Urban Rag #26 "The Return" Spring 1999

808 State “808:88:98” - Universal. Whether or not you believe this group’s assertion on the liner notes that they spawned the whole genre of dance music, you can’t deny these tracks have that sound which is synonymous with any dance club outing over the last 10 years. The Brit knob twiddlers admit to their obsession with technology, and where they have always worn their influences on their sleeves, mixing up samples of hip-hop, techno, and jazz, they now have some of the leading practitioners in various forms as guests including Bjork, MC Tunes, UB40, and M. Doughty of the fabulous Soul Coughing. Despite the techie orientation of this band, there is a variety of more organic sounds here, and the guest artists all put in strong performances. Whether or not 808 State are forerunners or also-rans, they will deservedly take their place on the turntables of DJs at any clubs where folks go to dance. -EAK

Afghan Whigs Live at The Showbox, Seattle, WA 11/30/98 The Whigs give their fans great value, more than two hours of their brand of hard rock with the sensual undertone and the irrepressible stage presence of lead singer Greg Dulli. To be accurate, he is downright cocky and his frat boy banter can be at times tedious, but his bravado seems to be the fuel that keeps this band going. His voice is strong if not sweet and perhaps in recognition of this fact, the band added a three piece vocal accompaniment section that punched up the blues and gospel flavor the band has taken on since their visit to New Orleans where they recorded one of their most recent CD. Also picked up in New Orleans, piano player Josh Paxton, who takes a page out of the Doctor John playbook. It’s not surprising, Paxton earned a Masters in Jazz at UNO. The tour to support the band’s fine 1998 release, “1965”, appears to have been cut short. Dulli, who is unapologetically brazen and recently boasted of starting a fight with the 90# Chris Robinson of The Black Crows, mouthed off to someone a little bigger in Texas and was hospitalized in the ensuing beatdown. (Sub Pop World HQ 1932 First Avenue, Suite 1103 Seattle, WA 98101 - USA) - EAK

“Bride of Chucky Music from and inspired by the Motion Picture” various artists -CMC International Records c/o BMG Entertainment 1540 Broadway NY, NY 10036 The fourth in the Child’s Play series of flicks stars Jennifer Tilly, your favorite sociopathic doll, Chucky, and a pretty impressive soundtrack roster. As I find on many compilations, the lesser known groups at times outshine the more familiar names. Judas Priest and Slayer are rather disappointing and uninspired, and White Zombie only offered a retread - Thunder Kiss ‘65 which I already have on La Sexorcisto (1992) and remixed on Nightcrawlers: The KMFDM Remixes (1992). Motorhead however, does not disappoint with Love For Sale. Some of the moderately established acts provide kicking metal tracks including the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies with “Boogie King,” Monster Magnet with the spooky but pumping “See You In Hell,” and Powerman 5000 with “Son of X51.” For the newer names, I was impressed with Static-X’s Bled For Days, and especially LA’s Coal Chamber, which did not get airtime in the movie itself but contributed “Blisters,” a song ‘inspired by the movie’. A good deal - Chucky gets laid and we get a soundtrack that sports more bombtracks than turkeys. -EAK

Chris Duarte Group “Tailspin Headwhack” - Silvertone/Zamba Corporation 137-139 W. 25 St., NYC 10001. I was just telling Eak that every issue of the Urban Rag has to have a review of at least one Guitar band. Just met my quota. He predicts that this band won’t be hired to do the soundtrack for the next film version of “Cleopatra,” even though the first tune is called “Cleopatra.” It’s got that Texas sound. That Texas guitar sound. Not bad, and at one point in my life I might have liked it a lot more - but I’ve never been that big a fan of long guitar solos in the first third of a song. Get the picture?

Citizens’ Utilities “No More Medicine” - Mute Corp. College rock, dependable from Mute. Nice harmonies, dissonant guitar solos - with that minor-chord feel. Real slick production, with what Eak referred to as a Sebadoh guitar sound. Not being particularly versed in them, I would have to say it has that stripped-down, at times over-modulated, sound; these are the types of guys that probably play just one or two songs too many when you see them live, because they really enjoy what they do. The CD has been around a while, I’ve listened to it a bunch of times. I remember thinking it had a real familiar sound, not that it’s completely derivative, but it does borrow from a lot of other artists, and decades. If I had to pin it down, the best I could do, would be mid-60s, and latest-80s. I guess their new CD is on Seattle’s My Own Planet records. So find one, the other, or both, if you’re interested.

