Amorphis | The Auteurs | Barney's Biscuits | The Beatles | Beck | Blue Dogs | Bored | Ian Brennan | Butthole Surfers | Cake | Calliope | Cathedral | Chainsuck | Marshall Chapman | Chester Copperpot | Citizens' Utilities | Clobber | Cocteau Twins | Comet | Die Krupps | Drill Team | East Orange | Elevator Drops | The Figgs | Food Poisoning | Fiji Mariners | Fluffy | Peter Gabriel | The Godrays | Go Farm the Larry | Grave | Ho-Hum | Hoodoo Gurus | In Dust We Trust | Michael Jackson | Janitor In A Drum | Jawbox | Joykiller | Lesbian Sluggers | Lick | Lint | Low | MJB | Miss Bliss | Modest Mouse | Mono Puff | Morcheeba | The Multiple Cat | The Pierced Ones | Plow | Pollution Rocks | Pride Infectors | Pure Rollers | The Raymond Brake | Reacharound | Red Five | The Reverend Horton Heat | Screaming Trees | Skulpey | Michael Stipe | Synthetic Pleasures | The Tear Garden | Unhappy Teenagers | Veruca Salt | Yatsura |
= VERY GOOD
- Elegy (CD, Relapse, Progressive/hard rock)
Sort of like a cross between Utopia and Morbid Angel (?!?). Finland's Amorphis certainly have a sound that harkens back to the days when progressive rock ruled the nation, but their sound is much more nineties than that (the vocals in particular). Maybe this is what Yes might have sounded like if they had been abused as kids. Lots of effects and intricate instrumentation abound on this disc, making for quite an interesting listen. I bet the kids that missed out on the whole seventies thing are gonna LOVE this band. Check out "The Orphan" or "Song of the Troubled One." There's some good stuff here...
- After Murder Park (CD, Hut/Vernon Yard/Carolina, Pop/rock)
Easily one of the best records of 1996. I was blown away by this band's debut of a few years back. Since that time they've only gotten better. The Auteurs are the brainchild of British songwriter Luke Haines, who is most certainly in my mind one of the best melodysmiths around (as well as one of the best vocalists). Interestingly, many of Luke's songs come across as rock ballads or little orchestral pieces that sound completely out of synch with everything else currently out there. It's his ability to retain his own peculiar sound, while still retaining a great deal of accessibility, that draws you into this fellow's music. All twelve tunes on this CD are excellent, but particular standout tracks are "Land Lovers," "New Brat in Town," "Married to a Lazy Lover," "Fear of Flying," and "After Murder Park." The orchestral arrangements add just the right touch to these already breathtaking tunes. This is definitely one to get as well as to play RIGHT INTO THE GROUND. Wow.
- Let's Play With My Biscuits (CD, Dairyzoo, Pop)
Barney's first full-length CD, featuring his backup band (the Biscuits). The purple dinosaur makes his pop debut! The lead track features Barney making some mighty big biscuits, and the remaining tracks feature kids having all kinds of fun playing with the biscuits. Barney's vocal talents have always been debatable, but the animal sure can cook. Too bad he couldn't cook up better tunes for this disc. Tails down.
- Fly Like a Rotting Corpse (CD single, Lower Case, Dirty pop)
Faced with waning careers and financial burdens beyond their control, the three surviving Beatles did what I thought could never be done: They finally bought those controversial audio recordings from Yoko Ono that we all thought would never see the light of day. Shortly after John was buried, Yoko hired a producer to lower microphones into John's grave to record the insects eating his decaying body. Though Yoko had previously stated that no one would ever hear these private tapes, when the other three Beatles offered her enough money she changed her mind. The end result? The sound of insects feeding layered over some rather lame pop/rock instrumentation by Paul, George, and Ringo. Though I know they only did it for the money I still find this somewhat interesting, but my guess is that other folks may say...it stinks.
- Odelay (CD, Geffen, Rock)
This is a collection of tunes culled from Beck's recording sessions over the past couple of years. This is definitely a hit and miss CD. The hits are really good ("Devils Haircut," "The New Pollution") but the misses are pretty bad ("Hotwax," "Novacane"). If you don't mind shuffling through to find the good stuff, this may be worth your while. If you're looking for a disc you play all the way through, however, I'd have to recommend skipping this one. You have to give Beck credit, though. He does play most of the instruments, and he's definitely creative in the studio...
- Live at the Dock Street Theatre (CD, Independent, Bluegrass/country/pop)
Recorded at the infamous Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina, this show sounds like one I would've liked to have seen. The sold out crowd sounds like they were having one hell of a time listening to and watching the Blue Dogs, and it's no wonder. This quartet has a great deal of talent and warmth that obviously translates to their audience and, in this case, to a CD. What I like most about these guys is how sincere and genuine they come off...particularly at a time when there is so much posturing and attitude going on with so many bands. Seventeen tunes here (!), including great stuff like "River Material," "Creatures In My House," and "Sweet Heaven When I Die." The band is working on a new batch of studio recordings during the summer of 1996...should be GOOD. Nice stuff...
