& Spoken Word
This obviously home made CD somehow charms
beyond its actual components. For the most part, it is vocals half-sung,
half-spoken over basic guitar, bass and drums, although the bass and
drums are mixed so low it often sounds like just vocals and electric
guitar. After the first couple of songs, it seems the format will
wear out its welcome. There a sameness and a thinness challenging
the ear. But Alltus mixes it up, doing quite a bit with the few tools
at hand. They move from rock to rap to reggae to folk and back to
(harder) rock, finding ways to effectively play each style with their
limited resources. They push their format to its limits, and manage
to keep things, for the most part, interesting. This is a primitive
recording which manages to find some depth.
G. Murray Thomas
radical politics through stream-of-consciousness spoken word, over
mild hip-hop beats.
John Bennett's primary theme, expressed chillingly
on the second cut, "Choosing," is the oppression of society
vs. the ability of the individual to resist it. Although much of Rugburn
is bleak, Bennett is an optimist; he does believe that the individual
can stand up to the oppression and maintain his or her individuality,
although it does take constant effort. The pieces ("shards"
as Bennett calls them) on this disc are true poetry, in that they
take sharp, specific images and events, and use them to illustrate
larger issues. For example, various pieces explore the death of Jim
Croce, the tale of a high school stud, or a suicide attempt for the
universal truths within. The musical backing, by Seed Verb and Nervous,
from the rap group Log Hog, is expressive but unobtrusive, heightening
the effect of Bennett's words without ever overwhelming them. This
CD does demand close listening, but it will reward that with intense
insights into the human condition.
G. Murray Thomas
Who Let You In Here?
Big Ass Truck's music
is a potpourri of funk, rock, soul, and samples. They come from Memphis,
and Stax artists must have been heroes, since "Who Let You In
Here?" shows that they know how to groove.
A slice of heavy funk, "The Neco" revisits
the "Superfly" era. A cool collage is created from loops,
dialogue, and keyboards. Soundgarden and hip-hop? The fusion is clever
and seamless on "Fading Fast Fad". With a hook that James
Brown would love, "Portuguese Man O'War" is a prime example
of Big Ass's funk-metal schizophrenia.
Big Ass Truck's genre confusion is our gain.
Letter from Round O
Black River Records
Letters From Round
O starts out sounding like pretty generic alt-country, that borderland
of country styles played with rock'n'roll spirit. Fun, but nothing
special. However, as the CD progresses, Blue Dogs push themselves,
both in their songwriting and their playing. By cut 5, "What
I Want", they're getting Little Feat style dirty funky, and then
they're exploring power ballads ("Rainbows Over My Blues")
and Delta blues ("Pay the Man"), and finding new excitement
in each. The musical highlight is "Skyline Dream", a gently
rocking piece with swelling emotional music.However, it is one of
those tunes where the music implies an import not carried by the lyrics.
Which may be the essence of Letters from Round O. This is good time
music, played with a tightness and energy, but nothing much is really
G. Murray Thomas
The Science of Things
Critics hate Bush and
fans love them. Who are record exec's going to listen to, a bunch
of bitter rocker wanna-be's or fans willing to buy 15 million albums?
Sure Bush is derivative, so were the Beatles in the beginning. Not
as hardcore or Seattle-esque as Sixteen Stone or as pop as Razorblade
Suitcase this album is more melodic and refined. With The Science
of Things, Bush seems poised to jump on a personal style. Rossdale's
voice is still sexy and raspy, but his lyrics are coming closer to
his native English without losing any of the desperation and passion.
And Pulsford's bold, heavy guitar sounds still drive the listener
through the bleak landscape of Rossdaleland with the skill of an Indy
driver. For hardcore fans of the band unwilling to let the group grow
as musicians, this album may be a little bit of a disappointment.
However, for those fans that are in love with the band as a living
entity, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
BBC Sessions double CD
The ethereal and imaginative
beauty of the early Cocteau Twins was such a marvel back in the early
1980's that despite the baffling lyrical wonders of Elizabeth Frazier's
vocal inflections, they still managed to chart and chart and chart
in the good 'ol merry UK charts. What was it about the band that mezmorized
the masses? Was it Ms. Frazier's approach or was it the sonic and
delicious landscapes of Robin Guthrie's arcane and fluid guitar sounds?
