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N-Z Music Reviews

The Nerve Agents Days of the White Owl – Goofy piano intro and outros do no justice to the pretty killer punk/hardcore this quintet from San Francisco spurt out. Although the horror imagery -- complete with dark rings painted under the band members’ eyes -- would make any self-respecting music fan cringe, The Nerve Agents more than make up for this blunder with their drive and attack. Like the mutant offspring of The Misfits, 7 Seconds, Cro-Mags, and New York City youth crew bands, these guys rip through 16 songs in less than 30 minutes with ease. Admittedly, there are a few clunkers in the bunch (their cover of 45 Grave’s "Evil" just flops) and the songs start to sound samey after three or four listens. In any event, this band is one to check out if you even remotely pine for the old days of punk and hardcore. Revelation

Niblick Henbane Go Away
Ah, the forgotten genre of Oi music. Niblick Henbane claim to be one of America’s first Oi bands, and have been supposedly stomping heads since 1987. Oi is more interesting than three-chord punk, but not as dynamic or energetic as hardcore. Vocals are usually razorblades and aspirin throat damage, we’re talking severe strain to the ol’ vocal chords for this rough and raw sound. Niblick Henbane is fun, talented, and simple. Not bad for a merry band of old geezers ... too bad they elected to print a collage of band photos (the lads aren’t the most photogenic bunch, either) instead of a lyric sheet. The song topics seem pretty tame and good natured though, especially the Ren and Stimpy reworking of "Happy Happy Joy Joy" to, yup, "Happy Happy Oi Oi." Those wacky Oi rockers! TKO Records JS

Oblivion Suckers From the Start
The gritty side of '80s pop punk. Short songs, silly antics. Minor Threat acting all goofy. Skate skate skate ... circle pit circle pit circle pit. Very good for this genre .... we like it! Sinister Label MH/AH

Despite the cover of their 7" looking a bit like a cheesy emo record,
Organic kicks out five tunes of melodic punk rock not unlike Fifteen. Tracksl ike "Flag" and "Tribulation" are good, straightforward sing-a-long pop punk while "Broken" and "Hot Words, Wax Lips" exhibit a somewhat more mellow, indie-rock slant but still kick into faster parts. The lyrics are extremely personal, contemplative, downtrodden, and sometimes even suicidal. The music is very well played and enjoyable. I'm sure if I'd lived in Berkeley, Calif. during the late 1980s and early '90s and been involved with the punk scene, a band like this playing today in the same style as many of the classic outfits would mean quite a lot to me. This is highly recommended for fans of Fifteen or Crimpshrine or people who dig good, old-style melodic punk but are sick and tired of the bands from the Fat Wreck Chords/Epitaph mall bilge that masquerade as such.
Microcosm BD

Owen Self-Titled
Seasoned veteran Mike Kinsella puts together a wonderful CD of acoustic songs for that library that you love to do reading in. He has been in bands like American Football, Cap'n Jazz, and Joan of Arc, none of which I care for too awfully much. But this I love. Mike plays every instrument competently and excells in his guitar and especially in his vocals. Excellent acoustic guitar sound. To me, this is thought-rock -- easy going so it lets your mind drift fluidly from thought to though but driving and exciting enough to keep new thoughts coming. Soothing on a hard day. To Mike's credit he recorded and produced his own album in his home studio and trust me you would never know. Excellent on every level. Polyvinyl Record Co. AH

Park No Signal
Lobster Records tour idea: match up Park and Mock Orange. This album sounds like Mock Orange and older The Get Up Kids material. So blatantly Get Up Kids from vocals to cheesy basslines it makes me sick. Your typical midwest indie/emo. Good vocals and harmonies but they lack their own unique sound, style or attitude. Park has good song writing but the album just lacks any original appeal that would put them forward of thousands of others. Lobster Records AH

Pele Enemies
This is pretty post-rock, if that's of any relevance any more. Now that we have that out of the way, Pele makes idiosyncratic, engaging indie rock with heavy nods toward fusion and progressive rock noodling. Enemies is jazzy in its complexity, informed by post-punk in its atonality and penchant for abrupt chord changes, and a little avant-garde in its digressions of tape manipulation. There are no vocals, but I think that Don Caballero (who Pele bear only a slight resemblance to; perhaps a midway point between that band and Tortoise) finally proved to us that rock music doesn't necessarily need vocals to have an impact. Post-rock, or whatever, this is slightly awkward, angular fusion music that neither employs nor needs vocals and hold your attention less through hooks than through twisting, bucking soundscapes on top of driving rhythms. You'll be amazed at how deep this record sounds while it's really not much more than a bass player, a drummer and a guitarist playing live in the studio with a few sound effects thrown into the mix for good measure. Even if you are rock purist, you had ought to at least make a little space for this stuff, because Pele packs more emotional content (i.e. elation, bemusement, uncertainty) into its music than a lot of bands you'll hear hollering about it. Polyvinyl Records CO

Pele Realize It
To me, Pele was this fabulous soccer player. In like the '70s and '80s, this guy dominated the field with his skill and dexterity. To wit, his charisma gained him international fame. Much like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Fran Tarkinton but only the few select got an actual video game molded after them. Well, at least named after them. I think Tiger and Mike have a video game or two with their image on it, but Fran ... yeah, I don't know. Actually, I still have the "Pele's Soccer" for the Atari 2600; this maddening venture of squares upon squares that hit a square into this square field goal thing. Real bad for the thumbs because you are constantly jamming that fiery red button to run run RUN with the ball intact in front of you. Ugh, no wonder I drink so much Hamms just to make it through one round with this guy Vernon, some couch surfer who promises that, someday!, he'll move out and leave my friggin refrigerator alone. Anyway, Pele the modern band is quite different from the Pele athlete. I don't see the fast moving soccer hero really parrying up to the light instrumentals that convey the mysteries of our surroundings that are represented here on this disc. Two songs, that's all we get, but seeing as the first track is 11 minutes and the second just over 18, I think we can forgive them for the lack of "proliferation." Rather, I got the impression that Pele is more like a soundtrack to some lonely desert sojourn, as we hop skip and jump all the way to the next mirage. The thoughtlessness of modern and past lives is cut by the fickle wares of patterned beauty; suckling menders and full troughs of goat herd bearings. No more scrapes and boundaries, no more props and being taught words, this is the real deal and overall, the future looks dim and prosperous. There is no turning back ... only hope and severance. I'll see you there. Just bring the paddles man. ‘Cause "Kaboom!" is an even greater challenge. Crouton Records MW 1.18.2002

Pinhead Circus Pinhead Circus EP
Can you imagine a circus of Pinheads? You would probably never laugh
more in your life. The ringmaster's regalia would consist of long johns coupled with a boot for headgear and would speak through a handful of warm oatmeal. Instead of a lion, the tamer would combat a bowl of chicken and barley soup. The high wire act would be two drunken bums battling for dominance and would only result in pratfalls. Oh, and rings of fire? Hey, everyone's on fire! I personally would be pissing my pants. Literally! I'd be drinking pudding and eating honeyed rocks and sitting in my own feces! Oh man, that would be amazing, because circuses these days are just dumb elephants and shit. Not Bad Records RG 1.18.2002

Pinq Quiet Games for the Hot Weather
Pinq's newest CD, Quiet Games for Hot Weather, is like a short journey into the noise pop revolution. Don't worry if you don't have a passport though, they provide a guide. The virtual reality setting is somber and your tour guide, the hypnotic Tim Mitchell, sings you through the landscape. This CD creates such a somber and almost meditative mood, it should come with a warning label: Do not operate heavy machinery. You don't remember exactly when it started, but you can't escape their funk once you are inside Pinq's world. The combination of keys, guitars, bass, drums, and "electronic stuff" transports you into a world of cooler. Pinq makes you feel like you spent a long night partying at a very posh bar; and, after you get home, this CD should warm you up faster than a hookah -- unfortunately the music does not taste as good. The introspective lyrics can be quite intense at times, but that is why the instruments play slow, powerful, and dream-like music. This emo-power-pop-rock doesn't highlight one song over any of the others. They all meld well into and out of each other. Another impressing factoid is that this is their first full-length CD, on their own label. If that's not fun then I don't know what is. JR

Pirx the Pilot Hit Single 7"
It would be tempting to dismiss Pirx the Pilot's new self-titled EP as unremarkable bargain-bin fodder. After all, the basic traits of generic garage alternative are there: the generally angst-y subject matter; the downright stubborn avoidance of any melody that might be considered "commercial"; and the homogenous feel of every song, eventually resulting in a sort of boredom for the ear. (A pretty amazing accomplishment for a CD that clocks in at just over 11 minutes.) The problem is, parts of it are really good -- good enough to make you wish the whole thing were better. The lyrics are sharp ("You keep me dancing on my grave/There'll always be pieces I want to save"), and the band gives off a definite Pixies vibe -- thanks in large part to Erica's hazily Deal-ish backing vocals. The one song on which she sings lead, "Potato Cannon Ricochet," has the skewed energy of early Throwing Muses. Unfortunately, there's not a "Debaser" or "Dragonhead" to be found here ... just the first few steps of what is bound to be an interesting journey. Here's hoping they send a postcard when they get there. GW

Pitch Black Self-Titled
While guitarist/vocalist Kevin Cross' last band, The Nerve Agents, were somewhat of a letdown, Pitch Black are a pleasant surprise. These Bay Area bashers manage to make the horror rock/Misfits motif work, something only AFI has recently been able to do (without looking like total fools). Even the current incarnation of the Misfits weren't able to make the spooky punk thing work post-2000. What makes Pitch Black successful is the ability to sound creepy and not take themselves too seriously at the same time. Lyrics revolve around digging graves, Halloween, and dark love stories, but also have enough depth to be relevant in the real world. And while their sound is heavily influenced by early Misfits and their hometown AFI buddies, Pitch Black are not squeamish about deviating from their formula to bust out power ballads (see: "Resting Place") or straight up speedcore like "Destructive Criticism." Grab the claw hammer and rip a few nails out of that coffin, Pitch Black need help exhuming the horror punk corpse. Revelation Records JS

Planes Mistaken for Stars Knife in the Marathon
Aggressive and harmonious with dual vocals and a distinct late Unbroken style. PMS (I wonder if that was intentional) gives their listeners straight forward lyrics, a plethora of tempo changes, and good musicianship. We love the Unbroken cover. Deep Elm Records MH/AH

Point Of No Return self-titled 7"
It's seven more inches of Xvegan moshX from Catalyst records! This time, the band is Point of No Return, hailing from Sao Paolo, Brazil. They chug through the record sounding like your standard straight-edge mosh band, but the lyrics seem to deviate somewhat from the norm. Instead of talking about "purification" and being drug free, they sing about Brazil being under the thumb of the US, child labor, TV advertisements, and prisons. They're on the whole a bit more interesting and less alienating than the stuff mosh-metal bands usually write about. Even if it's musically uninteresting, it's still good to see labels like Catalyst trying to make bands from foreign countries accessible to people who normally wouldn't be exposed to them.
Catalyst Records BD

The Priests
Totally unprepared, the no-fi sound of the Priests had the head-bobbing and the crotch-throbbing, if you can excuse the imagery. Goddamn, I haven't heard raw garage rock like this album's opener/intro "The Tingler" since the heyday of the Oblivians or early, early Jon Spencer. Too bad, this thing fizzles, like, real fast and gets downright creepy a few songs in. Like a dirty, old pervert in a trench coat, peeking in your window late at night, the Priests make the skin crawl of anyone within earshot. Too bad, I thought they were onto something for a moment. Garage Pop Records JS

