Scram #17 record reviews

Scram #17 reviews (all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)

The Action Rolled Gold CD (Reaction) This unreleased 1968
set from a fine London mod-soul band possessed of emerging orchestral
and psychedelic pretensions is quite a find, with passionate Reg
King vocals, terrific songs, and deliciously chaotic arrangements
offset by moments of Holliesesque delicacy.

and spiders in the woods CD (We’re Twins) Charming,
lo-fi, spooky countryish supergroup from the Ann Arbor DIY label’s
stable, not so trad that an occasional batty techno injection
can’t fit in. Kelly Caldwell’s pretty, sleepy voice takes center
stage throughout, and it’s a gem.

Atomic 7 Gowns by Edith Head CD (Mint) Upbeat instro twang trio featuring the chunky guitar stylings of Brian Connelly (Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) and chuckle-worthy song titles.

The Beau Brummels Triangle CD (Collector’s Choice)
Long-overdue reissue of the band’s extraordinary second Warner’s
waxing, a rich and haunting piece of Americana that uses their
strengths so wisely that it’s tough to believe the same band/
label combo was lately responsible for the pathetic misstep of
Beau Brummels ’66. Ron Elliot’s distinctive guitar work
and increasingly abstract lyrics make a cozy nest for Sal Valentino’s
gorgeous drawling vocals, and the remaster really brings out the
arrangements’ complexity. As good as the early Beau Brummels were
as mournful British Invasion types, such confident sophistication
must have come as a shock to 1967 listeners. Highly recommended.

The Beau Brummels Bradley’s Barn CD (Collector’s Choice)
Recorded in 1968 with Nashville cats in Owen Bradley’s titular
studio, Bradley’s, while sleepier and less dramatic than
Triangle, is nevertheless a rootsy charmer that sneaks
in the stunning “Love Can Fall A Long Way Down” near
the end. If you’re curious about the band’s post-teenybop era,
pick up Triangle first, then this (and the excellent band-titled
reunion disk from ’75, if you can find it).

Hudson Bell Captain of the Old Girls CD (Upperworks) Delicate,
intelligent songs of small town life and longings for change.
Bell’s warm drawl nestles cozily among the inventive folk-punk

Box-O-Car In the Future CD-EP (Modern) Catchy
power pop from Chicago with silly synths, crunchy drums and “heys”
straight out of the Gary Glitter bail fund.

The Bran Flakes Bounces! CD (Happi Tyme) Mostly witty,
occasionally headache inducing sampling project using thrift store
records to create rhythmic soundscapes that burble with weird
allure, Muppets and references to buttermilk.

R.L. Burnside Mississippi Hill Country Blues CD (Fat
Possum) Great re-release of a 1984 Swingmaster LP, recorded mostly
in the early ’80s but with three late-’60s beauties. I could give
you some snooty spiel about the history of northern MS hill country
blues, but you can talk to some poseur for that nonsense, or read
the liner notes. What I will tell you is that this is quite serviceable
for needs traditionally met by the blues-numbing the senses when
you’re down. You think the blues were invented so you’ll look
cool at parties? No way, son. It’s for sitting on the porch with
a bottle of some crappy homemade liquor and feeling sorry for
yourself because you’re a big loser. Works better than Prozac™!
(Margaret Griffis)

Chargers Street Gang Holy The Bop Apocalypse
CD (Get Hip) Apropos name for a hopped up garage punk band.
This could be the whiplash choice of the year. The Chargers Street
Gang hails from Cleveland-and not that the Dead Boys imprint is
undetectable, but you’d sooner think Detroit Rock City than 0-hi-O.
Still, that industrial Midwest pollution-desperate rollicking
is unmistakable. (Didn’t they get rid of those hellhole factory
towns and replace them with silicon valleys yet?) Except for the
ill-conceived Sticky Fingers-like ballad, the whole record
is wild-eyed, crash and burn rock, the kind that’s best enjoyed
in some filthy brickwalled bar that thinks Labatt’s is what you
mean by microbrew. Tim Kerr captured that beautifully. (Margaret

Claudia Malibu Silver Tangerine Hangover CD (Teardrop)
Gentle croony indiepop with twinned strands of romanticism and
silliness, making a fine little rope just right for pulling reaaaal
slow in front of kitty.

