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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BLACK HALOS, THE:
The Violent Years: LP
Fuck me in new ways, get me blind by an undiagnosed STD, and paint a smiley face on my ass, this is a pleasant disease. What Turbonegro did with AC/DC and Kiss, The Black Halos are doing to Cheap Trick, plus some. Waaay-too-catchy songs. Sleeper holds of hooks, the type that show up in your dreams; huge. Super slithery. Perfect backup vocals. It's rock, but it's honed and precise and nimble, leaving the cliches stapled outside the studio along with any and all unnecessary guitar solos. I liked their first LP okey doke, but it never had that whisper of "play me because you can't put me down." This does. The lead vocals sound less strangulated and more whiskey and honey. Vicious and sweet. As a whole, they sound like a band leaving their influences just that; spring boards to lean rock'n'roll. A mean and tuneful animal. It's been said that the world works in circles, that we all return to the beginning point. But the Black Halos further prove that the world - and its music - is a screw. It goes circular, but at an angle, and the harder you press, the deeper it gets. Be happy that the spirit of Chuck Berry ain't dead. Remember, it probably wasn't Reagan who made punk so great. It was disco (fill in techno or boy bands at your leisure), which we're getting plenty of clogging up the airwaves. –todd (Sub Pop)


BLACK CAT MUSIC:
The Only Thing We: CD
Bleak sounding rock/punk with some pretty well-written lyrics. Despite the somber tone of much of the music, it still has a catchy quality that keeps your interest piqued. As much as I really liked the music, though, the singer's voice really grated on my nerves. Occasionally too much whine and not enough balls comin' outta those pipes, know what I mean? A very reserved recommendation from this camp. –jimmy (Cheetah's)


BETTY BLOWTORCH:
Are You Man Enough: CD
This full-length contains re-recorded songs from their self-released effort and some new ones. I've always said that Betty Blowtorch are an L7 for the new millennium but that might be selling them short since they've done a lot more than just cop L7's moves. Like L7, B.B. infuse hard rock structure with punk rock attitude and the result is head-bangin' fun. But songs like "Love/Hate" and "I'm Ugly and I Don't Know Why" come from the heart and that's not easy to pull off in a genre that is mostly pose and 'tude, so I give credit where credit's due. This album proves that B.B.'s music rocks hard without their trademark on-stage pyrotechnics. –Guest Contributor (Foodchain)


BERZERK:
This Silence Kills: 10" EP
Female-fronted hardcore. It wasn't too bad, but the metal tinge of the songs got on my nerves pretty damn quick. –jimmy (Recess)


BEAUTY PILL:
The Cigarette Girl from the Future: CD
One would think with a release on deSoto/Dischord Records you'd know what you're getting yourself into. It's either a band that sounds like Fugazi (i.e., bass heavy, guitar-driven rock with terse vocals) or a band that sounds like Jawbox (i.e., a band that sounds like Fugazi.) But this release is a very different. Not that there's anything wrong with the two above-mention bands, this is really just a pleasant surprise. "The Cigarette Girl from the Future" is a lounge-y, go-go, hand-clapping romp that's eerily reminiscent of the B-52's "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland," complete with quirky lyrics, see-saw boy/girl vocals, a French horn, and even a chicken shaker! This 5 song EP as a whole is quite the melodic gem, with a vast range of instrumentation. They lose me a little with the experimental keyboard noodlings of "Bone White Crown Victoria," but they've intrigued me enough to remember their name and check out future recordings. That in and of itself deserves a wink and a "Job well done," handshake from Kat. –kat (De Soto/Dischord)


BANANAS, THE:
A Slippery Subject: CD
The Bananas are sonically similar to a ferociously flamin' firestorm of The Dead Milkmen, Descendents, Doggy Style, Germs, and a psychotically crazed Thelonious Monster... they loudly blend an upbeat and addictive melange of wondrous musical weirdness that's all-at-once melodic, poppy, punky, funky, and pure... spastic, manic, snotty, and chaotically all over the fuckin' place... wildly primal, feverishly unrelenting, and goshdarned energetically frenzied! This is the sort of audial nastiness that should be routinely blasted at daycare centers everywhere, 'cause it's so damn bratty, clownish, and jubilantly hyperactive... yep, it playfully tugs at my inner ears, goofily slaps me upside the head, and then teasingly pulls me back for more. So I recommend this deliciously delightful disc profusely: get "A Slippery Subject" by The Bananas as soon as humanly possible... it'll drive ya ape and make a monkey outta you in no time at all! –Guest Contributor (Plan-It-X)


