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· 1:Off With Their Heads Top Shelf Interview Podcast
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· 3:Trials and Tribulations of a Misguided Adult
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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM:
Self-titled: CD
Live recordings of a band that played moody, experimental music. I’m willing to bet my right arm that they were amazing live, but, while the sounds here are varied and interesting, to say the least, they seem to suffer a bit without the accompanying visual stimuli. Wish I’d seen ‘em. –Jimmy Alvarado (Sickroom)


SICK FITS:
Are We the Young Savages?: CD
Lo-fi trash punk not unlike your average Rip Off Records release. Pretty good overall, sometimes sounding like a revved-up Controllers. Some “bonus” tracks here as well, including a live cover of the Urinals’ “Ack Ack Ack” that is recorded so poorly that you can’t help but wonder what the point was in including it. –Jimmy Alvarado (Longshot)


SHOCKS, THE:
Bored to Be Zero 3: CD
Excellent eleven tracks of punk rock from this German three piece. I love it. The music is killer! It’s snotty, fast, and snappy most of the time. They show a little sign of new wave from time to time and sometimes they remind me a little of an early ‘80s post-punk pop band, but for the most part this is all-out punk. It’s done very well. The cover art is great and the packaging is nice, too. The booklet is all high gloss. You can tell they put some time and effort into the design of this CD. It all worked out. I can’t tell you what they are saying ‘cause all the lyrics are in German, but if you can read German (unlike me) you will be set! If you like punk rock, get this CD. You will be glad you did! –Mike Beer –Guest Contributor (Dirty Faces)


SATURDAY NIGHT KIDS:
self-titled: 7"
These are the guys who would’ve been intimidated by Fonzie. Fifties pop inspired pop punk with wimpy, not quite whining, but still annoying as all hell vocals. –Megan Pants (Route 13)


RUINS:
March-October 1997: LP
Jazzy, grindy skronk by this Japanese bass/drum duo, recorded live in Tokyo and Paris. Although the noise they make is interesting, the tracks begin to blend together by the third or fourth track and you’re left pondering what you’re gonna eat for lunch tomorrow instead of paying attention to what’s coming outta your speakers. –Jimmy Alvarado (Enterruption)


ROY:
The Red EP: CDEP
College rock with country twang around the edges. The more up-tempo songs weren’t too bad, but the mellow, acoustic shit was about as fun as Chinese water torture. –Jimmy Alvarado (Crash)


ROCKET SCIENCE:
Born in Hell: 7"
Really good ‘60s-inspired trash rock from Australia, true to the sound of the period and frenetic enough to keep from sounding dated. –Jimmy Alvarado (Voodoo Rhythm)


SKULLS, THE:
The Golden Age of Piracy: CD
The Skulls continue to impress. The sound on The Golden Age of Piracy is meatier and fuller than their stellar Therapy for the Shy, and instead of sounding more pro, they just sound bigger, punchier, and continue to slash through song after song. Still firmly planted in the spastic energy of early LA punk that infused the Dils, Gears, and Weirdos, they’re not afraid to get better and more comfortable at what they do. I admire their ability to play the shit out of a song, fuck around with tempos, set moods, whip out short flashes of tasteful playing ability, and still not lose sight of making bare bones punk rock songs that you’ll be humming for days on end. Let’s not complicate matters. The Skulls playing is like a mousetrap. They know how to set it all up, bait it, and cock it with few wasted movements. Once sprung, their songs snap right into place. Job done. Surprisingly, however, is the fact that my favorite songs on this album are the slow burners. “Monet,” “Black Day,” and “Jerry #5” sound like long-lost archetypes to non-ass punk power ballads. Instead of merely meandering in the hopes of roping in some pussy (as per heavy metal formula), they all sound like quieter trips down dark allies filled with broken bottles, exposed syringes, and bruised dreams. –Todd Taylor (Dr. Strange)


SKIP JENSEN AND HIS SHAKIN’ FEET:
self-titled: 7"
The one-man band seems to be making a comeback. This was mostly recorded in his bathroom, so there’s definitely a low fi sound to it. The shakin’ that his feet are doing is usually connected to a tambourine, which is a bit much for me. I’m more of a stomp kind of girl. –Megan Pants (Yakisakana)


