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 #262 reviews
(March 2005)
  • The Arts and Sciences Hopeful Monsters (Daemon)
  • Bettie Serveert Attagirl (Minty Fresh)
  • The Capitol Years Let Them Drink (Burn & Shiver)
  • Clouds Forming Crowns Clouds Forming Crowns (Morphius)
  • Cruiserweight Sweet Weaponry (Heinous/Doghouse)
  • Cyanotype The Golden Wreck Tangle (Action Packed!)
  • Fighter Pilot Atomic Anthem (Bankroll)
  • Last Days of April If You Lose It (Bad Taste)
  • Libretto Ill-Oet (Dim Mak)
  • Luxxury The Drunk EP (Omega Point)
  • Magnapop Mouthfeel (Daemon)
  • Of Montreal The sunlandic Twins (Polyvinyl)
  • Our Own Somewhere Wherever You Go (Has Anyone Ever Told You?)
  • The Peels The Peels (Dim Mak)
  • Pitch Black This Is the Modern Sound (Revelation)
  • run.away.from.the.humans We Exist EP (self-released)
  • Snow Machine Snow Machine (Daemon)
  • Tammany Hall Machine Tammany Hall Machine (self-released)
  • Ticonderoga Ticonderoga (54-40 or Fight)
  • Eddie Turner Rise (NorthernBlues)
  • Come together: Re-issues, greatest hits, compilations, etc.
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    The Arts and Sciences
    Hopeful Monsters

    Paul Melancon is the leader of the Arts and Sciences. He writes the lyrics, and the band does the music. I must admit that I never quite got into Melancon's solo work--though I could hear a solid devotion to craft and lots of other things I liked. Maybe he just needed some collaborators. Maybe I needed to mature. Take your pick.

    In any case, this album is exceptional. The songs are generally slow to mid-tempo, and the lyrics often have an introspective bent...even when they're supposedly about someone else. I like that sort of twist, myself.

    The overall sound is "basic rock quartet." Oh, Melancon drops in a little Wurlitzer organ every now and again, but in the main the sound here is rather unadorned. That focuses the ear upon the songs. And the songs shine.

    I'm sure there are people who will hear this album and immediately go nuts. It had to grow on me. But that growth makes all the difference. You love an album only when you've spent a lot of time with it. Infatuation passes; this affection is much more lasting.

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

    Bettie Serveert
    (Palomine/Minty Fresh)

    Despite the general marketing use of Carol van Dyk, Bettie Serveert is a band. I don't know any Dutch, but perhaps the name means something more in the band's native tongue. In Amurrcun, of course, Bettie Serveert means "breathy pop music."

    Which is A-OK with me. Minty Fresh is something of a home to fading major label pop icons (Veruca Salt, the Cardigans and the Waterboys have all passed through), but I think a more appropriate description would be shelter for prog pop orphans--like, say, the Aluminum Group (also on the roster).

    In any case, this is probably the most confident and beguiling Bettie Serveert album I've heard. The songs are complex and playful, and van Dyk plays up the sex kitten in her voice to full effect. If you're not into getting entranced, find another album.

    Fun is the order of the day, in the final analysis. And I'm not going to argue with that. There's plenty here to keep me hooked for some time--but in the meantime, I'm simply bouncing.

    Minty Fresh
    P.O. Box 577400
    Chicago, IL 60657
    Phone (773) 665-0289
    Fax [773]665-0215
    www: http://www.mintyfresh.com

    The Capitol Years
    Let Them Drink
    (Burn and Shiver)

    Yes, these boys do have a bit of the garage basher in them, but what we have here is more finely-crafted pop, replete with sculpted harmonies and tight, yet wandering, hooks. Something like the Beatles meets the Who, with some distortion on the side.

    No, this album isn't that good. I've never heard the band that could live up to that description. I was just trying to give an idea of feel. And the Capitol Years truly do evoke the melancholy spirit of the late 60s. I somehow doubt that this ennui is pharmaceutical in nature, but it's there nonetheless.

