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our weekly collection of shorter reviews

King for a Day, The Banjo Spiders, Edaline, 8 Bold Souls
Dave Hubbard, The Gazillions/The Run For Cover Lovers, Crooked Fingers, Red Giant
Cooter, The Hellacopters/The Powder Monkeys, DragsterBarbie, Insectgods
Hero of a Hundred Fights, Charles Atlas, WorldsTallestThing, Jeremy Boyle

King For a Day / Before I Go / Initial (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Lost & Found"
A casual listen to Before I Go will probably cause you to quickly (and ignorantly)label King for Day as one of those typical hybrid metal bands. A careful excavation of this Detroit band's resonating sonance certainly unearths tinges of metal, but also reveals a tasty strain of emo-math rock that hastens forward with focused energy, yet prudently analyzes the surroundings with a degree of mature restraint. The rhythm section parries with the vocals and guitars, producing a sound that's agitated and volatile but clearly still the product of a team effort, ushering in an intensity that rings true on the majority of these appetent tunes. -- am

The Banjo Spiders / s/t / Spinning (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Thinkin' Aloud"
Ironically, if perhaps predictably, the Banjo Spiders don't play banjos at all. And needless to say, they aren't spiders either. However, above and beyond truth in advertising issues, they're a pretty damn good band -- continuing a fine tradition of jangly, rockish pop, touched by the Stones, the Replacements, the Smithereens, the Black Crowes and a dozen others. On "Nice Guy Club," the band even cops a very recognizable vocal riff from Simon and Garfunkel's immortal "Mrs. Robinson," which I suspect every single reviewer feels obligated to mention. What's more important, though, is that the band's material is fast, upbeat and interesting. If you're the sort of person who likes to say "I was into them years before they were big," start looking for this album now. -- gz

Edaline / I Wrote the Last Chapter for You / Law Of Inertia (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Andrea Gail"
I admit it, I'm generally not a big fan of emo, emo-core, "emotional indie-rock," whatever you want to call it (although I tend to love wuss-rock like Belle and Sebastian...go figure). I Wrote the Last Chapter for You seems to have worked some strange voodoo on me, though -- I like this CD quite a bit, even though its distributor, Law of Inertia Records, explicitly promotes Edaline as an emo band. First off, the packaging -- or at least the CD booklet -- is inventive and intriguing. The CD is described as a novel, and the liner notes consist of the pages of the novel...eight short chapters in all. But rather than just printing the lyrics of the songs as chapters, these chapters are like small, time-stamped journal entries, and the songs' lyrics are distillations of those journal entries. The music is fairly heavy rock, with a lot of quiet/loud quick changes -- and while it isn't super interesting (and an awful lot of the loud parts sound the same), it's full of energy and emotion, and manages to get across the sort of tumultuous but dreamily nostalgic feeling that the chapters seem to be trying to evoke. If you've been put off by emo in the past, this CD might just be the thing to bring you around. -- ib

8 Bold Souls / Last Option / Thrill Jockey (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Odyssey"
8 Bold Souls are a bass-heavy jazz octet from Chicago that mostly perform the complex but accessible compositions of the celebrated Edward Wilkinson, who is also their reedist. The group formed in 1985, so it's no surprise that even the clarinet and tuba play smoothly off each other -- but I am still amazed at how swiftly and deftly these compositions can change from sounding like Steve Coleman to Stravinsky. "Odyssey" and "Gang of Four" best convey how the classical is worn within their intimate grooves; being driven more by emotion than the intellect, they stand out as the most enjoyable pieces. The only area in which the octet disappoints is in more energetic numbers like "Brown Town", which is probably best heard in concert. Outside of non-U.S. dates, the group does not stray far from Chicago, so Last Option will probably be your easiest route toward discovering their genuine and generous gifts. -- td

Dave Hubbard / Inside Passage / When I Play (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Dancing in the Light"
You can't always judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it works pretty well. If you looked at Inside Passage's artwork and assumed it to be a new agey sort of disc, you're absolutely right. It's just the sort of disc you might find on a wall rack at your local Nature Company store or self-help-intensive bookshop -- heavy on the clear, bell-like keyboard melodies and faux-exotic percussion, with an abiding sense of wonder at the world and a lot of ponderous touchy-feely song titles ("Dancing in the Light", "Heartlamp"). I suspect that Hubbard has legitimate talent, but his work here seems mired in the cliches of the genre. It's those cliches, regrettably, that make Inside Passage cloying and a bit synthetic -- especially the ersatz Jimmy Buffet ambiance of "Dancing in the Light". -- gz

