Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #267 reviews
(August 2005)
  • The Bangkok Five 10 the Hard Way (Aeronaut)
  • Boyracer Insults and Insights EP (Kittridge)
  • The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band (Big Dipper)
  • Captain Bringdown and the Buzz Killers Feel Good Tunes EP (Sock Hop/Hairball8)
  • Colony of Watts Mercenary Position (Sector Five)
  • The Hatepinks Plastic Bag Ambitions (TKO)
  • iD and Sleeper Displacement (Mush)
  • Daniel Lanois Belladonna (Anti)
  • Miss Mary Ready2Pop (Waxfruit/Dren)
  • Sixty Acres Banjos and Sunshine re-issue (Dren)
  • Smallspace No Matter (Speedywagon)
  • Wydown Message from the Yes Man EP (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    The Bangkok Five
    10 the Hard Way EP

    Garage attitude combined with a full-fuzz sound and some decidedly polished guitar work...when you crank out a pile of shiny rock, you'd damn well better overload the energy factor. These boys do.

    Kinda like the "Sister Havana" side of Urge Overkill's major label experiment, these boys flash some killer hookmaking skills even as they try to rock out the universe. And like I noted above, the sound is tres "I wanna be a star."

    That's cool with me. The energy is, in fact, overloaded in a most pleasing way. The Bangkok Five probably ought to do a little more to differentiate itself from the pack--be it rock or emo (or can we merge those two terms, please?)--but I'm not gonna complain about the five swingingly stylish pieces of big rock on this disc. Just what the dog days of summer ordered.

    Aeronaut Records
    P.O. Box 361432
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www: http://www.aeronautrecords.com

    Insults and Insights EP

    Boyracer has that tinny fuzz endemic to old-school indie rock, and there are some fun fake falsetto vocals, too. And just when I feel like I can put these folks down as smooth retroids, they shift gears into modern art pop. And then back again. And then I realize that the folks are combining those two fairly disparate ideas, and it's only on a couple songs that one filters out the other.

    By indie rock, I'm talking about Wedding Present or early My Bloody Valentine. And by modern art pop, I'm talking about anything from the Sea and Cake to Tortoise to one particular phase of the Mekons or latter-day Wilco. That's a lot of territory to cover, and Boyracer spans these ideas with exuberance.

    Above all my arcane analysis, this is one hell of a fun disc. The songs never flag, and in the end, it's that excitement that carries over into my opinion. Crunchy as hell, and quite tasty that way.

    Kittridge Records
    P.O. Box 662011
    Los Angeles, CA 90066
    www: http://www.kittnet.com

    The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band
    The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band
    (Big Dipper)

    Kinda like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, except that these folks are serious about bringing back the 60s, and most of the members are Norwegian (guitarist and vocalist R. Edwards has a name that sounds suspiciously non-Scandinavian).

    And like BJM, Brimstone drops plenty of modern ideas into this peace, love and psychedelic rumination brio. There's a good chunk of organ, some mandolin and--oh yeah--a little sitar here and there. These guys reference Love as much as the Airplane...though the lyrics certainly do seem to have been steeped in a mushroom stew.

    The sound is the most modern part of this album. The full, lush production is decidedly non-60s, but that's cool. It brings out the otherworldliness of certain aspects of the music. Makes everything a bit more out there. And that doesn't hurt one bit.

    If I had to take a position, I'd say these boys are a bit too enamored with the past. I'd like to hear somewhat more modern ideas thrown into the mix a bit more often. But this is a fun little piece of historical reconstruction, one that goes down well with psilocybin chaser.

    Big Dipper
    Storgata 51
    0182 Oslo
    www: http://www.bigdipper.no

    Captain Bringdown and the Buzzkillers
    Feel Good Tunes EP
    (Hairball 8)

    Solid ska tuneage. Captain Bringdown and company stray from the punk-ska formula every now and again, but every song ends up in power skank mode by the end. And that's fine with me. These folks provide plenty of tasty hooks.

    I guess that's the trick with most anything. After all, this formula hasn't been particularly altered since the days of OpIvy--though the production sound has improved 1000 percent, of course. Not that such a thing makes the music any better, of course.

    But I digress. These are, indeed, feel good tunes. Six tight, well-constructed punk ska pieces played with skill and aplomb. Could I pick these folks out of a lineup? Maybe, maybe not. Still, solid songwriting is nothing to sneeze at. Plenty of fun.