    And damn, does it sound good. There are moments right out of Sgt. Peppers or Abbey Road, especially when a lead guitar line echoes out across an electric piano chord. The Capitol Years have been working this material for some time. Despite their occasional whipsaw approach to songwriting (entire songs within songs at times), the transitions are flawless.

    This is the sort of album that would give my dad a serious case of deja vu. You can decide if that's a good thing or not. Me, I like it. Quite an accomplishment in sound.

    Burn and Shiver
    P.O. Box 180321
    Chicago, IL 60618
    www: http://www.burnandshiver.com

    Clouds Forming Crowns
    Clouds Forming Crowns

    Last month, Tobin Sprout. This month, Clouds Forming Crowns (featuring Tim and Todd Tobias). Let the GBV diapsora bloom in full force!

    But, really, can't we take all these folks on their own merits? I think so. Sprout has an exceptional ear for truly gorgeous pop music. The Tobias boys seem a lot more interested in noodling between the lines of hooks. Which makes these songs just that much more difficult to glom on to...at least, at first.

    There are plenty of points of purchase here. The songs often are quite pretty, even if a tangent or two within tends to undercut the surface beauty. Those scars, however, seem to enhance the overall. Pop music is more than skin deep, in other words.

    Now I'm making a fool of myself. But that's alright. Good music has been known to do that to me. Clouds Forming Crowns may be a truly silly name for a band, but the music within is most worthy of its pedigree.

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

    Sweet Weaponry

    Three Maxwells and a Hawkins from Austin, Cruiserweight plays buzzsaw pop music with a wonderfully aggressive edge. The songs themselves pack a monster punch, especially when the band takes the time to build them up.

    The primary feeling for me is breathless. I simply cannot catch up to the energy of this album. Even the occasional mid-tempo moments are hyper-intense. Cruiserweight has infused this music with the sort of electric jolt that most other folks can't even imagine.

    The sound is edgy, even metallic at times. I wasn't sure how good an idea that was when I began listening, but once I adjusted I have to admit that it does right by the songs. That's the test, isn't it?

    One of those albums that comes out of nowhere to land a knockout blow. I know, enough of the boxing metaphors. I'd have to agree if I didn't feel like I just went ten rounds (in a very good way).

    P.O. Box 8946
    Toledo, OH 43623
    Phone (419) 726-5512
    www: http://www.doghouserecords.com"

    The Golden Wreck Tangle EP
    (Action Packed!)

    These fuzzy popsters manage to evoke Brise-Glace and My Bloody Valentine in successive songs. The first two songs, that is. And then things really start to take off. I guess what I'm saying here is that these folks are highly creative, and they've managed to channel those wonderful impulses into solid songs.

    For all the distortion and unusual applications of percussion, the songs themselves are strikingly straightforward. This, of course, is yet another nod to MBV, I suppose, though anyone who listened to this entire disc would holler at me for making the comparison. Cyanotype is its own band, pure and simple.

    The level of craft and complexity in these songs is more often found in established bands. I don't know if these folks can keep it up, but if they can, then greatness might well await.

    Action Packed! Records
    807 S. Chandler #B
    Decatur, GA 30030
    www: http://www.cyanosound.com

    Fighter Pilot
    Atomic Anthem

    Just another power pop trio that plays lots of great songs, more than one starting with the word "You." That last bit is just something funny I noticed. A bit distracting, but mostly just amusing.

    I think these guys want the big deal. The songs have that sort of heavy pretentiousness to them. Unlike most bands, though, Fighter Pilot carries it off. These songs are not only intended to have additional heft--they actually have it. So I can forgive a bit of the preciousness.

    Indeed, I think a lot of the power comes from the boys's obvious desperation to whack a big one here. I don't blame them one bit. You might as well swing for the fences each time. Give it all you got. And all those other dreadful sports cliches. I've never understood slacking off in an artistic endeavor. If you don't exhaust yourself, you haven't finished the job.

    I'm thinking this album wiped these boys out. It sure is something impressive. A most enjoyable endeavor.

