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 #245 reviews
(September 2003)

  • Jennie Arnau Superman Won't Take the Call (self-released)
  • Brandtson|Camber|Seven Storey split EP (Deep Elm)
  • Candidate Nuada (Snowstorm)
  • Darediablo Feeding Frenzy (Southern)
  • Todd Deatherage Dream Upon a Fallen Star (self-released)
  • The Desert Fathers The Spirituality (Threespheres)
  • Eleven Eyes Depth Perception (New & Improv)
  • Flattbush Smash the Octopus! (Kool Arrow)
  • Brady Harris Lone Star (self-released)
  • Hell on Earth All Things Disturbingly Sassy (Neptune)
  • Paula Kelley The Trouble with Success or How You Fit into the World (Kimchee)
  • The Kinison The Kinison EP (Fearless)
  • Michelle Malone Stompin' Ground (Daemon)
  • The Meeting Places Find Yourself Along the Way (Words on Music)
  • On the Might of Princes Sirens (Revelation)
  • Rambler 454 Talk Down the Sky EP (self-released)
  • Red Card Red Card (Useless Chords)
  • The Romantics 61/49 (WEB Entertainment)
  • Stunt Monkey [self-titled] (Transmission-UTR)
  • Ten Benson Benson Burner (Jetset)
  • Tora! Tora! Torrance! A Cynic's Nightmare (The Militia Group)
  • Alex Walsh Light Another Candle (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    Jennie Arnau
    Superman Won't Take the Call
    (self-released)

    Jennie Arnau is a folky singer with a full rock back-up band. She takes full advantage of both styles.

    Her songwriting style is simple, tending toward the anthemic. She plays a fine acoustic guitar and a decent harp in addition to her singing, but she's not afraid to let her band pound away if that's what the song requires.

    The result can sound a bit overproduced at times, but Arnau's astonishingly earnest voice overcomes that. When the songs swoop, soar or simply bash away, Arnau's voice is always in control. She seems to have a knack for singing in the moment.

    A fine, eclectic set of songs. This isn't a folk, rock, country or roots album. It's all that and more, often at the same time. Pretty durned impressive.

    Contact:
    e-mail: jennie@jenniearnau.com
    www: http://www.jenniearnau.com


    Brandtson
    Camber
    Seven Storey

    split EP
    (Deep Elm)

    One song from Brandtson, three from Camber and two from Seven Storey. Very punchy stuff, though it's interesting that the Brandtson stuff sounds a bit more cerebral than usual, while the (quite similar) Camber pieces sound much more off the cuff. Must be my expectations of the band in question.

    I'm not sure if there's really a theme to this set, other than really fine songs by great bands (well, Seven Storey is a one-man affair, but still). While each band did its recording separately, the sound achieved by each is startlingly similar to the others. I don't know if this intentional, but it sure does aid continuity.

    A great introduction to these three great acts. Fans will certainly want to hear this stuff, but this is the sort of release that brings in new admirers in exponential numbers. Simply outstanding.

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


    Candidate
    Nuada
    (Snowstorm)

    Candidate play that peculiarly British sort of neo-folk, stuff that rolls with the roots and still manages to drop in the occasional modern pop convention as well. The fusion is seamless; the songs are intricately-crafted gems.

    The songs here are inspired by The Wicker Man, a movie I've heard of but have never seen. This album makes me want to drop what I'm doing (writing reviews is hard work, folks) and go rent the puppy. Inspired? I sure am.

    The sound is lush and full, giving the acoustic guitars plenty of room to round out, and enveloping everything else in an organic blanket. This music is connected to the earth in ways that I can't begin to explain. And I'm guessing that's intentional.

    Simply a breathtaking experience. I wasn't familiar with Candidate before hearing this disc, but now I am similarly inspired to haul in the band's earlier works. You'd be surprised how rarely that happens to me. This album is simply unforgettable.

    Contact:
    Snowstorm Records
    2 Prowse Place
    London NW1 9PH
    United Kingdom
    www: http://www.snowstormrecords.com


    Darediablo
    Feeding Fenzy
    (Southern)

    Remember that great British hard rock from the early 70s? Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and all that? This unconventional trio (guitar, drums and keyboards) replicate those thick, fuzzy sounds and actually improve on them.

