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Larry Polansky
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Open Mike: A Tribute to the Songs of Mike Merz, Volume One, Phoenecia, Ester Drang, Hollywood Superstars, Duf Davis and the Book Club, Kittyhawk, Tekulvi, Joel Bachrach and Friends, Hood, 99cent Dream, Chante! 1985-2000, Ambiance magnétiques, Volume 5, Daedelus, Paper Airplane Pilots, The Beatings, The Tighties, Jill Brazil, Perry Botkin, The Album Leaf, Rufus Maneuvers, Violet Indiana, Looking for the Perfect Glass: U.S. Pop Life Vol. 11 California Post-Punk, Chelsea's Corner, Diesel Boy, Glass Planet, Loren MazzaCane Connors, Organic Audio, Micromars, Jeff McLeod, Isabelle's Gift, The Posies

Various Artists / Open Mike: A Tribute to the Songs of Mike Merz, Volume One / Hear Diagonally (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Zapruder Point's "Protection"
While it may seem self-serving to construct a tribute disc to yourself, Minnesotan songwriter Mike Merz has done exactly that (hey, at least the proceeds go towards AIDS prevention). While I'm not familiar with Merz's originals (under his own name and as Pimentos for Gus), the versions here can be hit or miss. On the hit side are the more gentle acoustic tracks, such as Zapruder Point's softly-sung "Protection" or the tabloid-pastiche of Eric Ziegenhagen's "Degredator". Some of the noisier and more abstract versions, however, seem to require knowledge of the originals for full appreciation. -- rd

Phoenecia / Brownout / Schematic (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Eyebrow"
When I first listened to Brownout, I thought my CD player had somehow failed. The sound is so minimalistic that it's almost not there; two or three instruments are run through various processors and filters, muting their sound to a fraction of the original noise. Art is defined by the process, not the outcome, and by the same rationale, this is music. However, finding and quantifying the absence of sound, and then defining it as sound, has been done before (John Cage, etc.), and in this case is purely an academic exercise. Maybe my problem is my critical bias: deconstruction is less valid than other critical forms because it's easier to remove and dismantle ideas than it is to create original ones. To imagine the CD, think of the quietest Aphex Twin track you've heard, played at low volume, and re-recorded using hollow-metal-hull-underwater sound of a sub, which was deliberately added by Kay and Castillo. On the level of a listener recogizing the sounds and concepts that the artists meant to achieve, the album is a success. If the artists intended to create a listenable LP, the artistic exercise can be considered a failure. Phoenecia named the album Brownout to evoke the minimalistic, dimmed effect of a sputtering electric light during brownout. Better that they should change the bulb. -- js

Ester Drang / Goldenwest / Burnt Toast Vinyl (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Song For Jonathan"
I have always had a very standoffish attitude towards Christian music. While it may seem absurd to some (Why should a band's religious undertones effect the music?), I can never avoid feeling as if some outside force is trying to influence me through incomprehensible yet didactic lyrics. Ester Drang is superficially a "Christian band", in that their lyrics relate back to Jesus, but I am certainly not struck with the same defensive feeling I get when the new Starflyer 59 CD comes on. The nine songs on Goldenwest are melodic compositions with electronic leanings that hint at influences as far ranging as My Bloody Valentine, Marvin Gaye, Phillip Glass and Boards of Canada. They are definitely trying to accomplish something different. The eclectic instrumentation prevents the album from ever falling into a rut and plausibly avoids any hint of bloated self-indulgence, while the song to song stylistic contrast prevents the band from being easily pigeonholed. -- jw

Hollywood Superstars / Girls + Boys Demo / Hollywood Superstars (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Girls & Boys"
I knew something smelled fishy when I first looked at the cover of this CD-R. After some bizarre rambling on the first track, the immediate mention of secret-agent-gone-wrong Captain T on the second track immediately jacked me up straight in my seat. Looking like a Halloween costume party gone wrong, the Superstars bombard you with brash references and a heavily overdriven guitar that rocks first and asks questions later. Everyone's favorite 80's city anthem, "I Love LA", takes its memorable potshots at Chicago and NYC before settling on telling you about what the real rockstar life is like. Adding a Doors medley and balls-to-the-wall assault that kicks some serious ass, this cover will leave you awestruck. Imagine a Vegas lounge singer decked out in full glory, with a backing band of misfit metal types and a pugnacious punk rock attitude, and you have the Superstars. -- am