    Bankroll Records
    17200 Burbank Blvd., Ste. #327
    Encino, CA 91316
    www: http://www.fighterpilotmusic.com

    Last Days of April
    If You Lose It
    (Bad Taste)

    Last Days of April have always been one step ahead of the evolution of emo, to the point where this music wouldn't be recognized as such to aficionados of five years back. Instead, most folks would hear this stuff as highly-crafted, expertly-played introspective rock.

    Which, of course, it is. And that's where one school of emo is heading, as well. As with previous efforts, the quality of songwriting is astonishing. The "gem" metaphor is overused, but it would fit here. Karl Larsson pens exceptional pieces.

    The sound is understated, yet full. You'd never know this was, by and large, a two-man effort. There's plenty going on, but the song is always the focus of the production. And with songs this good, you can't go wrong with that approach.

    Yeah, I figured this would be good. I've been knocked out by the band's previous albums. But this satisfied those expectations and even created higher ones for the next album. Transcendent.

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

    (Dim Mak)

    A playful, stream-of-consciousness political hip-hop album. Libretto spins complicated, yet always crystal clear, rhymes over an impressive range of beats. The beats borrow heavily from 70s soul and funk and then update those cool grooves to the new millennium.

    In short, this is an album of ideas that can double as a party album. Let it roll while you kick back, and in no time the ideas will trickle into the brains of your guests. Not exactly subliminally, but close.

    I just can't get enough of the beat work here. It evokes a mood without being derivative. It fits in well with Libretto's cool, unhurried style. Who says discussing serious ideas can't be fun?

    The most impressive hip-hop album I've heard in quite a while. Libretto's smooth swagger is a wonder. And the backing beats are, as I keep saying, something special. One of those albums that sticks with you for years.

    Dim Mak Records
    P.O. Box 348
    Hollywood, CA 90078
    www: http://www.dimmak.com

    The Drunk EP
    (Omega Point)

    Omega Point is rapidly becoming this decade's answer to Wax Trax, a Chicago label standing at the forefront of electronic rock music. Luxxury is just the latest cool band to come down that particular pipe.

    Think Lords of Acid with a modicum of taste, or, say, KMFDM with a sense of proportion. Or, you know, the Cure with an overtly sexual component. In other words, we're talking about real rock music with an electronic dance rhythm section. The press notes make a reference to Roxy Music. And while the music doesn't fit that, the style definitely does.

    That style is a wonderfully stirred-up mishmash of danceable rock music, with more than a dash of pure sex. The sort of thing that is instantly addictive to an awful lot of people. Turn it up. And let nature take its course.

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


    Hot Boxing, the first Magnapop album, was great. It had wonderfully blocky production courtesy of Bob Mould. The songs were terse anthems. One of those songs even made it onto a Taco Bell sampler. I still listen to it once or twice a month. The second album was almost as good, but to my ear was missing something. Other people must have thought so as well, since it didn't sell as well and Magnapop kinda went away.

    But not all the way. And now we have this new album, some ten years after that first effort. The songwriting style is similar, though the playing is more refined and just a tad bit more modern (if that makes any sense). The production isn't as contrasty as on Boxing, but then, these songs are a bit more subtle as well.

    The sound allows itself to get loud and vicious when necessary, but it also allows the songs to develop on their own. There are more ideas here. Not so much tangents--Linda Hopper and Ruthie Morris haven't reworked their style--as much as asides. Catty comments on the songs themselves. They're cool like that.

    I don't think a lot of people were waiting for the big Magnapop comeback. That's okay. Give your friends one bite of "Satellite" and see if they don't come around. It's always nice to hear from an old pal who's fallen out of touch.

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

    Of Montreal
    The Sunlandic Twins

    Laptop pop grooves driven by some seriously obsessive vocal work. Some bloke named Kevin Barnes is the mind behind this, and he plays his hand like Brian Wilson (without the attendant mental illness, I'm assuming).

    Though maybe that's a bad assumption. After all, Barnes makes a sly reference to Prince in the liners--though that's just one more reason to like him, I think. The songs themselves have that midwest jam feel--you know, like King Kong. Except that they're mostly electronic. It just a lot easier that way when you're a one-man outfit.

