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SHORT    TAKES:    Quick    &    Dirty    Album    Reviews


BOLDED titles indicate personal picks - Check 'em out!

TSAR - King of the School
JASON FALKNER - Can You Still Feel?
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE - R
SUPERGRASS – s/t
THE DANDY WARHOLS – Tales From Slabtown
THE DROWNERS - Is There Something On Your Mind?
XTC – Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2
International Pop Overthrow - Volume 2
Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway
Hydrofoil - (Self-Titled)
Dragster Barbie - (Self-Titled)
The Katies - (Self-Titled)
International Pop Overthrow - Volume 1
Thrush Hermit - Clayton Park
Gigolo Aunts - Minor Chords and Major Themes
Shuggie - (Self-Titled)
The Cinematics - Meringue
Walter Clevenger & The Dairy Kings - Love Songs to Myself
Ultimate Fakebook - This Will Be Laughing Week
Poptopia - Power Pop Classics of the 70's
Poptopia - Power Pop Classics of the 80's
Poptopia - Power Pop Classics of the 90's
Superdrag - Head Trip in Every Key
Juliana Hatfield - Bed
THE .357s – Hour After Dawn
RABBY FEEBER – Disposable Zeros of Rock
THE ALBUM LEAF - An Orchestral Rise to Fall
ELLIOTT - False Cathedrals
THE MINKLUNGS - The Better Button
THE LIMES - Turn Your Lights Off
SUNDAY'S BEST
PARASOL'S SWEET SIXTEEN II (Comp.)
STEADMAN - Loser Friendly
TEENAGE FRAMES - Kingsize Sessions
THE DEARS - End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story
RECTANGLE - Bunker
DIFFUSER - Injury Loves Melody
THE GRINDERS - Somewhere Between Ape & Man
POP STAR KIDS - The Rise and Fall Of
FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER - The Moon Is Down
HALO EFFECT - Waves
SPACEHOG - The Hogyssey
MOSHI MOSHI – Pop International Style
GLUECIFER - Get The Horn
LAVA BABY – In The Right Place
ANNE SUMMERS – Very Classy
THE SWINGIN’ NECKBREAKERS - The Return of Rock
THE SPINANES – The Imp Years
ACCEPTANCE – Lost For Words
A FISTFULL OF ROCK n’ ROLL
THE FORTY FIVES – Get It Together
Lael Lerory & The Loved - Diary
The Modifiers - Show & Tell
Shapeshifter - Opiate Sea
Nevada Bachelors - Carrots & So On
The Dusters - Simplicity
The Revelers - Day In Day Out
The Brodys - Goody Goody
They Might Be Giants - Severe Tire Damage
The Byrds - ...In The Beginning
Green Pajamas - Indian Winter
The Pixies - Live at the BBC
The Red Telephone - (Self-Titled)
Gomez - Bring It On
GT-350 - (Self-Titled)
Engine 88 - Flies n' Death n' Stuff
Fiver - Eventually Something Cool Will Happen
Lagwagon - Let's Talk About Feelings
The 360's - Strawberry Stone
Sparklehorse - Good Morning Spider
Manual Scan - All Night Stand (Best Of...)
Pezz - Warmth & Sincerity

Click HERE for More Album Reviews!

THE MINKLUNGS - The Better Button
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Creative, quirky, and downright dissonant lo-fi indie pop to make the indier-than-thou and artsty-fartsy set swoon! Once you get past some of the musical inaccessibility of this disc it can be rather engaging and a small handful of songs are almost catchy! The Minklungs play like a lost Flaming Lips or early Pixies record with ample doses of sonic experimentation...or, as their bio suggests, a "punk rock Partridge Family". ROCK ON!

THE KATIES - (Self Titled)
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This band's bio describes their sound as "The Beatles jamming on stage with Led Zeppelin and Nirvana" but Mr. Power Pop thinks it's more like Cheap Trick in a horrendous bus crash with Dishwalla and Better Than Ezra. Stupid comparisons aside, this CD rocks good and hard and offers a glimmer of hope that Rock & Roll may not be dead after all. This is straight up, no frills, explosive power pop with all sorts of accessible elements in place: up front melodies, nice textured guitar, solid back beat and nice vocal harmonies. If this is too "commercial sounding" for you, better fall back on the indie/emo schtick. LONG LIVE ROCK!

INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHOW (CD Compilation)
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This is the compilation disc from the debut pop festi- val of the same name held in LA in August 98 and features an array of talented pop bands. The focus here is on upbeat, melodic, hook-filled pop and power pop. Influences run the pop spectrum from the Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star to more recent pop icons Jellyfish and the Posies, among others. Although the suggested tracks tend to embrace a more solid, mem- orable musical approach, there is not a downer in the whole bunch. PLAY THIS CD!

