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January 2006 Reviews by

Keith John Adams
Agent Sparks
Airport 81

Airport Cathedral
The Apparitions
Are The Same

The Avett Brothers
The Beatings
Beaumont
Bedsit Poets

The Bosch
Bracket

Meredith Bragg and the Terminals
Buzzcocks

Cake On Cake
Cats & Jammers
Michael Dean Church
Cinderpop

The Class of 98
Colosseum
Comment Piece
Chris De Burgh
Delta 5
Dolly Mucous

Liz Durrett
*
Electric President

Good Evening
Go West
Guitar Wolf
Grand National

Half-Handed Cloud
The Handsome Charlies

The Hellacopters
His Name Is Alive
Hooked...Get It On (Line)

Little Tacky
Lords of Altamont
Troy Lukkarila
The M's
Magnet*
Make A Rising
Mask*
Modern Skirts
Motorhead
Chris Murphy
New Radiant Storm King*
New York Dolls
...Nous Non Plus*
Orange Mothers

Patty Hurst Shifter
Chris Pierce*
Queen
RMS & Gil Evans
Rubber Glob

Salt and Pepper Poppa
Sheeple

She Had A Mad Bad Baby
Slowride
(The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope
The Southern Sea

Chris Spedding
Garrison Starr*
The Stems

Three Dimensional Blackboard
Throwaway Thumbs
Mia Doi Todd
Tristeza*
Wah Wah Womb
Paul Winn

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received

RATING SYSTEM:
= GODDAMN!!!
= EXCELLENT
= VERY GOOD
= GOOD
= FAIR
= SHITTY

January 2006 Comment Piece:
You Can't Say Anything Anymore

People are so easily offended and bothered. One of the silliest things to happen over the past few years is the increasingly intense debate over what holiday greeting you should use at the end of the year and what the holiday tree should be called.

Should you say "Merry Christmas"...? No, because that would offend people who do not believe in Jesus. How about "Happy Holidays"...? No, because that would offend Christians who feel that the birthday of Jesus is being forgotten.

We're still confused as to why non-Christians would be celebrating the holiday season anyway. If you don't believe in Jesus then why the hell are you putting up a goddamn tree and giving gifts...? Oh, we almost forgot. The Christians stole the holiday from the Pagans...so it isn't the real birthday of Jesus in the first place (!). Christmas actually started out as a Pagan holiday. As if any of this matters...

This past December, we decided to use this holiday greeting: "Merry Something Or Other." You'd think that such a silly phrase couldn't possibly offend anyone, right? Wrong. Every single person that we tried this out on seemed very bothered and irritated. Most folks tried to correct us by telling us what phrase we ought to be using.

You'd think that people would understand that--no matter what words folks use--the intent behind the words is to wish others well. Isn't that what really matters...?

It should...but it doesn't. Instead of being warm and cordial to one another, people will continue to bicker and argue over tiny irrelevant things that don't matter one goddamn bit in the big scheme of things. Human beings sure are trivial.

Beginning next year...at the end of 2006...we won't wish anyone anything anymore. It's just not worth the effort.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Keith John Adams - Pip (CD, Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Pop)
Britain's Keith John Adams has been making music for some time now...first with the band The Horse Doctors and later in Zuno Men...before venturing off into his solo career. Adams writes upbeat catchy pop that is reminiscent of early Thomas Dolby (the vocals are particularly Dolby-esque). Pip is not only playful and intriguing...but it also has remarkable commercial potential. Adams isn't trying to space everyone out by being overtly weird or obtuse. Instead, this young man chooses to write music that can be easily absorbed and appreciated. He succeeds on this album...tossing out fourteen cool and hummable tracks, almost all of which could easily be hit singles (in a perfect world). Classic tracks include "Inconsequential Thought," "Never Look Down," "Pip," "Boy and Girl," and "Quiet Snow." (Rating: 5+)

Agent Sparks - Not So Merry (CD EP, Immortal, Rock/pop)
Infectious, upbeat hard pop. Not So Merry is the first release from this California-based four piece band. The tunes sound something like The New Pornographers...except much louder and harsher. What is most impressive about this band is how they are able to play with such energy and volume while managing to retain critical song elements like melodies and lyrics. Call it power pop or catchy hard rock...these folks are doing everything right from the start. Five killer tracks: "It's Not My Time," "Mr. Insecurity," "Camouflage," "Choke," and "So Long, Darlings." This EP is intended to whet folks' appetites for the band's first full-length coming in 2006. We can't WAIT. (Rating: 5++)

Airport 81 - Put Your Squares Together (CD, Breathing Room, Synth pop)
Slightly goofy analog pop music with a difference. The folks in Airport 81 write and record danceable pop that sounds something like a cross between Kraftwerk and Joy Electric. The robotic tunes on the humorously-titled Put Your Squares Together are wonderfully out of synch with current trends in music. This might explain why this album is so refreshing...or it could just be the fact that these folks have come up with some great songs. This San Diego-based band consists of A-Drive, Sneaky Pete, and Tape. If you're not into electronic music, consider this. These folks incorporate real drums and real bass guitar into their tracks...giving the songs a meaty and inviting human feel. Uplifting and positive, Put Your Squares Together is a superb listening experience from start to finish. Top picks: "Bonus Jack," "Hectometre," "Square Vehicles on Collision Course," "Trouble on the Assembly Line." (Rating: 5+)

Airport Cathedral - Jetlag (CD, Burning Buildings Recordings, Progressive pop)
Instantly engaging smart progressive pop. True to comparisons that have been made by other reviewers, Airport Cathedral is reminiscent of other artists like Hayden and J. Mascis. Considering the mature tunes presented, it seems incredible that Jetlag is a debut album (!). It takes many artists years of recording to come up with something this solid. Personal and suggestive, these tunes have unusual sticking qualities that make the listener want to spin them over and over and over. During the course of these nine tracks, the folks in this eight member band prove that they are a real force to be reckoned with. Great songs include "Cure-Alls," "The Tease," "Now I Know," "One Step Down," and "Another Day Another Week." Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Apparitions - As This Is Futuristic (Advance CD, Machine, Rock/pop)
Lexington, Kentucky's The Apparitions return with another entertaining album. As This Is Futuristic features ten guitar driven pop tunes with a heavy emphasis on melodies and lyrics. The band consists of Mark Heidinger, Robbie Roberts, Eric Smith, Robby Cosenza, and Justin Craig. These five gentlemen play thick involved pop/rock music that is surprisingly accessible. Following the well-received Oxygen Think Tank, this album is bound to please the band's growing fan base. Memorable tracks include "Electricity + Drums," "God Monkey Robot," "Shapeshifters," and "Positively Charged." (Rating: 4+++)

ARE THE SAME

Right and wrong.
Wrong and right.
Right and wrong are the same.

Good and bad.
Bad and good.
Good and bad are the same.

Life and death.
Death and life.
Life and death are the same.

Same and same.
Same and same.
Same and same are the same.

