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August 2004 Reviews by

Bad Wizard*
The Belles
Blackout Beach
The Bon Mots

Cafebar 401
Cheval De Frise

Claudia Malibu*
Comment Piece: Dream
Crappy Arm Stuff

Division Day
The Dwarves
The Everyones

The Fall
Julia Fordham*
Crystal Gayle

The Girls
The Graze
Ill Ease*

Kill Yourself*
Avril Lavigne
Low Millions
Mock Orange

Jeremy Morris

Murder City Devils
Nedelle and Thom
The Orb
The Paybacks*
Pigmy Love Circus

Pine Tree State Mind Control

Puppets Who Kill
Jonathan Richman*
Pat Robertson

Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez
Sahara Hotnights
See Venus
Coyote Shivers

The Silos
Jessica Simpson

Soap Star Joe
Spalding Rockwell

Tracy Spuehler
Summer Darling
The Telescopes
Mike Van Portfleet

Velvet Crush

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


August 2004 Comment Piece:

Dream: July 1, 2004

We were at some luncheon type function being held on a large grassy hill. After mulling around for a while we finally found a seat on the lawn and sat down to eat. Noticing a couple sitting to our right, we began a conversation with the young woman. We didn't take note of the man she was with because he didn't seem interesting. After chatting with the woman for several minutes we brought up the topic of the recent appearance by Natalie Cole at the White House. Our intent was to ask her if she had seen this and if she had noticed how stupid the President looked in a tuxedo. Before we had gotten very far into our story, some man came over and told the young woman that she was needed on the set. Apparently she was an actress and was working on some film nearby. In an attempt to continue our story, we then turned our attention to the man left seated next to us...who we only then realized was George W. Bush. Fortunately, we had not gotten to the part about how dumb the President looked in a tux...so we altered our story...saying how well Ms. Cole sang at the event (a lie, of course...). Unfortunately, by this point Mr. Bush decided that he was really enjoying this conversation and had focused his attention squarely upon us. This made us very uncomfortable. All we could do was try and figure out how to get away from him as quickly as possible. He was very irritating...plus we were very concerned that someone would snap a photo and it would then be all over the news. Suddenly there was a lot of activity going on at the filming nearby...so we got up to see if we could get a glimpse of what was happening. As we entered the crowd of onlookers we were surprised to see the young woman we had just been speaking with suddenly being thrown several hundred yards in the air during a stunt. She came down hard on some large conveyor belt and was either unconscious or dead. Everyone watching seemed to agree that she would not recover from the accident. As it turned out, the woman's name was Susan Turner. (We had never even heard of anyone by that name, of course.) Watching the accident unfold, we kept thinking "Oh God...we can't let anyone know that we were the last people to have a conversation with Susan Turner." We weren't concerned about the woman's condition at all...but we were very concerned that people in the media would try to talk to us about the tragedy and that we would then be drawn into the messy incident.

Then the dream ended.

* * * * * * * *

Astronaut - Times New Romance (CD, Pause Music, Progressive pop)
Smooth, progressive, classy, jazzy pop. Regular readers may have noticed the increased presence of Spanish bands on the babysue web site over the past couple of years...in large part due to the exceptional releases on the esoteric Acuarela label. Readers will want to also take note of Pause Music. If Astronaut is any indication of what this label is about...then it is also one of Spain's best kept secrets. Astronaut sounds something like a cross between Low and Tristeza. The band's moody, spacious, progressive tunes feature vocal melodies as well as long and involved instrumental breaks. There are no easy or catchy tunes here...only beautiful and articulate landscapes of sound that serve as mood enhancers. These compositions involve a wide variety of instruments. In addition to the band's six permanent members, seven additional guest artists also lend their talents to this album. Plenty of cool cuts here...including "Living the Scene," "Empty Rhymes," "Camille," and "Wrong Notes in Wrong Pockets." Thought provoking...and very cool... (Rating: 5+)

Bad Wizard - #1 Tonite! (Advance CD, Howler, Record)
Bad Wizard is a group of five guys whose music sounds something like a cross between Slade and Nashville Pussy. On #1 Tonight! they plow away like holy hell...and the vocalist SCREAMS like HELL. Unlike mere noise bands, however, these guys place a heavy emphasis on songs and melodies. So...while the playing is loud and furious...there is always plenty of meat to grab onto. Frontman/vocalist Curtis Brown is the obvious focal point...his has a presence that is intense and crazed. His bandmates' input cannot be underestimated, however, as they provide the solid foundation on which he operates. This album is filled to the brim with thick fuzzy guitars, throbbing bass lines, and kickass drumming. Much of the proceedings here are influenced by bands like Motorhead and MC5. These sassy badass fellows know how to rock out in the truest sense. #1 Tonite! is a stripped down sexy trip into the world of modern rock...all the while paying homage to bands from the 1970s and beyond. Great rock without the frills... (Rating: 5++)

The Belles - Idle Acres (CD EP, Second Nature Recordings, Soft pop)
Smooth, thick, highly melodic moody pop. Kansas-based The Belles write and record absolutely luscious soft guitar tunes that are damn near out of this world. The plaintive understated vocals have to be heard to believed. The folks at Second Nature Recordings went all out for this one. The EP features a beautiful gatefold cardboard sleeve and booklet...but it's the six tunes contained within that really pack the punch. The band is the duo of Christopher Tolle and Jake Cardwell...two fellows whose musical ideas each obviously support the other's. Together they make music that is calming and just slightly surreal. Subtle hazy qualities breeze in and out of these lovely tracks...giving the listener the feeling of floating. Tracks such as "Idle Acres," "Left Arm Tan," "Don't Write, Don't Call," and "Birds" are highly stylized...and completely superb. Totally cool stuff from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

Blackout Beach - Light Flows The Putrid Dawn (CD, Soft Abuse, Experimental pop)
This is really strange...even by our standards. Blackout Beach is the solo project of Carey Mercer, who is also a member of the band Frog Eyes. Light Flows The Putrid Dawn is a truly odd spin...sounding something like modern classical music with Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) on lead vocals. Mercer must be a great fan of Trout Mask Replica, as many of these pieces would have easily fit on that album. Rather than being a copycat artist, however, Carey uses the ol' Captain's influence as a starting point...and then veers off in his own bizarre directions. These compositions are decidedly unconventional. There are very few familiar variables for the average listener to latch onto. In many cases, the songs sound like two albums playing at the same time...and at times the singing becomes random warbling. Fortunately, the lyrics are included (and are well worth reading). Stuff this strange can either get really tedious really fast...or really fantastic over the course of the next dozen spins. For the time being, we're giving this one a 4 plus simply because we don't know quite what to make of it... (Rating: 4+++)

The Bon Mots - Le Main Drag (CD, Mellifluid, Pop)
Extremely well executed upbeat pop with a difference. The Bon Mots are Eric Chial (vocals, guitar, bass), Mike Coy (vocals, guitar, bass), Chris Frantisak (keyboards), and Kevin Hoetger (drums, vocals). Together, the four create pop music that is surprisingly unpretentious. The tunes on Le Main Drag have a nice, clean sound...and feature some very imaginative melodies. The band is based in Chicago. Unlike many of their peers, these fellows don't wear dumb clothes and don't clutter their tunes with noise and weird sounds. Instead, they prefer the straightforward approach...allowing the listener to focus on their songs and lyrics. Some of these tunes harken back to the British pop from the 1980s. Pretty cool stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Cafebar 401 - Cafebar 401 (CD, Wampus Multimedia, Mid-tempo pop)
Rarely do we get a taste of Dutch underground pop. The music of Cafebar 401 is presented to the world by the open-minded folks at Wampus Multimedia..."an indie label run by artists, for artists." The band is a guitar-based pop quartet whose music sounds not unlike an updated, more normal, poppier version of Split Enz. The vocals are particularly similar to Neil Finn. The guys in Cafebar 401 look like regular guys...and their music is almost...normal. While the band's tunes are upbeat and hummable, there are some slightly dark threads running through the music that give it a strange curve. The tunes on Cafebar 401 operate smoothly in mid-tempo mode from start to finish. The band does occasionally display some rock and roll tendencies but these tunes are, for the most part, rather subdued. The band has already generated a good buzz in The Netherlands. With this album, they are hoping to expand the boundaries of their influence. Infectious tunes include "Full-Pro Disco!," "Something Worth Dying For," and "Bob Ross on Drugs." Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Cheval De Frise - Cheval De Frise (CD, Sickroom, Instrumental/improvisation/jazz)
Cheval De Frise is the French duo consisting of Vincent Beysselance and Thomas Bonvale. Together, the pair present a different sort of improvisational instrumental music. They create their tunes using an acoustic guitar and drums...and that's it. Few folks could pull something like this off...but these fellows do so with style and intensity. The playing ranges from subdued to furious...and the passages range from simple and plaintive to complex and wild. The many moods expressed on this album amplify the complex minds of the individuals creating the music. Not only are Beysselance and Bonvale not creating music for the masses...they're not even creating music that will appeal to a very large segment of the underground market. This album was originally released in Europe by Sonore Records. Because of the strong positive reaction, the fine folks at Sickroom opted to release it in the United States. Highly influenced by many early jazz artists, this is an album that--in many ways--defies description. (Rating: 4++++)

