Welcome to A&A. There are 21 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 #244 reviews (August 2003)
  • Android Lust The Dividing (Projekt)
  • The Animators Home by Now (self-released)
  • David Borgo Massanetta Springs (Circumvention)
  • Dub Gabriel Ascend (Baboon)
  • Fairweather Lusitania (Equal Vision)
  • Floating Opera Burning Lighthouse (self-released)
  • Free From Disguise Free from Disguise (Public Eyesore)
  • Hanzel und Gretyl Uber Alles (Metropolis)
  • Killing Joke Killing Joke (Zuma)
  • Lovewhip Bouncehall (self-released)
  • Mandragora Full Bloom EP (self-released)
  • The Mars Volta De-Loused in the Comatorium (Universal)
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Take a Break (Fat Wreck Chords)
  • Pistol for Ringo Solid-State Neo-Hedonist (Aeronaut)
  • Sigur Ros Untitled #1/Vaka CD/DVD (PIAS/MCA)
  • Souls She Said Rub the Sleep Out EP (Buddyhead)
  • Squirtgun Fade to Bright (Honest Don's)
  • Sweet William Gone to Seed (self-released)
  • 31 Knots It Was High Time to Escape (54-40 or Fight!)
  • Jack Wright & Bob Marsh Birds in the Hand (Public Eyesore)
  • Woosley Higher than Caruso (self-released)
  • All together now: Re-issues, compilations and other good stuff
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Android Lust
    The Dividing

    The interesting thing about Android Lust is what it's not. This act isn't darkwave or industrial dance or electronic or gothic. Rather, it's all of those and more.

    The idea seems to be to use every idea and method at the artist's disposal to create an alternative world, a place that lies just out of phase with our own. The keyboard washes aren't quite beautiful. The vocals aren't quite utterly distorted. The melodies aren't quite deconstructed.

    And yet, there's a lot of that going on. Shikhee, the woman who is Android Lust, takes great care to keep the listener just off balance. The effect is stunning; while it's impossible to settle into pocket with this album, there's no way to walk away, either.

    Completely arresting, in other words. And completely original. In a field that is populated by many who seem to be unable to break out of the ruts, Android Lust soars above, daring any and all to approach its greatness.

    P.O. Box 180235
    Brooklyn, NY 11218-0235
    www: http://www.projekt.com

    The Animators
    Home by Now

    Some of you might recall my rave review of the Pasties album from last year. Well, the Pasties are no more, but Devon Copley is back with a new venture. He and musician/producer Alex Wong are the Animators. The sound is much more conceptual and crafted (Wong has a degree classical percussion), but the results are similarly excellent.

    It took two tries for this puppy to get to me (thank you, Mr. Mailman), but I'm glad it finally arrived. The songs are sweeping, epochal, tightly-constructed pop tunes, the sort of thing that only recently has become fashionable again.

    Wong has a fine hand in the studio, using all sorts of synthesized instruments and found bits to fill out the sound. Yeah, the style is a bit sterile, but it really fits the songs well. Despite the intensity of craft (which is probably a bit easier for me to hear than most folks), these songs have depth and soul to spare.

    What I'm saying is that it's impossibly easy to fall into this album and just lie there for a few hours. Those expecting a rave-up will certainly be disappointed, but anyone who cares about good music will be instantly transported to a very good place.

    Devon Copley
    106 Havemeyer #7C
    Brooklyn, NY 11211
    Phone (323) 428-8932
    Phone (917) 837-2518
    e-mail: help@theanimators.com
    www: http://www.theanimators.com

    David Borgo
    Massanetta Springs

    It's been a while since I reviewed a "straight" jazz album. You know, one which relies on established form and content rather than extreme improvisation. I've never been particularly comfortable reviewing jazz, due to my decidedly limited knowledge, but I like the stuff. So here goes.

    First, Borgo plays tenor and soprano sax. Generally tenor, and he sounds more comfortable on that instrument. Second, most of the songs here are his pieces or those of his mates. One glaring exception to that rule is Charles Mingus's "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," which is played without much embellishment.