Duf Davis and The Book Club / Murdertainment / Orange Entropy (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Silly Symphony"
Duf Davis is weird. But more importantly, Murdertainment is weir,d and I honestly don’t know how to describe it. Sometimes it’s brooding instrumentals, other times it’s sardonic singer/songwriter pop tunes, and still other times it’s black-hearted piano bar music. There’s even a passage at the beginning of "Silly Symphony" in which an eight year-old repeats the lines "I don’t feel other people’s pain. You can hurt me, but I won’t feel it." Not quite sure how appropriate that is...but it’s entertaining nonetheless. -- az

Kittyhawk / Kill Devil Hills / Curious (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Mercy"
Has anyone seen that movie Friends 'Til the End, with Shannen Doherty, on VH-1? It's the one where she's the front chick for a band that plays easy-to-swallow, heard-it-before college rock with predictable, cliche-laden lyrics. Too bad for Kittyhawk; Kill Devil Hills could double for that film's soundtrack. Every song's hook seems so desperately placed -- how could they have a song without one? Though lead vocalist Jennifer Zablocki can certainly sing, and her bandmates are no doubt talented musicians, there's something missing here. I think it's originality. Even high points like the bluesy, gospelesque "Touch" can't save this one for me. -- al

Tekulvi / Who Knows Where We Are /Camel Clutch (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Pop Culture"
The self-released Who Knows Where We Are maroons Tekulvi on the same safe island as heaps of other indie rockers -- the world of unobtrusive, predominately instrumental, hook-less, ambient, guitar-centered jazz. Thanks to the jazz connection, such bands can be certain of obtaining some of the good will afforded that genre (where lazy sets by drug-addicted dropouts are routinely labelled brilliant), while warding off criticism by being so damn low-key. Tekulvi's strengths seem to be drummer Greg Sharp, who injects a little life into "Pop Culture" and "Chandelier", and the quietly dueling guitars of Phil Naumann and Chris Almodovar. Whether by luck or musical know-how, their songs open up at the right moments, keeping the lines of communication open between the song and the listener. Still, it's hard not to dismiss Who Knows Where We Are as unimportant and overly modest. Here's hoping fears of failure or criticism won't prevent Tekulvi from more openly expressing themselves in future recordings. -- td

Joel Bachrach and Friends / Joel's Bar-B-Q / Self-released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "She's a Lady"
The spirit of Timbuk3 lives on. And it's frolicking with Paul Anka. From New Jersey comes this humorous acoustic rock outfit that sings of Lisa Loeb's chronic dissatisfaction with her sound systems and found cats' love of Tender Vittles. Some lyrics come across as a bit trite, but at times the band hits its mark, finding insight in the mundane. Homespun, the instrumentation is bar band crowded around a bedroom four-track. One can only assume Mr. Bachrach, if he really exists, is the wizard behind the curtain, since he takes credit for writing all the songs -- save for the cover of Paul Anka's "She's a Lady" -- yet he appears to play or sing not a thing, according to the credits. Joel B, where are you? -- rg

Hood / Home Is Where It Hurts EP / Aesthetics (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The World Touches Too Hard"
When you listen to Home Is Where It Hurts, you'll immediately understand why Chicago-based Aesthetics decided to license it for US release. Hell, I'd have done it if they hadn't. It's really quite brilliant, in an understated and very much of-the-moment fashion. All the current indie-rock hot-buttons are pressed: densely-textured pop ("Cold fire woods of western lanes" and the title track), Mogwai-style instrumental catharsis ("The Fact that You Failed"), semi-electronic Kid A glitch-pop ("The World Touches Too Hard") and jazzy moodiness ("It's Been a Long Time Since I Was Last Here") are present and accounted for. Hood pulls all of this off quite casually, without sounding derivative; my comparisons are, I'll confess, a little forced, as Hood never sound like they're trying to be another group. There's a definite sheen of subtlety here -- the disc doesn't demand attention, but it deserves it. Nothing here disappoints. -- gz

