Alpha and Omega - Mystical Things
Altar - In the Name of the Father
Anima Sound System - Hungarian Astronaut
Clare Quilty - Strong
The Damage Manual - 1
Darkseed - Diving into Darkness
Darrell Grant - Smokin' Java
Elliott Smith - Figure 8
Holger Czukay - La Luna
Kataklysm - The Prophecy (Stigmata of the Immaculate)
Macha/Bedhead - Macha Loves Bedhead, Bedhead Loves Macha
Malevolent Creation - Manifestation
The Murder City Devils - In Name and Blood
Pitchshifter - Deviant
Raise Hell - Not Dead Yet
Recoil - Liquid
Sinner - The End of Sanctuary
Sister Machine Gun - Transient 5.2
Smashing Pumpkins - Machina/The Machines of God
Steve Roach - Midnight Moon
Tarwater - Animals, Suns & Atoms
Various Artists - Exxxile on Main Street
Various Artists - A Fistful of Rock 'n' Roll: Volumes 1-4
Very Special Forces - Very Special Forces
Ween - White Pepper



[ the murder city devils - in name and blood ]
The Murder City Devils
In Name and Blood
Sub Pop

Links:
The Murder City Devils

On their third album, Seattle faves The Murder City Devils have hit their stride, seamlessly incorporating their signature boom-swagger-boom punk rock assault with some sophisticated songwriting--proving that they can carve their own sonic niche without having to rely on past comparisons to Stooges and like ilk to give them credibility. Further fleshing out the band's ability to deepen their style and show the kind of stylistic growth they're capable of, Spencer Moody's lyrics have grown darker and more demanding and the songwriting has taken on some crafty twists and turns to meet it. The only complaint (and a minor one at that) is the sound of Leslie Hardy's organ always creeping overtop the mix on every song. But petty grumbling aside, the Murder City Devils have finally come up with an album as powerful as their live show and just as worthy of the same cult status. Coupled with a morbidly excellent enhanced CD and the best promo packaging to date, In Name and Blood has been receiving some serious stereo play here at eP and deserves nothing less from you as well. Give it a spin already!

-Craig Young
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[ pitchshifter - deviant ]
Pitchshifter
Deviant
MCA

Links:
Pitchshifter

You've read the interviews, you've seen the band live, and now after an anxious wait you finally have the new album, Deviant, clutched in your sweaty little paws. So after tearing off the cellophane with your teeth, tossing the platter in the stereo and devouring the liner notes, just how does it sound? F*cking brilliant, for starters (but you knew that already). With the help of producer-extraordinaire Dave Jerden, and with Jim "I'm the Fire Starter" Davies guitar wizardry providing the backbone for much of the new music, Deviant finds Pitchshifter at an all-time, well-deserved and hard-fought high. Fronted by J.S. Clayden's incendiary sociopolitical commentary and backed by the band's signature industrial-metal riffage and breakneck breakbeats, Deviant is a call to arms both on the dance floor and in the street, with enough infectious music and catchy choruses to keep your feet pogoing while your fist is pumping defiantly in the air.

Where years ago Clayden would smash televisions and howl to the destruction of pianos and other fun-to-destroy toys, these days he's infecting listeners' brains with a cunning little self-replicating virus called: superior songwriting and crafty lyricism. His spot-on lyrical commentaries have a cleverness to them that forces the listener to acknowledge and address Clayden's criticisms without losing their place in the context of the song. "Forget the violence, forget the pain / Our Happy Meals will taste the same" ("Forget the Facts"), "Another stitch up, another suture / Johnny was right when he said 'no future' / Put it straight so the dogs relate, with your brain dead TV skive / And they'll put it right, keep it right, help you sleep at night / Who grew up to be the dead battery?" ("Dead Battery"). And if there were any justice in the world and radio played anything but corporate interests, "Scene This" would be on the lips of every kid within a week of airplay--it's simply that good and that inescapable of a hit.