BALLS:
Gotta Have : CD
Back in the late '70s Tom Petty wrote this song for Stevie Nicks called "I Need to Know" but her "wow, that's, like, a bummer" hippie delivery was so unconvincing that he took the song back. Tricie Kiss gets it right, though, on Balls cover of that song. On the other end of the spectrum they also cover "Whole Lotta Rosie" by AC/DC. The nine originals on this self-released effort by a three guys and a chick singer punk group from Arizona are pretty ballsy, too. –Guest Contributor (Balls)


BACKBITER/ELOPE:
Split: CD
Backbiter are one of the tightest rock bands out there, and believe it or not, this is only the second CD release the LA-based trio has put out since their first, way back in '93, which was on their own label Blue Man From Uranus. These tracks were culled from demos that have been sittin' around for a while and they document a period when the band was experimenting with keyboards courtesy of Jeff Muendel. The five tracks included are probably the band's best songs from that era and, in their best moments, they bring to mind elements of Deep Purple, MC5 and the Who. They've written lots of great songs since then, though, and they definitely deserve a full length of their own. The heavy stoner rock of Elope balances things out nicely but this release would be worth getting just for the Backbiter stuff. –Guest Contributor (Man's Ruin)


ARTIMUS PYLE:
Civil Dead: CD
Not to be mixed up with The Artimus Pyle band, featuring the distinctive double bass drumming of the ex-Lynyrd Skynyrd dude. What a downer to read the CD booklet. "Death opens forgotten wounds, misery outlives the man... casket closed in death, just like in miserable life... the endless allegiance to shit." The music's incredible, though, in how well it sets a tremendously fucked-up atmosphere, like choking on the smoke of burning bodies. So scorched, it seems to get in your clothes after you give it a good listen. The more I listen to Artimus Pyle - and no offense to the singer - but I'd really like to hear this instrumentally. His voice is the lacerated goat throat, familiar to the powerviolence genre, and he does a good job, but the music is what really shines darkly on this puppy. It makes me think if Bauhaus cranked it up and went stupid crazy crunchy. –todd (Prank)


ANTISEEN:
The Boys from Brutalsville: CD
This is a thundering cannonball's roar of redneck punkrock ferocity that caused me to frightfully shiver, nervously chew my fingernails, and then profusely poop my pants... yep, it's that damn intimidating... rude, rowdy, crude, and trashy as fuck! Envision, if you will, a scumrock Motorhead as a lawless bunch of wild-eyed whiskey-guzzlin' Southern good ol' boys on a sonically murderous shotgun-blastin' rampage... yeeeee-motherfuckin'-haw, that's the musically criminal miscreance of Antiseen! Son of a bitch, these hellraisin' white-trash hedonists sound as if they piss napalm and shit chunky shards of fiery smokin' shrapnel on a daily basis! Absolutely terrorizing, but in the best way imaginable! –Guest Contributor (TKO)


ANTI-FLAG:
Underground Network: CD
Impressed by their track on the latest Fat Wreck comp., I went out and bought their release. I know these guys have put out numerous releases but I thought they were a hype band. Sometimes when I hear too much about a band, I will pass on them. I almost missed out. Well my foot is in my mouth. These guys wear their politics on their shoulders and I feel their passion. In the early-to-mid 80's, I was into many political bands. As time went on, it seemed that many world issues that were going on were being sung less and less by bands of the moment. More and more you were listening to bands singing about personal issues. The politics were not heavily addressed. These guys are a breath of fresh air. I know when I was young, a lot of anarchist bands from the past introduced me to things like injustices from around the world, vivisection, vegetarianism and many other issues. Kids need to hear from people who they relate with to get some information that modern media will not disclose. Bands many times spark new ideas that people can investigate for themselves and create activism. Music-wise, they are a step above many of the generic street punk bands of the current norm. They have musicianship, great writing skills, and are able to throw out their beliefs. An important band that hopefully will make the current generation of kids aware and independently think for themselves. –don (Fat)


AMERICAN ANALOG SET, THE:
Through the : CD
The first song sounds a little like Pink Floyd's "Cirrus Minor," which is cool 'cause I've always had a soft spot for early Floyd. Wait a minute, damn near EVERY SONG ON THIS sounds like that song. It's all very pretty and all, but I got bored silly quick, and the lethargy that this instilled upon me made it hard for me to muster enough energy to even take it out of the player. Then again, maybe that was their plan all along.... –jimmy (Emperor Jones)