Clambake - Gator in the Pool (British import CD, Gringo, Rock)
Rough and raw rock...the real stuff. England's Clambake is the duo of Andy Barker on 4-string guitar and vocals and Nick Barker on drums and vocals. Together, these brothers create meaty rock music that sounds something like a cross between The B-52s (musically) and early Stranglers (the vocals are reminiscent of Hugh Cornwell)...with a big whopping dose of American garage rock thrown in for good measure. Gator in the Pool was recorded direct to 2-track tape in 2001. As such, it captures the energy and excitement of a live performance. This is not a glossy album. You won't hear lots of effects and overdubs, as the band was apparently trying to capture the essence of their true sound. And they effectively did just that. This is an exciting batch of tunes that induce movement and dancing. It's a short spin...lasting just over 20 minutes...but in that amount of time, these guys provide more substance than many bands provide during their entire career. Fun stuff, well executed... (Rating: 4++++)

Claudia Malibu - Star (Independently released CD, Pop)
Classic pop by one of the best unknown bands in the world. Easthampton, Massachusetts-based Claudia Malibu has been one of our top favorite obscure delights since we were first introduced to their music several years back. Since that time, the folks in the band have proven that they have real staying power...and that they are only getting better with time. Star is a bit different from the past couple of albums in that it was recorded in a real recording studio by Frank Padellaro. As a result, the sound is a bit more polished and consistent from song to song. In terms of tunes themselves, the band has (thankfully) changed very little since their inception. Star contains a wealth of subtle songs that possess peculiar qualities that make them get better with repeated listenings. Claudia Malibu tunes sound something like mid-period Kinks. Folks who dig The Village Green Preservation Society will find a lot to love here. The band's lyrics are wonderfully simple and normal...and their delivery is exceptional. These guys don't bury their tunes in overdubs because they don't need to. They have the good sense to realize that when you have a great melody...you don't need to drown it out with unnecessary garbage. The band's tunes won't blow you away on the first listen but will, instead, slowly creep into your subsconcious and remain there forever and ever. Star is yet another exceptionally genuine and sincere offering from four gentlemen whose music transcends the genre of pop. Fantastic cuts include "Hollywood / Hadley," "Don't Worry About It," "Plain Jane," and "The Right Thing." There are few artists...underground or successful...whose songs can compete with the quality of these tunes. Highly memorable...and highly recommended. Only 500 copies of this, the initial pressing, are being offered...so you'd be best advised to click on the link above and GET IT NOW. (Rating: 5++++)

Crappy Arm Stuff - The Best of Crappy Arm Stuff (CD/DVD set, R.A.E., Rock)
Crappy Arm Stuff is two people and fifty-four people who done joined up with eighty-eight people for a big ugly thing that happens every once or twice. The Best of Crappy Arm Stuff features a collection of items from those things in the form of music and video. The CD features music stuff and the DVD features video stuff. The people involved in this project are rarely involved, as those along the sidelines seem to be handling most everything. From the bitching wax of "Arm Muscle Magic" to the damp anti-love drone of "Wristless Tragedies," this collection don't prove everything. Some critics abuse the folks in Crappy Arm Stuff, but they might as well stop. These people don't hear nor do they listen. They can't play even if they are playing. They create in a vacuum and that is partly what helps to salvage this auditorium. You can put it in a sack and carry it around all day long. You can put it in your reefer and pout about the weather. You can sploff it in your mink-grafter until the light shines at the end of the funnel cake. You can chew, chew, chew and then you can stop chewing. You can damn it. You can damn it to Hell. Caps off to the ladies who wore their panties so proudly upon their party busters. Crappy Arm Stuff just ain't what it isn't. (Rating: 1)

Division Day - The Mean Way In (Independently released CD EP, Pop)
Nice, smooth, progressive, moody pop. The Mean Way In is the second EP from Division Day. Recorded in the summer of 2003 at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone studio, this EP is full of intricate melodies and smart arrangements. Within the space of six songs, this band proves they can compete with the big boys. While providing music that is accessible and memorable...these fellows also manage to retain artistic integrity. Nice mature compositions include "Bad Black Moon," "There Is No Telling," and "Wings and Bones." This EP features exceptional vocals and wonderfully adventurous playing throughout. (Rating: 5)

The Dwarves - The Dwarves Must Die (CD, Sympathy for the Record Industry, Rock/pop)
Something like a cross between Marilyn Manson, The Dickies, and Redd Kross. The Dwarves are a hard hitting non-stop rock/pop machine. Featuring one of the best cover images around, The Dwarves Must Die is one hot and nasty little album. The front insert features a dwarf being crucified while three nude chicks at his feet mourn the loss. Flip the insert and all four are nekkid taking a shower together. Those who are easily-offended or who lack a sense of humor should avoid this band. While shock rock has become somewhat tedious and boring over time, The Dwarves manage to inject about as much shock as an upbeat rock band can inject...while still providing some damn fine songs in the process. We can even forgive these guys for injecting some of their tunes ("Demented," "Massacre") with the dreaded shit-hop-slop...mainly because they seem to be mocking it rather than trying to utilize it as a credible style. These guys are smart...as is evidenced in lyrics in songs like "Bleed On," "Dominator," "Go!," and "Downey Junior." The majority of the lyrics are laugh-out-loud funny...yet they are delivered with true sincerity. When these guys sing I wanna f*ck, eat, and f*ck you up...it sure sounds like they mean it. Harsh, funny, raw, and irreverent...and highly entertaining. (Rating: 5)

The Everyones - The Everyones (CD, Shock / Tee Pee / Rubric, Pop)
The Everyones changed their name from The Anyones to avoid any potential confusion with another band. Now...how confusing is that?!? Names aside, this Australian quintet create music that should appeal to fans of The New Pornographers. The band's tunes are smart, well written, and instantly memorable. The songs are upbeat without being too sweet...and feature intriguingly unusual melodies that sound strangely familiar. Some of the tunes on The Everyones are absolutely magnificent. "Here We Are (La La Land)" presents the band at their very best and is easily the strongest cut. While this band's material is strong, many of the songs seem a bit too similar to one another. Other than this one minor flaw, however, this is an extremely entertaining collection of tunes. (Rating: 4+++)

The Fall - The Real New Fall LP (CD, Narnack, Rock)
The Real New Fall LP is an alternate version of the album that was originally released in the United Kingdom in 2003 on the Action Records label. Bandleader Mark E. Smith wasn't satisfied with the overall sound of the album. Accordingly, he stripped down the tunes, remastered the album, and added two new tracks and two alternate remixes. Considering the fact that most music is overproduced, we applaud Mr. Smith's endeavors. The now sparsely arranged tunes on this album have a raw, naked feel that is not unlike some of Iggy Pop's best material. There are few individuals whose careers are as lengthy and as artistically credible as Mark. Despite the fact that he has never achieved anything more than cult status with his band and his music, he has continued to put out quality releases year after year after year. The Real New Fall LP is pure proof of the man's true staying power. This album will surely please old fans as well as new. Despite the fact that The Fall have been around seemingly forever, this album is both fresh and vital... (Rating: 5)

