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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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PRETTY BOY THORSON AND THE FALLING ANGELS / CORTEZ THE KILLER:
Split: EP
Two contrasting bands on here. Pretty Boy Thorson are modern punk crossed with country. Sort of like something you’d hear on a jukebox at a punk bar in OrangeCounty. Sing-along sort of stuff, and I guess it’s drinking music. Cortez The Killer play sixties rock with a definite British influence. A bit on the freakbeat side of things. “Can’t Quit Me” is a cold song, and sounds like a lost gem of that era. –Matt Average (A.D.D.)


POPPETS:
Pre-Party: 7” EP
Sometimes the whole lo-fi approach actually detracts rather than adds to a band’s efforts, as is the case here. It sounds like they’ve taken what was originally a decent recording and intentionally dropped out the high and low ends to give it that lo-fi sound, but what they’ve actually managed to do is zap all the punch out of the tunes. As it stands, the songs aren’t bad in a simplistic punk/pop Loli And The Chones-lite kinda way, but I’m sure this would’ve been a stunner with some power behind it. –jimmy (www.bachelorrecords.com)


STARLA UBIQIUTIOUS:
Self-titled: CD
This new untitled outing doesn’t find Starla straying that far from her last album, Another Train of Thought, though there are a few noticeable differences. While it’s still one woman and her guitar, and her lyrical canon remains firmly centered between the personal and the political, this new one seems a tad more stark and somber. Might be the musical arrangements—which are an improvement—or the fact that her vocals seem a bit more solemn, more restrained. My only complaints are that a few of the songs, while undoubtedly sincere, come across as a little corny. It may simply be my own cynicism taking hold, but I still have yet to come across many acoustic outfits that can tackle the topics of a.) unrequited crushes and b.) anarchism without resorting to drawn-out clichés. Unfortunately, Starla does a bit of both here. Overall, it’s a pretty small grievance, though —the rest of the songs here are smart, pretty, calming; nice rainy-day music for those of us who don’t flinch at the sound of acoustic guitars. –keith (Sharpie Fumes)


STEINWAYS, THE:
Gorilla Marketing: CD
This album suffers from what I will call Boogada X3 syndrome. Basically, much like with the aforementioned Screeching Weasel album, it seems most of the components of a good pop punk album are seemingly in place, but I feel really indifferent to most of it. If anything, the self-consciously nerdy and silly lyrics miss more often than hit for me (e.g. “I sit here with this McRib, My mind still wrapped around you”). I find the vocals a little annoying too. –Adrian (Cold Feet)


PLAN 9:
Manmade Monster: CD
If you can’t tell what this band is all about by the name, then the following facts should give it away: They all have devilocks, their equipment is covered with images of the crimson ghost, their base player’s name is Scary Only and, just in case you still don’t get it, they cover two Samhain tunes and three Misfits tunes on this disc. Usually, I would have disparaging comments for a band that is so obvious about their lack of originality. I’m going to stow those comments because these guys are fucking rad. The only real non-Misfits thing they add is a cool guitar solo here and there. If you’re tired of listening to the Misfits, but you still want to listen to the Misfits, you should listen to Plan 9. –mp (Nickel And Dime)


ROCK AND ROLL ADVENTURE KIDS:
Boobies: 7”
Dopey trash rock that marries some fairly solid music to lyrics like “Goddamm yr lookin’ good/goddamm you give me wood/goddamm yr lookin’ good/I say a whoah whoah whoah whoah whoah....” Take that as you will. –jimmy (www.bachelorrecords.com)


PINK REASON:
“Borrowed Time” b/w “Scared Shitless”: 7”
Music to watch bulldozers move mountains of trash to as crows peck at filled diapers. Music that’s so consumptive that it almost elicits a smell. It’s all coming from behind a veil of deep static, especially “Scared Shitless.” The static is its own instrument, modulated, put in front, simultaneously abrasive and melodic. That brings to mind The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Birthday Party in snips and snatches—but in a way that sounds like the Functional Blackouts had flipped their van in a snow bank over those other bands’ songs, and are crawling out of the wreckage. Cold, slippery, toothy, craven. –todd (Self-released (?))


