Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 254 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.

  • R.U.O.K.?
  • Race Car Riot
  • Race!!!
  • Racer X (2)
  • Rachel's (2)
  • Radars to the Sky
  • Radiant Darling
  • Radio Free America
  • Radiobaghdad
  • Radioinactive
  • Radiopuhelimet
  • Raging Slab (2)
  • Rah Rah (3)
  • Rahowa
  • Rain Fell Within
  • Blake Rainey
  • Rainmakers
  • Rainshine
  • Raison D'Etre (3)
  • Ral Partha Vogelbacher
  • Ramallah
  • Rambler 454
  • The Ramblin' Ambassadors (2)
  • Ramona the Pest
  • Rancid (6)
  • Random
  • Random Karma
  • Phil Ranelin (2)
  • Anthony Rapp
  • Rapscallion
  • Raquy and the Cavemen
  • Mitchell Rasor
  • Rasputina (2)
  • Rats of Unusual Size (2)
  • Raw Power (2)
  • Amy Ray
  • James Ray
  • Razed in Black (2)
  • Re:Cooperation
  • Reaches
  • Reaching Quiet
  • The Real McKenzies
  • Dana Reason Trio
  • Reconnaissance Fly
  • Red #9
  • Red Animal War (3)
  • Red Aunts (3)
  • Red Card
  • The Red Channels
  • Red Clover Ghost
  • Red Giant
  • The Red Krayola (4)
  • Red Level Eleven
  • Red Lorry Yellow Lorry (2)
  • Red Radio Flyer
  • The Red Romance
  • Red Sammy (4)
  • Red Stars Theory (2)
  • Lisa Redfern
  • Dewey Redman
  • The Redwood Plan
  • Reel Big Fish/Goldfinger
  • Reese
  • Refused (2)
  • Reggie "B" & the Jizz Wailin' Y'a' Doggies
  • The Regrets
  • Reign (2)
  • The Reign of Terror
  • Jeff Reichman
  • Reigndance (2)
  • Ash Reiter
  • Relative Ash
  • Release
  • Relick
  • The Remnants
  • Renfield
  • The Renovators (2)
  • Reprobation
  • Repulsion
  • Resolve
  • Retina.it
  • Retsin
  • The Reunion Show
  • Rev.99
  • Revenant
  • Reverb Sleep
  • Reverse Sleep
  • Gary Reynolds and the Brides of Obscurity
  • Gaz Reynolds
  • Scott Reynolds & the Steaming Beast
  • rex
  • Rex Daisy
  • Rhapsody (2)
  • Rhythm Doctors
  • Rhythm Pigs
  • Rhythm Trip
  • Ricanstruction
  • Rich Kids on LSD
  • Raianne Richards (2)
  • Richmond
  • Ernesto Rico
  • D.B. Rielly
  • Rig
  • Right Brigade
  • Right Direction
  • Righteous Pigs
  • Renato Rinaldi
  • Rippopotamus
  • Rise Against
  • Rise Robots Rise (2)
  • Julie Ritter
  • Ritual Device
  • Rival Schools (2)
  • River City High
  • River City Rebels (3)
  • Nico Rivers
  • Rivethead
  • RJD2 (3)
  • RKL (2)
  • Roachpowder
  • Roadside Attraction
  • Janet Robbins
  • Robert M
  • Robinson
  • Paul Robinson
  • Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights
  • Robweoza
  • Dave Robyn
  • Rock Kills Kid
  • Rock Stars of Love
  • Rockbitch
  • Rocket from the Crypt (2)
  • The Rocket Summer
  • The Rockwells
  • Rococode
  • Rodan (2)
  • Carrie Rodriguez (2)
  • Roguish Armament
  • Rollinghead
  • Jim Roll
  • Henry Rollins
  • Rollo Tomasi
  • The Rollo Treadway
  • Rolo Tomase
  • Roma 79
  • Roman Evening
  • Roman Numerals
  • The Romantics
  • Romeo's Dead
  • Rent Romus (3)
  • Roon
  • Rope
  • Rope, Inc.
  • Rorschach Test
  • Rosa Mota
  • Frank Rosaly
  • Donna Rose
  • Josh Roseman
  • Rosetta Stone (2)
  • The Rosewood Thieves
  • Rosicrucian (2)
  • Ross Phasor
  • The David Roter Method
  • Kevin Roth
  • Patti Rothberg
  • Mozart Rottweiler
  • Round
  • Round Eye
  • The Roy Owens Jr.
  • Royal City
  • Royal Hunt
  • Royal Trux (3)
  • Giulia Rozzi
  • Amber Rubarth
  • Rubber Cement
  • Rube Waddell
  • Jason Rubenstein
  • Rubido
  • Jeff Rubin
  • Ruby Falls
  • Ruby Vileos
  • Rubydiver
  • Rudis/Custodio/Diaz-Infante
  • Ruins
  • The Rum Diary
  • Rumba Club (2)
  • Rumble Militia
  • Rumbledog
  • Run Devil Run
  • Run, Forever
  • run.away.from.the.humans
  • Runnin' Riot
  • Russian Spy Camera
  • Ari Russo
  • John Russo
  • Rust
  • Ruth Ruth (2)
  • RX Bandits
  • Rydell

  • R.U.O.K.?
    (Quantum Loop)
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    Performance art, in the very best way. The music that accompanies the spoken word pieces reflects the theme of that piece, and thus bounds about a bit. The cover sticker calls it "modern ambient techno", which doesn't even begin to explain.

    The star of the songs is what is said, but the music behind it is a wonderful mix of guitar and keyboards, with plenty of experimental touches. Sometimes the words don't make sense, and sometimes the music gets just as confused.

    A match, in other words. Oh, this is strange stuff, but then what do you expect from a guy (Jim Harris is his name) who thanks Laurie Anderson "for making me realize I don't have to learn to sing". The final exhortation is to "Listen with headphones!"

    He's right. This is music that can envelop, but only if it is presented at high volume in a setting where there are no distractions. Lights off with headphones works damned well. Spooky and adventurous, R.U.O.K.? is a great experience.

    Race Car Riot
    split EP with Appleseed Cast and Planes Mistaken for Stars
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #185, 7/26/99

    I listed the bands alphabetically, but the actual order is Planes Mistaken for Stars (one song), Race Car Riot (three songs) and Appleseed Cast (two songs).So I'll go in that order here.

    "Staggerswallowswell" is the PMS song (an unfortunate abbreviation, I agree), and it pretty much follows the title. A rip-roaring emo piece, quite possibly the best of the set. Certainly one of the best songs I've heard this year.

    Race Car Riot uses two instrumentals to bracket "Raincheck", and to be honest I prefer the instrumentals. Generally more pedestrian fare, though with a nice subtle touch in the guitar licks. Maybe this band is a bit under the radar for me. In any case, these songs don't sound entirely finished, though not bad the way they are.

    Appleseed Cast is a fine band, meandering all about in the two songs here. These two songs sound just like the stuff on the full-length, proving that these guys have a flair for somewhat unconnected logic, both musically and lyrically. The disc as a whole is quite solid, two great bands and a good one coming together nicely.

    (Prescott Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #271, December 2005

    A nice modern jazz quintet. Very modern, in fact. Ross Hammond on guitar, Tony Passarell on sax and trumpet, Tom Monson on drums, Erik Kleven on bass and Scott Anderson on tenor sax. The instrumentation alone is intriguing.

    The songs themselves don't so much begin and end as simply fade into one another. These are improvisations that wander through a variety of styles and feels, but the players feel free to use whatever tools are available at any moment. And so this is that rarity, an improvisational jazz album that feels tight.

    Tight in a good way. These songs don't follow any particular construction mode, but they sound like songs nonetheless--even though the actual brackets of a given "piece" are exceptionally loose.

    That Hammond and friends manage to make all of those statements true is something close to miraculous. This one just feels right.

    Racer X
    Live Extreme Volume II
    reviewed in issue #18, 8/15/92

    It's interesting to sit back and listen to the vitality of Racer X when compared to the relative flaccid sounds of the bands its members are in now: Mr. Big, Badlands, Judas Priest (and there is a Priest cover here) and the Scream. While not really harsh, there was a definite edge to Racer X.

    Of course, four of the ten tunes are covers, which seems to indicate this may some sort of cash-in kinda thing. But who cares? This is fun listening. Why worry about ulterior motives, and the originals are the best part of the album anyway.

    Technical Difficulties
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Paul Gilbert gets the guys back together for another trip. All original members, and well, the boys are back to their old tricks.

    The main reason Racer X never quite achieved mainstream success is that the technical prowess often overshadowed the songwriting efforts. Brilliant guitar runs and stylish interplay are great, but if they don't connect to the song there's just not as much excitement.

    So while professional musicians and other folks who really dig skills have always been in Racer X's corner, the stuff often seemed just a little out of reach of the regular fan. But now that the guys have reformed after gigs in Mr. Big, Judas Priest and Badlands (not to mention countless session jobs), they seem to have picked up a some hints in the commercial sound arena.

    Not to say this is a sellout. The astonishing prowess is as pronounced as ever. But there's more expression, more emotion and certainly tighter songwriting than I've ever heard from the boys. This disc is more accessible, but it's still quite solid and shouldn't overly disappoint old fans. All told, this might well be the best Racer X record yet.

    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    Back in the June of 44 review, I mentioned something about the best bands in the world? Well, Rachel's (I don't get the punctuation, either) isn't so much a band as an orchestra. And this definitely isn't rock music.

    Lots of strings, played in unusual ways. A good amount of what the classical people might call retro neo-avant garde. Or something. I never can understand what those critics whine about. The deal is, these are lengthy, contemplative pieces, performed with something resembling a large ensemble or small orchestra (very small, nine folks). Imagine if Dirty Three (I know I reference those guys a lot, but it's 'cause I love them) was prettied up and taken to a more complex setting.

    The power of the music here is its delicate subtlety. Now, the music itself can pack a punch, but it's the full array of sound (often quietly expressed) which provides the wallop. Devastation often follows.

    Pretty isn't the word. This isn't pretty music. It's not exactly "easy" music. Takes a little time and effort to work into the brain. But once all of the possibilities are in place, the totality of the vision overwhelms. Yes, indeed, one of the world's best bands. And a pretty fine album, too.

    Full on Night with Matmos
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    So you're a little bored, and you decide to rework one of your old chestnuts. Then you ask some friends to do the same. Sounds like something someone like, say, Chicago might do. Ah, but this is Rachel's, the only band in the world I know of in the possessive without an object.

    Right off, then, this isn't yer ordinary hack remix. Not at all. Rachel's simply plays a new arrangement of the piece. That this arrangement and recording are three years old means nothing. Listen to the story told by this gorgeous music and it will seem like not a day has passed since these sounds hit tape.

    Matmos, on the other hand, is playing editing games, using the original recording and two live performances of the song. These boys take a full 18 minutes to explore the song, and the results are as unRachel's as can be. Or rather, this vision of the song (retitled "The Precise temperature of Darkness") sounds nothing like the original.

    But then, that's what's required with projects like this. The Matmos take is as jumpy and jarring as the Rachel's is smooth and flowing. Eighteen minutes is a long time to take, but trust me, it's enthralling. The whole package is, really. Sometimes, hitting up the past can be a good thing.

    Radars to the Sky
    The Big Bang E.P.
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Most EPs break out fast and make their points early. Radars to the Sky decided to roll out in a contemplative mode. It works. Probably better than if the disc had kicked off with one of the more uptempo bits.

    Radars to the Sky plays slightly-more-than-minimalist fare. They've got a bit of jangle in the hooks and some pop in the percussion. But the real attraction here is the simple beauty of the songs themselves. These folks know how to paint pictures with their songs. Really interesting pictures.

    Took me a couple minutes to latch on to this one. But my interest turned to devotion almost immediately. The delicate strength of these songs is a rare treasure.

    Radiant Darling
    (Tense Forms)
    reviewed in issue #272, March 2006

    Further proof that Chicago is the center of the musical universe, Radiant Darling blazes forth with an album that's one part gothic Americana (y'know, Trailer Bride), one part gypsy jazz (they even do a Django Reinhardt piece), one part art rock and, well, lots of other things thrown in.

    It all makes for an invigorating blend that is impossible to turn off. These songs spin spells that can't be broken. Radiant Darling has created an alternate universe that is exceedingly enticing. I might, indeed, want to live here all the time, if I wasn't scared out of my mind at the prospect of doing so.

    The minimalist production really helps here, leaving plenty of space between the mostly acoustic instruments and raucous percussion. I could be wrong, but it sounds like much of the music was recorded in one take. I hear a little bleedover between some of the instruments. If that's merely a studio trick (or unintended result) I'm just that much more impressed.

    It's old. It's new. It's indescribably delicious. And I just can't say enough.

    Radio Free America
    (31337 Records)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    Plenty of the techno-industrial complex, but with a serious new wave jones (as evidenced by a Duran Duran cover). For someone like me, who grew up on music that sounded vaguely like this, the sound is utterly addictive.

    That's not to say all is peaches and cream. The guitars are a bit sloppy (or maybe just overfuzzed) at times. And more than a few of the songs could use some editing (pop songs don't need to be 10 minutes long, y'know?). But really, I'm quibbling here over style points. In general, I'm a big fan.

    Particularly when the band gets in a groove, the guitars cutting through the beats, and that oh-so-familiar vocal style sending me back 15 years. Really, a thoroughly modern take on a classic sound. Exactly how an influence is supposed to be honored.

    There's a lot here to love, particularly for us rapidly-aging Gen Xers (remember, that's being born from 1964-1972, so we're not confused here). Immersion only provides more pleasure.

    665: Neighbor of the Beast
    reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98

    Tight but loopy pop punk, produced at the Blasting Room by Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton. I suppose the album title might tip you off: These guys are out for fun.

    Ragged vocals and guitar playing, but with that trademark ALL-style punch. Stevenson and Egerton know how to keep songs to the straight and narrow, in perfect pop form. It's all in there.

    And so Radiobaghdad's unusual song subjects (and playing style) don't get too annoying. After all, these are some tight, tight, tight arrangements. I can only imagine what the band is like live, but on this disc the results are loads of smiles.

    What I expected when I saw the Blasting Room credits. Radiobaghdad kept its quirks restrained, and so a great disc ensued. I'm still bouncing around.

    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    There are hip-hop acts who innovate musically, tearing apart the beats and reassembling them into something wondrous. Then there are the rhymers who take apart words and ideas, splicing them into true poetry. Radioinactive does both.

    I don't think you understand just how rare this is. Especially in the how. Radioinactive adheres--on the surface--to contemporary rap styles, dropping melodic choruses over heavily rhythmic verses. Just below the surface, however, the rules don't exist.

    Beats fly willy nilly, melodies are deconstructed, ideas are dissected. Full-on creative ferment aided by some actual heavy thought. Okay, so some of the stuff is silly. The chaff blows away, revealing a most intelligent core.

    Radioinactive is that most rare of collectives, a group of folks who are able to push the boundaries of both music and rhyming thought. Few challenging works are as accessible and enjoyable as this. This is the real deal.

    Hygiene 7"
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Five tracks from four Finnish albums. The word is Jello loves the band, and wanted the U.S. to get a taste. Fine by me.

    Sounding somewhat like a mix of D.O.A.'s bombast and DK's speed, Radiopuhelimet (whatever that means) pulls a mean sled. This is great raw punk. Period.

    Maybe A.T. would like to license some of the albums for the U.S.


    Raging Slab
    Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert
    (Def American)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Always far too metal for the blues, and just too weird for metal, Raging Slab have been releasing albums for six years, and an amazingly few number of people have figured out how cool they are.

    Where I liked their previous efforts because they were rather understated, this fucker is so overcranked I could stone half of Austin with it.

    But apart from a production that seems determined to make them into another Led Zeppelin (perish the thought), the songs still kick ass. And most of the time all the glitter can be missed if you turn the volume up high enough, to the point where the candle on top of your speaker starts to crack.

    That's the only way anyone should listen to Raging Slab.

    Sing Monkey Sing
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    One of those bands that just keeps on keeping on. Raging Slab has kicking a hole in the blues for a hell of a long time.

    The main problem is that the band doesn't take the blues anywhere. Mired somewhere between ZZ Top and Hendrix, the folks just haven't been able to move forward musically. This is no different.

    The production is nicely punchy, and the songs are catchier than usual, though that old "metal blues stomp" sound cranks out a bit more than I'd like. I know exactly why Rick Rubin is so enamored of the folks, but I think the results need to be better to warrant their contract.

    Good drinking music, I guess, if you usually crank the Sabs when you're downing the Jack. This is better than I expected, but not by much.

    Rah Rah
    Breaking Hearts
    (Young Soul)
    reviewed in issue #332, November 2011

    Pop that leaps straight into bliss and rarely look back. I particularly appreciate the understated nature of these songs. Their gentle flows are utterly intoxicating.

    Sure, these folks hail from Regina and thus have a fair chunk of that "eccentric Canadian pop thing" (which is apparently called "canadiana" these days; I think I'll have to steal that) going on. And they've had their share of acclaim.

    But none of that seems to have derailed the music. These songs plink and float along with deliberate, if infectious, grace. The very light hand on the knobs provides plenty of space for the music to fill. The sound is gorgeous.

    The complete package. If you don't like this, chances are you simply don't like music very much. It's so accessible and so well-done that I can't imagine anyone turning it out of bed. Quite the charmer.

    The Poet's Dead
    (Hidden Pony)
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    Jangly, complex Canadian pop. I guess that's a genre--and if it's not, it should be. The criminally-layered, utterly infectious bounce of this sound is easy to pick out within a few notes.

    But unlike many bands who try out this sound, Rah Rah is distinctly midwestern. Like Sasketchewan. Regina, to be specific. The sound is a bit more expansive than many Canadian popsters, and perhaps the wide open spaces help to bring that out.

    Or maybe I'm just projecting my own (largely) Midwestern upbringing. Who knows? I do love the way these songs fan out and then snap together at the end. It's a fairly unique sort of songcraft, and it requires some serious respect for the audience.

    Lovely songs arranged in a most appealing style. The power of the ideas (musical and lyrical) is almost overpowering. Highest quality.

    (Hidden Pony)
    reviewed 10/15/15

    Just another eclectic Canadian pop band.

    If only.

    Rah Rah sticks more to the three-chords-and-a-dream ideal much more tightly than many of its north-of-the-border brethren, and it's also a lot more willing to get its hands dirty. One of my favorite things about this band is the way its songs have a slightly unfinished feel.

    That and the energy. Uptempo and then some, these songs manage to be perceptive, introspective and insightful despite a near-manic need to keep the beat moving. I've been a fan for a while (as if you can't tell), and I'm constantly amazed at how invigorated I feel after a Rah Rah session.

    I do hear some progression. These songs are somewhat more polished than previous efforts, and the arranging is a bit tighter. I don't want these folks to go too far in that direction, as the band's offhanded feel is something I adore, but the editing done here doesn't seem to have dulled the excitement.

    So, yes, another Rah Rah album. Another great Rah Rah album. Cheers. Delight. Delirium. Ecstasy. Etc.

    Just play it loud. That should do the trick.

    Cult of the Holy War
    reviewed in issue #93, 12/4/95

    As Rahowa stands for "Racial Holy War", lots of folks won't touch this thing with lead gloves. But I believe every person has an equal opportunity to make a fool of himself. And the members of Rahowa are overachievers in that area.

    The music is basic anthemic hardcore stuff, with some out-of-place keyboard and acoustic guitar bits mixed in. George Eric Hawthorne's vocals are often almost gruff enough to front Obituary, though he croons Pete Steele-style when a ballad is needed.

    And, of course, the lyrics themselves. In order to make things real easy for me, they are printed in the liners. The basic message is "White and might make right" and "Hatred is a beautiful thing". Apocalyptic odes to the death of the white race and such are the norm.

    Folks like Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm scare me a lot more than these guys. I mean, most of the folks out there think this sort of thing is silly or offensive. But a good chunk of the people will be voting for Buchanan and Gramm in the next few months, and a lot of their positions are not far from what Rahowa proposes. That one of those men could be president is what should scare you a lot more than some fringe CD.

    Rain Fell Within
    (Dark Symphonies)
    reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00

    Willowy female vocals, a light take on the doom metal sound and long songs sculpted along classical lines. Altogether, Rain Fell Within has a rather unusual feel.

    Basically, this might be too metal for goth fans and too goth for metal fans. There isn't the power at the bottom of the sound to really drive home the grinding doom. And the vocals are much more operatic than the rest of the band.

    The thing is, I think that Rain Fell Within has really found something by sticking between the extremes. The sound isn't thin or underdeveloped; it merely doesn't conform to type. And that is hardly a sin.

    Other nice touches include some great Eurometal-style lead guitar work and a generally unhurried approach to the songs. For those who like their music just a bit off normal, Rain Fell Within delivers. Fine work.

    Blake Rainey
    Appetizer Sickness
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    There are some folks (though not me) that think Uncle Tupelo's third album, the mostly-acoustic one recorded by Peter Buck, is that band's master work. On it, Tweedy and Farrar played a lot of old folk songs and added a few modern chestnuts of their own composition. This album has the same spare, agonizing feel of March 16-20, 1992. Rainey's voice even sounds like an odd amalgam of the two.

    What's really strange (and cool) is that Rainey's voice also has something of a 1960s Neil Diamond feel. He has that certain assured self-awareness that doesn't quite cross over into the flat-out cocky smarm of Neil in the 70s and beyond. It's a great voice, and no matter how fine these songs may be (and they're quite good), it's that voice that carries this album.

    Which is why the lean sound works so well. There's Rainey's voice and his guitar. Sometimes a piano or something else drops by, but mostly there's Rainey's voice. I can't think of an album so dominated by a vocal performance since Patty Griffin's Living with Ghosts.

    As I rate that album as one of the ten best ever recorded (by anyone, anywhere, any genre, at any time) that's a reasonable jigger of praise. Blake Rainey doesn't go straight for the jugular like Griffin did on Ghosts, but he's got quite a few compelling stories to tell nonetheless. Arresting from beginning to end.

    The Rainmakers
    (V&R Records)
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    Many of my finest college memorias have a Rainmakers soundtrack playing behind them. One of the first nights out with my future wife, wild evenings when the pitchers and the music just kept flowing. Whenever the Rainmakers came to Columbia, they played everything they'd ever recorded and then some. Shows that lasted three or four hours. Awe-inspiring stuff.

    Then they got dropped from Mercury (in the U.S., anyway), and Rich went off to play with Webb Wilder and others. Steve, Bob and Pat hung around the K.C. area, and I even caught some of the Friday acoustic shows at the now-defunct Shadow and a benefit they did in October 1992. A lifetime ago, if you ask me.

    I haven't heard the Flirting with the Universe album that was released in Canada and Norway a couple years ago, so this is my first taste of "new" Rainmakers this decade. Bob is still writing about the failures of our culture, in particular here on society's treatment of women. The music is still clearly descended from the CCR swamp groove, but with much more variation than before.

    And as an old fan, I don't like all of that experimentation. While the acoustic ballad "Remember Me By" is quite effective, the next track, "Did You See the Lightening" doesn't. That song combines the rhythm and basic riff from "Thirty Days" (off the third album) and grafts on a rootsy, sing-along chorus. That one falls dreadfully flat for me.

    On the whole, though, this is a good album. Comparisons to my well-worn set of three Mercury albums from the eighties are silly. This is eight years down the line, and I've got to be honest: It's great to hear the guys again. The material is a bit more uneven, and the production leaves the sound much more sparse (the function of a limited budget, I assume), but the Rainmakers remain one of the most thoughtful, thought-provoking bands around. Good to hear that fire hasn't been quenched.

    Fallen Hero
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Riff-heavy hard rock punctuated by a technical industrial style and keyboards. In other words, a number of relatively disparate elements tossed in the blender.

    It works when there's a good hook. "Anything" is a bit poppier and more uptempo (with some lovely glammy vocals), but that song works. So does "Time," which is grounded a bit more in the band's regular style.

    The hook is the thing. And Rainshine's a little hit or miss with those. Here's my test: I listen, and if the chorus makes me feel a little uncomfortable then I know something missing. A piece didn't fall in right. This applies to writing and lots of other artistic endeavors as well. The gut is a good judge.

    I like what these guys are trying to do. Generally, the verses are fairly solid. They just need some kick-ass choruses to put them over the top. I mean, if you're gonna play an anthem, play an anthem!

    Raison D'Etre
    In Sadness, Silence and Solitude
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    Truly gothic soundscapes. The six songs average over eight minutes in length, and they're worth every second. Great care has gone into crafting these exquisite explorations into the potential of sound, and perhaps more importantly, the sonic potential of silence.

    Lots of empty spaces. This is a truly three-dimensional sound, occupied by all sorts of thoughts and beings. It doesn't take much impetus to leap past the material world and lurch into this one, searching out nooks and crannies in an attempt to get away from it all.

    And even if you don't go that far, this is achingly beautiful stuff. The sort of album that makes morbid people ecstatic. Just the way the sounds emerge from the fog and then retreat sends shivers.

    I've always liked sound construction albums, and this is one of the best I've heard. Wonderfully evocative songs. It's way to easy to get lost within. Returning is only one option.

    Collective Archives 2xCD
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99

    Two discs of odds and ends from one of the more visionary dark music pioneers of the decade. Peter Andersson (also the guy behind the Atomine Elektrine album reviewed earlier) knows how to take basic soundscapes and turn them into flowing, 3-D sounds, pieces which quickly envelop an entire consciousness.

    Like a truly fine CD-ROM game, there are so many little spots in the music to run and hide in, to skip and jump through that repeat listens are never the same as the first. Of course it's gloomy; that's the point. But work within, and it's easy to find a wide range of emotions and ideas.

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gorgeously appointed liners. Style in packaging is a Cold Meat Industry trademark, and this set is no different. The liners here are (basically) eight paintings by Alexander Nemkovsky, haunting images which only heighten the impact of the music.

    Everyone involved with every step of this project knew how to do things right, and they did. Hey, these aren't throwaway bits. They're just as complete and awe-inspiring as any Raison D'Etre I've heard before. Just another reason to fall under the spell.

    The Empty Hollow Unfolds
    (Cold Meat Industry)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    No one creates new worlds out of whole cloth like Peter Andersson, the guy behind Raison D'Etre. What separates him from everyone else is the totality of his vision and his execution. The sound is so full, so textured that it takes but a second to be walking within it, experiencing an entirely new way of contemplating consciousness.