    The more I think about it, though, this does sound a lot like those early Prince albums (For You, Controversy). Not so much in the Hendrix meets doo-wop style but the way the sounds come together. There's a certain mindset to singular productions that produces a feel that's almost impossible to describe. I have the feeling I'm in Barnes's mind, and that's the same feeling those old Prince albums give me as well.

    But, of course, this isn't Prince. It's a guy who grew up on indie rock and got to experience the electronic revolution as a child (lucky guy). Yeah, he's obsessive, and yeah, this stuff isn't ordinary. That's the point, isn't it? To be extraordinary? That's what I thought, anyway.

    P.O. Box 7140
    Champaign, IL 61826-7140
    www: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com

    Our Own Somewhere
    Wherever You Go EP
    (Has Anyone Ever Told You?)

    There's a ringing sound to these songs that reminds me of my college days. I think it's merely the result of somewhat primitive recording techniques combined with a certain midwestern style of playing rock and roll, but for whatever reason it always makes me feel warm inside.

    The songs themselves are impressive as well. Dry, almost laconic-feeling (though there are plenty of vocals) and almost anti-climatic. Just when you think the songs ought to kick into overdrive, they step back and meditate. I guess that also harkens back to the bands I heard when I was in school some 17 years ago (yikes!). Maybe it's just an indie rock thing. That's cool, too.

    The kind of band that doesn't impress immediately. Well, band might be wrong, as this is Chris Boehk (that might explain the recording sound). And even the four songs here might not be enough to turn some listeners. Certainly, the fuzzy, reverb-laden sound is far from modern. But damn, it feels nice, like wearing long underwear and sitting next to the fire.

    Has Anyone Ever Told You?
    P.O. Box 161702
    Austin, TX 78716-1702
    e-mail: hasanyoneevertoldyou@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.hasanyoneevertoldyou.com

    The Peels
    The Peels
    (Dim Mak)

    The press makes reference to a big pile of great albums by bands that happen to be fronted by women. Kinda pretentious and limiting at the same time. Though, I have to admit, there is something to all that, particularly the Pretenders reference.

    This is edgy, punk-influenced rock. The guitars have a metallic sound (the Peels do want major exposure, after all), but the chord changes and song structures are still nicely punk. References to X aren't exactly off-target, either.

    But the Peels is its own band. These songs aren't derivative of anyone, and Robyn Miller has her own distinctive growl (somewhere between Chrissie Hynde and Ann Wilson). This album starts out with a bang and just gets louder and more insistent.

    That's what I like. That whole "take no prisoners" thing. The Peels are on a mission, and that mission is to rock. Period. Anything else that comes along is gravy. Let the riffage burn your brain and see how things develop from there.

    Dim Mak Records
    P.O. Box 348
    Hollywood, CA 90078
    www: http://www.dimmak.com

    Pitch Black
    This Is the Modern Sound

    Yes, Pitch Black is a modern quartet: guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. And as it whips its sound from buzzsaw to contemplative and then back again, the boys prove themselves every bit up to date.

    Genres are out. Music is in. As is really, really loud music, in this case. Sure, Pitch Black can dial back its attack every few moments. Still, this version of extreme melodic hardcore (with added brighteners) feeds best on volume.

    And the sound obliges. There are a few shades of gray here, but not many. Lots of binary--you know, the modern sound and all. If you don't like your music fast, loud and vaguely tuneful, go somewhere else.

    Lucky for me I dig it. That's just how it is. Pitch Black will go on, whether you like it or not. This is about attitude, baby, and these boys have plenty. Can you withstand the assault?

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

    We Exist EP

    Funny how all these laptop pop-meets-rock bands end up sounding new wave. I'm not complaining in the slightest; I'm an unabashed new wave fan (at least the vaguely dance-y, nicely tuneful stuff of the very early 80s), and I've always thought that stuff sounded quite cool when it incorporated guitar.

    So that's what these guys do. There are plenty of electronic noises--including drum machines, keyboard washes, bass lines, etc.--but there's also a band playing over that. Very cool. And the really good news is that the songs are simply wonderful.

