The Advantage
Elf-Titled
5 Rue Christine
Street: 01.24
The Advantage = your old Nintendo, but "metal-ized"
This is the second full-length release from The Advantage, and I think they may have over-stayed their welcome. Don't get me wrong, I love my original NES like anyone with a beating heart should, and I do think The Advantage's original concept of re-mastering all of the old Nintendo theme songs was good ... but they would be smart to learn (and use) the phrase "quit while you're ahead." Their first effort at "metal-izing" Nintendo was cute, kitschy, and fun to nerd out to ... but now? I don't think anyone outside of the band can tell much of a difference between the first and the second CD – especially now that they've run out of the more recognizable theme songs. Luckily for Spencer Sim, frontman and guitarist of The Advantage, he still has Hella to fall back on. –Lindsey Marie

Aids Wolf
The Lovvers LP
Lovepump United Records
Street : 01.24
Aids Wolf = Uhhh... Beetlejuice says "Wolf Eyes and Black Dice"
So I know this kid – let's just call him "Beetlejuice" – he pretty much is this CD. He's into noise-core – the dirtier the better. He's also into naked bodies – the dirtier the better. And he's into AIDS. Yeah... I don't even need to say it. Aids Wolf's The Lovvers LP has all of that and more: seamless and engaging instrumentals, a bunch of gross naked penises and boobs (seriously!) on the CD insert, sweet vocals and the word "Aids" in the band's name. Plus, Aids Wolf has recently toured with Death From Above 1979 and Animal Collective. I'm not so much into "noise rock," but even I enjoyed this LP. So for the Beetlejuice on your Christmas list? I'd go with this soon-to-be-released vinyl. –Lindsey Marie

Awesome Cool Dudes
Maxin' and Relaxin'
Furniture Records
Street: 10.18
Awesome Cool Dudes = Tenacious D + Depeche Mode + Ween + Talking Heads + 9 rounds of Pina Coladas
I officially bestow the honor of 'Most Incredibly Honest Band Name Ever' to Austin's Awesome Cool Dudes. It is increasingly difficult these days to find four guys who deserve the labels 'cool' and 'awesome,' but ACD are an exception. Maxin' and Relaxin' enforces mandatory enjoyment, and is far more universal than say, yoga, or a Star Trek convention. When I saw the Dudes' record cover, featuring them at a Hawaiian-themed pool party, I thought to myself, "My expectations have dropped to the 'below-Weird Al' level." But the Dudes' programming and pop sensibilities are reminiscent of the real 80s – not the fake 80s that have started over – and over the course of the record, they nonchalantly disprove the theory that 'funny' bands must also be 'terrible.' Maxin' runs the gamut of pop between goofy dance-anthem and indie-garage masterpiece, even touching on the genre of 'comedic gypsy' with the beautiful tune, "Mediterranean Poopy." When was the last time you laughed at a gypsy song, or for that matter, a gypsy? Exactly! -Tyler Ford

The Berzerker
World of Lies
Earache
Street: 12.13
The Berzerker = Carcass + a techno album gone horribly wrong
Once again, the Berzerker are upon us like a raging beast, with the group's third release World of Lies ready to captivate and eviscerate grindcore audiences across the world. Originally started as a one-man speedcore DJ act, the Australian group moved onto metal territory. Interestingly enough, the album was recorded in one week with no guitar, amps and no physical drums. Hence, a drum sound that is entirely unique to the Berzerker with the kick drums resembling an electronic-techno blast. The band's grind sound is a standout, so who are the cynics to say grind isn't music? –Bryer Wharton

The Boils
From the Bleachers
TKO Records
Street: 09.20
The Boils = every band on Punk Core Records – Lower Class Brats
There are a million other bands that sound like the Boils. The pounding drums, fast guitars and angry vocals about fighting, drinking, laughing and just fucking shit up in general, it's all on this album. As far as street punk goes, though, it's pretty decent. I wouldn't deem it road-trip worthy, but I have a feeling, as with many punk bands, that their album complements their live performance. Seeing them live makes you appreciate them that much more. My favorite tracks were "All I Ever Needed," a punk-rock love song, "Bed of Whiskey," a drinking anthem, and "The Arson Song," a ska song about burning down celebrities' houses. Love, booze and senseless violence – what else does a person need? If you're sporting a butt flap, have ever sported one or had a close friend who sported one, you'll like this album. –Jeanette Moses

Bolt Thrower
Those Once Loyal
Metal Blade Records
Street: 11.15
Bolt Thrower = war metal
You can always count on good old Bolt Thrower to produce a kick-ass metal record; Those Once Loyal is no exception. For 20 years now, Bolt Thrower have been pummeling out record after record of battle-worthy metal. Whether you are strapping on your chain mail or side arm, these death/grind veterans have been cranking it since the ever-so-excellent In Battle There Is No Law album. Immerse yourself in a barrage of blast beats and meaty riffs, Those Once Loyal is what any Bolt Thrower fan – or death metal fan, for that matter – would expect. –Bryer Wharton