THRUSH HERMIT - Clayton Park
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Although there are no pictures inside to prove it, Thrush Hermit have grown out their hair and dusted off their Les Pauls for this latest release. No longer part of Electra's major label roster of alternative shlock, this Canadian foursome has delved into the roots of classic rock with beefy power chord riffs and rock posturing that recall the sounds of Thin Lizzy/BTO/ KISS/Exile-era Stones and Led Zeppelin among others. TH have not lost their pop edge, however; there are still memorable musical hooks and ample harmonies to be found despite the obvious homage to classic rock.

GIGOLO AUNTS - Minor Chords & Major Themes
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Despite recent disputes with their record label, the Gigolo Aunts remain one of the most stable and long-lived pop bands in recent history. This new album (their first full- length since '94) will not disappoint the connoisseur of hook-filled, melodically-driven rock. 'C'mon C'Mon', the album's kick-off anthem is pure, unadulterated power pop complete with driving guitar and a sing-along chorus that recalls the hard-edged pop of the Posies and Redd Kross. There is plenty of tempo and sonic variety, with slower, more stripped-down songs showing a more introspective and personal side of the band.

INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW - Vol. 2
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This is the compilation disc from the festival of the same name held in LA in early August and features an array of talented pop bands and artists. The focus here is on upbeat, melodic, catchy/ hook-filled pop and power pop. Influences run the pop spectrum from the Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star to more recent pop icons such as Jellyfish, The Posies, Matthew Sweet and Redd Kross among others. Many tracks (Disc 1: 2, 10, 20 - Disc 2: 5, 12, 15) have a distinct, ultra 60's lo-fi retro vibe. While the sug- gested tracks tend to embrace a more solid, memorable musical approach, there is not a downer in the whole bunch.

THE 360'S - Strawberry Stone
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Glammy, psychadelic, acid rock with a slight 70's flair and subtle pop elements, the 360's serve it up good and loud. They are definitely out to blow your mind with walls of trippy, textured guitar and a droning hypnotic, rhythym section. Track 1 has a slight Black Crowes/Southern rock vibe while Track 7 (at 10+ minutes) can be an excruciating exercise in patience or a complete mind-altering experience (depending on what controlled substance you may be on) Tune in, turn on, drop out!

THE CINEMATICS - Meringue
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Although they are from Seattle, city of rain, doom and gloom, The Cinematics offer bright, polished, bouncy pop music that exudes more sunshine than a clear Spring day. The production is clean and polished; the basic guitar formula is sprinkled with quirky, atmospheric key- boards and other interesting sounds that evoke a subtle New Wave vibe (Track 3...think Berlin). Track 1 is a peppy instrumental that might make good theme music for your show. Spread some sunshine...PLAY THIS CD!

HYDROFOIL - s/t
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Well-produced, polished (ie: "commercial sounding") pop/alternative from Toronto, Canada. The only problem is Hydrofoil is NOT a commercial band (ie: "safe for college radio"). Many songs have a mid-tempo, folky Toad the Wet Sprocket kind of vibe while other songs tend to rock out in more appropriate places. Track 6 is a current single and highly recommended - great melodic bass line!

DRAGSTER BARBIE - s/t
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In an indie-music niche inundated with Sleater-Kinney wannabes and artists unable to create decent music while maintaining a little lyrical creativity LA's Dragster Barbie prove that it's not that hard to meld good catchy pop music with funny, thought-provoking, gut-jabbing lyrics. Fans of the Breeders, Veruca Salt, Liz Phair school of pop/rock will dig DB. Sure, it's nothing new or enlightening; but they do it with such conviction and honesty it almost seems legit! VIVA ROCK!

LAEL LEROY & THE LOVED - Diary
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This Portland-based quintet plays clean, intricate pop music with a slight Brit-pop flair. More upbeat moments recall the Dandy Warhols or World Party, while the mellower tunes have a slight commercial folk-rock vibe a la Toad the Wet Sprocket or Counting Crows. There is plenty of instrument variation (including piano and horns) and tempo changes to keep the mix interesting.

THE MODIFIERS - Show & Tell
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Straight-up, no frills, rock and roll from Boston! These guys don't sound quite as hammered as the Replacements did on the making of "Pleased to Meet Me", but I'll be damned if the music doesn't smack left and right of a HEAVY 'Mats' influence. There are also shades of other Beantown natives Buffalo Tom. They don't deny their hardcore roots either (ie: track #9). For those about to rock...

MANUAL SCAN - All Night Stand (Best Of...)
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Manual Scan were a mod revival sensation in San Diego in the early 80's. This 20+ song CD embodies the core of their career from 1980 - 1992. The sound is unmistakable garage/mod inspired power pop with a distinctive and energetic 80's flair. Think of the Jam and the Knack with the rough edges of the Kinks and the early Who thrown into the mix. WATCH THE CLOCK.....most songs time in around 2:00 minutes or less!

