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OUR WEEKLY COLLECTION OF SHORTER REVIEWS
The Messyheads, Blair Booth, The Chemical Brothers, Chris Thomas King, Jack Breakfast, Simpatico/The Pines, The Firebird Band, Airport 5, Die Form, G.T. Arpe, Suka, Lupine, Rank 1 feat. Shanokee, Twisted Pair, Money Mark, Joe Turley, Euphoric Lift, Toulouse, Kelly Slusher, Mus, Hydroplane, Jerome Cooper, Urban Funk Monkeys, Capture the Flag, Jen Turrell, Stevie and the Secrets, Damien Sinclair, TKA, Adamo, Second Hand Poets, Would-Be-Goods, Mr. Wright, Bogdan Raczynski, Pilot Round the Sun, Popland, The Church of Chaos


The Messyheads / Say Something Stupid / Snub (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Say Something Stupid"
First let me say this: the man behind The Messyheads, John Conner, has a great pop sense and is a very competent musician and songwriter. My main problem with Say Something Stupid is that the lo-fi recording, with its trebly computer post-production touch, and the poor mix job hinder these otherwise complex and catchy pop songs beyond casual acceptance. Basically, it sounds like a really shitty MP3. The songs themselves are usually long (often over six minutes), and are driven by a programmed (mono) drum machine, crafty keyboards, vocals and hooky guitars. Due to the production's shortcomings, I canít really tell if thereís bass or not, and Conner's voice is usually too distant for me to really make out the words. Let me stress again that the music can be pretty cool, so Iím not putting that down at all; The Messyheads just need to do something with their sound. Either go pro-studio, or try the one mic hanging from the ceiling, plugged into a 4-track trick. Donít be surprised if The Messyheads do something notable some time in the future. -- ea


Blair Booth / Blair / Public Domain (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Lie Back and Be Boring"
Though born in the states, Blair Booth is deeply rooted in the British music scene. As the Blair in Terry, Blair and Anoushka, she provided the peppy music that was inevitably sobered by Hall's lyrics -- including one of the best piano intros I have ever heard, in "Missing". She also gave the band a person with dark hair. With the elegance of Sadé and a deep, probing Tracey Thorn-like voice, she quickly found work with other major British artists (Nick Heyward and Billy MacKenzie) before forming another, more commercially successful pop-rap trio, Oui 3 (whose faithful followers included the group Faithless). Now Booth is solo, and Blair is neither a return to her Oui 3 days nor a retread of her time with Terry Hall. It contains elaborate, orchestrated arrangements ("Late 4 Love"), politically charged electronica ("Poison") and a number of songs one could imagine being performed by a Dido or Dee C. Lee. Throughout, Booth shows remarkable range, touching genres like sassy dance hall ("U Can't Do That 4 Me") and soul train merry-go-rounds ("Wonderlust") that you may not even have known existed. The strength of her vocals keeps the record's diversity from slipping over the line into schizophrenia, and gives Blair a controlled form of beautiful chaos. It's augmented, as always, with tasteful production and spare but complicated melodies. -- td


The Chemical Brothers / It Began In Afrika / Astralwerks (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "It Began In Afrika"
Ever had a line or sample from a song stuck in your head for hours, or even days? Approach this EP with extreme caution. Though it seems, on first listen, to be a solid but unremarkable effort, "It Began In Afrika" wields its stuttering vocal sample and borrowed African drum rhythm in a wickedly infectious manner. Minutes after I first heard the song, I was wandering around the house muttering "It Began In Afrika-ka-ka-ka-ka", echoing the low-quality sample that is the track's only vocal. While the radio edit seems a little lightweight, the full-length mix, at more than eight and a half minutes, offers variety aplenty, mixing throbbing keyboards, pounding percussion and acidic 303 jabber with skillfully-arranged hand-drum rolls and rhythms; despite a number of slow-downs, it'll set club floors on fire. The disc's other track, "Hot Acid Rhythm 1", also doesn't disappoint; beginning with an acid-house-tinged mix of jazz and Middle Eastern melody, it shifts into a stripped-down, percussive retro-techno rhythm that wouldn't be out of place in a breakdance movie. Could this herald an exciting return to form for Tom 'n' Ed? Time will tell. -- gz


Chris Thomas King / It's a Cold Ass World / Arhoolie (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Cocaine"
Way back in 1986, a young Chris Thomas King was honing his blues proficiency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. King appreciates tradition and sticks to the burly 12-bar blues; It's a Cold Ass World is squarely built around rock 'n' roll-flavored licks and down home tear-jerkers that drag King's lowest moments onto the table for any listener to dissect. Following in the footsteps of his regionally famous father, Tabby Thomas, King clearly understands the necessity of incorporating modern-day flair with call and response vocals and soul-riveting guitar solos. As King sniffs through the exceptionally stout "Cocaine" and the high-powered, "Mary Jane", you'll wonder if there was something else on his mind (or up his nose) back in the day. Regardless of where certain genres may take the listening public, King's classic is a welcome reissue, and easily explains why blues is still heartily alive and kicking almost a century after its birth. -- am