    This set is somewhat less complicated than previous outings, but still just as involving. What Andersson has done is strip his soundscapes down to the bare bones, and then add just enough color to bring the first hints of dawn to the walls.

    Oh yeah, this album lies deep in the dark. Astonishingly pretty at times, at any moment there is always the possibility of impending mortal terror. Not in the shrill, slasher style, but a more meaningful sort of fright. Such as when the world that you thought you knew has changed into something utterly strange and wonderful.

    The thrill of meandering through these pieces cannot be overstated. There are so many cheesy ways to play music like this. There are few who can do it even half as well. Raison D'Etre is the real deal.

    Ral Partha Vogelbacher
    The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding in My Toilet Again
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    A band, not a person. The convoluted and somewhat silly title doesn't really give an idea as to the minimalist fare on the disc. Most songs have some vocals, a little guitar and/or banjo and (quietly) squalling electronic noise used for percussive effect.

    Contemplative, but not particularly moody. The songs are constructed as much as played; pieces come and go as if they've been assembled. That doesn't detract from the smoothness of the arrangements. Rather, it simply makes the songs sound a bit more thoughtful.

    Does that make any sense? I hope so. The songs are generally quiet, but they possess a strength that can't be shaken. Real ideas stand behind these songs, both in the lyrics and music.

    And that's what makes this album a winner. Sometimes when the sound is all out in the open, not obscured by heavy-handed production or messy arrangements, it can make the strongest statement. That's what happened here.

    But a Whimper EP
    (Bridge Nine)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    I'm guessing the cover tells you what you need to know about the subject matter. Rob Lind has written a short (14-minute) but intense meditation on the situation in Israel. He does take sides, but his thought is cogent and well-conceived. You can quibble with his conclusions, but not the argument itself. As for the music, this is precisely the sort of rage that extreme hardcore coveys better than anything else.

    Simply blistering. Imagine The Decline, only banded (there is some short space between the songs). Lind performed most of the instruments (Neil Dyke played drums and J. Bannon added some vocals on about half the tracks), and that single-minded focus really shoves these songs into overdrive.

    An intense experience. No matter your personal feelings on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (and I must confess sympathy for Lind's point-of-view here), this shattering EP is worth experiencing. Good art can convey so much more than reality. This isn't merely good; it's fucking great.

    Rambler 454
    Talk Down the Sky EP
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    One part Stones, one part Big Star, one part T. Rex and another part I can't quite identify, Rambler 454 is an instant time machine back to 1972. And I mean that in a good way.

    Okay, so the songs aren't quite as electric or timeless as the bands referenced (no crime there). The feel is still the same. Rambler 454 makes these rootsy pop songs sound off-the-cuff, almost impromptu. And that's quite cool.

    Yeah, I do wish the boys would work a little harder to find their own sound. There are a couple of riffs that almost sound straight copped. But this is a fun little set nonetheless. Carefree and highly enjoyable.

    The Ramblin' Ambassadors
    reviewed in issue #246, October 2003

    So is it fair to say that most of the best instrumental rock and roll comes from the great white north? Oh, sure, perhaps the finest instrumental band of the last 20 years (Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) was Canadian, but does that mean Americans don't know how to rock without vocals?

    The Fucking Champs aside, I'd have to answer yes. But in any case, Mint seems to find these wacky Canadian instrumental quartets and trios with ease. Which brings me to the latest example: The Ramblin' Ambassadors.

    One part surf (there's always one part surf), one part spaghetti western (ditto), one part psychobilly and one part bad attitude, these three guys really have a great feel for the instrumental. These songs say more than most songs with vocals. Well, they say it louder than most songs with vocals, anyway.

    Easy to love, easy to play over and over again. The Ramblin' Ambassadors have crafted a short, sweet album full of cheesy licks that are very quickly addictive. Quite the confection.

    Vista Cruiser Country Squire
    reviewed in issue #296, May 2008

    Just in time for summer, the Ramblin' Ambassadors wander through with another batch of ace surf instrumentals. This second outing from Brent Cooper's "side project" is more assured and just as wide ranging as Avanti.

    And I like it a lot more, which is saying something. Maybe its because Cooper (of Huevos Rancheros) and pals played for more than four years before cranking out another album. Maybe it's just because. In any case, there's more of a complete feel to this set.

    The sound is stronger. That's a production thing, but it's important to surf music. I've always been more of a Dick Dale fan, and that means power, a real bottom end to the sound. These boys have found it, and they wail with it.

    Full throttle, and then some. The Ramblin' Ambassadors have found their groove, and I don't think they're giving it up for nobody.

    Ramona the Pest
    Birds, Bugs, Bones EP
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Nothing spectacular or unusual here, just solid pop music with all the trimmings. Ramona the Pest doesn't bother with conventions. I mean, one of the four songs here is the old nursery rhyme "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

    Each song has a different mood and a different feel. And yet they're all connected sonically by Valerie Esway's strong and supple vocals. Whether the songs burn past or simply float on by, her voice is always right where it should be.

    And the band as a whole does a fine job of putting these songs together in such a way as to make sense. Each piece is easily identifiable as a Ramona the Pest song. Which shows that this trio is right where it should be.

    Rancid (advance tape)
    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Great songs to warm the cockles of any punk's heart. To call it wonderful wouldn't be doing it justice.

    Let's Go
    reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94

    Yes, there are 23 songs here. And if you have 23 good songs to release...

    Well, so maybe only 20 are good. Life goes on. As most of you know, this is a couple of OpIvy hands, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, with Brett Reed on drums. Lars Frederiksen (guitar) was added to fill out the sound.

    While this is tightly produced, the band has an almost self-consciously sloppy sound that is a little addictive. It's so easy to imagine the raucous fun of a Rancid show. All you have to do is turn up the volume.

    Much stronger than their debut (I think the extra guitar is very helpful), Rancid moves forward with Let's Go. High class all the way.

    ...And Out Come the Wolves
    reviewed in issue #85, 9/4/95

    EVERYONE reported that Rancid signed with a major label (most often mentioned: DGC). Like Newsweek and about a million kids on the Internet. So perhaps what happened was that someone sat down and explained to the boys just how the Offspring made (at least) twice as much cash sticking with Epitaph than the guys would have with major label royalty rates.

    Whatever. This third installment in as many years (It was really just a little over two years ago that the first one came out, right?) cleans the music up just a bit more, but the stuff is just as cheap and bouncy as before.

    Absolutely forgettable, but admittedly amusing. Rancid has yet to record an album that was as good as OpIvy, but I think if you took the best songs from these three, you'd be doing pretty good. If a song like "Roots Radicals" doesn't burn up MTV like the stuff from the last album, then I've lost my ear for the shit.

    Complain all you want (this is so simple, a child could play it; whatever), you aren't the one who did it. Shut up. If Rancid makes a shitload of cash making slutty punk records, great. If you can do better, go on ahead and do it.

    Life Won't Wait
    reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98

    I seem to remember MTV announcing the demise of Rancid sometime in late 1996. Maybe I'm crazy. What did happen is all of the members took some time off to focus on other projects. For example, Tim Armstrong got together with Epitaph big guy Brett Gurewitz to start up the Hellcat label, which has kicked out an astonishing number of good ska bands in the last year.

    But all that is put aside for the moment. The new Rancid has arrived, and it begins where ...And Out Come the Wolves left off. Highly flavored sloppy pop punk music with a wonderful lack of attention paid to enunciation. You already knew that, of course. What you want to know is does this album measure up?

    Um, the easy answer is yes. Branching out into even more sounds and feels than before, Rancid stretches itself nicely. The songs themselves are as tightly written (and loosely performed) as ever, bouncy, catchy and addictive. Just what you demand, and a little bit more.

    There's been some serious hype and anticipation for this album, and all I can say is that Rancid exceeded my high expectations. This is a solid piece of work from a band who has nothing left to prove. With a little luck, this could be the album of the summer.

    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    Rancid's second eponymous release, though I think the first one qualifies as an EP and not a full-length (All I got is a tape, so I can't check the time to be sure). As the rather brief press note states, this is by far their fastest and heaviest release.

    Not that the boys completely give up on skacore. It's just that there's much more of an emphasis on power, though Rancid's haggard tunefulness hasn't been lost. What has been dropped are the most obvious Clash references.

    I get the feeling that the guys finally decided that mainstream success was always going to be one step away, and they should just make music they liked. I'm not saying this was a conscious decision, but I can detect a rejection of some of the more commercial aspects of their last album.

    Brett Gurewitz produced, which probably also added to the power element. He can crank out a thick punk sound like few others. This is, by far, the most spirited Rancid album. I'm not sure how it will hold up over time, but boy, is it a rush. I think the guys might stick around for a while.

    with NOFX
    BYO Split Series/Volume III
    reviewed in issue #227, March 2002

    Rancid plays six NOFX tunes. NOFX plays six Rancid tunes. Fat Mike writes the liners. A winning formula all the way around. Lots of fun, and that's pretty much the whole point.

    Too Stoned to Sneeze--Without Regretting It
    (Evil Teen)
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Random is Jon Drukman. And with the Evil Teen label, you have an idea of what you're gonna get. Aggressive beat work, and after that, well, who knows?

    The beat work is impressive, heavily syncopated and very stylish. There are some samples and a bit in the way of keyboards behind (of course, bass), but the key here is the rhythms. Personally, this stuff just knocks me out. Full-bore road straight to my core.

    So if yer hopin' for some disco diva wailing away or for some grand musical statement, fergit it. Me, I'm happy with the beats. They rile me in all the right ways.

    Which is the point, I do believe. Drukman has a handle on what works and what doesn't, and that makes Random an impressive project, indeed.

    Random Karma
    Coming Down
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Silly, perhaps inane lyrics tossed off over generic beats, with some nice fuzz guitar meandering along at times. Oh, yeah, this is some strange stuff.

    It's a one-man band sorta situation. This is certainly a singular vision. If more than one person worked on these songs, they would have come out so strangely. There would have been a bit more variety, though that probably would have made the sound somewhat more normal.

    Intriguing, though I still haven't decided whether or not I really dig it. For all the inherent absurdity, each song does have something interesting flitting through it. Somewhere. Somehow.

    But still, Random Karma plows through some of the more surreal territory I've heard in a while. I kept listening, mostly because of the rubbernecking factor (accidents are cool), though I must say I admire the vision. Even if I don't really share it.

    Phil Ranelin
    The Time Is Now!
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    A re-issue of a 1974 album (the first of two Phil Ranelin re-issues reviewed here), The Time Is Now! is, quite simply, a stunner. Ranelin plays trombone, and he assembled a sizable set of musicians to come together and collaborate.

    Those familiar with and entranced by John Coltrane's later deconstructionist work will recognize some similar themes. Also, remember that this album was recorded at the time that fusion was running rampant through the jazz world. There are some fusion elements (particularly in the way the piano is used), though the instrumentation fits in with "traditional" jazz.

    The players obviously felt free to express themselves in any way they liked, but there was a solid commitment to the group sound as well. I've got to say that I've never been able to get enough jazz trombone. I love the way that mellow tone (and the similar but higher tone of the flugelhorn) plays off the sharper sax and trumpet sounds.

    Ranelin's original notes say, "Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. Personally, I feel like it was a blessing." Couldn't have said it better myself. Sometimes everything comes together in a cosmic wave of brilliance. Such is the case with this album.

    Vibes from the Tribe
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    The second of two Hefty re-issues, this album first was released in 1976. Conceived as a call to strengthen the "Afro-American" family, this album shows Ranelin's almost complete progression from the free deconstructionism of Coltrane to the fusion sound so prevalent back in the mid 70s.

    Indeed, the sounds of the two albums could hardly be different. Vibes from the Tribe is very sentimental album. Simple melody is preferred to hard bop reworkings, and more often Ranelin uses his wonderful trombone tone as a lush backdrop rather than an instrument of exploration.

    I prefer the experimental over the sentimental any day, and so I have to admit that this album comes as a bit of a disappointment after listening to The Times Is Now!. But I can hear that Ranelin took a real artistic chance here, and even if it didn't pay off in a way that I would like, I've got to give him credit for walking off the edge without fear.

    The creativity is just as intense and expressive on this album. I just didn't like so much the paths it took. Another side of Phil Ranelin, a man who obviously had (and has) talent to burn.

    Anthony Rapp
    Look Around
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Back when Marshall Crenshaw got started, his straight-ahead rock and roll really shook things up. All of a sudden, people started thinking that maybe there would be a place for that sort of music in the middle of disco and punk and new wave and all that.

    So it's fitting that Anthony Rapp does a Crenshaw piece here ("Lesson #1") and slings out basic rock and roll with some nice hooks. Of course, these days this sort of music has made a comeback, at least in the out here in the boondocks of the underground.

    And Rapp's nicely-textured sound is most welcome. He can write songs pretty well, but he's just as comfortable using someone else's material and making it his own. There is a talent to that, you know.

    Just as there's a talent to making good, solid music. Rapp knows how to sell a song, and he does so repeatedly here. This album is a lot of fun, a splash of cold water that cleanses my palate.

    Chameleon Drool
    (Red Decibel)
    reviewed in issue #5, 1/15/92

    They're back!

    After a year-long or so absence from the scene, Red Decibel returns with three new releases. Let's not rehash all the fun of the previous year, but rather exult in what has been brought down from the mountaintop.

    Rapscallion, who had RdB's first album release a year and a half ago, comes up with a sophomore effort that says "Fuckit" to their production value, and moves forward stylisitcally.

    Oh, except for the listings of the song titles. I figured it out after a listen to the album, but really. We still have DJs who are announcing the first song as "Chameleon drools, drool on me." I know, we breed them big and stupid out here, but still.

    Right, back to the album. At times the sound is a little close to Jane's Addiction for my taste, but the grooves are heavier and tastier than any Perry and his boys ever brewed. This is one solid disc. No filler, just bitchen music. Tracks? I'll let you figure out the titles for yourself. But "The Holy Shit" is really cool. Not to mention the rest of the album.

    It's a bit of nostalgia for me, but my first contact with Jake came after I reported their first album, Gardens of Machinery , #1 to CMJ. I thought it was cool the head of a label would call me up personally. Of course, I had no idea he was the entire label, but that was back in my naive days. Oh, to remember...

    Raquy and the Cavemen
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    Raqui Danziger plays middle-eastern drums and bowed instruments. Most often she plays the dumbek (which is also known as the tabla, among other names), but she's more than proficient on a bewildering array of pieces.

    Her husband, Liron Peled, is her main collaborator (he most often plays guitars or a Moog that is specially set up to play "in-between" western notes). Together, they play traditional songs, stuff from modern masters and their own compositions. It isn't that easy to figure out which is which just by listening--proof that they know what they're doing.

    There's a palpable intensity to these songs, but also a delightful playfulness, which keeps everything on an even keel. There's no use playing music if you can't have fun with it. Same goes for listening.

    I know jack about this kind of music, but I like what I hear. Raquy has a fine sense of adventure, and these pieces are well-arranged and played. This disc makes it easy to step into another world.

    Mitchell Rasor
    Waterloo in Reverse
    (Big Deal)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Mitchell Rasor's got a big bag of tunes, and he won't be satisfied until I hear each and every one of them.

    Eighteen, and not one sounds significantly like another. Rasor bounds about, riffing ethereal pop here, driving funk there and lots of colors of rock in between. He's got an inerring instinct for tight musical grooves, and he feels no need to fuck with a good thing. In fact, many songs consist of one groove, with little or no vocal help. Bravo!

    I'm not sure if he's trying to make a statement about anything (more likely, everything, I guess), but this intensely personal album is a wonder and a joy to hear. It sounds like he wrote and recorded whatever was on his mind at the moment, and that off-hand style is precisely what this stuff needs. The album is so natural sounding, it's often hard to believe that this was even recorded.

    Pretty damned fine. Rasor has a handle on what he wants to say and how to say it. To call this astonishing is to traffic in understatement.

    See also Snares & Kites.

    How We Quit The Forest
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    The 'tina girls' debut was a swirling mass of strings and spooky vocals. This time they crank it up a notch -- a la rock and roll style. Still three cellos and three voices, but with the added production and percussion of Chris Vrenna (ex-Nine Inch Nails & alleged current G N' R skin pounder), it's like these girls have come to take over (old school) Godzilla style.

    It sounds like it could be rock. They've certainly got the effects hooked up to their strings. Maybe it is rock, but with a twist -- the twist being the rising and falling voices of sisters in strings three. With funny, wacky lyrics about -- damn I don't know what they hell they're talking about, but it sounds cool. And the way their vibrato wa wa wa's at the end of phrases -- ooh. Just give me a little more girls, I'm almost there.

    -- Matt Worley

    Frustration Plantation
    reviewed in issue #250, February 2004

    Years and years ago, a good friend of mine (not my brother, who wrote the above review) tried to turn me on to Rasputina. "You'll dig them, Jon. They...well, I can't tell you what they sound like, but there's these two women singing and then cellos start playing." It's likely my friend didn't use the word "women," but otherwise that's pretty much verbatim. But as I am pretty much overwhelmed by what arrives in my mailbox, I never searched out Rasputina.

    Turns out my friend was pretty dead on. It's difficult to describe exactly what Rasputina sounds like, though with the female vocals and cellos, well, there is a certain goth vibe. Goth as in Love and Rockets, I guess. In fact, I think that's about the best touchpoint I can come up with, though the two outfits don't sound a whit like each other.

    Except for their willingness to be very loud or very soft at any given moment. The songs themselves are quite conventional in construction, but the requisite cello arrangements (generally augmented by more traditional rock instrumentation) often turn the songs on their heads. And that's what so cool.

    Perhaps the centerpiece here is "If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love," a loopy song filled with asides and non-sequiturs. Somehow it all holds together, until it peters out at the end. This odd sense of anti-climax and general disdain for pandering to the audience has earned Rasputina a devoted (if small) following. This album should more than satisfy the devotees, and might even prick up the ears of a new novices.

    Rats of Unusual Size
    Yes I Can
    (Funky Mushroom)
    reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94

    My first encounter with ROUS came about five years ago, when I discovered their mordant and twisted cover of "Summertime Blues" on, well, I think it was their first album. I simply remember some other DJ bringing the forties, it was summer and no authority figures were near the station. That rendition touched a chord in my soul. I do wish I remember the name of the album, though.

    Categorizing here is dangerous, because ROUS make it clear there is no intention of sticking to any particular style. I like to think the Rats sound like the Stones off drugs (which would be pretty twisted, indeed). Everything seems to shuffle around a broad base of 60s pop and blues riffs. With enough distortion to make sure your parents don't get nostalgic. Well, the lyrics probably would take care of that little problem, too.

    With the Rats, you have to anticipate the unusual. No two songs sound alike (which is nice), and there is this cool feel that does, indeed, make me nostalgic for college summer nights where the only thing that needed to be done was mass consumption of intoxicants. And no hangover the next day, either.

    The Prime Directive Cannot Be Denied
    (Wagon Train)
    reviewed in issue #114, 7/15/96

    The sign over the Rats of Unusual Size entrance reads "Leave your brain at the door". I'm happy to comply, but even so, this set has a few more clunkers than usual.

    The usual guests and malcontents show up in various spots (that John S. Hall track is #17, part of the "official bonus portion" of the CD), and the music is pretty derivative and lame. Of course, I could write that about anywhere. The point with any Rats album is fun.

    And I'm afraid some of the tunes (the "Shatner Rap" in particular) sound far too crafted to be taken as goofy humor. Yes, sometimes stupid stuff just can't pass for clever, even in a world ruled by Beavis and Butthead.

    Kinda a bummer, really. I generally like what the Rats do, but this effort seems just a bit too forced. Some nice moments ("Aargh!!!" and the weird Sesame Street intro in the bonus parts), but a lot of stuff that sounds suspiciously like filler.

    Raw Power
    Too Tough to Burn
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Italian thrash. Nothing special here, except that I do like the song whose only lyric seems to be "fuck". An interesting concept.

    The CD mastering is pretty low, so maybe that had something to do with it. This is so... mundane.

    Karl tells me these guys are legendary in Italy. Take that for what it's worth.

    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    My second experience with Raw Power, and I like it about as much as the first time.

    Pretty banal hardcore, very strangely recorded. Too Tough to Burn sounded to me like a joke, and I can't exactly say why. Fight is no joke, but it isn't very interesting, either. And the drums sound like, I don't know, something other than drums. The snare sound is so bizarre I can barely explain. Why don't you just listen?

    Ten years ago, Raw Power had a few good songs and a decent rep. This is the last prayer of the dying. Best just kick the corpse.

    Amy Ray
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    If you recognize Daemon Records as the external expression of Amy Ray's musical interests, then perhaps this album won't surprise you. Hell, if you've picked up her first solo album (Stag), you'd know she doesn't hew to the expected Indigo Girls vibe when she steps out on her own.

    Nonetheless, the gentle (yet punchy) pop feel of this album is somewhat surprising. If Stag was something of a dagger, Prom is more of a stiletto--sneakier and even more deadly. Ray's lyric focus is even tighter (once she gets a hold of a subject, she wrings it dry), and often a line or two would strike me a song or two down the line.

    The subject of this album, most often, is high school. In particular, how difficult high school can be for anyone who is perceived as different. Ray tends to focus on sexual orientation, of course, but it's not hard to insert any other sort of social distinction into these scenarios and find a mirror of your own experience.

    Damn if we aren't all the same, after all. I know, it's a hackneyed and sometimes tiresome message. But Ray makes it sound fresh and new, and these songs are simply joys to hear. I skipped my own prom (one of those "different" things, I guess), so I'm happy to attend this one some 18 years down the line.

    James Ray
    Best of James Ray's Performance & Gangwar
    (Fifth Colvmn)
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    The press and liner notes don't seem to agree on some facts, but here's what I have divined: This disc contains songs from a couple albums released on Merciful Records, which, of course, is the original Sisters of Mercy UK imprint. Andrew Eldritch did some of the producing. Gives you an idea of what's to come.

    Gothic-influenced pop industrial stuff. Some really long tunes, too. Apparently there are four more James Ray albums coming out through Fifth Colvmn here in the U.S. I assume they're re-issues.

    Ray avoids some of the dreary excesses that later Sisters stuff got bogged down in, and simply cranks out quite a few moody yet catchy tunes. Good enough for me. Sure, he's taking whole pages right out of the Sisters' book, but if Eldritch has signed off on it, I guess he doesn't mind.

    Another one of those "if that's your thing" deals, but I know there's a bunch of Sisters fans out there, and Ray replicates that concept pretty well without too much silliness. A fine execution of someone else's original concept.

    Razed in Black
    Shrieks, Laments and Anguished Cries
    reviewed in issue #103, 3/18/96

    Hawaii's biggest industrial band. Sez so much, eh?

    Of course, getting help from Birmingham 6 (who remixed "Cyberium" and mastered the disc along with Lene Reidel) can't be a bad thing.

    Rather techno oriented for such a heavy sound (bringing to mind FLA more than once), Razed in Black does a good job of building the sound in each song to a fever pitch. Using the same song construction can get repetitive and dull, but RiB does a decent job of manipulating the process and switching gears when necessary.

    The key to this is the great sound achieved by Reidel and Birmingham 6. The tones are sharp, and the music cuts through space like a razor. No mush allowed. And even with this edgy sound, RiB still conveys a wide range of emotions.

    A cool disc to explore. Plenty of good songs; a fun trip through the techno side of the industrial dance sound.

    Damaged 2xCD
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    The double CD notation is a bit of a misnomer. There's the album, and then there's another disc of alternate takes. It's cool and all--almost like an instant remix collection--but don't expect a second set of new songs.

    That's alright. Razed in Black sets the gothic new wave industrial disco sound on fire. This stuff is certifiably club-ready--wait, are there still dance clubs? Oh yeah. Back in civilized parts of the world.

    But enough about me. Razed in Black has an inerrent sense of melody and a knack for finding just the right moment to kick a song into anthem status. There are times when I wish I could get a little bit more from the folks; I think the sound is a wee bit restrained from time to time. But I think that might work better for the dance floor.

    I don't know if this stuff was programmed for the parquet. Doesn't really matter. That's where this stuff belongs. The tunes throb with life, and they're impossible to put away. Quite the infectious set.

    (Uncle Buzz)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    David Cooper Orton and James Sidlo have been trading tapes for five years. One of them would start a loop, the other would add a little something, then the first would drop in a little more and so forth. In the end, we get the 15 tracks on this disc.

    My description probably tipped you off, but you've gotta want to really listen to get into this album. Sidlo and Orton didn't send tapes back and forth across the Atlantic in order to craft three-minute pop songs, although the songs do average four minutes in length. You've just gotta love listening for the points of intersection, those places where the ideas cross and then pollinate entirely new thoughts.

    Yes, this is abstract fare. Often pretty, but decidedly without structure. Each little loop contains its own rules of physics, which is why it's always interesting to hear how the different pieces come together. The clash is rarely cataclysmic, but it's always intriguing.

    I know, some of you out there are calling me some kind of artsy-fartsy freaky music critic who only likes unlistenable music. Well, I think I've made the case for listening to this outstanding album. Thinking about music while you listen to it isn't that hard. In fact, it's damned enjoyable. Especially when two talents guys like Orton and Sidlo are purveying their ideas.

    I Am Alive and Well
    (We Be Friends)
    reviewed 3/17/16

    Reaches is Justin Randel, and once you know that it is hard to imagine these chilly techno burners as anything but a one-man effort. But if that knowledge is blocked out, it's much easier to hear this as 1981-era Human League.

    The icy-cool melodies, the almost rigid up-and-down beats, the ethereal vocals--all of it takes me back. I was a pop kid in the 70s (my taste ran to Broadway musicals and movie scores, which probably explains a lot), but a move to New Mexico in 1982 changed all that. Among the first pop songs I fell in love with was "Don't You Want Me."

    It's a great song, but the album is something else altogether. Experimental electronic pop was all the rage in Europe, but it hadn't landed on these shores with much fanfare. Dare changed that. I don't think Justin Randel is old enough to have experienced this the same way I did (Indeed, the other obvious touch point here is Beck, which might well have served as his intro to these sounds), but he's playing in the same pool nonetheless.

    Does he advance the ideals stipulated by his influences? I don't hear much of that. Randel seems to have found a sound that works for his needs, and he sure knows how to knock it out of the park.

    So if you're looking for something completely fresh and new, Reaches is not your bag. However, if you are in the market for some stellar electronic pop that doesn't pander, this should serve nicely.

