May 1997 Reviews

RATING SYSTEM | bis | The Black Watch | Can | Cheap Trick | Claw Hammer | Carl Cox | Disque 9 | Eater | John Frusciante | Galaxie 500 | Lauren Hoffman | Junior Cottonmouth | Komeda | Ben Lee | Lilys | Arto Lindsay | Lunar Drive | Lusk | Mad Caddies | Moloko | The Mommyheads | Abra Moore | Muddy Frankenstein | The Mysteries of Life | Beth Orton | Pie | Prunella Scales | Purse | Radar Bros. | Sham 69 | Shonen Knife | Slim Chance & the Convicts | Slipstream | Speedy J | The Squires of the Subterrain | Sunday Puncher | Super 5 Thor | Tenderloin | Tranquility Bass | Treehouse | U.S. Saucer | Velouria | Walt Mink | Yacky Doodle | Zowling Thorn and Aviation Borne | Zum Zum the Dum Dum Bear


bis - The New Transistor Heroes (CD, Grand Royal/Capitol, Pop)
Though this Scottish trio has been revving up fans of alternative radio for some time now, this is the band's first full-length release. The band plays spikey, skewed, upbeat pop music with lots of cheerleading style vocals. It's a sound that's sure to get those college kids dancing and drinking lotsa beer. I get the impression that these folks are mainly out to have fun themselves. The band is young, consisting of Manda Rin (20), Sci-fi Steven (21), and John Disco (18). "Starbright Boy" is my favorite tune here, with it's peculiar, meandering melody. I hope that the success of bis will help to shed more light on the vastly overlooked Lazy (from Ohio) because the two bands are very, VERY similar... (Rating: 4)

THE BLACK WATCH - Seven Rollercoasters (CD EP, Catapult, Moody pop)
Soft pop that alternates between droning and moody. Standout tracks are "Honey What," with it's spacey guitar effects and male/female vocals, the balladish "Brightest," which includes some really cool string arrangements, and "The House Inside Your Head" which is just plain cool. The Black Watch sound sort of like a cross between Mazzy Star and Seely, except they have a much more diversified sound than either of those bands. Though the first couple of tracks on this EP kind of lost me, this is an interesting band with good ideas and melodies. It'll be interesting to hear a full-length from them... (Rating: 3)

CAN - Sacrilege (Double CD, Mute, Electronic/jungle/experimental/jazz)
For those unfamiliar with Can, the band formed in Germany in 1968 and created music for about a decade before disbanding (although they did reunite in 1989 to record one other album). Although I'm normally not into remixes, these CDs are definitely an exception to the rule. A whole slew of folks did remixes of Can tunes with some very surprising results. The remix cast includes Brian Eno, The Orb, Pete Shelley & Hoodlum Priest, System 7 and others. Not only is this CD a great listen, but it will also probably serve to open up a great many folks' ears to this legendary and sometimes forgotten band. There's a lot to swallow here, including remixes of "Pnoom," "Tango Whiskeyman," "Vitamin C," "Father Cannot Tell," "Oh Yeah," and many more. Whoever thought this one up and made it happen deserves a great big ice cream cone...dipped even. A coooooooool dip into the past... (Rating: 5)

CARL COX - F.A.C.T. 2 (Double CD, Moonshine, Dance/techno)
Either you like dance music or you don't. If you don't, you won't like this lengthy double CD. If you're into the whole dance music craze, however, you're gonna get a big KICK out of this compilation created by notorious producer, artist, remixer, and radio DJ Carl Cox. Carl has assembled a collection of hot dance music by artists that include The Mod Wheel, Josh Wink, Green Velvet, Death in Vegas, Underworld, and a whole bunch of others (including two of his own tracks). If there's a sound that Mr. Cox goes for, it must be droning, ethereal dance music. These tracks are nothing if not hypnotic. None of that cutesy "blip blip bleep bleep" electronic stuff here. These tracks are rhythm heavy...and they definitely put the listener into dance mode. This is Carl's first U.S. release. It's no wonder this man has achieved such success overseas. He obviously has an ear for what gets people moving... (Rating: 4)

CHEAP TRICK - Cheap Trick (CD, Cheap Trick/Red Ant, Rock/pop)
What a disappointment. I really wanted to like this. When I was initially exposed to this band, they were playing a fresh style of power pop that was out of synch with what was going on at the time...and the songs were GREAT. I regret to report that these days the guys in Cheap Trick are merely grabbing at straws. I can't even imagine why they're still putting out stuff if this is the best they can come up with. I suppose they're either bored or they need money. Whatever the case...hearing one of my favorite bands from many years ago stooping so low is depressing... A couple of the slower tunes are okay, but I dunno... SHEESH. (Rating: 2)