The Briefs
Steal Your Heart
BYO Records
Street: 10.18
The Briefs = The Queers + The Buzzcocks + The Epoxies + The Weirdos + The X Ray Spex
This album rocked my fucking socks off. The music is upbeat, poppy and easy to dance to. The lyrics are as infectious as a disease, but not a bad disease like herpes, more like a sudden flu on the day of a big math test. The Briefs are a fun band and they make fun music. The Briefs make me want to date a boy who wears skinny ties, white plastic shades, and has bleached hair and a bad haircut. Probably because being told that "you're the glue I want to huff," like they sing in the song "Stuck On You" is just weird enough to make my heart melt. This is one album I didn't have to skip any of the tracks on because they were all great. I loved this album and so should you. (Lo-Fi Café 11/04)–Jeanette Moses

Can-i-bus
Hip Hop for Sale
Babygrande
Street: 11.17
Can-i-bus = G-Unit + DMP + Def Squad
Can-i-bus? No, not anymore ... that is, if these are even YOUR written rhymes to begin with. I mean, how could a person get famous off of spitting someone else's rhymes and expect lingering respect to last for five albums? This CD is polished crap. Can-i-bus' trademark of fierce lyrical intensity dwindles on punch lines that don't deliver, love songs that make me want to throw my stereo (with this album inside) out of my window, and cameos by no-name/talent emcees out to make a dollar off the Babygrande bandwagon-type royalties. I really wanted to give this record a positive review, but that would be going against every honest bone in my body. Oh, the music? Well, the beats are all the same and prove easy to bob your head to in a mindless sort of way, while Can-i-bus delivers his half monotone/half yell raps that go in one ear and out the other. Sorry Canny-B ... another flopper. –Lance Saunders

Cast King
Saw Mill Man
Locust Music
Street: 11.15
Cast King = Johnny Cash + Leadbelly + early Tom Waits
Cast King is 79 years old and has been playing country music since the 50s when he recorded a couple tracks for Sun Records. In Saw Mill Man, King's debut album, we get 12 songs that have already stood the test of time. King's thick baritone goes down like a shot of aged bourbon and each song sounds like it's been in his repertoire for decades. King plays the acoustic guitar while Matt Downer supplies the boom-chicka-boom and familiar Luther Perkins fills on a toned-down electric. The subject matter of the songs takes a lot from old southern country blues singers like Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson. Most of them deal with the women that left him and the booze he drank to forget. The album was recorded in the shack beside King's place in Alabama which adds to the gritty authenticity of these songs, but it is King's personality that makes the album compelling and convinces you that he could drink you under the table and kick your ass in a bar fight. (Urban Lounge: 02.13) –Spencer Jenkins

Cat Power
The Greatest
Matador Records
Street: 01.24
Cat Power = Nina Nastasia + Edith Frost + Sex
Less emotional catharsis, more production, less diffused style, more focus. Cat Power has spanned the stylistic divide, providing rock, blues, and folk in her eclectic oeuvre. Starting with Dear Sir (her first album) up to You Are Free, Cat Power's sensibility has matured with her albums. So it comes as quite a surprise to see her move away from a singer/songwriter evolution to conceive of something, well, more traditional. Instead of a stripped-down drum and a guitar backing like she had in Dear Sir and Myra Lee (which developed into a fuller sound culminating in You Are Free), Chan instead enlists the help of prominent Memphis players that have previously played with Al Green. The album, while being hokey at times with back-up singers and a more "Southern Soul" appeal, will gain fans with repeated listens. This is definitely not the typical, or expected, Cat Power album. –Erik Lopez

Colonial Excess
Mute
Self-Released
Street: 12.12
Colonial Excess = Sufjan Stevens + Alec Empire + Jan Jelinek
How do I know I will enjoy this disc? Because the press release tells me zilch about the music and the band; "Mute is your 17-minute relapse while waiting to break out the front door/Can someone please turn the heat down?" is musician-speak for, "We have no idea how to describe our stuff to our parents and friends, will someone please do this for us?" Indeed, there isn't much of a reference point for Mute – even when pitted against the history of experimental and electro-acoustic artists. Dollops of folk, shoegaze, gabber, field recordings, electro, sine waves, ethereal singing, melodeon and overwhelming distortion are all found in these works, elements the quartet freely exploits then aborts with the attention span of a five-year-old. However, Colonial Excess isn't being obtuse in a "we're trying to be weird" way. Despite the genre bending, the band is a master tour-guide, carefully plundering, and then laying out their materials for a head-scratching yet surprisingly pleasant ride. –Dave Madden

Constantines
Tournament of Hearts
Sub Pop Records
Street: 11.11
Constantines = Jets To Brazil + Spoon + Hüsker Dü
The lyrics on this album are very grandiose and overstated, but do not overshadow a potentially brilliant work by Canadian art-rockers, the Constantines. This is their version of spirituality and they are not afraid to preach to the masses. Only emo bands and John Tesh purport their live concert to be an "experience," so it is nice to have a band that is trying to promote good feelings among their fellow man without the pretense of religion or hopeless romanticism. It is unclear whether this attitude translates completely on Tournament of Hearts but the album is a very enjoyable listen regardless. The band has turned to a calmer version of their former self, considering 2003's more abrasive release Shine A Light. The album is very well thought-out and put together as good as any album released in 2005. –Andrew Glassett