Pitchshifter have been called the "21st-century industrial-metal answer to The Clash," and deservedly so. After listening to Deviant, it's hard to deny the band's impact and potential--both as musicians and as frontline political correspondents. As groups like Korn and Limp Bizkit slog away with their empty-calories kind of metal, it's refreshing to know that there are bands like Pitchshifter making earnest music that's far heavier, far more clever, far more thought-provoking and far more deserving of your attention. Oh yeah, and a hell of lot more fun to pogo to! Meet Pitchshifter: combat rock for the new revolution.

-Craig Young
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[ raise hell - not dead yet ]
Raise Hell
Not Dead Yet
Nuclear Blast America
Okay, so it's a cheesy cover with a bimbo, candles and lipstick. You know, I was ready for this to be the next greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, it's close; and if you consider that these youngsters are in their teens--it's pretty damn good. This is awesome Swedish thrash with understandable yet deathish rock 'n' roll vocals (courtesy of Jonas Nilsson). Raise Hell could be created if you cleaned up the unholy union of Sodom and Witchery and told them to play whatever is in the veins. Although they come out of the box with youthful enthusiasm, they do slow the pace a hair and add a gothic element. They do a really unnecessary cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," retitled "Babes." It's pretty godawful if you think of the original, but if you judge it as a new song it's kind of cute. It appears though that these youngsters have fallen prey to the curse of metallic lyrics so these songs are not literary in any sense. This is foot-tappin', testosterone-fueled music from future deathies in their teens having a great time before they turn all symbolic and serious. Enjoy 'em, but don't step on their Satan-soled shoes.

-Sabrina Haines
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[ recoil - liquid ]
Recoil
Liquid
Mute

Links:
Recoil

Recoil is the not-so-new music project conceptualized by Alan Wilder, formerly of Depeche Mode fame. Liquid seeks out the final impressions of two pilots Wilder witnessed perish in a 1994 plane crash in Scotland. Recoil may be operating under the guise of pretense, but who would say they're kidding around after hearing Nicole (KMFDM) Blackman's pining hisses on "Want"? "I want to keep you alive so there is always the possibility of murder later / I want to be there when you learn the cost of desire / I want you to know that being kind is overrated / I want to watch you lose control / I want to watch you lose / I want to swing with my eyes shut and see what I hit / I want to be your secret hater / I want to stop destroying you but I can't." The album drips and echoes its synthesized way through the black desires and hates of the mind, and is an amazing gathering of dominantly spoken vocals by several guest vocalist/lyricists, mostly women. In addition to Blackman, there is the candid Samantha Coerbell, a brilliant New York spoken word performer who lays down two excruciating urban tales: one of sadistic after hours extremities ("Last Call for Liquid Courage"), and another of nave teenage play ("Supreme"). After being unimpressed with Recoil's earlier material, I have been sufficiently drawn back into Wilder's lurid world. The focus and darkness here are in near fatal amounts, and Liquid is his most effective seduction since Depeche Mode's Violator.

-Al Cordray
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[ sinner - the end of sanctuary ]
Sinner
The End of Sanctuary
Nuclear Blast America

Links:
Sinner

The End of Sanctuary starts out powerful and catchy with rockers like "Signed, Sealed & Delivered," "Edge of the Blade" and "The Prophecy," mellows out a little, then ends on a high note with "Broken World" which starts out lame and ends up a throughbred. The addition of Uli Kusch, drums, from Helloween and Henny Wolter, guitar, from Thunderhead have energized Sinner. However, the speed and power drops off for a few ballady, artistic tracks like "Pain in the Neck" (nice bass lines but too slow), "Destiny" (attempts to dress up a ballad with symphonic touches), "Heavy Duty" (too reminiscent of Van Halen) and "Night of the Wolf" (Hey, what did the wolf do to you?) in the middle of the disc. This just isn't fair to the fans, you give us like five great tracks and toss in some fluff and expect us to be happy. C'mon, Mat, if you can write great songs why torture us with ballads? If only Mat and the boys could rock hard all the time then they would be the best (or darn close) at melodic power metal but they just can't control those icky ballads. Stop ballads--they're a disease. The End of Sanctuary has landmark tunes on it and will rock your whitewalls for the first few songs--then just fast forward to the end and program the stupid ballads out.

