Record Reviews: September 1994


Harry Angel
Been There, Done That! 

Little Guy Records

There wasn’t a press kit or a bio, just a CD and a business card. I gave the number a ring. Barry Carter is a native New Zealander who recorded the CD in Australia. He laid the basic tracks down and then had various friends come in to add them. 

My impression of the album was that it was a New Zealand band— even with a local PO Box plainly listed on the cover, this music didn’t sound American to me. Barry informed me that I was at least partly correct. For further references, read on. The music on the album is reminiscent of the soundtrack to a TV western. Maybe I’ve listened to the fourth disc of the Rhino “Songs Of The West” box too much, but that is what the guitar reminds me of. The next reference is Dire Straits. The Mark Knopfler trademark from Sultans of Swing is all over the place. Knopfler always claimed the Ventures as a major influence in his playing so that explains the seeming inconsistency of a band playing TV western theme music that doesn’t sound American. Throw the guitar of Ry Cooder and the songwriting of John Hiatt into the references for a more complete idea.

The harmonica and female harmony vocals from Nick Potts and Linda Meynes, respectively, on selected songs add to the mystical textures of the music presented. Once in a while, the boss down at SLUG throws something completely unexpected my way. This one is good, I’d suggest that Harry Angel get one of these into the hands of the music programmers at KRCL and the Mountain. It deserves a wider audience than a single SLUG hack. He informed me that he’s sent one to KRCL and that they are playing it on Monday drive time. X-96 has a copy, tune into locals only for a listen. Carter told me that the Mountain wasn’t interested. Wake up, you Mountain fools. Just because it’s local doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s perfect for your format, so play it. Look for Carter and his wife playing acoustic sets around town. They will play live on KRCL’s Sunday Sagebrush September 11. For the electric version, visit the stores known to stock local music and pick up a copy.—Wa

Zuzu’s Petals
The Music Of Your Life

Twin Tone

Two second releases from two bands fronted by girls. Magnapop has gone from indie obscurity to major label obscurity. Zuzu’s Petals are still recording for Twin Tone. The first US Magnapop album was released on Caroline. They call Atlanta home and they know Michael Stipe and Matthew Sweet! Don’t hold it against them. Two boys, two girls, the line-up remains the same. This time, they dragged Bob Mould into the studio to produce. Obviously this band is connected. The music on the new album is basically the same as they produced on the first—guitar-driven pop. 

The girl vocals can only draw (they already have) comparisons to Belinda Carlisle and the Go Go’s. Its not all syrupy sweetness. Someone took a piece of sandpaper and roughed-up the shiny-pop. Gritty guitar played by the second girl and a rugged all-boy rhythm section give it some punch. 

Zuzu’s Petals are a three-piece all-girl band. They open with the power punk expected from a Minneapolis band on Twin Tone. After demonstrating that they can rock, these girls settle in and present their gentler side. Acoustic folk rock with three piece female harmony accompanies tales of disenchanted suburban life. After the acoustic set they plug back in and rock some more. Zuzu’s Petals don’t take a militant approach—their commentaries on female experiences in the ‘90s are sarcastic. They did it with “God Cries” and “White Trash Love” from the first. On the new one, “Chatty Cathy” and “Remembering Why” immediately stand out. These girls aren’t into the usual thrash and burn that attracts hacks simply because it’s done by girls. They can rock hard with the best, but the harmonies, the use of acoustic instruments and missing militancy have little to offer the tabloids. I believe it’s the Chenille Sisters after they became involved with genital period boys. 

Pop records from the girl contingent. Zuzu’s Petals are slightly more abrasive than Magnapop and the recording has a looser feel. Songs from either album would be welcomed on the blandness that passes for radio. —Wa

From Hell To Eternity Sector 2

In the ad, it says that Splatter “blah blah blah blah ascension from the ashes of Elvis Hitler blah blah blurbage” goes here. So here’s the review, “blah blah blah.”

Unlike the Reverent Horton Heat’s new album, there is some bass on this album, but the high end is emphasized. I turned the treble down and boosted the bass before the digitized sound was enjoyable. There are still reasons to release vinyl, the major one being warmth. That completes the complaint section. 

