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 #243 reviews (July 2003)
  • Acceptance Black Lines to the Battlefields EP (The Militia Group)
  • Avenpitch Avenpitch (Omega Point)
  • Bien Eleven (Dualsix)
  • Stephen Clair Little Radio (self-released)
  • Cowboys International Revisited (Pnuma)
  • Alice Despard Group Thinning of the Veil (Arlingtone)
  • Dragonfly The Edge of the World 2xCD (self-released)
  • The Dragons Sin Salvation (Gearhead)
  • Firewater TheMan on the Burning Tightrope (Jetset)
  • Flamethrower Flamethrower (Dead Teenager)
  • Freax Freax (self-released)
  • Good Riddance Bound By Ties of Blood and Affection (Fat Wreck Chords)
  • Houston Bottom of the Curve (54-40 or Fight!)
  • Cass McCombs A (Monitor)
  • Minmae Microcassette Quatrains (BlueSanct)
  • Nigel Nigel (SilverGirl)
  • Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham L'Avventura (Jetset)
  • Razed in Black Damaged 2xCD (Cleopatra)
  • The Red Channels The Red Channels (SilverGirl)
  • Jodi Shaw The Pie-Love Sky (Big Head)
  • Sonogram Arrival Lounge (Simulacra)
  • Stars of Aviation Snow on Snow CD5 (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Black Lines to Battlefields EP
    (The Militia Group)

    Coming in on the power pop side of emo, Acceptance creates wonderfully tight hooks that don't overdo the sugar. I kinda like that, myself.

    This is highly-crafted stuff, the sort of work that doesn't bear much resemblance to the band's punk roots. Nonetheless, it's easy to hear that energy in the performance, where the manic energy is channeled into an almost pristine intensity.

    The sort of EP that makes me wish for a full-length. Acceptance fits into the current scene, but it has carved out a fine niche for itself. That's rather tough to do in this area of the music universe, but these boys do seem to have a knack for getting things right.

    The Militia Group
    1215 North Red Gum
    Suite L
    Anaheim, CA 92806
    www: http://www.themilitiagroup.com

    (Omega Point)

    So imagine that there really is a direct line from new wave to goth pop to industrial dance music. Such a musical etymology would require some sort of missing link to put everything together. A Piltdown Man, if you will--except for the fraud, of course.

    Avenpitch does this nicely. There are some industrial dance style guitars, and the vocals are pleasantly distorted as well. The keyboard melodies flow straight from the early goth school, and the sound of those keys and the drum machines are pure Human League (Dare, of course).

    The song construction style is fairly conventional, but the cool presentation gives these pieces a truly unique sound. Avenpitch is one of those bands that takes a few moments to truly wend its way into the brain. Once it's there, though, it's like those worms from Wrath of Khan: Remove and you die.

    Highly addictive once the poison sets. Very few bands are able to take a plethora of "historic" sounds and blend them into something truly modern. Avenpitch is extraordinary.

    Omega Point Records
    3921 N. Claremont, 2F
    Chicago, IL 60618
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com

    (Dualsix Records)

    I'm always surprised whenever I hear an MC who can really flow the rhymes. It's not that I think it's all that tough to be smooth. It merely takes a lot of hard work. But the style today (and for the last decade) has been overwhelmingly messy. Richard Marshall (who goes by Bien) prefers to float against the tide.

    Thank God. Hey, I like loopy, disjointed hip-hop as well as the next guy, but it takes hard work to make that sound work as well. And most of the folks who sling slop are simply lazy. Marshall and producer Matt James have crafted eleven superb tracks that spin some fine science but are also just as comfy throbbing at parties.

    The sound is late 80s, a sophisticated, complex version of the pop rap that destroyed the street value of hip hop for a time. Bien gets it right, using catchy electronic beats and a clean production sound to create a real sense of adventure. What I'm trying to say is that Bien is at home in the mainstream, but there's so much depth in these songs that the more studied listener will also find plenty to enjoy.

    Yeah, okay, so I'm an old fogey. I actually like to know what people say, and I'm not above enjoying some throbbing bass. But there's no questioning Marshall's skills on the mic or James's studio acumen. This album is for real. Bien is a true master.

    Dualsix Records
    www: http://www.dualsix.com

    Stephen Clair
    Little Radio

    Stephen Clair's songs sound like he's writing them at the same moment as he's playing them. There's an off-the-cuff feel that he infuses into his performance that is positively electric. While I know that these songs are the result of countless hours of struggle and practice, I always feel like I'm discovering the pieces at the same time Clair is.

