Welcome to A&A. There are 24 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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

A&A #239 reviews (March 2003)
  • Baboon Something Good Is Going to Happen to You (Last Beat)
  • Benton Falls Guilt Beats Hate (Deep Elm)
  • Bluebottle Kiss Revenge Is Slow (In Music We Trust)
  • Bronze The Statue in the Stone (Bus Stop)
  • The Cinch The Cinch EP (Dirtnap)
  • DC to Daylight Xmas Murder '74 EP (Urban Cheese)
  • 5ive The Hemophiliac Dream (Tortuga)
  • The Forms Icarus EP (Threespheres)
  • The Go-Betweens Bright Yellow Bright Orange (Jetset)
  • Godboxer Pins (Rubirosa)
  • KLiP Herman Sonny Blount (Should I Be Concerned About This?-Edgetone)
  • Man from Fiery Hill Magazine Theft Yeah (self-released)
  • Houston Marchman & the Contraband Desperate Man (self-released)
  • Monotract Pagu (Public Eyesore)
  • Richmond Richmond (Celebrity Hotwax)
  • Rock Kills Kid Rock Kills Kid EP (Fearless)
  • The Rocket Summer Calendar Days (The Militia Group)
  • Romeo's Dead It's All Your Fault (Fastlane)
  • Silent Kids Tomorrow Waits (Cur on a Glider-Two Sheds)
  • Since by Man We Sing the Body Electric (Revelation)
  • Speedwell My Life Is a Series of Vacations (Ignition)
  • The Theory of Abstract Light The Theory of Abstract Light (Odd Halo-Tortuga)
  • Unfinished Thought Becoming Aware (Shiverstar)
  • Visions of Excess Sensitive Disruption (Tone Causalities)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Something Good Is Going to Happen to You
    (Last Beat)

    The most common question I get from readers is "Do you keep all the albums you receive?" I don't. I do shelve everything I review. My shelves only hold about 5,000 discs, and they've been full for a couple years now. So each month I have to cull out some old discs to make room for the new. Just in case you were looking for an ethical lapse, I don't sell the old discs. Everything goes to the Salvation Army. I'm sure Glen Benton is turning over in his grave knowing that Deicide is doing the Lord's work.

    Anyway, some six years ago I reviewed a Baboon album that came out on Wind-Up (better-known as Creed's label). I thought the stuff was good, but that someone decided to process the sound a bit too much. And so I culled it about a month ago. It was still waiting for its trip to a better place when I heard this album. And after hearing this disc, I immediately pulled that old disc out of limbo and put it back on the shelf.

    It's not that the old album is actually better now. But this album is great. Baboon still makes wonderfully noisy pop music, and while there's plenty of processing, the additions here are made for artistic, not commercial, reasons. At least, this processing job is perfectly in character with the writing and playing. I'll call that artistic.

    The songs here are buoyant and blissful, bright power pop decorated with deliciously wicked sense of sound. Kinda like what the Flaming Lips were doing 10 years ago, though a bit more in the three-chord joy mode than that. The kinda album that will never leave my shelf.

    Last Beat Records
    2819 Commerce
    Dallas, TX 75226
    Phone (214) 748-9201
    Fax [214] 748-9160
    www: http://www.lastbeatrecords.com

    Benton Falls
    Guilt Beats Hate
    (Deep Elm)

    Now this is what I call old school. There was a time when emo was loud and scratchy, not loud and tuneful. Benton Falls has lots of great musical lines banging into each other at odd angles and some cogent thinking in the lyrics as well.

    The choruses are pretty basic. The guitars start wailing (as much as tightly-controlled strident lead guitar can wail, anyway) and the words are sung just that much louder. I'm not complaining. I've liked this style for years. I wish more bands would take it on.

    I feel that way because this is the sound that put the emotion in emo. These are heartfelt songs of real passion--even if the passion is generally more existential than temporal. See, these boys do like to think. Another big plus in my book.

    Solid work that is inspiring when taken as a whole. There's real anger and pain and desire and hope burned into every second of this disc. If this album doesn't wake you up, then you're already dead.