    First, there are no vocals. This means that the riffage (be it guitar, organ or whatever) has center stage. Second, it means that the music never slacks off for a moment. These boys know they've got to keep the pedal to the metal just to keep these songs together.

    Man, what a rush. The inspiration may be 30 years old, but the execution is ultra modern. Darediablo isn't afraid to bring things down a notch in decidedly non-hard rock ways, and it's also quite happy to throw in all sorts of quirky thoughts into the mix. Loud, heavy and damned creative. Quite the combo.

    Yeah, it helps to have a soft spot for cheesy hard rock. But Darediablo is inventive enough to impress even the most jaded critic. This stuff is not just technically brilliant, it's a big wad of fun as well. Now, where the hell's my lighter...

    Contact:
    Southern Records
    P.O. Box 577375
    Chicago, IL 60657
    www: http://www.southern.com


    Todd Deatherage
    Dream Upon a Fallen Star
    (self-released)

    I've got this theory that Uncle Tupelo serves the same role today that Big Star did when I was in college. Back in 1988, Big Star seemed almost ancient--having broken up some 14 or so years previous. Uncle Tupelo broke up in the summer of 1993, so maybe my theory is a bit premature. And then again, listening to folks like Todd Deatherage, maybe not.

    Deatherage and pals don't ape Farrar and Tweedy, but the twisting of country and roots with more contemporary sounds of all sorts kinda found its critical mass in the late 1980s with bands like the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo and a bunch of other bands I saw just about every weekend during my five years at the University of Missouri.

    All of which is more than enough about me and my theories. Deatherage is as likely to whip out some western swing as he is to toss off a nice little two-stepper. And while each of these songs sounds decidedly straight on the surface, there's always an odd little aside rumbling in the underbrush. The songwriting is superb, and the performances are similarly superlative.

    Did I mention that Deatherage and friends are from New York? I swear, there are more great alt. country types in New York than the rest of the country put together. If this is the hot sound up there, I'm at a loss to explain why the rest of the nation hasn't caught on. Todd Deatherage proves with this album that he belongs in the first rank of modern country artists (or whatever you want to call this sort of stuff). Heartbreakingly gorgeous, it is.

    Contact:
    e-mail: info@todddetherageband.com
    www: http://www.todddeatherageband.com


    The Desert Fathers
    The Spirituality
    (Threespheres)

    Recorded by Steve Albini and Greg Norman (not the golfer, of course), which is hard to believe at times. Sure, there's some seriously trippy (in a shattered and shrill sorta way) guitar work, but there's also some seriously involved vocal work. The kinda thing Albini is famous for dismissing out of hand.

    No need to get into the personality of the producers, though. The Desert Fathers deserve all the attention that is humanly possible. It's pretty much impossible to classify this stuff, except to say that it rarely makes sense in any conventional way. Every one in a while the bass and drums line up for a bar or two, but that's about it.

    Despite the discordant sound and deconstructive impulses of the band, the songs themselves fall together quite nicely. Sure, you've gotta kinda listen past the music and let it coalesce slowly within your brain, but that's a good thing. These boys challenge, and the rewards are immense.

    Utterly unlike anything I've heard before, certainly when the scope of the sounds on this disc is taken into account. The Desert Fathers have created an entirely original work, one that isn't a walk in the park, perhaps, but still is well worth the journey. Here's to getting lost in new ideas.

    Contact:
    Threespheres
    P.O. Box 349
    Brooklyn, NY 11222
    e-mail: threespheres@threespheres.com
    www: http://www.threespheres.com


    Eleven Eyes
    Depth Perception
    (New and Improv Music)

    A few years back, I happened to catch a performance of a band called Spaceheads, which consists of a jazz trumpeter and a jazz drummer who also man keyboards, drum machines, sequencers and the like during the live show. The result was an entrancing melange of funky grooves, ace jazz licks and cool beats. Eleven Eyes plays around in much the same vein, except that these boys use a number of real players as well as a turntable man.

    And geez, is this stuff addictive. I suppose it manages to still qualify as jazz, but this is dance music first and foremost. There's always a fine beat (even if slower than your average club grind) and the rhythm section is rarely out of pocket for more than a few seconds at a time.

    A journey to the center of the groove, without compromising anyone's integrity. There's nothing simple or cloying about these slinky moves. This stuff is dirty, damned dirty, just filthy with the funk. George and Bootsy would be proud.