SHUGGIE - (Self-Titled)
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Pure, unadulterated, good times, kick-ass ROCK n' ROLL! Shuggie plays Exile-era Stones to a perfect tee...with accolades to the raw, drunken angst of early Replacements and a touch of 90's production sensi- bility (ie: the new Thrush Hermit record). In an in- creasingly vapid world of new music, it's refreshing to know that some bands out there still know how to rock. PLAY THIS CD!

THE REVELERS - Day In Day Out
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Formed almost 10 years ago, The Revelers are still going strong and are poised to carry the shimmy n' shake banner of Mod/R&B into the new millenn- ium. Playing heavily on 60's Mod influences such as the Kinks, the Move and the early-Who, the Revelers' sound also nods to later influences such as the Jam, the Lyres and Supergrass.

WALTER CLEVENGER & THE DAIRY KINGS
- Love Songs to Myself
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'Love Songs to Myself', the latest release from renouned SoCal popster Walter Clevenger is one of the more notable pop releases of 1999. Packed to the gills with lush, solid production and tight musicianship, 'Love Songs..' is a no-frills package of polished, uncomplicated guitar pop with a definitive country/folk rock vibe. As the title suggests, the lyrical focus is on basic, heartfelt love and relationships; a perfect match for the album's sweetly melodic overtones.

ULTIMATE FAKEBOOK - This Will Be Laughing Week
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This Lawrence, Kansas-based power trio pumps out crunchy, aggressive guitar rock with slight pop over- tones in the vein of Weezer, Gigolo Aunts, Summer- camp, the Caulfields, etc. Drawing heavily on their corn fed, small town influences, there are ample lyrical references to teen romance, high school and garage bands. Not ground-breaking by any means, but warmhearted and honest enough to "keep it real."

THE BRODYS - Goody Goody
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This Davis, CA four-piece belts out punk and twang- tinged power pop with ample doses of classic rock guitar posturing and hometown reverie. While the CD fails to completely capture the fun, raucous energy of their live show it hints at the vices that provide inspi- ration for the Brodys' sound: beer, classic rock, beer, parties, pop culture, girls and did I mention.....Beer? You get the picture. Down a Sixer and crank to 11.

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE - Utopia Parkway
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Fountains of Wayne suffer the curse of most major label pop bands - their sound may seem too "commercial" for college radio and not enough like Korn for MTV and commercial radio. Nevertheless, they have garnered an extremely loyal following among their ranks and have crafted one of the finest, most melodically rich and hook-filled releases so far this year. Nearly every track will stick in your head and have you rocking along in pure pop bliss.

SUPERDRAG - Head Trip in Every Key
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The long-awaited follow-up to their 1996 debut is here!! The same tasty power pop concoction is alive and kicking with more polished production and wider variety of instrumentation including piano, strings and even horns on some tracks. Don't be led astray however, the basic guitar driven formula is the pre- dominant theme here with Beatles/Stones/Cheap Trick inspired melodies as the driving force behind the song structures. A solid effort all the way around!

JULIANA HATFIELD - Bed
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This anticipated new release from former Blake Baby and occasional Lemonhead bassist does not disappoint. JH serves up a solid guitar-driven album that is more upbeat than her most recent EP, yet less poppy and more rock-oriented than previous albums. Her penchant for introspective and personal lyrics with stand-out catch phrases have not ebbed either. JH fits nicely with the Liz Phair/Tracy Bonham school of female artists who would rather rock out than whine over mid-tempo folk-based Lillith schlock.

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - Severe Tire Damage
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Tracks 1-17 are fun collection of new and old TMBG classics recorded live and semi-live at various locations during their illustrious career. Tracks 18-24 are lo-fi (ie: bootleg quality) live homages to their Planet of the Apes fetish. The overall sound is strictly TMBG to the core: quirky guitar/accordian based indie pop with witty, sarcastic and intellectually coated lyrics loosely referencing everything from politics (Ana Ng) to New Wave (XTC vs. Adam Ant). Their more well-known tunes are the best (5, 7, 8, 9, 12).

CRACKER - Gentleman's Blues
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Dave Lowery and company are back in the saddle with a bevy of new folk/country/blues tinged rock songs all neatly wrapped with Lowery's traditional raspy drawl and eclectic, sarcasm-tinged lyrics. Style-wise, this album can't quite find it's place, but the host of great guest musicians such as Bob Rupe (Silos), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty), Tommy Stinson and others, make it a solid effort all the way around. The more catchy, upbeat, straight-up rockers are by far the best tracks.