    Deep Elm Records
    P.O. Box 36939
    Charlotte, NC 28236
    Phone (803) 631-6319
    Fax [803] 631-6314
    e-mail: info@deepelm.com
    www: www.deepelm.com

    Bluebottle Kiss
    Revenge Is Slow
    (In Music We Trust)

    These guys are Australian, but they sound so Kiwi it's frightening. Chilly pop music that's fraught with every sort of possible allusion. Each line seems to have three meanings (I'm speaking of the music as well as the lyrics). While these songs are positively gorgeous, there's this terrifying undercurrent flowing beneath.

    Perhaps the perfect companion to the new Go-Betweens album (also reviewed in this issue), Bluebottle Kiss relies more on studio tricks (some extra reverb in the guitars or a little distortion here and there), but the songwriting style and quality are quite similar. I get a real Straitjacket Fits feel here, though the guitars don't blister quite so much.

    Oh. Sorry. I forget that most of you didn't grow up worshipping Flying Nun. A bit before your time, probably. I had a friend in college who hitchhiked to New Zealand (I'm not kidding about that, either) and then bummed around until she found the record label's office. She then spent two weeks in the generous care of some highly amused (and probably a bit frightened) label "execs." I can only hope to do something as cool within my lifetime.

    So you know where I'm coming from. And maybe you understand--just a little bit--what Bluebottle Kiss does. The music is gorgeous. The lyrics are haunting. The album is spectacular. Enough?

    In Music We Trust
    15213 SE Bevington Ave.
    Portland, OR 97267-3355
    www: http://www.inmusicwetrust.com

    The Statue in the Stone
    (The Bus Stop Label)

    I think the theme of this issue is dreamy power pop. Bronze plays wonderfully-crafted stuff with plenty Byrds-y ringing guitar and slightly ragged harmonies. The songs are little gems, finely cut and exquisite at every facet.

    The Bus Stop Label is an expert at finding this kind of stuff, but Bronze at the top of that impressive heap. I loved the CD single that I reviewed back in November, and this full-length fills in all the space between the three relatively-disparate songs on that disc.

    Two of the three songs from that single are here, and they fall into place perfectly. If I had to characterize the overall sound, I'd say this stuff is decidedly modern with more than a hint of 60s soul (no matter if the muse in question is Gram Parsons or Pete Townsend).

    In truth, the only proper label for Bronze's music is "great." These are eminently hummable songs with real depth. There's always another layer to uncover, and repeat listens will reward time and time again. Some folks hit the nail on the head; Bronze obliterates the target completely.

    The Bus Stop Label
    2738A S. Shore Drive
    Milwaukee, WI 53207
    e-mail: thebusstoplabel@yahoo.com
    www: http://www.busstoplabel.com

    The Cinch
    The Cinch EP

    So you've been jonesing for some Cub-like pop, bubbly stuff that moves and moves and moves and moves? The Cinch is, well, you know.

    Expert direction from a tight rhythm section combined with loosely-kinetic lead work and drolly understated vocals is the only way to create such a fun sound. It takes a lot of work to make stuff sound this simple, and none of it is apparent in the finished product.

    Which is how it should be. We don't need to know how hard it is to create blissfully simple-sounding stuff. We just want it to drip into our ears like chocolate fondue. Quite the confection, this is.

    P.O. Box 21249
    Seattle, WA 98111

    DC to Daylight
    Xmas Murder '74 EP
    (Urban Cheese)

    Talk about riding the bottom end. DC to Daylight rocks out a series of fine r&b riffs and then turns the whole sound pyramid upside-down. All the fuzz is in the bass, which makes the uptempo attack that pervades this disc even more astonishing.

    Think the last Laughing Hyenas album, or maybe something from the Delta 72. And then add a bizarre sense of humor (the pseudo-ska beat and Jimmy Buffett-style organ in "My Way to Hell" ought to clash blindingly with the rest of the album, but the song becomes something of a touchstone nonetheless) and then simply let these boys roll.

    In all honesty, this short piece of mutant music speaks for itself. I can try to describe what I hear, but in no way can I capture the strange appeal of these songs. One note (seriously!) and I was hooked. Even more impressively, the disc tightened its grip as it played. Compelling doesn't even begin to tell the story.