- Zeroes and Ones (CD, Eggfoot, Rock)
EXCELLENT D.I.Y. project! The three guys in Bored recorded and produced this CD in their own homes, coming up with no less than nineteen (!) cool tunes. Great songs, simple but effective arrangements, and inventive lyrics. Songs range from two to four minutes in length, and the band almost always hits the target with each tune. Songs that I either really like (or just have funny song titles): "Angela Cartwright," "Numb and Numb-er," "Falling Wichita," and "Mother Theresa." These guys deserve a lot of credit for coming up with a home-recorded disc that is so enjoyable and fresh. So many folks fail in their home-recorded projects, but not Bored! If you can't find it in stores, write to Eggfoot Records at 625 S. Los Robles AVe., Pasadena, CA 91106 or e-mail 'em at email@example.com.
- Cheapskate (CD, Toy Gun Murder, Rock/pop)
This is a very nice self-recorded and self-released project by the one man songwriter/instrumentalist Ian Brennan. For a day job, Ian works as a Mental Health Specialist in the psychiatric emergency room at Oakland, California...and THIS is how he spends his time off! From the sound of this CD, it sounds like Mr. Brennan's time is best spent recording. Beefy, tuneful pop music full of fuzzy, fat guitars...this is the kind of thing you either love or hate. There's not doubt that this guy is good at what he does, and he's certainly got this "one man band" thing down. I suppose he should...after all, this is the SEVENTH (!) project he's released. Good tunes, particularly "Monster Plans," "Ever After," "Theresa Anne," and "Shopping Mall."
- Electriclarryland (CD, Capitol, Rock)
One of the most influential bands of the last couple of decades, the Butthole Surfers never cease to amaze and entertain me. Now some folks might say that these guys sold out by going with a major label, but I think it's only made their music better and more focused. This CD was originally going to be called "Oklahoma," but apparently the name was changed to avoid hassles from Rodgers and Hammerstein. The cover of this CD pretty much sums of the sound of the band--a pencil jammed into someone's ear. I don't know how they do it, but the Buttholes always manage to come up with musical surprises on every release. This one contains more of what we've come to expect ("Birds," "Ulcer Breakout") as well as some surprises ("Pepper," "Jingle of a Dog's Collar"). As usual, this is anything BUT easy listening...but I sure as hell find it easy to listen to. GREAT stuff. Hats off (again) to the Surfers.
- Fashion Nugget (Advance cassette, Capricorn/Mercury, Rock/pop)
Fourteen new tunes. Cake is apparently a critic's favorite, even being chosen by Pulse magazine as one of 1994's best indie debuts. The band certainly has a penchant for weird lyrics and song titles ("Frank Sinatra," "Friend Is A Four Letter Word," "Stickshifts and Safetybelts," "Shut the Fuck Up"), and you have to give them credit for doing a credible cover of "I Will Survive." The only problems I have with this one is I'm not too crazy about the singer's voice, and the band seems to be trying very hard to sound "weird." Not bad, but this doesn't really push the right buttons either...
- I Can See You With My Eyes Closed (CD, Thick, Abstract pop/jazz)
Wow. Now here's one that's hard to put your finger on. East Lansing's Calliope is one obscure sounding band. Playing music that borders on lounge mixed with abstract pop mixed with jazz, you never know exactly what this quartet is going to do next. The overall feeling I get from listening to this is that I'm dreaming and hearing music that sounds somewhat familiar yet somehow distorted and hazy. To say that Calliope doesn't really sound like any groups is an understatement. In a world with millions of bands, these folks have somehow managed to come up with their own unique sound. The whole disc is great, but the standout tracks are "With the Exception of El Sol," "Raze," and "Hello...Spaceman?" (you've gotta hear this one to believe it). But what does it SOUND like? The best I can come up with is that it's something like a cross between Nico and Lilies (?!?)...
- Hopkins (The Witchcraft General) (CD EP, Earache, Rock)
Huh. From the publicity photograph, I figured this would be a thrash/metal band. Instead, Cathedral is a heavy rock band. These guys come off sounding like real naturals at what they're doing, merging and blending their amped up sound into something that goes down quite easy. Only five tunes (damn!), but that's enough to whet my appetite for more. Heavy, heavy, HEAVY...
- Angelscore (CD, TVT, Pop/rock)
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Band with misleading name! Danger! Yep, Chainsuck sound nothing like I thought they would based on their name. Instead of death rock, we have highly stylized, slick pop/rock music with breathy female vocals. It's interesting that the vocalist (Marydee) sounds very much like the lead singer of the band Curved Air (Anyone remember them?). Chainsuck has interesting tunes and very inventive musical arrangements on these ten tunes, displaying a musical maturity that is very inviting. Yeah, it IS extremely slick and polished...but for this band, the sound is appropriate for the music. All of these tunes are solid, with my picks being "My Only Son," "Scarlet Letters," "Shindo," and "Reverie." Niiiiiiiiiiice stuff indeed...
- Love Slave (CD, Island, Pop/rock/country)
Marshall Chapman has been around for quite some time, making some pretty remarkable music. Though I knew she wasn't new on the scene, it wasn't until I read the press release that accompanied her latest release that I realized that Ms. Chapman is 47 years old! The reason this is so surprising is that Marshall sings with the passion and energy of a very young woman. On this, her latest release, many of the songs are slower or more subdued than normal...which is just fine with me. Marshall has assembled a very solid group of backing musicians to help her this time, and while things are very polished the polish never gets in the way of the songs themselves. Of course, that trademark raspy voice sounds as good as it ever did. Listening to this makes me think that Ms. Chapman will probably sounds just as good when she's 67... This sounds GREAT.
