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S ... is for Soundcheck

Review Archive:
Various Artists

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

Scorn Plan B
Ladies and gentlemen ... Mick Harris can do no wrong. If you don't know this guy's body of prolific work then, um ... well I guess I'm here to explain. Mick used to be the drummer for the amazing grindcore band Napalm Death, then he hooked up with this guy and did Scorn, which, at first, was this brooding metal band which soon took form as a heavy beat/dark wave project that fell into the hands of Harris alone. Now Scorn is this bizarre entity of minimalist sounds, beats, and overt use of outer space haunted house sounds to make this the most important electro "band" in current use. Plan B is a follow up to the amazing Welcome To Birmingham, and is more squelchy and grating than its predecessor but still in the groove hungry fashion without being obvious or even that accessible. This stuff is best late at night on various substances or just watching the rain as it sheets beyond your window. I watched "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (yeah the first one) with this album and it matched up perfectly. What will you do with this stuff? Go nuts is most likely. Scorn rules and it's only a matter of time till the rest of the beat junky planet catches on. So now's your chance ... GO! Hymen Records MW 4.15.2003

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 Storey 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

Since By Man We Sing the Body Electric
Ya, there's a certain sassiness here, and the Nation of Ulysses send-off has to go. They even steal "A Kid Who Tells on Another Kid Is a Dead Kid" as one of their song titles. Despite the obvious reference points to their sound, Since By Man manage to eke out a strong album of Refused-style hardcore. The sounds of bands like Killsadie and The Blood Brothers also rear their ugly little mop-heads on occasion, but not enough to rustle too many feathers for those who prefer music made by grown-ups. Mainly, this Milwaukee five-piece deliver a jazzed-up skronk akin to Converge with a lisp. Revelation Records JS

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 1.2002

Small Brown Bike and The Casket Lottery
Now here's an idea! Fear not because this ain't a split CD. Rather it is a combination of Small Brown Bike and The Casket Lottery on a totally collaborative EP with many variations on who does what. It's kind of confusing but, as far as I can tell, the two bands team up on four songs (one band will sing to the other's music, or both bands will play together) and each band provides a new original of their own. The result is excellent as each band shows off their brand of emo-rock, and together they warp and fiddle with their sound to create something new. Neither Small Brown Bike nor The Casket Lottery has really elevated themselves to a higher echelon until now. I wish more bands would stick their necks out and try different things with split CDs, which (along with compilations) are usually the bane of my existence. Also, I'm so pleased this wasn't one of those "let's cover each other's songs and mutilate them" splits as I initially thought it was. This is a great EP. Even a combination cover of Queen's "Under Pressure" (potentially a disaster) comes across with charm and class. Second Nature Recordings JS

Snapcase End Transmission
Snapcase are one of the many bands that I've managed to tune out over the years. Can't listen to everything (right?) and I always shrugged Snapcase off as sort of dull. So, I stopped listening around ... actually it was after their first 7" (back when they were a straight edge band), so I guess I haven't given them a fair shake. After hearing their latest, End Transmission, I'm looking quite the fool. Maybe it's a new infusion of life's blood, but from what I've heard from this band in recent years, they were never this, well, rocking. "Coagulate" is an apt opener, with its herky-jerky Refused rhythm and piercing vocals, and the energy swirls from there. The true strength of the album comes not only from the shovel-to-face riffs of songs like "Believe, Revolt" and "First Word." Atmospheric interludes between the barrage and mellower, played out tracks like "Ten AM" and "A Synthesis Of ...," both upward of six minutes long, make End Transmission a solid album on the whole. As if the songs weren't enough, we get a theme album about the spiraling loss of control we have over our lives in a corporate realm, wrapped up in a visual package that would make Adbusters proud. Wow! Time to catch up on the Snapcase back catalog. Victory Records JS 7.2003

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

Somehow Hollow
Three members of the revolving door that was Ontario's Grade have continued on in Somehow Hollow, a band they played in before their tour of duty with the "worst hair in hardcore" band. Thankfully, vocalist/guitarist Brad Cassarin and his brother, bassist/vocalist Mike, have written a record almost entirely devoid of the faux-metal Grade shamelessly flirted with. Instead, we get the straight deal; catchy pop-punk/hardcore with clean, easy-listening vocals. Warning: Just don't look at the band photo on the back cover because the hair is still somewhat intact. Not sure what happened to Kyle Bishop, that Grade screamer/sideburns farmer that always seemed to ruin their songs with his incessant howls, but, then again, who cares because he's not in this band. Somehow Hollow are a different band than Grade and, in most ways, a better one. Victory Records 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

A Static Lullaby ... And Don't Forget To Breathe
So there's this area of semi-new music that I both admire and misunderstand. It's like emo kids gone metal but with the sense of noise and indie yet accessible to so many heads that I'm not really sure where to put them. Maybe that's the whole idea. OK ... I'll shut up. Basically, A Static Lullaby rock out with their socks, um ... on, and come across as a group of sad kids all done up with a confused air about them. Plus man, the screaming really gets to me. We get it: You're pissed and injured. Gotcha! Now why don't you try and chill while the band does a fine job making floorstaring nu-rawk and pieces the intricacies of being young and repressed to tonal beefsteak. Thanks. Ferret Music MW

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

Stillwell Don't Face a Problem ... Burn It
Stillwell's debut full-length (five years in the making) went in one ear and out the other. Uninspiring math-y rock that some might call post-hardcore, but it isn't really post-anything. More like pre-fabricated and pre-conceived. With songs titles like "Phone Rings. Wake Up. Remember Nothing. Repeat Cycle." and "Okay, man. Sure. No Problem. Um, thanks," and a totally non-enthralling sound that is a downright chore to listen to, this gets old pretty fast. Fore Again Records JS 7.2003

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

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JS - Jason Schreurs

MW - Mark Whittaker

KG - Kenny George

ZH - Zachary Houle

MH - Melissa Hostetler

RG - Ryan Gowland

CS - Cameron Smith

CR - Chuck Reith

CO - Cory O'Malley

BD - Bruce Duncanson

JR - Jessica Richman

GW - Greg Wilson

DG - Daniel Garret

JT - Jessie Turner

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