The Promise My True Love
Holy shit! That's what I said when I saw the gnarly packaging for this thing, skulls galore! Holy fuck! That's what I said when we rocked this in that scumbag Geis's Dodge Neon. He has the am/fm cassette player and the car kit walkman CD player just like me, high rollers folks, I tell you. Dude can you believe that Microsoft Word wants me to capitalize walkman? I wonder how much sony paid them to do that? And now sony comes up as a spelling error because I didn't capitalize it, yet the word sony when capitalized appears in its dictionary, it's a crazy world we live in. Anyway this CD is so fucking rad. It is a two-song breath of fresh air into the incredibly stale hardcore world. Super-fast guitars, brutal blast beats, and angry vocals bring me back to when hardcore was interesting. This is a must for fans of Slayer, old Earth Crisis, '80s heavy metal, (not the hair kind, the I-want-to-kill-you-and-myself-at-the-same-time kind) Unbroken, Harvest, Sabbath, or anyone who likes just gnarly music. By the lyrics I inferred that the Promise is indeed straight edge and I have heard there are former members of One King Down, and Another Victim, but The Promise is something completely different than these bands. The vocals are harsh screams that don't sound generic like so many other shitty cookie-cutter acts today, there's classy solo riffs and an intense rhythm section which provides a wall of sound ala Black Sabbath or the Misfits. Can't wait for the full length! Deathwish Inc. CR

Propagandhi Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes
Propagandhi have really outdone themselves this time. With the addition of distorto-bassist Todd, who used to play in another great Winnipeg band called I Spy, the band has amped their sound and intensity. Chris, who used to be the band’s screamier vocalist, now takes on the melodic vocal compliment to Todd’s gravel-pit pipes. A raunchy ode to the thrash metal they grew up on, but still maintaining the pop sensibilities that make their songs so fucking skull ingrained after two listens, Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes has Propagandhi at the absolute pinnacle of their careers. While previous albums dipped and soared, their third never lets up. Highlights among an album of highlights are the angry frolick of "Back to the Motor Leagues," the quintessential anthem "Natural Disasters" (in just over two minutes), and the progressive thrash (complete with blazing guitar solo) of "Purina Hall of Fame." Really, every song here is a winner, and no two of the 14 songs sound the same, showcasing a band that have the talent and creativity to single-handedly redefine the whole melodic hardcore genre. In 20 years, when every tenth generation Epitaph/Fat band is forgotten, Propagandhi will be the reference point for a style of music that did have redeeming value, if only played by people with the right motives and intelligence to pull it off. But, the music is just the beginning. As always, a Propagandhi lyric sheet and booklet is a life-changing learning tool, with the kind of personal touch and honest approach that makes you compelled to listen, think and act. One step further on this record is an enhanced CD-ROM track for your computer including video shorts about the band, and social commentary by authors Ward Churchill and William Blum. This is the best and most honorable use of an enhanced CD to date. Truly more than music, Propagandhi’s latest CD has it all. G7 Welcoming Committee JS

Psuedo Heroes Betraying Angry Thoughts
The cheap cover art of this release betrays what is a solid album by Down By Law guitarist Sam Williams, joined by Kevin Coss on bass and Williams' childhood buddy Carlos Collins-Valez on drums. They must've owed a favor to a friend or something. Though it doesn't seem to cover any new territory, Betraying Angry Thoughts sounds really refreshing. It pleasantly transports you back to a time when you hadn't listened to a thousand punk LPs, and bands like the Descendants were totally new to you. Milo Goes to College? That's sounds interesting, you said to yourself, What? The lead singer's going to study chemistry at UCSD? What is this strange new world called punk rock? Good times. For me, that was also a time where I wasn't getting laid. Thank God that's over. Theologian Records RG

Purification Vessel Of Wrath
With this release, Indiana's Catalyst Records brings us another platter of tiresome vegan mosh metal. Purification, who hail from Italy, play music in the standard moshing fare in the vein of bands like Earth Crisis with metallic guitars, plodding drums, and a bass that chugs along with lots of open-E action. The vocals are barked above the din in the way that just about every other mosh band does them. Accompanying the record are the lyrics and writings on consumerism and the effects it has on the environment, animals, and people. While I can for the most part agree with the environmental views, it's extremely hard to take bands like this seriously when they have lines like, "From this era of decadence the righteous ones will rise with burning eyes to set the world ablaze" and constantly refer to some sort of mythical "purification." It's ridiculous, unintentionally cheesy lyrics and writings such these that ultimately serve to make vegan, straightedge bands extremely inaccessible to the people they are trying to reach (read: "those outside their movement"). This record will probably appeal to anyone who likes the traditional vegan, straightedge mosh -- I'm almost positive that this crowd won't be disappointed. Catalyst Records BD

Qualm Preventing Explosion
It is always good to hear a story or read a tale of some boyhood experience, even in this era of overexposure to too much man-dominated information and the ever-increasing amount of pulp slop begot by some uber suburban truant. Malls, skateboarding, chicks: we know the drill, right? Still, without them coming, the other entries in the world would seem trite and dull, because that's all we would have -- just that, nothing more. It's no different in the hardcore music scene. Just how many outfits do we really need in the same ilk before we get the main idea? Who's to tell? In any case, Qualm is a fine understanding that young boy angst is all too important and that tract house malaise demands to be addressed and dealt with accordingly. So they learn to play instruments and start a band. Thus, giving us a tight retribution of the qualities that we still need in informative pop culture entertainment. Punk has always been a fine outlet for nervous energy trapped in a body going through rapid change preparing for the doom of unstoppable adulthood. Besides, slam dancing is fun and everybody should get to tell their side of the story, in any form they want! Not Bad Records MW

Quest for Quintana Roo
Lo-fi packaging immediately resonates a warm and fuzzy feeling, as Quest for Quintana Roo do their best quiet/loud attempt at screamo. Ah yes, screamo, it’s emo but screamier. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve, and then ripping it off your sleeve and crushing it in your hand. "I’m sensitive but I'm fucking angry. I love the bunnies and the trees, but fuck the world needs a real kick in the ass!" To their credit, this band seems fairly intelligent lyrically, and the music is done well. Don't expect any musical breakthroughs or songs to latch onto here, the songs are mostly binge and purge material. It's so hard to tell if this stuff is contrived or from the gut, but Quest for Quintana Roo is still one zillion times better than all of those goofy tight jeans/greaser bands around today. New Disorder Records JS

The Quitters Are King!!!
At my orthodontist's office in 5th grade, there were pictures on the wall depicting kayakers braving rapids with motivational phrases next to them like "Winners never quit, Quitters never win." I'd sit in the chair and read that over and over again while my teeth sat in plaster. I think the phrase is true. Next to the kayak photos were photos of my orthodontist flying biplanes He was a pilot. He, one could say, never quit. John Denver was also a pilot, and was a crossover success as a folk act. Christ, that's incredible. He did die on his plane though. But he never quit, not once. Neither did my orthodontist who also died in a plane crash. Man, this world is bumming me out lately. At least we know who the leaders are: the Quitters, our self-proclaimed royalty. That'll make knowing who to bow to a lot easier. Garage Pop Records RG 1.18.2002

The Quitters Second Album
The Quitters' Second Album is too much of a bad thing. The white CD jacket is similar to those from the 1950s and early '60s, with large letters, lots of musician photos on the cover, the phrase "high fidelity," and various exclamations, and I made the mistake of raising my expectations to the level of its boasting cover. There are about 23 mostly short rock songs with undistinguished lyrics on the album, including a bonus song. The first song, "Monkee Suit" (sic), sounds a bit like the early The Specials circa 1980, a mocking song about conformity. "I Got You, Babe" is a mean-sounding love song (very unlike the Sonny and Cher song of the same name). "Let's Get Real," is punk crossed with country. "Believe," one of the better songs, is about belief and brain-washing, and the singer has high energy and great lung capacity as he sings lines such as "believe what they won't see ... believe what you don't know." "Midnight at 7-11" seems to say "The jungle is full of monkeys -- they're reproducing" and "People [are] trying to sell Pampers so they can buy a little refreshment, liquid courage," and while there is a form of wit here, I couldn't decide if this was social criticism or racism. "No Silly" has a quick intense beat, punky, with a shouting voice, and is about betrayal, and it's not bad; it is what some of the other songs might have been if better-arranged or performed. "How to Mummify A Cat" is spoken and ends disgustingly, with a cat as soup. Garage Pop Records DG

Raccoons Self-Titled
"Eh, you hear that 'ma?"
"What, boy?"
"Them critters is out in the garbage, rooting around the chicken bones.
I can't stand it no more, Ma! Every night they're out there tearing up the place and I gotta clean it up." I'm a gonna kill 'em."
"Don't do it boy. Leave 'em be. It's nature."
"It's nature to kill weakly animals, Ma. It's nature for me to hunt, and tonight I'm gonna hunt for raccoon hide. I'm gonna get you a coat, Ma, a beautiful new fur coat, just you wait and see."
"You spoil me boy, you spoil me." Crouton Records RG

RAGE: 20 Years of Punk Rock West Coast Style DVD
This was a fun documentary. Jello Biafra, Jack Grisham, Keith Morris, and a few other minor players from major bands in LA and SF talk about the history of west coast American punk rock. Yes, this has been done before (and probably better, too). It was still fun to see some Dead Kennedy’s live footage accompanied by Biafra talking (again) about how he became a target for Tipper Gore. I thought it was sad that so many great LA and SF bands were completely omitted. There was no mention of Black Flag, Fear, Minutemen, Avengers, or Descendents at all, and only passing references to the Nuns, X, Crime and the Dickies. This was a criminal act. Sometimes this shit never gets old, even with big holes missing. This DVD comes highly recommended for anyone who thought The Decline of Western Civilization was as good as Citizen Kane. Music Video Distributors MM

Rah Bras Ruy Blas!
A wounded animal needs to be put out of its misery. The suffering must end, it’s the humane thing to do. When an animal needs to be put down, no one wants to be the one to pull the trigger, but when the ghastly sounds of the beast in pain are all that can be heard, it doesn’t take long for someone to grab the gun. Boom! It’s over. Rah Bras are a sick, dying animal of keyboards and best forgotten new wave; a limping, festering beast with hind quarters shattered to dust and thick runnels of snot and blood coming from its ears, nose and mouth. Their time is over. Featuring ex-members of Men’s Recovery Project. Lovitt Records JS

Rally Boy Hooks & Crutches
College rock in the Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Pavement vein. The mighty Sebadoh also rears their heads, especially in the schizophrenic pairing of "Low E," a straight-out ballad, and "Slang Tips," a Jason Lowenstein bit of unbridled rage, and noisy as hell. Six songs from a band who are quasi-listenable, yet utterly boring, because of too much reliance on the styles of their obvious influences. Jealous Butcher JS

Rational Solution Self-Titled 7"
Rational Solution plays your standard crust, mid-paced, sloppy punk with "cookie monster" vocals and political lyrics that don't amount to much more than mindless political sloganeering. It's not that this is unlistenable -- they actually remind me of a slower, sloppier Civil Disobedience -- it's just that I feel like I've heard and seen this stuff a million times before. The lyrics are just plain cliche, giving you nuggets of wisdom like, "Fight racism, not each other/ Erase the hate and not your brother" and "There's no end for violence/ There's no end for war/ There's just one question/ Who'll stop the violence." The band also packs the record with a bunch of fliers they've lifted from PETA and other groups and a silly, badly written rant on flag burning. The cover is the usual photocopied deal depicting a rather poorly drawn picture of Ronald McDonald crucified, and the circle A's and E's and peace symbols are slapped on wherever a place can be found. With other interesting, thoughtful, sincere politically oriented acts that refrain from mindlessly regurgitating ideology gleaned from some other band's lyric sheet, is this record really even necessary? Microcosm Records BD

ReJx 300 Orchard Place
Some take pride in being a dork. That’s cool. Be what you are, be proud and sing real loud! Better yet, start a band so you can crank your idiocisms up to 11 and get the crowd moving to your maniacal energy of stupidity. ReJx sing mainly about the title of the album --some punk-rock flophouse casbah located at 300 Orchard Place, somewhere in Pittsburgh, Pa. Apparently you can pee on the floor if you really have to go and the kitchen reeks of rotting food. Ah, paradise! Otherwise, it is a lost cause rebel’s crash pad and beer swill hideout/hangout. Other tunes deal with their childhood, which is long since past so lets act like drunken fools and mess things up. Yeah. The music is standard dirt punk. Sometimes irresponsible guys with amplifiers get lucky. Uprising Publications MM

