Jeff Buckley - Sketches (for My Sweetheart the Drunk)
Curve - Come Clean
Joy Division - Heart and Soul
Kilgore Trout - KGT
Lenny Kravitz - 5
Mark Lanegan - Scraps at Midnight
Queen Latifah - Order in the Court
Les Thugs - Nineteen Something
Love and Rockets - Lift
Peter Murphy - Recall
Mono Men - Have a Nice Day Motherfucker
Bob Mould - Last Dog and Pony Show
Murder City Devils - Broken Bottles Empty Hearts
Pitchshifter -
Public Enemy - He Got Game
Skycap - Blue Star Line
Therapy? - Semi-Detached
Rob Zombie- Hellbilly Deluxe

[ jeff buckley - sketches (for my sweetheart the drunk) ]
Jeff Buckley
Sketches (For My
Sweetheart The Drunk)

Columbia Records

Jeff Buckley Homepage
Fall In Light
Kingdom For A Kiss

For the longest time, I haven't been genuinely moved by music. The "been there, done that" attitude had settled in comfortably and I became a cynic who felt that I've heard just about everything. I became nonplused to the newer artists who were just coming out. It wasn't until I was introduced by my best friend, to an album called Grace by this male vocalist named Jeff Buckley that all of that musical malaise was lifted. I was immediately taken by this man's angelic voice that had a range reminiscent to Robert Plant's. The music was euphonic and his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" gave me chills.

Since his drowning last year in the Memphis harbor, anticipation grew around Sketches (For My Sweetheart The Drunk), the last and what was supposed to be the second release from Jeff Buckley. Transcending beyond the sublimity of Grace, Sketches displays the musical progression that the late Jeff Buckley, like any true music lover, constantly explored. The posthumously release scheduled to hit record stores on May 26th, three days prior to the one year mark of his drowning, consists of two discs: Disc One produced by former Television singer/guitarist Tom Verlaine features studio sessions. Disc Two offers edgier, experimental songs recorded on a 4-track in Buckley's home studio.

This collection of twenty songs (18 originals w/two versions of the eerie "Nightmares By the Sea" and "New Year's Prayer") features rough versions of tracks that illustrate Buckley's musical fecundity. There's a certain amount of charm to its rough form. Like uncultured pearls, the uniqueness lies in its imperfections in an embryonic stage-- takes with laughter, abrupt endings, and throat clearings not edited out.

Disc One consists of songs that range from the trenchant ballad "Morning Theft" to the soulful harmonies in "Everybody Here Wants You." Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan undoubtedly bears an influence on Sketches. "You and I" is a dreamy, almost monastic piece that exhibits the virtuosity and strength of Buckley's vocals. "New Year's Prayer" possesses a multi-shrouded feel with layer upon layer with vocals, rhythms, sounds. Though I don't want to think of Sketches as a swan song, a line from "Nightmares By the Sea" reads, "Stay with me under these waves tonight, be free, once in your life tonight."

Disc Two shows Buckley's less than pure but more eclectic and playful sides. It offers the more experimental "Back In N.Y.C.," the jaunty "Have You Heard" and the raunchy, Iggy Pop-ish "Your Flesh Is Nice." "Satisfied Mind" serves as the perfect finale diffusing any suspicions that Buckley left this world less than fulfilled musically.

-Hope Lopez
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[ curve - come clean ]
Come Clean
Universal Records

Official Curve Website

Curve has always been slightly askew of the rest of the field, creating a unique sonic envelope with their deep, layered sound. You can see their heritage and their origins from the shoegazers of the last decade; you get some understanding of how the torch singers of the cabarets in the '40s and '50s managed to ensnare their listeners. What Curve has always been is a musical force, a tsunami of instrumentation that drowns you even as you dash into the water towards the siren clarion that calls out to you. With Come Clean, Curve's first album in five years, the elements are all there-a wonderful reconnection for those who have counted the DWC (Days Without Curve)-yet there is a clear message that these last years have not been static ones for Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia. Curve is dead. Long live Curve.

That's not to say that the wall of guitar sound that permeates Cuckoo and Doppelganger can't be found on Come Clean. The opening lines of "Dog Bone" assuage you of that fear. But Curve has moved on, uncovering electronic elements that previously have been hidden in the layers of sound. "Coming Up Roses" begins with an echoing pattern, a hinted sample that more than reminds you of Meat Beat Manifesto. Toni's voice is coated with an electric sheen through the first verse as electronics bubble and rise around us. It doesn't seem like Curve until the winding serpent of a guitar guides us into the crashing sound of the chorus and the sound roars over us.

A friend mentioned-after their recent performance at the Showbox-that he still couldn't succinctly describe the experience, that he couldn't describe the sound which he had heard. I sympathize. Come Clean has been out for a couple of months now and I haven't been able to find the right way to describe Curve either. Flung throughout conversations and articles is the comparison of Garbage to Curve (Garbage being a more accessible, pop-oriented version of Curve) and that comparison has always struck me as anemic and simplistic. Shirley Manson (Garbage's singer) and Toni Halliday have one thing in common. The Voice. But while Shirley's throaty come-hither growl may steam up the windows a bit, Toni's voice will melt the glass. Coupled with her eye contact from the stage and I think every young man graced with that impact came away certain that that song had been just for him.

And the sound? Garbage and Curve are both masters of the layered sound, but Curve's specialty lies in the throbbing low end. Dean's bass work snakes and thrashes and bubbles around you in thick doubled time as you rise up with Toni's vocals intertwining with the guitar and other elements. "Dirty High" has Dean and Monti (their long-time drummer returned for the tour) syncopating out a thick beat under Toni's languid vocals and as the song unfolds up in a live setting, you can see the audience start to writhe. Some are tracing the rhythm of her vocals and the accompanying guitar. Others are shivering from the darker, thicker underbeat and, as the song builds-their last one before the obligatory break for the encore-these lines come together until the top meets the bottom and it all dissolves in a thick envelope that seems inpenetrable, yet you are still feeling all the rhythm and melody that has brought you to that point.

