Asian Mushroom Self-Titled CBGB Records 315 Bowery NY, NY 10003 As this came out on CBGB records I was anticipating some old school hardcore punk in the style of Sheer Terror but I should have taken a cue from the name of this group and psychedelic graphics on the sleeve - this is a techno group, mostly instrumental. I guess the record label decided to expand upon the time-honored CBs stock-in-trade. Asian Mushroom, a duo from Tokyo now hanging their hats in NYC, produces danceable techno grooves with an emphasis on keyboards and effects but with some nice fusion jazz and even hard rock guitar sounds added in over the expected drum machines. Some of the tracks with vocals - Feel and Trip- harken back to Ministry in the Halloween-era. - EAK
Big Spoon, The Tractor Tavern, Ballard, WA 7/15/99 This CD release party was a rare club appearance for this group, which seems to gig out primarily at festivals and fairs. The six piece group describes themselves as folk-rock; I found that they meandered between a blues-infused rock of the variety you used to catch on HORDE tour, complete with wailing harmonica, and rock with a country twang courtesy of mandolin and banjo. The gig drew a few guest musicians including a soprano saxophone player who punched up the blues on one song and a fiddler from Olympia who jammed with the banjo of spoonhead Mike Derzon for some fast blue grass that had the crowd dancin, hootin and hollerin. The self released CD, called Primordial Soup, can be ordered from Big Spoon, PO Box 51103, Seattle, WA 98115. - EAK
Brother Weasel Swingin N Groovin - SST 441 East 4th St., Long Beach, Ca 90802. This swingin disc reminded me of a much promoted Jack Nicholson line from As Good as it Gets. It makes me want to be a better man, or least pick up my alto saxophone once or twice a year and see if I still remember how to play - at all! What can I say? Its just a really smooth CD, with plenty of bass, guitar, and harmonica. Very cool. Perhaps playing into what my have been a short-lived swing revival, but like the music which inspired more than just a Gap Khakis commercial, Brother Weasels sound deserves the right to endure time, more so than some others. They havent forgotten the melody, like so many bands that prefer the blare of horns to the mystery of a good melody. Nine tracks, more than 50 minutes of music. Bravo. - Ment
Neko Case (w/ the Model Rockets), Meat Purveyors, Countrypolitans, The Tractor Tavern, Ballard, WA 7/16/99 Local fav Neko Case packed the house for the 5 1/2 year anniversary party for the Tractor, Seattles home of alt.country. The singer who recently released a CD on Bloodshot Records, is one part Julee Cruse, three parts Dolly Parton. The Meat Purveyors, an Austin band and Cases Bloodshot label-mates, really ignited the club. While the two men in the band did some fast picking on electric guitar and mandolin, the pair of women in the group provided the unmistakable country twang of a stand-up bass and a Patsy Cline style vocal. The women also entertained between songs with charming but salty banter youd expect from errant 4-Hers. MPs lyrics celebrate that hard drinkin white trash lifestyle and wring humor out of overwrought clichés and taunt frat boy nightclubbers with lines like Im more man than youll ever be, and more woman than youll ever get. The theme of cross-genre talent at the tractor continued with Portlands Countrypolitans, who showed off their chops in a mixture of rockabilly, country, covers of Elvis and Merle Haggard, and a touch of swing that had those nappily dressed kids whove been taking dance lessons cuttin the rug. - EAK
Dehumanized Problems First - New Red Archives PO Box 210501, San Fran, CA, 94121. NRA does it yet again, and I dont mean Hestons favorite band of misfits, I mean the California label that consistently delivers hardcore and punk I want to listen to. The kind with fast guitars and no doubt mohawks moshing in the foreground. Tempo changes, and songs like Fuck You Wheres My Brew. If not bands like this one, who will write lyrics like Its Friday night and its late. I got nothing to do. So I go to my fridge to grab an ice cold brew. My goddam beer is all gone and thats not all right. If I dont get it back, Im gonna kill someone tonight. Very listenable as much for newcomers to the genre, who only want it loud and fast, as for old-timers who prefer a little more humor. - Ment.