    Urban Cheese
    14228 177th Ave. NE
    Kirkland, WA 98034
    www: http://www.urbancheese.com

    The Hemophiliac Dream
    (Tortuga Recordings)

    Two parts to this album. The first is the title track, which runs a mere 24 minutes in length. The second is a decidedly nasty remix, though I'm not entirely sure of the source material.

    "The Hemophiliac Dream" is something of a spacey trip into the ambient. Lots of slow moving ideas and strange noises slung together into a languid electronic soup. Just the sort of thing to help a person zone out and get into deep contemplation.

    The second piece (titled Part II) is a remix. Of what, it's hard to say, but the piece is really loud and distorted. Perhaps this is the "Dream" recast as a nightmare. I do pick up bits here and there from the main piece. This isn't as conducive to pure meditation, but it's exactly the sort of stuff I like to listen to when I write. Challenges the intellect and creativity, you see.

    Two sides of the same coin? Two wildly disparate visions of the name idea? I dunno. If the musical version of abstract expressionism is you bag, though, this puppy ought to do you nicely. Plenty of ideas to ponder here.

    Tortuga Recordings
    P.O. Box 15608
    Boston, MA 02215
    www: http://www.tortugarecordings.com

    The Forms
    Icarus EP

    The little press kit with this puppy claims that this short effort by the forms rivals debuts by the likes of June of 44 and Sunny Day Real Estate. Well, aren't we presumptuous?

    A little, but damned if the Forms don't almost pull it off. The sound is somewhere between the rock fusion of June of 44 and the noodly emo of bands like Mineral (remember them?). This is about as good a distillation of that sound as I've heard.

    But I think the Forms can do more than reference their influences. This is a band with the talent and vision to create something truly epochal. This EP isn't it, but it's still awfully good. If you're interested in the future of music, the Forms aren't a bad place to start.

    P.O. Box 349
    Brooklyn, NY 11222
    e-mail: threespheres@threespheres.com
    www: http://www.threespheres.com

    The Go-Betweens
    Bright Yellow Bright Orange

    The record stores are littered with new albums from great old bands. Most of them don't completely suck, but they also don't have the spark of the "original" sound. Often this is because bands are as much a product of the times as they are creators of music, and when removed from that time the music often is revealed to be surprisingly ordinary.

    But the Go-Betweens make timeless pop music. And often that kind of songwriter doesn't hit full stride until much later. There's no denying the greatness of "old" Go-Betweens songs, but Robert Forster and G.W. McClennan's later solo work was generally at least as good, and now this second "comeback" album proves that, indeed, these guys have gotten better with age.

    These songs are so beautiful they make my mouth water. No one else has the phrasing that McClennan uses into his songs, and Forster's balance of grace and exuberance is breathtaking. Their writing styles are different but eminently compatible.

    I loved The Friends of Rachel Worth, but this album beats that in a heartbeat. I doubt anyone will craft a better pop album this year. I wonder if anyone will best it in the next decade.

    67 Vestry St. 5C
    New York, NY 10013
    Phone (212) 625-0202
    Fax [212] 625-0303
    www: http://www.jetsetrecords.com


    Short album or long EP, I can't say. Godboxer blasts its way through seven pop gems and doesn't look back. And that's all I need to know.

    Clever? Yeah, both musically and lyrically. Godboxer whips some serious shine onto these songs, and then it dirties things up. A guitar effect here, some distortion there, a little tweaking on the harmonies on down the line.

    Immaculately crafted and yet still blisteringly infectious. These songs sound fresh, not canned. That's a tribute to both the band and a certain Ducky Carlisle who did the knob work.

    Three chords and a dream rarely sounds so good. Singer Aaron Lippert has a good handle on songwriting, and the band has more than enough energy and attitude to carry off the sound. Better than well-done; this disc is loads of fun.

    Rubirosa Records
    852-1 E. 4th St.
    Boston, MA 02127
    Phone (617) 821-6406

    Herman Sonny Blount
    (Should I Be Concerned About This?-Edgetone)

    The Edgetone distribution ought to be a hint. The KLiP trio of Elliot Kallen, John Lauffenburger and Garth Powell doesn't do anything conventionally. Oh, sure, at first glance you notice that there are piano, bass and percussion players. But each member also brings a wealth of other noisemaking activities to the table.

