Welcome to A&A. There are 20 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 #247 reviews
(November 2003)

  • All Out War Condemned to Suffer (Victory)
  • Jon Allmett Nowhere Is Too Far (self-released)
  • Anti-Flag The Terror State (Fat Wreck Chords)
  • Craig Bennett Faster Forward (Black Cottage)
  • Cheer-Acccident Introducing Lemon (Skin Graft)
  • Chicklet Indian Summer (Satellite)
  • The Chinese Stars Turbo Mattress "weaponized" CD (Skin Graft)
  • Christiansen Stylish Nihilists (Revelation)
  • Desert City Soundtrack Funeral Car (Deep Elm)
  • For No One in Particular For No One in Particular (Amulet)
  • The Gay You Know the Rules (Mint)
  • The Gray Field Recordings Sing 99 and 90 (Ethedrone)
  • Heros Severum Get Ur Freak On/Rock N Roll Nigga 7" (Two Sheds)
  • Jet by Day/The Maginot Line split 7" (Two Sheds)
  • Steve Kilpatrick Westside Crop Circles (self-released)
  • One Step Beyond Life Imitates Art (self-released)
  • Speer Sixes & Sevens (self-released)
  • When Dreams Become Nightmares Lucid EP (self-released)
  • Young and Sexy Life Through One Speaker (Mint)
  • Zentropia Fables of the Celestial Night (self-released)
  • Once more, with feeling: Re-issues, anthologies and compilations
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    All Out War
    Condemned to Suffer
    (Victory)

    Back in the day (when All Out War first got going), folks might have argued about whether the boys fit into the death metal or grindcore camp. I think there's a pretty solid case for death metal--the riffs are melodic, and there's a sharp, metallic edge to the guitars. These days, though, most folks just call this sort of thing "extreme." Fine by me.

    The important question is one of quality. All Out War delivers a blistering, textured attack. There's plenty of pure aggression, but I like the way the boys integrate quieter moments into the mix. The arrangements sound great, nothing forced or contrived.

    The sound itself is full and round, providing a very nice canvas for the songs. Perhaps the most important aspect of loud music is the production sound. Too little, and even the greatest songs sound thin. Too much, and you lose that all-important visceral feel. All Out War has hit it just right.

    A tasty bit of adrenochrome. These boys have been doing their thing for quite some time, and I think they just might have put their best disc forward with this album.

    Contact:
    Victory
    346 North Justine
    Suite 504
    Chicago, IL 60607
    Phone (888) 447-3267
    Fax [312] 666-8665
    www: http://www.victoryrecords.com


    Jon Allmett
    Nowhere Is Too Far
    (self-released)

    Jon Allmett plays that catchy singer-songwriter stuff that's all over the place right now--the kinda stuff I usually can't stand. But Allmett has a couple of good things going for him. For starters, his lyrics are incisive and often poetic. And whenever I think he's about to totally cheese out the music, he kicks into a more interesting gear.

    I can't say that's a good idea if he wants to score the big check. You can bet that his song "Free?" ("I am free as long as I'm silent"--I really like the phrasing which contrasts the full words and the contraction for "I am") won't be making the rounds on ClearChannel or Cox stations any time soon. And those great little quirky musical shifts that I like are the sort of things that make commercial radio cringe.

    But the sound, oh, the sound is sooooo big time. Rich and vibrant and alive, but it doesn't overpower Allmett's voice or his songs. Indeed, the lush-but-punchy feel is just about perfect for Allmett's slightly off-kilter vision.

    Pretty damned fine. I'm of the opinion that singer-songwriter stuff is hit-or-miss for most people--what some like, others will hate just as much. Well, I like Allmett. He sure has a way of making his music come alive.

    Contact:
    e-mail: jon@jonallmett.com
    www: http://www.jonallmett.com


    Anti-Flag
    The Terror State
    (Fat Wreck Chords)

    Anti-Flag is more than willing to help Fat Mike and the Fat crew in its unrelenting attack on the Bush presidency. The cardboard slipcover for this disc contains a "one term president" design, with instructions for creating stencils, posters and flyers. I've already been down to the copy shop, myself.