CIV “Thirteen Day Holiday” - Lava Records I was lucky enough to catch CIV at several small clubs back in 95 and became a fan immediately. They are old school punk and have the credentials to prove it. Band members were putting out punk in the 80s when punk was still underground as members of Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today. They have a snappy punk sound with buzz saw guitars and the occasional anthemic chorus. They can do Fugazi better than Fugazi and Minor Threat as well as Minor Threat. This CD shows more mature introspective lyrical themes, a nice addition to the reliable punk music styling. Second Hand Superstar combines caustically sarcastic words with appealing guitar grooves. Lead singer Civ has been pumping out ink as well as records, he tattoos in a bold neo-traditional style in a Long Island studio he shares with pin-up impresario Joe Capobianco. His foray into tattooing had put his musical career on hold for a time, but an overwhelming response to a 7” released on a whim in 95 lured this multi-talented bandleader back into the music business. -EAK

Edna Swap “Chicken” EP - Island Independent. Nice gravel-ly female vocals here. “Glow” kicks it off with some sort of accordion or hooter, which is not important. Good rock and roll! “Nothing is Broken,” reveals the CD’s secret right away. The recording is honest - not too slick or over produced. Maybe that’s why it’s on Island Indie. Very bare and exposed, as though it was recorded live. Who knows, it could have been. Anne Preven’s voice doesn’t need a lot of enhancements, and she sensibly avoids ‘em. The bio says her musical career started at age 5 when she passed out from hyper ventilation two minutes into her first flute lesson. At times it sounds like she doesn’t stop for a breath here, either. I bet they’re great live! Damned good stuff!

Generations “A Punk Look at Human Rights” Arc 21 3520 Hayden Ave. Culver City, CA 90232. This one is a classic. This CD is fantastic. The title track “Generations” is so Sandanista-era-Clash it’s eerie. Perhaps the presence of Joe Strummer in Electric Dog House, the band that plays the tune, explains that. It’s never too late to do good, so get this disc. Sales of the CD raise funds for the Human Rights Action Council. As the artwork subtly proclaims the CD was “not made in China or Burma” and trust me, many CDs are. A few years back I received a shipment of jewel boxes I had purchased from a company in Canada. They came from cargo bins out of China. In one tray there was a drawing in black magic marker - a portrait, and some Chinese characters written beside it. Borrowing from the old, but with 20-20 hindsight not-so-funny fortune cookie joke, I used to say it read “Help I’m being held hostage in a jewel box factory.” Not really funny at all. Two-thirds of these songs are absolutely great, like any punk comp, about a third is some sort of filler. Good stuff all around though.

Holly McNarland “Stuff” - Universal Records. I really do enjoy Holly McNarland’s live shows. I managed to catch her once or twice at CMJ. She’s got a great voice, and a riveting stage presence. In the studio? Well, something is missing. I’ve listened to “Stuff” many times. It’s a terrific CD, but I’m never satisfied. Somehow, I’m still thirsty after I’m done. Maybe it’s over-produced. Maybe it’s too clean. Maybe there’s too much of something done to her voice - which it justifies repeating, is beautiful. I’m going to move the CD to another part of the house where I can lay back and listen with my eyes closed, not tightly, but closed. It works better there. More hypnotizing when it gets 100% of the meditative mind. On second thought, no on tenth thought - it’s brilliant. Buy it.

Illuminati “The Grateful Dead Experience” - Relix Records Simply good music, meaningful lyrics, pelvic rhythm, a graceful flow of improvisational moments, melodies that spill into a riff. Any and all musicians that wish to cover the music of the Dead must be capable of implementing all of the above. Illuminati falls way short of accomplishing this task. Each musician seems to possess a certain talent individually, but as a group their sound fragments into nothing but noise. Not tight or polished. The vocals are extremely weak, and their harmonizing needs work. The best track on the CD is a studio rendition of The Beatles “She’s So Heavy.” The bass player and pianist show more promise but get constantly washed away by an over zealous cow bell, and too many strings. They’re barely audible; the listener misses a lot not hearing them. Perhaps Illuminati could better light up an audience with an improved mix and by complementing rather than competing with one another. -B. Schinnerer

Jack Killed Jill “In Stereo” - New Red Archives P.O. Box 21051 San Francisco, Ca 94121.Wa, wa, wa, budda, budda, budda, budda - old school punk. Oops left my turntable on 45 rpm, when I dropped the needle on this wax - oh, it’s a CD, must be melodic punk in the spirit of the Dickies and all the other great shit New Red releases. My main regret is that while I’ve delayed in releasing this issue of the rag, NRA has no doubt released more great clever punk. EAK said he could imagine them on the bill with the Germs, or Millions of Dead Cops, so could I. They cover New Model Army’s “51st State” in a nice pared-down way, classic production for a punk record. Not a lot of slick studio tricks to clutter up the sound.