Splatter plays your basic everyday thrashbilly. Take rockabilly guitar and speed it up to 78 rpm, hiccup out the vocals at the same tempo, add some lightning fast chunka chunka bass, make sure the album has some echo, sing about white trash subjects like cigarettes, beer, B-movies, money, cars, sex and girls, girls, girls — and there you have it. 

It’s a long way from the stylized version of the ‘billy that purists love, but I’m no purist. Give me that big beat anyway you want to. Swear, scream and sing about cereal turning your stomach blue. It doesn’t matter. With lyrics like “I need love and I’ll kill to get it,” “I’m sweaty already over you,” and “It was love the night I met you and now I wish you’d go away,” there is proof on the disc that Splatter actually are from hell. They sold their souls at the crossroads to a devil with tattoos, pomaded hair, motorcycle boots and riding a Harley. This music has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘90s unless you are a member of the growing disenfranchised former middle class now living life as a hand-to-mouth, over-educated service sector worker. Throw it in the multi-disc changer with Gene Vincent, Biohazard, the Standells and Man Or Astroman, buy a case of the cheapest beer you can find, turn down the treble, turn up the volume, hit random, get falling down drunk and forget it’s 1994. —Willie Wheels

Tinnitus EP

Gille Records

Pachinko—Split into an Axis Side and an Allied Side comes the latest from Rhetoric Records. The Axis Side is comprised of muffled low-fi punk rock that moves at tremendous speed and even gets melodic at times. The Allied side is more of the same. The vocalist sounds like he’s singing through a megaphone. The disc is a simple, daily dose of the noise from a car crash pressed onto a vinyl disc. Very nice, pleasant and sure to spend some time on my turntable in the future. 

Lifetime—So why does a New Jersey record label feature a picture of a blond-haired punker in what appears to be Moab Country? Yours is not to wonder why … just write about the music. It’s another black vinyl platter of anthemic power—thrash and burn, disenchantment with a fucked-up life. The vocalist should gargle and do a little yodeling. After three or four listens this circle of processed black gold starts to grow on you. When the rest of the band joins for harmony vocals, as they do on “Ferret,” I noticed that they all should gargle. What is it the “weed” or the stale Drum tobacco? It’s another one to stack on the spindle of an antique turntable—you remember those don’t you?—the ones ou can stack records on and play one right after another to your heart’s content. In the present you don’t need a fat cylinder for the big holes, or even those plastic deals that make big holes small; most in the ‘90s have small ones. 

Grimace—The Diesel hacks say Grimace has an “odd sound” and that the single is “pure stoner music.” My interpretation is a little different. Grimace likes a big fat bass; they don’t feel the need to play as fast as they possibly can in order to please the surfers in the put. Diesel hits the mark with the Jesus Lizard comparison. I believe Chicago has the patent rights to this sound and Grimace had better pay the royalties. If they don’t, Albini will pull out some Big Black records and Touch ‘n’ Go will sit them down to listen to Girls Against Boys, Tar and the above mentioned Jesus Lizard. No, they don’t sound exactly like any of them. It’s a bass heavy, grooving jam session and the vocalist sings. Not a bad job from this group of Denver residents. —Wa

Rob Rule
Rob Rule

Mercury Records

Rob Rule was formed by guitarist Robbie Allen, who passed through the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a guitar tech before this gig and drummer James Bradley Jr. from Mary’s Danish. The group also includes David King on guitars. They take the swirling dervish guitars and monotone vocals of Pond to mainline accessibility. Have a listen to “Never” on Rob Rule’s debut and compare it to Pond’s “Young Splendor.”

I’m not saying they copied Pond, that band is far too obscure for anyone to go around stealing their style. Maybe it’s the similarities in the singing voice of Rob Rule’s vocalist, Edward Anisko and Charlie Campbell of Pond. I have a press release right in front of me and a cover of the Allman Bros’ “Melissa” is on the album, so I’d better get the rest of the comparisons out of the way. The press release has this to say of Rob Rule: “they all share similar inspirations, with a love of roots-oriented, melodic guitar and keyboards based southern flavored Anglo pop-rock demonstrated on their self-titled debut.”

