Welcome to A&A. There are 18 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 #256 reviews (August 2004)
  • Baby Strange Put Out (Primary Voltage)
  • Barbez Barbez (Important)
  • Blurt The Best of Blurt Volume 1--A Fish Needs Bike (Salamander)
  • The Cinch Shake It If You Got It (Dirtnap)
  • The Cocker Spaniels Withstand the Whatnot (Artbreak)
  • Corporate MF The Royal We (Omega Point)
  • Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant Sister Phantom Owl Fish (Ipecac)
  • Dutch Kills Nothing Was Ever the Same (Wordclock)
  • Friends of Lizzy The Answer (self-released)
  • The Graze Iowa Anvil (J-Shirt)
  • Khoury Shearer Hall Braille (Public Eyesore)
  • Ming & Ping Mingping.com (Omega Point)
  • The Oranges Band Two Thousands (Morphius)
  • Renato Rinaldi The Time and the Room (Public Eyesore)
  • The Slackers International War Criminal EP (Thought Squad)
  • Teedo Luvatomic (self-released)
  • Brandon Wiard Painting a Burning Building (Cerberus)
  • Woosley Band Event Failure Vibrations (self-released)
  • Old friends: Releases from folks you might know
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Baby Strange
    Put Out
    (Primary Voltage)

    The press says these guys worship at the altar of the Who, the Zombies, etc. And let's not forget the band's, um, namesake, the tune from T.Rex's The Slider. So we've got some anglo-pop, some straight-up rock and roll and a certain modern sensibility that ties it all together.

    Indeed, these boys are anything but retro copycats. Sure, that opening lick for "Broken Heart Mechanic" is tres Bolan, but the song incorporates some Stones-y attitude and a little bit of Big Star tunesmithing. These boys do have a bit of a penchant for the blue-eyed soul as well. A nice mix of styles that mix well together.

    The sound has that clean-yet-thick feel that made those classic T.Rex albums so great. Not overdone, but enough power to get the adrenaline pumping. Quite nice.

    Just one of those albums that sounds great from the first riff. Baby Strange has a knack for writing fine songs, and they made sure to get the right sound as well. That sort of attention to detail is always good to see, and it bodes well for the band as it further harnesses its power.

    Primary Voltage
    P.O. Box 382221
    Cambridge, MA 02238
    www: http://www.primaryvoltage.com


    Important releases stuff from the likes of Jad Fair, Merzbow, Daniel Johnston, etc. Indeed, the King Missile III album reviewed below is also an Important release. So right off, I got the idea that this wasn't going to be just any ol' album.

    I guess not. The dominant instruments are violin and marimba, with a healthy dose of accordion. The Kurt Weill-meets-Residents-meets-Russian wedding band reference from the web site isn't that far off. The accordion and marimba do lend an "old Europe" feel to the pieces here, which are themselves steeped in the European art song tradition.

    Well, until they kinda devolve into punky noise and general chaos. See, Barbez is almost as interested in deconstruction as it is in standard musical forms, and that dichotomy makes for some most interesting conflicts. These songs often sound like a musical representation of a Stalingrad reenactment--staged within the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic.

    Mind you, I think that's utterly awesome. Barbez is perfectly willing to play nice. For a time. And then the knives come out. Those moments are the ones that really grab me. Mordant and glistening with greatness.

    Important Records
    P.O. Box 1281
    Newburyport, MA 01950
    www: www.importantrecords.com

    The Best of Blurt--Volume One--The Fish Needs a Bike
    (Salamander Rcords)

    Ted Milton plays sax. Blurt was (and is) his outfit, a nice little trio (guitar and drums). The tracks here were recorded from 1980-1986 (Vol. 2 will be released at some future date). Those are the facts. But there's a lot more to tell.

    First, Milton isn't a jazz saxophonist. I'm sure he's played a little jazz here and there (and maybe even a lot), but the noises he makes here are good old rock and roll. The stripped-down rhythm section is as bare as it can be, but that just gives these songs that much more kinetic impulse.

