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Gimme a K
 ISSUE  7.3 FALL 1997 

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Ok, this is it. I think we lost a Dogrocket review somewhere so I wrote a new one and added it February 18, 1998.

All American Kids Club
Your Future Favorites
Cassette (Girl Gang Records)

[I] bought a copy of this tape from the band when they played here at the another dumb fest at Tuttle Crossing Sunday, August 3rd, 1997. The sleeve says it was done on a 4 track. It shows in the slightly audible hiss between songs, but it doesn't sound like a 4 track record in that it's got a lot more energy; and is not about jangly guitars and droning vocals but sounds more like something that would happen if bands had to keep their songs short by law, and weren't allowed to wank around. Especially catching is the first song "Apogee". It's got a lot of garage influences but sounds like it's restrained as though everyone was about to blow up during the recording. Likewise on "Tantalizer". The other two songs, "New Wave Belt", and "S-Baby" are pretty good, but not as good as they are live.

- clarence benson (Aug 07, 1997)

Atomic Fireballs, Blatant Finger and Triggahappy
Live at Little Brothers November 14, 1997

Who knew Columbus had a jumping scene for swing music? Certainly not I. As Little Brother's slowly began to fill up for the November 14 Atomic Fireballs show, I wondered how many members of the audience really knew what they were in for.

Apparently every one of them.

The night started a little slow, but the excitement level increased exponentially after that. I only caught the last two songs of opener Blatant Finger's set, and was assailed by some rock music. It was faintly reminiscent of Social Distortion.

Next up, local ska-funk act Triggahappy disappointed a fan with a loose set, unenergetic band and two trombone players who had never played with the group -- and whose first time was a little painful to watch. Only trumpet player Martin Ripple and lead singer John Donahue seemed even remotely excited by the music they were playing. Too bad, because they're a really good band when they've got their act together.

Now forget the opening acts. Here's who you came for. The place is packed. You literally cannot breathe without touching some other sweaty body. The Atomic Fireballs take the stage and shake it from the first song to the last. With a set of mostly original, energetic swing-style tunes, they had every person on that dance floor moving within seconds, and the crowd didn't stop the entire show.

Excellent horns, super-tight playing, a feel for the style, great solos and a lead singer with more energy than-- well, an atomic fireball -- these are what constitute a great swing band. These are also characteristics of the Atomic Fireballs. I've searched high and low but can't find any releases. Though, according to the band, there is a new release due out soon. So there are going to be at least two lurking out there somewhere -- buy them if you see them. But most of all, see this band live!! Just be prepared fo a sweaty, intimate night with the rest of Columbus.

- Nicole Wolfersberger (Dec. 25, 1997)


Bonifay (at least that seems to be how it's spelled this week) is a new local band with two female vocalists. Naturally, one of the first comparisons that creeps into mind is Scrawl; and the similarities are truly there. Last time I saw 'em, the vocal harmonizing was perty much perfect -- almost the Katydids with rougher musical edges. I could see a studio sound coming out a bit like Throwing Muses ... or, once again, Scrawl. Of course, I'm generally a sucker for perty melodies by female vocalists. If this sounds like yer thing, check 'em out.

- Joel (Nov 25, 1997)

Stories of Kirk, & His Fiat (& a Buffalo Grass Woman, Hester)
Bootleg Cassette

January 1992. Six months since my twenty-first birthday. "Heroin" was the greatest song I'd ever heard, Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, the greatest album, and Funhouse my favorite Stooges album. The only other thing you need to know is that I'd just bought the Birthday Party's Junkyard, and the only Pixies album I really liked was Surfer Rosa. I was hungry for stimulating, challenging rock music. I believed in experimentation, in music that expanded the possibilities. I also wanted to have fun.

Local music was beginning to excite me, and the band that excited me most was Clay. Except for a few close friends, everybody else seemed to be way more into other bands (especially Pica Huss, Greenhorn, Eric's Mother, Gaunt and the New Bomb Turks.) Although I liked most of these bands, they all sounded like something I'd heard before. Clay was different though. It wasn't that you couldn't hear influences, but they weren't so obvious. It was as if they had actually tampered with various strands of musical DNA. It was fresh.

They'd play songs with weird, jerky, angular guitar riffs that suggested what Pere Ubu would have sounded like if the had stayed in the garage, had David Thomas's avant aspirations and Dadaist sensibility had never turned to do-do. Clay were hyperactive, pinched, and goofy enough to suggest a Half Japanese in which Jad Fair traded in his retarded preadolescent affectations for equally retarded post-adolescent pranking. They were frenetic as the Pixies -- albeit loose and garagey -- and devoid of boring college rock leanings or guitar-geek affections. At times they reminded me of what the Electric Eels would have been if they had affected Jonathan Richman's innocence rather than Iggy Pop's sneer.

And Clay were theatrical without being contrived or predictable. Whether Q was dressed in drag or Wilfoster was wrapped in aluminum foil, they always surprised and amused. Once I even remember them leaving the props at home and just rocking out. Mostly they were theatrical just because of the way they moved. Q would jump on table tops and sing. Sober or drunk, they were always falling all over each other and their instruments. I remember a Staches show where Will ran off stage, mid song, strumming guitar all the way to the restroom. And more often than not he'd play guitar in an impossibly limber limbo position. To this day I still wonder if his knees are okay. The point is, they never repeated themselves unlike most so-called theatrical bands.

Indirectly, this is meant to be a review of their "lost" album that Tony Painter at Burnt Sienna and Bela at Anyway were supposed to put out three or four years ago. Unfortunately the band broke up before the album went to press and everybody got cold feet. All you need to know is that it contains all the "hits," plus a few surprises that you've never heard on stage anywhere. And there's just enough aural slapstick to remind you of what these guys stood for. I only wish it came with pictures and a video. Though nothing could ever really take the place of having seen them live, this tape says more about a particularly exciting time in the music scene than any words. Maybe you can sweet talk somebody in the band into making you a copy.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

[Dogrocket 7] Dogrocket
Pickin' up Chicks!
"I Don't Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and "Kojak"/ "Fallin' Down" and "Take You Down"
7" EP (Break Up! Records)

Somewhere buried in one of those notebooks made of wasted sheets of blank paper from my old computer lab job are the beginnings of a review of Dogrocket's full length CD. In the end Pat Dull submitted a review so I withheld mine.

Despite my previous downings of the Dog, that old CD review was headed in a fairly positive direction. I mean the Bob Mould/Husker Du comparisons they (or at least their drummer) are so proud of are definitely there. This was hard to pick up on in their live shows -- largely due to the lack of vocal evidence or prominence. But that coulda been my fault -- back then I worked two part time jobs and occasionally did sound on the side.

With this more recent 4 song 7 incher on Break-Up! Records things haven't changed much since the CD, except that I have to admit I really like a couple of the tunes. Maybe it's because I strongly suspect they, like me, grew up on the "coolest" strains of radio to be heard in Columbus in the 70's and 80's. For the uninitiated, that basically means the more album-oriented classic rock of dinosaur Q-FM-97.

