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Record Reviews

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ALEX AND THE IMAGINARY FRIENDS / VALENTINE / TANNER WILLOW / WINTER WINDS:
4 WAY SPLIT: CD-R
If you swear that acoustic singer-songwriter stuff is where music’s most honest, heartrending revelations stem from, this solid but ho-hum four artist project is up your alley. Alex And The Imaginary Friends (which is probably just one guy here) pull off a swell Chris McCaughan impression as they talk about aging and getting grim in the decent “Growing Up Is Giving In.” Valentine’s “A Plea for Something” is the least appealing of the four songs. It’s plagued by grating, whiny off-key notes, even if it does pick up toward the end with the addition of claps and muddled chants. Tanner Willow wishes on a star in “Starlight Starbright.” It’s a childish, unimpressive move that’s compensated for via a decent hook. Closer “This Is The Biggest Thing (Of All Things We Deserve),” as executed by Winter Winds (a.k.a. Eric Doucette), delivers a mature, beautifully assembled little song. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it delivers on the sense of sincerity so important to this sort of music. Production quality definitely varies between tracks: while Winter Winds’ song is warm and full, the Valentine track sounds like it was recorded on a computer setup. As of this writing, you can catch the whole thing at http://the4waysplit.bandcamp.com. –Reyan Ali (Raise Your Fist)


ALEX CUERVO:
4-song: 7”EP
Singer, guitarist, and one of the main songwriters for the Hex Dispensers does some solo work. While the Hex Dispensers conjure banshees, Alex summons quieter, more conversational ghosts and languid spirits. The songs are reverby. There are trebly effects over his voice and he’s backed by electronic keyboards and/or drum machining. Alex is spooky in a haunted, thoughtful way, not a photocopied comic book rendering of the Danzig playbook. There are no skeleton gloves fingered into in the making of this record or “whoah ohs!” instead of choruses. It’s more like a broken-legs-barely-healed waltz. Smooth and animated and swaying at the same time. –Todd Taylor (Trouble In Mind, troubleinmindrecs@gmail.com)


ALEX CUERVO:
Hallo Mein Name Ist: 7"
Back when Lux Interior left this Earth, I was upset and my friend Adam consoled me by informing me that at least we still have the Hex Dispensers. I had heard the name, but had no idea that my life was about to change. That band proceeded to take over my being. They instantly shot to the top of my go-to music list. A while later, HD front man Alex Cuervo put out a solo 7” that was also amazingly creepy. Well, here is another solo slab and it’s a nice addition to the catalog. Two off-kilter songs that sound so perfect with that odd feeling that something is amiss in the background. Catchy yet menacing. This man can do no wrong in my books! –Ty Stranglehold (Red Lounge, redloungerecords.com)


ALEXIS GIDEON:
Welcome Song: CD
For years now I have had a severe distaste for Gene Defcon, the always-a-child artist of mindlessly strange obscure short songs, usually accented with Casio play sounds. I have destroyed multiple Gene Defcon CDs, spread my message of distaste for Gene Defcon to friends, and forced people to listen to his music just to prove that he is indeed one of the worst artists ever to exist. Quite frankly, Come Party with Me 2000 is the type of thing I hope I never have to listen to again, but God knows I’ll get dragged into it at some point in order to win an argument about the worst album ever. Alexis Gideon reminds me of Gene Defcon if Gene tried to do more rapping and had more of a Ween influence. Upon hearing the Casio-backed track, “Casio Elation,” I seriously wanted to punch my computer monitor. This isn’t as bad as Gene Defcon, but hell if it doesn’t piss me off nearly as much for it’s (amongst other things) a complete waste of so many peoples’ time (including my own) and waste of natural resources to make this garbage. –Kurt Morris (Sickroom)


ALEXIS GIDEON:
Flight of the Liophant: CD
Alexis Gideon is what some might call “schizo-rap” (or at least that’s what his label calls him). At times I felt like I was listening to Silver Jews trying to do loosely formed hip-hop. Other times, it was just a mess of electronic beats and noises, worked in with higher pitched vocals. Sometimes the music produced an ambient, floating sensation. The last song is an Irish ditty with just voice and acoustic guitar. What the hell is going on here? Overall, the material seemed like a whacked-out Beck with heavy doses of Dan Deacon. I definitely enjoyed this more than I thought I might and it will grow on you in all its silliness and oddity, but it’s still pretty fucking bizarre. You can decide whether that’s good or not. –Kurt Morris (www.sickroomrecords.com)