Jeremy Wallace “My Lucky Day” -Palmetto Records 71 Washington Pl. #1A NY, NY 10011 I’m usually a little wary of the singer-songwriter genre but enjoyed this recording of gritty ditties about a cast of characters from the seamy underside of these united states. Although the record company blurb likening Jeremy to Tom Waits and Uncle Bob (Dylan, that is) may be a bit ambitious, his ragged vocals and slack manner of spinning a yarn are admirable. Wallace also tints several songs with a nice New Orleans blues influence. Not as sad as the blues, not as whiny as a typical singer songwriter, these songs tell the stories of sinners and losers who have resigned themselves to their lives. Also contributing to the effort is fellow Palmetto label-mate Frank Christian who produced the recording and added some stellar guitar work. -EAK

Lay Quiet A While “Delicate Wire” - Daemon Records PO Box 1207 Decatur GA, 30031. Well this is where Danielle Howle has pointed herself; a rock band. OK, so her last CD “Live at Mckissick Museum” was a real favorite. I still listen to it often. Sadly this one didn’t grab me the same way. The first few tracks “Go Right Through,” and “Wait” had similar riffs and a general blandness to them - but by “Sweet Elise,” more than half way through, I realized that her voice, albeit slightly less passionate that on the solo recording, is as warm as ever. I hope this represents only a part of the big picture, and not the whole of her future recordings. It reminds me of the way Billy Bragg added instruments to his records, until the gruff singer/songwriter of the mid 1980s was completely buried. That’s not to say I don’t like his more recent recordings, but I still listen to the old tunes more. Howle’s quirky-goodness shines through a bit more on songs like “All the Things,” and “Boot Lady.” (by chance: solo and acoustic). I’ll keep the “Delicate Wire” CD close at hand to give it another chance to win me over. I hope it will.

Los Punkeros “Raza Punk Y Hardcore” - Aztlan PO Box 34736, San Francisco, CA 94134. What a great disc! From the first track Manic Hispanic’s cover of “God Save the Queen,” to “Dicidente Soy,” by Megitterraneo. Well, there are some lesser tracks like the somewhat directionless “Apocalises,” by Los Hijos De. Of course my Spanish is non-existent. It has that early 80s left-coast sound - but not in the best of ways. Mostly though, the CD is great hardcore. A true black and blue mosh-pit compilation.

Morsel “I’m a Wreck” - SS c/o Morsel P.O. Box 8192 Ann Arbor, MI 48107. Largely instrumental, with ambient qualities, this CD makes excellent background music, it’s got an edge while remaining completely inoffensive. Even during abrasive bits, like the dragging sounds on track five’s “Splat Mi Splat,” your skin won’t crawl. The obtusely titled “Didge,” which opens the disc features the aboriginal wind instrument which is coming increasingly into favor with the alternative set. These days, there’s no fewer than two guys in the Catskills, who’s whole bit is based on the thing - as many of Morsel’s songs are built on top of its sound. I’ve got to say, though - that back in 1991, New York City’s Iron Works (Inc.) used to open the occasional set with a fellow who brought one back with him from the penal colony. Gee those guys were great. Morsel is a solid release, from a band that I hope has more tricks up their sleeve. I’d like to hear more.

Moths (self-titled) - Wagon Train P.O. Box 812 Tannersville, NY 12485 I must be getting old, when I listened to Moth’s CD I felt a nostalgia for the experience of discovering bands like the Replacements or Husker Du for the first time. Moths serve up rich gravid riffs that are upbeat without being syrupy; the vocals range from soulful to whiny without being annoying. Add to this mixture intelligent and funny lyrics which tackle philosophical issues or celebrate the lives of those in the margin between suburbia and trailer trash, an occasional nod to rockabilly, ripping guitar work, and an enchanting Latino track, and you have the makings of a long overdue ‘discovery’. If the thrill you felt when you heard Pavement for the first time has worn off long ago, I suggest you pick up Moths. - EAK

