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Clint Darling - March 2002
First Step

By: Clint Darling

In the pit of despair I've come to lovingly call The Black Hole, center of chillingly-bad Orwellian analogies and more-terrifying-than-bad-dream realities, music had nearly ceased to be a source of inspiration.

"No surprise" say the oh-so-jaded readers of this column familiar with my vituperative bouts of raging verbosity.

But then I sat down with "Yellow Parachutes" by COLDPLAY and the not-on-my-keyboard titled album by SIGUR ROS, "Audio" by BLUE MAN GROUP and the amazingly brilliant (if somewhat redundant) double album "Leaves Turn Inside You" by UNWOUND. And despite deaths near and far, rage and helplessness...despite all...music had found its power to inspire again. The point being that as I start this particular month, I'm in an upbeat mood and the CD's to follow had a fair shake. This seems a good point to include a sampling of a typical letter from bands reviewed herein...

Clint,
About your reviews
You didn't get much love growing up I'm sure.
Did you know there's medication and psychotherapy available
For your depression and anger in your pathetic life?
Did you get your ass kicked alot in school?
Are "you" the one that gets all the rejection?
How do you (or others) live with yourself.
Your mom must be proud of you.
Oh, I guess she rejected you too
Good luck with your life!
If you haven't killed yourself.
You're such a Loser
And obviously still an immature little kid!
Deal with your problems dude.

--Arnold Hugo Stolting

I'll just note that Arnold sent in an unlabeled CD-R that wouldn't play on my office CD player. He's gotten good press on lots of desperate little internet publications, though. Any publicity, Arnold...but this letter seems to be maybe a wee bit hurt. So sorry!

And somebody whose web address is @ "footballcrazy.com" (which leads to certain assumptions about one, don't you think?) called me a fruit and advised "you need to take down your site. Nobody cares about those stupid bands". I didn't realize that anyone was supposed to care. But on with the show!

THE INCREDIBLE MOSES LEROY has an instant grabber for fans of quirky pop, retro-hip, good beats and great playing in "Electric Pocket Radio." I didn't want to take it off to put on the next CD. My girlfriend will love this on our next road trip and I want to know where this guy is from and when I can catch him in some small club near me soon...where is my Google Search when I need it?

I slipped RICHARD LLOYD in with some trepidation. You see, I spent most of my collegiate career stoned out of my mind on hallucinogens listening to TELEVISION. Yep. And wearing black. And loving guitars. And this...well, "The Cover Doesn't Matter" but it sure doesn't add up to being anything that will put Lloyd back on the musical map. He's still "from Television" to me.

I'd like to Thank the Lord God that there are Christians broad-minded enough to not consider one's country of origin when pulling together crappy Americana. The crew that got with Jesus Christ (who I believe sat in on several numbers judging from the amount of thanks given) to produce CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED's album "Highway 377" were a motley crue from all over -- manager Shannon CANADA, engineer Michael ENGLAND and a whole Host of others (not to mention He Who Is Everywhere) all joining to make this a thoroughly forgettable mainstream Christian-country mess that makes me want to tie them behind old Buicks and drag them a country mile. Sheesh. On the bright side, it got me back to drinking alcohol again.

The opening song on "Carousel" by WILL HOGE reminded me of "Books About UFO's" from "Candy Apple Grey" by HUSKER DU as covered by FREEDY JOHNSTON and THE COUNTING CROWS. So far so good. If I heard any of these songs on the radio I would stop and listen until they were done and not be unhappy. Overall, though, if I'd wanted to buy the last Counting Crows album....

On a much much different note, shitty fantasy metal lives on in some dewy Midwest...whooops, no. These flaxen-haired leather studs are German to the core which explains the Teutonic war cries and credits for "evil voices". But there's something wrong with FREEDOM CALL. They just don't sound very menacing. "Crystal Empire" sounds like STYX being sped up as a practical joke. Who is kidding whom? Every song sounds alike but you wouldn't want to hear it again. Actually, this makes the soundtrack from "Rockstar" sound original.

"Companion" sounds like an electronica-influenced remix of FRANK ZAPPA AND THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION's "Freak Out" and I'm not sure if that's a compliment to THE BEACH MACHINE or not. I mean, these guys are definitely artists with a distinct aim but whether it can ever really please anybody but themselves is a different question. Interesting but somehow boring. I'd rather hear four minutes of "Help, I'm A Rock."

I'm throwing MINT 400 back in the pile to try reviewing "Intercomfort" at another time. I listened to the first fifteen seconds of the first three songs and it made me hate what's happened to "alternative" rock but maybe that's just my moodiness in action.

Ditto with ALEX WOODARD whose "nowhere near here" is probably a fine singer-songwriter sort of effort but is plastered with quotes urging me to compare him to DAVE MATTHEWS and DAVID GRAY and I just don't have the energy for that sort of thing. Sorry, mate, as our friends in the UK might say.

