Welcome to A&A. There are 13 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 #277 reviews
(August 2006)
  • Charlie Burton & the Dorothy Lynch Mob Salad (Wild)
  • Dr. Octagon The Return of Dr. Octagon (OCD International)
  • Earmint Another Early Evening (EV Records)
  • Brian English Beyond Words (Record Label Records)
  • Great Lakes Diamond Times (Empyrean)
  • The Hourly Radio History Will Never Hold Me (Kirtland)
  • Miss Autopsy Sweet Killers (Comatone Recordings)
  • Roman Numerals Roman Numerals (Anodyne)
  • The Rosewood Thieves From the Decker House (V2)
  • Kevin Roth Between the Notes (self-released)
  • Scanners Violence Is Golden (Dim Mak)
  • Liam Singer Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek (Tell-All)
  • Trentalange Photo Album of Complex Relationships (Coco Tauro)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    Charlie Burton & the Dorothy Lynch Mob
    Salad
    (Wild)

    When you're throwing funny lines left and right, it helps to have a solid backing band. After all, every comedian needs a wall to throw things against. Burton's band knows how to play. Combine that with Burton's almost-deadpan delivery, and you've got some seriously funny stuff.

    More wry than goofy, Burton sells his songs with sincerity. The musicianship is stellar, and that alone makes this album worth hearing. Burton's sense of humor is dry and broad--think You Are What You Is-era Zappa.

    If Zappa played the some version of the country blues, that is. These are easy-going rambles down some alternate-universe urban country back alley. Far too much fun to make the top five on Dr. Demento.

    Though I'd guess a few of these pieces would be welcome in those quarters. These aren't novelty parodies, though. Even "Peggy Sue Got Divorced" (which references the original in the rhythm section) is more of a genial continuation of the story. Jokes for the belly and the brain. I like that.

    Contact:
    Wild Records
    1112 S. 23rd
    Lincoln, NE 68502
    www: http://www.charlieburton.net


    Dr. Octagon
    The Return of Dr. Octagon
    (OCD International)

    The Dr. is in. Or, as he is known in the rational universe, Kool Keith. It's been a while since his alter ego graced the audio waves, but damn, you just can't fuck with the Dr. To say it don't get any better than this is to perpetuate a cliche in the interests of supplicating genius.

    Or something like that. The beats are, indeed, genius, and the rhymes are funny and shockingly incisive. I haven't heard an album that stripped bullshit to the bone like this in ages. Years. Decades, maybe. Well, decade. Or so.

    Laugh out loud funny and immutably booty-moving as well. This might be the perfect party album except that there's often something serious going on underneath the grooves. Uproarious on top, and deadly true at the base. Make that the bass. Whatever.

    What did you expect? When Kool Keith puts on the stethoscope, he doesn't mess around. Sublime perfection from start to finish. If this doesn't end up as my favorite album of the year, God will have to create itself and shoot a thunderbolt through my brain.

    Hey, who knows. It might happen.

    Contact:
    OCD International
    www: http://www.ocdinternational.com


    Earmint
    Another Early Evening
    (EV Records)

    Listening to this on the heels of the Dr. Octagon, well, I'm a bit underwhelmed. But only a bit. That's how good Earmint is.

    Stellar collage beatwork is the centerpiece here. Folks like Diverse, Murs, Longshot and Psalm One (reviewed in "Also Recommended" in this issue) drop by to add a little flow--good work, too, not just yer usual guest shot crap--but Earmint doesn't let up even when an MC is hanging out.

    The sound is more crunchy than smooth. Some of that is the collage technique, but more than that I think Earmint wants to keep an aggressive sound. I like that. Always keep the listener on the defensive.

    Not pretty, but quite possibly beautiful. There are sounds here I'd never imagined before. Which is why I listen to music in the first place.

    Contact:
    EV Records
    1457 Ashland Ave.
    Evanston, IL 60201
    www: http://www.evrecords.net


    Brian English
    Beyond Words
    (Record Label Records)

    The third producer project in a row in this set of reviews. Guess what overloaded my mailbox this month? And yet, all three are quite different. Brian English is much more of a composer. He does some nice beat work or happily settle into a groove, but electronics are his domain.

