Welcome to A&A. There are 16 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.

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A&A #257 reviews
(September 2004)

  • A Is Jump My Ice-Fingered Ghost (Future Appletree)
  • Alison Ranger Formula Imperative (Creep)
  • Call Me Lightning The Trouble We're In (Revelation)
  • The Capstan Shafts Ample Tribes for Sullen King Pounder EP (self-released)
  • Culture Queer Super-Size It Under Pontius Pilate (Tokyo Rose)
  • Mike DeLaCerda American Gypsy (Vision)
  • Four Square Three Chords...One Capo (Bad Taste)
  • The Great Depression Unconscious Pilot (Princess)
  • The Magnificents The Magnificents (KFM)
  • Panicsville Perverse (Liquid Death-Hello Pussy)
  • Since By Man Hate You EP (Revelation)
  • The Thin Man H.M.S Mondegreen (Skin and Bone)
  • Tin Hat Trio Book of Silk (Ropeadope)
  • Trummerflora Rubble 1 (Accretions-Circumvention)
  • Various Artists Rock Against Bush 2XCD (Fat Wreck Chords)
  • What Made Milwaukee Famous Trying to Never Catch Up (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    A Is Jump
    My Ice-Fingered Ghost
    (Future Appletree)

    At least the album title makes some sense. "A Is Jump?" I have no idea. Whatever. Aerosmith is a pretty weird name, and those boys seem to have prospered reasonably.

    Of course, A Is Jump sounds nothing like Aerosmith. This is mannered, eccentric (in a decidedly linear fashion) pop music. Kinda like a nice fusion between the romper room infectiousness of emo and the icy, conceptual world of math. What's important is that these folks pick the best of both worlds.

    That's good, because combining sterile, stilted melodies with insipid lyrics would be a recipe for disaster. It's also good that this album has a slightly warm feel. Nothing overdone, but inviting enough. Takes a bit of the edge off the band's more adventurous turns of phrase.

    Fun and involving music. Always a good combination. I still have no idea what the band's name means, but now I know that it stands for good music.

    Contact:
    Future Appletree
    P.O. Box 191
    Davenport, IA 52808
    www: http://www.futureappletree.com


    Alison Ranger
    Formula Imperative
    (Creep)

    Stripped-down, streamlined hardcore with a chaotic soul. Reminds me a lot of the recent Clair de Lune album, though these boys aren't sonic perfectionists in the slightest. Rather, they seem to revel in "blue" notes and other missteps.

    The playing (and singing) is more loose than sloppy, and that's what really does the trick for me. These songs sound like spontaneous statements of anger and remorse, a stream of consciousness diary that is being written just as I hear it.

    And, of course, it's loud, fast and gleefully eccentric. Piano and other unexpected sounds rise up amidst the sonic destruction. There's actual singing (sometimes in tune, sometimes not) in between the shouts and shrieks. Alison Ranger has the ambition and range to move into Mars Volta territory. That would be fine, but I kinda like where the boys are now. This no-man's-land between hardcore, extreme, prog and jazz is ground for some of the most fertile musical minds going these days, and there are plenty more furrows to plow. This album is ready for harvest.

    Contact:
    Creep Records
    PMB 220
    252 East Market St.
    West Chester, PA 19382
    www: www.creeprecords.com


    Call Me Lightning
    The Trouble We're In
    (Revelation)

    I'm beginning to think there's a trend toward prog-influenced hardcore. In truth, Call Me Lightning is hardcore in attitude only, but the devastation these songs leave in their wake has all the hallmarks of a massive attack.

    Unlike the Alison Ranger album reviewed above, the sound on this disc is exceptionally clean and sharp. The general songwriting conventions and musical ambition are similar, but Call Me Lightning lies much closer to latter-day Guns N' Roses than, say, the Ex.

    Which isn't to say that these boys are sell-outs. Rather, they simply prefer to have all the trappings of a commercial rock sound and still stick to their wacko indie music rantings. Hey, as long as it works, right? Well, it works. Amazingly well.

    Yes, this is precisely the sort of adrenaline-pushing, intellect-tickling music that makes me shoot first and clean up later. I'm a sucker for blistering tunes that, oh, by the way, are skillfully crafted and far deeper than mere epidermis. And I'm pretty sure that there are at least a couple more people out there whose taste agrees with mine. Call Me Lightning is most satisfying.

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


    The Capstan Shafts
    Ample Tribes for Sullen King Pounder EP
    (self-released)

    Hey, hey, the levels are pegged. Pegged! Really, man, buy better mikes. Or maybe don't record into an old Walkman. Or simply set the levels correctly.