Live, they showcased the album well, covering nine of the thirteen cuts from the record. They kicked off their set at the Showbox with "On the Wheel" a track from the Blackerthreetracker single that can only be found domestically on the soundtrack to the Doom Generation. A shame, since it is such a landmark song (they opened with it on the Cuckoo tour as well) and so crisply alerts the audience as to where they are going. The other nostalgia tracks-"Unreadable Communication," "Horror Head," "Turkey Crossing," "Ten Little Indians," and "Die Like a Dog"-clearly felt as if from a different era. The band was, except for "Turkey Crossing," more comfortable with these tracks and the audience seemed to know them as well. Toni was visibly surprised at the first chorus of "Die Like a Dog" to hear the audience singing back to her.

Of the other tracks from the album, they translated well to a live setting, filling the room as Curve should really be played. "Beyond Reach" was the only track that was transformed for me. It's a great slower song from the album, one that has a good kicking rhythm driving through it, but live, it was something else. An echo was added to Toni's voice, much more than on the album track, and the guitar player took the sweeps he was given and stretched them-sonic putty-until it sounded almost like something living in his hands. I've heard everything that Curve has ever done. Heard it all many times, but I felt like this was something new. Just as I-and the rest of us-close in on them, they move away again. It really did sum up Curve. Come Clean has brought them closer to the mainstream, but even with a more accessible sound, they are still beyond reach. Nothing quite sounds like Curve. And nothing should.

-Mark Teppo
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[ joy division - heart and soul ]
Joy Division
Heart and Soul
London Records

Joy Division Shadowplay (U.S.)
earcom2 : The Official Unofficial Ian Curtis / Joy Division Web Page

Warsaw, heart and soul, heaven and hell, an ideal for living, an ideal for dying, death is just the beginning, death is not the end, first in, last out, ice age, glass, dead souls, a means to an end, wanting to die, not waiting to live, failures, timelessness, placelessness, the first, the last, remembering nothing, remembering everything, autosuggestion, autodigital, auto love, auto love lost, death of optimism, death of innocence, death of community, lift the shadow, the shadow linger on, dark death, peoples, places, somewhere, the man is he? the myth is it? the place was it Manchester? reclusiveness, the man behind the door, the smoke, the pen. Can Kraftwerk Bowie Floyd. Pop rock indie independent not indie. Moody sleek the hole, was it black? is there no end? belonging, not belonging, decadent, corrosive, abrasive, dissident, grating, grieving, crying, blank look, the bottom of nothing, the top something, caught in nothing, a state of mind, tearing apart, love will again, substance, end of the tunnel. Progression to death to dark to the end to life to chaos to lost to insecurity to morals. Going under over through. Crystallized, after the best before the others. Corruption of morals, of peoples, of entropy, of empathy, decadence, of disharmony, of distractions, of attractions, of music, of individuals, of time, of space, of wholeness, of blackholeness, of evil, of of of....

Oh, where was I? I was lost in the subconscious of someone's mind. Not my mind. JOY DIVISION--Heart and Soul. Oh no here we go again. Smack! Joy Division, have you heard of New Order? Well this is the blackness of them. The dark surrealness behind them. The past buried beneath them. The emptiness of them. The noose that started them. The Ian Curtis without them. The name change from the death within them. The entropy that propelled them. The failures that pushed them. The surreal swirling about them .The shadow that powered them. The void within them. The place before them. The eternal of them. The forgotten darkness before them. This is Joy Division, the timeless, placeless band that came out of Manchester England in the mid-seventies. Their beginning was fast and the end so harsh. The struggle of one driving the band with him. Feeding bleakness around him. Tumbling out of control, she has lost it. Failures, they knew all about them. Interzone, they are in the center of it. Insight, they are the black knowing within it. Disorder, they are the cause of it. Atrocity, they are the atrocious exhibition of it. Music, they are the decadent sound of it. Souls, they are the living death of it. Transmission, they are the dark power failure of it. Incubation, they are the black heat creating it. Eternal, they are outside of it. Love, they are the lost survivors of it. Glass, they are the bleak picture within it. Age, they are the ice trapped within it. Isolation, they are the body of it. A means, they are the end of it. Ceremony, they are funeral progression before it. Closer, they are the black space of it. Pleasures, they are the unknowingness of it. Ideal, just the beginning...

As I was trying to say--Joy Division, one of the great rock n roll bands of any time. This 80 song 4 cd boxset has the whole Unknown Pleasures and Closer albums, plus recordings off of everything they did. It has songs from the unreleased RCA recordings, live tracks (remastered very well) from several live and radio sessions. The booklet has many photos, the complete lyrics, discography, biography, sessionography, all of the film and television appearances.

Heart and Soul. This is an ideal for living.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ kilgore trout - kgt ]
Kilgore Trout

Official Kilgore Trout Website

What happens when five very talented musicians get together to play "free jazz"? If they have the desire to push their limits and those of the other members (and the chemistry to make it work), they usually end up with an eclectic mix of styles, complex time signatures (to the point of seeming absent at times), and what I'd imagine must be a great deal of self-satisfaction. Critics drool over it, fellow musicians rave. And most of the public considers it impenetrable noise and self-indulgent wankery, but are afraid to say so--this is the music your art-musician friends will say you "just don't get."

Kilgore Trout is such a band, and KGT a representative album. It is apparent that every member is an outstanding musician; each receives and takes his moment(s) in the spotlight, and no parts get stepped on. The sounds and styles of each instrument (bass, saxophones, trumpet and flugelhorn, guitar, and percussion) range from quiet and plaintive to loud, distorted and frenetic, and the sound quality is excellent, especially considering the album was recorded live in the studio with only a few overdubs.