    Noisemaking as a good thing, mind you. I'm not sure how you play a cicada (the generally green critters commonly known as locusts that shed their skins before boffing as many other cicadas until they die), but Elliot Kallen does it. It is possible, of course, that Kallen doesn't play an insect but rather some implement inspired by the creature. I really have no idea.

    Perhaps this stuff might be best described as music for a truly spooky (rather than viciously scary) movie. There's a sense of otherworldliness, a general unease that permeates the pieces. The noise I referred to isn't clutter. It is truly integral to the completion of the overall sound.

    Boy, I dove into this puppy headfirst and didn't emerge until the needle pulled up on side two (yep, the sweet things sent me vinyl). The sound is amazing. There's so much space, and yet I was completely swallowed up. I can't think of a better complement than that.

    Edgetone Records
    c/o Gert Rude Music
    P.O. Box 2281
    El Cerrito, CA 94530

    Man from Fiery Hill
    Magazine Theft Yeah

    I suppose perpetrator of this album might be considered a band, but the sounds here are often assembled as much as played. I'm sure it would be possible to replicate the stuff on this album live, but I doubt it would sound quite so cool.

    It's not that the songs don't have traditional cores. They do. Each piece could be presented with just vocals and an acoustic guitar. But there are so many extras, from stylish processing of the vocals to a wide array of samples and other bit of found sound. The basics are good, but the additions make these songs truly inspired.

    There's a whaleload of ambition in these here tracks, and it pays off. Man from Fiery Hill plays a poppy version of noodle rock--not entirely unlike Bad Astronaut. There are more tricks here, but the overall effect is almost as impressive.

    And I've only scratched the surface on my initial listens. I can hear plenty of layers beneath that which I've already acknowledged. More personal time spent with this puppy ought to yield untold pleasures.

    501 West Franklin Ave. #307
    Minneapolis, MN 55405
    www: http://www.manfromfieryhill.com

    Houston Marchman & the Contraband
    Desperate Man

    Houston Marchman sounds like a time-worn Ryan Adams--think the blues-tinged country soul of Stranger's Almanac-era Whiskeytown--and boy, can he write a song or few.

    A sense of tired wisdom pervades these songs. The characters Marchman knows best are folks who have lived and lost. They don't know how they screwed up, they simply know their lives are just about spent. And strangely, such thoughts are about the most cheerful ones I can imagine.

    After all, most of us tend to fall a wee bit short of where we're aiming. It's always nice to hear about someone who's a bit less fortunate than we might be. And when the songs are as achingly beautiful as Marchman's, well, the pleasure increases and increases.

    Not many albums come along that hit me as squarely as this one. Marchman's voice (both figurative and literal) is impressive. His liners talk about trying to write good songs and not worry about anything else. He's done just that, and his band drew some really pretty pictures to go along with the stories. Set me up for another round.

    5600 Worth
    Dallas, TX 77214
    www: http://www.houstonmarchman.com

    (Public Eyesore)

    There's something about a vaguely-distorted drum machine playing offhand-yet-catchy beats and synthesizer noise that gets me off. There's no other way to explain my attraction to Monotract.

    The music isn't simple, of course. There are all sorts of ideas flying around in the soup here. And I'm not going to pretend that everything (okay, much of anything) makes sense, though there is a strange sense of order in the way all of this coalesces into something approaching white noise.

    Except, of course, that it is organized noise. The squalls and shrieks and wails and throbs and scrapes and bleeps do have a purpose. That I can't necessarily discern said purpose doesn't mean the stuff is mindless. And like I said, the album really works for me.

    I do like abstract noise. It helps me clear my head after spending a day dealing with the travails of a one-year-old. For some reason, disorder in the outside world helps me bring focus to my own inner self. And if nothing else, Monotract is absolutely great for that.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Brian Day
    3301 Dewey
    Apt. 8
    Omaha, NE 68105
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.sinkhole.net/pehome

    (Celebrity Hotwax)

    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.

    Celebrity Hotwax
    Phone: (917) 287-7595
    www: http://www.celebrityhotwax.com

    Rock Kills Kid
    Rock Kills Kid EP

    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.