Of the many further comparisons I could make, there was one I heard but couldn't put my finger on. It's not even necessarily that important of a comparison. I mean take strong doses of Mr. Mould and Kiss and you start getting close to a strangle hold on Dogrocket's vocal and musical sound. Even adding in their logo lettering stolen directly from the Cheap Trick stencil book seems fairly minor after that. My stretching for other similar acts and song similarities like Blue Oyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Donnie Iris, Loverboy, Rick Springfield or 38 Special (without the Southern thang) may not add much either. Besides, Dogrocket tends toward more up tempo (letting the New Bomb Turks bleed in a bit?) and slightly less listener-friendly pop-oriented tunes than most of those decade-plus old bands.

(Is this where I remind everyone that Sammy and Loverboy Mike Reno did that "Remember the Heroes" duet? Sorry. If ya didn't hate me before ...)

So what's it all mean? Dogrocket is a hard rock guitar band with a tendency for the up tempo. It may be power pop or power punk, but to call it punk or pop is still missing that basic midwest, GTO, average suburban guy appeal. Dare I say again that much of this is reminding me of the difference (or lack thereof) between old school punk and 70's hard rock. This, in turn, swings me back to one of my first thoughts of the band live -- Greenday. As for metal or alternative influences ... I can't decide which has lost the greatest amount of meaning over the years of varied incarnations and exposures to the masses. And speaking of masses, Dogrocket seems to be joining the masses of bands that no longer exist.

Oh, as for that one on the tip of my tongue ... I shoulda dug for that old notebook sooner. It was right there. Eddie Money.

- Joel (Feb 17, 1998)

[Ego Summit LP] Ego Summit
Ego Summit
LP (Old Age/No Age)

Haven't seen many great local bands lately. It seems like most of the really good ones have either broken up or are hibernating for the coming winter. For my own mental health, I've had to mostly stay away from the rock 'n roll clubs, had to miss most of the big rock star acts, and had to generally avoid the local music bins. Instead, I've been staying home a lot and listening to tons of free jazz (Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra). Call me reactionary or square if you want to, but you'd do something just as drastic if you'd barely heard a human sounding band in months. I mean, I've hardly heard a band that could toss off one single lyric that didn't seem to exude the kind of cheap, smarmy irony that only a cool asshole could relate to; hardly seen a band that wasn't obviously preoccupied with their clothes and their hair; hardly heard a band play a single note that didn't sound forced or safe and unchallenging, that wasn't meant to pander to a trend or acquiesce to the expectations of the coked-out patrons of the rock 'n roll clubs.

So perhaps you'd think the last thing I'd need to hear right now is the Ego Summit record -- a collaboration between Ron House (TJSA), Don Howland (Bassholes), Tommy Jay (True Believers), Mike Rep (Quotas), and Jim Shepard (V-3) -- surely the closest thing to a "super group" Columbus has ever produced. In reality, though, Ego Summit isn't the overblown product of a handful of show business professionals, but rather a necessary musical statement of five friends who've played music with and around each other for nearly twenty years -- and it shows. Elegantly, a group identity somehow manages to emerge that never consumes the individual identity of each contributor. Ego Summit sounds like a real band, without being one-dimensional. Each member contributes at least one song, and two were written as a group. Not the subdued, timid, folk rock album you've probably heard it is, it's actually a loud, raucous, garage-folk album by guys who were probably listening to the Fugs before you were born. This record is a celebration of friendship, integrity, and survival.

This is a contagiously fun record. The music, always spunky, is loose without ever sounding merely tossed-off. The song lyrics, consistently clever are by turns silly, earnest, horny, nostalgic, poignant, serious, but always tough. There are many moments of pure hilarity. For me, though, the centerpiece of the album is "Ego's Summit (Love Theme)" where Ron House gets to poke fun at the groups supposedly over-inflated egos. What's interesting about this song is the way it attempts to face an odd paradox: on the one hand, one has to be selfish in order to survive, and on the other hand, that same selfishness can do us all in. When Ron warbles, "The bridge's weight is sixty tons/Our ego's weight is sure to break/I'm not the one that's jumping off/I'm the one that's pushing you" the effect is not only humorous, its strangely moving, because it puts us on that bridge and makes us ponder what we would do.

This is the most human sounding album I've heard all year.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

[Ghostwriter EP]

CD 3 song EP

Both the vocal tunes have a Waterboys meets Tom Petty quality in the vocals. Aside from the slight Tiny Tim warble, I kinda like that. Musically, the title tune leans heavy on the U2 War or "Where the Streets Have No Names" meets similar pre-1990's REM sound. "Wish King Another" begins with an intriguing bass line then settles into a waltzing rhythm. Again it brings up something a bit Celtic with a strong Tom Petty "Free Falling" texture. The last tune, "You like to be Touched", is a perty, slow, simple, mellow Sunday afternoon instrumental with moody, airy vibraphone and spoken dialog in the background. I can't quite place it yet, but it does seem a bit familiar -- some 1970's country/folk rock group possibly?

Ghostwriter lists the Smiths and the Byrds as strong influences. I'd be tempted to say it's not so much the Smiths as it is bands in and around the same era and alternative camp as the Smiths -- or where these "Smithsians" and bands influenced by the Byrds meet.

- Joel (Nov 25, 1997)

CD 3 song EP

The band forwarded Cringe a bio sheet, brief synopsis of their recording history and tried to encapsulate what they felt were significant influences on their sound: the Byrds, the Feelies, John Cale, Yo La Tengo, the Smiths, et al. Unfortunately, those groups may be found in other material which is yet to be heard, but the EP and live show were absent of said artists.

What does come through is a light popness a la the Gin Blossoms. Now hey, that's not bad in and of itself -- but its not Marr/Morrissey or Ira Kaplan. Sadly, at points on the EP the bass seems to be recorded a little loud, and live, probably no fault of the band, the guitar sound was thin and muffled. Aside from a few problems rhythmically and some tempo changes that need to be honed, their performance was adequate, yet they seemed rather unmotivated at times. The setting maybe?

The first two cuts on the EP are straight ahead. The third is an instrumental. Given that they didn't provide a lyric sheet I had trouble making out the contents of the songs via words. In addition, I'm not sure I understand why you would want to highlight an instrumental on a three song CD/EP that does not differ from the others tracks musically, but who's counting.

Songwriting, this is where they need to work the most. The aforementioned artists cited as influences have not been incorporated into their make-up. Think of all the space and sheer diversity in Ira Kaplan's songwriting, the catchy sixth and seventh chords in Marr's guitar work, the amount of strumming by the Feelies. Experiment with harmonies, don't play jazz, unless of course you can, but don't let consistency become the routine.

I hope Ghostwriter tries to grow and expand on the foundation they have laid. I tend to like bands who push the edges out a little and aren't afraid to say, "John, that's just not us." "Yeah Bob, but it sounds cool." Try to get there guys.

- Casa (Dec 26, 1997)

Guinea Worms
Soundation is Found
self-released tape

An extremely lo-fi homemade recording which demonstrates the demented genius that is former Clay bassist Wilfoster. Sometimes, however, the needle is buried too much in the red, but not so much because the band is loud, but rather that they perhaps stood too close to the mikes while recording. I dunno. Spiked to the gills with witty non-sequiturs like "Freedom's just another word for ink," "I got so much soul, don't know what to do with it," and "If you oui oui, European" (say it out loud), this is constantly an entertaining, if oft-times cacophonous, listen. To further sweeten the deal, former Chanel No. 5 and Belreve beetkeeper Jenny Mullen adds much-needed structure to Willie Worm's non-traditional compositions.