Julia Fordham - That's Life (CD, Vanguard, Soul/soft pop)
That's Life, the eighth album from Britain's Julia Fordham, is a wonderfully smooth and soulful affair. For those unfamiliar with the superb stylings of Ms. Fordham, her music combines elements from classic artists like Joan Baez and Phoebe Snow into her own eclectic and seductive sound. Her voice is unusual in that she sings mostly in a lower register...which immediately sets her apart from the average female vocalist. As is always the case with Vanguard releases, the players and the production on this album are top notch. The album has a nice, fat sound...yet the tunes are neither overproduced nor drowned out by too many overdubs. Fordham wrote and/or co-wrote all of the tunes on this album. Her vocals are absolutely perfect for the style of music she writes. She sings in a wonderfully understated style...never pushing too hard and always sounding perfectly at ease. Soul pop simply doesn't get much better than this. Intoxicating tunes such as "Sugar," "Jacob's Ladder," "Walking on the Water," and "Guilty" are thoughtful and virtually unforgettable. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Crystal Gayle - Sings the Heart and Soul of Hoagy Carmichael (CD, Southpaw, Pop)
Crystal Gayle started out as a relatively predictable entertainer...providing predictable music that sold millions. As she has progressed in her career, however, she has chosen some rather unpredictable avenues in which to explore. As a result, Gayle has now really blossomed late in her career...showing just how broad and sweeping her focus really is. For this disc, Gayle takes on the music of Hoagy Carmichael , one of the greatest songwriters of the 1930s-1950s. Quite a task, considering how many artists have covered Hoagy's material in the past. Not surprisingly, Gayle more that adequately handles the task...making tired songs like "Heart and Soul" and "Georgia On My Mind" sound fresh and now again. In the field of cover tunes, intent in interpretation is everything...and that is what makes Ms. Gayle's interpretations shine. Instead of trying to reinvent tunes, she just puts her own heart and soul into them...thus instilling a new sense of vitality and worth. Fifteen classics presented by one the classiest ladies in the world of commercial pop. (Rating: 5)

The Girls - The Girls (CD, Dirtnap, Pop/rock)
A group of five Seattle men who call themselves The Girls. When most bands attempt to revive the glam movement of the 1970s, they fail miserably...but with The Girls, this is not the case. This could be because...even though these fellows are obviously very concerned about their image and appearance...they also write some damn good songs. The soundscape of Seattle is obviously changing. A decade ago the city would never have spawned a band like The Girls. They sound something like a cross between Jet (the 1970s band), Sparks, The Cars, David Bowie, and Gary Numan. And make no mistake, they sound absolutely nothing like Nirvana. The band's trademark is the lead singer's spastic jerky voice. If you're into guys wearing makeup and the whole glam scene, you will want to check out The Girls. Despite the heavy emphasis on image...these guys have the goods...and on this, their debut album, they do deliver. (Rating: 4+++)

The Graze - Iowa Anvil (CD, J-Shirt, Indie pop)
The Graze is the one man recording project consisting of Louis O'Callaghan. Iowa Anvil features an impressive combination of sincerity and talent. Songs are Mr. O'Callaghan's main focus...and he has come up with some real beauties here. Caressed in restrained arrangements that allow the listener to concentrate on melody, these tunes possess a nice flowing quality. By avoiding the normal clouded avenues of overdubbing everything to death...this man's simple and pure recording style is refreshing. This is not a perfect album. The louder numbers don't work nearly as well as the softer tracks. But even with the imperfections, there are enough classic moments here to make this a highly rewarding disc. Best cuts: "Devices," "Everything," "Doubt," and "Nostalgia." (Rating: 4+++)

Hellacopters - By the Grace of God (CD, Liquor and Poker Music, Hard rock)
Stockholm's Hellacopters once again combine great songs with fierce playing to create a killer rock album. While others have tried and failed, these guys have built up a solid fan base because they are providing what many fans want: A loud rock band with real substance. Begun in 1994, this band has come a long way since their humble beginnings. And while By the Grace of God is a highly produced, slick album...it still contains all the trademark elements that the fans want. Hellacopters tunes sound something like a cross between Kiss and Cheap Trick. The tunes are simple and catchy and filled with dynamite electric guitars. These five guys are tight, tight, tight on their instruments...and their music makes their listeners want to move and PARTY. Yup, this is a loud party band of the highest caliber. Which just goes to show that if they are given the choice, most people prefer music that doesn't require much thought. And that may just be what makes Hellacopters so endearing. They aren't trying to be anything they're not. They're just long-haired rockers and they just wanna play and have fun. The spirit is infectious, as their music has the same effect on their listeners. Thick and full of melodic hooks, By the Grace of God is proof that accessible music doesn't have to sound bad (!). Excellent stuff from one of the best hard rock bands out there. (Rating: 5+)

Ill Ease - The Exorcist (CD, Too Pure / Beggars Banquet, Art rock)
Elizabeth Sharp is one of the strangest ladies in rock music. While most folks know her as the original drummer for New Radiant Storm King...her real meat can be found on her Ill Ease albums. Elizabeth's songwriting style is difficult to describe. She seems to destroy any and all stereotypes...writing and recording music that is purely and distinctly her own. She does not play girlie pop nor is she an alternative weirdo screamer. Instead, her music is a strange stream-of-consciousness type of experience...with plenty of strange hooks and peculiar curves that throw the listener completely off guard. At times...her music sounds like...it may have had too much to eat or drink (?!?). The rhythms and melodies are loopy, peculiar, slightly sloppy...and rather surreal. The Exorcist is the most polished and well-produced Ill Ease album yet...but that still won't help sell this CD to the masses. Ms. Sharp's music is just too peculiar and unfamiliar for the average listener to handle. Some of the greatest albums of all time seem to also be some of the poorest sellers. That is almost certain to be the case with this album. That small base of fans who latch onto Elizabeth's music will be fanatical. Others...will be completely lost...scratching their heads, wondering what in the world she is doing. Fascinating cuts include "Jersey-O-Matic," "You Know You Make Me Wanna Hate You," "Junkie Go Home (It's the Vibrations)," and "Boss Mayor." A truly unique voice in a world of full of generic carbon copies. Highly recommended. (Rating: 6)

Keane - Hopes and Fears (CD, Interscope, Pop)
Sounding very much like a cross between Ben Folds and Queen, the guys in Keane have a highly stylized and extremely polished sound. The gentlemen in this British trio seem very proud of the fact that there are no guitars to be heard in their music. Like Ben Folks, the impressive part is how powerful they sound without them. Hopes and Fears is a super slick album full of orchestrated pop with soaring melodies and smart lyrics. The trio consists of Tom Chaplin (vocals), Tim Rice-Oxley (piano), and Richard Hughes (drums). At times, Chaplin's vocals sound almost exactly like Freddie Mercury...especially when he gets all worked up. While the tunes on Hopes and Fears are strikingly beautiful and smooth...they also come across sounding a bit calculated (i.e., the guys sound as if they are trying a bit too hard to impress). That is not to say this band has not succeeded, however. This is a very professional collection of compositions that is bound to please most music fans. We just feel that if they could lighten up and loosen up a bit...they would be truly incredible. Top picks: "Somewhere Only We Knew," "She Has No Time," "Bedshaped." (Rating: 4++++)

Kill Yourself - Soft Touch of Man (CD, Gringo, Rock)
Tired of all the average, generic wimpy underground American rock bands whose tired thrashing and bashing all sounds the same...? If so, you might need a healthy dose of Britain's Kill Yourself. The band's thick masculine music is noisy and abrasive...yet it is also quite thrilling and inviting. Comparisons could be made to bands like early Gang of Four and Harvey Milk...but that doesn't adequately explain what's happening here. Suffice to say, the gents in this band are playing harsh underground rock with a genuinely unique spirit. Their music is not simple nor is it easy on the ears. The rhythms shift...jerking the listener like a roller coaster...while the vocals are strained and urgent. The band releases their material on their own Obscene Baby Auction (hilarious name...har har!) label. The humorously-titled Soft Touch of Man has great cover art. The front features a pooch whose snout has been restrained by a cage...and the back features a rather comfortable, nice looking horsie. Word has it that these guys are into masks and not wearing much clothing during their performances. Yowsuh and goddamn!!! This is just the kinda stuff that deserves your attention. Funny, intense, unique, and intelligent music intended for a very small audience. Our guess is that these guys' shows would probably be something like experiencing Austin's Ed Hall in the 1990s. Seven crazy cockrockers here including "Moustache," "Coffee," "Binhead's Bad Ribs," and "Bad Ass ID." This stuff is just TOO COOL (!!!). (Rating: 5+++)

Avril Lavigne - Under My Skin (CD, RCA, Rock)
It's always difficult reviewing really popular artists because...well, mainly because they're popular. Though some folks might not want to admit it, the general public has tremendously shitty taste in music. The average moron allows itself to be tugged around by its snout by idiot business people who are only too happy to tell them what is and what is not hip. Avril Lavigne is very, very popular...plus she's a very pretty lady. Accordingly...you'd think her music would be a total load of crap...but it actually is not. Sure, there are better artists around...but in the world of commercial music this girl is at least providing something with some substance. Her tunes are basic ballsy pop/rock with a hard edge and vocals that are way up front in the mix (probably the biggest drawback to her overall sound). Lavigne seems to have a tendency to wear some really bad looking clothing. While this is seen as being very cool and hip...when you look at her objectively, you can't help but think that this lady would look great wearing more conventional items. Under My Skin is a decent album. The material is not mind blowing...but it is better than most of the crap you see folks buying at Walmart and Best Buys. Not incredible...but at least it's listenable... (Rating: 4+)