The press release goes on to cite influences such as Savoy Brown, Bad Company and the Stones. Now if you’ve heard the Allman Bros’ latest and you remember the boogie is missing. The music is definitely rooted in ‘70s Southern rock, but the boys in the band take it past all that. It’s not “Freebird” and it’s not the funk of the Peppers. It’s an album of guitar rock, with some keyboards and acoustic instruments thrown in. The complete package is very familiar, but it is impossible to determine where you’ve heard this music before—because you haven’t. It doesn’t fit the classic rock tag, it’s a little too smooth for alternative—what am I saying? Some people think Counting Crows and Lenny Kravitz are alternative—Rob Rule risks being lost in the shuffle because they defy narrow-casting. They pretty much have been lost in the shuffle and that’s why there’s a full page ad for them in this paper. The boss tortured me by forcing me to listen to Steve Perry and Boston until this was finished.—Wa


Infinite Records

IZ is apparently a band from Denver. They sent the best thing I’ve heard all month. Their CD opens with a ditty entitled “Candy Man.” It isn’t the old Sammy Davis Jr. nugget. This Candy Man is an instrumental tune you might hear the Barnum and Bailey band launch into during the elephant parade.

Ever since Cody (not to be confused with Birdman) sent the death threat letter, I’ve been disoriented and filled with fear. The boss gave me a press release to go with this CD, but in my confused state I lost it. IZ’s bio is gone. I don’t need a bio and press release to copy from, although from my recent output you could never tell. 

IZ exists outside the realm of your common everyday punk rock band. I’d say they’ve spent considerable time listening to the free jazz experiments of John Zorn and the late Sonny Sharrock or maybe they’re just into Primus. Unlike many of their contemporaries, IZ live in the world of production, not the service economy. Their song “Sixes” reminds me of the high-tech world of modern manufacturing. It is a science fiction world with human robots wandering about as slaves to the machinery. 

IZ is comfortable enough with their instrumental ability to stray off into long jam sessions verging on complete improvisational, instrumental rock. I’ve referred many times to the work of Savage Republic, Human Hands or anything released by the Independent Project label during the course of my tenure as a SLUG hack. I’d say the vast majority of the readers still don’t get the reference. I’ll give the address of Infinite along with Independent Project’s address at the completion of this review because IZ is another minimalist art rock band recalling the best of Independent Project’s output. 

There aren’t any pretensions and the angst is at a minimum. What a breath of air this CD is. I’m a little sick of muscled jock wannabe’s well on their way to pot-bellied, wife beatin’ follow-in-the-footsteps of their white trash parents middle age in the suburbs. Give me a few nerds who can actually play and create any day. —Wa

The Beat Farmers
Viking Lullabys

Sector 2

Apparently Country Dick Montana is healed (probably by a laying on of hands from Splatter) and The Beat Farmers are back with a new album out on a new label. I think they sold out. I think everyone has sold out, including SLUG. Everyone, that is, except the truck driving hacks up in Logan. They wouldn’t touch this with a paycheck from a Japanese multi-national. 

The Farmers open with “Southern Cross,” a song I believe the band covered on a Dylan album or was it Dylan on a Band album? No it was an album titled Southern Cross/Northern Lights—just forget it. On the new one, they play commercial, derivative rock and roll in an attempt to seduce the CD-buying public into believing that they are the very reincarnation of a ‘70s arena group. Sticking with the Band format with “The Woo-Woo Song” they explore the days before Big Pink when Robertson and company toured the country as The Hawks and played down and dirty barroom roots rock.

The next song is “the Eagles”, and for $82 you can see the originators, or maybe not since the show is at the Delta Center. The best songs feature Country Dick. Those days on the road as a member of the Pleasure Barons with Dave Alvin and Mojo Nixon did wonders for his songwriting skills. In spite of his throat cancer the guy still pours booze down his gullet. “Baby’s Liquor’d Up,” “Gettin’ Drunk” and “Are You Drinkin’ With Me Jesus” all feature the deep baritone Montana vocals. 

