distinctive writing voice.

    There's a sing-songy quality to the melodies (that's the easiest HJ touchpoint, as far as I'm concerned) that will either grate or enchant. I'll admit to a little of both. What won me over in the end was the way the songs rarely did what I expected them to do. Despite that "sameness" I described earlier, there are surprises everywhere.

    For reasons I can't fathom, Moore drenches some (but not all) of these songs in scratchy white noise. Most of the pieces are quite well recorded, and I'm guessing she did almost all of the production herself. A nice, if at times curious, job.

    There are a few bad Ani DiFranco-esque moments, and every once in a while Moore seems to simply run out of energy within a particular song. That's to be expected with a young artist. With time and encouragement, Moore might blossom into a fine songwriter. She's taken her first steps quite nicely.

    213 Bond St.
    Greensboro, NC 27405
    e-mail: rainbowrider59@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.britneymoore.soundvault.net

    The War on Errorism
    (Fat Wreck Chords)

    In a way, this is your daddy's NOFX. Not the recent stripped-down sound of The Decline and Pump Up the Valuum, but the muscular riffage that drove White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. The humor-laden outrage that has always permeated NOFX is as potent as ever.

    The songwriting style is more in the hardcore vein (there are very few oozin-ahs in the hooks), but there's no problem mistaking what Fat Mike is singing. There are even a few keyboards and vibraphone here and there (the latter of which may well be a first for the boys).

    As political diatribes go, this puppy is pretty amusing. The album's title is an instant classic (and probably had a little something to do with the boys notching a #44 debut in the Billboard charts), and the humorous treatment of the current "situation" is a welcome relief to the anguished screeds I've read (and, um, written). And when a typical left-field song like "She's Nubs" (about a woman without arms or legs) comes along, well, it's hard not to think that all may be right with the world, after all.

    Lest you think this album is simply a wail against the dumbest president since Warren G. Harding, there are also cool tunes about gated communities, the increasing dullness of the punk scene and, of course, a fun little ditty about the dead end of drug abuse. In short, NOFX is back, the album is great and anyone who gives a shit about punk music should buy it. 'nuff sed.

    Fat Wreck Chords
    P.O. Box 193690
    San Francisco, CA 94119-3690
    e-mail: mailbag@fatwreck.com
    www: http://www.fatwreck.com

    A Northern Chorus
    Spirit Flags
    (Sonic Unyon)

    I'm so glad that people have decided to make "music that matters" again. I don't mean that bloated, excessive stuff that all the kids with the trendy hair like. I mean stuff that has so many layers it takes at least a dozen listens to pick up everything that's going on.

    A Northern Chorus sounds a little like Joshua Tree-era U2, but with a My Bloody Valentine chaser. The music is poppy, but it's also convoluted and complex and, at times, simply a mess. I like those moments, myself.

    Sometimes the folks sing, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the songs are loud and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the songs are fast and sometimes they aren't. The point I'm making here is that A Northern Chorus knows how to make good music that doesn't sound like everything else, even if it isn't exceptionally hard to figure out where the folks are coming from.

    Oh, yeah, don't think that just because of the bands I referenced that these folks can't be as contemplative as, say, Nick Cave or Dead Can Dance. The amazing thing is that all the songs on this disc actually sound like they were written and played by the same group. Most impressive.

    Sonic Unyon
    P.O. Box 57347
    Jackson Station
    Hamilton, ON L8P 4X2
    Phone (905) 777-1223
    Fax [905] 777-1161
    e-mail: jerks@sonicunyon.com
    www: http://www.sonicunyon.com

    Sexy Picnic
    (Riding Mower)

    The first P.I.C album was called Hiphoppunkfunkmaboska, which was a loose way of describing precisely what it was that these folks try to do. Think Urban Dance Squad with soul and horns.

    And groovier songs, too. The one band that I think of most when I hear these boys is Bootsauce, a brilliant soul-funk-metal combo that released a couple albums almost 15 years ago. No one really tries to make music this funky, this tight with both the bass and the guitar. Which probably explains why the mainstream just can't quite figure these boys out.