    Of course, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Anti-Flag is willing to take a political stand. This band has been pure punk since its inception. And the songs here take on not only the Bushwa but also GATT, mindless media and other prime targets.

    These boys have always used slick production to showcase their ample and varied songwriting styles. Oh, to be sure, we're talking about melodic punk. And Anti-Flag doesn't buy completely into ska like, say, the Clash. Everything comes back to three chords and straight beats. But there's some texture, nonetheless.

    Another fine outing from the guys. The lyrics are as fiery as ever--without being excessively preachy. Play it loud. Piss off the president, and anyone else who is foolish enough to follow without thinking.

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


    Craig Bennett
    Faster Forward
    (Black Cottage)

    If Craig Bennett didn't pay attention to his craft, his idiosyncratic observational songs would quickly get tiring. Mind-numbing, even. But Bennett makes sure that each dark little notion is slotted into the correct position, and wonderful pop songs fall out.

    It's quite possible to pay too much attention to form, ending up with cookie-cutter songs. Bennett's point of view is so contorted that he needs a little convention to get him back within the viewfinder. And boy, does he know how to turn out a fine downcast line.

    Bennett prefers a minimalist feel to his sound. He does allow things to get messy now and again, but usually that's the result of distortion rather than reverb. There's very little echo, and in general the feel is a bit flat. Which fits his wonderfully subversive noirs just fine.

    I've heard a few Bennett albums, and they're all great. This one doesn't really take him to another level, but he was already pretty high up there. Pain junkies, here's your next fix.

    Contact:
    Black Cottage
    P.O. Box 190806
    Atlanta, GA 31119
    e-mail: meetus@blackcottage.com
    www: http://www.blackcottage.com


    Cheer-Accident
    Introducing Lemon
    (Skin Graft)

    Okay, so this is the new Cheer-Accident album. Last month's comic book soundtrack thingy was way cool, but this here's the goods.

    The goods in that every song comes as a complete surprise. Well, I suppose anyone who knows the band expects the unexpected, but past that, you know? There's prog, pop, rock, funk, jazz and plenty of goofiness. Oh, and I think I heard some sitar in there somewhere. Of course.

    Albini engineered (duh), which means the sound is pretty darn near exquisite. Some bands don't know how to use his talents, but Cheer-Accident is precisely the sort of band that Albini knows how to handle. Creativity begets creativity.

    Um, yeah, like I said. This is the new Cheer-Accident album. It's fucking amazing. Sorry if I can't be more specific, but I've really got to get back to the headphones. There's way too much going on here to pick it all up in the first hundred listens.

    Contact:
    Skin Graft
    P.O. Box 257546
    Chicago, IL 60625
    Phone (312) 989-9865
    Fax [312] 989-9202
    www: http://www.skingraftrecords.com


    Chicklet
    Indian Summer
    (Satellite Records)

    Chicklet is a duo from Toronto with a California record deal. Julie Park is the main songwriter, and she and Daniel Barida share the musical duties. Park sings a lot more than Barida. I'm not sure how all this works out live, but that really doesn't matter here.

    Nope. What matters is how the music sounds on this disc, and it sounds great. Park has one of those strong-yet-ethereal voices, the kind that can achieve that bell-ringing tone when it really gets going. She likes to write fairly unnuanced songs, and those compliment her voice quite nicely.

    Bascially, each song has a nice beat, a solid riff and the vocals (Barida's vocals, when they come, are strangely similar to Park's). A simple construction set, and it works. Don't make something good more complicated than it needs to be. Just let it ride.

    Nothing spectacular, I guess, but Chicklet sure does know how to make some ace pop songs. It sounds effortless on this album, but man, putting together an album this good just isn't that easy. I'm more than impressed.