    Rather, he's out to create entire worlds and tell stories. And each of the 21 pieces here does that. Even the fragments have arcs. I can't tell you how impressive that is.

    The sound is marginally on the sterile side. English isn't afraid to go organic, but he seems to prefer a bit of an icy edge. And that doesn't distract from the pleasure of the pieces. Just focuses the mind, you know.

    Well done from conception to finish. English is in complete control, and he uses that to make his work utterly compelling. Fall in and let the music move your mind.

    Contact:
    Record Label Records
    38771 Bell St. #37
    Fremont, CA 94536
    www: http://www.recordlabelrecords.org


    Great Lakes
    Diamond Times
    (Empyrean)

    Two songwriters and a cast of twenty in the studio. The sound is americana meets...everything else. Lots of rock, a bit of soul and, don't you know, I could be describing Lambchop. Well, I could, except that Great Lakes doesn't sound like them.

    No, these folks (Dan Donahue and Ben Crum seem to be the ones in charge, with help from producer Jason Nesmith) aren't particularly idiosyncratic in their writing style. A bit all over the place, but familiar territory at all times. And that's cool. A nice album to roll with on a sunny day.

    Indeed, this is one hell of a summer album. The sound is warm and inviting, and the songs pop out in just the right ways. Not by numbers, but rather cool and proficient. Cool as in "don't that sound cool?"

    Yeah, it does. A fine trip through many of the sounds we call American music. Not saccharine or cynical, but simply real. Like having a conversation with an old friend. It's easy. And fulfilling. Like waking up in the middle of the night while having sex. And we all know that doesn't suck.

    Contact:
    Empyrean Records
    P.O. Box 197
    Warren, RI 02885-0197
    www: http://www.empyreanrecords.com


    The Hourly Radio
    History Will Never Hold Me
    (Kirtland)

    The thing that was cool about the early '80s was that there were so many bands who wanted to make good pop music. Not pre-packaged crap polished by song doctors and produced into deafening oblivion, but sly tunes played with panache. Yeah, it does seem that most of those bands came from the U.K. (or Ireland or Australia or New Zealand), but there were some Americans playing the game as well. Marshall Crenshaw, the dBs, Let's Active...hell, I'll wave the flag as hard as anyone.

    The Hourly Radio remembers that time. Or, perhaps more accurately, its members have spent beaucoup time in the vinyl stores. In any case, these folks have a sound reminiscent of the Cure, INXS, the Fixx, the Smiths or, perhaps most strongly, later Chills. And yet, there's nothing in here that's derivative. The odd guitar flash here and straight up-and-down drum line there, perhaps, but the songs themselves are utterly original.

    Modern, too. The key to revisiting an era properly is to take that older sound and make it relevant. Hey, I love 80s music (as I define it) because that's the sound of high school and college for me. But just because you're playing music that vaguely sounds like stuff that might have been present at some kid's conception doesn't mean they're gonna dig it.

    So do what these guys do. Play good music. If there's a flavor from the past, that's cool. But don't be slavish about old times. Make the music that makes sense to you, and you've got a shot a winning today's kids over to your sound. The Hourly Radio does just that--even if it is a geezer (in my case) that they impressed here.

    Contact:
    Kirtland Records
    3100 Main St.
    Suite 347
    Dallas, TX 75226


    Miss Autopsy
    Sweet Killers
    (Comatone Recordings)

    Steve Beyerink is Miss Autopsy. But this does not have the feel of the stereotypical one-man outfit. The sound is ragged, loose and really, really dirty. Though I guess I am repeating myself.

    Slinky hard rock riffs abound, but Beyerink thinks nothing of sliding into a midwestern americana groove when the feeling strikes--and that's good stuff, too. The construction and simple riffage is the same, but he adds a mellow twang here and there that's comforting to an old Missouri boy like me.