    The jazz take simply adds to the enjoyment for those of us who like complicated music. There are so many layers to these songs that even ten or fifteen listens down the line something new will pop up. I'm just breaking out in smiles.

    Contact:
    New and Improv Music
    2535 NW Pendleton Place
    Corvallis, OR 97330
    e-mail: improv@peak.org
    www: http://www.newandimprov.com


    Flattbush
    Smash the Octopus!
    (Kool Arrow)

    Take two Filipino immigrant brothers and a couple of boys who are more than willing to push the metal envelope and you get (it appears) Flattbush. The songs are sung both in Tagalog (the Filipino dialect) and English. The music is loud, fast and extremely complicated.

    Did I mention that it was astonishingly great as well? Billy Gould (Kool Arrow honcho) produced, and the result often sounds like Faith No More on crank with a side of Marxism. Personally, that works for me. I'm always in favor of people pushing to the edge and beyond.

    And despite the loud and fast and often harsh music, Gould has given these boys an amazingly full sound. Sometimes the anarchy rages while that thick blanket wraps itself around my ears. Again, this is something that works for me. Works really well.

    Song construction? A real mess. Performance skills? The focus is on fast rather than precision. Lyrics? In-your-face and sometimes less than coherent. But when put together, the result is astonishing. A brutal, mind-crushing experience. The sort of ride I like to take a thousand times or more.

    Contact:
    Kool Arrow
    740A 14th St. #415
    San Francisco, CA 92114
    e-mail: info@koolarrow.com
    www: http://www.koolarrow.com


    Brady Harris
    Lone Star
    (self-released)

    Another set of alt. country-pop from Harris, who is quietly writing and performing some of the best songs around these days. Think Ryan Adams, only a bit more faithful to whatever sound he's playing at the moment.

    And that might be country, jangle pop, a tune that would be right at home on Pet Sounds or stuff that can only be described as "indie rock." Harris doesn't feel the need to pigeonhole his stuff. He just works his ass off and makes great music.

    I keep using superlatives, and there's a reason for that. Harris writes songs that immediately affect me. They're straightforward, but hardly simple. He knows how to make a song bite immediately and how to reel in a listener slowly as well.

    The production sound is a little tinny at times, but that's an easy stereo adjustment. To be honest, that's my harshest criticism. In my last review, I called his songs timeless. That description fits the pieces on this album as well. Harris shouldn't be unknown for much longer. Talent like his is all too rare.

    Contact:
    e-mail: bradyharris@earthlink.net
    www: http://www.bradyharris.com


    Hell on Earth
    All Things Disturbingly Sassy
    (Neptune Records)

    Some goth boys from Tampa (I swear to God, I've never seen a scene as weird and, um, natural as the one I experienced when living in Florida a few years back) who play some highly-processed industrial metal.

    Kinda retro, in its way. Hell on Earth relies on sledgehammer drum machine beats, synched guitar and keyboard riffs and a nice growly vocal presence. Reminds me of the good Ministry albums.

    Actually, that's a fine touchpoint. These songs are obviously studio creations, though I imagine the boys can do a fair job live. It wouldn't, it couldn't--and shouldn't--sound the same from a stage. That's cool.

    Just a nice little head trip into the past. These guys really know how to dress up this sound and make it sing. Good enough to make me smile.

    Contact:
    Neptune Records
    P.O. Box 20342
    Tampa, FL 33622
    www: http://www.hellonearth.net


    Paula Kelly
    The Trouble with Success or How You Fit into the World
    (Kimchee)

    Paula Kelley cut her teeth with the Drop Nineteens, then shot through Hot Rod and Boy Wonder before finally recording her first bona-fide solo album a couple years ago. All that preparation certainly prepared her for this album, one of the most astonishing pop albums I've heard in some time.

    And don't get me wrong. This is pop as in "pop," Burt Bacharach and Carole King and all that. Kelley draws on sounds from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even this new century as she assembles these gorgeous confections. Yeah, it helps that she's got one of those "tough little girl" voices, one that has a lot more strength than might be imagined.

    Production is key on an album like this. No matter how good the songs or how fine the performances, it's still awfully easy to screw things up in the booth. Kelley took the reins herself, and she delivers a dreamy, bouncy sound that perfectly frames her songs.