- Poems & Short Stories (CD, Dolores/Manifesto, Pop/rock)
This trio hails from Sweden, but they have a very American sound. After listening to this through several times, I finally reached the conclusion that I enjoy this upbeat (mainly pop) band. Their songs are polished and hummable, and these guys can write some good melodies. It's definitely feelgood music...no hostility or hatred here. While this certainly is a good deal of fun, I have to admit that it does sound like a great many other bands I've heard of late. Not the most original thing in the world, but enjoyable nonetheless...
- Lost and Foundered (CD, Mute, Pop/rock)
The more I listen to this the better it gets. Citizens' Utilities is not a band that can be easily categorized or understood. At times this band's songs seem straightforward and simple, at other times they seem obtuse and peculiar. This is an impressive collection of tunes, even more so when you consider that this is the band's debut full-length release. The production is crisp and clear, and this band--unlike so many others--is more concerned with getting their ideas across than merely blowing everyone's eardrums out. This CD is consistent throughout, but my initial faves are "Roadkill," "Ever Rest," "Blood Bath," and "Chemicals." These guys obviously put a lot of thought into their songs, and it shows. Excellent!
- Crash Course in Humility (CD, Half Baked, Rock)
Hmmm... Maybe someday Atlanta WILL have a respectable place on the musical map... Clobber is one damn cool band, and they remind me of several west coast bands. The sound is basic three-piece garage rock, but these guys pack a big punch with their instruments. The vocalist has a cool raspy voice that's just perfect for this kind of music. The problem I have with many Atlanta bands is that they seem so goddamn passive and lethargic. That's probably what sets Clobber apart from so many other local bands. They play hard, putting out some REAL energy. Good simple rock music played with real balls. I like this a lot.
- Milk & Kisses (CD, Capitol, Surreal pop)
In all the years this band has been in existence, the Cocteau Twins' sound has not really changed all that much. Perhaps that's why they've been able to retain their original fans while continually adding new members to their fan base. In some cases when a band keeps on doing the same thing, you might call it stagnation. In the case of the Cocteau Twins, they've simply been expanding upon a basic theme and sound that simply...works. Though I'm tempted to HATE this band simply because many of their fans are such uptight musical snobs, I realize how shallow and stupid this is on my part. All I have to do is put on any of their compact discs and I'm instantly reminded of how different, unusual, and goddamn CONSISTENT the Cocteau Twins are. This CD is as good as anything they've done. A refreshing blast of atmospheric pop that's like a good dream come true. YES.
- Chandelier Musings (CD, Dedicated, Surreal pop)
All Texas bands don't sound like alike. Or at least that's true in the case of Comet...who certainly don't sound like any other Texas band I've ever heard before. After one listen to this CD, it was very easy to determine that this was most CERTAINLY a "5". Why? These four guys are inventive and take risks with their music, but it still seems that melodies and song structures are the most important parts of their music. Produced by David Baker (Mercury Rev, Shady), this disc sounds excellent. Instead of going for a super slick, big studio sound, the band and producer did a magnificent job of putting just enough shine on these tracks to make them work. Psychedelic pop that just makes me want to go on a picnic. I am in LOVE with this band's music. Only eight tunes (DAMN!), but quality is more important than quantity. Jeez...I can't WAIT to hear more. Incredible.
- The Remix Wars: Die Krupps vs. Frontline Assembly (CD, Cleopatra, Industrial/techno)
Two industrial bands that have been around for many years have an all out remix war. And the winner is...? Hey, I'm not one to judge things (ha!), but I'd say at least for the time being Die Krupps wins. This is some harsh, noisy stuff with all kinds of sounds thrown in... Kinda like sticking your ear in a big pile of mechanical junk and then hearing someone screaming in the background. This CD features three tunes from each band remixed by the other band. Pumped up industrial noise!
- Drill Team (CD EP, Reprise, Rock/pop)
The debut EP from Los Angeles' Drill Team sounds pretty damn good. Though this EP only features four tunes ("Pluto My Cream," "Wish," "Destruct in Stereo," "Drippin"), it serves as a good introduction to a band I look forward to hearing more from. Approaching music from a perspective similar to Smashing Pumpkins, the band's trademarks are fuzzy, atmospheric guitars and super cool breathy vocals. I'll have to hear a full-length to pass further judgment, but for the time being they've got my vote for sure...
- East Orange (CD, Phatt Chance, Rock/pop)
Though this is the first thing I've ever heard from them, it wasn't hard for East Orange to win me over. Not sounding like any other bands from their home base of Atlanta, this band transplanted here from Columbus, Georgia after they graduated from high school (!). This is a very basic, fuzzy rock/pop band that features a rather fey vocalist. Sure, at times this does sound overly commercial and accessible...but these fellows (unlike many others) are able to pull it off, by virtue of their uplifting melodies and musical talent. Ten well-rounded tunes, including "Something To Prove," "Sun Has Left Us," "Downed," and "Hank Williams."
- Pop Bus (CD, Time Bomb, Fuzzy rock/pop)
COOL BAND!!! The Elevator Drops certainly win my vote with this CD. It's full of fuzzed-out, spacey pop/rock tunes...and the studio gimmicks WORK. Instead of using the tricks of the studio to cover up the fact that there are really no songs to speak of, this band writes great tunes and then uses the studio to make the songs even more interesting. In addition to SUPERB musical arrangements, this band's vocals COOK (cool, COOL harmonies!). Bright, upbeat, and just weird enough to make you take a second (and third, and fourth, and fifth...) listen... This band's sound sticks with me like a goddamn bumpersticker. Check out "Car II," "Seeking Transport," "Car," or "Lollipop Fields." LOVE THIS TO DEATH!!! UH!!! HUH!!! UH HUH!!!