    Hairball 8 Records
    PO Box 681674
    San Antonio, TX 78268-1674
    www: http://www.hairball8.com

    Colony of Watts
    Mercenary Position
    (Sector Five)

    The sticker on the front calls this "hard rock." If that's the case, then hard rock has come an awfully long way. And I say that as a balls-out hard rock fan.

    Colony of Watts is a polished no wave act--think Jesus Lizard's later days, or perhaps Kepone's more tuneful moments. And yeah, the interplay between the lead guitar and rhythm section is exceptional, most worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as those folks.

    Indeed, the subconscious grooves in these songs are just brilliant. These boys sound utterly loose, but the songs still manage to be sewn up tight. The sound is ragged, but still powerful enough to bring out the natural throb in the material.

    Hard rock? I dunno. It is damned loud, of course, and it is rock and roll, but I think that label is a bit misleading. These boys are on the noise side of the divide, and we should all be thankful for that. There's nothing like a little dissonance and boogie to get one right with the Lord.

    Sector Five
    P.O. Box 3372
    Madison, WI 54704
    www: http://www.sectorfiverecords.com

    The Hatepinks
    Plastic Bag Ambitions

    This might well be described as the Epoxies on testosterone. But the Hatepinks aren't so much a new wave punk explosion as simply guys who like straight 4 timekeeping and minimalist hooks. Yes, I know, that does sound a lot like new wave. Give me a break. It's been a long month...

    Nonetheless, I'd say these guys are as much DK as Buzzcocks--or maybe a fascinating conflagration of the two. Throw in a few Ramones and Devo references, and you probably have as good a picture as I can provide.

    The sound is, of course, utterly modern, filling out all the cracks. There's nowhere to hide a damn thing, and that does color the overall sound. There's just that much less menace when the edge is taken off a buzzsaw riff.

    Not that I'm complaining. This album is speedy, off-kilter fun, with plenty of kick in the engine. Just enough attitude to produce a ragged sneer. Which is, indeed, just about right.

    8941 Atlanta Ave. #505
    Huntington Beach, CA 92646
    www: http://www.tkorecords.net

    iD and Sleeper

    Rhymes by iD, music by Sleeper. This sort of arrangement is fairly common, of course, but when it works both people push each other to the limits of creativity. Such is the case here.

    iD muses about the modern condition. Whether talking about the material or philosophical worlds, the ideas in these songs are fresh and intoxicating. This stuff is hardly abstract, but iD pulls off the neat trick of speaking generally, yet leaving a specific impression.

    The beats and grooves are dirty and lean, just as fertile as the lyrics. Indeed, often enough there are musical counterpoints to the subjects of the rhymes. That's what I meant when I was talking about pushing each other. Creative competition often yields exemplary results.

    An album well worth delving into. There are far too many ideas and themes to mention in a review as short as this. Let's just say I'll be peeling the onion for quite a while.

    Mush Records
    1742 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    Phone (323) 876-6679
    Fax [323] 876-6689

    Daniel Lanois

    I've always thought of Daniel Lanois as a folkier Brian Eno. His long history with Eno probably has something to do with that, as does his involvement with a couple of the great "modern folkČ albums of the last decade: Dylan's Time Out of Mind (not to mention his earlier, most excellent Oh, Mercy) and Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball. The music on this album is wonderfully conceived stuff that exists somewhere in the world music/roots/folk continuum.

    Lanois has long shown a real feel for the use of electronic processing (keyboards, effects, drum machines, etc.) to create a strikingly organic sound. He uses every weapon at his disposal, and in so doing creates canvases that seem denser and richer than is humanly possible.

    These impossibly gorgeous tapestries are, nonetheless, often simple affairs consisting of just a few lines at any given time. Sparse riches, I guess. That's the genius of Lanois: Use everything, but never overwhelm.

    The soundtrack to one of those indie movies set in some magical backwater. Simple people who aren't so simple. Everyday events that have lasting consequences. A flash in the night; reconciliation by dawn. That sort of thing. Except that Lanois tells the story much better than I ever could.

    2798 Sunset Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90026
    www: http://www.anti.com

    Miss Mary

    That would be Mary Stopas, who led the Oscillators back in the late 1990s and has since embarked on a solo career. Her songs are jaunty, hook-laden treats, served up with a heavy dose of sly, sultry pop vocals. Feel free to think of the Pastels or Letters to Cleo.

