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November 2004 Reviews by

Lauren Agnelli
Hope Alane
The Autumns*
The Breetles*
Rita Calypso*
The Channel*
Color Wall

Comment Piece
Ethan Daniel Davidson

Driver of the Year
The Original Mark Edwards
Le Futur Pompiste
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers
The Grip Weeds
Kjehl Johansen

Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
Landing Gear

Many Axes*
The Marlboro Chorus

Million Dollar Marxists
Miss TK & The Revenge
The Monorail
Moth Wranglers
The Nein

The Organ
The Pearlfishers
Christopher Reeve
William Shatner*
Soledad Brothers
Slomo Rabbit Kick

Stroke 9

Luke Temple
The Transmissionary Six


*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


November 2004 Comment Piece:
A Polly Story:
Stockpile and Drainy Get Tuckered on the Poodle

"Look at my FUR!" Stockpile exclaimed in horror. "It is all STICKY and DRY!"
"Never mind," Drainy replied as he applied oil to his partner's stuffy coat. "This will provide some necessary posture."
With that, the two rolled around on the grassy hill...letting the vast sunshine heat their thick blood and warm the tops of their fuzzy heads. Before they knew where they were, they weren't anywhere anymore and everything had gone black.
"Where did everything go now?" asked Stockpile.
"Oh, just out," Drainy answered. "Everything goes out every once in a while."
As they grabbed onto one another to prepare for the worst, they suddenly found themselves propped up on top of the most beautifully prepared Club Sandwich they had ever seen. The bread was more fifteen feet in length, cradling tender loaves of roast beef, cheddar cheese, juicy turkey, crunchy lettuce, and hearty tomato. Before they knew what they were doing, they found themselves munching into the damn thing with determined delight.
"We will never EVER be able to eat this VERY LARGE THING!" exclaimed Drainy.
"Ah, but that is the very BEAUTY of it," Stockpile quipped. "The best things in life are those that you cannot completely eat."
But try they did...and before the yearning dove had touched the raunchy dawn of the evening sky, the two critters had consumed at least one entire side of the big ol' sandwich.
"Look!" chirped Stockpile. "Yonder comes a brown-eyed POODLE to take us to HEAVEN!"
As the poodle got nearer and nearer, the two pals became dizzy with standardized excitement. They swerved and buzzed in circles as their brains dissolved into a haze of hamster pudding.
"Come and lounge in my buzzcut," said the poodle in a low, grainy voice. "The angels have made preparations for your entry into circular minnows."
"What the HELL is he talking about?" asked Drainy with a confused spurt.
"Don't ask questions!" Stockpile yelped as he climbed aboard the mystical doggie. "Just hop on top and SHUT UP!"
As the two began riding off into the oblivions of middle earth, they frothed their magic ping-pong and glowed with shadows of rabbit-sized purple. The motion of the dog made the couple poot and dribble with habitual delight.
"Your endurance is a test," the poodle whispered as it jogged over the horizon. "A test for the purest of niblets."
The poodle jogged at a modest pace as it grinned a wide smile right into the sky.
"Them TUCKERS is all PUCKED!" Drainy screamed as he laughed himself into a pork stew bonnet.
"And them tuckers is all FLOWERED with STRAW!" Stockpile replied.
As the poodle maneuvered into high gear, the blurry image of the travelers powdered into nothing...creaming and chewing away like ten thousand tiny little tin-foiled choppers. The sun revolved fifteen times or more...and then STOPPED.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lauren Agnelli - Love Always Follows Me (CD, Bongo Beat, Soft pop)
Prior to her solo career, Lauren Agnelli had already left an indelible impression on the world of music...first as a writer for Creem magazine in the 1970s (using the pen name Trixie A. Balm)...and later as a member of the 1980s group The Washington Squares. Considering the ultra-hip nature of her past endeavors, one would expect Ms. Agnelli's music to be ultra-hip as well...but this is definitely not the case. Instead of odd or peculiar underground rockers, Love Always Follows Me features ultra-conservative, traditional sounding music. Lauren presents material that would not have sounded out of place in the Female Vocalist sections of record bins in the 1960s. There is a heavy emphasis on slick arrangements...creatively utilized to cuddle and embrace Lauren's cool, subdued vocals. She takes the uncommon approach of writing most of the tunes herself, only offering three cover tunes ("I'm Confession," "September Song," "On the Street Where You Live"). Combining the talents of creative heavyweights to assist her in the recording of this album, Ms. Agnelli has recorded what sounds like a modern-day classic from the past. Groovy subtle cuts include "Mi Querida," "Love Always Follows Me," "That Kind of Boy," and "Technicolor Shadows." (Rating: 5)

