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OUR WEEKLY COLLECTION OF SHORTER REVIEWS

Turning Point, Ominous Seapods, Big Open Road, Jliat, Like Wow, The Ruby Doe, A Night of Serious Drinking, River City Rebels, Egon / The Search for Saturnalia, Luke Holder, The Yo-Yo's, The Supersuckers, F Gerard Errante, Rush Hour (DJ Mixed by Dave Audé), DJ Cam, Luxury Liners, Bionic Finger, Future Stars of Rap, Fueled By Ramen Records: Audio Catalog, The Jimmie Van Zant Band


Turning Point / 1988-1991 / Jade Tree (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Shadow of Lies"
Some bands become heroes in spite of themselves. Turning Point are one of those bands. Seconds into 1988-1991, you'll realize that this band truly is part of the foundation upon which all of modern melodic hardcore is built. Everything that endears stalwart groups like Boy Sets Fire or Hot Water Music to today’s youth was evident in Turning Point’s music more than 10 years earlier: angular and complex rhythmic thrusts, squalling guitars emanating tiny shards of melody and an intelligent-yet-intense frontman. Songs like “Shadow of Lies” or “Feeding the Fire” are as vibrant and visceral as anything being produced today. 1988-1991’s 38 tracks compile all of Turning Point’s recorded material, studio or otherwise. From the band's first 7” on Hi-Impact records to live material culled from a 1991 New York radio performance, it’s all here in one nice, neat little package. When you consider that the hardcore music of today most likely would not exist without the efforts of this pioneering New Jersey group, you realize that 1988-1991 serves as their long overdue curtain call, and proves that Turning Point truly were heroes in spite of themselves. -- jj


Ominous Seapods / The Super Man Curse / Palm Pictures (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Super Man Curse"
What is it about the Northeast that breeds hippified jam bands? Like most of their brethren, the Ominous Seapods (who hail from upstate New York) do not seem to have much use for music post-1975. Rather than beating a Gratefully dead horse, however, this five-piece owes more to the Allman Brothers (with a curious dash of Frank Zappa). They still venture into improvisation territory on "Money to Burn" and the title track, with generally solid results. While the songs themselves are pleasant enough, their fire tends to get dampened by flaccid production that sucks the power out of otherwise energetic tracks. This restraint on wax leaves me somewhat apathetic. However, if their future efforts avoid this problem, I imagine they'll grow even bigger. -- rd


Big Open Road / Humble to the Bone / Big Open Road (CASS)

Sample 30 seconds of "You Made Me Feel So Wonderful"
A year after the band’s CD single hit the streets, Big Open Road drops us a TDK tape of what I presume is their next release. While it's sometimes thrilling to get a super-advance tape of someone you know, it's a much better idea to do some sort of packaging if your band is unknown. You can't argue that the band's folksy-blues-rock jams aren't produced well. Rambunctious bass lines interweave with guitar solos, creating multiple compositions that can be appreciated by fans as well as musicians. The vocals tend to go off-key quite a bit, contradicting the solid playing, but this tuneless irritant does provide for a unique delivery, balancing out the sound. For those into late-night bar bands, Big Open Road will surely help you finish off that last round before you stumble out the door. -- am


JLIAT / When we focus... / Komrades In Noize (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Whatever the hell this piece is called"
Just the other day I was wondering what had become of JLIAT. For a while there, his compositions were a monthly staple in Splendid... And lo and behold, here's a new one with a name that's forty-odd words long, professionally packaged and looking quite slick. For the uninitiated, a typical JLIAT composition is thirty to seventy minutes of a single sustained organ-like tone, with roiling, usually improvised variations in the mix beneath it. The longer you listen, the more your ear becomes attuned to subtle variations and eddies within the broad swatch of organ drone. It can be fascinating or, with a very small alteration in perception, utterly maddening. I firmly believe that everyone should listen through an entire JLIAT composition at least once, if only to see what it does to your mind -- it's the aural equivalent of looking at a blank white wall, and slowly discovering its details and imperfections. Naturally, those who listen purely for pleasure, as opposed to as an intellectual exercise, may find this a bit taxing. -- gz


Like Wow / Burn, World, Burn / Psycho Teddy (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Haunted Thrift Shop (I’m Freakin’ Out)"
Like Wow are a quirky outfit dabbling in psychedelic, funk, punk, blues and even (regrettably) reggae. While at times there are hints of innovation, overall the songs are tiresome combinations of misguided and drawn-out hooks and jams. Thomas Truax’s vocals are a huge distraction. He often drones in a talking manner which might be some attempt at sounding creepy and wacky. Other times he belts out wails, cackles and yelps that curl like Sesame Street’s puppet Grover. If Weird Al was to record an album of his own songs, it might come out along these lines -- too irritating to listen to as music, not funny enough to enjoy as comedy. -- av