- Banda Macho (CD, Capitol, Rock)
This one took several listens to make a decision on it. What's interesting about the Figgs is that they have such a variety of songwriting styles. This is no doubt due to the fact that no less than three of the four members are songwriter/singers (Guy Lyons, Pete Donnelly, Mike Gent). The only non-songwriter is the drummer (Pete Hayes), who more than adequately beats the skins. Punchy, rocky and at times reminiscent of mid-eighties rock music (particularly very early Joe Jackson), the Figgs pack a healthy punch. Though the band plays hard and furious, the melodies and lyrics always stand out...and show a band with a lot to offer. A very consistent disc, the ones that make me pet the puppet are "Blame It All Senseless," "FTMU," "Choker," and "Kiss Off Baby."
- Pooper (CD, Raydon, Light jazz)
Food Poisoning proper...or the A-dog? Maybe the B-dog? Whether A or B, the decision is vibrant and uneven, tapping the dairy cow and bringing on the servant. Fat cowards and fishy worshippers crawl down from the mountain, sacrificing the distant virtues of Hazel. Doughnut the witch, for the vicious tyrants bow down the on merchants. Dish up the tortillas, if you're ready for Food Poisoning, that is...
- Fiji (CD, Capricorn, Rock/improvisation/jazz)
In the world of music, there aren't that many folks who are so different and so distinctive that you know them the minute you hear them. Col. Bruce Hampton is certainly one of those rare individuals. The man is ALWAYS entertaining...whether he's singing or just talking to the press. Bruce's latest project is a trio consisting of himself, Dr. Dan Matrazzo, and Sonny Nakazawa. Much of this CD is funky rock, but there's always an element of surprise as well. The music is tight and well-produced, and those vocals sound killer. Of all the projects I've heard Bruce in, I think this may be my favorite. Ten tunes, including "Earth," "Nowhere Is Now Here," "Raining In My Car," and "Pleasure Seeking Fiji Disco Women." The band plans to actually play live in Fiji in...1997?
- 5 Live (CD EP, The Enclave, Buzzsaw rock)
If there is any one group in music that has made great strides over the past couple of decades, it must be girl drummers. Once the weakest link in the chain, now they are often the strongest. Fluffy's drummer KICKS ASS. At first I wasn't sure if I liked this band simply because the name sounds a lot like Fuzzy (an incredible pop band from Boston), but then I realized that's where the similarity ends. Playing very basic buzzsaw guitar rock not unlike the Ramones mixed with the Buzzcocks, this British group is HOT. This live EP features four girls playing five solid tunes... The band doesn't sound THAT different from a hundred other bands except for one major variable: These chicks are BELIEVABLE. Oh...and a BARREL of FUN as well... If this weren't a live recording, it would've gotten a "5"...
- My Big Political Opinions (CD, Visionary, Progressive rock)
At one time, Peter Gabriel very good smell. Now Peter very bad smell all time. Why bad now? Well, this man not keep big, important ideas to self. Instead, want others to donate money to what he think best. Not only do he stink, his music now stink too. Once he do no wrong, now he do no right. Even face now ugly and distorted. Would hate to think of what body must look like. At this point, he about on same level with Phil Collins...something never thought possible. So long, Peter. Must go fry noodle now. You very bad trip. Not want to take EVER again...
- Songs for T.V. Stars (CD, Vernon Yard, Rock)
This is the new band fronted by Alex Kemp and Phoebe Summersquash, formerly two-thirds of the band small factory (which I unfortunately never heard). In the press release that accompanied this CD, Alex and Phoebe say that they are continuing basically what they were doing before with the Godrays. Nice, crunchy percussion courtesy of Greg Griffith (of Vitapup) rounds out the picture, and the whole sound is at times harsh and at other times downright soothing. This is the kind of stuff that doesn't hit you instantly...you have to hear it a few times and then different elements jump out at you. This is a really cool debut CD. Fourteen tunes that'll be pumping through my speakers for the next few weeks at least...
GO FARM THE LARRY
- It's Your Turn (CD, Medprock, Honky tonk)
Interesting concept for a band. Once every member joins, they are required to write and record a song on the same day they join. During the recording of their tune, the new band member is required to commit suicide ON TAPE. Of course, this means that the lineup of the band is constantly evolving...while the band's fan base is most likely quickly dissolving. In case anyone is interested, Larry is a small farm mouse that sits on the mixing board while everyone offs themselves. Unfortunately we don't hear one goddamn sound out of Larry the entire time, which is a shame because he's probably the only talented one in the bunch...
- Hating Life (CD, Century Media, Speed metal)
Heavy, hard, and FAST. This Swedish duo (Ola Lindgren and Jensa Paulsson) has a MIGHTY big sound for just two people. Original bass player/vocalist Jorgen Sandstrom has now left the band, but these guys seem to be getting along just fine without him. Screaming, crashing, smashing, and bashing their way through ten tunes, these guys have anxiety and hate to spare. Best tunes: "Worth the Wait," "Two Of Me," and "Redress."