Josie Cotton Convertible Music/ From the Hip CD (Collectables)
Among the most vicious trends in New wave were the pervasive influences
of the ’50s and surf music. These styles were okay when aped properly,
but could be nightmarish. Josie Cotton was severely guilty
of this aping, along with excessive use of high-pitched, nasal
vocals. If you separate out the songs she wrote, you sense she
just wanted to be a regular adult contemporary singer, but got
sucked into New wave by some evil svengali. Fame has a price,
I guess. She got to be in movies playing the Queen of New wave,
and had two of the great hits of the era (“Johnny, Are You
Queer?” and “He Could Be The One”), both on Convertible
Follow up From The Hip tries to sound less cute
and fails horribly, schizophrenically moving from Missing Persons
synth schlock into that horrible mid-’80s midi pop and even to
C&W. The record is so bad that it practically negates anything
positive off the first. (Margaret Griffis)

Cry Baby Cry Jesus Loves Stacey CD (Skoda/ Dischord)
Riot grrl/ DC punk with Jimmy Page, Jr. (nowhere as good as dad)
on guitar. They make a brave attempt at making each song distinctive,
but do so by stealing gimmicks from other bands. The best songs
are influenced by the N. Carolina crowd of early ’80s popsters
(dBs, Let’s Active, etc.). Not a bad release, but I’d like to
see what they come up without mimicking the old folks. (Margaret

The Cynics Living is the Best Revenge CD (Get Hip)
Many revivalist acts fall flat because you can hear how hard they’re
working to sound authentic, but Pittsburgh’s Cynics have always
been the real thing, garage punks deluxe, and their seams don’t
show. On this latest Tim Kerr-produced set, classic Elevators,
Prunes and Satans covers nestle comfortably beside soulful originals
that distill the essential elements of the genre (anger, longing,
arrogance, hope) into a beautifully brutish fuzztone-drenched
wash dotted with Michael Kastelic’s patented screams.

The Doleful Lions Out Like A Lamb CD (Parasol) These
kitties are purveyors of glittering, delicate Wilsonesque pop
flourishes, sometimes peppered with witty synth goofs that ever
so patiently work their wiles upon receptive ears. Sixties referential,
yet hardly slavish.

Don and the Goodtimes The Original Northwest Sound of CD
(Sundazed) Sounds like the Sonics’ pesky kid brothers sneaking
garage practice time while the big guys were out on dates, but
contemporary accounts say the Goodtimes were wilder live. This
retrospective compiles 25 deliciously dumb organ-drenched rockers,
including a “Louie Louie” that makes the Kingsmen sound
like national merit scholars. Puget-riffic!

Dressy Bessy Little Music CD (Kindercore) Singles, comp
tracks and demos from the Denver popsters helmed by Apples in
Stereo guitarist John Hill and the sweet voiced Tammy Ealom. Summery
froth with a spine of steel.

The Driving Stupid Horror Asparagus Stories CD (Sundazed)
These NJ freaks recorded one nutso 45 in 1966, and a whole album’s
worth of absurdity that’s only now seeing release. With silly
monster vocals, chord-impaired tunes and deliberately ridiculous
lyrics about lobsters, fat pig mothers and beaten-in brains, the
Driving Stupid sound like the garage band Alfred E. Neuman might
have formed, if only he existed. You have to be pretty smart to
sound this dumb-at least I hope so!.

The Avenues
EP CD-EP (Palm Pictures) Languid,
whispery stuff in the Elliot Smith mold, with flashes of carnival

The Easybeats Friday on My Mind/ Falling off the
Edge of the World
CD (Collectables) Compilation of the Aussie
garage ravers’ two U.S. albums for UA. Little Stevie Wright’s
laddish leer is one of the great punk voices, snotty, longing
and raw. The 1967 Shel Talmy produced Friday is chock full
of great Vanda-Young tunes and harmony-drenched teen trash swagger,
while the more erratic Falling (1968) adds soul, lite-psych
and orchestral bombast to the mix. The disk includes a bonus ’67
A-side, “Heaven and Hell,” but lacks useful liner notes
or photos.

The Flaming Sideburns Save
Rock ‘n’ Roll
CD (Jetset) This is the same record as last
year’s Hallelujah Rock ‘n’ Roll on Denmark’s Bad Afro label.
Swaggering, reductive fuzz. I like that they can scream and howl
like ticked off monkeys, or slow it down to tap into a Stoogey
retard blues or surfy moan like “Lonesome Rain.” Not
sure where these Finns come by the Latin influence that sneaks
into a few tracks, but it’s a refreshing change from the usual
all-Detroit tip.

Fosca Diary of an Antibody CD (Shinkansen) Precious
and arch London pop, clearly meant to rouse mopes from their sorrows
with the relentlessness of the drum track, then soothe with the
cello and Dickon Edwards’ charming nasal coo.

Fosca secret crush on third trombone CD-EP (Shinkansen)
The title track (also on the full-length) is gleeful teenybop
disco geekery, understated and irresistible at 2:24. Also included
are thirty short “Diary of an Antibody” entries, largely
erotic, spoken over a gently strummed backing.