Ani Difranco Up Up Up Up Up Up - Righteous Babe PO Box 95 Ellicott Sta., Buffalo, NY 14205. One of the best things about a CD like this one, by that I mean one which has had a few radio hits, is that there are nearly a dozen surprises waiting for the listener who buys the album and takes it home. From the organs on Virtue, to Everest and the celebratory title track, Up Up Up Up Up Up is a smooth listen from start to last. DiFranco truly has a beautiful voice, and performs her songs carefully, not taking the easy way out, but taking full advantage of the melody that offers itself up to her. - Ment
Drexel No One Told Me Fork In Hand Records PO Box 230023 Astor Station Boston, MA 02123 It struck me that this band sounded a lot like Minor Threat/Fugazi, especially the song Screaming at the Wall. To my embarrassment, that IS a Minor Threat song as I learned from the liner notes. At any rate, this is the type of competent hardcore punk band every neighborhood should have. My theory on punk is that everyone should support their local punk bands rather than propel a band from someone elses town to stardom a la Rancid and Green Day. It sounds like the Boston kids are supporting them and they are branching out by joining other local punk bands in hoods across the US. - EAK
Gidget Gein and The Dali Gaggers Confessions of a Spooky Kid CD - self released PO Box 323 Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522. When I first saw the cover, I though she must be a hard core metal chick I had never heard of Gidget Gein , until I read the back cover. OOPS... HE used to be the base player for Marilyn Manson, he played the first couple of albums. He wrote some of the songs too. SCARY! But I listened to it anyway. Then I listened again, and a few more times for good measure. Its not what I would consider heavy metal because you can understand most of the lyrics. Its heavy but with an almost punk like twist to it more - hard core. It has a good mix of drum, guitar, and voice. It even has some artsy stuff thrown in; like the clip stolen from some fifties sitcom. Overall I liked it. I wanted more though. The album is on the short side, more of an EP. Maybe they will make more! -JennyFresh.
Hemp Fest 1999, Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle, WA 8/22/99 Washington and Oregon state voters, having passed medical marijuana initiatives in 98, could be the first states to fully legalize the favorite herb of musicians and other creative types in Fall 2000. The hemp fest was an auspicious day for the movement, over 50,000 came out to see bands and guest speakers on three stages on a beautiful sunny day while NY Times readers at home learned that Carl Saigon credits his use of cannabis as a stimulant to his scientific creativity. The event had many vendors, some typical ones selling tie-dyes, glass pipes or food in the Munchie Market, others were surprising like the both for Hemp.net which offered Internet connections, a long distance company run by native Americans and a cell phone provider. The main draw was music of all types, and many of the performers had already contributed time to a series of 14 fund-raisers held since the beginning of the year at various Seattle clubs which made the fest possible. Some of the bands had that sixties type sound, such as the bluesey rock or the Rossies, the jam-oriented tunes of Napiers Bones, or the distinctly Janis Joplin-ish blues of Swamp Mama Johnson, who showed their support for the cause in a boisterous cover of I Wanna Take You Higher originally penned by Sly and the Family Stone and revamped by Blues Traveler on the Hempilation CD. There were, of course, reggae bands, some a reggae rock hybrid such as the aptly named Herbivores, who had the privilege of playing on the main stage at 4:20 and others more traditional reggae such as the dancehall of NYCs Soldier I Selassie. Almost every genre of music was represented including the grunge of old Lady Litterbug, the mosh-inspiring rap-metal of Local 808, or mid-tempo punk/heavy rock by Sixty Second Buffer Zone, whose drummer showed off his licks in an impromptu drum solo when the power went off at the Cannabis Cove stage. Other performers defied categorization such as LAs Aerial Wolfe, who dusky cabaret style evoked pre-war Europe while a three piece band backed her up with a Stones style rock or the bagpiper posted near Hemp Haven who mixed a tie-dye with the plaid of a kilt. Several dozen speakers disseminated information to a crowd which clearly had an inherent understanding of why they love this plant, citing arguments varying from the medical benefits of the bud or the plant and the industrial uses of the plants fibers to the abuses and high costs of the War on (Some) Drugs. High Times editor Steve Hager equated the drug war to ethnic cleansing of the counter culture while Dana Larsen, a writer with the newer legalization magazine Cannabis Culture encouraged listeners to overgrow the government warning of secret research projects aimed at eradicating the species. You may think covering this smoky event was dangerous business for your U.R. reporter - dont worry I Didnt Inhale :-). - EAK