Lolas - Something You Oughta Know (CD, Jam, Pop)
Crystal clear positive pop that will make you forget virtually everything, leaving you transfixed...and floating in the clouds. Lolas return with yet another stunning collection of unbelievably infectious material. Singer/songwriter Tim Boykin's tunes sound something like a cross between The Beach Boys and The Shoes...and they're just as good as both. Like previous Lolas releases, Something You Oughta Know harkens back to the days of 1960s and 1970s AM radio...when a catchy tune was all you needed to ignite the airwaves. Despite the fact that this band's music is light years beyond most everyone else...they are unfortunately doomed to obscurity in the United States because the style of music they play is not hip and cool. On the positive side, however, there are plenty of folks in other countries around the world who have already latched onto these folks' positive vibe...so Lolas will most likely be touring outside the U.S. for the folks who really appreciate them. Readers need to hear Boykin's vocals to realize how incredibly talented this man is. He seems to toss great songs off the tips of his fingers like salad...while singing with a voice that is absolutely pure and pitch-perfect. A nearly perfect collection of home runs. (Rating: 5+++)

Low Millions - Ex-Girlfriends (CD, Manhattan, Pop)
Low Millions is a slick pop band headed by Adam Cohen. In addition to Cohen, the band includes Michael Chavez (guitar), Jorgen Carisson (bass), and Eric Eldenius (drums). Blasting out of the gates with "Eleanor" (this is not the swell tune by The Turtles), this band immediately proves that they are a force to be reckoned with. Ex-Girlfriends is chock full of soft romantic pop tunes that feature Cohen's super smooth vocals. These compositions feature impeccable arrangements. In this case the super slick production works in the band's favor...making their lovely and rather dreamy pop tunes hold up to many repeated spins. In addition to the throwback idea of shoplifting a song title from The Turtles, the band grabs yet another idea from the past...opting to name one tune after the band name itself (the beautifully haunting "Low Millions"). This band isn't just looking back, however. Their pop is decidedly forward thinking...technologically up-to-date...and chock full of great melodic hooks. In addition to the previously mentioned cuts, heady classics include "Here She Comes," "Julia," and "100 Blouses." Smart stuff indeed. Recommended for fans of 10CC, Crowded House, and Rooney. (Rating: 5+)

Mclusky - The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire (CD, Too Pure / Beggars Banquet, Electronic pop/rock)
The third album from Wales-based Mclusky. This oddly-titled release features harsh industrial pop that sounds not unlike a cross between Babyland and PIL. The band combines traditional instruments with thick and harsh electronics to create hard pop that is decidedly British...spilling over the brim with attitude. The band consists of Andy Falkous (vocals), Mat Harding (drums), and Jon Chapple (bass). The tunes on The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire seem decidedly out of step with what is currently happening in pop music. The band's tunes combine elements from 1980s and 1990s obscure pop artists...chewing them up and spitting them back at an audience who may or may not be listening. The lyrics seem particularly interesting...as is evidenced on the tunes "That Man Will Not Hang" and "Your Children Are Waiting for You to Die." It is doubtful that the band will find an American audience as their music would sound too unfamiliar to most. In their native country and throughout Europe, however, they may very well find a ready and waiting base of loyal fans. Our favorite is the almost normal sounding "She Will Only Bring You Happiness," which brings to mind some of the more accessible material from Television Personalities. Interesting material coming from a different perspective. (Rating: 4+++)

Mock Orange - Mind Is Not Brain (CD, Silverthree, Progressive pop/rock)
Mock Orange is a peculiar band. What they're doing isn't so peculiar but rather...it is the way they are doing it. By piecing together very familiar sounding melodies and musical arrangements...these fellows manage to come up with a very unique overall sound. We've heard all of the ingredients on this disc before...but we have never heard them pieced together in such odd conglomerations. The band's guitars sound like what you would hear in a loud alternative screamer rock band...but they are layered over a rhythm section that is subdued and somewhat jazzy. In terms of vocals, the singer is basically a pop singer...crooning along softly while the band most often is playing really, really hard and/or complex music. One thing is for certain...if you like bands who play predictable, samey tunes...this is not the band for you. Mind Is Not Brain is full of complex stuff which most will find challenging. Surprisingly accessible vocal melodies are present throughout. Two other pluses...Mock Orange is on the Fairfax-based Silverthree label...and they seem to really like animals. These guys are doing things right...as is evidenced by sharp, clever tunes like "Payroll," "East Side Song," and "I Can't Seem To Think." Something like a cross between 1970s progressive rock and the current wave of smart, loud alternative rock bands. Neat. (Rating: 5)

Jeremy Morris - Still Waters (CD, Jam, Instrumental/new age), Fruit Tree (CD, Jam, Instrumental/new age)
As if it weren't enough that Jeremy Morris runs his own label and distribution company (Jam Records), records a non-stop avalanche of incredible pop albums, and plays concerts at various music conferences...he also finds the time to record instrumental/new age albums that are distributed in Spain by Astral. Each of these two albums delves into Mr. Morris's softer and more personal side...Still Waters by means of acoustic guitars and Fruit Tree by means of a grand piano. Both of these albums were produced by Bill Allgood in Atlanta, Georgia. It is amazing indeed that any one man can be so accomplished at so many things simultaneously. Jeremy Morris is, indeed, something of a superman in the world of underground music. Few can match his output and enthusiasm. And to top it all off...he has impeccable musical taste. We are not personally well-versed enough in this style of music to be able to rate these albums...but we will say this. If Jeremy's name is on it...you know it's a quality release. What we'd like to see one day is a Jeremy Morris tribute album...so that all the people he has helped for so many years can show their appreciation and support by covering his material. Now that would be something...! (Not Rated)

Multi-Panel - Alone in the Field (CD, Unschooled, Collage pop)
Soothing, unpredictable, artsy collage pop. The tunes on Alone in the Field are abstractions to say the least...most of the tunes don't depend on ordinary ingredients like melody, lyrics, and typical arrangements. Instead, these compositions are free-flowing pieces that breeze by like the clouds overhead. Ludo Maas (the man who is Multi-Panel) creates music that is decidedly peculiar and unconventional. His intent is not to make music that sells but rather...to make music that effects others in ways that most music doesn't or cannot. Unlike most musicians who dabble in experimental territory...Maas makes music that is calming and very easy on the consciousness. Some of the tunes (particularly "Night Standard Drummers") are even surprisingly normal. In a world in which so many artists sound like carbon copies of one another...folks like Ludo Maas are getting harder and harder to find. Strange compositions include "A Day For War," "The Old Times," "Alone in the Field," and "Escapism." Intriguing. (Rating: 5)

Murder City Devils - Rock & Roll Won't Wait (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Rock)
Prior to viewing this DVD, we were not familiar with the Murder City Devils. Done properly, a music documentary will either make you love a band or hate a band. Rock & Roll Won't Wait had both effects on us. This is a collage-type documentary presenting an underground rock band who gets a couple of big breaks...opening up for Pearl Jam and Motorhead. The best footage is of the band playing in small clubs. The throwaway footage consists of virtually all of the interview segments. The five folks in Murder City Devils seem to be playing music for the right reason which is...to have fun and entertain others. That being said, their music is not highly original. Though they may not want to admit it, their tunes are highly reminiscent of 1970s punk bands. Their playing is spirited and genuine, however, and they seem to truly enjoy entertaining a crowd. The documentary does succeed in showing what the life of an underground rock band is like. It is not an easy life...which is why so many folks sustain themselves by abusing drugs and alcohol. Interestingly the hardest working person in the band seems to be...Gabe (the band's roadie). The two bonus studio videos at the end of the disc probably best show what these folks actually look and sound like. While not a great view, Rock & Roll Won't Wait does achieve its objective...which is to offer a glimpse of what the music and the people are like in this band. (Rating: 4+)

