Acumen -- Diversity
Post-Blind Melon pop
laser burns as I press "Stop"
The Adult Film Stars -- Money Shot
The Adult Film Stars is the solo project of one G. Paulsen, who wrote the songs and performed most of the instruments on the record. The songs sound like '90s version of '80s ballads, and while making anything less '80s is a plus, the melodies are still pretty irritating. "That's the Curb" sounds like Beck or something with its rapped/spoken verse and sung choruses, but his lyrics aren't interesting enough to care about, which wastes an otherwise serviceable melody. "Warm in Here" sounds like some mellow version of an '80s power ballad, especially when the processed guitars come in. The beginning of the record is only so-so, but by the time it gets to songs like "To Die For," you want to take a hammer to Paulsen's studio gadgetry -- he uses the flute setting on his keyboards a few too many times. And the melodies get progressively worse, as well. It's always impressive to see somebody do an entire record by themselves, but it doesn't mean that what comes out is worth listening to. In this case, it's not.
(self-released; The Adult Film Stars -- P.O. Box 95264, Seattle, WA. 98145)
The Amazing Crowns -- Royal
'80s punk big band
with Brian Setzer's drunk hand
cream cheese on Ritz, bland
The first time I put this in a CD player, it cut in and out like a DJ whipping the fader up and down. Turns out it was just scratched. I found another player that unfortunately didn't have the same problem as the first one, because it revealed this band's press release to be accurate: "Influences: Perfect Circle, Creed, Tool, and Staind." I should have stuck with the first CD player.
John P. Barton -- Does Not Play Well With Others
John P. Barton likes the Beatles and strummed guitars. Na, na, na. He fails to understand that what makes people want to listen to the bands he idolizes is that they have the ability to make you believe what they are singing about, rather than making you think they are listlessly going through the motions.
Bedbug -- Happiest of Hours
Cute, friendly, and tasteful indie rock that knows when to turn it up and when to shut it up. This band isn't essential, but for a first record Happiest of Hours is quite good -- the elusive Beast of Dartmoor of the critical world: a band I might actually go to see. Too bad they haven't played a show in more than a year.
Big, Big Furnace
Cheesehead indie rock
Funny song 'bout Twin Cities
Not bad but not great.
Buz Bomb -- Mojolistic Groove Machine
The only thing that this poorly produced, poorly recorded, and poorly mixed CD is good for is drivin' around in my Honda CRX with the bass pumpin'. If I had one or did that, that is. The mix is totally uneven; the samples are too long (41 seconds of a movie part about some dude being carded, seriously?) and too choppy, to boot. Just, no.
(2nd Floor Productions -- 6 Orchard Drive, Deer Park, NY. 11729)
Sal Casabianca -- Living Between the Bridges
What did you get for the "holiday" formerly known as Christmas this past winter? Hopefully, it wasn't a lump of coal. And hopefully it wasn't this steaming pile of dog excrement, either. I sort of forget why I requested to review this CD, but I seem to recall the tagline seeming sort of interesting at the time. Something about a "singer-songwriter." As visions of sugarplums danced in my head, so too did visions of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Sufjan Stevens. Instead, what I got was a whole lotta Hootie. I mean, this garbage could pass as entertainment if you really dig going to open mic night to hear covers of Train, but otherwise, you might have a better time shoving hot coals in your eyes. But don't take it from me, take it from the lyrics. Enjoy this golden nugget from the song "Firecracker Love" (ooooh!): "Many, many days go by / I wanna give love a try / No one should be alone / Need someone to share a happy home."
Garbage! I want the five minutes of my life back that I spent listening to this aural torture. Six-year-olds write better than this. The thing that is most striking about this album is how vanilla it is. If you're an SEC sorority debutante in need of a "sensitivity" fix, this CD is for you. Otherwise, stay away from this.