    Does that make sense? I hope so. Clair is that peculiarly New York sort of singer-songwriter (think Paul Simon or Lou Reed, two guys who have a lot more in common than you might think) who manages to be sentimental and cynical and slyly cool at the same damn time.

    Part of that comes from his impeccable phrasing. Clair is often just off the beat--much like Reed. This presentation works because of the informality it adds to the arrangement. Unlike Reed or Simon, Clair works in that post-post-folk, alt. country kinda sound, though he does a nice ear for a pop hook. He doesn't overplay the candy, but he acknowledges its power.

    An album full of understated gems. Don't let Clair fool you--it takes more work than you can imagine to create such an effortless sound. When you toil so long as to remove all the scaffolding of craft, you know you're done. Clair has done it.

    e-mail: stephenclair@stephenclair.com
    www: www.stephenclair.com

    Cowboys International

    It wouldn't be too hard to dismiss this stuff as Eno-era Bowie. Especially when you consider that these boys were riding herd in the late 70s. But there are a couple of key differences.

    First, this stuff is fun. Okay, it's fun in a Gary Numan sort of way, but shit, man, that's still fun. And where Bowie was obviously just trying on a new coat, these guys truly believed in the sound they created.

    Which isn't to say this is anything more than great early new wave stuff. It's not. But I'm one of those people with a strange passion for vaguely robotic vocals and gorgeous melodies processed through a synthesizer. Must come from being born in 1970 or something like that.

    I rarely review reissues (or retrospectives, which is more what this is). This one is worth the look back. Not for historical importance or anything silly like that. Just for fun.

    P.O. Box 767534
    Roswell, GA 30076
    www: www.pnuma.com

    Alice Despard Group
    Thinning of the Veil

    Alice Despard is one of the great songwriters going these days. That she's been around D.C. for almost forever probably has something to do with that. Couldn't hurt.

    If her writing skills weren't enough, Despard has a haunting, low-alto voice that immediately brings chills to the spine. She uses it well, holding back its full power until just the right spot in each song.

    Despard's songs generally resemble road trips. They meander, often running through the same territory over and over again until ultimately cresting the hill and discovering a stunning vista. This isn't conventional by any standard, but that doesn't mean these songs are difficult to grasp. Just the opposite. Despard's repetitive approach is hypnotizing, and she always snaps her fingers at just the right moment.

    I'm not sure I can say much more than I have in the past. Despard is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. She's unique and utterly compelling. I can't think of a higher compliment.

    299 Waverly Ave.
    Brooklyn, NY 11205
    Phone (718) 398-1455
    e-mail: sean@arlingtone.com

    The Edge of the World 2xCD

    You know how the liner notes in CD cases are called "booklets"? Dragonfly does that one better. The CD case is a book in itself, complete with a plethora of photos and artwork in addition to the usual liner materials.

    The kind of care and dedication that such a presentation requires also went into the music. Dragonfly plays rock music. Somewhat dramatic and "important sounding," if you get my drift, but always with a deft touch. There's nothing ponderous or overdone here.

    Rather, most of the songs are somewhat understated. I like that. Miki Singh is quite an emotive singer, but he doesn't allow himself to fall into trick of excessive histrionics. He just sings with feeling. That applies to the rest of the band as well. There are a million chances here to fall off the cliff, but Dragonfly resists.

    This is the sort of music that used to thrill millions. You know, the same kinda stuff that used to sell boatloads of U2 and Pearl Jam albums (very general references, to be sure). With any luck, millions will find their way to Dragonfly.

    Redstar Entertaiment
    P.O. Box 222
    Grafton, MA 01519
    www: http://www.mikisingh.com

    The Dragons
    Sin Salvation

    I reviewed the last Dragons record, and while I was somewhat impressed by the band, the production on that disc was way overdone. I thought these boys needed to strip down and let the energy flow freely.

    That's exactly what happens here. Like those great, lo-fi Motorhead albums of the early 1980s, every instrument has a little space and there's just enough distortion to give an edge. Everything else is pure attitude and aggression.

    Which these boys have in droves. Each song starts at 100 and then accelerates. The writing is sharp and the lyrics are good--sometimes even inspiring. But what works the best is the sharp-yet-loose production sound. It suits these boys perfectly.

    It's amazing how much the producer has to do with a successful album. The Dragons are proof of that. This album is so much better than the last that it might as well have been recorded by a different band. I haven't heard a pedal-to-the-metal rock album this great in some time.

