Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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.

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A&A #292 reviews
December 2007
  • Elliot Carlson Botero Parasite: A Love Story (self-released)
  • Dartz! This Is My Ship (Deep Elm)
  • Eddie the Rat Insomnia Sound Bible (Edgetone)
  • Guards of Metropolis Alligator (Slackertone)
  • Marina Hardy Pink Violin (Eh?/Public Eyesore)
  • The Jones Street Boys Overcome (Smith Street)
  • King of Prussia Save the Scene EP (Kindercore)
  • Last American Buffalo Marquis for the Debutante (self-released)
  • The Mystix Blue Morning (self-released)
  • Space March Without This You Can Never Change (Ninth Wave/Death by Karaoke)
  • Terra Diablo Deluge Songs (Nocturnal Records)
  • Watts One Below the All Time Low (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Elliot Carlson Botero
    Parasite: A Love Story

    A wild stew of hypnotic, sleazy rock, electronic wackiness and almost overwhelming attitude.

    Some of this is in Spanish and some in English. Doesn't matter that much, as the music pretty explains everything that's happening. Botero's feel for musical expression is astounding.

    This is a real cut-and-paste effort (Botero refers to it as "frankenstein-ishly patched together), but it sounds like a real band playing music in real time. A lot of it is electronic, but Botero has worked hard to get a fairly organic feel to the songs. And, of course, the general feel is straight rock (or off-kilter rock, but you get what I mean), so the electronics are simply helping him get home.

    The sort of album that sidles up and then sets its hooks. A slinky little beast that simply won't let go of the ears. Sweet.

    www: www.myspace.com/ecbmusic

    This Is My Ship
    (Deep Elm)

    Perky mathy stuff, with some nice dorky hooks to go along with the technical riffage. The playing is precise, but the spirit is loose.

    I like that, myself. This is the sort of sound that appeals to folks who like to think of themselves as intellectual, but in real life would much rather pound some beers. That's me straight down the line.

    There are lots of interesting things going on within the musical lines. Dartz! doesn't play anything straight, and there's plenty to discover within the layers. In the end, though, there's this joyful vibe that's hard to shake.

    Don't know why you'd want to shake it, though. Joyous music is hard enough to come by as it is. And if there's some serious heft tagging along for the ride, well, that's pretty much irresistible to me. Fun for all centers of the brain.

    Deep Elm Records
    P.O. Box 5260
    Clover, SC 29710
    www: www.deepelm.com

    Eddie the Rat
    Insomnia Sound Bible

    I've been listening to Pete Martin's Eddie the Rat project for years. He's always been able to find people who can translate his written (if sometimes loosely) music into enthusiastic moderately-improvised works.

    Always less improvised than you might think (which is something I'm pretty sure I said about EtR in the past), but with all the anarchic spirit that sort of endeavor inspires.

    On the whole, these pieces seem more like songs and less like compositions. A lot of this album feels steeped in the same sort of blues that entranced Captain Beefheart, though without the rigorous wigginess. Each song contains a surfeit of ideas, far too much for the ears to digest in a single listen. Even so, just a few seconds ought to be enough to attract plenty of attention.

    In many ways, this is the most conventional EtR album I've heard. It's probably not a coincidence that it's probably my favorite as well. The sort of album I can curl up with next to the fire--or shoot straight into my veins for a pure rush. It's really cool when an album can do so much at once.

    Edgetone Records
    P.O. Box 2281
    El Cerrito, CA 94530
    www: http://www.edgetonerecords.com

    Guards of Metropolis

    Flashy, crunchy music and trashy female vocals. Tight playing and even tighter hooks. Commercial as hell, but not exactly by today's standards.

    Lawdy, lawdy, but this is a blast. I don't think there's a shred of subtlety anywhere on this album, but it doesn't require any. The thrills are cheap, but they hit almost impossibly hard.

    A guilty pleasure, I suppose, except that I don't feel guilty. Highly-charged pop-rock has always been a staple of my diet, and I don't intend for that to change. I'll just add Guards of Metropolis to the rotation. I'm not sure how well this will stand the test of time. It does have a "burn-out" date stamped right on the cover.

    Okay, that last bit was a joke, though it is true that I'm not sure how many spins it will take for this album to wear out its welcome. No matter. Right now it is a welcome guest for my ears, and that's all that matters.