    Okay, that's out of my system. It's actually kinda interesting how badly recorded this is. Clunky roots-inflected rock tunes aren't especially meant to sound this freakin' distorted (even ol' Neil Young would blanch if he heard this), but apart from being distracting, the weird production (I think it might even have been intentional) doesn't destroy the power of the songs. They're purty damned good.

    Enough to make me want to hear more, anyway. The Capstan Shafts aren't exactly breaking new ground (except in the sound, perhaps), but the songs are solid and the rollicking feel of the playing is most engaging. Fun, if way too fuzzy.

    Contact:
    e-mail: deanedwardwells@yahoo.com


    Culture Queer
    Supersize It Under Pontius Pilate
    (Tokyo Rose)

    A trio formed by members of various Cincinnati bands (I'm not entirely sure if this is a simply side project or more of a full-time gig--though I know such distinctions can be dangerous), Culture Queer plays happy, fuzzy pop music with insouciant glee.

    The lyrics are simply scathing. Hypocrisy of all sorts takes a good amount of the heat, though it took a few listens before I really picked up on some of the threads here. Song like "Dulli" required a bit less thought, of course.

    The harsh, plastic glare of the satire here erases any possible preciousness. The sound is bright, even with a heavier emphasis on distortion than you might expect, and that only sharpens the blade of the wit. Damn, these folks have no fear.

    And that's always a good thing. I do hope that Culture Queer becomes a front-burner band if it isn't already. The results of this collaboration are more than encouraging; they're enthralling.

    Contact:
    Tokyo Rose Records
    4222 Chambers
    Cincinnati, OH 45223
    www: http://www.tokyoroserecords.com


    Mike DeLaCerda
    American Gypsy
    (Vision)

    Mike DeLaCerda sounds an awful lot like Jimi Hendrix. His voice, that is. His guitar is pure white-boy blues--well, as white as Buddy Guy, I suppose. DeLaCerda does bow to convention and construct most of his songs along blues 'n' boogie lines--definitely on the rock 'n' side of the divide--but his playing has soul to spare.

    And then there comes some like "Tribute to George Harrison," which is as fine a guitar noise composition as I've heard in a while. It doesn't sound a whole lot like Harrison, even when he's borrowing a bit from the Dark Horse, but it is inspired nonetheless.

    What I like is the ringing tone he gets on his guitar. He's not afraid to play loud or heavy or anything like that, but his playing always dances rather than pummels. For me, that's the key difference between rock and blues. Both can be exceptional, of course, and both are inextricably intertwined, but there are differences. At the heart of things, DeLaCerda proves himself a bluesman.

    And an accomplished player and songwriter. He does have a few covers here (including an interesting take on "Are You Experienced?"), but his songs shine as well. DeLaCerda has obviously put in his dues. Now he's ready to roll.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.mikedelacerda.com


    Four Square
    Three Chords...One Capo
    (Bad Taste)

    Canadian emo boys recording for a Swedish label. It truly is one world, isn't it? Anyway, Four Square plays that almost sickeningly-sweet power pop emo, and it doesn't really do much with the formula. All these boys do is kick out one great song after another.

    Yeah, I keep hearing from some of my more sophisticated friends that it doesn't take any talent to write and play stuff like this. Hey, the boys here have heard that one before, and they've got an answer in the title of the album. That's pretty damned funny. But, see, they also know that writing tight hooks and keeping the energy level up song after song is a real bitch. You think crafting music like this is easy? You do it.

    Anyway, the sound is nice and thick, with just enough space to hear all the necessary sounds. This album goes by the book all the way down the line. It's nothing incendiary. It's just one big wad of fun.

    And sometimes that's more than enough for me. As the boys themselves note in "Hitmaker," "...there's nothing original, 'cause that would be absurd." Big cheese that makes me laugh? Alrighty, then.

    Contact:
    Bad Taste Records
    P.O. Box 1243
    221 05 Lund
    Sweden
    www: http://www.badtasterecords.se


    The Great Depression
    Unconscious Pilot
    (Princess)

    So if Bauhaus were to meet up with U2 and get busy...Jesus, that's just fucked up. But it's also the Great Depression, a band that seems to thrive on droning vocals laid over almost hyperactive drums.

    Yes, there are plenty of purely introspective moments, but most of the songs here are played at significantly faster tempos than they seem. It's almost like some of the more interesting ambient acts, the folks who play with beats incessantly but relegate those experiments to a spot just behind the curtain. I love that sort of contrived tension.