    Borgo is a fine player, but the real strength of this album is his writing and the quality of his band. I don't know how well these guys know each other, but they have a real rapport. The solos are taken within the concept of the group, which lessens the individual effects but strengthens the sound as a whole. I haven't really described the actual sound, and that is hard to do. There are bop moments, and there are certainly cool moments. Borgo does well to incorporate a number of sounds into his mix. Think late 50s Coltrane, but with a fuller and more collaborative band. This album isn't about one person's genius. It's about the beauty of a sextet working songs to the limit. And that's pretty damned good.

    Circumvention Music
    P.O. Box 948609
    La Jolla, CA 92037
    Phone (858) 205-8859
    www: http://www.circumventionmusic.com

    Dub Gabriel

    A few years back I was hooked up with the fine folks at Wordsound in Brooklyn, and I got a dose of slammin' experimental dub every few months. But lately, my mailbox hasn't heard a thing from those parts. So this disc is a welcome toast to my ears.

    Throbbing, bounding beats that defy any particular label. This is dub in that there are very few articulated words--with the exception of some fractured bits from Young Sand on "New Sand." This probably isn't exactly what old school dubheads would expect, but then again, I don't know much of the new school.

    I simply know that this is very impressive. Dub Gabriel creates entirely new sounds for each song and then goes wherever the mood flows. There is an expectant feeling here, an omnipresent thought that something new is about to happen. And it usually does.

    Strip off your cares and just dive in. Let the beats take control and then see what happens. This is a good trip. I promise.

    e-mail: dubgabriel@yahoo.com

    (Equal Vision)

    Some very clever Brit-pop types who happen to hail from somewhere in the DC area. J. Robbins produces, and he's barely able to contain the exuberance.

    The first track, a dead-ringer for something off Loveless, is called "Derivative Opening." The songs then fly through a wide range of sounds, all somewhat loosely centered around the whole post-hardcore pop sound perfected by Robbins's old band.

    But why the fake British accent? And why only sometimes? Is that part of the joke? I don't know. These boys can be awfully earnest when they want to be, though when one of the featured links on your website is to the Manowar web home, well, that is a sign of a certain deranged sense of humor.

    Thing is, I don't have to analyze the music to know it's good. This stuff is amazing. My reaction is both intellectual and visceral. Very few bands can attract on so many levels. Fairweather is probably a bit too much (of lots of things) to make the big time, but great music is always its best reward. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.

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

    Floating Opera
    Burning Lighthouse

    Hard to believe that Floating Opera has been around for more than 10 years. A collection of musical castaways in Lincoln, Neb., the "band" started as the collaboration of Charles Lieurance (lyrics) and Richard Rebarber (music). The pair recruited vocalists like Lori Allison (the Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule), members of the aforementioned bands and other crack players.

    Rebarber is a math professor at the University of Nebraska (you can even read his papers on the web site!), and his music is pleasantly mannered. It's also exceptionally complex and enthralling. He manages to whip up a glorious order from the mess of voices and instruments that populate each song.

    And the songs are hardly repetitive. All of the piecess do fit into nicely into the "crafted pop" world, but Rebarber likes to stretch himself. And so the moods of the songs rise and fall. Lieurance's lyrics are intimately detached, if that makes any sense. The subjects of the songs seem to be aware of the song being written. Does that make sense? Probably not.

    So ignore all the silly crap I've written so far and read this: Floating Opera creates music that is impossible to forget. I've been listening to these folks since 1997, and every person I've turned on to the band has fallen in love. These folks are proof that magic is very real, indeed.

    e-mail: richard@floatingopera.com
    www: http://www.floatingopera.com

    Free From Disguise
    Free From Disguise
    (Public Eyesore)

    You might be wondering how Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company translates in modern-day Osaka. Free From Disguise must be the answer. Made up of the members of Mady Gula Blue Heaven (I'm not making this up) and singer Akiko Otome, these folks wail their way through some of the most heavenly hardcore acid rock I've ever heard.

    The bizarre music is more than enough to attract my attention, but Otome's deep, rugged, bluesy voice is a revelation. She really knows how to bring down the curtain. Equally adept at shrieking and nailing a torch song right on the head, she's just about perfect.

    The first four tracks were recorded in the studio, and they sound great. The last five songs (including renditions of three of the studio tracks) were recorded live, and they are hit and miss--as far as sound goes. The live setting proves that these folks know how to take their psychedelic punk to the stage.