Instead, I popped up LADY BIANCA who, while not doing anything even remotely new with a stale genre, does the basic blues in a manner guaranteed to wiggle your toes on "Rollin'". Mm-mmm good when you're cookin' or in the kitchen. I licked my fingers twice.

Speaking of licking fingers, let's digress and mention the stellar appearance in puddly Portland of THALIA ZEDEK at The Blackbird. It was my first foray into this venue and I was much impressed by it as a wonderfully intimate place to push your way to the front for your favorite band but equally turned off by the walls of cigarette smoke that obstructed the view and constricted the lungs. As smoky as the old 1201 Club but with higher ceilings, The Blackbird was transformed by the magical power of Zedek's versatile band. Rarely staying on the same instrument two songs in a row, they wove quiet tapestries behind her raggedly beautiful vocal. I'm out to find her solo album right now.

Aiming for ragged beauty but not quite achieving it is THISTLE's "oxygen e.p." out on Tiberius Records. These Kentucky boys have a nice niche midway between LIVE and ALICE IN CHAINS but with a curiously optimistic glow that must come from their homes in the moonshine hills and pastures of bluegrass. I'd give this one a miss but, equally optimistic, will be looking for something better from them in the future -- they need some indefinable ingredient to cross the line between wannabe and star.

THISTLE looks better after listening to CLYDE's debut (I assume -- self titled) on Baby Julius Records. These guys suck shit. During the opening notes I consoled myself that "at least they're not NuRapMetal" but y'know what I got? Yup. Rap metal. And not even well-produced or talented...nope. These guys would benefit from becoming a KISS cover band.

I'd love to know the story behind ERIC ALEXANDRAKIS' "Catatonia". There's gotta be one. The opening pastiche of noises and scene setting crawled past me while I tried to figure out the artwork and was into the...well, whatever it is...before I quite knew what happened. This is maybe the good side of home production -- armed with a phone line, a 4-track and some original thinking, Eric has created something that speaks directly to his own subconscious. It's not what I'd ever call accessible and suffers from a typical self-recorded, self-produced, self-directed monomania. Every good idea is stuffed atop each other and the result lacks focus. Eric, get a band and listen to them.

Clocking in with 15 songs in a mere 34 minutes, THE REVELAIRES offer an album of covers on "High Tide" and while you can hardly go wrong with surf music I have to wonder what their other albums sound like? Competent although not revelatory and not quite Germanic in their insistence on consistency these Belgians don't quite add anything interesting to a fairly rigid genre. On the other hand, I'm not reselling this and if faced with a choice of this or CLYDE....well, I'd grab some Belgian beer, a beach blanket and a binky for my boardin' babe!

Back to the MINT 400 album "intercomfort" and still this disquieting feeling of wanting to like it but not exactly hitting the right stride of enjoyment. Maybe it's too predictable or maybe I got soft about my indy rock these last few years. I'd like to hear them stretch a bit more, reach for a slightly bigger sound than the cramped and claustrophobic grunge that fills this album like a younger sibling to SOUNDGARDEN or a skinnier TAD. They don't begin to stretch until the fourth number but the production just doesn't follow the writing. Close, guys...really close. With fourteen songs diluting what might have been a really solid album, I gotta reiterate that just because you can fit over an hour of music on a CD doesn't mean you should.

Well. Catchy butt-rock hooks, a little electronic manipulation and a touch of classy production got me to turn up the volume on JOHNNY YOUNG's "drone" and I don't even like this kind of music! Just to give credit where credit is due if this guy has half the stage presence that he has on album you will hear him on the radio someday. Every track has the chops and polish to make it somewhere and I think I might rather hear this than half the shit on New Rock Radio these days. Getting the rest of the way through the album, my overriding impression is that these are well-crafted outtakes from some lost ALICE IN CHAINS session. Not bad if you like it....

Another one....jeeeezus. ALEX WOODARD waits until the third song to have an even remotely interesting intro on "nowhere near here" and at this point I'm not ready to give this album a lot of slack. So despite the ravings of the Austin Chronicle, this is lackluster, middle-of-the-road, I-wish-I-were-a-singer-songwriter crap and if I hear another fucking gratuitious Bourbon Street reference I'm tossing the whole album in the garbage. Jeeeeeeezus.

JETT BRANDO covers a lot of ground for someone stuck somewhere in desolation despite "the movement toward you" title. There's an ex-girlfriend out in the world who deserves a thanks or two for inspiring such bleak beauty. Jett, like so many others, waits for the third song to let the album really kick in and I've gotta ask, "hey, guys, isn't this a risky policy?" but I got this far and now I'm enjoying it. Kudos, too, for low-impact packaging as it came along with ALL NATURAL LEMON AND LIME FLAVORS "straight blue line" which kinda sounds similar (same producer - Pete Murphy) but takes the whole thing out of the basement and into the light of the mainstage with a cyclone of Spector, a carnival of light and sound that I can only imagine is revelatory in concert. Sounds like "Revolver" only recorded in San Francisco with more drugs and loops. Nice. Who are these guys?

Well, thanks for dropping in....what about butterflies?

clint

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