Hope Alane - Pink Sky Blue (CD, Grasshopper, Progressive pop)
Hope Alane is very different from the average female singer/songwriter. Instead of trying to sound like Kate Bush or look and dance like Britney Spears, Ms. Alane creates music that is anything but obvious...and she does not follow musical trends. "Old Old Friends" instantly sets the stage for Pink Sky Blue...an album that truly does not sound like other artists. Alane's songs are melodic and thoughtful...and feature strangely abstract arrangements. Her voice is subdued, her lyrics heartfelt...and the overall tone is both polished and progressive. While the gravity of these songs might not be obvious at first...upon closer observation, the weight of material becomes clear. Wonderfully inventive tunes include "Earth's Full," "Holding Hands," "Chemistry," and "Against the Sky." The cover graphics (courtesy of Star Nigro) are absolutely beautiful. Intensely satisfying and genuine, this is a collection of tunes that is certain to satisfy. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Autumns - The Autumns (CD, Pseudopod / Indiego, Pop)
Despite a somewhat rocky beginning (the steam was taken out of the band's second album because the label went under), The Autumns continue providing slick and classy underground pop for their energetic fan base. The band's latest self-titled release finds them in fine form, providing more wonderfully moody and highly melodic compositions. The tunes are sometimes slow and heavenly...and at other times driving and intense. Dreamy and cerebral in the best sort of way, these songs give the listener the feeling of floating. The intricate musical arrangements provide a solid foundation for the group's incredible vocal harmonies. Already a favorite among critics, this could very well be the album that will push The Autumns into the mainstream. Pop music just doesn't get much better than this. Instantly memorable tracks include "The End," "Every Sunday Sky," "Wish Stars," and "Wonderfully Wonderful." This album will appeal to fans of The Lassie Foundation and The Hang Ups. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Breetles - Don't Smile (CD, Shuss / NoFault, Pop)
Underground popster Chris Breetveld returns with yet another stunning collection of shimmering, smart, inventive tunes. Chris has come up with great stuff in the past...but with Don't Smile he has really outdone himself. For this album Chris pairs up with R. Stevie Moore, who plays and sings on the album and wrote two-and-a-half tunes. These tunes are reminiscent of The Beatles and Neil Innes. Beautiful gliding melodies combine with silly/serious lyrics to create modern pop with a difference. Breetveld's voice sounds better than ever...and his ability to write memorable tunes is mindblowing. As if it weren't enough to be treated to thirteen killer cuts, those who purchase the CD can also write and receive a second bonus disc (with 24 tracks...!) and complete album lyrics...for FREE (!). Produced by Chris, Tim Korzun, and Greg Shuss, Don't Smile will most certainly be a selected favorite for years to come. Uplifting cerebral pop tunes include "A Clever Combo," "The Class" (a particularly cool tune), "Showing Shadows," "The Grand Whatever," and "Don't Smile." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Rita Calypso - Sicalyptico (CD, Siesta, Pop)
Rita Calypso records shimmering pop music that harkens back to the golden days of the 1960s when the male and female vocalist categories ruled the record bins. Consisting of fourteen cover tunes, Sicalyptico (Spanish for erotic) is a refreshing trip back to a time when music was generally more genuine, sincere, and heartfelt. Ana Laan (the real name of the lady who calls herself Rita) has a superb passionate voice that recalls singers like Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra. Music in its purest form provides a means of escape. Sicalyptico most certainly provides emotional escape for the listener...allowing them to forget their own personal problems as well as the crazy sad situation that the world is in. Sweet and sugary in the best way possible...this is an album of pure feelgood pop created with passion and a real zest for life. Mind altering tracks include "Wailing of the Willow," "Believe" (an exceptional cut), "The Drifter," "Barefoot in the Park," and "It's Hard To Say Goodbye." Spain continues to produce some of the best artists on the planet...and Rita Calypso is most certainly one of the best. Her heart is in the right place and her music reverberates with emotion. Killer material from start to finish. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Channel - The Channel (CD, C-Side, Pop)
Outstanding classic pop. While The Channel are currently an underground entity...CDs like this will make them a favorite among pop fanatics in no time flat. The core of the band is Brent and Colby Pennington...two brothers who originally began recording under the name The Channel in the late 1990s. The two then went on to pursue other projects, eventually returning their attentions to their original project in 2001 (at which time Tones Are Falling, their first album, was released). The band's latest album presents some absolutely incredible material. The songs feature thick heady arrangements with plenty of vocal harmonies overdubbed to infinity. But taking center stage are the songs. These fellows know how to write absolutely groovy and stunning melodies that recall bands like The Beach Boys, The Kinks, and even The Hang Ups. This album is a virtual home run for The Channel. Each and every cut is a delight...and it proves just how good underground pop gets when everything is done right. Killer tracks include "Depersonalized," "Inhibition," "The Salty City," and "Water's Covered Me." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Color Wall - The View From Above (CD, Lazy Susan, Pop)
Melodic pop layered with thick walls of guitars. Previously known as Lazy Susan (now the name of their record label), the guys in Color Wall have already made some big splashes in the world of music. They were named Best Unsigned Band in America in 1997 by the Ralph Lauren Polo Jeans Division and they have received major airplay on Modern Rock radio. The View From Above, the band's first proper full-length release, is an energetic trip into modern pop/rock. While not a perfect release, the album has enough good material to make it more than worth a few spins. The lead track ("The Weakest") starts things off right with a whopping dose of intense guitars. The band could've given The Ramones some credit for the melody line they seemingly lifted from "I Wanna Be Well," which occurs at the closing of their tune "My Winger Tee." But then again, perhaps the similarity in the melodies could have been a total coincidence (?!?). Other cool credible cuts include "Crush Me," "My Eyes," and "Restless in 5th Gear." Good stuff. (Rating: 4++)

