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May 2002 Reviews by

The All Golden

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead

Badly Drawn Boy
Baftain Keepheart
Brant Bjork

Cave Catt Sammy
Comment Piece
Sheryl Crow
Death of Marat
Dishwater Psychics
Electric Wizard

Val Emmich
The Gossip

Troy Gregory
Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons

Malachi Constant***
McBride & The Ride
Peter Murphy
No Use For A Name

Johnny Paycheck

The Ribeye Brothers
San Agustin with Suzanne Langille


*Top Picks, ***Ultra HOT Shit!


May 2002 Comment Piece: Wacky Pork Snorts Gas Pucker

Way down there in the midst of everything is Wacky Pork. Not everyone knows. And in fact, not everyone is in there. But as even as it is odd, Wacky Pork has a preference. The preference is practically obvious for anyone who knows. In the very bottom of the valley is the big messy hole that gives off massive waves of gas pucker. And there ain't nothing in the damn world that Wacky Pork likes better than to snort up big ol' hairy bellies of that pungent gas pucker. He inhales and inhales and snorts and snorts and SNORTS...until he burps it all up in a luscious and colorful snack bag. When he eventually drops the snack bag from exhaustion...that is when the THRONE DUG gets puffy with its handy dove patches lined up all neatly like Patty's little sister type thing. If you find yourself alone in the dark with nothing to do...think about Wacky Pork and then... DO THE WRONG THING. Better yet...do the RIGHT thing the WRONG WAY...

Aden - Topsiders (CD, Teenbeat, Pop)
Something like a softer and more progressive Kinks. The band should consider that a great compliment, seeing as how we have always considered Ray Davies to be one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Aden has been at it since 1995...but this album sounds as fresh as a band that's just learned how to write and record. The smooth and just slightly peculiar compositions on Topsiders are characterized by super smooth vocals and subtle arrangements. Rather than clobbering the listener over the head, these four gentlemen produce music that slowly seeps into the consciousness. But once it has found its niche inside your head, there it will forever remain. The tunes on this album are poignant and thoughtful...and feature some absolutely beautiful melodies. The band did an excellent job of recording these tunes themselves. The sound quality is slick but not too slick...and the arrangements are nice and full without ever sounding overdone or overworked. Unpredictable in a very understated manner, this album is certain to please fans of credible underground pop. Our favorite cuts include "Racking Up Mistakes," "Rapt Attention" (great stuff!), "Boggle Champs," and "Intertwining Hands." Someone did a superb job creating the packaging here. This should please fans of The Hang Ups. (Rating: 5+)

Badly Drawn Boy - About A Boy: Original Soundtrack (CD, Universal / BMG, Soundtrack/pop)
Badly Drawn Boy is Damon Gough. Even though it is technically a soundtrack CD, this disc plays more like a regular album by a pop artist...because all of the cuts are tunes by Badly Drawn Boy. Gough has been recording for several years now, obviously capturing the imagination of a growing audience. The man has a nice, easy flowing style of songwriting...basically soft pop with open arrangements and cool vocals. There's a whopping amount of stuff here...no less than 16 tunes. Our favorites are "Exit Stage Right," "Above You, Below Me," "Walking Out of Stride," and "Delta (Little Boy Blues)." This should please Ben Folds fans... (Rating: 5)

The All Golden - A Long Good Friday (CD, Microtone, Pop)
This is the debut album by Kent, Ohio's The All Golden. Some folks may know the band for a single they released previously titled "Velikovksy" (which is included on this album). A Long Good Friday was produced by Kevin Coral (of The Witch Hazel Sound). The music is heady and ever-so-slightly psychedelic pop that is somewhat reminiscent of the debut album by The Apples In Stereo (although not nearly as obviously poppy) and slightly similar to The Witch Hazel Sound. The songs on this album are not obvious...but instead seep slowly into the subconscious with repeated listenings. The band is fueled by the songwriting skills of Chris Sheehan and Scott Bennett. Sheehan and Bennett borrow ideas from the past while pleasantly blending in their own unique vision of the present. Destined to be an underground favorite, this album is an extremely pleasant and consistent listen...with a great deal more meat than your average twenty-first century release. Our initial favorites are "Your Bad Wires," "Velikovsky," "Sleepwalking," and "Innovation In Miniature" (great song title there...). Really good stuff...! (Rating: 5)