    A Missouri boy who was born in New York, but then, aren't we all a collection of contradictions? Beyerink certainly is. This album whipsaws from loud and nasty to frighteningly introspective at the drop of a ten-gallon hat. Surprisingly, it manages to hold together just fine. Probably more a result of Beyerink's almost militaristic guitar style rather than his voice, but when you've got John Congleton at the knobs, you've always got a fighting chance.

    Thoroughly enjoyable. Though I must admit to being wrong about one thing: The idiosyncrasy present on this album clearly marks it as a one-man job. But hey, that's cool with me. I always like stripping away the layers of someone else's personality. Keeps me from worrying too much about mine.

    Contact:
    Comatone Recordings
    P.O. Box 30045
    Des Moines, IA 50310
    www: http://www.miss-autopsy.com


    Roman Numerals
    Roman Numerals
    (Anodyne)

    Survivors of the early 90s K.C. loud music scene get all retro. Members of Season to Risk, Shiner and others play some fine stripped-down proto punk--complete with synthesizers. References to Gang of Four, Gary Numan, etc., aren't entirely out of line.

    If you want to get the real flavor of the album, skip ahead a few songs. The first two are something of a concept piece, and while they're not bad, they aren't the greatest introduction to a band with this sort of musical firepower. Loud navelgazing, while sometimes interesting, isn't the way to kick off a disc.

    That misstep aside, though, this album simply crackles. I always thought Season to Risk was at its best when it picked up the tempo a bit. When you're playing grungy fare, even often inspired stuff, always keep the songs moving along. Apart from the first two tracks, that's what happens here.

    These guys are about my age. I've met most of the band at one time or another (never in K.C.; always in strange places like Grand Rapids), and I know these are guys who actually think about their music. I think they've finally found the mates and the sound that allows them to do just that.

    Contact:
    Anodyne Records
    P.O. Box 014095
    Kansas City, MO 64102
    www: http://www.anodynerecords.com


    The Rosewood Thieves
    From the Decker House EP
    (V2)

    Six short songs (four don't make it to three minutes) from an upstate New York. An outfit good enough to enlist the help of Bob Dorough (the man who wrote "Conjunction Junction" and other Schoolhouse Rock bits), Mike Daly, Andy Cavic and Otto Hauser.

    And the Rosewood Thieves are that good. The sound is "timeless rock," which is something we don't get enough of these days. A little organ, a little kick-ass guitar and anthemic choruses that ring in the brain for days.

    Six tracks, and all of them leave me screaming for more. Not just outstanding. Absolutely fucking amazing. To say more would be to defile the music.

    Contact:
    V2 Records
    130 Fifth Ave.
    Seventh Floor
    New York, NY 10011
    www: http://www.v2-artemis.com


    Kevin Roth
    Between the Notes
    (self-released)

    Kevin Roth wants to traffic in timeless music. Perhaps a bit more folk and pop than rock, but I've found that such distinctions can be ephemeral. Good music, though, lasts a long damn time.

    Yeah, yeah, this does fit right into that whole singer-songwriter genre, but Roth doesn't make the mistake of thinking his music is more than it is. Even when performing a song like "Love Is" (the title alone is simply fraught with potential disaster), Roth acquits himself with grace and self-deprecation. Yes, that particular song is a bit treacly (duh), but it didn't inspire me to skin myself and jump into a vat of rubbing alcohol. Trust me; that's saying a lot.

    Roth veers between the blues and folk and acoustic pop with aplomb. He even gets Noel Paul Stookey (better known as the Paul in Peter, Paul and Mary) to hang out on "The Inside Job" (which is one of the better songs here). The man has taste, and he has the brains to show it.

    Not a perfect album; there are moments when Roth does, in fact, try too hard. Whenever the keyboard arrangements get going, I wondered where Neil Diamond (circa 1982) was hiding. But, y'know, I still like Neil, and I like Roth as well. One of the better singer-songwriter efforts I've heard in a while.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.kevinrothmusic.com


    Scanners
    Violence Is Golden
    (Dim Mak)

    As I mention from time to time, I came of age in the 1980s. Which means I love new wave, punk and tuneful pop music more than a "serious" music critic probably should. But shit, man, it's hardwired into my system. And when a band like Scanners comes along, it's hard for me to keep my pants clean.

