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Record Reviews

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NEINS, THE:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Low rent, Rip-Off ‘60s fodder. Are they lousy? No, but far too many better bands have stumbled down this road for this to be interesting in any way. –jimmy (The Neins)


NECKERS, THE:
Love and Infection: CD
A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! Mid tempo poppy rock’n’roll simply does not get any better than this. If you are a fan of the Real Kids and The Devil Dogs, you are gonna be in bliss with this one. Fans of the Obsoletes/Yesterday’s Kids will find a lot to like here as well. One of the all time great band logos as well. Chalk up another classic Canadian band to take the torch from the Pointed Sticks, The Modernettes, Chixdiggit and Teenage Head. This is the record of the summer without a doubt. Love and Infection is a classic record!! –frame (Self-released)


NATIONAL EYE:
Roomful of Lions: CD
This album offers nearly an hour's worth of soft, dull, unplugged tunes, sometimes aiming at a trippy effect. It's too annoying to be a sleep aid, however. –Chris Pepus (Park the Van, www.parkthevan.com)


MUDHONEY:
Under a Billion Suns: CD
Psychedelica and old-style hard rock dominate this release. The more you listen, the flatter it sounds. Some of the political lyrics are very similar to those of well-known anti-Vietnam War songs (especially on track five, “Hard-on for War”). The resemblance completes the ‘60s feel of the album, but doesn’t do much else for it. –Chris Pepus (Sub Pop)


MR. PLOW:
Chairman Plow’s Little Red Book: CD
Vancouver’s favorite acousticomedy master is back with another laugh-fest. If you’ve heard Plow before, you know what to expect as he doesn’t change it up much. For the uninitiated, Mr. Plow is the bastard child of Raffi and GG Allin (a fact that I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in these very pages). He plays songs that sound as if your child would be stoked…until the lyrics kick in, that is. This time out he slays MSN, emo, Ted McGinley, gay skinheads and all the usual sucking and fucking that’s fit for acoustic accompaniment. The second half of the disc has a smattering of remixes of older songs with a full band that sound great too. If you’ve got a sick sense of humor it’s worth checking out. –ty (Crusty)


MOUTH SEWN SHUT:
Pandemic=Solution: CD
Rough ’n’ tumble, angry thrash here, not unlike label mates Toxic Narcotic. Lyrics are topical and occasionally misanthropic, and there’s a weird ska/reggae undertow to some of the songs that keeps things interesting. Not bad. –jimmy (Rodent Popsicle)


MOTORS, THE:
1, Approved by the Motors, and Tenement Steps: CD
Truth be told, “Airport” from Approved by the Motors was the only song I’d ever heard from these guys, and that was only ‘cause Steve Jones played it recently on his Jonesy’s Jukebox radio program. So, yeah, my experience with this band has been quite limited. Here’s what I’ve managed to deduce: they were a late-‘70s UK pub-turned-new-wave band best remembered for the aforementioned “Airport,” which apparently still finds itself featured in the odd commercial now and then. My impressions of their music are they started off as pretty much your average pub rock band and kinda veered more in a 10CC direction (at least that’s what I’m hearing) and by Tenement Steps the tunes could’ve easily fit into a Broadway show with a little rearranging. Sounds like I’m totally slagging ‘em off, I know, but they are quite good at what they do, even if I’m not feeling the “new wave” vibe from this. “Crazy Alice” RIPS in fine pub rock fashion, though. –jimmy (Captain Oi)


MOMENT OF YOUTH:
Sometimes: 7” EP
They claim to have started out as “an incredibly authentic Teen Idles carbon copy,” but I hear more Youth Brigade (DC) than anything else in there. Heavy guitars, thrashy rhythms, mostly personal lyrics—this is some decent noise here. Supposedly limited to three hundred copies, so all you collector jerk-offs better start scrambling. –jimmy (Firestarter)


