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A-G Music Reviews

7 Angels 7 Plagues Jhazmyne’s Lullaby
It’s a given that meaty straight edge hardcore of the 1990s was a pretty deplorable genre. Every bit as one-dimensional as the metalcore (ex-straight edger) scene is today, the old X on hand/boot to head has been responsible for killing nearly as many brain cells as the dreaded demon juice it rallied against. In the case of 7 Angels 7 Plagues, combine the two useless, linked genres of yesterday and today -- feed them through headphones at high volumes, and downing 100 proof moonshine until liver explosion would be more intellectually stimulating. The nine songs on Jhazmyne’s Lullaby are punishing enough to please ex-Judge fans currently flailing in the pit and bleeding profusely to the new [insert seventh generation metalcore band name here]. Chuck a heavy nod to the Coalesce vocal style into this melting pot of shit and it’s time to submerge in a hot bathtub, set aside a sharp blade, engorge the wrist veins and begin slashing. Uprising Records JS

Aggression From Behind the Iron Curtain
Let me set it up for you ... Dig: I just got home from skateboarding, a fine sunless day in San Francisco, but the fog gives root to some actual heat that seems to permeate from the crooked asphalt below. I had a gleam shine of sweat and was ready for a tall water and dose of Elmo on mid-afternoon Sesame Street. But, I happened to catch my local mailman, Ferd (no not Fred ... Ferd) at my door sticking envelopes into the tiny slots. This is the same guy who always complains to me because there is no "package" drop off from all of the CD promos and whatnot I get (my payment for being a music journalist) who just happened to have a new one for me. Cool, I said. So I wished him well and off he and I went. Upstairs in my tiny shack, I opened the manila-sealed parcel and inside was a promo pack for this band called Aggression. Wow, I thought, I'd heard of these guys ... they rock! Yeah. But when I checked out the actual members, three young Aryan dudes sitting on some curb in middle America, I knew I had been thinking of the wrong band. I mean, wasn't there a band at one point called Aggression? I think so. I'm almost sure of it. If not please contact me and let me know otherwise. Regardless, I thought, three young tykes with a name like Aggression has to be fast and furious so let me crack open a tall boy and get into the groove, to quote Madonna a bit. With that, I plopped the silver disc into the machine, watched it slink into the stereo and waited for the sound ... that evanescent tuneage of pure aggro power rock, fast and devious with just a hint of old school thrash thrown in for good measure. But, what to mine wandering ears should appear, but nothing more than speckled power rock with no more than a flitty name to hold court in the reigns of some punk affiliation. It didn't work. Sorry boys, but WHAT is this? You whine about life, love, life and more crap about being young and obviously trapped in the urban confines of sub-America which we can all do without. Self-loathing can be dealt with in so many other ways; don't promise "aggression" and not deliver! Please. It sucks. But I wish you all the best of luck and, golly, call yourselves Castle Greyskull or Backwash or something. ANYthing but Aggression. Trust me. It'll work! Bailey Records MW 1.18.2002

Angelic Upstarts Live from the Justice League
Round two in TKO's "Ringside" live series documents a 2001 show in San Francisco by UK punk legends Angelic Upstarts. Their political lyrics and melodic sound put the Upstarts in the same league as the UK Subs. All the Upstarts favorites are here, including the anti-war anthem "Machine Gun Kelly" and anti-fascist rant "Leave Me Alone," as well as covers of The Clash and Sham 69. The between song banter is hilarious, Mensi's thick accent cutting into the rowdy crowd, who often heckle the slower, painful sounding tunes. "Solidarity" is downright embarrassing. When they go melodic, Angelic Upstarts sound tone deaf, but in stormers like "Last Night Another Soldier" they play formidable three-chord punk. The live sound is top notch too. TKO Records JS

The Anniversary/Superdrag Untitled Split EP
The first three songs belong to The Anniversary, an ether-toned outfit that enjoys elements of pure pop. It's perfect aural pleasure for the hungover beast. It begins with a grand tune titled "'Ol' Lady Butterfly," which shoots you into orbit in a cozy waffle iron and weaves a tapestry of neat little riffs and rhythms. The next tune, "Anais," is a definite Beatles take on nasal tones and sing-a-long breathy moans. "Up In The Sky" is a sludgepot full of trash rock goodness which drags a bit but you've got that thick blanket over you so you're well protected. Next up is Superdrag, one of those bands that gets a whole lot of hype for some strange reason. They're good, no doubt about that, but I've always considered them a sort of garage Oasis of sorts. Anyway, opinions aside (and to continue my review ... yeah), Superdrag are good at the slight and poppy thingy and do us proud with songs like "Take Your Spectre Away," which is much more than a great title. It is a repetition into loop hungry guitars and solid thick drumming with overall pleasantries involved. It really should pack the clubs. Next is the sorta sad "The Emotional Kind" and, yeah, it is just about what it says it is here. But what I really got into was the last song on this EP by them, "I Guess It's American," a grittier and louder and faster take on what we were delving into earlier throughout this fine collection. For those unfamiliar with either band, I highly suggest picking this EP up and deciding for yourself. The rest of you know what's going on so ... what are you doing reading my lowly opinions on your favorite bands? Vagrant Records/Heroes and Villains MW

Alien Beyond the Hell
Ah, the sweet waverings of some tunesmith gesticulating somewhere between the painful New Age fallacy and the stoned-up waves of hybrid fusion jazz. This is an instrumental astro parody to that former and latter sense of time and space music -- muzak? This Alien was born in Moscow and takes pride in jamming on his piano and Casio, inviting us all to float freely and headily through the big black above. Each song commodities a certain '80s-esque sci-fi soundtrack while at the same time laying down the grooves for a skin flick set amongst fog machines and astronaut mullets. Truly, this is an album of glib ambition, dorky as it may be, and, who knows, maybe this Alien himself can land a gig at the Parthenon. After huffing a bag of silver paint (high gloss) this album began to speak to me. I then realized that Alien was inspired by the Book of Revelations while composing. Well then ... off to the 700 Club with you then! Then off went this CD.

AMFM Getting Into Sinking
Two-person Beatles pop band, using electronics and melancholy to bore the listener. Like a dull Joan of Arc (imagine that), AMFM’s 12 songs on Getting Into Sinking are a meandering blend of acoustic numbers. With this much pop, it’s surprising none of the songs are catchy or memorable after a few listens. Although, this album does feature the best song title since Swallowing Shit’s "If Assholes Could Fly, This Place Would Be an Airport," offering up the equally clever "If We Burned All the Assholes the Earth Would Look Like the Sun." Too bad the music isn’t as interesting as the names of the songs. Polyvinyl Records JS

Anasarca Discography 1994-1997
What a difference a couple of years makes. If this emotional hardcore record had come out two years ago, Second Nature would have sold it by the truckload. Today, Dan Askew and company will be lucky if anyone bats an eyelash at this discography, as the label fills yet another huge Blood Brothers order for the fashionable masses. Anasarca was a relatively unknown band from the Washington DC area who only released a 7", split 7", and demo tape in their three-year existence. Lulling, brooding hardcore with excellent soft/quiet, hard/loud change-ups and some really inventive song intros to set the mood. One song starts off as if you’re camping, with sounds of crickets and frogs all around you, before heading full steam into an assault on the heart and head. If anything suffers, it’s the vocals, with an all too familiar prepubescent Kermit the Frog flavor that rubs against raw nerves after a few songs. Other than that, a great band, sadly ignored in their time, without much change in sight, despite this retrospective discography. Second Nature JS

Appleseed Cast Mare Vitalis
At first I thought this was just a Sunny Day Real Estate band, but while it is in the same vein it's a great release on its own merits. The guitars and sometimes the vocals sound a lot like early Cure. This has a real easy feel to it while the vocals are inspirational enough to not put you to sleep. Deep Elm Records MH/AH

The Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl: Volume I
I'm not sure what kind of a fan base the Appleseed Cast has, but the "Low Level Owl" sessions are sure to please anyone who's followed this band. Semi-new, to new listeners (like me) will find a lot of the audiophile aspects of the music self-indulgent and an irreparable dent in any pacing these songs could have. "Blind Man's Arrow" is a tune of true beauty, but ends in the senseless tape loop of "Flowers Falling from Dying Hands." And so goes a lot of this album -- right when the songs start to get interesting, they dip into a endless vortex of loops and delays. Count me out for Volume II, but you have to give the Appleseed Cast massive credit for making the records they want to make, even if the end result is generally unlistenable. Deep Elm JS

The Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl: Volume II
The second installment of the Appleseed Cast’s Low Level Owl recording session is just as unlistenable as the first. These 12 songs, half of which are random sound effects or tape loop samples, are a continuation of the self-indulgent creativity found on part one of this overwhelming, soul-sucking project. Once again, track two, "Strings," is a thing of true beauty, much like "Blind Man’s Arrow" off the first batch. The rest of the album alternates between semi-interesting but way too long songs (most clock in over six minutes) and those aforementioned litter of sound/instrumental tracks. Albeit, big kudos for making the kind of music only they and their minute fan base can understand and appreciate. After enduring this, it’s time to fire up some Twisted Sister. Deep Elm JS

The Applicators What's Your Excuse?
The Applicators are four really hot girls who play even hotter punk rock and are here to set the gurgling music scene on fire! When the CD ended, I threw it back into rotation and pressed play again. An old buddy of mine, Greg, a true metal head, had this to say: "Dude, that song, you know, 'I Don't Bleed,' man ... that's a good song." Coming from a snob like him really means something. Really. In any case, What's Your Excuse is one of the coolest albums I've come across in quite some time. When they are not jamming it early Go-Go's style with a belly fulla Lone Star, they are driving their instruments toward true punk glory, by keeping it lean and mean and true to the game. Try this one: the four ladies from Austin, Texas do an awesome cover of Sleater-Kinney's "Good Things," making them almost viable for heavy rotation in your local college radio station. This is true Girl Power music set for the next wave of those who know better and will do all they can to keep the proverbial wrecking ball of female-driven angst-ridden rock and roll alive and smashing. Stars I tell ya ... STARS! That's what these girls are gonna be. I see a three picture deal and diva-nation in creepers and leather skirts. Well, maybe not yet. Let's just enjoy it while we can. Cornerstone Recording Arts Society MW

Arco Coming to Terms
Arco are good tenants. It seems that as they wrote their Pehr label debut Coming to Terms they didn't want to wake up any of their neighbors so they created a soft, atmospheric ode to the dour, which, while not filled with urgency, casts an affective spell of haunting melodies. Though mostly filled with deliberate ballads, Arco even finds moments to take things in a more charged direction, with the feedback driven "Accident" and similarly with "Alien" -- though both know better than to make that the whole of the melody. Instead they let if drift in and out, cutting back to their acoustic melodies as quickly as they let their guitars get near the speakers. In fact, Arco is in such control of their sound that their restraint is almost to their detriment. Though proving that they know what rock sounds like, Coming to Terms is more typified by songs like "Speak," "Babies' eyes," and "Movie" that concentrate on only a few instruments and the soft and purposeful voice of singer/guitarist Chris Healey. On the ending piano ballad of "Lullaby", Healey sings: "Another day calls out for you/ To make your own/ This one goes where all/ The other days have flown." It's a fitting commentary on Coming to Terms. While Arco knows the correct ingredients, they have yet to let themselves soar out of their own boundaries. Pehr Records RG