    Reaching Quiet
    In the Shadow of the Living Room
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Comprised of the team Odd Nosdam and Why?, Reaching Quiet is a suburban symphony in four parts. If you want to look at it that way. I do, so that's how I'm gonna talk about it.

    As the liners say, this puppy was recorded back at the boys' ancestral homes after said artists dropped out of art school. I knew there was a reason for such self-indulgent, meandering stuff. These guys were mooching off their parents and goofing around.

    That said, there's a whole lot of cool sounds here. You kinda have to mine for them; the songs are decidedly incoherent, and don't even ask about the album as a whole (there are a few themes, but they're stated and restated so unevenly as to be unrecognizable most of the time). Sometimes that's just how it goes.

    The greatness here isn't in the finished project, but in the pieces. In general, this puppy sounds like it was made by a couple of guys too cool for school. Except... there are so many wonderful beats and sample constructions here that I really have to recommend it. Weird? Incomplete? An utter mess? Yep. And yet, most intriguing.

    The Real McKenzies
    Loch'd & Loaded
    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    Pop punk with bagpipes. Quite the novelty. I have to admit, it does sound cool. Even if the songs themselves are, for the most part utterly silly.

    There are a few nods to "real" Scottish and Irish music, but I hear more American country than anything else--all this done up right in the pop punk style, of course.

    I can't get past the novelty thing. This is fun music, certainly, but eminently forgettable. Even with the bagpipes. I dunno, maybe I need to listen a lot more or something.

    Maybe not. When I got done with the disc, I wasn't quite tired of the stuff. But I didn't feel like playing it over and over, either. If there was a bit more to the music, perhaps the bagpipe element would fit in a bit better. The Real McKenzies aren't bad at all. They just don't inspire me.

    Dana Reason Trio
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    A trio of piano (Reason), bass (Dominic Duval) and percussion (John Heward). Reason attacks the piano with the manic power of a tornado and, somewhat counterintuitively, the subtlety of a breeze.

    So what we have here are energetic pieces that fly all over the place and yet still manage to convey deep feeling. Reason's strengths are in the deftness (and softness) of her technical virtuosity. She's not an exceptionally lyrical player, though she carries off the more gentles passages quite well.

    Energy is what this is all about. Reason and her mates have a collective spirit that really fires these pieces. When that sort of collaborative magic appears, everything seems to flow that much better. These are souls in similar orbits, and they complement each other very well.

    Most impressive. The absolute absence of formality on this album ought to endear it to many who don't think they like jazz. The exceptional compositions and playing will impress just about anyone who does like jazz. This is one of those rare albums that ought to work for just about anyone.

    Reconnaissance Fly
    Off By One EP
    reviewed 10/20/16

    I've got this category on my iTunes called "Unclassifiable." It really should be "crazy shit," but I try not to judge. Although, in all honesty, a lot of my favorite music falls into the "crazy shit" category. Reconnaissance Fly is definitely unclassifiable, but it is hardly crazy. I love it to pieces anyway.

    Be forewarned: the band roams in a frighteningly high number of regions, and at least one of those will really piss you off. There is an improvisational nature to most of these pieces (the ones involving poetry or nonsense vocals are sometimes called "spongs," though I will stick to more conventional nomenclature), but the final result has been boiled down and reduced to a tight weave.

    Is it jazz? In terms of instrumentation, yes. In terms of sound? Sometimes.

    Is it prog? Sometimes.

    Is it experimental? Sometimes. I'm sticking with unclassifiable, though to be honest, ascribing a genre to someone's music is probably the least necessary part of any analysis. And with its unusual instrumentation, song structure and general attitude, Reconnaissance Fly is more conducive to analysis than most bands.

    This one hits the mind slower than the bloodstream, though I must admit the loopy prog jazz did tickle my mind pretty quickly. If you're open to the unclassifiable, these folks more than fit the bill. Out there, and yet accessible. Happy times.

    Red #9
    Red #9 EP
    (Johnny on the Spot)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Solid, rough riffage punctuated by nasal vocals. Kinda like if June Panic fronted an alt-rock band. Does that make any sense?

    It does to me. These songs do not take the expected paths, either in terms of riff construction or key changes. Rather, they ramble around in a most endearing fashion. In other words, they're fun to hear.

    There's this odd little post-grunge thing running around, and sometimes it even surfaces. Part of that is the primitive production, but part of it is intentional. I like the way these folks write and play. Red #9 does need to be a bit more consistent (sometimes the rambling falls off the page), but with some live work, a lot of that could be worked out. This is a cool set.

    Red Animal War
    Breaking in an Angel
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    There's a pretty heavy emphasis on the strident guitar style familiar to longtime emo fans. Red Animal War takes that insistent sound and melds it to a kinda proggy pop vision, creating something new and yet comfortingly familiar.

    I get the prog feel from the way these guys play the tunes so precisely. The lead guitar and bass do trip around as well, but my reaction is mostly to the technical approach to the tunes.

    The production sound is sharp, but not on edge. There's enough of a dullness, particularly in the rhythm guitar work, to keep the intricate playing from detracting from the humanity of the songs themselves. Which is good, considering the intimate nature of what's going on here.

    An involved and demanding set of songs. Red Animal War doesn't make things particularly easy for the listener, but there are some obvious points of access. Like I noted earlier, there's a good mix of the old and the new, spun out into a fine synthesis. Intriguing.

    split EP with Slowride
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    The artwork is a series of photos from 11/22/63. Another one of those "famous" dates. I'm not sure what the Kennedy assassination has to do with the songs here, but whatever. The art sure does look cool.

    Red Animal War focuses on the rhythmic side of emo. Indeed, its exceptional focus on a tight center really impresses me. This particular style always seems to invoke passion for me. Slowride, on the other hand, is all about thick riffage, power pop and soaring anthems.

    Three songs each in an alternating format, and the sound counterpoint that arises is quite refreshing. I like both bands equally in this context, and the differences point out each act's strengths. This is the sorta disc that gives the split EP a good name.

    Black Phantom Crusaders
    (Deep Elm)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    The third album from these boys. Recorded at the increasingly renowned Red House Studios in Lawrence, Kan., the pieces here are grand is scope and sweeping in nature.

    Emo for rock gods. I've liked previous RAW outings--a lot. But this album is simply head and shoulders above the rest. Not unlike labelmates (and Red House vets) Appleseed Cast, these boys are out to play music. Period.

    And so while it might seem pretentious to include sax, xylophone or piano, these songs are fully orchestrated in that way. If a song calls for a little extra, the requisite fix is acquired. But this doesn't sound like a series of hodgepodges. Rather, this album is a collection of complete thoughts. Full expression is the key.

    Pretty? Sometimes. Frightening? That, too. Utterly awe-inspiring? Yeah. Red Animal War has always been awfully damned good. The boys just put together their first truly great recording. Do not miss.

    Red Aunts
    #1 Chicken
    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Epitaph has always meant good punk with pop overtones. But there have been sloppy exceptions; L7 and early NOFX come to mind. And you know how those stories have come along.

    So there may be hope for the Red Aunts. The music is sloppy, the same chords relentlessly pursued, the production a mess. But if you can get past all of the crap, there are decent cores of songs in there. Alright, it takes a little work to clear the brush. Don't blame me.

    Maybe the Red Aunts will clean up their act and join the respectable face of pop punk. Or maybe they'll continue to spew venom and vomit with aplomb. Perhaps that's what punk is really about, after all.

    reviewed in issue #117, 8/26/96

    The second installment of the legend of the Red Aunts. Four women who don't compromise, period.

    My brothers bought them beer at a show in Albuquerque last year, and the boys seem to have really picked up a fascination with the band. I haven't had the luck to see the Aunts live, which may be why I'm not bowled over by the discs.

    Where #1Chicken was rough and greasy, though, Saltbox is lean and clean. I like this version better, though there are some spooky Go-Go's moments. Still, no one can deny that the Aunts have the true punk spirit, whatever that means these days.

    And that does have its own merits, after all.

    Ghetto Blaster
    reviewed in issue #155, 3/23/98

    The sound has evolved once again. Many times, actually. The Red Aunts still rely on stripped down punk ravers, but these songs are so much more cohesive than what the band has released in the past. Musical anarchy has merged into an uneasy truce between definable structure and the impulse to turn tail and scream "fuckit!"

    Playing to the band's strength, the songs feature as little instrumentation as possible, often relying on a single riff or drum line. The melodic ideas are simple, but more importantly, they're easily identified. No more cataleptic romps through the vagaries of "true punk spirit". This stuff is, dare I say it, sophisticated?

    Aw, hell, now I've screwed everything up. But then, I wasn't expecting a Red Aunts album that was this commercial. Now, everything's relative. They're not going to head over to the studio and back up Celine Dion any time soon. But then again, the carefree days of random music violence seem to be in the past.

    It's always interesting to hear a band find a newfound joy of craft and focus, no matter how greasy the sound remains. Amazing what some serious songwriting work can do. Most impressively, though, the Red Aunts keep alive their appreciation of an unrestrained performance style. Yeah, this is far technically superior to anything that has come before. But the excitement level remains high, thus perpetuating the legend.

    Red Card
    Red Card
    (Useless Chords)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Blistering noisy rock, a screeching buzzsaw of riffage and screams. Sometimes only the best will do.

    If these songs lost their focus for even a moment, they would be shapeless squalls of feedback and distortion. But no. The rhythmic center always holds, even as the sound spirals quickly out of control.

    The most interesting thing about Red Card is how much acoustic guitar it uses. These aren't throbbing, massive songs, but rather small, tightly-compacted pieces. The craft is well-hidden, but it's there nonetheless.

    A lean, mean set of tunes. Red Card never lets up the intensity, and the result is an album of pure adrenaline.

    The Red Channels
    The Red Channels
    reviewed in issue #243, July 2003

    The Red Channels are Elaina Azari and Ryan Block. They don't really try to sound like a band; the pieces are quite obviously assembled. This lack of sleight-of-hand actually helps to illustrate their songs quite nicely.

    In effect, the production requires listeners to consciously assimilate the songs in their heads. And since the construction can get a wee bit loopy and tangential, it's not a bad idea to give folks a bit of a heads up. "Hey! This is what's coming."

    But man, what cool ideas. Azari's voice isn't particularly memorable, but she colors the songs quite well. The rest of the orchestration (a word I don't use lightly) is impeccable as well. The craft worked well in this case.

    Just goes to show that there are a million ways to make cool music. The Red Channels shows its cards at every turn, and yet it still manages to surprise just as often. A wonderful little gem.

    Red Clover Ghost
    Red Clover Ghost
    (Good Soil Records)
    reviewed in issue #342, November 2012

    Gibb and Clint Cockrum hail from western Maryland, but their sound is more western United States. This heavily folk-inflected, mega-harmonized americana sounds more Oregon than Hagerstown. But, you know, we live in a connected world.

    I'm just having a little fun with that. What really strikes me here is the almost omnipresence of the harmonies. They're everywhere, and yet they never get cloying. After a song or two, they cease to be unusual, though they certainly remain remarkable.

    These rollicking songs are driven by guitars and banjo, with the occasional bass and drums. Largely, though, it's easy to imagine the brothers simply sitting around and setting these songs to tape. Kinda cool.

    Back porch musings at their finest. These brothers have a knack for writing and performance, and this album highlights both quite well. A fine debut.

    Red Giant
    Ultra Magnetic Glowing Sound
    reviewed in issue #175, 1/25/99

    Another fuzzball from the kind folks at Cambodia. More of a Black Sabbath influence here, though the music does move along at times. Definitely what you might call "good bud" music, in any case.

    And it works. Nothing particularly innovative or creative about this approach, but it's good enough to make an impact. Good tuneage for the afterglow.

    Alright, alright, so the boys wallow in excess just a bit. Not egregiously, mind you, but just enough to provide that layer of comfortable cheez. Something nice to lie down on after a hard day's work.

    Oh, yeah, all that and some seriously apocalyptic riffage. Lots of air guitar moments, if you don't watch yerself. But then, a little hair dancing can be a good thing.

    The Red Krayola
    The Red Crayola
    (Drag City-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    If you remember the Mayo Thompson re-issue from earlier in the summer, you should be prepared.

    Having been around for over 25 years, The Red Krayola is the main vehicle of Thompson's muse. He gets a few friends together and they play some very odd music. In years past it might have been called "psychedelic pop", I suppose, but that term has mutated over the years, and I don't think that's quite right now.

    I think I like "eclectic pop" better. The Red Krayola folks turn traditional rhythms ad melodies on their heads, exposing them as the true opiates of the masses. It can be difficult listening to an album with so many discordant statements, but as you know, I like that sort of thing.

    Anything that makes me think this much is certainly fine. And if this music doesn't haunt your mind like a pissed off secret, then you didn't listen hard enough the first time. Like it says, "Play Extremely Loud."

    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Somewhere, Mayo Thompson is the epitome of cheesy pop. Just not in this universe.

    This is the latest installment of Thompson's well off-kilter pop sensibilities, as realized with a plethora of friends. The best known, most likely, is Jim O'Rourke, though the names Tom Watson and Lynn Johnston also jump out (though I doubt the golfer and cartoonist, respectively, are the persons involved).

    The thing about the Red Krayola (and Thompson's other work) I like the best is that with a subtle shift, this stuff would be slopped up by the Counting Crowes set. Now, I didn't just compare Hazel to such dreck, but I'm just saying a genius can do wonders with subtlety. And certainly Mayo Thompson qualifies there.

    Now, I could compare this easily to Roky Erickson, though Thompson generally sticks to more acoustic and sparse arrangements. The concept of mordant psychedelia, though, is a common thread. Indeed, to fully appreciate this music, you really have to separate yourself from this particular plane and reach out toward the sound. This doesn't require drugs (self-hypnosis works much better), but I suppose they wouldn't necessarily hurt.

    Hell, the stuff sounds pretty damned amazing even if you're just passively listening. Of course, this is participatory music and the muse demands no less from you, the listener. Hear and obey, O minions of music.

    Live 1967 2xCD
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98

    Not the Red Krayola that we've heard in recent years. Well, yeah, it sorta is, but the sounds are somewhat different. Lately (in the past five years or so), Mayo Thompson's reformed Red Krayola has trafficked in eclectic pop, but for the most part, stuff that is recognizable as pop. This stuff can only be recognized as slightly controlled chaos.

    I can't imagine sitting at a festival and listening to this racket. Now, I dig it in my house, when I'm somewhat prepared for the wild , semi-controlled feedback lines emanating from the guitar, but if I was sitting down at a folk festival in 1967, I might have the same reaction as some of the crowd (who can be heard quite clearly often enough) who wailed or hurled insults in response.

    Self-indulgent is one easy way to put it. Particularly the first, 26-minute track on the first disc. The other two pieces on that disc, recorded without an audience, are more crafted (relatively, anyway) and do kinda resemble some of the latter-day Krayola work. Of course, the live (in front of an audience) pieces on the second disc are as chaotic as the first piece. Nothing like a few people to encourage "artistic experimentation". Or something like that.

    A real trip. Seriously. Sitting around the casa, I like the more adventurous stuff, the self-indulgent exercises in sonic mayhem. But I sure wouldn't have liked it had I been in the audience. Just a temperament thing. These are jams to end all jams, in both the good and the bad senses. Oh, the humanity!

    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    The usual large conglomeration of fine folks backing up Mayo Thompson (though Jim O'Rourke is on holiday), producing the usual twisted Red Krayola fare.

    On this disc, Mayo reaches back and takes some songs of his from yesteryear and gives them a new spin. The sound is much more electronically dominated. I know, that was always there, but it's like the issuance of those old Moebius-Conny Plank-Mayo tapes inspired the guy to dig into that side of things more.

    Who knows? I've given up trying to guess anything when it comes to the Red Krayola. Much better to just sit there and let the looniness wash over like a comfy blanket. There is method to the madness, but madness it is. Music for the discerning lunatic. I'm happy to count myself among those folks.

    This sounds like a work in progress. all Red Krayola discs do, though, and I can handle that. Just another missal to the warped masses. I'm already craving another hit.

    See also Brise-Glace, Gastr del Sol, Moebius, Conny Plank and Mayo Thompson, Jim O'Rourke, Mayo Thompson and Yona-Kit.

    Red Level Eleven
    Fort Seduction
    reviewed in issue #225, January 2002

    The sticker on the cover connects Red Level Eleven to Sonic Youth (early, I'm guessing) and the Pixies. Not hard to hear. There is a definite Surfer Rosa vibe here. I never complain about such things.

    But I hear a sophistication here that rises above those specific influences. While adhering to the "maul and pop" theory, these folks also incorporate a few ideas from the Chicago noise workshop and then drape relatively intricate vocal work over the throb.

    The overall concoction is intoxicating, a bare-bones rumble which can't quite hide some cool ideas lurking in the subconscious. Yeah, the stuff is noisy (it sounds great with the levels pinned), but don't let that fool you. There's some serious thought going on.

    "Crafted yet unrestrained" is something of a theme of albums I've reviewed this time out. Red Level Eleven does it as well as anyone, and in its own style as well. Most impressive.

    Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
    Blasting Off
    reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94

    I've heard some of their earlier stuff, and this pales a bit. General Brit snyth pop (though the real drummer is appreciated) done rather well. But the oddly muted production (the samples are all but completely buried) makes some of the songs come off as mellow Sisters of Mercy stuff.

    The saving grace is good songwriting. These folk have always had a head for fine pop, and it has served them well again. The at-times demo quality of the production is a hindrance, but the quality does manage to will out.

    Generation-The Best Of
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    This is the second greatest hits package, as Smashed Hits took care of the (real) early years.

    Those unfamiliar with RLYL will compare the band to such contemporaries as Depeche Mode or Sisters of Mercy. But the Lorries can legitimately claim first right to the Goth-pop sound.

    This collection gets it pretty much right. Mostly singles, a couple b-sides and some nice album tracks. If you heard the recent reissue of Blasting Off (a 1991 release) and thought it rather bland, dig into this set and you'll find the answer. It is a shame that entropy seems to affect musicians and artists just as surely as it does machinery. But you can always keep hold of the finest brilliance.

    Red Radio Flyer
    Gettin' Somewhere
    (Mother West)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    It's weird, but I've heard a lot of good country-rock bands from New York. Red Radio Flyer is one of them, though it hews more to rock than country. It is always a trip to hear a wistful description of Manhattan delivered with a twang.

    Tightly written and loosely performed, the songs here are replete with style and flair. The easy-going delivery simply helps to drive the great songs into my brain.

    Also dead-on is the production, which adds a bit of sheen to a fairly sparse sound. None of the instruments are obscured, and plenty of emotion can be heard in the playing. Just the way you want it to be.

    There's not a note here that rings false. Every song is solid, and all shine brightly. Like I said, I don't know what it is about New York, but I'm not gonna complain about the music. That would be a sin.

    The Red Romance
    The Red Romance EP
    reviewed in issue #295, April 2008

    There can be no doubt: This issue is dedicated to all forms of 80s pop. The Red Romance plays that tuneful, organic side of new wave, kinda like Joe Jackson circa I'm the Man. The choruses are more latter-day OMD or Tears for Fears, but the guitars are high in the mix. Psychedelic Furs aren't a bad reference, either, though the vocals are far to clean to make that comparison perfect.

    These boys have tapped into a line of pure pop music, and it just so happens that this style was probably the last great expression of the form. Tightly-crafted, played with style and produced with a smooth hand. This stuff is polished to perfection.

    Which is exactly what's called for, of course. The key to 80s pop is that "blissed out" moment. The Red Romance hits it five times out of five. I'd like to hear if the folks can do it on a full-length. Then I'll be truly impressed.

    Red Sammy
    A Cheaper Kind of Love Song
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Baltimore boy Adam Trice indulges the whiskey-soaked side of his personality with his "graveyard country" band Red Sammy. These songs feature Trice's raspy growl, sloppy slide guitar and some of the more arresting songs I've heard in quite a while.

    These pieces don't so much prickle the ears as inhabit the brain. Trice uses his music to bring out the flavor of his vocals, and the rest of Red Sammy seems wired in to the intensely loose groove.

    This sort of music has to sound offhand, even if it isn't. Trice certainly put in his work on the writing side, but he and the band play like I imagine they would on stage. There are flubs galore, but they're like blue notes: They flavor the stew.

    And what a tasty dish! A lot of folks overthink their approach to americana and such. Red Sammy simply plays the songs. And damned if that isn't exactly the right way to go.

    these poems with kerosene
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    This time around, Adam Trice has hooked up with University of Baltimore professor Steve Mantele, who contributes poems--some with music, some without. The whole music/poetry thing is a bit pretentious, but it works pretty well in this instance, especially when accompanied by slide guitar. Mantele's poems are short and sharp, and they never overstay their welcome. Trice's roughhewn country blues are as loose and graceful as ever, and his growl is warm and inviting. Another fine set.

    Creeps & Characters
    reviewed 12/17/15

    Adam Trice has always been at the center of Red Sammy. His vocals range from gravelly to a straight-out growl, and he's always ruminating about something intriguing. But I've also loved hearing John Decker and his National guitar.

    Decker is no longer part of the outfit, but Trice's hard-bitten songwriting remains. At times the electric lead guitar work apes the old National sound, but most of the time there's a leaner, more distorted feel. The effect gives a different finish, but these are still Trice's songs.

    Defining this outfit has always been a challenge, and the heaver rock emphasis on this album complicates that further. When things really get going, Trice has a bit of the old Steve Earle flowing. But eventually, Red Sammy does what it does best: Dress up the urban blues in a coat of many colors.

    This album is a modest evolution, but one that hasn't put a crimp on the basics that have made Red Sammy one of my favorite Maryland bands. Settling in with a Red Sammy album is like falling into conversation with an old friend. After a minute, it's like you've never been apart.

    Red Sammy & Some Charming Trespassers
    True Believer
    reviewed 9/30/16

    Red Sammy is the outlet for singer/songwriter Adam Trice. He's been growling around Baltimore for ages, and each album tends to veer in a different direction. On this set, Trice is rejoined by John Decker and his resonator guitar, a pairing that always makes me smile.

    Heading a bit more into straight americana, Trice has also recruited Sarah Kennedy on violin and Julia Wen on cello to provide a fuller acoustic sound. Kennedy and Wen may be classically trained, but they adapt well to the folk settings in these songs. They provide a wonderful depth.

    Trice is not content to stand still, and I think that need to explore and experiment has probably retarded his reknown. But that restlessness is what drives his songs, and it's one of the reasons I like hearing just about anything he sends. Each album is another section of a larger tapestry.

    This may be one of the more accessible Red Sammy albums--and they're all pretty easy going down. Trice is in good voice, and his arrangements here are stark, yet warm. His voice plays off the resonator better than ever. If you haven't given Red Sammy a spin yet, this is a fine place to start.

    Red Stars Theory
    Life in a Bubble Can Be Beautiful
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Taking what can only be described as a classical approach, Red Stars Theory likes to posit a series of themes and variations in each song, adding some vocals almost as an afterthought. Certainly accessible to fans of bands like Seam or June of 44, but still well outside the mainstream consciousness.

    The songs themselves sound like they flirt with abandoning consciousness at times. The pieces exist almost independently of each other, passing close to the center every once in a while and allowing their gravities to influence the song for a few seconds.

    Complex and contemplative (Geez, I hope I've gotten that much across), with lots of points for cerebral access. Music like this encourages the mind to work in ways that it is not accustomed to doing. That, of course, is a compliment.

    A disc like this puts me in a complimentary mood. There's so much wonderment floating past, I can only grab but a snatch or two. To be honest, I'm pretty happy with that small amount. I know there will be more.

    Red Stars Theory EP
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Think of this as simply an extension of last year's full length. The first track, "And Often Off Again," is the unscrambled version of "An Alarm Goes Off." The second track, "Our Nearest Neighbors," was also recorded at the same time as the album. There are also remixes of "Parts Per Million" and "Boring Ghosts."

    Red Stars Theory is not only contemplative, it ruminates over even the smallest musical details. This might explain the presence of this EP. Apparently, a few things still needed to be said about the first album. These are, indeed, new thoughts, and they're about as intriguing as the ones that came before.

    These guys require rapt attention from a listener. The challenge, at times, can be steep, but the rewards are immense. Get lost, and you just might get found.

    Lisa Redfern
    reviewed 9/28/16

    Lisa Redfern is a music lifer. She does about everything she can in order to satisfy her habit. She plays weddings, gives lessons, and once sang in an Andrews Sisters tribute act. She's written church music, children's music, "regular" folk music and a lot more. She's got 11 albums, but this is her first album of originals since 2002.

    Redfern's dad Bob was a part of the whole Pete Seeger scene in the 50s and 60s (she was born while the family lived in Takoma Park, which also happens to be where A&A currently resides), and these songs are firmly aligned in a straight line from that old-school, mannered folk tradition. Redfern sings with a precision that reminds me of Joan Baez, and her songs are cut gems. They're earnest and predictable, but astonishingly charming as well.

    When I say predictable, I simply mean that Redfern doesn't deviate much at all from the particular strain of folk tradition that seems to have defined pretty much her entire life. I'm intimately familiar with this sound, and she fits so completely that it's hard to remind myself that so few people write and play music like this these days. Of course, all I have to do is head over to the annual Takoma Park Folk Festival, and I can hear dozens of folks who will attempt to put the lie to that statement.

    Redfern uses metaphor nicely, and on songs like "My New Bottom Line" (which includes phrases like "You've gotta make peace with your cheeks") she shows a welcome silly sense of humor. Despite the ultra-crafted nature of these songs, she doesn't take herself too seriously. Ultimately, those small cracks show the humanity of her songs.

    This is not for everyone. It is old-fashioned Yankee acoustic folk music. There's not a lot of Appalachia or the South here (except for a bit of banjo now and again), and there's pretty much no Western anything. That's okay by me. Redfern has had a few decades to figure out who she is, and this album is a solid statement. Upright, upstanding and uplifting.

    Dewey Redman
    Dewey Redman in London
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    As a member of the Ornette Coleman Orchestra, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, a Keith Jarrett Quintet and Pat Metheny's band (all at the right times, of course), Dewey Redman should have no fear for his reputation. And on this live set, he plays just that way: Confident and willing to take chances.

    And for Redman, taking chances means playing a standard like "The Very Thought of You" in addition to the bop and free jazz pieces that cling to him. And you know what? He plays it all with verve and excitement. Music is still essential.