The Ruby Doe / The Flame and the Fury / Burnout (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Out Crowd"
A confession: this CD has been sitting on my incoming pile for a long time. And not because I don’t like it. That’s not my problem with the Ruby Doe -– I just can’t figure out how to explain what they do. The Jesus Lizard and Big Black are probably the most obvious starting points. The Flame and the Fury certainly is about fury. A lot of the songs offer up mid-twenties male rage, leavened with some metal and punk rock tendencies. But don’t think Korn -- these guys are a lot more sophisticated than that. In fact, they served as Seattle singer Jana McCall’s back up band on her Up solo release. The work I’ve heard from that record features subdued, lush work about 180 degrees away from the sound on The Flame and the Fury. In their most basic incarnation, though, the Ruby Doe deliver intelligent, hard-hitting post-punk. --bl


A Night of Serious Drinking / One After Another /Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Terminal"
A Night of Serious Drinking are a number of fellas who've written sporadically for a good music/snack zine called "Snack Food", and their record seems to reflect all the musicians they seemed keen about. While their Will Oldham influence can bring individual songs to a practical halt, they generally bring a nice balance of emotions to their music, with each track flowing nicely into another and breaking, occasionally, into heightened drama ("What a delicious dream/this land I'll never see"). The vocals of Anthony Bonet sometimes remind me of Paul Weller and the Jam ("Shades of Another Color" and "Little Black Buzzer") -- which is always a compliment in my book -- and the songs themselves have a way of growing on you, particularly on days when you're craving one drink after another while stuck in front of your computer terminal at work. -- td


River City Rebels / Racism, Religion and War… / Victory (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Religion"
Racism, Religion and War… is dedicated to "All the people who fight for peace and equality". Its liner notes include a picture of Martin Luther King and the caption "Fulfill the Dream". It is therefore odd that a bunch of obviously enlightened punkers like the River City Rebels should hate so many kinds of people -- Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Christians, the entire U.S.A., soldiers, the constabulary and people who work for a living. I understand that punk rock is supposed to be incendiary. I realize that half of the fun is outrageous "Fuck the [blank]!" statements that aren't necessarily intended to hold up under logical scrutiny. On the other hand, fighting stereotypes and bigotry with more stereotypes and bigotry is just hypocrisy. The RCRs play punk music that is convincing enough, but their political stance is naïve and under-developed. If they're really dedicated to their cause they need to deepen their rhetoric and avoid clichéd stereotypes and self-contradiction. -- nw


Egon/The Search for Saturnalia / Split 7" / Has Anyone Ever Told You? (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of The Search for Saturnalia's "Velvet"
Two songs by two up-and-coming bands on collectible clear vinyl. How can you lose? Egon, the better-known of the pair, delivers "Blowing Trumpets" -- a proggish affair characterized by falsetto vocals (they're almost Perry Farrellish, though I apologize to Egon for the comparison) and long, sprawling instrumental breaks. The Search for Saturnalia offer "Velvet", a murkier and more introspective track driven by understated guitar blur. Without the piercing vocals and deliberate melody of "Blowing Trumpets", it takes a few more spins to make an impact. Neither track leaps out of the speakers, grabs you by the throat and gives you the shaking of your life, but neither disappoints either. -- gz


Luke Holder / Penumbra / Pirate Services (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Truth Crush"
If I were one of the record store boys in High Fidelity and I had just broken up with my girlfriend, and I was rearranging my record collection to mark the occasion, and I chose this time to rearrange the records by genre, I'm not sure what I would do when I got to Penumbra. I'd probably sit on the floor and give it another listen, but given the low-key nature of most of the songs I would probably drift off and start thinking about my ex-beloved instead of actually listening closely to the songs, thereby wasting yet another chance to categorize the record. Let's see...it's definitely not another boring boy rock record. More rootsy, slightly bluesy, it feels like a singer/songwriter CD, although there's a band involved on most songs. They're good songs, pretty mellow, although there are a few rockier numbers, and Holder has a nice fuzzy guitar sound. His voice is fine, if unexceptional, and his lyrics are pretty interesting. That's a pretty good description of Penumbra as a whole -- it's solid, interesting, but not super distinctive music. -- ib