As Friends Rust Won
In the early days of hardcore music, that fine melding of heavy hitting guitars, super-bolic drums and lyrics spitting out images of nuclear winters sure to come and the absolution of beer, the idea of being a good friend came only to certain select groups. In unto themselves were 7 Seconds, Minor Threat, and the lot. Here though, in the 21st century, we tend to meld the likes of "I love you like a brother, but fuck you right now" to such an adverse extent that the meaning gets clogged much like the music scenes of today. So many various styles and links have drawn blood from one another only to form a mass-market/coming-soon-to-a-theatre-near-you type of amplified rot that we as individuals -- we the ones who love quality music and can feel a shit sandwich ten miles away -- are imbued with the resident malaise and have to sift through the muck to find that one golden ticket. Having friends rust is pretty cool. Doncha think? Sure ... it means that, yes, we do have buddies, they mean a lot to us, but at the same time, we know darn well that they too will melt away with the rest of the surface slush, only to leave behind some pan flash legacy one can hope to embody sometime in the distant future. Hardcore bands will always exist; the suburban heart and soul is just as fragile and pertinent as any other. And when all is said and done, it too will need to be heard and shout it out loud for the rest of the world to hear and try to understand. That's why when bands like When Friends Rust come around we have to drop what we're doing and open up, both internally and aurally. This is tight packed punk 'n' roll with some flair that will keep us all intact until the next round. Your friends will all agree. I think. Doghouse Records MW 1.18.2002

As It Stands The Turning Point
As It Stands is a band of very young men featuring Paul Long, drums, Jake Szafranski, guitars and vocals, Christopher Evensen, guitars and vocals, and Michael Larson, bass, and its album The Turning Point has a punky driving-rock sound too unvarying for my taste, but it is redeemed by their lyrics and attitude (honest, loving, humorous). The song "Thinking Of ..." is a naked affirmation of love, and surprising, though the half-chanted, half-brayed vocals, and fuzzy, scraping electric guitars and heavy drums are no surprise. The contrast could make this seem like masculine reticence (hiding feeling behind bravado) or, simply, the mix-and-match style of today's youth, a style that mirrors a state of becoming (no longer a child, but not yet a mature adult). "Running in Place" is about confusion regarding personal direction. In "Pieces of You" a relationship ends, and a boy regrets with a charming candor, but the music grates -- the energy, testosterone, and amps revved up. More variety of tempo and structure within the song would improve it, though the vocals, almost a call-and-response approach, are good. The song "Know It All" is preceded by the "you're just a kid" speech given by Robin Williams to Matt Damon in the film Good Will Hunting, and the song is about the fear of admitting feeling and also about self-disgust. "Ninth Life" begins with a quote about a cub scout preparing to survive a bomb's explosion. The song itself is about human connections, with the singer admitting "But I'm thinking, Is your vision of my life keeping you awake at night?" There are bonus tracks and spoken TV and film quotes at the CD's end. Distant Rise Records/Common Sense Records DG

The Atari Star And Other Smaller, Brighter Worlds
People will differ on what they think is the best Atari game. Pitfall is usually heralded as the number-one game for the Atari 2600 system. I preferred River Raid and Contra, once Nintendo was invented. Playing video games is pretty sweet, but only if you have tons of time on your hands and hanging out with girls isn't too important to you. Of course, some girls really dig video games, and God bless them, but none of them are going to be cool with you playing games all the time and not chilling with them. Now I was never very smooth, but I'd say I easily prefer girls to video games. It's a lifestyle choice more than anything else. Nowadays, with the advent of XBOX and GameCube, you could easily convince me to play some Halo or whatever blow-em-up shit is currently out there, but I'd be the first out the door if there was an opportunity to meet a special lady. What I lack in smoothness, I make up for in a bonafide desire to find love. You see, I'm a romantic, and in these electronic times, that can be overlooked. I live in Chicago now, just like The Atari Star. I bet we visit the same local music venues, and we're probably looking at the same girls, hoping to start conversation and not look like a pervert. Now they're rock stars, so they have it easy, like Barry Manilow. That guy got tons of chicks. Think about that. Life is often out of balance. Like jewels being guarded by giant scorpions and a joystick that sitcks, and flying over a river that serpentines like, well, a snake. And sometimes love is hard to find. If it wasn't, we'd certainly have less time to play video games. Johann's Face Records RG

Bad Religion DVD
In late December of 1990, Bad Religion had a show in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it was very oversold and the fire marshal closed it down. A “riot” broke out and a guy with a camcorder (who was trying to tape the show) caught it on film. A bunch of pissed off kids smashed the theater quite a bit and milled around in the streets throwing bottles. The cops came and hit them with fire hoses. Besides this 20 minutes of riot footage, there is a show from the Suffer tour on this disc. The sound and video quality are below average for a camcorder. There’s also footage of the band backstage getting their picture taken, milling around before a set and rolling up a banner after the set. Completist fans will absolutely love this. The rest of us (especially those who remember seeing Bad Religion during this time period) will be bored out of our minds. Buy this if you paid more than $50 for a vinyl copy of Into the Unkinwn. Music Video Distributors MM

Bakunin's Bum Fight to Win: A Benefit for OCAP
This CD is a recording of a speech by two activists from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty backed by music from members of Godspeed, You Black Emperor, and Rhythm Activism. Included with the CD is an extensive booklet with information on the direct action taken by the grassroots organization since the mid-'90s. Actions by the group include opening the US/Canada border for demonstrators to pass freely, staging mass panhandling actions after the government imposed anti-panhandling bylaws, and taking over abandoned buildings for housing. My personal favorite, though, was them evicting the Ontario Minister of Finance from his constituency office and throwing his expensive furniture out onto the street to give him a small dose of the "extreme disruption, intense suffering, and extreme humiliation" tenants feel when bailiffs evict them. The speech by the two OCAP members is excellent and inspiring, and the music by Bakunin's Bum is interesting and challenging. Best of all, the music and speeches intertwine, with neither taking the forefront, and both allowed breathing room in the mix. A very worthwhile project that deserves your support, with all proceeds going to the OCAP. G7 Welcoming Committee JS

Zuzu Bailey Self-Titled
Not too sure if this is considered "modern" rock or file under Christian rock. Who knows? But, the question remains: IS this rock? Not really, even though they have guitars and stuff. This is more along the lines of quasi-girl, synth-pop, but on the cutting edge of sorts -- so don't try to train us into a tunnel of standard flitty chicks who handle their male band members with an iron fist. Basically. Anyway, all I know is that they all thank Jesus in their bio and talk about the greatness of God now and then. Plus, the drums are mixed in real squelchy, so it sounds as if a tin toy is keeping time off in the distance. The lead singer, Erin, has a good voice and she does well with the two other dogmatic boys and female drummer that back her up. This kind of feels like sitting next to a swimming pool on a cold day -- there, but ... just outta reach. It was fine and all, but I wasn't doing cartwheels. Maybe you will. Think Kristin Hersh meets Jars of Clay. Sort of. But ... not really. Bailey Records MW

Bane It All Comes Down to This
As much love as I have for Bane keeping heart-thumping, dancy rage alive, the formula is getting a bit old. In the new release, I hear the same chords and vocal patterns as its older brother when I was hoping to hear something different. What happened to your catchy lyrics? This fan was hoping for another "Superhero" and was disappointed. Equal Vision Records MH/AH

The Belltones On Deaf Ears
Oh the wit of cliché punk rock. Imagine The Vindictives at their worst and you're close. Sometimes I think they are going for a Ramones vibe, other times they miss at a Germs direct approach. This is bad because bands like this were a dime a dozen in 1994 even! At least they aren't emo, but give them five or six years to catch up. TKO records MM

Beltline These Things You Do at Four am
Following in the footsteps of bands like Sebadoh and Pavement are newcomers Beltline with their first album which they rightly call these things you do at 4 am. Recorded during various periods over the past three years or so, Beltine puts together an interesting mesh of slacker and post-prog rock with a dash of studio effects to keep it's listener busy through the 15 songs. The majority of these songs started off as a framework and over the years organs, cello, and guitars were added ... unfortunatley that's the biggest downfall of this album. These Things You Do at four am seriously lacks the cohesiveness that makes a pleasant listen and a good album. It's a noble first attempt by Portland's Beltline, but in all honesty one thing I won't be doing at 4 am, or any other time of the day for that matter, is listening to this album. Jealous Butcher Records NH

The Beltones Cheap Trinkets
Ah ... finally! A band that gets it right for a change. See, it's cool and all to be into punk rock, be into drinking beer, and get tattooed and all, but sometimes this notion gets marred by inner tension and adverse anger and becomes a cacophony of messy guitars and hateful lyrics. But when a band like The Beltones come along, you tend to sigh in relief from the backlog of inert crap groups that ruin it for the rest of us. Cheap Trinkets is a classic affirmation that rock and roll is still alive and punk is far from dead. It dies many times over with copycat outfits coming around claiming to be the OG's of some punk movement. But these guys, man ... they get my vote for the ones to watch in this New Year. It is a display of finely crafted if not slightly beer soaked punk and roll inciting many a copycat band themselves. Think of Stiff Little Fingers gone hot damn and you may have The Beltones in a slightly humbling fencing in. They do an amazing cover of Bob Marley's "Concrete Jungle" and get rather punny on you with the ditty "Shitty In Pink." If you dig '50s era rockabilly, '60s mod, and '70s punk, you will thoroughly enjoy The Beltones and Cheap Trinkets. Trust me this one time. Please! Mordam Records MW

Benjamins The Art of Disappointment
Benjamins are trying really hard to sound like Weezer or The Rentals, who in turn are trying really hard to be The Cars. The ironically titled "The Art of Disappointment" is at least third generation and third rate '80s pop, complete with sickly sweet lyrics like, "So hello, and it’s goodbye again/I’m going home to cry again/You still have all those letters I wrote you/And I still have my song." Blleeeaaarrgghh!!! Drive-Thru Records JS

Benton Falls Fighting Starlight
Everything in a CD you would expect from Deep Elm. After listening to millions of emo-indie CDs a year its great to find one that sticks out. I guess that is what I am always looking for. This bands sound is influenced by now defunct label mates Cross My Heart. When I first listened to this CD I swore that it was the singer from CMH. I was wrong. This band continues where CMH left off. Vocal rhythms and guitar style similar but not as depressing as CMH. The vocals have something most emo-indie bands lack ... passion. Great guitar work with multiple harmonies that help provide a nice melody without overpowering the vocalist. This is Benton Falls debut record and I am very impressed in the mature sound and lyrics. I really enjoyed this CD. Deep Elm AH