MODERN MACHINES, THE:
Take It, Somebody!: CD
The Springsteen comparisons are bound to follow these guys. From the opening Nebraska reminiscent harmonica wail to the way that they combine pop hooks with a blues/ blues-influenced rock base, the similarities are there. They tour constantly and put on a hell of a live show. As people, I’m quite fond of them, and as a band, I think they’re getting better with each record. I liked Thwap!. I was surprisingly and pleasantly impressed by how much I liked Taco Blessing. I got an earlier recording of Take It, Somebody, and didn’t take it out of my headphones for over a week straight. And that may have been the problem. When I got the official release, I listened to it a few times before putting the earlier recording back on because something felt slightly off. There were a few times on the final issue that it feels a little too thought out (like in some of the vocal inflections), whereas on the earlier recording, it feels organic. It’s still a damn fine record that I’ve been listening to (and will continue to) steadily, I just prefer it with a little more rawness. –megan (Dirtnap)


MODERN LIFE IS WAR:
Witness: LP
There are many, many things in this world that I don’t understand: how the pyramids were built, correct syntax of the French language, where babies come from, and how five totally disparate individuals can manage to get together and make a record that’s both this searing and punishing and also this consistently fucking catchy. Modern Life Is War somehow manages to utilize the operatic, mid-tempo hardcore template that bands like Tragedy and From Ashes Rise have perfected over the years—but they’ve also built on it, expanded on it—the last thing you’re going to find on Witness is anything resembling musical hero-worship or stylistic rip-offs. The best thing that Modern Life Is War has going for them on this record (apart from its inherent musical seamlessness and power) is the fact that vocalist Jeffrey Eaton is penning some of the best lyrics I’ve read in fucking years regarding class issues, the Iraq war, small town economics, desperation, hope and more—and he’s in a hardcore band, and he’s pissed off but you can hear every goddamn word he’s saying. Ten points right there. So when you couple smart, engaging, furious and discernable lyrics with music that is unremitting, merciless, yet also so goddamn hook-laden that you’ll have a hard time doing anything else but listen to the record when you put it on—roll all that together and you’re coming close to what this band has accomplished with Witness. Easily one of the best records put out this year. –keith (Lifeline)


MISSION OF BURMA:
The Obliterati: CD
Unlike so many other bands that decide to give it another go, only to end up playing some watered down version of what they peddled in days of yore, Mission of Burma’s latest, their first in more than two decades, remains just as abrasive, challenging and experimental as any of their classic work. Little shards of pop remain embedded in all the racket and their delivery is just as, if not more, fresh and hungry as any modern underground act making the circuit. Could this reemergence portend their influencing another generation of would-be punkers to push against the stagnant boundaries and strive for that elusive flash of brilliance on the other side? One can only hope. –jimmy (Matador)


MISS ALEX WHITE AND THE RED ORCHESTRA:
Self-titled: LP
Imagine a less-amped and groove-locked BellRays and that’s a good indication of what to expect from this record. It’s more atmospheric, moody, and restrained—the watershed is definitely concerned with showcasing Ms. White’s stellar voice—but the power’s not muted. Sort of like the Detroit Cobra’s gig (which I like, as well) and mid-period Stooges. It’s something your parents may like, and I say that in a diplomatic, “Let’s find some common ground so I don’t have to listen to U2’s Christmas album and feel like killing you all” thoughts during the holidays kind of way without you, yourself, gagging or feeling like a tool. –todd (In The Red)


MIND CONTROLS:
Self-titled: CD
Every now and again (though not nearly enough) a band comes along that you love from the first note. It just finds a place among your other favorite records and refuses to budge. Mind Controls don’t seem to be in danger of leaving my rotation for a very long time, but (and probably because) they’re a hard one to nail down. There will be a hint of The Undertones (like the opening of the album – especially in the drums) in one song, and then a hint of the New York Dolls in another, but at no time does it feel like that hint is anything more than that. A mere tip of the hat to some possible influences without ever coming near imitation. Mind Controls have taken elements from what I can only imagine is a pretty impressive record collection to build something that feels fresh and new. Neighbors and roommates be damned because this has been cranked for a month now and I don’t see me turning it off any time soon. The best record of the year so far. –megan (Dirtnap)