Alanis Morissette/Tori Amos/Chlorophyll: Live at Saratoga Performing Arts Center 8/30/99. Rarely do I plunk down $20 to see a few bands, but a double bill including two modern-day-divas (and a chance to lay under the stars with my girlfriend, listening) was enough to get me on the Thruway headed north. The openers were anything but memorable, with whiney lead vocals, and only the occasionally intriguing lyric Is it you I miss, or what I am without you? Amos and Morissette were another story entirely. Shes fucking that piano, a nearby friend said of Amos, who was straddling a bend between a grand piano and a synthesizer. I have to admit Cornflake Girl was the only song I recognized, maybe one other, but her set was striking enough for me to pick up an album or two. Morissette was another story entirely - running frantically around the stage in big red sneakers, a stark contrast to Amoss heels. Occassionaly overcome with Joe Cocker-esqe movements, she would stop for a song here or there at the microphone stand, her slit-all-the-way-up-both-legs-skirt over pants finally coming to a halt. She played all the hits, everyone sang along, it was great, despite the cold which sent long lines to the coffee booth between acts. Both drank Evian, not the native Saratoga bottled water, I believe - except Amos, who also seemed to have a cup of soup at some point. Well at least thats how it looked from the lawn. - Ment
Octant, Hi-Score Arcade, Seattle, WA 8/10/99 - I was impressed by the choice of venues - maybe a response to the citys efforts to make life tough for the clubs here. The event was the release of a new LP/CD by this duo on Up Records. Octant was more interesting to watch than to listen to. One member played minimal bass lines and occasional keyboards while his comrade navigated an array of antique-looking electronics - a few turn tables and effects boxes and mixers that were kind of beat up. The tune they showcased was long and repetitive and the scratching was slow and decidedly not very hip-hop. The album may have more appeal to those who follow electronica and I do have to give them points for offering the release on vinyl. - EAK
Orange 9MM Pretend Im Human - Ng 61 van Dam St., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10013. Just what I needed, a high-concept-performance-art-ambient-trance-hip-hip-in-your-face-CD. The robo-fly on the cover that apparently scratched out the title of the album, which I interpret to be a sort of wishful- existential-thinking-plan for a hairy Borg-fly, should have been a dead giveaway. Of course this particular CD isnt my favorite, but it could be yours, and since they sent three copies over as many months, Ill send the extras out to whomever requests them, and subscribes ($2 for four issues) and sends a photo or Polaroid of their favorite hairy friend human, or otherwise, in part or in whole. (Use your imagination.) First two will get the CDs, photos cant be returned.- Ment
Pavement, First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 6/7/99 The Minneapolis fans packed the house, even though it was a school night, to celebrate the release of the new Pavement CD - Terror Twilight the next day. Pavement is one of those bands, described by one Twin City scribe as a REM for smart people, that requires a few listens to appreciate because of their off-kilter melodies, dead pan vocals, and clever, quirky lyrical themes. The live performance featured brighter, more frenetic guitars, at times wandering into bluesy jam territory. Cuts off the new album like Spit On a Stranger were featured as well as old favorites like Shady Lane and Stereo. Warm-up act The Lonesome Organist from Chicago showed more chutzpah than skill in his frenetic onslaught of keyboards, drums, guitar, harmonica, and whatever else he could throw into the mix. - EAK
P.O.D. (Payable On Death) The Warriors EP Tooth & Nail Records PO Box 12698 Seattle, WA 98111 - I harshed out a bit on Vanilla Ice in UR#26 for being a Korn/Rage Against the Machine wannabe - here I go again. This release is the last hurrah for a fine regional label - T&N - as this band had signed with Atlantic Records, there is even a reproduction of some Atlantic letterhead in the CDs graphics as a reminder of the deal - the corporate guys have determined that metal/rap crossovers are the Next Big Thing. This band was especially unsettling because although they have the tatts/piercings that are de rigeur in this genre, they seem to be promoting a Christian agenda even giving a shoutout to Jesus Christ the Most High in the liner notes. The name - Payable On Death is not a tough gang ultimatum but a suggestion of what awaits us after death in that Christian version of kharma. They are proficient at the rap-metal sound, but major labels and strong religious themes just dont do it or me. - EAK
Public Enemy Theres a Poison Goin On
- Atomic Pop PO Box 7369 Santa Monica, CA 90401. I felt about the new Public Enemy offering, their first non-soundtrack work in about five years, the same way I felt about the new Star Wars - it was good, better than I thought it would be, but it didnt quite live up to what had gone before.