Daniel Striped Tiger
Condition
Alone Records
Street: 01.10
Daniel Striped Tiger = Rye Coalition + Fugazi + Nation Of Ulysses
"Hi, I'm Daniel Striped Tiger and I'm tame. Want to play with me? Peek-a-boo!" The preceding quote came from the soft-spoken and fuzzy little Daniel Striped Tiger from Mr. Rogers' Never Never Land. The band Daniel Striped Tiger couldn't be more different from the do-good puppet. Their music is very much influenced by early Dischord-era post-punk, but this is not just another Fugazi-related release. There is an added sense of urgency as the songs mangle screamo, garage-rock and Rage Against The Machine-influenced breakdowns. Add to the conglomerate a frantic and frenetic touch of dirty southern guitar rock with a pinch of post-rock and this tiger stew is near perfect. DST proves that there are post-punk bands that still have some swagger in their two-step. –Andrew Glassett

Demiricous
One
Metal Blade Records
Street: 01.24
Demiricous = Slayer + Walls of Jericho + boring
Slayer blah, blah, blah, Slayer, blah, blah, blah. Oh wait, this isn't the new Slayer record – thank Satan. If it were, I probably wouldn't be knocking it. Ignore any media hype there is surrounding this album – it is pure bullshit. Yes, the band can play fast and heavy and re-hash Slayer riffs and solos, but there are tons of bands that do that. There is absolutely no emotion behind Demiricous' so-called rage. With no emotion, there is nothing worth listening to. What is music without real/forced emotion? If you're not angry, why make angry music? Go figure. -– Bryer Wharton

East West Blast Test
Popular Music for Unpopular People
Ipecac Recordings
Street: 01.24
East West Blast Test = Flying Luttenbachers – teeth and/or lurch; or a record from the Patton catalog - Patton
I could hardly believe this was still considered a selling point; a guy on the east coast wants to make music with a guy on the west coast. How could this possibly work? There is so much physical and emotional space between them! Now that we guffaw and realize Dave Witte and Chris Dodge are not Bad Boy and Death Row, proceed we may. We have some impressive avant-metal moments here, but the majority of these short tracks sound hilariously over-technical and simultaneously empty. Though I am always tempted to applaud a good shred, I can't help but laugh as I envision an early-morning animated series featuring a crime fighting Hella (or insert your favorite two-piece here) that ends each week with the band skronking out while being sucked into a spinning, tie-dyed vortex. Hells yeah, you say. But remember that NBC will homogenize the shit out of it. –Justin Birch

Ephel Duath
Pain Necessary to Know
Earache
Street: 12.13
Ephel Duath = The Dillinger Escape Plan + Mr Bungle + Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Give credit where credit is due; the trio of musicians that make up Ephel Duath know how to play their instruments. Mixing jazz and extreme realms of harsh music is nothing new. Starting out as a black-metal band in 1998, the group has moved onto a much different world. Maybe the complexities of Pain Necessary to Know are far beyond my comprehension, or maybe the band decided to write the same song over and over again. In the beginning there is awe, but by the end there is nothing but a yawn. – Bryer Wharton

Film School
Film School
Beggars Banquet
Street: 01.24
Film School = early New Order + Interpol + happy Robert Smith
I was a little concerned when putting in this album, mostly because I was afraid that it was going to be another Hard/Future/Chief/Blocs album. It was to my surprise that this trippy San Francisco rock band could sound so European. This is their first release on Beggars Banquet, a label that is quietly sneaking epic and stirring music into the indie mainstream. Film School is a band majorly invested in atmosphere, which may group them in the post-rock set. Unlike other post-rock bands that let atmosphere control them, Film School keeps a firm grip on the impending doom of eternal feedback. The control they impose on their sound sets them apart from the post-rock world in general, and places them more in the realm of 80s and 90s psychedelic-pop music. The walls of sound they produce are tall but not too thick. –Andrew Glassett

F-Minus
Won't Bleed Me/ Failed Society
Black Noise/ Alternative Tentacles
Street: 11.08
F-Minus = Black Flag + Circle Jerks + Discharge
In the world of underground punk rock, very few bands have had the tenacity that Brad Logan and F-Minus have had. While their aggression and coarse delivery are the obvious characteristics that stand out, there is a lot more than that to F-Minus. I spoke with Brad Logan not too long ago when he was on tour with The Unseen, and he told me that this could be the last F-Minus release, and that he'd be happy to leave the band's legacy where it is. Although I am saddened by the thought of no more F-Minus records, this collection of two 7" and two classic hardcore covers will help get me through. It's fitting that this release should be put out on Brad Logan's new record label Black Noise, an offshoot of Alternative Tentacles. These 20 tracks blast by in less than 15 minutes; music like this just isn't made anymore. This record harkens back to a time when punk rock was dangerous. This shit will do a hell of a lot more than just piss off your parents – it'll piss off everyone. –James Orme

Falkenbach
Heralding – The Fireblade
Napalm Records
Street: 01.31
Falkenbach = Bathory + Enslaved
If you like epic shit, this is for you. Viking/pagan metal veterans Falkenbach have returned with their fourth album, and this reviewer's first dabbling into the band's musical catalogue. Everything on this album is tight as fuck; guitars compliment the sweeping keyboard movements. One minute you have a heavy-metal folk hymn, the next you get a blazing dose of insanely clean screaming metal. If you dream of rowing to a steady beat on a Viking boat, sailing to some far away land to rape and pillage the countryside, hop on board with Falkenbach. –Bryer Wharton