CLAW HAMMER - Hold Your Tongue (And Say Apple) (CD, Interscope, Rock)
I was relatively certain that this CD would be excellent before even hearing it. While I initially liked this band's music, it wasn't until I caught them in concert that they really clicked with me. But boy...they clicked in a BIG way. In a world where there are tons of noisy, atonal bands fronted by growling vocalists it sometimes becomes easy to lump them all into one category...and assume there aren't differences. Claw Hammer is a band in the truest sense of the word, and they aren't quite like the rest. These four guys can play their nuts off. I mean REALLY play. They're very focused, and the more you listen to their music the intricasies start to appear. Though the rough edges may initially make you uneasy, after hearing this band's tunes a few times they start sounding more and more musical. Hold Your Tongue (And Say Apple) may be the band's most adventurous CD yet. They experiment with a variety of styles, and pull them all off beautifully. This is one of those bands that's still virtually unknown despite a strong, underground buzz they've created on sheer talent. Be sure to catch 'em in concert. They are EXCELLENT. (Rating: 5)

DISQUE 9 - Des Incurables (CD, Slow River/Rykodisc, Experimental)
This band is certainly NOT for everyone. Basically the one-man project of Keith Fancy, Disque 9 sounds something like listening to two movies on cable while a radio is playing in the background and the refrigerator is on the blink. These are not songs in the traditional sense of the word. Mr. Fancy jumbles, distorts, and disassembles pieces of music in such a way that there really aren't discipherable melodies or words. Instead, these songs are like fragments and snippets of songs all tied together in a most confusing manner. In the end, however, this obtuse little collection of "tunes" doesn't really sound like anything else I've heard of late...and for that alone, this gets high marks in the "land of the baby." Eerie and dream-like. Neat. (Rating: 5)

EATER - All of Eater (CD, Creativeman Disc, Punk/pop)
For every band that makes it, there are dozens of others equally as good that somehow never get heard. Such is the case with Eater, a somewhat obscure British band that lit a fuse and then died out before the bomb exploded. The band was young (15 year olds), and their first show was opening up for the Buzzcocks (!?!). This CD contains everything the band recorded (one album, five singles, plus a couple of obscurities). Eater played revved up, genuine, snotty punk/pop. The dated sound quality of these recordings only adds to their appeal. These 28 tunes give me the feeling that if these guys had just kept it up, they would've become as big as the Damned or the Sex Pistols. (I believe this disc was released a couple of years ago, but it's all new to me...) (Rating: 4)

JOHN FRUSCIANTE - Smile From the Streets You Hold (CD, Birdman, Rock)
This is just plain bad. I love experimental music, noise, and obtuse recordings...but this sucks. Formerly the guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (an incredibly overrated band), John Frusciante is living proof past achievements make it possible for ANYONE to get a record contract nowadays. If it weren't for playing in the Peppers, I doubt if anyone would give a damn about this guy's music. This is nothing but a worthless piece of shit. (Rating: 1)

GALAXIE 500 - Copenhagen (CD, Rykodisc, Pop/rock)
This is apparently the only commercially released live recording from the now disbanded Galaxie 500. There was some disagreement over whether this band was better live or in the studio. My opinion here isn't tarnished by impressions of the band's studio work because until now (to my knowledge) I'd never heard their music at all...though the name was instantly familiar. This set of tunes was recorded in Copenhagen on December 1, 1990...the last concert of a long European tour. Though I'm not a big fan of live recordings, this one somehow manages to capture the real spirit of what must've been happening at the club that night. The band plays simple yet subtle tunes, and the playing is tight with occasional flub ups (which only add to the listening experience). My reaction? If the band sounded this good live, I'd be very curious to hear the studio recordings. It's nice to see Rykodisc re-releasing this band's material. They're an obtuse obscurity deserving of more recognition than they received. (Rating: 4)

LAUREN HOFFMAN - Megiddo (CD, Virgin, Pop/rock)
What?!? Lauren Hoffman is only 20 years old? What?!? Lauren doesn't use any of the all-too-familiar female song formulas? What?!? Lauren doesn't have a cutesy, cooing vocal style? What?!? Lauren isn't trying to be a punk "GRRRRRRRRRRRL"??? This young lady's debut CD is a refreshing change indeed. Instead of aping the styles of every other female artist on the planet (which is what most girls do), Luaren instead follows her own peculiar muse to create a CD that's ultimately listenable and extremely entertaining. That she has accomplished such a cohesive collection of tunes at such an early age is nothing short of remarkable. Sometimes she's soft, other times seductive, and at other times she rocks out totally. "Rock Star," the first single from the CD, is an appropriate choice...and it just might suddenly make Ms. Hoffman an extremely popular lady. An excellent listen. Much more variety than what you would expect from a new artist... (Rating: 5)