    I know it's not the music. This stuff is goofy and seriously fun. The high time for a paella like this was probably thirty-five years ago when bands like Love and Sly and the Family Stone seamlessly fused guitar and the groove into a heavenly confection.

    It's about time someone else figured out how to do it. Oh, sure, that whole acid jazz thing touched on the edges of this, but where that movement cheesed out the ideal, P.I.C dives right in and embraces all of the contradictions. That's why the music is so good.

    Riding Mower Records
    133 W. 19th St.
    Third Floor
    New York, NY 10011
    www: http://www.ridingmowerrecords.com

    The PB Army
    Inebriates, Equivocators and Mockers of the Devil Himself
    (Sin Klub)

    Sin Klub has been chronicling the hard rock scene of the eastern Midwest (how's that for a geographic region?) for a long time. The PB Army is once of the coolest bands I've heard from these folks.

    Cheese metal of the highest order, this stuff is loud and catchy. The songs are full of some of the most amusing wit I've heard in a while. And the punk-meets-glam metal guitar riffs are just outstanding. This stuff doesn't stand still for a second.

    Imagine if Agony Column hooked up with Hanoi Rocks and then listened to a lot of Black Flag. Perhaps that combo is a bit too obtuse. No matter. Just know that heavy rock, glam and hardcore are present here, and they mix together in the most sublime ways.

    Sure, this probably qualifies as a guilty pleasure. Still, I can't help but be impressed by how catchy these songs are. Heavy music isn't supposed to produce hook after hook. But that's what's here, and I'm not complaining.

    Sin Klub Entertainment
    P.O. Box 2507
    Toledo, OH 43606
    www: http://www.sinklub.com

    (Evolving Ear)

    Um, yes, this is an Evolving Ear release. And, yes, psi is one of those avant garde acts. Chris Forsyth hangs out on guitar, Jaime Fennelly drops in some electronic accompaniment and Fritz Welch does yeoman's work with the percussion.

    You wouldn't think of interplay with music like this, but that is exactly what the trio achieves. Sure, it's an assembled confluence, but nonetheless these talented musicians manage to sound like they're all sitting in the same room making an almost indecipherable racket.

    I mean that in the nicest way possible. I'm a huge fan of abstract music, and to be perfectly honest, these folks make it easy to drop straight into their thought processes. A couple minutes of psi and you'll be mainlining the mindset of these boys, whether you like it or not.

    Thoughtful and yet sprightly at the same time. I'm quite impressed by the way psi has handled the electronic divide. As for the inspirational nature of the music itself, well, best to leave that to the true aficionados. There are treats galore here for the unleashed mind.

    Evolving Ear
    326 St. Johns Pl. #D1
    Brooklyn, NY 11238
    Phone (718) 622-7607
    e-mail: info@evolvingear.com

    Shai Hulud
    That Within Blood Ill-Tempered

    Perhaps more than any other band, Shai Hulud is the spiritual and musical heir to Fudge Tunnel. The songs writ large, the grand themes and the epochal noise. Very few even try to work such prodigious thought and effort into music, and even fewer succeed.

    Shai Hulud does more than that. It triumphs. These are songs of rage, terror and pain. There isn't a person, place or thing left unscathed from the wrath of this album. If you want to know how the world looks from a darkened lens, go no further.

    Yet there's more than simple anger here. The songs are blistering attacks, to be sure, but there are layers of subtlety and creative thought woven into the tapestry as well. A first listen may well catch only the venom. Further sessions reveal constructive ideas, paths out of the madness.

    I've been waiting for this disc for, like, forever. These boys don't do a whole lot of recording, but when they do, the results are always worth hearing. The pain of the world resides within this disc. Do you have the courage to feel it?

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

    small a.m.
    small a.m.

    There's nothing complicated about what small a.m. does. This is rock music, performed with consummate grace and skill. The songwriting isn't particularly incendiary, but the arrangements of the songs are exceptional.

    There's a grandiose sound within, but the songs themselves are so basic any sense of pretentiousness is lost. Good thing, too. Because these guys obviously want to make an "important" record.