POWER POP CLASSICS OF THE 70's (Compilation)
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The first in a 3-series CD set of Power Pop classics from Rhino Records. The mid to late 70's saw an underground revival of melodically-driven rock first established in the 60's British Invasion. Sure... the lyrics are benign, simple odes to unrequited love, but the music is so catchy you'll want to crank the volume, roll down the windows and sing along to every single one! The focus here is shimmering guitars and lots of melody and harmony. Most on here are now Masters of the power pop craft, including the Rasp- berries, Big Star, Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick, Nick Lowe and the mighty Knack.

POWER POP CLASSICS OF THE 80's (Compilation)
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The second in a 3-series CD set of Power Pop classics from Rhino Records. The sorely under-appreciated revival of melodically-driven pop brought to life in the 70's was made more mainstream in the 80's thanks to a clever New Wave twist and the popularity of bands like the Plimsouls, Romantics and the Bangles. But, it's the lesser known tracks on this CD that really shine. As befitting the power pop genre, all tracks are concise, catchy guitar-driven pop anthems with lots of harmonies and sing-along choruses sure to stick in your head like bubblegum!

POWER POP CLASSICS OF THE 90's (Compilation)
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The last in a 3-series CD set of Power Pop classics from Rhino Records. By the 90's, power pop had become a definitive style that embraced all the elements of classic 60's and 70's pop and lavished them with more polished production and musical textures. Masters of the craft on this compilation include Matthew Sweet, the Posies, Jellyfish, Redd Kross and the ever-elusive Velvet Crush. The focus here is still guitar- based pop that ranges from intricate and orchestrated (Jellyfish, Rembrandts, Wondermints) to thundering power chords (Posies, Redd Kross, Gigolo Aunts). All tracks are excellent and sure to stick in your head.

NEVADA BACHELORS - Carrots & So On
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Quirky and aggressive Brit-flavored power pop in the tradition of Supergrass and the Jam and even shades of Elvis Costello. The song structures are unique and the clean, yet intricate and aggressive guitar lines show the Bachelors have their chops! The slower songs are kind of trying, Radiohead-inspired efforts. For the Doc Martin crowd Track #9 is a double-timed punk/ pop ditty. Track #12 is an unlisted ghost track.

THE DUSTERS - Simplicity
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Hi-energy punk-tinged noise pop from D.C. The Dusters have a full-force guitar assault somewhat reminiscent of Flop, the darker side of Sebadoh and the pop leanings of Jawbreaker. The Dusters definitely draw their inspiration from across the board, but the end result is a solid, well-defined album full of un- bridled rawk energy and just enough angst to make it interesting and not contrived.

THE BYRDS - ...In The Beginning
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Long before David Crosby discovered facial hair and Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn discovered the rock revolution of the late 60's, they were part of a unique collaboration of L.A. folk musicians who were in- spired by a new phenomenon from England called the Beatles. This newly-compiled collection of early recordings from godfathers of jangle-pop showcases a burgeoning group defining themselves and drawing heavy inspiration from the British Invasion and the ashes of many early 60's folk heroes. Most tracks are soft, lilting folk-pop ballads that pre-date their more well-known, upbeat jangle pop sound.

GREEN PAJAMAS - Indian Winter
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Late 60's inspired, tambourine-shakin' jangle pop with a distinct lo-fi vibe and a sense of sweet frailty reminiscent of the Flamin' Groovies or Alex Chilton. This is a collection of singles and miscellaneous recordings spanning almost an entire decade. Some later tracks mature beyond the stripped jangle-pop sound to a more thick, guitar-heavy psychedelic sound.

PIXIES - Live at the BBC
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Well....what can I say? Just when you thought "Death to the Pixies" had the coolest live compilation on the planet, along comes the latest compilation of live studio sessions from the legendary John Peel and BBC producer Mark Goodier. You know the sound: brooding, introspective, chaotic, never predictable. This IS the Pixies! Two tracks are previously unreleased.

THE RED TELEPHONE - (Self-Titled)
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Aggressive noise pop with a definite polished and commercial feel that would slide easily into a Live 105-type format. Big production; loud, spacey guitars in the tradition of Afghan Whigs. Track #1, which is probably the most catchy, is a dead-ringer for Fastball. Tracks 3&7 have interesting surf/thrash intros that recall early Cramps.

GOMEZ - Bring It On
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Stripped-down acoustic, blues/folk/rock with raspy/ rootsy vocals not terribly dissimilar to Eddie (Pearl Jam) Vedder. Not a terribly engaging or enlightening album, but spotted with interesting arrangements and an inspired down-home feel. Some tracks edge into grunged-out Beck territory and others lean danger- ously close to Grateful Dead/hippy dance schlock.