    Which is the trick, of course. Redman is ever intense, ripping a huge chunk out of a gorgeous ballad like "Portrait in Black & White" between a couple of his compositions which lean more to the avant garde. Despite the changes in styles, everything still makes sense.

    The key is the challenge, the drive to create music that speaks to the soul. Redman hasn't forgotten about that. After all this time, he's still aching to play, aching to be heard. And that desire is key.

    The Redwood Plan
    Green Light Go
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/10/13

    Throttling rhythms and tempos that are just a hair too fast. The Redwood Plan plays indie pop on speed (not exactly thrash, but closer than you might think), and the songs certainly do leave a listener breathless. What I find interesting is that the songs get more complex when the vocals come in. I like that, even though it can get distracting. Definitely an acquired taste, but a fun one.

    Reel Big Fish

    split 7"
    (Mojo Records)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    An original and a cover each from a couple of new wave ska bands.

    Goldfinger's tune, "Superman" is passable ska. Nothing spectacular. And the cover of Squeeze's "Up the Junction" sounds just like the original, with very little ska additions.

    Reel Big Fish covers "Take on Me" with some aplomb. Fairly fun, if predictable. "In the Pit" is at least somewhat amusing, if nothing more. At least the horns have some oomph.

    Neither band impressed me much, though Reel Big Fish definitely has the edge. Nothing Goldfinger did moved me at all. There's better ska to be had elsewhere.

    Eclectic Soul
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    There was a time a ways back (say, 1968 to 1973 or so) that all soul was eclectic. James Brown doing his thing, Marvin Gaye doing his, Al Green doing his, Sly Stone doing his, etc. Then from 1972 to 1976, Stevie Wonder took all of that and said, "This is soul." Meaning just about the entire rock and blues experience.

    Reese incorporates rock, funk, folk and more into his version of "eclectic soul." Most of the songs have a vaguely funky drum machine underpinning, allowing the other elements to float freely above.

    And it works. Unlike, say, Lenny Kravitz, Reese doesn't go for overkill. He allows emotion (dare we say, real soul?) to creep into his voice and music. And he doesn't seem to agree with the notion that volume equals power.

    More power to him. I'm not sure the mainstream is ready for eclectic soul, but that's what some reviewers said when Music of My Mind first showed (some of the same reviewers revised their estimations when Stevie broke big). In any case, Reese is ready for anything. He's got the chops and the vision to go as far as he wants.

    The Shape of Punk to Come
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    Another Swedish import, though certainly nothing like Millencolin. For starters, Refused broke up recently. So no tour. No next album. All there is, is right here. The disc at hand.

    There aren't a lot of punk bands I'd call innovative. I mean, musically innovative, not simply creative for the genre. The Ex album I reveiwed in the last issue would certainly fit, and whatever you want to call Iceburn certainly fits as well. Past that? Well...

    This just might qualify. Refused isn't so much concerned with its style of music (which vaguely resembles hardcore at times) as much as what the music itself does. This is a punk band with a standup bass player. The songs often wander off into unusual musical territory. Not rock, not jazz, not anything I've really heard before. That's pretty impressive.

    Remember Rodan? Well, that's the closest reference I can come up with. A visionary set of songs. Truly, one of the great rock and roll albums. If, of course, it is rock and roll at all.

    The New Noise Theology EP
    (Burning Heart-Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #206, 10/9/00

    Sometime last year, I was in a record shop. This really cool, loud music played. I knew the band, but couldn't think of it. Asked the clerk what it was, and he gave me ten minutes of a ran on how pissed off he was that the Refused had broken up.

    Of course. No other hardcore band sounded anything like the Refused. Elements of noise, electronic manipulation and tight-wire politics fused together into a seamless sonic attack. Fucking brilliant is what it was.

    So anyway, this 1998 EP (which includes a remix of "Refused Are Fucking Dead") must stand as a final will and testament. Needless to say, it performs the job with reckless and stunning abandon. More than appropriate, and more than adequate. Simply put, a must.

    See also The (International) Noise Conspiracy.

    Reggie "B" & the Jizz Wailin' Y'a' Doggies
    Fool's Paradise
    (Plan 10)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    Funk, blues and country-tinged rock that would have fit in real well in the late 70s, when bands like Supertramp and Fleetwood Mac used the same formula to great effect.

    Today, it sounds kinda dated. Reggie Bannister has a nice touch for songwriting, though his voice is really too mundane to showcase this sound. It takes that little rasp, squeak or other vocal quirk to make this sort of material. Bannister doesn't have anything of the sort.

    Still, the playing is excellent, and while the production leaves the overall sound a bit thin, it's adequate. Yeah, the songs are good, but they need to be punched up a bit by whoever performs them. This is just a bit too innocuous.

    Bannister is lost in time, which doesn't help his chances, either. Twenty years ago, a major label might have packaged him with a singer and a band and done something. Probably won't happen today.

    The Regrets
    New Directions: Results Beat Boasts
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Formerly Vitreous Humor (with a change at bass). The reason for the name change is completely obvious. Where Vitreous Humor was a full-blown pop outfit, capable of blowing the roof out of an awesome hook, the Regrets are an eclectic emo band, relying on musical and lyrical subtlety.

    This "new direction" isn't bad, but I wasn't expecting it. I really liked Vitreous Humor, and it's gonna take me a few moments to collect myself.

    (a few moments pass)

    I don't like this style quite so much, but the inerrring ear for fine music remains. Much more indescribable than before, the Regrets are, indeed, just what the fine folks at Crank! purport: an original rock band. I like that.

    I shouldn't have doubted. This is fine stuff, if a bit less accessible than before. Then again, perhaps limited access is better, after all.

    See also Vitrous Humor.

    Jeff Reichman
    Human Comedy
    reviewed in issue #138, 7/7/97

    Sweet, simple pop music with a bit of a bite. The sound is timeless, thanks to the occasional overlaid organ, and the three songs are well-written and highly evocative.

    Reichman's voice is a bit unsteady at times, but that quavering really helps provide an emotional connection. He really reminds me of one of my favorite bands, the Boorays. The guitar work is simplistic, but otherwise the songwriting style and general midtempo pacing are right in the same groove.

    Better production and some lead guitar work would probably help this material, but the basics are already present. Reichman has a good ear for songwriting. He knows when enough is enough and doesn't overreach. A skill that cannot be taught.

    reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95

    Boy, have I been waiting for this one.

    Out of the box, it leaped up towards the top of my chart. But still no disc. I finally get it, and no disappointment. Lean prog-metal that had a couple nods towards industrial death, but doesn't get hung up on technical jibberish.

    In other words, a sound right up-to-date in the 90s. Sure, most of the songs are quite long, but you're shorting yourself and the album if you stick to the two "radio-length" songs. Don't give in to the temptation. Cycle through the whole disc.

    Enough soapboxing. This album has impeccable production, every bit cleanly in place, just the right amounts of distortion at times, etc. No complaints.

    And the music? Quite inventive and adequately aggressive. Reign knows how to put together great songs, and that's what Embrace has. If you're as late as I am, don't let that stop you.

    Exit Clause
    reviewed in issue #98, 2/5/96

    I remember liking the last album, which had a few more European overtones and less emphasis on the sludgy trends currently hot in the U.S. Like their labelmates Wicked Maraya, this time out they get a lot more into the Pantallica style of riff work.

    And it doesn't click often enough to distress me. I'm not a big fan of anthems for anthems sake, and while the first album had some nice doomy moments, here Reign seems to have slowed to a dirge for no good reason. The performances and production are exemplary, and those help the album stick out the other shortcomings.

    What I really miss are the cool lead guitar lines that flowed through the first album. Nothing the band does here makes me excited at all. This is a real bummer.

    The Reign of Terror
    Sacred Ground
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    This is something of a first for me. An album by an American band recorded for an American label (Leviathan) but I'm reviewing it as an import for SPV. At least, that's what I think is going on here. Thing is, after listening to the disc, it only makes sense.

    The Reign of Terror plays anthemic technical melodic metal, the kinda stuff I like to call, um, Eurometal (though the press page calls it "U.S. power metal"--I wonder if this is one of those terms that changes midway across the Atlantic). It sells better over there. Most bands (American or otherwise) who play this kinda music do best in Europe. Which is too bad. 'Cause I'd like to hear more of it over here.

    The Reign of Terror does have a few American flourishes. There's a bit of the ol' glam grind in the rhythm guitars (reminds me a bit of early Dokken--and that doesn't bother me at all), and Michael Vescera does have something of a Yankee howl.

    Joe Stump's fluid and expressive guitar work defines the band. When he's on (writing-wise, I mean. His playing is damn near impeccable), the songs soar. And even on a couple of the lesser tracks, the band soldiers through well enough. Well worth the time.

    Problem Factory
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    Where to start. Somewhere in here punk, pop, grunge and some southern comfort harmonies merge into an album that seems to get heavier as it rolls along.

    Everything is tight as hell. I suspect a live show would certainly be a treat. I'd sure love to see one.

    As for where to stick them, I have a feeling they don't care. Most of the tracks are well-suited to a commercial metal show, and the others would fit well into an alternative format. Of course, on my old show I would have just played the whole thing.

    Don't judge this by the first tracks. The more this played, the more I got into it. And the first tracks are great; I just had to figure out where all this was coming from (an unfortunate curse).

    Get this. Play it. Loud.

    reviewed in issue #63, 9/30/94

    I got their first disc, Problem Factory, last year and figured these guys were heading for a big label soon. The disc was a nice chunk of pop-rock, with a few grunge and punk idea flitting around. And the guys seemed made-for-MTV (um, well, literally).

    But that didn't happen. This second disc is a little more accessible, but it also tries more. There are a couple of cheesy seventies mellow-type songs ("Slide On" most particularly) that make you wince, but then there are cool rave-ups like "100 times" that make you forget the bad stuff.

    The guys still haven't found a coherent musical voice, but they sure wander around in a pleasant way. Andre Comeau has the kind of voice that works best when he belts, so the half-whispered falsetto moments come off sounding really forced. But most of the time he is tearing up the mike, and the band has all the necessary chops to really kick out a song.

    I still think these boys are best suited to a big label with lots of lights and cameras, but as long as they are in my neighborhood, they can stay as long as they like.

    Ash Reiter
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    Ash Reiter takes the whole rootsy 60s pop thing (y'know, She & Him, etc.) and then spins even more confection. The scratchy instrumention only serves to endear more.

    The songs themselves ramble a bit; they would have never passed muster at the Brill Building. But that's okay. The languid feel to the hooks allows Reiter to put her own stamp on the sound.

    And when she feels like it, Reiter does tighten the ship. She never quite hits the bliss button, but I think that's intentional. The pop elements here are simply tools and not ends within themselves.

    Which leaves a more complex album than might seem on the surface. Reiter would be well-served to sharpen her writing craft just a bit, but she should never lose her off-handed feel. Quite the pretty scene.

    Relative Ash
    Our Time With You...
    (Island-Def Jam)
    reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00

    If you ever wondered what Earth Crisis would sound like if it decided to begin life as a Limp Bizkit cover band... well, Relative Ash is a bit more creative than that, but you get the idea. A little of the extreme hardcore, a little of the metalcore (not the same thing at all) and a little bit of the rapcore. 'Core all around, I suppose.

    It works pretty well. I'm mostly impressed by the slightly off-kilter sound, though Relative Ash certainly throws itself into these songs. The energy is impressive, particularly for a major label release.

    And the sound, while somewhat refined, is still quite edgy. No, you're not gonna mistake this for a Victory release, but it's pretty good. There's a nice squall to the guitar sound, and the vocals are a good mix of screams and singing.

    Maybe not a world-beater, but pretty damned good. Relative Ash has impressed me. There are some real nice moments here, stuff that would sound impressive anywhere. Be on the lookout.

    End of the Light
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Folding a grungy industrial sound over slow anthemic hard rock, Release manages to make even the most promising riff grind to a halt at times.

    The best moments of End of the Light are pale facsimiles of Streetcleaner. The sound is much cleaner and not threatening in the slightest (which is a problem, of course). Once the tempo gets this slow, the band had better do something interesting, or folks begin to nod off. Release just grinds along, utilizing the dullest parts of industrial metal and grunge.

    This is not so much a bad album as a boring one. I think the producer should have found a way to create a more diverse and vicious sound, but then, the band should have helped out with better music. I just fell asleep during this one.

    Twin House
    reviewed 4/18/16

    Relick absolutely craves references to the Beatles. Who doesn't? But this Denton band tries salt its press with Fab Four references at every turn. Crap! They got me, too!

    Yes, this is immaculately-crafted pop music. Intricate without getting too stylized. The sound is impressive. And Amber Nicholson's brassy-yet-refined vocals are stunning. My immediate point of reference, however, was different. I heard the Neko Case-fronted New Pornographers songs.

    Relick is a bit more restrained than that, but Nicholson's vocals combine an astonishing raw power with trained skill. She can do a lot more than wail. And these songs are a lot more than jaunts in the park. There's some serious depth here.

    This is just the beginning. But if Relick can sustain this excellence over the course of a full album (and a few more after that), this story is going to be long and satisfying.

    The Remnants
    (Slow Summer)
    reviewed in issue #127, 1/27/97

    Roots pop with a bit of a punk edge. A cool combination, and one that is always welcome in these here parts.

    A big-label producer might have punched these tunes up into something that they're not. I mean, the Remnants wouldn't be out of place opening for Marshall Crenshaw or for Everclear. Sliding easing amongst varied influences, the Remnants merely crank out feel-good pop with an edge.

    Summer music all the way, and I could use a little in the middle of the winter (even if it feels like summer down here). Like I noted, the best thing is that the band and the producer didn't feel the need to bulk up the tunes with excess. This is a three-piece, and it sounds like that. The songs are laid bare, and they stand up fairly well to such close scrutiny.

    Uncomplicated and easy on the ears. Nothing spectacular, but good enough.

    Help Is Coming
    reviewed in issue #153, 2/23/98

    A band that simply doesn't want to make sense. The vocals are completely unrestrained and generally out of control, and the band (which consists of bass, drums, viola, trombone and sax) most often plays somewhere around a tune. Some sharp, some flat and generally just off the beat.

    Obviously adherents of John Zorn, great musicians who aren't afraid of a little chaos. Is this the music of sane folks? I can't say. But it swoops, swirls and soars above mundane music. The lunatic fringe of jazz-rock (on the acoustic side, as opposed to the amped up fusion version) couldn't have finer members.

    Renfield avoid the trap of constant lunacy, which would dilute the effect. Instead, the band vamps about for a while before really kicking in once or twice each song. And what kick it is.

    Leaves me breathless in agony and joy. A visceral treat. This is music that demands your very lifeblood. Surrender or face the consequences.

    The Renovators
    Rhythm & Blueprints
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    If you ever wanted to hear songs about construction, fishing or, um, Crisco, well, here's the Renovators to help out. By the way, this is the blues. Really.

    The lyrics generally have a cool sense of humor, but the music is just a bit bland. All the rough edges have been rounded off, sort of an adult contemporary version of the blues. Yeah, Robert Cray has been playing those for years, but he has a great voice and can play a good guitar. The Renovators are passable in both areas, but not blistering.

    Like I said, the songs can be funny. But the music just stays too close to the safe side of the street. Too easy-going for my style.

    While the Renovators are perfectly competent, there isn't any part that shines. And the fairly restrained run-throughs don't really help to pick up the excitement level. Workmanlike blues just doesn't cut it for me.

    Merry Christmas!
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    This is another of those "thank-you" discs that probably wasn't intended for review, but what the hell. The Renovators put together three new Christmas songs, then strip in "sing-along" (or Karaoke, if you prefer) instrumental versions, add a Christmas message and then finish with four tracks from their previous albums.

    The Christmas songs are spirited pieces, generally on the slow boogie side of things. The Karaoke bit is amusing, and since this is intended for the fans, more than appropriate. Why not have a little fun?

    And that's all this is: A bit of fluff for the holidays. No grand ambition, just a little goofin' off caught on tape. Nothing wrong with that.

    See also Bergers with Mayo.

    The Colour of Gore EP
    (Forever Underground)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Not many bands would add this note to their liners: "If you have our old 'Abort' demo, please send it back." I like that. I don't know if it exhibits a sense of humor, but I found it amusing. As for the tuneage, well ...

    Heavy duty grindage, in that mid-career Napalm Death mode. Lots of grunts and growls and some seriously doomy riffage. Not quite the technical precision of Carcass, but tending toward that path from time to time.

    A fine set of tunes. Plenty of pain and suffering on this short set, and Reprobation has shown that it can dish out the goods. With aplomb. Maybe a full-length, guys?

    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    If the liners are not a misprint, this was originally recorded in 1986. I can't find any release notes lying around my place from Relapse, so I'll just assume that either these guys have moved on to better things (the names are familiar, though I cannot place them), or they have reformed and are getting together to record again.

    As a 1986 album, this sounds great. Vintage grindcore. It is dated for today, but six years ago this would have been a real forward-reaching album.

    The musicianship is first-rate, with everyone taking care to keep things ultra-fast but still in control. This is an E-ticket to slam heaven.

    My Stars...
    (Born + Over Records)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Some folks just seem to have a natural talent for writing vital, vibrant songs. Of course, ascribing such skill to talent alone is bullshit. Takes a lot of work to write a blisteringly great song. The guys in Resolve wrote a bunch of great songs. And then they put them on tape.

    And it doesn't matter if the material is jocular pop or midwestern-style roots rock (or any number of other jangly forms). Resolve knocks the stuff flat. Dead solid perfect. This is one of those albums that takes hold of your throat and then squeezes. For forty minutes.

    There just isn't a bad song here. I know. I listened long and hard for the guys to screw up, throw something less-than-worthy into the mix. I waited in vain. And I'll tell ya, Resolve takes a bunch of chances. They just roll sevens every time.

    Natural talent? Probably. But a lot of hard work goes into a disc like this. It's eve more impressive when the songs sound like they just tripped off the tongue two seconds before I heard them. I'm completely breathless. This is one chokehold I can't break.

    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    A collection of odds and ends from this Italian outfit. Most of the tracks here appeared on earlier EPs or digital-only albums, so this is their first "wide" availability. The sound is strikingly minimalist electronic fare, with an emphasis on playful rhythms.

    Austere, to be sure, but somehow still warm to the ear. If there's a way for this kinda stuff to sound jaunty, this does.

    If you're still trying to place the sound, think somewhere between 70s krautronica (Like that? I'm not sure I do) and late 80s techno. Never overbearing...hell, this stuff is so unassuming that it could serve as background music. Of course, if you didn't actually listen to it, you'd be missing everything.

    And there is a lot to hear. Given the genesis of the tracks, this isn't really a particularly cohesive album. But the songs within are as intriguing as anything you'll hear this year.

    Sweet Luck of Amaryllis
    (Carrot Top)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Another one of them Louisville combos. Loopy song constructions, an emphasis on the eclectic. More acoustic than electric. Haunting and powerful all at once.

    Whenever pundits like me decide to give up on Louisville as a prime music location, an album like this shows up. Something that reinforces the strong tradition of iconoclastic rock bands from the city. And the core members, Tara Jane O'Neil and Cynthia Nelson, are authentic local luminaies. O'Neil is a member of the Sonora Pine, was in Rodan, and worked with Sebadoh, Come and Danielle Howle. Nelson is best known as part of the outstanding Ruby Falls.

    Retsin isn't immediately grabbing, but more subversive, getting me where it counts, in the back of the head. I can't really classify this stuff much more. The guitar work is tortured, yet affecting. Lines don't always match up, but that doesn't matter. Not at the base of things, anyway.

    So let this one rumble on past your conscious barriers, and after a few minutes you should tune into the real wavelengths of the music. Like those Magic Eye posters, except with music.

    The Reunion Show
    Kill Your Television
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    There's no way to put this gently. The Reunion Show isn't hardcore. It isn't punk in any way whatsoever. This shouldn't surprise me. After all, years ago Victory put out albums by the likes of Iceburn and Hi-Fi and the Roadburners. And there have been other Victory bands that employ a good amount of power pop.

    But still. The Reunion Show is power pop, major-label style. This album is thickly produced, complete with wonderfully fuzzy keyboards and hooks that ooze honey. Shoot yerself back 20 years and imagine AOR-style anthemic choruses draped over guitar-heavy new wave pop. Except that no one did this 20 years ago. In fact, I've never heard anyone attempt quite this sound.

    There is a definite Joe Jackson (in his blisterpop phase) feel to the rhythms and harmonies. The muscular guitars feed right into the crunchy and addictive choruses, and the overall manic energy of the band is astonishing. Like I said, this is power pop that the majors could actually sell to the kiddies.

    But Victory gets the spoils instead. That's more than cool. The Reunion Show deserves to explode all over the damn place. Pop is often sweet, but rarely is it this incendiary. I simply cannot turn this album off. Gotta hit repeat again. And again. And...

    Turn a Deaf Ear
    (Pax Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    A duo of duos, if you will, with some help from studio man Ross Bonadonna as well. Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth cover the musical performance end, Akio Mokuno and 99 Hooker provide vocals, some warped sax and computer enhancements. Bonadonna covers the post-production re-assembly part.

    I'm guessing that the Mokuno and 99 Hooker, Diaz-Infante and Forsyth contributions were somewhat improvised. The studio manipulations are, by definition, not exactly improvisations, but they leave the pieces sounding fresh and vital.

    Now, defining a "piece" is a little tricky. There seem to be two main selections, though the first one is divided into six sections. The stuff does all run together unbanded, so I guess there are truly two "songs." You can decide for yourself.

    That's not what's important here. What's much more intriguing is the "interplay" between the different elements of the group. While this thing is assembled, it sounds like all the folks were sitting in the same room at the same time, riffing off each other. The creative juices flowed freely here.

    Prophecy of a Dying World
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #7, 2/14/92

    Epic doom death metal. Like combining Solitude AEturnus and, oh, Morgoth. Almost discernible lyrics and environmental themes, among others. These guys give a damn about something, and they're not embarrassed to say so.

    Plus, they can play. The up-and-down thrash gets a little tedious at times, but overall this is a good album. One certainly to check out.

    Reverb Sleep
    Fish Dream
    (Ment Media Group)
    reviewed in issue #90, 10/23/95

    Dancey ambient or ambient dance? Somewhere between those two lies the truth.

    Reverb Sleep cranks out cool sound sculptures and then turns up the bpm. Not house enough to be trance, but the more industrial rhythms are still rather addictive.

    Not spacey enough to be terribly trippy, the disc still comes off as some sort of strange field trip to the frontal lobe. I might use this as my Halloween music to scare off the kiddies.

    Anyone interested in experimental electronic music will really dig this, and lots of more commercial types will find agreeable parts as well. Reverb Sleep don't follow any formulas, but the folks may have accidentally created one with this album. A real stunner.

    The Jersey Switch
    (Curve of the Earth)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Reverse might well have been at home in the late 80s and early 90s, when glam metal acts were branching out and trying to find new ways to make melodic loud music. Stuff like Law and Order, Warrior Soul and the Kings of the Sun took different paths, and none really succeeded commercially.

    The hooks and riffs here are certainly informed by grunge (which is what the kids decided they liked the most out of the "new" melodic metal), but Reverse isn't afraid to drop the heavy guitars and drop a pretty, introspective pop piece like "Overhead" every once in a while.

    There are elements of garage rock and other more obvious pop references in this sound as well. Reverse is a hard rock band the same way Foo Fighters is a hard rock band. Not to make too close a comparison--these boys have worked very hard to craft their own sound--but these days it's okay to drape big fuzzy guitars and other pieces of sonic chaos over a pop frame. Just as long as the hooks are solid.

    And are they ever. The harmonies in the choruses are tight and impressive. I like what I hear, and that's really the ultimate test for me. Sure, there are plenty of ways to categorize what these guys do. I prefer the simple term "good music."

    reviewed in issue #75, 4/30/95

    Pop from an extremely minimalist camp. The melodies are delicate and yet dissonant as well.

    Traveling the same highway as Silver Jews and Pavement, rex is even more leisurely than most, spending most of the time stomping on the flowers (in slow motion). It sure is amazing how much effort had to have gone into making such an effortless-sounding disc.

    This is not the sort of disc on which I can make a real quality judgement. I really don't get this stuff. It's kinda nice for chilling out, I suppose. I'm just not a stoner and I don't dose.

    A nicely arranged disc, with lots of morose moments. Perfect for field trips to the frontal lobes.

    Rex Daisy
    Guys and Dolls
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Very sweet pop music that verges on the sickly. But Rex Daisy always manages to squeeze some out-of-tune guitar lick or sour vocal note to keep the stuff down.

    Still, folks who like their pop on the edgy side shouldn't be stopping here. Rex Daisy won't be accused of alternative attitude any time soon, though this stuff is probably just a bit too "strange" for MTV. What's a band to do?

    I dunno. I liked the album, though the production really is too bright. There are very few variances from the norm, and the peppy knob job just emphasizes how banal Rex Daisy could get.

    Nice enough, but far too light to stick around for very long. Just a few more chances, though, and Rex Daisy could be right back in the ring.

    Gary Reynolds and the Brides of Obscurity
    Santiago's Vest
    reviewed in issue #291, November 2007

    Another cool band that tends to build its songs around piano (or electric piano) and guitar. Reynolds and the Brides get plenty heavy, too, which is a welcome addition to this increasingly popular sound.

    Dramatic songs played and sung with dramatic flair. Almost a little too heavy in the histrionics, but almost every time the band pulls back just enough to reveal a delicate point or two.

    I get the sense that these folks could throttle just about anyone who stood in their way, but that they have the sense to avoid such confrontations. Rather, they spin their ideas in loud, but intricate, mixes. There's a combination that always warms my heart.

    This one starts good and keeps getting better. I was on the fence after a couple songs, but by the middle of the disc I couldn't wait to get to the next song. Good sequencing is always appreciated in these quarters. Just another sign that these folks know exactly what they're doing. And doing it well.

    Gaz Reynolds
    Spiritual Nation
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Club fare, with all that implies. Basic dance anthems, with more than a little Indian influence creeping in. Gaz Reynolds knows how to flavor his sound well.

    This is on the lighter side, in the same realm as the Pet Shop Boys. Reynolds, too, knows to how to spin nice pop hooks, but instead of using his musical versatility to pump up the vocals, he allows the opposite to happen. When he sings, the music trends generic.