    P.O. Box 421219
    San Francisco, CA 94142
    www: http://www.gearheadrecords.com

    The Man on the Burning Tightrope

    Anyone who has been reading A&A for a while knows I love Firewater. I'm not the most objective person when it comes to judging the muse of Tod A and company. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I adore this album as well.

    This disc finds Tod A in full roar. Unlike last year's Psychopharmacology, whose dreariness was necessary to properly address the subject, this puppy is ringed with a dark light. The lyrics are as blistering as ever, and the circus theme (which isn't omnipresent, but does crop up from time to time) seem to have inspired the band to truly twisted heights.

    There are 16 songs here, a definite expansion from the 10 we received last time out. The album isn't that much longer, but it feels more complete. Once again, Tod A stretches himself musically and lyrically--a couple songs go places where I've never heard Firewater before.

    Some surprises and some (as it were) comfy "traditional" Firewater songs. There are bands that run out of steam. And then there's Firewater, which always seems to know how to keep its juices potent. Another great album.

    67 Vestry St. 5C
    New York, NY 10013
    Phone (212) 625-0202
    Fax [212] 625-0303
    www: http://www.jetsetrecords.com

    (Dead Teenager)

    About what you might expect from the Dead Teenager posse. Blistering hard rock infused with spectacular riffage and oozing attitude from every pore. Reminds me of Zeke.

    I wonder why. Dead Teenager is the home of Camarosmith (a post-Zeke project), but Flamethrower outdoes the ex-Zekesters at their own game. Short, fast songs that last just long enough to leave a righteous stain.

    Jack Endino helmed the board, and he did his usual bang-up job. This puppy has real power. The low end is almost infinite in its reach. Damn, that's one fine rumble.

    A simple pleasure, and one that I refuse to apologize for in any way. Some folks know how to kick ass. The guys in Flamethrower are masters.

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


    Imagine White Zombie (post-Caroline, natch) reincarnated as a funky industrial dance outfit. No, a really soulful one. Freax does show a few seams at the points of assembly, but even those fault lines have some charm.

    Mostly, though, there's this fun fuzzy riffage laid over tight grooves. The stuff is hardly complicated, and I think that's why it works so well. When what you do works, why screw it up with extra shit?

    Don't get me wrong about these folks--there's plenty of little electronic bits dropped in here and there. Has to be, really, to fit the style. But those little extras are just that. They don't get in the way of the stuff that works. There's no distraction from the joy.

    A little heavy fuzz and soul for the summer. Something to bring me up and let me down easy. Can't as much more than that.

    Lou Ferreira
    120 East Sample Road #220
    Pompano Beach, FL 33064

    Good Riddance
    Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection
    (Fat Wreck Chords)

    Straightforward hard, fast, loud and tuneful punk. Is it hardcore? Is it merely melodic punk? I don't know. Shit, I don't care. It's good. Got any other questions?

    Sorry, but the attitude of this disc rubbed off on me, I guess. These boys keep coming with full fury, leavening the mix with some ace guitar licks and raggedly sweet hooks.

    The sound utilizes a wee bit of distortion in the guitars and otherwise keeps stuff pretty clean. The playing is solid, but just messy enough to add a bit of charm. Oh, and did I mention the speed? It just keeps coming, which makes the sweet spots that much most satisfying.

    Um, I know, Good Riddance isn't exactly an unknown property. This disc stands up quite well to me expectations. A first-rate effort.

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

    Bottom of the Curve
    (54-40 or Fight!)

    Yer typical Minneapolis three-peice. Yeah, right. Anyway, these boys play the post-rock game nicely (see how I've adopted that moniker, even though I find it dreadful? I'm shameless...), and they add a fine bit of power-pop to the deconstructionist proceedings. That is pretty cool.

    Kinda leaves me wondering what's coming next, which is a feeling I love to have. If I can guess what a band will do in the next few bars, well, I tune out. But bands like Houston, bands that prefer to venture into unknown territory, those are the ones that stick with me.

    The sound is clean, almost proggily so--though that is in no way an absolute. If a particular song demands some reverb or distortion, it finds its way into the mix. The production on this album is excellent. The boys did it themselves, and they weren't afraid to try a few unusual things. Most of the time, that worked out.

    It's pretty rare that so many chances work out so well. Maybe Houston has a another ten albums of stuff that didn't take. If so, then I'd be even more impressed. In any case, the songs on this album (and there are 16, clocking in at longer than an hour) are exquisite--exquisitely brutal, exquisitely pretty, whatever. Wonderful stuff.