Filthy Thieving Bastards
My Pappy was a Pistol
BYO records
Street: 11.08
Filthy Thieving Bastards = Joe Strummer and Mescaleros + Swinging Utters + Glen Campbell + The Pogues
Like Rancid's Life Won't Wait, Spike, Darius and Johnny of the Swinging Utters found a way to utilize their more obscure influences and not alienate the Utters' fans by creating another band. All sorts of different genres are represented here. Folk and country stand out, but so much more is here. Songs like "Crutches and Blow" and "The Back of His Hand" display an eccentric wit that few can get away with. It's too bad that in punk rock, creativity and originality are rarely rewarded, and even though this record will be lost on the ears of most of the spiky hair, mohawk and leather jacket breed; anyone smart enough to enjoy roots-inspired punk will be glad this record is here. –James Orme

The Flakes
Back To School
Dollar Record Records
Street: 10.18
The Flakes = Flamin' Groovies + Mooney Suzuki
The "garage-rock" image: get a group of long-haired dudes, give them some shitty amps and a copy of Nuggets and make sure they get themselves some sort of plural-noun name like "The Weeds," "The Groovies," or "The Assholes." Then, record a plethora of songs with poor production quality (because it just sounds so real, man) and their label puts out press releases with lame made-up words (i.e. "Flakestravaganza"), overused 60s catchphrases that were only cool in the 60s and lots of multiple exclamation marks!!! The Flakes seem to think they're the only band that sounds like they do, when I wouldn't be able to differentiate them from any garage-rock band out there. Back To School offers the listener not much else but what sounds like one old Rolling Stones song, poorly covered over and over. You'll roll your eyes at how formulaic it all is: the paint-by-numbers chords, Ramones haircuts and faux-British-humor website, which all bespeak style over substance. –Jamila Roehrig

Fort Minor
The Rising Tide
Machine Shop Records/Warner
Street: 11.22
FM = Styles of Beyond + Crystal Method + Shinoda
Mike Shinoda's brainchild, The Rising Tide, has many shining points, even though I was apprehensive to listen to the album from the beginning. Diaphragmatic diatribes, vocal firepower, and slaved over/detailed instrumentals make this record a wholly unique hip-hop album. The lyrical talents of Common, Chester Bennington, the Roots' own Black Thought, and the amazing Styles of Beyond are all added to reflect dynamics between opposites. This album definitely tackles a new theme outside of the normal subject matter of hip-hop by mixing so many elements of rap cliché, ego-driven, angst-ridden, and self-indulgent themes of Shinoda's previous band (Linkin Park). The Rising Tide is very organic in its nature, using every instrument Shinoda could find in a live-recorded performance, he then added the components to fit in the last piece of the puzzle. The result is a collection of songs that sound warm and human. I was surprisingly impressed. –Lance Saunders

Hudson Bell
When the Sun is the Moon
Monitor Records
Street: 10.11
Hudson Bell= Built to spill + early, slow chords of Modest Mouse
When the Sun is the Moon makes me feel content, as if my stress and worries have turned into particles that flew away into our polluted atmosphere. Hudson Bell's vocals sound eerily similar to those of Doug Martsch, but I don't get annoyed thinking that Bell is trying to copy my beloved Built to Spill. The keyboard and harmonica put me in a trance while latching onto brain cells, with no intention of letting go. The simplistic lyrics and catchy rhythms remind me of summer adventures riding in a70s convertible bug while drunk on wine. The end of "The Midnight Year" has a tedious repetition until a glorious harmonica shocks the hell out of my soul. Overall, this album makes me tap one foot like indie kids at The Good Life concerts. –Shannon Froh

Hurtlocker
Fear In A Handful of Dust
Napalm Records
Street: 01.10
Hurtlocker = Carnal Forge + Darkane + Pissing Razors + The Haunted
Ever come across one of those bands that can actually play and sound cool to listen to every once and a while? Well Chicago's Hurtlocker is one of those bands. All the metal essentials are included: blazing thrash guitars, warp-speed drumming, howling and screaming vocals. Alas, as good as it may sound, not a damn thing catches the old waxy ear. Hurtlocker meandering is lost in metal mediocrity, most likely doomed to suffer the fate of many like them before. -–Bryer Wharton

Jarboe
The Men Album
Atavistic
Street: 10.11
Jarboe = Swans + Skin + Michael Gira
The album, as ironic as it is, is a showcase for Jarboe's collaboration with, well, other men. After six years in the studio working with various men (from Low front man Alan Sparhawk to Blixa Bargeld), Jarboe's new album spans and blends such genres as jazz, electronica, and goth/industrial. The unique and distinct (and disquieting) vocals are not the centerpiece of this ethereal singer's album, but instead the dark, moody, and often shifting territorial sound are what make this album incredible. The album cascades from fragile whispers to turbulent screams, which point back in feeling and scope to the torturous and exciting poetry of M. Gira. Building and drawing upon the strengths of her earlier work, Jarboe's new album is delightful as it is intense. –Erik Lopez

Jason Collett
Idols of Exile
Arts & Crafts
Street: 06.14
Jason Collett = Wilco + The Beatles circa 1966 + Bob Dylan circa 1964
Jason Collett loves the sound of his own voice. In his most recent recording, Idols of Exile, Collett's pipes are at the center of everything. His voice is interesting, but the recording comes off as a little self-indulgent. When he is just one of the members of Broken Social Scene, his singing is much more understated and enjoyable. The songs on this album are put together almost as a calculation: combining alt-country beats and Beatles-esque bass lines. It is an easy listen but becomes somewhat monotonous and boorish. Maybe the droning nature of this song cycle is actually its strength, like taking a very long drive. After several listens, it just seems boring to me. Collett has perfected his craft, but Wilco did it better in their 1998 Summerteeth album. –Andrew Glassett