99cent Dream / The Hottest Demo of the Season -- Greatest Hits Vol. 10 / Best Kept Secret (CASS)

Sample 30 seconds of "You Don't Know that I am Crying"
99cent Dream is Jamey Gray, New York painter and head of the label A Bouncing Space. Wielding the sword and shield of the lo-fi recorder -- guitar, bass, keyboards, drum machines -- Gray gives us his thoughts in pretty, spare ballads like "Child of the '70s" and "All the Guns and Roses Songs We Knew". Like the other Best Kept Secret album I'm reviewing this week (Chelsea's Corner's Two Hundred Words in Snow), this tape has all originals but one, a song by onetime Guided by Voices second-in-command Tobin Sprout. Perhaps that's the label's secret: producing Sprout-like bursts of fuzzy sonic beauty. Gray's 99cent Dream makes the most of its limitations, with smart writing and engaging playing. By the time you get to dance at the "Disco" on side two, you'll be bopping right along. -- rt

Various Artists / Chante! 1985-2000, Ambiance mangétiques, Volume 5 / Ambiance mangétiques (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of Les Granules' "La bombe"
I can honestly say that Chante! is a thoroughly charming recording. "Charming" isn't an adjective I often use in describing stuff from Ambiance mangétiques. Esoteric? Yes! Provocative? Yes! Imaginative? Yes indeed! Oddly enough, though, the result of compiling these individual tracks from eighteen distinct AM releases is such that I can only describe it as "charming!" The cast of characters is familiar to longtime Splendid readers: René Lussier, Jean Derome, Joane Hétu, Pierre Tanguay and others. Each track seems to have been touched by many of the same hands, yet each is quite distinct. Some are jazzy, some are folksy, some are bluesy, some are atmospheric, and all are clever and creative. But while a whole album of any one of these styles might leave me feeling oversaturated, in this more limited context I find myself both enjoying the current track as well as eagerly anticipating what will come next. If I had to pick a favorite piece, I'd go with Les Granules' excellent, tongue-in-cheek "La bombe." -- nw

Daedelus / Her's Is > / Phthalo (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "[ibid]"
Being able crank out an album full of weird noises, long drones and disembodied samples doesn't mean you've made music. And unfortunately, I believe Her’s Is > is lacking the level of craftsmanship it takes to push something beyond sound collage into the realm of music. Every time I tried to grab hold of an element in a song, whether it was the dance beat (and there are some infectious ones scattered throughout), the melodic theme or the fluctuations of a drone, it was wrenched away. I was never hooked in, revved up or calmed down by anything because I wasn't allowed to hear it for long enough to appreciate it. Unlike the crafted experimentalism of someone like John Zorn, Daedelus' efforts come across as haphazard and jumpy: as randomness for randomness' sake. Perhaps I'm too lazy a listener to appreciate experimental electronic music, but this album certainly didn't make me want to try. -- az

Paper Airplane Pilots / Welcome to the Drunk Tank / Debris (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Circus Peanuts"
You might have heard three of the members of Paper Airplane Pilots in their previous incarnation, Oval-Teen. Like Oval-Teen, Paper Airplane Pilots play a whimsical blend of straight-up, early-Beatles-inspired pop. Their latest offering is six songs of home-recorded pop bliss. In characterizing the band, the word heartfelt constantly comes to mind. Filled with an abundant supply of keyboards, bike horns and slide whistles, these songs are as playful as they are endearing. On the lyrical side, Welcome to the Drunk Tank suffers from an almost dizzying repetitiveness, but it's really hard to complain when phrases like "I'm throwing circus peanuts at her!" are driven into the ground. -- jw