Jack Breakfast / Rock and Roll Album / Troubled Cat (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Gold in the Hills"
Despite the title, I wouldnít really call this a rock and roll album. The lo-fi, singer/songwriterliness of it is distinctly unrock, actually. But I donít hold that against him. Jack Breakfast sounds a bit like heís on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and after September 11th I can really relate to that. His songs are quiet yet insistent, and almost conversational. The piano plays a key role in most of these tunes, as does his neurotic voice, but the combination of the two is particularly successful in "Gold in the Hills". This is quality cafť/lounge music, and goes best with red wine. -- az


Simpatico/The Pines / Self-Titled / Gifted (7")

Sample 30 seconds of Simpatico's "Boys with Guitars in Small Town"
This is another entry in Australian label Gifted Records' series of split 7" vinyl releases. Each band does two songs; Simpatico starts things off with "Boys with Guitars in Small Town", a fun, fuzzy guitar number with weirdly hyperactive drums. "By Tomorrow" is a much calmer song, driven by a buzzy bass-synth line and a tweaky, electronic sounding snare drum, with some extra reverb thrown in just for fun. Both of these charming songs feature the low-key boy vocals of one-man-band Jason Sweeney. Where Simpatico is endearingly quirky, Girl/boy duo The Pines are, for lack of a better term, teeth-gnashingly quirky. "Static" sounds exactly like a parody of a not-quite-in-tune but very earnest guitar-wielding second grade teacher. "Not Actual, Not Lasting" is a little better, and the guitar playing is pretty, but the folky vocals still give me the willies. This seems like a fairly questionable pairing to me, but I get the feeling that there are some pretty interesting people running Gifted Records, so maybe it's all part of some wacky master plan of theirs. Regardless, they're certainly not putting out boring records; I'm looking forward to hearing what they come up with next. -- ib


The Firebird Band / The Drive EP / Cargo (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Drive"
You've got to give prodigal Braid-member Chris Broach credit; he has clearly moved on from his better-known band's well-trodden musical turf. Pulsating and climaxing almost like dance music, The Firebird Band's original take on post-punk sometimes reaches sonic levels that most bands leave unvisited. A lot of the tracks fall into that sort of paranoid-punk feel -- you're not so much inclined to laugh or cry as to compulsively look over your shoulder. The title track is their best bet; the first song slides into it amazingly, forcing you to check your CD player's display to confirm the transition. The band then screams of driving through "San Francisco, California, and LA, CA USA", mixing this with "drive" in the psychology sense. And for some reason, on this track, between the screaming voices and heavily distorted guitars, there's a primordial catchiness that makes it really memorable. The slower yet thematically similar "Distance" follows, proving that the contrast between these five tracks is as unique as the tracks themselves. -- jk


Airport 5 / Tower in the Fountain of Sparks / Fading Captain Series (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "One More"
Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout were once the most formidable songwriting team in all of indie rock -- and now, after a five-year hiatus theyíre back together again! Their first collaborative effort since 1996ís superb Tonics and Twisted Chasers, Tower... doesnít show quite as many flashes of brilliance, but the albumís warmly familiar sound will be more than enough to satisfy all the drooling GBV-ites out there. Those of you new to the world of GBV will probably be taken aback by the albumís decidedly lo-fi demeanor and Sproutís altogether different take on pop songcraft. There are no walls of roaring guitars or vocal overdubs here, as is quickly evidenced by the solemn "Burns Carpenter, Man of Science" and "The Cost of Shipping Cattle"'s sparse, delay-saturated delivery. You have to look harder than usual to find the moments of sheer brilliance, but eventually they surface -- the jangly, British invasion-inspired "Circle of Trim" harks back to GBV's glory days, while "Total Exposure" and "Stifled Man Casino" are sublime examples of Pollard/Sprout songwriting. The thing that keeps the album from reaching its full mind-blowing potential is a sense of unfamiliarity. It sometimes feels as if Pollard and Sprout are feeling each other out, timid and uncertain about how the five-year layoff has affected their chemistry. Hopefully those feelings will pass by the time they make the next record -- but for now, any new Pollard/Sprout album is a reason to celebrate. -- jj