- pat dull (Dec 8, 1997)

Guinea Worms

Wilfoster, ex- of Clay and Wilfoster & Q fame joins Jenny Mullen, ex- of Belreve and Chanel No. 5, in this guitar-drum duo. Wilfoster plays a sometimes distorted acoustic guitar and sings, muses and meditates. Jenny provides the backbeat. In one breath I could easily say the songs are rough, repetitive, silly and childish. In the next breath I would say they are ingenious, challenging, experimental and fun.

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for word play. So are the Guinea Worms. The guitar is kept fairly straight forward while the vocals and lyrics are playful and punny. There's the song a 6 year old might have written with the chorus "European" or "Yer a peein'", depending on the previous verse and/or your interpretation. Song intros like "This one's 'Instrumental', the lyrics are 'in-stru-men-tal'," break down both the meaning of the word and whether or not the audience should be singing the 'in-stru-men-tal' part. Look out John Cage and little Johnny. Many of the tunes are quite repetitive, so it's difficult for me not to sing along. It's also difficult to divide them as verse-chorus-verse. I like to think it's a string of vocal choruses accompanied by instrumental verses ... except for "Instrumental", of course.

- Joel (Nov 25, 1997)

[HPB Music CD] [HPB/White Outs 7] Hairy Patt Band / White Outs
split 7" (Burnt Sienna Records)

Hairy Patt Band
Hairy Patt Band Music
CD (Burnt Sienna Records)

Though the Whiteouts are by no means a great band, they incorporate enough theatrical stupidity into their heavy, anthemic rock (performing in the buff, dressed as the Mudflap Girls, or just being out of tune and falling down drunk) that they can be forgiven if their only real ambitions seems to be to drink more with less money. And now that Kevyn Kasualty is gone, you probably could make the case that they're the "best" loser rock band in Columbus. But to actually earn the title, the Whiteouts still need to prove they don't care about building an audience and being liked. After all, they play regularly enough and with enough popular bands and put up enough large, colorful, elaborately-drawn fliers that you might suspect they actually care a lot. Don't hold it against them though, because they are pretty entertaining even if I sometimes wish they'd clear rooms like they used to when they couldn't play their instruments at all (I mean, I wish somebody would empty the bar given the present rut of so many merely "okay" and ultimately boring bands).

Actually, truth be told, even though Hairy Patt (now unfortunately defunct) was simply the better of the two bands, I prefer the Whiteouts side of this particular single. Both bands play loud and fast, but Whiteouts sound awfully excited by the bone-headed brashness of their Aerosmith goes punk rock sound (you just know they were thinking "are we really getting away with this?"). Hairy Patt sounds uncharacteristically bored with itself here as if it had temporarily run out of anything to say. But then again, maybe I was expecting more blues or folk-based guitar trash and less of the straight-ahead (but somewhat angular) guitar rock which they're experimenting with here. However, I suspect the real problem is that at least one of these songs is really, really old, going back to the days when the band was a much larger ensemble.

Fortunately, the band really redeems itself with its new CD. Like the single, they are clearly attempting to expand upon their scum-rock aesthetic, but they do it with verve, and without actually retreating from their original preoccupations. The band surprises and reassures. The best surprise is Joe Patt's emergence as a formidable vocalist and songwriter. His song "Movin' To the Hospital," a bluesy stomp, is as exciting as anything the band has ever done. Joe Patt is a surprisingly original vocalist with a numb-sounding baritone that is somehow soulful and scary, especially his performance on "Dicky's Roving Eye" where he sounds a bit like the singer from Cincinnati's underrated Wolverton Brothers. I hope Patt's other band, The Ranch, will use him a lot more as a vocalist.

Jason Drenik is also growing as a song writer. His lyrics are still as funny and charming as ever, but they're relying less and less on the merely monstrous. He's beginning to sing about things that regular Joes might even be able to relate to. On "Last Chance" he sings about the need to escape a town that sounds suspiciously like our own (he now lives in Cincinnati, incidently.) There's even a song about Pete Rose. And on the acoustic(?!) "Lets Go Dancing" Jason credibly manages to express the kind of tender emotion that never seemed to be part of his self-consciously macho songwriting vocabulary. And when he does return to exploring the truly monstrous it sounds increasing ironic and absurd rather than merely outrageous. "Valium," for example, is a funny and effective stab at combining the garage-folk of the Fugs with Jad Fair's brand of naive-rock (complete with tense falsetto vocals that belie the narrator claims about the calming effects of valium and thorazine.) Really good stuff, I just hope the band's audience has matured enough to keep up with the growth of the band.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

[Heifer CD] Heifer
It Will be Comfortable
CD (Blue House Records)

Live, the mix was a bit difficult for me figure out. With the release of this CD, the waters didn't so much clear as expand. This is a very diverse, fun, energetic and ambitious band. The music has much in common with the schizophrenia of Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart. With horns, violin, guitar, bass, drums, several male vocalist and a female vocalist, they approach everything from klezmer, jazz, classical and Gershwin, to hardcore, ska, country and They Might be Giants -- often within the same tune. Again, though the technical side of their musicianship is evident, the band can't be described as slick. The rough, tastefully unpolished aspects are left in the mix. The highlights for me are perty much all the guitar parts and, if ya hadn't guessed, the tunes with lead female vocals. If this whacky, quirky, schizophrenic stuff is yer thing, pick up the CD, or at least catch a show.

- Joel (Nov 25, 1997)

Jenny Mae / Gem
split 7" single (Spare Me Records)

Columbusite Jenny Mae has an uncanny knack for penning delectable slow pop gems, and "Cancel the Game" is no exception. Dan "The Pipe" Spurgeon's brilliantly understated guitar lines perfectly complement Jenny Mae's airy keyboards, making for one excellent side of a split single. (While the title of Jenny Mae's other song, "Crappy Piece-of-Shit 4 Track," may be overly harsh, the tune never really catches fire, sounding a little like something that would have appeared on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks).

On the flip side, Cleveland's Gem checks in with an excellent slice of pop pie called "A Clove of Harlots." Angular guitar chops propel the song in a bizarro-catchy manner, much like it's companion, the instrumental "Monochrome." Both songs are excellent examples of the great music that continues to endlessly march out of Cleveland. Kudos to New York label Spare Me Records for continuing to invest in Ohio musicians! A great split single all around.

- pat dull (Dec 8, 1997)

[Moviola 7] Moviola
7" EP (Anyway)

Its probably a little late in the game to be reviewing this one since it came out around '93 or so. I mean, in a way, Moviola is entirely different band with the lineup changes that have transpired since then (an oddly appealing waver entered their sound when the less melodic and somewhat rhythm-deficient bass player Jerry Dannemiller took over not long after this came out. Also a second guitar player, Scotty Tobachnick, was added -- frankly I suspect they had to add two members just to replace their very accomplished original bass player, Sam Demke). This record probably isn't even in print anymore (ever feel like four years is equivalent to twenty in scene time?), but I just got my copy this year and I like it a lot.