JUNIOR COTTONMOUTH - Bespoke (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Produced by Craig Leon (Ramones, Blondie, and The Fall), Bespoke is this English band's debut full-length release. They've already had a good bit of success in their home country. The tune "Shirts & Skins" (which is included on this CD) was the Pick of the Week in Melody Maker. So what does the music sound like? Very hummable British pop music not unlike Oasis or even Supergrass. Most of the tunes have catchy choruses and are very radio friendly. Though Junior Cottonmouth do suffer from a somewhat generic sound overall, this is pleasant enough stuff that's easy to listen to. (Rating: 3)

KOMEDA (Live performance, May 3, 1997)
While thousands of ignorant, drunk Atlantans were happily plopping down twenty to thirty bucks to hear tired old bands from the past (Santana, Cheap Trick, etc.) play at an outdoor festival (Music Midtown), only a small group of knowledgeable, curious folks turned out to hear Swedish band Komeda play at a small club nearby for a mere five bucks. I'll never understand why folks flock to hear jaded old farts when there are so many incredible fresh new bands out there. ANYWAY (to get back on track), I was already NUTS over Komeda's latest CD (The Genius of Komeda), so it was great to learn that they were including Atlanta on their tour. Though the club was only about a third full, the folks who were there seemed to really get off on the show. Komeda play a peculiar, obtuse brand of pop that sounds something like a cross between Slapp Happy, the Cocteau Twins, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Weird time changes, bizarre spins on tempo...and it's all tied together by a completely captivating young lady on vocals. This show BLEW ME AWAY. The band re-created their recorded sound perfectly, the mix was excellent, and they played mostly songs from the latest CD. Though the noisy audience could've shown a little more respect during the quieter numbers (particularly when they played "If" for an encore, which was the highlight of the show), folks were mostly appreciative. Unless they change their sound and approach (which I hope they do NOT), Komeda will most likely remain a cult band in the U.S. Their stuff is just too odd for the average music fan. Here in babysueland, however, these folks hit the bull's eye dead on. INCREDIBLE. (Rating: 6)

BEN LEE - Something to Remember Me By (CD, Grand Royal, Folk/pop)
Much has been made of this youthful singer/songwriter. This is the first full-length I've heard. Ben Lee sounds very much like Billy Bragg. His songs are basic folky pop with very serious lyrics. Not a lot really stands out on this CD, but it's pleasant enough as background music. (Rating: 2)

LILYS - Services (For the Soon to be Departed) (CD EP, Primary, Liquid pop)
Cut from the same fabric as Better Can't Make Your Life Better (the band's last full-length CD), Services (For the Soon to be Departed) presents more heady, cerebral pop from what just might be the world's best and most peculiar pop band. Leader and only constant member Kurt Heasley writes stream-of-consciousness pop tunes that are as obtuse as they are accessible...and this guy's voice blows everyone else off the map. Lyrically, this EP is particularly WILD... Though this band is certainly an acquired taste, once you've acquired that taste you'll be lethally addicted. Once again, Lilys are the only band to throw our rating meter into overdrive...receiving the still undefined rating of "7"...

ARTO LINDSAY - Hyper Civilizado (CD, Rykodisc, Experimental/electronic)
Arto Lindsay is a true original. Though this is only the second disc I've heard by this man, I can honestly say that it is very difficult to come up with comparisons for his music. To quote directly from the press release (which may be the best way of describing this CD), Hyper Civilizado is "the wildy remixed alter-ego of Mundo Civilizado." For this disc, Mr. Lindsay solicited the help of other artists to remix eight of his tunes. The list includes DJ Spooky, SPIT, Sub Dub, Elated System. I never heard the original versions of these tunes, so I can't make comparisons. These remixes, however, are trippy as HELL. Weird, high-tech electronics flow by as different instruments make subtle appearances. Some of the tunes have vocals, some do not. These tunes are simultaneously gripping and puzzling. This is the kind of music you can either listen to or play as background muzak. Another intriguing disc from a totally unique artist. (Rating: 6)