So why is it I hated this album from the first listen? Although the titles are memorable ("Lizard Dog Suite", "Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT)", "Ice Cold Burger Pop"), the songs themselves blur together. Other than the sampled-word recollection of a dream in "Hey Manchild, Can I Get a Five Count?" and poem recital of "Ode to Thingy", there is little to differentiate the tracks. As a result, the album feels like an extended instrumental noodle-jam (or possibly just a medley of background music from late-70s cop shows).

This impression is only partially due to the live nature of the recording, but mostly attributable to the fragmented song structures. In their desire to cram as much into any one song as possible, the band serves up numerous time, tempo and melody changes. These changes are not clumsy, but they certainly serve to break the flow of the song. Their sense of timing in this regard is almost perfect, if diabolical--just as the listener adjusts to the new direction, they throw in yet another turnaround. This "catch me if you can" conceit quickly becomes tiresome.

As I listened to KGT more, I occasionally found myself grooving to it. Most memorably, a 2-minute section of "Lizard Dog Suite" which created the urge to play Godzilla on a metropolitan diorama. (The sporadic sax wails perfectly evoked terrorized citizens.) Could it possibly be growing on me? Did it just take some time so I could "get it"? I'd look a bit closer, listen a bit longer...and that near-magic would be gone, ripped away by yet another time change. Kilgore Trout forces me to be a social butterfly to the music, never giving me the chance to get to know any one part very well. The album makes a good peripheral listen; background music while cleaning the house, for example. But listen directly and the limitations become all too readily apparent.

-Paul Goracke
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[ lenny kravitz - 5 ]
Lenny Kravitz
Virgin Records

Lenny Kravitz

Ever since Lenny Kravitz managed to perpetuate his funky messiah image to the MTV viewing audience, there's been no reason for him to progressively expand musically. As the ideal for a bagger boy's fantasy life beyond the drudgery of a grocery store career (remember the jeans commercial?), Kravitz seems to have rested on his stylish Are You Gonna Go My Way? (Virgin 1993) laurels while his fifth Virgin release, 5, simply sounds as a retread of his previous work. While fans have waited three years after the disappointing Circus (Virgin 1995), 5 doesn't seem to offer much of anything different. Sure, there are the usual Sly and The Family Stone-ish track ("Live") and the Curtis Mayfield-inspired vocals in "Thinking Of You" but we heard this already in " It Ain't over Till It's Over" back in 1991's Mama Said (Virgin) when Lenny's sound was considered rather refreshing. The neo-psychedelic "You're My Flavor" serves as the 1998 version of "Let Love Rule" with a bit more sass as Kravitz adds in an aside, "You're my flavor…all 32." Clever.

There are still some tight funk jams on 5 however, a bit contrived and too studied ("Straight Cold Player" and "Supersoulfighter"). Larry Graham would give an approving thump picking/slap to the bass lines that are thick, swampy and fierce. Those combined with the tight horns will surely inspire some to don some flares and platforms and to boogie under a disco ball. "Black Velveteen" is a bit gratuitous and silly misogynist: "The 21st century dream/Nice piece of kit/Electronic clit" and "Don't give a damn she'll do the dishes…knows all the night spots in France." Let's see how long style over content will last. Sure, Kravitz is a great producer and musician but if he isn't doing much exploring with his sound, his appeal will tire if it has not already done so.

-Hope Lopez
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I'm sure the word retro haunts Mr. Kravitz like controversy does our current president. But this latest Funk laden CD offers some of Lenny's best work to date. Bust out the platforms, slap on some bell bottoms were going to take a little trip back in time! On the opening number entitled "Live" the listener is treated to a Sly and the Family Stone flash back complete finger lickin' bass playin' and live horn blowing that would make Tower of Power jealous. Catchin' big air and churnin up some concrete are a must to this number. Other standout tracks include: "Supersoulfighter" a definite candidate for a 70's Blackplotation film remake; and "I Belong To You" a nice little mid tempo love song that takes over where previous Lenny efforts like "It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" and "Sugar" left off. But wait boys and girls there's more, in this day and age singles have become big money makers for a lot of bands and it's usually because their albums as a whole suck! On 5, Lenny gives the fan an almost perfect effort. The exception being the throw away track 4, "Black Velveteen". Thankfully this awful wannabe rock, wave, techno track is followed by freelovinfunk jams like "If You Can't Say No," "Thinking Of You," and my personal favorite "It's Your Life." I sure hope that super glue wears off otherwise my six disc cartridge is going to be reduced to 5.

-Cecil Beatty-Yasutake
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[ mark lanegan - scraps at midnight ]
Mark Lanegan
Scraps At Midnight
Sub Pop

Sweet Oblivion
The Lanegan Index

For some time I'd thought Mark Lanegan had become a casualty of his own songs. The rumors of his drug problems were hard to hide when he was last onstage with the Screaming Trees. He looked so thin and gaunt that Death himself would've taken pity on him. A drug arrest before the Trees' final show on their West Coast tour last year coupled with a solo performance at the CMJ Music Festival a few months later that was scrapped midway through the set led many to wonder if indeed we were witnessing the sad demise of yet another talented artist. But as his songs are--if you look close enough--ultimately ones of redemption, so is the voice who carries them. And having survived his own hell, he's thankfully returned to do what he does best.

Backed by his long time brother-in-arms, Mike Johnson, Scraps At Midnight is another of Lanegan's quiet instrospections into love, loss, fear, despair--the search for peace of heart and mind in a world where sometimes there is none. The sparse arrangements sway slowly behind Lanegan's deep, whiskey soaked voice. The quiet tap of a rim-shot here, the soft strum of a guitar there, the occasional lament of a sax or harmonica in the distance; this album quietly pulls you in and carries you downstream on subtle currents of inviting sounds.

Scraps is a little more straightforward than Lanegan's previous releases; songs evoking images of the old west and the dusty trail, stories spun around the campfire and passed down over the years. Lanegan's smoky baritone adds a particular dimension and credibility to these laments. Comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are easily made, but Lanegan is not trying to copy his elder statesmen here, he's fully aware of his vocal compliments and is wisely applying them to his craft.

