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OUR WEEKLY COLLECTION OF SHORTER REVIEWS
Heston Rifle, Joydrop, Four Hundred Years, Holly Golightly, PFFR, Proudentall, Secadora, Maggie Sansone, Duotang, Q-Burns Abstract Message, Throbbing Gristle, Kroko, Naked Mole-Rats, Tyler England, Saves the Day, Deimos, Landing, Pavo & Rhythm of Black Lines, Candy Coated Brick, Splash Conception, Montana Pete, James Hunter, Malade De Souci, Executive Lounge, Fabulous Racers: A Zabel Muziek Compilation, IfIHadAHiFi, Slow_coach, Jetone, Rick Rose Rude, Fivehead, Kodachrome, Filtered: The Best of Filtered Dance, Woody Whatever, Twinstar, CKY, Fairmount Girls


Heston Rifle / 20 Strings / Inner-Flight (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Quad"
As precursors to indie "stardom" go, 20 Strings is extremely promising. Utilizing ethereal violin workings, wild drum thrashings and feedback galore, Heston Rifle brings art noise to a strange and pleasantly unique level. There are occasional vocals scattered through the four tracks, but they're almost unnoticeable, as you'll be far more fascinated with the avant garde instrumental oddities flooding your ears. "Mike Found God", a live track, is perhaps the most impressive; the fact that their live performances achieve the same "large" sound as their studio work is quite a feat, and a definite incentive to catch a Heston Rifle show if they meander into your area. A full-length is scheduled for the fall, but until then you can prepare yourself by picking up 20 Strings. -- al


Joydrop / Viberate / Tommy Boy (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "American Dreamgirl"
Viberate is an album of competent mainstream pop-rock. Tara Sloan, the requisite good-looking lead singer, has a solid, well trained voice that explores a range from sultry to soulful -- but while her voice does have a certain appeal, she doesnít exactly push any envelopes with it. This record seems to have been written with commercial radio in mind; hooky singles, like "Thick Skin" and "Sometimes Wanna Die", wind up lodged in your brain, whether you want them to or not. However, "American Dreamgirl", with its Alanis Morisette-like snarl, actually made me perk up and take notice. Itís a very adventurous and textured song, with interesting layered vocals and distortion. -- az


Four Hundred Years / The New Imperialism / Lovitt (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "If You're a Joke I Don't Get It"
A port-mortem release from this politically charged activist band leaves me wondering whether the quartet is anarchistic or just anachronistic. Incorporating another round of retooled and derivative hardcore topics, Four Hundred Years lashes out against hypocritical Bush politics and the right to protest. Hoarse vocals have the hardcore concept in mind, but are more of an irritant than an effective mobilizing force. Mediocre melodies keep The New Imperialist from becoming a numbing assault -- its contents aren't crafty enough to win your ears over, but they're intrusive enough to nix your belief that these guys are really pissed about the injustices of America. Ultimately applying the same musical formula on each of these eight tracks, Four Hundred Years give you typical sing-scream vocals that leave you hoping for more, and reaching for the tried and true albums that form the backbone of your record collection. -- am


Holly Golightly / Singles Round-Up / Damaged Goods (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Til I Get"
What's that? You still haven't checked out Holly Golightly? Why the hell not? Okay, to be fair, our favorite Headcoatee seems to top a lot of people's "I Know I Really Ought to Check Him/Her/Them Out Some Day, But I Haven't Gotten Round To It Yet" lists, but now you have no excuse: Holly Golightly's Singles Round-Up gives you seventy minutes of top-flight Golightly goodness in a single affordable package. If you can listen to Golightly's raspy bad-girl vocals on country/blues-inflected garage-rock classics like "I Can't Be Trusted" and "Believe Me #2" and not acknowledge her consistent ability to breathe life into a played-out genre, you deserve to spend eternity in the corner of Hell where they play nothing but Veruca Salt and Juliana Hatfield CDs. Believe me, you're better off repenting and grabbing a copy of Singles Round-Up while you have a chance. -- gz