Satisfact The Third Meeting at the Third Counter - K Records P.O. Box 7154 Olympia, WA 98507 On the third full-length release from Satisfact, heavily distorted guitars are wrangled into winsome licks at times ripping and at others with an almost pop appeal. The vocal bears a strong resemblance to John Lydon, a plus in my book. Spacy keyboards dress up the tunes without giving it too much of an industrial sound. Includes some of the members from Tacomas Love as Laughter.- EAK
Shit Gets Smashed: Compilation, Recorded Aug. 95 at Polymorph Studios, Oakland. - East Bay Menace PO Box 3313 Oakland, CA 94609/Subterranean Box 2530, Berkley Ca, 94702. Budda budda budda budda budda. Id like to say I remember 95, and honestly I do, but it wasnt a very musical year for me. However, a gem like this comp could have been recorded 10 years earlier, and 3,000 miles across the country in NYC instead of Oakland. You can barely make some of it out, but its unmistakably punk from start to finish, with all the raw energy youd expect from a live gig, which makes me wonder why I never noticed crowd noise. Some of the band have chick lead singers and I did that, reminds me of the old SCUM scene (back when I had a clue) and the bands like Galloping Libido who performed in their thigh-high boots, in-between all the pudgy guy punks in their dirty T-shirts. Im thinking this must be a reissue of some old vinyl, cause its East Bay Menace #001, and Im sure that other discs on the label are floating around here somewhere. Or maybe this ones been around for years and just rose to the top. Either way, I appreciate the trip back in time. - Ment
Speak No Evil Self-Titled Universal Records, 1755 Broadway NY, NY 10019 I try to avoid comparisons in reviews and when I use them I try to find ways in which the band differs from a better known act I use to give a yardstick for what they do. In the case of Speak No Evil, I had a tough time distinguishing them from Soundgarden. Same vocals, same hard 70s metal sound. Thats not a bad thing, I love Soundgarden and think they do 70s hard rock better than the most of the original 70s bands. I enjoyed this CD and listened and listened for something to set them apart. I found it, the use of the balalaika, a Russian mandolin like instrument, on two tracks. I dont know if that constitutes the ethnic things going on cited by the drummer on the promo sheet, but it does certainly distinguish this band in some small way from Soundgarden. - EAK
The Step Kings Lets Get It On! - Fantastic Plastic PO Box 212 Summit, NJ 07092. The record boasts it was produced and mixed by machine, and I doubt the band would be offended if I said they lacked soul. Not guts, but soul. They just make the sound, and its slick real slick with the odd exception of Another Brick in the Wall. No doubt by the sound of things, the gents in The Step Kings are bigger Floyd fans than I. On the other hand you have to appreciate a band that can write lyrics like Its too bad that youre so unlucky all the time. Waiting for an accident to ruin your time. Skipping past the pot of gold thats right in your face. Judging by the pulp-fiction cover, I thought Id dig this one far more than I did, but then you cant... - Ment.