Gigolo Aunts pacific ocean blues CD (Q Division) Sleek
and soothing harmony pop that’s mostly upbeat and radio-ready,
though the title track has a mournfulness justifying its derivation
from an especially fucked up Dennis Wilson solo project.

Allen Ginsberg New York Blues: Rags, Ballads & Harmonium
Songs recorded by Harry Smith
CD (Locust Music) Reissue
of a 1981 Folkways release documenting the time these old friends
met in Smith’s room in the Chelsea and ran tape. Ginsberg introduces
his droning chant-poems with historical annotations that date
them within his Dylan-inspired attempts at learning to write songs.
The poet’s riffs on boys, bedbugs, city life, the CIA’s dope trade,
big tobacco, etc. are typically personal and verbose. He’s not
much of a singer and the tunes are minimal, so unless you can’t
get enough of Allen Ginsberg…

The Go-Betweens Bright Yellow, Bright Orange CD (Jetset)
It’s just over two years an since Forster and McLennan resumed
their musical marriage with The Friends of Rachel Worth,
and the old Go-Be rituals apply: ten songs (presumably alternately
Grant’s and Robert’s), a casual midwife’s perfection in the form
and delivery, hooks so finely wrought they’re barely noticed until
you realize they’ve twined around your DNA, character studies
too subtle for contemporary literature, laughs at their own expense.
Oh yes, they’re good, very very good, and we’re damn lucky to
have them back. Hope for a tour in the spring. (Jetset has also
reissued much of the band’s ’80s output as remastered double albums
packed with outtakes and video footage, making these very happy
days for fans indeed.)

The Green Pajamas Narcotic Kisses CD (Camera Obscura)
Expanded edition of a 300-copies-pressed rarities LP that was
available for a millisecond in 2000, Narcotic Kisses compiles
outtakes, singles, fanzine comp tracks and remakes from the always-compelling
Portland psych popsters, and is a strong enough set that it can
be recommended to neophytes as well as fans.

Neil Hamburger “Laugh out Lord” CD (Drag City)
Don’t worry, sinners, it’s only late in the disk that $1 funnyman
Neil trots out the spiritual humor in a vain attempt to capture
a likely non-existent market. Up until then, Neil’s in typically
frisky form riffing as only he can on family, celebrity and uncooperative
audience members. Recorded live in front of several surly crowds,
LoL also features an infectious disco remix of the Zipper
Lips schtick featuring Today’s Sounds, a public service announcement
for Puerto Rican independence, and interesting insight into management
and the label’s plans for Neil’s career.

The Tim Heidecker Masterpiece presents Theatre of Magic
CD (Starcase) Oh man, oh man, oh man. You are not going to
believe this if you hear it. Lo and behold, wherefore the rock
opera romps this eve? There but for the grace of our Good Lord
goes the most pretentious Goths in the land. Nay, not Goths. Renaissance
men, Elizabethans! Hide the dauphin, he mustn’t listen. Someone
who studied the Who a little bit too much and perhaps ate a significant
number of mushrooms while listening to Wistle Rhymes has to be
behind this. At times sounding like the Waterboys, Led Zeppelin,
the Simpsons’ version of the Camelot soundtrack, Rocky
and Spinal Tap, this is one ballsy release. It’s the
kind of thing you dream about making at home but never ever intend
to allow people to hear (when you’re thirteen, that is). It is
just unbelievable that anybody could create this today without
irony and drugs being two major factors. Not that there isn’t
merit in this, but it’s very difficult to listen through the first
time, even the second time (see, I’m really working for you, dear
readers). But then when one song ends, you are determined to see
what insanity they manage to deliver on the next track. When you
stop laughing there really is something there. I’m not sure what,
but there it is. (Margaret Griffis)

Skip Heller Quartet Homegoing CD (Innova) Heller
is admittedly a man who spent years playing organ jazz in bars
and wine joints, and this is really just above average music to
accompany your salmon tartar and steak in portobello sauce. Not
soulful enough to boogie to, not expressive enough to work as
jazz. Dave Alvin guests on a couple vocal numbers. Some of this
may make the playlist of Smooth Jazz stations, and baby, that
ain’t a good sign. Modern retro lounge is a pretty limp dick musical
genre, and Skip is sadly no exception. (Keith Bearden)

Richard X. Heyman Basic Glee CD
(Turn-Up) RXH wrote some of the best songs you never heard, and
is a master of the sort of gentle jangle that Jim McGuinn brought
to the Byrds. His latest disk (home-recorded at feline friendly
“Tabby Road”) bursts with sufficient energy, hooks and
unassuming charms to satisfy anyone’s pop jones.