Ampline - The Choir (CD, Tiberius, Guitar/rock/instrumental)
Really good amped up instrumental guitar rock. The guys in Ampline never even considered having a singer...which is just as well, because they obviously don't need vocals in order to make their music work. These four gentlemen have a great big adrenaline-fueled sound that is characterized by charging rhythms and heavy guitars. These guys can rock, that's for sure...but even more impressive is the fact that they also venture into some heady progressive areas that are most appealing. The band consists of founding members Kevin Schmidt and Jeff Albers plus drummer Rick McCarty and guitarist Mike Montgomery. These guys are doing all the right things the right way. A nice solid experience. Top picks: "Losing Things to Find Them Later," "The Gospel and Its Choir." (Rating: 4++)

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - Source Tags & Codes (CD, Interscope, Rock)
Goodness gracious sakes alive. That IS an awfully LONG band name, isn't it? Sure it is. Repeat after us, "That is an awfully LONG band name!" Just how long do you think it will be before the band shortens the name to Trail of the Dead? Probably NOT VERY LONG. Name issues aside, in their quest for "anthropological unification" (???) these four Texans are a formidable rock band. The music is loud...charged up...and a veritable wall of sound. In some ways, the band's basic sound reminds us of The Strokes (a band who seems to be influencing a great many artists of late). The main difference is that And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead (c'mon guys...SHORTEN THE NAME...you're KILLING our goddamn FINGERS!) is a much louder and harsher band. This could possibly be due to the fact that the band members are very young and full of juicy adrenaline. Though you may have to dig through some of the thick production to realize it, these guys actually write some very intellectual and strangely intriguing tunes. Check out "It Was There That I Saw You," "Homage" (our favorite), and "Days of Being Wild." (Rating: 4++)

Baftain Keepheart and His Tragic Gland - Dick My Lickers Off, Baby (CD, Poliography, Art rock)
Baftain Keepheart is pretty much a legend in the world of underground music. His music sounds like no one else, and there is no reason why this is so. On this album, The Tragic Gland consists of Snakebit Bug Dino on slippery guitar, Zoot Snoot Corner Bingo on drums, and Buffer Zone Sissy Dump on finger-food bass. As fans of the good ol' captain might suspect, the music is loose art rock with lyrics that'll make a bunny stop dropping. From the opening strains of "Dick My Lickers Off, Baby" right on through to the closing poem ("Big Ol' Bean Fried Zapped Turds"), Baftain Keepheart belts 'em out like he ain't got no respect for taters no more. And that's probably the case, seeing as how the classy digipack artwork for this disc was made COMPLETELY from refried tater skins strained out of the sneeze matter of old battered donkeys. This is already a collector's item, but it not yet a collector's item. It is not numbered, but it is numbered. There is no way of telling if this is a "limited edition"...but we are certain...and THAT'S for certain... (Rating: 2)

Balligomingo - Beneath the Surface (CD, RCA / BMG, Ambient/trip hop/electronic)
Balligomingo is the latest project created by composer/producer Garrett Schwarz. On Beneath the Surface, Schwarz combines ambient electronics with trip hop rhythms to create soft and soothing modern pop. The emphasis is on effects. Lots and lots of effects...as well as lots and lots of atmospheric sounds that pop up in the mix. Vic Levak is the main musical writer as well as co-producer , programmer, and guitarist. Guest female vocalists complete the picture with breathy and sensual words that seem to ooze in and out of the picture. This album is super slick...perhaps a bit too slick at times... But if modern mood music is your thing--and you don't mind the extra polish--this album will most likely fill your quacky bill... (Rating: 3++)