    Contact:
    Satellite Records
    920 E. Colorado Blvd. #151
    Pasadena, CA 91106
    www: http://www.satelliterecords.com


    The Chinese Stars
    Turbo Mattress "weaponized CD"
    (Skin Graft)

    The "weaponized" bit simply means that the CD has been cut into the shape of a four-cornered Chinese throwing star. This means that you can't put it into your carousel CD player (my first choice) or, most likely, your computer (my second choice). I also tried to put it on a sliding-tray player, and it didn't work. But, like any audio junkie, I've got an ancient portable CD player, the kind where you snap the disc right on the motor. Worked like a charm.

    So here's the thing. The Chinese Stars are Craig Kureck and Eric Paul of Arab on Radar and Richard Ivan Pelletier of Six Finger Satellite. There is also a certain Paul Vieira, of whom the press sheet says nothing. So I won't. Anyway, if the previous band names mean nothing to you (and you've never heard of Skin Graft Records, for that matter), go on to the next review. Because what I say in the next paragraph just won't apply to you.

    If necessary, buy a CD player which will play this. I think you can get something down at the Best Buy for forty bucks that will do the trick. But man, does this puppy wail. This is the distillation of no wave into its most powerful, vaguely coherent parts. These are primal wails of insight and anguish. This shit smokes.

    Right. And if all else fails, you can sacrifice your cat with the CD. So it's got that going for it as well.

    Contact:
    Skin Graft
    P.O. Box 257546
    Chicago, IL 60625
    Phone (312) 989-9865
    Fax [312] 989-9202
    www: http://www.skingraftrecords.com


    Christiansen
    Stylish Nihilists
    (Revelation)

    Christiansen's strident buzzsaw prog approach sounds just like the early days of emo--back before it was called that, of course. But there's a strong Jawbox feel to this album. And that's a good thing, really. Because few bands moved a sound further than that D.C. quartet.

    Christiansen constantly pushes its songs to achieve more than they really can. There's a desperate anthemic feel to these clunky pieces, which often leaves a limping or lurching impression. I think that's exactly what these guys want. There's so much passion and force that the music is almost squeezed into introspection by willpower alone.

    Sometimes old school is a good place to be. And when you can take those classic nuggets and forge something even more beautiful, well, you've done your job as an artist. These boys have impressed from the first song I heard. This album is no different.

    In fact, I think this is easily the band's most complete effort. The writing is so dense, so thick with ideas and implied thought that it's impossible to work through everything at once. Listen again, and you'll hear an even better album. Masterful.

    Contact:
    Revelation
    P.O. Box 5232
    Huntington Beach, CA 92615
    Phone (714) 375-4264
    Fax [714] 375-4266
    www: http://www.revelationrecords.com


    Desert City Soundtrack
    Funeral Car
    (Deep Elm)

    These boys really impressed me with their album last year, and this one picks right up where that left off. The trend of using piano and horns in punk music (in a non-ska setting, that is) is still coming over the horizon, but I like the approach. Take the energy and vitality of punk and add some new melodic elements.

    Desert City Soundtrack, of course, isn't particularly melodic. It's more like the melodies are implied. The vocals are distinctly off-kilter, and the music rambles in and out of tune. Or, if Christiansen is a rougher-edged update of Jawbox, let's say these folks are a more raucous Archers of Loaf.

    Indeed, the approach is very similar. Even the most blistering track is still based on a piano line, and the songs tend to clump themselves somewhat clumsily around whatever idea the keys are providing. You might think this sounds messy. It is. Sublimely so.

    A step forward. And if you recall that last year's album was a feature, well, that's saying something. Desert City Soundtrack has a hold of something truly special. If the band continues to hew this road, well, greatness just might emerge.

    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


    For No One in Particular
    For No One in Particular
    (Amulet)

    I'm not entirely sure if "For No One in Particular" is the name of an act or simply the name of the album. The players are Billy Martin and Grant Calvin Weston on all sorts of percussion (Weston adds some trumpet when necessary) and DJ Logic (Jason Kibler) on turntable. The key here is that this is a live recording. Really.

    So what we're dealing with here is an astonishingly exciting fusion of electronic effects, beats from hip-hop and the entire world beyond and a seriously whacked-out vision of jazz. I know that description doesn't do the music justice. But it will have to do.