(Rating: 1)

The Avett Brothers - Four Thieves Gone: The Robinsville Sessions (CD, Ramseur, Pop/folk)
Nice organic folky pop. Four Thieves Gone: The Robinsville Sessions is the third full-length release from this North Carolina-based trio. This was our first exposure to The Avett Brothers. To be honest, these fellows almost lost us...because the beginning of the first track ("Talk On Indolence") is a real turn off. Potential listeners should be forewarned that the rest of the album is infinitely superior to the initial rappish fastspeaking. Fortunately patience paid off. The longer we listened, the better the album got. So much so that by the end of these seventeen tracks we were absolutely in love with most of them. Scott and Seth Avett and Bob Crawford make wonderfully genuine and sincere music. Their folky pop is infused with subtle elements of bluegrass. The words and melodies are real and sung from the heart. There are several cuts on Four Thieves Gone that are likely to become classics in the years ahead. Stunning creations include "Sixteen In July," "A Lover Like You," "The Fall," "Dancing Daze," and "Four Thieves Gone." Includes a nifty lyric booklet. Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Beatings - Holding On To Hand Grenades (CD, Midriff, Rock)
Most really noisy bands sound the same. In their quest for hip status in the underground community, far too many bands place songwriting second in their drive to abuse and destroy eardrums with volume. The folks in The Beatings manage to be abrasive and noisy...while still presenting songs with real substance. Perhaps more importantly, their hearts seem to be in the right place. You can tell by the playing and singing on Holding On To Hand Grenades that the folks in this band love what they are doing. The Pixies' influence can be a bit intense at times...but hey, just as is the case with all those bands who want to sound like The Ramones, if you're going to borrow from a band why not borrow from the best...? Far from being a copycat band, The Beatings use Frank Black's songwriting style as a diving board for their own cool creations. Sixteen cool rockers here including "A Responsible Person," "Feel Good Ending," "Oh Shit, My Phaser's Jammed," and "Burn Down the Jungle." (Rating: 4++++)

Beaumont - No Time Like the Past (CD, Siesta, Soft pop)
Soft, progressive, seductive music. This British band was formed from fragments of the bands Blueboy and Arabesque. No Time Like the Past, Beaumont's third album, is a refreshing collection of soft understated pop with a heavy emphasis on lyrics and melodies. Paul Stewart's tunes are effective and instantly memorable...and Cath Close's vocals capture the spirit of the music perfectly with her subtle yet inventive lyrical imagery. What really pushes these tracks to the next level is the impressive restraint used in the recording process. Instead of overdubbing and multi-tracking everything to death, these folks had the good sense to keep things simple and direct. And this is what makes No Time Like the Past so thoroughly effective. Beautiful tunes include "Finding You," "Next To Nothing," "Blind Spot," and "Red Red Petals." A classy digipak sleeve with lyric booklet completes the package. Superb. (Rating: 5++)

Bedsit Poets - The Summer That Changed (CD, Bongo Beat, Soft pop)
Bedsit Poets is the duo of Edward Rogers and Amanda Thorpe. The Summer That Changed is a beautifully intoxicating collection of soft, dreamy pop. Rather than record songs that fit into any one particular sound or style, Rogers and Thorpe create music that is classic and timeless. The lyrics are particularly poignant and effective. By touching on thoughts and emotions that almost everyone can relate to, these folks manage to strike real emotional chords. The intricate arrangements fit the tunes perfectly, giving the album a nice airy feel. Recalling music from a simpler place and time, The Summer That Changed is intelligent and engaging from start to finish. Top picks: "February Kisses," "Reach For The Sky," "Round and Round," "Let It Rain." (Rating: 4++++)

The Bosch - Buy One Get One (Independently released CD EP, Rock)
New York quartet The Bosch made the right decision to head to Lexington, Kentucky to record this lengthy EP. Produced by Duane Lundy, Buy One Get One is a cool hard rock experience. Blasting out of the gates with the harsh and catchy "Come On Phillie," these guys provide nine intense garage rockers played with gusto and style. The band consists of Brett Beyer, Andrew Raff, Matthew Harrison, and Holt Richardson. These guys write great songs and they play like they mean it. Buy One Get One is proof positive that The Bosch is a band to watch. Classy tracks include "Metronome," "Back to the Laboratory," and "Tell the Doctor." (Rating: 5+)

Bracket - Requiem (CD, Takeover, Pop/rock)
We've been big fans of Bracket ever since the band released their debut album in the early 1990s. Despite the fact that they toured a great deal and released fantastic albums in the nineties, they never managed to shake their cult status. Eventually opting to build their own mobile recording studio in a trailer, the band decided to take matters into their own hands. Requiem is the first studio album to be recorded in the new studio. It contains all the power pop elements that have always made Bracket's music such a delight. Sprinkled throughout the album are some surprising elements (slight classical fragments and orchestrated vocal pieces) that may surprise some of the band's fans. Continuing in their mission to present as many different songs as possible for the mysteriously invisible Warren character, the album features seventeen tracks...all of which were named after the man. Bracket's punchy power pop sounds as great as it did when the band first began...and their vocal harmonies just keep getting better. Hopefully this album marks the beginning of a new era in Bracket's career. These guys deserve more attention than they've gotten thus far. (Rating: 5++)

Meredith Bragg and the Terminals - The Departures (CD EP, Kora, Soft pop)
More pensive, thoughtful, melodic soft pop from rising star Meredith Bragg. Recorded by Chad Clark and T.J. Lippie in Arlington, Virginia, The Departures features five understated compositions that showcase Bragg's gift for penning intelligent melodies and heartfelt lyrics. We were impressed as hell with Meredith's debut album (Volume 1)...and we have the same reaction to this EP. After hearing these tracks, we can't wait to hear the next full-length. Features "Empty Beds," "Take Me Down," "Let's Start Over," "Postcard From Boston," and "Two Blue Lights." Beautiful. (Rating: 5+)

Buzzcocks - Live at Shepherds Bush Empire 2003 (DVD, Music Video Distributors / Secret Films)
Peter Shelley of The Buzzcocks was easily the smartest of the original wave of British punk songwriters of the 1970s. Forming a perfect fusion of bubblegum and punk, Shelley defined his own sound and vision in such a way that he had no competitors. During the first phase of the band's career they had a good deal of success in England...but never had a hit in the United States. Shelley eventually embarked on a solo career that was ultimately not as well received (although some of his solo material was fantastic). Because of renewed interest in The Buzzcocks over time, Shelley eventually revived the band. This DVD features the new Buzzcocks in concert in 2003. The band cranks out 32 tunes, most of which are from the 1970s albums. Unlike other bands from the past, the band plays with gusto and style...making songs that are now three decades old sound fresh and new again. It's interesting that the majority of new Buzzcocks fans seem to be very young. It's a treat seeing Pete present all the hits in surround sound...but it's also a bit disappointing when one stops to realize that the band's creative output since the 1970s just hasn't been that impressive. This concert would have been much more balanced if there were more familiar recent tunes thrown into the mix. Thus, this is not the ultimate Buzzcocks experience. It's a good view...but the band doesn't have the same spark they once had. All the DVD extras are, as usual, throwaway footage. In our minds, The Buzzcocks will always be one of our top favorite British acts from the 1970s. But we'd sure like to see them come up with a fantastic new studio album at some point in time... (Rating: 4+++)

Cake On Cake - I See No Stars (CD, Desolation, Progressive pop)
Cake On Cake is the one-woman Swedish band consisting of Helena Sundin. I See No Stars, Sundin's debut album, is an instantly engaging and intriguing listening experience. Helena's unconventional approach is obvious in both her writing and recording. While inviting and easy on the ears, her songs are just slightly peculiar and offbeat. The unusual arrangements incorporate metallophone, marimba, flute, tablas, kazoo, claves, triangle, mandolin, and odd electronics. There aren't many artists we can think of whose material sounds even slightly similar to Cake On Cake...except perhaps some of the more subdued and pensive tunes recorded by Yoko Ono (the vocals are particularly reminiscent of Ono). Subdued and strange, I See No Stars is uniquely pleasant. Cool cuts include "Dreams Will Come True," "Animals and Humans," "No Spring," and "Tomorrows Taken." (Rating: 5++)

Cats & Jammers - Whole Lotta Goddamn (CD, Scotch Hell, Pop/rock)
Combining the sound of The Buzzcocks with early Young Fresh Fellows, the fellows in Chicago's Cats & Jammers keep getting better and better. Scott Anthony, Addison Monroe, and Paul Medrano play simple three piece rock music that is highly reminiscent of bands from the early to mid-1980s. The songs are short and to-the-point and feature wonderfully insightful lyrics that are often hilarious. The band's melodies and hooks are what ultimately rule, however...as songs are the strongest link here. Whole Lotta Goddamn features smart, effervescent tunes that would make Scott McCaughey proud. The guys in this band play with such sincere youthful enthusiasm and excitement that it's almost impossible not to love them. Fun memorable cuts include "Rock and Roll Invasion," "Will I Die Young?", "Propaganda Slaves," and "Stabitty Stabitty Stab Stab Stab." (Rating: 5)