GT350 - (Self-Titled)
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Late 60's/early 70's rock with a distinct lo-fi sound & intentional blues-rock vibe. GT350 has completely skipped the last 2 decades and gone straight for the retro, big hair, bell-bottom bandwagon. Most tracks have shades of Sabbath, Hendrix, Cream and hints of early Zeppelin. Want straight-up no-frills rock? This is it!

ENGINE 88 - Flies n' Death n' Stuff
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After a brief stint on NY's Caroline Records, this San Francisco foursome is back in true DIY fashion with this latest self-release. The band has strayed a bit from their original punk/pop roots and has moved into a more noise pop/indie realm. The songs are solid from start to finish and feature ample slabs of beefy guitar, an aggressive rhythm section and over-the-top vocals on some tracks. Lighter moments recall Buffalo Tom among others.

FIVER - Eventually Something Cool Will Happen
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Quirky, spacey and slightly Brit-flavored pop from semi-locals (Modesto). Although sluggish tempo is the predominant theme on this album, each track is lush with interesting musical textures and solid, unique musicianship. Sounding like no one in parti- cular, many tracks recall Radiohead and Blur in their basic stylings as well as whispy, mellower moments of B. Corgan/Pumpkins and even the Pixies. There is also some gender swapping on lead vocal duties which makes the mix even more interesting.

LAGWAGON - Let's Talk About Feelings
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Graduating from the Blink 182/NOFX school of punk-pop, Lagwagon are back once again with an album chock full of aggressive guitars and breakneck tempo changes for ample moshing pleasure. Surpris- ingly, the Single picked for this release is one of the more mellow pop-influenced tracks (#9) and even features piano and carefully placed vocal harmonies. Track 7 is an interesting rendition of an Agent Orange tune. Rock On!

SPARKLEHORSE - Good Morning Spider
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Mark Linkous must sorely miss the days of vinyl, because scratchy record sounds kick off nearly every track on this CD. Sounding like nothing in particular, GMS offers an array of sounds and musical textures with the predominant tempo falling in the super slow, quaylude-induced arena. Sounds of cello, pedal steel and violin give many tracks a down-home, rootsy feel while the super fuzzed out vocal effects seem to convey some other artistic approach. David Lowery (Cracker/Camper van Beethoven) appears on some tracks.

PEZZ - Warmth & Sincerity
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Mega-producer Steve Albini brings this band to life with a sonic guitar assault and plenty of thick, sludgy wall-of- sound production to wake the neighbors. Unfortunately, it can't save the fact that this album that meanders aim- lessly through the forgettable realm of Blink 182/NOFX/ MXPX /_____ <--"insert ...X punk band here" world of punk-pop. The vocalist shreds his voice better than Blake from Jawbreaker and does his best throaty, snotty, psuedo Johnny Rotten Mike Ness. As Elvis Costello once said... "Everyone is a magpie and a thief..."

SHAPESHIFTER - Opiate Sea
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Proving that grunge is not quite dead, Portland Oregon's Shpaeshifter are not afraid to proudly fly the flannel and serve up drudges of edgy, groove-tinged shlock perfect for a cold, rainy day. Once you cut through the Collective Soul/ Eddie Vededer-ish drivel and lyrical cliches (ie: rhyming "child" and "wild") there are a few decent musical elements to be found. The instrumentation is solid and the production is right up front.

MOSHI MOSHI – Pop International Style
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Following up on the success of the revered Pop American Style compilation, pop-savvy March Records serves up more heaps of underground indie/pop; this time with a distinct international flair. The double CD comp. ranges from geeky, lo-fi indie drivel to sweeping, orchestral, techno-flavored pop to the straight-up, hook-filled three- minute jangle pop song. Where the melodies are strong and the production top-notch is where this compilation really shines; but there’s enough variety within the pop spectrum here to satisfy anyone’s tastes.

GLUECIFER - Get The Horn
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As if possessed by Satan himself, these fierce Norweigans play loud, gritty, kick ass ROCK n’ ROLL…pure and simple! Fans of Fugazi, The Cult, KISS, Motorhead, and fellow Scandanavian thrashers The Hellacopters will gobble this up and proudly thrust double-fisted devil horns into the air with pride. LONG LIVE ROCK!

LAVA BABY – In The Right Place
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With the exception of Sloan and Weezer, I’ve always been leery of bands who put their faces on their album covers. Not only does it evoke a certain sense of vanity, but it also seems to be a bellwether for an album design that is as un- inspired as the music inside. Narcissism aside, Lava Baby is basic meat and potatoes bubblegum pop with a handful of catchy choruses and periodic groove-rock breaks that seem to come from nowhere. The album is smooth, clean, polished and well-produced…but musically has about as much staying power as the Macarena. Try for yourself…

ANNE SUMMERS – Very Classy
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Geek rock returns! Banging their heads on the same rock as self-effacing and lyrically sardonic bands like Weezer, Nada Surf and Nerf Herder, Virginia’s Anne Summers throw in a decidedly aggressive, mod-tinged power pop element to their formula. Keen production from Don Fleming doesn’t hurt either. Fans of the Jam, Elvis Costello and the early 80’s approach to power pop will dig the music; and just about any- one will appreciate their wry, sardonic and sometimes self- deprecating lyrical approach to pop culture.