ALC:
1999 Demo: 7"EP
WE ARE THE CREW! WE ARE UNITED! WE'VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY! Jesus, I feel like I'm stuck in New York with no way out in sight. Oh, wait. The record ended. That's better. –jimmy (Headline)


ABOVE THE WORLD:
End of Days: CD
Good (if typical) metallic hardcore with typical (bad) lyrics. Some kind of supergroup of guys from some CA bands I don't know about and don't currently care to. –Cuss Baxter (Thorp)


4 IN THA CHAMBER:
Existence...: CD
Chugga-Chugga mosh metal with rap elements, as is embarrassingly obvious from the spelling of "the" in their name. I could waste time by staring at a stucco wall and get more satisfaction than by listening to this. –jimmy (Da Core)


21-GUNS:
Not So Bad: CDEP
These brazen young whippersnappers ferociously unleash a chaos-charged cacophony of aggressively snotty (and slightly poppy) punkrock fury that inspires me to spastically hop around the room like a rabid amphetamine-tweaked kangaroo! The explosive rapidfire bombardments of songs are short, brisk, lightning-fast, and frenetically pleasing to the ears... somewhat similar to the anarchic audial disorder of Anti-Flag and a shreddin' bit of Shattered Faith. 21-Guns proficiently possess all of the required sonic attributes that mayhemically make this a perfect collection of pure gut-pummeling punkrock rowdiness: insolently taunting phlegm-spittin' vocals, fiery woodshop-saw guitar riffs, brain-rattlin' freight-train bass rumblings, and overheated machine-gun staccato bursts of embittered drumming madness. Hell yeh, let's hear more of it, boys... –Guest Contributor (21-Guns)


ZERO ZERO:
AM Gold: CD
With Zero Zero’s new full length, I was admittedly a little shocked upon my first listen. While making a great departure from some of its members previous bands (Lifetime & Sticks and Stones), it is the degree to which this new band has formed its own unique sound that held my attention. Sonically, comparisons could be drawn to something akin to Stereolab and Tortoise. This recording has an interesting fidelity and feel I would associate with recent long players from mostly instrumentalist bands like Him, Aerial M, and Trans Am. AM Gold is one of the few recent records I’ve heard that successfully optimizes the sounds yielded within the recording limitations of a record tracked in a practice space. Rather than trying for a very “studio sound,” it sounds very live and human. You can hear the spaces between the instruments and the microphones. Zero Zero employ a large palette of effected guitars and several keyboards over drum and bass lines that are often heavily altered and compressed. It is this solid, driving rhythm section that is the most entrancing and rewarding part of AM Gold. A bit too often, the other musical elements can drag on into self-indulgence, especially on the tracks that feature only scant vocals. –Guest Contributor (Jade Tree)


ZEN GUERRILLA:
Shadows on the Sun: CD
Like a lengua burrito on a frosty San Francisco morning, this CD is at once soothing and invigorating. Also like that burrito, it can be enjoyed equally with or without intoxication. If Blue Cheer had hired a mongoloid Lou Rawls to sing, and switched from their regular marijuana weed to a variety with more sherm content, they might’ve made this record. Wanda calls em “the white BellRays,” I say, “that’s ridiculous – this guy doesn’t play guitar anything like that guy.” In fact, Rich plies this sort of wig-shaking, Chuck-Berry-on-an-airplane-glue-bender guitartistry that knows few equals, though he knows when to tone it down, as on the laid-back “Evening Sun” (presumably about a newspaper, but don’t ask me; I haven’t understood the words to one Zen Guerrilla song yet). Also slightly off topic is the gospel raveup “Where’s My Halo?” and the trancy loopy “Subway Transmission.” My advice: don’t be alarmed when your assrump commences to some kind of furtive waggling behind your back. Jump up and let it fly! –Cuss Baxter (Sub Pop)


ZEGOTA:
Message in the Music: CD
I like the way that certain forms of punk are headed. I like how some bands are getting more intelligent lyrically and subject wise while at the same time they expand musically what “punk” is. Zegota is the term for Polish Catholics who helped save Jews in WWII. This CD simply amazes me. The politics might be a bit heavy handed (in the breakneck speeded, brilliant “Bike Song” the lines: “every pedal strikes a blow for freedom, every petal strikes a blow against global decay!” are a bit much, but also very catchy). But you can always choose not to read the rants that accompany each song and merely focus on the music. Lots of layered instrumentals - far, far away from the three chord verse chorus format. “$59.95” is a highlight both lyrically and musically, and invokes a more intense “Sober” by Tool or some of the more intense Fugazi. The intro is the audio equivalent of a sunrise filmed at high speed. –rich (CrimethInc.)