    54-40 or Fight!
    P.O. Box 1601
    Acme, MI 49610
    www: http://www.fiftyfourfortyorfight.com

    Cass McCombs

    A couple of years ago, I was getting all sorts of minimalist singer-songwriter stuff. For some reason or another, that stuff isn't reaching my mailbox much these days. Maybe it's because plenty of folks have discovered the charms of lunatic pop and those labels don't need to waste their discs on a hack like me.

    Or maybe I just pissed them off. Who knows? Doesn't matter. I've got the new Cass McCombs effort going now, and I'm getting a wee bit wistful for those days of a couple years back. McCombs has a slight quaver in his voice (think Robyn Hitchcock), and he writes slightly clunky songs. Damn, they sound good.

    Not unlike a number of his cohort, McCombs likes to dress his songs up with unusual electronic accompaniment. Often enough, it's just an electric piano or organ, but sometimes it sounds like more. Maybe that's just a trick of my ears. Anyway, the fleshing out of the sound around the edges is quite good.

    The best thing about slightly clunky songs is that they're still pretty sharp, and they have that worn charm as well. McCombs casts many spells, and most of them come off perfectly. Quite the rambling, intriguing disc. McCombs is at the top of his game.

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

    Microcasette Quatrains

    So if you ever wondered what Loveless would sound like without the pop songs underneath, Minmae is happy to oblige. Wall upon wall of distortion, with just the occasional hint of a melody burbling through the goo.

    Which is not to say this sucks. Rather the opposite, if you're a fan of artful white noise. Minmae does provide a real song or two along the way, but it almost sounds like the band giving the finger to those who would ask, "Now, what the hell?"

    I'm always fascinated by what talented people do with the extremities of sound. Oh, sure, you may have a different definition of "talented" than me, but I think most people would be hard pressed to call this stuff dull. It's a big, wild mess, but compelling nonetheless.

    That's the biggest trick with this sort of music. It's gotta tell a story, no matter how twisted that story might be. Minmae is sailing the seas of electronic disturbance, but damn, they make the stuff sound like a sunny day on the Gulf Stream.

    1703 North Maple Street
    Bloomington, IN 47404


    There aren't many bands who completely key off the drums. Love and Rockets--when it was good--had an uncanny way of locking into the skins, particularly when playing live. Nigel sounds nothing like those boys, of course. These folks sing at a near-whisper, and piano seems to dominate almost as much as the lean, clean lead guitar.

    Centering on the drums gives these songs a deliberate feel, an easy cadence that makes it much easier to fall into step with the somewhat unconventional construction and use of melody. I have a feeling this is intentional.

    If not, it's still purty durned impressive. Nigel keeps the sound ultra-clean, but just a wee bit fuzzy. What I mean is that there's plenty of space between the instruments and vocals, but the sound remains slightly rounded. Very nice.

    I'm not always a big fan of mannered music, but Nigel is simply too good to resist. Top-notch writing and clever arrangements will carry the day every time. Sure did with this album.

    P.O. Box 161024
    San Diego, CA 92176
    Phone (619) 282-9843
    e-mail: keith@silvergirl.com
    www: http://www.silvergirl.com

    Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham

    At first glance, this disc begs the obvious question: Why isn't this a Luna album? The easy answer is that it's just two members of the band. And yet. Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham are the two lead singers of the band, and Wareham writes the lyrics to accompany the band's music. Why not invite the other two boys along?

    Because this isn't a Luna album. Phillips and Wareham indulge in the same lush lifestyle, but these songs incorporate a playful Eurotrash feel that is a bit too kitschy for the traditional Luna sound. Plus, the songs on this disc come from all corners: Wareham, Phillips, Madonna...the Doors. Etc.

    I hear this as a little fun one-off. Phillips and Wareham are taking a break, just enjoying playing a little music. That fun translates into a slyly cool album, a disc that never quite slides off into cheese.

    What's wrong with that? Not a damned thing. This puppy isn't a major statement. It won't garner a kajillion Grammys. But it will sound great at your next party. Just be sure to keep plenty of Sambuca at the ready.

    67 Vestry St. 5C
    New York, NY 10013
    Phone (212) 625-0202
    Fax [212] 625-0303
    www: http://www.jetsetrecords.com

    Razed in Black
    Damaged 2xCD

    The double CD notation is a bit of a misnomer. There's the album, and then there's another disc of alternate takes. It's cool and all--almost like an instant remix collection--but don't expect a second set of new songs.