THE SWINGIN’ NECKBREAKERS - The Return of Rock
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New Jersey’s Swingin’ Neckbreakers bring pure, simplistic, no frills rock n’ roll to the table with subtle classic rock and punk overtones. Despite the decent production, fans of the Ramones, Iggy Pop/Stooges will dig the raw, garage band style. If the annoyingly repetitive 2-3 chord refrains on some songs drive you nuts, you can at least relish in the fact that the Neckbreakers don’t claim to be anything more than three hard-working dudes fighting to keep good old fashion rock n’ roll alive.

SUPERGRASS – s/t
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When Supergrass’ glammy, pop-influenced debut I Should Coco hit the States in 1994 it was a breath of fresh air in the storm of grunge that was howling through commercial music. Six years and three albums later, their formula is a bit diluted and lost thanks to the likes of Blur, Radiohead, Oasis, Pulp and other Brit Pop bands trying to make their mark. Despite playing second fiddle as far as commercial success, Super- grass has always been the cream of the crop in the musical department with sweeping, dynamic, and inventive arrange- ments that borrow equally from the Beatles and Bowie and other classic pop superstars. Suede comparisons are also inevitable as vocalist Gaz Coombes shares an uncanny vocal similarity to Bernard Butler, especially on Track 1.

THE SPINANES – The Imp Years
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Since their formation, indie rock critics have lauded The Spinanes’ decidedly “bass-less” approach to the pure guitar- bass-drums rock formula. The only problem is, the aggres- sive pounding of drummer Scott Plouf and the driving, chord-based guitar of chief Spinane Rebecca Gates con- stantly cries for the low-end back bone of a bass line and, to most rock-trained ears, leaves their music sounding flat and one-dimensional. A lack of embellishments such as vocal or other instrumental overdubs doesn’t help either. What merit that remains, however, is Gates’ plaintive, passionate and introspective songs that evoke a broad range of lyric emotion and expression that rise far above the musical mediocrity. The “Imp Years” is a collection of the band’s first two singles and various unreleased mat- erial. Try for yourself..

ACCEPTANCE – Lost For Words
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Meat and potatoes Christian power pop from the bleak Northwest (Seattle, WA). While these kids are talented and can certainly rock, the music is somewhat derivative and the lyrics benign and cliché. Musically they fall on the crunchier side of pop (Weezer, Summercamp) with subtle pop-punk sensibilities here and there (Green Day, Blink 182, etc…)

A FISTFULL OF ROCK n’ ROLL
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Pure, nasty, unadulterated kick ass ROCK N’ ROLL is what this Compilation is all about..pure and simple. “Let America Choke on Bubblegum” is the mantra scribed in the liner notes and the music collection here is enough to make any N’ Sync or Brittney fan pee in their Tommy Hilfigers. All bands here were surely weaned on a steady diet of KISS, Motorhead, The Stooges, Fugazi and the MC5 as well as the required intake of chicks, beer and fast cars. If you like your ROCK with a little old school punk leaning (circa 77/78) try Tracks 7, 10, 15. LONG LIVE ROCK!

THE FORTY FIVES – Get It Together
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New York City’s Forty Fives bust out fast and furious, soul- spiked rock n’ roll with a definite 60’s “Go-Go” vibe and lots of Mod-infused/garage rock sensibility. Fans of the Hi- Fives, The Lyres, and The Jam will dig the gritty, retro vibe. While the band’s style is limiting and musical variety is somewhat lacking, The Forty Fives the offer enough unbridled rock energy to breathe a little life into any radio show. DIG IT!

THE DANDY WARHOLS – Tales From Slabtown
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The long-awaited new release from the Dandy Warhols is finally here….well, sort of. This 5-song EP features two new tracks (#1 and #2) from the forthcoming album due in stores July 2000 and three previously unreleased tracks. The new songs have a polished, well-produced feel while still clinging to the homespun, mid-tempo Psychedelic/ Brit Pop flair the Dandy’s are adept at. Tracks 3 and 4 are more raw and spirited with a definite retro 60’s flair. Dig the gritty Kinks-style guitar on Track 4 (“Kinky”). Track 5 is instrumental with various voice-overs.