    The songs build to a climax in the standard way, but the lyrics often undercut the dramatic rise of the music. In other words, whenever small a.m. begins to get full of itself there's always a balancing action which brings everything back to the center.

    That's pretty cool. You get anthems and irony in equal doses. And often at the same time. All this is a lot harder to accomplish than you might guess, and I must admit to being very impressed by the boys. The hard work did pay off.

    Childlike Records
    110 Greene St.
    Suite 404
    New York, NY 10012
    www: http://www.childlikerecords.com

    Step Softly, Ghost
    Ruined in Repetition

    Um, so these guys really dig early June of 44 and the strident edge of emo in equal amounts. So there's some really amazing interplay between the musicians and lots and lots of noise.

    The songs themselves aren't exactly constructed normally (another nod to the whole noise-rock-fusion-post-rock-whatever scene), but rather they tend to ferment for a while and then blossom in a fury. Again, when done well, this is a very god thing.

    And Step Softly, Ghost has done its homework. There are no cliches, no shards of "regular" music that creep into this roiling brew. The stuff just keeps moving and moving, and then every once in a while there's this moment of clarity. That whole blossoming thing.

    Alright, it ture that these guys aren't moving the sound along. They simply have a nice handle on the stuff, and they've put together a really fine disc. You're not gonna catch me bitching about that.

    Able Records
    1531 Stophlet St.
    Ft. Wayne, IN 46802

    Anomer Records
    45 Oak Hill Drive #11
    Belleville, IL 62223

    Stereo Three-Sixty
    Enjoy Yourself Poolside
    (Baby Pea)

    The boys ponied up and got Ryan Greene to produce this puppy. And it sounds like it. The songs jump right out of the speakers and start bouncing around on the floor. The sound is so round and powerful that it's hard to stop tapping my foot (much less pogoing).

    Stereo Three-Sixty isn't really a punk band. They play power-pop with a rock edge, and so the major-label sheen that Greene has infused into this album is perfectly appropriate. The songs are loud, just a bit faster than midtempo and as addictive as crack. The songwriting has been improved a notch, leaving some of the extraneous debris by the wayside.

    This is the sort of album that little kids (well, little to a geezer like me) ought to go out and buy in droves. Old farts like me can dig it because it's punchy and utterly oozing with excess energy. And the hooks are pure spun sugar.

    I liked the last thing I heard from these boys. I love this album. No, it's not the deepest disc around. Who gives a shit? It's summer, man, and when the sun comes out what you need is an album that still sounds great when pumped to 11. A simple joy, which may well be the best kind.

    Baby Pea Records
    320 North Hollywood Way
    First Floor
    Burbank, CA 91505-3481
    www: http://www.babypearecords.com

    Throw Rag
    Desert Shores

    Some folks like to think of punk as a "movement," something to be revered or worshipped or, worst of all, something dogmatic. Jeez, folks, it's just folks who can barely play instruments abusing their equipment, right?

    Well, thank goodness for Throw Rag. These guys know exactly why they play punk music: Because it's goddamned fun, that's why. These songs aren't trenchant critiques of society or heavy-handed screeds. This shit is 100% pure enjoyment. If you don't like that, get your ass off the bus.

    The sound is punchy yet greasy, that sort of bar-band sound that the New Bomb Turks liked to use. Works great for these boys. And hey, you can hear the washboard loud and clear. You gotta love that.

    Unless you're one of the aforementioned folks who takes any sort of music far too seriously, you've gotta love Throw Rag. Even the name is a finger in the face of propriety. Top-notch gutter trash. Never change, boys.

    BYO Records
    P.O. Box 67609
    Los Angeles, CA 90067
    Phone (310) 301-6333
    Fax [310] 301-6331
    e-mail: byorecords@earthlink.net

    Toshack Highway vs. Sianspheric
    Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age 2XEP
    (Sonic Unyon)

    Right. There are two EPs from two bands on two separate discs in this single release. You know, like in the olden days when they used to release double albums and such. Or something like that.