Stephanie Rearick The Long Picnic
Imagine someone playing the soundtrack to her dreams for you. A woman sits down to her piano and painting an intimate picture for you. She guides you by the hand through a series of situations and pictures and bizarre stories, and you've got Stephanie Rearick's solo CD. Rearick's unusual piano harmonies and melodies set this trippy mood, but mainly she uses her voice as the most powerful instrument of imagery in The Long Picnic. Her unusual piano compositions sound like a despondent twist of classical and experimental melodies. The music progresses through stages in each song and throughout the CD, but it is hard to tell where she will turn next. Rearick has mastered the soulful piano instrumentals in the first track, "Folk Tune," and last track, "Cosmic." These songs are slow and sweet and transition well in and out of this dream world. Rearick moves fluidly between her instrumental songs and her lyrics. Her playful lyrics match the unusual piano melodies and harmonies. Moving from the sarcastic to the romantic in, Rearick proves that she has dreamed about, or at least thought about most scenarios, and she expresses herself through her piano. Rearick presents so many images and moods in her songs, the only consistency is that they are all unusual. Uvulittle Records JR

Red Level Eleven Fort Seduction
Intense climactic rock. Twangy at times, rhythmic at others. Building, driving music with incredible female vocals reminiscent of Chinchilla. The lyrics are well written and emotional. The music is distant and familiar. They use guitars for intros then break starting back up again with an eruption of sound. Think talented indie rock with strong female vocals. The nostalgic "Freshman Year" is my favorite track. Cool name, cooler packaging. CR

Red Shirt Brigade Home of the Cannon Saints
The Red Shirt Brigade makes me tap my feet through their peppy-pop-power-pieces. Listen to the 13 tracks off Home of the Cannon Saints while skipping through the mall to buy your new frock from a favorite franchise. What comes to mind when you hear the song title, "Thugs with Venom?" Well, they don't play it like that, no not that way either. Keeping with the unwritten rules of indie-rock, their songs are somewhat introspective, a pinch catchy, and just enough different from anything else you have heard to earn them a place with everything else you are listening to in your indie-rock collection these days. These guys have a certain way of making sense of somewhat nonsense lyrics. Where else would you find "complete ... always since the day we try" sung in chorus with guitars and a synthesizer? It is hard to categorize this band, or group them with some others, because their style changes a little from song to song. They are keeping you on your toes. RSB definitely have been listening to some Radiohead and Elvis Costello, and let me tell you, these off sides influences have come together quite nicely. The CD picks up in the first few seconds, and won't let you down. Quite catchy RSB, really quite catchy. Team AV/SSM JR

Remembering Never She Looks So Good in Red
This boring metalcore release is significant only for its lyrical content. She Looks So Good in Red is basically a concept album about killing women who have ended relationships with the boneheads in the band. Geez guys, keep writing songs about stabbing or choking your ex-girlfriends in their sleep and I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before you all find your soul-mates. Fuck this band and fuck Ferret for releasing this shit smorgasbord. Boycott violence against women-core. Ferret JS

Remembering Never Suffocates My Words to You
I think I can save you some valuable time and $10 to $15. Remembering Never is not very good. They try to mix overrun, generic hardcore with occasional indie/emo moments of sincerity and serene harmony, and none of it works. I see no interesting contributions from the band, and everything seems like crappy déjà vu. It makes me sad to be completely honest. Maybe ten years ago, I might have given these kids a nod that at least they were doing something new, but Suffocates My Words to You is just re-done hardcore meets half-assed emo. It just shouldn't be done. One Day Savior records has put out some good releases, but Remembering Never is a group that, hopefully, I will remember never. One Day Savior CS

Scott Richter
Coffee house acoustic. Vocals are flat (like Courtney Love flat) but interesting enough. Good to be sad to and share the secrets of your life with your best friend over a cup of joe. I Can't Believe it's a Record Company MH/AH

The Rise Signal to Noise
We all know what The Refused did to hardcore; some say it was the best thing that could ever happen, others believe it was the death of real hardcore and the beginning of the Casio takeover. One thing is certain: The Rise, and many other hardcore bands incorporating electronics into their sound, owe their very existence to the Swedish moppets, for better or for worse. The Rise combine electronic dance beats with screamy, stop/start hardcore. When it works, they sound semi-revolutionary, when it doesn't, they come off as contrived and silly, such as "An Automated Response If You Will" which uses a painful CD skipping effect over and over and over. At 41 minutes in length, Signal to Noise begins to spiral around itself, repeating ideas that were interesting in earlier parts of the album ad nauseam. When "The Fallacy of Retrospective Determinism" hits the ground running, however, it's easy to get a bit swept up in the stylish glory of it all. Don't worry, the feeling will pass soon enough. Ferret JS

River City Rebels Racism, Religion, and War… – Very competent ska/punk from a seven piece band who average just over 18 years of age. The lyrics on these 14 songs tread the line of cliché punk rock, as "Fuck You" repeats the cuss words in its chorus ad nauseam, but the River City Rebels seem genuine and from the heart. The lead track (also a video if you are lucky enough to see it), "Hate," has an effective anti-racist message -- not without bitter irony from the only record label dumb enough to put out a record by One Life Crew. Victory is doing their best to make up for past stupidity, but it remains to be seen if they will repeat the same bone-headed mistakes. So, the boycott is still on, and I’d only recommend taping this off a friend or scooping it online. Victory Records JS

River City Rebels Playing to Live ... Living to Play
Count them: Seven guys, all bent and ready and full of fuel to shake the foundation loose and truly slam it back in your face with the audacity and vigor of a true punk rock outfit, set in modern terms and teetering close to the brink of major success. This is what the scene needs more of. Fine craftsmanship, sing along anthems and the old school punch of annihilation and rejection of most social norms, just for the sake of being young and knowing darn well that conformity is for squares man. Like, can you dig it? What ... no, the River City Rebels are far from beat, but they do have a penchant for dictating gut wrenching poetics in the guise of ska influenced punk and gathering the tribes together for one last maniacal fist waving before the end of the world. In the late-'70s, punk really was something, meant something, and these boys from rural Vermont know how to pick the bones clean of S. Vicious and a still pumping Iggy Pop into a virile force of dance-worthy aggression and all around preaching about living life to the fullest. It's easy to get hooked on these guys. It's even easier to shut me up and get on with it! Victory Records MW

Resent Title Self-Titled 7"
At first, I was a little bit worried when I saw that this 7" was put out by the same label who did the atrocious Insurrection 7". While not really spectacular, this 7" is MUCH better than the Insurrection 7". Resent is a pretty standard mid-paced crusty political hardcore band that is reminiscent of Aus-Rotten on their first LP. The lyrics are about what you'd expect, but they do seem to flow along well with the music. The sleeve is the standard cut 'n paste job with a picture of a blindfolded/gagged guy that I've seen on about 100 other records. This band doesn't really standout from the crowd much, but I know there are people who can't get enough of this style and will probably eat this up. Autonomy-Resistance-Equality Records BD

Anthony Rochester Music for Listening and Relaxation
I think I saw this guy playing at a Holiday Inn in suburban Indiana. Not really. This is total lounge music reminiscent of Sebastian and Belle with a huge dost of lame '70s TV theme trappings and electronic bits thrown on top ala Stereolab. This is the CD that they play at that one record store in town where they have absolutely no "rocking" records. Non-essential. Dogprint MM

Rocket from the Crypt Group Sounds
Hear that? It's a collective sigh of relief from all Rocket from the Crypt fans. After the humiliating defeat of their self-titled record and subsequent drop from a major label, the boys in blazers are back with a blazer of their own; the infectious Group Sounds. While their previous album (the aforementioned self-titled travesty) had only one decent song in an attempt to win over No Doubt fans with its ... actually, let's not talk about it. Group Sounds is chock full of total rockers. Out of the 13 songs on this album, at least ten are better than anything Rocket has done since their glory days of Circa: Now. An infusion of speed and chaos feeds songs like "Carne Voodoo," "White Belt," and "Savoir Faire," leaving the party stomp of "Return of the Liar" to flatten anyone left on their feet. As with most Rocket albums, we do get a couple of rusty melons, the disjointed five minute-plus album closer, "Ghost Shark," being the best example here. The band must be drinking lots of wheat grass, though, because even their often annoying change-up songs are done with style, as tidy little slow rides like "SOS" and "Dead Seeds" equal any of Superchunk's best ballads. Wow! That's enough time wasted writing about Group Sounds, it's time for another listen. Vagrant Records JS

The Rocking Horse Winner Horizon
This band should be called Rocking Horse Loser or Weiner or better yet Whiner. A must for fans of such shitty bands as Dashboard Confessional (a member of Dashboard is the "guest vocalist") somehow guest vocalist transforms into singing all the tracks (or at least the two I listened to before falling asleep) and she also writes the words but isn't in the band? Hmm. Speaking of the words they are so generic and run of the mill they make Chris Conley's 100s of almost the same song songs look original. Poppy, boring, uninspiring emo pop. What the hell is Equal Vision thinking? Is the whole world on drugs? Equal Vision Records CR

The Roswells Self-Titled 7"
This 7" has the Roswells playing four tracks of punk on the poppy end of the spectrum. The songs are pretty well written with enough speed, hooks, and changes to pull the band above the army of pop-punk bands that are around today and keep them interesting. The guitars have a welcome edginess to them which seems to be absent from a lot of melodic punk bands today. The sleeve is actually pretty humorous in a juvenile way, as opposed to the multitude of lame bands that try to be funny only to fall flat on their face. What self-respecting punk can't be down with a song called "Crass Not Christ" about "MxPx and how religion + punks = dumb?" Microcosm Records BD

Rupture Cunt of God
I thought the band would be better titled Rapture instead to stick with the God theme. I mean when the Rapture comes won't everyone be speaking in tongues -- this vocalist is already ahead of the game and in fastforward nonetheless. Short songs, there are 22 tracks. Bad recording. An Anal Cunt wanna-be. With track one titled "Toilet Paper Bible," you must be sure to recognize the silliness. Rhetoric Records MH/AH

RX Bandits Progress
Progress is a big word. In light of all that is happening in the global scheme of music, and the rest of us, there is always one more band to come across and let us all know that, sure, they can play and, gee, isn't it great to be in a cool band that most folks enjoy? But progress takes a big toll on history and traditions, and what the RX Bandits are trying to accomplish here is most likely on their own terms, in their own universe, and, sure, they are getting bigger and better within that vast confine. What these dudes from Orange County revolve around is the mild punk/ska that spawned so many others to fall in the wake of No Doubt and Rancid ... perhaps even 311 or Sublime. The music is good and tight and totally unoffensive or even, dare I say it gentle reader, progressive? No, I am not that harsh. I will not put down a fine inclusion to the rest of the scene. Even though my toes were a tappin' and each tune did its job with success, there was just that groinal pull that needs to be included to send a good bunch of well meaning cats into the further depths of outer space, never to return, only to be admired from afar. I liked it, but they need to progress just a bit more. Sorry. I drink too much. Drive Thru Records MW

Gregor Samsa Self-Titled
Richmond, Va.'s, Gregor Samsa's debut is a three-song EP of dynamic yet atmospheric indie rock. Drawing inspiration from My Bloody Valentine and shoegazer bands, as well as Mogwai and Radiohead, the result is a fully-formed sound all their own. Male and female vocals intertwine to a stunning effect on the first track (the songs have no names), while the second is a slow-building instrumental for most of the first six minutes, after which the vocals again kick in for a dramatic conclusion. The use of keyboards as a primary instrument, as well as tape loops and vocal effects, is reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, though Gregor Samsa produces a much more subdued, introspective feeling. The simple guitar and keyboard lines dance around each other in interesting rhythmic variations, and each of the parts flows quite gently and naturally into the next. This sort of thing can be a real treat, as long as it's done well. Gregor Samsa is a little too focused on the songwriting to be referred to as "post-rock", but the instrumentation and atmospherics are right on target. Iodine Recordings JH

Saturday Supercade Everyone is a Target
Yeah for Ohio. Neah for Blink 182, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, and New Found Glory rip off bands. This could be on MTV next week but for the already ten bands on MTV like this. Remeber in the '70s when their was arena/corporate rock bands like Boston, Styx and Journey? Well in '01 they are back but in poppy/clean cut marketable form. I would like to coin this term: "polished corporate punk rock"... get used to it, it's everywhere. Liberation Records AH