Moths, Eighteen, Live at The Charleston, Brooklyn, NY 12/31/98 A nice alternative to being dowsed with cheap champagne and crushed by drunken 20-somethings from New Jersey in the frigid Times Square was the warm ambiance of The Charleston. A neighborhood bar in the front, it’s back room featured top notch rock and roll performances from both bands at the New Year’s Eve gig. The crowd in both rooms consisted of folks who seemed to know each other and the bands - a real friendly atmosphere. After a gratefully short round of noisemakers, hats, and streamers, Moths ushered in 1999 with Auld Lang Syne and launched into a tight set showing off their blend of melodic but punchy guitars and clever lyrics. Highlights included 10K Rubberbands, Hospital, Maple Hill, and Big Mike. Eighteen, which has been a steady fixture at the Charleston for some years, also presented a guitar heavy sound, with metal-flavored chord grooves and occasional bits of rockabilly. The band also seemed to share Moth’s ironic sense of humor in their lyrics and had the dance floor bouncing during their smoking second set. I was so inspired I made a resolution to go see high quality rock and roll acts like Eighteen and Moths rather than standing in the cold to watch flashing balls drop whenever possible. -EAK

MxPx “Life in General,” “Let it Happen” - Tooth & Nail P.O. Box 12698 Seattle, WA 98111. “Why am I in love with a girl that treats me oh so badly?” Good question, from this great band. Here’s one of those can’t judge a book by its cover, or in the case of these two Cds, two books by two covers. From the earlier album, with a cartoon drawing of a jock pummeling a frightened looking punk, I figured the music would be some lame ass college band making some goofy, ballad-y, lame-o attempt at becoming rock stars - but the disc is classic punk, more so than Greenday, but not quite as far back as Rancid. I’m breaking one of my previously unwritten rules, in making these comparisons, but for a good reason. If you like those bands, you’ll like this one. Maybe that’s why some zines compare styles more often. The second CD, “Let it Happen,” is a little more identifiably packaged. The illustrated skate-punk on the cover, complete with red converse - more clearly places the music. No confusion here. It’s punk and it’s good - even jazzy at times. With the alternate mixes on the new release, there are close to 50 tracks, more than your money’s worth. Though they cover a few punk, and other classics “Oh Donna!”, MxPx, is not just a punk rock wannabe, they’re the real thing. Let it Happen is more b-side tracks, and alternate versons. Top shelf stuff.

Oi!/Skampilation Vol #3 - Radical Records 77 Bleecker St. #C2-21, New York, NY 10012. When punks and skankers meet, the gene-pool collision is a frightening one. The beat, the beat... It’s really more punk than ska. Or Oi!, I guess. Then again, they’re all there. The horns are on the ska tracks the shouting vocals on the rest. Pilfers’ “Doctor Kevorkian” is extremely live, like the rest of the disc is cool, nice bass riff, but hard to understand lyric-wise. Predictable sounds are on tracks like The Ducky Boys “Pride,” anthematic punk fer sure, and “Children of the Revolution” by The Unseen. If I said it began with a Ramonesesque beat, would you know what I meant? Bomb Squadron’s groovy ska contribution “Click and Duckys” is one of the cooler ska tracks on the CD. Good skankin’ beat. Dis Con’s “I Hate the Media” is the mouthpiece type song you’d expect from a two-day, twenty band festival. Very cool disc, not for everyone, but a nice sampling of some of the bands out there that are doing this sort of thing fairly well.

Pat Travers Band, Live at The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY 11/07/98 The 1980s guitar icon, and in my eyes, living legend Pat Travers made it worth enduring a smoky club filled with leather clad rock fans with hair don’ts and cheap perfume. The Chance is a fine venue, an old style theatre with a good sound system. Travers, along with bassist Kevin Ryan and drummer Sean “The Cannon” Shannon, came on like gangbusters after respectable performances by supporting acts Dead Cowboy and Livesay. Travers’ riveting set included many old favorites from a discography which sports 20 albums released over the last 20 years. Set included “Stevie”, “Snortin’ Whiskey” and “Boom Boom” with the surprising choice for the encore of “Born Under a Bad Sign.” For me, a long time Pat Travers fan, this show was well worth the wait. - Jeanette Prince