Nedelle and Thom - Summerland (CD, Kill Rock Stars, Pop)
Things certainly have changed with the Kill Rock Stars label since their inception...and Nedelle and Thom are a good case in point (!). Far from being an alternative noise band, this duo creates purely slick pop that is purposely catchy and accessible. Nedelle Torrisi and Thom Moore wrote and/or co-wrote all of the tunes on Summerland. Their songs are light, airy, and upbeat. Using a minimum of instruments in order to get their point across, the pair manage to come up with some positively uplifting pop tunes. Torrisi's vocals are an integral part of the duo's sound. Her voice is super smooth...and she sings with ultimate ease. While this album was released by Kill Rock Stars, it was recorded and mixed by Andy Hong at Kimchee Records. As a result, the sound is nice and clean without being overly slick and without sounding like processed cheese. Cool cuts include "You Take Me You Break Me," "Puddle At Your Toes," and "Cute Things." Truly good stuff...and very CLEAR! (Rating: 4+++)

Octet - Cash and Carry Songs (CD, Plain Recordings, Abstract/cut and paste/electronic/pop)
Do not adjust your computer. Do not adjust your CD player. The tunes on Cash and Carry Songs are supposed to sound that way. Resembling something like a cross between Air and The Lemon of Pink (more the former than the latter), Francois Goujon and Benjamin Morando write and record puzzling sound pieces that sound simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. This album provides a nice mix of songs that range from soft and soothing to cold and peculiar. Despite the variety of the material, however, Cash and Carry has a cohesive overall sound. Goujon and Morando aren't trying to make music that is difficult and unlistenable but, rather, to make somewhat accessible music that occasionally requires a bit of additional concentration. French electronic artists have gotten better over time...and Octet is a case in point. Though slightly uneven in terms of quality, Cash and Carry Songs is a pleasing spin. Best cuts: "Hey Bonus," "Brick-O-Lizer," "Trackball of Fire." (Rating: 4++)

The Orb - Bicycles & Tricycles (CD, Terra Firma / Sanctuary Records Group / BMG, Electronica/dub)
The original electronic pioneers are back...with yet another startling collection of heady, upbeat compositions. Over the years, the folks in The Orb have provided the soundtrack for modern mind expansion. The band's music can either be taken as is...or simply "taken with." The use of dub-like rhythms, cut-and-paste recording techniques, and trickling electronic noodling combine to create trippy and ethereal material. Bicycles & Tricycles is slick and calculated...yet the album is warm and inviting. The songs, for the most part, follow familiar paths from the band's earlier albums. Eleven humorously-titled cuts present music that will please old fans and lasso some new ones. Track number two ("Aftermath") would have been better left out as it disrupts the overall flow. (Why is it that so many artists feel the need to include at least one crap-hop number on their albums...a very bad trend indeed...eeeeeeyuch!!!) Not the band's best album...but certainly a welcome addition to their catalog. Another CD bound to be embraced with (or without) ecstasy... (Rating: 5-)

The Paybacks - Harder and Harder (CD, Get Hip, Rock)
Old school hard garage rock with a slight bluesy edge. The Paybacks play genuine rock and roll that sounds something like Faces (from way back when). These folks play no-frills gritty rock music that is purposely lacking overdubs and polish. The playing is hard and heavy...and vocalist Wendy Case has a voice that'll knock the socks off virtually and and all potential listeners. Her vocals are undeniably similar to a very young Rod Stewart...but much rawer. To put it simply, Harder and Harder is a great goddamn little hellraiser of an album. The guitars are thick and meaty...and the rhythm section is an all-out perpetual sweatbleeding assault. Prior to the release of this album, The Paybacks were already a favorite among critics. This l'il sucker oughta be the one to boost their career about fifty notches. Excellent hard rock that will stand the test of time. Cocksucker rockers include "When I'm Gone," "Today and Everyday," and "You and Your Friends." Killer stuff. (Rating: 5+++)

Pigmy Love Circus - The Power of Beef (CD, Go-Kart, Rock)
Nice thick ballsy rock music with a slight sludgy feel. The guys in Pigmy Love Circus have been around since the late 1980s...but this, their latest album, was sparked by the band's regrouping a couple of years ago. The best known member is drummer Danny Carey, who is also the drummer in Tool. Rounding out the band are Michael Savage (vocals), Peter Fletcher (guitar), and E. Shepherd Stevenson (bass). The Power of Beef is an upbeat...yet very heavy...album. The band has a really masculine sound that is anchored in heavy rhythms and big juicy guitars. Savage's vocals are right-on for this style of music. Rather than going with a big label, the band made the intelligent choice to release this through underground heavyweights Go-Kart. As such, the album obviously sounds just like the band wanted it to. Plenty of cool hard rockers here including "Livin' Like Shit," "Drug Run To Fontana," "Bad Luck," and "Madhouse Clown." Great loud stuff that's sure to getcha movin'... (Rating: 5)

Pine Tree State Mind Control - Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (CD, Voidstar Productions, Electronic)
We have been instructed not to review this disc.

Pinkie - Sharon Fussy (CD, Planting Seeds, Soft pop)
Pinkie is the one man recording project consisting of Alex Sharkey. The cover art on Sharon Fussy is confusing...perhaps wrongly leading potential listeners to believe that this is either a collection of vaudeville or show tunes. This assumption would be way, way, way off base...as Sharkey writes and records plaintive, melodic pop that should please fans of Sarah Records releases. This album features calm, relaxing, and personal compositions full of soothing vocals and understated instrumentation. The overall mood is dreamy and subdued. Sharkey doesn't seem as if he is trying to impress anyone but rather to extract and examine his own artistic impulses. Recorded in Sussex, England...Sharon Fussy is a highly rewarding collection of lovely understated pop. Fourteen tracks including "Outside My Window," "Say After Me," "Want It To Work This Time," and "There's Always Sometimes." (Rating: 4++++)

Puppets Who Kill - The Complete First Season (Double DVD, Music Video Distributors)
Some really funny stuff here. It is rare when a DVD makes us laugh out loud...and this collection of the first series of the Canadian television show Puppets Who Kill did just that. This double DVD set features a whopping 300 minutes worth of the show which features Cuddles (a puppet/doll designed to help people with their problems), Rocko (a badass chain-smoking dog), Bill (a ventriloquist dummy with a fondness for offing his partners), Buttons (a manipulative bear with one eye replaced by a button), and Dan...the kindhearted man who runs the halfway house designed to help the murderous puppets find their way back into society. Dan and the puppets get into all kinds of wild predicaments which usually resolve themselves (but not always) by show's end. In one particularly extreme episode, Dan is trying to force himself to hug and kiss an elderly male corpse...while Buttons is eating a nurse's crotch in a hospital which results in lethal bacteria being released...while Bill (the dummy) is about to have a lobotomy. You'd think with these types of situations that the mood would be offensive and hostile...but that would be an incorrect assumption. The real beauty of this show is how playful and lighthearted it is. The writers take potentially violent and intense situations...and make them seem extremely light and playful. The overall mood is more similar to Frazier or Alf than your average underground shock crock art film. The interaction between the real actors and actresses with the puppets is exceptional. They communicate so freely and genuinely that you almost forget that they are talking with puppets. This show is not for everyone, of course. Folks who are easily offended would still be advised to steer clear. Open-minded folks will most likely get plenty of mighty jolts from this show. The writers are exceptional and execution is priceless. Life observations abound...offering more than just a mere platter of chuckles. The creators thankfully did not pepper the show with canned laughter (!). There's a lot more going on here than mere shock value. Puppets Who Kill is a very unique...and very smart production. Intriguing and inventive. (Rating: 5)

Quant - Crossies Count (Independently released CD, Progressive rock/pop)
Crossies Count is a truly creative musical adventure. This album features absolutely stunning and perplexing lyrics that are light years beyond what we are accustomed to hearing. The lyrics...and even the vocals...are strangely reminiscent of Steve Harley (Cockney Rebel). The blurry use of grammar and the confusing imagery are wonderfully refreshing. Quant is an almost purely artistic endeavor. The folks in this band don't seem to give a damn about sounding like anyone else, having a hit, or garnering an audience. Instead, they are following their own strange muse...wherever it may lead them. The music ebbs and flows...transforming and mutating as it churns along...giving no indication of what may come next. The unpredictable nature of this music will certainly limit the band's fan base. Most people want something familiar to latch onto. Some of the ideas are slightly familiar here...but they are utilized in such unorthodox ways that they seem entirely new again. It is difficult to describe Crossies Count because there are few references and accurate comparisons that can be made. The band consists of Blake Henderson, Gary Henderson, Andy Poulson, and Chris Fuhriman. The cover artwork...courtesy of Jared C. Snow...is wonderfully bizarre. Six lengthy, challenging compositions here include "The Graham Cracker Song," "The Joke," and "The Crying Girl in a Very Small Room." Favorite lyric: I know that when the clock returns its sticky, laughy hand to twelve that I'll be no more found than anyone around. Absolutely cool and unusual music. Exceptionally smart and entertaining. (Rating: 5++)