PFFR / Rock Rocker Rocketh / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Japoney Apoe"
This is a hilarious, lo-fi indie bedroom-rock update of happy heroin rock. The male voice, particularly on "Japoney Appoe", sounds like Perry Farrell and/or Shannon Hoon while messed up. I've no idea what the band's name stands for -- Perry Farrell Fan Rally? People for Free Ruritania? God only knows. The first guess, however, would be most apt. The guitar sound is simple, the percussion is almost non-existent (and when it's there it's probably a drum machine) and there's tons of hiss in the background. The background chorus, when there is one, sounds like malevolent graduates of Sesame Street (also on heroin). The lyrics are the best bit: funny, funky and irreverent, suggesting that the writers played that refrigerator poetry game to come up with them. "Japoney Appoe" is about Japanese girls ("I can't hate her cause she's Asian"); "PFFR Booms" is a send-up of rap ("If I had a car like that... / Well, you don't... /We're PFFR, we like the cars that go boom"). Don't buy this expecting melody -- buy it expecting some fun. You won't be disappointed. -- js


Proudentall / Whatís Happening Here / Caulfield (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Instrumental Like a Compass"
Almost a year ago, my erstwhile colleague, the illustrious Noah Wane, reviewed this fine debut by these up-and-coming Kansas rock gods. Originally released on SunSeaSky, Whatís Happening Here will soon be re-released by the bandís current home, Caulfield Records. Rather than step on an elder statesmanís toes, I will simply say that Whatís Happening Here is a dandy little rock Ďn roll record which alternates effortlessly between sweat-soaked guitar rave-ups and moments of introspective solitude. Watch for these kids to roll into a town near you this summer, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and find a copy of Whatís Happening Here. You wonít be sorry, we (Noah and I) promise. -- jj


Secadora / Little Pieces of Paper / Keiki (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Gelato"
The flagship record for San Francisco's Keiki starts off in an intentional slumber, then rips off shirt after shirt to get at the pretty but ravaged skin of Secadora. The band bathe themselves in the same glow as Mazzy Star, using a dual guitar attack to evoke groups like Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade. Multi-instrumentalist Adrienne Robillard can take her voice from chilling to poppy to sultry, and the band could better utilize this strength by stretching their musical palette a bit, but they're consistently successful at bringing genuine tension to scenes that smell of "gelato" and stock indie characters ("She listens to voices"). The best of these nine tracks follow more traditional pop structures ("One Minute Automobile"; "Blanket"; "Gelato"; "Bedroom"), giving these talented musicians the most room to show off. This contrasts with songs like "Home" or the opening "Tizer", in which vaguely haunting moods keep the band members from stretching beyond the songs' mysterious, almost inhuman parameters. -- td


Maggie Sansone / Celtic Meditations / Maggie's Music (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Farewell to Nigg"
Through the four sets presented here, Sansone showcases her skills on the hammer dulcimer in a relaxed, New Age-y setting. Pairing her dulcimer with a variety of other instruments, she creates an achingly gorgeous sound. The results are as sublimely peaceful as the album's title suggests, and if fault is to be found, it is that they are a bit too peaceful. With an approach this light and airy, I found myself being lulled to sleep several times. As a relaxing disc to nod off to, this is an astounding winner, but it probably won't suit your needs as accompaniment to more active pastimes. Thus, depending on your goals, this might be exactly what you're looking for. -- rd


Duotang / The Bright Side / Mint (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Notable Crowd"
Duotang are a two-man band from Winnipeg who play intelligent college rock. Their style can best be described as sharp: their music is mod and tight, their lyrics are witty and insightful and their black suits never leave their bodies. You might imagine that bass, drums and vocals would sound a little thin, and at times they do; Rodís bass is sometimes neither bass-y enough to fill the low end nor sufficiently melodic to fill the top. Instead, much of the time it sounds like a mush of treble. Still, the songwriting is energetic and catchy, and nicely placed keyboards and backing vocals help flush out Duotang's sound, making for another solid release from this resourceful band. -- ea