LUNAR DRIVE - Here at Black Mesa Arizona (CD, Beggars Banquet, Techno/house)
Here's a different twist on the techno thing. Lunar Drive is the collaborative effort of Sandy Hoover and Sam Minkler. The two combine modern techno/house sounds with various sampled sounds from Indian reservations. Sound odd? It is in a way, and yet in another way it really isn't. While it is relatively easy for this style of music to come off sounding canned and sterile, these folks' vision and sound is unique enough to make it work. This could possibly be the result of rhythms that are a bit more clever than your standard canned drum machine pattern. The sampled sounds work well with this style of music, making this CD a good listen while you're doing other things. The production and sound on this one are TOP NOTCH. (Rating: 4)

LUSK - Free Mars (CD, Zoo/Volcano, Pop)
Extremely LUSH pop music...and I do mean EXTREME. Lusk is the duo of Paul D'Amour and Chris Pitman. These two guys write some really nice tunes, and their vocal arrangements are KILLER. Free Mars is a very heady, very dense collection of tunes that definitely delves into excess. At times the excessive use of instruments and studio tricks support the tunes, but at other times I think the busy arrangements detract. After all, these fellows' tunes seem to be strong enough that they just don't need all the extras. This is a very enjoyable listen from two extremely talented fellows who obviously have their chops down. Kinda like a mix between Yes, 10CC and about a billion other progressive pop bands, Lush is on the right track for certain. Expect big things from them in the future. (Rating: 3)

MAD CADDIES - Quality Soft Core (CD, Honest Don's, Ska/pop)
It seems like there are ska punk bands everywhere lately, but when's the last time you heard ska/POP? Mad Caddies play just that...upbeat, hummable ska with a pop music base. At times very reminiscent of Alabama's Pain, these guys play music that's upbeat, fun, and ultimately hummable. Throughout these thirteen tunes these guys display an amazing ability to write decent songs, come up with inventive arrangements, and generally play their balls off. The rhythm section pumps, the guitars are spastic and fast, and the vocals way above average. Top picks: "I'm So Alone," "Cup O' Tea," "Big Brother," and "Sad Reggie." (Rating: 4)

MOLOKO - Do You Like My Tight Sweater? (CD, Warner Bros., Pop/techno)
Light, easy, and fun. Moloko is a dance duo from Sheffield made up of Mark Brydon and Roisin Murphy. Together these two have come up with a CD that's a really easy listen. No challenges being made of the listener, and with these tunes that's perfectly okay. Funky, techno tunes like "Fun For Me," "Day For Night," and others reflect these folks' interest in the technological side of music...while the strange title track is simply an "in" joke lasting only a few seconds. The letter that accompanied this CD probably sums up the band's sound best: "phat p-funk beats, jungle, trip-pop and jazz." This ought to please fans of Morcheeba, as well as just about any fan of modern electronic synthetic dance pop. This is pretty goddamn neat. (Rating: 4)

THE MOMMYHEADS - The Mommyheads (CD, Geffen, Pop)
This band's major label debut is the first release I've heard from them. The Mommyheads play straightforward pure pop without deviation. "Jaded," the opening track, caught my attention instantly. Plaintive, genuine pop music featuring superb vocals and great arrangements. This band plays two basic styles of music: ballads and piano pop (in the vein of Ben Folds Five). While they're proficiant at both, it is the band's softer side that I find most appealing. "Sad Girl" is another GREAT tune that could easily become a major hit on commercial FM radio. Interestingly, this was produced by the infamous Don Was and mixed by Jim Scott. The Mommyheads certainly have my attention, and while this is a very interesting CD that's a ball of fun...I think these folks' best material is yet to come. This sounds REALLY nice. (Rating: 4)

ABRA MOORE - Strangest Places (CD, Arista Austin, Pop)
This is the second solo release from Abra Moore (the first was entitled Sing). Abra was one of the founding members of Poi Dog Pondering, but she left that group when they got a record deal. Must've been a smart move judging from the sound of this CD. Abra has a smooth vocal style and she pens some damn good tunes. True, this isn't the most original sounding thing I've ever heard...but it is pleasant and easy on the ears. It's also EXTREMELY radio-friendly. Several of these songs have the potential to be big chart toppers. Though some of the tunes suffer slightly from overproduction, on the whole this is a job well done. (Rating: 3)

MUDDY FRANKENSTEIN - Dance With Evil (CD, RockBoss, Rock)
I've heard a lot of Asian bands that sound American...but this one sounds so authentic that you'd NEVER even guess these guys are from Tokyo. This band plays rock music in the grand tradition of bands like MC5, the Stooges, and Mitch Ryder. Loud, heavily distorted guitars...screeching vocals...and a rhythm section that sounds like they're blowing the roof off the recording studio. This may be one of the most authentic rock and roll bands I've heard from Tokyo. They may be copying styles from other artists, but they're doing a dman good job of it. Top picks: "Captain Moondog," "Gulliver," "Busy Man," and "Detroit Love Animals" (Rating: 3)

THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE - Focus on the Background (CD EP, Flat Earth, Pop)
Though they're actually signed to RCA, The Mysteries of Life have the good sense to occasionally release additional material on the independent Flat Earth label. This time they offer a six song EP of their pensive folky pop. The band's core members (Jake Smith and Freda Love) formerly played in John Strom's band Antenna, but decided to take off on their own. Lucky for us, because these folks create some really nice feelgood pop that goes down nice and easy. Includes a softer rendition of the Herman's Hermits tune "I'm Into Something Good." As usual, if the label says Flat Earth...BUY IT. (Rating: 4)

BETH ORTON - Trailer Park (CD, Dedicated, Folky atmospheric pop)
Beth Orton is a lady who doesn't sound like the rest. Most folks will probably know her as the vocalist on the Chemical Bros. tune "Alive: Alone." Beth's solo CD contains acoustic guitar based tunes with electronic arrangements that range from somewhat orchestral to somewhat eerie. Her voice sounds strangely sincere, and she comes across as an artist expressing her ideas rather than an egotistical musician trying to garner praise. The best part about this disc is that I can't think of many artists around to compare it to. Ms. Orton combines earthy music with very unearthly sounds...and the combination of the two sounds completely DREAMY. Eleven cool tunes including "She Cries Your Name," "Don't Need a Reason," and "Galaxy of Emptiness." (Rating: 4)

PIE - Pie is "Gone" (CD EP, Big Top, Rock)
Neat. Pie is a three piece band that doesn't sound like the rest. The five songs on this EP showcase a band with a wide range of musical abilities. They have an edge for certain, but even more importantly they're talented musicians and songwriters. The third tune ("Swarthmore") in particular really sticks with me...really, REALLY cool guitar lines that sound absolutely beautiful. If these guys get their message across this clear on a five song EP, I'll be waiting on the edge of my chair for the next full-length. An obtuse, peculiar little band that deserves your attention. (Rating: 5)

PRUNELLA SCALES - Dressing Up the Idiot (CD, Mutiny, Rock)
No, this is not the actress who played Sybil on the British television show "Faulty Towers." This four piece (Rachel Bolan, Tommy Southard, L. Wood, Phil Varone) plays punchy rock music with snarling guitars, well-above-average vocals, and a surprisingly varied style of songwriting. Sometimes poppy, sometimes all-out rock, and at other times slighty psychedelic grunge, Prunella Scales is an amazingly tight band with a gift for transmitting their sound to tape (or disc, as the case may be). Plenty of revved up fun here, but the band makes a point of throwing in softer tracks to add just the right amount of variety. Top picks: "Crisp," "Freak Machine," "Don't Let the Flowers Die," "Talk Myself Down." (Rating: 4)

PURSE - 10,000 Miles of Turntable Monotony (CD, Lucky Garage, Rock)
This extremely uncommercial band consists of Marina Rosenfeld (vocals, guitar), Michael Esther (guitar/vocals), and Brandon LaBelle (drums). Michael and Brandon are also in the band Farflung (a favorite here in babysueland)...Marina too, when she feels like it. So what does Purse sound like? It's hard to describe... Some of the tunes are experiments...others are droning pop...others are just peculiar fragments pieced together. This is a purely artistic endeavor, as these folks don't seem to be concerned with radio airplay, sales, or anything of that nature. As a result, they've come up with a disc that's likely to please the critics while remaining virtually unnoticed by the general public. It's companies like Lucky Garage that make things like this possible. Instead of putting out things that are likely to sell, this unique up-and-coming company simply puts out GOOD stuff. (Rating: 5)

RADAR BROS. - Radar Bros. (CD, Restless, Soft pop)
I heard an EP a while back from Radar Bros. that I really enjoyed a great deal. This full-length offers more of the same soft, melodic pop. The band sounds very much like some of Pink Floyd's softer side (particularly the vocals). This is really laid back music that's sure to put you at if all you can do is mosh to loud, abrasive noise like a stunted sociopath, skip this. If, however, you have the ability to slow down for a few minutes and watch the clouds roll by then you may very well get into this band. It's always a treat to listen to music created by folks who aren't trying so hard. This is one band that certainly just lets it happen. Excellent cuts include "Lose Your Face Again," "Stay," "We're Over Here," and "This Drive." This ought to appeal to folks who are into Low or the Scud Mountain Boys. (Rating: 5)