The Gazillions / The Run For Cover Lovers / split release / Round (7")

Sample 30 seconds of "The Gazillions' 'Hobbit Love'"
This split single pits the nerd-core of the Gazillions against the pseudo-filthy minds of the Run For Cover Lovers. Lacing unpredictable wit with ringing guitars, The Gazillions' clever antics aim to please with the dual punch of dorky song topics and catchy college-rock-based beats. The Run For Cover Lovers are a more difficult aberration to dissect. With keyboards and peculiar vocals, the band's music is certainly unique (as is its name), and you'll either enjoy its gloomy verses on sex and, er, uhm, more sex, or find them disgustingly unpleasant. It's fun, it's stupid, it's refreshingly amusing -- it's California rock done by puzzling people named Whipped Creama and David Hologram! -- am

Crooked Fingers / s/t / Warm (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Broken Man"
This self-titled effort seems like two different musical entities that want to occupy the same place at the same time. On one hand we have Pogues-like tracks fit for a pub or pool hall, full of hoarse vocals and harsh realities ("New Drink for the Old Drunk" and "Man Who Died of Nothing at All"). On the other hand are pieces which are notable for their bittersweet orchestral austerity ("Broken Man" and "Juliette"). Yet what binds these siblings are the wry, dolorous lyrics on tracks like "She Spread Her Legs and Flew Away" and "Broken Man." The latest musical incarnation of Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf and Barry Black), Crooked Fingers is good poetry sung with sincerity and an assurance of good things to come. -- dd

Red Giant / Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound / MIA (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "1960 Starchief"
For everyone who longs to recapture a bit of that good old Black Sabbath mystique, we recommend Ultra-Matnetic Glowing Sound (and, for maximum effect, a bottle of cheap whiskey). Red Giant doles out the sludgy, sizzling riffs, the vocorder-treated vocals and the fret-burning solo rhythms in mass quantities, tempering them with just the right amount of industrial harshness. It's ultra-heavy space rock, kind of like what you'd get if Monster Magnet and Chrome collaborated on a concept double-LP about flesh-eating Martian warriors, complete with a gatefold jacket full of lurid Frank Frazetta artwork. Pretty damn lethal, in other words. Pop it in the player and watch the emo kids squirm. -- gz

Cooter / Looking Up / Fastmusic (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Missing the Innocence"
Dynamic drumming is the highlight of this suburban New York four piece. Vigorous and consistent beats, full-laiden chunky guitars and a sweet, muffled boy singer make Cooter a dead ringer for the next Get Up Kids. In fact they sound so much like the Get Up Kids, you'd hardly be able to tell the difference between the two albums. Sounding like the Get Up Kids is a good thing in my book. Cooter delivers super energetic, fun filled pop/rock songs whose lyrics you don't have time to really listen to because you're too busy pogoing like a fool. -- ha-n

The Hellacopters / Powder Monkeys / split release / Safety Pin (7")

Sample 30 seconds of "The Powder Monkeys' 'Two Tub Man'"
90s cock-rock takes a look back at its heritage as Sweden's Hellacopters and Australia's Powder Monkeys grab their guitars, guzzle down a few cold ones and barrel through two fine covers of everyone's favorite 70s smart-aleck rock schticksters, New York Cityís one and only Dictators. The Hellacopters manhandle "Master Race Rock" with keen precision while the Powder Monkeys' sludged-out rendition of "Two Tub Man" would make Handsome Dick Manitoba think twice about who the real King of the Ring really is. While neither band radically departs from the original Dictators song credo, each one does its designated tune justice, reviving the original sleaze and good-natured fun that have made these two songs the underground classics that they are today. -- am

DragsterBarbie / High Octane Promo Demo / DragsterBarbie (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Nail Polish"
If you can buy an album by the Dickies and be fully pleased by it, you'll have no complaints with DragsterBarbie. Singer Amy Hartman has a voice nearly as strong as Elizabeth (Sarge) Elmore's, but her lyrics run the gamut from cute to sitcom-inspired. Some of the songwriting borders on the stupid -- how, exactly, can a tampon wrapper get stuck in a person's hair? -- but the lyrics often display an equal measure of originality. While it's among their least catchy numbers, "Nail Polish" possesses all the charms which made Girlfrendo's "Cat Heaven" so oddly essential; along with "He's a Vegetarian", it also indicates what an enjoyable live band DragsterBarbie might be. The three girls behind DragsterBarbie have been making a big splash over the Internet with their catchy "garage pop", and this CD should inspire record labels to splash upon them too. Their future artistic success depends on whether they can accentuate the parts of High Octane Promo Demo that make them unique, or whether they perversely place their focus on borrowed, bland-sounding songs like "Sad Beach". -- td