    And not all what I expected. There are a few "human" moments, the sort of thing that really flesh out what a band might be. And in this case, the band is something else. Even if the name is really long and doesn't fit on posters very well. Life (or something) goes on.

    www: http://www.runawayfromthehumans.com

    Snow Machine
    Snow Machine

    I have impossible crushes on three "rock women." The first, and most obvious, is Neko Case. There's a reason Carolyn Mark describes a dream encounter with Case and Vincent Gallo, and says, "And then Neko had to go (thank God!)." Sally Timms is another; I could listen to her voice and nothing else until I die. Then there's Katharine McElroy. She's got this slightly fractured voice (both the instrument and the way she writes songs) that is immediately enthralling.

    Mind you, I've never met any of these women, though I have seen the Mekons play a few times and did have one brief phone conversation with Sally Timms. I should note right here that Hunter Manasco, McElroy's partner in latter-day Three Finger Cowboy and Nineteen Forty-Five--as well as in life--stands right behind her playing guitar in Snow Machine. He's cool. I just love her voice. And that's all. I think.

    Aaargh! Enough of that. Snow Machine is a departure for McElroy. These songs return to the more innocent sounds of early Three Finger Cowboy, but the lyrics are darker than anything she's done before. The dichotomy is stunning, not to mention quite appealing.

    There's a lot more piano here, and more room for all the instruments in general. The sound is expansive, allowing everyone to get a few words in. Unlike Nineteen Forty-Five, which seems crowded and manic even when it slows things down (something I love about that band, mind you), Snow Machine allows itself to be rambling and unfocused at times. And through that loose approach comes greatness.

    You know, I was going to say nice things about this album no matter what it sounded like. So you can feel free to take this review or leave it. But truly, McElroy and Snow Machine and put together something special. I've listened to this thing more than 10 times already, and I can't wait to drop it into the discer again. One of those albums that will haunt my mind for ages to come.

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

    Tammany Hall Machine
    Tammany Hall Machine

    Four guys from Austin who sound like four guys from anywhere trying to make old-fashioned rock and roll. Well, more like an indie-rock take on the bar band ideal. Which is something I can handle in an instant.

    So there's a bit of navel-gazing and then some tambourine jangle. The lyrics aren't too complicated, but they tell some fine stories. You know, kind of a comfy suit sorta sound.

    The production is where the band does show its true stripes. This is a stripped down, simple sound, with just a bit of reverb and enough electric piano to fill in the gaps. Oh, and there's a bit of lap steel, but let's not screw with my theorizing, okay-dokey?

    Just a fine album put together by some folks who obviously know how to make a song really sing. It's not complicated or pretentious or anything like that. Tammany Hall Machine is simply good. And that's more than enough.

    www: http://www.tammanyhallmachine.com

    (54-40 or Fight!)

    Speaking of navel-gazing moments, here comes Ticonderoga. A disc with a press note from the weekly newspaper whose web site I administer. That notice does do a nice job of describing this local (for me) band and what it tries to do. So I thought I'd give reviewing these boys a whirl as well.

    Ticonderoga takes its time recording, and it's quite apparent that there's a good amount of editing involved. Some of the tangents (and even some of the main lines in the more coherent moments) are kinda out there, but somehow the boys manage to bring the entire ship into port by the end of the song. And they use everything: strings, horns, the kitchen sink (literally, I think), whatever. Anything at their disposal to complete the song.

    My understanding is that these songs also work live, though I'd have to hear that myself to believe it. I love the way Ticonderoga puts together these collages. It's another byway on the post-rock highway--one of the more scenic ones, at that. I'm afraid I can't wrap my head around this in the time I have, much less write a review which does this album justice.

    Nonetheless, I feel confident in saying that adventurous listeners will eat this up without utensils. (Feel free to insert your own mixed metaphor here). And I leave you with a taunt: Ticonderoga lives here, and not where you do. Nyah, nyah, nyah nyah, nyah!