METHADONES, THE:
21st Century Power Pop Riot: CD
This CD is chockfull of covers of obscure and one-hit wonder songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s power pop phenomenon. It’s simply delish. My favorite track to have on repeat in the car has to be “Back of My Hand,” a Jags cover. So friggin great. The songs feature cameo appearances from members of Dillinger Four and the Copyrights, among others, and an amazing guest lead vocal performance on “Goodbye To You” by Annie of The Soviettes. This album has me amped. I can’t wait for the Methadones to hunker down and get back to writing original tunes. Will someone offer these guys a multi-billion dollar deal already? We MUST ensure the actualization of a large discography...and making it so Schafer and the boys can focus on and get paid to write music is the only way possible! Fuck those American Idol finalists. The winner is the Methadones...who’s got the contracts? Step up motherfuckers! –mrz (Red Scare)


MEMPHIS RADIO KINGS:
Four: CD
Less emphasis on a country twang here than on their previous release, but they’re still heavily mining early-‘80s Slash Records alt-rock land, with more than a slight nod to later Replacements. For what it is, it ain’t too shabby. –jimmy (www.memphisradiokings.com)


MECCA NORMAL:
The Observer: CD
I never really got Mecca Normal. With this album I continue to not get them. Yet I feel like I should like them because they are Canadian and because Jean Smith was apparently the one who coined the phrase “riot grrrl.” But this is the kind of album that I will never listen to again. I don’t like songs that are really just long poems set to music with no choruses, hooks, or structure. Perhaps this makes me shallow, or simple, or something. I really just want music that makes me excited and happy and this does neither. –jennifer (Kill Rock Stars)


MEASURE {SA}, THE:
Historical Fiction: LP
I was lucky enough to get their demo, luckier still to get this full-length. The Measure {SA} have hit upon a diversely unified sound. Now bear with me on that one. They have male and female vocals where the male vocals are full of gravel and drunken-sounding slurring. The female vocals alternate between sweet and strong. Every song has a new approach, but it all works as a cohesive unit that doesn’t feel like they step outside of themselves at any point on the album. It’s inventive, raw, and powerful. I’ve listened to it at least once a day for the past two months and don’t see myself stopping. –megan (Don Giovanni/Salinas)


MEASURE {SA}, THE:
Historical Fiction: LP
Progress comes when old solutions just don’t quite work anymore. Bands that realize this very simple idea can excel at making great songs. The Measure {SA} sound concerned with the past, but they push it back: to the background, as a backdrop, and, ultimately, a springboard. And then they take center stage and play their own songs, brightly and powerfully. Although I hear passing points as far separated as the Pogues, Discount, and Bent Outta Shape, Historical Fiction is very far from a mess of gifts, poorly wrapped around someone else’s notes, but a complete and utter surprise that reveals itself slowly with each additional listen. It’s complex without being obtuse, melodic without artificial sweeteners, sincere without the “I like Jawbreaker. I like Converse. I ride a bike. Hug me. Coffee!” pitfalls. The entire record plays like it’s holding you close while dancing and singing in your ear. Neck and neck with Fifth Hour Hero’s Not Revenge… for coming completely out of left field and handing my ass to me. –todd (Don Giovanni / Salinas)