    Is she that good? Oh, probably not. But these songs are wonderful bits of power pop fluff, borrowing heavily from 60s surf and garage. Throw in plenty of fuzz and some nice volume dealing, and we're talking about first rate stuff.

    Miss Mary does this sound exceptionally well, but I can't say I'd be able to pick her songs out of a crowd. That's the blessing and curse of pop, I guess. Originality isn't always rewarded--but then, neither is quality.

    So I guess I should be spending more time praising the spot-on writing and fine sound of these songs. Lovely and subtly moving pieces that are worth more than a few minutes of anyone's time. Pretty and substantial. That's always a good combination.

    Dren Records
    P.O. Box 22496
    Philadelphia, PA 19110
    e-mail: drenrecords@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.drenrecords.com

    Sixty Acres
    Banjos and Sunshine re-issue

    I rarely give full reviews to re-issues, but I wasn't familiar with this album, and it really knocked me out. So there.

    How's this for a line-up: Matt Felch, Niall Hood, Dana Kelly, Brian Seith and Mark McKay? Not bad. Flech and Hood are still plugging away today with the band--Hood, of course, is also the person behind Dren Records--and Mark McKay has a number of outstanding solo works (which feature some of his old bandmates) out on Dren.

    Sixty Acres obviously listened to a lot of Uncle Tupelo (and even contributed a version of "Gun" to a UT tribute album), but these boys softened the punk edges and added some serious technical chops. These songs are wonderfully-crafted pieces, with every ringing guitar line and raggedly-sweet harmony falling almost casually into place.

    I dunno, this just speaks to me. Maybe it's because Uncle Tupelo was the house band for my college years at Missouri, but I prefer to think it's simply because the music is awfully good. Six years haven't taken the luster off this album. It still shines--and with six new tracks, it might glow that much brighter.

    Dren Records
    P.O. Box 22496
    Philadelphia, PA 19110
    e-mail: drenrecords@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.drenrecords.com

    No Matter

    I did a year in Battle Creek, Mich., from September 1, 1993 to September 20, 1994 (and yes, there's a reason I remember those specific dates). If I wanted to catch a show, I had to haul over to Kalamazoo, or, more often, up to Grand Rapids, to hear something cool. Smallspace hails from that metropolis on the semi-frozen tundra, and I can't say I'm surprised I like this so much.

    The prog-laptop feel of the songs is intriguing. Kinda like Air meets Radiohead by way of (you knew it was coming!) the Beta Band. Not exactly the sort of thing I usually dig, but these boys have a nicely abstract way of approaching their material that really appeals to my ears.

    The sound is wonderful. Not too spacey, but certainly not of this world. Plenty of room for shoegazing, but still leaving plenty of activity for more exuberant listeners. The production is subtle enough to allow all sorts of minor ideas entrance into the songs, making the results that much more fulfilling.

    There are a lot of good things about western Michigan. Bell's beer. The lakeshore. A number of good bands--a number which has been joined by Smallspace. Something interesting going on here.

    www: http://www.smallspacemusic.com

    Message from the Yes Man EP

    And then there's prog prog. Wydown approaches this classic sound from the post-rock side of things, adding all sorts of interesting bits of instrumentation (strings, etc.) and often reverting to basic rock song construction. Still, the loping melodies and technical approach to playing are prog all the way.

    Five songs, each of which has a decidedly different feel. And yet, each is decidedly a Wydown song. That's the sort of thing that is impossible to teach. A band just has to figure it out. And Wydown has.

    These guys still have to figure out where they want to go in the future. The tracks here lay out any number of potential roads--many of them not prog in the slightest, of course. Who knows? The next disc I get from these guys might be pop hardcore. Um, probably not, but I do know one thing: It will sound like a Wydown album. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.

    www: http://www.wydown.com

    Also recommended:

    ...Bender ...Bender (Satellite/TV)
    Moody, occasionally disturbing music from the wilds of east London. Yes, yes, there are echoes of Black Box Recorder, but with more of a Nick Cave chaser. These folks like to get weird, and then wallow in the moment. Kinda cool that way.