(Depot Square Music)
The Catholic Girls -- Summer Vacation/Rock'n America
Summer Vacation/Rock'n America is a CD single by the Catholic Girls, who play fast, punk-inflected rock, sort of a girl-group Ramones. The songs aren't very good -- but in completely different ways, which at least shows they've got some talent. The first song, "Summer Vacation," is pretty bad -- their guitar work is solid but not very interesting, and the melody is bad enough, but adding four-part harmonies to a bad melody just makes it four times as bad. "Rock'n America" is 10th-rate Ramones, but even with that disclaimer, the Ramones would still be offended by the comparison. The lead singer actually has some range; she's extremely irritating in a normal singing girl-group voice on "Summer Vacation," and extremely irritating in a Corin Tucker way on "Rock'n America." The album consists of these two songs, while the rest of the record is interviews with the members of the band, which are even worse than the songs. The band introduction takes it to new levels, though -- after two songs, I don't care who they are, much less about the band history. It sounds like they're doing an infomercial or something, which, if that's what it was, would be funny. But if they're trying to be funny, they're not funny enough, either. It's so irritating it's almost funny, but it's not funny enough to pay money for. If you know anybody that owns this single, it's OK to make fun of them.
Choo Choo La Rouge -- Wall to Wall
Rock band from beantown
Touch of indie, touch of folk
And really not bad at all.
DC to Daylight -- Xmas Murder '74
While grunge happened everywhere else in 1992, it is apparently just catching on in San Jose. I guess maybe they were too busy there trying to put together VC for their startups the first time around? Nostalgia has its charms, but these songs and especially the execution thereof can only be described as sloppy. And not in a good way.
Sophia Ramos Dupré
Her MySpace page is entitled "Sophia Ramos Rocks" (she's apparently dropped the "Dupré" since the release of this first EP), and after listening to this four-track, self-titled CD, I'm inclined to agree with that declaration. Ramos has a very powerful voice that is one part Gwen Stefani, one part soulful diva, and one part Pink. The soulful diva strips all of the pop from the other two parts and just leaves the raw intensity and power behind.
Jerry Fels -- I've Made My Bed and Now I'm Lying In It
Fels combines the bedroom pop of the Microphones with the bleak oddness of early They Might Be Giants. The best part of this CD is Fels' crisp self-editing on the level of the song, while the worst part is his lack of it on the level of the album: 16 songs that all sound the same. Fels should have spent twice as much time to produce half as much music.
THEforREALS -- wash away the cheer.
On wash away the cheer., THEforREALS pretend to be pop-friendly indie-rock, but they come across like pretentious '70s and '80s hard rock. Their melodies use the occasional unexpected note, which adds interest, but it doesn't save their songs overall -- they don't really go anywhere that they should. "Weaker and Stronger" begins with a bad verse melody, and the chorus adds that perfect element of irritating '80s studio production to completely and thoroughly wreck the song. "Butter Cookies" sounds like they've been singing along to Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone," which was already bad the first time around. The times when the melody isn't at fault, they make sure something else is (the keyboards and effects on "God is Digital" being a particularly bad example). On the upside, the album does have a nice, unusual insert-tab-A-into-slot-B package. If you can buy the package without the CD, that would be a good deal.
The Generic Tribe
Rubbing nubs with Dr. Dré
never heard this way
Ginger Moon -- Celebrity Volunteers
Pretentious and stale
from the blowhole of a whale
making meals of snails
Gran Fury -- sunnyday EP
parasoled from the sun
Hoodoo Papas -- Past Due
The Hoodoo Papas are two singer-songwriters who have teamed up to bring you a batch of mediocre roots music. My recommendation for them is to head straight to Nashville, where they might try selling their songs to somebody who could better realize them. Not that there is any shortage of songs that cover this same sort of ground in Music City, USA, but who knows, maybe the competition would inspire the Hoodoo Papas to bring their "A" game.
Jabudah -- 195i
Competent funk rock
Other influences too
But pretty lame stuff.