Michael Dean Church - Live It Out Loud (CD, Sharp Objects, Country/pop
Having built up his career playing in Georgia nightclubs, young Michael Dean Church eventually dumped the Peach State and moved to Nashville...possibly the smartest move for an up-and-coming country artist. Shortly afterward, Church hooked up with Steven Sharp...the two headed off to Buck Owens' recording studio in Bakersfield, California...and Live It Out Loud was born. Church comes from the old school of country music...the era when most singers interpreted tunes written by others. Church and Sharp chose eleven upbeat easygoing tunes for this album...all of which spotlight Church's clean, masculine voice. The recordings are slick, but never too slick. This is a very early release from this young man...recorded before his voice and image have been manipulated by the corporate music monster. As such, the album is a bit more real than country releases one normally hears on major labels. Cool tracks include "Live It Out Loud," "What Am I Crying For" (our favorite), "Is That You," and "Burned By the Same Fire Twice." (Rating: 4++++)

Cinderpop - Their Skies Are Beautiful (CD, Bongo Beat, Pop)
The second album from Vancouver, Canada's Cinderpop. The fellows in this band play melodic pop rock in the same vein as 1980s artists like Game Theory and Chris Stamey (more the former than the latter). The guitar-driven tunes on Their Skies Are Beautiful feature beautifully gliding melodic lines and exceptional vocals. Don't expect to be blown away immediately however. You may have to spin this sucker several times in order to tear the meat from the bones. With a little patience and concentration, however, you are likely to be graciously rewarded. Cerebral, slightly hallucinogenic tracks include "Bastian Cooper," "Minds Eye," "Mishapen," and "Airless." Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Class of 98 - Touch This and Die (Advance CD, The Militia Group, Pop/rock)
Instantly satisfying power pop. The fellows in Nashville-based The Class of 98 did not graduate in 1998...nor are they originally from Nashville. Instead, these four young men moved to Nashville in search of fame. Based on Touch This and Die, they have already achieved their goal. This is an impressive album in more ways than one. The songs would be great anyway, but they are even more impressive when you consider the fact that this debut was recorded by the band in their own home studio. Just goes to show what you can achieve with a little energy and determination. The tunes on this album recall artists like The Gigolo Aunts. The guitars are loud and the rhythms fierce and intense...but the driving forces are the melodies and lyrics. Main songwriter Steve Wilson really knows how to chain smart hooks together to create a big wall of ultra-catchy hard pop. The vocal harmonies are fantastic throughout. This classy debut features twelve tracks including "Everywhere You Go," "Hundreds and Thousands of Stars," "Anthem For Us," and "Highway H." (Rating: 5+)

Colosseum - The Complete Reunion Concert: Cologne 1994 (DVD, Angel Air Waves)
Begun in the 1960s, the guys in Colosseum burned out rather quickly and disbanded in 1971. This DVD features the band's reunion concert...23 years later (!)...in Cologne. Colosseum is/was Jon Hiseman, Chris Farlowe, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Clem Clempson, Mark Clarke, and Dave Greenslade. The band begins with a lengthy and speedy instrumental ("Those About To Die") before vocalist Farlowe joins in with his odd bluesy presence. Chris provides the perfect visual focal point (he's a strange one to watch), while the musicians show why each has become legendary in their own careers. Colosseum truly was the perfect merging of blues with progressive rock. The rhythm section is dense and thick...while the heady guitars and keyboards drive the music forward. In addition to the concert, this DVD includes a 90 minute documentary entitled "The Story of Colosseum." This is recommended for fans of the band as well as anyone interested in progressive rock bands from the twentieth century. Good entertainment value here. (Rating: 4++++)

Chris De Burgh - The Road To Freedom (German import CD, SPV USA, Progressive orchestrated pop)
The fourteenth studio album from Chris De Burgh. The Road To Freedom presents eleven new original compositions which feature De Burgh's trademark orchestrated pop. The album begins with the beautiful (mostly instrumental) "When Winter Comes"...before launching into the haunting, ethereal "The Road To Freedom." DeBurgh writes classic pop songs that feature incredibly intricate arrangements. Unlike others with lengthy careers, De Burgh shows no signs of burning out. His songs remain strong, his voice is as resonant and effective as ever, and his lyrics are still exceptional. This highly stylized collection of tunes includes "Snow Is Falling," "Five Past Dreams," "Rose Of England," and more. At about the same time this album was released, De Burgh has also released a double live CD (Live In Dortmund). Talk about prolific (!)... (Rating: 5)

Delta 5 - Singles & Sessions 1979-1981 (CD, Kill Rock Stars, Jagged rock)
Spawned from the post punk fragments of Leeds, England (which also gave us the more widely known Gang of Four), Delta 5 is an obscure delight. Singles & Sessions 1979-1981 is, in fact, the first recordings by the band to ever be made commercially available in the United States. Folks into bands from this time period are likely to get big thrills from this CD. While the tunes do sound somewhat dated, the style and sound remain effective and gripping. Like the previously mentioned Gang of Four, Delta 5 tunes feature throbbing danceable rhythms and jagged, skewed guitars. The vocals are strangely distant...and some of the lyrics are rather hilarious. This disc features sixteen cool, perplexing rockers that have stood the test of time. Top picks: "Mind Your Own Business," "Now That You've Gone," "Colour," "Innocenti," "Singing the Praises," "Journey." (Rating: 5+)

DOLLY MUCOUS

All that we are
Is dolly mucous.
All that we can be
Is dolly mucous.

I fell in love with
Dolly mucous.

She followed me home
Like hocus pukus.

She met at the corner
Of holly polly.

She stared at the stump
Of hoity toity.

(Rating: 1)

Liz Durrett - The Mezzanine (CD, Warm Electronic Recordings, Soft pop)
Originally a resident of Rome, Georgia, Liz Durrett has had an unconventional musical career thus far. Many years ago she recorded her first album...but then put it away and went into musical exile. The album was eventually issued by the folks at Warm Electronic Recordings...and was so warmly received that it prompted Durrett to record a second album. Produced by Vic Chesnutt, The Mezzanine is a beautiful, soft, intricate collection of tunes that recalls artists like Linda Draper and Azure Ray. Liz has a remarkable voice...which sounds unbelievable when she layers it with her own harmonies. Her tunes are centered around a softly strummed and plucked guitar...while subtle, sometimes spooky arrangements add richness to the sound. But it is the tunes themselves that make The Mezzanine so effective. While this album is too soft and strange to be grasped by the general public...it is bound to be universally applauded by critics and underground music fans. Killer cuts include "Knives at the Wall," "Creepyaskudzu," "Marlene," "Shivering Assembly," and "In The Throes." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Electric President - Electric President (CD, Morr Music, Progressive pop)
Cool melodic underground pop music. Electric President is Ben Cooper and Alex Kane. Cooper writes computer driven pop music that retains nice organic qualities. His soft understated voice is nothing like what one normally associates with electronic music...extremely subtle. The songs on this album are, for the most part, uplifting and positive. Although Cooper and Kane created this album themselves on their laptop computers, great care was taken in recording the arrangements. Don't expect lo-fi pop, however. These don't sound like home recordings at all. The overall sound is very professional and polished. When these guys hit home runs, they really score points. "Grand Machine No. 12" and "We Were Never Built To Last" are exceedingly well-written compositions. Intriguing stuff. (Rating: 5)