    Bronco Busters Pulse Racing (Big Dipper)
    Just another Swedish female power pop act. Well, there is one unique bit: this one's a trio. All joking aside, Bronco Busters play with real fire--more grit than perkiness, which is a real plus in my book. Decidedly ephemeral, to be sure, but awfully nice for top-down days.

    Cat and Dog Deluxe/Red Pony Clock split CD (Gabe & Lizeth Records + Crafts)
    Two bands who like to use a lot of instruments in order to make a lot of noise. Red Pony Clock is somewhat more coherent, and while that doesn't generally get my vote, it does here. This set of 22 songs is a real boon to fans of off-beat fare. Lots of odd moments here--makes me smile, it does.
    www: http://www.catanddogdialogue.cjb.net
    www: http://www.redponyclock.com

    FM Bats Everybody Out...Shark in the Water EP (Vinyl Dog/TKO)
    Raucous and spartan, this album is all about treble. I'm guessing that mix is intentional--it certainly does lend a garage feel to music that's actually a lot more polished. These boys bound along, rarely stopping to think about consequences. Nice instincts.

    The Kallikak Family May 23rd 2007 (Tell-All)
    Three folks contributed tapes (noise, improvisations, musical thoughts, samples, whatever), and then one of the three (Andrew Peterson) put them all together. I'm not sure how collaborative the process was (were the tapes sent between all three, or just to Peterson?), but I guess that doesn't matter much. Peterson has done a fine job of assembling the pieces on this album into something just the other side of this world.

    Joe Kile Kings Avenue (Dren)
    Understated Americana melancholia that sounds more pretty than perverse. Even when his lyrics get quite dark, Kile's voice still sounds like he's smiling. That adds a menace to the songs that may--or may not--be intentional. either way, it's unnerving. I like music that shakes me out of my comfy chair, and this is most definitely that.

    Adam McIntyre Nothing Means Anything (Headphone Treats)
    Sunny, introspective pop in the manner of a stripped-down Matthew Sweet. McIntyre cycles through many feels, adapting his sound to the needs of his songs. He's got a good feel for writing, though his final presentation is a bit faceless. Nonetheless, songs this good deserve to be heard.

    New Estate Considering... (Kittridge)
    Ah, the sounds of modern indie rock. Even when the band slows down, these folks sound like they're pushing themselves just a hair too far. Strained vocals, slightly muffed guitar licks...you know, all those endearing tics that make indie rock so much fun. I suppose you might complain that New Estate doesn't do a whole lot to distinguish itself. I would, but my head keeps bobbing along. Can't do a thing about it.

    Pelican The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (Hydrahead)
    Does that title scream prog, or what? And, yeah, this stuff is vaguely proggy...but more in a post-rock manner than, say, Hawkwind. Quite meditative and introspective, in fact, the sort of album that challenges the notion that you've got to be utterly abstract to truly exploit the recesses of the frontal lobe.

    Dug Pinnick Emotional Animal (Magna Carta)
    I've been a fan of King's X since forever, and I consider Pinnick's voice to be one of the finest in the entire history of rock. This latest solo effort is solid, but not as incendiary as some of the band's finest moments. I can't get enough of the voice, but at times I wish the music had been more inspired. Quite listenable, certainly, even if I was hoping for a bit more.

    David Schultz David Schultz (Triple Stamp)
    Not everyone is able to make jaunty roots music vaguely apocalyptic, but Schultz tries his damnedest. Kinda cool...sorta like a train wreck, except more severe. Schultz doesn't hurtle into the abyss with every song (that would be boring), but when he does, he creates one hell of an effect. Intriguing.

    So L'il Dear Kathy, (Goodbye Better)
    The Kathy in question would be avant garde novelist Kathy Acker, someone whose work just doesn't work for me. So L'il, though, isn't nearly as unusual and arcane as their inspiration, and these loopy, lush pop songs lilt by on scented air currents. Not conventional by any means, but hardly warped. Just a fun, unconventional album.

    Uncle Fucker Usurpers of the Tradition (Hairball 8)
    First I thought the name was, indeed, "Uncle Fucker." Then I thought it was "Uncle Tucker." Turns out my first read was correct. The sound is Paul Stanley meets Ralph Stanley meets crystal meth. Hard rockin' bluegrass is actually one hell of an idea, and these guys pull it off better than you might imagine. The musicianship is solid, and the sound is quite crunchy. Most amusing.

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