- Local (CD, Universal, Rock/pop)
Super slick radio rock that sounds like it was specifically recorded to be sold and played on radio stations. So you think I'm gonna trash this one, eh? WRONG. Nope, even though most sellable commercial music DOES make me want to throw it all up, there are ALWAYS exceptions. And this one IS an exception. Hailing from Little Rock Arkansas, this band writes some DAMN good tunes that come across crystal clear--even with the "big studio sound." The band's instrumentation is flawless, and the vocals sound REAL nice. Amazingly consistent, these guys have a sound that will appeal to the masses...as well as anyone else who isn't such a musical snob that they turn away in disgust. I like all these tunes, particularly "Around the World," "Get On Down," "One Out of Ten," and "It's a Lie." Good stuff!
- Blue Cave (CD, Zoo, Rock/pop)
Hard to believe that this is only the Gurus' seventh full-length release, because it seems like they've been around forever. I've liked just about everything I've heard from this Australian quartet, and their latest sounds as good as anything they've done. Those easily identifiable trademarks are still there: the ultra-tight rhythm section, crunchy guitars, and those effortless sounding vocals by Dave Faulkner. What really makes this band special, though, are the songs. These guys write some incredibly catchy songs. Check out "Down On Me," "Please Yourself," "Why?," or "Always Something." Most bands that have been around as long as the Gurus suck now. These guys have only gotten better.
IN DUST WE TRUST
- Invisible Compilation 1997 (CD, Invisible, Various artists)
You either like electronic/techno stuff or you don't. As a result, I highly recommend this compilation to the former while I strongly suggest that the latter stay as far away from this one as possible. This lengthy CD (over 71 minutes of music) contains TONS of super hip bands like Sheep On Drugs (yeah!), Test Dept., Psychic TV, Lick, and Dead Voices on Air. If you've never been exposed to this style of music, this would serve as an excellent introduction.
- I Am Not a Black Homosexual (CD, Plugs, Pop)
On his latest solo effort, Michael Jackson flatly denies rumors that he is a black homosexual. We all knew he really wasn't black, but to find out that he's not even gay is somewhat of a surprise. Perhaps his latest accident had something to do with this sudden expression of truth. The music here is basic queer black pop recorded in a large, expensive studio. The lyrics? Nothing but the truth. The best tune here is "The Boy Who Bought My Pickled Lips," which features guest artists Elton John, Prince, David Bowie, Pete Shelley, and Madonna.
JANITOR IN A DRUM
- Lemmeh OWT!!! (CD, Inverted, Spoken Word)
What happens when you abduct a janitor from an elementary school and imprison him inside an eight foot bass drum? Answer: The janitor is not happy. In fact, he's downright furious about his situation. A microphone was placed inside the upper corner of the drum to record this man's onslaught of sometimes unintelligible verbal blabber. He says things like, "Dis juss AIN rite!", "How-mie gone fee muh CHILL-ren wheh eye kain WUKK?" and "Dissiz dih-KRIMI-natorreh!" The funny part comes at the end when he's removed from the drum and placed inside a prison instead. The result? He becomes remourseful ("It ruff beeyin uh muffukeh blakk mah..."). Gee. As if the poor guy didn't deserve it...
- Jawbox (CD, TAG, Rock/pop)
Haven't heard from this band in awhile (their last full-length came out February 1994). Things seem to have calmed down a bit in Jawboxland, with the band sounding much more subdued and poppy on this, their latest CD. Not only are the songs softer, it sounds as if the band gave a lot more thought to songwriting this time around...coming up with several really strong tunes. I'm not sure if I like the group's louder or softer side better, but they always manage to entertain me. "Iodine" is an EXCELLENT pop tune.
- Static (CD, Epitaph, Rock)
Featuring former members of T.S.O.L., the Weirdos, the Vandals (and too many other bands to mention), Joykiller is one tight rock band. They play loud and they play hard, but they still manage to come up with cool arrangements and melodies that rise above all the noise. Lead singer Jack Grisham really has the lungs for fronting this kinda band. He's got attitude and the voice to pull it off. For the most part, the band keeps things simple...which always works best when playing power pop/punk. The band serves up fourteen fine tunes, including "Hate," "White Boy, White Girl," "She's So Static," and "Nowhere Ever." This band sounds like they'd be a MONSTER in concert...
- Whatsamatter, Can't You Take It? (CD, Raindog, Dub)
No, this is not a lesbian band. It's exactly the opposite. The Lesbian Sluggers are three guys who play dub music. What's interesting is what they layer on top of it. Each of these four lengthy tunes features a different lesbian being beaten into smithereens while the song's going on. And I have to tell you, these hate crimes sound pretty damn good coming through my speakers. Song titles? "That's A Stupid Looking Haircut," "Still Feeling Touchy?", "Your Boyfriend Dumped You, Didn't He?" and "Why Are You Screaming?" Fun stuff? Yeah!
- Heap (CD, Invisible, Electronic/techno/rock)
Covering quite a wide range of territory for an electronic band, Lick is sometimes accessible and sometimes so experimental as to defy categorization. Some of the music on this CD would fit nicely into Clubland, while others are so obtuse and weird that no dance club in their right mind would play them. A band that takes chances is a band worthy of attention, and Lick certainly take lots of chances on this CD. As always, when you take lots of chances, sometimes the experiments work and sometimes they don't. And sure, there are a few tracks on this CD that don't hit me right, but there are even more that do. Weird stuff, all mixed up into a crazy mish-mash of oddness. Hmmmmm...