    Not unlike Flat Duo Jets--the groundbreaking guitar and drum garagabilly duo--Blurt's charms are amplified by the decidedly low-tech approach to writing and recording. I didn't hear any overdubs; it sounds like these songs were recorded live to tape. They certainly have that loose, akimbo feel to them. It's hard not to get swept up in the fun.

    I gave in almost immediately. Blurt's charms aren't refined, but that only makes them that much more irresistible. One of those albums that is simply too much fun to avoid.

    Salamander Records
    P.O. Box 11
    Hereford HR3 6YB
    United Kingdom
    www: http://www.salamanderrecords.com

    The Cinch
    Shake It If You Got It

    Somewhere between Iggy and the Stooges and Poster Children--but much better-produced and fronted by two female singers--lies the Cinch. These songs have a fine raw power that is refined into a tuneful current.

    That's the feel I get, ragged punk pop represented by a rolling river. The melodies float nicely above the tight, insistent rhythm section. The sorta stuff that gets hypnotic in a hurry.

    I suppose I could reference a band like Pluto and that whole "strummed punk" movement of ten years back (or so), but I like my initial reaction better. The sound is much, much more refined than most Dirtnap releases. In itself, that doesn't mean much, but these songs sound better with rounded tones than they would with a sharper, more jagged approach.

    Just about everything here is spot on. I quite liked the first Cinch EP, but this is much better. The band is beginning to really get a handle on its sound. The folks have moved from solid to very, very good. I can't wait to hear what's next.

    P.O. Box 21249
    Seattle, WA 98111
    www: http://www.dirtnaprecs.com

    The Cocker Spaniels
    Withstand the Whatnot

    Sean Padilla just graduated from Baylor. He's been making recordings as the Cocker Spaniels for something like 10 years now. In the beginning, it was a band. For quite a while now, it's been just him.

    And that makes this a most interesting CD. The songs take on everything from race relations (apparently some of his earlier albums were more focused on racism, but his observations here are more wry and revealing than angry and bitter) to the vagaries of boy-girl relations. I don't think it would be entirely fair to call him the black Jad Fair, but then again, the first song on this album is titled, "The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show." You make the call.

    Certainly, the music does share a certain idiosyncratic feel with Fair, and Padilla himself claims to take great inspiration from Guided By Voices. That and other similar influences come through loud and clear.

    But what drives this album is Padilla's skill as an observational poet. I'm not usually taken by the lyrical content of an album, but there's no other way to review this album. The music is simply a medium for conducting Padilla's thoughts. It serves its purpose, and the album shines as a result. Weird--very weird at times--but well worth investigating.

    Artbreak Recordings
    P.O. Box 84642
    Waco, TX 76798-4692
    www: http://www.artbreakrecordings.com

    Corporate MF
    The Royal We
    (Omega Point)

    Wonderfully smarmy synth-rock. Corporate MF sounds like a Smashmouth cover band playing the Ramada--except that in my imagined universe, Smashmouth wrote really good songs.

    A lot of that has to do with the decided absence of guitars. The basic sound is bass (yes, I know bass is a type of guitar...), drums, organ and synthesizer, with a few choice bits of noisy weirdness thrown in. The pieces themselves are basic 60s style groove rock, updated and shredded for the rigors of modern life.

    The sound is astonishingly dirty for such a technologically-driven band. It's a great idea; there's no good reason why these songs should be all shiny and pretty. That extra bit of aggression in the sound pays off, making the songs that much more engaging.

    One of those albums I kept meaning to put down but couldn't. I'm not entirely sure why I like it so much, but there's something about the sound and the songs that keeps the headphones glued to my head. Maybe it's one of those subliminable messages the Prez keeps whining about. No complaints from me.

    Omega Point Records
    4546 N. Damen #313
    Chicago, IL 60625
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com

    Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant
    Sister Phantom Owl Fish

    As the sticker on the jewel box says, "Yes, the Trevor Dunn from Fantomas and Mr. Bungle." Yes, it is him, and yes, trust that he'll find every excuse to wig out when he doesn't have to kowtow to anyone else's ideas.

    The songs are an unholy mess of styles and sounds. But Dunn does have a decent handle on jazz construction, and most of the time he manages to keep these songs together. In fact, the closer to jazz (as opposed to prog or hard rock or noise) the sound is, the more these songs sound coherent.