All the classics are here and as vivid sounding as they were back
in the day: "Wax And Wane," "Garlands," "Feathers-Oar-Blades,
" "Dear Heart," "Hazel,""My Hue And
Cry" and much more...thirty tracks in all, people. Recorded by
the BBC, some of these tracks are taken from The John Peel Show, Kid
Jensen, Saturday Night Live, Mark Radcliff and Robert Elms and they
don't sound dated at all. Hopefully, this compilation will attract
many more listeners to their surrealist musings. The waves of the
future are all in one package.
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
The Prison Industrial Complex
Alternative Tentacles Records
Recorded in 1997 when
Davis was lecturing at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, this
54 minute CD is a beautiful example of why Davis was and is feared
by the political right. Her smooth, unhurried delivery coupled with
an unbroken chain of logic take the idea that prisons are weapons
against the poor and undesirable out of the realm of conspiracy theory
and into the light of common sense. However, Davis does not just lecture
about the problem, she also offers solutions. To her, activism is
thinking critically about the problems in the world around you and
then taking action for positive change. Lecturing to the group of
students at Colorado College, she convinces them, and us, that while
there is a problem, there is also a solution. Highly recommended.
Boom Dot Bust CD
The unescapable genius
and satirical world outlook of Firesign Theatre (Phil Austin, Peter
Bergman, David Ossman & Phil Proctor) has been ongoing since the late
1960's. Cut and paste bands such as Negativeland have used these boys
as an influence and their past albums are sought after collector's
items. Boom Dot Bust (their second Rhino release) is a twenty-two
track concept album about the rise and fall of the fictional town
of Billsville (could be a take on our beloved present president prehaps?)
and its inhabitants. Brilliant fake commercials (ie; "Boom Dot
Bust" & "Doom Bot Dust") are included along with quite
humorous television and motion picture commentaries,musical segments
and a nifty CD booklet. Laughs a-plenty, I say! It's a take on the
white-trash, racist and ignorant culture that we are all a part of.
Check out their website (www.firesigntheatre.com)
for more info on future releases by this innovative group.
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
FLESH EATERS ALBUM
Ashes Of Time
A kiss draws blood, and
there's a knife at someone's throat. Disturbing images to be sure,
but in the Flesh Eaters' world, love and violence are never far apart.
While he may have smoothed off some of the rough edges in his music,
leader Chris D. hasn't gotten soft. He has remained true to his artistic
impulses. We should be glad, since Ashes Of Time is full of gritty,
unadorned rock `n' roll. Desperation drives the pounding "Double
Snake Bourbon," as love's losers have nothing but memories and
chemicals to dull the pain in their hearts.
The music is shot full of blues and Stones-y hard
rock, but on songs such as the moody "Nobody Lives Forever,"
and "Black-And-Blue Bird," the feeling is closer to the
roots rock of the Divine Horseman. These tracks, and the driving Mellencampesque
stomp of "Mourning Becomes You," feature sterling work from
Jeff Sullivan on electric violin. Leave it to the Flesh Eaters to
set a song of love, betrayal and murder to music that makes me want
to get up and dance. Julie Christensen was with D. in the Horseman
and she guests on six songs, along with Erika Wear and Juanita Myers,
she capably compliments Chris D.'s rough, soulful baritone. Wear and
Myers have returned to the band after having been in previous lineups.
The churning garage blues of "House Amid The
Thickets" is full of black humor as a junkyard angel overwhelms
a wanna-be Casanova: "Then she starts going back out to bars/before
too long/she wrecks all her cars." Unlike some albums that only
pretend to rock, Ashes Of Time is a prime example of the real thing.
The Best of the Gap Band
20th Century Masters the Millenium Collection
I am such a sucker for
greatest hits compilations. Doubtless, I am their target market, a
member of the older music-buying public, trying to snarf up as many
of my pop music memories as possible and realizing to my horror that
these memories now span four decades. I have a sizeable memory for
pop hits, enough that I can recall (and wish to own) all the secondary
and minor hits that a two or three-hit band might have scattered over
five or six albums that I have no interest in purchasing separately.