    And, apparently, so does the Great Depression. These songs may be moody, but they're hardly downers. They do bring their more contemplative side to the fore, but way back there somewhere those drums keep churning away. Down a hole, behind the iron mask, whatever. They're there, and they make their presence known.

    Very cool. It takes supreme confidence and true vision to put together songs like this, much less mix them in this way. I'm impressed.

    Contact:
    Princess Records
    www: http://www.princessrecords.com


    The Magnificents
    The Magnificents
    (KFM)

    Highly processed, highly aggressive. The Magnificents sound like Devo run through a digital hardcore filter. Some songs more new wave, some more hardcore, but always an interesting mix.

    I've always been fascinated by folks who fuse melody and noise--no matter the sort of noise. Here, we're talking about electronically-created distortion, for the most part, though there's plenty of other little modulation tricks in the mix as well.

    The key to an enterprise like this is to keep a spontaneous feel to the songs, no matter how crafted they may be. Devo's best stuff sounded like a real mechanical band, as it were, and not just some geek at a keyboard. The Magnificents keep the tunes moving at a fair clip; that does most of the heavy lifting in terms of making the sound fresh.

    Probably too-piledriving for pure pop fans, and perhaps a bit too melodic for hardcore hardcore fans (though we're talking about some extreme ears on that side of things), the Magnificents do a fine job of fusing an original sound out of styles that have, in some cases, actually been played to death. Most engaging.

    Contact:
    KFM Records
    www: http://www.kfmrecords.com


    Panicsville
    Perverse
    (Liquid Death-Hello Pussy)

    Panicsville has gone through all sorts of lineups, but at this point it might as well be described as Andy Ortmann and friends. The friends this time out include Thymme Jones, Ben Capps, Jeremy Fisher and others--it's pretty obvious that Ortmann knows a lot of cool people.

    And he makes some truly weird electronic music. If you don't know Panicsville, you haven't been reading A&A very long. Suffice it to say that the album cover (which, as near as I can tell, is a partially slaughtered cow), title and name of the record label ought to go a long ways to explaining just how close to the edge Ortmann likes to go.

    But the cool thing about Panicsville, as opposed to many experimental electronic noise acts, is that the songs do have structure. They do have themes which are fairly easy to discern. You may not find these themes particularly attractive (duh), but Ortmann doesn't make appreciation of his work particularly difficult.

    Once in the door, of course, a hall of terrors awaits. So be forewarned. This is a typical Panicsville release, which means that the sound changes radically from song to song, the ideas are powerful and the music highly challenging. If you can stay standing after this assault, you're ready for anything.

    Contact:
    Liquid Death-Hello Pussy Records
    P.O. Box 19193
    Cincinnati, OH 45219
    www: http://www.ldr-hpr.com


    Since By Man
    Hate You
    (Revelation)

    Four songs from one of the more engaging extreme acts around. Since By Man never stints on the aggression, but the band is also sweet enough to include the slightest hints of grooves in each piece.

    I'm not saying you're gonna be dancing yer ass off or anything, but the riffage does have a certain swing to it. It's the difference between loud and dull and loud and magnificent.

    I know, this is just a spacemarker, a little something for the fans between albums. But shit, man, it's still incendiary as all get out. No slacking off here for these boys. This EP is short, sweet and enthralling.

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


    The Thin Man
    H.M.S Mondegreen
    (Skin and Bone)

    This sounds a bit like one of Jon Langford's side projects that generally ends up on Bloodshot. Hey, the guys are even from Chicago. Geez. What are the odds?

    Pretty good, actually. Kennedy Greenrod wrote the songs and plays the omnipresent accordion. There's this weird Irish reel/klezmer meets country vibe to the songs that's highly addictive. Imagine Firewater doing Hank Williams, and you might be getting in the ballpark.

    I like that reference, except that the Thin Man relies on exotic instrumentation even more than Tod A and company. There is this loose, ragged feel to the songs, kinda like they were recorded in a bar after one too many beers. Greenrod's somewhat slipshod singing contributes to the effect, though I'd have to say it complements, rather than detracts from, his songs.

    As any regular reader knows, if I'm comparing an act to Langford or Firewater, I'm duly impressed. It's true. This is a fine album. Greenrod has impeccable writing skills and a most unusual and effective way of presenting them. Have a couple whiskeys and feel free to join in.

    Contact:
    Skin and Bone Records
    P.O. Box 2203
    Chicago, IL 60690


    Tin Hat Trio
    Book of Silk
    (Ropeadope)

    There's something most evocative about rock trios that include a string instrument. Dirty Three, of course, was one of the first of these such outfits I'd heard, but there are plenty others. Tin Hat Trio plays a much more delicate brand of post-roots music, but the quality is just as high.