Kites
Peace Trials
Load Records
Street: 11.01
Kites = early Merzbow + Amps for Christ + Providence, RI
More often than not, noise music is accompanied by a peculiar sociopolitical agenda seeking to create peace from violence, cultural understanding from chaos. To support this hastily hatched thesis, one could do no better than the new Kites LP. Garnished with sun-washed Victorian nudity on the front, a stock photo of inmates crafting shoes on the back and charmingly absurd Prismacolor drawings on the interior, the product's appearance is enough to stir a rhetorical whirlwind. The tunes fluctuate craftily between the percussion-less frequency assault and the stark, maudlin dirge. The record's emotional balance, created from the aforementioned dichotomous confusion, serves as a fine mirror of the individual's role in our quaint society. It sounds so lame, but that is what noise does time and again. It is like chuckin' a bird with the left and a deuce (yeah, a peace sign) with the right, knowing that each one is sincere. – Justin BirchKill Me Tomorrow / Dance Disaster Movement
Beautiful Guns, Etc.
Art Fag Records
Street: 08.08
KMT / DDM = The Faint
Once upon a time there was a band called Kill Me Tomorrow. They played at a lot of great dance parties and soon began to become well known in the San Diego underground scene. However, despite all of their successes, they never really felt complete. Until one day KMT played a house party opening up for another popular San Diego dance band – Dance Disaster Movement. The two fell in love and decided to get together and make a CD... nine (or so) months later, we have the aptly titled Beautiful Guns, Etc., a three-song fusion of the best of both bands. While it may be itty-bitty – the second track on the CD is a Velvet Underground cover, the third is a remix of the first – it's definitely worth illegally downloading. And they all lived happily ever after. –Lindsey Marie

Knut
Terraformer
Hydra Head Records
Street: 11.08
Knut = Isis + Cult of Luna + Mastadon
Ever wonder what the audio equivalent of a blunt force trauma to the head is like? Knut has got you covered. Blammo – out of nowhere comes this Swiss monster. Bludgeoning and thick guitars pulsate in the brain. Images of immense pain and suffering are evoked. Then, to add to the pain comes a sonic drone to further irritate the already suffering mind. Damn my head hurts, but hey, heavy music isn't for pussies. –Bryer Wharton

Last Target
One Shot One Kill
BYO Records
Street: 09.27
Last Target = The Distillers + Brain Failure + The Casualties
Let me start by saying that this band made so little of an impression on me that I had trouble remembering their name. Last Target sounds pretty much like every other street punk band around, screechy vocals over fast guitars and drums. I was hoping that since this band was from Japan they'd be a bit more interesting then the usual street punk, but they were just harder to understand. The lead singer, Ryoko's voice sounds like a mix between Brody Dale's of the Distillers and a dying animal. I preferred the songs sung in Japanese, maybe because I imagine it'd be hilarious to watch a group of American kids chanting along to them. I'll give Last Target the benefit of the doubt though, I'm guessing their live performance enhances the mediocrity of their music.–Jeanette Moses

The Lords of Altamont
Lords Have Mercy
Gearhead Records
Street: 11.15
The Lords of Altamont = the many garage-rock bands trying to sound hip and cool
It's peppy, it's fun, it's energetic and it's rock n' roll. That said, I am perplexed at the notion of all these garage bands popping up. I mean, they all emulate the same styles, they all look the same and all claim to be unique. Call me ignorant, but I could care less about another poppy garage-rock band. Now, jumping off my soapbox – fans of this genre will enjoy this release for what it is – fun, fist-pumping rock. Just please don't claim to be unique. – Bryer Wharton

Lovebirds
S/T
Self-Released
Street: 11.15
Lovebirds = a broken four-track + Insomnia
In an interview a few years back, Rjyan Kidwell (AKA Cex) gave aspiring musicians the best piece of advice I've ever heard. He basically told them to wait five years before releasing anything to the public, because their first stuff will suck. This thought always comes to mind whenever I hear so-called experimental music; after recently discovering weird recording techniques and the 30-year-old avant-garde, many artists slap some things together and preemptively mail out their "brilliant" debut recordings. Lovebirds is an example of such a scenario – I can't find anything online about Lovebirds or mastermind Jim Triplett, so pardon my assumption about his naiveté. Though "suck" is an exaggeration, the music would benefit from the treatment of more experienced hands. Triplett runs his sketch-like 3 AM C&C (Casio and croon) rambles through distortion, hyper-compression and otherwise grit, all interesting techniques that he never really develops after three minutes in (leaving you with another 18 to merely endure). Basically, you could compare this album to eating Swedish Fish – the first ten or so are pretty tasty, but a whole bag is just overkill. –Dave Madden

Lullacry
Vol. 4
Century Media Records
Street: 01.24
Lullacry = cheesy
Woopdeedoo, feel like some cheese? Then eat up. Admittedly, there is some nice guitar work on this album. That does not make up for the female vocalist that needs to be punched in the face for sounding like a doof. Chock full of clichéd guitar wails and supposedly catchy licks and choruses, it is sickly bitter. Go on Fear Factor and choke down this nasty hunk of cheese. –Bryer Wharton