Good Evening - I Saw the Sun Explode (Independently released CD EP, Progressive pop)
The gentlemen in Good Evening provide a truly rewarding listening experience. Rather than ape sounds and styles created by others, these four individuals have created their own unique vision. I Saw the Sun Explode features five tunes that don't sound like anyone else in recent memory. By combining the predictable with the unpredictable, these folks have managed to come up with a perplexing yet thoroughly engaging EP. The melodies are complex and unorthodox...the arrangements full of subtle tweaking and creativity...and the vocals are absolutely fantastic. A successful EP is one that makes the listener want to hear more. That is exactly how we felt after spinning this disc. Five tunes here: "Early," "Faster," "The Spark I Was," "Go On," and "Backbone." Fascinating stuff that is truly worth seeking out. (Rating: 5+)

Go West - Kings of Wishful Thinking - LIVE (DVD, Angel Air Waves)
The 1980s hitmakers Go West reunion concert from 2003. The band got together in large part because of a well-received appearance by Peter Cox on the British television show Reborn in the USA in 2003. We must confess that we were never big fans of Go West songs...and this concert doesn't do much to change our opinion. It does, however, show why so many music fans were probably drawn to this band. The songs are upbeat, danceable, simple, catchy, and easy on the ears. The concert is--in typical 1980s fashion--rather flashy and disco-esque. If you're a fan of the band, this is an absolutely essential release. This is a very slick, polished, professionally prepared DVD. This lengthy concert features seventeen tracks. Additional material includes an interview with Cox and Richard Drummie as well as a history of the band. (Rating: 4)

Grand National - Kicking the National Habit (Import CD, Sunday Best / Recall Group, Pop)
Since the United Kingdom release of Kicking the National Habit in 2004, the guys in Grand National have made quite a splash in the world of music. The album will be released for the first time in the United States in February 2006 (with seven additional bonus tracks). Grand National is Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence "La" Rudd. Lyddon and Rudd write and record smooth danceable pop music that is reminiscent of 1980s pop artists New Order. The beats are steady, the synthesizers precise and determined, and the vocals smooth and superb. The tunes on this album are extremely melodic and upbeat, the recordings super slick and accessible. Unlike many new artists, Lyddon and Rudd write potential hits. They aren't trying to be overly clever and they aren't trying to re-invent music. Instead, these guys write pure, simple, direct songs that are easy on the ears...and obviously danceable. Instantly infectious, Kicking the National Habit features seventeen killer tracks including "Drink To Moving On," "Playing In The Distance," "North Sound Off," and "Litter Bin." (Rating: 5++)

Guitar Wolf - Golden Black (CD, Narnack, Rock)
Golden Black is a best of collection featuring a whopping 26 tracks by the legendary Guitar Wolf. The songs on this album were chosen by the fans themselves who voted for their favorites in an online poll. Folks either love or hate this band...and this album won't change minds on either side of the fence. These guys play extremely hard and noisy rock that is not for the faint of heart. As such, these overdriven harsh tunes will only appeal to those who like it really raw and nasty. In addition to some of the band's more well-known tracks, this collection also features rare and out-of-print cuts. Includes "Loverock," "Jet Generation," "Murder By Rock," "Sparkle Baby," and a whole lot more. Long live Guitar Wolf. (Rating: 5)

Half-Handed Cloud - Halos & Lassos (CD, Asthmatic Kitty, Pop)
Good luck keeping up with John Ringhofer. As the sole member of the band Half-Handed Cloud, Ringhofer offers superbly intelligent and mostly unpredictable underground pop music. John packed a lot into this album...a whopping nineteen short tracks that clock in at less than 30 minutes (!). This man is anything but another predictable underground popster. His day job as a church custodian apparently allows him the time and energy to really put his heart and soul into his music. The tunes on Halos & Lassos are built around the odd rhythms produced by a 1980s instrument called the Omnichord. Ringhofer plays piano, banjo, melodian, guitar, bass, trombone, bell-kit, marimba, and sings. He is accompanied on this album by percussionist Brandon Buckner and Wendy Buckner on bass clarinet. Slightly goofy and ultimately thought provoking, the involved topics on this album only become obvious after several spins. The song titles are just...great. (Rating: 5+)

The Handsome Charlies - Gentlemen Never Tell (CD, I Eat Records, Pop)
Originally from Sydney, Australia, The Handsome Charlies now call Austin, Texas their home. Rather than playing harsh underground noise, the fellows in this band play melodic mid-tempo pop music that is super smooth and instantly accessible. Gentlemen Never Tell is a mature sounding album, especially when you consider the fact that this is the band's debut. The songs are catchy, upbeat, and radio friendly. The arrangements are often thick and complex, involving a wide variety of instruments and sounds. Happy, intelligent tracks include "Mistakes," "Makes Me Love You," "Eighty-One," "Dark Prince," and "Perfect." The vocals are exceptional. (Rating: 4++++)

The Hellacopters - Rock & Roll Is Dead (Advance CD, Liquor and Poker Music, Rock)
The guys in The Hellacopters have earned a reputation as one of the best rock and roll bands on the planet for one simple reason. They really and truly are one of the best rock and roll bands on the planet. Rock & Roll Is Dead is the band's sixth proper studio album. Just as was the case on previous albums, these guys play music straight from the hip. By avoiding unnecessary frills and overdubs, this Australian band succeeds where others fail. Songwriting is key to the band's success. Their tunes are simple and direct...instantly catchy and immediately danceable. In addition to garnering the band even more fans, Rock & Roll Is Dead is sure to please the band's original followers. Kickass rockers include "Before the Fall," "Bring It On Home," "Murder On My Mind," "Nothing Terribly New," and "Time Got No Time To Wait For Me." (Rating: 5+)

His Name Is Alive - Detrola (CD, Silver Mountain, Progressive pop/rock)
Few bands have had such an unusual career path as His Name Is Alive. The band now consists of founding member Warn Defever and a variety of friends lending helping hands. In terms of styles, Detrola goes all over the place. Instead of going for one sound or style, Defever dabbles in obtuse cross sections of music...interpreting and reinventing different art forms. As a result, this album has a somewhat schizophrenic sound overall. One thing is certain, this definitely won't be the album to hoist the band into the mainstream. The songs are, for the most part, too peculiar for the general public. Moody and ethereal, these eleven songs seem to have been created from pure artistic integrity. Strange heady progressive pop tracks include "After I Leave U," "In My Dreams," "You Need a Heart," and "Send My Face." (Rating: 5)

Hooked...Get It On (Line) (DVD, Eclectic DVD / Babalu Pictures)
Hooked...Get It On (Line) is a documentary created by director Todd Ahlberg. The film covers a topic which has rarely been dealt with in the media...homosexuals and their addiction to pornography via the internet. Whether straight or homosexual, men of all types have always been drawn in by pornography. This is nothing new. But now the lure of an easy fix is more tempting than ever because of the sheer amount of pornography...and potential encounters...made available because of the interconnectivity of home computers. This documentary has no narration...only the words of the addicts themselves as they give braggish examples of their frequent and varied sexual encounters. The word "game" is used frequently. The individuals interviewed seem to be lackiing in self-confidence. Most admit that their encounters are a short term solution to the real problem...loneliness. Ahlberg does a good job of presenting homosexuals as most of them really are...isolated, addicted to sex, and very alienated from the world. With all those godawful pride parades and marches, some people think that the homosexual community is full of carefree, happy-go-lucky individuals. But nothing could be further from the truth. Sad and perplexing, Hooked...Get It On (Line) is an intriguing reminder of how superficial and phony real people can be. (Rating: 4++++)

LITTLE TACKY

Come and dance,
Little Tacky.
Come and dance the shaker.

Take your trance pills,
Little Tacky.
Take your pills and run.

Little Tacky
Tastes his snacky,
Takes his snacky home.
Little Tacky
Whupped like yacky,
Snips his rosy cone.