-Sabrina Haines
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[ sister machine gun - transient 5.2 ]
Sister Machine Gun
Transient 5.2
Positron Records

Links:
Sister Machine Gun

On Chris Randall's last outing, [R]Evolution, we had the beginnings of his transformation from neo-industrial arena rocker to funk lounge lizard with enough amps jacked into the bass lines to get your grandmother wiggling. Spliced very neatly into that disc were "Transient 1" and "Transient 2," two songs which eased us from the former into the latter. Now we've got his newest sonic venture which brings us the remaining transient tracks--"3," "4," "5," and "6"--as well as a new song and a remix of "Smash Your Radio." What's it all equal? The funkiest episode of The Muppet Show that never was.

(Hang on. We're leaving the tracks a bit on this one.) The coolest thing when I was a kid was The Muppet Show; all those damn puppets jumping and dancing and just rocking out with complete abandon alongside their guest. This was before we all became parents and went totally nuts the first time our kids freaked out on the living room floor. Back in the days of The Muppet Show when you got off the couch and rocked out in the middle of the living room, your parents just called the event what it was: a full-on musical free-for-all. When you're eight and the groove has got you by the seat of your Husky pants, you dance with the puppets, man.

If I win the lottery this week, I'm spending a million of it to clear my living room and rent Fozzy Bear and Animal and that blue hepcat with the saxophone for an afternoon. Then I'm going to call Chris Randall and have him bring all his gear over to my house--you're all invited, of course--and we are going to get down.

In the interim, while I'm waiting for my numbers to come up, Transient 5.2 is in the CD player. I might even start sewing my own puppets. If I can sit still long enough to thread a needle...

-Mark Teppo
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[ smashing pumpkins - machina/the machines of god ]
Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God
Virgin Records

Links:
Smashing Pumpkins

I really, really want to like Smashing Pumpkins. The continually dwindling space that they take up in my heart goes back to their first recording, Gish, which I will always regard as one of the finer moments in rock and roll. But not since its release (ten years ago, people), have Corgan and company recorded anything with as much reckless ferocity; and the most recent, Machina, ranks only imperceptible blips above 1998's Adore.

Remember when Billy Corgan had hair? Remember when he looked like a strung-out rockstar? I don't know if it was the Bauhaus reunion, a brilliant Nine Inch Nails album (or whatever it was), but Corgan's current facination with complete goth-rock fashion sensibilities and his shiny bald dome has the Pumpkins looking more like the Uncle Fester Four. Not good. Definitely not good.

Machina is chock full of emotionless programming by numbers, overly textured guitar whack, an underachieving Jimmy Chamberlain, Corgan's pissing little tongue, and the only redeeming quality--D'Arcy's signature thundering bottom end (no pun intended). The ensemble sounds together only once in the opening song, "The Everlasting Gaze," that would sound more at home on the next Marilyn Manson record.

This band has gone from sixty to zero faster than any other I can remember.

-Jeff Ashley
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[ steve roach - midnight moon ]
Steve Roach
Midnight Moon
Projekt

Links:
Steve Roach

Steve Roach has been doing ambient and fourth world dreamscapes for so long now that to say his music has a timeless quality is almost meaningless. It would be better to say that they have a permanence in our subconsciousness, a constant residence in a place beneath and beyond time that stretches out before us in an unbroken wave to the infinity. This wave is easy to ride: you slip in a disc, close your eyes, breath more simply, and let yourself be moved. With Midnight Moon, Roach has crafted soundscapes that are so transformative that, like the ocean's riptide, you are pulled in without warning and taken far out along the wave.