    Fearless Records
    13772 Goldenwest St. #545
    Westminster, CA 92683
    www: http://www.fearlessrecords.com

    The Rocket Summer
    Calendar Days
    (The Militia Group)

    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 Militia Group
    7923 Warner Ave.
    Suite K
    Huntington Beach, CA 92647
    www: http://www.themilitiagroup.com

    Romeo's Dead
    It's All Your Fault
    (Fastlane Records)

    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.

    Fastlane Records
    www: http://www.fastlanerecords.com

    Silent Kids
    Tomorrow Waits
    (Cur on a Glider-Two Sheds)

    Remember Sister Lovers? You know, the last Big Star album, the one where Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens pretty much deconstructed the pop music they (along with Chris Bell) had perfected on the first two albums? Great hooks stripped down to plaintive wails, fine riffs reduced to out-of-tune rumblings and (on "Downs") a flat basketball used as a drum kit.

    Silent Kids remind me of that final burst of warped pop greatness. These songs are much more together, of course (nothing like Sister Lovers would likely get released today, even by the most indie of indies), but there's an anarchic spirit lurking in the heart of these grooves that seems to ache for collapse.

    There's also a fine sense of ragged glory. Silent Kids rely on a Moog for a lot of the atmosphere here, but that ancient implement is also what helps me hark back to the olden days. The kicker is that these songs are played extremely loosely. Not sloppily, just loose. Like a bunch of guys who've been doing this forever. And while I know this isn't the case, these songs do sound live to tape.

    There are also those moments when everything pulls away from the center and the songs threaten to blow apart. Silent Kids keep things together, but the guys don't force the matter. If something is spinning out of the nucleus, they let it go willingly. Fresh and invigorating. If you're gonna play old school pop, you might as well shoot for the moon. Silent Kids have landed.

    Two Sheds Music
    P.O. Box 5455
    Atlanta, GA 31107-5455
    www: http://www.twoshedsmusic.com

    Since by Man
    We Sing the Body Electric

    You've gotta figure that any band clever enough to proclaim "Helvetica is the typeface of bourgeois consumption" (using Helvetica, of course) on the back cover of its album has to have something interesting to say. Lucky for me, Since by Man also insists on creating interesting music.

    Think of a more musical (at least, more reliance on music) Refused. Since by Man is a fine extreme hardcore band, but these boys are also most willing to experiment with drum machines and other sonic disruptions. No samples (so the liners say), but electronic disturbances abound on this album.

    The riffage is stellar (these boys know how to find a groove--in the most basic sense of the concept--and stick to it), and the songs leave enough room for the vocals to make their points. The politics are more internal than external; the lyrics are much more likely to challenge the thoughts of the listener than provide a call to arms. I'm always happy to ponder some cohesive thought.

    This disc fits together extremely well. Since by Man isn't afraid to test the limits, and the results are uniformly impressive. If you like your extreme hardcore tempered in subtle ways, well, this squall of anger ought to do just fine. Important noise, indeed.

    P.O. Box 5232
    Huntington Beach, CA 92615
    Phone (714) 375-4264
    Fax [714] 375-4266

    My Life Is a Series of Vacations EP

    Basic rock and roll in the modern sense. Speedwell utilizes liquid bass, pop hooks and strident guitar riffage. Great harmonies, too. There are times that I'm tempted to call this the Britpop version of emo, but Speedwell really goes for a lot more than that.

    What I mean is that each of the four songs on this frustratingly short disc is quite different. I get a sense of adventure from the pieces here, like Speedwell is just beginning to discover what it might be able to do with its collective talent.

    Good songwriting, polished performances and a nicely thick production sound. I like the way Speedwell ranges over its territory like a lion stalking its prey. If you don't watch out you'll be the next meal.

    1 Chandos Rd.
    Turnbridge Wells
    Kent TN1 2NY
    United Kingdom
    www: http://www.ignitiononline.co.uk

    The Theory of Abstract Light
    The Theory of Abstract Light
    (Odd Halo-Tortuga)

    It has often been my observation that bands with truly interesting packaging are generally quite intriguing themselves. The Theory of Abstract Light is no exception. Its packaging is two-tone: Blue paper and silver ink. The notes are Spartan, just the personnel (a certain Ben Carr), contact info and song titles. Very stylish.