The Beatings / The Ballad of Jimmy & Jenny... / With An X (7")

Sample 30 seconds of "Sex Beat"
There's nothing like a good punk rock spanking to get you all hot, bothered and a bit sore. The enigmatic Beatings shoot out a barrage of snotty, retro-punk that reminds one of a glammy Dead Boys. "The Ballad of Jimmy & Jenny..." incorporates wildly sporadic guitar assaults with a female-led "Oh-Yeah!" backed chorus that has mass punk rock charm to it. The thundering, tribal drums on "Sex Beat" give just the right amount of rhythmic appeal, and the band's make-up-heavy vocalist lets out a few blood-curdling howls that will hump your leg as ferociously as the neighbors' sex-crazed canine. Raise your shattered beer bottle in triumph; overdriven guitar chords and gunned-up bass lines will ruthlessly carry you through both of these numbers, with satisfying results. -- am

The Tighties / Load"*",8,1 / Self-released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Girls in Cars"
Commodore64 references are always okay by me, as are tough-looking girls on CD covers and song titles like "Girls in Cars". Unfortunately, these four Ontario boys aren't quite as creative with their music as they are with their packaging. This is very straightforward guitar/bass/drums pop-punk, with "funny" lyrics that are pretty dumb. "Girls in Cars" is the only tune on the CD that I can really get into; it's fast and silly and has a fun chorus. Otherwise, this is pretty predictable, derivative stuff. -- ib

Jill Brazil / The Songs of Jill Brazil / Pool or Pond (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Betty Loves Bums"
Sometimes fast and furious and at other moments subtle and melodious, The Songs of Jill Brazil showcases a maddening fusion of jazz, rock and -- by its most general definition -- punk. Peppered with sporadic vocals -- or more specifically, outbursts -- it remains mainly an acoustic album, and one that is beautifully recorded and performed. Jill Brazil's tightness is awe-inspiring, considering how many chord changes these guys make in the passing of only a few seconds. The Songs of Jill Brazil may seem slightly ambitious, but amazingly, they pull it off...and the result is an album with an undeniably original sound. -- al

Perry Botkin / Combines 3: Memories, Dreams, & Other Abstractions / Self-released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Mr. Jenkins' Morning Ritual"
In the mood for a headache? Throw on this disc. This isn't to say that the contents are poorly done, for they're actually well executed. However, be warned that the music here defines the word "cacophonous". Leaning heavily on synthesized sounds, Grammy-winner Botkin creates sonic beasts worlds away from works like Nadia's Theme. In fact, it's worlds away from almost anything you've ever heard. Clashing xylophones, vocal samples, the occasional drum pattern, the making of a cup of tea: all of these sounds combine into ever-shifting, ever-compounding textures. At times, it becomes too much to take, as Botkin paints layers on top of layers, achieving what can only be described as crazed energy. -- rd

The Album Leaf / One Day I’ll be on Time / Tiger Style (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Audio Pool”
It seems that it’s now okay for punk rock kids to like post-rock. A genre that was formerly subject to ridicule and scorn has now been wholeheartedly embraced by the community that had rejected it. It's my belief that this attitude adjustment is due in no small part to bands like The Album Leaf. In a man like Jimmy Lavalle, these kids see a former punk shrugging off the brutality of his previous groups in favor of a more gentle and mellifluous sound. Sophomore effort One Day I’ll be on Time follows closely in the footsteps of last year’s stunning An Orchestrated Rise to Fall; filled with beautifully serene aural landscapes, it's a post-rock album for those who've sworn off the genre entirely. Mixing wispy electronics, minimal guitar and tasteful percussion, songs like "The Audio Pool" and "Asleep" flutter from your speakers as if they had been handed wings and told to fly off into the sunset, while "The MP" is so impossibly graceful that you might not believe that it was written by a former member of The Locust and Swing Kids. Whether you are into folk, electronic, jazz or hardcore, One Day I’ll be on Time is an album that it’s certainly okay to like. -- jj