    I'm not familiar with Toshack Highway, but the five songs here tell me I ought to be. This is sharply played and brightly-produced roots rock. Keyboards add an interesting edge to the sound, and what might be sullen and moody pieces are rendered just airy enough to stay sunny. An interesting set of contradictions.

    Sianspheric I know, and either these guys just keep getting better or my ears are finally coming around to what they do. Either way, the languid explorations of sonic space presented here are most appealing. A nice counterpoint to Toshack Highway, but there's just enough connection to explain this dual release.

    Well, there's great music is always worth releasing, and both bands here are in fine form. I'm not sure why the double disc presentation, but it's cool in a kitchy sort of way. Most worthy all the way around.

    Sonic Unyon
    P.O. Box 57347
    Jackson Station
    Hamilton, ON L8P 4X2
    Phone (905) 777-1223
    Fax [905] 777-1161
    e-mail: jerks@sonicunyon.com
    www: http://www.sonicunyon.com

    The Young Antiques
    (Two Sheds Music)

    If Uncle Tupelo hadn't gotten vaguely popular and veered off in the direction of post-folk roots-rock prophets, well, this might well have been the band's third album. The guitars are a bit more swirly (remind me of old Soul Asylum, they do), but whichever of the guys is the singer often sounds like a dead ringer for Jay Farrar.

    The thing of it is that the whole Minneapolis meets east Texas sound was precisely what I heard when I was in college 15 years ago in Missouri. I saw Farrar, Tweedy and Heidorn grow up (literally), and shit, Husker Du broke up right under my nose (almost literally). Bands like Soul Asylum and the Jayhawks played the local clubs all the time. The Young Antiques can't quite seem to decide which way they want to veer along that axis--which is where the whole Uncle Tupelo thing comes in.

    Right. Back to this band and what it plays. Good music with plenty of feeling and power. Often a mess. Never dull. Produced with a fine fuzzy edge that leaves me feeling warm and happy. Stuff like this takes me back to nights where I can't remember what happened after cashing the fifth dollar pitcher of Natural Light.

    Maybe my strange little nostalgia trip is clouding my judgment, but I'm still pretty sure these guys make some damned fine music. Louder than what the alt. country crowd wants to hear, and I think that's a good thing. Keep it loose, boys, and never be afraid of a little feedback. Now hit the lights.

    Two Sheds Music
    P.O. Box 5455
    Atlanta, GA 31107-5455
    www: http://www.twoshedsmusic.com

    Also recommended:

    Asia Minor Asia Minor (Anomer)
    One of the few noise-rock bands to have a full-time singer (as opposed to a guitarist-singer or bassist-singer or whatever), Asia Minor also incorporates some heavy funk grooves (a la Last Crack) into the bass lines. The result is a thick, roiling gumbo. Quite nice.

    Brat We Are the Rockingest (Killdeer)
    Kind of a geeky version of Heavy Vegetable, Eena Ballard and Freddy LaForce (if those are their real names, then they were truly born to make this music!), Brat burps out a ton of two-minute loopy pop songs. A big load of fun, and the lyrics are pretty funny, too.

    Electric Turn to Me Electric Turn to Me EP (self-released)
    New Wave with a post-modern twist. Electric Turn to Me always has a cool little synthesizer melody flitting about, but the songs are so much more involved than that. The arrangements are astonishingly idiosyncratic (not to mention sometimes heavy-handed), but just when I think the folks are about to jump over the edge of the cliff, the songs come together in a furious flash.
    147 Columbia St. #2
    Brooklyn, NY 11231
    www: http://www.electricturntome.com

    Farces Wanna Mo If Not Why Not (self-released)
    More goofy music from folks with a decidedly twisted sense of humor. Farces Wanna Mo is part parody ("Grammarchy" is a slight reworking of "Anarchy in the UK"), part silly (just the title "Bela Lugosi Loves Honky-Tonkin'" oughta tell you that) and part electronic collage. Music for the nerdy neurotic goofball in all of us.
    P.O. Box 1837
    Twenty-Nine Palms, CA 92277-1250

    The Forgotten Out of Print (BYO)
    As the title ought to tell you, this is a compilation of singles and other tracks that have not actually appeared on any particular Forgotten album. As such, the sound and performance quality does vary a bit, but these boys have such a fun way of pounding out the raggedy pop punk that I didn't mind skipping around at all.