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

    Eddie Turner

    Eddie Turner has played with Otis Taylor for some time, and now he gets to step out on his own. He tapped Kenny Passarelli, Taylor's bassist and producer, to do the same on this album. The results are a disc that sounds like it could have been Taylor's, but isn't. And the differences are worth noting.

    For one, Turner's guitar playing is a bit more incendiary. He isn't as conceptual a songwriter, but rather he simply lets the ideas groove for a while. Add that to the spectral, otherworldly sound created by Passarelli--a hallmark of Taylor's albums--and you have all the makings of a fine piece of work.

    Turner's voice is a classic blues instrument, raspy and baritone. You get the feeling he could be a tenor if he pushed it, but that wouldn't sound right. Instead, almost haunts his songs as he sings. Very nice.

    Yeah, yeah, this is another "modern" blues album a la Otis Taylor. Yes, it's possible to say Turner should have branched out further. But I don't. I think he's made a nice mark here for himself. And I think he ought to continue making these marks. He's earned the right.

    225 Sterling Road
    Unit 19
    Toronto, ON M6R 2B2
    Phone (866) 540-0003
    Fax [416] 536-1494
    e-mail: info@northernblues.com
    www: http://www.northernblues.com

    Come together:
    Re-issues, greatest hits, compilations, etc.

    Blue Meanies Full Throttle re-issue (Thick)
    It's hard to markedly improve great albums, but Thick is kicking out this full re-packaging of the Blue Meanies's second album anyway. This edition drops the lyrics and any other real information from the liners, which is okay by me. While the notes don't mention it, this disc does sound remastered. The songs pop out a bit better, and I imagine that I can hear more in the wild audio stew. As for the three new tracks, there's an okay (if exceptionally manic) cover of "Stone Cold Crazy," an Vindictives cover ("Dummy Room") that is fine but didn't make the original album for obvious reasons and "One Day in Wisconsin," a nice little trip into studio fuckage. While the extras probably aren't worth the money, fans will want to hear them. And in any case, the improved sound is worth plunking down some cash.

    Crain Speed re-issue (Temporary Residence)
    Recorded in 1991, this album sounds remarkably modern. There are a few Helmet and Skin Yard references--as well as the obligatory bow to Jesus Lizard--but Crain manages to craft a sound that was quite a bit ahead of the times. For those who might own one of the 1000 copies pressed, there are four new songs for your enjoyment. Most of the time, when I hear music from this era, I flash back to my senior year of college. Not so here. This could have been recorded yesterday. Or tomorrow.

    The Electric Hellfire Club Kiss the Goat 10th anniversary re-issue (Cleopatra)
    This is how you do a re-issue on the cheap. Scan in the old liners (don't worry about the cool red foil on the original cover or the morays produced by sloppy scanning) and then toss on a remix and a track lying around in the vaults. I do wish Cleopatra had at least taken the time to improve (or change) the presentation, rather than throwing in liners that are of bootleg quality. That aside, the music sounds just like it did. You can make the call about that.

    Front Line Assembly and Friends The Best of Cryogenic Studio 2xCD (Cleopatra)
    A few years back, I got a one-disc version of this concept, which collects songs from Front Line Assembly and various FLA side projects (Delerium, Noise Unit, Equinox, Pro-Tech and Synaesthesia). In fact, every track from that earlier disc is on this set (with the exception of Delerium's "Infra Stellar"). Of course, this set includes a second disc's worth of music, so it is certainly better. While this is a fine set for the uninitiated, I would suggest that if you dig this stuff then you ought to go back and pick up the albums themselves, no matter how daunting that may seem. Two discs are hardly enough to provide more than a taste of the world of FLA.

    Inkubus Sukkubus Wytches & Vampyres--The Best Of (Cleopatra)
    Sixteen tracks that may surprise the goth babies of today. I have to admit that this stuff sounds a lot more vital today than I remember. There are all the cliche trademarks (repetitive string and keyboard intros, etc.), but the songs themselves sound fresh and exciting. There is great worth in studying history.