Matthew Shipp
One
Thirsty Ear Records
Street: 01.24
Matthew Shipp = Brad Mehldau + Thelonious Monk
Pianist Matthew Shipp plays this entire album without accompaniment, a departure from his last few releases. Shipp's proficient playing takes up all the space on the record with varied styles from the swing of be-bop, bits of classical flourishes, hip-hop, to all-out free-jazz explorations. As a whole, the harmonies on the album are loosely connected, as if they were about to fall apart. But you can sense there is an order and congruity to the discord. The complexity of thought, the balance and accomplished playing in these songs is so staggering that you have to listen to it several times to gather an idea of what he is saying. Ultimately, the album defies comparison. The voice is unique to Shipp, even when he borrows phrases or styles from disparate sources. When he quotes songs like, "Angels We Have Heard on High," he somehow makes the melody his own. And since the solo piano is put in the forefront you're more able to admire the technical sophistication without any distractions. –Spencer Jenkins

The Modernettes
Get It Straight
Sudden Death Records
Street: 10.11
The Modernettes = The Ramones + Generation X + 7SECONDS
You can't help but feel good when you listen to The Modernettes. There's no way around it. Somehow lines like: "I don't want to see you cry, I just want to watch you die," from "No Tears" come across in the most calming and pleasing way. A new-wave punk band with an existence that was much too short-lived, in my opinion (around 1980-1983), The Modernettes made music with catchy pop-punk melodies that feel like they should be a guilty pleasure. Get It Straight offers remixed tracks from 1982's View From The Bottom, tracks from Teen City EP, Gone...But Not Forgiven LP, a couple of unreleased tracks and a load of live material. The live tracks from their final show have an appealing raw feel to them that makes you wish you were there to see the final stage antics of a band who made music for music's sake. "Barbra," "No Tears," "Rebel Kind" and "Femme Fatale" stand out from the other songs and leave you wanting more. If you want to kick back and take it easy after a long week, The Modernettes can help. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Mommy and Daddy
Duel at Dawn
Kanine Records
Street: 09.27
Mommy and Dadddy = MC-505 + Sansamp + Bass + wedding vows
Defying their hype, Mommy and Daddy (continue to) write the kind of music that leaves an excellent lasting impression. Couple Edmond Hallas and Vivian Sarratt's songs defy effortless labels, but are generally described with adjectives such as "dancy," "punky" and "B-52s meets Black Sabbath." The two trade off instrumental (monstrous bass guitar, machine-driven drums and squelching synths) and vocal duties, Edmond hollering with the energy of Bruce Dickinson (minus the vibrato), Vivian seducing you with an alto croon and both working their asses off to impress everyone from pokey-haired electro-lover to the scruffy Dio-T-shirt-wearing kid. And if you missed their recent explosive SLC show (which means everyone but me and five others), shame on you and do not let it happen again. –Dave Madden

Monster-0
...And Then There Were Zero
Omega Point
Street: 11.10
Monster-0 = pop + a broken nose + duct tape
Chicago's Omega Point Records consistently turns out music that is a little ... off, ...And Then There Were Zero being no exception. Duo Monster-0 skew emo-pop and otherwise pop in refreshing ways, rocking and/or rolling with guitars and drums, then deftly mixing things up with electronics and juxtaposed ideas. For example, on "I'm Not Afraid," singer Daemon Hatfield adopts the falsetto-du-jour as he cheerily croons ("If you upset me, would I put a bullet in your head/ If I killed you, would you still be pretty when you're dead?") over a blast of punk, blipping bass lines and the coolest b-boy-meets-John Bonham breakdown this side of Def Jux; the band shamelessly rips off bits of the "A Hard Day's Night" melody, plays Hayden-like counterpoint with a Nintendo music engine and bangs along to a go-go rhythm on "Or So You Think." The whole album is gloriously skewed in this manner, just out of focus, pissing on your expectations from track to track. And you dig it. –Dave Madden

Pennywise
The Fuse
Epitaph
Street Date: 08.09
Pennywise = Bad Religion – any musical nuances + NOFX
Several albums after Unknown Road, Pennywise has made a turn onto Mediocre Lane. Sadly, over the years the band's music has degenerated into mind-numbing repetition of the same political-punk-with-training-wheels shtick. They may as well have put a different album cover on their last album and called it good. Hating on the gov'ment can be good, but the music is so tired, it doesn't matter what singer Jim Lindberg is trying to get across. The formulaic music is like trying to climb a granite slab – There's not much to grab on to. Despite the press release's contention that the band is "shooting off one sonic fireball after another," The Fuse is a dud. –Shane Farver

Racebannon
The Inevitable: Singles and Rarities (1997-2005)
Alone Records
Street: 11.08
Racebannon = The Blood Brothers + Botch + Aerogramme/Mars Volta
How a band of this magnitude could come out of Bloomington, Indiana of all places, I'll never know. Racebannon is the true definition of 'assault and battery.' For nine years now, they have been engineering their revolutionary noise with no remorse for any living, breathing creature. The Inevitable bashes your skull in with a collection of some out-of-print 7"s, tracks from compilations, some unreleased noise and a few not-so-quality demos on not just one, but two discs. A label warning consumers to pace themselves while listening to this would be a brilliant idea. Too much too soon could cause a full-blown riot on your senses and result in a mental breakdown. The blend of punk, hardcore, extensive noise and razorblade vocals may make you want to jump into a straight jacket. The Inevitable is surely a winner for any Racebannon fan and for anyone looking for something outside of the ordinary. By the time these 28 tracks have run their course, you will not look at music the same way again. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Reverend Horton Heat
We Three Kings
Yep Rock
Street: 10.04
Reverend Horton Heat = Carl Perkins + Stray Cats + Wayne Hancock