    No matter what style Dunn happens to be channeling with his guitar, he's always going at least three places at once. He's got one hell of a fertile mind, and there are a few moments here where I wish he'd hired on an editor. But I'm always much more forgiving when the problem is excess rather than reticence. I'm pretty sure no one has ever called Dunn's playing or writing "reserved."

    Way too many ideas for one album, surely, but I'll take that overload any day. This is a confident and assured album, even if it is a royal mess at times. Hey, the guy thanks John Zorn in the liners--this stuff isn't that extreme, but it's just as unusual.

    P.O. Box 1778
    Orinda, CA 94563
    www: http://www.ipecac.com

    Dutch Kills
    Nothing Was Ever the Same EP

    Branching out a bit from the more spare sounds of Scale 300 Feet to the Inch, Dutch Kills fills the speakers and still manages to keep a one-to-one conversation going strong.

    That's what I liked best about that album. Most albums are obviously aimed at this or that sort of sound. Dutch Kills simply played to whatever listener was around. This may sound like a stupid distinction, but I would disagree. These boys have the knack of creating an intimacy with just a few notes. The music immediately drew me in. And I think it does the same for a lot more people as well.

    I paged through some of the reviews, and no one really knows how to describe the band. That's what I'm talking about. The folks love the stuff but can't quite describe it. Not quite emo, not quite post-rock, not quite indie rock, not quite anything in particular. Just all them expressed in the most engaging way possible. Someday these boys are going to blow up something fierce.

    Wordclock Records
    P.O. Box 3266
    Merrifield, VA 22116
    www: http://www.wordclock.com

    Friends of Lizzy
    The Answer

    Subtitled EP, Summersongs & Demos, Friends of Lizzy is kind enough to provide 13 songs (and one remix) on this disc, which is more than enough to whet the appetite.

    There are two guys here who play piano. Often enough, neither do, but it sounds like most of the songs here were written at the keys. Piano rock does seem to be making a bit of a comeback, and most folks will tell you that even if the finished songs don't use a piano, such tunes have a slightly different kant than pieces hashed out on guitar. Take New Order, whose songs were always written on guitar even though the band could go entire albums without actually using a six-string. No matter. One can tell these things.

    These are grand, swooping songs. Even the kickier bits have a fine veneer of grandeur. The sound--even on some of the demos--is full and almost lush. The EP section in particular is utterly cushy. A perfect match for the romance of the songs.

    Really solid stuff. Even the more-ragged demos impress--in fact, a couple of those are among the best pieces on the album. Friends of Lizzy isn't afraid to take chances, and those chances pay off. I smell an up-and-comer.

    www: http://www.friendsoflizzy.com

    The Graze
    Iowa Anvil

    The first track, "Devices," is a study in how any song can be translated into just about any genre. Despite its presentation here as something of an alt. country wallow, the riffage and vocal melodies are straight out of grunge anthems. And many of the other songs here seem to have fallen through the cracks into this rootsy sound.

    And that's cool. The songs rarely move at faster than a mid-tempo pace, and often they drag markedly. Not exactly the sort of stuff that generally rips apart my ears. But then when something like "I Am the Little Girl" (where the Graze just says "fuckit" and launches into something akin to laptop grunge) comes along, well, I'm suddenly locked in.

    These songs go every which way, as does the sound of the album. Some songs are small, intimate affairs, and others fill the walls with sound. Some pieces even manage to go both ways without tearing themselves apart. That's an accomplishment in and of itself.

    Yeah, the Graze (which is, in fact, one guy named Louis O'Callaghan) probably ought to settle down and focus just a bit. But a one-man-band isn't going to do that. And O'Callaghan shouldn't. Ride the waves of idiosyncrasy until they break into something truly astonishing.

    P.O. Box 85133
    Seattle, WA 98145
    www: http://www.j-shirt.com

    Khoury Shearer Hall
    (Public Eyesore)

    Michael Khoury, Jason Shearer, Benjamin Hall; violin, sax, percussion. Not exactly a traditional trio, and not exactly a traditional sound. The songs sound like they've been sketched out, but not actually arranged. There is a large amount of improvisation, to be sure. Mostly, though, what makes this disc click is the ability of the three players to communicate with each other and combine to create something greater than themselves.