Rufus Maneuvers / One Clear Moment / B-Group Music (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Let It Burn"
One Clear Moment's sound is simple and somewhat jangly rock-n-roll with a country lilt. The lyrics are occasionally dim: "I want to be cool / I'm just a nice man / so take me to school" ("Ice Man"). The lines in the chorus don't wrap very well, so the phrasing has to be dragged out or cut short, noticeably in "Dead End Town" and "Ice Man". The writers might want to try caesuras -- or perhaps, for such uncomplicated music, they might want to work harder at making the words fit. Heck, maybe it's just the phrasing. One of the vocalists sounds exactly like David Cassidy; those of us who can remember watching The Partridge Family will get caught in a time warp. The instrumentation is much more kick-ass than the lyrics, but although the band plays well and works hard, the catchiness is missing. I'd be ticked if I had to pay more than a buck for this disc. -- js

Violet Indiana / Roulette / Instinct/Bella Union (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Killer Eyes"
There's something wrong here. I mean, this is a collaboration between the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and Mono's Siobhan de Maré, both of whom have been responsible for some really great why is my first thought "Oooh, sounds like Portishead"? Listen to "Air Kissing" and you'll hear the resemblance; some interesting Nick Cave/Barry Adamson gospel stuff happens during the chorus, but in general it's Portishead a la Angelo Badalamenti. The rest of the disc moves away from Portishead (and further toward Badalamenti), sounding like a shoegazer-friendly approach to sultry downtempo torch songs. The real showstoppers are saved 'til the end: "Feline or Famine"'s hazy twang turns de Maré into a Patsy Cline for the 4AD set, while "Killer Eyes" concludes the disc with a marvelously grand, feedback-washed display of lovelorn yearning. If I'd sequenced Roulette, I'd have put these strong tracks at the beginning and stuck "Air Kissing" in the middle somewhere; it's all very well to call your record Roulette, but sometimes these things can't be left to chance. -- gz

Various Artists / Looking for the Perfect Glass: U.S. Pop Life Vol. 11 California Post-Punk / Contact (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of The Locust’s "Priest With the Sexually Transmitted Disease Get Out of My Bed"
I can’t even venture a guess as to where you’d be able to purchase this, but let me assure you that it’s quite worth your time and effort to find out. Volume 11 of the U.S. Pop Life series, released by Japan’s Contact Records, focuses (as the title makes clear) on the wildly diverse Californian post-punk scene. Any style/type of music you could possibly think of is included on this most eclectic of compilations. From the freak funk of !!! (the Sly & the Family Stone-inspired "Intensify") to the bombastic white noise fury of Camera Obscura ("Twenty Five Diamonds") and back to the galloping post-rock of Trizteza ("Are We People"), no stylistic stone is left unturned. Along the way you'll also find gems from The Locust (the storming 40-second blast of pure spazz-core, "Priest With the Sexually Transmitted Disease Get Out of My Bed") and Tarentel (whose dreamy space-rock opus "Superman is a Damn Fool" clocks in at a hefty eleven minutes), as well as goodies from lesser-known acts like Aspect of Physics, who nearly steal the show with the dense and moody electronic ruminations of "Contact". As I said at the beginning of this review, I have no idea where to buy this disc -- but do yourself a favor and search far and wide. This baby’s a keeper. -- jj

Chelsea's Corner / Two Hundred Words in Snow / Best Kept Secret (CASS)

Sample 30 seconds of "Visiting Hours"
Italy's greatest (only?) cassette-only label strikes again with the Swedish bedroom auteur Tommy Carlsson, whose home is someplace called Vasteras -- which is, apparently, not far from Enkoping. And he sings in accentless English, using haiku-like lyrics to depress the hell out of you (must be the long winters). Things get a little more brisk eventually, with Carlsson handling guitars, keyboards, drum machines and vocals. He's joined on only a couple of songs, and all of them are his own except for one by Tobin Sprout, interestingly enough -- how do they find albums by former GBVers all the way over in Vasteras? The lyrics are pleasurably overwrought, with Carlsson singing baldly imploring lines like, "How could you choose your addiction?/Over a child that needed, worshipped and loved you?" A few of the songs plod, but the mix sounds great. Two Hundred Words in Snow will leave you craving long, cold winter nights all through the summer. -- rt