    Which is too bad, because Reynolds has a great feel for this sound. Most folks in this area start off with some dull beats and stale keyboard riffs. Reynolds does much better, but when he starts singing, he loses some of his advantage.

    Still, this is an engaging album. Folks in clubs aren't terribly concerned with anything past beats and hooks, and Reynolds provides those. To escape the clubs, he's gonna have to work to fill out his sound. He's done all the hard stuff; this last bit should be a breeze.

    Scott Reynolds & the Steaming Beast
    Adventure Boy
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #294, March 2008

    Scott Reynolds is my favorite ALL singer. He's got a little more soul in his voice than Dave Smalley or Chad Price. Reminds me more of Milo Aukerman, actually. But then, I suppose that makes sense.

    Some of these songs are americana by way of ALL, especially the first track ("Jesus, Satan, Gene Beeman, His Car & Pizza Hut"), which would have fit right in on Percolater--or perhaps a Heavy Vegetable album. The rest of the album is just as wide ranging, though it tends toward the traditional and away from the coffee.

    A lot of piano and acoustics wandering around here. Reynolds is his old hyperactive self from time to time, but he's also able to dial it down and reach some really striking places. The depth isn't shocking, but I'm most gratified to hear it.

    Middle-school ALL fans (that is, those partial to Reynolds's tenure) ought to be most pleased to find this. Anyone who is interested in music without boundaries will probably feel the same way. Reynolds uses almost the entire American musical canvas on this disc, and he does it in an astoundingly understated way. The first listen does this album no justice. Give it ten or twenty and then try to tell me it isn't amazing. Bet you can't.

    Midnight Tales
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    A sticker on the front proclaims Rhapsody "The new hope of symphonic epic power metal." Wow. That sounds pretty cool.

    And you know what? It is. Yeah, I'm an utter sucker for overlaid, throaty vocals and dramatic guitar and keyboard music. The bastardization of classical music doesn't bother me so much.

    Rhapsody is so keyboard centered, though, that at times the power level drops. Yeah, it always comes back, but for a few seconds there I wonder where the tuneage went. Some keyboard magic is always necessary, but not always this much.

    As long as you accept that this is the music that Spinal Tap skewered so beautifully, then feel free to groove on through. Yeah, it's over the top and almost comically excessive. So what? This is one of those guy things. We love the fast guitars and guys that sing high and loud. Must be in the genes.

    Symphony of Enchanted Lands
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    Disc #2 from this now defunct act. This album continues the swords and sorcery Algalord Chronicles begun on Legendary Tales. The same caveats apply, of course.

    In general, the songs are a bit tighter, with fewer excessive breaks by either the keyboards or guitar. There are also more "maiden by the water" breaks (acoustic classical guitar accompanied by flute and the sound of birds chirping), but they serve more as brackets than interludes within songs.

    The boys also refer to themselves as "mighty warriors of metal." You know, if I really didn't have an awful jones for this kinda music, I'd be laughing my ass off. But I do like it, and even with all of the fru-fru window treatments, Rhapsody plays this stuff as well as anyone.

    In fact, this stuff sounds great. Majestic and powerful (and perhaps just the slightest bit overblown), Rhapsody marches straight to glory. Yes, you've got to buy into it. I do, and I know plenty of other folks who do as well. Inspiring stuff.

    Rhythm Doctors
    Reggae Injection
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    Organ-driven ska that verges on reggae often enough. All instrumental, with the exception of a few really cheesy intros. Better than workmanlike most of the time.

    The reliance on organ does bring to mind Booker T. and the MGs (and the comparison can't be entirely favorable, obviously). It is a great instrument to use with ska; it dances and scats almost as well as a singer might.

    Indeed, the absence of singing provides a real opportunity for ace playing. The Rhythm Doctors don't always take advantage of this, but for the most part they manage alright.

    A fun, if light, album. There's not a whole lot going on here, but it's hard not to enjoy the tunes. Nothing overly spectacular, but some nice party jams, in any case.

    Rhythm Pigs
    Rhythm Pigs/Choke on This
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    A long and winding story made short: Daniel House, the big guy at C/Z, loved this band a lot, and managed to gain the rights to these 1986 and 1987 albums.

    It's always fascinated me how trios sometimes seem to be more experimental than other set-ups. And these boys are from Texas. While they called it hardcore back then, this stuff would be classified as hard alternative.

    But very cool. If you play reissues, or never got the albums from Mordam a few years back, this would make an excellent addition to your format.

    Rhythm Trip
    Return of the Dragon
    (Digital Dimension)
    reviewed in issue #182, 5/17/99

    One small note on the liners: Onyx is a bitchin' font, but don't shrink it down to four points and expect anyone to be able to read it. Thank you. Now, this easy to characterize. Yet another attempt to cash in on the rap/metalcore bonanza. And while I don't like most of the folks who practice this sound, I like intent.

    And Rhythm Trip is decent. The production is great, mixing all sorts of samples and scratches in with the doomsayer riffage. This disc sounds pretty damned good. I particular like the King's X-influenced "Goddess". These boys took care of the tuneage.

    Unfortunately, the lyric content is fairly empty. Lots of boasting and ragging, but past that, well, not a whole lot going on. Hey, guys, you got a forum. Say something!

    Still, it does sound pretty damned cool. And I can think of worse reasons to dig an album. Though I'm not so enamored of the sound to forgive the absence of thoughtful lyrics. That's just the way it goes.

    Liberation Day
    (CBGB Records, Ltd.)
    reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98

    Hardcore which wallows in politics and the general unfairness of life. Ricanstruction takes a relatively west-coast approach to the riff works (actually, more South American, as the band sounds more like Sepultura than anything else), but the politics are universal.

    And from time to time, the songs get lost in the message. The music is merely a means to an end, and that doesn't always make for good stuff. Still, the percussion is often inventive, bringing Latin rhythms into the mix and providing a true funk feel.

    The real thing, I suppose. I wish the music came first, but for such a message-oriented act, Ricanstruction still manages to kick out some fine eclectic hardcore stuff. You know, another obvious influence is Mind Over Four, and that's just not bad at all.

    The more I listen, the more I'm impressed. The grooves are not terribly accessible; it takes a while to work in. Once there, though, the power is obvious.

    Rich Kids on LSD-see RKL.

    Raianne Richards
    Simple in This Place
    (Nobody's Favorite Records)
    reviewed in issue #320, September 2010

    Richards, Jerry Fels and Mark Mandeville get together once again on this, Richards's "solo" effort. Richards does have a different songwriting style. She relies more on the vocals for her music, and she keeps the sound even more simple.

    This is the sound of far, far away. Doesn't really matter where. Just far away. Richards has a fine, dusty voice, and it tends to evoke back roads that got paved long ago. Not antique, really, but simply well-traveled.

    And these songs do move. Even the slower-paced pieces have a kinetic feel to them. No matter how ruminative Richards gets, she never forgets the needs of her songs.

    Sometimes I think the songs on this album are trying to run away and hide. They're too good for that, though. My ears teased them out every time. Patience will bring good results. Just wait, and Richards will deliver.

    Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards
    Hard Times and Woes
    (Nobody's Favorite Records)
    reviewed 4/15/14

    Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards have been wandering around the Northeastern folk scene for the better part of a decade. What I particularly like is that whatever name is on a given release (The Accident that Led Me to the World, Old Constitution or some combination of Mandeville and Richards), the songwriting has been consistent even as the styles have shifted.

    This album is a stripped-down affair, often not much more than an acoustic guitar of some sort, Mandeville and Richards singing and one additional element (pedal steel perhaps, or maybe a harmonica). I suppose this is the "folkiest" of their albums, and in that way it is probably the most traditional.

    Relying less on original (or new, as some of these songs appeared on Richards' solo effort a few years back) material, this set is something of an easygoing ramble. Mandeville's songwriting matches up with the standards quite nicely, and without previous knowledge there's really no way to discern a difference (though "Hard Times" should certainly be familiar to most).

    It's great to hear Richards taking on more vocal duties here. She's got a great folk voice that sits at the high end of the alto range. At times, she slips into a Gillian Welch groove, but my preference is when gives her own distinctive voice full flight.

    The best moments come when Richards and Mandeville mix it up together. Mandeville's songs have always sounded better when played with abandon (or, at least, high emotion), but the mood on this album is definitely more contemplative. It's a different side of the pair, but while it's a different feel than I was expecting they acquit themselves well. Nonetheless, I miss a bit of the raucousness of their earlier work.

    I'm not disappointed, though. I have found that I like Mandeville and Richards' work the more I listen, and so I've got plenty of time to find my way through this effort. The best albums reveal themselves fully only after hours of appreciation. This album appeals from the start, but I do believe that the patina of age will serve it even better. Lovely stuff.

    (Celebrity Hotwax)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Some of my favorite bands come from Richmond. I have to assume this band doesn't (seems to me you'd be laughed off the stage if you named yourself after your hometown, but maybe I'm way off). Anyway, these boys play a punchier version of Cracker-style rock'n'blooze.

    Just a wee bit heavier and a wee bit straighter. I like the straight edges, though at times the guitars are too much for the sound. Still, the songs are well-written. The band has a good, easy-going style (even when cranking up the amperage) and the songs just roll off the ol' discer.

    I do like the crunchy sound. The guitars don't have to get as metallic as they do every once in a while, but that's a minor quibble. Adding power to rootsy stuff is a nice deal. Reminds me a bit of Drivin N Cryin, though without the AC/DC overtones.

    Goes down easy. That description is bad for beer but good for bands. Richmond is pleasantly unpretentious--all these boys seem to want to do is play some good songs and have a laugh while they're at it. Works for me.

    Ernesto Rico
    (Freedom Zone)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    For the uninitiated gringo listener, Latin pop sounds like something fresh and original. Horns are more liberally used, and there are nods to samba, bossa nova and other relatively exotic rhythms. But after a while, it comes to you: This stuff is just like today's country music, simply pop music spoken in a different language.

    Ernesto Rico has a good singing voice, and this album is well-produced, showing off a wide variety of moods and sounds. Still, there isn't anything here that lifts Rico above the rather crowded pop pack.

    One of the problems with competing in this circle is that an artist has to be all things to all people. So the ballads take on a more "American" feel, and even the Latin rhythms are created by machines.

    So is it live, or is it disco? Doesn't really matter. Perhaps Rico can get himself marketed into the next big thing. There isn't anything on this disc which separates him from all the other contenders.

    D.B. Rielly
    Love Potions and Snake Oil
    reviewed in issue #323, December 2010

    As near as I can tell, D.B. Rielly (note the spelling) is the stage name of one Daniel Alvaro of New York City. I've never quite figured out what it is about Gotham that inspires folks to get down and dirty in the roots, but that's exactly what this is.

    And whether he's hitching a ride on a zydeco shuffle, thumping along on a Delta blues stomp or simply singing a lovelorn wail, Rielly knows his stuff. I suppose you could lump all this into a generic "blues" category, but the simple truth is that there's a lot going on here.

    These songs seem to be sung in character, which makes for an interesting layer on top of an already simmering stew. All performances are just that, of course, but it is very hard to figure out what's at the core of Rielly (or Alvaro).

    That mystery serves quite well on this disc. In the end, of course, the music is what counts. And whoever Rielly might be, he knows his stuff and plays with conviction. This album is most impressive. You'll be reaching for a drink before the first song is done. Rig
    Belly to the Ground
    reviewed in issue #50, 3/15/94

    Strangely addictive industrial hardcore. I mean, these guys are raw and mean, but there's no lack of intelligence. Instead of liners, there are icons with slogans (picture of a gun: it had no conscience).

    Despite having a song titled "Mark 16:17", I have a feeling Rig won't be on the 700 Club any time soon. And they're probably rooting against Liberty University (Falwell's school) in the NCAAs (Um, sorry about that. No more gratuitous basketball references).

    A lot of you like Therapy?, and this is right up that alley. A little less tuneful and a little more aggressive, but it packs a similar punch. A fine taste of the industry.

    Right Brigade
    Right Brigade
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    Not stinting on the aggro, Right Brigade simply blisters though a solid set of near-extreme hardcore. Rolling sludge might be a good way to describe the sound, if that makes any sense. The sound is thick, the chords are full and the songs churn along at a good pace.

    Furious? Not quite. These boys are hardly out of control. But the stuff never gets turgid or dull; indeed, the songwriting is pleasantly unconventional. Right Brigade is hardly afraid to try out new ideas or vary its songs construction.

    Which leads to a most invigorating album. Like I noted, the sound is full and angry, but not excessive. The band remains the master of the songs and all they survey, wielding a dense shock of attitude as a battle standard.

    Play it loud, and this sounds good. Crank it up, and it sounds better. Oh, the hormones are pulsating. Gonna have to pedal down in a minute. But not before I'm finished feeding off the strength of this disc. Bite down and taste the thrill of pure electricity.

    Right Direction
    Bury the Hatchet
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    A nice little license job from the Netherlands. Right Direction kicks out highly aggro hardcore in the Victory style, though being European the boys also throw a few other ideas into the pot.

    Like a solo trumpet in "He's My Friend" or a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Out in the Fields." The different perspective helps to flavor the sound in somewhat unusual ways. Most enjoyable.

    The production is somewhat limited and simple. It sounds a little thin at times, though that might just be another example of the unusual influences. Hard to say. In general, the spartan approach helps to show off Right Direction's lyric and musical talents.

    Something different. Something good. Sometimes when you hear something like this you've just gotta release it yourself. Glad Tony did. Keep digging, man.

    Righteous Pigs
    Stress Related
    (Nuclear Blast)
    reviewed in issue #19, 8/31/92

    Well, many of you have already taken note, but for all you playing Napalm Death out there (and there are quite a few) listen up. As it seems almost every grindcore band out there claims ties to Napalm Death, the Righteous Pigs not only have a very respected ex-member in guitarist Mitch Harris, they crank through a series of tunes that are very reminiscent of ND.

    Their first album, Live and Learn, is also included. It is much more on the hard core side of things, but the rawness and absence of slurred vocals are very appealing to me. Twenty-eight tunes of pure fury. This is good food.

    Renato Rinaldi
    The Time and the Room
    (Public Eyesore)
    reviewed in issue #256, August 2004

    Okay, now this is a more traditional Public Eyesore release. Renato Rinaldi likes to make noise on his guitar, and he's recruited a couple friends to help out here and there. This is the sound of one person going mad.

    That's a good thing, of course. These noisy improvisations have stories to tell, and the only way to truly hear those stories is to abandon all rational thought. Sit back, close your eyes and go where the music goes. It is music--there's a surprising amount of melody, actually--and it does travel in a distinct path.

    This was originally recorded for radio (Italian radio, I think), and so the sound is quite good. Rinaldi may have a friend in dissonance, but the quality of the sound here really brings out the little things he throws into his pieces.

    Intriguing and alluring. Yeah, this isn't a disc to slough off on yer ten-year-old niece for her birthday, but it is one that just might realign your brain in a few important ways.

    (2 Funky Intl.)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Heavy college-style funk, with loads of horns and that ubiquitous wanky bass. But the rhythm section is the best part here, keeping the songs in line when the melodic parts get a little lost from time to time.

    The sound is very flat and straight, which I rather like. The grooves are loose (they should certainly be ratcheted up a bit), and the horns are pretty much an all or nothing attack. Fun, but a little overbearing.

    Basic funk song construction, which means groove-based. Plenty of the go-go call and response coming down, but those parts sound contrived when they should sound spontaneous.

    Even with the litany of small problems, Rippopotamus does some nice work with the funk. I like the emphasis on the horns and the bass; indeed, if the rest of the band would fall in line, this might be better. Still, a project with more potential than actual accomplishment.

    Rise Against
    The Unraveling
    (Fat Wreck Chords)
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    Hawd koa punk rawk, with plenty of melody to help the medicine go down. Soaring anthems built on a relentless buzzsaw attack. That's more than a little cool.

    Really, not much more complicated than that. Rise Against focuses on the personal more than the political, which simply raises the angst factor. Makes the songs that much more poignant.

    I'm not kidding. There's an innocence to the ideas here. These guys are earnest. They haven't burnt out yet. When you get to be my age, well, that sorta thing can be refreshing. Good tuneage doesn't hurt, either.

    Real good tuneage, mostly. And the energy level doesn't flag. This is what most people think of when you mention punk music. It's just done a little better than most. A true joy.

    Rise Robots Rise
    Rise Robots Rise
    reviewed in issue #13, 5/15/92

    I thought the single was pretty good. I compared them to Prince. I knew that was wrong the instant I did it. But I went with it anyway.

    While a lot of this is sorta dull, there are moments that remind me of the funk heydays of the seventies. But even more reminds me of over-produced over-hyped projects like Soul II Soul. Sometimes the rhythms get me going, but other times I wonder if a drum machine has been invented that just cranks out random beats, and the band just schlepped lots of instruments over it.

    This is rather uneven. I bet you'll find some stuff you like on it. I did. But they'll have to work a little harder to get a more complete piece of work.

    If I Only Knew/All Sewn Up CD5
    reviewed in issue #19, 8/31/92

    The problem I had with most of the RRR album is that while the songs started interestingly enough, by the end the conglomeration of sounds had reduced the overall effect of the songs to mush.

    Okay, so the lyrics are still nothing exceptional, but the remixes here kind of make up for the mush factor. While "If I Only Knew" is supposedly a song advocating safe sex, I couldn't find much reference in the song itself. Perhaps the "Loveglove" and "Double Safe" remix titles are enough.

    Besides, "All Sewn Up" is a much more interesting track, and there are only two remixes of that included. Oh well. You take what you can get.

    Julie Ritter
    Medicine Show
    (New Alliance)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    If you remember Mary's Danish, Ritter gained first notoriety in that group. This collection of spoken word bits consists of excerpts from her journal, which she has kept since she was 10 and other bits of poetry and ideas.

    Ritter performs her pieces like she's on stage. She is good enough to make this sound real and not just pretentious. Perhaps it is because these are her words, or maybe she is a good actress. It doesn't matter which, really.

    The most arresting piece is easily "Rebuilding Democracy", which intersperses the experience of a Bosnian rape victim with the slogans of our mass-consumption society, all delivered in a rat-a-tat-tat fashion. It assaults without relent.

    Most of the other pieces are more personal, but often just as arresting. Ritter has something to say, and she says it with aplomb. One of the best spoken word discs I've heard in years. The melodies behind the words are astonishing.

    Ritual Device
    reviewed in issue #37, 7/31/93

    No one outside Nebraska may know it, but one of the strongest musical scenes in the country is in Omaha. It certainly puts Lawrence to shame, and I can only think of St. Louis as possibly better in the Midwest.

    Ritual Device hail from that city, playing something that should probably be called post-hard-core. To be honest, the stuff is as close to being undescribable as I have heard, but it's great.

    This disc just flows from jam to jam. I couldn't find a weak link (Lord knows I listened enough). To find an interesting sound (and great music), get your fingers on this thing.

    Rival Schools
    United by Fate
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    The stridency of emo combined with some hardcore power pop. A lot stuff thrown into one package. The result is a thick, vaguely atonal set of three-chord bliss. Members include Walter Schriefels (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand) and Cache Tolman (Iceburn). This is on a major label?

    Well, the production is awfully, um, present. There is layer upon layer of sound, the kinda thing that most indie labels wouldn't insist on (though I think most would accept it in a minute). 'Cause, you know, good shit is good shit.

    There are other major label staples. The power ballad, no matter how refined, is a must. And so Rival Schools cranks out "Undercovers," which should be accessible enough for the kiddies. It's a decent song, but it's rather out of place. Still, you gotta do what you gotta do, I know.

    This didn't quite reach the potential I accorded it, but when you hit the big leagues, compromises must be made. Rival Schools did pretty well with theirs. And if this album can score, well, the more power the boys will have to make their very own record.

    (Rival Schools and Onelinedrawing)
    Rival Schools United by Onelinedrawing EP
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    So this is actually Rival School's first recording (as opposed to the disc I reviewed recently), and while this is supposedly a "split" EP, both bands played on most of the songs. In fact, the disc doesn't even say which song belongs to which band.

    Soaring emo, minimalist even for the genre. A very tight recording of some really well-written songs. The slight production sound really suits the songs, bringing out the best thoughts in them.

    The sort of collaborative effort that gives these endeavors a good name. Rival Schools and Onelinedrawing do have a history, and this disc show why. Would that all bands could work together so well.

    See also Iceburn.

    River City High
    River City High Won't Turn Down
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Thick, bouncy and hooky punk pop. The sorta stuff that almost always brings a smile to the hidden pophead in me. It sure does this time around.

    River City High doesn't really vary from the formula. Three chords, shouted choruses (in tune) and easy-going lead guitar licks. The only trick is making those hooks stick.

    They do. And everything else is secondary. Like the sound, which is properly thick and sharp at once. Helps to make the chords rebound off my walls and hit me with a slight return.

    Yeah, basic basic. No surprise, nothing shocking. Just dead solid punk pop. River City High is a little faceless; that's how this sound works. As long as the hooks shine, the rest just doesn't matter. These puppies are on fire.

    River City Rebels
    Racism, Religion and War...
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Nice throaty punk rawk with horns. Ska? Not really. But the horns add a great flavor to this rollicking sound. River City Rebels write songs that end up in ultra catchy (if ragged) choruses, and some brass never hurt that.

    The album title kinda gives you an idea as to the subject matter. Standard punk fare, as you might guess. The band is against all of the things in that title. And the arguments are invigorating, if not entirely cogent.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm with the Rebels on their ideas. Gotta be honest, though. This stuff is preaching to the choir. I don't think anyone's mind will be changed.

    But why am I so worried about that? This is a fun disc, and if it happens to have some pleasing politics, well, cool. I can handle that.

    Playing to Live, Living to Play
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    Bar-band Clash-style punk with a horns chaser. The River City Rebels are back in town, and they're in top form. This puppy starts fast and just keeps accelerating.

    Perhaps the most important thing to do with music like this is to keep the tempo unflagging. The title of the album keeps coming up again and again; this album is something of a tribute to the life of a working rock and roll band. Plenty of dues songs and celebrations of hard work.

    And the gang-vocal choruses really help drive these points home. The sound here is loose and open, allowing all sorts of extra noise to creep in. Good thing, too. Makes this a most friendly-sounding disc.

    They came, they saw, they blistered. The River City Rebels have fulfilled their intentions about as well as possible. This album is pure ear candy, track after track of tasty punk anthems. Keep it up, boys.

    No Good No Time No Pride
    reviewed in issue #235, November 2002

    Good times melodic hardcore, complete with horns. The River City Rebels are a guilty pleasure, and this album shows why. Each song sounds great, in a kinda slutty way. By the end there's no avoiding singing along. As my friend Kenny once said, don't fight it.

    Nico Rivers
    To the Bone EP (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13

    Nico Rivers is a singer/songwriter, and that's what he does. The songs are hit or miss--the song construction is often too generic to really interest my ears. "Oildrips," however, rolls along nicely. I kinda wonder whether Rivers has a notion as to which of his songs work and why. He's obviously got some chops. I hope he gets a bit more selective.

    Doomsday for Optimism
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    There was a time when this sort of electro-industrial-metal sound was quite futuristic. But somewhere between Pantera and Fear Factory this became more of a standard style.

    Nonetheless, most folks tend to screw it up. Perhaps a too-heavy reliance on keyboards or drum machines, or maybe a bit too much metallic sludge. The key is to stay nimble even while bringing the pain. Rivethead has it down.

    In other words, these songs move with style. The beats are often dance-floor ready, but the guitars and bass blister with appropriate rage. The proportions are exceptional. Rivethead has an instinctive feel that translates into a most engaging album.

    Indeed, this ought to appeal to old-school goth and industrial mavens in addition to folks who think that Cowboys from Hell was (by far) the best thing Pantera ever did. Feed the machine, boys.

    Let the Good Times Roll 12"
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    And now for something completely different from Def Jux. RJD2 isn't yer average hip-hip artist or DJ. This song is an astonishing pastiche of samples and other spinning tricks. For the most part, the original sources are so sped up, slowed down or distorted as to be unrecognizable, leaving a funky, trippy sound for all to enjoy.

    Well, there is a sample of "Mannish Boy" that I could make out, but that's about it. And just when I think I've almost got a handle on the tinny, manic funk of the song, the gears shift right into dub. An unexpected bridge, but one that works quite well.

    The full-length arrives this summer. Keep yer eyes peeled, folks.

    Dead Ringer
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    As much as I dug RJD2's "Let the Good Times Roll" 12" a couple months back, this album is so much more that I'm simply blown away. The collage style of beat mixing and sampling is addictive, and the little robotic intros add just the right amount of fun.

    Many times party jams are simplistic and dull affairs, full of repetitive and boring beats and maybe (maybe!) one quality hook. Forget about anything on top of the beats. That kinda stuff is throwaway. Well, RJD2 stands that tired old theory on its head. Incorporating a lot of great blues and soul samples into his throbbing beat work, this fusion of time and space proves that it's more than possible to have fun with satisfying music.

    And there are rhymes, every once in a while. I'm not crazy about them--as this is something of a party record, there isn't always a lot said. But the music is stunning. And I don't care about what you might say concerning the use of extended samples. I don't have the liners for this album, but as long as credit is given (and payment made where due), then the use of old sounds to make such a modern recording is just fine with me.

    After all, the history of music shows that every innovator is simply taking what has come before and restating it in terms that current listeners can appreciate. RJD2 has crafted an exhilarating thrill ride, one of the most fun discs I've heard in quite a while. There's plenty of life in those old grooves. Long may they crackle.

    Since We Last Spoke
    (Definitive Jux)
    reviewed in issue #254, June 2004

    I was planning to review a 12" for the last issue. The name on the vinyl was Ronnie James Dio II, and damn if the song "Exotic Talk" didn't sound like a scrambled, beat-heavy rehash of 80s metal. But I knew the name was a cipher, and I couldn't figure out who it was. So I didn't do the review.

    Duh. Look at the first letters (and transliterate "II" to "2") and you get RJD2. Of course. How could I be so stupid? Um, let me count the reasons... Anyway, this is another collection from one of the most eclectic and catchy DJs around. I mean, the guy could open for the likes of Kiss, Radiohead, Macy Gray and El-P and no one would blink.

    Unlike Dead Ringer, this one is all RJD2. There are a few vocal snippets here and there, but no MCs. Just the man, the turntable, the editing booth and himself. Or something like that.