    In part because of the instruments these guys play, but mostly because of their musical ideas, the pieces here remind me a lot of "Rite of Spring" and other modern classical works. These boys aren't afraid to mix melody and dissonance in order to make a point.

    And it's that willingness to go out on an edge--even while keeping a hand on the wall--that serves the trio best. The sound is almost undeveloped. The drums rumble, the sax squeals and the violin wails. There isn't a lot of subtlety in the sound, though the playing itself is often achingly beautiful.

    Even though the trio takes on a number of jazz themes, the overarching ideal is more of a classical one. I'm not schooled enough to explain this difference properly, but it's one that I think I can hear. In the end, though, it doesn't matter precisely what the sound is as long as the music is good. And you know something? The music is great.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Brian Day
    2464 Harney #15
    Omaha, NE 68131
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.publiceyesore.com

    Ming and Ping
    (Monotone-Omega Point)

    Twins from San Francisco who absolutely adore the danceable side of new wave. Dead or Alive, Erasure, New Order, early-OMD ("Tesla Girls," etc.), that sort of thing. Keyboard and sequencer-driven songs, melodies that soar with simple grace. Ah, takes me back to high school.

    Yeah, I've got a 20th reunion in a couple years. I'm that old. And I remember when this sort of music kinda bubbled beneath the surface pabulum of the mid-80s. Billy Ocean may have been a big star, but there was a lot of great stuff that didn't quite get the airplay. Even now, I'm still discovering some hidden treasures from that period.

    Ming and Ping don't appear old enough to have been listening to the radio (or buying LPs) back in 1983, but they've obviously steeped themselves in the sounds of the time. These songs are jaunty, loopy blurts of joy. I don't know how anyone could hear them and fail to smile.

    The 80s have come so far back that they're starting to go away again. Ming and Ping may not have much of a wave to ride with their electronic pop, but they have managed to craft a truly exciting and blissful album. And that's always a good thing.

    Omega Point Records
    4546 N. Damen #313
    Chicago, IL 60625
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com

    The Oranges Band
    Two Thousands

    Two five-song EPs and four other tracks. So it's not exactly an album, and it isn't necessarily supposed to mesh together nicely. Of course, considering the sort of music these boys play, not much is going to match up anyway.

    Among the rules in punk music (and while there are many rock elements here, these guys are punk) is that keyboards are verboten. I know, no one pays attention to this any more, but the Oranges Band plays that rough, hardscrabble, staggering style of punk that is old, old school.

    And yes, I know almost all the 70s punk icons used electric piano or some such. But not like this. Not as a significant melodic element. Not as a sonic touchstone. Imagine the Jesus Lizard with keyboards. Well, okay, you got me there once again...but that's the sort of freewheeling, volume-dosing music we're talking about. Somewhere between Men at Work and the Jesus Lizard, I guess.

    I mean that as a compliment, by the way. There's a thousand ways to take such a reference badly. But I am sincere in my admiration. The Oranges Band makes a righteous racket, and it does so in some truly unusual ways. Bite the adrenaline wire and hold on.

    Morphius Records
    P.O. Box 13474
    Baltimore, MD 21203
    www: http://www.morphius.com

    Renato Rinaldi
    The Time and the Room
    (Public Eyesore)

    Okay, now this is a more traditional Public Eyesore release. Renato Rinaldi likes to make noise on his guitar, and he's recruited a couple friends to help out here and there. This is the sound of one person going mad.

    That's a good thing, of course. These noisy improvisations have stories to tell, and the only way to truly hear those stories is to abandon all rational thought. Sit back, close your eyes and go where the music goes. It is music--there's a surprising amount of melody, actually--and it does travel in a distinct path.

    This was originally recorded for radio (Italian radio, I think), and so the sound is quite good. Rinaldi may have a friend in dissonance, but the quality of the sound here really brings out the little things he throws into his pieces.