    P.O. Box 5633
    Salem, OR 97304
    www: http://www.slackertone.com

    Marina Hardy
    Pink Violin
    (Eh?/Public Eyesore)

    The liners (as such) call this "collected works from 2006 and 2007." No kidding. Hardy flits about from sound to sound, just about anything as long as it's way, way out there. There are ear-bleed guitar licks, soft-as-snowfall atmospherics, lurching European folk dances and more.

    Really. Lots more. This is one album that I like simply for the sheer diversity of sound that resides upon it. It's really amazing how many ideas Hardy has riffled through, not to mention how good she is at expressing those thoughts.

    A virtuoso performance, both in the playing and the assembling. Because Hardy played everything herself (of course), she needed to work pretty hard to give this album the cohesive band sound that it has. Give a listen to "Spanish" and imagine one person playing all that in pieces.

    I know it's possible. Back in the day, Ray Parker Jr. played all the instruments himself. But the wide range of ideas and the impeccable production on this album are simply amazing. Marina Hardy has a feel for the heart of music that very few people ever come close to experiencing. A mind-blowing disc.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Bryan Day
    3803 S. 25th St.
    Omaha, NE 68107
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.publiceyesore.com

    The Jones Street Boys
    (Smith Street)

    The obligatory New York City country album. Seems like I've got one of those every couple of months or so. Guess there must be a decent scene, eh?

    Jon Langford guests here, which is just the first tip-off that this might, indeed, be a pretty solid effort. And, indeed, solid is the word. These songs rollick and roll in a most workmanlike fashion. It's not hard to hear where they're going. But the playing and, particularly, the singing raise the songs to another level.

    Produced with a strong--but not strict--hand, there are no audio pyrotechnics, just a full mix and plenty of organ in the deep holes. A bit more country than yer average americana effort (more Blue Earth than Tomorrow the Green Grass, if you'd like a Jayhawks reference), but good-naturedly so. There's no "we're so pure" moment. Just a hint of bluegrass and plenty of backroads flavor.

    Lots of folks have taken very good care of this album. It's a finely-cut gem, alternately gentle and raucous. Just about everything an album should be.

    Smith Street
    www: http://www.smithstreetrecords.com

    King of Prussia
    Save the Scene EP

    Not sure what scene these guys are saving, as they sound most like a post-modern update of 60s psychedelia.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. The update part is two parts slicked-up garage and one part layered indie pop. That second bit is a direct descendent of the whole 60s thing, though, so I don't know if that counts. Whatever. It is cool to hear heavy-reverb guitars, echo-laden vocals, a banjo and slide guitar in the same piece. That's something you wouldn't have heard way back when.

    And in point of fact, these boys aren't stealing from anyone. These multi-faceted songs more than pay back any classic stylings borrowed. Exceptionally-crafted and bouyantly played.

    The only band I can think of that has ever tried anything quite like this was the once-brilliant Brian Jonestown Massacre. As much as I love that band, if King of Prussia continues to improve and evolve, it might well blow those boys out of the water. If you want higher praise than that, you'll have to find another critic.

    Kindercore Records
    www: http://www.kindercore.com

    Last American Buffalo
    Marquis for the Debutante

    Imagine a rootsy, rockin' band that plays americana-style stuff with the clipped detachment of New Order. I mean that in a good way, though I'm not sure anyone will believe me.

    What I'm trying to say is that Last American Buffalo moves with its lush, organ-laden sound rather than wallow in it. These tightly-crafted songs keep moving and never get lost in the fullness of things.

    I think I'm making it worse. But the other connection to New Order is a certain rhythmic style that reminds me a lot of many songs from Get Ready--a modern, clean style of drumming and guitar work, I suppose. And the harmonies are often somewhat dissonant...the country roots do not extend to the ends of the sound.

    But the sound is glorious, the songs are wonderful and the playing is top notch. One of those albums that is impressive from start to finish.

    www: http://www.lastamericanbuffalo.com

    The Mystix
    Blue Morning

    Almost 20 years ago, I took my then-new girlfriend (and now wife) down to a local joint in Columbia, Mo., and saw the Nighthawks tear up the place. The crowd was mostly thirty and forty-something townies. We'd never seen "old" people get so hot and bothered about music. I mean that literally. The folks were sweating so much that dancing became something of a Twister match. I think that was kinda the idea.

    The Nighthawks still tear up the joint wherever they play. And the Mystix remind me a lot of that night years ago in Columbia, even if they and (especially) singer Jo Lily remind me a lot more of Bob Dylan's recent output.

