Splendid E-zine presents

our weekly collection of shorter reviews

Guttermouth, Praga Khan, Big Open Road, Moby
Colin Leyden, Sky Cries Mary, The Fly Seville, Major Matt Mason USA/Muckafurgason

Guttermouth / Gorgeous / Nitro Records (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "BBB"
14 songs worth of anti-this and anti-that (you know: religion, amerikkka, the music industry, etc.) half-sung/half-spoken ranting and raving, backed by fast guitar/bass/drums thrashing their way to oblivion. The kids love this stuff. It's got a great sound and nice tight playing, but somehow memories of the 80s -- Jello Biafra, the DKs, Black Flag, etc. -- make it feel a bit tired. Yeah, it's goofy and "offensive" and annoys all the right people, just like it did 15 years ago. But after a while, offending all the right people gets old, and I can't help but wonder what would happen if a band like this channeled some of its considerable energy into something a little more ambitious. -- ib

Praga Khan / Twenty First Century Skin / Never (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Breakfast"
Pleasantly dated -- that's how I'd describe the Praga Khan sound. While his Lords of Acid have absorbed a certain amount of drum'n'bass and gabber influences over the last few years, there's very little on Twenty First Century Skin (okay, maybe "Lady Alcohol") that reveals the existence, let alone the influence, of the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and all those other contemporary breakbeat scientists. Khan's music is still the same sex, drugs, techno 'n porno driven series of rave anthems and lyrical chauvinism that it was back in the early nineties, and it's all the more fun now for its stylistic stolidity. Khan's lyrics, meanwhile, have gained some depth; they still don't have much to say, but no longer originate exclusively from below his belt. -- gz

Big Open Road / "Without You" b/w "Misunderstood" / Big Open Road (CD Single)

Sample 30 seconds of "Without You"
Big Open Road is a funky/folksy-type rock band. "Without You" is standard college radio fare and is executed with the prowess of a standard college band -- it's not bad but it's not great either. It's pleasant to listen to but not earth-shattering. The B-side "Misunderstood" is a slightly reggae-fied number that isn't as strong as the A-side. It's pretty cliched and sounds even more like an average college-band song. Maybe by the time they've gotten a full-length together, Big Open Road will have hammered out a more distinctive sound! Here's hoping... -- nw

Moby / Play / V2 (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Machete"
It's been years since the last "real" Moby album; I Like to Score doesn't really qualify, and by many accounts neither does Animal Rights. So what's the Moby agenda circa 1999? Well, you get a few tracks on which he uses borrowed vocals and instrumentation from old blues songs ("Honey", its nearly identical twin "Run On", "Natural Blues"), a number of gently ambient instrumentals and near-instrumentals, several "electronic pop" songs that hover in the vast null dimension between INXS and Underworld (see "South Side") and a few killer techno tracks -- "Machete", for instance. This time out, Moby manages to establish himself not only as a talented multi-instrumentalist and genre-jumper, but as someone who can write interesting songs in a variety of genres -- a point he's missed in the past. -- gz

Colin Leyden / For the Wicked / Rosemary (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Abilene"
You could consider Colin Leyden a sort of modern day muse, as he weaves tales of the 90's with quiet accompaniment from a mature band that tastefully flavours his storytelling. Looking at Leyden, you wouldn't expect to hear such passionate tunes as "Interstate" and "Abilene" trickle from his lips (What, does he drool when he sings? -- ed). Leyden's uncanny ability to guide songs with only his voice will amaze tuneless audience members. With positive signs of folk and gratifying glimmers of country tinged rock, Leyden's voice stands right alongside your favourite classic singer-songwriter types as he ushers forth the hooks that make folks turn their heads and eagerly nod with musical contentment. -- am

Sky Cries Mary / Until the Grinders Cease / World Domination (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Shakespeare Factory"
Other than annoying collectors, this re-issue of SCM's rare first album is notable for two reasons. First of all, it's a far darker, more industrial-sounding album than the "gaiambient" material for which SCM is currently known -- indeed, Roderick Romero lets his punk roots show on "Shakespeare Factory". The other oddity is the reminder that for this early incarnation only, the non-Roderick members of SCM were Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. It's intriguing to listen to Romero planting the seeds of his band's future, but for fans of Sky Cries Mary's current sound, Until the Grinders Cease is probably more satisfying to own than to listen to. -- gz

The Fly Seville / Carousel / Sealed Fate (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Cosmonauts"
A midtempo, downcast approach to rock that quietly presents, debates and closes its argument with pristine skill and dramatic emotional upheaval. Listening to the raw, lamentful vocals of Jesse Blatz, you can't help but have a general feeling of dishevelment. But wait, could there be a glimmer of hope buried in these lamentations? "Yeager" adequately displays these confused emotions as a quiet buildup ends in organ-heavy tones and deeply-inflected vocals. The Fly Seville's sound has an unquestionably melancholic approach to it, but a curious mystique envelops several of the tracks, promising dense, graceful originals that glide effortlessly from the stereo. -- am

Major Matt Mason USA/Muckafurgason / Split 7" / Edelstein (7")

Sample 30 seconds of Major Matt Mason USA's "Dog Song"
For some reason, music that's ostensibly educational becomes utterly hilarious when skewed just slightly away from center. This split single is a perfect example. Muckafurgason's two contributions, "Army of Ants" and "Farmers Market", were written by the band for "mainstream" use, and were rejected by National Geographic Children's Television and Farm Aid, respectively. The songs are played straight, though rendered in low-fi fashion...and they're freaking hysterical. I was singing "Army of Ants" for hours. Major Matt Mason's "Dog Song" is even funnier; while the verses extol the virtues and societal values of dogs, the chorus gives them voice: "I go ruff ruff ruff ruff ruff, ruff ruff ruff ruff ruff" and so on until the sheer ludicrousness of it causes you to rupture something while laughing. This is absolutely essential listening. -- gz

nw - noah wane | gz - george zahora | am - andrew magilow | ib - irving bellemead

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