Roach has traditionally used synths as the foundation for his sonic creations and, with Midnight Moon, we find him exploring the sonic possibilities of the guitar. In the late hours after the sessions which gave us Dust to Dust (a fantastic collaboration with guitarist Roger King), Roach would find himself drawn to these stringed instruments. This same sense of discovery translates to the dark undertone of the songs, a journey of illumination through dark caverns with distant specks of gleaming lichens and pools of still black water. There isn't the same sense of oppressive isolation that you would expect with Final or Lull, but there is still a sense that you are far from civilization and the closest you might get to contact with another living creature would be the unblinking eyes that stare out at you from the inky gloom cast up around you.

A truly meditative experience, Midnight Moon finds Steve Roach journeying to sonic terrain as yet unexplored, melding his unique vision of sonic landscapes with the unearthly lament and tonality that can be drawn from the guitar. This is the quiet emptiness between the notes of the spaghetti western theme music--the distant desolate spaces with the full moon hung low.

-Mark Teppo
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[ tarwater - animals, suns & atoms
Tarwater
Animals, Suns & Atoms
Kitty-Yo/Mute

Links:
Tarwater

It's cause for alarm when a dusky band such as Tarwater decides on a gaudy jungle scene for its album cover. It's clear the German duo is making songs for sunnier days now. Hence the misnamed "Song of the Moth," a schmaltzy little number with radiant strings and a brash beat. But despite the lighter tone, Tarwater's unique brand of '80s electro remains as compelling as ever.

If in last year's Silur Bernd Jestram and Ronald Lippok crafted a grimy dark aesthetic, this time around they go for sheen. Composed primarily from a whirling organ riff, "Seven Ways to Fake a Perfect Skin" is predictably without a blemish. It's an unlikely ballad that whisks you off into a rosy stupor; a surrealist land of pneumatic machines and graceful pistons.

Tarwater gives '80s cutesy pop an edge; their songs quote the usual suspects but often result in an otherworldly amalgam. "At Low Frequency"--whose opening lyric is "Man is the most adaptable machine in the universe"--and "All of the Ants Left Paris" border on a Kraftwerk homage, but for the most part Tarwater, cheerier than ever, is making songs for a Martian hit parade: catchy, upbeat and emotionally haywire.

-Edgar Ortega
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[ various artists - exxxile on main street ]
Various Artists
Exxxile on Main Street
Triple X Records
Triple X Records have been paving the way for 13 great years of punk and alternative rock for fans the world over. This Various Artists compilation, Exxxile, is a testament to the strength of their band lineup and longevity of releasing great music. Triple X have gathered a troupe of excellent artists that includes the likes of rock 'n' roll's founding father, Bo Diddley, who was given free rein to craft a masterpiece for them. Jane's Addiction delivers us "Whores" from their debut live album. One of the mainstays in the early Orange County hardcore scene, D.I. (Doggy Intercourse), gives us one of their many great tunes, "Johnny's Got a Problem." The Adolescents, one of L.A.'s best hardcore bands, comes in with "Brats in Battalions," the title track off their second album. If you don't own any of their albums you should go out and get them! The band that L.A. loved to hate, the Angry Samoans, jackhammer you with "Lights Out," grab a fork and poke your eyes out! These guys were one of the most underrated but influential bands of the early L.A. scene, but they didn't give a shit and I know they liked it that way! Who can claim to have done more speed than Lemmy? Well, I hear Wattie of the Exploited can. The Exploited, one of the driving forces of the early English political hardcore punk scene, are still ranting and raving with their "Beat the Bastards" cut. The Dickies play a song from their Idjit Savant release, "Toxic Avenger." The Dickies are one of the funnest bands to see live and also to bounce around your bedroom to; a must for all fun-loving pogoing punks. Jeff Dahl is featured: one of the elder statesmen of the L.A. punk scene, having had stints in a few different bands, and who never seems to tire out or quit releasing one classic hit album after another. Dahl, a white man with the best 'fro, drives us crazy with his infectious classic "Lisa's World." The list of classic bands with great releases goes on: from the Miracle Workers, Spongehead, and Motorcycle Boy; to Cradle of Thorns (who perform a great cover of Mtley Cre's "Shout at the Devil"), Gun Club, Inger Lorre, LAPD, Urban Dance Squad and Rozz Williams with Gitane Demone. You get all this for a very low price and tons of favorites for your ears.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ various artists - a fistful of rock 'n' roll: volumes 1-4 ]
Various Artists
A Fistful Of Rock 'n' Roll: Volumes 1-4
Tee Pee Records
The start of a 13-volume series, this is only a review of the first four volumes. As a punk music set--and beyond, as a statement of the underground music scene in the new millennium--this is an essential series for every punk, old and new; every underground freak, old and new; and for critics, consumers and publishers that love this archival shit. Each disc contains a few unreleased punk gems for collectors, an oldie punk track that you'd pay an outrageous amount of money for on vinyl, and several legendary performances from singles and discs throughout the world.

