Dress for the Future
I think these guys are relative newcomers, but they've definitely got their shit down. It's pretty obvious why Calvin Krime are on AmRep from the violent kickstart of "Sean Na Na," a short, fast, ultra-loud freakout with vocals that kinda make me think of a death-metal singer on helium, all the way to the end of the album (which is about a half-hour away). It's a brief, explosive ride full of quick rhythmic changes, plenty of fuzzed-out bass, tortured howling, and jagged guitars, somewhat reminiscent of Hammerhead, Steel Pole Bathtub, or maybe Houstonians Cedar Of Lebanon. There are a surprising number of little breaks thrown in, too, quiet little guitar parts or even sneaky little melodies that kind of leak through cracks in the overdriven noise.
Overall, it's pretty damn brutal, and although it's not hard to listen to, it'll definitely take it out of you -- thankfully, they take a little bit of a break in the middle, with a surfy-/sinister-sounding little guitars-and-Moog duel entitled "Steve Dude vs. Taurus Too"; they don't take themselves too seriously, going for oblique, gruesome sci-fi imagery when they can, and that's good. "Brand New Jason" looks inside the head of a person immobilized and crippled in a hospital bed (I think?), while in "Personal Earth Station" they scream incoherently about lasers & alarms. I think this is the most raw, jagged stuff I've ever heard that still manages to hold together coherently -- the whole thing's one big mess of smart, angry teenage angst & fantasies. (JH)
(Amphetamine Reptile Records -- 2645 1st Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN. 55408)
Chicago Underground Duo
12° of Freedom
The press kit claims this is jazz. Since jazz means so many different things to so many people, there's probably some people who are fine with that definition. To me, this (along with a growing number of recordings, really) seems to be a resurgence of what in the '50s was known as the third stream. The idea was to combine classical and jazz into a new form. Truth be told, most of the results (at least what I've heard) combined the spontaneity of classical music with the structure of jazz music, and the results were underwhelming.
But lately, the avant-garde has been attacking this problem again, perhaps more out of necessity than out of intent. And perhaps because of it, the results are much more vital than the initial academic assaults. With the Chicago Underground Duo, for instance, we have very little of the typical signifiers of jazz that folks who haven't been paying attention to the form for the last fifteen years expect. But we do have the passion and improvisation of jazz, even as structures more resembling classical are used. Take the piano/vibraphone duet "Not quite dark yet and the stars shining above the withered fields," which sounds like nothing so much as a relative of (American "classical" composer) Peter Garland's recording with the same instrumentation on his Nana + Victorio album. At the same time, of course, even today there is little classical music (avant or not) that could assimilate something like "January 15th," which starts with Chad Taylor's insistent drumming and excerpts of Dr. King's speeches. Elsewhere, Rob Mazurek's insistent cornet blares with a passion that would be simply unacceptable in the concert hall.
My point? Music is escaping genre and finding its own place to be. That's a good thing. And this is, although not by any means an obvious or easy record, a good record. (DD)
(Thrill Jockey Records -- P.O. Box 476794, Chicago, IL. 60647)
Yes, kids, in life you must make choices -- when his band Weezer started to come within spitting distance of the big time, guitarist Jason Cropper had to decide whether he should pack up and head out on the road with his buds or stay at home with his then-pregnant wife Amy. If you know the history of now-rockstars Weezer much at all, you'll realize which road he took -- determined not to fade into "hey, aren't you that guy who used to play guitar/drums/bass for Weezer/Metallica/Rush/The Beatles back before they got big?" status, though, Cropper's started his own punkish pop band with his wife and drummer Tyrone Rio, and y'know, they're not bad. Sure, the cheese factor can get overwhelming at times (for example, the Croppers' young daughter is plastered all over the CD sleeve and gets a guest appearance at the end of the album -- at least, that's who I'm betting that is...), but these folks have a great sense for pop-punk melodies and singalong choruses. Songs like "Dynamite," and "Free Lunch" just plain rock like hell, even if the lyrics stumble occasionally ("Hescher with a Gym Bag," "Frank N. Stein"). And yes, some of it does sound like Weezer -- but who cares? It's just good, loud, melodic rock, and Weezer sure as hell didn't invent the fucking thing.
Chances are this album'll be overlooked for years to come in favor of more major label stuff like this, but I have a feeling that an album or two down the road, Chopper One'll finally get some recognition of their own that doesn't have anything to do with Rivers Cuomo & co. (JH)
(Restless Records -- 1616 Vista Del Mar Ave., Hollywood, CA. 90028)
Let's Play House
It's an unfair comparison, maybe, but the main thing that comes to mind when I hear the fast, sing-along-y punk-pop songs on here is early Green Day -- I mean, it's kind of hard these days to get beyond Billie Joe when your lead singer has that same kind of stuffed-up-California-kid-singing-like-he's-British vocal thing going. I didn't like this much at first, to be honest, but the songs on here are so hopelessly catchy that after a while, I really don't have a choice -- things like the ultra-fast, angry "Shut Up", the sweetly romantic "Mike's Waiting", the cool harmonies of "I'm OK You're OK" (yeah, the same tune MxPx are currently making it big with on MTV -- and no, not a clue who's covering who"), and the more indie-rock-ish "They Don't Know" have all wormed their way into my head and won't get the hell out, dammit. There're definitely songs on here I could do without ("Jocks Don't Like Us", "Coke Song", "Lisa's Clean", & "Now The Beach Sucks", mainly), but hey, four or five out of 18 ain't a bad ratio. (And y'know what? Despite the Tooth & Nail label on the side of the jewel case, there's not a single song on here about Jesus. Go figure.) (JH)
(Tooth & Nail Records -- P.O. Box 12698, Seattle, WA. 981111-4698; http://www.toothandnail.com/)
Boy, and here I thought The Jinkies had the biggest Beatles fixation of any band on the planet -- if this CD is any clue, they've got company in the form of Austinites Cotton Mather. Songs like "Homefront Cameo" and "Vegetable Row" are pure modern Beatle-pop, complete with nasally British accents, lo-fi bits and beautiful singalong choruses (hell, one of 'em even looks like Macca, fer crissakes). They also dip into the Byrds' bag, as well, with some nice jangly pop stuff ("Spin My Wheels"), some studio trickery halfway swiped from fellow Beatles-freaks Guided By Voices ("Private Ruth"), and even a little bit of Radiohead-style grandiose rock ("Autumn's Birds"), and glues it all together with smart, crooked lyrics reminiscent of classic Elvis Costello. All together, this mess makes for one damn fine album, full of catchy melodies and weird sounds, transcending all the influences/reference points I've listed above. (JH)