- Cold Scene (CD, Plumb, Rock)
Jeez...what a COOL gimmick! (I'll get to the music in a minute...) Plumb Records (always a company to do things differently) has released what is a first, to my knowledge. The latest CD by Lint can be played on BOTH your CD player AND your record player! There's a flexidisc glued to the CD and there's even a little rubber adapter included so that you can put the CD on your turntable and play it. GREAT IDEA!!! Now that THAT'S out of the way...the music is pretty damn nice. Basic fuzzy rock music that sometimes seems aimless and at other times is quite directed. Featuring a whole SLEW of lead singers (from the Swirlies, Milkmoney, Spore, and more), you may get lost in the continually changing sound of these tunes. But if you can keep up, you'll be rewarded with some good stuff. If you can't find this one, write to Plumb at 1085 Commonwealth Ave., #215, Boston, MA 02215 or e-mail 'em at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whew...
- The Curtain Hits the Cast (CD, Vernon Yard, Soft pop)
The more I hear the band Low, the more I like them. Low is the exact opposite of most bands out there...instead of trying to be the loudest or the fastest, these folks have carved out their own unique niche by being the softest...and most certainly the SLOWEST band in the world. That Low continues in the tradition in which they began is very endearing, because they most certainly are only going to go so far playing this style of music. And this makes me believe that this talented trio is playing more for the love of playing than for the sake of selling CDs. This may just be the band's best effort yet, with twelve dreamy tunes that'll have you feeling all snuggly inside. Honest. If you think you've heard subtlety before, you ain't heard NUTHIN until you've heard Low. These folks RULE.
- SloppyQuirkyWussyPop (Independent cassette, Pop)
Never in my life have I been so glad that a home-taper has returned from the void. Michael J. Bowman was one of my all time TOP favorites a few years back, and I was really bummed when he dropped out of the scene. Well, it's been over two years now and Michael J. Bowman is BACK! And he's returned with even better, stronger material than before! This cassette is full of the infectious melodies that I've come to expect from this obscure underground hero. Fifteen tunes of pure BLISS, including "World's Flat," "Float Away," "Sunshine 365," "and "Rain On Your Parade." There's no way you'll find this in any record store, as Michael dubs these off himself and sells them by mail. For only $5.00, this is the DEAL OF THE CENTURY. Write to Michael at 11 Orchard St., Cold Spring, NY 10516. This is most certainly one of the best releases of1996!!!
- Miss Bliss (CD, Meltdown, Pop)
This is the debut full-length from Miss Bliss, mostly taken from previous recordings the band has put out. Probably because of this, this CD is somewhat uneven. Some songs come across fine ("Coming In Waves"), but others just don't seem like they quite gell ("Further Away"). By the end of the disc, however, it becomes obvious that these guys do have something to say and...when they say it right...they can be quite engaging ("Wash Me Away"). I somehow don't think that this is representative of this group, because this seems more like a culmination of past efforts than anything else...
- Interstate 8 (CD EP, Up, Rock)
This EP confirms what many folks already know...that Modest Mouse is one of the most talented new bands of 1996. Their debut CD blew my brains right out the back of my head, and now they've already come along with a new EP that has the exact same effect. This CD features a tune from that CD, along with three new tunes, a tune that was formerly only available on the vinyl version of the debut album ("Edit the Sad Parts"), and a slew of other tracks thrown together under the title "Live in Sunburst Montana." Obtuse, skewed rock music that just gets better with repeated listenings... Modest Mouse are one of the most original bands to emerge in the past few years. If you haven't been exposed to this stuff yet, do yourself a favor and pick this up. This KICKS.
- Unsupervised (CD, Rykodisc, Pop)
Hey...this sounds very much like They Might Be Giants. Wait...wait... This IS They Might Be Giants! No...wait...this is just one half of the band--John Flansburgh, to be exact. Yes, this does sound very much like T.M.B.G., but in many ways I like John's solo release better. Why? Well, for one thing there's more variety on this disc. How could you not like songs like "Unsupervised, I Hit My Head," "Don't Break the Heart," "Hello Hello," and "Nixon's the One"? As you might expect, this is PURE POP stuff to be certain (which may turn some folks off). As for me, I love the shit out of this. Plenty of excellent tunes, and the lyrics are exceptional.
- Who Can You Trust? (CD, Discovery, Smooth pop)
After reading the press release that accompanied this CD, I was ready to really HATE it. All the wrong things were mentioned: David Byrne (yuck!), MTV (snore), Everything But the Girl (bleah!), "the next big thing in the UK"... Well, my mind was closed but thank God my ears were open because I absolutely LOVE this CD. This trio plays smooth, almost acid-jazzish music that flows along so smoothly you'll feel like you're floating on a river. And Skye Edwards' lead vocals are some of the best you're likely to hear anywhere. She's slick, she's smooh, she's sexy...she's incredible. They may be so hip it hurts, but Morcheeba is still pretty damned exceptional. This sounds dynamite, yes it does...
THE MULTIPLE CAT
- "Territory Shall Mean the Universe" (CD, Zero Hour, Pop/rock)
Hmmmm... Now this one IS a puzzler. Sounding something like an obtuse cross between Thunderclap Newman and forgotten singer/songwriter Andy Bown (anyone remember him?), this band is not easy to understand. Playing a weird haze of music that stretches across boundaries (and decades), the Multiple Cat just gets better with every listen. Inventive, unusual guitar arrangements abound on this CD...and those VOCALS are TOO GOOD. The band is led by a fellow named Pat Stolley, who must be one of the most original songwriters I've heard in the last couple of years. Cool, hazy, fuzzy, retrospective, introspective, thought-provoking... Plenty of OUTASITE tunes...like "The New Marcus Aurelius," "My Year as a Girl," ""Sad, Sad, Sad," "North?"... THIS IS KILLER!