Jonathan Richman - Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love (CD, Sanctuary / Vapor, Pop)
There are few artists indeed whose music has been embraced by such a wide spectrum of people. Jonathan Richman is living proof that personality and intent mean everything. For the average listener, even to this day the majority of Richman's recordings would be considered unfinished or even amateur compositions. But for the audience who embraces him and hears what he has to say, Jonathan's music is pure genius. Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love presents more of Jonathan's softer side. He produced this album himself which may explain why the tunes have such a sparse, naked sound. After decades of making music, any other artist would have fallen prey to overproduction to compensate for the fact that they can no longer come up with credible material. This man's songs have always been strong...never needing unnecessary padding. Jonathan Richman has always been...and probably always will be...a true original. He has developed a sound and style all his own...that virtually no one can imitate. Thirteen cool cuts here including "Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love," "Vincent Van Gogh," "Behold the Lilies of the Field," and "On A Du Soleil." Another lovely addition to a catalog that continues to impress. Excellent, as always (!). (Rating: 5+++)

Roadkill (DVD, Music Video Distributors)
Directed by Bruce McDonald and written by Don McKellar, Roadkill is a a beautifully filmed story about a girl who goes off to retrieve a touring rock band and ends up hooking up with several unlikely characters. Shot in black and white, the movie is full of great images. The soundtrack is also excellent, including cuts by The Ramones, The Razorbacks, and more. Unfortunately, the script and/or the story line is so weak that--for all of its positives--Roadkill just is not very entertaining. It seems to meander and curve, ultimately going nowhere. Every time you think something interesting is going to happen, it doesn't...and the story line just continues to dribble out until the end. That wouldn't be such a big problem if the lines were good...but they aren't. Even the cameo appearance of Joey Ramone doesn't salvage this one. It's worth watching once just for the visuals...but overall, this one just doesn't cut it. The acting is weak throughout. This is what won the 1989 Toronto Film Festival Best Canadian Film award? Hmmm...they must not have very high standards. (Rating: 3-)

Pat Robertson - I've Got Fingers On My Fingers (CD, Applebail, Pop)
Christian crusader Pat Robertson comes clean with the public...offering an album of tunes that pop the top off of something. I've Got Fingers On My Fingers is a surprisingly dinky collection of tunes that will please the average citizen. Mr. Robertson has never been known to do anything and yet, at the same time, he does very little at all. The album begins with "I've Got A Negro Growing Inside My Sugar Packet," in which Pat admits that he was impregnated by a dandy old street woman. Following is "My Blood Is Jesus and Jesus Done Got Blood On My Carpet." The song is somewhat confusing in that it is a song about faith and the obstacles it provides. From this point forward, the album gets rather odd. Instead of singing in his regular voice, Robertson goes into a super high falsetto...singing and acting like a retarded woman on goat speed. As he snorts and shoots himself into criminal ecstasy, he sings of masturbation and little gray bambies. As the bambies grow up and get frosted, he eats the beaters with monster delight as he cracks the diamonds that go ping in the night. While they dance and envision the damage they flower, they panic and distance themselves with a plower. The plower is nuggets and the nuggets gets damned, while Pat lets his package get crushed in the town. The album ends with "Yacky Doodle Is In My Pumpkin Noodle"...a wild rocker complete with references to heroin and dune buggies. Accomplished in a childish sort of way... (Rating: 1)

Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez - A Manual Dexterity - Soundtrack Volume 1 (CD, Gold Standard Laboratories, Soundtrack/eclectic)
Best known as a songwriter in The Mars Volta, Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez also dabbles a lot on the side. A Manual Dexterity - Soundtrack Volume 1 is the first soundtrack CD to be released featuring music from the soon-to-be-released film A Manual Dexterity. As such, this album contains over 60 minutes of material that goes all over the place. Some of the tunes are atmospheric...others rock...others sound jazzy...while still others are just plain strange. Whatever style of music he approaches, however, Rodriguez-Lopez manages to create with integrity and style. It is extremely easy to forget this is soundtrack music...and to just play it for sheer mood enhancement. Many of the tracks are quite trippy and slightly surreal. While this is not likely to reach a large audience that is a shame...because the quality of the music is exceptional. The guitar playing is particularly incredible. Excellent material from start to finish. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Sahara Hotnights - Kiss & Tell (CD, RCA, Pop/rock)
RCA scores yet again with Sweden's all-female group Sahara Hotnights. Other major labels could learn a thing or two by taking note of recent signings on the RCA label. Despite their size and influence, the label signs bands with real artistic integrity...and the surprising part is that...the bands actually sell CDs (!). This just goes to show that the public actually will...at least occasionally...support good bands. The four ladies in Sahara Hotnights don't fit into the usual molds. First, they are from Sweden...yet they sound like an American band. Second, they aren't into bizarre imagery with regards to their clothing and hair. Nope, instead these four girls look very normal and play simple, direct rock music in the grand tradition of bands like The Go-Go's and Blondie. Their songs are full of hooks and enthusiasm...and they hold up to repeated listenings. In less than 35 minutes...these ladies manage to pack in some mighty solid entertainment. Top picks: "Who Do You Dance For?", "Empty Heart," "Mind Over Matter," "Hell," and "Hangin'." Excellent. (Rating: 5++)

Saso - I Can Do Nice (CD, Melted Snow, Pensive pop)
This album could have been named Saso...Unmasked! Invisible for the first few years of their existence, the gentlemen in Saso have finally revealed their names and faces. The duo is Jim Lawler and Ben Rawlins. Together, these fellows have been creating wonderful underground pop for some time now. I Can Do Nice is somewhat of a continuation of previous projects. Recorded at three separate locations in Dublin, the album is the most polished collection of recordings thus far from Saso. The idea remains basically the same however. Lawler and Rawlins write and record soft, thoughtful pop music that has a slightly ambient feel. As the months have passed the duo's music has become more and more stylized. If there is one word to describe what these fellows do it most certainly is...tasteful. Everything that we have seen and heard from Saso has been extremely well conceived and packaged to perfection. And it is all done in extremely good taste. If all underground artists held such high standards with their projects...there probably wouldn't be any need for big record labels at all. But back to the album at hand. I Can Do Nice is a strange blend of sound and melody...very dreamy, somewhat surreal, and slightly hypnotic. These compositions are beautifully crafted and well executed. Ultra-satisfying tracks include "Trapped In Ice," "System Error," "Artefact," and "Pass It By." Exceptionally beautiful material from start to finish. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

See Venus - Hard Times for Dreamers (CD, March, Pop)
Exceptionally smooth and melodic mid-tempo pop. Formed in Miami, See Venus is a talented and inviting quintet whose music is highly reminiscent of Britain's Birdie...and slightly similar to Sweden's Komeda. Unlike most albums, Hard Times for Dreamers was recorded over a period of several years as the band members have real jobs and other activities that they are involved in. Perhaps as a result, these tunes are like finely polished gems and feature sparkling arrangements. The nine cuts on this album are gliding, soothing, and thought-provoking...and feature some of the best vocal work this side of Neptune. These folks layer their tunes with healthy doses of keyboards and backing vocals...but they do so with taste and style. Rarely does lite pop sound this neat. See Venus create music that competes with some of the best out there...and that is saying something considering how their careers have only just begun. Cool cosmic compositions include "Trust," "Nothing Lasts Forever," "Each and Every Word," and "Shine Like Stars." Great stuff here. Absolutely great. (Rating: 5+++)

Coyote Shivers - Gives It To Ya. Twice. (CD, Foodchain, Rock)
Coyote Shivers returns with a big double disc. Disc One, the "electric album", is entitled One Sick Pup. The album features aggressive rockers in the grand tradition of bands like The Stooges, The Cramps, and The Dictators. Shivers and company provide plenty of solid hard rockers that feature plenty of insider lyrics. Disc Two, the "acoustic album", is entitled From My Bedroom, To Yours. The disc features Coyote alone with an acoustic guitar. What is most interesting about this double disc set is how well both discs work. Each stands up on its own...and also complements the other. While this young man is still relatively unknown, virtually all of his tunes sound like instant classics. Shivers is an artist who...with the right amount of luck...could very easy make the transition into being a really big rock star. Gives It To Ya. Twice. is a solid package with plenty of kickass tunes. Pretty neat. (Rating: 4++++)