With the exception of the opening and closing tracks, most of the album is quiet enough to be a lullaby, albeit a melancholy one. "Hospital Roll Call" opens Scraps with a heavily reverbed guitar and a driving drum beat. The only lyric to the song is Lanegan growling "Sixteen" over and over like a disillusioned mantra--perhaps memories of his long days in rehab? The album ends with the eight minute, long winding raga-lament "Because Of This." Opening with the quiet pulse of the bass line, the song forms and builds around a simple guitar riff--building, backing off, building, breaking down, slowly building again off the bass line. "You take me back to the place where I cease to exist / to find in a kiss / something I've missed / You burn away my disguise and the heavens fall / because of this / because of this."

Scraps At Midnight is another exceptional album from someone who, thankfully, takes their craft seriously; someone who is continually striving to strengthen and improve their art with each new release. Lanegan has stood down his demons, hopefully for good this time--and instead of burying them to be forgotten, he's set them free for all to see and hear.

-Craig Young
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[ queen latifah - order in the court ]
Queen Latifah
Order In The Court
Polygram Records

Queen Latifah Polygram site

Order In The Court is the title of Queen Latifah's latest effort, but after hearing the opening cut entitled "Bananas" I'm thinking she should have called it Run For Cover. Lyrics this blazing are probably the reason Latifah's hair is pictured as being on fire on the album cover. The track makes interesting use of a phone ringing sample layered over driving artificial bass drum kick. Guest vocalist Apache and his Isaac Hayes sounding background vocals provide the track with the perfect, slightly spooky, futuristic touch. A couple of years off and a hit TV sitcom show later haven't had any adverse effects on this woman's MC skills.

Like her male counterparts, LL Cool J and the Fresh Prince, TV exposure has only served to broaden her potential audience. And for those of you not in the know let me reassure you not only does the Queen have Mic skills but she can sing to, which probably explains the R&B vibes found on tracks like Court in session and "Paper." The latter of which is very funkdefied remake of the Motown classic "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," Produced by none other than Pras from the Fugees. This tracks got more juice than a smoothie stand, if your a R&B or Pop music fan your going to love this CD. For Hip Hop heads it's a worthy addition to your collection.

-Cecil Beatty-Yasutake
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[ les thugs - nineteen something ]
Les Thugs
Nineteen Something
Sub Pop

Unofficial Les Thugs homepage
Hakan's Les Thugs Page

I was trying to explain to a friend why Les Thugs was such a good band--one of those rare finds in the music world. Their lack of pretension, just a simple and honest love for their muse. How, when you strip the elements down, the individual sound is minimal, but when combined they create a dense wall of lush, fervent noise. How live there's no flashing lights, no stage antics, no hype; just the band pressed tightly against their instruments, passionately playing songs they obviously love. The singer, eyes half closed, slowly swaying to the rhythm, and myself lost in amazement at how the drummer can possibly get so much sound out of just a snare and a kick drum.

And then she pointed out the obvious, "Why don't you just loan me some Les Thugs and shut-up already?!"

Nineteen Something is the new release by these French punksters, Sub Pop's longest signed band, made up of the brothers Sourice (Eric on guitar and vocals, Christophe drums and vocals, Pierre-Yves on bass) and Thierry Meanard on guitar. As with their '93 release As Happy As Possible, Nineteen Something once again finds Fastbacks' mastermind Kurt Bloch producing the band (as well as contributing to a few songs). While not as politically fiery as the aforementioned earlier release, the new album is just as sonically powerful, providing the listener with an intoxicating mix of dense power pop and punk; from the heavy handed opening of "Henry's Back," to the meditative, self-deprecating "I Was Dreaming," to the hypnotic simplicity of "Magic Hour." A little awkward in comparison with the rest of the songs, the closing track "Soon" feels a bit out of place, but that aside, Les Thugs once again have given us an excellent collection of songs worthy of our attention.

If you pick apart the band, the songs and their sound, you might find a simplicity and repetition to what they do that at times can be bothersome. But if you let the album(s) play--steep yourself in their intoxicating sounds, hum over and over the fragments of lyrics and melody you can almost catch, but not quite, step back and let the songs slowly work and weave their way into your head--you'll find something very infectious and compelling about Les Thugs; something very close to the heart.

Sub Pop has described Les Thugs as being "THE best French rock band ever." I'll let that stand, if only to prevent myself from the further embarrassment of having to explain to my friends in a tongue-tied and haphazard fashion why their lack of pretension and honest integrity for the music they play makes them one of THE best bands, period.

-Craig Young
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[ love and rockets - lift / peter murphy - recall ]
Love and Rockets  Lift
Peter Murphy  Recall
Red Ant Records

Peter Murphy

Following the exhumation this past summer of the Bauhaus cadaver, there has been much speculation concerning what and where the members would go next. Rumors of Murphy's trip into a studio in Seattle between the LA and Seattle dates of the Resurrection tour have been confirmed by the liner notes on his new EP. And the other three-Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins-appear to be done waiting for the rest of us to catch up with them. And for those who have been hopefully waiting for the body to be fully reanimated, take another look at the corpse. It really is dead. The Bauhaus specter rose just long enough to remind us all of the past, while Red Ant Records has positioned themselves to deliver the future.

If the future could be reduced to a headline, it would be: Godfather of Goth discovers Electronica. A horrible collision of cliques, but then Bauhaus was never completely Goth. (Can I use the words 'art' and 'punk' in the same sentence?) Out of their dissolution in 1983 came, essentially, two things: the voice and the rhythm. Murphy's voice has remained amazingly distinct and consistent over the last fifteen years and the new tracks on Recall focus on the perfection of his voice. The others, spun through name changes until settling on Love and Rockets, have gone to perfect a rhythm that has suffered the indifference of several labels, a house fire, and the paradigm shifts of a relatively unaware public. Lift is the closest they've come to a mainstream album, and, yet, will probably still be missed as the wonderful gem that it is. Both Murphy and Love and Rockets have adopted elements that will lump them in that disdainfully inadequate category of 'Electronica.'