    Not so much in the lyrics--Lily takes a more traditional and stripped-down approach to those. But the rollicking blues sound is in the same general corner of the universe, though the Mystix are certainly more rambunctious. Bobby Keyes's guitar work is stellar, impressive both in terms of skill and feel. He knows how to set the table--and when to snatch the tablecloth from underneath the settings as well.

    I'm sure these boys would be a good time down in the corner saloon, and they've put together an exceptional album as well. And now that I'm the same age as many of those "old" people I saw grooving to the Nighthawks all those years ago, I understand that it's not only possible for us oldsters to get down, but that sometimes it's absolutely necessary. And bands like the Mystix make it much easier for us to do our duty.

    www: www.themystix.com

    Space March
    Without This You Can Never Change
    (Ninth Wave/Death By Karaoke)

    Electronic pop, rock and roll in full force. Not strictly new wave or laptop or that sort of thing--though there are similarities, of course.

    The main similarity is that Space March is one Craig Simmons, and this album is seriously assembled. Not unlike the Elliot Carlson Botero album I reviewed earlier, the electronics serve their master and don't wag the dog.

    Yeah, there are Erasure or even Abba-esque moments. And there are some serious kick-ass rock bits. Sometimes in the same song. Simmons is a master of assimilation, which probably will put off a few people. That's okay. He appears to be serving the interests of good music, and I'll vote on that party line every time.

    Fun and engaging. Simmons has a sense of melody and lyric that reminds me a bit of Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields, etc.). Simmons lives in a much brighter universe, but his occasional wry asides (in both music and lyrics) tell me that his eyes are wide open. He simply prefers to walk on the brighter path. Works for me.

    Ninth Wave
    www: http://www.ninthwaverecords.com
    Death By Karaoke
    www: http://www.deathbykaraoke.com

    Terra Diablo
    Deluge Songs

    Driving, melodic rock with a hint of drone. That last bit is mostly just buzzed-out riffage layering over insistent drumming, but it adds a cool feel to these songs.

    And the key here is insistent drumming. The writing is pretty good, but these songs need to stay in high gear or they'll get lost. Luckily, most of the stuff here keeps punching the pedal.

    Yes, I'm feeding on the energy. But the sound is just as important. A strong (but not overwhelming) guitar and bouncy bass really complement the arrangements. Solid work all around.

    Yes, I know. There is a certain resemblance to Pearl Jam in a raucous mood. I happen to like that sound, and since Pearl Jam doesn't stay in pocket like this for long stretches, I guess these boys will have to do. I'm always happy to bite into the wire and feed on the fire.

    Nocturnal Records
    www: http://www.nocturnal-records.com

    One Below the All Time Low

    The album leads off with "20 to 12," which is the best muscle-laden "shoulda been the Stones" song I've heard since Laughing Hyena's "Just Can't Lose" some 12 years ago. It's a ripper of a piece, all at once loose and tight, clean-shaven and hairy-chested. All the stuff of a classic rock and roll song.

    The rest of the album fades into a bit more of a latter-day Social D groove. That has its charms, too. Solid rock and roll with tasty hooks played with enthusiasm.

    Yes, I do wish the boys had stuck with the aggressive groove laid down on that first track, but even as an aberration it's still fabulous. And the rest of the disc is well above average. It's just more clean-shaven than hairy.

    And I'm a hairy guy. Whatever. This is a wonderful album that will be playing in my car all next summer. Big smiles and large happinesses.

    35 Warren St. #1
    Stoneham, MA 02180
    www: http://www.myspace.com/wattsrock

    Also recommended:

    Atris Of the Commons EP (self-released)
    Intricately-crafted songs in the key of organic electronics. The pieces are delicate and tightly-wound, but the electronic elements never overwhelm. Quite well done.
    www: http://www.atrishq.com

    Attica! Attica! Dead Skin/Dried Blood (Red Leader)
    Old school "important" rock, dramatic and throbbing but not completely over-the-top. In general, the theatrics are muted and the songs themselves don't quite reach critical mass. It's something of a risk to let the listener supply the final piece, but it works here.

    Balzac Deep Blue: Chaos from Darkism CD/DVD (Misfits)
    Japanese gothic extreme punksters who mix those sounds and more. The result is fairly intense, but just tuneful enough to keep the toes tapping. The Misfits are, of course, a prime influence, but this is more of an update than a homage. Fun stuff.