THE DROWNERS - Is There Something On Your Mind?
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Hailing from a tiny town near the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, the Drowners pack a powerful and melodic pop punch. They draw heavy influence from a wide array of power pop influences, most notably the beloved Posies. In fact, ex-Posie Ken Stringfellow appears on a few guest vocal spots. The songs are polished, well-arranged and the production is top notch. The hooks are plentiful and there are ample harmonies to draw most pop fans into a hypnotic frenzy. DIG IT! Louise Post (Veruca Salt) offers guest vocals on Track 4 as well.

THE .357s – Hour After Dawn
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This Lexington, KY trio plays straight-up, no frills rock n’ roll…pure and simple. There are no lavish embellishments, just guitar, bass and drums and a driving back beat that pro- pels the songs into Replacements/Figgs territory with a dash of earlier Tom Petty thrown in for good measure. The weakest link in the band may be guitarist/vocalist Jason Burchett, whose flat, nasally, wavering tone is reminiscent of J. Mascis’ lesser moments. The opening melody line of Track 7 (“Elegance Splendor”), which is a DIRECT rip-off of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” doesn’t garner the band much cred in the originality department either.

RABBY FEEBER – Disposable Zeros of Rock
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Another Lexington, KY band on the homepsun Hello label. RF dish out aggressive, hard-edged rock with a definite old- school punk rock sensibility. While the formula is nothing new, nods to the Ramones, X, Black Flag, and other early melodic punk faves steer the band into an accessible, fam- iliar territory. Now…if they could just get the hell out of Kentucky! ROCK ON!

XTC – Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2
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The long-awaited follow-up to the Apple Venus series is finally here! More accessible and musically upbeat than AV Volume I, Wasp Star is a wonderous excer- cise in bright, splashy and thoroughly engaging pop music from start to finish. Andy Partridge does his best McCartney and serves up lovely, intricate and addictive Beatles-esque arrangements. Colin Moul- ding’s contributions, as expected, are darker and deeper, yet no less enticing. In a perfect world XTC would rule the airwaves. This album is a MUST… enough said!

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE - R
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Pure, unadulterated hard rock; driving, hypnotic and straddling the line between dissonant and melodic with seamless beauty. Since their early foundation with Kyuss, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri have been the flagbearers of dark, stoner rock with enough Sabbath-inspired riffs to make Tommy Iommi proud. Plus…with guest appearances from Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) you can't go wrong!

THE ALBUM LEAF - An Orchestral Rise to Fall
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Quiet, dreamy, ambient orchestral music that meanders between sparse melodic moments and experimental soundscapes. Sporadic sound bytes and talking over- dubs evoke kind of a spoken-word/artsy-fartsy feel. There is nothing terribly focused about the musical arrangements here, although some verses strive to be annoyingly repetitive. All tracks good for insomnia.

ELLIOTT - False Cathedrals
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Second full-length release by this Louisville, KY foursome. Not quite Indie…not quite rock, but some- thing in between, Elliott have a distinct flair for the dramatic and enigmatic. Most songs have a soft, stripped down feel that build into loud mid-tempo crescendos. Guitarist Chris Higdon's plaintive, wavering vocals provide even more dramatic flair for Elliott's dark, yet subtly optimistic sound. Think of a more mellow Frank Black/Pixies.

THE LIMES - Turn Your Lights Off
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No frills rock n' roll from Dallas, Texas. The Limes play more or less straight up rock with just enough indie and punk influence to save them from the abyss of mediocrity. In general, their style recalls Saturation- era Urge Overkill, with shades of the Pixes and Meat Puppets here and there. Track 7 (Solid State) plays homage to KISS, while the melodic and hook-ladden "If" (Track 4) is pure power pop. Warning: Track 5 has a long intro.

SUNDAY'S BEST
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Straddling the line between emo and pop, LA's Sunday Best are polished and well produced, but have just enough indie sheen for college radio cred. Shades of the Promise Ring and Built to Spill can be heard in their delicately aggressive, yet unpretentious guitar- based sound.

PARASOL'S SWEET SIXTEEN II (Comp.)
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The second in a series of Sweet Sixteen compilations from Parasol's family of labels (Hidden Agenda, Mud, and Spur Records). Most artists here are on the cleaner side of pop that ranges from new-wave influenced indie to downright lo-fi agony (Vitesse, Toothpaste 2000). The tracks that shine are those helped by solid songs/arrangements and upgraded production (Diamond Star Halo, Mike Levy). Track 2 is a campfire rendition of the old Buzzcock's classic (FYI…the original is much better). Hey…is that Brian Epstein on the cover?

STEADMAN - Loser Friendly
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Groove-tinged Brit Pop with a generic, commercial radio ready sound a la Travis, Pulp or Suede. Although similar in sound, they fail to meet as much versatility as their more notable British compadres. This album is kind of like a bologna sandwich on white bread - it's neither good, nor bad; just plain and in need of a little more inspiration.