Don't get me started.

Murphy delivers five new tunes to us on Recall, two of which are recreations of tracks from Love Hysteria and Deep, The recreations are done from scratch-"no samples or recourses from the original version" is how the liner notes put it. With the able assistance of (heck, skip the name dropping and get right to it) KMFDM, Murphy rebuilds "Rollcall" and "Indigo Eyes," transforming the latter from its sordid memory as the ugly pop song on Love Hysteria into a rolling, bubbling song of some poignancy. "Rollcall" is simply different, in the way that nine years can change anybody. The basic shape is the same, but everything else has been dragged forward into the present. While Murphy eschewed a more traditional arrangement of instruments in the late '80s (on these tracks at least), the 'modernized' versions have more texture. The music surrounding Murphy's voice is sparser, enriched with more hints and holes. It is, frankly, a sound more reminiscent of Love and Rockets than his own historical recordings. Funny, that. The other three tracks don't have the same historical resonance, yet match the direction espoused by the first two. Murphy has clearly embraced new technology with this EP and has found an excellent pairing for his splendid voice. The last track of the EP-"Big and Tiny"-reminds us that his voice is still the hypnotic instrument which lured us all once before and still has the power to seduce.

Speaking of mesmerizing, Love and Rockets has spent the last fifteen years attempting to perfect hypnotic simplicity. There has always been an inexplicable quality to their music. "Haunted When the Minutes Drag" has always epitomized the hours when your loved one was gone. The second verse of "No New Tale to Tell" has always struck me as a Zen Koan. The whirling pinwheel of sound from Hot Trip TO Heaven which drew you farther and farther into their electron-drenched realm. I remember being told to study the perfect 15-word simplicity in William Carlos Williams' red wheelbarrow and those damn white chickens and never really getting it. "Our little lives get complicated/It's a simple thing./Simple as a flower/And that's a complicated thing." I never fully wrapped my mind around how you could sneak lyrics like that into a pop song and not get thrown out for going so deep that you could cause people to drive off the road as their wrinkled their foreheads and tried to come to an understanding of the 'complex simplicity.' Through it all, you have tapped your toe, hummed along, and felt the groove pulse in your lower back. Lift is like it sounds, the music pulls itself up through your Chakra centers and puts you on the Kundalini Express. (I reached this sentence quite innocently without thinking about Express, but there you go. Simple Complexity again.)

The album opens and closes with two versions of "Lift," both equally well-placed as the beginning and end. The first-the Malibu Mix-draws us in with its soft sounds, its watery textures and environments. Then we are struck with the anagram list that is "R.I.P. 20c." Love and Rockets winds into its pace with this song, layering David J's repeated litany ("I am Godhead, you are Godhead, we are Godhead") beneath a stuttering drum line and the lengthy listing of the anagrams that make up our daily lives. "Holy Fool" is the clear choice for the first single, reminding us of ten years ago and "No New Tale to Tell." From there the album dives into songs about pink flamingos and chocolate cake, swirls ghostly echoes drawn from Daniel Ash's guitar over the consistent rumbling of David J's bass, and locksteps us with Kevin Haskin's immaculate percussive skills. Like all Love and Rockets albums, Lift doesn't draw attention to itself so much as insinuate beneath your skin and become part of your lower dermal layer. It's an excellent album that charms as it entertains.

As for the future? Here's my take on Track 9 of Lift-"Resurrection Hex." The song drones around the spoken words "Resurrection" and "Hex" and the underlying structure rises out of samples taken from the beginning of Bauhaus ("Stigmata Martyr") and the end ("In the Night"). Since "In the Night" is about artistic suicide, I think we've got a magical ritual being enacted here. One to drive away the dark spirits, to keep the dead in the ground, and to keep our eyes and ear forward. Love and Rockets is looking to their future and seem intent on leaving the past buried.

-Mark Teppo
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[ mono men - have a nice day motherfucker ]
Mono Men
Have A Nice Day Motherfucker
Estrus Records
The Mono Men on this one have slimmed down to a 3 piece, so to speak. This may be old news, but what the hell? What are they pissed off about and at who?? The first track "Off My Back" is a piss-off on somebody. "You better stay out of my way/fuck you". Have A Nice Day is full of good, fast tempo Link Wray influenced punk tunes and one great intro to boot. "Rev It Up" has a "Your Eyes" feel to it, and not in a bad way, "Your Eyes" is a great song. Their anger shows throughout most of the songs and drives the tempo to a frantic pace. Dave loves to play the leads and it shines throughout the disc. Over all this is a good disc. I am pissed at them for not being very creative with the blank insert. Be sure to check out If they put it on this year, be sure to check out Garageshock at the 3B tavern in Bellingham. Loads of rockin' bands and movies.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ bob mould - last dog and pony show ]
Bob Mould
The Last Dog And Pony Show

Granary Music
(Official Bob Mould Site)

"Bob's pain is our gain," is how one critic described his music a few years ago. And while the new album, The Last Dog And Pony Show, is a little more optimistic and less narcissistic than his last release, Bob Mould still proves the master of wrapping the darkest of feelings around the catchiest of melodies. Songs drift from lost and broken relationships, "So if I lose control / don't leave me / you've got to be here / no matter what happens," to self-condemnation, "I don't know why I tried to sabotage my day / I wanted everything my own way," stopping for a one-off into the adult porn business with "Skin Trade," and an even stranger departure into the sample mix world with "Megamanic."

Some songs are more forgettable than others, but there are some true gems to be found here. While lyrically powerful, the music for "Moving Trucks" and "Vaporub" just doesn't seem to live up to the potent words contained within, and "Classifieds" is completely disposable--how this made it past Bob's critical ear and onto the album is a mystery. However, "New #1" is a powerful rumination on the darker dynamics of a relationship, "Trust me, I'm here for you with good intentions / Trust in me, despite some times when I don't trust myself," and the sonic lushness of "The First Drag Of The Day" shows Mould at his musical best. It's in these that we see the genius and brilliance behind Hüsker Dü and Sugar at work.