    This album is the sort of thing that could only happen in a few places in the world, spots where the creative mass is so combustible that folks wander in and out of gigs, scenes and sounds without worrying about propriety. New York, where this album was recorded, has been one of those places since, you know, forever. But it's not just a place that makes this album great. It's the willingness of the three guys here to take astonishing chances--and work together--that makes this disc so amazing.

    Not to disparage any rock drummer in particular, but this is no mere hour-long drum solo. Percussion involves a bewildering array of instruments and sounds, and Martin and Weston seem to work as many of them into this performance as possible. This is life-blood.

    Contact:
    Amulet Records
    P.O.Box 311
    Closter, NJ 07624-0311
    Phone/Fax (201) 567-6955
    www: http://www.amuletrecords.com


    The Gay
    You Know the Rules
    (Mint)

    Much like Young and Sexy (reviewed later in this issue), I've never quite gotten into the Gay. Which is odd, because I've often felt this sort of psychic connection to the folks at Mint. They seem to like the same sorta off-kilter pop that I do. I just found the earlier Gay stuff to be a bit too mannered for my taste. Good, mind you, but just off my radar.

    Not so here. Maybe I've matured; maybe the band has subtly altered its attention to craft. You've got me. But I like this album. There's enough sweetness in the hooks to offset some of the excess structure.

    What mean by that is that the Gay pays very close attention to what it is playing. These aren't simple three-chord songs. There's a definite Bacharachian affectation to the melodies. Sometimes notes are added for very little discernible reason. When that works, it's kitschy. It's cool. On this album, it's cool most of the time.

    The Gay is the sort of band that college music geeks love. I always sneered at this stuff back when I was in school some (gasp) 15 years ago, but it's grown on me since. Whatever the reason, and for whatever it's worth, I like this album. These folks sure have studied their music theory, and they make it sound quite fun.

    Contact:
    Mint Records
    P.O. Box 3613
    Main Post Office
    Vancouver, BC V6B 3Y6
    Canada
    Phone (604) 669-MINT
    Fax [604] 669-6478
    e-mail: mintrand@aol.com
    www: http://www.mintrecs.com


    The Gray Field Recordings
    Sing 99 and 90
    (Ethedrone)

    The description of Gray Field Recordings on the Ethedrone web site is simply "experimental music." Yep. Hard to argue with that.

    What we're dealing with here is a fine series of electronic noise, vocal samples and the odd wind and string instruments. Assembled in ways that sound, shall we say, decidedly unhuman.

    I've always felt that the purpose of music like this is to challenge a listener to rethink his or her concept of reality, to facilitate a serious introspective jag and to aid in the creation of new and innovative thought. This album succeeds on all three fronts.

    The key isn't in making as strange a sound as possible. Rather, it's in putting those sounds together in such a way as to spark intrigue. Even at its harshest and most shrill, the Gray Field Recordings make sure to keep the listener in the loop. Good preparation for the more coherent, contemplative moments which follow. Hey, I know most folks can't stand this sort of thing. That's their loss. I'll buy a ticket every time.

    Contact:
    Ethedrone Records
    e-mail: frank@ethedrone.com
    www: www.ethedrone.com


    Heros Severum
    Get Ur Freak On/Rock and Roll Nigga 7"
    (Two Sheds)

    Described by the band on the sleeve as a "tribute" to two artists (Patti Smith and Missy Elliot) who "are not afraid to try a new sound," this seven-inch is certainly intriguing.

    Start with the fact that Heros Severum travels somewhere in the post-rock universe, and it doesn't abandon that sound for these songs. I believe that is kinda the point here, of course, but the new interpretations of these songs are quite refreshing.

    Hey, you oughta try new things out on yer tiny vinyl excursions, right? Heros Severum has the right idea. This one is a real winner.

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


    Jet by Day/The Maginot Line
    split 7"
    (Two Sheds)

    One shot each from these bands, and each makes the most of the grooves. That's what you like to hear.