(Rating: 1)

Lords of Altamont - Lords Have Mercy (CD, Gearhead, Rock)
Lords of Altamont is a band driven by the vocal dynamics of Jake Cavaliere who was formerly in the bands The Finks, The Witch Doctors, The Go-Nuts, Untamed Youth, The Fuzztones, and The Cramps. Lords Have Mercy is this band's second full-length release. Featuring eleven blistering hard rock tracks, the album is a hard rocking spin full of loud fuzzed out rock tracks. Combining elements of punk with 1960s garage rock and modern hard rock, these guys manage to hit the target dead on with every track. Great guitars collide with snotty vocals and unrelenting rhythms to produce a great big whirlwind of rock and roll fun. Hard driving cuts include "Cyclone," "Let's Burn," "Project Blue," "$4.95," and "Time Has Come." Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Troy Lukkarila - Unsafe Structure (CD, LukaLips Destruction Co., Obtuse pop)
This CD first caught our attention because Rebecca Zapan (one of our favorite artists of the twenty-first century) plays and sings on it. But we opted to review Unsafe Structure because the first track ("When You Get Home") had us laughing so hard that we almost fell off our comfy office chairs. You'll have to hear the lyrics on this song to believe it. Florida's Troy Lukkarila is a very strange recording artist. Sounding something like a bizarre underground American version of Neil Innes (but not really), Lukkarila is...first and foremost...a comedian. His extraordinarily loose recordings feature goofy stream-of-consciousness lyrics that are often hilarious...and almost always unusual. Because of the experimental nature of these recordings, it is difficult to rate something like this. So instead of rating this album, we'll leave it up to you, the listeners. Is Troy a mere weirdo goofball...or is he a modern genius...? Only time will tell... (Not Rated)

The M's - Future Women (CD, Polyvinyl Record Company, Pop)
The subdued cover art of Future Women would never lead one to believe that this Chicago quartet writes and records brilliantly upbeat power pop. The band's second full-length is one big exciting melodic BLAST. In the band's brief career thus far, they have managed to score an opening spot for Wilco...and now they've hooked up with the well-known Polyvinyl label. Future Women is chock full of soaring melodies and thick, absorbing arrangements. Produced by the band themselves, the album shows what some bands are capable of when they are given total creative control. While the band's tunes recall classic pop artists from the 1960s and 1970s, this is definitely not an excursion into the past. While fans of The Zombies and The Kinks are almost certain to latch onto this album, it is just as likely to strike positive chords with young fans. Future Women lacks the ultra-polished sound that many may be accustomed to these days...and that just makes it better. Killer tracks include "Plan of the Man," "Going Over It," "Never Do This Again," and "Darling Lucia." (Rating: 5+)

Magnet - The Tourniquet (Advance CD-R, Filter US Recordings, Progressive pop)
Magnet is Even Johanssen, a Norwegian recording artist who successfully combines electronics with traditional instruments to create smoothly organic sounding modern pop. Johanssen has previously released three EPs (Where Happiness Lives, Chasing Dreams, The Day We Left Town) and a debut full-length (On Your Side). The Tourniquet was recorded with assistance from Jason Falkner (of Jellyfish)...which may explain the lush, elaborate arrangements on these tunes. For such a young artist, Even writes and records songs that are surprisingly mature and focused. His melodies soar...and his soft, subdued vocals are remarkable. The lyrics are heartfelt and sincere throughout. Easily one of the best soft progressive pop albums of the past few months, The Tourniquet is a richly rewarding experience. Top picks: "Hold On," "Deadlock (It's Over)," "Blow By Blow," "Jaws." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Make A Rising - Rip Through the Hawk Black Night (CD, High Two, Obtuse art pop)
Very weird, very artsy stuff. You have to appreciate a band making music that is certain to alienate almost everyone. Philadelphia's Make A Rising is a band on a peculiar mission. Rather than sounding like anything or anyone familiar, these folks write and record confusing and difficult compositions that recall some of the stranger British art rock bands from the 1970s. The result is a confusing hodge podge of ideas. Rip Through the Hawk Black Night sounds something like a modern Athens, Georgia band if they were combining modern classical with indie pop. The first track ("Look At My Hawk") alone contains so many ideas and song fragments that most listeners are likely to be overwhelmed. But is this great music...or is it just strange and offbeat? The truth is that...this album is a little of both. By allowing themselves so much room to experiment, these folks often go off the deep end. But this is ultimately what makes this such a unique listening experience. Crazy tracks include "Plastic Giant," "Expired Planet," and "Partial Thoughts." Truly odd. (Rating: 5)

Mask - Heavy Petal: The Tenebrous Odyssey of Jack and Virginia (CD/DVD, Nova, Atmospheric)
Mask is the duo of Sonja Kristina and Marvin Ayres. Heavy Petal: The Tenebrous Odyssey of Jack and Virginia is a beautifully packaged CD/DVD set featuring a single disc (CD on one side, DVD on the other). Many folks will remember Sonja Kristina as the lead singer of the critically acclaimed Curved Air, one of the more uniquely spooky progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Marvin Ayres is a solo recording artist and producer who is probably best known as a founding member of the 1980s band The Government. While neither of these artists' names are known to the general public, both have been on the fringes of fame for many years...each having worked with some rather high profile celebrities. This double-sided disc is, in a word...fantastic. The CD features fifteen compositions...most of which are atmospheric, surreal, and creepy. There are a few songs with at least a moderate amount of commercial appeal. The others...are purely artistic endeavors in which Kristina and Ayres create sonic masterpieces that are dreamy and peculiar. The DVD side of the disc is as effective as the album itself. Rather than taking the usual boring approach, these folks have created some rather inspiring and unusual visuals to accompany three of their songs ("Free," "Lambent Spire," "Healing Senses"). These videos feature plenty of wild kaleidoscopic hallucinogenic images that fit the music perfectly. "Healing Senses" is particularly appealing...as it focuses on the simple beauty of the sky and the sun as it is seen through a large tree blowing in the wind. If you've never tripped before well...this is the next best thing. The blurring image of the tree dissolving into night will give you chills. While we'd love to proclaim that Heavy Petal will be a huge success....we know better. Because of the album's peculiar nature it is likely to be appreciated by a very small segment of the population. But that very small segment is likely to be...overwhelmed by this incredible project. We can only hope there will be more Mask projects in the coming years... Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Modern Skirts - Catalogue of Generous Men (Independently released CD, Pop)
The guys in Modern Skirts don't fit the general mold of an Athens, Georgia band. Instead of playing guitar pop, these fellows play piano pop in the same general vein as Ben Folds. Catalogue of Generous Men is a catchy, upbeat experience full of peppy pop tunes. The first track ("N.Y. Song") is so good that it is bound to be covered by artists in the years to come. While this may not be the band's definitive album, it captures these fellows in their formative creative stage...as their career is just getting off the ground. Plenty of fine tunes here including "Pasadena," "September Days," "Save Me," and "Ring the Bell." (Rating: 4+++)

Motorhead - Stage Fright (Double DVD, SPV USA)
A mind blowing live concert from one of the most influential hard rock bands of all time. Bands that have been at it as long as these guys have usually burn out or lose their fire. But in this concert filmed in 2004 in Dusseldorf, the guys in Motorhead prove that they can still deliver the goods. From a technical point of view, this is one of the most professional and slick DVD concerts we have seen. The sound quality is superb throughout...and the editing from all the various camera angles provides several different perspectives. What is particularly interesting is the crowd. Instead of a bunch of old farts gathered together to worship their idols from their teen years, the fans at this show are extremely young...proving that Motorhead is not just a curiosity for aging rockers. Focal and vocal centerpiece Lemmy Kilmister still shouts/sings with impressive urgency. Guitarist Phillip Campbell plays solid, macho riveting riffs...and makes it all look so goddamn easy while he struts around the stage. Drummer Mikkey Dee's drum kit has more cymbals than anyone could ever really need...and he constantly plays in a crazed style a la Keith Moon. The entire band is surrounded by so many Marshall amps that it is almost embarrassing. Listening to this powerhouse trio play, it seems almost impossible that there are only three musicians. These guys play for the crowd...rather than at them. By the end of the show, everyone seems happy as hell. If you're tired of DVDs that feature second rate footage of crummy bands, Stage Fright will immediately capture your attention. Twenty killer concert pleasers. The second disc is somewhat of a throwaway, featuring "bonus" footage...but that's no biggie. Just leave it in the case and watch the first disc until your ears start to bleed. A killer concert from Britain's classic hard rockers. (Rating: 5++)