If you've already picked up the album and listened to the bonus interview disc with Bob, then you know that the tour supporting The Last Dog And Pony Show will be his last go around with a full band. Mould feels his time in front of the amps has come to an end, and he wants to pursue other musical interests. If you know anything about Bob Mould, then you know that he never renegs on his word (which is why there's never been, and never will be, a Hüsker Dü reunion). "I don't want approval for what I say / only an honest reaction / All I get are looks of confusion / I guess I lost you somewhere along the way."

While I was hoping for a more powerful, a more visceral send off from one of my all time musical heroes, The Last Dog And Pony Show does contain all the best elements I've come to expect from Mould, and the live show is not to be missed. Bob's performances have always been ones of intense passion--from the blistering loud Hüsker shows, to his intimate solo gigs. Expect nothing less from this, his Last Dog And Pony Show.

-Craig Young
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[ murder city devils - broken bottles empty hearts ]
The Murder City Devils
Broken Bottles Empty Hearts
Sub Pop

Murder City Devils
(an unofficial site)

Boom swagger boom. Local boys do good by not confusing attitude with that that over-inflated sense of "cooler than thou" ego which sometimes seems so prevalent among the local scenesters here. The Murder City Devils are back with Broken Bottles Empty Hearts, their first proper release on Sub Pop, and another road weary testament to the glory and grit of rock 'n' roll.

The album opens up with "I Want A Lot Now (So Come On)." A pummeling verse/chorus/hook punch to the chin, it's a thundering locomotive bound to jump the tracks. From there on out the album swaggers in a noisy no holds barred excess of booze, fucked up relationships, and life on the road. What else would you expect from them?

Comparisons to the Stooges have been made, but in Spencer Moody's vocals I hear the corrosive yell of Henry Rollins more than anything else. You're left with the impression that if everything were perfect in his world, there would still be a lot left that was terribly wrong. Moody's lyrics backed by the band's driving noise of guitars and occasional wandering organ give testament to the fucked up brotherhood of life on the road, "The show was bad but the drinks are free / I don't know what city I'm in / But there's nowhere I'd rather be," a tribute to Johnny Thunders dying with guitar in hand (instead of the needle left dangling in his arm), and broken memories of lost loves, "I wonder how you can sleep at night / Don't you remember every shitty thing you've ever done." Throughout The Murder City Devils thunder, stagger, and play their music in such a way that you're convinced there's no way they could pull it off if they weren't living what they were playing.

As a whole I like MCD's self-titled release on the Sub Pop affiliated Die Young Stay Pretty label better. However, Broken Bottles Empty Hearts is an earnest effort that still delivers the infectious boom swagger boom you expect from them. Songs and attitude that leave you shaking your ass, fist pumping in the air. "Some people were born to rock," howls Moody on "Another Round On You." That's just what the Murder City Devils were born to do.

-Craig Young
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[ pitchshifter - ]
Geffen Records

Pitchshifter (Official Site)
PSI - The Unofficial Site
(a higher form) of Pitchshifter

Pitchshifter's new album is self-described as: The sound of technology used to create maximum chaos. I prefer to call it: Music to greet the neighbors with. Combining their punk attitude with heavy doses of drum 'n' bass breakbeats, Pitchshifter have finally completed their metamorphosis from the heavy grindcore sound of their first release Industrial on the indie Peaceville label, to the fast and beautifully malicious digital punk juggernaut that is

Continuing along the course laid out on the much overlooked 1996 release Infotainment?, the band have further incorporated the use of drum loops, jungle beats and hip hop influences, while losing none of the spidery bass lines and heavy guitar riffs that they're famous for. "We realized we all like two things," frontman JS Clayden has said, "breakbeats and punk. We have a punk mentality and drum 'n' bass is the punk of the 90s."

Easy and obvious comparisons to Prodigy and others are only half-hearted and poorly devised when inspected further. While both bands tear up the dance floor with their hard driving breakbeats and infectious punk attitude, there is a deeper process going on here with Pitchshifter. The band is asking you to question everything and everyone around you, including yourself. In the middle of the maelstrom of sound that drives songs like "2nd Hand" and "Please Sir," Clayden snarls, "2nd hand car / 2nd hand shoes / 2nd hand point of view from the 2nd hand news," and asks, "Please sir, tell me why if 'God is love' I'm so dysfunctional." Throughout, Clayden weaves his self-appraisals and societal viewpoints without sacrificing or overstepping the music to do so. "It's acceptable if people just want to listen to the music," says Clayden, "We're not like preachers runnin' around."

Luckily, neither the stark lyrical messages nor the hypnotic chaos of the music suffers or overshadows its counterpart. Quite the opposite. On "Subject To Status" you can't help but to sing along with the chorus, "Yes sir, they're gonna save us / they're gonna save us (subject to status)," while you're working up a sweat on the dance floor. And yes, in case you're wondering, Pitchshifter pull off incredible live shows! Mark Clayden's bass line in "Genius" played live compares to nothing else. For days after I saw their show I woke up with that riff creeping through my head. Intertwine that with some clever samples, hard hitting guitar riffs, and breakneck breakbeats and you lose all sense of time and space. Nothing matters but that moment and the fact that Pitchshifter are allowing you to participate in it.

As with Infotainment?, the last track on contains dozens of samples that the band uses throughout the album. A gift to anyone and everyone who wishes to use them. "We've stolen so many samples in the past, we figured it was time to give something back." PSI just ask that you give credit where credit's due and list Pitchshifter on any songs released using their samples. Fair enough.

Contrary to popular belief, the backbone of was recorded before Pitchshifter signed to Geffen Records. Says Clayden, "We wrote this album without having any pressure from Geffen whatsoever. They didn't change one note on any song on the album. They didn't change the running order or say, 'I don't want this song on the album.'"