    Otherworldly, in a way that I never expected. My guess is that Free from Disguise inspires either devotion or disgust, with very little room in-between. The valentine written here exposes my position, one I'm happy to proclaim for all to read.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Brian Day
    3301 Dewey
    Apt. 8
    Omaha, NE 68105
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.sinkhole.net/pehome

    Hanzel und Gretyl
    Uber Alles

    If I am to understand the press correctly, there are those who think that Hanzel und Gretyl have appropriated some kind of Nazi image with this album. Well, some of the graphics do borrow from that sort of thing, but it's all obviously a joke. I mean, "Third Reich from the Sun?" Come on.

    What isn't a joke is the music, which is pleasantly stuck in that mid-90s metal-industrial complex. Lots of guitars, lots of samples and lots of singing that may or may not be in German.

    The thing that always set Hanzel und Gretyl off from the rest of the pack has been this duo's ability to match raw power with a good melodies. There's more power than melody on this disc, but the stuff is still desperately infectious.

    Not a whole lot of progression, I suppose, but I've been a fan for a long time, and I like this stuff exactly where it is. Hanzel und Gretyl are way out of whack with the times, and that just makes this sound all the more appealing to my ears. There's always a need for a sledgehammer approach to silliness.

    P.O. Box 54307
    Philadelphia, PA 19105
    Phone (215) 413-1805
    e-mail: metropol@omni.voicenet.com

    Killing Joke
    Killing Joke

    Jaz, Georgie and Youth team up with Dave Grohl and whip out another self-titled release (no, this is not a re-issue of the first album). I haven't really kept up with the boys in recent years, but as near as I can tell, neither have the boys themselves.

    So anyway, I'm listening to this disc. Full of buzzsaw riffage, booming bass lines, bombastic drumming and manifesto-like vocals. Something like electronics-laced hardcore with a Tabasco kicker.

    Hard to believe these guys will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year (their first album was released in 1979). I mean, they shouldn't be eligible for the rest home of washed-up hacks. As if the phrases "rock and roll" and "hall of fame" should ever be used together in the same sentence. Killing Joke can still make fresh music that matters. That alone should keep them off the ballot.

    Anyway, this album is a real kick in the ass. Long-time fans will be pleasantly surprised; this stuff is quite good. Can't say that the kiddies will come running, of course. Good Killing Joke albums never did sell much. But what the hell. Good music is what matters, right? There's plenty of that here.

    www: http://www.killingjoke.com


    Imagine the Dance Hall Crashers as a world pop band. Lovewhip often uses intertwined female vocals, draping them over ska, Afropop and melodies assembled from all sorts of Caribbean and African sounds.

    It does generally get back to ska--complete with a nice set of horns--but the little touches (particularly with lead guitar and bass) keep the sound lively and interesting.

    Light as a feather, but that's no complaint. The bubbly nature of these songs is what makes them so attractive. This album is all about fun, and there's plenty of that delivered. No need to worry about the transmission methods.

    I had a blast. That's all. And for me, that's enough. Lovewhip is kind of a strange name for a band that plys this sort of stuff, but who am I to complain? I smiled the whole way through.

    Juicy Juju Records
    P.O. Box 2183
    Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
    www: http://www.lovewhip.net

    Full Bloom EP

    Five songs from these boys. When I was in college, many of my favorite bands came from central Oklahoma (Flaming Lips, Chainsaw Kittens, etc.), and I imagine I'm generally more interested than most to hear what's coming out of there these days.

    Mandragora sounds like college stoner rock to me. The sound isn't thick and fuzzy; it's more stripped down and straight-forward. But the themes and even style of riffage do fit. It's just that these boys try to do a little more with the concept.

    And it works, often in ways I can't quite explain. Basically, these guys keep driving the songs forward. There isn't a slack moment on this disc, which is always a sign of a band that knows what it's doing. If these boys keep up their focus, they've got real potential.

    227 Pine Tree Ln.
    Norman, OK 73072
    Phone: (405)701-3916
    www: http://www.mandragora-music.com

    The Mars Volta
    De-Loused in the Comatorium

    Of the 4,000 or so bands I've reviewed over the years, about 10 have signed major label deals after I've written about them. This isn't to say that my reviews had anything to do with their success. Given the ratio of reviews to big money, I'd say any words from me is about as close to the kiss of death as anything.

