(Sub Pop)


It's easy to understand why Ugly Casanova's Isaac Brock galvanized Holopaw singer John Orth as soon as Brock happened upon that band's set in a Gainesville, Florida bar. As I've stated before about Brock's subsequent collaboration with Orth on Ugly Casanova's Sharpen Your Teeth, the singer (responsible for Sharpen Your Teeth's most affecting song, "Hotcha Girls") is quietly arresting in his stage appearance, projecting a romantic aura of deep history and Southern days gone by. On his own band's self-titled release, Orth and numerous musicians play a kind of soul music that leaves a Northwest gal like me savoring the beauty of a landscape I've never seen, while keening toward a wisdom handed down in language made up of words that are simple yet packed with accessible meaning. The first line of "Short-Wave Hum (Stutter)," "Fold the KOA map until we're shoulder to shoulder," makes me wish I could feel the adventures had by my parents when they drove dusty highways before I was born; the piano-strewn "Pony Apprehension" tells of a fawn hoping for warm weather in an enduring winter ("Spring, she woke up dead with a broken back and a note that read, 'Maybe'"). Drunkenness is described as "teacup woozy" ("From the slow spin of the bar"), and images of appaloosas, palominos, and other horses stand sagely offering lazy notices. Cello, trumpet, and mandolin fill out some songs while others are left strikingly bare. Brock makes an appearance on "Igloo Glass," adding his distinctive vocals to a sweet, short chorus. KATHLEEN WILSON


Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP

(Latino Buggerveil Records)


The Butthole Surfers enjoy making the stiff kids squirm--but anyone who's been paying attention to the avant freak act for the last two decades already knows as much. San Antonio's captains of shock, sludge, psychedelics, and sonic nightmares are filling in the voids for their demented/devoted with Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP, a collection of the band's first two EPs (previously only available on vinyl). They've also tacked on a few extras--two additional encore songs from the Live EP, and early/previously-unreleased versions of other songs. The result is a collection of lunatic experiments, out-there oddities, and long interludes where the band simply riffs off its own ability to make maniacal noise and sing about stupid shit. Although some of the songs hold together by the tenuous thread of a humorous lyrical tactic ("Bar-B-Q Pope," "Something," "Suicide," and "The Revenge of Anus Presley"), there are too many repeats and too few cohesive (even from the Surfers' standpoint) tracks on this 18-song disc, making this collection of rarities one for only the truly fanatical. JENNIFER MAERZ


Not the Way



Cass McCombs is a bit of a legend around the Northwest. A musician from California who toured the West Coast incessantly, last summer he fell in love with a girl from Portland, romantically whisked her away to NYC, and started playing with Will Oldham in Palace. Now, his debut for Baltimore's Monitor Records, Not the Way, shows exactly what a whirlwind, vagabond lifestyle can do for a songwriter. Sounding like it was recorded in a hallway, a bathroom, or 1968, Cass' cloudy, dreamy psych-folk gets vaguely Lou/Nick/Syd on our ass, but mostly in sentiment rather than practice. Surely he sings of bleary-eyed tragedies in his trembling, somewhat gritty vibrato, over a loud, chilly tambourine, acoustic guitar, and swank player piano. There's also a fair amount of drugginess; but, in welcome contrast to the endless rails and rails of coke that fuel the youth of today, Cass' music is heavy-lidded with the perfume of opium flowers about which he sings. Recorded perfectly for his early-morning, foggy sound, Not the Way is totally stunning. JULIANNE SHEPHERD





When the Roots' first CD, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released (the wonderful hiphop year of 1994), I said: "Yes, damn straight I want more?!!!??!" But having just listened to their latest and fourth full-length CD, Phrenology (from the horrible hiphop year of 2002), all I can say is this: "I definitely don't want any more. In fact, I want the Roots to just stop, disband, and leave hiphop alone, dammit!" They promote themselves as being at the frontline of hiphop creativity, the saviors and preservers of the b-boy ethic, but all they are is an image (or afterimage) of these qualities that once informed the content of their CDs. Phrenology, which has a great cover, opens brilliantly with the track "Rock You," which is followed by a short and supposedly shocking Bad Brains-like punk track, "!!!!!!!," and then melts into an initially interesting but soon vapid "Sacrifice." The rest of the CD continues to slump, track after track, into rap pop. Those who can make it to the end might find something interesting on the horizon of this wasteland, but I just couldn't get there. I had to stop on the 10th track, "Water," and listen to something else (Delarosa and Asora). By the way, whatever happened to the Mountain Brothers? They are from Illadelphia; they have live instruments, a jazzy sound, and intelligent raps. Why don't they just replace the Roots? CHARLES MUDEDE

**** porterhouse *** rib eye ** flank * Tofurkey