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Review Archive:
Various Artists

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

Vermilion Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires
Now this is interesting. Four songs in 42 minutes from a Seattle quartet who would probably listen to Yes over Murder City Devils any day. Complete with magic mushroom cover art, Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires (ha ha) is inspired by strange sounds and, perhaps, controlled substances of the hallucinogenic variety. True, not many people are going to have time to really sit down and listen intently to a 7-minute track called "1313101310137107," or even have time to double check if that's typed correctly, but when it comes to bands like Vermilion, it's the thought that counts. It's cool they're doing their own thing, however geeky and self-indulgent it may be. Redwood Records JS 4.15.2003

Vermillion Bo Jackson Vinyl Single
This instrumental band alternates between funk, jazz guitar, and metal, often in the same song. As interesting as it is eclectic -- there's a little bit of horn and violin interspersed between the traditional rock instrumentation -- the seven-inch format's a good fit for this band's avant-garde aspirations. Their sudden time shifts and genre switcheroos would be hard to take over the course of an entire album. All in all, it's not a bad outing -- one that might invite people to draw some comparisons to guitarist Bill Frisell grafted into a somewhat more hardcore sound. Redwood Records ZH 4.15.2003

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 1.2002

Viza-Noir No Record
Ah, yes, the Chicago sound -- how I know thee well. The Windy City's Viza-Noir play off-kilter, at times jangly, post-rock that immediately brings to mind Mission of Burma and Gang of Four. Maybe squeeze a lit bit of Minutemen in there for good measure. I'd also like to mention Nomeansno, mostly because they are my hometown heroes. Bassist Mike O'Connell doesn't have Mike Watt or Rob Wright's amazing chops (but, then again, who does?), but he does have a locked-in bass groove that would make Shellac proud. It's this groove and the freedom to let loose and rock out that make Viza-Noir a band who deserve attention, not only in Chicago, but across the continent. Flameshovel Records JS 7.2003

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

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Also in Song ...
Song Archive

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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