    The thing is, the bands that have gotten "the call" generally fall into two camps. One would be well-established bands with a strong following (like ALL--you do remember that Interscope album, don't you?) or really, really weird bands, like Blue Meanies--a band with which I compared these boys in a previous review. But even with the band's fine pedigree (two former At the Drive-In members in the forefront), I would never have guessed in a million years that anyone with serious cash would give these guys a deal. But it happened.

    Even more miraculously, this still sounds a lot like that EP from last year. Alright, so producer Alex Newport has been replaced by Rick Rubin and Flea, John Frusciante and even Lenny Castro drop by to lend a hand. Celebrity guests on a debut album can often be a sign of trouble or at the very least insipidness, but the spirit of adventure is as strong (or even stronger) here as on last year's EP.

    The album itself is a mediation on life and death (the hero travels through a morphine coma and then decides to kill himself upon waking up). I get more from the ideas in the music (which is probably best described as early Queensryche with less bombast and a lot more stuff going on) than the lyrics themselves. The picture painted by the wide variety of musicians on this album is astonishing.

    I know a number of music critics who say that the greatest albums must be recorded for major labels, because only the big boys have enough money to pay for the studio time necessary to make truly great and timeless music. Those people have never heard the Wrens's Silver. Nonetheless, it's quite apparent that the "deal" has enabled the Mars Volta to make one of the finest albums of this or any other decade. People will be talking about these boys in a hundred years. And with good reason.

    1755 Broadway
    New York, NY 10019
    www: http://www.themarsvolta.com

    Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
    Take a Break
    (Fat Wreck Chords)

    By now, you know the concept: Five punkers who have made their names with other fine bands get together once a year to play other people's songs. An idea with definite potential.

    The albums have concepts, of a sort. This one takes on r&b. Sorta. I mean, putting "I Believe I Can Fly" and (You Make Me Feel Like a) "Natural Woman" in the same category is a bit silly for more reasons than one.

    And silliness is what these boys specialize in, of course. Some bits are better than others (the version of "Hello" is truly astonishing, I swear), which makes the overall album a bit uneven. But that's only to be expected.

    This is a more inspired effort than last year's Blow in the Wind, a surprisingly toothless run-through of 60s pop. The boys have their groove back. And, yes, I too believe they can fly.

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

    Pistol for Ringo
    Solid-State Neo-Hedonist

    The description of this disc on the label's web site is "a very nice listen for those who want a little more from their CD player." Damn. I wish I'd written that. That's really damned good.

    Pistol for Ringo plays pop music. Pop music with all sorts of electronic noises infused and plenty of weird musical lines trailing. Note that I didn't call this power pop. This band prefers the deft aside to the bludgeon.

    The sound is full, but with plenty of space in-between the instruments. The band refuses to play the same song twice (or, perhaps more explicitly, play the same style twice), but this vaguely sterile sound really brings out the complexity of the songwriting.

    "A little more," indeed. Pistol for Ringo doesn't dumb down for the masses. Instead, it commands respect by sticking to its guns and making aggressively interesting music. Precisely what I like to hear.

    Aeronaut Records
    P.O. Box 361432
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www: http://www.aeronautrecords.com

    Sigur Ros
    Untitled #1/Vaka CD/DVD
    (Play It Again Sam/MCA)

    This is, technically, a single. The CD section contains four songs, though I think wešre talking about one song with three movements and one single-tracked song. Hard to tell, since the CD doesn't tell me a thing. But that's okay, since these Icelandic types make music good enough to take my cares away from mundane issues such as tracking.

    Meditative (or moody to the extreme--you make the call), Sigur Ros creates some seriously haunting sounds. This isn't the sort of thing that translates well to club performances, which may be why the guys have done a few shows with string accompaniment.

    But hey, any band with a guitarist whose first song was Maiden's "Wrathchild" (the spring trivia question on the band's web site: http://www.sigur-ros.com) can't be all about intellectual noodling and nothing else. The DVD contains three videos which provide a nice overall snapshot of the band. This is a cool little package, the sort of thing that ought to get quite a few more people excited about Sigur Ros.

    Souls She Said
    Rub the Sleep Out EP

    Remember Robert Plant's big "comeback?" The one with lots of Zep samples and a guest shot from Jimmy Page? Okay, good. Do you remember the follow-up, Manic Nirvana? It was a blast of seriously weird 60s blues throttled by drum machines. I liked that album much better. Anyway, Souls She Said takes the same psychedelic blues attitude and features a singer with a few fine Plantian moments. Pretty cool stuff.