Lionel Trilling once remarked that "Immature artist imitate. Mature artists steal." Moviola, I think, does a little of both, though I still know a lot of folks who insist they simply sound like they want to be Pavement. Problem is, I hear way more of that dreamy Galaxy 500 sound on this recording and in their recent live shows (something I'm a real sucker for). Of course, in a way, arguing over whether the band sounds more like Pavement or Galaxy 500 is a little like splitting hairs over which Velvet Underground song the Feelies had based their entire career on. But there's a little, if only a little, more to the core of Moviola's sound than the Velvet Undergroundisms: a friend of mine who is way into the Flaming Lips pointed out he hears a lot of that in Moviola too. Although I don't actually hear it myself, it's hard to argue when guitar player Scotty once told me their song "Floorboards" was lifted from The Flaming Lips.

But don't blame them if they are derivative. There are far less interesting bands that are merely generic. Besides, as ridiculous as it sounds, I have come up with a perhaps overly thought out "theory" about the foundation for Moviola's -- dare I say -- aesthetic sensibility that will put the whole "problem" of originality into a nice healthy perspective: The first song on the second side is mysteriously called "Roebuck," but a close listen to the lyrics fail to conjure images of reindeer prancing in the snow. However, what this song does recall is a bass melody not too far removed from something David Roback's early Eighties band, the dreamy neo-psychedelic Rain Parade might do. Yes, the same David Roback who eventually went on to the soporic Velvets/Doors (always back to the Velvets) obsessions of Opal until finally running it into the ground with the rather dull Mazzy Star. While in Opal, Roback played with Kendra Smith who had played in the wonderful, Velvet-derived Dream Syndicate, who occasionally played at languorous, dreamy tempos not unlike what Moviola is known for. Yes, Moviola had modeled itself after the self-consciously derivative, Velvet's-inflected (getting nauseated yet?) sound of California's early Eighties Paisley Underground scene. I bet you thought everyone had forgotten that sound. No wonder I find something refreshingly quaint about the sound on this record. I'm glad somebody remembered and cared. Question is, does anybody else in this increasingly dull, punk obsessed scene?

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

November 21, 1997 at Wasabi

The local electronic music scene is one of the healthiest in the nation. Where most cities can boast a smattering of late night warehouse parties, we can do the same and pull of events like this -- an all night live electronic music party. Keeping the turntables to the back until the wee hours, local musicians Todd Sines, Charles Noel, and Titonton Duvante played unique sets of techno, ranging from minimal stormers (Sines), orchestrated jungle (Titonton), to melodic techno (Noel). The local scene (and really the national scene) has been yapping on and on about Titonton for the past few years. His talent really blossomed a few years back and has continued to show amazing growth and potential. This is how they are going to be talking about Monochrome (Charles Noel) this year. His set at Neon had kids screaming and dancing. With trip hoppish interludes in between songs for quick breathers, Monochrome played tracks off of the recently released Archetypes EP and some new workouts. The subtlety and skill of all of the performers at the event cannot really be stressed enough. We have world class talent here in Columbus. The major drawing point for many to the event was Titonton's use of live strings and vocals in his set. With strings that sounded very Russian or Transylvanian and a female vocal style in a 4AD bent, Titonton's set was moving -- emotionally and physically. He took songs of really sublime beauty and quickly punctuated melodic jungle rhythms and further synth work into them. The overall effect was perfect -- a much more organic feel than most of the techno work currently being dubbed as organic. The night opened with Todd Sines' minimal set. Todd's techno, usually introspective and, of course, bleepy, had a much fuller sound at Neon. Remaining in the minimal vein, the crowd quickly warmed up to his sound. Todd is probably the most experienced live performer of the bunch and it definitely showed in how he created his set. Its energy level rose and fell in just the right spots to keep the crowd moving.

- Jason Beaumont (Jan 14, 1998)

[New Basics CD]New Basics Brass Band
Generous Portions
CD (Uff Da Music)

Normally I thrive on inventing long, meaningless, adjective-filled cliches to describe CDs, but New Basics' Generous Portions refuses to adhere to a classification (causing me only momentary panic.) It's not quite jazz. It's not really hip-hop. It is, however, an exceptional disc.

Yes, it's that simple. There's a lot of good tight ensemble horn playing on this disc -- and nice harmonies to go with it. At first I was a little disturbed by the use of a tuba in place of the more conventional bass, but the sound has grown on me. Give it a little more time.

What's more, the songwriting is impressive. One thing that's pretty amazing about New Basics is the fact that the songs are catchy, singable and possess what is commonly referred to as a "Phat Groove." But the band remembers to pay respects to their jazz roots without getting uppity about it. Very refreshing.

New Basics mixes a few covers with a slew of great originals like "Slim Pickins" and, my personal favorite, "Bar-B-Q at Betty's." Covers include a must-listen version of Janet Jackson's "That's the Way Love Goes" and a fitting closer, "When the Saints Go Marching In." Good band, awesome live show, great CD.

- Nicole Wolfersberger (Jan. 9, 1998)

New Bomb Turks
"Professional Againster"/"Jiving Sister Fanny"
7" single (Wallabies Records - Japan)

This disc was recorded in 1995 while the Turks were whooping it up in Japan (various members of Teengenerate with the assist). The A side was (at the time) a sneak peek at the new record, Scared Straight, and is a rougher and rawer version, lacking the frantic galloping piano of the LP take. Still, it has the charm of an unpolished gem, sorta like a demo, but with better sound. The B-side ("Jiving Sister Fanny") is the third installment in a series of drug-album era Stones covers ("Summer Romance" and "Wrest Your Hands" are th' other two), and the score is now three for three. A fine, fun release.

- pat dull (Dec 8, 1997)

Stu Sinn and HBT

Since its inception several years ago, the Hard Black Thing has undergone a variety of personnel changes, yet band leader and co-founder Stu Sinn's unique and slightly bent musical vision has never strayed far from his original intentions to create a band stylistically different from any other. The group is a revolving door of musicians, some who have never even played together until they set foot on the stage. One former member even went so far as to say that he was going to make a shirt that read: "I played in the Hard Black Thing and all I got was this lousy t-shirt".

The constant of the group is Stu Sinn, who plays his horn in what he calls "the key of X" and recites lyrics in between puffs on his cigarette. Behind him, a slapdash ensemble of musicians plays some sort of wild improvisation. Make no mistake about it, this band is not for every taste, although they have developed a small but loyal cult following of fans. An independent record label from Philadelphia, Silt Breeze, even released a full length record of one of the group's initial lineups, which included street musician and Columbus folk hero, Sam Esh, as well as record store mogul, Mike Rep. One recent incarnation featured Nelson Slater, who is best known for recording an album in the mid 1970's which Lou Reed produced.

Besides leading the Hard Black Thing, Sinn also heads a grass roots record label, Belly Fu Oh Happy Whale, and works tirelessly to promote his literary journal, Happy Whaler. To contact the movement labeled "Happy Whale" or Stu Sinn, write to: P.O. Box 10692 Columbus Ohio 43201.

- J.Drenik (Oct 27, 1997)

[Sweep the Leg Johnny CD] Sweep the Leg Johnny
4 9 21 30
CD (Divot)

A Chicago band that sweeps through Columbus every few months. Alternative art rock a la Jane's Addiction, Pavement or Radiohead with excursions into the harsh side of John Zorn and King Crimson -- saxophone included. Sometimes the live vocals are a bit off or a bit much, but last time I saw them my only complaint was when they stopped playing. On the CD, the vocals are fine -- I'd buy it again.