The Iditarod The River Nektar CD (Bluesanct) Extensively
expanded (9 extra tracks) reissue of 1998 Hub City release by
the hermetic folk duo of Jeffrey and Carin. The mysterious vocal
mutterings, spooky loops and hypnotically understated instrumentation
yield haunting results.

Henry Jacobs’s Vortex Electronic Kabuki Mambo: highlights
from the legendary vortex sound & light experiments at San
Francisco’s Morrison Planetarium
CD (Locust Music) Originally
released in 1959 on Folkways, this intriguing disk samples the
early electronic soundscapes that accompanied elaborate mixed
media presentations hosted by Jacobs and filmmaker Jordan Belson
circa 1957. Drones, mysterious banging, eerie mechanical howls,
playful jolts and a glorious sense of imaginary space all make
one long for a chance to see and hear the Vortex in its far out
glory, just like those lucky folks at the S.F. Planetarium and
Brussels World Fair did. (Click here
for our Vortex offer to new subscribers, arranged for after
this review was written.)

The Kills black rooster e.p. CD-EP (Dim Mak)
Punk-bluesy two-piece from London that dulls the ragged edges
with twining boy/girl vocals that inevitably recalls Exene and
John Doe.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk The Man Who Cried Fire CD (Hyena) Unlike
their pop and country equals, jazz greats never make terrible
records, just more or less essential ones. Kirk, the blind man
who played three horns at once and at times honked so hard that
blood reportedly poured out, had one of the greatest ranges in
jazz, and while this live ’80s-era reissue is no Bright Moments,
it does have some sweet high points. The ten minute “Slow
Blues” is gorgeous, you hear him imitate (and dis) Miles
Davis before making “Bye Bye Blackbird” soar, and he
even has the guts to go trad by creating his own funeral march
in “New Orleans Fantasy.” Poorly edited odds and ends,
but there’s much to love for the fan of the late great Rahsaan.
(Keith Bearden)

The Leeches Suck CD (British Medical Records)
Crass-ic Youth with the Cramps and Poly Styrene dropping by. It’s
nice sound, but the songs aren’t very memorable. (Margaret Griffis)

The Librarians The Pathetic Aesthetic CD (Pandacide)
The Librarians crank out a very catchy, melodic, emo-core colored
powerpop. Imagine if Elvis Costello were backed by the Fastbacks
with a little help from the fellas in Fugazi, the intent being
to just have a good fun time at a house party (and maybe get a
little action afterwards.) It’s really hard not to just bang your
head to the beat, but at the same time there’s an intellectual
feel that thankfully doesn’t leave you resorting to dictionaries
for translation. Prepare to sing along… especially to the anthemic
“Peace and Quiet” which is a “hit single”
if ever I heard one. (Margaret Griffis)

The Lime Spiders Nine Miles High 1983-1990 CD (Raven)
Led by the improbably-named Mick Blood, and anchored by Richard
Jakimyszyn’s acid-hued fretwork, Sydney’s Lime Spiders unleashed
a series of strong, if gimmicky, Nuggetsy 45s in the mid-’80s.
Raven’s chronological comp brings those rare early singles together
with live tracks, b-sides, and selections from the mellower albums
that I skipped first time around. This later material will probably
appeal to fans of Hoodoo Gurus-style pop, but the “Slave
Girl” era stuff remains my preference.

The Longhorn Devils Spitfire Bar Bee CD / Metalunas
Swingin Planet
CD/ Man or Astroman? Beyond
the Black Hole
CD (Wildebeest) Not again. It’s amazing how
fans of surfabilly can just keep going to the buffet table and
getting plate after plate of this stuff. Or it is a new generation
of fans that spring up when the waters get warm and the guitars
start twangin’? The Longhorn Devils seem to have amassed a bit
of attention outside their Dutch homeland. They’re all right at
what they do but you’ve heard it all before from some Ventures
or Duane Eddy clone. This time it’s a little bit New wave (not
the first time that combination trolled the collegiate airwaves
either). Actually, the farther they roam from the cliché,
the less successful they are. You already know if you’ll like
this or not. Canada’s Metalunas have a better disc. A little more
trad and better executed. They rely on sci-fi trappings to stand
out from the crowd. The spacey darkness is a bit more comforting,
but you know Man or Astroman? have already cornered the market
on that genre (umm, if the Ventures didn’t already…) Which brings
us to mentioning the latest re-release from Man or Astroman? Beyond
the Black Hole
is a re-mastered, re-fashioned, re-release
of What Remains Inside a Black Hole from Au-go-go Records
circa 1966, er I mean ’96. Best of the lot, but you knew that
already, too. (Margaret Griffis)

Loose Fur S/T CD (Drag City) This indie rock supergroup
(Jim O’Rourke with Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche of Wilco) plays
elegant, low-key, somewhat paranoiac art rock.