    And the sounds groove around rock (hard, soft and...prog?), funk (in many forms), r&b (especially of the early 70s variety), trip-hop and some straight electronic stuff as well. The most impressive thing is that all this variety doesn't cancel itself out. Rather, RJD2 skillfully orchestrates his pieces into a fine symphony of sound. Few would even attempt an album as ambitious as this, and only a chosen few could succeed. A wonder for the ages.

    reviewed in issue #33, 4/30/93

    Now that hardcore has gone from dead to trendy, it only makes sense that the Rich Kids on LSD would reform, if for no other reason than to score some cash from a fertile scene.

    Of course, what would happen if they actually recorded a good album? Well, no one stopped to consider this possibility and so, as logic dictates, it did.

    I'm guessing the "massive crossover potential" listed on the press means I'll soon be hearing this on the new "young country" station in town.

    Actually, the heavily blues-infused punk going on here is a rather distinct sound. Well, there's about any sound you can make with a fuzzier-than-thou guitar, from funk to hardcore grind. Yes, that's funk with an "f".

    Real blazing lead work, which leads me to call this neer mettle. It smells like metal, tastes like metal, but has a heart o' punk.

    It works for me. Hard.

    Riches to Rags
    reviewed in issue #68, 1/15/95

    I remember the "comeback" album. I was shocked by how bad it was. I mean, I didn't even have high expectations.

    On this, the "sophomore" of the aforementioned comeback, I think they guys have been listening to a lot of NOFX. Which means, of course, this record is alright. Not great, but then, I was expecting worse. And Riches to Rags certainly surprised me. It doesn't suck.

    On the other hand, the music is pretty derivative and the lyrics are positively dumb (but as that is one of their trademarks, it wouldn't do to go changing that). But overall, this is somewhat enjoyable. Yeah, I can think of a ton of punk records I'd rather listen to, but I can also think of some that are much worse. As it seems the band aspires to mediocrity, I am happy to say it has arrived.

    Atomic Church
    (The Music Cartel)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    There comes a point where heavy metal meets space. Roachpowder takes the thick chords of stoner rock and just jams the songs into overdrive. These puppies move, man!

    And there are quite a few nods to the cosmic wanderings of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. These come without compromising one bit of the natural raw power of the sound. Kinda like what Cathedral tried to do in its latter days, except that Roachpowder doesn't clean up the sound at all.

    So what's left is wonderfully heavy, dirty and always in motion. Roachpowder doesn't often break out of a mid-tempo feel, but it doesn't let these pieces lag, either. There's always a steady churn.

    And, of course, the sheer simplicity of impossibly heavy piston-driven music. Enough to make just about anyone smile. Worked for me, anyways.

    Roadside Attraction
    Rock Formations
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    Occasionally brilliant, sometimes clunky songs that generally present a heavy version of the hippie rock concept. Lotsa guitars, but more than enough of that wanky syncopated backbeat thing, too.

    There's plenty of freedom rock moments, too. Like the opening lead guitar line for "Trust the Sun". Could be CSN, could be Lynyrd Skynyrd. With heavy bass, that is. A weird road to travel, if you ask me, but it's still strangely beguiling.

    So many of the individual traits that generally grate on me. I can say that Roadside Attraction utilizes too many unassimilated influences to find a coherent sound. There's even a mellow ska tune. It actually works pretty well, but I'd still suggest a more coherent approach to songwriting.

    And the band never can quite get away from Hendrixian riff styles. Yeah, I know, at least that fits into the band's general philosophy, but it sounds a bit excessive to me. Still, for all the small peeves, I've got to say I actually liked this disc. Weird. Disconcerting. I can't quite explain it. But there's a vibe here that works for me.

    Janet Robbins
    All the Worlds
    (Star Seven Records)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    Ethereal, gothic rock. Janet Robbins likes to warble her voice, which can grate, but she does know how to put together some cool-sounding music.

    Basically, guitar laid over rather assembled soundscape stuff. Oh, there's a sense of musical movement, but Robbins is deep into the sparser-populated regions of space. When she doesn't sing in such an affected style, the results can be quite arresting.

    The production has left some of the power out (the vocals and lead guitar are mixed well above the rest, stuff that often is reduced to a muddle), and that's kinda a problem when a song calls for an ass-kicking moment. The sound, however, does a real nice job of setting the proper mood. These are songs of pain, struggle and exploration, and that is relayed quite well.

    A good project. Robbins needs to trust her own voice a bit more, and certainly she and her producer need to find a way to bring the backing tracks out a bit more. But those are secondary to the artistry present.

    Robert M
    Robert M
    reviewed in issue #263, April 2005

    The world of experimental electronic noise never sounded better. Robert M takes dissonant ideas, wraps them up in addictive beat poems and then lets them run for the long haul. These are extensive, involved compositions that somehow float like steamed milk on top of cappuccino.

    Ah, but there is depth. So much that it's often impossible to reel in any given line before the next one takes off. No worries, though. Like I said, these pieces are long (six to 14 minutes) and they take their time. Which is why the effervescence of them is so astonishing.

    If you've got a pal who has shown some interest in the wilder side of electronic music but stops somewhere on the other side of Selected Ambient Works, well, give this album a try. It's slyly seductive, with just enough accessibility to draw in a few civilians even as it lowers the boom on us professionals.

    And what do we profess? Don't ask. I, for one, like to get lost in my music. And Robert M is an expert at leading the way. An album with almost infinite possibilities.

    England's Bleeding
    reviewed in issue #325, March 2011

    Gentle-sounding (though hardly gentle) folk pop songs. Andy Robinson tends write in a melancholy mood, even when he tries to kick his heels. The title track is a vicious romp through his country's recent history. Not exactly uplifting.

    Even so, that song is one of the uppers on this disc. I'm generally not one for such negativity, but Robinson's acid tongue (and guitar playing) is utterly compelling.

    The sound is generally sparse, though there are a few fuller moments. I'm not sure which I prefer, as Robinson's voice is wonderfully expressive when there's nothing to cosset it.

    I get the idea that Robinson might wish to travel down the Tom Waits road. I hope he blazes his own trail. This album states his own presence a bit better than his previous efforts. Striking and then some.

    Paul Robinson
    (Rebelle! Records)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Longtime S.F. session guitarist decided to strike out on his own. He decided to play the blues. Well, sort of. He takes some basic blues structures and decent guitar licks and then smooths the whole package out into something almost unrecognizable.

    The writing and playing are dreadfully calculated. I don't think this is because of any insecurity on Robinson's part (his guitar playing is just about faultless), but more some kind of intentional choice.

    Perhaps this controlled, somewhat stifled sound is what Robinson wanted. It does have a commercial sheen and may, indeed, play well with the AAA crowd. I mean, them's the folks who like smooth jazz as well.

    But not me. The playing and even writing is competent, but these pieces have just been genericized into almost faceless sounds. This album sounds like a classic "session man goes solo" effort. Workmanlike and solid, but uninspired. I prefer my music to have a bit more personality.

    Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights
    Movie Theater Haiku
    (Cutthroat Pop)
    reviewed in issue #304, February 2009

    The album is subtitled "A Masque of Backwards Ballads, A Picturesque Burlesque." Alright, so there's just a wee bit of pretension creeping about.

    That's fine by me. For the most part, Robley is also the Fear of Heights (he does let a few friends sit in now and again), which is just another signpost. Robley thinks very highly of his music. And he's got a really geeky sense of humor.

    I can relate. This loud, fast, ultra-stylized pop-rock reminds me a lot of Firewater and the Wrens. A combination, actually, which is very exciting to my ears. I love those bands almost to death. As this is a one-man project, there's an awful lot of eccentricity to the writing, arrangements and production. On the plus side, Robley simply refuses to repeat himself. Luckily, he's pretty good at whatever sound he appropriates.

    The sort of album that starts off strong and then continues to get better. My guess is that a lot of folks will be slapping this on a ten-best list in eleven months or so. Who knows? Maybe I'll be one of them. I'm duly impressed.

    Get Confident Stupid!
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Extraordinarily underproduced pop hardcore. Think How Could Hell Be Any Worse?. And, indeed, Robweoza sounds a whole lot like early Bad Religion. Though the songs are more Green Day-style "will I ever get a girl" epics.

    Nitpicking, truly. These songs are hardly cultured. In fact, some of them are hardly songs at all. Thing is, it's hard to get much closer to the original punk spirit than recordings like this.

    The point isn't whether or not the boys can play (they can, a little) or whether the lyrics make a whole lot of sense (they do, sometimes). The point is, well, getting the point across. And with its manic pacing and utter disregard for musical niceties, Robweoza emotes quite beautifully.

    Mind you, these boys are light years away from greatness. But you never know. I mean, have you really listened to early Bad Religion? There is something lurking within the technological crudeness of this disc. What it is, I'm just not sure.

    Dave Robyn
    Learn How to Fall EP
    reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97

    More of the arena-rocking rootsy stuff. Robyn has more of a Springsteen-type approach (his hoarse voice helps that connection a lot), though he's more inclined to grandiose statements than the Boss has been lately.

    Catchy stuff, thickly produced to wring out every bit power. The most interesting part is the overt use of drum machines as the main rhythm provider. This seemingly incongruous element works very well with Robyn's roots-rock songwriting style. In fact, the machine saves the songs from falling into generic rocker stuff.

    AOR heaven. I can hear echoes of Bruce Hornsby (without the piano, if you can work that out), though the lead guitar solos are definitely in the hard rock camp. All these strange pieces, when combined with Robyn's rasp, come together to create an attractive, if somewhat overblown, sound.

    All the good parts of the 80s album rock revolution, with some 90s ideas tossed in. An intriguing mix.

    Rock Kills Kid
    Rock Kills Kid EP
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Six power pop tunes with just enough punk edginess to drag the whole sound (kicking and screaming) into a vague emo territory.

    I hate to use that word so much, mostly because it means so many things to different people that it's almost meaningless. So maybe I'll stick with punchy power pop. Rock Kills Kid sure does have a way of blowing its hooks into overdrive and burning a song instantly into my memory.

    And the guys change gears just as easily. Fast, midtempo or even relatively slow-paced, these six songs are equally effective. This stuff is certainly heavily produced (almost to a major-label sheen) but just enough edges are dulled to keep the sound lively. Quite the introduction.

    Rock Stars of Love
    Why Do Porno Teens Go Bad? 7"
    (Hobart Arms)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Mid-eighties Cure without all the keyboards and all muddled up. I'm not sure what the point of all this is, but it does get kinda hypnotic, and the lyrics are nicely sardonic.

    I'd like to see these folks live and figure out exactly what's going on. The songs are disjointed bits of moody pop that seem to be screaming out for massive production and mass appeal, two things that are lacking in this single.

    By the way, this should be played at 33, not 45 as the label sez. Unless the band wanted to sound like the Chipmunks playing Depeche Mode, that is.

    Motor Driven Bimbo
    reviewed in issue #201, 6/26/00

    Remember when "Bitch" became "Betsy" in an attempt to garner a wider following? Didn't work. Rockbitch (a band made up of six women and a guy) plays pretty much as close to nude as local laws allow (at least, that's what I can gather from the liner photos). Something about "we're trying to sell records here."

    Whatever. The trick is the music, and at least this stuff is interesting. Sort of a metal-industrial complex, with lots of samples and loops and heavy guitar. I haven't heard anyone try this exact sound before, and often it actually works.

    There are times when it just sounds like people fucking around. Directionless is probably a good way to put it. Most of the songs are nebulous at best, and when the center of gravity gives way completely there's not much to go on.

    Still, the stuff is good enough to flog. And if the band's members are willing to bare all for the cause, well, I'm sure they should do alright. High art? Nah. But intriguing nonetheless.

    Rocket from the Crypt
    Circa Now
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    You know, if anyone really wants to, they might start checking out the San Diego sound. It has a couple of things in common with Seattle, like real fuzzy bass and guitar stuff, but the basic song construction is punk, not R.E.M.-alternastyle. So instead of droning on an on, the songs are rather tight and amusing. Take a band like Olivelawn. Or these guys, who I first heard on the Headstart to Purgatory compilation.

    Give grunge a punk enema. This is a lot more interesting and entertaining than another band who decided they should start half-moaning their vocals and lose all interest in a decent rhythm section. Not naming any (Alice in Chains) names or anything.

    I think that right after visiting a couple of shrines in L.A. (like West Beach Recorders, where this was recorded if I read things right), I'll head on down to San Diego and soak up the local culture (and a little sun). If I ever make more than $600 a month, that is.

    All Systems Go
    reviewed in issue #48, 2/14/94

    After being told all the promo copies had been served a couple of months ago, this arrives on my doorstep, no return address or press. And UPS to boot, so no postmark. But why look a gift horse in the mouth?

    Why, indeed? This is a collection of singles originally intended to promote a Japanese tour. Unfortunately, the guys didn't clear it with their American record company. By the time everything was straightened out, the Rocket boys had signed to Interscope, and Cargo had to be quiet about releasing this nice collection.

    Did I get that straight? Well, everybody's "next big thing" have a fine track record on the little vinyl, and they deserve everything they get from their major deal. I wish they had stayed on the indie side, but some people can sniff a payday a mile away. And if you won the lottery...

    The Rocket Summer
    Calendar Days
    (The Militia Group)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    Bryce Avary decided to spend the better part of last summer at Red House Recording, that increasingly famous studio about ten miles east of Lawrence, Kan. He not only put down his tracks there; he also slept there as well. Talk about your claustrophobic experiences.

    But it worked. Avary is the Rocket Summer, and his album is as bright and vibrant as any pop disc I've heard in ages. Yeah, there are moments when I can hear how the tracks were assembled, but remember, I'm a pro and that's what I do. Figuring out how these songs were spliced together only increases my admiration for Avary and what he's accomplished.

    As comfortable with piano (electric or otherwise) as he is with guitar, Avary is able to really flesh out his songs nicely. He's got a subtle ear for songwriting; sometimes he goes for the obvious killer hook, and other times he deflects attention away from his choruses. His instincts are impeccable.

    The sort of album that sneaks up on you. Yeah, it sounds great from the beginning, but only after a full dose does the greatness inherent within make itself known. Jaunty pop rarely has this much depth. To put it another way, this album completely justifies my guilty pleasure for sugary hooks. A true stunner.

    The Rockwells
    Place & Time
    reviewed in issue #303, December 2008

    Four guys who happen to be two sets of brothers and like to make affected, almost precious, pop songs. Not to be creepy (well, maybe a little), but the eccentricities here sound almost incestual.

    There's a feel that's particular to a solo project, and there's a feel that's particular to a duo project. This feels like a dual duo project, where each weird idea comes back with a slight echo. The ideas aren't that wacko, of course, as this is indie pop. But thankfully, the Rockwells don't skimp on the tangents.

    The songs themselves are all over map. There are a few introverted musers, a few straight-up ravers and plenty of stuff in-between. That's where the dual duo thing comes in. These guys get along so well that they've assimilated each other's craziness.

    That's a good thing, I guess. My understanding is that the Rockwells put out a lot of albums. Don't know how this one stacks up with the rest, but it's pretty good on its own. Sweet enough.

    Guns, Sex & Glory
    reviewed in issue #345, 2/24/13

    Electro-tinged pop that betrays its Vancouverite roots. Many of these pieces are fragmental, though they git nicely into the effort as a whole. Indeed, this is one of those releases that works best when heard as a whole. The more I hear, the more I like.

    (1/4 Stick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94

    Feeding a Velvet Underground jones with just a few too many hits from the espresso machine, Rodan manage to combine beautiful melodies with mangling cacophonies.

    In other words, five of the six songs clock in at over six minutes (one's almost twelve), and you're sure to be blasted out of a dreamy reverie by mostly incoherent hollering and playing.

    Funny thing is, it isn't sloppy. Well, not much, anyway. Folks will make the obvious Pavement connection, but these folks are much more into uppers than the typical VU freaks. And their songs are just too damned long and disjointed.

    No, Rodan is a Louisville band that harkens back to the almighty Slint, perhaps the best two-album band of the eighties (really). And if you're familiar with that outfit, you know how impossible imitation would be.

    To repeat my comment on the advance, Eeeyow!

    Fifteen Quiet Years
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed 7/29/13

    There's math, and there's arithmetic. I'm really good at arithmetic. I am able to multiply three digit numbers (233x645, say) in my head within a handful of seconds. I am not, however, good at math. I got good grades in trig and calc, but I always got the feeling that I didn't actually know what I was doing. As I look at my 11-year-old's homework and ask him what he's doing, I realize that I was correct. I know nothing about real math.

    This applies to "math rock," too. I've heard many of the most influential bands of the genre: Slint, Rodan, Don Caballero. . . hell, I reviewed just about everything that Touch and Go put out through the 90s. I liked the way the lines bobbed and weaved, and I've always been a sucker for asymmetrical time signatures. But often enough, the music tended to get lost in itself. And then I got lost.

    Take a listen to these examples. First, we have one of Iceburn's monumental takes on Rite of Spring. It is startlingly delicate and abusively brutish--one of the great interpretations of what many consider the finest composition of the 20th century. Wiggy and extreme, to be sure, but absolutely involving. A few years later, the renamed "Iceburn Collective" (the new moniker was a tip-off, of course) put out recordings like "Invisible Dance". Interesting? Yes. But there's nothing in that recording to make the skin crawl.

    If you're reading this, chances are you're familiar with math rock. But in truth, this is one of the more obscure genres around. It's a small subset of the alternative rock scene of the 90s. As far as the general public is concerned, its biggest accomplishment was setting the scene for the emergence of emo (this is a very complicated and somewhat contested lineage, but remember that Jawbox is considered to be one of the earliest emo bands and also one of the greatest math bands). Still, dorky music critics like me have written enough about bands like Slint to get Spiderland entered into the pantheon of great albums.

    Slint's heyday was well before the emergence of math, but its influence is clear. The guitars on Spiderland are definitely math-y. The lines are clean and technical, if a bit hazy at times. Tweez (Slint's first album, originally released on cassette only) is, well, much louder and messier. Very proto, you might say. Spiderland is exceptional. Then Slint went away after releasing its masterwork, leaving the door open for other bands.

    I've always been more of a Rodan guy than a Slint guy. Slint came along as I was getting attuned to the whole college radio/alt. whatever scene. I liked Spiderland. A lot. But I loved Rusty. Like full-on, head-over-heels, throw myself in front of a train love. So when I got word of the completist release Fifteen Quiet Years (which collects just about everything that Rodan recorded other than Rusty, and throws in a bonus disc of live performances just for fun), I had to hear it. And in these days of digitized instant gratification, three minutes later I did.

    My reaction to "Darjeeling" (the first track on Fifteen) was instant and visceral. My pulse quickened, my breathing became shallow and my vision blurred. My hands were sponges of sweat.

    It was awesome.

    I rode the uneven waves of the rest of the album with similar enthusiasm. In this day of alternadull music, the precision with which Rodan dispatched squalls of distortion and tightly-crafted rhythms seems otherworldly. I thought I'd remembered how astounding the music was, but I was wrong. It was even better than I recalled. Of course, my next move was to listen to Rusty for the first time in a couple of years.

    I'm still reeling. I'd say it was like watching the birth of one of my boys, but since I have a recent reference with Nick's arrival last week, that is an exaggeration. Listening to Rusty is like remembering--not actually experiencing--the birth of one of my boys. Which is still pretty goddamned amazing.

    Rodan and Slint understood that weaving technical guitar lines and polyrhythms together can be quite stimulating to the brain. But music that does not provoke a physical response is simply not good. And there's no way to listen to Spiderland or Rusty without responding in the most visceral of manners, often with that skin-crawling feeling I mentioned with Iceburn's Danses.

    Fifteen Quiet Years is uneven. It has to be. By cobbling together the band's original demos, 7" releases, some Peel sessions and a number of scattered tracks (remember all those indie label compilations of original songs that littered record store back in the 90s?), the surviving members of Rodan knew what they were making. This is not a cohesive album, something that would trump Rusty's greatness. That couldn't happen, so they just collected the tapes, remastered them and sent them out to the fans.

    Rodan lasted one album. Rusty has six songs. This set has nine. Fifteen songs (although the live CD has two renditions of another, "Wurl"). Fifteen (or sixteen) songs that launched a legend.

    The remnants of Rodan went on to great things. Various members (together and apart) wandered through such bands as Rachel's, Shipping News, The Sonora Pine and, most importantly in my mind, June of 44. Oh, and one should not overlook Tara Jane O'Neill's solo work, which is also excellent. All of these efforts helped to define and refine the idea of math rock (and take it from a joke to a movement, as more than writer has described the scene). But Rodan was there in the beginning, bearing witness to the power of composition, technical playing and almost infinite quantities of noise.

    Fifteen Quiet Years is mostly for geeks like me--even if I'm no good at math or even appreciating math rock to the Nth degree. If sets like this are what nostalgia is all about, sign me up for a round of reminiscing.

    Carrie Rodriguez
    She Ain't Me
    reviewed in issue #301, October 2008

    I didn't know major labels were still taking shots on the whole americana sound, but here comes Carrie Rodriguez on down that well-worn back road. Gary Louris of the Jayhawks co-wrote many of the songs here, and other collaborators include Dan Wilson of Semisonic and Mary Gauthier.

    This is Rodriguez's second album, but I'm guessing it's a lot better than the first. There's an assurance in her singing and songwriting that generally takes time to develop. These songs range all over the americana universe, from fairly jangly fare to the more proggy folk stylings of Emmylou Harris and Neil Young.

    Rodriguez is a fiddler by trade, but she doesn't really highlight her playing much. Her voice is solid, if unspectacular. What really works here are the songs, which sound like they flow from the font of the country.

    A fine album from an artist who just might mature into something special. I'll be keeping tabs.

    Live in Louisville
    reviewed in issue #311, October 2009

    No, she hasn't been dropped. It's just that this live set (recorded back in April 2007 when Rodriguez was opening for Lucinda Williams) is available only through her website. Only one song ("Mask of Moses") from She Ain't Me is included, which makes this a fine way to get into her back catalog. A solid set that showcases Rodriguez's (and her band's) fine performing chops.

    Roguish Armament
    Roguish Armament
    (Striving for Togetherness)
    reviewed in issue #89, 10/9/95

    Rap straight from the New York scene, sounding a lot like the Beasties and Cypress Hill and House of Pain and all that.

    And I know those bands don't sound alike, so don't shout "ignorant fuck!" at me. Roguish Armament combines pieces of each of those (particularly House of Pain beats and Cypress Hill and Beastie delivery) and cranks out something that, while lyrically interesting, is musically stagnant.

    The guys have a knack for cool rhymes, but they should work on creating a more unique musical style. I know, to copy is to score big bucks (from the Bomb Squad to Miami bass to Dr. Dre's seventies kick to whatever), but I prefer music that comes out of nowhere. Roguish Armament has some work to do there.

    Jim Roll
    Inhabiting the Ball
    (The Telegraph Company)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Jim Roll's voice sounds just a wee bit like Jay Farrar's. He's got some vaguely famous writer friends (Rick Moody and Denis Johnson) who like to write lyrics for his melodies. And while he's obviously well-educated in the ways of Americana roots music, he has no need to stick to tradition.

    Alright, then. One song Roll will do a little picking. On the next he might dig deep into the bag of electronic gadgetry. On another he might go all out with a full band (and then some) sound. And yet all of it holds together just fine, thank you.

    It's one thing to trample all over the past. But Roll respects his predecessors by taking older ideas and incorporating them into a fully modern sound. He does what every great artist has done: Assimilate and advance. And so while it's true that you could put him smack dab in the middle of the whole "alt. country" scene, Roll's music is hard to pin down that way. He simply does too much.

    Well, too much to tie him to a genre label, anyway. As music goes, Roll does just right. He's man who knows how to make great music, period. Those instincts have been translated on this disc into some stunning fare, indeed.

    Long Black Feeling
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    I thought this sort of thing had faded, but I guess not. A few of you out there may remember a band called East Ash on C'est la Mort records. You can find them in cut-outs now. But anyway, the members of East Ash were big U2 fans, which came through in a garish way in their music. That the singer served me a lot of drinks before my 21st birthday notwithstanding, I didn't like them.

    Rollinghead isn't quite as obvious in its musical affection. The music is more often standard college rock stuff, but singer Dave Grant affects a Bono-esque smarm a little too much for comfort.

    The irony here is that Rollinghead is from Kalamazoo. About 20 miles away. I'm not sure if I've seen them before, and I'd say the same thing after listening to this disc. It's nondescript. I've heard a million like it before and will hear that many in the future. Nothing is awful; I'd remember that. Rollinghead needs to work some more and really find that something that makes a band. It just takes time.

    Henry Rollins
    Human Butt
    (1/4 Stick/ Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #15, 6/15/92

    The only cd to be serviced of the four new spoken word cds. Oh well, this beats nothing by a long shot.

    As in his music, Rollins devote most of his spoken word sets to thoughts on human relationships. He refers to himself as an asshole often enough (hence the title), but he also manages to wrench an odd type of moral from each story. Henry's Fables, I suppose.

    All of you heard The End of Silence and seemed to dig it well enough. If you don't know what to do with superb spoken word stuff (which would mean you don't play Jello's pieces, either; what shitheads), then do as I do: stick cool music underneath it. Wait for people to call up and ask what you're playing. Call it the truth. Rollins is pretty good at that.

    Rollo Tomasi
    He Who Holds You EP
    reviewed in issue #215, 4/23/01

    A long EP (six songs, almost 21 minutes), but that's what I'm calling it. I always like to get these housekeeping details out of the way. Right. On the to the tunes, which fit right in with Rollo Tomasi's Divot brethren.

    This is a band, by the way. The style is somewhat convoluted emo hardcore, loud and meandering. Aggressive. Mean, sometimes. Compelling, always. In particular, the guitar lines are fat and expressive, reminding me more than a little of Jawbox.

    On the dark side this trio rolls. Nothing complicated, though certainly complex. Just powerful rock and roll delivered with a deft touch. Hard to be heavy with a light foot, but Rollo Tomasi delivers. Delivers to all neighborhoods, I might add.

    The Rollo Treadway
    The Rollo Treadway
    reviewed in issue #302, November 2008

    It's one thing to appropriate psychedelic 60s pop. That's kinda trendy these days. But the Rollo Treadway does it one better by marrying layers of reverb and harmony to a story. Kinda like a Zombies's version of Operation: Mindcrime, if you will.

    The tale here is more personal, giving a first-person account of the kidnapping of two kids. That, actually, makes this that much more creepy. And thus, that much more intriguing.