Chris Murphy - Elbow Room (CD, Popboomerang, Pop)
Chris Murphy is, at least at this point, best known as a member of the popular Australian band The Rhymes. Elbow Room is his first solo album, and it's a keeper. Murphy claims to have been heavily influenced by the first Crowded House album, and it shows. Many of the tunes on this album recall Neil Finn's earlier pop compositions. Chris keeps things simple with his smooth melodic guitar pop. If they had been released at the time, these songs could have fit very comfortably along with many of the most popular college radio hits of the 1980s. This classy collection includes "Movie Star Beautiful," "World and Universe," "Confide," "Falling Apart," and more. Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

New Radiant Storm King - The Steady Hand (CD, Darla, Pop)
An excellent blast of modern progressive pop. The first new album from New Radiant Storm King in five years, The Steady Hand is handsome, solid, and inventive. The band now consists of original members Peyton Pinkerton and Matt Hunter who are joined by new members Caleb Wetmore and Patrick Berkery. Underground rock and pop fans will have a field day with this album. The influences are varied and far reaching and the tunes are absorbing and unique. Produced by Mark Alan Miller, The Steady Hand features thirteen slick progressive cuts. The songs are not easy spins but neither are they difficult to digest. By combining smooth gliding melody lines with often complex arrangements, these fellows create music that is simultaneously imaginative and relaxing. The best part is that the more you spin these tunes...the better they get. Fantastic tracks include "The Winding Staircase," "Fighting Off the Pricks," "Hands and Eyes," and "Come On and Let Yourself Win." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

New York Dolls - All Dolled Up: Films by Bob Gruen and Nadya Beck (DVD, Music Video Distributors)
A remarkably effective look back at the New York Dolls. David Johansen, Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, Sylvain Sylvain, and Johnny Thunders hit their prime for only a short time, releasing one great album (New York Dolls) and one very good album (Too Much Too Soon). The band splintered into oblivion soon after, but not before leaving an indelible mark on rock and roll history. During the highest peak in the band's career, Bob Gruen and Nadya Beck were there...taping as much as they could with video cameras. As such, this DVD plays like what it is...home videos of an underground band on the verge of hitting it big. Although shot in black and white, the quality is excellent overall...and even the sound during the concerts is good. This DVD does not attempt to explain anything. There is no narrator (thank God) and no attempt is made to tie everything together. Instead, what we have here is a document of the band at their peak. The video says it all. Not only did Gruen and Beck shoot the band in concert but they also captured lots of behind-the-scenes footage of the guys just being themselves. There are some priceless moments here...not the least of which is a concerned young girl reminding Thunders to remember to take his vitamins (haw haw!). The band members smoke up a storm (in more ways than one), fidget with their hair almost constantly, and really ham it up for the camera. After viewing this, not only do you get the feeling that you know what it was like being at a New York Dolls concert...but you also feel as if you actually got to know the band personally. In addition to the disc, this package features a beautiful 16-page booklet filled with color photos. A lengthy loving tribute to one of the best..and most influential...bands of the 1970s. WELL DONE. (Rating: 5++)

...Nous Non Plus - ...Nous Non Plus (CD, Aeronaut, Pop)
Really great upbeat escapist dance pop. ...Nous Non Plus was formed from fragments of Les Sans Culottes. As such, they are continuing with the same basic mission...writing and recording what sounds like French pop...but really isn't. This band seems more groove oriented than Les Sans Culottes. The rhythms are more dance friendly and direct. Simultaneously hilarious and catchy, the tunes on this debut album are incredibly effective...each sticking with the listener like mental super glue. The band consists of Celine Dijon, Jean-Luc Retard, Bonnie Day, Cal d'Hommage, Professeur Harry Covert, Morris "Mars" Chevrolet, and Francois Hardonne. Far from being a mere joke band, the folks in ...Nous Non Plus are providing high quality music that is unique and hypnotic. Ultra creative tracks include "L'Amant," "Lawnmower Boy," "Monokini," and "La Ballade de Tourette." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Orange Mothers - Greatest Hits (CD, I Eat Records, Pop)
Local Austin-based band Orange Mothers never got much recognition outside of their home turf...but it's not because they didn't deserve it. This greatest hits collection features an overview of the band's career. The fourteen song collection showcases the band's oddball quirky pop music. The loose slightly goofy cuts on this album are not only funny...but they have strange staying power. Long after you've laughed at the lyrics, you may very well find yourself humming the band's tunes to yourself as you go about your daily routine. Orange Mothers were decidedly out-of-synch with other Austin bands of the 1990s...which may help to explain why they didn't receive as much recognition. This delightful disc includes "Heaven," "Love Birds," "Candy Clover," "Rudy," "Promised Land," and "Nancy." (Rating: 4++++)

Patty Hurst Shifter - Too Crowded on the Losing End (CD, Evo, Pop/rock)
No fancy stuff here...just good, solid rock/pop tunes from this Raleigh, North Carolina-based quartet. Too Crowded on the Losing End is the band's second full-length. The album is chock full of radio-friendly guitar pop. Much to the band's credit, they keep their arrangements simple...allowing the listener to concentrate on the melodies and words. The guys in Patty Hurst Shifter aren't trying to be artsy or clever...instead opting to play it straight-from-the-hip for those listeners who prefer an easy listen. The playing is energetic and spirited and the vocals clean and professional. throughout Ten classy tracks here including "She's Like a Song," "When You Lie," "All Washed Up," and "Break Everything." Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Chris Pierce - Static Trampoline (CD, Mailboat, Pop)
After hearing one too many alternative bands in one day, the music of Chris Pierce came as a welcome surprise. Purely pleasant and pleasantly pleasing, Static Trampoline is one groovy and smooth experience. There's already a good buzz going around about this Los Angeles, California-based songwriter and for good reason. Pierce has a sound and style that could easily appeal to a huge audience. His songs are smart and melodic...and he has an incredible deep voice that really makes his tunes come alive. Underground music fans may not dig this album because it is so slick and professional...but they'll be the ones missing out because Pierce makes classic, classy soulful pop music that will be appreciated for decades to come. Killer tracks include "Bye Bye Butterfly," "Wishbone," "Because Of You," and "Love Is Within Reach." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Queen - Under Review: 1973-1980 (DVD, Chrome Dreams)
Queen were, arguably, one of the best bands of the 1970s. This DVD collects fantastic snippets of the band performing some of their biggest hits. While this initially might sound like a dream made in heaven, this disc is--unfortunately--blemished from beginning to end. Under Review is, just as the title suggests, an analysis of the band. But rather than present even one complete live performance, the DVD instead presents various writers analyzing the band into the ground. Just as you start to get into any particular concert performance, the band dissolves...only to be replaced by a critic babbling on and on about their views of the band. This is irritating initially...but by the end of the DVD we were so annoyed that all we could do was keep our finger on the fast forward button...trying our hardest to avoid hearing and seeing any more critical analysis. This DVD could have been salvaged very simply by putting the live tracks by themselves in their entirety on the opposite side of the disc. If this had been the case, we would have rated this much higher. But as it is, this disc is virtually unwatchable. Queen fans are likely to be very disappointed with this. We certainly were. (Rating: 2)

RMS & Gil Evans - Live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival 1983 (DVD, Angel Air Waves)
A thrilling multi-camera documentation of a concert given by RMS and Gil Evans at the 1983 Montreau Jazz Festival. Rather than just being mere archival footage, this is a top-notch filming of an incredible concert. The quality of the sound and video is amazing, especially considering that this was shot over 20 years ago. The band starts off with the super charged progressive jazz/rocker "Broadway Rundown" and then quickly tones things down for the beautifully subdued "First Love." Other highlights of this show include "Hoover the Duvet," "Little Wing," "Gone," and "Juna the Last." Not only is the musicianship top notch from start to finish, but the video editing is virtually flawless. Playing in this show were Ray Russell, Mo Foster, Simon Phillips, and Gil Evans along with guest musicians Mark Isham, Henry Lowther, Malcolm Griffiths, and Ronnie Asprey. These guys were really "on" for the evening...as is evidenced by the enthusiastic reaction from the audience. Bonus features on this disc include "The Convergence: The Story Behind the Concert," band quotes, biographies, and a photo gallery. A truly excellent presentation. (Rating: 5+)

RUBBER GLOB

Oh rubber glob
Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
They will be done
On earth as it is in
Rubber glob.