The Silos - When the Telephone Rings (CD, Dualtone, Pop/Americana)
You'd think after all these years that The Silos would either be burned out or boring...but neither is the case. Where these guys are concerned, consistency is the rule...and When the Telephone Rings is yet another consistent and thoroughly entertaining album to add to the band's growing catalog. The Americana genre has gotten a rather rap over the past few years because so many average and boring bands have jumped on the bandwagon. Unlike the imitators, these guys deliver their music with unique style...and they always manage to come up with some damn good tunes. You'd think after all these years that lead singer/guitarist Walter Salas-Humara would have leapt off on a solo career...but he has not yet done so (thankfully!). (Just goes to show that at least some successful folks are not purely driven by ego.) The man's songs and voice have changed little over the years, much to the delight of the band's healthy fan base. Despite the fact that the band is driven by Salas-Hamara, Drew Glackin and Konrad Meissner's contributions should not be underestimated. Glackin's smooth lap steel is a huge element in the group's overall sound...and Meissner's steady, subtle drumming provides the perfect base upon which everything balances. Produced by Salas-Humara and mixed by Dave McNair...When the Telephone Rings is yet more proof positive that The Silos have real staying power. Top picks: "The Only Love," "Ready For Anything," "15 Days." (Rating: 5+)

Jessica Simpson - Little Girls Love Me Because I'm Phony and Pretentious (CD, Alpho, Tragedy pop)
On her latest album, Jessica Simpson finally comes clean for the majority of her tiny little screaming fans. Little Girls Love Me Because I'm Phony and Pretentious is a confession of sorts from a woman so obsessed with her looks that she doesn't really know what's going on anymore. Surprisingly, this collection of tunes offers some real insight into the way Ms. Simpson's mind works. "If I Knew Your Daddy I'd Be Giving Super Sloppy Birth To Your New Little Baby Sisters" is a heckle-fair of come-on's and weather-may-care's. The kissing sounds that bleed in and out of "Even My Turds Are Bleached Good" offer surreal effects and smushy little secrets. Simpson takes out her vaginal moisturizer for the dance club hit "My Asshole Is Invisible and Clean" (word has it that the video was pulled from distribution because of the vulgar language Jessica used during the shooting). The last few cuts ["I'm Your Super Biggest Dolly That You Can Only See On T.V.," "My Hollow Goddamn Head," "If You Try Really, Really Hard, One Day You Might Be Successful Like Me (But Don't Count On It)"] are perhaps the most honest and resistible songs Simpson has ever recorded. Folks who don't care about little girls probably won't be interested in this album, but that's a shame...because every ignorant moron in the world is nothing more than another worthless little girl just waiting to blossom. (Rating: 2)

Slowsix - Private Times in Public Places (CD, Habit of Creation, Instrumental/experimental/electronic)
If you're looking for dance mixes or songs about cute love affairs...you'd be best advised to steer clear of Slowsix. Playing anything but predictable, accessible music...this group of artists is playing for a small audience. The three lengthy pieces on Private Times in Public Places (each lasting 20 to 30 minutes each) veer in and out of classical music and electronic experimentation. The overall tone is subdued...and the songs have a slightly hypnotic effect on the listener. Considering the number of musicians involved in this project, the compositions are surprisingly sparse. The band members' travels take them into the arenas of background noise...articulated playing...drone...and back again. While the music is difficult to describe, the effects of the recordings are definite. The folks in Slowsix are providing a peculiar sort of modern mood music for a small, enlightened audience. This is an art project first and foremost. As such, you won't be hearing "This Is Your Last Chance (Before I Sleep)" or "The Lines We Walked When We Walked Once Together" in your local retail chain anytime soon. The folks at Habit of Creation are in the business of challenging music listeners...and they have, once again, accomplished their goal. An excellent album...very tasteful, very restrained, and somewhat eerie... (Rating: 5+)

Soap Star Joe - ...Tell Her on the Weekend (CD, Laughing Outlaw, Pop)
The debut album from Australia's Soap Star Joe. While the band's origins can be traced back to the mid-1990s band God Is My Co-Pilot, the line-up now consists of Mick Wilson, Saul Foster, and Dave Keys. ...Tell Her on the Weekend features plenty of upbeat melodic pop that sounds not unlike early 1990s alternative pop bands. Wilson's tunes are smooth and easy on the ears...and the band's arrangements are straightforward and sparse. The vocals are exceptional throughout, with the lead vocals sounding decidedly genuine and sincere. As familiar as the band's tunes sound, it is difficult indeed to come up with possible influences. Like all good pop albums, the tunes on ...Tell Her on the Weekend get better the more you hear 'em. While this band isn't breaking any ground, they most certainly manage to provide solid, quality entertainment with pure style. Top picks: "Bus Stop," "She Will Shine," "Baked Potatoes," "Lagoon." (Rating: 4+++)

Spalding Rockwell - Kate (CD, Defend Music, Techno pop/dance/electronic/rock)
When we first popped this in we thought...Oh no...another generic electronic pop crap duo. But after a minute or two we realized that there is actually a lot more going on with the women in Spalding Rockwell. The band is the duo of ML and Nikki...two ladies who don't seem comfortable sticking with one particular style or genre. While the tunes on Kate could loosely be lumped into the electronic dance category, there are actually many other elements swimming around in the mix. The band sounds something like a louder, more experimental, and more industrialized version of Azure Ray (the vocals are particularly similar in some of the softer tracks). These compositions range from cute to harsh to peculiar. It is ultimately the duo's tunes that separate them from the pack. Not all the cuts work..."Kissing" and "Flake" sound a bit calculated. But other cuts like "Ingrid," "Masha," "Karahi," and "Outro" are uniquely inviting. Strange stuff, on the outer edge of the dancefloor... (Rating: 4+++)

Tracy Spuehler - It's the Sound (Independently released CD, Pop)
When we first considered the facts about young Tracy Spuehler...we fully expected It's the Sound to be one of those discs that we just wouldn't like. Not only has one of her songs been used in a commercial for Nissan / Altima (barf!)...but she also has a day job as a producer for slop/crap outlets like MTV, VH1, and CMT (double barf!). Well the proof is in the grooves, so they say...and despite her seemingly overtly commercial credentials...Tracy Spuehler is actually a credible and entertaining singer/songwriter with real integrity. And her music is surprisingly sincere. Instead of predictable inane dribble...the tunes on It's the Sound are thoughtful and sensitive...and they feature wonderfully addictive melodies that show off Spuehler's super smooth voice. This is a very cohesive collection of tunes from start to finish. Tracy covers human topics in her lyrics...while never trying too hard to get her point across. The album is well-recorded...but not overtly slick. Overdubs are used sparingly...allowing the listener to focus on the songs themselves. Superb pop numbers include "It's the Sound," "Time," "Tell Me That," and "Broken Melody." Tracy has a sound and style that is not unlike Suzanne Vega...while at the same time having a sound and vision that are truly her own. (Rating: 5)

Summer Darling - I Know You - I Never Knew You (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Nice, smooth, understated melodic pop. Based in Silver Lake, California, Summer Darling is the trio of D. Rossiter, H. Bray, and B. Heywood. The band enlisted the assistance of Frank Lenz to record and mix this album. Though it may take several spins to kick in...when this CD sinks in it really sinks in. Our first reaction was that this was a nice album with some soft, smooth pop tunes. After spinning the disc ten or more times...the substance inherent in the music became apparent. These three folks have a real gift for writing tunes that are genuine and sincere...and they really don't sound much like other artist(s) currently on the horizon. We can hear traces of a variety of artists here...Simon and Garfunkel, Low, and even very early Rick Springfield. The band's use of male and female vocals...combined with their superb attention to detail...makes their tunes really stand out. Smart lyrics complete the picture...making I Know You - I Never Knew You an absolutely essential portrait created by a band that most people are probably not even aware of. Excellent songs include "You Always Sleep With Your First Love," "Queen of Pasadena," "Gloria," and "Set Yourself Aflame." Rarely are independently released CDs this focused. Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

The Telescopes - Altered Perception (CD, Space Age Recordings, Hazy rock/pop)
The last release from Britain's The Telescopes (Third Wave, 2002), was easily one of the top albums of the year. Full of swirling, surreal, trippy compositions, the album was an instant favorite in the offices of babysue. This, the follow-up, is a collection of previously recorded and unreleased tracks that date all the way back to the days when the band was on Creation Records. Not surprisingly, the band's earlier recordings are rougher and infinitely more accessible...focusing more or guitars and vocal melodies. Some of these tunes even sound reminiscent of American sludge/doom music from the 1990s (?!?). The tunes that hint at the shape of things to come ("16T#3," "From the Inner Void I Fear...") are the best cuts here...offering glimpses of the mind numbing psychedelia the band was heading towards. This is an intriguing look back at one of the most peculiar bands ever...as it certainly whets the appetite for the band's next full-length. (Rating: 4+++)