    The sound is almost slavish to the old school, complete with organ, skiffle beats and breathy lead vocals. The songs have a bit more of a sharp edge, but that's mostly the result of better recording technology. The thing is, this album would work without the retro feel or the back story.

    It would work, but it wouldn't be nearly so involving. The hooks set quickly and don't release until the last chord has rolled off into the mist. Pretty damned cool.

    Rolo Tomase
    Plan B
    (Sic Audio)
    reviewed in issue #234, October 2002

    Jazzy noise musings with more than a hint of funk. To put it another way, Rolo Tomase uses about every means at its disposal to craft music that communicates some truly intriguing ideas.

    And everything stems from that traditional drums, bass (upright) and guitar trio. There are some nice electronic bits here and there, but mostly this is about the cool things three guys can do when they're letting go of reality.

    Trippy, pretty, sly, cool and outright strange at times. Rolo Tomase feels no compunction to actually stay within the lines. Whatever groove might have been established earlier in the song has very little influence over what transpires a couple of minutes later. Except that, in the end, all of the pieces fit together nicely.

    See, there is a plan. And I'm not making a pun on the title of the album. I just mean that no matter how tangential some of the musings within these pieces may seem, the boys always seem to know where they're going. An inspiring set.

    Roma 79
    The Great Dying
    reviewed in issue #270, November 2005

    When all else fails, write good songs. I don't know if that's Roma 79's motto, but it might as well be. The performances are spot-on, if a little generic, but the songs themselves are so brilliantly conceived that it's hard to notice.

    The techno power trio (I suppose you could make a reference to Trans Am, though I wouldn't) is an unusual way to present straight-ahead rock songs, but here come these pieces adorned with keyboards, guitar, bass and drums (though generally not all four at once). The arrangements are simply spectacular.

    And the sound is solid. The keyboards are treated as a regular instrument, not a throwaway or something used to mask other deficiencies. Each part is utilized to its full potential.

    Just a highly enjoyable listening experience. Nothing more complicated than that. These boys know how to put together a good song or few. Which is more than enough for me.

    Roman Evening
    Together Now
    (Bitter Stag)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Adam Klein has that Neil Young nasal vocal style. Also like Young, he's quite good at expressing emotions and ideas through his voice. His is not a technically stellar instrument, but it's a very artistic one.

    In the same way, his bandmates in Roman Evening cobble together a number of vaguely clunky songs. The arrangements are ambitious and far-reaching; there are a few missed notes and the occasional bit of (I think) unintentional dissonance, but all that works together to create the intensely introspective mood of this album.

    When I talk about the arrangements, I'm speaking more of the way the instruments are used. The sound is sparse, but at times it seems astonishingly full, though generally only four or five instruments are tracked at any one time. It's like my ears have been tricked to think a more orchestral sound exists when it doesn't.

    Tricked in a good way. These songs are tightly crafted, even with a few blue notes. I may have to rethink my assessment of the playing--perhaps there is intent behind the (very) occasional flub. Because this album has a "just so" sound to it. Just so, but laid back as well. Quite well done.

    Roman Numerals
    Roman Numerals
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Survivors of the early 90s K.C. loud music scene get all retro. Members of Season to Risk, Shiner and others play some fine stripped-down proto punk--complete with synthesizers. References to Gang of Four, Gary Numan, etc., aren't entirely out of line.

    If you want to get the real flavor of the album, skip ahead a few songs. The first two are something of a concept piece, and while they're not bad, they aren't the greatest introduction to a band with this sort of musical firepower. Loud navelgazing, while sometimes interesting, isn't the way to kick off a disc.

    That misstep aside, though, this album simply crackles. I always thought Season to Risk was at its best when it picked up the tempo a bit. When you're playing grungy fare, even often inspired stuff, always keep the songs moving along. Apart from the first two tracks, that's what happens here.

    These guys are about my age. I've met most of the band at one time or another (never in K.C.; always in strange places like Grand Rapids), and I know these are guys who actually think about their music. I think they've finally found the mates and the sound that allows them to do just that.

    The Romantics
    (WEB Entertainment)
    reviewed in issue #245, September 2003

    Yeah, those Romantics. The "What I Like About You" and "Talking in My Sleep" Romantics. The guys must be, what, almost 50 by now? Hell, I don't know. What I do know is that these guys still know the secret to making dirty garage music: Good songs.

    And that's about it. These boys haven't recorded a full-length studio album since, well, 1985's Rhythm Romance, which would seem to indicate a long lay-off. But in fact, the band has performed regularly all these years, and all those shows seem to have kept the rust away.

    There's a sense of fun to these songs that's missing from most of today's garage retroids. The Romantics could write "serious" songs, but the guys weren't silly enough to think that they're making a statement with their music. The production has left the sound here full, but playful. There's a bounce to these songs that can't help but bring a smile to my face.

    When I got this disc in the mail, I fully expected it to suck, or at the very least be some over-produced by-the-numbers effort by a bunch of geezers. Instead, this is a fine album by some folks who still have a few miles left in the tank. Sometimes summer is endless, indeed.

    Romeo's Dead
    It's All Your Fault
    (Fastlane Records)
    reviewed in issue #239, March 2003

    If you happen to sit down and listen to your old Hanoi Rocks albums every once in a while (yes, I'm getting on in age), it might occur to you that those boys really had a handle on how to fuse the glam rock of the early 70s and the punk of the late 70s. Motley Crue hit it big with a more processed version of the sound, but for some of us that night when Vince Neil drove Razzle into oblivion is the real day the music died.

    All of that is a long introduction to what Romeo's Dead is doing. Imagine Hanoi Rocks updated for a new millennium. There's a bit more speed, a bit more punch and a little less whine. These boys streamline the glam sound and add a bit more punk attitude. And it works.

    The funny thing about all that glam metal stuff is that good, solid music survives underneath all the studio nonsense. Romeo's Dead simply eschews the effects and overdubs and kicks these songs out with proper fury and glee.

    In a perfect world, a band who played music as cool as this would get a big deal and sell millions. But my version of a perfect world includes the enshrinement of Prince, Frank Zappa and Neil Young as the holy trinity of a brand new religion. I don't see many conversions coming any time soon. That doesn't take away from the trashy fun of this disc. Cheap and easy doesn't mean diseased. It just means you can dispense with foreplay.

    Rent Romus
    (as Rent Romus' Lords of Outland)
    Avatar in the Field: A Tribute to Albert Ayler
    reviewed in issue #216, 5/14/01

    You gotta like an album where the percussionist is listed as playing "odd things." Albert Ayler was a fairly obscure jazz saxophonist, and this album is intended, as the title states, to be a tribute to him.

    Rent Romus' Lords of Outland don't go about this endeavor in the usual fashion. Rather, they attack the tribute in the way Romus seems to think Ayler would, by mixing some of Ayler's pieces with improvisations inspired by Ayler and his life.

    By far the proper artistic choice, and one that Romus and company execute well. The original improvisations have much the same feel as the Ayler compositions, and the overall album paints a more complete portrait of Ayler as the artist and hero than a simple run-through of his pieces could.

    One of the easiest ways to impress me is to take a creative musical journey. This album does that, both in its conception and execution. Most satisfying.

    PKD Votex Project
    reviewed in issue #221, 9/3/01

    The cover says this is a tribute to the dark master of pulp fiction (Philip K. Dick, which is where the "PKD" comes from). In the liners, Rent Romus explains his concept of "vortex music," which is something along the lines of improvisatory free jazz inspired by the freedom of thought found in science fiction.

    Whatever the explanation, Romus is always worth hearing. His improvisations are creative and invigorating, and he always puts together a band comprised of talented and adventurous musicians.

    He's done that again. These songs take wild leaps of imagination, but they never get lost along the way. Sure, there are plenty of "far out" moments (that's kinda the point, really), but Romus has enough of a hand on his band to keep the pieces moving in the right direction.

    As a tribute to Dick, well, I suppose this works. More to the point, though, I'd call this simply inspired by Dick. And that's not bad at all. Romus and company come through once again with an album of uncompromising (and still most invigorating) music.

    Rent Romus' Lords of Outland with Vinny Golia
    Edge of Dark
    reviewed in issue #328, June 2011

    Culled from two live performances, these pieces find Romus and the Lords in modestly more contemplative circumstances than usual. There are the usual flourishes and romps into the unknown, but this time around the center holds. The adventure continues.

    Roon EP
    reviewed in issue #174, 12/28/98

    Three songs, exhibiting an interesting cross-section of influences. A little funk, a little grunge, a little 80s AOR. Reminds me just a bit of King's X, more in the sharing of influences than the execution (though "Latch Key Kid" is right in that groove).

    Three very different songs which still manage to put across a fairly coherent Roon sound. Technically proficient, I'm not particularly impressed by the songwriting itself. It does the job, but it doesn't sound inspired.

    Lots of room to grow. There is a good base here. Seasoning, that ever-necessary ingredient, should be on the Roon menu.

    (Family Vineyard)
    reviewed in issue #229, May 2002

    Speaking of sonic crafting... Rope is a Polish duo featuring Przemyslaw Chris Drazek on guitars (and trumpet) and Robert Iwank on bass (and the occasional vocal). When the songs have structure, they follow Iwank's bass. Most often, though, Drazek's guitar drives the action. And that action sometimes sounds decidedly chaotic.

    In a good way. This isn't noodling for the hell of it. Drazek generally follows the variations on a theme structure. There is something at the base of the noise. But his ideas are often dissonant and sharply so. He's listened to some Henry Kaiser in his day, I'd guess.

    Or Marc Ribot. Take your pick. Iwank does his best to help to tie the music together. His ideas are nowhere near as extreme as Drazek's. And so the two work very well together. They don't play off each other so much as simply work together to create complete songs.

    Four of them, actually, which might be daunting enough without the fun of the music inside. Certainly this isn't for the masses. But discriminating guitar fans might find a new hero here.

    Rope, Inc.
    Songs of Love and War
    (Second Shimmy)
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    There really is a Kramer sound. It's not so much a particular way of twisting the knobs as it is marrying a feel to the songs involved. Kramer has always managed to mutate his style to fit his subjects, and the results become even more interesting when he joins up with the outfit in question.

    And so Matt Menovcik writes the songs, plays the keyboards and sings, while Kramer produces, plays guitar and whatever else is necessary. Though often enough these songs do pretty well with just voice, keyboard implement, beats and guitar.

    The sound is vaguely dreary, I suppose, but nonetheless possessing a sort of untouchable beauty. There's a real ache to the sound on this album. It really brings out the quiet desperation of Menovcik's songs.

    The more I hear from Rope, Inc., the more I like what I hear. There's just not enough room here for me to give all the reasons why.

    Rorschach Test
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    An extremely programmed disc, with sequencers taking charge of most of the musical duties. Oh, there are some guitars, but they sound assembled as often as they sound live. Rorschach Test makes a claim to a pseudo-religious point of view, and there is a somewhat ambiguous moral tone to some of the songs.

    But no soul. The easiest place to hear this is on the cover of Berlin's "Sex". James (the singer) and an uncredited female singer do a little interplay on the chorus, and there is no connection whatsoever. Is this a philosophical observation or simply a product of the strictly-defined sound?

    This is one sterile-sounding project. Produced by Neil Kernon (who has become something of a house producer for Slipdisc, I guess), I think the folks got a bit too happy with the computer stuff and didn't bother to humanize the sound. Wouldn't take much, just some fuzziness. A little softer-edged distortion on the guitars, some definition whatsoever to the vocals. Everything is so flat and regimented.

    Of course, that's a popular sound. It's just not one of my favorites. Rorschach Test actually does a pretty decent job of songwriting (within the confines of the programming, anyway). I just wish I could find a connection point.

    Rosa Mota
    reviewed in issue #119, 9/23/96

    About fucking time. I've been waiting for a decent guitar rock band to arrive in my mailbox for one hell of a long time. I mean, for all the success of punk bands in the "alternative" world, the stuff that made the scene in the 80s was balls-out rock and roll from folks like Soul Asylum, the 'Mats and the Pixies. Rosa Mota finally fills the void I've been hearing.

    A swirling buzzsaw rhythm attack, with wonderfully sloppy vocals from various members of the band. The songs generally don't have much of a center, but just barely hold together through some sort of undefinable centrifugal force.

    The sorta thing that happens only when the members of a band really understand each other and know exactly how to play off of each other. This gives the band the confidence to whirl through all sorts of modes and sounds, all the while staying true to itself.

    Utterly impressive. Rosa Mota has created a set of songs with amazing sonic impact. The power is undeniable.

    Frank Rosaly
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    Frank Rosaly is a drummer. This album is pretty much him drumming. Except for one thing. He messes around with the recordings.

    So for much of the time, you just get some impressive jazz improv drumming. And then you notice something else going on. Electronic blips that serve as counterrhythms. Then the sounds of the drums themselves seem to shift.

    That's because they are. Rosaly is using all the tools at his disposal to make music. He's taking something as simple (so to speak) as a solo percussion album and making it much more experimental. That he does this without taking the project fully into outer space is even more impressive.

    I'm into this kind of stuff. I like it when people mess with perceptions of reality. Rosaly sure does that, but he remains fully human at the same time. It's a trip. A damned fine one.

    Donna Rose
    Donna Rose EP
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    Donna Rose reminds me a bit of Kate Bush. Crossed with Lisa Stansfield. That sorta arty-yet-soulful delivery of emotionally-drenched songs. Just enough detachment to keep the stuff from getting mopey or syrupy. That's good.

    Rose has an impressive range, but she prefers to restrain her voice for the most part, focusing more on selling the power of the lyrics. Again, I think that's the right way to go. Fewer pyrotechnics, greater effect.

    I do wish the music behind her worked as hard as she does. It's basic midtempo stuff, plenty of professionally executed flourishes (and certainly mixed at a good level, allowing Rose to shine) but a little run-of-the-mill. I knew what was coming. I think Rose would do better to surprise more often. Still, there's no questioning her presence. Well done.

    Josh Roseman
    New Constellations: Live in Vienna
    reviewed in issue #289, September 2007

    Josh Roseman leads a septet. He plays trombone and fiddles with electronics. His septet plays music. Jazz, perhaps. But music most definitely.

    If this is jazz, it's an unusually wide-ranging vision of the form. There are plenty of electronic beats, keyboard riffles and reggae riffs to dissuade one from the notion that this might be jazz. And yet, I'm inclined to call it just that. After all, jazz has always been a mongrel (in the best sense of the word) music form. It has assimilated elements of just about every form of music known to man. Makes jazz almost as inscrutable a term as "rock."

    And that's cool. I think most jazz traditionalists would disavow this stuff, but Roseman is simply following the dicta set down by Miles Davis's Bitches Brew and the rest of the fusion movement. That he's fusing ska, reggae and other Caribbean grooves, rather than prog rock, into his jazz doesn't make this any different. Roseman is taking jazz to places it doesn't normally see. I like that.

    Absolutely addictive. It's hard for me to comprehend that a "music lover" (however that might be defined) wouldn't like this. Roseman and his band have set forth a mighty album. Let the ideas keep flowing.

    Rosetta Stone
    The Tyranny of Inaction
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    Moving a traditional Goth sound into the industrial universe, Rosetta Stone keeps the sound lean and the lyrics moody. Perhaps something akin to a mix of early Depeche and Sisters. I can deal with this.

    Beneath the apparent disregard for a lush pop sound is great songwriting. Sure, it takes a little while to uncover the glories underneath, but shouldn't music challenge a little.

    This disc also contains a couple of re-mixes not found on the original UK import (which is why this is subtitled revised edition 1.1). They don't add much to the package, but they don't suck either. If you've got the space, why not use it?

    Goth without the silly trappings, Rosetta Stone has created a cool, moody atmosphere without all the whiny extravagance. Bully for them.

    Chemical Emissions
    reviewed in issue #166, 8/31/98

    Live to tape in the studio. Rosetta Stone utilizes something of an analog-level goth industrial electronic sound, if that makes any sense. The "live" element gives the performances a nice cohesion, and the overall effect is to hark back somewhat to the new wave of the 1980s.

    Though I wouldn't take that allusion too far. Rosetta Stone is a modern band, and this sound is certainly most impressive. The band has long been one of the better gothic songwriting groups, and that rep doesn't fall off here. Tight writing and well-practiced playing lead to a dynamic sound.

    Simply horribly impressive. From the first track to the last, each song is solid and driving, and while I know I keep referring to the sound, it really is most impressive. This album just leaps from the speakers.

    Um, what else can I say. I'm more than knocked out. Blown away is simply another cliche. I've already cycled through enough superlatives this issue, so simply understand that if you've got any affection for gothic rock, this is an album to seek out immediately.

    The Rosewood Thieves
    From the Decker House EP
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Six short songs (four don't make it to three minutes) from an upstate New York. An outfit good enough to enlist the help of Bob Dorough (the man who wrote "Conjunction Junction" and other Schoolhouse Rock bits), Mike Daly, Andy Cavic and Otto Hauser.

    And the Rosewood Thieves are that good. The sound is "timeless rock," which is something we don't get enough of these days. A little organ, a little kick-ass guitar and anthemic choruses that ring in the brain for days.

    Six tracks, and all of them leave me screaming for more. Not just outstanding. Absolutely fucking amazing. To say more would be to defile the music.

    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #26, 1/15/93

    Very clean production, which at times has the unfortunate result of detracting from the heaviness. To be honest, this is the lightest death metal I have ever heard. The bass completely disappears sometimes.

    As for the music, it is good, but not great. With the exception of the cow sample (and that's pretty cool), I have heard this before. If it were rougher it might have a soul. If the influences were more diverse, it might be creative. If the bass existed, it might blow my balls off. But it simply sits. Not bad, not great. Just... so.

    No Cause for Celebration
    (Black Mark-Cargo)
    reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95

    Refusing to be typecast as anything, Rosicrucian continues its musical wanderings. With stops in the realms of thrash, prog-metal, Euro-metal and even grunge, you can't ever be sure what the next song will sound like.

    But chances are you'll like it. Rosicrucian does have an idea as to what makes a good song, and while there are lots of bits and pieces flying around, the production leaves everything seamless.

    No, there isn't much in the way of real new ideas, except in the way certain things are combined. And while that may be interesting, it isn't revolutionary.

    On the other hand, Rosicrucian has put together another great album. I would be at a total loss as to how to promote the album, other than time travel back about five years and promote the track "Stench of Life" quite heavily. But since we can't do that, perhaps we should just be content with turning the knob to 11.

    Ross Phasor
    Gold Is Dead, Hide Your Rock and Roll
    reviewed in issue #184, 7/5/99

    One of the more inexplicable fascinations of my youth was the glam rock movement of the 70s (which, occasionally, also manifested itself in the glam rock movement of the 80s). Ross Phasor is firmly committed to the 70s version of glam. And it sounds glorious.

    That is, if you dig stuff like Bowie, the Sweet, T. Rex and the like. With tinges of space rock thrown in fer the hell of it. This ain't no tribute, man, this is the real thing. Ross Phasor isn't processing; it's creating.

    Wow, truly groovy guitar sounds and strangely dissonant vocal harmonies. Yes, it takes me back to my own youth in the 80s (when I was tied to this part of the 70s). And I won't apologize for that.

    Neither does Ross Phasor. This isn't a rehash, like I've said. The music is as contemporary as anything else these days, just with its influence antennae tuned to a slightly shinier wavelength. Big ass fun on the main line.

    The David Roter Method
    They Made Me
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    Occasional songwriter for Blue Oyster Cult and longtime New York troubadour, David Roter has been around. He brings together many friends, including members of the Dictators and B.O.C.'s Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (that's how he's billed here). But the music is more of that old NYC hipster groove, a less (and yet more) twisted version of what Lou Reed's done for some 30 years.

    The focus here is on ideas expressed verbally. The music is decent and certainly inventive from time to time, but Roter keeps the focus firmly on his unconventional lyric style. He's even got quite a few vaguely jokey spoken word bits. Which don't work on a basic level, and yet, kinda like Neil Hamburger, there's always an ulterior motive.

    Roter references his biggest "hit" with B.O.C. on "Joan Crawford Revisited," and he riffs on impotence, his city, his family and, just to make sure he hasn't missed anything, a "Lesbian Midget Motorcycle Gang."

    He touches all the bases, some more fully than others. Is it funny? Kinda, in an uncomfortable way. Is the music good? It's often interesting. This is sounding more and more like a Lou Reed review, isn't it? Damn. Roter really doesn't sound a damned thing like Reed, except that he uses the same personal observational perspective and likes to play games with music. Maddening and yet compelling.

    Kevin Roth
    Between the Notes
    reviewed in issue #277, August 2006

    Kevin Roth wants to traffic in timeless music. Perhaps a bit more folk and pop than rock, but I've found that such distinctions can be ephemeral. Good music, though, lasts a long damn time.

    Yeah, yeah, this does fit right into that whole singer-songwriter genre, but Roth doesn't make the mistake of thinking his music is more than it is. Even when performing a song like "Love Is" (the title alone is simply fraught with potential disaster), Roth acquits himself with grace and self-deprecation. Yes, that particular song is a bit treacly (duh), but it didn't inspire me to skin myself and jump into a vat of rubbing alcohol. Trust me; that's saying a lot.

    Roth veers between the blues and folk and acoustic pop with aplomb. He even gets Noel Paul Stookey (better known as the Paul in Peter, Paul and Mary) to hang out on "The Inside Job" (which is one of the better songs here). The man has taste, and he has the brains to show it.

    Not a perfect album; there are moments when Roth does, in fact, try too hard. Whenever the keyboard arrangements get going, I wondered where Neil Diamond (circa 1982) was hiding. But, y'know, I still like Neil, and I like Roth as well. One of the better singer-songwriter efforts I've heard in a while.

    www: http://www.kevinrothmusic.com

    Patti Rothberg
    Candelabra Cadabra
    reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01

    The grandiose, anthemic style of the music just screams "this is a strong woman, hear her sing!" Patti Rothberg really doesn't need the overkill.

    Her lyrics are smart and insightful, even if she does tend to try on trite bites a bit too often. But any wittiness on her part is wiped out by the bombastic production, which throws all sorts of silly things into the pot (there are sitars here, okay?) in some sort of weird attempt to put Rothberg over the top.

    I'll admit, I'm a horrible judge of this kind of stuff. I just don't like this kind of commercial excess. Particularly with a singer who obviously knows how to put words together.

    Rothberg is smart enough (and trite enough--not an insult) to connect with a major-label audience. I still think she should do it with just a little less bombast. Give her voice enough room to actually express itself.

    Mozart Rottweiler
    Rage Against the Night
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Goofy blues-pop tunes, with a recording sound so primitive you might think this was recorded 40 years ago.

    Not so, but that dull feel helps to make up for the somewhat hackneyed tuneage. Mozart Rottweiler (and Sinister Undertones) crank out riff after recycled riff, hoping to catch a laugh with the odd strange reference. And sometimes it works.

    And it is hard not to be amused by songs with titles like "Eat Vegetarians" and "Got My Lights and My Heart on for You". The lyrics generally don't live up to the titles, but there are moments.

    Not enough to rev me up, though. If you like your jokes extremely broad (and your music uninspired), Rottweiler might have your number. But he doesn't have mine.

    A Most Impressive Girl
    reviewed in issue #76, 5/15/95

    The title track mixes nice pop music with punk vocals. The cassette cover model (presumably the "most impressive girl" of the title) is decked out in leather and a mohawk. You get the idea.

    The second track, "Disappointment", runs more to the style of the Stooges, and the last track is a Ramonesey raver.

    Round sounds like it's trying to merge some rather disparate areas of punk music. The performances are more than adequate, though the production is below even regular demo quality (much is muffled in the mix). Sure, you don't need to be so punchy if you're punx, but still. I'd like to hear a lead line now and again.

    Round sounds like a band with real songwriting ability. I'd like to hear a better-quality recording, but even this makes me simply desire more.

    Round Eye
    Round Eye
    reviewed 7/16/15

    This Shanghai outfit is unafraid. I've always been a fan of punk bands that use horns and other lovely bits of noise to brighten up the sound. But these boys don't believe in shining up anything. The saxes deconstruct.

    The result is something that, at its most manic, sounds like Voodoo Glowskulls at the tail end of an LSD bender. I suppose you could reference John Zorn, but these horns aren't grounded in any musical theory. They blaze by on the wings of chaos.

    The album itself pauses now and again to give the listener a breath. Which is not to say that the ferment settles. Even when the sounds are swirling slower, they don't coalesce into much of anything. The only thing holding most of these songs together is the beat.

    An unholy mess, to be sure, but one that immediately attracts the ear and makes the mind dance. That element is what makes me believe that there might be a plan after all. Though, to be fair, I simply don't care. I'll bite into the wire and absorb as much energy as I can.

    I really don't know what you would call this stuff. The band seems to prefer the term "experimental freak punk." Of course, that can mean almost anything. Round Eye may well be a band without a genre, but it has definitely set a confident course. Ambitious noise is always fun to hear. When it is executed at this level of lunacy, one can only marvel. Bringlebopnian, for sure.

    The Roy Owens Jr.
    Good Times
    (International Hits)
    reviewed in issue #273, April 2006

    I'm not entirely sure whether to file this under "R" or "O." Because Roy Owens is the singer and (I am led to believe) the songwriter as well. But then there's that article at the beginning, and I'm all confused. So for now, I'll plop this under "R."

    On the web site, there's this line: "Influences are fun, and I like them too!" And then there's a list of artists that just about anyone with any sense likes. Suffice it to say that Owens prefers to play good music. There's a certain roots base to many of the songs, but that's generally overshadowed by whatever idea possessed Owens at the time.

    So there are gorgeous pop songs, balls-out rockers, prog-country excursions and the occasional punk slash-n-burn. And more. The sound is antique modern (something of a sharp digital recreation of some of those late 60s alt pop sounds loved by music critics and other crazy people), though the mood is thoroughly today. And tomorrow.

    I didn't even get to mention how much I like the muscular grace of these songs. There's so much power wound up in every piece. I kept waiting for it to be released, but Owens prefers to keep the tension coiled up. Builds one hell of a sense of anticipation. Withholding climax may seem cruel, but in this context it's pure genius.

    Royal City
    Royal City
    (Asthmatic Kitty)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    This collection of mostly early songs from Royal City gives plenty of reason to check out the rest of the band's catalog.

    Minimalist alt country tinged with indie rock (a lot like Engine Kid, for those familiar with that band from the early 90s), songs that move or don't depending on the mood of the band.