Diesel Boy / Rode Hard and Put Away Wet / Honest Don's (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Emo Boy"
This one is half juvenile cock rock songs about fucking and half sappy cock rock songs about girls who got away. The title Rode Hard and Put Away Wet is a clear nod to cheezeball 1980s hair metal bands, and the Diesel Boys keep the nods coming with plenty of metal licks and even a couple of ballads. Pop-punk is the real theme here, though -- in particular the kind with a snotty- sounding singer, fast, chunky guitars and super square beats. It's all pretty tiring after a while, and even though some of the lyrics are funny (in a giggling, sixteen year-old sort of way), the band's delivery and subject matter are so predictable by now that it's hard for me to get all the way through this disc. Strangely, the CD's packaging is lovely; maybe the boys' aesthetic sense is maturing more quickly than their music. -- ib

Glass Planet / Total Eclipse / Anarchy (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "White Trash"
This type of power-ballad rock has never appealed to me. I imagine that if you were ever into Extreme or Queensryche, you might really dig this. Now look, I’m not saying Glass Planet is bad. They’re competent musicians; they have some nice vocal harmonies; there are even some catchy songs, like "White Trash". In 1989, these guys would have been on a major label. But in the '00 years, Total Eclipse comes off as poor-man’s hair metal with less glitz and less power. -- az

Loren MazzaCane Connors / The Little Match Girl / Road Cone (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Little Match Girl"
Loren MazzaCane Connors is one of those constant forces in the world. We at Splendid have reviewed at least a half-dozen of his CDs. If my memory serves me correctly, I personally have reviewed three, so what I heard on The Little Match Girl didn't surprise me at all. Based on my past Connors experiences, it's precisely what I expected: quiet, subdued, reverb-drenched, sort of post-blues solo guitar work. In fact, if you expect this musician's sound to change radically any time soon, I suspect you're in for a long wait. Connors is fond of using folklore to fuel his introverted performances, and in this case his muse is the poor, hungry, frozen little girl from the titular folktale -- but as far as this impacts what you hear, she might as well be Little Red Riding Hood, or Dumbo for that matter! Mr. Connors is quite consistent in his style and seems to use these stories more for the formation of his own musical ideas than as plots that need their emotional contours faithfully portrayed. If you've never experienced the steadfastness that is Loren MazzaCane Connors, The Little Match Girl is as good a place as any to begin. -- nw

Organic Audio / Last One Home / Tummy Touch /Nettwerk (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Play to the Music"
Last One Home, Andy Spence's latest offering in a long line of three-word-titled CDs, has a lot in common with another disc I reviewed this week, Respect to DJ Deep. Spence draws heavily on world music -- in particular, world music styles that boast strong, distinctive percussion -- to pump up urban drum-n-bass. NME's description of the group as "half Notting Hill Carnival, half Rio" is a quick but accurate sketch of the soundscape Organic Audio creates. You'll hear sounds that draw on samba, reggae, batacuda, soca and stuff that sounds like traditional Hawaiian music. Supposedly influenced by Fela Kuti, Masters at Work and Brasilian percussionist Airto Moreira, this really ordinary looking guy with rather long sideburns creates a sound that makes you want to haul out a mask and a carnival costume. There are a few tracks that are somewhat repetitive -- "This Could Really Happen" being a case in point -- but even when certain vocals are repeated ad nauseum, the overall mood is sheer delight. -- js