Saves the Day Through Being Cool
These guys are the boy band of punk rock if you don't know already. They are silly and cute and, like most boy bands, have little originality. Maybe Blink 182s younger brothers? Not bad though for barely being able to drive cars.We wonder if STDs really save the day. Equal Vision Records MH/AH

Bob Schaeffer Buy One, Get One Free
Bob Schaeffer's album, Buy One, Get One Free, comes in an attractive, green CD package, with drawings, photos, and lyrics provided, and the CD itself is generous, with four bonus songs, and all the songs seem to strive for an intensity that suggests a live rock music show. The album begins with the song "Sylph," with a crisp electronic guitar sound but mediocre vocals (there is also, later, a second version of the song, acoustic); it is a song about a brilliant, beautiful but lonely girl who is cruel. The lyrics state these facts, but do not delve deeper than that recognition, so the girl is nothing more than a typical fatal female. "Dead Twin," about an abusive dead twin, incest, and scrambled thoughts presents paradoxes such as "I died at birth," and has a throbbing guitar, heavy drums, layered noise (and I mean noise in a mostly good sense). The title song "Buy One, Get One Free" is against conformist, consumerist life with the conclusion, "everything is free when you learn how to see exactly what you need," with a terrific stop-start rhythm and melodious chorus. "Washout" is a surreal rock ballad with shouts of "how I wanna be" that bring to mind Nirvana and Springsteen, with the best line being "If you reach for the stars don't be surprised if you burn your hands from time to time." The song has a good, even surprising arrangement with changing tempos and moods. This is an album, a CD, with dark feelings, otherworldly dreamscapes, intelligence, humor, and social relevance, though some themes are unclear and some songs monotonous. One hears the ephemeral nature of contemporary life clearly in this album and that is an honest accomplishment. Cornerstone Recording Arts Society DG

Seafood Surviving the Quiet
You can tell Seafood are from England, from the Joy Division/New Order bass lines to the bouncy Elastica stutter chops. Wall of sound guitar and soft-spoken banshee Radiohead/Coldplay vocals complete the English homecoming. It’s nice to see an American indie label releasing a European band, even if they are a bit generic. Still, Seafood is miles above most of the dung being released under the banner of "emo" in the past few years. It’s easy to listen to and pleasantly done. Big Wheel Recreation JS

The Secession Movement Ak-e-dem-ik
What is it that sets bands like the Secession Movement apart from like-sounding emo/indie sassy rock bands? A bit of extra spunk, perhaps, or a couple years in age (older or younger, it doesn't matter). Whatever it is, it makes a significant difference. Not to say this is essential, nothing could be further from the truth, "Ak-e-dem-ik" is about as permanent as those fake tattoo thingies. Still, whatever listens one can garner from this nine-song album are a hint more enjoyable than the zillions of other Promise Ring/Piebald clones out there. Keep Safe Records JS

Serotonin Universal Time Constant
The power of music is in the memory banks. Certain sounds, certain songs, can bring back a flood of moments past. Sometimes the memories are good, sometimes not. Serotonin uses the fittingly titled Universal Time Constant as a portal to a space in time five to seven years ago, when wearing hearts on sleeves was the order of the day, and angular, disjointed, angsty hardcore was the essential sound. The memories are just shy of wonderful, back to a time when hugs were plentiful and optimism was evident on every face. Sure, a lot of it was wishful thinking -- youthful ignorance is bliss, and the trend of the anti-trend -- but it was meaningful at the time. And maybe it still is, buried somewhere beneath all of this age and responsibility. Serotonin believe in what they are doing, are successful because of it, and every indication shows they care. In the end, that’s all that matters. Bifocal Media JS

Seven Story Mountain Based on a True Story
What a surprise this was. This is a great release. There is so much depth here. There is no discernible formula, and each song has a different feel to it. In these seven tracks I hear Foo Fighters, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and some great ‘80s bands, but none of which are too overpowering. Bottom line it's alternative pop, and it make me dance. Deep Elm Records MH/AH

Seven Storey Dividing By Zero
They did it again. Seven Storey, formerly Seven Storey Mountain produced an album that I didn't like at first, but steadily grew on me and broke me down by my third listen through. After a weak instrumental opening, Lance Lammers' vocals emerge with grating force and mix well with the band's driven guitar rock. The flurry of strong guitars, ripping bass, and steady drums create an orchestrated pandemonium. Seven Storey's organized confusion, which is just fun, grows on you, and their cynical lyrics are balanced by their aggressive music. Another solid Deep Elm release, I have to tip my hat to Seven Storey, despite early inhibitions. It's a good record, and they're just too strong a band to overlook. Dividing By Zero is another solid release from a band that keeps improving. Deep Elm Records CS

Shark Attack Discography
Well, obviously Agnostic Front and Negative Approach were a huge influence on Boston's now-defunct Shark Attack, so let's just get that out of the way right off the bat. Thankfully, their sound was not a complete retro knock-off, as Shark Attack knew their way around their instruments and, although they were confining themselves to a certain style of hardcore (late '80s crossover/tough guy-core), they also knew how to throw in little snippets of their own doing. Lyrics were toxic and much like a Great White (not the band) attack; limbs and digits are ripped clean from their sockets even before the blood starts to flow. Shark Attack really hits full carnage on what was originally the second side of their Blood in the Water 7". The songs "Persist," "Feeding Frenzy," and "Accept Yourself" are just as venomous as "Friend or Foe" was back in the day. The second half of this discography is a live recording at CBGB's that is unlistenable trash, repeating the same songs that were actually audible on the first half of the disc. Bad idea. Man, these guys sound a lot like Agnostic Front. Like they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and as long as the Shark Attack dudes can stay out of jail (or out of Madball), they'll do just fine in their new musical endeavors. Reflections Records JS

Sharks Keep Moving Desert Strings and Drifting
I kinda liked this EP of four songs. It’s melodic and sweeping, with definite talent and use of instrumentation. The kind of good band sound that fills a room -- a room full of cocktail sippers and curious young club goers in search of a respite from the standard Electro fare and pounding rock. But it interferes with your usual conversation. Sharks Keep Moving keep it interesting, they keep you guessing and fingers tapping on sticky table tops lit up by red globed candles. You can relax to this kind of musicality without feeling cheated or lazy. It is slight, kind of moody, but a simple gem, perhaps a bit rusty, pure, and engaging. They know how to write songs, how to manifest sounds from the basic tools and not to overwhelm with lyrics bent on sadness or dyptheric poetics. The wind was blowing heavily outside, moving a large pine tree all around and casting frenetic shadows on a red curtain. Desert Strings and Drifters was playing and I felt good. I didn't take notes; I just leaned back and watched the wind play with the tree, which in turn played with the curtain. Then a viola swoops over the guitars and drums and adds an even extra element. The phone rang and I ignored it. The instrumentals incite my eyes to close and I am there with you at the club, in the candle lit room, sipping a cocktail, and not saying a word. After the set, we find a quiet booth and make out like crazy. Second Nature Recordings MW

Sick on the Bus Set Fire to Someone in Authority
Total piss and vinegar punk rock, with no apologies for being lewd, rude and loud. A number of these caustic little ditties are about singer Biff’s love life, but songs like "Just Sex," "I Hate You," and "Rich Bitch" are hardly the kind of tunes you play for a romantic evening in front of a crackling fireplace. Hate, rebellion and three chords are the Presto Log for this blaze, essentially a re-mastered version of their almost decade old debut record. Fans of old school punk/hardcore with strong stomachs will enjoy. Go Kart Records JS

Sides of a Cube First Grade – Thankfully, this is only a four-song EP of horrid Casio-puked art rock. Sides of a Cube is definitely not fit for public consumption and should have stayed in the messy teenage bedroom it was conceived in. Gotta admit though, it takes a huge set of gonads to put something this bad to compact disc for all eternity. Mothball Eyes Records JS

Sig Transit Gloria Self-Titled
Amidst the hyperbolics there is a guy on keyboards, which adds an almost spunky teen flick soundtrack aura to each of the ten songs presented here. This is the kind of happy, bobby sox jump around anthems to get the junior prom dates ready for action; and surely at least one pimply faced outcast will get the chance to make out with a fairly hot sophomore. That is if they're lucky. Regardless, Sig Transit Gloria is a shimmery example of what's awfully right when kids band together and just let it all come out. It is reminiscent of modern age power punk, jangly pop, art school ballistics and some slight '80s throwback tune-smithing which translates into a fully accessible and enjoyable record. Its as if they know darn well that youth is transitory and difficult, so they smash the hit-making machine right on the head and let us all in on their sugary sweet secrets: it's fun to drive fast, it's boring in the suburbs, and the mall is the last place you want to be when the sun is shining bright. Tradgedy is always at hand, so why not smile and dance now? Perhaps it is not as bad as you thought it was. Johanns Face Records MW

Sinch Self-Titled
Ah, the familiar refrains of radio-friendly nu-metal. Perfect listening for the coma patient, or someone just getting home from a double overtime shift. Sinch are a Pennsylvania quintet that could fit onto a bill with Disturbed, Papa Roach, or Linkin Park, maybe even squeak by with The Deftones in their more emotional moments, such as album opener "To Die in Fall." As for their gimmick, in their ranks is "visual performance artist" Jay Smith and his Ocular Noise Machine, an interactive video device that is played like a guitar and projects images that move with the rhythm of the band. Some bands have latex masks and goofy facial hair, Sinch have an Ocular Noise Machine. Another intelligent signing from those geniuses over at… Roadrunner Records JS

David Singer The Cost of Living
Just what the world needs, a cross between Beck and Elliot Smith. Like either of those two aren't excruciating enough on their own, now David Singer comes along with the worst of both worlds. Geeky, high pitched vocals, tongue barely in cheek lyrics, and space missile/rocket ship sound effects to drive anyone with hearing insane. It's hard to believe that people dig this kind of masturbatory dreck, but if you are out there, then may I introduce you to Mr. David Singer. Best wishes and have a good life. Deep Elm JS

Sissies Look Back and Laugh
Good ol snotty indie rock who employ the DIY stance and give it to you straight and full of promise. These two girls and guy do a great job of jammin’ garage style while the girls overlap themselves on singing duties, making it almost kaledascopic. Hannah and Ali come across as punk rock Janeane Garafolos, only instead of doing crummy movies, they’re in a fun band. Pure pop-punk antics by some of Indiana’s finest. What more can I say? There is not one track that lingers stale and unispired, which is a rarity. All of them shake and move making you wish you were in a great band too. Or at least had a cool older sister that practiced in her room and then one day you catch her act at the rec center and are blown away by her ability. The same girl who locks the bathroom door on you and takes up the phone too long just happens to rock out with the best of them. Could be a great movie. Janeane, listen up! New Disorder Records MW

Silent Majority You Would Love to Know
Poppy emo. I really don't care for the vocals on this. They sound like hair-band metal to me. It doesn't really fit the music. Lyrics don't make much sense either -- too vague. Nothing to original and only five songs. I guess I would compare it to a bad Boy Sets Fire. Initial Records MH/AH

Six Going on Seven American’t (or Won’t)
The push is on for Boston’s Six Going on Seven to make it in the big time rock music world, or so it sounds on "American’t (or Won’t)." Their third full length is a straight forward rock record with tracks that would not sound out of place on a classic rock radio station. Play this back to back with some John Cougar Mellencamp, or perhaps some Boston, and mainstream radio rockers wouldn’t notice an indie band invading their precious airtime. The difficult bit about this record is there’s no "Jack and Diane," and certainly no "More Than a Feeling," to be found. Instead it’s filled with meandering little ditties that start out interesting but don’t venture past the front doorstep. Plodding and pacing on their safe welcome mat, Six Going on Seven quickly become Lungfish as an adult-oriented rock band. Songs choke and die in their listlessness, and Six Going on Seven become the kind of faceless, nameless band that has you reaching for the radio dial in search of some AC/DC. You know, to get the party started. Big Wheel Recreation JS