The M’s S/T CD-EP (self released) Pop swagger
outta Chicago, jangly and tuneful and incredibly Bolanesque.

Malfuzah the adilorac CD (self released) In this
North Carolina duo, homegrown exotica is tempered with occasional
flashes of prog, surf and churchly organ music. The results are
playful, tasteful and well realized. It’s neat to see young folks
with such an obvious affection for Baxter, Denny and Lyman.

Jesse Malin The Fine Art of Self-Destruction CD (Artemis)
On first spin this Ryan Adams-produced debut from the former D
Generation singer sounded self-conscious and overblown, but hearing
the songs in an acoustic set, with Malin’s funny, self-deprecating
stories and without the over-production, their charms came through
hard. Sweetly cracked, heartfelt Americana that deserves your
attention, ideally in a live setting.

Aimee Mann Lost in Space CD (SuperEgo) Mann’s second
self-released disk is a subtle collection of psychological portraits,
where losers and depressives air their failures with the what’s-it-to-ya?
courage of the unredeemable. Don’t expect soaring pop or offbeat
songs about world’s fairs and elderly boyfriends: Mann has found
a new niche and seems content to pace it, digging out new ways
of revealing the small social crises that add up to a life of
hurt. Quiet, pretty and sad, with lyrical asides that can really
poke a nerve.

Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue Bitterness, Spite, Rage & Scorn
CD (In The Red) You expect a certain quality from In The Red
and the Broke Revue does not disappoint. There’s the distorted
guitars and vocals (why do you think it’s called In The Red?).
The somewhat phony attempt to sound unprofessional and sloppy.
The subtle and obvious references to punk, garage and even the
blues. Each track could actually be included in a hypothetical
Killed by Nuggets compilation dedicated to psych garage.
The info sheet cites Billy Childish, the Rolling Stones and Stooges
as a few of the influences. Thanks! I’m going to ignore the ones
I disagreed with. (Margaret Griffis)

Mississippi Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods Mama Says I’m Crazy
CD (Fat Possum) This is some great shit. The sounds of creaky
old men forgetting that their joints are no longer greased and
their tickers barely powered anymore. Well, naturally powered,
anyway. The story behind this is just as juicy. Some city slicker
goes to find Fred McDowell in ’67. He’s working at a gas station
and agrees to record this gem if his buddy can play on it. The
both of them go on the hunt for Johnny Woods, who they find and
lose and find again in a whiskey and barbecue infused odyssey
across Mississippi. Finally, they get it together long enough
to deliver pure Delta magic. Doesn’t at all sound like they haven’t
played together in eight years, but then again maybe they wuz
foolin’ that fancy pant’d boy with the ‘cording ‘quipment. Fine
vintage Delta Blues of both the sob- and dance-to varieties. (Margaret

The Mountain Goats Tallahassee CD (4AD) I first heard
the folksy Mountain Goats on the lovely then-cassette-only Shrimper
label. Very lo-fi, but great. A decade later comes Tallahassee,
released on one of the most aesthetically grand labels around.
Naw, there aren’t a million sythn-olins or mumbly sirens wailing
their haunting songs. It’s the same Mountain Goats, but clean
like mountain spring water. The emotional effect is similar thanks
to pretty songs that on second glance prove cold as ice. The overarching
theme remains toxic love. “No Children” could’ve been
a Hunky Dory cover, except Bowie was never this bitchy:
“I hope when you think of me years down the line, you can’t
find one good thing to say.” Ouch ouch ouch. It’s like a
southern novel where the heartbreak happens because the star-crossed
lovers stay together, but set to music and with that wonderful
way John Darnielle has of wrapping his tongue around the black
humor. This time Darnielle has enlisted fellow Shrimpers Franklin
Bruno and Peter Hughes plus Flaming Lip Michael Ivins to back
him. (Margaret Griffis)

The Music Explosion Little Bit O’ Soul: The Best of CD
(Sundazed) Entertaining garage-soul foolishness from the nascent
Kasenetz-Katz production stable, when the real band’s identity
was allowed to shine through much brighter than in the bubblegum
era. Ohio’s Music Explosion had a cool, aggressive sound and K&K’s
house songwriters kept them supplied with catchy, derivative tunes
that grew progressively psychedelic as the band neared its 1968

The New Colony Six “Breakthrough” CD (Sundazed)
1966 debut from Chicago wimp-rockers, without the usual Sundazed
bonus tracks. I know they have their cult, but weak tunes make
it tough to see the appeal.