    The attitude is almost entirely implied, which makes some of these songs something akin to passive-aggressive anthems. Maybe that's thinking a bit too much about this stuff, but sue me.

    The songs don't really fit together well, but I think they do provide a solid portrait of the band. A nice little bit of addenda for a band that most folks in the lower 48 haven't heard much. Well, now's your chance.

    Royal Hunt
    (Magna Carta)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    Power metal, with lots of the expected prog touches (heavy keys, intricate guitar lines). And some of the unexpected: a strangely gothic feel to some of the melodies (yeah, I know, just a minor key). Well, it's all so overwrought, so why worry?

    Reminds me a lot of Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray project, in the ultra-thick sound, tight harmonies on the vocals and the flying straight ahead song construction. Kinda the ultimate extension of the whole Euro-metal thing. Candy for my brain.

    Oh, man, this is just what I need. Mindless (for me, anyway), timeless fun. Just latch on to the soaring, operatic vocals and ride the stormwinds. Despite all the elements, this is not complicated music. All of the pieces point to one whole. Addictive stuff.

    One of my true weaknesses. Oh yeah, Royal Hunt is into excess of all kinds, but in a way so as to pump out a great melodic metal sound. Takes me back 15 years or more, and I'm not returning any time soon. A complete rush.

    Royal Trux
    Cats and Dogs
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Two people, lots of weird noise. You might expect that from Pussy Galore refugee Neil Hagarty, who has a knack for making cool music, no matter who he's with, in this case Jennifer Herrema.

    This is not traditional anything. Hagarty's guitar work is simply inspirational, and this is a little more coherent than past releases from these kids.

    As this is what even the most jaded critical hack would have to call "alternative", the best way to appreciate it is by listening to the whole thing. Individual tracks can show spots of brilliance, but to get the full sun-god effect, you have to take all of the thing all the way down your throat. Anything less would be uncivilized.

    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #154, 3/9/98

    How Jennifer and Neil ever got a major label deal is still a mystery to me. Who in their right mind thought this stuff would sell a million copies, anyway? So we find the Truxters back on Drag City, a label which much better appreciates the weirdness that abounds.

    A continuation of the excessive and eclectic take on pop music that is a hallmark of Royal Trux. The songs range all over the place stylistically, but in general they're best enjoyed with the stereo cranked. This is loud music, stuff that makes the party if your friends are truly cool fucks.

    Catchy, in a grimy, sleazy, cluttered way. Neil Hagerty hasn't changed much since his Pussy Galore days, and his one man band approach to the music has led to even more lunacy. Does it all make sense? A better question would be Is it supposed to make sense?

    Nah, probably not. But I don't know of a band that makes so much of glorious nonsense. And for stuff that is close to incomprehensible at times, the tunes provide a great ride. Good to hear this band back where it belongs.

    3-Song EP
    (Drag City)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    The title kinda sez it all. Three songs, all following a similar line. Kind of a mid-seventies Stones groove, with lots more distortion. Rambling and crashing, but with that inevitable sort of greatness present. Hard to describe, but easy to hear.

    Particularly impressive is the seven-minute plus "The United States vs One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan". The thing just keeps moving on and on and on, finally crashing into the remnants of its own excess. Garishly gorgeous, undeniably brilliant.

    In a way, more impressive than the recent album. I like the mood in these three songs, and the general Trux sloppiness is perfectly executed here. I mean, this is the music that killed rock and roll. Where else to go from here but punk and disco?

    Giulia Rozzi
    True Love
    (Comedy Records)
    reviewed 2/22/16

    A while back, I reviewed Mary Mack's album. I was struck by its subtle feminism. Giulia Rozzi is not subtle. And while she's probably not my mom's kind of feminist ("According to [Internet] commenters, women can have only one talented hole, and I want all of my holes to be talented. It's just a dream that I've always had" is probably not an evolution foreseen by Betty Friedan), there is a very clear "women are real people" vibe going on.

    Like Mack, Rozzi focuses more on being funny than on promulgating a "message". And she's really funny. Her deconstruction of 69 is absolutely sidesplitting. So, yeah. This album is pretty much about sex, stupid guys, stupid girls, bad relationships, good-bad relationships, the intimate relationship between food and sex and a few digressions into the whole Italian family thing.

    And it all makes sense. Rozzi relates her tales and observations in a matter-of-fact manner, and the whole album sounds a lot more like a conversation than a performance. An intensely hilarious conversation, the kind that makes you spit out whatever you're drinking because you heard something incomparably funny (I actually did this twice; it's a good thing iMacs have glass screens).

    The audience sounds heavily female, but perhaps the men weren't laughing as much. Why? Are you scared? C'mon guys. This shit is seriously funny.

    Yes, there are a few serious undertones to many of the stories, but the stories themselves are often batshit crazy funny. She'll lull you with a few seconds of normality and then you realize what she's saying and then fall on the floor laughing. That's the just the best.

    Amber Rubarth
    Good Mystery
    reviewed in issue #315, March 2010

    I get five to ten (or more) CDs a month from young women who are trying their hand at the whole folkie/singer-songwriter thingy. Most of them have the technical elements down (competent song construction, decent voice, etc.) but have nothing interesting to say.

    Amber Rubarth is a clever lyricist, and what I like best is that she makes sure that her lyrics fit her music. She doesn't force a thing, and that makes these songs sound completely effortless and free. Oh, she's got a fine voice and, in truth, a much better sense of music composition than most. But the best thing here is her delivery.

    Yeah, there's a bit of the ol' talk-singing, but Rubarth's voice always seems to want to take flight. She's got just enough alto in her range to keep her grounded, but she sounds great when she climbs the ladder, too.

    That said, she's still another one of those folkie/singer-songwriter types. There's no getting around that. It's just that she's one of the best I've heard in ages. This album is class, all the way around. Rubarth has all the tools.

    Rubber Cement
    split LP with Panicsville
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    A lot to love here. Each artist gets a well-proportioned album side with which to play. Panicsville stays mostly within the "mad scientist" sound of burbling electronic chatter and other baubles (certainly a more active sound than that found on the 7").

    But it's where the sound surprises that always marks a Panicsville project. Here it comes in the middle of its side, where there is some wonderful interplay between what suffices as a bass line and some upper-range "melodic" lines. Just another example of the Panicsville oeuvre, I guess.

    The Rubber Cement side takes a more aggressively adventurous path Using much the same sort of electronic disturbance noise as Panicsville, Rubber Cement is more likely to use stark juxtaposition and worry less about, um, coherent structure.

    The results are surprisingly similar. I mean, it's not like either of these artists is going to be mistaken for Sting. When you combine the wonderfully experimental fare on the vinyl with the handmade album cover, well, I can't think of a more welcome package in my house.

    Rube Waddell
    Stink Bait
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Heavily distorted (not to mention strangely orchestrated) blues stuff. Kinda like if the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies got really weird on you. You know, like completely wacked out.

    The name of the band is taken from a rather famous pitcher who hurled during the first decade of this century. As the band's bio of the man says, he was a man of many passions. The same could be said for the band. While the music is basically blues-oriented, there's no way anyone would mistake this album for, say something by Lonnie Brooks.

    No, what we have here is an elaborate reworking of the call and response, complete with an impressive array of instruments (mostly acoustic, but not necessarily). Wacky songs which on the odd occasion don't even bother with formal lyrics, just hoots and hollers.

    A nice companion for Japonize Elephants. Put those two bands together and you might get some sort of mutant hoedown. And I'd be front and center.

    Jason Rubenstein
    reviewed in issue #181, 5/3/99

    The dark side of ambient. Rubenstein incorporates a lot of organic debris within his sample patterns, creating a sound which is very much alive. The effect is quite impressive.

    Not sterile at all. Rubenstein generally utilizes a simple melodic line (often with piano) in each of his pieces, fleshing out those ideas with whatever he can pull out of his bag of tricks and samples.

    But this isn't gimmicky fare. Each part of these pieces is well thought out, and even the smallest chunk is readily absorbed by the whole. Nothing stands out; all forces are directed to the whole.

    For an electronic project, this sounds amazingly analog. Rubenstein knows his computers so well, he can make them sound like regular instruments. The best use of technology I've heard in quite a while.

    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    I'm afraid I can't quite reproduce the phonetic spelling of the title on the web site, but you get the idea. Rubido is a four-piece from Nashville, and the band makes terribly serious-sounding music. The sort of thing that major labels like to release and call "important music".

    I've got other words, like overblown and excessive. Now, since Rubido recorded this thing on a smaller budget, the sound is great, sparse enough to allow the natural power of the songwriting to shine through. Yeah, it's anthemic fare, and the lyrics can be a bit oppressive (there are songs titled "Melodramatic", "Homindae" and "Many Rivers", for example), but enough rootsiness creeps into the guitar rock sound to save the band from its heavy impulses.

    I'm still thinking that this stuff is just a bit too arrogant, but even so, it works. I truly do like the way the music moves, even if it isn't in one of my favorite styles. And it is nice to hear someone really trying to say something, even if what is said might be just a little preachy.

    Perfect fodder for superstardom. I mean, I'd rather hear this stuff than, say more Hootie or what have you.

    Jeff Rubin
    Guitar God
    (Tender Stone)
    reviewed in issue #123, 11/18/96

    Featuring "The Cream Team", if you couldn't read that notation on the cover. Rubin and company specialize in recasting "guitar god" material, like Cream or Led Zeppelin, in a pseudo-psychedelic setting. Kinda cheesy, but sorta fun.

    Really forgettable. The performances are good, and the production is nice and fuzzy. Stuff like "Nyack" could almost pass as alterna-pop, and that strange first track (it sounds like an audition tape for a voice-over job) is positively hilarious. Well, maybe I've seen too many of my friends' Home Shopping Network audition videos.

    Crunchy and tasty, but not filling in the least. A cool set of ear candy that melts away as soon as the disc stops. I don't think Rubin was really going for much more, and he certainly doesn't take himself too seriously (a point in his favor). Good, without worrying about becoming great.

    Ruby Falls
    (Silver Girl)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Complex, eclectic pop (verging on emo-core) that would sound a lot more at home in Chicago than San Diego. But then, that's where mass media comes in, I guess.

    Each song is defined by a single guitar line, around which everything else eventually falls in. Everyone from Pavement to the Silver Jews to Boys Life incorporates this concept with varying degrees of success. Ruby Falls is better than most.

    The only real clue is in the lyrics (and, obviously, the voices), but Ruby Falls is made up of four women. I hesitate to bring such a loaded observation into a review, but some folks like to know. That fact certainly doesn't affect the quality of the music in any way (for better or worse), but, like I said, the lyrics are somewhat indicative.

    Ruby Falls has crafted a fine set of songs, at once raging and contemplative. It takes talent, inspiration and hard work to come to an achievement like this, and the band is due all praise. A revealing and impressive accomplishment.

    Ruby Vileos
    The King Is Dead
    (Whee Music)
    reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01

    Ruby Vileos plys the vaguely experimental mellow rock trade. What sets the band apart are Ali Edwards's decidedly affected vocals. And while too much might be annoying, she seems to know exactly when to tone down the excess.

    As for the music, the three members of the band don't get too crazy, but they always color the pieces with interesting decorations. Never overshadowing Edwards's voice, mind you, but just pinning a bow on the package.

    Well-crafted, too. These songs have been refined to a sharp point without removing the emotional content. Tight, yes, but not stilted. The warm sound achieved in the studio makes this a most inviting album, indeed.

    It took me a few songs to really get into this, but once I did I sure didn't want to finish. Ruby Vileos has a unique way of expressing itself. I hope more folks out there discover it.

    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    I recently was a judge in the IDN 1998 contest. This was my favorite album of the bunch (I had previously reviewed a couple of the other good ones, and the Radio Free America is another good one). Pulling the sword from the Family Stone, Rubydiver kicks out funky, soulful jams. And like the Sly man, each groove undulates into another. Bass into snare into bass drum into cymbal into guitar into bass...

    This is how you do it. Topping off the fine music is Miss Paula Helekunuhi Duke, whose vocals are easily some of the finest I've heard. Period. She can go from slinky to brick in two seconds, and you'd swear she never changed. The trippy, highly stylized lyrics fit right into the concept. The total package.

    The songs just roll off like candy. I mean, these folks have figured out how to make the funk really funky. They made sure there was plenty of soul to go along with the syncopated snare. If it was as easy as it sounds here, there wouldn't be so many dreadful funk bands.

    Rubydiver is a gem. This is one of the few bands I would really like to see live. I have to see the spectacle. A truly energizing album.

    Crashing the Russian Renaissance
    (Pax Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    Another fine bit of constructed music. Ernesto Diaz-Infante and friends. Lx Rudis mans the Matrix 12, Andre Custodio adds darbuka and tom-tom and Ernesto Diaz-Infante contributes guitar, violin and even some voice noise (to call them vocals is probably pushing it).

    There are "three college radio-ready edits" at the top of the disc. These comprise the densest and most involved of the pieces. The other 27 tracks are somewhat looser and certainly less intense. Not unlike what Miles did with Bitches Brew, the trio took its source recordings and created the 15 minutes or so at the top of the disc.

    Students of this kind of constructed improvisational music will be most interested in dissecting those "complete" pieces and discovering where the sounds originated. For most everyone else, the first three pieces will be more than enough.

    And that's because they're great. This isn't to denigrate the rest of the disc--there are plenty of intriguing and engaging moments later on--but I'm a fan of putting as many sounds as possible together, and that's what happens up top. There are a number of ways to enjoy this disc. Use it as you please.

    Refusal Fossil
    (Skin Graft)
    reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97

    A bass and drum duo from Japan. You might scoff, but when you consider the personnel (drummer Tatsuya Yoshida has played with Zeni Geva, John Zorn and many other cool people), well, you've gotta listen.

    Taking a noise sledgehammer to art rock, they do. Anyone who claims that the folks who do the noise thing are untalented hacks would walk away from Ruins with another idea altogether. While seemingly random and chaotic, Ruins songs are actually rather carefully crafted deconstructions of that thing we call rock.

    And those roots are laid bare. It's hard to imagine that music of such power and grace could come from two people playing their instruments alive at every opportunity. That's what's happening here. The press clippings have references to everyone from Zappa and Beefheart to the Butthole Surfers to Led Zeppelin and Yes. That's all applicable and then some.

    Oh, and by the way, this is mind-blowing fare. The last few tracks of the disc are live, baby, live, ending with a truly inspired and completely bizarre "Prog Rock Medley". Just so you're sure to get the point and all. All hail, indeed.

    The Rum Diary
    A Key to a Slow Time EP
    reviewed in issue #240, April 2003

    Noodly pop tunes that are strangely reminiscent of Heavy Vegetable run through a June of 44 filter. The lyrics are simplistic and at times loopy; the melodic structure is complex but languid. The results are, not surprisingly, quite compelling.

    The boys themselves call this puppy an EP, but even though there are only five songs the entire collection clocks in at more than 33 minutes. Sure, the last 12 are part of an extremely extended final track, but the thing does hold together.

    Whatever you call it, this disc is impressive. The Rum Diary likes to toy with its music, poking and prodding until the innards are exposed. Most of the time the boys put their toys back together, but every once in a while there is deconstruction left unrequited. Those are the parts I like the best.

    I don't think I mentioned the sometimes spacey elements. There are some electronic accompaniments that really help to make this stuff take off. These songs are so pretty it's frightening. Just the kinda scare I like to have.

    Rumba Club
    Desde la Capital
    reviewed in issue #87, 9/18/95

    Jazz in only the loosest of terms. That doesn't mean bad, because I'm not a big fan of labeling music (though I do it every day). Rumba Club riffs through various styles of Latin music, from the popular (and cheesy) Tito Puente to more dance and folk influenced bits.

    Personally, I prefer the latter. Rumba Club is smart enough to provide a real amalgam of what a live show must be like, and so the styles whoosh by almost faster than comprehension.

    Plenty to pick and choose from here. While (to my ear) Latin music can get really cheesy and silly if the wrong folks get a hold of it, Rumba Club does a good job of giving a presentation of all the moods of Latin music.

    Rumble Militia
    Stop Violence and Madness
    (Century Media)
    reviewed in issue #1, 10/31/91

    One thing Century Media has done this year is bring over some of the best (and harshest) European bands. As far as international following goes, Germany's Rumble Militia is one of the biggest Century Media bands, with good reason. Much like Suicidal Tendencies (whom they have toured with), Rumble Militia approach metal with a hard core edge. The chord constructions are fairly simple and the lyrics are scathing. There is a hint of melody in the vocals. All in all, a very appealing package for either hard core or metal fans.

    For those of you on a more commercial bent, check out "You're Sure." Those looking for a little more bite (political and musical) scope "Save Yourself," "Boys in Blue" or "Waiting for Death." Or, you can do like I do, and play everything on the damn album. It's that good.

    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    This is Dirty Looks with a few special guests, like Robin Crosby (of the ex-Ratt) and some guy from XYZ, a band which never should have been.

    The cover is, by far, the most tasteless I've seen since that Fantasies thing TNT put out a couple of years ago. Just to say.

    The music is basic Dirty Looks post-AC/DC stuff. Nothing exceptional, but at least as good as their Atlantic stuff. For cheesy commercial metal, it's pretty good. It didn't piss me off, at least.

    Run Devil Run
    Sinking Deeper
    reviewed in issue #202, 7/17/00

    Right. This one is a lot more standard Victory than the River City Rebels. Punchy, haggard hardcore. Strident riffage, raspy vocals and an unrelenting attack. The production is fairly stark, so Run Devil Run has to create its own excitement.

    And mostly, it does. The songs don't much escape that basic hardcore stew song construction. You know, a little of this and a little of that all played to bouncy beats. The one distinguishing mark of the band is the lack of produced power. And like I said, I think that's good.

    There's no need to over do effects on guitars and drown out the vocals. And there's no need to throw the vocals so high in the mix that everything else gets reduced to mush. Foose, the singer, isn't all that outstanding anyway. He's got a great delivery, but his vox is not all that.

    Again, that's okay. Run Devil Run never lets up. That's the key to the adrenaline rush this puppy provides. Somewhat faceless, but on the good side of that coin.

    Run, Forever
    The Devil, and Death, and Me
    reviewed in issue #326, April 2011

    Desperately epic punk songs that bring to mind a much-sloppier My Chemical Romance. That lack of attention to detail seems a bit affected, but it rounds off the edges of these heartstopping anthems quite nicely.

    Indeed, the over-the-top drama of the pieces makes this more than punk. Not unlike Bad Religion, which gave up on a straightforward punk attack about two decades ago, Run, Forever picks and chooses when it comes to punk sounds. There's also a fair bit of folk and straight-up rock thrown into the mix.

    I like that. There's no reason to sound like everyone else, and it's safe to say that few bands are as adept and ambitious as this one. I mentioned the sloppiness. It mostly shows up in the vocals, which are often intentionally off-key. The playing can be sharp, though it gets muddy when the mood calls for confusion.

    And these songs are a testament to the confusing times in which we live, so plenty of riffs skip a beat now and again. Perhaps this one troweled on a bit too much makeup, but it's gorgeous in a garish, almost frightening way. Arresting.

    We Exist EP
    reviewed in issue #262, March 2005

    Funny how all these laptop pop-meets-rock bands end up sounding new wave. I'm not complaining in the slightest; I'm an unabashed new wave fan (at least the vaguely dance-y, nicely tuneful stuff of the very early 80s), and I've always thought that stuff sounded quite cool when it incorporated guitar.

    So that's what these guys do. There are plenty of electronic noises--including drum machines, keyboard washes, bass lines, etc.--but there's also a band playing over that. Very cool. And the really good news is that the songs are simply wonderful.

    And not all what I expected. There are a few "human" moments, the sort of thing that really flesh out what a band might be. And in this case, the band is something else. Even if the name is really long and doesn't fit on posters very well. Life (or something) goes on.

    Runnin' Riot
    Reclaim the Streets
    reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00

    Four guys from Northern Ireland who have lots on their mind. The songs are sung from a blue-collar point of view. In other words, they see the troubles as just another way the powerful have oppressed the workers.

    Which is about as astute a reading of the situation as I've ever heard. The music is, well, pedestrian, but played with a lot of righteous anger. Sure, you've heard these riffs before. But Runnin' Riot has something to say, and it's almost always worth hearing.

    Punk music has always been a great vehicle to explore political views. The thing is, most of the folks playing it are kids, and their philosophies aren't always well thought out. Runnin' Riot, on the other hand, has a great deal of insight into the human condition, and the lyrics express themselves eloquently.

    Top notch. I suppose I could ask for a bit more originality in the music, but this is basic punk, after all. I was so knocked out by what the guys said that I just didn't worry about three-chord creativity. And anyway, the tunes work. So why complain?

    Russian Spy Camera
    You Are a Vulture
    (Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    Right in line with many other HHBTM artists, Russian Spy Camera trafficks in off-kilter pop music. Doesn't matter if we're talking vaguely indie rock or vaguely laptop or vaguely math or whatever. 'cause, you know, we're talking about all those sounds. And more.

    Indeed, Russian Spy Camera's one big weakness is that it simply doesn't have a coherent sound. This album is one big mix tape, and that's about it. Of course, the songs are awfully good. Awfully, awfully good.

    Jason NeSmith and Ryan White make sure the pieces are properly punchy, but that still doesn't give these guys any sense of a real sound. That's alright. When you've got a band as willfully versatile as these boys, it's probably best to make sure the levels are set correctly and then worry about other things later.

    A nice little journey through modern rock. Or modern pop. Or whatever. Adventurous as hell, and pretty far sighted as well. Quite fun.

    Ari Russo
    International Daylight EP
    reviewed in issue #228, April 2002

    Ari Russo played guitar for Von, and now he steps out with his own CD. And I have to say, if there's guitar here, it's so MIDI-ed up as to be totally unrecognizable.

    What this does sound like is Tangerine Dream. The 70s stuff, I mean, you know, the good times. Abstract, sterile electronic tunes that are too bubbly to ignore. Russo has a way of maintaining motion even when his melodies are just gestating. I like that.

    Actually, I like most of what I hear here. These songs aren't terribly complicated or intense, but what few lines there are combine to create a complete, if sparsely-populated, universe. Bobble along and find out for yourself.

    John Russo
    Two Weeks from Tuesday
    reviewed in issue #159, 5/18/98

    What does that cover say? It says, "I sure wish I was Billy Joel". But instead of trucking in piano pop, Russo slings out some smooth soul-tinged rock. Yeah, still stuck in the seventies.

    So the reference is more JT than BJ. Russo manages the sound well enough, and his songs aren't bad. The main problem is that they're not terribly interesting. And that always bugs me.

    Just easy-going fare for the world-weary boomers. Perhaps if I was 40 and single and nursing a 5-year-old Porche along (a remnant of my early mid-life crisis), I might dig this. But I'm more than 10 years removed from that potential reality.

    And Russo just doesn't work for me. He puts all the pieces together well enough, but the music doesn't stir my drink, much less my soul.

    Sorry, We're Closed 7"
    (Liquid Meat)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    I know, I should have inverted the name of the band, but that is a real pain in the ass when I have to move a review around ten times before this issue is laid out. I apologize.

    Sorta college pop with a nod to punk rawk and vocals flavored with a tinge of metal (punk, too) screaming.

    I really like the guitar sound. It's not necessarily completely original, but it smokes. This is the first release from this label. You should definitely get hooked up.

    Ruth Ruth
    The Little Death EP
    (Deep Elm/Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96

    Let me get all this straight: Ruth Ruth (from New York) signs a deal with American, releases and album and impresses everyone so much that they cut a special deal to score some street cred by releasing an EP on (jointly) Epitaph and Deep Elm. With another full length on American due out soon enough.

    I think that's about right. Of course, the tunes are great, just enough bounce and guitar squall to add a punk sheen to the pure pop sensibilities of the band. The songs are nasty little paeans to the pain of being young. Brett Gurewitz helped out with the knobs, adding some Westbeach punch to the proceedings. and the results speak for themselves.

    I never heard the first album (that came during the time when American wasn't sending me squat), but this EP is more than enough to get me damned impressed. I'm not sure how much more credibility the band is going to need. This stuff is pretty close to amazing.

    I'm keeping my ears peeled; Ruth Ruth is going to be some kinda force.

    Right About Now
    (Flaming Peach)
    reviewed in issue #254, July 2004

    The Little Death is one of the greatest EPs of all time. And it marks the high point for Ruth Ruth. This album is good--really good at points--but I keep waiting for singer and songwriter Chris Kennedy to buckle down (or let loose) and really kick some ass again.

    There are flashes of greatness here, but to tell the truth, I'm still waiting for the full package. If not for that incendiary little disc of yesteryear, I'd probably like this a lot better. I just can't help feeling that this band could be utterly mind-blowing rather than merely quite good.

    RX Bandits
    reviewed in issue #219, 7/16/01

    A very shiny version of the whole aggro soul skacore sound. Lots of heavy elements, but those are simply integrated into the whole of the sound, which tends more toward a hardcore ideal. At least in terms of song construction.

    Reminds me a bit of all the things that Blue Meanies would do within the space of 30 seconds. Not nearly as complicated, but nonetheless the RX Bandits don't shy away from tossing more than a few ideas into the pot.

    And yet, the overall sound is ... restrained. You know, almost I'm the Man era Joe Jackson-ish. Actually, a lot like that, with a bit more oomph and the requisite difference in writing styles. But the stripped-down sound simply allows each of the pieces to shine in its own way.

    Most importantly, everything comes together in the hook. That's the way it has to be, and that's what happens. There's an awful lot of ferment going on, and the RX Bandits have distilled it into fine liquor. Quite the accomplishment.

    Per Ardua ad Astra
    reviewed in issue #217, 6/4/01

    A Brit emo band, Rydell sounds a little dated from time to time. But then the boys throw in a little Britpop and a strangely emphatic speak-sing style of vocals and the whole package changes color.

    The thing is, the guitars are old school emo. Very Mineral. Dramatic and all that. Then the guys are liable to go off on a poppy kick, almost grinding gears or something.

    The production has left this ringing sound in the guitars, a fuller and more lush feel than most traditional emo bands get. That sound does help ease the many transitions, though Rydell is generally solid enough to sell its varied moods without much help.

    Solid's the word. This isn't the sort of album that makes me jump and scream, nor does it cause me to sit back and ponder. But there are moments where I felt like doing each of those things. Rydell hits its notes head on, and the result is a quality album.

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