The Yo-Yo's / Uppers and Downers / Sub Pop (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "1000 Miles From Me"
I've had a hard time figuring out Uppers and Downers. Fronted by former Wildhearts members, The Yo-Yo's (now that's an original name, isn't it?) send out shockwaves of gritty rock laced with a ton of vocal melodies and a bit of charming punk attitude. Looking for a black female rapper? Perhaps you need to go somewhere else...now...fast. There's no question that this band can write crafty tunes, as each of the 14 tracks has some sort of catchy hook that'll grab your attention almost immediately. "1000 Mikes From Me" and "Rumble(d)" stand out for the rough, riff-heavy guitar lines that lay down some mighty thick rhythms. What drives me crazy is the almost over-produced quality of the recording. Everything here is so pristine and perfect sounding that even the "cool-as-fuck" leather jacket look on the front cover can't hide the fact that album sounds preconceived and trite. -- am


The Supersuckers / The Evil Powers of Rock ‘n' Roll / Koch (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Evil Powers of Rock ‘n' Roll"
Despite claims to the contrary, plain ol' rock ‘n' roll still exists, thanks to bands like the Supersuckers. Big, brash, loud and everything else you'd want from a rock album, Evil... is a celebration of all of rock's cliches. Although this description suggests a holier than thou attitude, the Supersuckers are far from holy -- in fact, they revel in their sins through songs like "I Want the Drugs" and "Gone Gamblin'". Although most bands would play this card with tongue in cheek, the Supersuckers sound serious when they say "It's a kickass life." With The Evil Powers of Rock 'n' Roll blaring loud enough to rattle all of the empty beer bottles on the table, I feel compelled to agree. -- rd


F Gerard Errante / Beyond Noend with Errante / Drimala (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Lyric Prelude"
Should you fail to turn your volume up to the maximum level during "Silent Tears", there's a good shot you may not even hear the first half of it. Since it's the first track on the record, "Silent Tears" succeeds in forcing the listener to play close (if not always rapt) attention to Errante's music. My favorites, time and again, end up being the pieces featuring John Toomey on keyboards and synthesizers. They're not deep or overly complicated, but possess a wonderful prettiness (particularly "Cantabile" and "Interlude"). While similar moments of beauty pop up in the five Toomey-less tracks, there's also a good deal of banality or schlock, with "Twilight" among the sappiest instrumentals ever composed for a non-Disney project. It's the type of composition that makes you want to break the CD in a thousand pieces, then maybe hug it. For the most part, though, this is a nice hour of pretty music that's hard to dislike. It's not like the work of more adventurous jazz artists (not even on the rare experimental track, like "Innerutterance") whose pieces will set your mind reeling with thought, but it's great for those days when you're looking for rest from thought and from rock. -- td


Various Artists (DJ Mixed by Dave Audé) / Rush Hour / Moonshine (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Spearhead's "Jump & Dance"
Since all but a select few DJ mix albums feature utterly flawless transitions, it's usually hard to say much about the quality of the deck work unless you don't like the style. I have nothing bad to say about Audé's style. The tunes -- a mixture of hard-house, techno and trance stuff in the 140+BPM range -- seemed a bit dull and linear at first, but grew steadily more interesting once Audé's own "Rush That Thing" hit the deck. For a happy hour-and-a-bit of dancing, or perhaps exercising, Rush Hour is spotless -- though it naturally shines brightest on a system with good bass response. It's also the only CD to date that my co-workers have had to ask me to turn down, which must surely count for something. -- gz


DJ Cam / Loa Project (Volume II) / Six Degrees (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Candyman"
DJ Cam claims to have "come from hip hop", but there's nary a whiff of Brooklyn in the summer on Loa Project -- at least not the parts of Brooklyn I've stuck my nose in. Paris in the summer must lack the wafting delights of KFC, bus exhaust and spurting fire hydrants, because DJ Cam's music is all about smooth, refined beats, tasteful samples and mellow chord progressions. There are a couple of slightly rougher moments, like "Mental invasion", which has a crunchy beat, some scratching and a tough sounding male voice sample. But in general this is pretty, restrained music, and even the drum 'n' bass-y beats seem to be holding something back. It's good stuff, well suited to chilling out in the shade on a hot summer day. I can't help but imagine the stylish, sexy thrillers that these songs should be the soundtrack for. Sadly, none of them take place in Brooklyn. -- ib


The Luxury Liners / Sound as Ever... / Echomusic (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "When We’re Alone"
From the press pack: “In addition to their proven pop sensibilities, the boys also emit a winning sense of style and camaraderie.” ... “A chance meeting led them to country couturier Manuel’s, where they were loaned embroidered, rhinestoned shirts that cost more than their rent,” but, “their look has expanded to include skinny thrift-shop suites, early Beach Boys slacks and cardigans, and NASA-type jumpsuits.” What would make them happy? “A Saturday-morning cartoon show and Luxury Liner lunch boxes at all Kmarts.” They might have on the right jackets and shoes, but the boys in The Luxury Liners sure as hell aren’t the Beach Boys. They’re not the Beatles. They’re not even the Monkees. Sound as Ever... falls a mighty far shot from being one of those classic simple-pop treasures and instead meanders around like bubble-gum that’s lost its pop. -- av