SHAM 69 - Kings & Queens (CD, Creativeman Disc, Punk)
Originally available only in the U.K., Creativeman Disc picked up on this cool collection of some of Sham 69's best recorded work. This band played with attitude and intensity, and these ten tunes are proof positive. Though they were only together for three years (1976-1979), the band's impact is still being felt today. Ten tracks including "Action Time Vision," "They Don't Understand," "Kids Are United," and "Hurry Up Harry." (Rating: 3)

SHONEN KNIFE (Live performance, May 7, 1997)
Can Shonen Knife make the transition from punk novelties to pensive popsters? If the band's recent Atlanta concert is any indication, the answer is no. Fortunately, however, Atlanta is not a good indicator of good things happening in the world of music. We are basically stupid rednecks here. We only support idiot bands from decades past like Santana, Tom Petty, and ZZ Top. That said, I really enjoyed the latest Shonen Knife concert...despite the fact that it was definitely an "off night" for the band. They were booked in a large, crummy concert hall...the sound system sucked...and less than 100 folks showed up. Not only that, the band's latest CD (Brand New Knife)...which is their strongest release yet...had received little or no airplay on local radio stations. As a result, the only songs the audience was familiar with were the band's older tunes. When I started clapping enthusiastically for new (and obviously superior) tunes like "Explosion," "Wind Your Spring" and "Fruits and Vegetables," I felt embarrassed because I was the only one clapping. While this show only gets a rating of "4", I definitely get the feeling that these girls...under the right circumstances...can certainly deliver a show deserving of a "6." Get the new CD. It's KILLER. (Rating: 4)

SLIM CHANCE & THE CONVICTS - Twang Peaks (CD, Evolutionary, Country/pop)
Here a CD, there a CD...everywhere a CD. There are so many compact discs around that it seems like everyone has just released a new one. And most of them are very generic...made by folks making music for all the wrong reasons. It's artists like Slim Chance & the Convicts that make wading through mountains of music worthwhile. Slim Chance writes country pop tunes that are so incredibly good that you'll wonder why this man isn't selling millions of CDs already. Slim is without a doubt one of the most talented singer/songwriters I have ever heard to come out of Atlanta. Strong tunes, great lyrics, super vocals...and it all comes across as anything BUT pretentious. This is good, quality, ultra-listenable country/pop that sounds so damn good you'll wanna hear it over and over again. The two cover tunes are excellent ("Just Dropped In," "Pop A Top"), but Mr. Chance's original tunes are even better. Great, timeless compositions like "Please Don't Ask," "I'll Believe It When I Want To" (this one's KILLER!), "King of Loserville," and "The Hardest Part" will sound good for many years to come. I highly recommend this. Extremely genuine, real, and sincere. Wow. (Rating: 5)

SLIPSTREAM - Be Groovy Or Leave (CD, Primary/Che, Pop)
This is one HELL of a GREAT CD!!! Slipstream's last full-length (Side Effects) was one of the best and most overlooked CDs of the past few years. Though the disc didn't receive much press or radio play here in the U.S., among certain folks it became a very hot item. Be Groovy Or Leave is as good or better than the preceding disc. This band plays very heady, cerebral pop music with superb arrangements and melodic hooks that'll peel the skin right off your face. Out of the eleven tunes presented here, my initial favorites are "You'll Never Catch" (this one's TOO good!), "Scars," "Madeleine," "Say It Now," and "Leave It All Behind." In the same general vein as Lilys (but not as peculiar), Slipstream is a band with a difference that gets better and better and BETTER the more you hear their tunes. This CD has us all hot and bothered here in babysueland. This will most certainly end up being one of the best discs released this year. YES! (Rating: 6)

SPEEDY J - Public Energy No. 1 (CD, Plus 8, Electronic)
Interesting. One-man electronic recording mogul Speedy J has come up with an interesting and at times challenging CD that is sometimes reminiscent of Scorn. Instead of going for obnoxious electronic disco crap, this guy is more into creating strange electronic soundscapes. Different textures merge in and out of one another in a sometimes perplexing manner, which makes for some real surprises. Particularly interesting are some of the sounds Speedy J uses for his rhythms. Instead of drums, he uses peculiar electronic noises patterned in such a way that it provides a backbeat for his sound experiments. There are lots of segments where there really are no rhythms at all...and these segments are probably my favorite parts of this CD. In a world where far too many people are creating electronic music, this guy stands out because he's creative and provocative. This is pretty damn COOL. (Rating: 5)