Die Form / Die Puppe / Metropolis (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Re-search"
First released in 1982, Die Puppe is the latest in Metropolis's reissue series of early Die Form albums. This remastered edition of the group's first album sounds dated at times, but the greater portion of tracks have held their own through subsequent waves of dour, synthesizer and drum-machine heavy bands. Philippe Fichot and Eliane P were exploring "electronica" years before the genre fully came into its own, with a dark attitude shared by contemporaries like Bauhaus and Joy Division. While other goth converts mainly kept their electric guitars in place, Die Form began with the kind of starkly repetitive beats and gloomy textures that have since been used in thousands of trip-hop records. The best tracks here, such as the opening "Re-search", are truly inventive, as if they had in fact been created two months ago instead of twenty years. Titles like "Automatic Death", "Darkness", "After the Crime" and the unpleasant "Sex by Force" -- bondage plays a part in Die Form's aesthetic, if that's titillating -- provide a glimpse of the kind of themes the band likes to consider. Not perfect on a sunny Sunday afternoon, perhaps, but great for those dark nights of the musical soul. -- rt


G.T. Arpe / Drum and Drum / Tape and CD (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Is It Really So Strange"
For as long as the "modern" and the "post-modern" have held cultural currency in the arts, there have been those who have sought to shatter art and rebuild it in their own image. G.T. Arpe, it's safe to say, falls decidedly into this category. Drum and Drum comprises a variety of experiments, sound collages and electronic ideas, more often accompanied by vocals than not. As a listener, you definitely have to be in a specific mood to listen to, much less enjoy this disc; you're not going to win any friends sliding this into the stereo at your next cocktail party. Noise, as the word itself suggests, is by definition abrasive. What G.T. Arpe does with noise is apply it to some pretty traditional song structures, stick the whole thing on tape, and see what sticks. However deconstructed they may be, almost all of these tracks are recognizable as songs -- something you can't say for a lot of experimental albums. The results of his efforts are spotty, but definitely interesting; the fact that this guy is really funny makes the whole thing rather easier to take. For example, here are some lyrics from "I Am A Skunk": "My roommates say I smell/I would get more offended/But I don't, 'cause it's true/I'm a fan of punk/and I fear that it shows/I took pride in offending/but now, it's all I do." It should be mentioned that this song is accompanied by tambourines, what sounds like a cowbell, and kazoos. If that's not enough for you, he has an entire song devoted to answering the Modern Lovers' classic "Pablo Picasso", entitled "Picasso Was No Asshole". JoJo would be proud. If you're interested in taking a few steps farther off the beaten path, but would still like to recognize your surroundings, Drum and Drum might be just the signpost you need. -- bm


Suka / Dancing to Tibet EP / Arclife (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Ebony Oriental"
While Dunedin, New Zealand-based Suka seemed new to me when I came across their stellar "Dancing to Tibet" on Arclife's recent Arcbeats compilation, it actually wasn't my first brush with the band; I reviewed their Spitwinterspit EP more than two years ago. "Spitwinterspit" also appears here, though it's a new mix -- driving and energetic, despite its dense accumulation of throbbing riffs and slurred vocals. "Ebony Oriental", meanwhile, takes the Bardo Pond route, sprawling through a mid-tempo, faintly Middle Eastern sludge of effects-laden riffs and reverse-gated rhythm lines. Moodier listeners will enjoy the three year-old "Kipiel", which combines plaintive piano and strings with room-shaking bass resonance. And if you don't love the title track, with its combination of harmonica, pounding bass line and backing vocal "Ahhh-ooooh"s, there's something wrong with you. My only complaint is that all this material seems to have been written in 1998 and 1999, leading me to wonder what the band has been doing since then (though I gather that the members are presently scattered all over the globe). Come on, Suka -- if you've gotten this good, you need to hurry up with the new stuff! -- gz


Lupine / The Fangs and the Flowers / Stove Pop (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Wee-Ooh"
The Fangs and the Flowers is a snarling four-song EP that bares its teeth all the way through; each song jumps off the disc and comes right after you. Sue Roth leads Lupine through each song with refreshing urgency (Remember Sarge's "Beguiling"?). The great tradition of dual guitar-playing continues on every track: Roth and bandmate Jeremy Andriano perfectly compliment each other, noodling out lead melodies over distorted, nuanced, violent rhythms and octaves. Not to be outdone, drummer Jay Dandurand and bassist James BonTempo bash out and accent every beat and vocal line like men possessed by demons. The EP's crown jewel is the fourth song, "Wee-Ooh", a contagious tune built around a simple hook and Kim Gordon's bassline from "Sugar Kane". This song should be blaring from every radio in the country. -- da