PINHEAD GUNPOWDER:
“West Side Highway,” “Anniversary Song” b/w “On the Ave.”: 7” EP
The world is a much changed place from when I was listening to Kerplunk! on cassette in 1992. Some folks became millionaires and release multi-multi platinum records (Dookie sold over ten million). Other folks kept digging under an oppressive culture to write about a different kind of gold. Yup. I understand Green Day isn’t Pinhead Gunpowder and visa versa, and a major difference, as far as I can tell, is PG’s sustained, intentional naïveté, the lack of “progression” from one thing to another. Pinhead Gunpowder hasn’t hardly changed musically at all (and they started out a little after Green Day). In the land of DIY punk, they’re the Pete Seeger to Green Day’s Bob Dylan (or the Slayer to Green Day’s Metallica, if that helps). This is their first release of new material since their split 7” with Dillinger Four eight years ago, and it’s a smoker: prototypical, tight, catchy EastBay pop punk, perfectly played by some of the folks who were instrumental in forming it in the first place. (One weird thing about this release, considering the band: photos of the band on both sides of the sleeve.) –todd (Recess)


PILLOWFIGHTS, THE:
Demo: CD-R
Pop punk that’s of a more modern style than mid-‘90s rehashes. Overall, it sounded like the self-titled Lifetime record with Unlovables-style vocals. This demo also has a bunch of different stuff, ranging from songs that were recorded in a decent studio to some off a cell phone. I like it. And I haven’t seen for myself, but I hear they actually have pillow fights at their shows. If so, that rules. –joe (Self-released)


PERMANENT / RESONANCE:
Self-titled: Split 7”
Side Permanent, simply said, I don’t like it. I couldn’t wait for the record to be over. It’s dark toned and trying a bit too hard to stay that way. I want to give them credit for having lyrics that aren’t totally retarded, but this band needs to relax a little bit. Have a few beers, maybe, and then rewrite some of this stuff. Bands like Off With Their Heads write dark lyrics, but at least they sound like they’re having fun when they’re writing them. Permanent seem like they need a wedgie or something for being so emo. Don’t misunderstand though, because the music isn’t emo, just the lyrics. The music is like a crappy late Hot Water Music record mixed with metal. It just tastes bad. Side Resonance is a pleasant surprise after listening to the Permanent side. It doesn’t quite match up. It sucks when you have an entire side of a record that you don’t like, even if it is a mere two songs. Excusing the other side, I’m into it. I like the line in the first song: “I am one of Pavlov’s dogs, can’t stop the action, but the reaction…yes, I can change the reaction.” Thumbs up from this girl, or high fives…or whatever it is that’s cool these days…except dibs, I hate dibs. –Corinne –Guest Contributor (Collapse, www.myspace.com/collapserecords)


PEDESTRIANS:
Ideal Living: LP
I hear a lot of records that are good, but know they’re not improving life any. Every so often comes along something that just rips, and the sky is suddenly a prettier blue, and the birds are whistling sweet songs, and everyone is your friend. This Pedestrians album, their second I believe, is one of those life-improving type of records. Sure, my life hasn’t actually improved, but it’s a little nicer. I can’t remember the last time I heard a U.S. hardcore punk album, or band, this good, or should I say fantastic? They don’t rely on thrash for intensity. Instead, they craft well-structured songs that move at a moderately quick tempo. There’s no metal here either. I mean this is pure hardcore punk. Songs that are actual songs. The sort of stuff that inspires. That makes jaws drop. And the vocals are a dead ringer for Dez Cadena. It’s unreal. If it were physically possible to have this band as a lover, I would go for it without a doubt. Regardless of what the neighbors might say. So fuggin’ great! –Matt Average (A Wrench In The Gears)


PASCHAL CIRCUS, A:
Oh Baby! Kick the Dead Horse: CDEP
Fucking Tom Waits. How is this thing ever going to get reviewed and not have the name Tom Waits dropped? The vocals are a dead on for Mr. Waits. Many people don’t realize that Tom Waits played the role of Buck Merrill in the 1983 film, The Outsiders (which also featured a number of young, up-and-coming actors including Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, and more). Interestingly enough, in 1990, a fourteen-episode TV series that served as a follow-up to the film had the role of Buck Merrill being played by one Billy Bob Thornton. –kurt (www.myspace.com/apaschalcircusmusic)