JIM... -- Hollywood Tire
Apparently the area just south of the Canadian border in the upper northeast regions of our country is a hotbed for jam bands. As I have been there and not felt compelled to rock a wah-wah pedal myself, I have no explanation for this phenomenon. Maybe being in a place with not much else to do leads you to spend all your time honing your chops and working your music stale. As a rule, if your lyrics contain the phrase "Make it funky now," you are indeed not funky.
Johnny Wishbone -- Make It Nice
I dig the bongos, I dig the screaming, I dig the samples, and I dig the singing. I dig the forays into the heavy, I dig the forays into the funky. What I very much don't dig, however, is the rapping -- the flow is just wrong somehow. Every track where they stay away from that, I'm down with it. Every other one, I'd just as soon skip.
(Six Second Blackbelt Records -- P.O. Box 230860, Boston, MA. 02123)
Maurizio Lauroja -- Heaven or Hell
First track talks 'bout tits
Classic rock from Italy
I damn with faint praise.
Lettuce Boy -- Tossed Salad
Raw recordings that sound like they are recorded in the band's bathroom only hold certain charms when they're good -- thankfully, Lettuce Boy's rough-edged album is a testament to the DIY ethic. At times like the Dead Milkmen, at other times like Ween, the "band" (really Brooklyn musician Chuck Pedro) mixes humor and a good sense of straight-ahead rock'n'roll. It may be low-key and very raw, but it works -- and that's what counts. This one's recommended.
(OSFP Records -- firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lonely Kings -- Crowning Glory
Don't let the record label fool you -- despite being on Fearless, these guys are about as punk as yours truly. The songs here occasionally swipe at rough-edged punk rawkness ("Scar of Innocence," to name one track in particular), but they mostly come off as less categorizable "loud rock," with elements of both indie-rock and radio-friendly alternarock. Sweet melodies rumble beneath the distortion, the vocals sound more like The Toadies or The Pixies than Rancid or Green Day, and the song structures themselves are a fair bit too complex for most punk bands. Think Jawbreaker circa Dear You, and you'll have a pretty good picture of what these guys sound like...which may or may not be a coincidence, considering that "Never," the fourth track in, rips the main theme of Jawbreaker's "Accident Prone." There's also a weird resemblance to A Wilhelm Scream and the Alkaline Trio, but not a smidgen of "real" punk in sight.
I don't say all this to slam the Lonely Kings, by the way. I went into the disc bracing myself for yet more blah pop-punk, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. There are some damn fine points on here, like the sweet-yet-angry nostalgia of "84'" (and yes, that's where the band puts the apostrophe), the frantic, Alkaline Trio-esque urgency of "3rd Floor," the roaring breakdown in the middle of "To Live and To Let Go," the anthemic chorus of "January Nights," and the awesome blast of guitars on the opener, "Less Than Zero," which delivers thick, crunching guitar melodies that wouldn't have felt out of place on, say, Hüsker Dü's New Day Rising (kudos to the band, by the way, for leading off with their best shot, even if they kind of loaded the second half of the album with the other good songs). Good moments, all, and ones that let me overlook nothing songs like "Santa Cruz" and "What You Want," and the ambitious but ultimately misguided raga-core of "Rajas". I'll definitely be back.
Katt Lowe and the Othersyde
Katt Lowe's passable songwriting and legitimate vocal talent are negated by flat, lifeless production, third-rate session musicians, and a retarded band name. A cautionary tale to rock singers: L.A. will ruin your music.
(404 Music Group -- 711 Trabert Avenue, 2nd Floor, Atlanta, GA. 30318; Katt Lowe and the Othersyde -- http://www.kattlowe.com/
Sparkling pop music. The kind where tambourines accent the choruses. At one time you would have expected to hear this on Top 40 radio, but since such a thing no longer exists, you might now expect to hear it upping the drama of your favorite prime time teen soap opera.
The Naptown Amplifier Co. -- The Indiana Waltz
These are apparently home four-track recordings. They feature guitar, bass, drum machine, and heavily effected vocals. This is basically an album of demos that, to be anything more, would require that Naptown spent more time on each song developing it to sound less repetitive and more distinct from the others. Sadly, I bet this will never happen. My guess is that they are working on another batch of tossed-off songs just like these right now.