Doug Newman The
Cat Album
CD (Sandthistle) Cat lovers and fans of gentle,
sixties-inflected pop alike will be tickled by Doug Newman’s affectionate
tribute to the kitties in his life. I’m both, and really dig this
sweet and charming disk. The tunes are catchy and the themes clearly
drawn from life, with songs about cats lost and (happily) found,
not really wanting to give away that litter of kittens, honoring
a cat’s need for independence, ear mite infestations and the weird
things cats like to eat. Includes a lyric sheet backed with photos
and paintings of the featured felines.

The Orgone Box things that happened then CD (Minus
Zero) The Orgone Box’s self-titled 2001 album (recorded c. 1995)
was a revelation, proving that it was possible for a contemporary
songwriter to make psychedelia as memorable, inventive and personal
as his sixties heroes. This archival odds ‘n’ sods collection
of Rick Corcoran home recordings predates that record, but already
shows a deft and distinctive touch. While not as terrifyingly
great as the debut, it’s still highly recommended for all fans
of smart, catchy, jangly pop. But what’s it gonna take to get
a “new” record out of this guy? All this juvenilia’s
terrific, but c’mon already!

The Preachers Moanin’ CD (Bacchus Archives) Here
are the only eight songs recorded by The Preachers, a sixties
L.A. band with lamentable taste in collarless suits. The tracks
range from heavy r&b covers to goofy soul to gentle folk-rock
and even jazz, and show them to have been skilled at each. Maybe
if they’d stuck with one sound they would have made more of an
impression at the time, but they did leave behind a nice EP’s
worth of music.

The Super Commando
CD (Gearhead) The Swedish Motorhead?
As infants, these guys probably set fire to the ABBA tourbus,
yet I almost didn’t pick this up. With a name like Puffball, why
the fuck would I? Seeing the Gearhead label, I knew it couldn’t
sound as weak as I’d imagined, and in fact I was pleasantly surprised
by their sonic assault. The moniker might leave me wanting, but
they’ve given me my new favorite motto: Puffball stays true to
the Anti-Ska Movement. Turn Madness into sanity. (Margaret Griffis)

The Queers Pleasant Screams CD (Lookout) Imagine the
Ramones covering an entire Beach Boys album… wait, don’t wet
your pants just yet. This is a great album of fun, sing-a-long,
bubblegum punk, but you knew that. It could be the soundtrack
for a teen love flick where the hero mopes about then finally
catches the girl / boy. It’s memorable and catchy with potential
for hit singles, if it weren’t for the cussing. But there’s a
bittersweet jewel among gems. The third track may be the best
Ramones song I’ve never heard, just the kind of sappy-sweet love
tune that I… I mean PJ Soles would fantasize Joey was singing
just to her. It turns out the song was a half-finished Joey composition
completed by the Queers! Bless their little punk rock hearts.
Now you can go wet your pants. (Margaret Griffis)

Redd Kross Neurotica CD (Five Foot Two) Remastered reish
of their long out of print 1987 trash pop opus, thickly larded
with retro references and the McDonald brothers’ natural snottiness
to form a punky paste that tastes great. Bonus cuts include a
sunshiny cover of Sonny & Cher’s “It’s the Little Things”
featuring Vicki Peterson.

The Rotten Apples Real-Tuff (Durable Plastic) CD (eMpTy)
Finally the heiresses to the Runaways have been located. The Rotten
Apples can rock as hard as the boys without dropping estrogen
cliches all over the rock club, thus remaining even more true
to their sex (a concept that eluded the riot grrls). These lasses
sound like they actually sit around listening to old records instead
of just hopping on the current bandwagon. Snatches of bubblegum,
glam, new wave, and ’60s girl groups permeate their punky rock
‘n’ roll. The various influences blend perfectly into a cohesive
sound and still sound fresh as a daisy. Hell, you should hear
the way they “own” their cover of Missing Persons’ “Noticeable
One.” Great vocals and tight playing-I really dig that guitar.
Lyrics are remarkably penetrating in their simplicity. Boys, if
you wanna know what women are thinking, listen carefully. Great
overall! (Margaret Griffis)

Run for Cover Lovers The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal
CD (Rockin’ Pussy/ Good Forks) Favorite band
of Scram co-founder Steve Watson, this Oakland foursome
has a klutzy earnestness that gives their dark-tinged, organ-swathed
tunes a rare emotional richness.

Nate Ruth Whatever I Meant CD (Soundless) An
unexpectedly musical amalgam of textured feedback layers, rat-a-tat
drums and faux limey vocals, with an anthemic grandeur obviously
inspired by many long nights under the headphones.