How to grab all that gusto without blowing a fortune on the overpriced
CD medium? The greatest hits compilation takes up an embarrassing
proportion of my music collection. It's hard to imagine that groups
like The Gap Band and Parliament were branded too raunchy for a lot
of Top 40 stations, but that was indeed the case--even at the height
of the Sexual Revolution and even in a major urban market like L.A.
Thanks to Disco Saturday night on KBIG, I've become reacquainted with
the music I heard at school dances and--rarely--on my piece-of-shit
AM radio that came with me to college. Twenty years after the fact,
I've developed a keen affection for the true, gritty funk I missed
when Parliament, Kool and the Gang, Rick James, and the Brothers Gap
kept dance music raw and real.
Native Oklahomans, the three Wilson Brothers (Ronnie,
Charlie, Robert), were protegés of landsman Leon Russell ("Lady
Blue," anyone? "Tightwire"?) and Willie Nelson (that would explain
their cherry red satin cowboy duds on the CD insert). The Wilsons
pared down from a mid-'70s ensemble of 14 to an exclusively fraternal
trio to become The Gap Band. With the steady production saavy of Lonnie
Simmons, they staked out their own distinctive dance floor territory--urban
cowboy funk. On THE BEST OF THE GAP BAND, their eclectic tracks encompass
everything from the zesty chart licks of Earth Wind and Fire on "I
Don't Believe You Wanna Get Up And Dance (Ooops!)" to ZZ Top-style
axe-work on "Party Train" to the Parliament/Ohio Players-infused nastiness
on "Humpin'" to the Raydio-smooth "Yearning For Your Love." The selections
range from 1979 to 1983 and represent a respectable sampling of the
many different directions in which dance music was being pulled before
Euro- and world-flavored '80s dance singles kicked into high gear.
The big hits--"Party Train," "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),"
and the infectious "You Dropped A Bomb On Me"--hold up effortlessly.
It's still bold, energetic, aggressively masculine music that deserves
better artwork on the CD proper than GAP BAND printed on a generic,
opaque semi-circle that looks like someone burned the CDs in his garage.
All in all, a must for disco, funk, dance, and soul lovers alike,
not to mention those who had an FM-deprived late adolescence.
Touch & Go Records
The Jesus Lizard was
one of indie rockdom's most amazing spectacles. The spit and sweat
shine of David Yow, Duane Denison, David Sims and Mac McNeilly were
the geniuses behind this band from Chicago, Illinois. David Yow's
almost undecipherable lyrics and distorted vocals in addition to the
blockbuster slam/bam of Duane Denison's axework and David Sims plodding
and danceable bass poodlings pitched out just perfectly in a Zeppelin-ized
way with Mac McNeilly's powerhard drumming (later to be replaced by
James Kimball [ex-Laughing Hyenas, Mule] and Brendan Murphy). Their
almost ten year evolution is spotlighted on this fantastic twenty
cut compilation of singles, b-sides, outtakes, demos and live cuts.
Cuts include "Chrome" (two song medley of Chrome covers),
the Dicks' cover of "Wheelchair Epidemic," "Gladiator,"
"Mouth Breather," "Fly On The Wall" and "Anna"
(which features Santiago Durango (ex-Big Black) on vocals. An excellent
way to start the year 2000 out with and a good way to get the blood
flowing. Beautiful beyond understanding!
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
March To Fuzz double CD
Sub Pop Records
What can one say of the
band that started a revolution in the late 1980's? Yes, Mudhoney were
equal parts punk/garage/hard rock and were the masters of the re-revolution
of the seven-inch single back in 1988 with the release of the immortal
"Touch Me I'm Sick" which spanned dozens of bands. Mark
Arm (guitar, vocals), Steve Turner (guitar), Matt Lukin (bass) and
Dan Peters (drums) were the first of the Sub Pop group of bands (after
Soundgarden) to restart the revolution originally started by beautiful
Detroit, Michigan's MC5 back in the late 1960's. They had the energy,
vision and music to do it. On hiatus after the "retirement"
of esteemed bassist Matt Lukin, the band decided to release a compilation
of the best shit that they've done. The compilation spans 1988 to
the sessions of last years' Reprise released Tomorrow Hit Today album.