Sixer Saving Grace
My buddy Jose kept doing the "'80s dance" to this record. You know, that Molly Ringwald move in The Breakfast Club or when Bruce Springsteen picks Courtney Cox out of the crowd in that video for "Dancing in the Dark" and they both do that arm contortion to and fro while staying glued to the floor? Yeah. He kept doing that. "Why are you doing that?" I had to ask. "Well," he said, "it kind of has that rhythm. You know, to dance like this. Except ... this is the music of the devil!" With that, he inadvertently hit it right on the proverbial head. Sixer has that booty shaking beat, handclaps, and several jump around the living room antics, but still the heavy guitars, gruff vocals and skull on the cover keeps it real and lets you know that even though these guys like to get down, they're still a rock band and, hey, do they mean business. Regardless, this is a fine album of rock club bombastics, inviting the punch of punk and the groove of garage swing into the ring and let them battle it out on your stereo. And Jose kept dancing around. When he started to do the white man's lip bite (even if he is Cuban) I had to turn the CD off. It ... it was just getting plain creepy. TKO Records MW

Slackjaw Darkest Hour
Indie rock is basically the backwash of punk gone lower lip stuck out arty. I know I'll get a lot of flak from Indie-heads but trust me, that's a general history of the whole movement. Regardless, bands like Slackjaw come along and try to fill the holey shoes of past great bands in that arena. But kind of fail. I really was very unimpressed with this album and band I am sorry to say. Their sound is like being slowly dragged through dirt or drinking ultra watered down Kool-aide. I wanted to like it, but it just didn't do anything for me. Perhaps this CD was sent to the wrong person. I'm really into doom metal and hurty-gurty music. This is the anti of each. It plods along, it's kind of sad and it could be interesting but it just doesn't go there enough to be considered so. SO ... I asked others what they thought of it. It was pretty much a series of "Zzzz!" from the lot of friends that seem to huddle around my tiny place in San Francisco. Even the usual gloomy Katia didn't get into it. "They should go full gloom or full indie," she said. "They sort of waver in-between." And there you go. But if you're into that, go for it! It's here at my house. Come on by and get it. No Karma Recordings MW

Sloppy Meateaters Forbidden Meat
In all of their supposed cartoon buffoonery, Sloppy Meateaters come across as major players in the modern punk scene today. They know their chops, they do it well, and they're not afraid to express a penchant for harmonies. These three boys have the right amount of speed, pitch, heaviness, and a cool swagger that lets you know you're all invited but don't touch because they have a job to do. You'll be glad you came. Seriously, SME is on their way to a brighter stage ahead if they keep doing what they're doing and don't meander around the cesspool of teen idol-dom (i.e. Blink 182) and stick to their guns. Each song rocks, there isn't a stinker in the bunch, and I'm glad bands like this come around once in a blue moon to remind us that quality definitely smashes a quantity of crap. There is probably a lot of other bands just as good out there, its just that they need to be signed and play some shows. Well, then ... go do it! The populace needs you. In the meantime, check these guys out and prepare to dance a little around your bedroom. Cuz, that's what I'm doing now. Tee hee. Woo hoo ... look at me go! Orange Peal Records MW

Slushpuppy 4-Song EP
Well, I'll tell you: I happen to pride myself (a bit) on staying hip and "cool" with the whole music scene of today by penning for magazines that send me truck loads of stuff for me to sift through and write about while keeping me up to date on what's happening now with the modern state of rock 'n' roll. I like some of it, most of it though is sheer crap. Just idiots in a garage who know a 2-2 chord and hope to make it big by being semi good looking or have that one trait that ropes them as unique or "edgy" or whatever. Whatever! Some of the bands are really good but go nowhere because why? ... they are too good and have that knack for challenging in which morons who eat fast food three times a day and stare blankly at TV can't cope with. So, up with Kid Rock and down with long gone DIY rock that may have made a statement but Brad and Tiffany can't handle it so ... b'bye! Other bands, that you or I may have never heard of, are OUT THERE, doing it, making a name for themselves, but, whoa!, I had no idea that they were indeed out there doing the things that they are doing. Understand? Well, here's an example. This band here, Slushpuppy, not only made the CMJ top 30 charts, but have been featured in a film titled "Baby Doll Forever" and have a few songs featured on MTV's "Spyder Games." But like ... who are they? I'm still not sure. Donning a hot lead singer, Dawn Botti, and backed by a group of guys who are bent on solid heavy rock, Slushpuppy have recently won the Best Rock Act by the Asbury Music Awards and have one of the most downloaded songs on the ‘net, "Losing Ground." Not to mention various international recognition and getting produced by Dinosaur Jr., Screaming Trees, Jawbox producer John Agnello. Sure, its good but ... wow. I never knew. Did you? Self Released MW 1.18.2002

Snapcase vs Boy Sets Fire If They Do
It sounds like Snapcase and Boy Sets Fire ate all their old releases for dinner and barfed them up. Equal Vision Records MH/AH

Solarized Driven
The cover art of Driven is priceless. A yellow muscle car speeding through the desert makes it damn obvious there won't be any wimpy pop here. Solarized is pure bong hit fuzz metal with enough "hell yeahs" to go around. As exciting as that sounds, what slurps out of the speakers is nothing to get randy about. Solarized have a crippling monotony to their sound. The vocals of band-leader James Hogan never deviate from a sub-stoner growl, the riffs are a revolving circle of repetition and "ya dude-isms," the drums are always Rick Allen friendly (played with one arm, folks). Grasping at straws, it would be safe to accredit "Born of Fire" as the standout track, but only because of its "God of Thunder" sounding chorus. Should the Damned cover even be mentioned? Buy a Kyuss record ... heck, even pick up some newer Corrosion of Conformity, but get off the Solarized pot. This will kill brain cells, and fast. Meteor City JS

Son Ambulance Euphemystic
When I was a child I had dreams of what it might be like to be an adult, but I never had any honest idea of what a winding, snarling path it would be. I sometimes try to close my eyes and think back at those idyllic, halcyon times, those fun, innocent moments and even the crappy ones where people laughed at me or tried to beat me up. At least I didn't live above some psychotic landlord always crying about some flushing sound he supposedly hears at all times of the night. I didn't have to experience a broken heart, worry about when I'm gonna get my next paycheck, or wonder if I was living up to my potential. No, I'd just watch Thundercats until soccer practice, come home to eat dinner and read comics before going to bed. Life was truly satisfying. Now that I'm an "adult," things are far more complicated. I guess that's what Son Ambulance is trying to say too. So I guess it's good to think about yourself as a child, since we forget so easily in the process of being told to grow up. Like, why did I stop riding my bike around neighborhoods toilet papering houses of people I didn't know? I have some Barbasol and some thick rolls just sitting in my bathroom, waiting. I mean, I just moved to Chicago, no one would think it was me. I even have a ski cap that covers my face like a bandit. I could cause some real terror in this neighborhood. Some damage. Wait, forget it, West Wing's on. Another night. Saddle Creek Records RG

Spitball The World Around Me
Spitball is the putrid by-product of pop-punk bands like NOFX and Guttermouth. Strip away the satire and talent of the real deal and we’re left with zero substance. This zit-infested bunch’s songs are like the theme songs to Saturday morning cartoons, all silly and goofy and tinny sounding. And, unlike the better ska-punk bands out there, their horn section adds nothing to lame duck songs about girls, friends, and being cool. Twelve songs too many of pure pop-puke, with enough sugar bugs to rot a mouthful of flouride-strengthened tooth enamel. Two humorous points were "Our Heavenly Father" topping Spitball’s thanks list, and a CD cover layout credit to a proud Mr. Cory Bagozzi for what is simply the band’s name and album name on plain orange with a black stripe above it. Good work Cory! Be sure to add that one to your design portfolio. DCS Records JS

Staring Back The Mean Streets of Goleta
For those that don't know, Goleta is the sub proper just North of Santa Barbara and official home to the UC campus under the same name. The little craphole next to it, Isla Vista, is where most of the students live. How, you may ask, do I know all of this? Well, it’s funny. I spent three years in Santa Barbara and at UCSB, and when this album was sent to me, I found it rather amusing. The Mean Streets of Goleta huh? Well, I have traveled those roads, streets, and alleyways many a time, usually so fouled up on excess and drink that, to tell you the truth, I don't remember much. I remember a taco stand and corner liquor shed here and there. There were houses, a smattering of them amongst the ruin from students, left behind for others to enjoy and clean up. And the cars -- coming at you like falling elevators, drawing your hand up from the headlights like a vampire on a day pass. Eyes blurred from week-long benders and ankles moving independently from the rest of your machine. It was 85 degrees at 10:30 one night when I passed by this house. The porch was filled with post-collegiate sluggards, drinking out of brown bottles and playing some hard rock music rather loudly. I was stumbling, looking for my car and noticing the fresh beer tie on my Kyuss T-shirt. The mean streets of Goleta were just shady and dull and keeping me from my own bed. That’s when I heard a voice call out. "Hey," it said, booming from the porch, "you don't look so good. Why don't you come in and hang out for a bit. Have a beer when you've rested up." That’s when I glanced over with eyes half-mast. The men on the porch were looking at me, silent, just the hard rock music playing into the night. I had to press on. So I lifted my head and a fist and blurted out a "YYAAAAARRRRGH!" and walked away. It was hot and I was teetering. Staring Back is a heavy punk band that you just might enjoy. Lobster Records MW

Starmarket Four Hours Light
On the first layer, it's typical emo. If you listen closer, you can hear a second guitar that makes us really like this band. Sweet solo-esque harmonies keep this moving and upbeat while still retaining its emo sappiness. Cool noises in the background tell us there is a keyboard at play. Weakest part are the vocals. The vocals are flat and passionless. In all honesty, we feel the male vocals should be female and pissed. Props for taking six months to record and utilizing a ton of instruments/synthisizers we've never heard of before. Deep Elm Records MH/AH

The Stepford Five The Art of Self Defense
When I first moved to Chicago, I talked a bunch about having all this great free time and taking a self-defense course. It's not happened yet, and the farthest I've come is to call an Aikido center and ask what they're prices were. Now, I was not exactly chomping at the bit to learn Aikido, but the center was near my apartment. Usually, if you want to learn a martial art, you want to learn Kung Fu, I don't care how much you think this shit is for defense and mental strength. I mean, I buy that too, seriously, but come on, I want to be a black belt in Kung Fu. Who doesn't? Alas, this dream awaits me, like so many others. I really wanted to get out of debt this past year too, and go travel more, and meet a pretty lady and hang out with her a bunch, and play my bass more, and really learn sign language this time, not just half-ass it, and get more of a career going, and buy some new turntables, and read a lot more books, and almost never drive anywhere, and write more letters to friends, and buy an umbrella, and eat better, and drink less, and visit my grandparents more, and watch less TV, and see more plays, and appreciate nature more often, and just feel good about life all the time, instead of occasionally. Well, besides the umbrella, I missed fulfilling the rest. And certainly that is very disappointing to me. At least I can answer why I never took the Aikido class. It was really expensive. I can't remember how much they were now, but I remember it being really outrageous. Which is fine, because I'm going to take a Kung Fu class anyway. Some day. Self-Released RG

The Stereo Three Hundred
It's kind of annoying to me that there is a cute girl on the cover of an all boy production. Maybe it's fitting since all the songs are lovey-dovey, but I hate when bands use women to sell their boy music. Otherwise, the music has Weezer written all over it, right down to the drum pauses and everything. The vocals are really good and interesting. Hey, it will make you dance. Fueled By Ramen Records MH/AH

Strife Angermeans
Strife is back and proving that even though they have lost their edge they still have their edge. What I mean by this is straight edge or not, Strife maintains its ruthlessly violent sound. This album strikes me as harder and more metal than their previous releases but lacks the raw edge of songs such as "Untitled" or "Wish I Knew." And it could use some gang hardcore chants such as "those who will walk the straight edge." But oh well. A standout track is "Angel Wings." Another thing worth mentioning is the guest appearance by Bobo from Cypress Hill on the skins. I wonder if Strife blazed it up? Although I don't exactly know what they're angry about anymore, this is a great aggressive album. If you're a Strife fan snatch it up, if not grab one of their earlier and more memorable releases from Victory Records. CR