Timewellspent - Timewellspent (CD, Parasol, Soft pop)
Cool, dreamy, soft, atmospheric pop. Timewellspent is the Fort Lauderdale-based duo of Casey Fundaro and Christopher Moll. Both write the music while Fundaro writes all the lyrics. Moll plays most of the instruments...including guitars, piano, organ, percussion, and more. Fundaro (nephew of Three Dog Night's Danny Hutton) and Moll are well-suited for one another. Their minds come together to create absolutely wonderful subtle tunes that sound like heaven in a convenient digital format. The vocals are breathy and subdued...and the arrangements are extraordinarily tasteful. The top-notch mixing was provided by producer extraordinaire Thom Monahan (of the Pernice Brothers)...so you know everything sounds great (!). The lyrics are well above average. Our favorite line is from the tune "Millionaire": I want to be a millionaire, maybe then I'll know you'll stay. Poignant to say the least. Timewellspent is a well thought out project from start to finish. The duo's music has a classic sound that will surely stand the test of time. Soothing light pop tunes include "Hello," "Anyone To Be," "Sitting By The Window," and "Goodbye." An excellent spin. (Rating: 5+++)

Mike Van Portfleet - Beyond the Horizon Line (CD, Silber, Ambient/eclectic/instrumental)
Beyond the Horizon Line is an excellent example of why Silber is such a gratifying and rewarding label. This is Lycia member Mike Van Portfleet's first solo album without the band. The compositions are stark, fragile, ambient, ethereal, and soothing. Instead of using traditional elements in his music, Van Porfleet creates soundscapes that don't necessarily rely on melody or structure in order to create the intended mood. The overall effect is subtle and slightly eerie...with some wonderfully icy lead guitar occasionally drifting in and out of the picture. This disc could either be used as mood enhancement or as a soundtrack to use while watching videos. The packaging features some absolutely beautiful photography. Destined for obscurity, Beyond the Horizon Line presents unusual sounds for unusual places. Truly lovely stuff. (Rating: 5)

Velvet Crush - Stereo Blues (CD, Action Musik, Pop)
Velvet Crush is one of the best pop bands out there...having been together in some form or another for about 20 years. That said, Stereo Blues is not the band's strongest album. There are some real gems to be found here ("Do What You Want," "The Connection")...but there is also a lot of filler. Part of the problem with this album is that the band's output over the past five years has been so strong that it would be difficult to keep the quality pumping at the high standard the band had set for themselves. After the release of this album, the band will be touring with Matthew Sweet...so perhaps the renewed excitement of playing live will put some more punch in their next batch of tunes. One thing is for certain...don't discount Velvet Crush just yet. These guys have an amazing ability to bounce back when other bands would simply give up or fade away. Stereo Blues is a good album...but not a great album... (Rating: 4++)

Additional Items Received

Acme Rocket Quartet - Sound Camera
Vince Allen - Pie
The Alternate Routes - Over Your Shoulder
Amber Pacific - Fading Days
Angel - Believe in Angels Believe In Me
Anthony - Neu York
Argo - Jet Packs for Everyone
Athens Boys Choir - Rhapsody in T
Avenpitch - Avenpitch
Ballentine - 4U
Lloyd Banks - The Hunger for More
Bilge Pump - Let Me Breathe
Blessed Light - Love Lights the Way
Allison Branan - Allison Branan
Paul Brill - New Pagan Love Song
Daniel Carter - Revival
Chronic Future - Lines in My Face
Coastal - Halfway to You
Confuse Yr Idols - A Tribute to Sonic Youth
Cool Hand Luke - The Fires of Life
Corporate MF - The Royal We
Crazy Man's Basement - There and Back
The Datsons - Outta Sight/Outta Mind
Dosh - Naoise E.P.
Mark Drake - I Don't Write Love Songs
Dropbox - Dropbox
Dwarves - The Dwarves Must Die
Emperor X - Tectonic Membrane / Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform
Epic45 - Against the Pull of Autumn
Fireworks Go Up! - You're Welcome
Fiver - Let It All Fall Down
The Flesh - Sweet Defeat
For Against - Echelons
The Frenchmen - Sorry We Ruined Your Party
Gatsby's American Dream - In the Land of Lost Monsters
Goose Vargis - Goose Vargis
The Grackles - Honeypot
Brian Hartzog - One-Way Ticket
Helmut Vision- PH10 in...
The Hentchmen - FormFollowsFunction
The High Water Marks - Songs About the Ocean
Michael Hirsch - Lofi Holiday
Casey Holford - Bad Spell Good Spell
IAMX - Kiss and Swallow
Jadakiss - Kiss of Death
Bill Janovitz and Crown Victoria - Fireworks on TV!
Jason Walker and the Last Drinks - Ashes & Wine
Jeremiah and the Red Eyes - Red Eyed and Restless
Junior Jack - Trust It
Burton L. - Spy Life
Mantler Landau - Mantler Landau
Langtry - As Upon the Road Thereto
Keyth Lawrence and the Purple Circle - Figures
La Pieta - Summer
Leaving Rouge - White Houses
Lennon - Career Suicide
Lockgroove - Calm Right Down
Logh - The Raging Sun
Lonesome Brothers - Fences
Lovedrug - Pretend You're Alive
Bill Madden - Samsara's Grip
The Mae Shi - Terrorbird
Mandarin - Fast>Future>Present
Adam Marshall - The Last Marshall
Matt Sandy Band - Matt Sandy Band
Matter - Make A Difference
Memo and Friday - Present Holiday Fever
Migala - La Increible Aventura (CD/DVD)
Ming and Ping - Mingping.com
Mission Giant - Brotherhood of the Plug
Mission to Mars - Lasterday
Monstrum Sepsis - Doors and Windows
Morthem Vlade Art - Slow Wave Sleep: Retrospective 1998-2002
Mother Goose - "Schizo Ladies" b/w "Rondo Fennoscandia" (45)
Mourning September - A Man Can Change His Stars
Mrnorth - Lifesize
Nation of Two - The Kingdom
The New Transit Direction - Wonderful Defense Mechanisms
Odds Against Tomorrow - Nights. Not. End.
Old Canes - Early Morning Hymns
The Only Constant Is Change - Unreleased and Rare Tracks - Various Artists
Only In Dreams - Under This Burning Sky
Otasco - This Product is Extremely Delicious!
The Nice Device - Birth of a Lover
Patriotic Country - Patriotic Country
Paulson - Variations
Pleasant Stitch - Capacitor
Pleasurecraft - Lost Patterns
Poor Boy - Songs of Nick Drake
Stan Ridgway - Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs
Roadkill (DVD)
The Rumble Bees - Be Pretty, Be Naked, Be Quiet
7th Dimension - Sex, Light and Rock 'N' Roll
The Seamonsters - Turning Tide
Solvent - Apples and Synthesizers
Sprezzatura - Hirameka Hi Fi
State of the Union - Inpendum
State of the Union - Timerunner
Rick Stone - Turn Me On, Turn Me Out
Sucka Brown - Sucka Brown
Sunday Velvet - All That God Only Knows (Demo #3)
35 Days in May - Tales & Destinations
Thebrotherkite - Thebrotherkite
Tiger Saw - Gimme Danger / Gimme Sweetness
Tober - Harajuku No Emo Ko
Triggerbox - Triggerbox
Troy Taroy - Employee of the Month
Tracy Shedd - Louder Than You Can Hear
Trigger10d - ...But the Girl's the Same
Tuck and Patti - A Gift of Love
Turfwar - Chrome to the Dome
The Umbrella Sequence - The Disappearing Line / Athena
Upstairs at Larry's - Lawrence Welk Uncorked
Valerian - Intimations of Sorrow
Vero - How Does It Feel
ViV - Flawed
Waterstreet - Osmosis
Mike Watt - The Second Man's Middle Stand
Wolves (of Greece) - Wolves (of Greece) (10" Vinyl EP)
World/Inferno Friendship Society - Speak of Brave Men
Yellowcake - Since You Ruined the Earth
Yesterday's Rising - When We Speak, We Breathe
Young Heart Attack - Mouthful of Love
Zug Izland - 3:33

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