(Rating: 1)

 

SALT AND PEPPER POPPA

Sad and lonely
Salt and Pepper Poppa
Sits alone at his table
And strokes at his beard.

His mind is treble and
His body is bass.

He hasn't a shield and
He hasn't a trace.

(Rating: 1)

 

SHEEPLE

Sheeple here.
Sheeple there.
Sheeple, sheeple
Everywhere.

Never will they
Feel the flame
For all the sheeple
Act the same.

(Rating: 1)

 

SHE HAD A MAD BAD BABY

She was angry and lost
So she had a mad bad baby.
The worst of the baddest of bad.

The baby grew up.
She pushed it away.

But the baby came back,
Badder and madder than ever.

She held the mad bad baby.
It chewed her to pieces
On that terrible wonderful day.

(Rating: 1)

Slowride - C/S (CD, Deep Elm, Rock)
Powerful melodic hard rock. Slowride is Dan Phillips, Rob Marchant, and Steve Visneau. These three gentlemen have a thick, solid sound and they write strangely catchy hard rockers. This band is already popular among hipster reviewers and underground fans. With a bit of luck, C/S could push them into the mainstream. While the songs are intelligent and loud, the band's music retains decidedly accessible elements (i.e., you can actually understand the lyrics). Treading the fine line between commercial pop and hard rock, these fellows are doing everything right. C/S was produced by Stuart Sikes, who did an exceptional job of capturing the band's sound. Cool rockers include "A New Day Is Upon Us," "Slowly," "Rust Killer," and "Elouisa." Great hard rock for thinking listeners. (Rating: 5)

(The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope - From Where You Were To How You Got There (CD, Hackshop, Psychedelic pop)
Despite the fact that the band has been in existence in one form or another since 1995, From Where You Were To How You Got There is the first full-length release from (The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope. This band has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, which might explain why--prior to this album---they had only released cassettes and EPs. This is a strangely satisfying album, but don't expect to be blown away on the first spin. Many folks' first reaction might be to dismiss these guys as just another psychedelic drone band. But there is more to this music than first meets the mind and ears. Hidden and buried beneath the peculiar drones are some rather impressive tunes. Dreamy pop tracks like "Oh My Mind" and "Th' Strangebirds" recall some of the more obscure Lilys albums. While some tracks seem a bit vague and obtuse, when these guys hit the target they really hit it dead center. Definitely a band to watch. (Rating: 4++++)

The Southern Sea - Simple Machines for Complex Problems (Independently released CD EP, Pop)
Refreshing effervescent pop. We are pleased to have received this little EP because it features what many other discs do not: Great songs. Recorded in the band's home studios in their home state of Texas, Simple Machines for Complex Problems features six stunning pop tunes. The arrangements are simple and understated...and serve the basic purpose of supporting the band's cool, gliding melodies. Indie pop fans are sure to get genuine thrills from tracks like "Iowa Mountain Tour," "Hotel Mishaps Are Sad," and "The Mighty Cottonwood Creek." The gentlemen in The Southern Sea have real talent and on this EP they really deliver the goods. Here's hoping that we are treated to a full-length album in the very near future. Fantastic stuff... (Rating: 5++)

Chris Spedding - Click Clack (CD, SPV USA, Pop)
Can session men have successful solo careers...? Maybe, maybe not...but whatever the case, guitarist extraordinaire Chris Spedding continues writing and recording credible and absorbing music. While Spedding's name may still not be familiar to many people, everyone knows the artists he has played with. Brian Eno, John Cale, Tom Waits, Jack Bruce, Donovan...the list goes on and on...and on... Click Clack is another exceptional offering from Spedding. Artists lending their talents and support include Sarah Brown, Tal Bergmann, Iain Dixon, Danny Thompson, Freddy Koella, and Bryan Ferry. Thick, funky, pleasing tracks include "Hilife," "You Don't Own Me," "Hear Your Daddy," "How To Get Rid of the Blues," and "Click Clack." Will this be the album that pushes Spedding's own career into the mainstream...? Hey, who knows...? All we know is that this is yet another critical and artistic success. (Rating: 5+)

Garrison Starr - The Sound of You and Me (Advance CD, Vanguard, Soft pop)
Beautiful, pensive soft pop. Up to this point, Garrison Starr has made a real impact on many reviewers but she has yet to hit the big time. The Sound of You and Me is an exceptionally bright and sincere collection of tunes. Recorded in Nashville with the assistance of collaborator/guitarist Neilson Hubbard, the album resounds with cool threads of uplifting optimism. As with all Vanguard releases, the sound quality is superb from start to finish. Combined with precisely targeted arrangements, it all adds up to a great batch of tunes that have been polished to perfection. Ms. Starr's vocals are the focal point. This young lady can really sing. Without ever sounding like she's trying too hard, Garrison manages to conjure up genuine, finely tuned images of human interaction and involvement. Slick without ever sounding too slick, The Sound of You and Me is a rich and rewarding listening experience. Great cuts include "Pendulum," "Let Me In," "Big Enough," "No Man's Land," and "We Were Just Boys and Girls." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Stems - Totally Cool: Anthology 83-86 (CD, Get Hip, Rock/pop)
Although most American music fans probably aren't familiar with them, The Stems made quite a mark on the Australian music scene in the mid 1980s. While the band's reverb driven garage rock was out of synch with popular music at the time, they managed to have quite a few hits in their home country. Unfortunately they were never able to transfer that success to the states. Due to internal problems, the band split in 1987. Totally Cool: Anthology 83-86 is a best of collection for fans of the band and an introduction to folks who never heard them in the first place. This is a meaty collection featuring a whopping 21 tracks, six of which are demos (five of these being previously unreleased). Just as the title of the disc suggests, these tunes are...totally cool. These upbeat, melodic guitar-driven pop tunes sound as fresh and infectious today as when they were originally recorded. Classy, classic cuts include "She's a Monster," "Make You Mine," "Love Will Grow," "For Always," "All You Want Me For," and "Lon Chaney Juniors Daughter." An excellent overview. (Rating: 5+)

Three Dimensional Blackboard - Waffle (Independently released CD-R)
While policy prevents us from reviewing this, readers will want to take note that California's Three Dimensional Blackboard have returned with a brand new album which is available at cdbaby.com. (Not Rated)

THROWAWAY THUMBS

Sauce for the moo and
Mushes on the meow.
Her soft fushy mango,
Her neat brittle brow.

The bongo mechanics
Are tinky and toy.
The singalong hammers
With linkety snoy.

The farm full of banjo,
The finger of harm
Will bingo forever
In throwaway thumbs.