Bionic Finger / Inner Bimbo / Switcheroo Music (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Big Dick"
Four bold and brassy gals from Manhattan, Bionic Finger have put together a confusing and ultimately rewarding debut CD. Confusing because: (1) their press kit came in a folder, usually a sure sign of impending lousiness, and (2) they cause highly disparate references to ricochet wildly in my brain. The latter isn’t an unpleasant sensation –- at one moment, I think the band sounds a little like the Throwing Muses, then Frightwig, then Bongwater, then PJ Harvey. Then I’ll decide they aren’t from New York City at all but really from Olympia. Bionic Finger are certainly soul sisters to Kathleen Hanna. Tight harmonies and tart lyrics compete in rapid succession for attention; the band can sound sweet one moment and downright saucy the next. Confused though I may be, all I can say is that if this is what my inner bimbo sounded like, I’d be pleased to meet her. -- bl


Future Stars of Rap / Rap Album / Insane (CASS)

Sample 30 seconds of "Violent Rap"
This is a rather, erm, interesting release, to say the least. The first indication came as I removed the cassette from its case and went to put it into my tape deck. As I was doing this, the cassette's home-made cover fell off to reveal the tape's previous identity: Citgo Presents: Christmas in the Countryside. Then I pressed play. What I heard was primitive, beat-box-driven pseudo-gangsta rap, replete with bad scratching and utterly ludicrous, expletive-peppered lyrics. Jurassic 5 they most certainly are not. The majority of Rap Album is made up of the Future Stars’ rather inept brand of hip-hop, with occasional lapses into Barry White-aping faux-R&B ballads. I mustn't fail to mention their new dance craze -- the self-explanatorily-titled “Put a nut sack on your head”, which will no doubt be sweeping the country very, very soon. Scary as it seems, the Future Stars of Rap actually make the Bloodhound Gang look mature. Rap Album is enjoyable on a strictly infantile level for about two minutes; any more than that and the eject button starts looking pretty good. -- jj


Various Artists / Fueled By Ramen Records: Audio Catalog / Fueled By Ramen (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of the Causey Way's "You Know You Love Me"
Are you now or have you ever been a part of the Fueled By Ramen roster? If so, you're probably on this sampler, which appears to feature a song from every artist to have released an EP or LP on the Gainesville, Florida-based label. The compilers have wisely eschewed the more ska-flavored material in favor of straight-ahead punk (and) pop, with the occasional quirkier stuff (like the Causey Way's marvelous "You Know You Love Me") interspersed. You're bound to love some and hate others, but with a retail price of US$3.98 the risk factor is low. -- gz


Jimmie Van Zant Band / Southern Comfort / J-Bird (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Get Up"
Jimmie Van Zant is the cousin of Ronnie "Free Bird" Van Zant; when he learned guitar, Ronnie served as his mentor. As family connections go, few seem prouder of theirs than Jimmie, and unlike other relatives of famous musicians, he makes no attempt to step out of the tall shadow Ronnie cast for him. Rather, he's dedicating all his music to Ronnie's spirit, while no doubt revelling in the similarities between Lynyrd Skynyrd's musical vision and his own. Southern Comfort boasts guitar parts as strong as Steve Gaines' work and deep vocals which recall Ronnie Van Zant (and Kim Wilson). Since all the melodies (save the middling "Angel in the Night") are tough and distinguished too, it's very easy for Southern Comfort to shed the "redneck music stigma" that its Confederate flag cover undoubtedly draws. Matter of fact, the album -- which boasts a great cover of Ronnie's "Simple Man" -- works better than even Lynynrd Skynyrd's semi-recent acoustic release (Endangered Species) at forcing listeners to recognize the rich musical legacy of the Vant Zant family. Thanks to the music and Jimmie's straightforward, heartfelt lyrics, I can't imagine Southern Comfort -- especially its fast songs and the nostalgic hoedown "Here to Stay" -- not pleasing anyone who gives it a good Southern spin. -- td



gz - george zahora | nw - noah wane | am - andrew magilow | ib - irving bellemead | jj - jason jackowiak
td - theodore defosse | rd - ron davies | bl - beth lucht | av - adam voith | rg - rodney gibbs


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