    As is the music. Carr couldn't have chosen a more appropriate moniker. He likes to play with sonic lines, but generally he's only got one or two in the air at once. Might be a piano and guitar, guitar and electronic noise or some other combo, but he rarely spins too many webs at once.

    The sound range is awesome. This album will test the dynamic limits of your stereo. There are some exquisitely quiet moments, and there are some truly mindblowingly loud portions as well. They rise and fall in somewhat predictable patterns, but being able to guess what might be coming in no way prepared me for what I actually heard.

    Um, yeah, this is another of those abstract music things I love to write nice things about. I figured the name of the band (or, rather, artist) might've tipped you off. If you want to teeter over the edge before being brought back to some semblance of normalcy, this puppy will serve as a fine tour guide.

    Odd Halo
    P.O. Box 5359
    Gloucester, MA 01930
    www: http://www.oddhalo.com

    Unfinished Thought
    Becoming Aware

    It's been quite a while since someone has sent me some really great goth. Unfinished Thought is the duo of Joe Kiser and Stacey Nelson. Kiser takes care of most of the music, and Nelson handles the wailing. Both do their jobs exceptionally well.

    Kiser is enamored of many recent trends in electronic music. Imagine if William Orbit and Trent Reznor produced the Cure albums of the late 80s. Okay, add in female vocals (competent vocals, if you want to be picky) and maybe the picture is a little more complete. There are elements of techno, industrial hardcore, drum 'n' bass and big beat sounds among many more.

    And Kiser is smart enough to vary the feel of this album. At times the sound is lush and cushy. At other times it's more sterile than Tangerine Dream. He's happy to use keyboard washes of all sorts: some warm, some harsh and some almost indescribably beautiful. He refuses to follow the book, and so the sounds here are fresh and unexpected.

    Calling this goth is probably silly on my part. That's what I heard at first, and I think it's as good a label as anything. Kiser and Nelson have put together an album of uncommon beauty and power. If you want to know where electronic music is going, this disc might give you a clue.

    Shiverstar Records
    P.O. Box 20088
    Kalamazoo, MI 49019
    www: http://www.unfinishedthought.com

    Visions of Excess
    Sensitive Disruption
    (Tone Casualities)

    You want some experimental electronic music that would actually work on the dance floor? Visions of Excess comes as close as anything I've heard in a long, long time.

    The sound is grounded in techno, but there's so much more expressed in the beatwork that I hesitate to use even that decidedly generic term. Indeed, just about every trendy beat movement of the last 20 years makes an appearance here, but never in an expected setting. So in the middle of a spooky atmosphere I hear a little jungle, for instance. And that's just 30 seconds of one song.

    I like the way Paul Browse and Nirto Karsten Fischer think. They take accepted forms and turn them upside-down. I'd call these works vaguely deconstructionist except that many of them are positively infectious. There are plenty of abstract experimental moments as well, but I'm constantly surprised at the plethora of grooves present here.

    The only sound Visions of Excess has crafted for itself is one of creative electronic music. This puppy flies all over the place, but the one unifying factor is quality. Damned good, it is. And that's all I need to know.

    Tone Casualities
    6353 Sunset Blvd.
    Holywood, CA 90028
    Phone (323) 468-2952
    Fax [323] 463-0924
    www: http://www.tonecausalities.com

    Also recommended:

    Dan Bern & the IJBC Fleeting Days (Messenger)
    If you happen to have picked up that last Georgia Satellites album, then you've got the basic feel of the roots rock combo. Bern and friends do dip a bit more into a bag of 60s tricks (the moments when Bob Dylan--electric--meets John Fogerty are pretty interesting), but that down-home sound is what catches my ear.

    Big Thick Skin Private Life and the Public Eye (self-released)
    Tightly wound and highly restrained songs that evoke memories of Kate Bush (if she had ever strapped on an acoustic guitar). I kept waiting for this stuff to explode, and it didn't. That's okay. The stuff works quite well coiled up like a spring.
    Novelty Horn Productions
    4601 Amy Dr.
    Crystal Lake, IL 60014

    The Common The Common EP (self-released)
    These folks sent me an earlier album and this demo EP. I like this newer set of four songs much better. The band shows a nice range and feel for crafted rock songs. The guys need to work a little harder on creating their own sound, but the improvement I heard between the two sets is most impressive.
    Patrick Zampogna
    1601 Montreal Ave.
    Apt. 201
    St. Paul, MN 55116
    Phone (612) 308-4856
    e-mail: thecommon@thecommon.org
    www: http://www.thecommon.org

    Diaz-Infante/St. Chaos/Bohol The Long Await Between Collapsed Lungs (Pax Recordings)
    The prolific Ernesto Diaz-Infante returns with another set of stellar improvised collaborations. Most of the noise on this disc is created on guitars of some sort or another--the variety of sounds is most impressive. My head is still out cruising the edges of space with this one.