This monstrous set is compiled by Sal Canzonieri of Electric Frankenstein (you may kneel to the Underlord). I guess he unearthed a lot of these bands while touring. I'd love to see his music collection; I've got a feeling it is massive. Supposedly there's gonna be a film too at some point--please don't forget me. This is a labor of love from Sal and Tee Pee. The art is superb: so far it appears that they have utilized lots of underground artists, themes and the cream of its musical crop. I almost don't want people to hear these great compilations because it's gonna mean a mass exodus again. Lots of big labels are gonna be in a bloodfest over these bands, 'cuz Sal has managed to find 13 volumes of digital rock 'n' roll talent that big labels didn't have the foresight to promote or sign and wouldn't have the guts to see if it weren't for Sal's easy-to-find, absolutely indespensable perfect underground statements on disc. This could be the start of something big, so buy this and enjoy them before their purity is raped by the evil major labels. I only have one complaint: Change the font on the liner notes so they are easier to read.

Highlights of Volume 1 are: Rick Simms and the Gaza Strippers with "Missile Command," a track of primeval garage snot punk; El Diablo's incredible "Set It on Fire;" the obligatory Electric Frankenstein tune "Speed Girl;" a mix of punk and garage semi-released or soon-to-be-released gems from Rocket City Riot, Candy Snatchers, RC5 (from Seattle) and the Mud City Manglers; unreleased gems from the B-Movie Rats and the Pizzles; alternate versions from Zeke; a precious oldie--"Knocked Out Cold"--by the Action Swingers for the out-of-print Wiilia CD; out-of-genre-but-not-place wierdness from Orlando--the poppy Nutrajet and Bell Rays whose lead singer is a Janis Joplin soundalike; and finally the ripoff of Mtley Cre's "Looks That Kill" riff in a punk rocker by Cleveland's Downside Special.

Volume 2 highlights: alternate versions from the Supersuckers, the fantastic "Queen Fuck" by Snake Charmers and Jakkpot's blistering "Burnin' in '77;" unreleased gems from the utterly brilliant and raucous Haunted Head from Cleveland, Dexateens and the godly Iron Boss from Maryland; punk gems from the La Donnas, Silver Tongued Devils, Dead Man's Choir, Chickenhawks, Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and Jones Crusher; mutant metal punk from Pilsner; John Brannon's (formerly of the Laughing Hyenas and Negative Approach) new band, Easy Action; and finally a rare Jeff Dahl-produced Fearless Leader 7" track "Little Devil."

Highlights of Volume 3: alternate versions from the Toilet Boys and the legendary Jeff Dahl ("X Punk Rocker"); unreleased tracks from the Valentine Killers, Stunt Men, The Hookers (rocking good), the legendary ADZ (formerly The Adolescents), Rocket 455 from DEEEtroit and the killer Johnny Black and The Assassins from Kansas City, Missouri; punk and garage gems from the Stitches, New American Mob, Fumes, Sinisters and the Bullys; another overrated track from the "legendary" Lazy Cowgirls ("Just The Last Goodbye") that says it is an exclusive release. Yeah, I know you Lazy Cowgirl fans will buy anything from that band. I think it might be some kinda weird roots rock cult.