THE SQUIRES OF THE SUBTERRAIN - Scrapbook (Cassette, Rocket, Pop)
Christopher Earl is the man behind The Squires of the Subterrain. Chris writes hook-filled, keyboard-based pop music that he records at home. Scrapbook is very Beatles influenced...particularly the opening track "Holiday" (which is very reminiscent of Paul McCartney's "Dear Boy"). Chris is one of a couple dozen or so folks in the country who are giving home taping a good name. He writes great melodies, has a killer voice, and has a good ear for arrangements. Standout tracks include "Small Town Girl," "Umbrellas Open," "Country Home," and "Christmas Time." You won't find this independently produced cassette in stores...write Chris at 17 West Main St., Corfu, NY 14036 or e-mail him at Cool stuff from an important up and coming artist. (Rating: 5)

SUNDAY PUNCHER - The Livid Eye (CD, Turnbuckle, Rock)
New York's Sunday Puncher have a sound that is instantly familiar yet unfamiliar, chordant yet dischordant, hummable yet not hummable...and ultimately accessible yet inaccessible. This band's chameleon-like sound displays a wide array of influences...yet in the end it's very hard to pin down exactly who they sound like. The subtle oddness of tracks like "The Perfect Bomb," "Slippage," and "Part-Timer" make you want to move, while at the same time making you feel somewhat uneasy. This is a DAMN interesting debut from a band that I was previously unaware of. They're not punk, they're not rock and roll, they're not pop...they're just rather odd. The ultimate plus...this gets better the more you listen. Excellent stuff, for sure... (Rating: 5)

SUPER 5 THOR - Gazelle (CD, Echostatic/Space Baby)
Don't you wonder why bands pick such peculiar names? In this case the name stuck, because I remembered this obtuse, oddly named band from their last full-length (also on Echostatic/Space Baby) which BLEW ME AWAY. Thus far this band has gone largely unrecognized, received little radio airplay, and has a relatively small audience...despite the fact that their work is far superior to most of what's currently out there. As at least a few folks already know, Super 5 Thor produce some totally cool spacey, dreamy, hazy pop experiments that get better with repeated listenings. If you like mushrooms and hash brownies, I think you may have just found your favorite new band. Something always sounds just slightly off key in these tunes, and that's probably why they sound so good. Sort of like a mix between Low, Bobby Sherman, Starflyer 59, and the Lilys. (I'm really cool because I combine lots of ultra-hip, obscure band names in clever ways to describe other ultra-hip, obscure bands...) (Rating: 5)

TENDERLOIN - Tenderloin (CD, Time Bomb, Rock)
Heavy rockers Tenderloin are back with a new label, and more of the charged up rock music the band is known for. This band definitely has an authentic kick, and they play like all Hell is breaking loose. This is just a personal bias, but I'm just not too crazy about harmonica...and as a result, this makes it difficult for me to fully enjoy this band (harmonica is in just about every song). Folks into the whole bluesy/rock/harmonica thing ought to go NUTS over this release, however. Tenderloin is the REAL thing. (Rating: 3)

TRANQUILITY BASS - Let the Freak Flag Fly (CD, Astralwerks, Freeform)
Kinda acid jazz, kinda ambient, kinda dub, kinda pop, kinda trip hop, kinda electronic... Tranquility Bass will most likely be many things to many people, despite the fact that 90% of this was recorded by one fellow (Mike Kandel). Mike spent two years recording the tracks for this CD, and the time was well spent. He has created an original sounding batch of compositions that sound like anything BUT one-man recordings. These are busy pieces...often incorporating a wide variety of instruments, sounds, and voices in the scope of each song. But Mr. Kandel is a master of it all blends together quite nicely. This is great stuff to listen closely to, play as background music, or dance to. Call it "multi-purpose" music, if you will. But whatever you do, give this guy's stuff a listen. Dis disc be cool as shit! (Rating: 5)

TREEHOUSE - Nobody's Monkey (CD, Atlantic, Pop/rock)
The four guys in Treehouse pulled up their roots in Liverpool and moved to Los Angeles, soon landing a contract with Atlantic Records. The pairing of the two may well make someone a great deal of money. This band has an extremely slick, polished sound that sounds something like Peter Gabriel mixed with a variety of other current pop artists. This band's music sounds good, but it is hampered somewhat by affected vocals. Even though, this band has the potential to break through in a big way because they have an extremely accessible sound. Tunes include "Rain On Your Parade," "Daddy Inside," "Miracle Divide," and "The Return." (Rating: 3)