Bigwig An Invitation to Tragedy
Pop-punk is of no interest to anyone any more, and for those still tapped into this scene, utmost condolences. For those wanting to throw away some of their time listening to genetically modified music, Bigwig are one of the better bets right now. Bringing to mind 88 Fingers Louie, Good Riddance, Pennywise, and lots of other bands too embarrassing to list, these dudes storm through 13 songs of blazing, melodic hardcore. Squint the eyes hard enough and shove lots of cotton in the ears and the sweet refrains might even sound a little like Propagandhi. But that’s wishful thinking. Fearless Records JS

The Blame No One Is Innocent
Rough and tumble punk rock that pummels back to the times of The Freeze, Agent Orange, and D.I. Three chords are used to their utmost, and the "whoa, whoa" background vocals are in full effect throughout this little 11 song Nasty Ronnie. The Blame only know how to write one song, but it’s a half decent one, interchanging plunky bass lines, rapid-fire military drum rolls, and guitar neck slides, but never straying from a simple punk formula. A cover version of The Wizard of Oz’s "Over the Rainbow" does nothing for the validity of this record, nor does the use of the word "fag" on more than one lyrical occasion, but fans of old school punk may wake from their drink-induced stupor and take momentary notice. F.U.G. Records JS

The Blamed Isolated Incident
Heck, if it takes God to get a band inspired these days, then I'm all for it. The love of Jesus flows through the Blamed; they even wear Stryper T-shirts in their band photos! Musically it's a rather odd emo hardcore/Helmet groove rock hybrid, a rather UNholy combination when it comes right down to it, but fairly interesting. The disc also includes a CD-ROM track for your home computer with a song video, history of the band and interview. Remember kids, and this direct from the band's thank you list, "Lord you have my heart and I will search for yours." Grrr Records JS

Blending In Behind Pastel Screens Self-Titled
Notes were scurvy on this one. To be honest, I couldn't quite place it. Now, it'd be obvious to tag it as a sort of art-noise-ambient type of thingy, but I don't wanna insult you by stating such glib factoids. Dig? It's too easy to label now a days. Actually, I guess it always has been. That's how we figure if it'll figure into our own scheme. But lets just throw all that jive aside and call a spade a spade. This is lazy art noise snoring ambient ditties set to a tonal vibe that resonates that of a pinwheel with a slight tear in it. It goes, but there's something amiss. Regardless, BIBPS gave me the creeps sometimes. See, the CD played late at night and I had a busy day at the home office so I decided to open a bottle of '97 Merlot and settle in. But, this was due and I went to work. Turns out the second I put it on, a storm began to brew outside. Now, in my tiny studio, when the wind blows, the trees outside scrape the windows and the whole place shifts a bit with each breath. This album didn't help. After the stupid building inspector came by and "fixed" this electrical problem, I've had mini brownouts at random intervals. So, outside of the frothing music, the storm, my lights were dimming at strange moments, which made me almost bust out the fading wubby (some patchwork blanky with mystery stains a go-go) I keep in this chest under the bed. I kept hoping for a pick up from the music, but it really didn't happen. It kept rolling along at an ogres pace, and the rain spat silver needles on the glass and the trees protested and the lamp turned from bright to not so all the time and I knew I was in trouble. I glugged heavily from the hearty wine and threw myself under the covers of my bed. Then the CD came to an end but nature kept at it. But then I felt safe. Blending In Behind Pastel Screens left an impression on me. Will it for you? Make sure the ol' wubby is close at hand! Crouton Records MW 1.18.2002

Blinder Calamity a Foot Behind
Interesting structured coffee house rock. Offtime signatures and awkward floaty guitar playing make this off-balanced band rock. The recording is very raw which benefits the guitars but not the entire band. Female backed vocals that are to high in the mix and you tend to notice all the mistakes. The vocals are in the vein of a younger inexperienced Ani Difranco. However the lyrics are straight forward and not so artsy that they don't sound sincere. The music reminds me of early '90s band Junction. Solarmanite Records AH

The Blood Brothers This Adultery Is Ripe
When a new sub-genre of punk/hardcore takes over the scene, it’s inevitable some people will be left in the dust, wondering what the fuck happened and where it all changed. When it comes to the stylish, artsy bands like The Blood Brothers, I am one of those shaking their heads in disbelief and confusion. As far as I can figure, these silly bands are a byproduct of Nation of Ulysses, who begat Rye Coalition, who begat The VSS, who begat the whole tight pants, black hair dye scene that’s taking over the world as we speak. But really, what is this shit, and how are we supposed to react to it? Is it supposed to be funny? Serious? Political? Ambiguous? Artsy? Goofy? What? Who in their right mind wants to listen to sassy men trying to sound like 10-year-olds with lisps, singing "shocking" garbage like, "Yesterday I shaved every inch of my body and mailed the hair to you?" Like a horrible, ten car pile-up, it’s hard not want to observe the Blood Brothers’ carnage, but extended listening just made me draw a bitter blank. Either I'm too old, or I'm totally missing the point here. Regardless, I welcome an explanation. Second Nature Recordings JS

Bloodjinn Leave This World Breathing
I'm sure most of you are aware by now, but my patience is condom thin for the entire metalcore genre. So when I say Bloodjinn impress me with their metalcore sounds, this is not just the naive ravings of an Eighteen Visions or Poison the Well fan. In actuality, the tendency is to automatically assume I won't like any clean-cut band of young pups who claim a Gothenberg influence and refer to their "punishing" live show. Luckily, this North Carolina five-piece sound more like disciples of Metallica's Ride the Lightning than any Swedish import, and nothing here gives evidence of them "going off" in a live setting. What results is an epic sound not often heard on the helter-skelter metalcore that dominates the scene right now. Acoustic intros and outros, soft-spoken female guest vocals, flaming guitar solos, and even a 12-minute modern day version of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" to close the album, all work wonders in Bloodjinn's favor. Okay, I'm getting a bit carried away likening anything here to one of metal's all-time-best songs. No bullshit though, Leave This World Breathing is a splash of cold water in the face from a band who take their craft seriously, cut back on the pretension and deliver a complete package that is razor conscious of pace and timelessness. Goodfellow Records JS

Bloodlet Three Humid Nights in the Cryptic Trees
If memory serves, Bloodlet were a big deal in the early to mid-'90s --neck and neck with Neurosis in the "heavy band everyone is raving about" department. Why then, after a dramatic reformation and promise of stellar new material, and especially in light of the genius still being discovered by the mighty Neurosis, does Three Humid Nights in the Cryptic Trees suck so badly? It really stinks. Singer Scott Angelacos sounds like his vocal cords were left behind in Denver (where he moved when the band dispersed). He did manage to bring along his diary full of half-baked lyrics and ideas for some of the worst vocal lines this side of [insert really annoying singer from bad, demo-quality local band here]. The rest of the band sounds tired as well, with new drummer John Stewart Jr. (fake name?) sounding more limb-challenged than Rick Allen. Perhaps he is without an arm and a leg? Even production wiz Steve Albini couldn't salvage these tired tunes, and this is the guy that made Page and Plant sound good post-1971, so he has been known to work miracles. Geez, I'd take nu-metal over this any day; Bloodlet in 2002 is a simply horrid proposition. Victory Records JS

Blueline Medic
Australian for Jawbreaker. If you are one of the many who miss Jawbreaker and think of Jets to Brazil as unacceptable replacement, check out Blueline Medic. From the very first song, this thing rocks somewhere between 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You. This is incredibly good! Although they wear their influences on their sleeve, they are quite an original and solid band. I really like this record a lot.
Fueled by Ramen MM

Blutos Revenge Use Once and Destroy
Reminiscent of Helmet’s glory days and some good old-fashioned guitar rock, Blutos Revenge pummel you straight ahead and with no safety equipment given. You can almost smell the grease from the
car-yard just beyond the tracks of the freight trains. This release should get the floor moving, the heads bobbing, and the beer flowing. The best way to see this band I think is if they play in some ramshackle shed in that car-yard with the freights constantly rolling by off in the distance. Cleveland seems to dole out good "workin’ man" rock with grit and simplicity and this is a fine inclusion to that ideal. Monkey wrenches are optional. The PBR is not -- it’s required.
Thunderous Records MW

The Bodies Firepower is Our Business
Hot diggety, this is punk rock brother! Get on the floor and work that pit man. The Bodies have the affluence of the sound down to a T-ball perfection. They rock, they roll, they jimmy the jam and then they leave. You are then left to put the needle back to the beginning and start anew. But perhaps that boot to the cranium is starting to sting, so perhaps a moist towelette may help. Hailing from Sonoma County, Calif., this quartet delivers the goods like Sam Meats Alice. A little bit of OI!, a nod to gutter punk, just a dash of Lemmy style vocals and boom!, you are in for a hardcore treat my friend. Honestly, I had a blast with The Bodies. The sun was down, the curtains were drawn, the pants were off, the Schlitz was open and the stereo was up to 11. Suddenly, a knock came at my door. It was that jackass in #4. He was saying that I had my music on too loud. Well, what else am I supposed to do at 3:30 in the morning except blast The Bodies and do a merry jig on my hardwood floor? Regardless, he came in, drank some beer and is still on my couch at present. "What happened to the music?" he uttered once. "The Bodies man ... play The Bodies again!" So I did. Mind you, this is an extreme version of what you should do while enjoying the band. In the viscous life of the rock journalist, you have to take it as it comes. Rock on Ohio! Mordam Records MW

Bonny Billy More Revery
Imagine the boneyard at the end of a long night drive. That thick blue of dawn is coming and some bland filling station coffee is all you have to keep you going. You park your rig by the front gate and walk inside. Its chilly and filled with white marbled monuments to bones in boxes. You're about to sit down when a noise off in the distance breaks the cold still of the pre sun. A band, and a good one at that, wafts over the well kept lawn as you sip that coffee, ponder your own fate and begin to notice shadows. It is a cooing drift of slight rock/country lounge/B-movie overlay, and it helps with the immediate situation. They play for about 20 minutes then stop, leaving you wanting more. So you go back to your car, get in, and turn on the radio. But, its been stolen. Now what? Temporary Residence Ltd. MW

Brandtson Fallen Star Collection
This is better than I thought it would be. I thought it would be sleepier like Karate, but this is fairly poppy. Though it's nothing too original, the lyrics and the music are interesting. Unlike most bands of this genre, you can actually tell the songs apart. Fans will love it. Deep Elm Records MH/AH

Brandtson Trying to Figure Each Other Out
An ethereal sound permeates this six song EP by Cleveland, Ohio’s Brandtson. With Jesus himself making tops on their thank you list, it’s positive the boys in the band would love that compliment, good little angels that they are. Sickly sweet but beautiful tunes here, similar in scope and sound to later Jimmy Eat World. The bass line in "12th & Middle" envelopes the ears like a warm pair of earmuffs, and swirls in and amongst your cake hole. Brandtson are one of the few bands who can get away with a short EP without leaving a feeling of being ripped off or wanting to hear more. Any longer and this would have been boring, any shorter and it would be a tease. Great little batch of songs courtesy of a pretty band of melodic, God-fearing cupids. Deep Elm Records JS