Stray Cats Live - Cleopatra 13428 Maxella Ave. #251 Marina Del Rey, Ca 90292. With all the over-produced and multi-tracked stuff I hear these days, its refreshing to listen to an hour-plus of a band that could do it live in the studio, straight to tape. Or as in this case, live on stage. The Stray Cats had so many hits that picking a favorite would be near impossible, but I have a few. However, they tended to be rarities, b-sides, and soundtrack tunes. Like Sixteen Candles, or a tune Lee Rocker sang on an import 12 EP. None-the-less, Every song youd expect to hear, including: Sexy and 17, Built for Speed, and Stray Cat Strut, youll hear on this collectors gold Cleopatra release. The live versions are all previously unreleased in the US, and unlike the double LP bootleg I bought more than 10 years ago, are clean sounding, with very little crowd noise. Sometimes a plus, sometimes not. Considering most of the Stray Cats in my collection is on seldom-listened-to vinyl, this CD is an especially welcome addition. Rediscover Setzer, your big-band-leading hipster, one of the finest guitarist alive today or any day. - Ment
Swans Public Castration is a Good Idea - Thirsty Ear Recordings 274 Madison Ave. Suite 804, New York, NY 10016. Now that theyve got Prozac, the likes of the Swans may never been heard again. Led by blond Satan Michael Gira, the Swans went way way way beyond mope rock into the very elemental depths of anger and hatred, both of self and others. When they were in their prime, as captured live here in three 1986 performances, they wouldnt just rock you. They would scare the living shit out of you, as Giras baleful moans, backed by the bands pile-driving, ass-ramming renditions of such happy hits like Money is Flesh, Coward, and Stupid Child, would reduce the audience to a writhing, seething legion of minor demons. (I know, because me and Lisa saw them at Irving Plaza in 1988. As Gira, shirtless and bathed in sweat, looked up at the ceiling and bellowed Praise God! Praise the Lord! at the shows horrifying climax, acid trip notwithstanding, I truly thought I was in the presence of the Antichrist )
This album reminded me of why I love the Swans: in their brutal, atonal way, (and when it comes to infernal, drums-of-death percussion, the Swans have no equal) they were completely honest and utterly truthful. In this era of day-trading and neo-corporate Darwinism, a sentiment like Money is flesh! Money is flesh in your hands! is the aural equivalent of farting in an elevator. And while every pussy-ass alternapop band whines about bad relationships, when Gira, in the albums notably grim A Screw, sings Put your head on the ground! Push your ass up! Open your mouth! Heres your money! you know he aint whistlin Dixie or acting all depressed just to sell records. The Swans were the real deal, and I suspect posters of Gira with the legend, This Is Why We Fight, hang in antidepressant labs around the world. - D.X. Barton
Teenage Frames 1 % Faster - Jump Up! Records PO Box 13189, Chicago, IL 60613. With tunes like Here Comes the City, Who are the Darlings of the Avant Garde, Metropolitan World, and Back to Motor City, I immediately recognized a common thread listening to this one. Theres a college-edge, but decidedly not suburban college. Know what I mean? Who are the darlings of the avant garde? Where do they go with their membership cards?, asks Teenage Frames singer, volunteering - unafraid - to be a darling himself. The band also isnt afraid to chime in with background vocals, usually in a sparse falsetto, carefully not crowing the lead, whos got a sound all his own, snotty attitude the label calls it. I agree. - Ment
Three Finger Cowboy Hooray For Love - Daemon PO Box 1207 Decatur, Ga 30031. Katharine McElroy, like the only other female McElroy Ive er known sounds fragile and sincere. She sings so sweetly from a sad place somewhere inside that makes you want to console her, but only after shes done singing - because you dont want to stop her. My favorite? Im a Pretty Kitty (Youre a Porcupine) My Paws are sticking glue watch out Millionaires is cool too. I dont really have to single out any one tune. I have to admit I really like all of Three Finger Cowboys songs. Theyre not complicated, just good rock and roll with intriguing lead vocals. This CD wont get lost in the back room. Its one of those that will join the enlarged stack intended for daily rotation. Daemon really does it right sometimes. With very few exceptions, I love album this label releases. - Ment