    Frenzal Rhomb Sans Souci (Fat Wreck Chords)
    These boys from Australia have never been told that "prog" and "punk" are mutually exclusive. This album is a bit more "traditional" than previous efforts, but these guys still have that slightly otherworldly feel to their songs that I've always liked. A fine blast of fresh air.

    The Geminus Sect Gemination (Sin Klub)
    Something of a different sound for this label, Geminus Sect plays hardcore electronic industrial goth with all the fury of a man who's just caught his best ewe banging his neighbor. Takes me back to 1994 or 1995, and that's not a bad thing at all. A lot of fun.

    Hurry-Up Offense Donald Moore (Aristocracy Communication)
    The label's web site says that Hurry-Up Offense marks its "virgin journey into the realm of accessible music." Hmm. This trio does play some awfully peppy and fun pop punk tunes with plenty of verve. The sound is exceedingly ragged, and that gives this disc a real fine edge. Accessible? Kinda. Cool? Yep.

    Kinetic Output Bite My Tongue (self-released)
    It's been a while since I've heard a band so obviously influenced by Living Colour. Something about the funk meets grunge meets modern "alternative" rock sound that gives me that impression. Hey, I love bass-driven rock as much as anyone, and these boys do a fine job of plying the waters.
    www: http://www.kineticoutput.com

    Manic Hispanic Milo Goes to Jr. College (BYO)
    The vaguely anonymous "supergroup" that infuses a million hispanic stereotypes into old punk classics (does "The INS Took My Novia Away" give you any hints?) is back. Funny as hell. And hey, if you don't recognize the original inside this new menudo, well, the boys are nice enough to reveal their source material. Big smiles all the way.

    Dan Matz Carry Me Over (Amish Records)
    Extraordinarily pretty songs that center on Matz's fine acoustic guitar work. There's plenty of accompaniment, and Matz has an interesting way of singing that wouldn't work for anything other than his music. Luckily, he writes his own stuff, and he sounds great. Intriguing and enchanting.

    Pistol for a Paycheck Into the Arms of the Mother of Hate (self-released)
    Remember what I said about Frenzal Rhomb and prog punk? These guys throw all sorts of incongruous ideas into their fuzzy brand of punk, and though some of the songs completely fall apart or stop dead in their tracks, I am strangely compelled. Not a particularly accomplished disc, but an almost maddeningly addictive one nonetheless.
    www: http://www.pistoforapaycheck.com

    The Stratford Four Love & Distortion (Jetset)
    More dreamy pop from one of the masters of the game. The Stratford 4 are consummate songwriters, and they know precisely how to put those songs to tape. An absolutely lovely disc that gets more and more involving as it moves along. Exceptional.

    Suntan Send You Home (Kimchee)
    A quartet that likes to play conceptual post-rock and doesn't skip on the contemplation. Most of these songs unfold rather slowly, but that only heightens the tension and cranks up the eventual release. Quite the ride.

    The Tie Reds Holy Crap! It's the Tie Reds. (self-released)
    Lo-fi garage punk with plenty of spirit. The songs themselves are tres basic, but there's enough charm to fill two albums. An almost unstoppable energy infects this album, and I found it hard to hit stop. So I didn't.
    e-mail: tiereds@yahoo.com

    Tristan da Cunha Trista da Cunha (The Losing Blueprint)
    Tristan da Cunha is a band, not a person. A trio, to be completely accurate. Folks who worship at the Slint altar, down to the fairly unique guitar sound. Still, these songs aren't rip-offs, and they're quite intriguing in their own right. I do wish the folks would work a little harder to find their own sound, but hey, the tunes are still cool.

    The Unseen Explode (BYO)
    Right. Blistering vaguely-melodic punk that takes me back to the mid 80s. Hey, a couple of the boys have bleached hair, and the other two have mohawks. So maybe there's something to that. A notch above the pack.

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