    That's alright. Razed in Black sets the gothic new wave industrial disco sound on fire. This stuff is certifiably club-ready--wait, are there still dance clubs? Oh yeah. Back in civilized parts of the world.

    But enough about me. Razed in Black has an inerrent sense of melody and a knack for finding just the right moment to kick a song into anthem status. There are times when I wish I could get a little bit more from the folks; I think the sound is a wee bit restrained from time to time. But I think that might work better for the dance floor.

    I don't know if this stuff was programmed for the parquet. Doesn't really matter. That's where this stuff belongs. The tunes throb with life, and they're impossible to put away. Quite the infectious set.

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

    The Red Channels
    The Red Channels

    The Red Channels are Elaina Azari and Ryan Block. They don't really try to sound like a band; the pieces are quite obviously assembled. This lack of sleight-of-hand actually helps to illustrate their songs quite nicely.

    In effect, the production requires listeners to consciously assimilate the songs in their heads. And since the construction can get a wee bit loopy and tangential, it's not a bad idea to give folks a bit of a heads up. "Hey! This is what's coming."

    But man, what cool ideas. Azari's voice isn't particularly memorable, but she colors the songs quite well. The rest of the orchestration (a word I don't use lightly) is impeccable as well. The craft worked well in this case.

    Just goes to show that there are a million ways to make cool music. The Red Channels shows its cards at every turn, and yet it still manages to surprise just as often. A wonderful little gem.

    P.O. Box 161024
    San Diego, CA 92176
    Phone (619) 282-9843
    e-mail: keith@silvergirl.com
    www: http://www.silvergirl.com

    Jodi Shaw
    The Pie-Love Sky
    (Big Head)

    There are lots of people who believe that all modern folk singers sound alike. Jodi Shaw is the sort of singer who can prove that notion wrong the moment she opens her mouth.

    Her lyrics are tightly-wound, thoughtfully-considered and astonishingly easy to comprehend. She sings with a melodic style that manages to drop in a wide range of notes without sounding forced or mannered. Her voice is lithe and supple enough to wander all over the map and still sound off-the-cuff.

    The production here allows her voice and guitar to do most of the work. There are the usual latter-day folkie accouterments (scratchy percussion, loops, etc.), but Shaw's voice and guitar accompaniment reign supreme. As they should.

    Shaw has the assured presence of a 20-year veteran of the club wars, but she's just starting out (this is her second album). With stuff like this, I can't imagine what will stop her.

    Big Head Records
    257 Fifth Avenue
    Suite 1000
    New York, NY 10016
    www: http://www.jodishaw.com
    www: http://www.bigheadmusic.com

    Arrival Lounge

    Todd Gautreau is Sonogram. Everything on this disc, from the understated beats to the wide range of electronic sounds, is him. And he sure knows how to paint a fine picture.

    Music for an evening of slightly-inebriated thinking. That's my take. There's a loose feel to the arrangements of the song, a wait-and-see attitude that leaves just enough room for some new thought to creep in and inspire something entirely new.

    This is tres-electronic. There's no mistaking that Gautreau works in a virtual realm, but he makes the translation of thought into music sound almost effortless. That's a real accomplishment.

    Not a world-shaking album, but one that satisfies quietly. Give Gautreau a minute, and he'll have you entranced for an hour.

    Simulacra Records
    P.O. Box 703463
    Dallas, TX 75370
    e-mail: info@simulacrarecords.com
    www: http://www.simulacrarecords.com

    Stars of Aviation
    Snow on Snow CD5

    It's still cool in England to release singles. Oh, sure, there are some hip-hop outfits in the U.S. dropping 12"s every once in a while, but it seems the only place I get real singles from lies across the pond. It's too bad, because the short release can be a great format.

    Stars of Aviation takes the opportunity to do four songs, each rather distinct from the other despite the fact that the band adheres fairly strongly to a dreamy pop ethic. One song sounds vaguely Kiwi, another somewhat Australian and the other two are decidedly British. I know, I'm splitting hairs, but when you've heard enough of this stuff you start to truly appreciate those who have mastered the art of subtlety.

    And when you name a song "Stars of Aviation Are Singing About Summer, But Is It Going to Be Sunny, Carol?," the only thing a guy like me can do is smile. Which is what I did the entire time I was listening to this disc.