Brandtson Dial in Sounds
There are just too many styles of music out there. Fifty different factions of heavy metal; at least a hundred of rock; even more with hip-hop and electro. So, I'm gonna try my hand at a new label of rock. How's this? "Dentist Rock?" It makes NO SENSE whatsoever, but believe me, when I tossed on Brandtson here, that's the only thing I could think of. Basically I was having episodes of flashbacks regarding that misfit elf himself Hermie, the fresh lidded imp from the holiday classic "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." That kid would be way in to this band. How, why, what you may ask. Well, here's the scoop-a-roo. These guys divvy up the goods with a fine selection of distortion, melodies, basic aggression, and some infectious-style lyrics jamming the neo-spiritual thing at you. But for some odd-ball reason, it just misses the mark by a hair. Almost grabbing my codpiece but letting go at the last minute when things just start to get really hot n heavy. Hence: Dentist Rock. One day in the very near future, when our kids, the same ones who were introduced to hardcore music at the get-go and the barrage of advertisements to deaden the inner soul all together, are getting their job on for basic survival (and some may be dentists) they may be apt to play this kind of stuff. Just think what the kids of our kid's kids will be into! Wow. It staggers the mind. And Brandtson just kind of staggers. Too much novocaine I suppose! Deep Elm Records MW

Buck Wild Full Metal Overdrive
Ah, geez, this whole pop-punkers paying homage to heavy metal thing has to stop. Buck Wild appear on their CD cover doing their best glam metal impersonation, including fishnet spandex outfits, but sound like every other NOFX clone when the disc spins. In a way, it makes sense, I guess. A few years back, pop punk was to punk/hardcore as glam was to true metal in the ‘80s. Laughable, clone bands making goofy faces and doing way too many scissor kicks onstage. Today, this silly attempt at a metal tribute is just stupid -- it’s more likely Buck Wild discovered metal as the current trendy way to act cool, rather than the disturbing and obsessive underground subculture it really is. These guys are too well dressed and hip-looking to listen to Ronnie James Dio and use the lyrics to "Rock ‘N’ Roll Children" as a metaphor for their loneliness and despair like a true metalhead would. Lobster Records JS

Buck Wild Beat Me Silly
A band that truly lives up to its name. Not that these guys are so freaky that you end up in coniptions or start eating the sofa because the music coming from your stereo is so insane, but, you get the idea. Unfortunately, the four boys come across sounding like some jock frat bros who wanna be in a rock band and are just one notch up from the evils that lurk within the truth of beer bongs and going "woo!" at intervals of mild celebration. Nothing Earth shattering, but not bad either. Good for a backyard kegger or playing in your Jetta on the way to it. They try to lower that notch a bit by putting an image of a sqashed mouse on the album cover -- guts coming out and that last look of hellish pain on its face. It depressed the heck outta me. Maybe these guys are assholes. I don’t know. The music is alright. Lobster Records MW

Burning Heads Escape
When you think of France, you rarely conjure up images of mosh pits or hear the blistering tones of rampant hardcore. But, here it is: four dudes from Orleans who bust it New York punk style, fast and furious, no holds barred, and without the pretention us yanks here have come to know and loathe about those who worship Jerry Lewis. If you like relentless youth-soaked hardcore at its pop finest, then Burning Heads is for you. "Escape" is a 15 tracked melange of uzi drums, sweaty guitars and harmonious vocals completing the cycle of continuous contributions to angst release through music rather than abject discordance. You know you’re in for a treat when the band includes a picture of them playing live and all of the frontmen are jumping in syncopated mania. There should be a term for this or a new style of punk and hardcore: those who choose to constantly be airborne in promo shots. I don’t know. I just see a lot of that. Victory Records MW

The Casket Lottery Survival Is for Cowards
Some people spend their whole lives trying to recapture a single, defining moment. Others scramble to recollect many different experiences and feelings throughout their lives, hoping that the replication of good times will bring similar feelings of optimism and solace. The Casket Lottery remind me of the feeling I had seeing a band I'd never heard of called Sunny Day Real Estate play in a tiny record store to 15 people before their now-classic Diary album came out. I'll never forget being such close witness to music so life-affirming. Or the first time I heard Mineral and was filled with an overwhelming sense of hope in a world of hopelessness. Or the anticipation of seeing another live band play with heaps of emotion and being able to say to myself: "I believed that. That was real." Therefore, The Casket Lottery are a great band, and many will rejoice at the chance to reclaim a small part of their lives while forging entirely new memories at the same time. Second Nature Recordings JS

Casket Lottery Choose Bronze
Very nicely designed package. Great harmonies and musicianship (especially the drummer). This band seems to exemplify everything about a great emo band. They are aggressive and seem to be constantly pushing thmesleves. A poppier, more modern, spunkier version of Sunny Day Real Estate. Second Nature Recordings MH/AH

Caulfield's Aside Last Minute EP
This album made me think of all the morons in the world, conceited sonuvabitches always getting in my face. I got so goddam mad I almost broke the lousy jewel case against the wall. It reminded me of when I was in college with these people who thought they so goddam perfect. My manager at the lousy college radio station warned us at the beginning of term not to "get wasted" during our shows. That killed me. What a phony. He was always getting high during his hip-hop shows, but wanted us to think he had straightened out his act now that he was a manager and all this Polyanna crap. So, one night I brought in a bunch of friends to the studio, made margaritas and talked for two hours to some activist for marijuana legalization who would ramble on for about things that didn't make sense. I taped the whole show and still got an "A" from my teacher. That killed me. School is for phonies. Tree of Woe Records RG

Cellblock 5 & White Trash Debutantes What's It All About
The girl in fatigues on the cover of this record is pictured playing with dolls. See, that's fun. Punk rock forgets that sometimes it's good to just sit a spell and comb Barbie's hair. The photos of both bands printed inside are proof that both enjoy fun. Whether they're rocking onstage, drinking beer, or standing around looking cool, these two musical powerhouses are obviously seekers of mirth. However, the winner of fun would be the White Trash Debutantes because they have wacky false names and have chicks in the band who wear only underwear. That's utter funosity! See, even if you have a bad day, say you haven't found a decent cup of coffee but you have to go onstage anyway, and you're all bummed out but you have to rock, you'll require inspiration. Then you look over at your fellow bandmate, clad in bra and panties and you realize that life, even in it's most disappointing moments, is a real hoot. Orange Peal Records RG 1.18.2002

Cerberus Shoal Mr. Boy Dog
Cerberus Shoal have always been a strange band. Even when they were on the emo-hardcore tip in the mid-'90s, there was still something odd about their delivery. With each subsequent release (and really, who can keep track?) they've just gotten weirder and weirder. It's no surprise then, that with this double disc set, Mr. Boy Dog, it has come time for the Portland, Maine band to plummet into an unexplored void of strangeness. First off, each disc is less than 40 minutes long, which means the double disc package is merely for aesthetic purposes as everything could have been crammed onto one disc. If anything, the switch over between CDs leaves time for reflection on what was just heard, and with too much reflection listeners might never be able to explain it. Mostly instrumental and hauntingly beautiful, the sounds here run the gamut of emotions, genres, and vibes. The six players use too many different instruments to list, but horns, percussion and bass guitar are the most frequent channels of communication. While Cerberus Shoal has alienated a lot of listeners with each new release, they open doors to new and enthralling sounds like no other band in the underground, and that counts for a whole lot more than any attempts at being listener-friendly. Mr. Boy Dog is perfect for a cross-country train trip or a night on the back porch when it is too hot to sleep. Temporary Residence Limited JS

Charlie Brown Gets A Valentine Commencement
FINALLY! A band name that strikes a chord and actually outlives the product in which it is representing. Oops, now ... I didn't mean to dis the band, but, I will say this: CBGAV is no more than your standard guy power punk-ish rock with vocal stylings that punctuate ol' Billie Joe of Green Day, yet a bit less snotty if you catch my drift. I mean, c'mon, you've seen these blokes at the club, pounding out the fret dangling chord progressions, pissing off the floor staring shaggys that await instructions from the next disillusioned band to step up and depress the rest of us who know darn well life is easy but damn if it don't make no sense. Lighten up Brad, it gets worse! So have fun. Anyway, Charlie Brown Gets A Valentine is a heartfelt and grand name for a band and I applaud madly in their general direction. Good work boys. Lets all go fishing and I'll provide the sandwiches. Just, please, don't bring along a recent demo for me to get a gander of, because, really, I've heard it all before and I really wanna like you all after this trip is over. When a buddy came over to borrow a cup o' sugar, I laid this thing down on him. Now (unfortunately) he hails such bands as Alien Ant Farm and System of a Down as "great," so his opinion I trust only on the level that he appreciates Sabbath and early Metallica, and he had this to say: "Not bad. Well, you know ... I wouldn't kick them outta bed!" With that, he started to laugh. It was then that I realized that his eyes were burning red and he kept complaining about cottonmouth. Right! So we leaned back and listened more. Pretty soon the bland pop punk-esque grew thin and we tossed on some Electric Wizard and rocked out. Great name though. Good job! Wyndel Records MW 1.18.2002

The Chase Theory In Pursuit of Excellence
They claim to be In Pursuit of Excellence, and I think they're almost there. The fifteenth release from One Day Savior records is a nice one. The Chase Theory finally put out an EP of their own (they had appeared on Emo Diaries Chapter 3 on Deep Elm and other comps), and the band has come together nicely. Matthew Burke's vocals are refreshing, and the band's straight rock is addictively melodic. Danny Burke's vocals back up nicely and create an almost atmospheric effect at times. Too abrasive to be emo, not straight enough to be guitar rock, not poppy enough for punk, The Chase Theory is just good. In Pursuit of Excellence is a quality record from a band whose limited resume may belie their real experience. Overall, the Chase Theory's first release is worth picking up, and One Day Savior did a good job to snag these guys on what deserves to be an upswing. One Day Savior CS

Chinkees Peace Through Music
Anti-racism ska/punk with a racist title. Well, they can get away with it seeing as they are all Asian, but, you know -- do your thing. It’s like African American bands that use the word "nigga" or us white folks who call each other "honky." It works on a glib sense, but it always comes across as vapid attention getting before drifting off into obscurity. Regardless, this band is tight and does a great job rockin’ quick step ska and jazzing it with a punk tune now and then. No lyrics printed inside, rather they equip us with a story of how each song evolved or a story behind them. It’s cool. It’s all about the message, you know. Yeah. Go Chinkees, go! Unfortunately, racism will never go away, but it is good to know that at least six people in a band are doing their part to help the cause against it while leting us dance in the meantime. Asian Man Records MW