Student Rick Soundtrack for a Generation
It’s getting close to the financial year-end, so kids it’s time for some Victory Records tax write-offs. Fun, fun, fun. Can you say, "Stacks and stacks of Student Rick CDs piling up in the Victory warehouse?" I knew that you could. Even the name is a tax write-off. Student Rick? Come on, this shit just isn’t going to sell. From the drop of the fake record needle on track one, these four pimply, high school jocks from Fort Collins, Colo. breeze through 13 emo rock/pop songs with just enough conviction. Sure, it’s disposable, sure, it’s generic, but the songs are catchy and pleasant. Except when they slip into a Weezer impression, then it’s just stinky. The presence of GOD (note, all caps) at the top of their thanks list is slightly disturbing, but not a shock. These guy look like church youth group kids, all the way. They probably play most of their gigs in church, under the watchful eye of the almighty non-being. Yup, the person in charge of accounting at Victory sure acted fast when the Student Rick demo tape showed up at the office. This will sell about 17 copies worldwide. Victory Records JS

Suicide Note You're Not Looking So Good
What we have here is a band trying real hard to sound like Converge. They even went into the same recording studio (God City and The Outpost) with the same producer (Kurt Ballou) to try to replicate the storming Jane Doe album. Guess what boys, it's not gonna happen. Points for trying are duly noted, but Suicide Note is not Converge. The playing isn't there, the vocals sound inconsistent, and the songs don't measure up. In a Converge-less world, Suicide Note are above par metalcore with a keen attention to melody and an interesting flair for rock 'n' roll. When a pretty decent band gets shelved on the lower tier of their respective genre it only points to the massive glut of said genre. Ferret JS

Sump Pumps Mainframe
What do you get when you add two synthesizers to a band of guitar, bass, drums and vocals? Well, it isn't a chocolate cake. The Sump Pumps take experimental rock another step along the path of bizarre-lyrics and sound explosions. The songs on this album are introduced by samples from a robot-oriented movie that I have never seen. If this CD doesn't make you want to cover yourself in foil and walk your dog backward, then nothing will. Titles like "Last Command," "Animal Orgy 17," and "Klingon Genocide" are just an appetizer to the sounds produced by this frenzied foursome. JR

Sybarite Placement Issues
At night, the Casios come to life and eat those who defy them on a day to day basis. This is prevalent with soundtracks such as this. You can hear the dismal screams in the background as the chirps and blurps of various whimsical ideas begin to take over and malign the very stereo you had to flip burgs all summer long to own. Now this. Sybarite grabs you like Enya getting an enema on a barbwire train to Whizzville, making tracks to Yul Bryner's turn in a "Westworld" flick and you are left to sort through the various tiny bottles of gin to make sense out of any of this. Perhaps a nap may help. That only sparks strange visions in the noontime dreamscape and Sybarite is there to hum you back to sleep when the grim sweat of a nightmare occurs, under some itchy blanket, passing through Illinois with no hope of going back. But then your neighbor tosses on some G Thug thump-a-roo and you are awake again. What comes next? You spank yo ass fer a minute before screaming down the long halls, banging on doors and wishing for solace. And it comes. Slowly but surely, the lulling chimes come and you are once again drifting with the Teletubbies in leather chaps, shaking your fist at the sun and hoping to god that your Casio will show mercy when you go home to feed it. With your own plasma. Temporary Residence Ltd. MW

The Terrifying Experience Hit Single 7"
Nowadays, with so many independent and small-label bands to choose from, it's probably safe to say there's something out there for everybody. That said, I'm still trying to figure out exactly who Magnetic Breakthrough, the second full-length album by The Terrifying Experience, is for. It starts out sounding like '80s heavy-metal deconstructed by an intellectual anarchist. Then, as the album progresses (or retrogresses, depending on your tastes), other sounds intermingle, including psychedelia, acoustic guitar and, in the end, an absolutely pointless electronic drum track. The guitar work sounds consistently polished, as it should; guitarist Mitch Mitchell left the band Guided By Voices to form this troupe. Unfortunately, the vocals are simply too weak to complement the music, and invariably get lost in the haze. There is one notable exception: "The Tearful Champion" is a simple and near-perfect blend of voice and music, and it's too bad there aren't more tracks like it. GW

Three Summers Gone Time well spent
Three summers ago I graduated from college, and underwent relationship foibles. At that same time, the boys from Three Summers Gone started playing emo flavored punk rock in their native South Carolina, experienced broken hearts, and eventually moved to San Francisco, my town at the time. Had we been friends, I would have been there to welcome them with open arms. We could've split a twelver of Weinhardt's and cried into our suds. Instead, singer and bass player Chris Summers and company turned the anguish and loneliness of living in the harsh maelstrom of metropolitan San Francisco into what their press release refers to as "post-punk". I've never understood what "post-punk" means, but I guess we're to believe that either punk is dead, or whatever a "post-punk" band is doing is so astoundingly good that they have transcended punk into its eventual punk aftermath. Whatever the meaning is Three Summers Gone neither transcends the genre nor fills the grave of punk rock. They learned the bar chords, practiced hard, and wrote sad lyrics about being hurtled from the South to America's Most Overrated City. If strict emo-punk is your cup of Peet's Café Latte, then Time Well Spent's aural cumulation of three hard years should satisfy your craving. Substandard Records RG

The Thunder Gods Rocknrollica
This has the package and promise of a band bent on a true rock revival. The cover mimics Don McLean's "American Pie," with a bearded nerd giving the metal fore/pinky extension and each painted like ol' Glory. The back shows The Thunder Gods draped in the flag, a la The Who, with eyes closed and ... yeah. Plus, the band's name is so bombastic, one would think we were to be treated to some sonic explosion, an aural education in what it means to be in a true rock and roll band. Unfortunately, this falls a little short. I'm sorry, but you know ... maybe that's the joke. It does rock in the primal sense -- there are guitars and drums and a boogie-woogie piano now and then. But the mix is too light and they come off sounding like a lilty bar band doing Stooges covers, while wearing AC/DC T-shirts and claiming the genius of the Big Bopper in between songs. That's all fine and dandy, but hopefully I paint a simple picture of what you are privy to when purchasing this record. Anyway, rock music is still alive and it's good to know that bands such as this still carry a torch. What we need to do now is start a bonfire and crank it up to 11. Garage Pop Records MW

Thursday Full Collapse
In the band's press sheet it states that Thursday has played with bands like At the Drive In and Boy Sets Fire. Clearly, as this release sounds like a crossbreed of the two. The first song "Understanding in a Car Crash" is blatant At the Drive In guitar thievery. If they are not playing At the Drive in riffs they are playing Boysetsfire heavy/melodic guitar lines. The only unique part of the CD is the vocals -- and even the vocal get monotnous using the same vocal patterns. The musicians in this band are talented but need to focus on not listening to their favorite bands so much and work on creating their own sound. Two of ten songs show a potential in writing. Not horrible, but I have heard all these music cliches before.
Victory Records AH

Tijuana Crime Scene Change of Venue
Alex Brahl must have written Change of Venue, Tijuana Crime Scene's last CD, after a messy break up and before a group hug. This guy can sort through all of his thoughts, doubts, and the pain with his rock band. From the wistful theme in the lyrics, you might not have guessed that a synthesizer backs up the melodies on this emo EP (think Grandaddy The Sophtware Slump). The music has a strange way of making you want to sing along and tap your feet with the scorned lover's music. TCS does not go the traditional slow-paced, minor-chord guitar riff route on Change of Venue. I like the way the synthesizer has a melody in every song on this EP, it gives this CD a new twist to an otherwise standard sounding guitar-carried melody. I wish I had this CD to drive around with in high school after a lonely dance emptied out of our school cafeteria. Strike that, I wish I had Alex Brahl to drive around with. The mood of the music changes with every song, but the theme stands strong throughout. Track four, "Shoot the Lights Out," suggest we move on, and I hope that TCS can recover from whatever scarring experience did happen in their romantic lives, because the music sounds good, but I don't think I can do any more reflection on lost romantic optimism. Arise Records. JR

Jason Traeger My Religion is Love
Maybe you heard these guys at your local coffee shop. Lite and comedic semi-accoustic songs to make you giggle while being serious enough to not make you annoyed. With a poppy cover of a Cro-Mags song this could be the next Bloodhound Gang. K Records MH/AH

Translucent Songs The Walking Wounded
This is what music sounds like if it was recorded underwater which is how I think Tangerine Dream recorded everything from 1971 to 1976. Do you know how much drugs those guys took? Even if I started now, I wouldn't be done catching up until 2035. You'd have to be on drugs to sit around a room full of keyboards saying to your bandmates: "Today, let's create a new atmosphere." Or whatever the equivalent is in German, since Tangerine Dream's a German band, not Americans like Pink Floyd who were better anyway, up until Roger Waters left. Collective Recordings RG 1.18.2002

Trash Brats American Disaster
Ah-HA! Glam punk gone horribly right/wrong. I still can’t decide. Men in cheerleader gear and pigtails lend some bent appeal to the chewing on the New York Doll’s bones. Like a power-pop fudgcicle dripping on your torn fishnets, these four cross dressers from Detroit just lay ‘em down and smack ‘em yack-em. I enjoyed it. The Trash Brats are fun, mindless rock and would probably put on a good show. So, uncap that bottle of JD, light that um-teeth cigarette and bust out the glittery platforms. Uncle Iggy would be proud. Storm Records MW

Trial Are These Our Lives?
Cliche hardcore. While sounding like most of the other bands of their era -- Undertow and Strife -- they did impress us with their opening track. An orchestral opening provides a dark entry into double-base, dance-your-ass-off-fun. The remainder of the disc lacks original tempo and becomes mundane and bland. The hooks have become rusty, please purchase new ones. Equal Vision Records MH/AH

Two Man Advantage Don't Label Us
This one was a surprise. I had their previous record where they succeeded to taking Gang Green's gimmick of songs about beer and the Hanson Brother's gimmick of songs about hockey and put the two together really well. Still, it was really a gimmick record. Even though their address is Babylon, NY, this totally sounds like it should have come out of Boston 15 years ago. The chorus of "Zamboni Driving Maniac" is impossibly infectious! This is actually a really good record. However, it makes me feel old because it's basically a facelift to those great mid-'80s hardcore records. It is done well. Go-Kart records MM

The Unknown Pop Art
Whoa-oh-oh! Pop punk baby, yeah! Here we go! Here we go! Go! GO! Toss the microphone into the crowd and then sing along. It’s all about staying positive and staying involved while staying deep underground. Whoa-oh-oh! Yeah! Jump around and sing real proud. These four Better Youth types will get you bopping and tapping your toes in no time. This release is put together well, is non-offensive and we as suburbanites can relate to the message, I guess, to a certain level. But it’s all about busting down boundaries and bringing the voice deep down to the upper ground. Andy Warhol was right all along. Whoa-Oh-ohh… Yeah! Boss Tuneage MW

Unsung Zeroes Fading Out
Almost anyone can make music these days. It's incredible, the technology. I was over at this guy Hobie's house the other night in Wrigleyville, unwinding from the day, and we were listening to a disc of break beats a friend of his had made. Is he a DJ, I asked. No, just likes to create beats, he replied. Of course he does, I thought. And why not? It's becoming amazingly simple to be the next Chemical Brothers. If you can click a mouse, you can write a song. Later, Hobie played some songs he wrote on some Nintendo game, and they weren't bad. Everybody's doing it! Remember the debate over sampling a decade ago when critics dismissed songs built around samples? Seems like the Mesozoic era, doesn't it? Wow technology, where will you lead us next? Hopefully a place with cheese fries, cause I am starving. Distant Rise Records RG