    One Windmill Terrace
    Brighton, BN2 9NZ
    United Kingdom
    e-mail: group@starsofaviation.com

    Also recommended:

    C-Rays Walz Ravipops (Definitive Jux)
    The beats are of the modern, shattered, type. But C-Rayz Walz has an old-school inflection to the rhymes. Plenty of boasting, but pay attention: There's something going on underneath the booming bass. An excellent diverse set of modern hip-hop.

    Dirtywhite Fashion 13 (self-released)
    Melodic, anthemic rock that never overstates its case. So where a lot of bands get either stupid or pretentious, Dirtywhite Fashion simply sounds good. The arrangements are relatively sparse in sound, and that allows the fine songwriting to shine.
    e-mail: info@dirtywhitefashion.com
    www: http://www.dirtywhitefashion.com

    Evanesce Anatomy of a Ghost (Fearless)
    Somewhere between extreme hardcore and that Chicago post-rock thing lies Anatomy of a Ghost. The energy and edgy presence is hard to resist, and the intelligent songwriting and intricate lines will satisfy the most stringent critic. There's really something here.

    The Fight Home Is Where the Hate Is (Fat Wreck Chords)
    Heavy, hooky pop punk that never lets its foot off the pedal. Fast and tasty songs teamed up with some great sing-along choruses. A cheap pleasure, to be sure, but one that is to be savored.

    Generica Motions of Theory EP (self-released)
    Combining some of the finer loud music trends of the last 10 years, Generica comes off sounding like something truly original. Plenty of churning, grungy riffage--but with more of a hardcore attitude. Think Refused meets Skin Yard.
    e-mail: generica@earthlink.net
    www: http://www.genericalab.com

    Giddy Motors Make It Pop! (Fat Cat)
    That ol' Fudge Tunnel sound must be making a comeback. Giddy Motors takes the power and adds to it wild instrumentation and an electronic sensibility--without actually getting electronic (Albini produced, you understand). Conceptual in the most twisted of ways, and a truly exciting ride. Something for the true aficionados of the underground.

    Robin Guthrie Imperial (Bella Union)
    Electronic instrumentals that nonetheless sound very organic. I'm sure Guthrie uses something other than sequencers, but it's the way he puts his sounds together that makes this so refreshing. Not exactly a surpring sound for this ex-Cocteau Twin, but nonetheless, Guthrie sets one hell of a mood.

    Stanton Meadowdale Stanton Meadowdale (Simulcast)
    Sometimes stark, minimalist folk sounds better with whacked-out production. Take Emmylou Harris' last couple albums with Daniel Lanois. Stanton Meadowdale gets the heavy reverb and echo treatment, and it works. Okay, so sometimes he sounds more like early Stones ("I'm a Fool," in particular) than Woody Guthrie, but hell, who says you can't branch out? A most intriguing album.

    None More Black File Under Black (Fat Wreck Chords)
    The sort of snot-nosed sloppy pop punk that a lot of folks associate with Fat Wreck. None More Black is a wee bit generic that way, but the energy here is impossible to deny. One hook and you'll be bouncing, too.

    Python Riddle of Steel (Ascetic)
    Back in the early 90s there was a short period of time when metal became conceptual and somewhat proggy. Python sounds like the result of that movement, even though all the bands from that scene petered out years ago. This stuff is lean, muscular and not at all melodic. Prog hardcore, with a dash of old-school strident emo guitar. Quite the nice package.

    The Remedy Session The Remedy Session (Redemption)
    Once upon a time there was a band called Olivelawn. It played really loud, messy hardcore. Then there was a band called fluf (which contained many members of Olivelawn). It played loud, messy hardcore with melodies. The Remedy Session (not related to either Olivelawn or fluf) takes the fuzz and power of fluf and pops it out all the way. The guitars come in waves of distortion, and the hooks wash up softly on shore. Quite appealing.

    The Revolution Smile Above the Noise (Flawless/Geffen)
    A Fred Durst find, and these boys do have a certain something. I'm generally unimpressed by pop punk bands that bulk up for the majors, but the Revolution Smile makes the transition relatively painlessly. In fact, these songs are much better when the hooks kick in than when the guitars attack. A fun little set.

    Marlon Saunders Enter My Mind (Black Honey)
    Most soul singers of the last thirty years have consciously patterned themselves after Al Green or Marvin Gaye--most often trying to be both at once, which simply doesn't work. Marlon Saunders does a bit more than simply honor the past, but he's got such a nice sense of self that he allows his own voice to make the biggest impression. He also uses a real band now and again, and that makes a big difference. Somethin' goin' on, indeed.

  • return to A&A home page