    The craftsmanship alone is astonishing. The final result is such that all the hard work that went into making the album is well-hid behind the final sound. This album is a grabber from the first line, and it becomes more addictive with each successive song. Wonderful.

    Contact:
    Kimchee Records
    6 Sagamore Road
    Ipswich MA 01938
    Phone: (978) 356-0093
    e-mail: info@kimcheerecords.com
    www: http://www.kimcheerecords.com


    The Kinison
    The Kinison EP
    (Fearless)

    Five songs, mini sludge symphonies. Well, not exactly, as the Kinison has a really fine sense of rhythm and even deigns to throw in a melody once in a while. Kinda.

    The melodic elements are in the music. The vocals range from screechy to just plain screeches, and the riffage is quite impressive.

    You know, this stuff really reminds me of Bullet LaVolta, The Gift era. Heavy, loud and yet still grounded in some seriously addictive beats. This sound has never been particularly popular, but I love it. To death, I'm afraid.

    Contact:
    Fearless Records
    13772 Goldenwest St. #545
    Westminster, CA 92683
    www: http://www.fearlessrecords.com


    Michelle Malone
    Stompin' Ground
    (Daemon)

    Sometimes it's pretty easy to guess an album won't suck. Michelle Malone (billed on the cover as "Moanin' Michelle Malone and the Low-Down Georgia Revue") has been one of the legendary women of rock for more than a decade, but you'd be surprised how little of her stuff can be found in a record store. A quick look at her discography will explain what I mean.

    Anyway, she's got one of them whiskey-dipped (as opposed to soaked) voices that sounds ancient and yet ageless, and she sure knows how to wail the blues. And that's where her songs come from, though she's perfectly willing to rock out or go twangy or whatever else is necessary. Each of the songs here has that "instant classic" feel, a nice comfy sound that is impossible to create intentionally. The songs must be great, that's all.

    And boy, are they. Malone refuses to stick to a particular mood or sound, and that makes this album lively and fun. The songs themselves take on a number of dark subjects, but Malone has a deft hand, and she never loses he wry sense of humor.

    Like I said, you know some albums won't suck. This one shines. Malone is in fine form. In fact, this is probably the most consistent studio album she's made. That it's completely heartfelt helps immensely. This is the real Malone, and that's purty damned good.

    Contact:
    Daemon Records
    P.O. Box 1207
    Decatur, GA 30031
    Phone (404) 373-5733
    Fax [404] 370-1660
    www: http://www.daemonrecords.com


    The Meeting Places
    Find Yourself Along the Way
    (Words on Music)

    It's official: The Loveless revolution has finally struck, some 10 years too late. I've heard a ton of bands lately that appropriate the My Bloody Valentine formula of dreamy pop songs almost wiped out by drones and distortion. The funny thing is that most of these bands do the sound pretty well.

    The Meeting Place handles the noise with a light hand; the pop nature of the songs is always apparent. Still, those droning vocals and washes of distortion add a fine bit of color. A little icing on the cake, if you will.

    Yeah, the noise does tend to make this kinda stuff a little faceless. The Meeting Place combats this by making sure the sweet hooks are enhanced by the production. Again, a deft hand in the booth makes all the difference.

    A quite enjoyable album. Nothing earthshattering, I'll admit, but quite entrancing on its own merits. Left me with a big smile, to be sure.

    Contact:
    Words on Music
    715 University Ave. SE #201
    Minneapolis, MN 55414
    e-mail: tidings@words-on-music.com
    www: http://www.words-on-music.com


    On the Might of Princes
    Sirens
    (Revelation)

    Somewhere between the "classic" emo sound of five years ago and post-rock, On the Might of Princes (what a freakin' mouthful!) wails, grinds and throbs. In a most appealing way, of course.

    The songs are noodly at times, and the strident guitar sound and off-key singing can also grate, if that's not your style. These guys really do sound like that first wave of emo punkers, just a few miles down the road from Jawbox and Treepeople. And any regular reader will know that's the sort of thing that really makes me smile.

    There are modern touches, of course. The whole post-rock linear construction thing, as well as a more muscular production sound that really makes these songs pop right out of the speakers. Frist-rate work all the way down the line.