Peter Head and Pitchfork Militia “Big Beef Bonanza” - Wagon Train. The Militia spans a full range of textures from high velocity punk and rockabilly to desolate narratives reminiscent of Woody Guthrie. Peter Head commands the militia with an at-times strident vocal loaded with a nervous tension and a masterful guitar that shares the stridency and tension of the vox. If the characters in Moths songs live between suburbia and the trailer park, Peter Head’s creations are the mutants that live somewhere behind the trailer park where a shady developer made extra money burying toxic waste drums. Head doesn’t mince words, laying his cards on the table with the bare truth about the desperation of farming and the dust bowl or sophomoric rants on the shortcomings of Pennsylvania; the tracks on this recording should be amusing to just about everyone but the PMRC. -EAK

Red Letter Day “4 Bowls of Color” - Antwinnie Music Inc. P.O. Box 2753 Salisbury, MD 21801 As a female duo with a semi-unplugged sound, RLD runs the risk of being compared to the Indigo Girls. Although they will likely appeal to the same audience, Suzanna Mallow (vocals, guitar) and Andrea Jones (vocals, sax, harmonica, recorder) blend a broad variety of sounds and textures which spare them the comparison to the more known IG. I found especially refreshing the title track, which uses a vocal style that is strongly akin to that of show-tunes. Seasoned by extensive East Coast touring and garnering the benefits of studio talents who have previously worked with Dave Matthews Band and Phish, RLD offer listeners a bowl of rich and tasty music. -EAK

Puro Eskanol: Latin Ska Underground - Aztlan P.O. Box 34736, San Francisco, CA 94134. Nice compilation of some very cool latin ska - though it’s gotta be said that the tail end isn’t as strong as the top of this CD. I picked it up nearly two years ago, at the CMJ fest in NYC. It’s one of the rare CDs that I listen to because I like it. Favorite tracks include “Los Hombres No Lloran,” by Voodoo Glow Skulls, and “Piel Canela,” by Los Hooligans, amongst most of the others. Really the whole CD is cool, and I’m sure most of these bands have solo discs out by now on Aztlan. Drop them a line

Rammstein “Sehnsucht” - Motor/Slash, Pilgrim P.O. Box 540 101 10042 Berlin/Germany. So, have you seen this one advertised? Maybe in your music club mailing? If so, it’s further evidence that I’ve taken a long time to get around to reviewing it. It’s the disc with the guy wearing forks-shaped-into sunglasses, sorta. Remember Laibach? No? Just imagine quasi-militant, march-like, Germanic techno-ish pretentious neo-industrial image music. Lost ya did I? Well than you probably wouldn’t go for this CD. If you know what I’m trying to say, then you’re familiar with this style of pretentious stuff, and you’d probably like Rammstein, which is a fine example of the genre. I would try to clarify, by saying it’s not for candle-lit nights with your honey, but then the black nail polish with teased, crimped hair probably disagrees.

Rats of Unusual Size - Reunion live at the offices of Vital Music, March 13, 1999. Perhaps “reunion” is the wrong word for this once-in-my-lifetime performance. Jim and I have known each other for years, but I don’t think this line up has played together since the “Yes I Can” CD from the funky 1994 era. Shortly before I left Brooklyn, Jim took that punky R.O.U.S. sound out to Michigan, and picked up new musicians. He told me he hadn’t played with Ed Strelecky (bass) and Mike Burns (drums) since. And, with no rehearsal (folks weren’t even sure that all the members of the band would show) they played an hour’s set full of their classic hits, and managed a few covers, including Sesame Street. They take me back to the years when CBGBs was a second home to me, and everyone came out to see everyone else play. The NYC punk revival, when everyone was a little older and wiser. It set the tone for my college years, I’m relieved to find out that the R.O.U.S. tone still puts a big smile on my face. This one is preserved on video for future generations.

Sic & Mad “23 Blues: The Destruction of Utopia Pt. 2” - Stubborn Records 504 Grand St. #F52 NY, NY 10002. Here’s a happy lil’ punk CD you can bang yer head to. You can also understand the words, or at least hear them. There’s nothing wrong with that. The tempo and tone are quick and nasty if not fast and furious. It’s everything you’d expect from an odd 23-track CD. Songs about chicks, drugs, and politics. Perhaps “School” is a good example of the insightful writing, as it lays out the true worth of college over the years. Certainly it’s not just about education but also a means to the end of keeping young’uns out of the work force. Track three “Chuck Authority” reveals the band’s good nature. Any other band would surely have mandated that you “fuck” authority. Sic & Mad features members of The Slackers, Gee!