Q-Burns Abstract Message / Invisible Airline / Astralwerks (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Mother's Dead"
Q-Burns Abstract Message is Orlando producer/remixer/DJ Michael Donaldson, who has worked with a strange assortment of folks, from Faith No More to Britney Spears. Invisible Airline is a diverse mix of soulful house tunes, featuring a number of guest artists -- most notably house vocalist Lisa Shaw. The music is mostly mid-tempo and mellow, and has a nicely organic and natural sounding mix of electronic and acoustic instruments. While Shaw handles the vocals admirably on many of the tracks, the real standouts are by other collaborators, like Elmo Williams and Swamburger. Willams's track, "Mother's Dead", is a bluesy number with a growling vocal and crunchy slide guitar, while Swamburger contributes a Cool Keith-like freaky alien rap to "Imprisoned Glitch." The individual tracks are well produced, but the semi-arbitrary variety of styles and lack of a central figure make for a not-so-cohesive CD; Invisible Airline ends up feeling more like a compilation of interesting singles than a proper album. -- ib


Throbbing Gristle / Grief / Thirsty Ear (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Camera"
There doesn't seem to be much information available about Grief; it's clearly made from Throbbing Gristle music and associated materials, but I believe it was actually created by someone not directly connected with the ground-breaking group. Basically, you get two twenty-minute-plus tracks -- "(Camera)" and "(Telephone)" -- that combine taped interviews with Genesis P. Orridge (and, though less notably, the rest of the group) with some occasionally recognizable bits of TG music. This is more worthwhile than it sounds, as the interviews, particularly one with a Swedish radio program (I think), offer fascinating insight into the group's philosophy. However, the actual market for this is probably microscopic, especially in the CD-R era. You'd have to be a devoted TG fan indeed to give Grief a regular CD-player workout. -- gz


Kroko / Furia / Verdura (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Polanski After Ski"
The first release from both Kroko and Helsinki-based label Verdura is best described as instrumental grunge rock, kind of like Soundgarden without Chris Cornell. While this may be difficult to imagine, the description fits Furia perfectly. Drummer Petri Hissa sounds as if he's attempting to beat some evil spirits out of his kit, while guitarist Pentti Dassum is able to coax all kinds of wails and moans from his guitar. The music doesn't stray far from the quiet bit/loud bit school of songwriting -- but when it's this loud, and this good, that should be construed more as praise then complaint. -- mp


Naked Mole-Rats / Four-Track Demo / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Get Off Your Ass"
Almost overcoming a godawful moniker, the Mole-Rats answer the eternal question "Can I really find success?" with the exhortation, "Maybe if you get up off your ass!" These four veteran New Jersey musicians came together a year ago, joining their guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keyboards for a trip into prog-rock hell. "Dark Romance" opens with a pinging guitar and smoky, whispered vocals ("I will take control of you, yeah") before channeling a more Satan-worshipping Rush for the heavy metal chorus. An extended guitar solo brings it all home. "Get Off Your Ass", "Here I Come" and "Dragon" follow suit, with "Get Off" being perhaps the first self-help metal song -- chicken soup for the headbanger's soul. A power ballad by way of Metallica, "Here I Come" strikes a note of romantic desperation: "Staring at the pillow where you once laid your head/Lying here alone I'm drowning in my bed." "Dragon" plays the mysticism card -- it had to happen -- with Dungeons & Dragons-like flair. Like the hairless mammals from which they take their name, the Mole-Rats aren't for everyone, but a certain strata of teenage boys will undoubtedly respond with an enthusiastic "Cool!" -- rt


Tyler England / Highways & Dance Halls / Capitol (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "My Baby No Esta Aqui No More"
Tyler England puts the hillbilly in Country and Western. Produced by none other then the head-honcho himself, Garth Brooks, Highways & Dance Halls gathers all the western clichťs that country fans know and love and unfurls them into twelve unconsciously ironic songs of almost pitiable lamentation. Whether this is intended as a concept album or not, I am uncertain -- but with song titles like "My Baby No Esta Aqui No More" and "Blame It On Mexico", there seems to be an underlying theme of xenophobia and Latin American angst running through the album. The rest of the disc is your basic country fare, with sub-standard lyrics about pickup trucks and the Promised Land. While there's nothing outstandingly bad here, it's been done better a number of times before. -- jw