Ethan Daniel Davidson - Better Living Through Creative Selling (CD EP, Times Beach, Rock/pop)
In an age when so many big music companies are making such a big deal about declining profits, Michigan's Ethan Daniel Davidson began his career by touring around the country...as well as other parts of the planet...and giving away about 50,000 free CDs in the process. Now that's the spirit (!). Thank God everyone isn't motivated first and foremost by making a goddamn profit. To satiate his fans until the release of his full-length comes out, Davidson opted to release the Better Living Through Creative Selling EP. Consisting of various recordings, the disc is an unpredictable grab bag of goodies. Some tunes are dub-like, some rock, some pop...but whatever Davidson does, he does it well. Neat stuff. Other new artists could learn a thing or two from this man's approach to music... (Rating: 4+++)

Devo - Live in the Land of the Rising Sun (DVD, Sick Video / Music Video Distributors, Rock)
Revisiting their glory days, Devo return to Japan about thirty years later...to perform their early hits (!). Those expecting the raw impact of the band's early performances will be sadly disappointed. Those folks will also be missing the point. You have to hand it to these guys. Any fellows in their fifties who have the balls to get up in front of a large audience and perform stuff this juvenile and zany are to be admired. So...despite the fact that the band no longer has that wild zip in their step...they still provide credible renditions of their material for an audience of Japanese fans so young that they weren't even alive when Devo began. The live footage is hampered by the inclusion of various snippets in-between songs--but this was probably done to try to hide the slightly uneven quality of the performances. Even though some of the tunes are missing their gusto...the band proves they can occasionally still rise to the occasion (this is evidenced on "Uncontrollable Urge," "Jocko Homo," and "Gut Feeling / Slap Yer Mammy"). Sometimes the effects of middle age become silly and campy. Unlike the old days, during "Jocko Homo" it takes them a very long time to shed their big yellow suits. (A very very long time...the drummer never does get the bottom part of his suit off until a full three songs later!) In some ways, these fellows look very silly performing their early hits at this point in time...but in other more important ways...this concert sheds light on how influential these fellows' music really was..and still is today. The video collage that began the concert is mind-boggling. When they first burst on the scene, who would've guessed that--many decades later--this band would have influenced millions and millions of other artists...? They were so far ahead of their time that today even their very early material comes across sounding fresh and vital. The bonus "live video" from 1980 is the high point of this disc...showing just how intense and crazy the band was long ago. So...while this may not be the definitive Devo DVD...it is a great reminder of what an incredible band Devo was. Recommended for fans only. (Rating: 4+++)

Dolour - New Old Friends (CD, Made In Mexico, Pop)
This is an important release for two reasons. First, because it is a great album by a great band...and second, because it marks the return of the Made In Mexico label. New Old Friends should appeal to anyone who loved the first few albums from Game Theory. Led by singer/songwriter/producer Shane Tutmarc, this band's music features highly stylized melodic pop. The vocals are amazing....as are the arrangements. At times, some of the band's tunes are reminiscent of Harper's Bizarre (particularly in the vocal department). This, Dolour's third full-length, should expand the band's fan base dramatically. If this band and label are any indication of what's happening in Seattle these days, we may perhaps be seeing the beginnings of a pop resurgence like that which happened back in the mid-1990s. Great cuts include "You Can't Make New Old Friends," "Cheer Up Baby," "What If?", and "October 29th." Best cut: "Before Tonight's Big Party." (Rating: 5+)

Driver of the Year - Statik (CD, Future Appletree, Pop)
Some of the best underground pop bands can be found on the Future Appletree label. Driver of the Year is yet another wonderful and virtually unknown band whose music is inviting and unique. In some ways, the band's music is highly reminiscent of 1970s "shoulda-been-a-major-success-but-wasn't" keyboard player/singer/songwriter Andy Pratt. The vocals most certainly bear an eerie similarity (particularly the falsetto). The band has been together for about six years, and Statik is their second CD release. Part of what makes this band's music so inviting is the fact that they leave their tunes sparse with plenty of open space in between instruments. This allows the listener to concentrate on the melodies and lyrics...which are truly cool and unique. Some absolutely mind-gripping lyrics here...consider this: "Relax unwind, cross legs another time more to lose than just your mind, real life no plans, this aggression will not stand just ask the TV man, gun blast relax, no one has to know a love as black as soul" (from "Black As Soul"). Balancing on that fine line that divides commercial accessibility from artistic integrity...these guys provide solid and direct hits for an undefined audience. Cool and calculated...yet spontaneous and addictive...Statik is a fine collection of tunes that will sound great decades from now. Brilliant stuff. (Rating: 5++)