SKA Island compilation - Island. 15 tracks from bands who do it well, The Skatalites, Toasters, Fishbone, The Trojans, and all the ones I should know but don’t, from Germany, Japan, Britain, and the jolly ol’ USA. Authentic island sounds, that are guaranteed to make you move. Whether it’s tapping your feet, or like me - early last year dancing in the darkroom at a ratty local newspaper I was working at. Every tune is really a classic, beautiful. Good horns, and sweet singing, like Doreen Shaffer’s “Can’t You See,” backed by The Skatalites. Liner notes say she’s been with the label since the 60s, shame I haven’t heard more of her. If you like original ska, not that crap you hear on the pop radio stations, you will like this CD, major label or not.

Soulfly, Coal Chamber, Life of Agony “Roadrunner Rules Ozzfest Vol. 2” - Roadrunner 536 Broadway, 4th Flr NY, NY 10012 This CD, a sneak preview of some of the acts on last summer’s Ozzfest tour, made me really regret I didn’t travel to NJ to catch the nearest stop of this musical juggernaut. The CD introduces Soulfly, the new project of Sepultura founder Max Cavalera. Sepultura fans won’t be disappointed with the new outfit, as Max and Co. continue to blend crushing metal with world beat tones. Umbabarauma is a mesmerizing cut that shows the influence of Afro-Brazilian traditions from Cavalera’s homeland. The band includes drummer Roy Mayorga, formerly of the promising NYC-based metal/techno hybrid Thorn, and uses the skills of guests such as Chino Moreno of the Deftones and producer Eric Bobo, who has produced for the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. Another familiar act on the sampler is Life of Agony. Their third album showed a further refinement of a moody soulfulness which tempered the pulsing metal attack of their first outing. LOA fans may have been disappointed to learn lead singer Keith Caputo suddenly left the band earlier last year, but was soon replaced by Whitfield Crane, formerly of Ugly Kid Joe. Also previewed here is LA’s Coal Chamber, a self described “Spooky Core” act. Their version of “The Roof Is On Fire” is chronically crunching metal, a satisfying and different version of an already popular cover tune. - EAK

T.S.O.L. - Nitro Records (Reissue) 7071 Warner Ave. Suite F-736 Huntington Beach, CA 9247. If there’s one thing I love about the zine biz, beyond discovering new bands I’ve never heard before, it’s rediscovering bands I used to listen to and have forgotten. Sometimes, like in the case of T.S.O.L. I didn’t have a lot in my collection, maybe a cassette, maybe none at all. Seems to me they were in “Suburbia.” So they’re on the soundtrack too. This CD is a reissue of 1981’s “Weathered Statues” ep. When Ronald Reagan is mentioned in a song you’re either listening to a reissue, or hearing things. True Sounds of Liberty, as I think they’re also known, sing a tune called “Property is Theft,” a true anti-capitalist punk rock anthem if ever there was one. The CD is great, it holds up today as though it were new. I dig this band. One of the things I like about them is that west coast punk ethic. The lyrics are important, and Jack Greggors wasn’t a bad crooner... you can hear the words.

The Living Abortions - blacklist 5700 Blue Bluff Rd. Austin, TX 78724. Kind of Jane’s Addction-ish. This disc starts off appropriately enough with “Bullet For Jane,” an over-modulated squealing rock track. On the front cover some black fluid oozes from a woman’s (I think) face, like the black oil on X Files. All the songs on this CD rock. One I’ll listen too in the future, not just stack on the pile. The disc was recorded in Atlanta, proving there’s more to Georgia than CNN, or is it The Weather Channel? Some tracks are strangely familiar, like “Delicious” which has an early Adam Ant sort of sound. The Living Abortions aren’t afraid to used lots of sound processing effects. That’s not uncommon, lots bands use them to excess. In this case, however, the extensive use of phasers and the like really works. Cool, very cool.

The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns - Llist PO Box 6312 Lancaster PA 17607. Frantic, fra-fra-frantic. Frantic, fra-fra-frantic. Drink too much coffee, put this one on loud, and balance a flashlight on your head. Your friends can dance to the low-watt light show created by your nervous twitching and body tremors. I like it. I do-whoo-weee!. It’s got a rockabilly feel at times, and sort of straight out garage quality at others. I’m not too sure about the band’s name though; “The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns” I would expect something more appropriate to a bowling ball shiner, or vintage hair product, maybe the name of a hollow body guitar or something else a little more ‘hip.’ What can I say? “The Road to Hell,” is paved with Gretch Guitars and bad attitudes (they sing in track three). That same road is also paved with bands with awful names. I would never have guessed by looking at the CD that I’d dig it as much as I do.