Fistful Volume 4 checks in with a few highlights of its own: high energy garage and punk gems from the Reds, Quadrajets, Murder City Devils, Von Zippers, Pulpit Red, Black Halos, Tricky Woo, High School Sweethearts (with ex-Electric Frankenstein drummer) and the Stilleto Boys; unreleased tracks from Three Years Down, Spitfires, the unreleased and astounding "Life's Crazy" by Graveyard School (containing an ex-Undead and current Electric Frankenstein bandmember); a remastered version of "Prohibition" that still ain't so great from Dgeneration (I still don't know why people like this band so much); the all-star band American Heartbreak featuring ex-members from Jet Boy, Exodus and Bay City Rollers. You're probably dizzy with anticipation by now. Maybe you can order them online from Tee Pee--they are all great and there truly is a track for everyone on each volume.

-Sabrina Haines
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[ very special forces - very special forces ]
Very Special Forces
Very Special Forces
Periscope Recordings

Links:
Very Special Forces

Taking pop music to illogical extremes, Very Special Forces mix skilled musicianship with a crazed sense of play and an uncanny ability to ape others. The end result is juvenile, absurd and somewhat offensive. And it's a helluva lot of fun.

Starting with the infectious clapping and squealing guitar rock of "The Hand," on to the Elvis Costello sound-alike "Serial Monogamist" (which bluntly translates the "I wanna sex you up"-type pop lyric into "My love for you is purely recreational / I think of your body as a recreational vehicle") and through to the the final track ("Mush") with its layered munchkin "la-la" backing vocals, each song has a sound distinct from the others yet eerily familiar as something you might have heard in your distant radio-listening past.

You know that friend whose parties consist of shuffled Eighties collections in the CD changer? This is the perfect disc to slip in there as a musical land mine.

-Paul Goracke
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[ ween - white pepper ]
Ween
White Pepper
Electra

Links:
Ween

In 1976 KISS released Destroyer. I always thought that it was so good because they had released their first live album just previous to it, and putting out a brilliant studio LP was a must. White Pepper is much the same. Following the preposterous Painting the Town Brown (Ween Live), White Pepper takes Ween back to the days of Pure Guava and Chocolate and Cheese, as opposed to the obscure and more conceptual The Mollusk. And as oxymoronic as this sounds, White Pepper is straightforward Ween. A more mature Ween. No fucking around. Well...Ween is always fucking around, but the potty humor and crude vaginal references are tucked away neatly while the music takes on a rare importance. The songs beg you to listen to how well they are written.

Ween have always strived to cover the musical gamut. They approach each style with authenticity while managing to wrap it all into the Ween thing, and this latest stretches Gene and Dean's musical dexterity farther than any album to date.

White Pepper is a simple and damn pretty album. Filled with pop melodies, it doesn't stray too far from its central musical "style," which falls somewhere between XTC's textured pop ideal and Pink Floyd's spaciness. There are the exceptions with the hilarious "Bananas and Blow" ( la Jimmy Buffet) and "Ice Castles" (a cascade of organs and strings that could accompany any Monty Python classical tragedy satire). "Stroker Ace" goes neck and neck with the classic "Dr. Rock" from The Pod as Gener goes for broke with nutty hard rock guitar riffage. They even pull out the alt-country card near the album's end; if you've heard the from-out-of-left-field Twelve Golden Country Greats, you know that Ween shakes that leg with best of 'em.

Nothing on the disk is going to get your mom fired up like "You Fucked Up" or "LMLYP," but the Ween boys are still at it just the same. And like I said in my last Ween review: The world is a much more interesting place to be in because of these two guys. God Bless them.

-Jeff Ashley
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