    The guitars are more early emo, but the construction is pop, the hooks are mind-bending and the straight-up drumming takes me back to any number of high school dances where I was lucky to find the courage to ask anyone out on the floor. So, y'know, it's not like my opinion is free of emotional bias or anything.

    But, come on, these strident little songs pack one hell of a punch. Stripped down and completely tight, the stuff here is incendiary. Music reduced to its most volatile components. Sets my skin on fire.

    Oh, yeah, and these folks have a woman named Sarah Daly at the mic. I know, this plays to all the worst stereotypes about men, but come on. For me, it's just the icing on one hell of a cake. Which is a cliche, especially since I detest cake. But I love Scanners. A lot. This one goes right into heavy rotation.

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


    Liam Singer
    Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek
    (Tell-All)

    Singer isn't afraid to whip out a classically-inspired piano bash to start his album. And that's as good a way to introduce himself as any. He's got a real showy piano style, and his songs reflect that. Which is cool. Might as well aim high, right?

    Thing is, the songs are more than just art school trips. Yes, there's a lot of weirdness going on here; the songs do not always follow traditional pop construction--at times, they seem like pure formless drama. I can do that.

    Scott Solter, who does know his way around this sort of thing, does a great job of bringing out all the important elements and leaving the window dressing where it belongs. He's done a fine job of shaping the sound here, ensuring that what might have been maddening is instead inspiring.

    Out on a limb? Absolutely. But the chances pay off. Singer has created a wonderful set of pieces here. I'm not sure I want to live in his world, but I sure enjoyed the visit.

    Contact:
    Tell-All Records
    P.O. Box 40298
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    www: http://www.tellallrecords.com


    Trentalange
    Photo Album of Complex Relationships
    (Coco Tauro)

    That would be Barbara Trentalange, once of Crooked Fingers. She's crafted an album that reminds me a bit of her old mates, but has more bite. As an old Archers fan, I kept waiting for the Fingers to really get mean. Didn't happen. But Trentalage starts on the edge and then heads off the cliff.

    The sound is similar, but the content of the lyrics and music are more daring. I know, it's always lame to make these sorts of comparisons, so perhaps I'll simply speak to the present. Which is that Trentalange has made some of the more compelling rock music I've heard this year.

    The little sticker on the cover makes reference to the Floyd, Nick Cave and Peter Gabriel. Yeah, yeah, but this isn't a 70s album. Or even an 80s one. It's modern music. Arty and dramatic, to be sure, but modern. Pretty, engaging and often challenging. Try getting all the pieces on the first listen. I didn't.

    But I liked it from the start. And repeat listens confirm my instincts. This is a inspired work, the sort of album that will sound better five years down the line. Gorgeous, strong and unwavering. I'd put it in a vault to save, but I just have to hear it once more.

    Contact:
    Coco Tauro Records
    www: http://www.cocotauro.com


    Also recommended:

    Beatnik Filmstars In Great Shape (555 Records)
    Sloppy, hazy, offbeat rockers that bring to mind a less elf-consciously cool Girls Against Boys--or, more specifically, New Wet Kojak. These folks never come off as being completely full of themselves, but there's a confidence here that's awfully winning.

    Blag'ard Black Faced Clouds EP (Pig Zen's Pace)
    Joe Taylor and Bill Buckley pull a little Flat Duo Jets duty--as in two-man guitar drum outfit, not psycho retro renovators. The songs are generally bright pop tunes, played with often frightening abandon. I love the sleek sound. Just rings with happiness.

    Boyracer A Punch up the Bracket (555 Records)
    Short songs, not-quite short songs, loud songs, quiet songs, messy songs, somewhat tight songs...21 songs in 45 minutes. Boyracer's latest is the usual mess of styles and ideas. If you're not up to the minute with these folks, there's a new retrospective (Punker than You Since '92) which should clue you in to these ex-pat Brit funsters.