Brant Bjork and the Operators - Brant Bjork and the Operators (CD, The Music Cartel, Pop/rock)
Best known for his work with the bands Kyuss and Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork offers his second solo release. Bjork played 90 percent of the instruments on this album, wrote all the songs, and recorded it himself. One listen to these cuts will prove that Brant was never meant to simply back up other songwriters. This man is clearly a confident writer on his own...and the results may surprise fans of the other bands he has played with. Rather than churning out stoner rock, Bjork basically provides funky pop music that is surprisingly accessible and melodic. Particularly impressive on these compositions are the arrangements. Bjork is obviously competent on many instruments...and accompanies himself with some rather inventive (and sometimes jazzy) playing. Overall, this could be classified as groove pop...because these pop tunes are heavy on rhythm and cool bass guitar licks. Neat stuff. Favorites: "Smart Pants," "Cheap Wine," "Captain Lovestar," "Hinda 65 (Return Flight)." (Rating: 4++)

Cave Catt Sammy - Love Me Like Crazy (CD, Rubric, Rockabilly/pop)
Cool, free flowing rockabilly music played by four young Texas gentlemen. Those groovy folks at Rubric are apparently expanding their roster as this is the first rockabilly band to be signed to the label (to our knowledge anyway). In our world view, rockabilly is best when it is played with little fanfare and few (if any) overdubs. Accordingly, these guys play rockabilly just the way it oughta be played. The band is propelled by bassist/singer/songwriter Beau "Sammy" Sample...who wrote most of the tunes for this album. Sample pens some super catchy ditties that sound mighty goddamn authentic. And his vocals are right on target. The band is rounded out by Dustin "Ol' Smokey" Hutchinson (acoustic guitar), Stephen Scott (electric guitar), and Paul Ward (drums and cymbals). This is a mighty hot and bitchin' little band with tons of personality and charisma. Our favorite cuts are "Gonna Rock and Roll," "Raining Honey," "No, No Girl" (our top pick), and "Everybody Loves My Gal." (Rating: 5)

Sheryl Crow - C'mon, C'mon (CD, A&M, Pop)
When we first eyed the packaging on this CD and the accompanying promotional materials, our reaction wasn't so good. We had heard of this young lady before, but because we don't really pay attention to anything that is NOT sent to our post office box...Sheryl Crow's music and career had somehow escaped us until now. This young lady is extremely pretty and very sexy. So much so that we were initially put off by her appearance. After all, really good looking people usually make crummy music. The fact that many of Crow's photos feature her in scantily clad clothing didn't do much to improve our initial prediction of her abilities. We don't mind admitting that we were wrong in this case to pre-judge this album so severely...because in all honesty C'mon, C'mon is quite good. The songs are strong...as is Crow's voice..and hell, she even produced the album herself (!). So...rather than being an airhead sex symbol...Ms. Crow is actually a credible talent. No, there's no ground breaking material here. But for her targeted audience (folks who don't want to be challenged), Crow is providing quality material that is certain to entertain. And that is, after all, the point...isn't it...? (Rating: 4)

Death of Marat - All Eyes Open (CD, Stick Figure, Rock)
Neat jagged rock music with jerky rhythms, spacey guitars, and slightly psychedelic vocals. Phoenix based band Death of Marat has a sound that neatly combines elements of rock music all the way from the 1970s to the present. Some of the band's dynamic guitars hammering atop obtuse bass lines may remind listeners of early Gang of Four...while the vocals are reminiscent of late 1980s alternative psychedelic bands. Interestingly, drummer Jef Wright handles the lead vocals...leaving his bandmates John Brandon (bass) and Mike Juliano (guitar) free to concentrate solely on the business of grinding their axes. The music rocks, swells, gyrates, surges, falls, and slaps the listener smack in the barnhole. All Eyes Open is a wild ride full of energy and passion...similar in some ways to Austin bands of the 1990s (!). Cool cuts include "Science vs. Sorcery," "The Cats Meow" (excellent track), "Snake Oil Merchant," and "Darkroom." (Rating: 5+)