U.S. SAUCER - Hell, Yes! (CD, Amarillo, Folky pop)
The confusingly titled Hell, Yes! sounds anything BUT like what its title might suggest. Instead of screaming rock music, what we have here is extremely mellow, moody folky pop music that sounds something like a sleepy cross between Richard Thompson and underground recording artist Don Campau (the vocals are particularly reminiscent of Campau). While I can't recommend this for everyone, this is certainly going to push the right buttons for a very select group of folks...including myself. I played this for a couple of friends who seemed bored by the meandering, slow nature of this music...but I find it extremely hypnotic and relaxing. This could also be grouped in the same category as Low, except there's a much more home grown sound to the tunes. U.S. Saucer doesn't really sound like too many other groups I've heard hately, and for that alone they get high marks. (Rating: 4)

VELOURIA - Four Eyes For You (CD, Sick, Pop/rock)
Cocky pop/rock with vocals that growl. Velouria's approach reminds me very much of Nerf Herder, but they're much poppier. In this little world of music reviews, simplicity ALWAYS wins in the end...and Velouria certainly have a simple, basic sound that is fresh and spontaneous. I can also hear traces of power pop bands like the Young Fresh Fellows in some of these tunes. This is a very solid release from a band that sounds like they deliver a real KICK in concert. Fourteen tight tunes including "Daffodil," "Everybody Loves You," "Perpetually You," and "Sorry Ms. Sovereignty." Fun, catchy, and highly melodic. (Rating: 4)

WALT MINK - Colossus (Advance CD, Deep Elm, Rock/pop)
Possibly the best release yet from Walt Mink. This is the band's fourth full-length release. Though they've been through quite a bit of label switching, I think they've finally found the right one. Colossus has less polish and clutter than the band's last couple of releases, and the songs are slower. Usually that would be a minus in the area of rock bands, but with Walt Mink some of their earlier tunes went by so fast that they almost became unintelligible. Nowadays John Kimbrough has slowed things just enough so that you can really hear and appreciate his tunes. This guy can sing and play up a storm, and he makes it all sound so damn EASY. This release ought to please old fans and bring in a great many new folks into the land of the Mink. Hats off to the folks at Deep Elm for signing this highly entertaining (and vastly underrated) band... (Rating: 5)

YACKY DOODLE - I'm Butch, Chopper Is Effeminate (CD, Nancytown, Pop)
Well whoda ever thought that little Yacky Doodle would end up recording his very own CD? The sheepish little cartoon duck from the sixties comes out charging like a lion on this puzzling batch of tunes. Buzzsaw guitars crash and graze through the bitter and sometimes exhaustingly hazy world of Yacky's music. Admittedly, the "singing" becomes tedious after only a couple of songs. Let's face it. Mr. Doodle just does not have the capacity to stay on key. Even though there are very distinct problems with these tunes, this CD is still a novelty that'll probably end up being highly collectible. Songs include "You Can Call Me Yacky," "Quack, Quack, My Head's On Fire," "Chopper Forgot His Rubbers," and "My Itty-Bitty Eyes Are Closed Now, Chopper." (Rating: 2)

ZOWLING THORN AND AVIATION BORNE - Let's Just Pretend That None Of This Ever Happened (CD, Damper, Jazz)
Why is music there? If you ask Zowling Thorn or Aviation Borne, you'll probably get two completely different answers. The answers they give aren't completely tangible, though. This "spoken word" garbage has gotten COMPLETELY out of hand. Nowadays practically everyone thinks they're a goddamn recording artist just because they can talk. Call it an ego tangent or call it the end of a stupid civilization that never amounted to anything anyway It doesn't really matter. Whatever you call it, however, this kind of crap still amounts to nothing. There is nothing relevant in a piece like "Candy Bar Discussion" or "Rave Discussion Part III." These folks obviously don't give a damn about their listening audience, no matter how incredibly small it might be. (Rating: 1)

ZUM ZUM THE DUM DUM BEAR - What Bear Not Do Right? (CD EP, Bowery, Dishwater pop)
Supposedly presenting a new brand of music called "dishwater pop," Zum Zum the Dum Dum Bear has a lot of hogs to wash if he ever hopes to live up to the hype. The hog grows throughout the duration of these fifteen tunes, leaving a gritty stain on the teeth as well as the subconscious. While Zum Zum dances around catching rats in his throat, the busy assistants whiz by on electronic canisters. The whole scenario is a bit of a disaster, and judging by the response of critics across the nation there's no way to get the real "scoop" on this bear. You can clean it, swipe it off, shave it, belch at the grime, and you still get...ring around the collar. I guess that's probably the point, though, so I'll just have to hate this for no apparent reason. (Rating: 2)

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