PARALLELS, THE:
“Arms to Hold You” b/w “Skinny Little Arms Made Out of Paper”: 7”
It’s not that I don’t like The Parallels, they just come across as a band without a center. Both songs seem to be starting and ending in the middle. I think I get it: mid-period, tambouriney Elvis Costello through a mellowish Lilac Time vibe. It’s terribly pleasant, but, for me, doesn’t crackle and pull my arm to follow it along, or have incredible hooks or barbs, like thorns on a vine, where you can pick at the little scab from it penetrating your skin. I like my power pop seductions with a bit more sweat and directness. Incredibly competent, though. –todd (La-Ti-Da, lattidarecords.com)


PALE GALLERY, THE:
Self-titled: CDEP
The first thing of notice is that the vocals are really similar to Eric Bachman’s vocals from his time in Archers Of Loaf. The music doesn’t really seem to stray too far from that formula, either (the formula being loud pop with some rock in it). I’ve heard this kind of stuff before and, honestly, I’d rather just stick with Archers. Although The Pale Gallery did play All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in May of 2008, so that is obviously worth something. Or it could be that Explosions In The Sky (curators of the fest) owed somebody a favor. [Shrugs.] –kurt (www.myspace.com/thepalegallery)


OVER VERT:
Gagging + Swallowing: CD
This is seven songs of spastic and twisty hardcore. This band seems to fall right between The Bronx and Drive Like Jehu on the sonic spectrum. Musically, this is heavy bass pushed to the front, twisty and ominous guitar lines that often turn to feedback, poundy drums that constantly shift beat, and frantic vocals that are probably going to induce a trip to the throat specialist before long. This is recorded by Steve Albini, which you can tell in the signature “playing in a big empty room” mix he excels at. This is a short but sweet album that would probably be at home on Amphetamine Reptile if it still existed. –Adrian (Renova)


OUTDOORSMEN:
Wild! American: 7”
This isn’t garage rock. This is a chunk of really cheap steak stuck onto a tree branch and left to rot in the woods. Unless you’ve been lost out there for a while and the sun has really baked your brains, you’re probably not going to enjoy it. –mp (Wild American)


ORSO:
Ask Your Neighbor: CD
I was meaning to ask my neighbor about her thoughts on this album, but she was too busy yelling at her kids about paying her the fucking money they owed her. So I decided to embark on writing this review all by myself. This reminded me of a cross between Great Lake Swimmers and Lazarus with some other band I can’t remember thrown in. There are lots of instruments involved (piano, clarinet, banjo, cello, guitar, organ, percussion, etc.), but none of the tracks are overwhelming. Most of it feels pretty simplistic, almost, at times, on the verge of falling apart. The vocals are mopey and unspirited, as though the vocalist did all the songs when he was really tired. It’s not real exciting, to be honest. –kurt (Contraphonic)


WRETCHED ONES, THE:
'Rut' b/w 'Lady Boss': 7"
To support their recent, triumphant fourth album, Make It Happen, two of the best songs from that release appear on this great-sounding 7”. This single is well worth checking out for its hilarious back sleeve alone (a photo representation of the boss that’s “giving me a raise” in the song “Lady Boss”). I can’t get enough of this inexplicably amazing band. Few oi/streetpunk bands blend humor into their otherwise tough-sounding music as perfectly as The Wretched Ones. There aren’t too many bands left from the East Coast 1990s streetpunk revolution, but, luckily, the mighty Wretched Ones won’t die down. I’m ready for album number five already, but I’ll be in line even if takes another near decade. Will listening to this record repeatedly lower your IQ? Maybe. But who in their right mind believes in IQ tests anyway? –Art Ettinger (Headache)