Dishwater Psychics - The Signal Will Fade (CD-R (EP), Friendly Psychics Music, Pop)
Ohio's Dishwater Psychics have been recording since 1999. What is interesting about the band is that they do not all play together at the same time. Instead, each musician plays their part in isolation and then forwards their track (or tracks) onto the next band member for their input. Considering the approach, the pop music on The Signal Will Fade is surprisingly consistent and accessible. The band's tunes are basic mid-tempo pop...and the vocals are particularly impressive. Well written songs like "Broken Feet" and "The Glass Awaits" make this little homemade EP a swell listen... (Rating: 4)

Electric Wizard - Let Us Prey (CD, The Music Cartel, Sludge/metal/rock)
Britain's Electric Wizard are back with another mind bending foray into the world of slow, loud, horrifying, intense droning hard rock. These guys thrive on turning everything way, way, WAY up...drowning their vocals in a blurred wash of echo...and playing with a slow intensity that puts all those fast hard metal bands out there to shame. As with many bands into sludge production, Electric Wizard's main influence is probably early Black Sabbath...but they take the idea to a whole new dimension with their methodical psychedelic pounding. Listening to this, we can just see all those thriving throngs of young British citizens swaying at this band's shows...with their bodies hepped all the way up on whatever illegal substances they can get their hands on. This is definitely music to get f*cked up to. This stuff is obviously not for everyone. The band is playing for a very select, eclectic audience who want music that is way outside the mainstream. From what we know of the band, they are very, very VERY fond of marijuana. That is neat. If your ears...and your heart...can take it...Let Us Prey is an intense trip into the minds of some truly intense musicians... (Rating: 5)

Val Emmich - The Fifteen Minute Relationship (CD EP, Childlike / Artist Amplification, Pop)
Impressive five song EP from singer/songwriter Val Emmich. Emmich has a nice smooth voice and comes up with five solid tracks that showcase his knack for penning good melodies. The pensive, acoustic-guitar based songs on The Fifteen Minute Relationship are strong indeed...particularly when you consider that Emmich is only 21 (!) years old. It is rare indeed when we hear someone this young with such a mature vision and sound. Includes the tracks "Try Me," "Careful," "We Were So Close (To Being Close)," "Detach," and "No More." At times, Emmich's vocals and tunes remind us of our eternally favorite Canadian, Hayden. Our only complaint? This little EP is short...but the good part is that it leaves the listener wanting MORE. (Rating: 4+++)

The Gossip - Arkansas Heat (CD EP, Kill Rock Stars, Rock)
Quite the hot little trio, The Gossip follow up their first full-length album with this appropriately titled EP Arkansas Heat. These folks play a minimalistic, hard-hitting style of rock that was popular in the 1970s. Using nothing more than a set of drums, one electric guitar, and vocals...these folks create a mighty big whirlwind of sound. Two girls and one guy...and tons of attitude. What is most intriguing to us is that the songs on this EP remind us a great deal of The BellRays. It could be due to the fact that some of the tunes have definite soul energy pulsing through them. Singer Beth Ditto sure knows how to belt out a tune. Six tunes here, including "Rules For Luv," "Ain't It The Truth," and "Lily White Hands." (Rating: 4+++)

Troy Gregory - Sybil (CD, Fall of Rome, Rock)
Troy Gregory is the main force in the band The Witches...but opted to go solo for this release. Well, not completely solo actually...as Gregory solicited the help of a variety of underground bands to back him up on the appropriately titled Sybil. The shifts in sound, style, and overall feel throughout this album are not unlike delving into multiple personalities. That is, perhaps, the basic idea here...as the only common thread is the fact that Gregory either wrote or co-wrote each of these tunes. While the music is, for the most part, garage rock...that term is perhaps too limiting to describe the wide variety of sounds and styles presented. This is most certainly due to the esoteric and wide ranging array of guest bands lending their talents. Bands providing backup include Bantam Rooster, The Sights (they're GREAT...), Outrageous Cherry (another SUPERB band), The Alphabet, The Dirtbombs, and others. Troy Gregory may (or may not?) be influenced by The Fleshtones and Bruce Joyner. In any event, he and Joyner have a great deal in common. (Rating: 5)