Cipher Protoculture – Christian chugga chugga rock that’s so fifth-generation it’s laughable. Come on guys, have you looked at your calendars lately? Yes, 1993 is long past, and you need to get up to speed with the current day; a time when bad, hardly heavy hardcore like this hits the recycling bin faster than you can say, "There ain’t no god." Amen. JS

Closer Than Kin / None But Burning – A split disc between two bands who seem to have buddied up on a recent batch of shows, although the explanation is basically undecipherable. Closer Than Kin play straight edge hardcore as generic as it gets, complete with the perfectly placed breakdowns, monotone vocals, and inklings of metal riffery here and there. None But Burning are a bit fresher, and even bring to mind tolerable bands like Grade and Hot Water Music at times. Not a must-hear band by any means, but they did put some much needed brightness and energy into this mostly junk-heap production. Fleshban Records JS

Coalition The Ignition: From Friction to Fire
Youth crew gang vocals hardcore. Seven songs running together to sound like one ... weak vocals ... cliched lyrics ... those same chords and riffs heard too many times to count ... a wonderfully droll listen. Three cheers for the 18-minute EP! Smorgasbord Records JS

Cock Sparrer Runnin Riot Across the USA
When I was in college, I got an internship with Alternative Tentacles Records, which as many hardcore fans might recognize, is owned by Jello Biafra. It was a cool job, mailing stickers and T-shirts and listening to college radio around the small apartment Jello had turned into a bustling indie record company. I got free CDs and T-shirts, and got into shows for free. The only crappy thing was how much my manager hated me. For a punk working for a punk label she was a bit high-strung. One day she asked me in a snide tone, "You probably like Sea and Cake, huh." Well, I did, and do actually. This admission was quite uncool to her so she turned up her Built to Spill EP and went back to work. I resumed calling record stores around the US. I don't know what she thought I'd done that was so awful. I guess I wasn't impressed enough that I was working for Jello Biafra with musicians like Gary Floyd just stopping by. One day I did meet Biafra. He was looking a bit disheveled and was carrying a lot of bags and things. I was told two things about him privately: never let him know you have a car (he will always want a ride) and never loan him money. My favorite errand for AT was visiting the warehouse of distributor Mordam Records. Those guys really had it made. Packing 45's and tapes into boxes with college radio blasting really loud in a much larger room. Next to Mordam employees, I was merely a fetus. They were the real deal. I could've been there all day, but eventually had to return to the girl who didn't like me. Oh, Mordam also distributes TKO Records which released this live album from Cock Sparrer. The press release says this album will be an absolute must for any Cock Sparrer fan. I'd say that's true enough. Live albums exist almost primarily for pre-existing fans of the group. Except for Frampton Comes Alive, which anyone can dig, from your grandma to a little fetus like me. TKO Records RG

A Common Thread Blind Solution
The cover of this 7" by Birmingham's A Common Thread proclaims the band as "positive hardcore," and one look at lyrics like "a small step in a forward direction to make a change is better than a futile thought wasted in vain. We'll make the difference" certainly reinforces this.
Musically, they're quick, punchy, danceable youth-crew hardcore with lots of gang shout-outs made for singing along. I can imagine that they've probably got quite a local following in Birmingham and that kids have a great time at their shows. While most "posi-core" has never been my cup of tea, I can still appreciate the fun, unpretentious accessibility that posi kids bring to their music. If you're a fan of this style, I really can't think of a reason not to get this record. Fleshban Records

Contempt One Justice
Allen remembers getting thier demo about six years ago at a Canton YMCA show. So far nothing has changed. They still stick to chugga chugga Syracuse-style and animal/vegan rights that was more popular back in the day. I would describe it as tiger metal since the vocals have that raw, well, tiger sound to them. Songs seem to be recorded in 1996, we wonder what they are doing now. Good entry-level hardcore band, especially if you're into animal rights. Catalyst Records MH/AH

Contender Hit Single 7"
Here's what you do: take The Get Up Kids. Poke them in the eyes with sharp sticks. Repeat until they're thoroughly pissed off. Voila! You've got Contender. To be fair, this band is well on its way to breaking free of comparisons and establishing its own unique brand of alternative --no small accomplishment for their very first EP. On "Scenic Overlook," the Colorado foursome mixes melancholy melodies worthy of No Motiv with smart (if sometimes awkward) lyrics and unflagging energy. The guitar work is solid, and the vocals range from generic Billie Joe punk-pop to primal scream therapy, often within the same song; bonus points for the ambitious emotional and melodic reach, even when the technical mastery isn't quite there. (You've gotta admire a band that writes beyond its abilities ... far too many do the exact opposite.) They've just signed with Negative Progression Records, and are working on their first full-length release; the production values associated with a "real" label should certainly help to hone their sound for a larger audience. In a world of countless ho-hum punk-pop acts, they certainly are contenders. GW

Corn Doggy Dog and the Half Pound Good Clean Filth
There is a line for the film Animal House that comes to mind: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life." Remember that part? Then Flounder threw up all over Dean Wormer's desk. Yeah. Now, I'm not saying that Corn Doggy Dog (cool name) and the Half Pound are indeed all of the afore mentioned adjectives, but I do believe a good portion of their following live up to that ideal. This is the kind of semi-hard/almost mad, adroit beer gut pub-rock that gets the shirtless fools sweaty, riles up a drunken body or two, inciting much flailing around and slurring along to the words, while trying to pick up a girl in feathered hair before puking on the sidewalk and then screaming "Wooo!" This album is pretty fun in that respect, by infecting dirt rock with basic punk while letting you know they also enjoy rap and some good honky tonk. But, it is missing some element of salability I just can't snap my fingers to. It's ambitious: 22 songs in almost and hour, but their fear of invention, sensitivity, and general lunkheadedness gets in the way. At the same time, maybe I should shut up and just have fun with it! Corn Doggy Dog is loud and a good time so check your craniums at the box office and ignore everything I've said. That's a good idea. Forget it. Long Beach Records MW

Cripple Bastards Misantropo a Senso Unico
Extreme Italian negative grind that kicks a lot of ass, despite the nihilist bent of the lyrics. Fifteen new songs in Italian, as well as re-recorded version of their 94-song demo which originally came out in 1993. You can't go wrong with a group whose band members have names like Giulio the Bastard, Alberto the Crippler, and Schintu the Wretched. They also have a thank you list that simply says, "Thanks to no fucker except ourselves." A wild, wild ride, assuming you don't get bucked off halfway through. Deaf American Recordings JS

Cripple Kid/The Little Dipper
Split CDs are a sensible idea for upstart bands like Cripple Kid and The Little Dipper. With the demo tape nearly extinct, it’s much preferred to fill a disc with the better part of an hour’s worth of demo style recordings, rather than the all too prevalent five-song CD-EPs that come a mile a minute. Less resources wasted on bad music, that’s the bottom line. Less pieces of 5" round aluminum in the landfill when all is said and done. Cripple Kid are like the doe-eyed but dim offspring of Jawbreaker and Tiltwheel. Not the most desirable place to be right here, right now. The Little Dipper deliver their best Promise Ring/Get Up Kids send-off, but do it with remnants of flair and originality. A welcome surprise. Two demo tapes for the price of a CD, not a bad deal, but don’t expect tip-top quality from this package.
Microcosm Records JS

Cross My Heart Temporary Contemporary
I heard this band broke up? That is a shame since this is a great piece of work -- the indy/emo scene is definitely at loss for this is a great example of a mature and experienced band. Every part of this CD is great. Yes. Every part, cross my heart. They have their own sound that is backed up by solid musicianship and song writing, creating a mood and versatility where the listener doesn't get bored. From the very bluesy intro on the first song to some tight upbeat rhythms in "London Bridges" this release offers something others do not, variety.
The best part of the band has to be the vocalist, he could carry any band. Some of the catchiest lyrics I have heard. I love that I don't have to read the lyrics to understand what he is singing. Maybe if everyone buys this they will get back together and record again. Deep Elm Records AH

Crosstide (self titled)
This is like a nice walk through the park, all alone, wrapped in a thick jacket and thinking about the most recent breakup. At times, Crosstide takes you by the hand and starts running, but, overall, their quiet "hard" rock incites foggy afternoons spent looking out the window, cheap wine while writing poetry and slowly nodding your head when you catch them down at the club. Fans of Elliot should take note and definitely check these guys out. Rather than overt sadness to drive the tunes, they imbue a confident energy which sways the tracks into sub ether tones backed by a humming amp and rock ethic. Still, images of lonliness kept coming up. Maybe that’s what they want. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Whatever the case may be, the album is full of great shots of WWII airplanes in flight and battle. Not that I like war or anything. Oh, forget it. Chapel Hill Records MW

Eddie Culjak Climb
Eddie has "one man and his guitar" syndrome. The assumption is that he recorded these five songs on his own, playing all of the instruments, but confirmation on that is impossible since the liner notes tell nothing. Mr. Culjack, however, does find the room for a rather large bar code on this CD-R, which begs the question, "Since when do the mega-corporate record stores and other scan-friendly retail outlets sell burned demo CDs?" Also confusing is a lack of any kind of contact info, creating a shroud of mystery around this side-burned weirdo. Songs jump from emo pop punk to sappy love ballads, and then back again. Climb is a hopelessly lost look into the world of self-indulgent teen angst. Someone should put Eddy out of his misery, and confiscate his CD burner while they’re at it. JS

Cursive Burst and Bloom
Only Cursive could get away with "Sink to the Beat," with lyrics referring to their "DC sound, Shudder to Think, Fugazi and Chapel Hill around the early '90s." It could only be a poke at sloppy and lazy comparisons made by their critics, as they burst (and bloom) through five angular, yet attractive songs that should make everyone sit up and take notice. Until now, Cursive was always one of those bands on the verge of something musically meaningful. They straddled the fine line between background music and the soundtrack to your life. That line has been erased in one fell swoop, as "Burst and Bloom" deserves to push them into everyone's personal headspace. The addition of a cello player and songs that blow earlier material from the water bodes well for this band's future. Who knows to what levels their next full-length album will take them. Saddle Creek JS

Ben Davis The Hushed Patterns of Relief
When Ben found out he was going to be a father, he quit playing drums for Milemarker and prepared for his son’s entry into the world. As a father he continued to write quiet songs, probably in the middle of the night when the wee one was sleeping, producing an album with nice melodies and an understated glow. Ben, who also played bass in the highly regarded Sleepytime Trio, has written ten lovely songs, through and through. With help from some of his closest friends, and interesting musicians, The Hushed Patterns of Relief is an endearing project bringing to mind the best things about community and helping other artists bring their personal songs to fruition. The chanting mantra of "What Drifters Will Do" stands out as the strongest track -- a truly haunting song without straying from its simplicity. Acoustic, lap steel, and electric guitars are used alongside organs, piano, bass, cello, and drums to create a wonderful portrait of a musician as a new father. Fatherhood is a wonderful thing, and this album is rightfully dedicated to Ben’s son, probably the strongest influence on the beauty of these songs. Lovitt Records JS