Rank 1 featuring Shanokee / Such is Life EP / Tommy Boy Silver Label (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Remix Radio Edit"
Shanokee, a pleasant alto, may sound quite different in her other records, but in Such is Life she sounds like a slightly depressed Karen Carpenter. Needless to say, such gooey phrasings and depressing dance music turns my tummy, and I could barely get through the disc. All of the tracks here feature Shanokee's voice, cut, spliced and relooped in a lovely spiral. Rank 1 did a great job with the heavy mid-tempo beats in the "Remix Radio Edit", but when the voice is the main instrument, and it's this weak, the accompaniment doesn't really matter. Just as Beth Orton gave the Chemical Brothers bigger hits, Gwen Stefani propelled Moby to video paydirt and Tori Amos gave BT better recognition than his bad haircut deserved, a singer could've made Rank 1. Instead, Shanokee crashed and burned. I'd love to hear Rank 1 again -- with a different singer. -- js


Twisted Pair / Old and the New...It's Inside You / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Piece of Me"
Juxtaposing charges of metallic anger with a deep, bass-driven, gurgling rhythm, Twisted Pair bear more than a passing resemblance to the mainstream end of industrial rock. However, it would be a grave injustice to write them off as Marilyn Manson wanna-bes. "Menace On the Blue" and "Under" emerge, as if from nowhere, bearing more resemblance to the ambient experimentation of Brian Eno than the aggressive energy exuded by the disc's remaining tracks. While the rest of the album lacks this eclecticism, the screaming baby on "Cry For Me Baby" and the demonic growls of "Machine" add a foreboding and often amusing undertone to what would otherwise be fairly standard metal fare. And of course, techie types can snicker about the double meaning of the group's name. -- jw


Money Mark / Change is Coming / Emperor Norton (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Pepe Y Irene"
Most people only know Money Mark (aka Mark Ramos Nishita) as the Beastie Boysí favorite fix-it guy and on-the-sly tour keyboardist circa 1994ís Ill Communication. What almost everyone has failed to realize is that he has, in the space of only six years, released three solo albums, crossed America several times on tours both large and small, and become one of this generationís most beloved underground funk icons. The sonic recipe for Mark's third long player (his first for Emperor Norton) is a familiar one: a teaspoon of Latin-flavored backbeats coupled with generous helpings of sinewy funk and sporadic breaks, topped off with a dollop of DJ/electronic tomfoolery. When the formula works, the results are quite impressive (the Welcome Back Kotter-like strut of "Soul Drive Sixth Avenue" and fiery Los Lobos-aided instrumental "Pepe Y Irene" spring readily to mind), but at other times the songs simply fall flat, victims of their own overly simplistic and repetitive arrangements ("Doo Doo Doo" and "Glitch in Da System"). While it's not likely to make you forget about the Beasties, Change is Coming has enough thrilling moments to make you realize that Money Mark has indeed carved himself out a nice little niche as a solo performer. -- jj


Joe Turley / When The Jitterbug Bites / Boogietime (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Like-I-Doo"
While the resurgence of swing may have hit its peak a couple of years ago, Joe Turley has either not been told that the genre's popularity has waned, or simply doesn't care. Either way, you should be thankful. Turley and his talented and extensive band (similar to the orchestra Brian Seltzer put together) throw together blues, big band and jazz elements as they expound upon the "standard" nouveau-swing sound. Obviously, if you've had enough of the sound of swinging, or you never were a fan to begin with, When The Jitterbug Bites probably wouldn't be something you'd seek out. Turley has, however, done an amazing job at tweaking the typical swing style just enough to convince me that even the most jaded listeners could be won over by his energetic approach. -- al


Euphoric Lift / Self-Titled EP / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "So Beautiful"
The problem with EPs has been lamented in many places, this site included: a few tracks isn't enough to give a good idea of a band's sound, let alone for you to try and formulate an opinion on it. Euphoric Lift's album exemplifies the problem; they describe themselves as being a mix of rock, jazz and pop, with a resultant sound comparable to that of The Dismemberment Plan or Third Eye Blind. With four songs, it's impossible to make a call on the veracity of such a statement. Euphoric Lift is clearly a solid rock band, capable of decent and often catchy melodies, but it's impossible to get to know them in fifteen minutes, no matter how many times you listen to the EP (But to be fair, you can suss their views on the importance of polished packaging before you ever listen to the disc. -- Ed.). Are these their absolute best four songs, in which case a full-length effort by the band would be underwhelming? Or are these tracks simply a representative sample? For now, we just don't know. -- mp