    Of course, there aren't any drum machines, and to be fair there's very little here that is mechanical at all. The sound is a big, fuzzy mess that rarely stoops to mere coherence. And why should it, when a higher calling is, um, calling.

    For all the mess, though, the band keeps things together pretty well. These songs don't self-destruct. Rather, they explode with the brilliance of ideas held under pressure. The dull, rusted sound is a nice counterpoint to the band's frenetic pace. Quite good.

    I'm sure plenty of folks will compare this stuff to Jon Spencer. Souls She Said makes a much bigger mess of things, and on the whole, it also makes a bigger splash as well. Incendiary.

    P.O. Box 1268
    Hollywood, CA 90078
    www: http://www.buddyhead.com

    Fade to Bright
    (Honest Don's)

    I liked this band's self-titled album on Lookout the first few times I listened to it. Then it got old. While I can't promise anything, I think this album has a bit more staying power.

    First off, the obvious reference here is Naked Raygun, not Screeching Weasel (which was my comparison for that early disc). A pretty big difference, even when you're talking about two sets of folks who were hanging out in Chicago at about the same time and all. Anyway, these songs have a bit more heft to them. The hooks are less sugary and more substantial. Incremental improvements, but important ones nonetheless.

    Bassist (and prolific punk producer) Mass Giorgini did the honors on the board, and he gave the band a thick, slightly plastic sound. It works well with the added power of the writing. The sharp edges give these songs that much more oomph.

    A fine effort by a band that went MIA quite a while ago. Good to know the boys's skills didn't go away. This tightly-wrapped disc is a lot of fun.

    Honest Don's
    P.O. Box 193690
    San Francisco, CA 94119-3690
    www: http://www.honestdons.com

    Sweet William
    Gone to Seed

    I'm not sure exactly why New York has become such a haven for alt. country (I guess the current term is "Americana," though I find that label even less informative than the earlier one) acts, but I've gotten more than 20 discs from such bands in the last year. Sweet William is one of the best I've heard.

    These boys focus on the music, sometimes to the point of ignoring the vocals completely. Which is alright. There's a heavy emphasis on finger-picking, though I would hesitate to call the stuff bluegrass. It's more technical folk, if you understand my meaning.

    The sound is warm and vaguely old-fashioned. There's a slight echo wherever where these songs were recorded, and that does lend a strangely "authentic" feel to the stuff. In fact, it was this sound that pricked my ear even before I began really hearing the music.

    Extremely well-done. For all the well-crafted picking, these songs are as loose as rib meat roasted to perfection. Sweet William sure does know how to do this stuff up right.

    Zendevil Records
    624 6th Ave.
    Brooklyn, NY 11215
    Phone (718) 499-9284
    e-mail: zendevil@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.sweetwilliammusic.com

    31 Knots
    It Was High Time to Escape
    (54-40 or Fight!)

    Proggy post-rock (I continue to use this term under protest) that is so intensely played it almost sounds improvised at times. I can't imagine how this trio managed to get this sound. Lots of hard work, obviously.

    The concepts are extremely dense at times. This is really attractive to me, which means these boys have absolutely no chance at the big time. But in any case, I'm impressed by the deftness of the writing, which allows so many different ideas to be expressed without making the songs sound cluttered.

    Also, the pieces generally roll, rather than lurch, along. There's nothing pretentious or "we're so fucking smart" about all this. 31 Knots steps up on the stage, says "here we are" and lets rip. That's a great attitude.

    Nothing simple. Just way I like it. I can only hope that a few other folks share my opinion. The talent here is just astonishing. This is an album where everything came together in just the right way. Luck is rarely a factor on such occasions, and it certainly wasn't. 31 Knots is in full control.

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

    Jack Wright & Bob Marsh
    Birds in the Hand
    (Public Eyesore)

    Jack Wright takes care of the reeds (saxophones and conta-alto clarinet) and Bob Marsh handles the strings (cello and violin). These sounds are exceptionally complimentary, and that helps to give these improvisations a comfy, warm feel.

    Five of the tracks were recorded live, and the sixth was done in a studio. There is very little difference in either the sound quality or the quality of interplay between the two men. These guys have been playing together for years, and they obviously know how to bring out the best in each other.