Cuts include: "Touch Me I'm Sick," "Sweet Young Thing
Ain't Sweet No More," "You Got It," "If I Think,"
"This Gift" and tons more--fifty two blazing cuts in all!
It's a good record to kick back and breathe in the dirty air to. And
maybe you should take those bongs out that you put in storage some
years back! Heh!
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
In October of 1995 Oingo
Boingo played their last Halloween show and I spent two weeks salary
to be in the pit of the Universal Ampitheatre to see it. Thus ended
the career of one of the longest running punk/alternative bands in
Los Angeles history. Now all that is left is the occasional compilation
release and the hope and fear of a reunion tour. If this new Anthology
from Hip-O records (aka Universal Music) is any indication of the
quality of compilations that are coming, I am a very happy Boingo
Beautiful Boingoesque artwork graces the paper fold
out CD case containing two CD s worth of music from the beginning,
"Ain't This the Life" (from the 10") up to the last
song of their career "Goodbye, Goodbye" preformed live at
Universal as their last encore. Also included are info stocked liner
notes about the band and a history of each album release up to the
bitter end, and for the most part the origin of each track is listed
for the anal Boingo fan. The song picks are good with the usual crowd
pleasers: Only a Lad, Little Girls, etc., as well as some hardcore
fan stuff like "Piggies", "Sweat" and "No
Spill Blood". My only complaint is the inclusion of the ballad
"Mary" from the Boingo album (Danny, why?), but every canned
good is allowed a certain amount of bug parts. Ultimately, this is
a must have for hardcore fans and a great starter CD for anyone who
has heard that that Elfman guy used to have a band.
Diamonds In The Belly Of The Dog
I don't know if they
are poised for stardom, but judging by the groovy sounds they laid
down, "Diamonds In The Belly Of The Dog" by OtherStarPeople
has hit written all over it. The album is full of tunes that will
insinuate themselves into your memory and once they do, you won't
want to forget them. When they first conceived the band, guitarists
Xander Smith and Jennifer Finch thought they would base their sound
on dance and electronics. Joined by bassist Junko Ito, and drummer
Todd Philips, they took a different course, fusing glam, metal, and
new wave into their own frothy, fun brand of pop.
A siren guitar hook opens the slippery rocker "Drip".
It's a tale of drug use, but the clever wordplay never approaches
drug cliches. It's followed by the Sweet-styled glam slam of "I
Could Never Be Wrong". Both songs are given considerable bite
by the tough rhythm work of Finch. Subtle strings, pulsing keyboards
and an easy, loping melody color the Beatlesque "The Half Of
You I Love". "Ocean Way Sunday" is a breezy number
that conjures up memories of lazy days by the shore. Finch, who now
goes by the name of Precious, and Smith blend their voices beautifully.
The two of them handle most of the lead vocals with assistance from
Ito and various friends.
If the keys and synths remind you of the Cars, you're
not mistaken. Greg Hawkes is featured throughout. There's another
Cars connection on the album. It was produced by Roy Thomas Baker,
who also produced Queen. He gives the songs sheen and breadth, while
making sure that they aren't lost in artifice. You'll definitely want
to be best friends with this "Diamond". The OtherStarPeople
have created a stirring debut.
Just when I thought that
the indie scene had played itself out, the self-titled debut from
Relish breathes life into a tired genre.
The Orange County trio's music is unnerving and
enthralling. Insistent chords accent the melody, and tension builds
in the aptly named "Uncomfortable Silence". The icy mood is shattered
by the fury of guitarists Laurita Guaico and Michele Walker.
The surging powerpop of "Flesh and Kings" boasts
spirited vocals, and agile drumming from Lynnae Hitchcock. "Born Again"
is a rousing punk hoedown that uses barbed humor to satirize empty
Relish has crafted a sparkling debut.
A Century of Women in Music
Rhino's slogan is "we
collect records so you don't have to", and boy does that ring
true with this fabulous collection. Music aside for a moment, the
box portion of the box set is to die for. Burgundy velvet with original
art work by Christine Haberstock on the front panel, the outside only
hints at the marvels inside. Eight Haberstock postcards lie in wait
along with a perfect bound liner notes giving an extensive history
in words and pictures of women's music by women authors and journalists.
Then there's the five discs of music.