Saves the Day / Stay What You Are / Vagrant (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Certain Tragedy"
Saves the Dayís formula for success has always been a combination of youthful exuberance and hook-laden, barbed-tongue pop-punk -- characteristics which made them a natural selection when it came time to assemble Team Vagrant. Stay What You Are, the New Jersey quintetís third album, takes their trademark sound and gives it a run through the studio sheen machine (courtesy of producer Rob Schnapf), resulting in a less volatile, more pop-oriented sound. Despite their newfound polish, Saves the Day still write hooks big enough to snare marlins, as evidenced by the gooey harmonies and clenching rhythms of "Certain Tragedy" and the guitar-driven corker "At Your Funeral". Lead singer/lyricist Chris Conleyís exercises some relationship demons on the moribund "As Your Ghost Takes Flight", then ruminates about the loss of his own sanity on the terse "All Iím Losing is Me", his bandmates only adding to his paranoia with their flailing guitars and meaty bass chops. Though Stay What You Are lacks the frantic punch of Through Being Cool, it provides a snapshot of a young band whose inexorable rise to the top has only just begun. -- jj


Deimos / Digital Black / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Losing Interest"
For some reason, listening to Deimos' fusion of electronica and plodding indie-rock reminds me of that creepy movie creation, The Thing. With multiple heads writhing about, this hulking mass of buzzing keyboards and glossy melodies has seemingly engulfed Billy Corgan's linear guitar approach, while the vocals sound bizarrely similar to early Pet Shop Boys. Now, don't take that the wrong way; Deimos has created a batch of tunes that emit a defined intensity and a distinct direction, equal parts smart programming and suave songwriting. Several of these progressive numbers call upon their '80s influences, while embracing contemporary music strains that meld beats with edgy distortion. Smart enough not to fall into the trap of industrial-metal and sensitive enough to look beyond simple three-chord melodies, Deimos creates music marked with beauty and gloomy self-contemplation, appealing to your need for musical minimalism. -- am


Landing / Oceanless / Strange Attractors Audio House (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of"How Did You Feel?"
In an attempt to bring you a different type of review for a different type of music, we offer you the ambient review. Please print and cut out the clusters, tape them up all around your home, and in two days you will know whether to buy the album or not.
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Excess of white noise 798709867 -^&*fills up the holes jlashda *)(&*)^&of the un-graspable, slow, minimalist ambient drive (*^)&^&%^%&^*% Landing puMPS out morE than an hOur of material YDF)(*7987 it does sink into background and bec0me part of your environment- >- ->BUT SIMPLY NOT pleasant&(*^)(&*^87 &&&has 2two2 tracks which are over 20 min.->most patient of listeners are bound to want to EXPERIENCE some other atmosphere album's best bet: the opener, "How Did You Feel" &^(^) actually has a melody and makes you feel like your going*somewhere. &()^ ->(0) .    .   .  . ............ s0On find yourself stuck in tracks four and five which simply drop you right in the middle of another world and leave you standing still, ()&*)^ &%^*****&&645073 withoutthefreedomtowalkaroundandseenewthings. ^*&^ ->< all cds neEd forms of subtlety and atm0sphere, but this one has too much of it ..........
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Upon finishing the album, like someone dying for water in a desert, I just wanted some cheap pop music with lots of hooks. -- jk


Pavo & Rhythm of Black Lines / Volume III / Post Parlo (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Pavo's "You Live Too Far North"
If this is Southern Rock, as Post Parlo claims it to be, Mogwai should start wearing cowboy hats and waving Confederate flags. Both Pavo and Rhythm of Black Lines could not be further distanced from the music of ZZ Top and Lynryd Skynyrd. Pavo creates expansive instrumentals in which each note is allowed to develop to its fullest potential, creating soundscapes that a listener could be swallowed into. In particular, "You Live Too Far North" recalls Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet at their most suspenseful. Meanwhile, Rhythm of Black Lines, former tourmates of At The Drive-In, create driving instrumental rock that's far removed from anything ATDI has done in recent years. While "Austin, Texas Will be Devoured Then Passed Through the Bowels of a Heavy Set Arabian Camel" features reedy Neil Young-style vocals, ROBL show that they too may have a future in creating driving, atmospheric rock music...albeit nothing that sounds remotely like the Allman Brothers. -- mp