Insectgods / s/t / Permafrost (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Suicide Jump"
A hummable, skillfully-executed piece of girl-fronted noise-pop, Insectgods starts out somber but grows increasingly upbeat over the course of twelve tracks. The band has youthful energy to spare -- especially vocalist Debbie Wilson, who belts out the tunes as if her medical plan supplies a free set of new vocal cords every three years. At times, the mix favors Wilson's voice at the expense of Mike Sentner's frenetic guitar, which is regrettable as her raw-throated delivery is best when submerged in riffs as opposed to floating several yards above them. Mostly, however, this is a promising effort from a promising young band, and Wilson's vocal acrobatics give them a distinct edge. -- gz

Hero of a Hundred Fights / s/t / 404 (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Finite Wish"
If only you could see me now, sitting in front of my computer writing this review. I am gritty, sweaty and rather ill tempered (due to snowfall), and as such I bear quite a striking resemblance to the music of Hero of a Hundred Fights. Blasted with equal doses of adrenaline, spit and blood, Hero of a Hundred Fights mixes dirty riffing with sideways rhythms and a blood-curdling vocal delivery. The resulting eight songs form a bone-crushing slab of white-hot hardcore. Crunching, circular guitars and thick but elastic rhythms propel "Finite Wish" right into the cymbal smashing, jackhammer riffed assault of "Saying itís all in the Math." And if you close your eyes really tight, you can almost see the slam-dancers writhing in front of the stage, waiting for the bombastic kick-drum of "Triumph, the Flight" to hit so they can commence smashing your face into the floor. Visceral raw energy fused with a relentless musical vision -- thatís what Hero of a Hundred Fights is all about. -- jj

Charles Atlas / Two More Hours / Star Star Stereo (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Outstretched"
On Two More Hours, Charles Atlas -- AKA Charles Wyatt -- siphons your senses into an electronic abyss where reality zips above your head in brilliant bolts of multi-colored lightning. Your body reacts by jerking back and fourth to "Outstretchedís" ominous beats and sizzling electro-drone, and by flailing through the aquatic synth wash and tom-tom rhythm that plunges "Character" into the murky deep. You fight but find your soul held captive by the gentle piano, sparse rhythm and ghostly reverb of "Stasis and Fingernails." Then the music stops, releases its grasp and pushes you back from whence you came -- where you now sit, wondering where your shoes went, why your hairís soaked and why you suddenly feel like dancing. Is it the work of deviant co-workers, Dick Hyman or Two More Hours? You decide. -- jj

WorldsTallestThing / Be Prepared to Stop / Midair Collision (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Free"
This 4 song EP introduces the world to WorldsTallestThing. Primarily the brainchild of Ian Baker, WTT has a very Paul Westerberg feel to it, offering sweet singer/songwriter tunes plucked and strummed on a guitar with a bit of strings as accompaniment. The slower, more sentimental songs are the winners of the bunch. Nothing particularly ground breaking, but nothing that warrants complaints, either. WTT could easily find a place on the next H.O.R.D.E. tour. -- ha-n

Jeremy Boyle / Songs from the Guitar Solos / Southern (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Sabbath"
I never thought heavy metal could be ethereal, but in the capable hands of Jeremy Boyle (Joan of Arc) this normally vicious style of music has been turned on its ear. On Songs from the Guitar Solos Boyle has taken the unholy guitar blasts of artists like Black Sabbath, Kiss and Led Zeppelin and transformed them into drifting, lulling ambient soundscapes. Cutting and pasting like a mad kindergardener, Boyle combines the original artistsí guitar lines with subtle melodies, industrial-type dirges and empty spaces, forming colorful, free-form compositions. Heavy metal for the Tortoise enthusiast -- thatís Songs from the Guitar Solos. -- jj

gz - george zahora | nw - noah wane | am - andrew magilow | ib - irving bellemead
jj - jason jackowiak | ha-n - heidi anne-noel | dd - deirdre devers | td - theodore defosse

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