- Joel (Nov 25, 1997)

[TJSA ...Treble CD]Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments
You Lookin' For Treble?
CD (Year Zero/Vinyl Retentive)

Right at the moment when it appears the Slave Apartments are on the verge of a new creative phase (with the departure of bass player Craig Dunson) this CD allows us to take a look back at the bands first phase with Keith Baker on bass and, for the most part, Nora Malone on drums. Don't expect the relatively polished studio recording sound of their later albums. These recordings were probably done on a boom box. But despite what the title suggests the sound is neither dull or muddy, just "live" and raw. The majority of this is the now hard-to-find early singles and the "free" 12" EP (I once saw a copy at the Used Kids Annex for $50). Most of this sounds like it was mastered direct from the vinyl (you can hear some unobtrusively "ambient" surface noise).

What is immediately apparent on this collection is just how consistent the band has been from its inception. I mean recording fidelity aside, the music itself is in keeping with what they do to this day, and surprisingly free of the kinds of blemishes one expects from these kind of deep-from-the-vault collections. There can be no doubt that Bob Petric's guitar slash and Ron House's vocal-mewl determine much of what is distinctive about the Slave Apartments sound.

Which isn't to say there aren't any differences between the band of today and the band of old. At times the guitar riffs strike me as bit more angular, closer to Bob's playing in his other band at the time, the artier sounding Girly Machine. The second song, "Holy Moly" especially atypical, because it relies on more of a bottom heavy groove (Can meets the Fall?) that was more typical of the Girly Machine sound.

So what is the TJSA sound? Well, in a way, the Slave Apartments suggest an alternate universe where "indie" rock didn't have to happen because the Stooges, the Electric Eels, and Dead Boys got to share the same radio waves as the Stones, Alice Cooper, and AC/DC. (Though it will probably piss somebody off to say it, I couldn't help but notice that "Spasm of Morality" -- great turn of a phrase -- has a guitar riff that sounds like a rewrite of that old, '70's Hart song, "Magic Man.") Thankfully the Slaves play their variation on big, dumb guitar rock with just enough smart, angular, dissonant moments to appeal to guys like myself who are, at least in principal, pretty bored with big, dumb guitar rock. Plus Ron House writes uncommonly clever lyrics. Better still, his lyrics reveal a surprising sophisticated moral consciousness quite unusual for garage rock and its typically cartoonish displays of emotion. Take the lyrics to "Big Baby" where he parodies the morose, self-pitying (yet blindly selfish) immaturity that too often looms over the barstools at the local rock clubs: "How come I always feel deprived?/I need the scene to make me feel alive/....I'll probably die before I'm gratified/....Like a big baby I need to cry for me/....You always hurt the one you spill stuff on/But I can keep it up until I'm young.../I need to feel the moment more than now...."

Yes kids, there's a conscience in the House.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

[Adventures CD] Various Artists
Adventures in Modern Recording
CD (Black Music)

Easily one of my faves of the year, AIMR is a compilation of local Columbus electronic artists. This follow up to Music for Shopping (which was also tasty and gives the listener an earlier glimpse into the Columbus scene when it was only just becoming as fertile as it is now) ranges from the radiation goof of The Weird Love Makers to Mynungho Choi's shimmering epic sounds. For those of you who have been unable to catch some of these acts live at the amazing series of live events the elementals host, this is a great primer.

The compilation starts off with a song straight out of a Twilight Zone remake of Dr. Strangelove -- the Weird Love Maker's "World Peace" serves up paranoid 50's bomb shelter angst with Ward Cleaver manning the gunnery. The compilation gets more serious as Charles Noel's Monochrome moniker provides a bit of dark and looped up drum 'n bass oddness. I have said this early this year, and will repeat my claim -- 1998 will be Charles' year. There is definitely not a single Columbus electronic sound, but a definite aesthetic is emerging here. Bladerunner fantasies mixed with street earthiness all resonate within these songs. As diverse as the collection really is, you CAN tell that there is a lot of crossbreeding going on in the 'ol Columbus electronic music gene pool. The closing track is Todd Sines' work with Charles Noel under the ARS moniker. Back in the day, Todd and Charles would always have bizarre live ambient stuff at a lot of the regional parties. Each has moved on to separate styles of music, but it was a pleasure hearing them together doing ambient work. The samples sound like teased out Columbus-style Ibiza fare, with looping soft beats. For the more novelty minded of the bunch, there is an odd cover version of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit" on here, which is well ... odd. Mark Gunderson, Stewart Brown, and Midislut are all represented on the compilation. These local Columbus musicians are amazingly prolific and diverse. Myungho Choi is still my favorite local artist, with Global Communications like soundscapes he really delivers the goods. Seeing him live at a coffee shop a few years back I was amazed at the energy he brought to mainly ambient compositions. Lately, live I have heard him playing minimal stuff, and either style really suits him.

There's really no reason not to own this compilation if you enjoy the local Columbus electronic music scene.

- Jason Beaumont (Jan 14, 1998)

[Burnt & Bent CD]
Various Artists
Burnt and Bent
CD (Burnt Sienna Records)

Regional music you'd most likely hear at Bernie's. This music really translates much better live than it does on CD. For some reason, sitting in your bedroom havin' a bit of tea doesn't really synch up with the Hairy Patt Band -- which are just amazing live. But the songs are bound to win you over either way. Drill Kitty are all high school drama and late night booze. All in all a great way to hear a lot of bands at home that you'll most likely catch at the bar. Some filler warnings though: some of it is hardcore strutting and little else. Many of the bands' off kilter sounds and vocals sound childish instead of amazing. It makes me question why a few of them don't learn a new riff. The Laughing Stock comes in with a great song and Los Clementes rawk with a capital w.

- Jason Beaumont (Jan 14, 1998)

  Various Artists
Burnt and Bent
CD (Burnt Sienna Records)

CD compilations like Burnt and Bent are a pain to review when they're such a mixed bag of styles and genres. You can't pigeon-hole things collectively, yet writing about each individual song can make both reader and writer go batty. All you need to know is, "Is the damn thing worth listening to?" For the latest collection from Burnt Sienna, the answer is "yes" in several cases.

If you're into punk at all, this CD is for you. The majority of the tracks are raw, fast, and angry. Recorded by any means available, they often sound best played LOUD. If you listen enough you can discern a few flavors among the punk-rock stew, like the crisp hard-core edge of Moody Jackson or the overdriven slab o'sound stylings of The Hairy Patt Band.

Cowtown scenesters and/or other collector scum will want the CD for the tracks by the more famous local bands on the CD. I found a number of these tracks somewhat disappointing though. The Haynes Boys track is a throw-away, only hinting at what they can really do. The version of "Perfect" by Pretty Mighty Mighty is inferior to a more recent cassette release, and the guitar solo on the Econothugs track is so buried it actually slows an otherwise rumbling song down. I thought the real collectors gem was "Record Store Employee Song" by Los Clementes, a spiteful take on the local scene (not just Columbus, but Anywhere, USA) by someone who makes his living off of it.