With the help of producer "Machine," and various studio guests, including guitarist Jim Davies (he who wrote the "Firestarter" riff for Prodigy, and who is currently touring with PSI), Pitchshifter have created a diabolically contagious album. They've let themselves evolve, and more importantly, they have involved and integrated that which has influenced them without losing the heavy sound that they've always been identified with. It's the sound of technology used to create maximum chaos. It's digital punk. It's music to greet the neighbors with. Now go wake 'em up with it!

-Craig Young
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[ public enemy - he got game ]
Public Enemy
He Got Game
Def Jam Records

Public Enemy at Def Jam

"Don't believe the Hype" was the battle cry of my man Flavor Flav on the It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back LP, the second offering from a then up and coming group known as Public Enemy. The sounds of young, angry, militant African Americans were reaching the ears and opening the eyes of both Black and White America to the contradictions of a self-proclaimed melting pot society. Rap now had a political voice, one that would help take it one step closer to becoming a respected and fully developed art form. Hip Hop music from that point forward would never be the same. So how's does this latest release stack up against past PE jewels? Early reports had fans hopeful for a comeback effort of "Titanic" proportions. The announced re-union of the original Bomb Squad production team, combined with the reinstatement of Professor Griff, PE's former Minister of Information, had music fans and industry people bracing for a return to hard hitting message conscious rap.

So what's the scoop, how's the album? Clue one: He Got Game is the soundtrack for a WALT DISNEY MOTION PICTURE! I knew my therapy wasn't going well but I didn't know I was undergoing electric shock. Public Enemy working with Spike Lee in conjunction with Walt Disney's Touchstone Pictures is like Minister Farrakhan announcing he's joining the Republican party.

As for the magic this project hopes to rekindle--forget about it baby! Magic is all smoke and mirrors or haven't you been watching the masked magician on Fox. I mean there are signs that the coals are still hot but the fire is definitely out. Track One, "Resurrection", had me strapping in and cranking up the volume to eviction levels. Haunting and dark like a Stephen King novel this track has driving bass and spooky keyboard contributions that give the feeling of something wicked this way coming. But Track Two never follows up on this perfect intro. Instead PE decides to get nostalgic on the listener and sample Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth". The hook is catchy if you like samples, and in the end this ackward follow up to a perfect intro works out alright despite being a little out of synch.

Real signs of falling of rear up on track four. Titled appropriately enough "Shake Your Booty", this Puff Daddy inspired party tune sample finds Flavor Flav's lyrical insanity spewing over a "Do It Anyway You Wanna" loop. Somebody please wake me from this nightmare it's becoming a little too real even for me! To make matters even worse there are signs that PE's front man Chuck D might be losing his grip on the mic. On "Resurrection" he starts off the second verse with the following whack nonsense: "One on one hard like tarot cards" I'm sorry, but what if anything do tarot cards have to do with being hard? This analogy just doesn't work. The guest appearances throughout the project are all pretty much bright spots, especially KRS ONE, and more than make up for Chuck D's brain lapse on "Resurrection". On this latest outing there are definitely signs that PE may be guilty of believing their some of their own hype but if you can pick it up on sale it's worth the money. This one's no Hip Hop classic, but worthy of being a part of anyone's Hip Hop collection, just remember to avoid paying full price because they sure avoided maximum effort.

-Cecil Beatty-Yasutake
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[ skycap - blue star line ]
Blue Star Line
Much of popular rock music is a featureless terrain. You are expected to follow the two lane highway from origin to destination, never turning your gaze to the periphery where you might chance upon an intriguing landscape. Hell, that's why there are well-lit road signs: so you don't have to learn the subtle landmarks--a farmhouse, or a stream indicated only by a distant stand of trees--which otherwise would guide you.

Skycap's debut release, Blue Star Line, is a newly discovered back road to your favorite watering hole. The first time through, unexpected turns are encountered. The chorus of "Hellbound " is a quick hairpin turn, and "Child Inside" alternates stretches of slick new asphalt with weatherworn old. But after only a few trips you gain a feel for the nuances; you know when to accelerate or decelerate, you anticipate the turns. It won't take long for this to become your preferred route.

The sound is readily familiar since this landscape is composed of standard green-leafed vegetation, not brightly-colored Truffula Trees. Jack Rainwater and Steve Frank exchange guitar lines and lead vocal duties. The guitars are the familiar Americana tones of Les Paul and Fender, the vocals strong, marked by occasional nasal tones or strain. These imperfections are not blemishes, they're badges of authenticity which make the plaintive moments that much more effective. The deft, deep-toned bass and wonderfully fitting high end backing vocals of Maria Moser Anderson are the band's sonic bookends. Scott Budd Winram's drumming rewards closer inspection; there's a lot more going on back there than just a driving rhythm.

And drive they do. Overwhelmingly, Skycap's songs evoke the feel of travel, the rhythms those of patched asphalt seams and rail gaps. The lyrics of "Takin Me Nowhere", "Blue Star Line" and "Leaving For Good" directly invoke the railroad, the latter two musically reinforced with the clap-clap meter of the rails and lonesome cries from Rainwater's lap steel. Also pervading the album is a feeling of restlessness, of recognizing the futility of the current situation and wanting to wrap it up to move on to something more promising--even if that means starting anew. "Hangman" presents an uncomfortable role reversal of the condemned requesting that there be no hesitation. The driving "this time I am not gonna turn around" chorus of "Leaving For Good" waxes repetitive to the point of becoming a chant, a mantra. "Interstate 5" describes all too well the love/hate relationship of living in a small town--the comfort of changeless things, of knowing what to expect and what will be, and the nagging feeling that there's more out there you may never experience because you'll "never get out of here alive."

Driving at night, I could turn off the headlights and these songs would lead me home. But "home" is directly behind me, and I'm never going back. I kill the lights anyway; with Blue Star Line as my soundtrack, I am confident I will end up where I belong.