Dead Red Sea Birds
Another release that sounds like a solo project, but features a full band to thicken the songs. Ryan Shelkett, ex-of Cross My Heart, is the driving force on Dead Red Sea’s Birds, with a somber voice and some almost Neil Young-caliber guitar blues. High compliments are not spoken lightly, and Dead Red Sea nail all that is great with "Bad Man," a song as depressing as it is lovely. Although 11 tracks of any one group can drag on, the band has enough variance and talent to pull it off, yanking more charms out of the hat than expected, such as the instrumental mantra of the title track, nine songs in. Whether musical jams sans vocals, or poetry driven tales and tunes of woe, Dead Red Sea are interesting and endearing. Impressive. Deep Elm JS

Decembers January
This one is definitely a keeper. Not only does this emo-ish band have great vocals and a great drummer, but they sure know how to mix it up. With chorus like backup vocals and unexpected tempo changes within each song, this band is sure to keep you listening for more. Kudos for non-whining emo. To us: Boy Sets Fire meets Jazz Man's Needle. Also no big record label! Aisle 2 Records MH/AH

Def Poets Society
Whoa Nelly! This is a bit of an oddity. Full-on gangsta rap from the mean streets of North Vancouver, BC, Canada done by six whack MCs that are way, way too white to be taken seriously. They can rhyme and throw down lines pretty well, all things considered, but finding themselves an audience might be the hardest task at hand. Nearly all the suburban white kids I know are busy with the pimpin' shit they see on TV, and true hip-hop fans won't be convinced that these Poets are the real deal. As a white suburban punk nerds' tribute to rap and urban hip-hop, this is endearing, but as a lasting addition to the rap world, this hobbles along like a goofy kid with his Adidas shoes on the wrong feet. New Disorder Records JS

Del Ray Speak it Not Aloud
I tell you: The fact that more and more bands coming out deciding to let the lead singer diva thing go is making me very happy. Bands like Del Rey here make me proud to be a music fan and journalist. Just the idea of creating sounds without the notion of some Axel, someone to come across and grab the attention away from the actual music makes me grin. So, with that, I hafta tell you I thoroughly enjoyed this record. It's not mind-blowing or going to crate a stir in the heavens, but an album like this and a band such as Del Rey don't have to be. They just are and let us all hush up and take a listen. In eight tracks and just over a half hour, Speak it not Aloud chimes with general simplicity yet is backed by a two drum assault that makes the entire feel so much more dire and important -- as if each chord is backed by a marauding horde stalking you to listen up and get into the flow of the moment. Not that the actual rhythm section is that obtrusive, au contraire!, it is but a means to revive the lesser of the while with dual directions in which to choose from. Otherwise, the mild hypnotics and almost psychedelics could just be a stoner's dream when they are drifting off to sleep or watching the Teletubbies in the morning. Together, the pyre become brighter and wafts us all out to sea, in which the pillaging horde raises their goblets and cheers for the efforts of the musicians. Lead singers, initially, with music such as this, were introduced to get the audience to pay attention. When the audience began to form away, some member would step up and begin to rhyme or shout, just so they wouldn't leave. This notion caught on and so Barbara Streisand and Ozzy Osborne now have jobs. Otherwise, they'd be active fans of Del Rey-styled outfits. As well they should be! My Pal God Records MW 1.18.2002

DeNunzio Auditory Crash Course
I started my first band at 15. If you had no car and were not too inclined athletically, you started a band. Not knowing how to play anything other than "Camptown Ladies" on the piano and struggling to convince my piano teacher that I played "Fur d'Elise" at any other time besides my actual lessons, I picked up a bass, recruited my two best friends Nick and Brian and embarked on a stellar music career. The first thing we did was make stickers and posters for future shows. Learning how to play was completely secondary, promotion being far more important. Word spread fast. Soon another school band asked us to play a gig with them at the school auditorium. They were a metal band, we were ... well, shit, we had no idea, we didn't even know to tune our instruments together. We'd added a drummer, that's as far as we'd evolved. Tom was in the seventh grade, three years younger than the rest of us, and the only one who had any musical knowledge whatsoever. Prior to acquiring Tom, the three of us, would get together in my bedroom recording what we delicately titled "songs" (the session from New Year's Eve 1989 is pure delight). Tensions often were high, much like any artistic collaboration, not unlike Gauguin and that other jerk off Van Gogh. Nick, our guitar player, and Tom got along like two alley cats in a death brawl and me and Brian, our singer, were often forced to snack on Dorito's in Tom's kitchen until they could get over their musical differences. We never did play at the school, but we played a couple parties and recorded demos like we were the hottest band on the planet. In truth, we stunk, but that never stopped us from believing in the majesty of our band. Dreams of fame and fortune danced in our heads like the many discordant and ill-tuned notes of our songs. Then tragedy struck our ticket to fame and fortune. During summer break Brian went off to summer camp for two and a half months. The rest of us were devastated. This was unforgivable, we thought, how could he leave the band for such an extreme length of time during such a crucial creative period? It was time to break up, that much was clear. Every great group has its time. We called Brian at camp and told him that the end had arrived. Immediately, the remainder of us started another sucky band that went nowhere and broke up in a matter of weeks. And so on. This continued throughout adolescence, with different people coming in and out, and will continue forever and ever in thousand towns all over this great country. Some of these bands will even record and release albums that make into stores and stuff. And that's cool, I guess. Hej Music RG

Dewey Defeats Truman The Road to Nowhere Maps EP
Really cool, chill indie rock. Like The Get Up Kids minus the pop-oriented bullshit. Although its catchy stuff its not poppy -- think similar to good mid '90s alternative such as Radiohead, Hum, Smashing Pumpkins, and Spacehog. Mountains of melody, laid back chord progressions, and interesting overlap vocals. Good use of distortion, even though they somehow still manage to sound cleaner than most indie rock. Extra points awarded for thanking Jagermeister and Miller High Life. I wanna get faced with these cats, Dewey holla! They write about stuff that really matters like pencil fights. DDT should further develop their original sound and continue to refuse the generic indie sound. Rock is not dead. Has Anyone Ever Told You? CR

Diabolical Exploits
Having the highest regard for any album cover featuring a burning village, I was a bit excited to hear what this band had to offer. Placing the CD briskly into the player, I was initially pleased with the first track. Fast-paced and reminescent of old skate rock, I thought that I was in for a album-long treat. I was wrong. Track two shattered all my hopes of putting this band into my frequent listing section. Lyrically speaking, this band embarrasses songwriters everywhere. (Example: You can't kill me cause I'm dead/and if I'm dead/I'm not alive.) Bands even touching on the phrase "bust a cap" just seem to annoy me. From here on out the album seemed to stay at a mildly even, though pulsing pace musically, never reaching a pinnacle. They just grind out songs the way I do my morning commute to work. I do like the drummers straight forward rhythm, and fills, but there's nothing overly exciting about it. If things like this don't bother you, and you want to hear a punk band, pick it up. If they do, beer is cheap, and it's a bit more filling. Substandard Records

Die Tomorrow Escaping a Shipwrecked Life
Gee whiz, I was expecting more from a band with a member who goes by the name "Evil Adam Baby Eater Girl Beater." Surprise, surprise, Die Tomorrow play monotone jock punk with forced vocals, sloppy guitar work (horrid solos free of charge) and little to no song variation. A demo quality effort from beginning to end. Distant Rise Records JS

The Discarded I Wont Live a Lie
It was only a matter of time before the fundamentalist Christians got their grimy hands on the uncharted territory of gutter/anarchy punk. The Discarded is basically a Sex Pistols cover band with God lyrics. Repeat: Sex Pistols with God lyrics. In fact, these four scary individuals flip the anarchy lyrics of the Pistols into feel good ditties like, "Don’t get me wrong, our government sucks, but we can’t destroy it, we can fix it!" When coupling that with preachy garbage like, "Do you think you can earn your way to heaven? The Blood of Jesus Christ is the only way," and a fake Johnny Rotten accent, and this could very well win a Grammy for comedy album of the year. The Legion JS

Discount Singles #1
Discount were always somewhat of an anomaly. Pride of southern Florida, they were a pop-punk band amongst the ranks of spastic emo bands and brutal metal maniacs. Heck, they even did some recording at legendary death metal recording studio Morrisound with Steve Heritage (Assuck), now how pop-punk is that?! Singles #1 is a packed collection of their 7" and compilation tracks, a trick employed by many bands and labels eager to get analog releases to the holy shrine of compact disc. Rarely do the songs warrant it, but they do here, especially for Discount fans or those who get stoked by Bay Area pop-punk bands like J Church, Tilt, and Monsula. This 16-song disc is strong throughout, even if the song ideas have a tendency to repeat themselves more and more as the disc wears on. Hey, maybe Discount was a Bay Area transplant whose rusty van broke down in Florida? It's a theory. New American Dream JS

DMS Self-Titled
This is some good stuff. What a man can do in his spare time with a 4-track and a casio. Steve Lamos is a hard working guy. When he’s not lending his drumming and trumpet skills to various outfits, he instructs the writer’s workshop at the University of Illinois while at the same time conducting his own stuff which is a cross between a low budget sci-fi soundtrack and synthesized performance art for the Podunk monkey hour. There is a method to his radness though and it takes form in quasical jazz shaking hands with electro, spawning a lasting buddy-hood for merry makers abroad. Some of this stuff would be good to play when you throw that haunted house dance party. Others are swell to add life as you take that tour of the local nuclear facility. All in all, hip shoe store music in Munich never had it so good. You can almost see Snake Pliskin running through darkened streets on this disc. Do we dance or do we start drilling? But it’s cool to take up welding just so you can wear those face masks. Arborvitae Records MW

Drowningman How They Light Cigarettes in Prison
Better than what Converge has given us recently and probably what Cave In would have released if they hadn't changed thier style. This band seems to have moved in to fill the void left by the more popular chaotic metal bands though not straying to far from their parents' style and formula. They certainly hold their own in musicianship and great vocals. We'll be looking forward to the next release. Revelation Records MH/AH

Drum and Bass The Collection DVD
My roommate's been renting all the Beatles films lately, and it got me wondering why bands don't put out musical films anymore. So while I was putting in the Drum and Bass: The Collection DVD, I hoped it might be an actual movie. A real drum and bass movie. What would that be like, I asked myself. So I came up with a quick plot and crossed my fingers. Here it is: Goldie, Photek, and Roni Size find a bag of ecstasy and are chased by a horde of angry ravers through the streets of Soho. Eventually, they befriend a lonely raver girl who promises to help them and leads them to her friends loft in Brooklyn where they all enjoy the ecstasy for the spectacular final dance number filled with wild visuals and serpentine percussion. Or hey, what about a Drum and Bass American Bandstand? That would be bad ass. Music Video Distributors RG