Toulouse / New Points New Lines / Grimsey (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Obrigado"
Never in all my days have I come across a modern band that would have fit so snugly in MTVís original rotation as Toulouse. You can almost see them, gleefully bouncing up and down in front of a white backdrop with Toulouse spray-painted across it, their hair crimped to perfection and their Calvin Klein jeans French rolled up tight. But itís not all Ď80s hoopla round Toulouseís way, as proven by the Stereolab-sounding "Dancehall Culture" and "Into LíAvventura". At other times, it sounds like they're concentrating harder on sounding like a slightly more sophisticated version of Blondie ("Commuter Maquette") or the Human League than they are on creating their own sound. While it's an enjoyable effort overall, New Points New Lines rarely rises above the level of "now" music for people who haven't let go of the Ď80s (or are contemplating a career in a cover band named Fade Away and Radiate). -- jj


Kelly Slusher / Self-Titled / Red Square (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Ill Affliction"
This is an inexpensive and wonderful solo EP from a current member of Boyracer. It's a must for fans of Softies, Cat's Maiow, and other bands that specialize in delicate melodies. Lyrically, the songs are as enamored with Bergmanesque declarations ("Don't tell me you're in love with me/'Cause it will never work out") as with Rohmeresque good cheer ("I need you and you need me/Summer's here"), so a fair range of moods is covered. Vocally, Slusher is strong, as long she has an emotional place to go, or is singing a song that's charged with drama; happily, this is the case in four of the disc's five tracks. When she has the perfect music to support her, the results are beyond magical. I am right now on my way to proving that I can listen to "I Need You" fifty times straight without tiring of it; the movement of the guitars perfectly captures the sway of a first blooming love. The only failure in the bunch is Kelly's cover of "Wined and Dined", a Syd Barrett song whose strange essence Slusher tries to bottle by singing at a syllable-per-minute pace. As some Rose Mehlberg songs have already proved, languid contentment is hard to pull off in a voice this soft. -- td


Mus / Aida / Darla (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "A Ciela Abiertu"
Mus (pronounced "Moose") is a male/female duo from Spain, who create dreamy soundscapes overlayed with vocals sung in the obscure Spanish dialect of Asturian. Aida is the latest installment of Darla's continuing "Bliss Out" series, which has previously featured noteworthy bands such as The American Analog Set and Lilys riffing on the ambient pop style. Many of the releases in this series have featured very long instrumental works, and Aida follows suit. It contains only two songs: the 22-minute long "Aquel Inveirnu" and the 13-minute long "A Cielu Abiertu". Although the vocals here are quite beautiful, they mainly find use as another textural element of the quilt of sound that Mus creates. Mostly, this disc consists of very pretty washes of sound, peppered with carefully placed acoustic guitars, and subtle changes in mood and atmosphere that actually make these lengthy pieces quite interesting. Coming from someone who usually likes his indie pop short n' sweet with as little filler as possible, that's saying something. -- j-s


Hydroplane / The Sound of Changing Places / Drive In (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Embassy Cafe"
Hydroplane is singer Kerrie Bolton and electronics wizard Andrew Withycombe, two Australians who also make music as Cat's Miaow. The music they make on The Sound of Changing Places is dreamy and electronic, sort of like what you'd get if Sarah Cracknell from Saint Etienne decided to do a record with Marc Bianchi of Her Space Holiday. The disc bounces back and forth between tunes like "Bouncing Ball" and "International Exiles", with insinuating looped drumbeats and Bolton's cool, detached vocals slithering over the top, and songs like the instrumental "Closing In", which feature more ambient washes of sound. Some of the more charming songs are based on acoustic guitar; the closer, "World Without You", for instance, features some nice heartsick crooning by Bolton, and the lyric "When you go, I feel like I should move too/There's so little appeal in a world without you." Like some of Saint Etienne's best work, this disc would make a great soundtrack for your next cocktail party - especially if you invited only friends who had just had their hearts broken, and served up doses of valium with the gin and tonics. -- j-s


Jerome Cooper / In Concert: From There To Hear / Mutable (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Bantul"
Ways in which jazz albums differ from rock albums, number 275: a jazz percussionist's solo album can actually be interesting. In Concert: From There To Hear is a case in point. Cooper, a self-described multi-dimensional drummer, is so passionate about his material and so attuned to the voices of his instruments that it's impossible not to get caught up in his enthusiasm; his plainly-written and insightful liner notes are an essential pre-listening read. The six pieces here were culled from a pair of live performances, and as such present Cooper at his most inspired and "in the moment" -- as demonstrated in the wholly improvised "My Life" and a loosely-structured piece based on "My Funny Valentine". Cooper's instruments include tom-toms, balaphones, synthesized drums and a rhythmic activator; for a "voice", he uses various chiramias (Mexican double-reed wind instruments), which can sound like anything from a kazoo to a gamelan to a range-restricted saxophone. It's the chiramia, oddly enough, that gives "My Life" a fairly traditional sheen, doubling as a sax to lead Cooper's roiling, multi-layered rhythms. The most intriguing pieces here, however, are "Bantul" and "The Indonesian"; these were written when Cooper was living in Indonesia, and reflect not only his fascination with the gamelan, but the impressive breadth of his compositional abilities. The former is wild and tribal, while the latter is measured and urban -- a familiar dichotomy for jazz fans, given an energetic airing here. -- gz