Micromars / Metro / Shado (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Bright Lights"
I'm a longtime Micromars fan, but when I listen to Metro I can't help feeling as if Christer Jensen has painted himself into a corner, stylistically speaking. I'm glad to see that he's moving away from the "low budget Stereolab" sound of his previous recordings; the new Micromars sound is fuller and more fleshed out, and Jensen has made great strides in establishing a unique identity. Unfortunately, while his particular combination of bossa-nova rhythms, Casio keyboard drone and Brian Wilsonesque pop harmonies is well executed, it plays itself out very quickly. It's partly due to the fact that some of his sustained keyboard chords are flat-out overwhelming ("Thermoluminescent"), and partly that other songs sound suspiciously like Nintendo music -- listen to "Bright Lights" and then play Super Mario Brothers for a while if you think I'm joking. There are some nice little pop tunes here, but often it feels like Jensen is trying too hard to get your attention, bludgeoning your ears with his arsenal of musical toys. Indeed, when Jensen asks the musical question "Why Didn't My Parents Buy Me a Casio?", you'll wonder if perhaps Mr. and Mrs Jensen Senior lived in fear of their own private Metro. -- gz

Jeff McLeod / Ye Shall Be Cut Into Many Pieces /Subversive Workshop (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Swallowed Whole & Hard to Swallow"
This album reflects the result of a project conceived (perhaps drunkenly) by Jeff of Bert fame, in which he would record ten seconds a day for a year, then splice every piece together into a hopefully interesting concoction. I find it impossible to think he could have gone into the project without fear for its ultimate listenability, but I'm happy to report that the ...Many Pieces here are quite fun. Luckily for listeners, there's a little of everything on display, with all conceivable genres given at least ten seconds of props. Heavy metal guitar, Biz Markie-style beatbox and voice samples ("Other days you just ate poop") show up early on, and you also get some humorously uninspired beauties (like when McLeod holds down a single keyboard key for ten seconds) that keep you smiling through blisteringly awful guitar intros (the bad idea experiment that opens "Another Suspicious Package"), Enya-like moments and Dr Demento fragments. If you like some of Frank Zappa's more difficult adventures, this is definitely a project worth looking into. It's got some wild avant space jazz moments and an ample amount of fine, silly humor. It also has a good, healthy share of pure noise, which means that those with light wallets might prefer to appreciate it from afar. -- td

Isabelle's Gift / Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms / Jimmy Franks (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Fading Ability to Compromise"
How to make Isabelle's Gift's cocktails: Obtain three packages of the cheapest chewin' terbaccer that you can find and combine with three quarts Jagermeister. Simmer until a temperamental boiling point is reached. Scrape the paint off a good ol' fashioned Southern trailer home and sprinkle lightly. Mix once and add each of the following, one at a time: thundering bass, masterful guitar riffs, tattoos, several strands of long hair, raucous attitude and a tight rhythm section. Allow to harden. Dump in an entire can of brand-name melodic singing that borders on screaming, then dash some intelligent lyrical observations on top. Obtain one AK-47 rifle and use it to stir mixture thoroughly for three minutes. Repeat eleven times until album is complete. Serve in shot glasses and prepare for one hell of a ferocious backlash as it goes down. Repeat until your craving for underrated Southern Carolina-that-has-its-shit-together-metal is satiated. -- am

The Posies / Nice Cheekbones and a P.H.D. / Houston Party (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Chainsmoking in the U.S.A."
The Posies' latest effort offers five power-pop gems that match the best efforts of this veteran Seattle band. Songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have a knack for taking the mundane aspects of everyday life and turning them into melodic art. That ability doesn't take a back seat here, as modest and mellow songs about chain-smoking, movie matinees and a woman's enticing eyes whirl themselves into altogether poignant tunes. To say this EP is a step in a new direction for the band would be a bit rash, but the songs seem more mature, and with the recently released box set and the group's upcoming 15-year anniversary, one can't help but wonder if the band has settled into a more reflective state of mind. -- jw

gz - george zahora | nw - noah wane | am - andrew magilow | ib - irving bellemead | jj - jason jackowiak | td - theodore defosse | rd - ron davies
js - jenn sikes | rg - rodney gibbs | rt - ryan tranquilla | al - amy leach | jw - john wolfe | az - alex zorn

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