    Johnny Maddox Dixieland Blues re-issue (Crazy Otto/Universal)
    Just what the title says, a raftload of blues standards recorded in the Dixieland jazz style. First released by Dot Records back in the late 50s, this album crackles with as much life today as it must have then. The sound is amazing, and the performances are spot-on. A simply stunning trip through the music of the first half of the 20th Century.

    Various Artists Everything Comes & Goes (Temporary Residence)
    Elektro-abstract renditions of Black Sabbath songs (or, in the case of Ruins, a really trippy medley). The likes of Matmos, Paul Newman and the Anomoanon work their way through some of the greatest Sab songs of all time. I've always maintained that tribute albums ought to see the songs in a new light. I can't imagine an album doing that more than what has been done here. Exciting isn't the half of it.

    Various Artists Goth Industrial Club Anthems 3xCD (Cleopatra)
    I've just got a one disc sampler here, but it does appear that Cleopatra is on the right track. One disc for "gothic" (Bauhaus, the Mission U.K., etc.) another for "industrial" (Ministry, Skinny Puppy) and a third of remixes. It seems obvious they couldn't license everything, but this ought to be a pretty solid set.

    Various Artists More Songs of Freedom and Joy--Another Saturday Compilation (Also-Ran)
    Yet another compendium of the weird and truly far out, including a really bizarre telemarketing message from Doug E. Fresh that wound up on someone's answering machine. I'm not sure how Joseph Larkin has come by all this material (some of it seems to have been discovered in a shoebox), but he does have a handle on the difference between simply bad and spectacularly, impossibly strange. Hey, there are a lot worse ways to blow five bucks.

    Also recommended:

    At War With Self Torn Between Dimensions (Free Electronic Sound)
    Glenn Snelwar, Michael Manring and Mark Zonder, doing the whole prog power trio thing. This set is more introspective than most, and I really like the way the three guys work together. At times, this sounds like prog jazz. And that's pretty cool, indeed.

    Battles B EP (LP) (Dim Mak)
    Just like Battles to call its second album an EP. If you don't know the band, then let me assure you that's just the beginning of the obfuscations here. Battles goes further out on a limb than almost any other band I know--and often enough it doesn't return. This isn't post-rock, or improvisational or any of that kinda stuff. It's Battles, and that's it.

    Blivit Unhand the World (self-released)
    In the obligatory band photo, one of the members is wearing an apparently mint condition Nuclear Assault t-shirt. That doesn't say anything about the sound (which is something like a tight, clean, prog version of early Van Halen, if you ask me), but it does go to the mindset of the boys. Leave no idea unexamined, and make your music the best you can. I think they might well have.

    Daedalus Exquisite Corpse (Mush-Dirty Loop)
    I've always liked the slogan for Dirty Loop: "Musically made mishaps." Daedalus combines electronic collage, hip hop and a few hipster guest shots (Prefuse 73, Mike Ladd, etc.). This album is a true mess, but an enjoyable one. Let the chaos wash over you and see how you're thinking when it's done.

    Carlos del Junco Blues Mongrel (NorthernBlues)
    Del Junco plays a fine harp, and he picks some great songs to play. The mongrel part of the title is most appropriate. These lurching, rambling pieces come from blues country, but by the time del Junco and pals are done with them they're, well, something else again. Something worth hearing, that is.

    Fingers Cut Megamachine Fingers Cut Megamachine (Thick)
    Devon Williams wrote these rootsy pieces, and then he goes and gives his band this outlandish name. Whatever. The songs themselves seem to emanate unedited from his mind. That sort of direct connection can be unnerving, but it also makes for some wonderfully revealing moments. Unrefined, but probably better for it.

    Four Square Industry at Home (Bad Taste)
    Much more traditional emo sounds from the Bad Taste label. Four Square isn't Swedish--not with a singer named Simon Head. But that doesn't matter much. The songs are catchy and have some fine, blocky riffage. I don't know how long they'll stay with me, but they're good for now.