MAXIMUM PENALTY:
Demo ‘89 & East Side Story EP: CD
A pretty decent re-release of this late ‘80s-eary ‘90s New York hardcore band. I’d never listened to these guys before and although it’s not bad by any stretch, it’s not grabbing me either. I think that hardcore in general in the era was suffering an overload of cheesy metal influence and Maximum Penalty doesn’t escape without its share of reverb and overdubs. I’m sure this is an important release to some, but it’s not quite doing it for me. –ty (I Scream)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
The Matchheads Present: CD
Between these two discs, you get what I assume is a nice overview of a short-lived, obscure Bay Area punk band and a few of its offshoots. While Backtracks presents a band more rooted in rock a little too off-center for the mainstream, the tracks on Present show a whole different tack altogether. On the latter, The Matchheads show a flair for KBD-styled punk, which would explain why a couple of their tunes here were featured on one of them comps, and the bands that followed in their wake essentially followed the same path up until 1985. On the whole, I don’t find anything particularly noteworthy about them, but in this day and age when idiots with too much disposable income are plopping down tens of thousands of dollars to have an original pressing of Sid Vicious farting on vinyl, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone found this essential. –jimmy (www.mathheadsetc.com)


MATCHHEADS:
Backtracks 1980-82: CD
Between these two discs, you get what I assume is a nice overview of a short-lived, obscure Bay Area punk band and a few of its offshoots. While Backtracks presents a band more rooted in rock a little too off-center for the mainstream, the tracks on Present show a whole different tack altogether. On the latter, The Matchheads show a flair for KBD-styled punk, which would explain why a couple of their tunes here were featured on one of them comps, and the bands that followed in their wake essentially followed the same path up until 1985. On the whole, I don’t find anything particularly noteworthy about them, but in this day and age when idiots with too much disposable income are plopping down tens of thousands of dollars to have an original pressing of Sid Vicious farting on vinyl, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone found this essential. –jimmy (www.mathheadsetc.com)


MÄSSMÖRD:
Inget Liv/Ingen Död: CD
These Swedes serve up pissed off political hardcore with loud guitars, driving beats, Nausea-styled male/vocals and bilingual lyrics. Would’ve loved a bit more originality, but it does hammer the ol’ eardrums quite nicely as is. –jimmy (Crimes Against Humanity)


MARKED MEN, THE:
Fix My Brain: LP
My favorite bands create their own universes and the Marked Men are one of my favorite bands. Sure, there are gravitational pulls from other sources—bands that loom large on the horizon like The Ramones—but influence is secondary to the Marked Men’s own output. It’s weird. I knew exactly what I was expecting from this record before I plopped it on the turntable. “More On the Outside! More!” I didn’t get what I’d expected. And was rewarded twice as much as I thought I’d be because here is a band—much like the Riverboat Gamblers in this respect—that lives so much inside their own heads that they’re always a good twenty songs ahead of their listeners. They see and hear more in their songs than I ever could. They obsess, self-criticize, push and, in the end, where most bands are happy making their music be the equivalent of another shanty in a tent city ghetto, the Marked Men are making an entire universe (from magma to atmosphere to inhabitants). And this is what makes me so simultaneously happy and sad. Happy that anyone reading this review can pretty easily get ahold of these songs that’ll make you fuckin’ jump for joy. Sad, because douchebags play to douchebag-lovers by the millions and can live off of their music while the Marked Men all have to keep their day jobs and risk losing them to just go on tour. Open solicitation: if you don’t like the vinyl (keep your CDs) after three plays, I’ll pay you for it, including shipping. –todd (Swami)


MARKED MEN, THE:
Fix My Brain: CD
This has to have been one of my most anticipated releases in quite a while. Ever since I found The Marked Men in the pages of this very magazine and subsequently picked up On The Outside, I have been waiting for this. I am a fiend for this band. At first, I was taken by surprise at how clean sounding it was compared to their earlier releases. I started to get nervous, but as I listened I found it growing on me like a mold of some kind. It’s got a definite departure from the feel of, say, On The Outside, but the core of the songs remain the same; distant and desperate. With each listen through, I found myself getting into it more and more until the title track exploded into full on Marked Men goodness. I think it’s almost more satisfying when you have to work and listen for the payoff. –ty (Swami)


MAGICYCLOPS:
Best of Synthesizer Hits: Deluxe Edition: CD
Ah crap, this actually is synthesizer music. I guess this is what people who don’t like Wesley Willis hear when they listen to him. –Guest Contributor (Global Popstar, www.globalpopstar.com)


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