The tracks that really caught my ears were the bright pop tunes, maybe because they stood out so much from being surrounded all the noise. The bottom-heavy, stop-start "Richman" by Tub has all the energy and speed of some of the punk numbers while still being able to hook you with its melodies. My favorite song is a toss up between the quirky and droning "Linoleum" by Swivel Arm Battle Grip and The Frans "Nudie." Both are wonderfully dense, noisy, pop songs cut through by siren vocalists. Anyone who loves finding little treasures like this would enjoy checking the CD out.

All of this adds up to the real value of Burnt and Bent, that of a guide and introduction to what you might enjoy in the "Mad Cow" city, a way to judge which bands to check out, and which to avoid. It's a good extended forecast of what you're going to encounter at Bernie's and other campus watering holes: Chance of Punk 60-80%, occasionally heavy, with brief clearings for some brighter pop.

- Chris Myers (Jan 20, 1998)

[Interior Exterior CD] Various Artists
Interior/Exterior Music
CD (Kathode Ray Music)

Here's another compilation from Kathode Ray Music. They are a nonprofit music company located right here in Columbus, Ohio. I'm used to music compilations dedicated either to a single region or a single genre. That is not the case with this CD. It contains songs from musicians all over the United States and the rest of the world. Many different genres are also represented making for an eclectic mix. That means that you are likely to hear some music you can't stand. I did. But you are also more likely to discover something you might like. I did that, too. For more info you can check out the Kathode Ray web site, email [email protected] or send mail via your United States Postal Service to:

Kathode Ray Music
1487 West 5th Ave. Suite 205
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Attn.: David Hooper
This disc was also enhanced with CD-ROM technology. There is a sample interface which plays only the track from Gadfly, apparently. It consists of a faux-television face that gives band bio's and contact information. There's also an area of the screen that says "Web Link" that, I can only assume, is meant to direct you to the bands' web pages, if any. It has room for more information than can be fit into the liner notes, too. There are dials on the television to flip through the pages of info on the current band or to switch tracks. More practical, in my opinion, would be a simple pull-down menu for selecting the tracks but that would ruin the whole metaphor, I suppose. Still, I think it will only provide sequential access to all the tracks so you will have to skip through 18 earlier tracks to get to the 19th one instead of going straight there. But that's neither here nor there, whatever that means.

I've written a little something about each track below, which I suppose you could call a "review." Hey, you said it, not me. If the band's name shows up as a link, there was a web page included for that band in the liner notes of the CD. I haven't bothered to check the links to see if they lead to the right places so if you find yourself looking at some of the much reviled Internet pornography, don't blame me.

Fallout: "Teenage Taskforce"
Punk. This is a song about beating up Nazis. It sounds like rollicking fun. These guy are from Texas, though, so there's probably little else to do. The singing seems a bit constipated but is competent enough -- as are the instrumentalists. This song would probably benefit strongly from being heard live, in a crowded bar after having ingested a few beers.

Floyd's Ordeal: "Hate U"
Hardcore/Punk. This is a bit reminiscent of ALL with Chad Price on vocals. (see "Crucified") A pleasant little harmony on the chorus and a nice beefy guitar sound. Guitar solo: gratuitous.

The Weeds: "Homecoming Queen"
"Alternative." The liner notes to this CD say that "Kathode Ray Music is proud to present a TRUE ALTERNATIVE." Well, this song is plain alternative. And also a few other things, quite plainly as well. Acoustic rhythm guitar is most prominent along with a few electrified accents scattered about. I hear Blues Traveler without the rockin' harp.

Michael Holland: "Surrender Dorothy"
X-File. I can't classify this as anything other than frightening. It sounds like Tom Jones cut an album with Hootie and the Blowfish. Chock full of vocal gimmicks and lyrical clich�s. My favorite line: "And here you are... On a bright new sta-ar." A little bit of slide guitar complements the acoustic rhythm. Warning: This song is upbeat and will stick to your brain. Oh, and it ends on a super falsetto.

Exploding Cargo Doors: "So Long"
Bittersweet, up-tempo pop-rock. Not unpleasant to hear. The drummer has some nice, tight and fast fills. The singer sounds, err, sweet. Someone you'd want to take home to meet your parents, even if you liked them. It would be nice, however, if he emitted a bit more energy.

Slightly Miffed: "Timeshare"
Heavy Metal/Industrial. Fast, tight speed-metally rock voiced over with a little lovers' quarrel. At first I thought the combatants put on snooty little accents for humour's sake but then I saw that they were from England and was hit with the realization that those accents were real. Damn. Favourite line: "I don't think having dinner with anyone is a crime."

Gadfly: "Realize"
Jazzy, smooth funk, not without its disco. Not much for vocals.

II Big: "Tonight"
Rock. The song is about as original as its title. Sounds like Van Halen or something.

Pork Roll: "Run"
Industrial. The guitar is straight out of "Pretty Hate Machine" and the vocals shift between NIN and Skinny Puppy. The final insult is the ripping off of the "My Sharona" bass line at the end.

Dresscode: "Be Your Lover"
Industrial/Hip Hop. This song is, apparently, about fucking -- all night long. Really. Something tells me these guys write a lot of songs about fucking. Imagine Prince and George Michael have a love child who, after exploding into puberty, goes Goth in youthful rebellion and you might start to get an idea of what this song sounds like. I must say, though, that this song contains a stellar "horny woman" sample.

Mr Bass's Planetoid: "Morning After"
U2 circa 1990-1992. Christ. I thought everyone had finally grown tired of ripping off U2. There's some profound shit going on here. Favorite line: "Is this the morning after? Or is it still the night before?" This song is either about waking up in the morning with a beautiful woman beside you or waking up in the morning after Nuclear Armageddon. I vote for Armageddon. Oh yeah, it's too long too (4:55).

The Outcast: "Never Again"
Electronica. This song is reminiscent of Devo, Kraftwerk, and Men Without Hats. I can also detect some nature documentary influence which certainly is not a bad thing. A lot of fairly primitive synthesized sounds give me this feeling. It's pretty minimal and not littered with gratuitous samples. Refreshing. The lyrical melodies are simple, smooth and actually pleasant to listen to. I liked it. Go figure.

Richard Mortimer: "Rhinoceros"
Alternative/Eclectic. This guy's from Australia. Are there Rhinoceri in Australia? Well, the song's not about Rhinoceri anyway. Of course, I couldn't tell you what it is about either. The singing seems to be largely stream of consciousness rambling. The music tends to be the same way. In general, though, there is extremely monotonal singing over slightly distorted guitar with a few samples and other electronic doo-dads. It's got a pretty leisurely tempo as well. The bass line is one of the only really consistent parts. It runs throughout the song and is made monotonous by its bland repetitiveness and its prevalence. Overall, this song is quite meandering and difficult to listen to.

Attila Kovacs: "Waiting"
X-File. This song wins the prize. I don't know what kind of prize it is but it sure wins it. Our friend Attila from Denmark seems to be waiting for the love of his life, "the only one" for him who must have left him in the lurch. This song is characterized mostly by a low-tech synthesized harpsichord sound with some sad, plaintive licks on the old electric guitar. Attila is obviously enchanted with the feeling of melancholy you can evoke simply by uttering the word, "Waiting" because he does it a lot. His voice is high pitched and pretty whiny but there's something about the guy. You just have to root for the guy, he sounds so sad and pathetic and he sings sweet as sugar. Still, the song scares me.