    Intriguing and alluring. Yeah, this isn't a disc to slough off on yer ten-year-old niece for her birthday, but it is one that just might realign your brain in a few important ways.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Brian Day
    2464 Harney #15
    Omaha, NE 68131
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.publiceyesore.com

    The Slackers
    International War Criminal EP
    (Thought Squad)

    I've gotta hand it to the Prez--he's managed to inspire some of my favorite bands to find new reserves of creativity. The recent Bad Religion album The Empire Strikes First is that band's best album in more than 10 years, and this EP finds the Slackers in fine form as well.

    And while the songs are decidedly political, the tunes are just as jaunty and bright as ever. So nothing bogs down, like, say, two-thirds of Sandinista. Rather, the boys have crafted some of the catchiest protest anthems around.

    Big smiles, my friends. Yeah, the subject matter is heavy, but this album is a breath of fresh air. Throw it on at your next party and rock steady with a few of your most "subversive" pals.

    Thought Squad
    P.O. Box 40016
    Pasadena, CA 91114
    www: http://www.thoughtsquad.com


    If Urge Overkill had been more into Chic than, say, ZZ Top, it might have ended up sounding like this. Teedo wears funk like a cheap suit, blowing away its grooves with plenty of guitar and falsetto.

    There's something kinda sweet about a punky soul band that is most sincere in everything it does. Teedo Bilecky's versatile voice is able to carry the songs as they whip around the stylistic universe. Yeah, it all comes back to soul (and in particular, late 70s soul), but there's so much more going on.

    And yet the sound itself is anything but complicated. The funk is simple and straightforward; the guitars slink around in their shiny suits and Teedo weaves above it all. The combo is tight (there is a core trio, though guitar and drumming duties are shared by many), and the songs never lose their focus.

    A nice, laid-back bit of fun for the end of the summer. Teedo is probably a bit too creative for the masses--certainly, the hands-off production leaves out that oft-annoying commercial punch--but I had one hell of a good time.

    ICBM Records
    214 Duffield St., suite 3F
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    www: http://www.teedomusic.com

    Brandon Wiard
    Painting a Burning Building

    Bright, shiny pop songs (or, as his web-site so eloquently puts it, "Michigan indie-pop") that have just enough of an undertow to kill off the initial sugary overkill. Set the hook--then yank hard!

    In fact, Wiard seems to really dig the darker sides of the universe. The songs themselves rarely lose their smiley-face sheen, but the lyrics can get downright mean. Again, this is about the best way to use pop.

    Obviously a Nick Lowe devotee (and there's nothing wrong with that), Wiard isn't above slipping in a little misdirection and slop when it feel right. Kinda like those intentional flaws that make up the "signature" of a master craftsman's work. The sound has that clunky "real" feel that made Lowe famous as a producer.

    Truly exciting music. Wiard has a real knack for writing lyrics that cut right to the chase, and then crafting some fine pop music to dress the whole song up. Top notch all the way.

    Cerberus Records
    P.O. Box 335
    Tecumseh, MI 49286
    www: http://www.brandonwiard.com

    Woosley Band
    Event Failure Vibrations

    I've always had an affection for Sean Woosley's songs. He's got an off-handed way of making his points that slides right into my logic center. Often enough, he matches those unusual ideas with some solid rock and roll to make memorable songs.

    This album finds Woosley and the boys in a decidedly Springsteenian phase. Early Asbury Park, I'd say, somewhere between the first and second albums. Loose, lanky riffs and half-shouted choruses. Music that moves just enough to sound effortless.

    The sound, too, is very 1974. Almost no sharp edges whatsoever. It's like this album was recorded in seriously antiquated facilities. Could just be a truly skilled--or inept, I suppose--producer. Whatever the case, the sound fits the songs perfectly. In fact, it's that sound that really takes this album over the top.

    Yes, the songs are great, and the performances are wonderfully easy on the ears. Woosley Band doesn't go out on any limbs, and yet the result is a completely satisfying album. Sometimes life works out like that.

    1031 N. Grant Ave.
    Columbus, OH 43201
    www: http://www.woosleyband.com

    Old friends:

    The Dwarves The Dwaves Must Die (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
    Um, another Dwarves record. Lots of cheap and sleazy pop-punk with plenty of "superstar" guests. And, as usual, the stuff is catchy, funny and irresistible. I doubt the boys will ever win a Grammy or anything, but it's hard not to smile when the Dwarves come over the speakers.