Jan - The Early Year (CD, Me!, Pop)
If you thought ultra catchy bubblegummy pop/rock was dead...one listen to Jan will prove you dead WRONG. This band's infectiously upbeat music caught us by surprise. By the middle of the first song our toes were tapping and we felt instantly and totally HAPPY. The sound is centered around the super smooth and captivating vocals of Jeaneen Gauthier. This young lady has a voice that'll put stars back in your car and moonpies back in your eyes. She really is THAT good (!). The overall sound of this band is reminiscent of Fuzzy and, even more so, Britain's Birdie (both of whom just happen to be favorite obscure delights around here). Rounding out the band are Andy Gruhn and Nick Hook. These folks have an incredibly simple sound that is instantaneously ADDICTING and MARVELOUS. For anyone who has EVER dug girlie pop...you've rarely heard it done this well. Honest. We can't stop listening to the dreamy sounds of "Things I Imagine," "Happy All the Time?," "(I Just Wanna) See Your Face," "Lullaby" and...and...and... Hell, every single ONE of these tracks kicks ASS! This is easily one of the best 2002 releases out there... KILLER STUFF. (Rating: 5+++)

Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons - Conscious Contact (CD, Terminus, Pop/rock)
Masculine cock rock that sounds somewhat similar to some of Elvis Costello's mid-tempo material. Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons serve up no-frills rock with an emphasis on lyrics and melody. The band's radio-friendly tunes aren't going to change the world...but that's probably not what these guys are after anyway. We get the impression that these three fellows (Jerry Joseph, Junior Ruppel, Brad Rosen) are mainly out to have a good time. Judging from this collection of tunes, it sure sounds like they're enjoying their craft. Joseph definitely has the voice and presence to make this band crank. Top picks: "Coliseum," "Ching-A-Ling," "Ten Killer Fairies," "Your Glass Eye." (Rating: 4+)

Jucifer - I Name You Destroyer (CD, Velocette, Electronic pop)
Inventive electronic pop, well written and well executed. Whereas your average male/female electronic duo (of which there are THOUSANDS) churns out super smooth and generic electronic dribble...the folks in Jucifer aren't content to follow the pack. Some of the standard elements are present...breathy, oozing female vocals and infectious beats for example... But these folks aren't afraid to get noisy and rough. And we like that. On several occasions, in fact, the duo gets downright abrasive. And on at least one track ("Undertow") they evolve into a progressive guitar thrashing inferno. The band is something like a cross between Ivy and Nine Inch Nails (two of our favorites). A heady and throbbing experience. Fave cuts: "Little Fever," "When She Goes Out," "Dissolver," "Sea Blind." (Rating: 4+++)

LN - Novel (CD, Velvet Blue Music, Soft pop)
We really dug the last EP by the curiously titled LN...but Novel is even more satisfying. This Ohio band plays slow and methodical atmospheric pop that is extremely heartfelt and distant. The sparse arrangements help the listener to concentrate on the wonderfully smooth melodies and insightful lyrics. The band is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Gary Murray...whose introspective vocals are the centerpiece of the band. What makes the whole thing work so well, however, is the way that the minimal instrumentation seems to cradle Murray's voice. This band is getting better with each release. Our top favorites: "Cars Must Burn," "Stars Did Shine," "Heaven Knows," "Ghosts in the Train Yard." An excellent album with a difference... (Rating: 5)