I've been looking for this record for the last few years. An interesting rockin' honest to god Christmas record, and the Rev. has delivered. All this classics are hear "Santa Clause is Coming to Town." "Frosty the Snowman," and more. I don't know if it was intentional, but all the traditional Christmas songs they chose to do with religious connotations are done as instrumental which display Jim Heath's phenomenal guitar playing. Just to keep things interesting Jim and Jimbo Wallace switch guitar and upright bass duties on "Run Rudolf Run." This is the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who love rock 'n' roll.–James Orme

Rogue Wave
Descended like Vultures
Sub Pop
Street: 10.25
Rogue Wave = Shins + Dr. Dog
Zach Rogue follows up his solo album (released under the same name on Sub Pop) with a full band to back him up this time. The musicians may be varied, but the essence is not. Rogue Wave is a talented band, and their music is definitely catchy. But don't mistake them for a band treading ground that hasn't already been laid before their feet. Their influences are obvious. That being said, they do have some good songs. If you can't get enough of that retro-sixties Brit-pop sound, combined with a little sedated-sensitive-American with a hint of an English accent, then you better goddamn get your hands on it. If you don't care for the bands that have already beat them to the punch, don't let your fingers touch it as you browse through the "R" section next time you're shopping for music. –Philip Lee

Severe Torture
Fall of the Despised
Earache
Street: 11.08
Severe Torture = Cannibal Corpse + Morbid Angel + Deeds of Flesh + Vile
Fancy a dose of cheery death-metal? Severe Torture runs the gauntlet of standard death-metal stylings. It is getting harder and harder for a death-metal act to stand out these days. Like the many drones out there, Severe Torture stumble into the death-metal-only fan club; meaning, if you don't like death metal, you're out. Expect the expected guttural vocals, blast beats, chunky riffs and songs about fluffy bunnies running in a field and being shot with a shotgun, point-blank. –Bryer Wharton

Sonic Youth
SYR 6: Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui
SYR
Street: 12.06
Sonic Youth = Thurston Moore + Kim Gordon + Steve Shelly + Lee RenaldoThis album was recorded live at a benefit show for the Anthology Film archives back in 2003 as a tribute, as well as to cover the medical expenses of Stan Brakhage right before he died. What makes this album incredible (the best in the SYR series since SYR 1 or 2) is its intimate appeal and improvisational pow-wow as they provided the musical resonance for Stan Brakhage's films; it even includes Tower Recordings drummer Tim Barnes! It begins with the tentative sounds of percussion and then starts to build into a ribald concussion of noise. It removes the densely layered pretension of previous SYR releases and seems to relapse into its own discordant axis. This recording is not just a hodge-podge of guitar doodling, electronic manipulation or just another avant-garde showcase in the critically acclaimed SYR series, but instead a highly synaptic and cultivated composition piece. –Erik Lopez

The Standard
Albatross
YepRock Records
Street Date: 10.04
The Standard = Josh Hodges + Hint Hint
The Standard lobs a smoothed-out combination of piano, quavering vocals, echoing drums and guitar dripping with indie riffs in super-slow motion until it smacks you in the head. Albatross is a quiet Sunday drive through your emotions, from despair to ultimate triumph. There's enough instrumental variance to keep you on your toes, but it wraps up into a pretty package far better than the gold toe-socks you got for Christmas. –Shane Farver

Stunt Rock
This is Stunt Rock: Volume Three
Cock Rock Disco
Street = 11.15
Stunt Rock = NWA + Neil Young + Judas Priest + Billy Joel + The Locust + 80s movie samples
This is Stunt Rock: Volume Three is a blistering pile of pretentious and trite shit chunks. OK, a complete disregard for convention can be powerful in the right hands, but in this case, it is reminiscent of a white-trash teenager with a Boss sampler and a case of beer. It's remotely humorous, yet tragically lacking any discrimination or taste. Although cleverly sampling 80s pop culture amidst a sea of loops, the album fails to show any originality or personal style. At its best, a glimpse of an interesting loop or sound will occasionally shine through the muck, although I would be willing to bet this is a mere coincidence, as there was no focus to what or who was sampled, in series of lazily placed samples that any fucking moron could randomly play and get equivocal results. Hailing himself as "funny as hell" and "the new punk rock," Stunt Rock should be raped for this absolutely foul attempt at breakcore. –Ryan Powers

TNT
All the Way to the Sun
Mayhem
Street: 11.18
TNT = Ratt + Poison + Aerosmith + pyrotechnics on stage
Norway, will you ever learn? Once again, Norway sports yet another metal band. What makes TNT break pace from other Norwegian metal bands in that they are neither extremely heavy nor black (as in genre of metal). Instead, TNT is a pop and prog-tinged metal band with their new album, All the Way to the Sun, as a handshake between their American and Norwegian heritage and success. Now, I don't usually listen to this "melodic metal" (actually I might just be lying considering my reviews for Icarus Witch and a Yngwie Malmsteen DVD) but this album is quite incredible. It revolves around acoustic guitar licks and intense metal hooks and shreds. The only thing that is an incredible let down are that lyrics like "I don't wanna hide / But I'm feeling stuck inside / Like a baby that's overdue" sneak into this album and destroy its tender metal machinations. Aside from the budding emotional revelations, this album is a top for 2005. –Erik Lopez