    Cold Dead Hands Novelization EP (self-released)
    Stoner rock with a kick. Deep fuzz, but plenty of movement as well. I'm always up for buzzsaw riffage and a backbeat, and these boys are happy to oblige. Ah, to be 19 and footloose once again.
    www: http://www.coldeadhands.net

    The Evaporators Gassy Jack and Other Tales (Mint)
    I can't stand Nardwuar's speaking voice (his singing is whiny, but not dreadful), and I think he tries a little too hard to be funny. But his feel for a variety of punk styles is impeccable, and when he's not trying too hard he can write songs with a fine wry touch. This strikes me as a somewhat more "mature" Evaporators album, but that is a relative statement. Fans should not be disappointed.

    Fessenden v1.1 (Other Electricities)
    Hard-core electronic noise, vaguely modulated into segments that might be called songs. Much more restrained than many purveyors of such sounds, Fessenden (which is, against all expectation, an actual band playing instruments) has the taste and confidence to float its ideas without blasting listeners into oblivion. Most of the time, anyway.

    Fono Too Broken to Break (H5D)
    Tasty "modern rock." As in the stuff that replaced new wave and eventually became "alternative." Without all the precious quote marks, of course. The Cure is an obvious touchpoint, but Fono is much more muscular. I almost did a full review of this puppy...I like it that much. I guess my one quibble is that I'd like to hear just a bit more of a Fono sound, rather than something from my college days. They're almost there. I think I can hear it coming.

    The Forms The Forms (Threespheres/The Rebel Group)
    Much more straightforward than the last album I heard from these guys, this set takes math-y rhythms and melds it to an almost Rob Crow-like sense of melody. Technical and almost goofy--the melodies, I mean. This one takes a little time to develop, but it will reward the faithful.

    Long Distance Calling Satellite Bay (Viva Hate)
    Not quite free-form jams, but somewhere on the same street. These German boys have a few ideas, and they're willing to wonk them out over time. I've been hearing a lot of stuff lately that reminds me of the whole June of 44/Shipping News/etc. sound that I loved 10 years ago. This, the Forms and other bands are doing some great work that touches on that. A fine album for a settle-down.

    Morglbl Grotesk (Free Electric Sound)
    Three French guys who like to play proggy/jazzy jams in a variety of styles. So it's possible to hear references to all sorts of "world" music, even if that particular term annoys the hell out of me. I like the way these guys incorporate ideas into their rather unique sound. Solid stuff.

    The New Dress Where Our Failures Are (Red Leader)
    Raggedy rock and roll that isn't quite as sloppy as it seems. I believe there is an ulterior motive behind the mess on top. The rather sharp lyrics undercut any notion that these are hacks who don't know how to play. There's something going on here.

    One Small Step For Landmines One Small Step for Landmines (Civil Defense League)
    Solid emo stuff, with the usual wrought vocals, bounding bass, choppy guitars and anthemic song construction. Good songs, if somewhat undistinctive. These guys can obviously play well. If they could develop a more unique sound, they might be great.

    Rademacher Stunts (self-released)
    The random thoughts of a few (possibly) disturbed folks. These songs are all over the map, but by and large they're loud and off-kilter. I haven't heard anything this deranged in a while, and I think I like it a lot. And, of course, when you calculate your songs to sound insane, you're the sanest eggs in the basket. Just so you know.

    The Resonars Nonetheless Blue (Get Hip)
    If yer in the mood for a modern take on 60s psychedelic garage pop, the Resonars are here to please. More jangly than trippy, and I think that's the right call. A time warp, to be sure, but a most enjoyable one.

    Ride Your Bike Bad News from the Bar (Deep Eem)
    Intensely introspective emo--reminds me a lot of the Rocket Summer. Not quite so singular, really, but the offhandedness of the arrangements are quite fetching. A fine little album.

    They Walk Among Us Champagne Tastes, Lemonade Pockets (self-released)
    Brits with a fine taste for subtly dramatic rock. These songs tell involving stories, but not necessarily ones you want to repeat. I like the way the boys wander into dark places and stay a while. Somewhat understated, and all the better for it.
    www: http://www.they-walk-among-us.com

    Zap Mama Supermoon (Heads Up)
    The latest incarnation of Marie Daulne's ever-changing exploration of sonic amalgamation. Fans of previous albums ought to be happy, and anyone who is interested in a truly polyglot vision of dance music will be ecstatic.

    Zillionaire The Street Lights Have Been Turned Down (New Granada)
    Deliberate and powerfully graceful songs. Zillionaire takes its time, but generally doesn't lose track of itself. It might take a while to fall into the groove of this album, but once you're there the view is amazing.

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