Leal Rey -- The Turn
Memo to Latino musicians: "La Bamba" has already been done by the two greatest Mexican-American artists, namely Ritchie Valens and Los Lobos. The Anglo equivalent would be doing "Like A Rolling Stone" if "Like A Rolling Stone" had lyrics like "I am not a stone that is standing still, I am a rolling stone, I am a rolling stone, I am a rolling stone." The rest of Rey's EP, though fey, is tasteful by comparison, even if the only hint of its purported Latinosity is tacked-on Spanish guitar. If any fans of Ricky Martin are reading SCR for some reason, take note: this one is for you!
When an album starts off with a slowed-down, poppier version of The Steve Miller Band's "Swing Town," it's easy to assume the band is lacking material. As a classic rock fan, however, I respect a good cover, and this time out Saint Kristofer (aka Chris McCarty) happens to be covering his own song. McCarty wrote "Swing Town" -- along with several other hits -- for Miller and here chooses to showcase a few of his songs in his own style. McCarty's music is mainly straight-ahead roots rock, but at times it shows a variety as wide as the bands for whom he's written songs (Jars of Clay, Highway 101, and Martina McBride, for three).
(self-released; Saint Kristofer -- 3 Grande Vista, Santa Fe, NM. 87505)
The Screwdrivers -- The Internationale
"The Internationale" is the traditional socialist workers' song. It's a song about rising up and casting off the chains of religion, politics, and whatever else oppresses you. The State is Bad. Religion is Bad. You are a Producer and you are Good. That sort of thing. Billy Bragg had a go at reworking it in 1990, which made sense because he's the leftist sort. Here, The Screwdrivers actually mispronounce the title and create an anthemic vibe for their version of "The Internationale" by adding extra reverb to their late-period REM sound. As near as I can tell, there are no other similarities. Well, it does mention "the Cold War"-- maybe that means something.
They also do a song called "St. James Infirmary," which has nothing to do with the creepy song made famous by Louis Armstrong and covered by everybody from The Animals to The White Stripes. The original finds its narrator viewing the corpse of his significant other and saying she can "search this world over and never find another man like me." It's as if he is saying "take that -- how dare you up and die on me?" The Screwdrivers say "you've got such a pretty face, but I'm suffering, I'm suffering." It's as if they are saying "suburbia is so difficult, shall we go to the mall and maybe get some pizza at the food court?"
Maybe there are other non-references in this bunch of songs that I don't recognize -- those were just the two that I did. Maybe by giving their songs the titles of other, better-known songs, The Screwdrivers intend to incorporate our shared understood meaning and tweak it by applying it to their own lyrics. Or perhaps I've overthought it all.
This idiotically named band bills itself as "Pink Floyd meets Japan," which is something like referring to an author as a cross between Beckett and Orson Scott Card. The final piece of the puzzle is the name of of the first track: "Edward Teach." I get it now -- psychedelia for dorks. Anyway, the real shocker of signing einstein is that, aside from the extremely uncool production, this band's music is not as bad as a casual glance suggests. signing einstein is a perfect example of the kind of artist that benefits from competent management and production: people with talent and no idea how to present it.
Eddie Skuller -- The Soul of Eddie Skuller (Greatest Hits)
Eddie Skuller's The Soul of Eddie Skuller (Greatest Hits) is a collection of big, banal, attempted-commercial rock songs. This album has some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. The first songs features these: "I know what the waters bring / I was standing on the edge of everything / Boy, standing there, on the edge of everything / Just one more song to sing / Boy, standing there, on the edge of everything." What does that even mean? And they don't get any better than that. The singing is about as clichéd as it gets, down to the power-ballad breathy moans and interjections. And the melodies sound like low-grade commercial songwriting (which can already be low-grade to begin with). If these are his greatest hits, that's pretty sad. He seems to have really hoped that these would be big pop songs, complete with all the cheesy production that accompanies '80s and '90s rock. But what are you left with when you sell your soul and don't get anything for it? Of course, it's possible that he actually wanted the songs to sound that way, in which case the devil can have him. And this CD.