Moe Jehova: "Down By The Lake"
Rock. Some earthy rock 'n' roll out of Arizona where they do have lakes if this song is to be taken at face value. Acoustic rhythm guitar and electric lead with one way-too-long solo. The singer reminds me of Mr. Big because I can't decide which sex he/she is. The chorus is probably the best part of this song. It's simple, catchy, and direct which the rest of the song is not. At 5:10 it's about 3 minutes too long. That damn guitar solo.

7 Layers of Plastic: "Too Hot"
Kinda punky, kinda poppy. This singer is a female, I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence, and tends to gurgle making her difficult to understand. Occasionally the guitar turns a bit jangly giving it a western flavor.

Toddio: "Satan's Dream"
Industrial. Instead of listening to this song, you could play your "Pretty Hate Machine" LP at about 2RPM after letting plague-carrying rats gnaw on it and get a similar effect. The lyrics are stream-of-consciousness Gothic angst about blood, souls, entrails and the like. Favorite line: "My blood... My blood... My blood... makes me feel... bloody." Apparently a woman's torturing this guy's soul too, "She tore my heart out." He's not quite as sympathetic as old Attila, though. Oh, it's in two movements too. How lovely. At least the second one is only 5 seconds long.

Exploding Cargo Doors: "Somewhere Else"
Punk. Ah ha. There's quite an Angry Samoans influence evident in this song. Good, I like the Angry Samoans. This song is a bit faster and more energetic. Of course the vocalist still seems somewhat disinterested and he spends most of his time in the monotone. Still, it's fairly fun to listen to. Perhaps we can get the singer some coffee next time he's in town. Not likely to happen any time soon. They're from Phoenix.

House Republicans: "Weapon of Choice (Roadkill)"
Electronica. A short little ditty with a beat that makes me think, "Salsa!" It contains, mainly, a number of samples of people making crazy-person noises. At 1:40 it doesn't overstay its welcome. Not entirely common on this CD.

- Brian Walsh (Dec 4, 1997)

[Music of Ohio CD]Various Artists
The Music of Ohio: I Am Thunderbird
CD (Simon Seng Records)

Five towns, twenty bands, twenty songs -- Free CD. How can you go wrong? The CD includes contact information for each band and is broken down geographically representing Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton. The inside reads:

The Free CD is a new concept dedicated to revolutionizing the record industry. Our vision is to provide an alternative to commercial media, and in doing so, connect new listeners to new music. Thanks to the clubs for giving a damn. Simon Seng Records.

You have to love the concept, but what do you think when someone's trying to give you something for free -- "gee, they must suck." Scrap the hyperbole about viva la revolucion; if I'm not mistaken Puff Daddy is carrying that torch right now. Anyway, when someone handed me this CD I was delighted. If you can find one or borrow one I highly recommend it. I won't attempt to review twenty singles, but I have my favorites and a few bands won me over. In general the recording quality is good and most of these bands, to my understanding and three nights out a week, are still fairly active.

So if you're stuck in Toledo, God forbid, go to the Whit's End and maybe you'll catch Glide. If you have that repressed penchant for British dream pop like Ride you will be satisfied. And if you must stay two nights, oh the shame, perhaps Gone Daddy Finch will play a set of their late eighties sounding indie rock.

Now you pull into Columbus on your way to West Virginia for a dulcimer festival and the VW breaks down again in the alley by Bernie's. You round the corner to get money and see the marque which reads PMM -- Pre Menstrual M (something) you're thinking. For two bucks you see Pretty Mighty Mighty and leave all fog heavy in the head from the beauty of John Chin's voice and are humming the words "you're so perfect." You cannot escape the Damnbuilders influence of the violin. Then, trying to sleep, a small alien ship lands on high street and flashes "Venus will be delivered." A cowtown with a sense of humor. VW takes a another day or two and you see these babes (women) from some sixties sci-fi laser shoot-em-up flick go into Bernie's. Now your first thought is, was that Elizabeth Hurley with Austin Powers or RuPaul as David Bowie, either way its beautiful. They won't talk to you unless you speak the appropriate dialect from what I understand -- I've been trying to meet one of these Venusians for quite some time. The spectacle is satisfying, as is "Blueberry Pie," the track on the CD. I'm converted. One of the better tracks on the record, nothing fancy, not trying to be, just A/E/B/D.

Someone in your entourage wants to see the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. OK. That's $14.95 -- nice belts. Go see the Frans instead -- imagine Stone Temple Pilots meets Edie Brickel. Live, she twists and twirls all over the place, "honey sugar" is a fun pop ditty and in general they have a good time live. Fifth Wheel makes you think of Australia for some reason so you head south, to Dayton. Really getting a chance to explore the heart of it all now. The Mulchmen's track "Spyder Man" has that spiraling out of control comic book feel that hypnotizes you. Real Lulu's listened to Joan Jett a little. If you make it to Cincinnati, you know, the Paris of the Midwest, hopefully Sudsy Malones will have a major show. If not, Ditchweed will do. But to be honest, this part of the state left me flatest.

So go find one. In the future, let's hope Simon Seng Records tries to broaden the palette stylistically a little. This is obviously a small sample of what is available and rarely gets exposure. It needs the support of freeloaders to break down and go spend the three bucks to give these bands a listen. - Casa (Dec 26, 1997)

[Urban Fishing Rules CD]Various Artists
Urban Fishing Rules
CD (Uff Da Music)

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the jazz scene here in Columbus. For an ol' Cowtown, we sure have some interesting and diverse things happening within our little jazz world. Uff Da's compilation, Urban Fishing Rules, samples some of the best local jazz acts and presents them to you, the consumer, in a handy 15-track compact disc.

There are a lot of good things happening on this CD, starting immediately on tracks 1 and 2 with the Jeff Ludwig Quartet. The sound is faintly reminiscent of Charlie Hunter and sets the tone for the rest of the disc: good stuff.

Other personal favorites include Larry Marotta's solo guitar piece, "Rag," and Get Off the Lawn's "Horrible Dream." Some of the groups border on semi-traditional sound; most venture into the more avant-garde realm. Of course, what else would you expect from trombonist and resident avant-jazz man Brian Casey's Uff Da label?

Local compilations often contain a lot of crap mixed with one or two gems -- or so I've found. This one is actually really good and if you want a quick crash course in the sounds of Columbus jazz, Urban Fishing Rules is a good choice.