Urban Funk Monkeys / On The Bus / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "The Paw"
I guess maybe this album should make me feel old, or nostalgic, but more than anything else it gives me this weird "Awwwwwwww" reaction. Normally, if you read that a band sounds like a really talented group of high school musicians, you might take that as a criticism, but in this case it is high praise; this band is, indeed, composed of what appears to be honest-to-God high school kids. Yes, they kind-of sound like every jam band you heard in your high school, with two important distinctions: 1) They sound better; 2) They had the dedication to write and record their own original music. The lineup consists mostly of guitars, bass and drums, with occasional violin and horns. The four main guys in the band also had the common sense to prominently feature the girls who sing their backup vocals in the liner notes. Born salesmen, I tell ya. While Jerry-style picking predominates, and several of the jams go on a smidge too long, the UFMs have the sense to intersperse their epics with short, poppier ditties (pay attention, Widespread Panic). It's hard for anybody over the age of majority to feel anything but quasi-parental pride when listening to music made by kids this age, but I don't mean to belittle their accomplishments; it's not every high-school group that handles both Rimskij-Korsukov and Jimi Hendrix with the aplomb that these guys manage on their full-band adaptation of "Flight of the Bumblebee" and their cover of "Fire", respectively. I hope all of these guys have long, fulfilling careers in music. And I hope they got to play their own prom. -- bm


Capture the Flag / Walking Away from Everything / Conquer the World (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Caught Red Handed"
Capture the Flag are one slick marketing campaign away from usurping Blink 182 as the pop-punk band that everyone from your best friendís snotty older brother to your stupid little sister likes. But what this Detroit-based trio lacks in PR, they more than make up for with this blistering batch of tunes packed, with enough hooks to fill a tackle box. From the triumphant opener "Don West" onward, the band slashes and burns their way through a dozen soon-to-be-ubiquitous punk anthems. Whether theyíre blasting through a white-hot slab of bratty pop-punk ("Not a Place") or zipping along like the Buzzcocks in heat ("Caught Red Handed"), the trioís sound is tight, bright and astonishingly radio ready. The bandís press kit states that their ambition is to play Comerica Park. That's fair enough; if just one adventurous program director digs his claws into Walking Away From Everything, the dream could easily become a reality. -- jj


Jen Turrell / Honesty and Apologies / Red Square (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Hello Love"
Itís funny -- before Iíd ever heard of Indie Queen Jen Turrell, I knew of her dad, John Turrell, who is infamous for constructing an enormous crater in the desert of Arizona. While her dad creates art of epic proportions, Jen tends to make music thatís quiet, personal and quaintly beautiful. With the help of some friends, and Jen's mother on harp, Honesty and Apologies becomes a smartly orchestrated acoustic folk album. The songs generally revolve around relationships and other introspective feminine whims. Jenís whispery voice, though nicely matching the music, sometimes lacks substance, or gently wobbles around a note. Overall, though, the music is really well done -- perfect for those dim early mornings when sleeping just doesnít make sense. -- ea


Stevie and the Secrets / Gimme a Call b/w (I Just Wanna Die the) American Way / With an X (7")

Sample 30 seconds of "Gimme a Call"
I'm glad there are only two songs to sift through this time around. There doesn't seem to be a whole hell of a lot that's secret about Stevie's sound or his backing band; he has a cavernous, from-the-depths-of-the-club sound and a token female bassist. The Secrets push out a derivative, British-style punk thudding that's not a bad thing by itself, but the band doesn't add anything particularly enticing to the mix. Consequently, both of these tracks languish in the bin of hopefuls and coulda/shoulda-beens. There's potential here, but dragging through two uninspiring guitar-led tracks isn't the way to earn glorious adulation from the music buying public. If the band could just give us something that doesn't sound like the teeming masses of generic rock 'n' roll, you'd hear a lot more people whispering about Stevie and the Secrets. -- am


Damien Sinclair / Love Me...or my panzer's (sic) will crush you. / Damien Sinclair (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Say a Prayer for Dead Baby Spiders"
That has got to be the best album title ever, and I wish Iíd thought of it first and could walk around saying it to people. Damien Sinclair is a mad scientist! Using crappy, duct-taped-together equipment, heís put out a right fine "loud-fi" album. If he hadnít told me it was loud-fi (in the liner notes), I would have been tempted to call it no-wave. His songs are droning and kind of experimental, much like VUís White Light/White Heat -- a sound he was obviously going for -- and are even reminiscent of Suicide with Tom Waits on vocals. On "Say a Prayer for Dead Baby Spiders", he manages to get a sound that is not entirely unlike my morning alarm buzzer, and had me grieving for his dead baby (I hope he meant girlfriend, although I donít know why that would be better...) in a "Yellow Plastic Sheet". -- az