Candy Coated Brick / Slow Children Playing / Auntie Grizelda (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Red Letter Day"
A collection of friends from various North Carolina groups, Candy Coated Brick decided to stop just hanging out together and start recording, employing an 8-track and various band members' living rooms for the purpose. The result, Slow Children Playing, provides an eclectic, engaging listen, although not without a few bumps along the road. The album's best songs are its most straightforward, such as the folk rock of "Four Letter Word" (that would be l-o-v-e), "Red Letter Day"'s dynamic power pop and the album's finest moment, the melodic, instantly catchy "Whole". Instruments include a dinosaur toy, gum, yelling and "cheezy" keyboard as well as the usual guitar/bass/drum line-up, which hints at the album's sense of humor. While the playing isn't consistently spectacular, there's an easy swing to the music that benefits from the band's relaxed recording atmosphere. Romance and its tribulations occupy much of the album's lyrics; singer Lisa Hiner's words are an occasional weakness, especially in songs such as "The Dullness of You" that have an eye toward social critique. The last few unlisted tracks -- the "hidden portion of the CD", as it's introduced -- are useless, but at least they collect all of the self-indulgence one might expect from a project like this and combine it in one easily skipped bundle. -- rt


Splash Conception / Lullaby For An Incandescent Blueberry / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Symptoms & The Diagnosis"
Splash Conception dismisses the idea that they are an actual band, and warn listeners that they should be considered an "auditory hallucination". "Okay," I thought. "Whatever." Then the random sounds and noise, spoken word fragments and off-key trumpet kicked in, and it no longer seemed like such an odd statement. Lullaby For An Incandescent Blueberry is steeped in such weirdness that I'd almost have to be imagining it. This is definitely not music suited for driving, sleeping, partying or relaxing; It's more reminiscent of underground poetry clubs where a young, goateed male shouts out random phrases while banging on a conga drum. It takes a certain mindset and mood to be able to take this in, but if it hits you at just the right time, you may find yourself doing the same thing as I was -- enjoying it. -- al


Montana Pete / Play "Devo" and "French Ladies" / Coin Operated (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Devo"
I love this title. It's the easiest command that owners of this CD single can follow: play its two songs. Taken together, these tunes amount to just five minutes, but it's five minutes of post-punk, post-Aristotle, post-King James splendor. "Devo" is a spazzing, herky-jerky track that suggests both Devo and Wire, while "French Ladies" is Mark E. Smith in Paris. The noisy, stutter-step guitars surprise, yet stay within "Devo"'s melody, while propelling the spoken-word "Ladies" through alleys few women should wander at night. Taken as a whole, it makes Montana Pete a band that's sure to give Sportique a run for their money as the coolest English group a few dozen in-the-know people have ever heard of. -- td


James Hunter / Kick it Around / Ruf (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Night Bus"
With a delightful blend of jazz, rock and soul, veteran songwriter James Hunter dives into classic R&B. Hunter's music is so smooth and clean that, just to add a little balance, you'd almost expect him to sing of risqué things like long, shiny white legs. Unfortunately, Hunter never gets that adventurous; none of these songs go beyond the bounds of wining 'em over, keeping 'em and trying to persuade 'em not to go. It is for this reason that I particularly liked "Night Bus", Kick It Around's only instrumental; it gives the listener a well-deserved break from Hunter's kitschy lyrics as he and his band just jam. R&B fans may very well be impressed, but Hunter's refusal to journey into new territory definitely turned me off. -- jk


Malade De Souci / Novmmbr Aign / CB (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Track 5"
If you like The Locust or Zulu As Kono, you'll enjoy Malade De Souci. Musically, the sound is similar: a series of rubbery, atonal runs up and down guitar and bass fretboards, accompanied by frenzied percussion and the occasional non-verbal howl. There are twenty-nine tracks here, all relatively short; because their herky-jerky structure makes it difficult to distinguish between stop/start dynamics and track endings, each track flows readily into the next. You are therefore encouraged to make use of your disc player's "shuffle" feature, which will allow Novmmbr Aign to become a different album with each successive play, while leaving its central concepts relatively intact...if, that is, intact central concepts are truly important to a genre in which so much of the output sounds like instruments being dropped down a flight of stairs. -- gz