    Marsh and Wright use non-traditional sounds (squeaks, pops, and other "mistakes") as often as regular "playing." This could lead to a real mess, but the aforementioned ease these guys have with each other allows each man to go out on a limb without exposing his backside. There's always a way back to the core of each piece.

    I'm a sucker for people taking the idea of music to the outer limits. Wright and Marsh aren't all that outlandish, but they don't play by many established rules, either. I really like the obvious affection these men have for one other. It makes this disc all that more memorable.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Brian Day
    3301 Dewey
    Apt. 8
    Omaha, NE 68105
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.sinkhole.net/pehome

    Higher than Caruso

    Just Sean Woosley of the Woosley Band, playing some guitar to 4-track and then backing up to add vocals and the occasional drum, bass and even keyboard.

    There are 17 songs here, and they don't all work. But the worst remind me of bad Rob Crow experiments, which is to say that Woosley is trying his ass off to do something interesting and good, and he succeeds only at being interesting. Not an entirely terrible thing.

    Plenty of these "songs" are really fragments, but listening to this disc it's quite easy to hear how Woosley puts his songs together. Which makes this disc a fascinating portrait of an artist--without being pretentious or stupid.

    I don't know how many of these discs will ever see the light of day--an article on the web site says that the plan is to burn some 100 to 200 copies. But folks with a penchant for the slightly-off kilter ought to search this one out.

    3163 Indianola Ave.
    Columbus, OH 43202
    e-mail: gmaver@juno.com
    www: http://www.woosleyband.com

    All together now:
    Re-issues, compilations, etc.

    The Business Hardcore Hooligan (Burning Heart-BYO)
    These well-traveled oi boys have put all of their favorite football songs together on one handy CD. Fans will probably know most of these already (I've been putting "Maradona" on mix tapes for years), but it's still a fun idea.

    Fairburn Royals Free EP (Two Sheds)
    Four songs from the band's first two albums, each reworked significantly. The title stems from the band's encouragement of copying and dissemination by all media. So warm up your hard drives and spread the message.

    The GC5 Kisses from Hanoi/Horseshoes and Handgrenades re-issue (Thick)
    The band's first album (hard to find, though I did review it when it was released by Outsider Records back in 2000) and the follow-up EP (almost impossible to find in the U.S.). Not quite as good as Never Bet the Devil Your Head, but still impressive.

    PreFuse 73 Extinguished: Outtakes (Warp)
    Like the cover says, alternate takes and beats from One Word Extinguisher. A bit looser than Herren's usual fare, which is refreshing; perhaps he might consider a bit more informality on upcoming releases. In any case, this is more than impressive enough to be its own album.

    Sixteen Horsepower Olden (Jetset)
    Stuff from the band's dark days at A&M. Of course, I didn't even know the band had a major label deal back in the mid-90s. No matter. These tracks (many of which appeared on those early releases) are culled from two studio sessions and one live set in 1993 and 1994.

    Various Artists Sad Songs Remind Me: The Emo Diaries, Chapter Nine (Deep Elm)
    The most interesting thing about this long-running series is that most of the bands are unsigned, and many of them never get deals at all. The Emo Diaries, then is a portrait of a scene from the grassroots up. Which may explain why it is still as fresh and invigorating as ever.

    Also recommended:

    Babbletron Mechanical Royalty (Embedded)
    Babbletron doesn't exactly play fair. The ideas are, literally, from all over the planet (rarely have I heard a hip-hop album take on international politics) and the rhymes are as complex as any I've heard. Attractive on more of an intellectual than visceral level, Babbletron dishes some truly serious science.

    Barbaro Nolte (Dopamine)
    If I'm reading the liners correctly (and they're almost impossible to discern--dark red ink on a black background) Barbaro is no more. But this album is more than enough to grieve the loss. A nice sludgy take on the whole post-rock ideal. Lots of power and some powerful ideas to boot.