TKA / Forever / Tommy Boy (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "In a Matter"
Apparently I'm supposed to remember the men of TKA (Tony, K7 and Angel) from way back when, as they had some Billboard hits, like "Maria", "Louder Than Love" and "Come Get My Love." I guess I had my Jesus and Mary Chain LPs cranked up too loud, though, because I really can't remember a thing about these folks. Not that that really matters, as this is the new, mature TKA ("They've truly gone from boys to men..."). The tunes on Forever are all dance-oriented, vocally-driven pop songs. The TKA men have pleasant and well-matched, if not terribly distinctive, "boy band" voices. While the fact that the titles of four of the twelve tracks here use the letter "U" in place of the word "you" (and one uses "R" for "are") doesn't exactly inspire confidence, some of these tracks are surprisingly catchy and even interesting. Rather improbably, "In a Matter" ends up sounding like an early 1990s Peter Murphy track, which is worth something. In the end, though, none of these songs quite manage to get beyond the "Baby, baby, baby, U R the 1 4 me" vibe that is the curse of the genre. Of course, there's nothing wrong with "baby, baby, baby" music if that's what you're in the mood for -- and if that's the case, this pleasant, energized collection might B just what U R looking 4. -- ib


Adamo / Self-Titled EP / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Two Colors, Intertwingled"
Adamo is a new band created by Mike Hutchins (lefty guitar), formerly of Lynx. The Boston-based quartet is almost entirely instrumental, but unlike Lynx they have added touches of vox to their sound -- a definite improvement. Adamo pursues genuine melodies that are bluesy, yet incorporate pure pop guitar riffs. "The Trials of Don Lessard" opens with four-part harmony, and "Two Colors, Intertwingled" adds random, meaningless spoken-word phrases. Eric Brackett's percussion in "Two Colors" absolutely shimmers, adding emotion and texture that makes the song art, just as light makes a photograph artful. Lynx's goal was to achieve a sound similar to Tortoise, and I think they failed -- the dissonance of the experiment was too great. Adamo's song structures are tighter, they sound very focused, and they actually build enough changes -- and thereby feeling -- into their songs that even listeners who are usually bored by instrumental music are going to be pulled in from the fringes. -- js


Second Hand Poets / Afternoon in Aberdeen / Self-released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Waiting for You"
Two brothers from Chicago, Dave and Dan Thomas, have been playing together in the weekend "coffee scene" for years and have a three song demo behind them, but "Afternoon in Aberdeen" may be their last self-released disc. To be momentarily crass, there are multiple commercial nichés addressed here: folk, country, Celtic and Indigo Girls-like pop are represented in slickly-produced songs that could easily find their way onto the radio. (Listen for them on your local adult alternative station, during the Sunday morning acoustic show.) Whether you'd listen to that station is another question. Occasionally bolstered by bass and drums, the guitar playing Thomas brothers craft warm, shapely tracks that tend toward over-emoting, and there's often something a little empty at their core. "She can give me a million reasons/Why she should get on that plane tonight," Dave sings on "Crowded Rooms". "She can't give me one why she should stay." She's headed to Louisville, of course, just as many of the characters here are headed to Georgia and points south. Country clichés prop up many of these songs; the Celtic-influenced tracks (such as the closing "Under a Sky Like Today") fare better by sounding less tightly wound. There's enough substance to get them by, though, and the Thomases' style is fully formed. -- rt


Would-Be-Goods / Emmanuelle Béart EP / Matinée (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Emmanuelle Béart"
After an eight year hiatus, these London-based popsters have returned in high style with a song that's virtually guaranteed to confuse non-cinephile American listeners. Fortunately, most indie rock fans also enjoy -- or at least have some awareness of -- foreign films, so only a small number of listeners will refer to the EP's peppy lead track as a song about "wanting to look like that French chick from the first Mission: Impossible movie." Here, and on the other three tracks, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Jessica Griffin is in fine form; she's coquettish on the title tune, sassily defiant on the equally energetic "Words", and appropriately husky-voiced on "Je lèche les vitrines" and "Everybody Wants My Baby". The first of these two, with its French lyrics and accordion accompaniment, will draw the hardcore Francophiles, but "Everybody Wants My Baby" offers equally compelling cello accompaniment. It's so smooth, Emmanuelle Béart herself might even enjoy it. -- gz