THE PIERCED ONES
- Would Somebody PLEASE notice us? (CD, Tacky, Hippy pop)
Pitty the poor Pierced Ones. No one's going to like their new CD because it isn't any good, but they probably think they're going to get reviewed simply based on the fact that each band member has had its body pierced in over one hundred places. Their "promotional ploy" is not going to work. They're not going to get reviewed...anywhere that matters, that is. Go away, Pierced Ones. Go far, far away...and never return.
- Ice Cream Flares and Rocket Sounds (CD, Hit Factory, Pop/rock)
Well-written, well-executed pop music with lots and lots of guitars. This is the second full-length from Plow, though the first one I've heard from the band. Nice, breathy vocals ooze and flow over some (at times) rather driving instrumentation. The songs tend to be in the four to five minute range, and can at times border on the drony side. After tuning into all eleven tunes, in the end it's this band's knack for writing cool melodies that causes them to rise above the pack. Songs like "Rosebud," "Whale Songs for Frogs" (this one's EXCELLENT), and "Your Eyes Are Drugs" are way above your average pop fare. I like where these guys are coming from, and I expect even better things in the future. Really good stuff...
- Let's Make It Kick In Good (CD, Feta, Indonesian)
This Indonesian band makes some pretty bold statements on their third CD. Instead of suggesting that we save the planet, Pollution Rocks' message is that we should pollute as much as possible to speed up the inevitable. While I like this band's messages, however, I don't like how they get them across. The songs are simply BAD. I'm not surprised. What else would you expect from an INDONESIAN band?
- The Rainbow of Death (CD, Outdown, Seasonal/vocal)
Sporting rainbow suits and carrying protons firmly in hand, the Pride Infectors aim to do something about population control. Ugly to look at...but even uglier to listen to, these infectors want to be seen and heard. They think they have a point and mission, but they fall flat. Instead of two-dimensional imagery, we have three-dimensional boredom. Have you heard "Pack the Stinky for the Deathtrap on Thursday"? How about "I'm Dying For You To Be Dying Too"? Whether you spread it or infect it, the answer's still the same. "Not for the BABIES!" you say? Well, maybe not for YOUR baby...
- 20 Rolling Drum & Bass Tracks Mixed by Andy C (CD, Sub Base USA/Moonshine, Electronic/dance)
Minimalist electronic dance music. This is definitely the sort of thing you either love or hate. And let me warn you that if you hate electronic percussion, you'd better stay away from this one...because most of these songs sound very computer-generated. For those folks into the club scene, this compilation has some rather interesting stuff. Featuring bands like The X, Swift, Dream Team, Juker, Paul Z, and a whole SLEW of others, this one will either keep you dancing or make you nervous...depending on your mood!
THE RAYMOND BRAKE
- Never Work Ever (CD, Hep-Cat, Rock/pop)
Nice. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel nice. This Greensboro, North Carolina band reminds me in many ways of Lilys. The basic setup is guitar/bass/drums, but the melodies flow effortlessly over the music and stick in your head like permanent glue. This EP features six tunes. Four are actual studio recordings, the other two were recorded on a four-track. The Raymond Brake is a band with songs and substance, and they keep things simple instead of cluttering their tunes with tricks and gags. In fact, the only complaint I have about this disc is that it isn't a full-length. In a way that's good, I suppose...because this little disc has me plenty hungry for MORE from this super cool band. Oh yeah...
- Who's Tommy Cooper (CD, Trauma/Interscope, Rock/pop)
Can British men play American rock music and pull it off? Reacharound sure seem to be able to. The only thing that takes some getting used to is American music fronted by a lead singer who sounds very, VERY British. It's interesting that three of the guys in this band traveled from England to California (independently of each other) in search of an American band to play in. When they met up, they decided to play together. So what you have is basically a band that is made up of mostly transplanted musicians. This is a fairly solid disc, with some tracks standing out instantly ("Nearest Bridge," "Caught Up In Myself"). It's odd that the single ("Big Chair") is probably the weakest track here...
- Flash (CD, Interscope, Rock/pop)
Is it my imagination or are there more great bands fronted by girls than ever in the history of rock music? Well, if you take the case of Red Five then I must be right. (Gosh, it seems like I'm ALWAYS right lately...doesn't it?) Pumping out EXCELLENT hard rock/pop music with intensity and passion, this four piece band is a cool rush. Two guys (Adam Zuckert and Mitchell Townsend) and two girls (Jenni McElrath and Betty Carmellini). Add 'em up and whadaya get? Driving, thumpy rock music that's as catchy as shit! Electrified pop with no frills.
THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT
- It's Martini Time (CD, Interscope, Psychobilly)
Though I'm not really big into the whole psychobilly thing, I can certainly recognize a good thing when I hear it. Wait...that sounds snobby, doesn't it? I take that back. Let's just say that I really LIKE the new disc from The Reverend Horton Heat. These guys sure know how to heat up a recording studio. And though I've never seen 'em live (they supposedly put on one HELL of a show), after hearing this CD I'd sure like to see what all the fuss is about. With a rhythm section that's tighter than a broken bottle of blackberry noodles...and frenzied guitar playing that would make Old Mother Hubbard turn over in her grave...these guys definitely know how to rock out. A whirlwind of fun, to be sure...
