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Clint Darling
February 2002

By: Clint Darling

Dear Alex,

About now you're caught in the weird and timeless confusion of impending fatherhood. Congratulations and good luck. Some of what follows may chart a musical path to confuse and undermine your new kid. With any luck and a good steady diet of this while it's young, you'll never be subjected to the thirteen-years-hence-version of Britney Spears and N'Sync.

I expected a Washington DC band to sound like Washington DC, damnit. Y'know, Dischord and Fugazi, uprising overwrought youth and loud loud guitars. The picture on the back of EL GUAPO's "The Geography of Dissolution" is of a straining vocalist clenching his bass and screaming into a microphone gaffe-taped to the stand. But the CD inside may have come from the Bermuda Triangle. In fact, it seems like the triangle features on some "songs" but the whole thing seems like a lost session from Peter And The Wolf afterhours when the orchestra has smoked some funny stuff and invited their beatnik friends to come along. Do their parents know what they're doing with those music lessons?

JONAH are much much much more straightforward on "Save The Swimmer" and if I could just get past the Christian problem, this would probably win a place next to my old Echo And The Bunnymen albums. I've never understood why gay artists insist on fronting sex as a subject, why black militants are mostly concerned about their skin color and now I'm forced to wonder why this flood of fucking Christians insists on mining their relationship with God for all their lyrics. Write what you wonder about, write what you know but fer' chrissake shouldn't great art aim at larger themes than me, me, me?

I liked LUPINE HOWL from the first notes of "125" (song and album). Not exactly country but sportin' a Memphis haircut to their alt.whatever, these apparently-English folks wander through a variety of styles and incarnations. Not quite as slick or as lounge-y as Smashmouth and holding an awkward handle, LH only stumbles on the slower numbers, revealing their islands genetic problem with phrasing and key. Throw some Radiohead on the fire and tether the horses at the funky martini bar...

Reminding me a lot of a less creative Q And Not U or early Sunny Day Real Estate but veering away from the sweep and scope, AM STEREO are mining old territory on "Suffocation Town" and it shows in the small sounds and small writing. Suffocating? Yep.

Almost as suffocating is SCANNERFUNK. I don't have a clue what genre this might fall in -- whether experimental, techno, minimalist or ? -- but while interesting I don't have much of a desire to hear it again. Like Falko after a speed jag, "Wave of light by wave of light" is the result of drugs'n'synthesizers. It's like a Volkswagen commercial gone on too long. Where's the funk?

Woah, it's "Come Together" done by Alice'n'Chains with lyrics pastiched from every Hard Alternative Top 40 hit of the last three years. Wheeee!!! Just what I was waiting for!! The debut from ZOO STORY on Universal Records is a radio programmers wet dream -- dull, insipid, saleable hooks that are as disposable as an old tampon off the Barrier Reef. Breathy, wish-I-were-sexy vocals for the preteen cream-crowd and ham-fisted cockrock guitars sliding up and down the hard wood shaft of their....oh...oh...oh god...oh..oh fuck me..oh wow!!!

OK. WHISTLER very quietly throws on the coffee (so as not to wake their Significant Others who were up late working on the website that their friend the cartoonist is all hot to get up in time for Alternative Press Expo) and on "faith in the morning" they very politely stake some nice folksy territory for themselves. They could be Canadian (every American's standard ruler of politeness) but I suspect a run of Welsh in these UK exports. The Innocence Mission on holiday?

Score! Warner Brothers has seen fit to tart up an electronic-ish version of Alanis Morrisette and release it under the name JOSIE "The Unkunvenshunal Girl". How street. How daring. How sucky?

Like a Dean Martin reissue, ROSIE FLORES strikes a nostalgic tone on "Speed Of Sound" and while it's good, it seems to lack any urgency or honesty, just reaching back in time for the tried and true. Not for the modern set but maybe entirely appropriate for my girlfriends Midwest parents!

More my usual cup of tea is the high-energy guitar-bass-drums enthusiasm of THE TRANS MEGETTI on "soon be seeing you later". The usual singer who probably writes and figures that's enough reason to sing, too, but a lot of great dynamics and playing -- these guys would be fun to watch and should play with Portland's Pan Tourismos (my fave locals -- gotta get the plug in!) on the West Coast. I wanna see 'em live cuz I bet they're a hoot to watch!!

PRIME STH were released in June of 2001 and "Underneath The Surface" must have gotten lost in the tidal wave of bands jumping the negative-alternative (we used to be metalheads) chuckwagon. Lyrics like "every life needs an open sore" let you know how these gloomy Gus's spend their time. Yep. Quiet verse/loud chorus. Yawn.

"The Mystery Of The Whisper" haunts THE CRUXSHADOWS and their bleeping, pitter-pat goth-indo-gloom-metal haunted me long after I exorcised it from my stereo. Somebody must like this wimpy shit but to me it just sounds like a fey version of Iron Butterfly doing spooky John Cougar covers with funny lyrics from Tolkien outtakes.

Gettin' down to the seamy side of town past the Rialto, HEATHER EATMAN has the vulnerable voice of a little girl smoking cigarettes but "Real" doesn't stand out from a crowd of post-Crow others. I know it's tough to write a good song and even harder to write an original one but just cuz you can sing doesn't mean you can write and vice versa. Think about it, kids.

As concept albums go, "Power Dive" by Germany's GUN BARREL is...well, it's a remake of a bad White Snake album. This may have been the inspiration for the recent movie "Rock Star" but they improved the lyrics for the movie. "Nobody can bring us down...oh no/Ready for the countdown, the point of no return." Please don't. Oh, please.

ADEMA follow close behind Gun Barrel in style -- a few years removed and a little more aggro. Don't encourage them by buying this stuff.

I didn't mean to do all this metal shit in one go but that's the way it came out. Double-timing the pace (ska metal anyone? Skank faster! Skank faster!), REIGN OF TERROR are not quite as overtly funny as Gun Barrel but more traditional metal than Adema. "I'm not a beggar/I'm not a thief/Running for cover/Trying to pee (?)". Yeah. I gotta find my friends from POPEWYRM and give them this copy of "Sacred Ground". This sucks but they'll love it.

On an entirely different note, I suspect that I don't object more to DEMETRIUS HARRINGTON because I've just been subjected to the last three albums. His minimalist soul-rap backgrounds are interesting (but seem to be a home-studio production) while his vocal phrasing is all Britney-meets-TLC and we're not much for that on the West Coast. Hopefully this material impressed the R&B cutie down the street and he's since gotten a good job at the produce store on the corner to support her and the baby. He's a nice boy -- don't say bad things.

With phrasing more reminiscent of Bjork than TLC and backgrounds more like Portishead and Pink Martini, VIOLET INDIANA takes a turn for the Sade on "roulette". Intimate, sexy and odd, I liked this right off the bat although the anthemic moments are a little tough to take. If you really miss the soundtrack from Twin Peaks this might be the music for you.

IFFY sounds like a Jamaican triphop remake of "Emotional Rescue" on "biota bondo" and it's cool and dance-y in it's UK unintelligibility (I have no evidence that they are actually English but it ought to fit). I'll lose it someday and not mind but it's going on a road trip first.

See you when I get back from Mexico, Alex -- take care and good luck with the whole kid thing!


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