    King Missile III Royal Lunch (Important)
    I always thought the major-label incarnation of King Missile went for the easy (or stupid) joke far too often. This new version (the trio of John S. Hall, Sasha Forte and Bradford Reed) still contains plenty of Hall rants, but the music hearkens back to the days of Dogbowl. Which is a very good thing. The most interesting King Missile album in ages.

    Macha Forget Tomorrow (Jetset)
    A further refinement of the psychedelic-friendly dance-rock ideal put forth on previous Macha efforts. This is easily the band's most cohesive effort to date. Reminds me of the Love and Rockets's better days--but this time, fueled by espresso.

    The Muffs Really Really Happy (Five Foot Two-Oglio Records)
    Listen for about ten seconds and it's like, "Yeah, that's the Muffs. That's pretty cool." All the time off doesn't seem to have created any rust, and while the folks don't seem to have expanded their vision much, seventeen new Muffs songs are always worth celebrating.

    Q-Ball Fortune Favors the Bald (self-released)
    Guitar/synth-driven dance music from one of my favorites. The goofs--both lyric and musical--just keep on coming. I think he's a bit too idiosyncratic for the mainstream, but that's why I love his chunky grooves so much. Fortune favors anyone who picked up the Q.
    www: http://www.qballmusic.com

    Sahara Hotnights Kiss & Tell (RCA/BMG)
    Four good-looking Swedish chicks who rock? Of course they got the major-label deal. But you know something? This is their best album--by far. Yeah, the whole thing is utterly throwaway, but it's much more fun than their earlier work. That plastic "big time" sound is exactly what the girls needed. Solid and entertaining.

    Also recommended:

    Blackie and the Rodeo Kings Bark (True North)
    More than a decade ago, Foster and Lloyd made a couple of outstanding hard rockin' country records. Sweet melodies, lots of guitars and some great tight harmonies. Steeped as much in the blues and rock as country, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings keep up that tradition. The songwriting is top-notch, and the intense playing smokes. Very nice.

    Bronze A Common Prayer (self-released)
    Classically-styled pop played flawlessly. The sound is often acoustic, but always tight and focused. Even the mellower moments here are light-years away from mawkishness. Paul Handy write some beautiful songs, and Bronze brings them to life in the brightest way possible.
    P.O. Box 985
    Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 2GZ
    United Kingdom
    www: http://www.bronzeweb.co.uk

    Colin Clary and the Magogs Her Life of Crime (North of January)
    Jangly, messy pop that gets cranking early and still manages to find that extra gear after the bridge. This has the loopy feel of a one-man project, but the Magogs are a real band, even though Clary is the lead singer and sole writer. The folks play with a singularity of purpose that is quite inviting. Fun and intriguing.

    Coastal Halfway to You (Words on Music)
    If you took the High Llamas and distilled that music to its pure essence, you'd find yourself close to Coastal. These folks thrive on pure melody, melody expressed most deliberately. Navelgazing, to be sure, but gawd-awful pretty as well. A slow-motion explosion of beauty.

    The Datsuns Outta Sight/Outta Mind (Hellsquad/V2)
    Throbbing, mean riffage blown out with full attitude. Much in the same vein as Ten Benson, though not quite so kicky. Still, you can't convince me that the Datsuns didn't suck at the teat of the first Motley Crue album. Better, more muscular, production (by a certain John Paul Jones) to be sure, but cheap and easy nonetheless.

    Gerritt "...Sails the Seas of Displacement" 12" (Dielectric)
    Full discolore: Dielectric sends out its 12" releases on CD (much cheaper and more likely to be reviewed), so I'm not actually reviewing a piece of vinyl. I must note that Gerritt is very much part of the Dielectric line of electronic minimalists. There's a lot of fine noise here--much of it devoted to creating odd, almost imperceptible rhythms--the sort of stuff that connoisseurs will enjoy greatly. The rest of the world can go to hell. And that's fine with me.