The Original Mark Edwards - Rewind Tomorrow (CD, Princess, Pop)
Originally a member of The Domo Sound, Mark Edwards pursues a solo career these days. Rewind Tomorrow is his first official release. This is a strange album with a peculiar overall sound. While the tunes are basically pop, Edwards injects his music with strangely haunting threads that give them an odd twist. Composing his tunes around electronic beats, Edwards' tunes have a surprisingly organic sound. His extremely laidback vocals recall early Pink Floyd...yet his tunes sound more like The Beach Boys played at a slower speed. It is refreshing to hear lyrics like "There's nothing more to say than hooray...what a glorious day" (from "Hooray!"). While such philosophies might not be popular with many underground music fans who prefer their music angry and alienated, Edwards sets himself apart from the crowd with his positive attitude and spirit. Rewind Tomorrow is a highly rewarding collection of tunes that come straight from the heart. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Le Futur Pompiste - Your Stories and Your Thoughts (CD, Siesta, Pop)
Breezy, airy, and light...Le Futur Pompiste is a pop lover's delight. Though it may not be springtime, a few spins of Your Stories and Your Thoughts will have you thinking that everything is just about to start budding and blooming. This band's music is reminiscent of Komeda...except that it is much more accessible and direct. These tunes will immediately appeal to fans of artists like Serge Gainsbourg, The Association, and Harper's Bizarre. There are no power chords here...no strange, unexpected noises...and no overdriven guitar solos. These are replaced by soft, groovy, subdued rhythms and vocal harmonies to die for. This Finnish quintet combines perfect arrangements with great songs and stellar vocals to create a wall of cool sound that is virtually impossible to dislike. Ten killer cuts, including "Sunflower," "A Way To Exist," "When Waves Settle Down," and "Seeds." Fantastic. (Rating: 5++)

Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers - Sing Their Family Gospel Favorites (CD, Dualtone, Gospel)
If you're a fan of The Gatlin Brothers, chances are you will dig this album. But if you aren't fond of gospel music and you're not already a fan, we'd suggest passing this one by. These guys have been making credible music for decades. On this album, they attempt to get "back to their roots." Our guess is that the Gatlins probably had a great time recording this...but for potential listeners out there, this sounds like "so-so" church music that could have been performed by just about anyone. Gatlin fans will want to pick this up immediately. Everyone else...well, you probably aren't going to be blown away by this little religious storm. We weren't. (Rating: 3-)

The Grip Weeds - Giant on the Beach (CD, Rainbow Quartz, Semi-psychedelic pop/rock)
Recorded and produced entirely by the band in their home studio, Giant on the Beach is an impressive and highly melodic adventure. The folks in The Grip Weeds are influenced first and foremost by 1960s psychedelic pop. The band consists of brothers Kurt Reil and Rick Reil, Kristin Pinell, and Michael Kelly. The band took their name from a character John Lennon played in the film How I Won the War (Private Grip Weed)...which is fitting, as many of these tunes are reminiscent of some of The Beatles' late 1960s albums. Though the band's sound is decidedly retro, their overall attack and stance are current. Songs are what make or break bands of course...and that's what makes Giant such a pleasing spin. The thirteen cuts on this album are pleasing smooth pop with a really cool organic sound. Instead of relying on too much unnecessary technology, the band drives their tunes home with tons of neat guitars, subtle keyboards, smart lyrics, and heavenly vocal harmonies that are out of this world. The songs ring with a genuinely cool spirit that truly reverberates in the mind. Lovely tracks include "Astral Man," "Infinite Soul," "Sight Unseen," and "Telescope." Beautiful material...executed to perfection. (Rating: 5+++)

Kjehl Johansen - Pie & Isolation (Limited edition double CD box set, Mustard Only / Avebury, Pop)
This is an extremely limited edition box set containing two CDs by Kjehl Johansen: Tower of Isolation and Pieman vs. The Light Bulbmen (EP). Because the box set is so limited (only 100 copies were issued), it might be best to seek out these two CDs individually. Johansen is probably best known for his work with the bands The Urinals, 100 Flowers, and Trotsky Icepick. Nowadays he is involved with his solo projects which feature his remarkable guitar playing. Tower of Isolation features fourteen tracks of peculiar pop. The material is strangely familiar...yet no obvious influences come to mind. Kjehl's vocals are subtle and sound as if they might have been recorded on the first take. There are odd accidental elements to these tunes that take a few spins to sink in. The Pieman vs. The Light Bulbmen EP features more of the same...but on this disc the material is slightly more accessible. Johansen's music sounds something like a cross between My Dad Is Dead, Eno, and Adrian Belew...but not really (?!?). Plenty of offbeat, clever tunes make this box set a real treat. (Rating: 5)

Jeff Kaiser Okodektet - Kaiser/Diaz/Infante Sextet (CD, pfMENTUM, Modern classical)
This disc includes two sections. The first (The Alchemical Mass) is presented by The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet with The Ojai Camerata and the second (Suite Solutio) is presented by the Kaiser/Diaz/Infante Sextet. Both pieces were composed by Mr. Kaiser. One might easily come to the obvious conclusion that this is not a collection of modern power pop (!). No, instead these pieces are complex modern classical compositions thick with heady arrangements that include traditional and modern sounds. Kaiser's provocative, complex music is not meant for the masses...but rather for that small segment of the population seeking the truly strange and unusual. The moods range from soft and surreal...to obtuse...to gothic and cerebral. While this is a difficult album to describe...it is a strangely inviting and rather eerie spin. Kaiser is one of the true originals in modern classical music. Eclectic and esoteric. (Rating: 5+)