Each disc in this five disc set coves an era of
women's music. The first disc, Broadway, has songs from Ma Rainey,
Fanny Brice, Marion Harris and a dozen other women I never hear of
before but am glad to have had the chance to hear now. Torch, Twang
and Swing on disc two gets jiggy with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday,
Lena Horne and Mahalia Jackson to name a few. Third is Shoop-Shoop
& Mowtown and has the Chantels, Shirelles and Martha and the Vandellas
singing the usual fare, but also adds Betty Wright's Clean Up Woman
and Nina Simone's To Be Young Gifted and Black for flavor.
Disc four leads us into more familiar territory
with Rock to Electric Shock. Again there are the usual hits, but there
are also some of the more political songs of the 70's written and
sung by women that have been overlooked like Joan Baez's Diamonds
& Rust and Loretta Lynn's The Pill. The final disc, Hip-Hop,
Pop and Passion brings us into the current era with songs by Salt-n-Pepa,
Patti Smith Kate Bush to name a few. Stylistically this is the most
schizophrenic of the CD's, but maybe that's just a reflection of the
freedom musical expression is given today. Political as well as personal
you can't help noticing the difference in the world between when Fanny
Brice sang My Man in 1922 and k.d. lang sang Constant Craving
in 1992. This is a monumental box set, musically packed and aesthetically
pleasing. I highly recommend it.
Cheap and Evil Girl
I was glad to see that
Bree Sharp wrote all of her own songs on this disc. My immediate impression
-- from the slick pop sound, the standard sultry good looks of the
cover, and titles like "Cheap and Evil Girl" -- was that
this must be some Svengali packaged pop sensation. Once I realized
that Sharp was her own Svengali, I took the time to listen closer,
and I'm glad I did. Sharp turns out to be a sharp (sorry) songwriter.
Her lyrics twist cleverly; I'm more than willing to forgive the corniness
of her crush song "David Duchovny" just for the line "why
don't you love me/ Debrief and debug me?" Plus, she rhymes "T'n'A"
with "DNA" ("Guttermouth"), a perfect rhyme. Her
tunes are melodic and catchy. There are more than a few songs here
which I found myself singing all day long.
If I have a problem with the disc, it is a feeling
that, in certain cases, Sharp is stillposing. I can tell that songs
like "Guttermouth" and "Cheap and Evil Girl" do
not reflect her true personality. Titling the album "Cheap and
Evil Girl" only compounds the problem. Other tunes, such as "Fallen"
and "Not Your Girl", reveal a deeper insight which could
be explored more. Posing is still posing, even if you choose your
own poses. Inside many of these pop songs I hear the sound of an introspective
woman alone with a guitar, examining the lives around her. I would
recommend Sharp pursue that woman, herself, a bit more, and leave
the posing to the teen queens.
G. Murray Thomas
All Hands On The Bad One
Kill Rock Stars
It's not easy when the critics
love you, so it would be natural for Sleater-Kinney to stumble, but
there are no missteps on ALL HANDS ON THE BAD ONE The band continues
to explore and redefine their sound. Excitement is plentiful but they
temper the power chords with pop flourishes. Guitarists Corin Tucker
and Carrie Brownstein are aided by the vocal debut of drummer Janet
Weiss. Her harmonies add a silky layer to the imaginative, conversational
dynamics of Tucker and Brownstein.
Tucker's Lydon-meets-Belinda Carlisle vibrato is
complimented by Brownstein's lilting delivery, as their character
studies in psychic distress unfold with wit and passion. "The Ballad
of a Ladyman" sounds like a lost gem from the sixties, as do the melancholy
"Leave You Behind" and the sprightly "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun".
"Ballad" bemoans vanity, while "Leave" laments love as it fades away.