Executive Lounge / Executive Lounge / 75 Ark (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "EXL"
Once again, 75 Ark prove themselves worthy of their reputation as leaders of the new-school hip-hop renaissance. Their latest whiz kids answer to the name of Executive Lounge, and make no mistake about it -- this seven member strong crew (led by the irrepressible Encore) will soon be a force to be reckoned with. From the crunked-up gangster flash of "On Contact" to the hazy production and laid-back groove of "Lude", they exude an air of undying loyalty and unflappable confidence. They borrow a trick or two from the Wu-Tang Clan on the terse, string-laden "Taxes", then reach back into RZAís platinum bag of tricks for the funeral oration beats of the Gravediggaz-aping "EXL". Ironically, it is their unflappable confidence that helps expose Executive Loungeís flaws, however bantam they may be. At times, their skills canít quite match their vision. "Crossfire" and "Unorthodox" never really manage to go anywhere in particular; marred by sound-alike production and overcomplicated rhymes, they eventually collapse atop themselves in a heap of watered-down beats and flailing MCs. Those relatively minor criticisms aside, this is an impressive debut that should land Executive Lounge at the head of hip-hopís class of 2001. -- jj


Various Artists / Fabulous Racers: A Zabel Muziek Compilation / Zabel Muziek (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Tse Tse Airline's "Baywatch"
This is a compilation featuring artists associated with the Netherlands-based Zabel Muziek record label. Unfortunately, most of the tracks are neither well-recorded nor intriguing. Many purveyors of the self proclaimed "post rock" movement have forgotten that its originators didnít make boring music -- and slowly strumming three chords for four minutes, then throwing distortion on for the final four with whispered vocals just doesnít cut it for me. While half of this compilation consists of the aforementioned droning, trebly bore rock, the other half gets weirder and worse. Tse Tse Airline's "Baywatch" is almost laughable, and the bizarre quirk-metal of Cheech Wizard is just plain annoying. To be fair, there are some decent tracks, but nothing worth mentioning. The Netherlands have a respectable culture, but weíve got George Bush! I mean, good new music! -- ea


IfIHadAHiFi / Ones and Zeroes / No Karma (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The All Tied Up"
With kitsch-laden pseudonyms and a not-quite-amusing faux mythology -- you see, they actually emerged fifty years from now in Neo-Tokyo, Wisconsin -- IfIHadAHiFi don't have much kicking in the pre-stereo-play department. Of course, that's why we listen to albums rather than look at them. The disc unfolds as a zealous approach to pop-rock, with a purposely overwhelming technical emphasis; there are more overdubs and guitar effects here than there are on the latest Limp Bizkit/Britney Spears collaboration. While the album includes enough disco-inspired electronica to avoid falling in line as yet another Sonic Youth derivate, one doesn't have to stretch to hear Thurston Moore's consciously detached vocals overreaching the band's cacophonic, yet suspiciously melodic, instrumental dirge. All things considered, Ones and Zeroes is edgy rock for those self-respecting music fans who still aren't ready for the indie-pop abyss, but are prepared to trade in their tattered copy of Antichrist Superstar or Undertow for a piece of the underground pie. -- jw


Slow_Coach / The 3-Song EP / Ionik (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Song One"
This seems to be a home recording project from two German fellows, Greg Ponce (guitars and bass) and Kyle Truelsen (drum and spoken word.) According to the CD jacket it was "recorded in Kyle's Room on Greg's four-track", so it's bona fide, as far as indie DIY projects go. Unfortunately the music isn't as interesting as the nice ink-jet packaging or the charming sleeve notes -- it's dirge-like boy guitar strum rock, with tinny sounding drums and overly repetitive guitar and bass lines. The best of the three tracks is "Song Three"; it's the liveliest of the bunch, has nice texture changes and shows off some nice tight interaction between the bass and drums. My main criticism of this disc is that it's not very ambitious; yeah, recording with just a four-track in your bedroom can be limiting, but there's some pretty incredible music that's been made that way. Slow_coach seems to have laid down guitar on one track bass on another and drums on a third and left it at that. A new slow_coach disc is apparently in the works; I hope this time they whip out the giant straws, toss back a few tapioca milk teas and get a little crazy. -- ib