    The sort of album that sound better the twentieth time. On the Might of Princes is likely to evolve into something greater. I can't wait to hear what that might be.

    Contact:
    Revelation
    P.O. Box 5232
    Huntington Beach, CA 92615
    www: http://www.revelationrecords.com


    Rambler 454
    Talk Down the Sky EP
    (self-released)

    One part Stones, one part Big Star, one part T. Rex and another part I can't quite identify, Rambler 454 is an instant time machine back to 1972. And I mean that in a good way.

    Okay, so the songs aren't quite as electric or timeless as the bands referenced (no crime there). The feel is still the same. Rambler 454 makes these rootsy pop songs sound off-the-cuff, almost impromptu. And that's quite cool.

    Yeah, I do wish the boys would work a little harder to find their own sound. There are a couple of riffs that almost sound straight copped. But this is a fun little set nonetheless. Carefree and highly enjoyable.

    Contact:
    5561 Strathaven Dr.
    Highland Hts., OH 44143
    Phone (440) 720-1480
    www: http://www.rambler454.com


    Red Card
    Red Card
    (Useless Chords)

    Blistering noisy rock, a screeching buzzsaw of riffage and screams. Sometimes only the best will do.

    If these songs lost their focus for even a moment, they would be shapeless squalls of feedback and distortion. But no. The rhythmic center always holds, even as the sound spirals quickly out of control.

    The most interesting thing about Red Card is how much acoustic guitar it uses. These aren't throbbing, massive songs, but rather small, tightly-compacted pieces. The craft is well-hidden, but it's there nonetheless.

    A lean, mean set of tunes. Red Card never lets up the intensity, and the result is an album of pure adrenaline.

    Contact:
    Useless Chords
    206 Scholes St. #16
    Brooklyn, NY 11206
    www: http://www.redcardmusic.com


    The Romantics
    61/49
    (WEB Entertainment)

    Yeah, those Romantics. The "What I Like About You" and "Talking in My Sleep" Romantics. The guys must be, what, almost 50 by now? Hell, I don't know. What I do know is that these guys still know the secret to making dirty garage music: Good songs.

    And that's about it. These boys haven't recorded a full-length studio album since, well, 1985's Rhythm Romance, which would seem to indicate a long lay-off. But in fact, the band has performed regularly all these years, and all those shows seem to have kept the rust away.

    There's a sense of fun to these songs that's missing from most of today's garage retroids. The Romantics could write "serious" songs, but the guys weren't silly enough to think that they're making a statement with their music. The production has left the sound here full, but playful. There's a bounce to these songs that can't help but bring a smile to my face.

    When I got this disc in the mail, I fully expected it to suck, or at the very least be some over-produced by-the-numbers effort by a bunch of geezers. Instead, this is a fine album by some folks who still have a few miles left in the tank. Sometimes summer is endless, indeed.

    Contact:
    WEB Entertainment
    P.O. Box 20340
    Ferndale, MI 48220
    www: http://www.romanticsdetroit.com


    Stunt Monkey
    [self-titled]
    (Transmission/UTR)

    There are probably a million pop-punk bands in this country, most of them are faceless. Being dull is a greater sin than simply sucking, which is at least interesting. Stunt Monkey is one of the few, the proud, the truly awe-inspiring pop-punk acts.

    The key to this is sharp songwriting--clever riffs as well as fine wordsmithing. Doesn't matter if the kids can play; as long as the songs have a nice hook, fit together well and don't obviously rip anyone off, well, you've got a fighting chance. You'd be surprised how few bands can actually pull this off.

    Stunt Monkey not only writes well and plays sharply, it also got a great sound out of the studio. The songs pop right out of the speakers, with both the music and the vocals clear as a bell. This isn't necessarily according to punk, of course, but when you're pop, you might as well pop.

    Man, are these songs great. Reminds me of early Green Day, except that the lyrics are a bit more mature (though when one of the hooks is "my girlfriend likes girls," it's hard to support that point). That is a compliment, you know. Solid stuff all the way.

    Contact:
    P.O. Box 10175
    San Jose, CA 95157-1175
    www: http://www.stuntmonkey.net


    Ten Benson
    Benson Burner
    (Jetset)

    Just when I was worried that Jetset was succumbing to the ugly disease of trenditis, here comes Ten Benson. The stuff is nothing less that southern-fried kick-ass rock and roll. Except, of course, that these boys are from England. Kinda like the Cult that way, I guess.