WORLD BURNS TO DEATH:
The Graveyard of Utopia: LP
Amid the grim darkness of World Burns To Death, on this record, bring into focus a few of the atrocities Russia committed from the early stages of Communism to more recent times, as well as taking to task the Western intellectuals who turned a blind eye to it all. World Burns To Death do an excellent job at conveying the ugly mood and despair through their music and lyrics. As much as the music is dynamic and crushing at the core, this is some depressing music, which I imagine is what it is supposed to be. More convincing than a large majority of bands who attempt the same message. I’m not saying this to discount the band. Quite the opposite. Truth is, World Burns To Death are one of the very few truly relevant bands out there. And this is perhaps their best release yet. “Wormwood Star,” with Ashley Marshall, of Signal Lost, adding vocals, is one of their best songs yet. 
–Matt Average (Prank)


WELCOME HOME WALKER:
Don’t Let Me Go b/w Second Hand Store: 7"
This 7” came with a note mentioning “members of the Soda Pop Kids and From Ashes Rise.” Well, color me intrigued. This is some garage-tinged power pop that’s pretty awesome. –joe (Gone Home)


WEEKEND NACHOS:
Punish and Destroy: LP
Going off the name of this band, I was expecting some lame, wacky thrash band. Was I ever wrong! Instead, this duo cranks out some low end-drenched, Infest-influenced hardcore. Fast and thrashy and heavier than hell at the same time. Twenty-six blasts of auditory misanthropy. They shift tempos throughout to keep things interesting, also allowing each song to stand out instead of blurring into the next. The title track is fast then shifts down into an agonizing, slow, lethargic tempo. They also pummel you with “Acceptable Violence,” “Transformed,” “Hated,” and the sort. Lethal. –Matt Average (Cowabunga)


WAX MUSEUMS:
“Magnet II” b/w “Magnet Part I Disintegrated”: 7”
Hey, someone really likes The Urinals, and as someone who likes the Urinals, this is pleasing, down to the intentionally robotish sounds at the end of the song. Wax Museums = art rock that doesn’t suck because it sounds like ants are crawling through everything and the electronics are crude, naïve, and warm (Theremins do that to me). It’s music played by people who probably know how to play their instruments really well but intentionally chose not to. Too well formed to be mess-sloppy.  –todd (Fashionable Idiots)


WAILING WALL, THE:
Hospital Blossoms: CD-R
The Wailing Wall is primarily a solo artist, Jesse Rifkin, who grabs a bunch of his friends to play with him on this here album. There are a lot of good acoustic guitar and banjo parts and the whole project is very eclectic, with there also being piano, viola, trumpet, accordion and the like. It’s all woven together very well and reminiscent of the Microphones or Akron/Family, but better. The lyrics seem to deal with God frequently, but maybe due to my background, it didn’t really bother me that much. It’s got a great festive vibe at times, like an indie rock jam band. Other times, it’s just downright sincere and honest in its delivery. You really can’t ask for more than that. –kurt (Self-released, www.myspace.com/jesserifkin)


VITAL MIGHT, THE:
Red Planet: CD
Invoking Bowie’s Law, I picked this out of the review pile based on the title of the first song, “Phantom Spaceman,” totally playing with fire by ignoring the fine print at the end of said law, “NOTE: Any guarantee of swellitude applies only to music made by Mr. Bowie hisself.” As a result, I’ve got a thin, disc-like hole in my rear car window courtesy of my stereo, which violently vomited this go-for-the-brass-ring bit of alt-rock pilf. Lesson learned: Never, EVER fuck with Bowie’s Law. –jimmy (www.thevitalmight.com)


VILE NATION:
Self-titled: EP
Don’t know what it is, but certain bands can crank out intense thrash and it blows me away. Lärm, Siege, D.R.I., Rapt, early Disorder. You’d think thrashing like mad would be easy to pull off, yet the truth is most thrash bands suck. Then you get some band like Vile Nation here, who are pushing such an ungodly amount of sound through the speakers. Turn the stereo up and you can feel the songs pounding you in the chest. Low end speaks volumes, literally, in this music. Six songs that blaze. I think I’ll have a couple more rounds of this. –Matt Average (Cowabunga)


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