ALEXISONFIRE:
self-titled: CD
For every Black Cross, Give Up the Ghost, or Fairweather record that Equal Vision releases, there’s at least one album by a band like Armor For Sleep or Alexisonfire (which is to say that for every interesting, experimental, and artistically challenging record, you get one incredibly commercial release which offers no surprises and nothing new). Like bands such as Waterdown and the rest of the screamo hordes, one vocalist screams as if he wanted to be in Morbid Angel; the other sings in sweet, angelic tones. Like most bands of this ilk, the musicianship is passable to good; that’s rarely the problem. The problem is that the actual music begins at pop-punk with the sweet melodies to get the chicks in and then tries to add a tougher edge so that, you know, the dudes will like it, sounding like every other band with dyed black hair and bangs, ear plugs, and star tattoos in the process. In that respect, this album offers something for everyone who will be listening to the next big trend in two years. However, by nearly every measure that I can use to gauge a good – or even decent – album, this doesn’t even begin to register.  –Puckett (Equal Vision)


ALFATEC:
Self-titled: CD
Italian hardcore at its, um, core, but there’s a ton of straightforward rock slathered liberally on top. Results are on the whole good, depending on how one feels about rock. –Jimmy Alvarado (Avis Odia, avisodiarecords.jimdo.com)


ALGREN:
A Wayward Sound Floods the Streets: CD with graphic novel
Wow, this CD comes with a lovely black and white graphic novel, with romantic, cartoony art reminiscent of the stuff done by Nate Powell. The story is about consumer culture ending the world. After checking out the awesome artwork and cool story, I was prepared to hear some fucked-up jazz or progressive hardcore. Instead, my ears were felched by modern rock at its most pretentious and ham-handed, played by sloppy musicians that you’d expect to see stinking things up with an Incubus cover at a high school battle of the bands. It’s interesting when pedestrian art inspires other, greater art—similar to how the movie Superfly was surpassed by Curtis Mayfield’s terrific soundtrack. While Superfly was a good movie with incredible music, A Wayward Sound Floods theStreets is a strong comic inspired by a weak band. –CT Terry (www.algrenmusic.com)


ALIANS:
Rowne Prawa: CD
I believe the band is from Poland and they play ska, reggae, hardcore and any combination thereof. Included are Dead Kennedys, Clash, and Peter Tosh covers. Normally, this stuff ain’t my cup of tea anymore, but these guys are pretty darn good at it. –Jimmy Alvarado (href=mailto:arkumusic@clerk.com>arkumusic@clerk.com)


ALICE BAG:
Violence Girl: 7”EP
I’m much more fond of looking at music as a continuum instead of isolated times and places. Instructive history shouldn’t be trivia and artifact. That way, as a listener, I can actively participate, draw from my own experiences and enjoy music—even if it was released years ago—as a living, instructive thing. Alice Bag could have easily been solely a significant, static jewel in the crown of first wave L.A. punk and called it a day. Instead, she continues to make art through today and this 7” is a nice reminder of that, culling songs from five bands that Alice actively participated in: Bags, Castration Squad (live), Stay At Home Bomb, Goddess 13, and Cholita. The music Alice plays just isn’t one thing. It’s punk, goth, rootsy and mellow, angry, funny, violent, and tender. And that way, we all win when Alice uses this refracting jewel of her talent and perseverance, lighting up and crystallizing great music for three decades. An excellent short collection of songs by a fantastically talented lady. –Todd Taylor (Artifix)


ALICE DONUT:
Three Sisters: CD
I suspect you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has thought about Alice Donut in the past fifteen years, much less cared about the band’s music in some way. I would put myself in both categories. Having listened to this album, duly noting that it is presumably intended to be filed under rock by dint of its guitars and rhythm section, I will continue to place myself in the latter of the two categories. –Puckett (No address listed)


ALICE DONUT:
Ten Glorious Animals: CD
I fully admit that while the name has not been unfamiliar to me for more than a decade or two, I’ve never actually gotten around to actually listening to them before this, so I can’t really speak to where it fits in their oeuvre. What I can say is that what’s on here is sorta catchy, but ultimately pedestrian alt-rock stuff that’s neither bad nor good, but mostly just kinda there at best. –Jimmy Alvarado (Alternative Tentacles)


ALICIA SMITH:
For Lovers, Dreamers and Me: CD
Although the press material says Smith “evokes influences” including Patti Labelle, Barbara Streisand, and Billie Holiday, she sounds nothing like these singing legends. What she does share with them, however, is an ability to transcend (or in her case wholly bypass) current popular trends in music and stake out a little place all her own. Marrying strong vocals to a concoction of jazz, psych-tinged pop and nouveau soul, Smith demonstrates some range and a desire to experiment outside the box. She eschews the heavy reliance on scales, 808-beats and self-demeaning lyrics so frequently found in modern soul/hip hop in favor of a more organic approach with what sounds like real, honest-to-goodness instruments. Dunno if it’ll garner massive radio airplay, but it should, and when it works, like on “Love Endeavor,” and the velvety “Secrets,” some mighty good listening is afoot. My requisite gripe? Where’s the cover of the Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection,” which features this album’s title in its lyrics? –Jimmy Alvarado (Heroes)