Dynamite Boy Somewhere in America
Musically, this is repetitive pop punk, identical to zillions of other bands out there jumping around and make wacky faces, tongues flapping from their pierced mouths. Too bad, the presentation of this album and the personal lyrics gave this a Lifetime or Gameface feel on first look, which would have been cool. Instead, Dynamite Boy storm through 13 songs of competent power punk in the Green Day vein. Solid, dynamic, fun, energetic, and, well ... hopelessly generic. Fearless Records JS

Earthride Taming of the Demons
Stoner rock, doom metal with Sabbath riffs aplenty and the ugliest vocals this side of Lemmy and his warts. Like all bong hit, heavy groove rock, Earthride requires a certain, um, mood in order to fully enjoy their tuneage. Okay, you have to be totally ripped on pot laced with angel dust, but since this friendly reviewer isn't going back on that horse anytime soon, I'll just have to pretend I'm massively stoned. Wow! Killer tunes, dude! Southern Lord JS

Electric Frankenstein The Buzz of 1000 Volts
Years ago I came across these guys in a small club in San Francisco. I don’t remember when or where exactly, but one thing I do remember, is not only liking the name, but also really digging the music. It was a few years back, as I say, and rock was taking a serious beating, especially here in SF, by the whole house music, lame alt-pop crap that was filling halls left and right, post dot com boom. Electric Frankenstein took the stage in full trash rock benevolence, with just a hint of Rob Zombie and a full case of cheap beer and Robert Williams artwork spectacular. In more ways than one, it was an important move on their part to come around and shake the foundation loose a bit and re-animate the withering scene that is loud guitars and rock 'n' roll bars.
So, when their new album came my way, The Buzz of 1000 Volts, I was pretty excited. I threw it on and turned it up and sat back prepared to be blown away. Well, I guess I hyped them up too much in my mind, because this album is just straight-ahead hip-shaking rock and didn’t blow me away as I thought it would. It’s fine, it does the job, and then after 13 tracks, it went off and I hadn’t left my chair to boogie or tear up the place. I let it sit for a day then I threw it on again. It was that initial separation from over-expectancy to knowing you won't like it that got me to fully appreciate the album. Electric Frankenstein is a charged trip wire of the dingy vault that is gutter rock -- the style which many tattoos and leather boots have inspired to go along with the motorcycle ride through the grimy city at night. I actually played it a third time before settling in and writing this report. I just wanted to be honest with you, coming from a heavy rock fan’s perspective. Steve Miller and his spook crew do you good and will leave many a broken tooth and bottle behind in their wake. Victory Records MW

Elliott False Cathedrals
Radiohead’s minimalist strip-down of recent years has brought formerly loud hardcore bands like Elliott down to earth. A quieter approach only makes electric wall of sound segments more interesting, and clarity is no longer the unattainable dream. Sure, there’s more Sunny Day Real Estate and Radiohead in these songs at times than there is Elliott, but it’s so well done and presses all of the right emotive buttons that any obvious influences are forgiven. Not quite an original masterpiece, False Cathedrals might be the signal that something completely special is about to happen. Revelation Records JS

Elliot If They Do
If you're a fan of past Elliot recordings -- the sweet vocals and upbeat emo style -- you certainly won't be disappointed with this release. It sounds as if they spent some quality time in the studio. There are more tempo changes and varied guitar riffs than I remember from past releases. Also re-releases of my all-time-favorite Elliot songs "The Watermark High" and "Halfway Pretty." What excuse do you have for not owning this? Initial Records MH/AH

Straight punk rock -- raw and classic. Like most punk, the vocalists hold this together. Nothing too original, but fun and easy to listen to. Lots of variety, certainly a bonus. New Disorder Records MH/AH

Escher Demo
Ten minutes and four songs of demo tape quality chugga chugga metalcore. A really, really good drummer cannot save a band who have employed Oscar the Grouch as their lead singer. This fucker is horribly out of tune, can’t sing (or even scream) to save his life, and thus drives a spike into the coffin of an already dead Escher. Oozing stop/start chops with metal riffs anyone who's owned a Slayer record could play in their sleep, this sunny CA band need to hang out at the beach more and enjoy the sea air. Maybe spend more quality time with the buried in concrete, but quasi-angelic, background singer; he’s got the right idea. Some divine inspiration is imperative at this particular junction. JS

Ester Drang Golden West
The plane lands in slow motion. Empty seats in a donut shop. The lake just before it freezes over. All of these things and so much more envelop you when Ester Drang takes over. There is a definate space quality here you should all look up, but the jingle-jangle lets us all know there is a luau somewhere deep within Oaklahoma. When the pills and brandy wash over you, and you’re able to see the ocean for the first time, this band will be drifting in and out of you, kissing your ears and making you upper-cut the cabana boy for no real good reason at all. It’s good to be alive, it’s good to have friends like this, and it’s good to drive fast through the Brittish countryside. A pal said this reminded him of My Bloody Valentine. He could be right. I said it reminded me of my old Snoopy sno-cone maker and tasting the strawberry lip gloss from Lisa Shneider. I think we’re both right. Burnt Toast Vinyl MW

Eulcid The Wind Blew All the Fires Out
First of all, the band and label really want you to know, the band name is pronounced Yule-cid. Geez, we wouldn't want anyone going around saying the name wrong now, would we? Reminds me of how I used to get teased as a kid in high school for saying Metal-icka … instead of the heshers’ choice pronunciation, Metallica. Ah, but I digress. Eulcid derive obvious inspiration from Fugazi and their DC ilk, but touring with bands like Cave In has also rubbed off on their sound, especially in the very hard to match high-pitched guitar ambience. The result is a confusing, often disjointed, listen with awkward, tuneless vocals. Songs are choppy and chaotic; often creating a restlessness that can only be cured by tightly closed eyes and deep concentration. Eulcid’s debut album is one to absorb over a long period of time, with the utmost of patience and a mind wide open. Best of luck with that. Second Nature Recordings JS

Explosions in the Sky Those Who Tell the Truth
Put this CD in you car CD player and take a nice autumn drive in the country. It paints a dreamy landscape of relaxing fresh air and trees ... lots of trees. I want to pack up my fishing rod and take a drive to my favorite place. Cruising along the twists and turns of a windy road as you gain speed for a inevitable crash. Explosions lulls you into a comfort zone then smacks you in the back of the head. Driving guitar harmonies and a great bass player mixed in just right. Great dynamics, song writing, and feeling are what makes this so good. A mix of The Cure with Sonic Youth. "Total silence to Total violence." Temporary Residence Records AH

The Facet Adult Comedy
The Facet were from Denver, Colorado, and they were madder than hell. Inside this final release is a crushing allegory on the dispossessed of South America. Well, not really. It's another hardcore album of love, loss, and frustration. How can we Gen Xers make a difference? More albums will have to be written until we can figure it out. The Facet were on the trail of the mystery before they split. Now we'll never know. Still, their final release, filled with chugging guitars, aggressive drums and punchy vocal cries do justice to a tragic world filled with ennui. True, The Facet can't save a generation, but they can give it space to think. Thanks fellas. Not Bad Records RG

The Flaming Stars Ginmill Perfume: The Story So Far 1995-2000
Genre ignorance aside, this sounds a little like Violent Femmes without the fun, or The Cramps without the schlock. Alternative Tentacles are infamous for branching out and extending the boundaries of underground music, and more power to them. Somebody out there follows the Flaming Stars, but everyone else will be scratching their chins. New wave garage blues surf lounge??? Alternative Tentacles Records JS

Filthy Thieving Bastards A Melody of Retreads and Broken Quills
This is like a super group of sorts in the punk community. Featuring members of The Swingin' Utters, Camper Van Beethoven, and Me First and The Gimme Gimme's, Filthy Thieving Bastards instill a more Pogues style of musicality than fast-paced punk rock. And believe me, these guys know what they are doing in this realm of music. A sort of pub sing-a-long storytelling manner of delivery using instruments that deviate from the condition of standard rock -- think mandolins, organs, violins, pianos, and accordions. The best thing about the whole project here is the wordsmithing alone. Their lyrics are the type of weave that only comes from years and years of experience and even more of drinking. Really, it's the type of almost Irish folk tunes that would make Shane McGowan smile wide. Except, lets hope he doesn't smile too wide 'til he gets them teeth of his fixed up a bit. Anyway, for fans of The Pogues and the afore mentioned bands, this is a no brainer to include in your collection. It is fun and extremely well done. Each song is an accompaniment to the other and it flows with gritty effervescence. That's all I gotta say about it. I'm gonna grab me a Guinness and play this thing again. BYO Records MW

Five Eight The Good Nurse
The newest release by the band FIVE EIGHT and frontman Mike Mantione, The Good Nurse, accomplishes what few bands today seem able to do…write good music. From the intricate arrangement of horns and guitars in "She’s Sleeping, to the melodic and sweeping track "Oh Surgery," this Deep Elm band puts together an array of ear candy for it’s listener. Clearly drawing influences from the classic rock era with their well placed bridges and taped effects, FIVE EIGHT also dabbles in the driving sounds of early REM and the power pop "stop and go" style of Built To Spill. Unfortunately for us who consider singing to be the most important instrument, and the hardest one to master at that, this album doesn’t quite deliver. Although, for those who enjoy the slightly off-key slacker style vocals, The Good Nurse just might be your new saving grace. And it’s not that Mike Mantione isn’t capable, because in gems like "The One Who Does Better" and "Florence" his vocals soar above the music perfectly in tune. Overall this album is more than pretty decent and if anything it shows major promise of talent coming forth in today’s rock scene where it is so scarce.
Deep Elm Records NH

Fleshies Kill the Dreamer's Dream
The once ground breaking political music label from San Francisco has been slipping of late. Not only are Alternative Tentacles' releases potential financial nightmares (target market, anyone?), the bands they are supporting just don't rock. It all started back in 1995 with the signing of Vancouver's Facepuller, their AT debut is a used bin favorite worldwide, and this release by Fleshies is another in the long line of big mistakes from AT. Even the social messages of the AT stable are faltering. Speed-punkers Fleshies do nothing but attempt to shock with their anti-PC lyrics, and nothing progressive, musically or lyrically, can come out of Kill the Dreamer's Dream. At this point, it's obvious Jello Biafra is asleep at the wheel. Time to put an end to an important label's legacy before that legacy gets dragged into the shitter. By the disposable sound of Fleshies, it might already be too late. Alternative Tentacles JS

Folly For My Friends
The day has finally come where a band can go from ska to hardcore to youth crew in one song. At long last, life is complete. Folly are for the folks that can’t decide between NOFX and Sick of It All. Hell, why not have the best of both worlds? Did anyone in this band stop to think about how horrible these two styles sound together? Did it ever occur to them that ska/straight-edge/hardcore is a genre best left untouched? Folly, indeed. The CD includes a video for the title track -- hardly a bonus. New World JS