mathematical punk rock
Stan Swiniarski -- Mexico
New country I guess
but with a sense of humor
Jennifer Tefft -- Shift
Had Alanis Morrissette and Avril Lavigne not ruined the angry girl musician thing, Jennifer Tefft might have a chance to moan about her issues to a worldwide audience. While Tefft's songs have the same sort of poppy promise and undeniable singalong choruses that continually haunt mainstream U.S. radio, "Painless" is the album's best chance at getting Tefft some attention.
Third Grade Teacher
Is this a concept album? Is this punk rock? Pop? Whatever the band intended, Third Grade Teacher is a mixture of styles and sounds that range from over-the-top hard rock ("Conductor Semi-Conductor"), borderline glam-pop ("So Long"), punk ("Monster," "Rageaholik"), and '80s indie ("Feel Like Me"). Their third grade teacher shtick gets old fast, especially on their how-to on getting high, "Roll It Up." This is stoner rock for the lowest common denominator.
Thousand Foot Krutch -- Set It Off
Fred Durst, you've got a lot to answer for. It wasn't bad enough that you inflicted the horrors of Limp Bizkit on the music world, but you also somehow managed to inspire legions of misguided kids like these four to mine the same sound. Loud, dull guitars, fake "hard" lyrics, and goofy stagenames like "Cheeah" and "lipsick"...blah, blah, and more blah. And yes, they take EMF's "Unbelievable" and gut it so thoroughly that I'm not sure the royalty checks those flash-in-a-pan Brits are getting are worth it. (I won't even get into how much more at home Thousand Foot Krutch feels when the band hits the sporadic pockets of pop-punk on here, or the fact that they're apparently Christian rap-rockers.) Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying there's not a decent way to do loud, raw rock/metal and blend it with hip-hop, because there most certainly is...I'm just saying that Set It Off ain't it.
24Count -- Depth of View (preview CD)
Turgid and useless alternarock from a typical Houston bar band that didn't even have the courtesy to send us their entire CD. Just scanning this review has been a complete waste of your time. Go read a book.
II Big -- Always in Trouble
Oh, boy. Wish Eddie Money was still throwing out those blue-collar rock hits? So does Eddy Ottenstein (of Youngbloods/Jesse Colin Young/Van Morrison fame), apparently, at least for three songs. And surprisingly, for the out-of-time classic rock they are, those three songs aren't bad. Of course, maybe it's just my nostalgia talking.
Überzone -- Faith in the Future
Back in college, I read every bit of cyberpunk fiction I could get my hands on. I loved the dark, murky, gritty feel of all of it; the books were all like slightly amoral pulp detective novels with a metallic sheen, and I loved it. I searched without much luck for years to find music that fit, so when I spotted this Überzone disc in the pile, with its dirty/digital imagery and sci-fi themes, I was curious. I'd heard of the guy vaguely, knew he was supposed to be up there with Crystal Method and the Chemical Brothers, and those kinds of comparisons are definitely encouraging. And then, on the credits, I saw that there are guest appearances by Page Hamilton of Helmet, indie popster/programmer Lida Husik, the legendary Afrika Bambaataa, and even Ken Jordan of the aforementioned Crystal Method -- given all that, this disc pretty much had to be incredible, right? Unfortunately, it ain't. Some decent beat-heavy, almost trip-hop tracks ("Science Fiction," "Dreamtime") and a couple of cuts that almost capture the claustrophobic menace of The Prodigy ("Black Widow," the Leftfield-ish "Rhythm Device"), but the majority of the album's lightweight, generic, dancefloor-ready techno, about as substantial as cotton candy. Sure, I'll probably listen again at some point, but it's still disappointing that this disc wasn't what it could've been. Damn shame.
La Vagancia -- Cinco Rolas EP
Some vox in English
But with some en Espanol
Good rock feel for all.