Landing Gear - Break-up Songs for Relationships That Never Happened (CD, Catlick, Pop)
Fresh upbeat pop with stellar melodies. Break-up Songs for Relationships That Never Happened is a fantastic debut album. The band recorded the raw tracks in their home studio and then enlisted some help from Bryan Hanna for the final production and mixdown. Sporting a glossy sound that competes with anything on bigger labels, this collection of tunes is like a swirling tray of creamy cosmetic surgical delights. The band's music could be compared to artists like Game Theory, Semisonic, or even Pete Shelley...but that would only be hinting at the overall sound. Some of the tunes are straightforward...while others pack a slightly peculiar punch. Slick and thoughtful...Break-Up Songs is a cool jolt of progressive modern pop. Cool cuts include "Supercrash," "Columbus, OH," "Take the Ride," and "Calling Out." (Rating: 5+)

L'altra - Different Days (CD, Hefty, Soft pop/ambient/electronic)
Chicago's L'altra is formed by the core of Lindsay Anderson and Joseph Costa. Together, the two create some of the most beautiful and exotic soft electronic music on the planet. Different Days is a soothing and absorbing collection of tunes. Produced by Joshua Eustis (of Telefon Tel Aviv), the album gushes with smooth electronic sounds...while subtle vocal melodies glide overhead. Anderson and Costa have the good sense to avoid cluttering their tunes with unnecessary garbage. The arrangements are simple and spacious...allowing the listener to concentrate on the words and strange electronics. Beginning with the dreamy sounds of "Sleepless Night," the album then gives way to two of the best cuts: "It Follows Me Around" and "Better Than Bleeding." Don't expect the normal cutesy blips and bleeps that churn through most technology-driven music. These folks use organic sounds that sound anything but calculated and phony. Other great tracks include "Mail Bomb" and "A Day Between." Slightly trippy and psychedelic...Different Days is a surefire success. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Many Axes - 2 Many Axes (CD, pfMENTUM, Experimental/ambient)
Obtuse and peculiar, 2 Many Axes will appeal to a small eclectic audience. Many Axes is the trio consisting of Susan Rawcliffe, Scott Wilkinson, and Brad Dutz. All three musicians play a mind-boggling array of unconventional instruments. Their compositions sound something accidental music that you might imagine hearing in the distance if you were traveling through the jungle. Incorporating everything from ceramic flutes, didjeridus, shells, tibetan horn, ethic flutes, udo, tablas, doumbeck, bones, gongs, and more (!) into their music, these folks are obviously not seeking commercial success. 2 Many Axes is, indeed, a labor of love by three individuals who are more concerned with letting their creative juices flow than reaching a large audience. What is surprising about this album is how soothing it can be. Instead of playing obtuse noise that grates on the nerves, the trio comes up with compositions that set definite cerebral moods. Most of the wind instruments used in these recordings were fashioned from clay by Rawcliffe herself (which may explain some of the strangely unfamiliar tones). This is an intriguing collection of compositions that surely defies description. While not for everyone, those seeking truly unusual modern mood music will want to check this out. Slightly trippy and surreal. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Marlboro Chorus - Youth Medium (CD, Future Appletree, Soft pop)
The Marlboro Chorus is an intriguing new band whose music doesn't fit in with familiar trends. While the band's tunes might best be described as soft pop, the phrase is actually much too narrow to adequately describe the music. Youth Medium is a peculiar and uniquely different kind of pop album. While the melodies may sound slightly familiar...the ways in which they are presented are not. This music seems highly steeped in methodology. Instead of playing songs in the usual way, these folks interject their tunes with unusual arrangements which alter the proceedings. So what you end up with is something that sounds like a normal pop song...pushed to peculiar new levels due to the adventurous emphasis on odd arrangements. Medium is a smart album chock full of catchy tunes that get better with repeated spins. Cool slightly British-influenced cuts include "Youth Medium," "Those Shoes," "The Incredible Journey (Revealed)," "The Black Iron Prisoner," and "Everything Good." A great album. (Rating: 5++)

Million Dollar Marxists - Give It A Name (CD, Gearhead, Rock)
Heavily influenced by The Dead Boys, the guys in Million Dollar Marxists play with the same furious intensity. This Canadian quintet is a rock and roll lover's dream. The band's music is stripped clean of any unnecessary crap (i.e., lead guitars, studio gimmicks, clever and annoying sounds)...leaving way for the band to play their crazy and intense buzzsaw guitar rock at maximum volume and speed. What we like best about these guys is that--despite the fact that their punk-influenced rock is as loud as nasty as it gets--the band members look like normal guys. In an age where everyone is trying so goddamn hard to look unique (and all simultaneously failing at the same time), many of the best musical artists of the day seem to be concentrating on their sound...rather than their looks. Give It A Name is a great little rock and roll album, featuring feverish cuts like "Do the Emotion," "Bricklayer," "Rolling Over," and "Hold Me." Great, genuinely rockin' stuff. (Rating: 5)

Miss TK & The Revenge - XOXO (CD, Gern Blandsten, Dance/rock)
Featuring the vocals of Miss TK (former keyboard player for Zero Zero), Miss TK & The Revenge combine punk elements from the 1970s with disco elements from the 1980s to create a thumpy and slightly erotic sound. The band's approach is something like a cross between Cyndi Lauper, Missing Persons, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. XOXO is a short album...only lasting about a half an hour. But in that short amount of time, Miss TK and friends pack in a lot. This album features no less than twelve tunes of feelgood dance pop. Some of the electronic drums make the music sound quite dated. Otherwise, this is a fun album of modern upbeat dance pop. Top picks: "Banana," "Hey Baby Yeah," "Sunshine, Sunshine, Where Are You?" (Rating: 4+++)