Fridge Happiness
Praise comes in all shapes and forms. Fridge deserves all of the applause they receive after each song or performance; it is an exceptionally dizzying array of electro-bastics, combined with a searing ambiance and beat that transcribes by most standards a welling of the pot into a deep froth in which we all need to dip our ladles in and spoon gently inside. Like a beautiful ambush, Fridge display a resonance that very few accomplish with the same type of minimal convention. But (here it is) if you happen to go AGAINST the grain a bit, much to the dismay of digitized indie rockers, you may be labeled a fool, only due to the fact that it takes a certain grip and acceptation to fully head nod to this style of work. Hailing from London, as many other in their ilk do, they are no strangers to being hand shaken and admired ever since their debut CD Lojen in 1997, which introduced a sound and convex most of which weren't prepared for. Sure, metallic knob twisting and feline slinks of the beat-box were indeed being performed, but these guys happen to do it as if an idiot man-child were to pick up an instrument with very little influence and jam hard on it. Speaking of which, guitarist Kieran also plays in Four Tet, if that does anything for you. In fact the combined effort of the group have appeared on remixes for Pole, Aphex Twin, and Rothko. You dig yet? Its pretty clear and simple: If you happen to understand dusk and get into ambient soundscapes that you can (almost) dance to, then Fridge will be the next persistent enclave on your undeserving stereo system. Temporary Residence Ltd. MW 1.18.2002

Mid '90s chugga chugga. If you're a fan of this genre, you will be dancing. Reminds Allen of Green Rage or something on Catalyst Records. Raw vocals (raw recording for that matter). "I don't need your system. I don't need your shit. I don't need your system. I'm sick of it. Insubordinate." Kind of boring if you ask us ... and well, they did. Sinister Label MH/AH

Fury for Another Self-Titled
Skate punk. A genre long forgotten, on the day the backyard half pipe was scrapped for firewood, to be exact. What an adrenaline rush it was to drop off the 5-foot coffin and stick a 50/50 grind the length of the coping. Ah, skate punk. DC’s Fury for Another play straight ahead hardcore with an obvious nod to the likes of Minor Threat, Insted, Brotherhood, and Uniform Choice. They even dip into the second-generation positive hardcore territory, with the energy of Four Walls Falling and Youth of Today evident in their approach. Shit, maybe they’ve never heard of any of these bands (except Minor Threat, of course) -- too busy skating curbs down at the local 24 store. As a sentimental touch, Fury for Another steal the chorus of Underdog’s "Frontside Grind" for their "Skate Anthem," on purpose or by accident, it doesn’t matter. Skate punk comes full circle, along with a hankering for the backyard half pipe. Smorgasbord Records JS

Gameface / Errortype 11 What's up Bro?
These bands are big and chances are you know what they sound like. Both bands sound like they should be on the radio ... from us, this is not a compliment. Gameface equals Goo Goo Dolls. ET:11, well the recording is terrible. They have nothing original to offer, and we have nothing original to say. Revelation Records MH/AH

The Gamits A Small Price to Pay
The press with this CD says these guys used to play metal. I think they should go back to their hesher ways. At first listen I thought this was a alright CD, but then I started to really listen to it. The music is driving pop punk ala Greenday/Weezer mixed with a really overproduced sound which makes this so sugar coated that it ruins what edge this band may have. Vocals are not bad but lack that certain something to really make them stand out from millions of others. Nothing really outstanding on the instrument end either. The lyrics are the usual "means a lot to the artist but not to the listener" type. This CD came with a lot of hype about how this band is "America's Top Pop Combo." I guess this just does not appeal to me because its been done about 3 billion times. My suggestion is to mix some metal in for a unique sound. Suburban Home AH

Garrison A Mile in Cold Water
Emo rock, DC-style. Varying vocals, interesting guitars, driving drums. There is also no song formula to be discovered here. Not as inspiring or moving as Seven Storey Mountain, but good all the same. We are definitely keeping this for our collection. Revelation Records MH/AH

Garrison Be a Criminal
The lyrical theme of crime runs through Be a Criminal, only adding to the focus and cohesiveness of one of the best rock records in a while. First impressions are not to be trusted, especially in the case of Boston's Garrison, who have an uncanny ability to write songs that invade the psyche upon repeated listens. The production by J. Robbins is fitting, since tunes like "Recognize an Opportunity," "Cover the Tracks with Cash," and "Commit, Commit, Commit" have a definite late Jawbox feel about them. Robbins thankfully does not encourage the likeness for the entirety of Be a Criminal, instead opting to nurture Garrison's sparkling originality and keen sense of themselves. The ten songs on this album range from fast, driving pop with glistening hooks, to somber, dream-like ballads. The anthem also plays an important part in Garrison's sound, as songs like "Dump the Body" get the fist pumping and the head bobbing. No song here matches the stand-alone brilliance of "New Habits for Old Friends," from their split with Hundred Reasons on Simba Records, but Be a Criminal impresses and gleans as a wonderful whole. Revelation Records JS

This is what Poison The Well would sound like if they were from Southern California in the early '90s and were signed to Epitaph in their heyday. The production reeks of Donnel Cameron (who did Bad Religion from Suffer to Generator, NOFX, Pennywise, etc.), yet the metal parts are really good. In fact, the metal parts are so cool, it just pisses me off when they start breaking into recycled pop-punk garbage. With more direction, this band could be excellent. I could see this really growing on me. I’d be willing to bet that they’d be good live, but this record is just way too slick. As it is, they are one of many who will follow in the footsteps of PTW, Shai Hulud, Morning Again, Culture, etc. Fearless Records AH

The Goblins Missing Fits
There's a band in the Bay Area called SuperDiamond and all they play are Neil Diamond songs. I used to follow Herb, who played only Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I like cover bands who make a commitment. At one Herb show outside Candlestick, the headliner was a cover band called the Cheeseballs who played covers of the B-52's and other crap of that ilk. What bullshit. Bands like that ought to be in high school auditoriums, not in front of a paying crowd. It almost killed my heavy King Cobra buzz. My dream cover band is called the Michael McDonald experience, and we will blow the roof off with our renditions of the bearded soulster. The only song we won't play is "Playin' by the Rules" which, let's face it Michael McDonald fans, isn't very good. My Pal God Records RG 1.18.2002

Sharon Goodling Wait
I think just about every suburban kid has a park to call home. Mine was a community park shared by the junior high. It had a pool, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, and a rec center that put on Haunted Houses every year. There was even a canyon. My park had it all. It really helped pass the time growing up. If there was nothing to
do, you could hang out in the park. I remember us driving a packed Geo on the wet grass one night, running naked through the sprinklers another. Finding out ways to amuse yourself is an important distraction. In fact, it's a lifestyle choice when done right. Luckily, there are tools to help us. Some are just better than others. Bailey Records RG 1.18.2002

Grade Headfirst Straight to Hell
So much has been made of Grade's return to the heavier sounds, I was expecting this new record to be cheesy, over the top metalcore. Instead, we have a needlepoint focused, yet entirely Grade-like collection of rock songs. Sure, lead screamer Kyle Bishop and the dual guitar attack add dense layers of distortion and spine chills, but the 15 songs represented here don't stray too far from the indie-rock tuneage we've come to associate with Grade. On the downside, the metal motif is a bumbling stretch; the cover art looks like a bad black metal or grindcore CD, but the songs are more like Jimmy Eat World or Get Up Kids with a few Maiden riffs thrown in here and there. Maybe the metal thing's all a big joke for them, but it really detracts from some kick-ass and otherwise serious songs. Victory Records JS

Greg MacPherson Band Good Times Coming Back Again
G7 has had such deserved success due to releases by The Weakerthans, it was only a matter of time before the Winnipeg label released another classic folk punk band. The Greg MacPherson Band is that band. Don't get too excited, but this is actually better than The Weakerthans -- a more well-rounded listen with complete songs that rock out when needed, but also know when to downshift without meandering and hit home during the right moments. Also, MacPherson's husky voice is far superior to the love 'em or hate 'em whine of The Weakerthans' John K. Sampson. MacPherson has been a noted Winnipeg musician for some years, and has played with many of the scene's veterans. On Good Times Coming Back Again, he employs the talents of many familiar Winnipeg names. Among others, almost all of The Weakerthans make an appearance, but it is MacPherson's smoky, homey voice that hammers this album home. Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen are inevitable, even based solely on the singing style, but he surely won't mind them. G7 Welcoming Committee JS

The Grinders Somewhere Between Ape and Man
I propose a new faction of music be opened. The term "Nyah Nyah Rock" should be awarded to bands such as The Grinders. It is that edgy hard-pop approach to being snotty and dorky enough to start a great band and get laid a lot because of it. It is almost glam, almost trash, and somewhere between Romper Room and Night Flight. These four guys from Rochester, NY do it to ya straight ahead and with a jangle in their pocket. They landed themselves on a very appropriate label, Garage Pop, because that, in effect, is what we got here. Although there is a good amount of glitz to propel it just one notch or two beyond ... and into the realm of Nyah Nyah Rock! Ha ha. C'mon, work with me here. That brand could really make it. I mean, just give a listen to guitarist/singer Todd Dentico's voice. It's that nasal resonance with the tongue sticking out for each "Yeah" that deserves to be called something slightly infantile. Garage Pop Records MW

Grill Body 5 Self-released demo
Here's a four piece doing East coast indie-rock/pop-punk (an oxymoron, in my opinion) in the vein of Weezer with a dash of ska thrown in for good measure. They lack the pretenses of being "rockers" -- instead they focus on having a good time. They are the musical equivalent of a glass of lemonade made too sweet, some people really like it, but it gives the rest of us a toothache. I am sure that the kids in Cumberland, MD love them. If you miss the Lookout sound circa 91, check these guys out. MW

Left Behind EP
I see a thrusting dawn over the cavalcade of tract houses. The steely red dawn looms as the morning papers are delivered coffee sputters on, alarm clocks beep and buzz, and the whole world continues to spin in the rampaging sterility of the obvious nature of the everyday. Somewhere deep within the confines of the suburban cage lies one little heart pounding louder than (what they think) anyone else's. The pale moon, the firefly stars, and the rest of the unknown lay sprawling before this lonely only child left all by themselves in a darkened room with no one to care for or notice. Do you, brave pillar of seething emotion, feel left behind? Do you cringe when the line forms long and twisted on Taco Tuesdays down in the cafeteria? Is everybody else doing something so cool you know you will never be a part of? When they handed out souls, did you get the lions share? But when they handed out looks, confidence, luck, charisma, and clear skin, did you get the scraped bowl's worth? As you write your bad poetry, don black clothes, and skulk in the halls and books by Schopenhauer, do you realize that, yes indeed, you have been left behind? Oh the mortification! Oh great futile life, why have thou scorned me! Woe, but woe is shrouded over my sad form, as I lock the door, take thy rip off the bong and play my new EP. So behind. So, utterly, utterly ... far behind. W Recordings MW 1.18.2002

A-G, H-M, N-Z

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