Jetone / Ultramarin / Force Inc. Music Works (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Octan"
Ultramarin defines the term "reprise". The cover art should have had a big blue :|| in the center; instead, the CD case is littered with pictures of airport equipment, which is really ironic. The listener might think from the outside of the disc that the music was going places, when in fact it's standing still. "Thousand Oaks", probably the album's best track, varies only a little, and is quite dark. "Octan" repeats the same musical phrase over and over, without ever developing it or changing the beat. Possibly the most tedious song I've heard, it doesn't suggest any emotion to me, either. Given these observations, I wonder what the point of making the music is: to explode the musical theory behind the concept of reprise? To play off Corelli? To create a musical joke? My knowledge of musical theory isn't solid enough to answer, but my knowledge of boredom is. Skip this baby. -- js


Rick Rose Rude / CeliaCoolCharm / Bleeding Rose (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Don't Ever Get Married"
The four song titles on this CD-EP read like a psychiatrist's conclusionary report on a patient. Rude begins with a moderately upbeat number, "CeliaCoolCharm", but quickly disintegrates into his amusingly pessimistic rock 'n' roll attitude with "Don't Ever Get Married", "Model Girlfriend" and the closer, "Lonely Boy". Yeah, someone has issues, and Rude's unique style of glam-friendly rock is the vehicle for his own inner-self examination. This EP is a bit more upbeat than Rude's full length, encompassing everything from solo guitar to full-on glitter-garage rock, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Trying to ignore Rude will only lead to continued musical pestering. Accept his sloppy guitar work and off-kilter lyrics and an RRR listening session becomes an amusing diversion, reminding you that you may be down, but someone is still at the absolute bottom of the barrel -- and his name is Rick Rose Rude. Good for a hearty laugh, CeliaCoolCharm justifies tracking down Rude's other recordings. -- am


Fivehead / Big Mistake Factory / Tight Spot (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Mo Elling"
Fivehead is the latest effort from John Hunt, perhaps better known for his work with Austinís Silver Scooter. The six-song Big Mistake Factory, while not exactly groundbreaking, definitely does more stuff right than it does wrong. A little bit lo-fi, with very up-front vocals and fuzzy guitars, the songs alternate between slow and contemplative and indie-rockiní. I found "Mo Elling" and "Halftime Show", the EP's most upbeat tracks, to be the most enjoyable, if for no other reason than they have a faster tempo and the guitar work is more playful. Bob Mould, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement fans should definitely check this one out. -- az


Kodachrome / Blue Star EP / Dutch Trouble (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Sunspot"
Expecting a band with a Paul Simon jones? Think again. Kodachrome's lead singer, Andy Chernov, is a vocal dead ringer for Bob Mould, and his band's music brings the eerie similarities closer. Each song, from the powerful "Sunspot" to the repetitive "What New Thing", allows Andy a chance to be sensitive in that loud, Mouldy way. There's a screaming, yearning "Kiss-me-I'm-confused" angst that kicks each tune into high gear before their fade-out. "Redeyes" works less successfully, as neither hooks nor passion are strongly present, but the band has the ingredients that make such mediocre tracks bearable, and their good material -- like "Sunspots" and "20 Questions" -- great. No patchy EP is a must-own purchase, but Kodachrome is a band you would be wise to remember. -- td


Various Artists / Filtered: The Best of Filtered Dance / Tommy Boy Silver Label (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You"
"Filtered", for those of you who don't keep up with mainstream dance music terms and subgenres, refers to the processed special effects and compression used on the music. If you've heard Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You", widely acknowledged as the genre's pioneering track, you know what to expect: basically, it's modernized disco/house with the majority of its low-end signal stripped and compressed away. It's ironic, really -- as much of the world pursues bandwidth-intensive, CD-quality streaming audio, a small handful of record producers are attempting, with very expensive equipment, to simulate the sound of a 16Kbps Real Audio clip. Gripes about the genre aside, Filtered is a fun, if rather mainstream continuous mix, and Robbie Rivera's deckwork is first rate, with tight mixes and subtle transitions. The music, while lightweight, is consistently enjoyable, and unlikely to blow your speakers. -- gz