    Clouds Forming Crowns Race to the Blackout (Morphius)
    Sweet, fuzzy swagger that never lets up. Indie rock meets cock rock with some seriously glorious consequences. I've liked these guys for a while, and this album makes me happy.

    Empty Cage Quartet Hello the Damage! 2xCD (pfMENTUM)
    That's right, two discs of improvisational jazz. Better hope these people actually know each other. Actually, it sounds like they're sleeping together. All four of them, that is, in one double bed. Each member seems to know every little nook and cranny of the others's playing. The inventive ways these songs come together are truly astounding.

    Ho-Ag The Word from Pluto (Hello Sir)
    Somewhere between math and no wave, these guys make music that would make even David Yow go "Jesus!" The more I listen to this, the more I'm thinking it should be a full review. Hmmm. Someday I'll regret giving these boys a shortie. But a man has to sleep sometime.

    Instrumental Quarter Traffic Jam (Sickroom Records)
    Highly involved, dreadfully introspective and often drop-dead gorgeous instrumental pieces. Kinda like Dirty Three meets the High Llamas but, you know, without the 67-part harmonies. Awfully damned cool.

    Aaron Jackson Easy Now EP (self-released)
    Keyboard (sometimes piano, sometimes obviously electronic) based pop songs that wind through all sorts of territory. There are a couple "Yes, I'm a sensitive boy who plays the piano and wants to get laid" pieces, but they're kinda subversively done. The rest is all over the place. If Jackson decides to really tunnel into his influences, he might end up like Tom Waits. And boy, would that suck.
    Contact:
    659 Somerville Ave.
    Apt. C
    Somerville, MA 02143
    www: www.aaronjacksonmusic.com

    Legend of Dutch Savage Legend of Dutch Savage (self-released)
    Every so often, folks seem to rediscover the wonder and beauty of the power trio. Legend of Dutch Savage sounds like it's trying to play with the sound just a little bit, but the power is impossible to deny. These songs are so testosterone-laden they'd get the boys kicked out of the Tour de France. Loud, cocksure and lethal.
    Contact:
    www: www.legendofdutchsavage.com

    Mstrkrft The Looks (Last Gang)
    Impeccably groovy dance tunes. Part disco, part techno and sometimes almost all kitsch, Mstrkrft plays stuff that ought to turn dance floors into jizz domes. Moves my ass in all the right ways, anyway.

    Nomeansno All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt (AntAcidAudio)
    I must admit to hoping that the copyright bug next to "Nomeansno" on the cover is a joke. I can deal with it if not, but still. Well, actually, hearing three gray-haired malcontents filter our world through an unreconstructed punk filter is rather invigorating, though I must admit to missing a bit on the bottom end. Boost the bass in the mix, and this might be damn near perfect.

    Portable Folk Band Introduces the Royal Postal Bazaar (VeeDee Records-Copyright Records)
    Art folk, and more art than folk, if you know what I mean. Fairport Convention was rock-solid traditionalist compared to these guys. The stuff is acoustic--mostly--but there are so many musical side trips than I'd hesitate to call this anything other than pretty damned good. Though, I suppose, that is what's important.

    Psalm One The Death of the Frequent Flyer (Rhymesayers)
    The latest new big thing from Rhymesayers does nothing to disappoint. The usual clever, stellar production and some very incisive rhymes make this something for the trendsetters to notice. Quite the set.

    A Shoreline Dream Avoiding the Consequences (Latenight Weeknight)
    Grand, ringing fare that evokes a need to make REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT MUSIC! Alright, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I have to say these folks do a nice job of channeling early My Bloody Valentine--the stuff without so much sonic disturbance. It's good, but probably not quite as good as it's supposed to be. Whatever. I'll take it for what it is, and leave with a smile on my face.

    Undecisive God Eccentricities (Shame File)
    Right. So "eccentric" has a different meaning for Clinton Green than just about anyone else on the planet. I've been digging this Australian's journeys into the outer voids of music for more than a decade, and this one is just as far out as the others. For true connoisseurs only...but jeez, it's awfully damned fine.


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