Various Artists: US Pop Life Vol. 13: Northeast New Core & Parallel Universe of Exterior and Interior
These compilations could be useful for indie music fans overseas. They also come in handy for North American squares (like me) that find it impossible to keep track of all the new bands in what is the current hardcore/emo/indie scene. Has this genre been given a new name yet, like "rocksteady" or something? Please, some information about what to call this stuff would be much appreciated. Anyway, featured here are xbxrx, The Lapse, North of America, Enemymine, Ex Models, Convocation of ..., Retsin, The Apes, and ten others. Laughs aplenty come from the openers, The Rapture, who claim PIL, Television and Happy Mondays as influences but sound like a dead ringer for The Cure, right down to the fake British accent. Come on guys, who are you fooling? The US Pop Life series is a good way to catch up on a scene that's left a lot of us in ignorant bliss.
Contact Records JS

Various Artists: Nasty Habits: Live on 88.9 WERS
The line-up on this collection of live radio performances would have any self-respecting extreme metal/hardcore fan drooling like one of Pavlov's dogs. If names like Origin, Shadows Fall, Knut, God Forbid, and The Dillinger Escape Plan don't get the saliva flowing, nothing will. Nasty Habits has been on New England's airwaves since 1983 and is highly regarded as one of the most influential metal/hardcore radio shows around. Maybe that's why most of these bands deliver raging, amped-up performances with the kind of intensity that can only be captured in a live setting. Sure, some of the bands included, like Unearth and Poison the Well, are almost impossible to enjoy, even in their true form (read: no studio trickery here). It's the aforementioned genre lords like God Forbid who plop your ass right down in that studio, forcing you to bang your head (or shake it in disbelief) along with radio DJs who are no doubt wearing ear to ear, shit-eating grins. WERS JS

Various Artists: With Literacy and Justice for All: A Benefit for the DC Area Books to Prisons Project
This compilation CD is a benefit for the DC activist group that sends reading material to prisoners. An excellent cause to be sure, hammered home by a zine/book featuring the inspired writings of those on the inside. The reading material also documents a convincing and well-researched critique on the US penal system, and steals the show from a competent but dull collection of songs on the CD. Indie rock, metalcore, punk rock, acoustic folk and emo are all thrown onto the disc, without much rhyme or reason. The bands range from interesting (the poppy folk punk of Marion Delgado and Respira) to fucking annoying (the grating metalcore of Virginia Black Lung, Hiretsukan and others). It's the same old story as with most compilations; finding diamonds in the rough is an exhausting chore. Record labels doing benefit projects would be better off finding one solid band willing to back the cause and do a release just with them. The days of buying compilations are long over for many, no matter how admirable the cause may be. All of those sick of compilations should instead send donations of books, zines. or money to DC Books to Prisoners Project – PO Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD, 20782. Exotic Fever JS 1.18.2002

Various Artists: The Road Less Traveled: A Hardcore Compilation
One of those really low-budget compilations that looks like the high school project of some young buck with a severe lack of quality control. Eighteen bands of wildly varied sound quality, giving the auditory result of all over the map volume -- nearly intolerable on headphones. What isn’t at all varied is the musical scope of these bands, including some of the worst common denominator of "evil" metalcore bands around. Even more insulting is the decision to tack on good bands like Botch and Old Man Gloom right near the end of this 62-minute groan festival. It’s as if to say, "Hey listen to an hour of scourge of the earth phoney-core, and then check out two really great bands right when you are about to vomit." Advice: Buy a Botch or Old Man Gloom album and leave this waste of materials to the landfill. Through These Eyes Records JS

Various Artists: Plea for Peace Take Action
About 30 cents from each of these comps sold goes to a national suicide hotline, a great cause to be sure. Sub City (a division of Hopeless Records) has made an effort to have benefit charities attached to most of their releases, but I can't help but wonder why they do it (to sell records?) and why they can't afford to donate more. A couple of bucks per CD would be more honorable, considering most of their releases probably only sell a few thousand copies, at best. It takes a shitload of money to put a dent into a problem like suicide, why not go whole hog and really make a difference? Even at two bucks a pop, there'd still be room for Sub City to make some cash to keep their label thriving (not to mention all the cash they make off their non-benefit releases on Hopeless). To their credit though, they sponsored and promoted a tour by the same name for the same cause. Okay, enough complaining -- this compilation features 28 generally solid bands. My personal highlights are a subtle remix of Cave In's "Jupiter," the title track from their latest masterpiece; the straight forward power hardcore of Thrice; another goofy Atom and His Package tune that had the kiddies dancing; the acne-medicated. power-pop punk of the Selby Tigers; and a live version of Dillinger Escape Plan's "The Mullet Burden" that is jaw-droppingly tight. Suspiciously, the Dillinger track includes scream samples and, by the sounds of it, has to have at least some overdubs (or my brain will explode). Other names that might get the juices flowing are Hot Water Music, Shai Hulud, Boy Sets Fire, Seam, Strike Anywhere, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and Grade. As with most comps, this is a hit and miss mix of previously released and unreleased or rare material. Sub City JS

Various Artists: The Whistle of the Missile Video
Hey, the do it yourself hardcore video, how times have changed! I used to obsess over these things for hours on end, often into the wee hours of the morn, straining my ears and eyes over putrid sound quality and shaky camera work to see bootlegged videos of live bands. A small lifetime spent enduring crowd noise louder than the bands, and motion sickness from watching the spastic visuals. To their credit, Bifocal Media have made a concerted effort to get the sounds and sights up to the best quality expected from such a production. Still, it's difficult viewing from start to finish, and the bad film school short movies between each band keep the whole experience at a dullard's pace. Not one of the included short films was worth the time, and many had me groaning in boredom. Worth a watch are live songs by Converge, Party of Helicopters, Twelve Hour Turn, Dillinger Escape Plan (proof that they are for real), The Episode, Engine Down, and His Hero Is Gone. Yup, that Slayer video filmed by the professional football camera crew is looking pretty good right about now. Bifocal Media JS

Various Artists: US Pop Life Vol. 12: Tribute to Fort Thunder
"Random Slice of Life from Ft. Thunder -- Some Bands Who Played At" Grammar challenged compilation titles often spell trouble. Such is the case with ... ah, that fucking title. Let's just call this the Fort Thunder comp. Fort Thunder is a commune of young artists and musicians in Providence, RI, who "turn detritus into fresh décor without end," whatever the hell that means. Even more confusing are the majority of the house bands on this mess, with the inclusion of some touring bands that have played at Fort Thunder. The majority of bent noise and goofy sound effects on this compilation will go way under most people's heads. Even attempting to get down to the level of bands like Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, Quintron, Lesser, Marumari, Pixel Tan, The Music Tapes (and on, and on, and on) is a thankless task. The only listenable submissions come from the UK's Red Monkey and Brooklyn's Orchid, and a special treat comes from The Fucking Champs; -- what a welcome pleasure to finally hear their instrumental metal offerings. The US Pop Life compilation series is an important one, but this volume is a throwaway. Steer clear of Fort Thunder, the venue and the compilation. Contact Records JS

The Varukers How Do You Sleep?????
Yes, thre are five question marks in the album title, and it’s a sign of some pretty pissed off, grammatically incorrect punk rock to come. The Varukers have been around forever, and when they’re not collecting The Dole in the UK, they’re bashing out buckets of venom, piss, and puke. Call me desperate for anger, but sometimes lyrics like, "You rip me off you treat me like a fucking cunt/You bunch of fucking arseholes/Do I look loaded/You’re having a fucking laugh," can be refreshing after a long day of reading children’s books to toddlers and riding the see-saw at the park. I can’t imagine who would listen to political crusty punk in this day and age, and what they could possibly look or smell like. Still, The Varukers are a lot better than most of the bollucks out there calling itself punk rock. Go-Kart Records JS

The Veins The Glorious Sounds of the Veins
Strange greaser rock from Bauhaus disciples, fronted by a whinier version of Axl Rose (imagine that). The Glorious Sounds was released in 1997. No, it's not a re-release, this was actually released in 1997. JS

Versailles The Great Axis
When I was younger, I went on a vacation with my parents to Europe and we went to Versailles on a giant blue bus listening to an audio tour on headphones. Versailles offers both awe-inspiring architecture and a history filled with brilliance and horror that lasted much longer than it should have. Florida's Versailles definitely knows all about that-almost every song on The Great Axis is at least five minutes long, and has a fair share of horror and even some brilliance, if only in their design. Their album art for The Great Axis contains architectural plans for, guess what, Versailles, and little else. They must really like French history. Perhaps they took a vacation like mine and were so transfixed by it they had to start a band; a band that listens to a lot of Fugazi, and creates songs in that motif. To speak in terms of Art History, their love for Fugazi simply contributes to their design. However, in terms of listening to their music, the imitation leads you to very familiar territory, not conceptually the point of art. The French try to ignore everyone else and do what they please; perhaps the boys in Versailles might do the same. I suggest more experimentation with keyboards, an effect implemented with great success in "Feck" and "Fin", two songs that represent Versailles potential. Boxcar Records RG

The Vertigo-gos Anthology 1998-2000
Surf rock. I used to surf. You remember how fucking huge that Dick Dale song was after Pulp Fiction? I even bought a Dick Dale record. It was a dollar. I'd put it on the record player in my garage, crack open a cold one, and my roommate said: "Dick Dale." And silently we'd think about that while Dale's guitar screeched gently on. Probably we'd think about Pulp Fiction somewhere in there. I'd probably have thought, "I really liked it back then, but now when I watch it all I see is a pretty juvenile script." My roommate probably thought about making a quesadilla. He loved cheese even though he was lactose intolerant. His gas was brutal. The Vertigo-gos play surf rock, but in a modern context, much like Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet did. Yeah, fuck singers. The difference is, the Vertogo-gos are firmly entrenched into surf rock and don't stray off course. They had a mission, and that mission was accomplished. Also, as this is an anthology, you're gonna get it all, even a college radio interview in three parts, Mozart-style.
Garage Pop Records RG

Victims Family Apocalicious
Age does weird things to people. For some, growing older mellows them to the point of sedation (any classic rock band ever), but for others age is equated with experimentation (Fugazi and Nomeansno come to mind). The return of Bay Area prog-punk champions Victims Family has them going off the deep end. Often mentioned in the same breath as Nomeansno, this influential three-piece sets no limits to the scope of Apocalicious. Songs range from the prog-core of the Victims Family most remember fondly, to computer-enhanced nonsense, and some funky Primus-like hokey pokey tunes. The only one-dimensional aspect of this new CD is the lyrics, as all but one of these 13 songs are sung in first person. To its credit, the lyric sheet is a hilarious read, poking fun at pretty much every aspect of consumerist, war mongering American life. Longtime fans of this band will no doubt dance around this album like the creepy shipwrecked kids on that deserted island danced around their fire. Those unfamiliar with Victims Family will feel like long lost members of the weirdest family since the Mansons. Alternative Tentacles JS 1.18.2002

Volta Do Mar (3 song EP)
Volta Do Mar means "turn of the sea" in Portuguese, which is an apt term to describe the waves of sound and splashes of audible color from this Illinois instrumental quartet. Nary a math rock head should spin at the vibrant rolls through thoughts and ideas in each ditty. Could be background music, but catches too much attention to deviate. All of their tunes, all of 3, include some faction of transport, or at least some by-way there of. Sea, air and mass transit all make the cut. None of the tracks idle long enough for you to get out and push; these guys keep it on a mellow gear and ride you all the way to that dim lighted lounge off in the distance. Not much to write home about, but they are well on their way to composing their first novel from this lucid short story. Arborvitae Records MW

Volta Do Mar At the Speed of Light or Day
If you hooked up Volta Do Mar's new disc to the latest computer, its processor would fry, its chips would melt and it would curl up in a ball crying for its mother ... board. You need to have a big ol' gray mess of jelly to truly enjoy and handle the soaring, shifting, and unorthodox musical cornucopia that is At the Speed of Light or Day. With a name that translates from Portuguese to "Turn of the Sea," its no wonder this record is both a violent and turbulent sail exploring every facet of music and leaving shiny and wondrous objects of sound washed up near the high tide line. Heavy in experimentation and improvisational jazz and rock, At the Speed of Light or Day is powered by bullet-fast drumming and buoyed by the intertwining notes of the dual basses. Like estranged bedfellows, the guitars and drums at times seem at odds with one another yet still come together in a fantastic and passionate embrace. The album is hard to listen to at one minute and hard to stop at the next. It's the soundtrack of movement and it takes more than a single listen to digest. Soft finger picking steals your breath away on "The Sound of Day" then quickly explodes into the squirming guitar sound that wiggles like a worm through the entire album. Perhaps the most simple yet emotional moment comes in the 50 seconds of "Another Air Strike Called Love" as the final furious guitar chords are punctuated by the in unison cries of the band. It's hard to decipher the actual words but the feeling resounds clearly nonetheless. Its one of the few lyrics that are peppered here and there as the listener is left to his/her own interpretations. With no manual and no shutdown procedures, Volta Do Mar has created an imperfect platform of brilliant inventiveness for any human's audio consumption. Arborvitae Records JJ