    And there is a "basic rock and roll played really fucking loud" ethos that these boys share with the early Cult. Ten Benson is decidedly cruder (one song is a ode to "teenage tits"), but that just makes these boys so much more charming.

    I'm a sucker for this kinda full-frontal attack, myself. Why hide behind pretense when you can just lay everything on the table (and lay it loudly, to boot)? The production has left a serious edge of distortion on the sound, and that, too, simply adds to the mystique. Damn, this stuff sounds mean.

    Goddamn, what a big wad of fun. I haven't been on such a fine joyride in months. Ten Benson will never win a Grammy or be invited to play the "Old Time Gospel Hour," but fuckitall, man. This stuff is simply concentrated ecstasy.

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


    Tora! Tora! Torrance!
    A Cynic's Nightmare
    (The Militia Group)

    A long time ago there was a glam metal band called Tora! Tora! Tora! I mention this only to point out that these boys have nothing to do with them (though I imagine both groups's names were inspired by the 1970 movie). There's no makeup and spandex here; these guys play insistent, clunky punk.

    The kinda stuff that should break down almost immediately, but instead manages not only to survive but thrive. The songs have this electric pulse flowing through them, the sort of energy that's almost impossible to create on purpose. These guys just have that special something.

    I can hear the groans out there. Screw all of you. The point is that these boys make their songs far too complicated for their own good, but they still work. Whether it's by sheer personality or some sinister force, I can't say. These songs are charming, in a messy, convoluted sorta way.

    So, see, we're not talking about the next coming of anything. My own personal feeling is that these boys got a little lucky here. Then again, there's nothing to say that they didn't earn that luck with countless hours of hard work. They even got Grant Hart to help produce the title track, which must mean something to someone, right? Shit, even I don't understand what the hell I'm saying now. So I'll shut up. Listen to this album. I bet it'll make you feel the same way.

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


    Alex Walsh
    Light Another Candle
    (self-released)

    Alex Walsh got an awful lot of his friends to back him up on this album, but this puppy sure has the feel of a one-man-band recording. The production sound is stellar; I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about-the single-minded vision behind these songs.

    Walsh has his own particular style of songwriting, one that brings to mind such influences as the Small Faces and the Who and other fine rockers from the early 70s. Walsh decorates his songs with plenty of organ and piano and vocal overdubs, but he never lets them overshadow the songs themselves.

    And damn, if this lush sound isn't so pristine you could cook up crank in it. That's kind of an oxymoron, of course, but that's why I'm so impressed. The sound is ultra-clean, but it's also loose and full. I'm not sure how else to explain it, but it sure does work.

    The songs themselves are just as crafted, though Walsh has an off-handed feel that keeps the proceedings moving at a leisurely pace. Just the sort of album to wrap things up with. Ease on back and take a load off. This stunning album will help you fade in a most pleasant way.

    Contact:
    e-mail: alex@alexwalsh.net
    www: http://www.alexwalsh.net


    Also recommended:

    Aesop Rock Bazooka Tooth (Def Jux)
    An almost entirely new sound for Aesop Rock on this release. Here he throws down some heavy and throbbing beats to go with his lean, complex rhymes. This puppy may be a wee bit too conceptual--there's an awful lot of meta running around both the music and the rhymes. Still most satisfying.

    Atmosphere Seven's Travels (Rhymesayers-Epitaph)
    One of the most aptly-named acts around, Atmosphere creates its own sonic sphere within which it spins its ideas. The music is wonderfully involving, but the rhymes are even more arresting. I have a feeling I'll be liking this one much more on listen #20.

    Bad Girls Unauthorized Recordings (Public Eyesore)
    An improvisational trio consisting of strings (violin), reeds (clarinet or sax) and guitar. With some electronic noodling tossed in for good measure. Very, very messy, but in a most approachable way. I like the way these guys channel their energies.

    Billy Talent Billy Talent (Atlantic)
    I guess bands like Therapy? and Helmet established that hard rock pop bands aren't entirely out of order. Billy Talent takes the throbbing grooves of those bands, adds a hardcore edge (not unlike early Helmet) and then tosses in Benjamin Kowalewicz's distinctive (slightly whiny/screechy) vocals. The major label production is a bit too bright for my taste, but these boys do have the chops.