The Walkabouts, Pier 62/63, Seattle, WA, 7/30/99. This concert was the send-off for this band of Canadians who have spent a good part of their long career in Seattle, as it was their last show before heading off to Europe to support their new CD. Their sound seemed to go over better with an older crowd or maybe they like it in Europe but the soft rock sound of a rock band with not one, but two, keyboardists sounded too much like a Fleetwood Mac for the 90s to me. The band was very tight and the lead singer had a breathy alto voice that was sweet without being cloying. The only edgy element to the band was the guitarist who had some good licks and effected a kind of Tom Waits growl when it was his turn to sing. I preferred the support act, Sycophant, a trio featuring a stand up bass, a grunge-y hoarse vocals and a stripped down but boisterous set closer with the defiant chorus I am alive: that reminded me on a more forceful House of Freaks. - EAK
because some old music is good music
Bounty Killer My Xperience (1996) TVT Records 23 E. 4th Street NY, NY - When I was still with the Source magazine, I got two preview tapes for this release but left before the CD came out. I was pleased to have a second chance when I saw this in the crate. Bounty Killer is in the upper echelons of Jamaican dancehall and on a par with Beenie Man or Shabba Ranks. On this disc he hosts big name guest stars including the Fugees, Junior Reid, Busta Rhymes, Jeru Da Damaja, and Raekwon of Wu Tang. Great dub, great beats, and in my opinion better than his more recent release. Hopefully now I can get back on the mailing list for VP Records. - EAK
Jestofunk The Remixes (1998) - IRM America 214 W. 29Th Street Suite 1002 NY, NY 10001. - I never heard the originals of these remixes from Love In a Black Dimension but the three Italian acid jazz producers who make up Jestofunk bring aboard some serious funk top guns for this disc. American singers Ce Rogers and James Thompson as well as trombonist Fred Wesley, who has jammed with P-Funk, add their talents to the jazzy and joyous sounds on these remixes. - EAK
Laddio Bolocko Strange Warmings of - Hungarian c/o Degrazia 68 Jay St. #2 Brooklyn NY 11201. This is pretty damned good ambient stuff at times, I listened to it for the first time more than a year ago, but somehow the review never got written. At a gathering of new-found mountain friends, over way too much coffee and food, I listened bizarre recordings made by folks less than 10 miles away. Its really strange at times, furious at others. Nice distortion, pounding bass, all kinds of weird distortion - yet contrary to so much would-be just like shit out there, Laddio Bolocko is extremely listen-able. Almost melodic at times, the band reminds me of a seldom invoked phrase industrial noise. Which I used to rank among my favorite genres of alternative music. In case you dont yet get it, its the kind of stuff you listen to live, while seated on a couch in some slightly under-filled club, where the air is too smoky to be healthy for the pregnant punk next to you. - Ment
Melissa Ferrick Everything I Need - What Are Records 2401 Broadway, Boulder, Co, 80304. Heres another example of an album where radioheads have chosen on hit instead of another. By now, everyone has heard Everything I Need. But whos heard I Will Arrive, Particular Place To Be, or To Let You See Me? All of which are equally beautiful. Showcasing Ferricks bluesy, extremely femine and urgently tough yet sensuous vocal talents. This is a nice record. I hope Ive made myself clear. - Ment
Naked Bob Flimsy (PAW Records) Contact band at: 1513 North 5th Street Mankato, MN 56001 - I used to see bands like this at clubs in the late 80s - a chiming guitar sound, dusky but appealing vocals - a sweeter Husker Du or closer to Pedaljets, if youve heard of them. Unfortunately this is a 1997 release, and Im not sure PAW Records or Naked Bob are kicking around Mankato any more, I couldnt find any signs of them. Too bad, theyre good at what they do and brought back some memories of some good club nights. - EAK
Spearhead Chocolate Supa Highway (1997) Capitol Records 1750 Vine Street Hollywood, CA 90028 - Wish I had pulled this outta the crate sooner - this is a great CD! I had already been a fan of the work Michael Franti did in Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy, including a remake of the DKs California Uber Alles and the instrumental for a Wm Burroughs record. This is great hip hop both in terms of finding appealing grooves, sampling and mixing them down, and in terms of exploring vital political themes. Gas Gage is the most inventive telling of a typical ghetto story I have ever heard, none of the bathos of Boys In the Hood. It has clever rhymes and catchy hooks. Wayfarin Stranger is equally appealing musically and uses the considerable talents of Joan Osborne to maximum advantage. Trinna Simmons, who wails the blues on the many of the other tracks holds her own next to Osborne. - EAK