    Jet by Day's "Cheap Shots" is a real chunky rockin' raver that reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick. I'm not sure there's any relation to the song title or if I'm just on a hangover from cruising through the Sex, America, Cheap Trick boxed set last week. Anyway, the song is loud and fun, which works for me.

    The Maginot Line's "Theme Song" is a frenetic workout, not unlike what I've heard from the band before. It's got a real nice post-indie rock feel (how's that for mashing yer genres?), and the energy keeps up throughout the whole piece. no flagging whatsoever.

    Again, this is what a seven-inch ought to be: a slab of fun. The two bands here match up well, and they make a nice team here.

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


    Steve Kilpatrick
    Westside Crop Circles
    (self-released)

    Loopy, and sometimes spooky, songs driven by bluesy, technically-picked guitar. Enough contradictions in there for you?

    Kilpatrick's general style is all over the book, though since his songs are built solidly around whatever guitar line he's created (and often enough it's just him and his guitar), the general feel is minimalist. He might be playing some blues or a little rockabilly (his two favorite influences), but the sound is fairly consistent.

    He likes reverb, but not distortion. There's plenty of echo in his vocals, but no overdubs. If you want a reference, Kilpatrick's favorite Beatle has to be George. He's just one notch off where you might expect his songs to go--a very good instinct, if you ask me.

    A cool, kick-back sort of album. And while every little thing on this disc was created by Kilpatrick, he really doesn't fit into the whole singer-songwriter stereotype. More of a mad scientist who knows how to write good songs. I like that, myself.

    Contact:
    Expeditious Productions
    P.O. Box 109
    Dewitt, MI 49920
    e-mail: expeditiousproductions@yahoo.com


    One Step Beyond
    Life Imitates Art
    (self-released)

    Death metal with a drum machine. I know, I know, everyone calls this stuff extreme nowadays, but Justin Wood hocks up his vocals in a wondrously classic style. The speeds riffs combined with some anthemic riffs bring to mind Iron Maiden on steroids.

    I do think the boys could use better transitions between phases. I am a bit more tolerant of this sort of thing than I used to be, and One Step Beyond at least tries to put in some coherent bridges, but every once in a while the collisions are a bit jarring.

    Still, when you're able to bring to mind such different bands as Mordred, Venom and Cannibal Corpse--and sound better at times--well, you must be doing something right. One Step Beyond may be old school, but it's working its ass off to bring this sound up to date.

    I think I'm reviewing more loud stuff this issue than I have all year. Maybe I have a craving that needs to be satisfied. Or, maybe, bands like One Step Beyond are better than what I've been hearing. Personally, I think it's the latter. These guys are a lot of fun.


    Speer
    Sixes & Sevens
    (self-released)

    It's odd. As I vainly searched the Speer website for snailmail contact info, I came across the "official" description of the band. Something along the lines of pop, rock, alternative and then some. For some reason, no one thought of soul.

    Maybe it's just because James Speer's voice is highly reminiscent (in all the good ways) of Seal. And maybe it's because he and his band fill out the sound on this disc to lushly evocative levels. I dunno. Just screams soul to me.

    Not that there isn't plenty of rock and pop and all that. And I suppose it is alternative, in that people seem to forget that rock and soul used to be the same damned thing. It's not like many people are trying to make music like this these days.

    Few are making it this well, in any case. Speer has an almost perfect ear for writing songs, and the production here presents them in full glory. The sort of "alternative" that could break big quite easily.

    Contact:
    e-mail: james@speermusic.com
    www: http://www.speermusic.com


    When Dreams Become Nightmares
    Lucid EP
    (40Hz)

    I don't know if it's the food, the voodoo, or something else. All I know is that there have been a number of great loud bands from New Orleans. When Dreams Become Nightmares follows in a proud tradition.

    The sound here is a fine cross between anthemic, melodic Eurometal, hardcore and serious death metal speed. With a dose of the grind thrown in just to make things meaner. These guys have written some astonishingly long songs (for this kinda music), but they work. The ambition is impressive. The execution is incredible.

    Okay, so these boys are young. As long as no one comes along to eliminate a few of their wide-ranging influences, I think these boys could make some serious noise before they're done.