TEENAGE FRAMES - Kingsize Sessions
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Trashy, snotty ROCK n' ROLL with lots of punk 'tude and nods to everything from garage rock to the pouty, soulful drawl of the early 70's Stones. MC5 comparisons are also inevitable - the band even covers an MC5 classic "High School" (Track 5). Dig it!

THE DEARS - End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story
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Spooky, orchestral, hypnotic indie pop with lots of sweeping instrumentation, musical theatrics and over-the- top dynamics. No discernable musical comparisons come to mind, except for maybe The Lyres. Lots of swooping organ and keyboards add a slight retro touch.

RECTANGLE - Bunker
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Indie rock…uggh! This is a very challenging album, even after repeated listens. Agonizing, lo-fi, dissonant, atonal artsy-fartsy indie rock that looses any hope for melodic or even structural dynamic by being overly self-indulgent. Kind of like a Jackson Pollock painting…you have to look long and hard to find any beauty. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. Good luck…

DIFFUSER - Injury Loves Melody
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Diffuser are a well-scrubbed, poised-for-success LA alt-rock outfit, whose members all look like they just walked off the set of a GAP ad. The music is about as polished and derivative as their good looks and has commercial drivel written all over it. Nevertheless, it's well played, well produced and there are some engaging musical moments that capture the sound major label A&R execs drool over. Imagine a heavier Third Eye Blind/Lit/Eve6. Yawn…

THE GRINDERS - Somewhere Between Ape & Man
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Trashy, snotty garage rock with an old school punk edge a la New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, and MC5. The singer's voice has just enough whine and attitude to sound like a cross between Alvin the Chipmunk and Johnny Rotten and the band has no shortage of basic rock riffs. Nothing new or invigorating here, yet they have some notoriety for being one of Rochester, New York's best live acts. Go figure…

POP STAR KIDS - The Rise and Fall Of
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Despite the plurality of this band's moniker, PSK is really one person - a skinny androgynous geek named "Andee" who probably has one to many Cure or Prince albums in his collection. Nevertheless, this, the "band's" 2nd full-length release, is an engaging blend of 80's inspired pop with splashy doses of guitar, drum machines, syn- thesizer noodling and pouty, glammy vocals that would give Robert Smith a run for his money. The only thing that's missing is a really strong "hook", but there are some potential, albeit lightweight, moments. Like, for sure….

FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER - The Moon Is Down
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Straight-up, cookie cutter Emo a la Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate, etc. FSF plays true to the style with soft/loud musical dynamics, odd chord and tempo changes, and plaintive soft/loud vocals that pay equal homage to the band's mellow and hardcore roots. While there's nothing particularly unique or memorable about the songs, the band's musicianship and arrangements are tight and the production is top notch.

HALO EFFECT - Waves
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Sluggish emo pop with soft/loud musical structures and wavering, plaintive vocals that are as interestingly operatic as they are annoying. Considering this band has been around less than a year they've mastered their craft quite well; and their atmospheric, emotive approach, although derivative, is engaging. Track 6 is short (only 1:06).

TSAR - King of the School
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In a much-needed effort to boost promotion for this sorely under-promoted band, Hollywood Records is giving us a taste of "TSAR in the rough" - 7 tasty power pop con- coctions, some of which are studio re-mixes from their awesome self-titled debut (produced by Rob Cavallo), earlier recorded demos, one live song, and a fun, rocked out version of the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life". The sound is upbeat, aggressive power pop/melodic rock; an engaging melding of glammy vocals, arena rock riffs and pop melodies. ROCK ON!

JASON FALKNER - Can You Still Feel?
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Falkner, former guitar wiz for Jellyfish, the Grays and ultra-hip L.A. 80's popsters the Three O'Clock proved himself as a solo artist extraordinnaire on his 1996 debut "Author Unknown". He's taken his solo wizardry even further on his latest release by playing every single instrument himself and crafting wonderfully dynamic and often complex pop melodies that evoke a subtle 70's pop sensibility: laid back guitar, lots of piano and keyboards and rich vocal harmonies.

SPACEHOG - The Hogyssey
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What happens when a British band leaves their bucolic homeland for the dregs of New York City? They sing about it! Like the Stones' "Shattered" and other disaffected UK ex-patriots, Britain's Spacehog have discovered America for its lyrical fodder; but musically, they are still firmly planted in their bouncy, Brit Pop roots. Throw in equal parts of early Blur/Pulp/Supergrass, spacey keyboard noodling, and "glammier-than-thou" vocals and you'll get a perfect sense of what "The Hogyssey" is all about. Track 9 is a funkified instrumental cover of Strauss' Overture from "2001: Space Odyssey". ROCK ON!



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