-Paul Goracke
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[ therapy? - semi-detached ]
A&M Records

Officical Therapy? Homepage
Unofficial UK Therapy? Page

After a three year hiatus, Irish punksters Therapy? have returned with a new album, new members and a new perspective. But with all the hype surrounding the release, from returning to the same small studio where the Pleasure Death and Babyteeth EPs were recorded, to the return of Troublegum producer Chris Sheldon, something is missing with their music.

And just what that is is difficult to pinpoint.

"I just wanna know / Is it going to be the same? / Friends, we've got this one under our belts / So brace yourself." "Black Eye, Purple Sky"

Some might think it had to do with the departure of drummer Fyfe Ewing during the Infernal Love tour. His unique drumming was unmistakable, and was a very noticeable element driving Therapy?'s music. Yet replacement drummer Graham Hopkins, along with the addition of cellist/guitarist Martin McCarrick, have done nothing to take away from the band's heavy intertwining dissonance of pop, punk, and metal. If anything, it's given singer/guitarist Andy Cairns more room to experiment with his writing without feeling like most of the burden was on his shoulders.

"I'm clean and I'm clinging / Like I've never held on to anything in my life / I'm clean and I'm clinging to you" "Safe"

Therapy's after gig all-night party shenanigans, and especially Andy's appetite for illicit chemicals, are all well known and documented. Now he's cleaned himself up, recently got married, and has even gone so far as to shave his goatee and stop dying his hair, both long standing Therapy? icons. Could this be what's missing? No more women sneaking into the shower and giving blow jobs while on tour? No more inspiration from the bottom of a bottle or a tab on the tip of the tongue? It would seem unlikely, yet still…

"You're giving up on your saving grace / You've got to / Shake off the dirt that drags you / Scrape up some sparks to guide you / And use your arms to bring you back." "Born Too Soon"

So what could it be? Something as small as bassist Michael McKeegan switching to playing an Ernie Ball Music Man bass? Therapy? being released from their A&M contract in the States? The fact that with Semi-Detached being recorded in the right place by the right people under the right circumstances, that everyone was expecting another masterpiece like Troublegum? The fact that we were putting the band up on a dais and expecting them to record another album that sounded just the way we wanted it done?

"I'm getting swallowed up in all of this / And the last thing I need is some Rock Star bullshit." "Tramline"

The fact is, most people were expecting another album along the lines of Troublegum, and that's not what Semi-Detached is. With all the problems with Fyfe, and the troubles with keeping sober, Infernal Love was essentially, and mistakenly, overlooked as a one-off. Now with the band doing swimmingly well, both collectively and individually, we were all expecting them to turn the rock 'n' roll time machine back and relive the glory of earlier days.

Having recognized this as being the problem all along, another look at Semi-Detached reveals a complex, diverse, and overall, a well written album.

Sonically, the band is still very powerful. While pieces like "Lonely, Cryin' Only" and "Heaven's Gate" veer towards the commercial pop side of music that makes us all shudder, other songs like "Tightrope Walker," "Safe," and "Tramline" build and push towards the heavy without becoming cumbersome. McKeegan's bassline during the turnaround of "Tightrope Walker" still gets stuck in my head at the strangest times (and I don't think it's because of his new bass). Cairn's lyrics drift and dwell, moving from love to loss to confusion to hate and anger--everything that we would expect from him. Maybe lines like "Slush puppies foul pavements/Ice cream cones come up on their pagers" don't compare to "Masturbation saved my life" off the Troublegum song "Femtex" (to compare relative lows and highs). Still, the emotion and the critical delivery are there, as is evidenced throughout the album if one gives it room to breathe on its own.

Therapy? are not going to deliver us another Troublegum, and to expect them to is to expect disappointment with every new release. What they have shown us capable of doing is delivering all the essential elements we expect from them--powerful, driving songs written with a swagger of pop for good measure, and wrapped around visceral, disconnected and emotionally potent lyrics.

Semi-Detached can indeed stand well enough on it's own. And while I find myself skipping over "Don't Expect Roses," and occasionally "Church Of Noise," I still like to go back and listen to the lullaby of "The Boy's Asleep" a second and third time.

"Thanks for coming / Mind your step on the way home / The roads are busy / Tonight just pick the ones you know." "The Boy's Asleep"

-Craig Young
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[ rob zombie - hellbilly deluxe ]
Rob Zombie
Hellbilly Deluxe
Geffen Records

Official Rob Zombie site

Let's talk guilty pleasures. I bought this at Borders in downtown Seattle and fully expected to get harassed by the staff at the counter. It turns out I'm not the only one who secretly loves a solid, head-banging guitar-driven song about (fill in monster of choice here). In this era when artists feel compelled to fill out the 74-possible minutes on a compact disc, Rob turns in "13 tales of cadaverous cavorting inside the spookshow international" that barely clock 38 minutes. Time travel is possible. He makes those thirty-eight minutes seem like six and the opening chords of any Counting Crows song still seems like half my life has just passed me.

Rob drags us into a realm populated by late-night freak show monsters and apparitions straight out of the best (or worst, your choice) of EC comics. He doesn't strive for any transcendental clarity in his lyrics. (I'm waiting for someone to break down: 'Dead I am the pool, spreading from the fool/Weak and want you need/Nowhere as you bleed.') He simply lays down an irresistible groove and seemingly free-associates his lyrics over the top. It's a perfect response to an audience that seems happy to sing along to songs without knowing the words.

Or maybe the secret does lie in the words. Maybe as you hear them again and again, you begin to understand the malevolent creatures which writhe and moan in Zombie's creepshow universe. Maybe they are just misunderstood. Maybe they're just like us; they love, they want, they cry, they beg to belong. Maybe we just need to understand them to understand ourselves. And maybe, if we turn it up real loud (just as the music begs you to) and our ears begin to bleed, we'll understand a little of the pain they've been forced to endure.

I think I can get a little more volume out of my stereo. Just a little more. Yeah, that's it. I hear it now. It is all perfectly clear.

"Dead I am the rat
Feast upon the cat…"

-Mark Teppo
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