    Hellboys Cha Cha with the Hellboys (self-released)
    Tom Redmond is the main Hellboy, and he recruits friends such as Tony Levin, Tony Geballe, Jerry Marotta to play around with him. He even got Robert Fripp to allow a few archival bits to be messed about with. So maybe now you've an idea of what's going on here. Some seriously warped guitar-driven music that is as adventurous and engaging as anything else I've heard this year.
    www: http://www.hellboys.com

    June Star Sugarbird (Toadfish)
    Sounds like Jay Farrar singing Jeff Tweedy songs. Which is pretty cool, since for the most part the boys stuck to their own material whilst toiling in Tupelo. Takes me back to my college days, when even rainy days seemed to hold promise. I need a beer.

    Kultur Shock Kultura-Diktatura (Kool Arrow)
    Continuing his interest in the unexplored sorts of "world music," Kool Arrow honcho Billy Gould unleashes Kultur Shock, a band which channels somewhat traditional Balkan melodies through all sorts of American filters, from ska to punk to metal and beyond. A real bouillabaisse of sound. No two songs are similar, and all are played with a manic intensity. Comparable to the Ukrainians, both in terms of quality, sound of language and originality.

    Leaving Rouge White Houses EP (Greyday Productions-Down Peninsula Audio)
    Pretty, expansive rock songs. The guitar has a fine ringing quality, and the feel is that of an optimistic elegy. Grand, dramatic and decidedly pretentious, Leaving Rouge manages to back up its startling intentions. Five songs of incontestable power.

    Mixtwitch All Bets Are Off EP (self-released)
    Five guys, four songs. They're Irish, but they flew all the way to San Francisco to get Ryan Greene to put his now-familiar stamp on their songs. Mixtwitch isn't purely a punk band--and not really emo, either, as the pop injected here is decidedly of the European kind--and so Greene's heavy-yet-bright sound is given a bit of a new shine by these boys. Solid stuff.
    102 Clonard Drive
    Dublin 16
    www: http://www.mixtwitch.com

    Mono Walking cloud and deep red sky. Flag fluttered and the sun shined (Temporary Residence)
    The title kinda says it all. Mono plays contemplative songs in almost orchestral settings--kinda like Dirty Three, only warm and intriguing rather than vaguely ominous. Steve Albini produced (that almost goes without saying, I suppose, though as Mono is from Japan it wasn't exactly a slam dunk), and as usual his sense of sound is exquisite. Take the trip, and do it without delay.

    Only Crime To the Nines (Fat Wreck Chords)
    Raucous and haggard, but still poppy enough to fit nicely into the Fat Wreck stable. Only Crime doesn't really have its own sound, but the playing is energetic and the lyrics have plenty to say. Something of a vanity project, as the band contains Bill Stevenson (ALL, Descendents), Russ Rankin (Good Riddance), the Blair brothers from Hagfish and Aaron Dalbec (Bane, Velocity Engine). Good stuff. If these guys keep working together, it should get much better.

    The Paybacks Harder and Harder (Get Hip)
    Some Detroit boys playing music the way Detroit boys have been playing it for decades. Loud, mean and utterly sleazy. Not much of a deviation from the standard format, but these guys play with such intensity that it's hard to focus on any problems. A great summer record for those who like their rock and roll real.

    7th Dimennsion Sex, Light and Rock 'n Roll (self-released)
    Not the Fifth Dimension, that's for sure. 7th Dimennsion blasts out soaring dance tracks, replete with metal guitars, disco beats and the occasional dip into the goth bag of tricks. Much more dance-oriented than most acts that have tried this sound before--anything that impedes movement has been eliminated. Loud, fun and fast.
    www: http://www.7thdimennsion.com

    Tom Thumb Songs from Holiday (self-released)
    Something of a nuevo-folk feel, acoustic guitars, plaintive vocals, and the occasional bit of bass and percussion. The lyrics lie at the center of the songs (the one real folk bit I can detect), and they're good enough to carry the proceedings. Song with some real meaning.
    215 Pleasant St. #2
    Providence, RI 02906
    Phone: (917) 584-5417
    www: http://www.tomthumbmusic.com

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