The Monorail - A Whole New City (CD EP, Milquetoast, Pop)
Cool underground pop/rock reminiscent of mid to late XTC...but more powerful. Tallahassee, Florida's The Monorail is a group with a difference. The fellows in this band combine tight playing with intelligent songwriting to create rock that is good for the mind and body. These gents are at their best when they play with a powerful punch and leave the screaming behind. ("The Shizampah" sounds overbaked in the vocal department.) The more melodic subdued pieces are the real keepers here: "Busy Mess Stress Test," "The Club," "Writing Has No Volume," "16, 17, 18." This will whet the appetites of many for the band's forthcoming album in 2005... (Rating: 4++++)

Moth Wranglers - Never Better (CD, Magnetic, Pop)
Classic pop from the beautifully bearded duo of LD Beghtol and Chris Xefos...plus various other friends who lend a helping hand. Beghtol is best known for his work in the critically acclaimed Flare and Three Terrors while Xefos plays in Drop Quarters and was also once in the criminally overlooked King Missile. These two gentlemen are to be commended for many reasons, not the least of which is their resistance to be easily stereotyped. Crappy overt retards like George Michael, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Barry Manilow have duped the public into believing that the only thing homos can do is dress up like ugly clean-cut women and fart out substandard disco pop. Fortunately, there are a few underground heros out there (like these guys) who are helping to shatter such molds. Never Better is a smooth collection of classic pop that occasionally veers way off the map of familiarity. The songs are highly melodic and subdued...and the attention to detail is impressive. This disc features seven cuts, all of which are originals except "No. 13 Baby" which was written by Frank Black. We could have done without some of the obviously homosexual lyrics here, but that's a minor point considering the fact that--overall--this does not sound like homo music. Top picks: "Never Said 'I'm Sorry'" (a particularly beautiful track), "Love and Jump Back," "Course," and "Better Off Alone" (an interesting mockery of the lie homosexual men tell themselves when they get burnt out on too many shallow relationships). Moth Wranglers rule in their den. Cool stuff. (Rating: 5)

The Nein - The Nein (CD EP, Sonic Unyon Recording Company, Rock)
Adult music from Durham, North Carolina's The Nein. These guys bit off a big chunk with this EP...tackling weighty topics and playing with subtle aggression. The band's slightly angular music is full of peculiar guitars and big looming rhythms. The vocals are the sort of sing/speak variety that was popular in 1970s punk music...slightly reminiscent of Richard Hell and Joe Jackson. Smart and intense, The Nein EP features six tracks of intelligent noisy rock with a difference. The band consists of Finn Cohen, Casey Burns, Robert Biggers, and Dale Flattum. The guys in The Nein are playing odd rock that is out-of-step with what's currently going on out there in music...and for that they deserve a major thumbs UP. Cool cuts include "Handout" and "Clearwater." Truly cool stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Organ - Grab That Gun (CD, Mint, Pop)
With a sound that is eerily similar to early Blondie, the folks in Canada's The Organ rely heavily on 1970s influences. Lead vocalist Katie Sketch has a voice that sounds so much like Deborah Harry that it is almost frightening. But while Blondie's music was infused with punk elements (at least early on..before band turned lame), the tunes on Grab That Gun are more moody and progressive. The songs are infused with lots of dynamic interplay between electric guitar and organ. The Organ is an all-girl band...but they don't really fit the mold. The songs on this CD are neither cute nor cutesy. These ladies present oddly compelling tunes that sound better with repeated spins. Cool calculated cuts include "Brother," "Love, Love, Love," and "No One Has Ever Looked So Dead." Good stuff with the right attitude. (Rating: 4+++)

The Pearlfishers - A Sunflower at Christmas (German import CD EP, Marina, Pop)
A Christmas CD that doesn't suck...?!? Unbelievable...but true. Combining elements from bands like The Beach Boys with a unique flair for composing modern pop, singer/songwriter David Scott comes up with seven surefire winners on this real treat of a holiday EP. What makes this disc so different than the average Christmas CD is the fact that Scott chose to write all but one tune himself. Such a refreshing change from hearing the same old tired refried songs over and over and over again (!). And not only does he offer original tunes...but they are as good as any of the old traditionals. His words and melodies are light years beyond what most artists are capable of producing. As such, these songs are certain to lift the hearts and spirits of many during a holiday season when the world is in such crappy turmoil. Incredible cuts include "Snowboardin'," "Winter Roads," "Blue December (In the City)"
(easily one of the most beautiful tunes ever recorded), and "The Snow Lamb." If you buy any holiday CD this year, this is the one to get. A truly wonderful disc. (Rating: 5+++)