    There are plenty of differences. First, Rob Burgher plays accordion, organ and other keyboard instruments. Carla Kihlstedt plays both violin and viola (though not at the same time). Mark Orton plays guitar, dobro and banjo. Which does point out one similarity among many of these groups--the absence of bass.

    The Trio does accede a bit on this point, adding a tuba player from time to time. Most often, however, it's just the three players wending their way through demented cafe music. Kinda like Sergio Leone discovered his long-lost gypsy roots and started wearing a beret.

    So is this the first French and western album? Probably not. But that's what it sounds like to me. This album is a dark delight.

    Contact:
    Ropeadope Records
    Village Station
    P.O. Box 1021
    New york, NY 10014
    www: http://www.ropeadope.com


    Trummerflora
    Rubble 1
    (Accretions-Circumvention)

    The labels releasing this CD are well-known for kicking out some of the most innovative and unusual music around. And so it is with Trummerflora, a wide-ranging collective of folks who traffic in electronic constructions.

    The tracks are listed by the names of the acts involved, although all of them also put themselves underneath the Trummerflora banner. So what you have is a mix tape created by folks who aren't quite a band, but are more than passing acquaintances.

    And there are some folks who appear on multiple tracks. Nathan Hubbard performed on or produced a good number of songs here, and quite a few other folks are likewise engaged in many of the Trummerflora "subcommittees." This cross-pollination has led to some seriously exciting ruminations.

    When this many people get together to share ideas, the result is generally either a mess or truly exciting. Trummerflora is more than exciting. There's so much going on here that I can't begin to describe much of any of it. But that's okay. The revolutionary nature of the sounds on this disc speak amply for themselves.

    Contact:
    Accretions
    P.O. Box 81973
    San Diego, CA 92138

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


    Various Artists
    Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 2xCD
    (Fat Wreck Chords)

    Twenty-eight songs (20 of them rare or previously unreleased) on one CD, and six videos, three comedy pieces and six political shorts on the other. Fat Mike isn't a fan of the Prez, and he's enlisted an army of punkers to his cause.

    Well, it's not like we need encouragement, right? Of course this stuff is preaching to the choir. I suppose the proper political term is "energizing the base." Whatever. The tunes are good. The cause is righteous.

    I'm pretty sure I don't really need to say much more. I think I can count the fans of the Prez who read A&A on one hand (if that), so this one's a no brainer. If you like tuneful punk music, this stuff is priced to sell.

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


    What Made Milwaukee Famous
    Trying to Never Catch Up
    (self-released)

    Laptop-style keyboards, but in the context of a band. Or, perhaps more accurately, imagine moody laptop-rock played by a band. No, that still doesn't do it. Well, hell.

    Simple, solid, tuneful rock and roll, with a decidedly mordant side. Not dour, but introspective in a slightly snarky way. Just enough bite to make me smile.

    Take away the out-of-place (but highly effective) keyboards and the clever lyrical bits and you have basic rock done exceptionally well. What Made Milwaukee Famous doesn't really go balls-out, but the subtle approach works well for the boys.

    One of those albums this might sneak up on you. Listen to it a couple times and you'll think, "Hey, that's really good." Indeed.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.whatmademilwaukeefamous.com


    Also recommended:

    Army of Me Fake Ugly EP (Pop Up)
    Well-groomed pop punk music, with fairly commercial production values. Army of Me isn't remaking the wheel (or even the California burrito), but it did whip these six songs into a most attractive shape.

    Atomic 7 ...En Hillbilly Caliente (Mint)
    More Shadowy music from this Canadian outfit. Pleasantly swinging guitar-driven instrumentals that never fail to charm. Party music for those who prefer their martinis very, very dry.

    Dreamend ...As If by Ghosts (Graveface)
    Introspective, highly involved fare. Back in the olden days, bands like Seam and Tortoise plied these waters to great effect. Very pretty, nicely crafted--and yet still with a pleasing serrated edge to the entire affair. Good songs played with exquisite care.

    Faux Fox Black Glove or White Glove (Quartz Inc.)
    There are those that like to credit Gary Numan or Kraftwerk or other such acts as the true forerunners of new wave. In crafting their own version of the 80s synth techno sound, Faux Fox decided to hew closely to those progenitors rather than the popularizers. The result is an album of songs that is alarmingly dated in sound and yet astonishingly fresh in attitude. A cool mix that way.