"Rock" puts musician snobs in their place: "You're no rock n'roll
fun/like a piece of art/that no one can touch." Tucker's voice is
a dazzling instrument, as it swoops and soars between Brownstein's
slashing guitar lines on "Male Model". She envisions a new rock and
roll order: "You don't own the situation, honey/You don't own the
stage/We're here to join the conversation." Are they the great hope
for rock? I don't know. I am certain that they know how to make great
Goodbye 20th Century double CD
As much of a masterpiece
as Daydream Nation (1988; Enigma Records) was to critics and fans
alike, Goodbye 20th Century clocks in with thirteen tracks of non-catchy
experimental kindness (not including a video track that just WOULDN'T
play on my fricken PC!). Featuring William Winant, Jim O'Rourke, Takehisa
Kosugi, Christian Wolff, Christian Marclay, Wharton Tiers and the
Moore/Gordon lovechild - Coco Hayley Gordon Moore - Sonic Youth have
crossed the boundaries of the uncharted experimental world of musical
reality. With tracks such as Christian Wolff's 1969 wonder "Edges"
to the arcane energies of John Cage's 1991 opus, "Six,"
the Youth is as wild and bizarre as they've ever sounded. Who would
have thought that this fearsome foursome would ever cover either a
Steve Reich track (1968's "Pendulum Music") and a Yoko Ono
track (1961's "Voice Piece For Soprano") on the same album?
Is the band being just pretty and pretentious or have they evolved
into something that the human species dare not even attempt to question?
Fret not, dear music fan! This album is the missing link between the
first Sonic Youth album and Metal Machine Music.
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
All of Scott Weiland's
drug use hasn't been a total waste. It seems that somewhere along
the long strange trip he got to meet Jim Morrison. STP's sound has
always harkened back to the acit rock of the late 60's and early 70's
but on No.4, they have managed to capture the sound of the
Doors if thay had lived to be a 90's rock band. Morrison is especially
present on "I Got You" and "Atlanta." In the later I would swear that
Weiland found the lost journals of Morrison and stole from the dead.
All this withstanding, while No.4 does not have the sharp edge
of Purple or Core, it is still a strong album and worth
the listening time.
Live albums can be sleep-inducing
experiences, with rote set lists and perfunctory performances. Leave
it to the Violent Femmes to create a memorable documentation that
avoids sounding like a cash in. Viva Wisconsin captures guitarist
Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Guy Hoffman in a spirited
performance; their musicianship and instrumental versatility are impressive.
The trio's spare acoustic style is colored and shaded unobtrusively
by musical pals the Horns of Dilemma.
Many hits and favorites are here, but they also
perform several lesser-known tunes. Such a strategy could backfire,
but the Femmes never let up. Recorded in '98 during a brief Wisconsin
tour, these hometown guys leave the fans happy with rousing versions
of "Prove My Love," "Country Death Song," and "Blister in the Sun."
Gano's tortured whine is as affecting as ever, especially on the sinister
blues of "Confessions," and the sadly beautiful "Good Feeling." Time
hasn't mellowed them, as tense, spiteful takes on "Ugly," "Gimme The
Car," and "Don't Talk About My Music" prove. The latter song was co-penned
by Ritchie; his stellar bass playing and bitter vocal make the song
a surprise highlight.
The Violent Femmes may have been marking time when
this was recorded, but Viva Wisconsin is one live album that definitely
succeeds on its own terms.
Thirsty Ear Records
This collection by
Irish folksinger Andy White is a wonderful introduction to a powerful
songwriting talent. White has a great way with words, both in assembling
them in clever combinations, and in finding the telling detail to
illuminate his greater themes. Right away, the phrase "My car's
seen better days/ None of them with me" ("Six String Street") caught
my ear; this disc abounds with such lines. White is essentially
a story-teller. While only "Looking for James Joyce's Grave" is
a straightforward story, most of the songs here are built on narrative
snippets. Further, White delivers them in a slowed down, throw a
few extra syllables into the line, talking style.
White covers a variety a thematic material. Some
of it reveals his Irishness, such as the aforementioned "James Joyce's
Grave" and "Religious Persuasion," but much of it is more general
human interest: love and art and identity. In all of it, he finds
a heart of hope and humanity, the possibility of living life happily
as you choose. White is musically clever as well. He can craft great,
sing-along boppy melodies. The album is full of little guitar and
piano flourishes which further enliven his already cheery songs.
All of this comes together on my favorite track, "The Pale Moonlight,"
which manages to cover love, heartbreak and poverty in four quick
portraits, linked only by a yearning for something beyond, something
which lies in "the pale moonlight."ANDY WHITE. COMPILATION collects
material from six previous albums. Perhaps it will attract some
attention to this talented young man.
G. Murray Thomas