ALICJA-POP:
: 7”
Truth in advertising, this is Alicja Trout (River City Tanlines, Mouserocket, Lost Sounds) playing straight-up, ‘60s-inspired pop by way of Oranges and Lemons XTC with gentle keyboard caresses. One original, one Daniel Johnston cover. It’s extremely pretty, full of innocence, and very far afield from what I normally listen to… but goddamn it if Alicja Trout can’t hold my hand far into a scary land that I’m fearful of—”indie rock I don’t understand made by members of once-frenetic punk bands”—and show me something, well, something that’s beautiful. –Todd Taylor (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)


ALICJA-POP:
“Shining Apple” b/w “Walking the Cow”: 7”
If you haven’t listened to I’m Your Negative by the River City Tanlines at least 1,000 times, I highly encourage you to track down a copy and indulge in the brilliance that is that full-length. Within that album you are exposed to a vast array of tempos and variances of hostility. From the most seemingly mellow to the most completely unchecked, unhinged, borderline psychotic aggressiveness. Moral of the story; Alicja Trout (songsmith of the River City Tanlines and the 7” at hand) has this ability to write these incredibly diverse songs that ooze of passion and complexity while always being completely and undeniably hers. So when a 7” single comes through that’s Alicja Trout recording two nonchalant synthy slow jams, it’s very easy for me to exit my world of angry, hostile, prejudices against stuff of the sort, and enter her world of tried and true songwriting, hence, me enjoying these songs for what they are. And they are awesome. –Daryl Gussin (Certified PR)


ALICJA-POP:
“I Play the Fool” b/w “Water Death": 7”
Incredible 7” from legendary Memphian Alicja Trout. Alicja-Pop is her power-pop outlet—sort of removed from her darker Lost Sounds/Black Sunday work. “I Play the Fool” has hints of the Rich Kids and The Breeders. B side, “Water Death,” is amazing. Alicja’s vocals and Ramones-inspired rhythm and lead guitar lines (Walter Lure) are supported by a great drum machine track and Theremin-sounding synth. Alicja continues to put out the greatest records with regularity. I’ve heard Billy Childish referred to as a “cultural treasure” of Great Britain. If that’s true, Alicja’s likely our best response. Recommended! –Ryan Leach (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)


ALICJA-POP:
“I Play the Fool” b/w “Water Death”: 7”
The A-side is great, it sounds like what would happen if you took a Holly & The Nice Lions song, gave it to Jem & The Holograms, and told them to play it in a way that would make Muppets slam dance. The b-side, with its predominant cheap drum machine, sounds a little bit more like Helen Love’s depressed little sister. Altogether, i was always curious to know what would happen if the Thing’s blind girlfriend married Iggy, so this record does me right fine. BEST SONG: “I Play the Fool” BEST SONG TITLE: “Water Death” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Cover art depicts the most flowers, pineapples, and magic potions of any Certified PR release to date. –Rev. Norb (Certified PR)


ALICJA-POP:
“I Play the Fool” b/w “Water Death”: 7”
My exposure to Ms. Pop’s endeavors outside of her work with Lost Sounds is severely limited, so I can’t really speak to where this rests in her body of work. What I can say, though, is that both songs have a minimalist, almost demo-like quality, with what sounds like a drum machine and guitars that are sans big studio trickery. Of the two songs here, “I Play the Fool” is the most immediately catchy, with some nice drony guitar to anchor the tasty hooks that fly by. “Water Death” is a bit more sophisticated, deftly hiding its buried treasures for those willing to visit ‘n’ dig a bit more to find ‘em. –Jimmy Alvarado (Certified PR)


ALIEN SEX FIEND:
R.I.P.—A 12” Collection: 2 x CD
Alien Sex Fiend is one of those rare bands so unique that one has a helluva time trying to describe with words what they sound like. Death Rock? Punk? Rockabilly? Synthy art damage? Brooding psychoses set to a dance beat? You get all the above in spades, plus bizarre lyrics and a visual presentation that someone must’ve dreamed up while watching The Munsters with a head full of some kick-ass acid. As the title suggests, this is a collection of tracks culled from various 12” singles and EPs, but it would serve just as well as a “best of” initiation for anyone interested in dipping their toes in what the band has to offer. A good dose of their prime material—“Dead and Buried,” “Now I’m Feeling Zombified,” “I Walk the Line,” “Hurricane Fighter Plane,” “Inferno,” “Smells Like...” and a fistful of others—are here for the listening, so those interested in tuneage from a band that yowls with the best of ‘em yet refuses to be easily plopped into any one category would do well to pick this up. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.cherryred.co.uk)