Wack Trucks Shake This – This is so bad it hardly warrants a review. Goofy, tuneless one-chord punk rock with four members who seemingly share a single, damaged brain. Best to crawl back under that rock boys, this has to be one of the worst things released this year. And that’s not even taking into account the lyrics to "Bitches iz Wack." JS

Wafflehouse* Olympia
This record is refreshingly reminiscent of a time when what is now called "emo" was referred to as "emo-core". Aggressive and uninhibited, Olympia careens from whisper to scream, blistering thrash to spare ballad, all within the span of a single song, and this is just to mention the most obvious tone and tempo variety on this album. Wafflehouse*'s greater strength is the band's ability to deftly fuse a number of styles into a disjointed, albeit thoroughly engaging, mix that gels to spite the agitated relationship between its parts. Combining a mid-tempo hardcore pace, tongue-in-cheek digressions (a la Green Day) into speed metal phrasing and soloing, a spontaneous, math-rock-ish grab-bag of mid-riff changes, and a by-now comforting hurt/aggravated vocal tone, Wafflehouse* has the makings of something essential. Olympia is Wafflehouse*'s first long player, the band sounds a little caught up in it's influences (caP'n Jazz particularly), but, depending on your tastes, that's not really much to complain about. This is overall a pretty thrilling and rewarding listen, as the band is moving toward a song structure in which verses and choruses are mute points along uncharted routes of swerving sonic narrative. Of note is the vocal interplay (all five members contribute vocals), which focuses more on counter melody than on harmonization, giving an even greater depth to the already dense two-guitar, bass, drums, and "keys" onslaught. Forge Again Records CO

Andrew Wagner Thank You, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle
Look ye! A fair maiden has perchanced upon my bodice, which is thus heaving with earthly delight at her coquettish silhouette. My +2 long sword of Chick Scamming should nary thrust forth and pierce her heart and undies, succumbing her into a faint and then I may get my chance to lay 'em down and smack 'em yack 'em! But this is only in response to the title of the album, which in no way describes what is going on here. Andrew Wagner takes his little geetar and chug a lugs with decent aplomb letting us know he enjoys both folk music and ether. His styling is a bit like an acid tinged J Mascis or Brian Kenny Fresno gone Sparklehorse with a heaving nod to Neil Young. It's not bad and it's not gonna stop traffic. The continued essence of men with acoustic guitars and a 4-track recorder is in full swing here and we should all pay homage to the trend that will never end. For lo!, the knavish minstrel doth continue his parry with the lute and string, singing a dandy melody to the princess in captivity, to her beauty, to her redolence, to her fine ass booty which makes the tunesmith cry "boo yaa!" All in all, I enjoyed Andrew Wagner and what he's doing. But my life will remain complete if it happens to somehow leave my apartment. 10 sided dice is optional. Losing Blue Print Records MW

Ward Churchill Doing Time: The Politics of Imprisonment
From the introduction of this spoken word disc, Ward Churchill's voice demands attention. Churchill, whose credentials equal anyone when it comes to knowledge of the FBI and its use of counter intelligence programs in the US, has the kind of gruff, no bullshit voice that automatically engages the brain into listen mode. Churchill is co-director of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, Vice-President of the American Anti-Defamation Council, and a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Boulder. On Doing Time: The Politics of Imprisonment, he details how the FBI's programs undermine radical dissent and how the justice system has been used as an agent of social control. His observations and knowledge are impressive, to say the least, and they make for a fascinating listen. This particular speech was recorded in September of 2000 at the Doing Time conference held at the University of Winnipeg, home of the awesome record label collective who put this disc out. The G7 Welcoming Committee JS

Whippersnapper America's Favorite Pastime
Sometimes those neo-jocks you see at those Unwritten Law and Pennywise concerts can start a pretty decent punk band. With chugging power chord guitars, quick drumming, and general subjects supplied by basic lyrics. Whippersnapper cranks up the cool senior attitude and picks things up at your local skate park. There is really not much to say here; these guys are alright. They get the job done, they get you bouncing and then they get out. No real surprises -- just standard SoCal punk with good hooks and good times. It is also rather apparent that each of the members will have no problem getting laid after the show. They have that cute-white-guy-skater-punk look down pat and are a match to the 12 light and snappy ditties that don't offend or challenge anyone. It is easy to fall into music and people like this -- and just as easy to forget when the band splits up and groupies turn to wives. It was a sunny day when America's Favorite Pastime blasted its way through my house, and that’s how it should be listened to. It may brighten up a gloomy Monday, but on a whole, Whippersnapper should be played outside, in the sun, with your friends, skateboarding, or doing slip n slides on your neighbors yard. I tried drinking a beer to the album, but I just got annoyed. You need a sticky cold soda of your choice instead. I then threw on the aging BMX biker movie "Rad" on and played the CD over it. That kinda worked. But then I felt like drinking more beer. So, I turned it off. Lobster Records MW

The White Octave Menergy
Here's a disc of really solid indie rock. I would place it somewhat similar to Hoover, Lincoln, or even Season to Risk. At times, they aren't that dissimilar from At The Drive In. I knew nothing about this going in, but I was afraid that it was going to be some watery Built to Spill sort of record. After two tracks, I knew that it was a keeper. This is better than most of the current indie rock scene. Initial records
(but it sounds like it is on Dischord! Haha!) MM

Windfall Loud with the windows open so the neighbors can hear
All right, so first off, what's with that name? Windfall? Is that the art cred you're trying to capture or does it mean something intregal to the band that we as the paying audience have no idea what it could mean (well, could is a bit deep ...) other than the fact that it makes no representation of the sound the band emanates. And the title of the album. Whoa ... long or something? Now, I'm not trying to come down hard on this band, nope not at all; in fact, what I'd like to do is kind of propose some latent observational insight as to what is indeed going on here. First off, item A as you may want to call it, is the fact that the band itself, Windfall, call themselves "hardcore" throughout their press kit. Well, in my experience as a music journalist, and coming across many "hardcore" bands (re: Cannibal Corpse anyone?) I have yet to see the truth behind that claim. Sure it's not exactly operatic church stylings for the drone humming public, in fact it does rock the roll on occasion, but the term "hardcore" gets tossed around as much as the fading tag "extreme" does. Perhaps an up and coming band from Kansas who know no better than what the local "alternative" station plays (like a new Metallica tune now and then) so hardcore gets inbred and they think just distortion and playing sorta fast puts them on the punk or thrash level. Is Windfall trying to get to this stage, or are they just a decent rock band that's trying to maintain some form of gritty credo to win the blackened hearts of misfit rockers across the globe? Yeah, like they want a bunch of freakish banshees from the caverns of musical extremity to show up at their gig and bash the living crap outta the place and band as well. I mean, they are from the NY/NJ location, which does in itself inject a few of the meaner bands and sounds to come across our ears, but Windfall is somewhere in the middle between acceptance and whatever-happened-to-them? I liked it, but they need to get the record straight so as folks like me can get the message out correctly and feel the vibe they're trying to convey. Windfall ... gosh, how majestic. Too bad though. Smorgasbord Records MW

Denison Witmer Of Joy and Sorrow
In a sea full of singer-songwriters there are very few who ever float to the top. In fact, most are stuck to the bottom with little or no support, under-produced albums, and no interest from any major labels. But I suppose sometimes those things are a catalyst for great albums. The follow up to The '80s EP and Denison Witmer's second full-length album, Of Joy and Sorrow, is a wondrous folk/pop creation of simple acoustic guitars and gentle vocals. The album takes the listener on a journey through the heart and mind of Witmer leaving no stone unturned and no emotion unexplored. With writing comparisons to Elliot Smith and harmonies that reminisce of Crosby Stills and Nash, such as on the track "Reaching," Burnt Toast Vinyl has found a keeper. Not only is the fourth track, "Simple Life," a beautiful melody, but it pretty much sums the album up and the feeling it leaves with you. So go buy this album, kick back, and enjoy. Burnt Toast Vinyl NH

Woe Last Stop
The music group Woe's Last Stop, an album of instrumental music, is not easy to categorize, as it mixes sounds associated with both rock and jazz. It reminds me of experimental music, the kind one might hear in downtown Manhattan performance spaces or nightclubs, but this is not to say the music is "new," despite its strangeness, just as surrealism is still strange but not new. The group begins its album of mostly short songs with "Last Stop," a brief blast of instrumental noise before going into "Reason Gets Paid Back," with an attractive but repetitive rhythm, heavy then light. The sax is slightly melodious, the trumpet not, it's just whining bursts. "Minutes to Go" sounds like the soundtrack to a car crash. "Incidents At" has a heavy, repeating drum beat with what sounds like a high-pitched trumpet and guitar feedback. "Ceiling Sniffing" begins slowly, softly, with well-composed sound textures, and reminds me of Lester Bowie and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. "The Shake" seems to aspire to beauty, is quiet, with one instrument seeming to echo another. One tries to imagine an image, a scene, a story; why? Is the lack of words and vocals a call to create something translatable into language, into predictable meaning? Yet, I like "Ceiling Sniffing" and "The Shake." There is an abstract quality in much of the album's music, and it doesn't seem to offer much in the way of revelations or climaxes. Some of it may be mood music but the mood is hard to discern. The last song, "This Sound Will Break Your Heart," has an ambitious, engaging title, and one imagines something momentous is about to happen as it starts, but nothing momentous happens. Some Records DG

The Workin' Stiffs Dog Tired ... And Then Some
I may be accused of blasphemy, but what the heck, I'll just say it: The Sex Pistols are alive and well and living in the skins of The Workin' Stiffs. Their newest album, Dog Tired ... And Then Some, is a cheery bugger-off to anyone who thinks old-school punk is dead. Every track is surprisingly catchy, with the sort of snarling Johnny Rotten vocals that seem downright cherubic in an age of Disturbed and Korn. Sure, all the songs sound the same, but no more so than you'd expect from a band trying to recapture the feel of a musical sub-genre so localized in place and time. Think of it as concept punk -- a bunch of Bay Area kids recreating a seminal era that they weren't around to catch the first time. Or maybe somebody just forgot to tell these guys the '70s punk scene happened long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I, for one, hope they never find out. TKO Records GW

xbxrx Love Songs for the Blind
Noisy, raw, crazy, fun. Techno meets punk rock. Monster Mash comes to mind. The lyrics really make me smile, especially on the sixth track "Chow-mein Alpha" where the vocalists are monkeys (well kinda). Favorite part is the intro to "Five Knuckle Shuffle" as a cover of the theme song to the video game Spy Hunter. Great for slumber parties and dancing around on a rainy day. Buy this. Anal Log Recordings MH/AH

YUKhONIC / Salute The Curse Split 7"
This is an artsy release that sort of defies description/categorization. YUKhONIC is a two-person noise project with synthesizers, discordant drums and guitar, and distorted screaming vocals. Salute the Curse is a bit less interesting and more straightforward -- slower and somewhat more indie sounding with background talking rather than singing. I don't really know what you'd call this: noise, art rock, indie rock? It looks like quite a bit of work went into this release -- the covers are all hand-assembled/painted. Anyone into experimental noise or looking for something that deviates from the norm should look no further, but it wasn't really my thing. Cephia's Treat Recordings BD

Zao / Outcast
Half of this is a re-release of a 1995-ish split 7-inch. The two bands also released one song each that was previously unreleased. This is where each band started out ... check it out if you're into them. Steadfast Records MH/AH

A-G, H-M, N-Z

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