Truthcircle - Airquake Records 3 Anderson Ave., Suite #32 Fairview, NJ 07022. Whoosh! Lots of narrative tape loop-type thingies on this one - but cool ones. I feel I should recognize the samples, but I’m afraid I fall just a little bit short. Take for instance Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth,” some recent movie, right? “In Truth,” the first song is kind of cool, but by the middle of the disc, the quality has slipped. At times it slips into some sort of lame-o 1980s rock extravaganza as in “Survival Tactics” ‘I will survive, la la la.. ho hum.” Well anyway, lots and lots of songs, they can’t all rock, some have to fizzle

Valerie Ghent “Unstoppable” - West Street Records PO Box 20086 West Village Station NY, NY 10014. Oh boy! El pop musico strikes again. Valerie has programmed up eleven somewhat danceable ditties on this one. As I rack my brain to draw comparisons, as I sometimes am prone to do in cases like these... I notice in her bio that she shares space on a compilation with Simply Red, Chaka Kahn and Huey Lewis. Frapp-a-fy those and you get the message. Curiously I listened all the way through this CD several times, unusual. In fact, I openly admit I was a Simply Red fan, and for that matter tapped my foot to “I Want A New Drug,” along with so many other music consumers at the time. Where does this leave us? Well Unstoppable isn’t for everyday. Ghent’s voice is well trained, but not the raspy sort of female sound I’m most attracted to, but hey – different strokes.

Vanilla Ice “Hard to Swallow” Republic/Universal Records Yes that’s right, that Vanilla Ice. Obviously Robert Van Winkle, whose claim to fame in high school was being “mildly annoying,” knows all too well he will not be taken seriously. At least he’s up front and admits it right in the title. Back from a bout with drugs following the collapse of his short-lived pop career, Van Winkle is now phaking the phunk in a new genre of metal crossed with hip-hop. The New York Times made the obvious comparison to Korn twice in its October review of the “new Ice’s” rollout at CBGBs. Ice calls what he’s doing “skate rock” and claims “only a handful of people are doing it” apparently ignoring the fact that bands all over have probably listened to Rage Against the Machine and Korn and said, “That’s cool, I bet I can do that.” Ice also emulated the look, now sporting short, blond-frosted hair and an armful of tattoos, including several de rigeur “tribals.” Also borrowed from the playbook of metal/rap is the revelation of abuses suffered in childhood & confessions of the artist’s descent into the dark side. Van Winkle does examine his drug problems but doesn’t mention his foray into racing jet-skis during his hiatus. Perhaps combining the two experiences on a track which could have been called “High as Shit on my Mofo Waverunner” would have punched up the humor a bit more. Credit where credit is due. The musicians and producer Ross Robinson do a fine job of realizing Van Winkle’s borrowed vision, the recording does have the same heavy instrumental grooves of the genre he set out to conquer this time, but the inane lyrics turn the whole thing into a laughable mess. The repeated refrain on the track “Crazy Like Prozac” had me in stitches. Now, I been known to kick it in da ghetto myself, but you know there be no way I’m steppin’ up to no nigga who describe hisself as Crazy Like Prozac. I mean I don’t even mess wit cats who be Crazy and Need Prozac, but Crazy Like Prozac, Now that’s hardcore. -EAK

White Trash Debutante by: Jennifer Blowdryer Galhattan Press, NY, NY This first hand account of a punk rocker coming of age will certainly be of interest to those who read “personal” zines written by angry suburban teens, but it fell somewhat short of my expectations. I was rather looking forward to reading this, based on the title, Blowdryer’s assertion that she and her friends were mavens of “camp”, and glowing reviews from subculture impresarios Annie Sprinkle and Quentin Crisp. Although it is an honest and personal account of finding one’s own way in the world, there is little I would classify as falling within the purview of “white trash” or camp. Blowdryer does successfully capture the taste and feel of the 80s punk scene in San Francisco and early zine culture. She keeps things in perspective, however, humbly noting, “... none of my exploits were big time, but I wasn’t ambitious anyway.” If you haven’t met any junkies or were stuck in the suburbs while punk was breaking out elsewhere, you’ll enjoy