RENO DIVORCE:
You’re Only Making It Worse: CD
I truly wish people would come to grips with the fact that they are not Mike Ness. Hell, Mike Ness isn’t even Mike Ness anymore. It seriously sounds like the singer locked himself up and listened to Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell for a good week before stepping up to the mic to record. I don’t think I’d lose friends if they played this, but I can’t see myself ever putting it on through my own volition. –Megan Pants (Boss Tuneage)


RE.4M:
Wordseye: CD
Every once in a while an album is, pure and simple, so friggin’ cool that genres and pigeonholes are rendered meaningless. Such is the case with this, the work of underground hip hop producer/MC RE.4M, who, aided by a cadre of friends, has made one hell of an album here, a diverse blend of musical styles and influences married to some truly jaw dropping vocal gymnastics. The tracks alternate from furious exercises in alliteration (courtesy of rappers Neila, Beond, Gajah, Olmeca and others), both a-cappella and backed by sparse, spacey beats, to instrumentals that occasionally bring to mind both Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” and the sun-damaged pseudo-Persian psychosis of Savage Republic. Of course, enough solid beats permeate the proceedings to please those only looking for something to facilitate shakin’ that ass, but those who prefer to assess what they’re listening to on a deeper level than merely providing background noise will also be more than satisfied with what’s going down, ‘cause this is literally sick with levels on which to take it. In short, regardless of whether or not you like rap music, RE.4M and his buddies have managed to come up with an album that is not just mandatory listening for hip hop fans, it’s mandatory listening for fans of music, period. –Jimmy Alvarado (Nomadic Soundsystem)


RAMBLIN’ AMBASSADORS:
Avanti: CD

Twenty-four minutes of top-notch surf and spaghetti western instrumentals. Great soundtrack for your next Fistful of Dollars-themed shindig.

–Jimmy Alvarado (Mint)


QUICK FIX KILLS, THE:
Saint Something: CD
Angular college rock sure to get fans of Dischord Records all hot and bothered. –Jimmy Alvarado (My Pal Goo)


QUEERS/MANGES:
Split: CD
Queers: Cover songs that make me feel like I’m watching Nick at Night. If the Queers were around in the 1950s or early ‘60s, they would be the shit. Manges: From Italy, play a Ramones meets Screeching Weasel brand of punk pop with added vocal melodies. When bands cover the Cheap Trick song “Surrender,” I always put them up against Big Drill Car’s version. Most bands don’t reach that level of perfection and it’s true here. –Donofthedead (Stardumb)


PROCEDURE, THE:
Rise of New Reason: CD
Emo and hardcore mix about as well as Kool-Aid and frog piss. –Jimmy Alvarado (Blackout)


POPULAR SHAPES:
Bikini Style: CD
Loosely, very loosely, the Popular Shapes are in the same camp as The Lost Sounds, the A-Frames, and Le Shock (RIP). Hyper-angular, almost robotic voiced, whelped guitars, Wire-loving, Gang of Four-idolizing, Stick Men With Rayguns-admiring punk for animated mannequins. There’s nothing wrong with them, and I find myself really enjoying parts of songs, but like a spice that slips off the side of your tongue instead of blooming right in the middle, I can’t hold my arms up in the touchdown position when listening to the Popular Shapes. What’s weirder is that, on repeated listens, I’m both liking it more and liking it less. Huh. If you don’t squint at adventure and don’t need straight-ahead melodies holding your hand all the way through a song, I say give ‘em a chance. I’ll sit here and see if it grows on me. –Todd Taylor (On/On Switch)


PLEBE, LA:
Conquista 21: CD
Think Voodoo minus the ska and with a much better grasp of the Spanish language. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.laplebe.com)


PREACHER’S KIDS, THE:
Wild Emotions: CD
Retro-garage punk with enough Cochran, Bo Diddley and the Pagans in the mix to lend authenticity. Not a bad listen and I bet they raise quite a ruckus live. –Jimmy Alvarado (Get Hip)


PLEASURE FOREVER:
Alter: CD
If Tom Waits were thirty years younger and had a hard-on for college rock, I bet his band would sound just like this. –Jimmy Alvarado (Sub Pop)