The Beat Farmers bend genres with the best. What saves this album from the Sonic Garden, “God I hope Troy will give me a buck for this,” pile is that lovable sense of humor in the songwriting. After close to ten years of existence, the Beat Farmers have still failed to make the album that fully captures the live experience. Uneven as always, there are episodes of brilliance captured in the pits only a laser can read. They are best live, but a wade through the throwaways still provide enough pleasure to make the dollars spent a better value than buying that new Richard Butler disc. —Willie Wheels

Why? Things Burn

Tom Records

All I can tell you is BUY THIS CD! It’s full of well written songs by vocalist/guitarist R.J. Vasquez, none of which are predictable, boring or hard to listen to. From the cool mood andbig guitar sound of ‘Lucky #5 to the almost U2/R.E.M.-esque ‘Help Me’ (without the whining), this band holds its integrity all through the CD. Obvious comparisons can be made, but they are done with such a good twist that you find yourself trying to figure out what this band sounds like. Well, I’ve figured it out. They sound like Why? Things Burn. Tracks like “Crawl” and “Goodbye” separate these guys from any genre you might throw them into. Different is good, especially when it reminds you of something you can’t quite put your finger on. So once again, all I can tell you is BUY THIS CD.—Madd Maxx

Strung Out
Another Day In Paradise 

Fat Wreck Chords

Fast guitars, lots of caffeine, many drums, lots of hooks, ashes, population Control, fast guitars, broken songs, fast lyrics, E-string bombs, oh-oh-oh’s, unclean centuries of wasted blood staining this war torn land, breaks, stops, gos, brakes, there’s something wrong with you, bass, bass, bass, in harm’s way, much energy, noises, the ones you hear in your mind, burnt to the ground, up against the wall, diddley-doodley-diddley, headcase, beer for breakfast, don’t question the forces that govern your miserable life, why must we die, hi-hat-boom-boom-hi-hat, screaming, yelling, whoa whoa, whoa’s, Cheerios & cigarettes, drag you down to the ground, balls deluxe, take off your clothes, everythings alright, dugga-dooga, Mad Mad World, dirty and raw and in need of a shave, my world came crashing down as I stood aside and watched … Strung Out. 

Headache Records
The Wretched Ones

Headache Records deserves a hearty pat on the back for releasing this Oi! masterpiece of 16 balls-out anthems for beer-swilling and rabble-rousing. It’s so fucking refreshing to listen to a band that doesn’t concern itself with anything more complex than drinking Schaefer beer, contempt for school, the bleak outlook of the working man, and who will buy the next round. They obviously listened to a bit of Sham ‘69 as they directly rip off the chorus to “Hurry Up Harry” as the title to “Going Down The Bar,” but hell, if you’re gonna rip someone off you might as well rip off the best. As for the music, these fine gents pump out driving, crunchy, American Oi! That would do the forefathers of Oi! proud. Do yourself a favor and mail order this CD from Headache Records for only $10.00. You won’t be sorry!—Dylan

The Vandals
Sweatin’ To The Oldies

Triple X Records

Quite simply, if you don’t have this or at least like it, you have no taste and should be caned! This is vintage SoCal hardcore punk. All of the classics are here, starting with “Anarchy Burger (Hold The Government)” and “The Legend of Pat Brown” then progressing into classics such as the country tinged “Mohawk Town” (my personal all time favorite Vandals song), The Vandals rap/punk hybrid “Lady Killer,” everyone’s concert fave, the redneck bashing “Urban Struggle,” and “Wanna Be Manor” in the middle of which unexpectedly turns into T.S.O.L.’s “Superficial Love.” This is all interspersed with the bands new, less impressive material, the highlight being their cover of “Summer Lovin” from Grease

A good deal of the fun of this album is the between song banter of The Vandals and an obnoxious, booing, taunting, California audience. At one point, they gather women from the audience onstage and play Butt Bongos with them. 

This is truly a fine documentation of a band responsible for one of the punkest albums ever, “Peace Thru Vandalism,” and oddly enough, one of the best country/western albums ever, the transitional “Slippery When Ill” (none of which, with the exception of the sound check “Goop All Over The Phone” is present here). If any of you saw the Vandals/Frontline/Victims Willing show at the Speedway Cafe (moment of silence please) in ‘88 you will understand exactly why I feel so sentimental about this band. Buy this or kill yourself. Also available on video.—Dylan

Check out more from our September 1994 issue here.