ALKALINE TRIO:
Hell Yes b/w My Standard Break from Life: 7"
Against-my-better-judgement, catchy-as-hell songs that lick the razorblade separating pop and punk which bleeds in the same way as Green Day when they go to balladeer mode. Tight, well written, gettin’ girls wet while dudes can shake their fists along types of songs. If it helps, think of the Weakerthans with a couple of nuts and less wounded warrior poetry. –Todd Taylor (Lookout)


ALKALINE TRIO:
This Addiction: CD
Aw, man. Okay, I want to love this. I really do. This band has put out three of my favorite records, and, while it often raises an eyebrow, Crimson is easily my favorite of the lot, so I’m not exactly adverse to their “spookier” side or their more recent forays into melodic rock territory. When I got wind that this new record was going to be a return to their “punk” sound (rarely a successful initiative), I was very cautiously optimistic. After one listen, I wasn’t exactly floored. Song titles like “Dine, Dine My Darling” and “The American Scream” already had me cringing, and the rather uninspired, throwaway songs themselves certainly didn’t make up for it. There are some great tracks on here, for sure (sadly, one being “Draculina”), but I fear that these three incredibly talented young men have crossed one step too far into cartoon territory. It’s entirely possible that, in time, I will love this record (which happened with Agony and Irony), but my hopes ain’t high. Dang. –Dave Williams (Heart & Skull)


ALKALINE TRIO/HOT WATER MUSIC:
Split: CD
It’s an appropriate pairing in a yin yangy way. Alkaline Trio sound happy as shit, but the smiles are broken tooth lyrics sharpened to daggers, all dark undercurrent, all sugar-coated fuck you in the pop context. Hot Water Music sound pissed as all hell and as gruff as a kennel of kicked-in-the-head Dobermans, but their lyrics are overwhelmingly positive and hopeful. OK, these songs: Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba’s got it going on; breathless melody that’ll make ladies shed tops like they’re entering tanning salons instead of a rock show, the hummability that’ll place A3 on the loudspeaker as I pump gas, and I still can’t slag him. Skiba writes some fucking tight, snappy songs that look and smell like those little heart-shaped candies, but don’t easily dissolve from memory. They cover Hot Water Music’s “Rooftops,” and have provided two originals. HWM’s ability to soar and propel with post hardcore power, steering into brutal-tongued and burning acoustic-heavy songs takes me to places I never thought the band would go, but I’m stunned at how warm, meaningful, and heart-felt they still sound, even if they’re slower and more sparse arrangements. Great split. –Todd Taylor (Jade Tree)


ALL:
Live + One: CD
This is apparently the “live” part of the title, ‘cause what I believe was the “+ One” part of the title (a live set from the Descendents) is not here. The sound quality here is a notch better than their last live album, Trailblazer, and the songs are a little tighter as well. Although Chad’s vocals are a little more limited in range than Scott’s or even Milo’s (especially obvious on his take of “She’s My Ex”), he does make a commendable effort to stay true to the oldies and succeeds for the most part. Live versions of the band’s newer songs are what the listener should take notice of, however. Here, this incarnation of the band gels most, proving both why they’ve been such an influential force in punk music and why they’ll never really fit in with the hordes they’ve spawned: they’re a truly original, great band. –Jimmy Alvarado (Epitaph)


ALL AMERICAN WEREWOLVES:
Hate Rock USA: CD
In keeping the monster theme so prevalent here, I’d say if this were a B monster movie it would be billed as “The Ramones Meet Chuck Berry.” And I’m talking here about Chuck Berry the musician and not Chuck Berry the toilet bowl cinematographer, though the latter might make for a more interesting monster movie. Anyways, this is bouncy, good-time stuff, roughly similar to a band like the Groovie Ghoulies. And though it might pretend that it’s “hate rock,” it’s so damn affable it’s hard not to like it at least a little bit. –aphid (Eugene)


ALL DINOSAURS:
Paranoid Indigenous: LP
Heavier, more distorted versions of ‘00 hardcore guitar riffs woven into a more technical framework. The songs are trickier than typical ‘00 hardcore and the vocals are reminiscent of No Idea bands. I don’t have a large frame of reference for this sort of thing, but it is well played and well recorded. People into Florida would dig this. –Billups Allen (Self-released, myspace.com/alldinosaurs)


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