(Rating: 1)

Mia Doi Todd - The Ewe and the Eye (CD, City Zen, Folk/acoustic/soft pop)
Reissue of Mia Doi Todd's first album, which was originally released in 1997 on the Xmas label. Recording a debut alone with an acoustic guitar would be an insurmountable feat for most musicians, but Todd's brave choice has brought her many devoted fans over the years. In addition to three bonus tracks (new versions of "Planting," "Johnny Appleseed," and "Courting"), this reissue also includes the original 16 page lyric booklet. This album showcases a young woman who is so focused that she can entertain totally alone...without other unnecessary elements cluttering things up. Most modern artists overdub and overproduce their tunes to death. As a result, hearing someone play naked and alone...allowing all their human frailties to be heard...is refreshing indeed. In the end, however, it is Mia's songs that make this album such a treat. Subtle delights include "Digging," "Planting Time," "Nightblooming Trilogy," "Set Sail," and "Autumn." Beautiful stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Tristeza - A Colores (CD, Better Looking Records, Instrumental)
While the band name may not be a household word, the folks in Tristeza have managed to garner a great deal of respect and attention among reviewers and underground musicians over the past few years. A Colores is somewhat of a departure for the band. James Lavelle left to concentrate on his other project (The Album Leaf). Original members Christopher Sprague, Luis Hermosillo, and James Lehner remain...being joined on this album by guitarist Alison Ables and keyboard player Sean Ogilive. This CD features twelve colorful yet subtle modern mood compositions that shift and glide like mental dreams. What sets Tristeza apart from many other instrumental bands is the pure and simple fact that these folks are superb musicians. Creativity abounds on A Colores...making it perfectly clear that Tristeza will be around for many years to come. Intricate, subtle, thought provoking compositions include "Bromas," "Wand," "Halo Heads," and "Palindrome Dome." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

WAH WAH WOMB

Live and die
In wah wah womb.

Stay inside
Of wah wah womb.

Cut in two
The wah wah womb.

Stay inside
The wah wah tomb.

(Rating: 1)

Paul Winn - Paul Winn (Independently released Australian import CD, Soft pop)
Though released in 2004, we only recently acquired a copy of this disc. Australia's Paul Winn writes and records super smooth pop that is surprisingly professional and accessible. This self-produced album features ten original tracks that feature Winn's subtle, soothing vocals and arrangements that support (rather than detract from) the melodies. The band on this album consists of Paul Winn (vocals, guitars, piano), Simon Fishburn (drums), and Matt Keegan (saxophone). These tunes were mixed with assistance from well-known producer Anton Hagop. Winn's music should please fans of artists on the Vanguard label. His soft pop tunes have a nice organic sound that is instantly pleasing. Includes "A Game," "Reflection," "Leave It To Fate," "Taylor," and more. Well done. (Rating: 4+++)

Additional Items Received:

Amalgamation - Flu
AM Syndicate - Empire
Annette - Growing into myself
Ariel Aparicio - Frolic and f*ck
Argo - Needs
Andrei Arsene - Where we started
Michael Lee Austin - Labor pains
Ethan Azarian - Cross'n over
BCRP - BCRP
Bee - Overground breakthrough
Bell Hollow - Bell Hollow EP
Belong - October language
Martha Berner - ...This side of yesterday
Beyond the Valley of the Barbarellatones - Beyond the Valley of the Barbarellatones
Black Furies - Death rip saturday night
Blackmore's Night - Christmas eve
Blackmore's Night - Castles & dreams
Cannibus & Phoenix Orion - Def con zero
The Capes - Hello
Capital Sons - Capital Sons
Captain RW - Someone to share my rainbow with
Cars Can Be Blue - All the stuff we do
The Casting Couch - Row your boat
Charly Cazalet - Rough mix NYC
Chantal Charmandy - Love needs you
Chicken Shack - I'd rather go live
Clear Static - Make-up sex
Dan Clucas/Immediately - Exile
Comomusic Anthology - 1990-2005 #2
Consumption - Out of the ashes
Corporate Ninja! - #1
Cowboy Mouth - Voodoo shoppe
Crime In Stereo - Fuel. transit. sleep.
The Curstaceans - I'm happy if you're happy
Dame Satan - Ghost mansion
David and the Citizens - David and the Citizens
The Decadent Royals - Swing on, sinners
Devics - Push the heart
Divorcee - Music for cleanup men, breakdown and inbetweeners
Charley Dush - Highwood hills
Dust Devils - Gathering dust
1888 - Abble goose dam
East West Blast Test (EWBT) - Popular music for unpopular people
Elekibass - Welcome wonderful world
Fenix TX - People reign in blood - live
The-Films - The-Films CD single
B. Fleischmann - The humbucking coil
The Fuzz Band - Collision
Gil Mantera's Party Dream - Bloodsongs
The Glass Family - Sleep inside this wheel
Glove Box - Glove Box
Ken Gould - Miles from mariana
Green Carnation - Acoustic verses
The Harpeth Trace - Man and the cousin
Haunted Mansion - #1
Hypatia Lake - And we shall call him joseph
The Human Value - The Human Value
The Illuminati - The Illuminati
Imaginary Freds - Near life experience
Inner Beauty Contest - The better to see them with
Louis James - So unreal
Jaugernaut - Contra-mantra
Juniper - Escape
Katray - Remade live
Kobayashi - Strange lights and resolutions
Mike Ladd - Presents father divine
Jon Langford - Gold brick
The Lashes - Get it
Natalie Rose Lebrecht - Imagining weather
Lenore - #12
Leon-Vest - So blue
Steuart Liebig/Stigtette - Delta
Low Skies - All the love i could find
Mad Francis - Let's get naked
Masters of the Lunaverse - The anonymous EP
The Maybellines - A la carte
Linda McLean - No language
Mellowdrone - Mellowdrone
Jeff Merchant - Window rolled down
Midstates - Boxing twilight
Miller - Complete buffoonery
Mud the Otter - Mud the Otter
Shawn Mullins - 9th ward pickin' parlor
Munkey Juice - Fatty Arbuckle's coke bottle
The Noise Revival - To the seven churches in the province of Asia
The No-Neck Blues Band - Qvaris
No Parachute - A compilation of indie music videos: volume 1
North to Emerson - Anywhere but here
Malcolm Palmer - Between the womb and the tomb
P:ano - Ghost pirates without heads
Paranoids - Obsessions delusions & headtrips vol. 1
Paul Hanover Band - Under your skin
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 5 - House arrest
Plug Uglies - Plug Uglies
Portugal the Man - Waiter: You vultures!
The Pralines - Song of the day cafe
Preeta - In this moment
Racecar - Racecar
Randevyn - Soltrain
Receptor Sight - Cycles and connections
Scott Reeder - Tunnel vision brilliance
Relic Rust - Presents relic cuts, the intro
Rex Libris: Labyrinth of Literature: Volume 1, Issue 2
Rusty Like - Pirouette
Rachel Sage - The blistering sun
Saxon Shore - The exquisite death of saxon shore
Matthew Shaw - Convenience
J. J. Sheridan - The art of Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738)
The Sixfifteens - Feature, conference, transfer
Slacks - Terrestrial
Slick - Elements of the game
The Slow Poisoner - Fatal floral phonograph
Small Arms Dealer - A single unifying theory
Azalia Snail - Avec amour
The Society of Rockets - Where the grass grows black
Some By Sea - On fire! (igloo)
Some Monastery - Machete wounds
SoundsGood - Biscuits & gravy
Amilia K. Spicer - Seamless
The States - Multiply and divide
Swim Team - Juice for Jesus
300 Pounds - Metamorphosis
Tic Code - abccade
Tony Travalini - Silence and obscurity
David Turbow - Gold standard
TVfordogs - Roller
UFO -Showtime (CD)
UFO - Showtime (DVD)
Various Artists - I am the resurrection: A tribute to John Fahey
Various artists - I Eat Records: Appetizers & leftovers
Various artists: Inner City Sound: Australian punk & post-punk
Various artists - To: Elliott From: Portland (Expunged Records)
Various artists - Pssst! - Filter Magazine
Vaz - The lie that matches the furniture
Venice Is Sinking - Venice Is Sinking
Venice Is Sinking / What We Do Is Secret - Split EP
Vervein - The weather inside
We Are The Fury - We Are The Fury
The Weather Machines - The sound of pseudoscience
When Girls Collide - Hit me with your tail wag
The Whigs - Give 'em all a big fat lip
The Willis - Bathtub lighbulb heart attack
Willit - Willit
The Witnesses - Black eyes and white lies
Wooden Hand and the Vanishing Voice - The flood

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©January 2006 LMNOP®

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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