Christopher Reeve

William Shatner - Has Been (CD, Shout! Factory, Pop)
William Shatner and Ben Folds have created something very special with Has Been. Most everyone will expect it to be campy, and there are some very funny moments. But Has Been is a pretty serious effort. Shatner went to Folds with many of his ideas, hopes, fears, and observations and Ben crafted them into songs. There is a clunker or two on it, but some are so utterly gorgeous that my eyes got watery while listening to them. There's a lot of real emotion and solid songwriting and musicianship involved in it. This album has more honesty, more feeling, and more truth than the last ten albums I've heard put together. Of course, your mileage may well vary. The first song, "Common People," isn't a good song, it's f*cking GREAT. Bill and Joe Jackson do a killer vocal duet. Another highlight is Shatner and Henry Rollins out-screaming each other amidst wild drumming and Adrian Belew's demonic guitar in a song called "I Can't Get Behind That." Lemon Jelly does the music in one song and country rocker Brad Paisley wrote the last tune ("Real") and sings along with Bill. Of course, Ben Folds plays keys, guitars, drums, and sings on almost every song. Many people have very strong opinions about William Shatner and a lot of them really hate the guy. I have always thought he was pretty funny in a very self-deprecating way. Those who listen to Has Been with open minds may well find themselves very surprised. I've gotta admire Folds a lot for putting his album-in-progress on hold to do this weird little project. This is certainly one of the most unusual albums ever released. [Review by Mark Sieber.] (Rating: 6)

Soledad Brothers - Voice of Treason (CD, Sanctuary, Rock)
Groovy bluesy rock with genuine PUNCH. Despite the fact that there are thousands of new bands popping up everywhere each and every month, relatively few seem to have the right attitude. The guys in Soledad Brothers have their act together. Voice of Treason is a pure jolt of genuine rock and roll injected with the blues. This band's music is highly reminiscent of rock bands of the 1970s. The tunes are catchy, the playing is tight, and the recordings are virtually devoid of any unnecessary elements. The masculine vocals are a perfect match for the band's juicy guitar licks. While other bands try way too hard to get their point across, the gents in Soledad Brothers just let it rip naturally. As a result...the band's music is fresh and positively entertaining. Top picks: "Cage That Tiger," "Sons of Dogs," "On Time," "Handle Song." (Rating: 4++++)

Slomo Rabbit Kick - Hortatory Examinations (CD EP, Kittybox, Pop)
Slomo Rabbit Kick returns with another fine collection of tunes. Hortatory Examinations is short...clocking in at just over fifteen minutes...but those fifteen minutes contain some great low fidelity pop music with a difference. Slomo is mainly a one-man band consisting of Jay Chilcote...plus a few friends lending helping hands. The five tracks on this EP are simple and direct...offering alternative pop/rock that would not have sounded out of place in the 1980s. The songs are slightly reminiscent of bands like Let's Active and The Television Personalities. Chilcote's subtle voice is a major piece of the puzzle...his hushed vocals are perfectly suited for the material he writes. Cool cuts include "Two Timing," "Smell Camino," and "Pseudo-Science." Cool stuff. (Rating: 5)

Spouse - Are You Gonna Kiss or Wave Goodbye? (CD, Pigeon, Pop/rock)
Groovy rock music with a difference. Are You Gonna Kiss or Wave Goodbye?, the third full-length release from Spouse, is a cosmic jolt of purely positive energy. The band's music sounds something like a cross between The Replacements and Dinosaur Jr...without sounding too much like either one. Lead singer Jose Ayerve's vocals are the trademark of the band's sound. His voice sounds something like a very young Rod Stewart. What is perhaps most interesting about Spouse is that...despite the fact that this is an underground band...these folks are making music that could easily appeal to millions of people. In addition to spectacular vocal melodies, the band's music features thick solid rhythms and wonderful intertwined guitars that reverberate with good intentions (the guitars are slightly reminiscent of Television and early Talking Heads). Combining elements from all over the map to create their own unique sound, these four folks are doing everything right. Solid rockers like "American Run-Through," "Wave Goodbye?", "Hurry Up and Wait," and "Over the Rabbit Hole" make this album a truly cool spin. Great stuff from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

Stroke 9 - All In (CD, Rock Ridge Music, Rock)
Good hard rock that is commercially accessible...yet it still rocks like hell most of the time. This self-produced album shows the band in fine form. Their thick, meaty guitars drive their tunes while Luke Esterkyn provides masculine vocals that are the obvious centerpiece of the music. The tunes on All In were produced with plenty of polish and studio tweaking. While underground music fans will probably hate this band's music, folks who like their rock tempered with determined flair will appreciate them. The anthemic qualities inherent in the band's music will appeal to a wide majority of music fans. Top picks: "How Am I Gonna Know?", "Stop Saying Goodbye," "My Advice." (Rating: 4++)

TaughtMe - ReadyToGoUnder (CD-R, Crying Girl, Progressive pop)
Arriving at our offices in a plain brown envelope with virtually no additional information given about the band, we were instantly intrigued by the music of TaughtMe. A one-man-band consisting of Blake Henderson (with violins added courtesy of Emily Boulton), ReadyToGoUnder is a most curious album. Beginning with what sounds like some blurry outtake from an old recording session (?), the disc then quickly transforms into what TaughtMe is all about. Thoughtful and clever pop tunes with personal, sensitive, and intelligent lyrics. It is virtually impossible to compare Henderson's music with other artists because he treads so far off the beaten path. Mixing soft almost folky music with accidental and inappropriate sounds, this young man creates a strangely intoxicating batch of compositions. Mostly soothing...yet sometimes unsettling and confusing...ReadyToGoUnder is a strangely compelling listen. (Rating: 5)