Woody Whatever / Roar / Ionik (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Stale Males"
These nine tracks reveal Eric Schmall's lo-fi bedroom aesthetic. Many of the tracks rely on the simple combination of Schall's acoustic guitar and indie-pop vocal melodies. This simple approach is reasonably appealing, although I find that the more processed tunes such as "Stale Males", in which the proceedings are run through a modest flange effect, are a bit more interesting. The primary difficulty I had with Roar is that the songs feel short; while economy of notes is important, the brevity of Schmall's compositions makes them feel either rushed or cast off. There are some good ideas here, and I hope that in the future Schmall takes the time to explore them more thoroughly. -- rd


Twinstar / Self-Titled EP/ Jet Black (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Dear Colleen"
Nothing in particular really stands out about this eponymous EP from Milwaukee-based trio Twinstar. Everything about them, from their choice of cover art down to the songs themselves, screams "status quo emo". While their particular brand of off-kilter pop-punk might play well with the cardigan-and-horn-rimmed-glasses-sporting Get Up Kids crowd, it is unlikely to make any impact on the musical world at large. At their best ("Daylight"), they conjure images of fellow Milwaukeeans The Promise Ring, but at their worst ("Ninety-Six") they are lyrically trite and musically mundane. These days, you cannot simply tap a guy on the shoulder to get his attention -- you have to punch him in the face. Based on that line of thinking, Twinstar would barely leave a scratch. -- jj


CKY / Volume 1 / Island (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Human Drive in Hi Fi"
Ahh, skatepunk. Those who, like me, have reached their mid-twenties can probably remember when the term meant the Dead Kennedys, Dead Milkmen and other bands named for deceased families or anachronistic professions. CKY is modern skatepunk, of a variety that has incorporated the plodding Eastern tonalities of Black Sabbath and combined them with the production gloss and studio trickery of rap metal. These guys have the requisite DIY street cred, and seem to be trying to put their own spin on the traditional architecture of their genre; there are some interesting blaxploitation keyboard effects on "The Human Drive in Hi Fi", and the album is diverse enough to entertain a non-devotee of the genre for at least a few listens. Volume I ends with a pretty decent track, but that track follows fifteen minutes of blank space -- an idea that hasn't been clever since 1993. I hate to slag a band that seems to have some merit, so it seems best to say that CKY admirably accomplishes what they set out to do: they made a loud, abrasive, riff-heavy album with some interesting departures. I'm sure the half-pipes of America will be cranking this record for months to come, and more power to them. -- bm


Fairmount Girls / Tender Trap / Deary Me (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Drivin' By"
Tender Trap's cover looked a little too much like the cover of Tori Amos' first album to make me entirely comfortable. It's fortunate, then, that it sounds nothing like everybody's favorite fairy wailer. The first track, "drivin' by" (the band doesn't seem to like capital letters) combines a "Rock Lobster"-esque organ sound with a guitar approach reminiscent of Magnapop. The rest of the album proceeds almost seamlessly along similar lines; while the band doesn't create anything jaw-droppingly new, the overall quality of the work is high (except "helicopter", which consists solely of the line "Helicopter, this is a rooster" repeated far too often). The band is made up of four women and one man, and it's clear who's setting the lyrical agenda. The songs discuss suffocating in relationships, male misapprehension of female strength and most interestingly, the loss of identity that can result from a relationship's end. The band's sound will reel you in, but it's the substance behind the lyrics that'll keep you coming back. -- bm



gz - george zahora | am - andrew magilow | ib - irving bellemead | jj - jason jackowiak | td - theodore defosse
rd - ron davies | js - jenn sikes | rt - ryan tranquilla | al - amy leach | jw - john wolfe
az - alex zorn | ea - ed anderson | jk - josh kazman | mp - matthew pollesel | bm - brett mccallon

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