PENNYWISE:
From the Ashes: CD/DVD
I won’t deny my past. The year was 1991. I’d been in college a couple years. Then, as now, I was poor. At the time, in Flagstaff, Arizona, the cheapest way I could sample new music was the used cassette bin at an independent record store. They were three-buck gambles. Pennywise’s self-titled made it through some rough winters and the roulette of putting a cassette into the Kraco tape-eating machine. I played that tape multiple hundreds of times. It was one of those auto-repeat players. On the inside cover illustration, one of the members looked like wrestler Steven Nash (long hair, goatee, sunglasses) and another guy had “freestyle skater” hair (the feathery hair-blower swoop). I was still a rabid Bad Religion devotee, and Pennywise had the melodic, tight, muscular punk down to a tee. It was seamless and tough, like a ball bearing. It was perfect for driving and wishing harm on the entire hippie race. I was, largely, in a musical vacuum. To this day, I don’t have cable TV, don’t know much about the alignment of snowboard companies and extreme sports to whatever music they’re pumping. There was no good radio station for hundreds of miles. When I moved to LA in ’96, I got the chance to see Pennywise a couple of times and interviewed them twice. They were very nice, but, man, their fans, by and large, were almost as big of dicks as NOFX’s fans. Meaty dudes with sexual/aggression issues and backward baseball caps punched and pulled one another’s clothes off, circling in an ever-more-sweaty bliss of dirt and sweat. It was like watching a movie where you like the soundtrack but it didn’t equate to what you’re seeing. I had such different ideas in my brain when I played their tape, window down, through the forest, on roads where I wouldn’t pass another car for at least an hour. Not one to hate a band by who they attract, I’d still pick up their releases, one after another. Partially, it was nostalgia. Partially, I really liked them. Enter From the Ashes. In the past twelve years, Pennywise has gotten more politically savvy and tighter as a unit. They’ve always been a little bit more than pro – and thank equipment manufacturers frequently. Each album is sonically a little better than the previous. And although I enjoy parts of this album, I can’t help but feel that they’re painting themselves into an ever-contracting corner. Sure, all of the elements they’ve help define in previous albums are there, but the punk rock elements in their songs sound like they’ve been in captivity for too long. Their musical beast is no longer feral. It’s been caged in and trained to a form of Pennywise-ical musical perfection. I think that’s their intention. (The DVD spends some time in showing the great pains they go through in recording an album.) But in doing so, for me, Pennywise has become more and more devoid of snarl, dirt, grit, and the unexpected explosions that I really enjoy in current bands. They want, and make, clean, proficient punk. I want dirty punk that leaves a rash and an infection. Ironically, their mostly pop songs, like “Yesterday,” with a piano interlude, become their strongest efforts for me, because it stretches them, if even a little bit. –Todd Taylor (Epitaph)


PLAN B:
Picturesque: CD
It’s nice to see a bunch of God-boys singing about not getting the girl. Lord knows I wouldn’t go near the whiney little dudes. –Megan Pants (Dirty Work)


PINHEAD GUNPOWDER:
Compulsive Disclosure: CD
I actually jumped around when I saw this, and I can be a pretty lazy fuck. I seriously can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love Pinhead Gunpowder. They’re still poppy, still simple, still just so catchy. It’s only nine songs, which leads me to play it a minimum of two times every listen. It’s the kind of album that your favorite song is always the one that you’re listening to for each song throughout the whole album. Perfect for mix tapes, car rides, and dancing around. –Megan Pants (Lookout)


PINK SWORDS:
One Night High: CD
What do you get when you take the dirt out of trash rock? This. I don’t know if it’s in the recording, but it just comes across so clean. There could be something there, but I lose it in the sterility. This makes me think of office girls going out for a night on the town and so they trade in their suit-dress for a mini skirt and a spiked bracelet thinking that they’re so bad. However they do thank some awesome bands that you should check out if you haven’t yet: Riverboat Gamblers, The Ends, and the Motards. –Megan Pants (Mortville)


OZOMATLI:
Coming Up: CDEP
I have been on a Latin kick for a few years now and I still haven’t learned the language. Right at the point when I need a change from the usual, Ozo puts out a new teaser EP. Excited like a little girl getting her first Barbie, I rushed out to get this. After self-releasing their debut EP and recording two full lengths on Interscope’s Almo label, they jump ship and sign to a jazz label. From what I hear on this six-song release, nothing has changed from the label transfer. In fact, the songs seem more focused. The songs still have that party vibe that has lured thousands into their fan base. The mixture of funk and Latin makes for the horrifying sight of this Asian man trying to dance. At least I do it in the privacy of my home so I won’t leave mental scars when people see me at shows. They may not be punk but they are more politically active than most. –Donofthedead (Concord)


OSCURO:
Self-titled: CD
Moody, atmospheric instrumental music that would no doubt compliment your average indie film quite nicely. –Jimmy Alvarado (Pascal)


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