Luke Temple - Luke Temple (CD EP, Mill Pond, Pop)
Luke Temple is an excellent singer/songwriter whose songs sound like instant classics. Unlike most new artists whose music sounds strange and unfamiliar, Temple's tunes are instantly accessible. His music sounds something like a cross between The Lassie Foundation and early James Taylor...but not really (?!?). This short four-song EP features two mid-tempo rock tunes and two folky tunes (minus backup). For our bucks, the best track is "In The End"...a fantastic pop tune that features a great melody and wonderfully cascading guitar lines. Great stuff. A full-length is forthcoming from this fellow in 2005... (Rating: 5)

The Transmissionary Six - Get Down (CD, Film Guerrero, Soft progressive pop)
The Transmissionary Six is the duo of Paul Austin and Terri Moeller. Get Down features soft and moody progressive pop tunes padded with magnificent strings. Assisting the duo are various friends including Anne Marie Ruljancich, Steve Moore, Scott Colburn, as well as members of Norfolk and Western, Tracker, and Mount Analog. Transmissionary Six tunes are dreamy and thoughtful, often taking unexpected melodic twists and turns. Moeller's vocals are soft and subdued...strangely hushed and delicate. Already extremely popular among various hipsters, The Transmissionary Six obviously have their act together. Get Down is a cool and easy dose of modern progressive pop. Top picks: "Black Tin Rocket," "Flake," "Novanna," "Packa Kools," and "The Dimmest Porch." (Rating: 4++++)

YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO - All Roads to Fault (CD EP, Beggars Banquet, Rock)
Harsh loud screamer rock. The folks in Britain's YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO play a brand of unbridled intense rock music that is probably a bit too much for most listeners to take. The band's songs are loud thrashers that sound as if they were recorded on the first take...complete with any mistakes and/or accidents that might have happened during the process. That said, the music is surprisingly tight and the band members alert. The cuts on All Roads to Fault have a lot more in common with California rock bands that British bands. These folks may very well be funneling the harsh realities of modern-day life through their music. It's hard to tell, as the lyrics are often difficult to discipher. Good loud rock. With a bit more polish, this band could be great. (Rating: 4++)

Additional Items Received:

Ahleuchatistas - The same and the other
A Houseguest's Wish - Translations of Wire's 'Outdoor Miner'
Airtight Garage - Felangus box
Andrew - What's it all about?
Antler - Antler
The Atari Star - Prayer & Pretend
Mark B - Things MarkB
Boyracer - Happenstance
Casaverde - Looking god in the eye
Cathedral and Rum - Cathedral and Rum
The Clash - Our music was always shitty just like we was
Complicated Shirt - Strigine
The Day Traders - The Day Traders
Johnny Dowd - Cemetery shoes
Dr. Phil - People pay me lots of money to listen to the vapid noise that squirts from my smelly goddamn mouth-rectum even though I'm a big fat boring slob that deserves to be ignored by everyone
Dry Kill Logic - The dead and dreaming
Dutch Elms - Music for happiness
Terry Eason - Bees will bumble
Eddie From Ohio - This is me
Edenpark - Welcome to Edenpark
The Exchange - Dead city radio
Mike Ferraro - Mike Ferraro
The Fight - Nothing new since rock 'n' roll
The Firebird Band - The city at night
Fono - Its the way that you use it
The Get-Outs - Get the message
A. Graham and the Moment Band - This tyrant is free
Gun Kata - Gun Kata
Home Grown - When it all comes down
Hothouse Flowers - Into your heart
I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business - I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business
In A Cage - In A Cage
Ip - I am the obnoxious Ip!!
The Jigsaw Seen - God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Magic Johnson - I'm just a faggy old pretentious black asshole
Justice on a Budget - Justice on a Budget
Kelly's Heels - Dig in! A Popboomerang compilation
KnowMassive - MoodSwingSet
Marlee - Ready or not
Wes McDonald - The guest
McEnroe and Birdapres - Nothing is cool
Camille and Alexander McGregor - Ponies in the surf: A demonstration
Men In Fur - Men In Fur
Martin Mull - I was a great musician but I'm not such a great actor
Cerys Matthews - Cockahoop
Dolly Parton - Plastic titties and a buffet for two
People Chasing People - The dayglow light of sleep
Graham Perry - Perryphernalia
The Port City Allstars - Hello...in mono!
Danny Pruitt - Codeine dreams
Owen - Psychedelic tour de force
Christopher Reeve - My body died years ago but now my head is dead, too
Replicator - You are under surveillance
The Right Brothers - The Right Brothers
Pat Robertson - Let's get nekkid and smoke pot together
Screwie Louie and the Petty Merchants - What it was, what it is
Sensation Junkies - Once for the money
Setting Sun - Math and magic
Slunt - Slunt
Tizzy - Dead band rocking
T. G. Sheppard - Timeless: Classic love songs
Smoke and Smoke - Love suffers long
So L'il - Revolution Thumpin'
Strung Out - Exile in oblivion
Telephone Jim Jesus - A point too far to astronaut...
Tey Punsalan - Take me high
This Years Blonde - This Years Blonde
Trespassers William - Different stars
Twinkie - Twinkie
Various Artists - My favorite song writers
Vocoder - The collapsed stars EP
Brittany Wells - Loving every minute of it
Wild "T" & The Spirit - True bliss
Yearbook - Yearbook

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