    Bent-Til-Broken Reverse Blow Show EP (self-released)
    There's this weird pseudo-metal sound that seems to be midwestern in nature. Bent-Til-Broken plays basic rock and roll, but it does so with a seriously over-the-top fuzz guitar sound. I kinda cut my teeth on bands like this when I was in college 15 years ago, so I dig it.
    P.O. Box 2587
    Champaign, IL 61820
    www: http://www.bent-til-broken.com

    Brown Sox MTQB...Music to Quilt By (self-released)
    Imagine if Eyehategod allowed itself to get funky or played power pop with full fury intact. Brown Sox incorporates all sorts of ideas into its music--some work, some really don't--which is most refreshing. These guys really push the entire concept of "extreme" to the outer limits.
    Nine Mile Music
    9800 Westbank Expwy.
    Westwego, LA 70094
    e-mail: rjockmond@bellsouth.net
    www: http://www.brownsox.com

    Canoe I Give You...Canoe! (Amazing Grease)
    Every garage band should have a keyboard/organ/youknowhatimean player. They're cheesy and fun and they really round out a raucous sound. Canoe plays just on this side of chaos, and it never really lets off the pedal. Quite a fun disc.

    Drive Til Morning Drive Til Morning (Deep Elm)
    Really pretty songs created by a certain Francis Garcia. As this is a one-man effort, Garcia feels free to populate his alt. country meets emo sound with all sorts of synthesized effects. And what do you know? The results are truly impressive. Sometimes Garcia chooses beauty over substance, but that's really a minor issue. A fine, diverse set.

    Hans Fjellestad/Peter Kowald/Dana Reason/Jason Robinson Dual Resonance (Circumvention)
    A wide-ranging series of improvisations which only occasionally bring together all four players. The ever-changing line-up keeps the ideas fresh, and the experimentation is mind-blowing at times. Most intriguing.

    The Life and Times The Flat End of the Earth (54-40 or Fight!)
    Formed from the remnants of the often awe-inspiring Shiner, these K.C. boys carry on the worthy effort to redefine rock music as we know it. This fine trio wails away at the noisy side of post-rock, every once in a while mellowing out to check in and see how they're doing. Well, they're doing pretty good. Solid stuff.

    The Luxury Liners Overbored (self-released)
    Another trio that wants to play moody power pop, the Luxury Liners distinguish themselves by openly fronting a major-label sound. The production is immaculate, which does strip out some of the emotion from the lyrics. Still, this album should be proof that these guys know how to make slick music with plenty of soul.
    1017 16th Ave. S.
    Nashville, TN 37212
    www: http://www.theluxuryliners.com

    The Methadones Career Objective (Thick)
    Reminds me a lot of the Mopes, probably because singer Dan Schafer is also known as Dan Vapid (his Mopes identity). This outstanding set of punk pop surely deserves a full review, but I simply can't say much more about it except that Schafer writes songs as well as anyone and producer Mass Giorgini (member of Squirtgun and producer of countless others) knows how to give the stuff just the right amount of sugar. A wonderful confection.

    Placer Summer (Dopamine)
    Take two parts of Barbaro (reviewed above) and add two new guys. The sound is heavier and more deliberate, almost a deconstruction of the post-rock sound, which is kinda ironic since that movement is itself seriously deconstructionistic (I'm pretty sure that's a word) to begin with. Hopelessly loud and crushingly brutal, Placer is simply uncompromising. I'm impressed.

    Remy de Laroque Carol's on My Mind (self-released)
    Highly stylized pop of the (generally) acoustic kind. Remy de Laroque does drift into cheese now and again, but he embraces it fully and I see no reason to complain about it. A desultory, breezy disc perfect for the autumn afternoons soon to come.
    www: http://www.remydelaroque.com

    Craig Roberts Maybe EP (self-released)
    Whiny, jokey, overly-verbose keyboard-driven pop songs that nonetheless charm with their almost overbearing sincerity. I can think a thousand reasons to dislike this puppy, but for some reason I'm smitten. Maybe it's song titles like "Funky Aliens." Maybe it's just the absurdity of it all. I really can't say. There's just something intangibly cool here.

    Samsara Sound System Ritual of Carousel (Baboon)
    It's been a couple of years since I received an album with an overt reference to Logan's Run. Kinda strange, since the mid-Asian (think Indian subcontinent) dub sounds on this disc would seem to have little to do with cheesy 70s sci fi. Ah well, I guess I'll have to content myself with the subtly ingratiating grooves. Quite impressive.

    This Day Forward In Response (Equal Vision)
    Polished hardcore protest songs. This Day Forward doesn't pull any punches or make any pretense at subtlety. The band simply cranks out one good song after another. If you're gonna holler, you might as well make it sound good. These boys make it sound great.

  • return to A&A home page