    Contact:
    40Hz Records
    828 Royal St. #413
    New Orleans, LA 70116
    www: http://www.40hzrecords.com


    Young and Sexy
    Life Through One Speaker
    (Mint)

    As I mentioned in my review of the Gay earlier in this issue, I've struggled with a previous lack of enthusiasm for Young and Sexy. The music is fine. In fact, I think the problem might be that it's too fine.

    Much the same way the High Llamas make stuff that might be a wee bit too fine. Refined, I suppose, is a better way to put this. Young and Sexy has taken off all the edges. The lyrics are clever, but not biting. The pop is sweeping and gorgeous, with very little blemishes anywhere.

    I like a few imperfections here and there. Young and Sexy doesn't. For whatever reason, I like this album better. It's certainly another stunning set of songs, and the production is, as usual, lush and ultra clean. The question that remains is can I question something that approaches perfection?

    Of course I can, but I choose not to here. Music for the beautiful people, I suppose. This album sure is quite a looker. Maybe I'll have to refine my thoughts about refined music.

    Contact:
    Mint Records
    P.O. Box 3613
    Main Post Office
    Vancouver, BC V6B 3Y6
    Canada
    Phone (604) 669-MINT
    Fax [604] 669-6478
    e-mail: mintrand@aol.com
    www: http://www.mintrecs.com


    Zentropia
    Fables of the Celestial Night
    (self-released)

    I have a friend who once threatened to kill the next music reviewer who used the word "soundscape." and Zentropia doesn't create soundscapes in the traditional sense. What it does is create an alternate musical universe, once which allows it to more fully express its own thoughts on reality.

    How cool is that?

    Oh, I'm sure this sounds like fancy-schmancy talk from the poncy reviewer, but the truth is that a lot of ambient/dub/electronic acts simply try to make things as weird as possible and pass that off as art. Well, it is, and I happen to like that kinda stuff, but Zentropia does one better. In creating its own electronic realm, it also creates its own laws of physics. And so, sounds that would make no sense when combined in our world are perfectly simpatico in theirs.

    Did I just repeat myself? Probably. Fuckit. These boys have some serious talent. They're not only ace producers (as they should be), but they've created quite the living document here. It's easy to get sucked in.

    Alright, if yer gonna do the whole soundscape thing you oughta go whole hog. Most bands don't. Zentropia did. And that makes this album something truly special.

    Contact:
    575 Cole Street #202
    San Francisco, CA 94117
    e-mail: zentropia@zentropia.com
    www: http://www.zentropia.com


    Once more, with feeling:

    The Gits Enter: The Conquering Chicken (Broken Rekids)
    The second (and final) album by this almost-big Seattle band. Finished after the murder of singer Mia Zapata, this album always sounded strange to me. This re-issue adds three studio tracks and seven live cuts--sort of a "works" package. A more fitting final statement by a band that should have been.

    Sticks and Stones The Strife and Times 2xCD (Chunksaah)
    Sticks and Stones isn't the greatest punk band in the history of the world, but this generous retrospective is quite impressive. Seven years of hard work (and more than a few good songs) crammed into 41 tracks on two discs. A nice little "history of a band" set.

    Teenage Fanclub Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-six Seconds: A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub (Jetset)
    I didn't like these guys when they were a "next big thing." I was wrong (about not liking them, not the "next big thing" part). The boys from Glasgow sure did know how to craft some fine power pop. Listening to this set, two questions kept cropping up: Who owns the rights to the actual albums? and Can I please go buy them now?

    Various Artists Monosyllabic 001 (Monosyllabic)
    Eighteen tracks of some of the most abstract players in the whole post-rock/avant-rock/noise rock fusion/whatever scene. This is a full immersion set; beginners need not apply.