YOUNG CANADIANS:
Joyride on the Western Front: CD
A recording of this long-dead Canadian band’s live contribution to the second “Western Front” festival, which occurred more than 20 years ago. The sound quality is a little raw but good, and the band starts off a little shaky but gets progressively better as the set goes on. Yes, “Hawaii” is on here. –jimmy (White Noise)


WORLD B:
Self-titled: CD
I picked this up for a few bucks when I saw them play in Pittsburgh. The cover art is badly xeroxed - I picked this up expecting mediocre sound quality of decent but unimpressive punk rock. Boy was I wrong. This is amazing! For one thing, they get that the first song is the intro to the CD - and sets a tone. “Construction Parasite” starts with ethereal vocals and light music before exploding into a loud, fast, and brutal diatribe against corporate rule of America killing mom and pop stores. Amy’s vocals remind me a bit of Amy from Nausea, but in parts she actually sings, like with what your mom would call a good voice. There are lots of catchy sing-along parts for a rough sounding band, which makes for a good mix of styles throughout this CD. Lyrics are about alienation, domestic abuse, bitterness - some standard punk subjects but slightly more poetic than most I hear. Another highlight for me is “Sex Vs. Love” with the opening line “Yeah, I know you want my body baby, but do you want my mind?” My complaints on this are 1.) Put some contact info on your CD, silly. 2.) Have the lyrics in the order of the songs (lots of bands don’t do this, and it always annoys me). –rich (Frog Star)


WORKIN STIFFS, THE:
Dog Tired...And Then Some: CD
If you’ve ever wondered what the Swingin’ Utters would sound like if they dropped the Pogues influence, check out The Workin’ Stiffs. It’s solid, fast street punk with a lot of hooks and good songs to growl along to. The Workin’ Stiffs are another band who has taken entirely too long between albums. Their first TKO album, Liquid Courage, still spends a lot of time in my CD player, and their EP, Through Thick and Thin, is pretty cool, too. So, like most of their fans, I kept waiting for a new album and The Workin’ Stiffs kept slacking off. To tide the fans over, though, they’ve released Dog Tired…And Then Some. It’s a collection of the Workin’ Stiffs early stuff, including their first LP, Dog Tired, plus the songs from two seven inches and from one compilation. Obviously, it won’t show how they’ve grown as a band, but there are some really cool songs on here. They cover songs by GBH, the Cockney Rejects, and Sham 69 and also do fifteen original songs. My favorite is still “Wiggum” – a song about a cop. So I’m happy for now, but I’m still looking forward to some new stuff from these guys. –jimmy (TKO)


WASTED:
Suppress and Restrain: CD
Imagine Operation Ivy with more oi and no ska. –jimmy (Combat Rock Industry)


VON STEINS, THE:
On Display: CDEP
Holy whip sound on the keyboard. I’d be amiss to not mention this sounds a hellofa lot like Devo. (I’d also be amiss not to mention that the last time I saw Devo-tee Mark Mothersbaugh, he was asleep in front of an enchilada for half an hour and even our straw wrappers that flew his head didn’t wake him up. Soundtrack work must be exhausting.) Much of how The Briefs are kicking ass, lifting licks, and updating the bouncy punk sound that people under 25 never had the chance to see first hand, the Von Steins are doing to new wave. And the fucking geek in me is real happy. They nail the vibe; none of the songs fall flat or ring hollow and nothing wants me want to noose ‘em by their (assumably) skinny ties. It borders on (good, fun, aerosol) cheese and (rocket booster) schtick with humanoid voices, propulsive drums, and stringy, weaving guitar work. It’s impossible to be a tough guy listening to them, so I figure there’ll be no transgender divide of the audience. The only thing I don’t like about the CD is that the last song, “6060-842” has the exact same ringer sound as my phone and I flinch for the handset every time it plays. Cool shit. –todd (1st Born Entertainment)


VIZA-NOIR:
Self-titled: CDEP
“Plastic Statuette” is a great song. Dark jangly guitars over choppy and catchy rhythms, and the bridge is a nice touch. For lack of better reference, this is sort of similar to stuff like Mission Of Burma, especially songs like “Pool of Flame,” and Gang Of Four. This is really good stuff. Really musical, with an instrumental song like “The Pelt Room” that meanders slowly and quietly, ending with drums. Of all the stuff I’ve received for review, this has been getting the most play. –Matt Average (Flameshovel)


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