    Holiday and the Adventure Pop Collective Become (self-released)
    An inventive, wide ranging application of the term "pop." A lot of folks would just slap this into the "complex rock" category and be done with it. But when you slap horns, fiddle, piano and a decided dark bent into the same song, why not call it "adventure pop?" Damned good question.
    www: http://www.adventurepop.com

    Roger Hoover and the Whiskeyhounds Panic Blues (Bandaloop)
    Blues, if you're willing to lump southern-fried roots into that category. Sure, there are plenty of blue notes, but Hoover and pals bring a lot more to the table, creating a banquet of American sounds. Indeed, there are those that might call this Americana--an overused and poorly-drawn term in itself. Hey, let's just call it fine music and say goodnight.

    i The Nominonivore (Slingslang)
    So what happens when you channel Sisters of Mercy through indie-rock and electronic filters? I don't know, but that might be the closest I can come to describing i. For that matter, I have no idea what the title of the album means, either. And that's just fine with me, as long as I can listen to this album one more time.

    Jeff Kaiser/Andrew Pask The Choir Boys (pfMENTUM)
    Kaiser takes to trumpet and flugelhorn, and Pask plays winds (clarinets, saxophones and a whistle). They combine in that world where I most often find Kaiser: The one he creates in my mind. These breathy improvisations would be great for a Halloween party (well, except for the ones processed to the hilt), and they're stellar for wandering off in search of your next great idea.

    Theresa Miele I Am Not Your Puzzle to Solve (self-released)
    The usual complaints about the whole girl/boy thing--except that Miele is pretty witty in the way she dissects human relations. There is that inexplicably bizarre cover of "Addicted to Love" to figure out, but otherwise this album probably has more to say than it should.
    www: http://www.theresamiele.com

    Plate Fork Knife Spoon Plate Fork Knife Spoon (Wide Hive)
    Just another fusion extravaganza from Wide Hive. This one is jazzier than most., which makes this sound like an ensemble, not a collage. I like the way the songs come together organically and the way the band works together to finish off the ideas. Solid and enjoyable.

    Pretendo Pretendo (Country Club)
    These folks are trying just a bit too hard. They throw in an extra back-beat here, a too-complicated guitar lick there, and then tie it together with completely unrefined vocals. And yet it sounds really cool. Maybe it's the charm of a band that keeps trying to please even after it has passed the point of no return. Kinda endearing that way.

    Ringleader Ringleader EP (self-released)
    Rousing, aggressive AOR-style rock. Takes me back to the mid-80s, New Mexico, mullets and cheap beer. But that's my story. Ringleader is much more sophisticated than that, but these rock anthems are still cheese at heart. Not that I'm complaining. A trip to the past is always fun, especially when the music is as ostensibly modern as this.
    www: www.ringleadermusic.com

    Thollem/Rivera I'll Meet You Half Way Out In the Middle of It All (self-released)
    Thollem McDonas plays piano and sings. Rick Rivera plays the drums. The songs themselves have a certain manic mutant bent that is highly reminiscent of They Might Be Giants--fronted by Jello Biafra. Completely goofy and a little strange to boot, this album has all sorts of genuinely gorgeous moments. Geek popsters unite!
    www: www.thollem.com

    Uber Cool Kung Fu 3 (Omega Point)
    Back in the late 80s and early 90s there were thousands of attempts to fuse dance music, metal, pop and rock anthems. I suppose NIN and KMFDM came closest, but UBKF isn't too far behind. These loopy, fun songs are just the antidote for today's often too-serious scene.

    The Ugly Beats Bring on the Beats! (Get Hip)
    Garage-style songs played with a 60s pop sensibility. What's interesting about that is that few bands back then tried this most obvious combination. The songs are simple fun, and they have the sound of innocent days gone by. Alright, so we we're just kidding ourselves about that last part. But what's a little self-delusion among friends?

    Vutdevuk Inner Turmoil (self-released)
    Brady Arnold is one hell of a talented guy. He writes these songs of impressive complexity and then plays them as well. Sometimes the pieces get a bit overwrought, but then, that's what happens with one-man outfits. You've got to take the good with the bad when it comes to obsessive recording.
    P.O. Box 1174
    Miamisburg, OH. 45343-1174

  • return to A&A home page