Tossers
In The Valley of The Shadow of Death
Victory
Street: 10.04
Tossers = Celtic Storm+Sham69+Rum Runner
The Irish district in the south side of Chicago is as Irish as it gets with out crossing the Atlantic. This is the birth place of the Tossers. A rip roaring, drinking, fighting, 7 piece celtic punk band that builds sounds like the mandolin tin whistle, banjo, and accordion around the rhythm section of a rock band. Fast paced rockers like "A Criminal of Me" will get anyone up out of the their seat jigging, and slower sing-a-longs like "No Loot, No Booze. No Fun" are catchy and best served with a pint. Lead singer Tony Duggins fronts this outfit with an Irish tenor reminiscent of Dave King (Flogging Molly) and is engaging to listener. His spoken word introduction on "Drinking in the Day" shows he's a true poet at hart. The tosser don't use thier celtic influence as gimmick they play what is true to them.–James Orme

Young Canadians
No Escape
Sudden Death Records
Street: 01.10
Young Canadians = The Ramones + The Queers + Iggy Pop + Dead Boys
Who knew that other awesome punk bands besides DOA hailed from Canada? The Young Canadians play simple punk-rock like the Ramones did, and this simplicity is what makes it so good. This album was originally released in 1995, but was recently reissued on Sudden Death Records. The album contains music from three of their EPs and some previously unreleased live tracks. The live recordings aren't the greatest, but you almost expect it from this band. Tracks five through eight from the Hawaii EP were my favorites on the album, especially "Hawaii," which sounds like a Beach Boys song that has been up for too many hours and has had to much to drink. –Jeanette Moses

DVD REVIEWS

The BellRays
@ the Barfly DVD
Punkvision/Music Video Distributors
Street: 10.25
The BellRays = MC5 + Ike & Tina Turner Revue + The Saints
By and large I'm not really into the whole concert DVD thing. It just doesn't really measure up to the real deal, you know? However, they do serve as an important historical document of a particular event that took place in a particular time. And for that I will argue their importance and, for the most part, am glad they exist. (I mean, really, Live At The Isle Of Wight is the closest I'll ever get to seeing The Who in their prime.) Also, be assured that I am equipped with the ability of discerning the good from the bad, and that being said, @ the Barfly falls into the "good" category. The sound quality is as great as is the cinematography, having been shot with multiple cameras, giving the viewer a full grasp of what's going on on-stage. Shot in England while on tour for their new album, The Red, White, & Black, the band is in fine form here, rarely pausing for air, which just goes to show what an entertaining live band The BellRays are. –Jared Soper

Dwarves
Fuck You Up and Get Live
Grata Video
Universal Warning Records
Street Date: 04.19
As with some full-length movies, the extras in the Fuck You Up and Get Live are better than the main video itself. The live video of the Dwarves performance is pretty standard fare. Sure, it's great to see Blag Dahlia rip through "I will deny" and HeWhoCanNotBeNamed prance around in a thong and Mexican wrestling mask, but it just makes you crave a real performance and we already know they're not going to Salt Lake City. The crowd's head-bobbing and Dahlia saying "Yeah, fuck yeah," after every song gets a bit tiresome about halfway through. The "sextras" however, are more entertainment-filled. The deliciously low-budget video to "Over You" is good for a laugh and a peep show. The other extra videos are all show clips, album-cover photo shoot footage and naked debauchery filled with blood and breasts. Hey, isn't that what the Dwarves are all about? –Shane Farver

SCTV
Christmas with SCTV
Shout Factory
Street: 10.04
SCTV = SNL + Second City Improv
Just in time for the holidays! That is something I would say as a cheap opener to review for something like a Christmas special for a comedic television show. Now, SCTV, like most sketch comedy coming from the 80s (think Kids in the Hall, SNL, etc.) is a hit-and-miss affair, and this DVD makes no bones about that. While SNL was having its heyday and Kids in the Hall was misunderstood for being Canadian, SCTV was sitting in limbo waiting to be forgotten. The sketches are dated, the timing undone, and the continuity a little ragged. While the specials featured here did get nominated for an Emmy Award back in the day, those standards don't hold for now. While there is some worthwhile hilarity in here, it is too few and too far in-between. Who wants to see another sketch on the Nutcracker? Who wants to see another office Christmas party gone amuck? Lastly, these episodes make me feel as if I was sitting on the unfunny tree, fell down, and hit every branch on the way down! Hanukkah, on the other hand, is the new black. –Erik Lopez

Queen
Under Review: 1973-1980 An Independent Critical Analysis
MVD
Street: 10.31
Queen = Jellyfish + Galactic Cowboys + ELO + Thin Lizzy
Yet another Queen release? What gives? This is what you might be thinking as you glance at the DVD and its contents. What more is there to know about Queen and what sort of analysis is supposed to be taking place? While this DVD is exceptional in its in-depth critical analysis of Queen's music (even going so far as to have an ACTUAL guitarist show you Brian May's style of playing, what guitar he used, and how he used it), explaining each albums strengths and weakness as attested to by trusted rock critics, it is mostly for those new to Queen. For those who are fans of and familiar with Queen's music, this DVD provides rare concert footage, incredible interview shots, and little else. While it is still enjoyable and informative, those seeking a "Queen-essential" experience should look elsewhere. –Erik Lopez