J Sheehy
No Longer My Concern
CD (Beggars Banquet)
Weirdly programmed blend of pretty-if-samey troubadour ballads
and less appealing upbeat stuff that sounds like recent Tom Waits
gene-spliced with Birthday Party outtakes. There’s a nice EP somewhere
here, but you’ll have to dig it out yourself.

Lightning’s Girl: Greatest Hits 1965-1971
(Raven) Generous 26 track survey of tough/sweet Nancy’s musical
activities, including her daffy theme from The Last of the
Secret Agents
and the haunting “This Town” from
The Cool Ones, plus what would pass for a complete “best
of Nancy & Lee” from a cheaper label. Frank’s little
girl wasn’t a natural singer, but she did have plenty of sass
and great songs/production from Hazlewood, and together they came
up with some terrific, peculiar records. The package includes
vintage pix, a career survey, and the lady’s own recollections
of her early career.

One Beat
CD (Kill Rock Stars) The S-K Pop Osterizer
is packed to the spill line and set to puree. New wave conventions
rise to the surface only to be sucked back into the trio’s relentless
rhythm, a raw and impassioned wave.

Smart Brown Handbag Fast Friends CD (Stonegarden)
This smart and catchy pop trio has a summery ’80s British feel,
though they’re actually from L.A. David Steinhart’s romantic,
yearning songs work beautifully with the richly textured production
that makes the band sound bigger than just three.

The Solarflares Look What I Made Out of My Head CD
(Big Beat) After a couple of fine disks on Twist, Graham Day’s
‘flares have moved to one of the U.K.’s premier reissue labels.
While their sound has roots in mod and freakbeat, the band is
too powerful and Day’s songs too personal and thoughtful to be
tagged as mere revivalism. Instro “Girl in a Briefcase”
shows them in a playful spy soundtrack vein, but mostly they ply
the distinctive sound of teenage idealists grown up miffed. And
while that can sound a bit formulaic, it’s a pretty neat little

The Spits Self-Titled 12″ CD (Slovenly)
Until recently, I was pretty sure “god” had a personal
vendetta-type relationship with me. Then another Spits record
came in to my life. I might even be persuaded to say this one
is even better than The Spits (also self-titled but on
Nickel and Dime Records). This platter too is Ramones-a-riffic,
but with a hearty dollop of (dare I say it) the Tubeway Army.
Just like a good assassination, everyone remembers when they first
heard the Spits. Your mind pauses to suck in the information.
Your heart feels like it might pop when the adrenaline reaches
it. Then the life affirming feeling of bliss. What a wonderful
thing they are. I’m fantasizing a punk rock Monkees where the
band drives around buying up terrible, forgotten punk/wave compilations
or one-off 7 inchers, find the worst track, study it and turn
it into gold. The third song, “PCT,” I’m sure I remember
it. It was on that comp with the singles on it. You know. Yeah,
wait a second, let me go find it. There has to be something wrong,
sick and/or despicable about these people. Hey, isn’t that Bill
Bartell I hear? (Margaret Griffis)

Nikki Sudden & Rowland S. Howard Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc/
Live in Augsburg
double CD (Secretly Canadian) Sudden’s
collaboration with ex-Birthday Party guitarist Howard produced
some exceptionally dark and heady stuff, a nearly seamless blend
of delicate romanticism and the shambling lurches of a soul possessed.
Closer to the Birthday Party than the Jacobites, but still among
Sudden’s best work. The second disk is a previously unreleased
German live show from ’87, happily much superior to the drunken
mess I witnessed the pair making in Ladbroke Grove some months

Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth / Jacobites Ragged School
CD (Secretly Canadian) Heavily expanded (11 bonus tracks)
edition of the 1986 Twin/Tone comp that first brought Dave &
Nikki’s shabby heroics to an American audience. The extra material
diffuses the original disk’s cohesion, but I’m sure not complaining
about getting all those scarce UK EP tracks in one place. A velvetty,
jangly, heartbroke delight.

Sunstorm High Resolution CD-EP (self-released)
Dreamy stoner pop with a backbone, fluid, sexy and full of unexpected
sonic twists. Very nice.

Bert Switzer 1977-2002 CD (self-released) Opens
with a free jazz skronk fest from ’02 that will peel the paint
off your shoes, but the real heart of this survey of projects
on which Switzer drummed is the insane stuff recorded by Boston’s
the Destroyed between 1977-79. Snot-nosed Stoogey grunt and whine
veering into punk territory. The disk is available at a very fair
price from, or directly from the artist.