- Dust (CD, Epic, Rock)
Dense, well-arranged basic rock music. This is the first new Screaming Trees CD since 1992. The band hails from Ellensburg, Washington and they've been around for a decade. Screaming Trees have a lot of things going for them: a really good lead vocalist, way above average guitar work, and a solid and steady rhythm section. In addition, they've got some damn good tunes: "All I Know" (my favorite), "Dying Days," "Sworn and Broken," "Dime Western," and more. This ought to please fans of alternative rock as well as folks who like accessible music.
- Liz (CD, Pedigree, Rock/pop)
The packaging on this one caught my eye instantly, giving me the feeling that this was a very creative band. In this case, the packaging gave the right impression. This trio plays swirling, psychedelic pop music that sounds like a cross between the Swirlies and Lazy...kind of (!). The band alternates between playing straightforward pop and jagged, almost jazzish musical passages. And both the male and female vocalists have GREAT voices. This is one of those discs that is impossible to fully digest in one listen. These folks obviously spent a great deal of time recording this, and it shows. Whereas lots of folks pass off noise and bullshit for music, it's nice to know there are true underground heroes out there creating stuff that's as good (or better) than anything put out by big record companies. You probably won't find this in stores, so write to Pedigree Records at P.O. Box 31063, New York, NY 10011 or e-mail the band at Skulpey@aol.com.
- Everybody Look At Me...NOW! (CD, Hasbro, Pop)
As you probably already guessed, Michael Stipe's first solo CD sounds pretty damn dull. Full of pained, insincere vocals and suffering terribly from overproduction, this CD is worse than even I imagined it could be. The song titles say it all. "I'm More Important Than Anyone," "Look At My Ultra-Weird Clothes," "Let's Play Another Benefit," "Why Am I So Skinny?", "How Many Important People Can I Get To Know In The Music Business?" Hey Michael...why don't you BEAT IT? No, wait...don't do that. That's something I do NOT want to see...
- Volume One (compilation) (CD, Moonshine, Soundtrack/electronic)
This is the soundtrack CD to the movie of the same name. I haven't seen the film, but after hearing this disc I'd sure like to. This CD features ten tracks of smooth electronic bliss from bands like Young American Primitive, Human Mesh Dance, Single Cell Orchestra, Hardfloor, Jaydee, and more. Spacey, heady stuff for sure, with enough synthesizers and effects to have you reeling around in circles for DAYS. I particularly like the fact that many of these tunes have a very experimental side to them. Dis be some FINE shee-yut...
THE TEAR GARDEN
- To Be an Angel Blind, the Crippled Soul Divide (CD, Nettwerk, Acoustic/orchestral/slow pop)
First impressions aren't always the best impressions. As I scanned over the press release with this one, I noticed a strong connection that this band has with cEvin KEY (of Skinny Puppy). "More harsh, intense noise," I thought to myself (which is not BAD, since I LIKE harsh noise). Well, let me tell you I was one surprised puppy at the music on this CD. Instead of loud noise, we have minimalistic acoustic orchestral pop with very soft spoken vocals. This is actually the project of a fellow named Edward Ka-Spel, who many folks will remember as the driving force behind the Legendary Pink Dots. Edward has not only solicited the help of Mr. KEY for this project, but he brought along other ex-Dots as well. This is a very emotionally-inspiring piece of music, and not like anything else I've heard this month. Very, very nice...and very, very relaxing. Yeah...
- We Wish We Were DEAD! (CD EP, Therapy, Heavy metal)
Most folks will probably be surprised to find out that all five members of the Unhappy Teenagers are in their seventies. Even so, you'd be shocked at what a racket these old folks can make. Blaring out chaotic noise through 400 watt Marshall amps, the Unhappy Teenagers are anything BUT "over the hill." The press release says that the band always sacrifices some sort of live animal during their concerts (past sacrifices have included rabbits, dogs, parakeets, and even a giraffe). When asked why they chose the name, the lead singer says "I'm only fourteen, what do you expect?" Apparently suffering from senility, this band borders on pathetic. And it just may not be too long before the Unhappy Teenagers' wish comes true...
- Blow It Out Your Ass It's Veruca Salt (CD EP, Geffen, Rock)
I've heard of this band, but never actually heard them until now. Veruca Salt play hard rock music with female lead vocals. Very basic and simple stuff, these four tunes were produced by (none other than) Steve Albini. Good stuff. I particularly liked the press release on this one...a transcription of two phone messages left by the girls on their publicist's answering machine, explaining why they didn't feel like a bio was necessary to send out with the EP. Fun.
- We Are Yatsura (Advance cassette, Che/Sire, Pop/rock)
Formerly called "Urusei Yatsura" (the title of a Japanese cartoon series), Yatsura is NOT a Japanese band--these folks are from Scotland. I really enjoyed the last two EPs I heard from this band, and this full-length contains more of the same upbeat, high-energy, somewhat obtuse pop/rock music with loads of fuzzy guitars and superb melodies. Though this band sounds very American much of the time, there's a certain quality to the music that is absent in many U.S. rock bands. It could just be that these folks are extremely clever and adventurous. They aren't afraid to throw just about anything into the mix of a song, and the results are often spontaneous and wild. Of course, the core of any good band is the songs...and that's where Yatsura really shines. Excellent tunes that are well-executed. This is a great big ball of FUN.