    Fiver Let It All Fall Down (Devil in the Woods)
    Fiver traipses through a number of 90s "post rock" styles, never quite settling on any one. There's some fuzzy psychedelia, a couple beat-driven bits and plenty more where that came from. Tying it all together is a very linear approach to guitar playing. Lines come, lines go, lines intersect, lines separate. Lines make me smile. A lot.

    The Goslings Spaceheater (Asaurus)
    If you prefer your melodies to be played at the edge of eternal distortion and sonic chaos, then the Goslings are for you. This stuff is noisy, though not necessarily raucous, and it does push the limits of recording technology. Me, I like the songs themselves and the way they sound. I'm something of a masochist that way. But then, I've always enjoyed being pummeled into submission.

    Steve Hancoff The Single Petal of a Rose: Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar Volume II (self-released-Discipline Global Mobile)
    Just what the title says: Eighteen pieces made famous by Ellington. Steve Hancoff plays these pieces in a thoroughly modern style (no excessive Django Reinhardt or other period references), and he makes them sing wonderfully. Ellington is revered by musicians of all sorts, and Hancoff's wide-ranging interpretations illustrate the songs's universal appeal. Wonderful.

    Imogene Imogene EP (self-released)
    Fuzzy, heavy rock that falls more on the melodic side than the stoner side--though there are elements of both here. Most bands wouldn't dare sound this strange, but Imogene makes it work...most of the time. Don't lose the keyboards, boys. They hold everything together.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.imogene.info

    Jay Kaiser and Mandy Carter No Complaints with the View (self-released)
    The album cover makes this look like insipid hippy-dippy happy couple folk music. That's not entirely wrong--the guitars do fall into the syncopated backbeat trap a few times--but this is much more a Timbuk 3 redux sorta thing...and I can get behind that all the way. Yeah, Jay and Mandy can be painfully earnest at times, but the music is really solid. Well done.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.jayandmandy.com

    Knot+Over Knot+Over (Public Eyesore)
    An experimental duo improvising on banjo and assorted electronics. The sort of extreme mind trip that few on this planet can withstand. But hey, I like the stuff, and this album gave me plenty to think about--which is exactly why I listen to this kind of music. Let go of the conscious self and surf the dark energy.

    Jesse Krakow Oceans in the Sun (Public Eyesore)
    Loopy, angular pop ditties. Cheap Trick meets Half Japanese and then smokes a PCP-laced joint or ten. Often completely fucked up, but nonetheless goofy enough to always bring a smile. This music is guaranteed to scare your mother.

    Leopold The Wreck of Hope (Total Annihilation)
    Alex Newport produced, and it sounds like it. Pure power, tons of sound and a throbbing core that never lets up. The sort of album that makes me believe in the power of real hard rock once again. Complete and total sonic destruction. Quite a blast.

    MC Lars The Laptop EP (Sidecho)
    Dorky, catchy rhymes from a guy named Lars who is "Straight Outta Stockholm." (well, not exactly...) That's the sorta backhanded jokey cultural reference you can expect here, but hell, it's been a while since I've heard anyone sound so goofily happy doing what he's doing.

    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Welcome to Woody Creek (Dualtone)
    You don't hear it much, but today's alt.country hipsters owe a lot to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This album shows why. These old farts could have rested on their laurels and produced a middle-of-the-road yawner, but this album has plenty of teeth--and some seriously fine guitar playing. Way more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

    Silverhawk Westward (Blue Eyed Crow)
    The songs are written by Sam and John C. Densmore, who also comprise the core of Silverhawk. These are dark, bluesy songs of the night, cast with just a hint of pioneer wanderlust. Indie rock for a new generation, really. And that's a very good thing, indeed.

    Skooshny Zoloto (Vibro-Phonic)
    Bright, brash rock and roll. Skooshny (one of the greatest band names I've ever heard) jangles its way through 20 tracks here...and all of them are worth hearing. These boys aren't the most polished players around, but that's cool. These songs sound better played loose and ragged. Great fun.

    12 Summers Old When the Romance Ends (Anomer)
    Yes, exactly. Fast, chunky, melodic songs that evoke the emotional turmoil of the teenage years. 12 Summers Old actually gets a little deeper than that, but still, I haven't seen a more appropriate band name in some time. Oh, to be young again!

    The Visitations Propaganda (self-released)
    The little "resampled" speech by the Prez at the beginning of "Television" is inspired. The song is merely okay. The Visitations are kinda hit and miss that way, but when they keep their focus, their punky political pop music is good fun.
    Contact:
    195 Oakland Way
    Athens, GA 30606
    www: http://www.thevisitations.com


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