Malachi Constant - Zenith (CD, Guilt Ridden Pop, Progressive rock)
Malachi Constant is one of the very BEST and MOST CREATIVE progressive rock bands we have heard in a very long time. The story goes like this... The band members met at a rehabilitation center in St. Paul (?)...then sold drugs to finance their initial recordings (?!?)...and then promptly destroyed all existing copies of the original recordings (???). We have no idea whether any or all of this is true...but we are CERTAIN AS HELL that these guys present a truly unique approach to rock music. Instead of playing tired ol' formulas (as most bands do)...these guys use their instruments as vehicles to propel the listener way, way, WAY up into the clouds...using their imagination and pure mastery of their instruments to infuse and inject their listeners with an excitement that is (sadly) missing in many of today's modern bands...most of whom are so intent on sounding exactly like one another...that they actually succeed (!). Malachi Constant does NOT sound like other bands. Their music is unpredictable...mentally challenging...and as COOL as HOLY HELL. You have to appreciate any band who, in their liner notes, would include a line like "We would like to thank everyone who wishes to be thanked." HAW!!! Equally entertaining are the song titles: "Global Capitalism's Exploitation Breeds Poverty and Despair," "Funny Pony," "I'm Enjoying Myself Hugely"... This is one MIND BENDING band that we HIGHLY RECOMMEND. EXCELLENT STUFF. (Rating: 6)

McBride & The Ride - Amarillo Sky (CD, Dualtone, Country/pop)
While most folks might not recognize the name Terry McBride, chances are they've probably already heard his songs many times before. McBride has written hit tunes for a wide range of some of country music's finest...everyone from Brooks & Dunn (who have recorded no less than 13 of his tunes) to George Strait, David Ball, John Anderson, Kenny Rogers and others. Amarillo Sky proves that McBride isn't just a writer...he's a damn fine singer and performer himself. Backing McBride are guitarist Ray Herndon and drummer Billy Thomas, both of whom are also heavyweights in the world of country music...touring and recording with everyone from Lyle Lovett to Vince Gill and more... But after hearing the tunes on Amarillo Sky, it becomes immediately apparent that McBride and company don't need name dropping...because their material holds up squarely on its own. The title track is a surefire hit to be certain...but there are plenty of other meaty nuggets here as well. Feelgood cuts like "Anything That Touches You" and "When Somebody Loves You" are sure to warm the heart of any true country music fan. Plenty of great tracks here... (Rating: 5)

Midtown - Living Well is the Best Revenge (CD, MCA / Drive-Thru, Rock)
More modern buzzsaw guitar power punk/pop from New Jersey's Midtown. These four guys play a style of rock music that became very popular in the 1990s and has grown in popularity ever since. Midtown tunes are fueled by charging rhythms, throbbing bass lines, overdriven guitars, and vocals that are somewhat reminiscent of early Jam. The tunes on Living Well is the Best Revenge are as punchy as human pudding...and chock full to the brim with hooks galore. Catchy tunes like "Become What You Hate," "Perfect," and "Find Comfort in Yourself" are sure to please the band's fans...as well as bring in legions more... Good hard pop/rock played with balls and style. (Rating: 5)

Peter Murphy - Dust (CD, Metropolis, Progressive pop)
Unlike everyone else under the sun, we never thought that Bauhuas was the coolest thing since sliced cheese. That being the case, we have almost always been entertained by Peter Murphy's solo releases. Dust was primarily played and recorded by Murphy and his co-producer Mercan Dede. The tunes on this album are heavily produced progressive pop pieces that touch on a wide variety of musical influences. What is interesting here is that many of these pieces could actually be described as world music. The thick and heady arrangements and varied instrumentation give the listener the feeling of traveling around the earth in an hour. The only real constant are those unmistakable vocals...and this time around Murphy sounds even more like David Bowie than normal. This is a long album...clocking in at over 68 minutes. But from start to finish, things never get redundant or boring. Plus, the recording quality is top notch. Top picks: "Things to Remember," "Just For Love," "Your Face," "My Last Two Weeks." (Rating: 5)