- Nicole Wolfersberger (Jan. 9, 1998)

[Vertical Slit CD] Vertical Slit
Twisted Steel and the Tits of Angels
CD (Iron Press)

Launchpad Explosion Double
7" (Iron Press)

If V-3's relatively song-oriented major label debut, Photograph Burns, caused any to worry that their leader, Jim Shepard's weirder and wilder impulses had mellowed, it's nice to hear him and his associates sounding so relaxed playing in the abstract, sonically adventurous fashion they're best known for. The mix of "live" and home studio recordings that comprise these two releases is exactly the kind of flotsam and jetsam you'd normally only expect a group of musicians to make in the comfort of someone's living room, late at night, after a few drinks, and nothing in the way except a four-track to lay it down for posterity. Shepard is one of the few musicians in Columbus regularly releasing material who is even willing to attempt to walk the precarious line between all out formal abstraction (a la experimental composers like Stockhausen) and the more literal-minded values of traditional songwriting (a la Leonard Cohen). Not that Shepard would ever be considered a songwriter's songwriter (his lyrics read too much like science fiction thanks to his Mr. Spock-like delivery and his perpensity for referring to persons as "Humans") but he still consistently comes up with the kind of memorable lines (droll stuff like "She was right there in front of you/But that was last week") any songwriter should envy -- not that I actually believe songwriting is that important, mind you. I mean, how can one accept the pronouncements of certain local songwriting advocates when they would clearly have you believe Cheap Trick were somehow better than Miles Davis? This is not only offensive, but suggest a level of mind-sickness I don't even want to approach.

Not that some of you won't find it sick that one of the tracks on Twisted Steel, "Aerosol" (an "instrumental" performed only with a lawn mower, an electric fan, and an aerosol can) generates a low hum that threatens to blow out your woofers and shatter your windows. Turn it up, I say. Then there's a track on "Exploded Launch" that drones like a phone left off the hook. Did I mention that the ambience of these two releases suggests they were recorded in a huge cave? Not that Shepard is all about testing the limits of your hearing and endurance. The V-3 song "Party on 15th & Summit" (alternately titled "Where 2 Roads Meet") included on the Vertical Slit CD has a guitar riff that rocks like anything on the first Wire album, and musically "Sunday Girl" (aka "Your Move, China Man") is as nicely-mannered and delicate as a Beatles song (even if the lyrics are delivered with the icy cool of Nico singing "Chelsea Girls.") All in all, both of these recordings have that stylistically scatter shot, collaged-together feel of a Swell Maps album (which should be endorsement enough). If there is tangible difference between them, I'd say the Vertical Slit CD seems to have a tad more variety with its lively mix of hard rock, slow songs, and sound experimentation, while the V-3 7" has fewer slow songs but just as much sonic tinkering.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 10, 1997)

[White Outs 7]

The White Outs
7" ep (Piss Poor Records)

The White Outs new seven inch is an authentic trash can punk rock listening experience. "Summercamp Vampires" stands out as a schlock rock classic and would certainly crack the nation's Top 10 if Joe Bob Briggs was counting down the hits. The retarded ska beginnings of "Answering Machine Song" really lights up the first side, and then some serious bangs and clangs close it out. There's one cover song ("Train Kept a Rollin'"), and even a guitar solo somewhere. All in all, the perfect record to put on after a long day of glue sniffing or something. RayRay and the gang let their bellies hang out on this one.

- J.Drenik (Oct 27, 1997)

  The White Outs
7" ep (Piss Poor Records)

Six songs on 7 urine-colored inches of vinyl, the White Outs have something of a less-frantic My White Bread Mom feel to `em (not that they can't get frantic when they want ... see "Shorty"). Bassist Donovan gets an awesome fuzz tone going on the ska-riffic "Answering Machine Song," and a cool cover of "Train Kept A'Rolling" (which is more Aerosmith than Johnny Burnette) keeps the energy level high. Most of this is mid-to-fast tempo punk, the fastest being "Summer Camp Vampires," but even that slows down a bit from the blur of its verses into a very cool-riffing chorus. The superb use of Blue Velvet's "Pabst Blue Ribbon" sound bite on "Fuck Dat Shit (P.B.R. Beer)" shows that these guys' hearts are in the right place!

- pat dull (Dec 8, 1997)

[Wilfoster CS] Wilfoster
Son of Bob Foster
Cassette (Self-released)

This charmingly homemade tape grafts the garage-inflected country/folk/blues of the Bassholes to a kind of derangement that suggests varying combinations of mental illness, mental retardation, grueling LSD excursions, and obsessive television-channel surfing. Interestingly enough I've been led to believe that Mr. William Foster (creator of these sounds) was in full control of his mental faculties during the entire process of producing this recording.

I would tell you how many songs are on this rather lo-fi outing (complete with occasional "ambient" single-channel dropouts) but there are no track listings, and the parts that resemble actual songs so often segue into short bursts of unsong-like noise excursions and chatter (which in turn, segue into oddly unsong-like songs which -- you guessed it -- segue into song-like noise excursions and chatter) ... Well, gosh, after a while I had to stop trying to figure it out.

Some of you, I'm sure, will find at least half of this unlistenable and self-indulgent, but there are enough great songs here -- and compelling noises -- to convince me that Mr. Foster knows exactly what he's doing. My favorite song (track number two for those of you trying to keep count) has a heavy and extremely distorted guitar riff not unlike something the Hairy Patt Band might do. Plus it has uncommonly clever, hilarious lyrics: "If it's yellow/Let it mellow/If its green/You've got gangrene/You'll see what I mean/If its green/you've got gangrene/If it's orange/Then it's orange/Nothing rhymes with orange/Except of course/Orange."

Another standout "song" is almost willfully ugly, with its mind-numbingly repetitive lyrics: "I'll hang out/I'll hang out..../We'll hang out/We'll hangout...." The guitar playing and vocal delivery suggest some kind of deranged backwoods songwriting, but through the act of repetition the song begins to reveal itself in a totally different way: as a trancey dronescape quite similar in effect to two instrumental cuts on Pere Ubu's Dub Housing: "Blow Daddy-o" and "Thriller."

Appropriately, a later track has a distinctively Captain Beefhart-unplugged flavor with raspy baritone vocals and quirky lyrics like: "The slower the groove/The more it takes to move..../Resident/Fifty-eight West Patterson..../You can't show me the country farm/You can't sell me the country farm...." This song may or may not be meant to be some kind of pledge of allegiance to city life, but whatever it is, the music will keep me interested.

Though some of this music may be grating or simply be too weird for its own good, it's as arresting, and bracing as any you're likely to hear. Like other frustrating, sprawlingly weird recordings like Beefhart's Trout Mask Replica, Miles Davis's Bitches Brew, Pere Ubu's Dub Housing, or Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives a real personality emerges that pushes the limits of our own sensibility in a manner that has real staying power, that goes beyond weirdness for weirdness's sake. At this time when most local talent is as derivative as next years station wagon or as trendy and meaningless as a pair of droopy trousers and a wallet chain, you can bet I'll be listening to this cassette for some time to come.

- Nathan Weaver (Dec 14, 1997)

Jake "Hellboy" Wyckoff
I Don't Know It Yet But I'm Doomed
self-released tape

Former Clay-boy and current Flippin' Hades cutie-pie Jake Wyckoff's solo tape is an exercise in diverse styles. From the crude pithiness of "Starfucking Woman" to the brooding folk tale of "He Don't Call My Name" (with its slight Steve Wynn-esque vocals), Jake successfully forges a distinctively original sound. Other examples of the tape's diversity are the electro-experimental freakout of "(Your Love is Like) Stratego" and the Syd Barrett-styled "Shake That Shit."

The centerpiece of the tape, however, is the epically classic "Just To Hear Her Talk." Sounding a bit like Nick Cave, the song builds slowly to a musical climax that is powerful, funny, and stunning, all at the same time. A very creative and inventive tape.

- pat dull (Dec 8, 1997)