Thee Midnighters Greatest CD (Thump) First CD
comp of the legendary East L.A. party band follows a mostly chronological
path from 1966’s “Whittier Boulevard” and “Land
of 1000 Dances” through the politicized fusion of “Chicano
Power” (1969), with a whole lot of smooth Latin soul along
the way. Thee Midnighters could rip it up with the best garage
rats, but their secret weapon was Little Willie G’s heart-tugging
voice, the sound that made a whole generation of Boyle Heights
prom dates dance too close.

Tijuana Hercules When the Moon Comes Up Wild
CD-EP (Black Pisces) Raw and propulsive punk-blues trio with drawling
vocals suggesting early Beefheart. They’re probably real good

Anthology: Legendary Masked Surfer Unmasked
CD (Varèse Sarabande) The highlight of this comp of
post-Jan vocal performances from eternal sideman (despite having
the sweetest voice in the J&D pair) Dean is the 1981 cassette-only
release “Ocean Park Angel,” a perfect summery idyll
in the “Little Surfer Girl” vein. Also included are
the seldom heard Laughing Gravy version of “Vegetables,”
the “Yellow Balloon” single that so incensed songwriter
Gary Zekley prior to release that he rushed his own eponymous
band into existence, and fifteen more SoCal confections spanning
four decades, and pairing DT with such fellow travelers as Mike
Love, Flo & Eddie, Brian Wilson and the Honeys.

Mick Turner Moth CD (Drag City)
Another set of spare and languid guitar meanderings from the Dirty
Three leader, going nowhere quite prettily.

V/A Fuzz, Flaykes, & Shakes Vol. 6: Come on in
to my world/ Vol. 7 You make me lose my mind
CD (Bacchus Archives)
More newly discovered garage 45 rarities from the collector scum
underground-no offence, Tony!-enhanced with informative notes
and cool pix. Volume 6 is overwhelmingly jangly, sad and sweet,
with some rougher psychedelic spice. Highlights include West Minist’r’s
spookily urgent “Bright Lights, Windy City” and Chapter
VI’s Music Machine-y “Fear.” Vol. 7 is raunchier and
wackier, with the (Brooklyn) Outsiders’ batty alibi “The
Guy with the Long Liverpool Hair,” the Gass Co.’s snot-nosed
“First I Look at the Purse,” and a swell Dylan parody
by the Intercoms. Both are strong comps worth picking up.

Right to Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited
CD (Not
Lame) It wasn’t long after the first Bubblegum Ball-when ten SoCal
bands turned out at World on Wheels roller rink to celebrate the
release of Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth with their
interpretations of vintage gum covers-that I heard this comp was
in the works. Coincidence? Whatever the inspiration, it’s a fun
set of current popsters honoring that absurdly catchy AM goo and
pap. Highlights include the sparkle*jets u.k.’s J-5 tribute, Linus
of Hollywood’s faithful take on the Banana Splits’ “I Enjoy
Being a Boy,” Doug Powell’s almost Queen-ly “I Woke
Up in Love This Morning,” and Jim Laspeza and Michael Quercio’s
deliciously infantile “May I Take A Giant Step” (über-twee
Quercio was born to sing this stuff!).

The Volta Sound Fast Light with Radio Signal CD-EP
(Elephant Stone) Cool and languid Velvetsy sing-song drone-psych
that stretches out into supple strands that drape the speakers
when you close your eyes.

The Waistcoats All the Rage CD (Wildebeest) Holland’s
Waistcoats are among the finest contemporary purveyors of faux
British invasion sounds, and this latest set of originals is full
of strong rockers, mournful Kinksy sob stories, unexpected bursts
of instro psychedelia, and of course a surplus of heartfelt yeahs.

Danny Weizmann S/T CD (Straw Hat) Old timey song
and dance man Danny (yep, he taps) has come a long way from his
former identity as teen punk scribe Shredder. His solo debut is
a confident and unpredictable melange of his dream version of
New York City sounds, from crooning to disco to cool jazz romance.
The results are fanciful and quite daffy.

The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds: Celestial Counterpoint with Words
and Music
CD (Water) I sure don’t remember hearing so
many undertones and details on my crackly Elektra vinyl copy of
Mort Garson (Cancer) and Jacques Wilson’s (Leo) delightful 1967
electronic concept album, narrated by the seemingly sincere Cyrus
Faryar (Pisces). With soaring rock arrangements, tastefully utilized
Moog, a slew of oddball sonic effects and cheerfully overblown
prosody (“endless naked moonlight swims in the green sensational
sea/ throbbing with the wave-beat”), Cosmic Sounds
is a time-capsule trip, perfectly realized. This is a crisp, handsome
reissue of the scarce original, with Richie Unterberger’s notes
revealing the project’s backstory, including a surprising Rod
McKuen connection. Recommended.