No Use For A Name - Hard Rock Bottom (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock)
Fast, loud, melodic, and intense...No Use For A Name continue in the grand tradition of bands like Bad Religion...playing frantic music that is fueled by pop sensibilities and driven by high-octane buzzsaw energy. This is the band's seventh full-length, and they show no signs whatsoever of letting up of softening their sound. The basic elements are...ultra-speed drumming...loud overdriven guitars...harmony vocals...and throbbing bass lines that just won't let up. The problem that we always had with Bad Religion was that their basic sound became a blur...with each song sounding just like the last. Eventually we lost interest. The guys in No Use For A Name present much more variety...interspersing their tunes with unexpected snippets and throwing some surprisingly complex melodies into their music. Keyboards even pop up from time to time (?). Top picks: "Feels Like Home," "Dumb Reminders," "Angela," "Insecurity Alert." Stuff that's sure to please the kids. (Rating: 4)

Ousia - Face the Robot (CD, Mutant Music, Ambient/electronic)
Another solid release from electronic experimental artist Ousia. The blurred, abstract cover artwork perfectly compliments the heady music that is featured on this album. Note that this is not dance/trance music. Instead, these compositions are sometimes experimental and accidental...sometimes well-planned...and sometimes simply landscapes of electronic sound. This stuff is for listeners who enjoy being propelled into another dimension through music. The eleven spacey compositions on Face the Robot heighten the senses and give the listener the impression that he/she is either dreaming or evolving into another dimension. Trippy, surreal, and often hypnotic...Ousia tunes are the stuff that dreams are truly made of. Our favorites: "Face the Robot," "Binary Sort," "Sound Check," "Solar Limen." This is an excellent and absorbing album that is certainly over the heads of most listeners... (Rating: 5+++)

Johnny Paycheck - The Soul & The Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck (CD, Legacy / Epic, Country/pop)
This whopping 23-song collection by country legend Johnny Paycheck is a great retrospective of the man's early career. You have to hand it to anyone whose main claim to fame is a song titled "Take This Job and Shove It"...which just happens to be the lead track on this album. In our minds, Paycheck wrote and recorded some of the best redneck country tunes ever...and this CD is a proof of that fact. While other country artists eventually mutated into slick, produced product...Paycheck seemed to stick to his gut instincts and retain his integrity. That in and of itself is admirable...but what is even more impressive is Paycheck's music itself. Songs like "I'm the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised" and "Yesterday's News Just Hit Me Today" are not only funny...but they're prime examples of good ol' honky tonk country played the way it ought to be played. This disc mainly features Paycheck's recordings dating from 1971 to 1980 for the Epic label. This is the first CD of Paycheck's recordings that has been remastered. These tracks have never sounded better. This will bring back a lot of memories for a lot of folks...as well as make newer listeners aware of Johnny's prominent presence in the history of country music. (Rating: 5++)

The Ribeye Brothers - If I Had A Horse... (CD, MeteorCity, Rock)
The Ribeye Brothers is the side project of Monster Magnet drummer Jon Kleiman and ex-Monster Magnet singer Tim Cronin. The MeteorCity label has been putting out super cool releases of late...and this album is another ass kicker. The tunes on If I Had A Horse... are slightly moody pieces with occasionally spooky moments. The tunes are fueled by propulsive rhythms and killer guitar licks. Many of the tunes have a western flair which is most appealing. Cronin has a cool hell raising masculine voice that pushes these tunes to another level. The overall effect is something like listening to psychedelic rockabilly rock music in the desert. Top picks: "If I Had A Horse...," "Bootful of Piss," "Steakhat," and "To Find Out." Some of the lyrics on this album are hilarious (!). (Rating: 5)

Rope - Fever (CD EP, Family Vineyard, Eclectic experimental)
For listeners into the extreme in terms of experimental and heady offbeat music, we cannot express how highly we recommend each and every release on the Family Vineyard label. In only a couple years' time, this label has proven itself to be one of the most innovative independent labels around...releasing material that has virtually no commercial appeal...instead concentrating on artists whose music contains a great deal of innovation and integrity. Rope is the duo of Przemyslaw Chris Drazek and Robert Iwanik. The two utilize guitars, trumpet, electric bass, and vocals in extraordinarily unconventional fashions. Songs that initially sound like noise actually have structure and depth...the vocals are secondary to the obtuse instrumentation...buried in the mix so that it sounds as if someone is singing and/or speaking in the next room. These two gentlemen leave plenty of space in their compositions...producing an overall climate is sparse and strange. Some might call this noise. We call it adventurous and highly challenging. Four tunes to leave everyone scratching their heads... (Rating: 5+++)