    Falafel Avantgarde He Pea 7" (Public Eyesore)
    An all-too-short dose of assembled electronic brilliance. The two pieces here are loopy in construction and stunning in their simplicity. This is the outer limits, and the water's just fine.

    The Izzys Fast & Out of Control Wins the Race EP (self-released)
    Yet another band trying to jump on the garage bandwagon. The Izzys (who really ought to be called the Iggys, if you know what I mean) play lean licks and almost toss them off without thinking. This sort of offhanded and midtempo approach to the material is different and often intriguing. They aren't this year's version of the Stones (as their press might have it), but they're pretty good.
    www: http://www.theizzys.com

    Jasmine Minks I Heard I Wish It Would Rain CD5 (The Bus Stop Label)
    That title track is awfully wordy, and Jasmine Minks are just that kinda band. There are a lot of words in these songs. But all those words fit in with the gorgeous pop music (something from the realm of the High Llamas, methinks). Nothing's forced, and so these three songs sound just wonderful.

    Mad Caddies Just One More (Fat Wreck Chords)
    One of the more clever post-ska punk bands, Mad Caddies crank out another solid album. The boys wander all over the landscape, but everything is tuneful. There's even increased attention paid to musicianship. A most enjoyable album from a fine band.

    Pete Miser Radio Free Brooklyn (Ho-Made)
    Sample-heavy, rhyme-driven hip-hop. Pete Miser takes on a different sort of racism. Aparently he's ethnically Chinese (his real last name is Ho, which leads to all sorts of amusing word play) and so old cliches find entirely new meaning coming from him. Interesting ideas and cool beatwork. Very nice.

    Scissorfight Potential New Agent for Unconventional Warfare EP (Tortuga)
    Back in the day, Boston was full of bands which plied the sludge waters. Scissorfight is still in the game, playing fuzzy hardcore with attitude. Nothing complicated, just thick grooves that rumble through the night. I've liked these guys for some time, and this disc keeps that admiration flowing.

    Sicbay Overreaction Time (54-40 or Fight!)
    The Nick Sakes (Dazzling Killmen, Colossamite, etc.) saga continues. This trio doesn't rock quite as hard as some of his earlier bands, but the music is as conceptual as ever. Good work from one of the more underappreciated voices in music.

    Swingin' Utters Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass and Bones (Fat Wreck Chords)
    Cheap, fast and just about out of control. The Swingin' Utters have that punk bar band sound down, and this album is full of songs that beg to be sung over and over. These boys may not be the most distinctive band around, but the music is still loads of fun.

    Richard Thorne & the Teasels Freight Trains and Strange Dreams (self-released)
    Rollicking country tunes, complete with banjo and a shuffling rhythm section. Thorne has a nice voice for these songs; he sounds real and yet not overly earnest. There's a hint of the scoundrel, and I think he could use a little more that way. Nonetheless, these songs are quite good as is.
    161 Prince Street #16
    New York, NY 10012
    e-mail: underover@earthlink.net
    www: http://www.cdbaby.com/thorne

    Various Artists No Escape--A Tribute to Journey EP (Urinine)
    Ohms, Houston, Wafflehouse and Traindodge take on four Journey tracks. The results are weird and not the least bit unsettling. To be honest, I simply don't know what else to say, except that if you're going to celebrate (if that's the right word) Journey, you might as well deconstruct the stuff the way it has been done here.

    Zeke Live and Uncensored (Dead Teenager)
    Four tracks from the band's final studio effort (Death alley), four unreleased studio tracks and 25 live tracks. My advice: Skip ahead to the live stuff. The production quality isn't great, but the energy is pretty much impossible to beat. Loads of fun.

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