    Full Dimstar (self-released)
    Full operates in a world of its own. Somewhere in the whole electronic-gothic-world beat sphere, if that makes any sense of all. There is an Indian (as in the subcontinent) burble to the beats, and there are all sorts of little extras thrown in on the sides. All that meshes pretty well into a spooky, pretty melange of sound.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 4063
    Ann Arbor, MI 48106-4063
    www: http://www.rememberfull.com

    Gravity Propulsion System Poison Rays of Sound (Ascetic)
    Lots of high-end noise and plenty of guilty-pleasure riffage. Not exactly a common combination, especially when you throw in waves of distortion and lots of feedback. Gravity Propulsion System keeps everything under control (generally), with the result being a most arresting album.

    Holiday Rain No Sound Like the Present (Serendipity)
    These guys have that late-60s pop sound down, including that messy sound where all the instruments bleed together in a most appealing fashion. The songwriting is generally very good, as well, though I'm still blown away by how this sounds. I know, it's technically flawed in so many ways. It still works, and that's what's important.

    Huge MMII (self-released)
    Six songs recorded live at Arlene's Grocery in NYC. If this is the boys's real live sound, I'm impressed. These low-key rockers slyly sneak up on you, waiting until just the right moment to pounce. I hope the guys don't get in a studio and trick out the sound. Keep it simple (like here) and let the songs speak for themselves.
    Contact:
    e-mail: jason@hugeband.com
    www: http://www.hugeband.com

    Kitten for Christian Privilege of Your Company (Serjical Strike)
    So what if you wanted to combine new wave sensibilities with a garage sound? You might get Kitten for Christian. The songs have an early-80s feel to them (particularly in the vocals, which remind me a lot of a more muscular Robert Smith), but the contruction and production sound is much more lo-fi. Know what? It works pretty damned well.

    Livingroom Legends Honeymoon (self-released)
    A husband and wife team that plays some nice rootsy jangle-pop. Kinda Byrds-y, though the production is much more stripped-down. The songs themselves are quite well-written. They're the real stars here.
    Contact:
    Ken and Mindy Stephens
    4687 Brookwood Ln., Box 11
    Grovetown, GA 30813
    www: http://www.livingroomlegends.com

    Nerf Herder My E.P. (Honest Don's)
    Six songs (nine if you get the CD) from these pop-punk icons. Don't let the titles fool you. "Hotel California" isn't a cover, and "Fight For Your Right to Masturbate" doesn't have anything to do with a certain Beastie Boys song. Simply a big wad of fun, and that's no pun.

    Pansy Division Total Enterainment (Alternative Tentacles)
    These guys have always straddled the line between fun-with-a-message and annoying stridency. This disc is a fine example of that struggle, though in the end most of the songs have sweet enough hooks to keep the smiles coming.

    Leigh Silver & Bitter Things Leigh Silver & Bitter Things EP (self-released)
    Leigh Silver is an aspiring actress, and my guess is that she's a better actor than a singer. But she sure does play a singer well, and Bitter Things crank out some seriously delectable pop-rockers. Not quite Letters to Cleo good, but very solid and appealing nonetheless.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 93273
    Los Angeles, CA 90093
    www: http://www.leighsilver.com

    Various Artists Every Word: A Tribute to Let's Active (Laughing Outlaw)
    Back in the 80s bands like Let's Active, the dBs and the Connells made my little corner of the New South something of a pop-rock center. This disc proves that Mitch Easter really does deserve some serious acclaim. After all these years, the songs still stand up quite nicely.

    Words for Snow/Tristan da Cunha split LP (The Losing Blueprint)
    Two bands, similar approaches. Both bounce all over the post-rock spectrum, going from moody and introspective to a blistering maelstrom in no time flat. The impressive thing is that the songs still make sense. Words for Snow's contribution comes from the studio, while Tristan da Cunha's cuts are live, but there just isn't that big a difference. Two halves make a greater whole here.

    Ayami Yo-Ko Ayami Yo-Ko (Public Eyesore)
    Just electric guitar and voice, and decidedly strange voice and guitar at that. Reminds me a bit of a Japanese Loren MazzaCane Connors, though these pieces are stranger and generally more out there. A trip only for the most daring.


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