San Agustin with Suzanne Langille - Passing Song (CD, Family Vineyard, Sparse, haunting, soft, creepy)
Utilizing only the bare essentials to produce some of the world's most sparse soft pop (?) music, San Agustin team up with eerie vocalist Suzanne Langille for some unorthodox experimental compositions. Though the two artists have been performing together since 1997, this is their first proper album together. San Agustin is the trio of Andrew Burnes (guitar), David Daniell (guitar, baritone guitar), and Bryan Fielden (drums). Don't expect power pop or anything similar from this trio, as their music is slow, methodical, haunting, and very, VERY restrained. Langille's distant and slightly sexy vocal style matches the band's music perfectly...making Passing Song a slow and dreamy listen. Six quiet drones here: "Only When You Sleep," "Periwinkle," "Snow Sunrise," "Sun Sets at Dusk," "So I Lingered," and "Lay Me Down." (Rating: 5+)

Should - A Folding Sieve (CD, Words On Music, Shoegazer pop)
Originally called shiFT, we're guessing that Should probably changed their name because of a legal conflict...? In any event, this band was a shoegazer band in the 1990s. The band's original A Folding Sieve EP was released in 1995...and is only now being rereleased by the Minneapolis based Words On Music label. This is not a mere rerelease, however. Also included are two tracks from the band's 1997 single, an 18th Dye cover tune, and four unreleased songs that were recorded between 1995 and 1996. This band's music is not unlike Low except for the fact that the guitars are louder and more fuzzed out. The basic elements are the same, however. The tunes on this extended EP are slow and drony...and feature excellent male and female vocals. With shoegazer music you either like it or you don't. We're usually entertained by that kinda stuff...seeing as how we actually lived through it. Accordingly, this is a nice look back at a band that many folks probably overlooked the first time around. Our favorite track is the simple and hypnotic "This House I'm Living In." (Rating: 4)

27 - Animal Life (CD, Kimchee, Soft pop)
Something like a strange cross between Elani Mandell in terms of vocals and Ivy in the music department (the latter just might be an influence, seeing as how the last Ivy album was titled Apartment Life...). 27 is the three-piece Boston band consisting of Maria Christopher (guitar, vocals), Neil Coulon (drums, clarinet), and Ayal Naor (guitar, baritone guitar, sampler). Some folks may remember Ms. Christopher as the vocalist for the Dirt Merchants and Mr. Ayal's involvement in the band Spore. Animal Life consists of slow, soft, heady pop drenched in reverb and characterized by Maria's breathy vocals. The melodies are the key here, as these folks' compositions are much stronger melodically than your average slow, atmospheric pop band. And at least on a few occasions, the band can get downright strange (check out the cool ending to "Undone"). Our favorite cut here is the wonderfully smooth and addictive "9 Mile Burn"...an downright infectious tune that could give Ivy a run for their money. The album ends with the peculiar strains of "Cavalla"...leaving the listener still hungry for more. Odd in a strangely calming way, 27 is off to a GRAND beginning here... (Rating: 5++)

Valet - The Glamour Is Contagious (Independent CD, Pop)
Valet is the trio of Robin Kyle (vocals/guitar), Judd Hildreth (drums), and Paul Fugelsted (keys/accordian), and Kris Lightner (bass). Kyle, a native of Ireland, is the key songwriter. His vocals and knack for turning melodies is reminiscent of underground favorite The Go Betweens. The compositions on this album are fairly light pop music with intriguing lyrics and great melodic hooks. These guitar pop compositions feature simple keyboard lines that set them apart from the pack. Kyle is one of those songwriters who writes and sings from the heart...making The Glamour Is Contagious an impressively sincere and memorable album. Super pop that is certain to hold up to many repeated listens... (Rating: 4+++)

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