    Various Artists Pabst Blue Ribbon Cleveland Kansas City CD/2x7" (Rumblefish/Pabst Brewing Co.)
    I'm not a big fan of beer companies co-opting music. But this is a truly creative idea: a 15-track CD of bands from K.C. and Cleveland (two music scenes I've been connected with, by the way), and a seven-inch for each city with even more music. Yeah, the stuff is uneven (these are young bands, after all). But you have give kudos for the support. It's nice to see bands taking advantage of a beer company's largesse without selling their souls.

    Various Artists Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before... (Rough Trade)
    Remember the Elektra Records 50th anniversary compilation? The one where the label had its current roster cover previous hits for the label. Faster Pussycat doing "You're So Vain?" Metallica doing "Stone Cold Crazy?" Right. Same thing, except for Rough Trade. There are some strange choices, but hell, when you're distilling 25 years (well, Rough Trade started in 1978, though it hasn't exactly been a going concern continuously since then) into 16 tracks, that's gonna happen. An intriguing set.

    Various Artists Video Game Music (No Sides)
    Whereupon some of the finest minds in experimental electronic music lay down some edgy tracks that are based on, you know, the bleeps and blurps of 1980s video games. It's a brilliant concept, and in the hands of masters like Panicsville, Royal Space Force the entire set is unimaginably wondrous. I could go on and on about this, but let's just say anyone who spent any time trying to repair one of those crappy 2600 joysticks ought to go mind over fuck for this.

    Also recommended:

    Between the Buried and Me The Silent Circus (Victory)
    Rather lushly-produced grindy stuff with flashes of noodly guitar. The dichotomies are intriguing, and these boys rarely let up off the pedal. Plenty of brutality, and enough thought to keep the songs interesting.

    The Dirtbombs The Dirtbombs (In the Red)
    The Dirtbombs would like you to think that they're just another cool garage band. Ha! Everything from the faux lo-fi production to the fine, scratchy hooks screams 70s punk. Which was something of a continuation of the original garage. But I'm confusing myself. Quality is what counts, and this album oozes goodness.

    Joe Dirty Not Your Average Joe (self-released)
    Joe Dirty is nothing if not tight with current sounds. He sings, he rhymes and his beats are highly derivative. But those rhymes...Joe Dirty is smooth as hell, and he manages to deliver messages without preaching. The intelligence of this album kinda snuck up on me; I found myself constantly saying, "Damn, that's good."
    Contact:
    EDC Entertainment
    P.O. Box 25519
    Fayetteville, NC 28314
    Phone (800) 284-8195

    Electric Turn to Me Clouds Move So Fast (No Quarter)
    Another fine, eclectic outing from this Brooklyn band. The sound is fuzzed-out electronic--except that the stuff is performed by a band. There is a vague goth feel, but I think it's more of a new wave thing. Kinda robotic, atonal melodies, that sort of thing. No one makes music like this; I think that's what I like most about these folks.

    Grounded All-Too-Human (Surprise Truck)
    Four kids in America who have the ultra-clean, ultra-tight sound of a Millencolin. Or Pennywise. The hooks are muscular, but always sweet. I do wish the boys had a bit more of an original sound, but shit, they do this stuff so well. A guilty (well, not that guilty) pleasure.

    Jim's Big Ego They're Everywhere (self-released)
    Jim Infatino and pals write some seriously self--absorbed songs. The music is catchy as hell, but the lyrics are often a bit too cumbersome. Overwriting doesn't exactly help pop music flow smoothly. Still, these guys manage to make this stuff sound much better than it should. Geek pop isn't all bad.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 441595
    W. Somerville, MA 02144
    www: http://www.bigego.com

    Juniper Lane Sirens from a Mile Back (self-released)
    Swooping, soaring goth pop, complete with piano and supple female vocals. At times, the songs are a bit too dramatic, but for the most part Juniper Lane walks the line between excess and sublimity with precision. Highly attractive.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 3141
    Alexandria, VA 22302
    www: http://www.juniperlane.com

    Darren Marc Drive EP (self-released)
    Marc plays an acoustic guitar, but his pop songs are gorgeously orchestrated. Plenty of sound surrounds his playing, but his voice is what drives the songs. He's got a solid, sure style of songwriting, and his songs are like piles of velvet, luxurious to the last.
    Contact:
    Phone: (310) 926-1269
    e-mail: darrenl5@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.darrenmarc.com