Mr. Wright / Hello Is Anyone Out There / Le Grand Magistery (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Ocean Boulevard"
Undoubtedly influenced by Nick Drake (who isn't?), Mr. Wright (Kevin to his friends) has for some time had a firm grip on all things melancholy. Exploring themes of lost love and alienation, Hello Is Anyone Out There is no exception. There are plenty of melodic highlights to go around, but the most notable are the orchestral "Ocean Boulevard" and the as-optimistic-has-he's-going-to-get "Darling Honey", both of which take Wright's fairly straightforward formula a little further, finesse-wise. Judging by his vocal style (soft and almost intimidated-sounding,) I imagine Wright to be a shy, introspective sort of guy, and I can appreciate that. He delivers sincerity rather than showmanship, which is a nice change -- because really, not everyone can (or should attempt to) pull off Billy Idol-esque vocal swagger. -- al


Bogdan Raczynski / My Love I Love / Rephlex (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "My Love I Love-17"
For as yet unspecified reasons, it appears that Bogdan Raczynski will soon be hanging up his synthesizers, drum machines and mixers for good. Whether he will move to a farm in the South of France, research simian breeding habits in Rwanda, or just sit on his arse all day and watch Wheel of Fortune is still anyoneís guess. Regardless of what he chooses to do in the future, My Love I Love appears to be the electronic iconoclastís final offering on the venerable Rephlex imprint. Eschewing the harsher leanings of his previous work, Raczynski has crafted an album of delicate melodies and warm, mellifluous soundscapes. Themes of spiritual alienation and lost innocence resonate throughout My Love I Loveís 17 identically-named tracks. If he's really leaving us, it will truly be a shame, because this is without a doubt some of the most stirring and downright lovely music that Rephlex has ever released. Hopefully Raczynski will reconsider and continue to make music for years to come -- but if that turns out not to be the case, My Love I Love certainly isnít a bad note on which to end. -- jj


Pilot Round the Sun / Self-Titled / Self-Released (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "How It's Going Down"
Many of these songs sound like the sort of "hit singles" you'd hear on an alternative rock radio station. Depending on how indie-centric you are, this could be taken as a good thing or a bad thing. It automatically implies a measure of catchiness, but at the same time Pilot Round the Sun's use of tried and true song structures and progressions doesn't seem too innovative. "How It's Going Down" and "Glass Ceiling" are quite similar, employing pleasantly simple melodies in the verses, then exploding into big chords for the chorus. Therefore, by default, they depend upon the change of emotions between verse and chorus. By the second time I listened to these two tracks, I was ready to swear I'd heard them on the radio. "Grounded Pilot", on the other hand, reveals R&B roots; soulful vocals pulsate through most of it. And by closing the album with "Aggressively Hutch", an epic pop song by this album's standards, Pilot Round the Sun gives us a more fluidly-structured song, surrounding your ears with a nice, poppy aura. -- jk


Popland / Action! / Zip (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Feel the Same Way"
Generally speaking, Singaporeans don't usually spring to mind when you're thinking of rock music. That's why Action is such a huge surprise. Popland's diverse influences are shared by virtually every North American pop-rock act; "Dumb Thing," for example, sounds like lower-rent Ramones, "The Hip Song" sounds like an early '90s HORDE band, and "Whatever..." is a beautiful acoustic ballad. I'd probably dismiss Action! without much thought if it had come from Brooklyn, but that Singapore return address earns it extra credit. Even so, there are a few weak spots here. "Happened," in particular, recalls some of the worst power ballads of the 1980s, while "To You" is commits the sin of sounding like a soulless vocal jazz group. Perhaps in Singapore, that's not quite as offensive as it is here. At any rate, Action! is an enjoyable if unabashedly mainstream-leaning album, proving that music really is a universal language. -- mp


Church of Chaos / Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins / Sanity Check (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "S.I.N."
While this Joyce, Virginia band has a flair for subversive rhetoric, their second album could clearly benefit from divine intervention. Opening the disc, "S.I.N." roots the album strongly in the industrial rock category; like genre forebear KMFDM, the track matches rapid analogue beats with predominantly sampled vocal splurges. This song and the thematically similar "Miss Sin", with their transitory charges of demonic melody and raging vocals, are the album's standout tracks; the rest confine themselves to monotony. Coming towards the end of the disc, songs such as "Axis Station" or "FFON" rest almost entirely on sampled vocal fragments, while "Organic Love Juice" incessantly repeats the words "avarice" and "greed", creating humdrum computer interludes better left to a forgiving dance floor. -- jw



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 | da - daniel arizona | j-s - jeremy schneyer | lm - luke martin

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