    The Matthew Show Texas (self-released)
    The song is the show. The Matthew Show covers Phil Collins ("The Roof Is Leaking," from his first solo album) and includes some found tape of a band (in the distance) covering the Sweet's "Little Willy" (or maybe it's the original--it's just too hard to tell). Needless to say, Matthew (he prefers to avoid his last name) has some interesting tastes in pop music, and this album tries to fit as many of them in as possible. A sometimes frightening emotional roller coaster. Quite the rush.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 2611
    New York, NY 10108
    www: http://www.thematthewshow.com

    Emil McGloin The First Time Around (self-released)
    Sharply-produced singer-songwriter stuff from a local (for me, anyway) boy. I wish McGloin had a bit more confidence in his writing and dropped some of the studio nonsense (vocal overdubs, electronic additions, etc.). I'm not saying this ought to be just him and his guitar--though his writing is strong enough to carry that--but there's got to be a happy medium. Anyway, I love the songs. And the rest isn't nearly as annoying as I made it out to be. That's "bullshit music critic disease" for you.
    Contact:
    Bruther Monk Music
    P.O. Box 52570
    Durham, NC 27717
    www: http://www.emilmcgloin.com

    Mico Outside the Unbearable Grows (Welcoming Committee)
    Simply fine bash and pop. Start with the sorta chunky pop-rock that was big some 20 or so years ago, add in some thoughtful lead guitar lines that drift in and out and then give it a decidedly modern, low-key sensibility. I'm a dead sucker for this stuff, and Mico does it quite well. Big ass smiles from me.

    The Planet The Physical Angel (54-40 or Fight!)
    Manic, throbbing stuff that is too mannered and clever to be no wave but really isn't anything else. These boys have listened to a lot of U.S. Maple but tempered it with, say, the Minutemen. Yeah, a bit of a trip. But a good one. Like one of those old Greyhound $69 ride anywhere fares. You always get more than you pay for.

    Quiet After Nine Arrangements (self-released)
    Pop with punch, or merely ultra-tight emo? Probably a bit of both. Quiet After Nine isn't afraid to punk out, but it's more likely to turn inward, not unlike Clockhammer (for those who remember). Very pretty songs that pack one hell of a wallop.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.quietafternine.com

    Robb Roy Days of Pride and Hunger (self-released)
    There's a certain shine to this disc that screams "we want to make it big so badly!" That attitude isn't cool, of course, and there's the requisite article on the band's web site declaiming any such ambition. Suck it up, boys. You've made an album that is worth attention, so why not shout it out? Solid rock and roll, with all the modern accouterments. The kinks have been ironed out and the hooks straightened accordingly. Time to sell out and get on with life.
    Contact:
    P.O. Box 2358
    Dearborn, MI 48123
    www: http://www.robbroy.com

    Triple Whip Slapshot (Innocent Words)
    Yer usual post-power rock trio, complete with buggin' bass, jumpy drumming and loony guitar. I've heard this sort of thing many times before, and these folks do the sound well. There's a cool detachment to the songwriting that really helps me ease into the stuff. Good work.

    Tyrades Tyrades (Broken Rekids)
    Truly loud and messy punk. Tyrades blisters through its nine songs in just over 22 minutes. The guitar work reminds me of the Red Aunts; the attitude is stripped steel. Who gives a shit if the songs fall together every time? This stuff is alive, man.

    Vision Detonate (Chunksaah)
    New Jersey hardcore isn't that different from New York hardcore. And Vision has been around long enough to sample a bit of everything. Generally, though, these boys adhere to straight melodies and chunky riffage. Uncompromisingly solid and assertive.

    The Weisstronauts Featuring "Spritely" (Dren)
    I've taken a bit of shit about my recent comment concerning the superiority of Canadian instrumental rock. The Weisstronauts make the same case with their music. Perky, jaunty surf/rockabilly/party pop that never lets up. And yes, "Spritely" is a damn fine number.


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