The Grey Area

(One Drop Recordings)

I have argued that hiphop's presentation of black America is not so much CNN (the poor, the inner city, the streets) as cinema. Tracks like Notorious B.I.G.'s "Somebody's Gotta Die," Anti-Pop Consortium's "9.99," and Onry Ozzborn's "The Altar" (which opens The Grey Area, his latest release) are mini-movies with sonic effects, action scenes, and dramatic tension.

If L.A.'s Styles of Beyond produces the thrillers, then the Northwest's Oldominion camp produces the horror films--and Ozzborn is Oldominion's most cinematic rapper. His eerie scenarios find their motion-picture doubles in the mood and geography of The X Files, the madness of Kubrick's The Shining, and the erotic gore of Blade.

Even the name of Ozzborn's second solo CD, The Grey Area, like that of his first release, Alone, sounds like the title of a horror movie. Indeed, The Grey Area might easily have been called Alone 2, as track after track covers the same psychic terrain with the same freaky success. One day in the future we will walk into a theater with a big, flat speaker (a wall of sound), and enjoy the early-21st-century sonic cinema of horror master Onry Ozzborn. CHARLES MUDEDE

Onry Ozzborn & Barfly (as Norman) perform at the Crocodile on Sun Aug 24 with Northern State and Anna Oxygen, 9pm, $10.



(Bar/None Records)

You have to be a Japanese student or a seriously committed pop devotee to love Puffy AmiYumi; those of us who don't understand their language rely on melody to keep us hooked on the sweet-sounding, two-woman sensation. If Jimmy Webb or Burt Bacharach rocks your world, Nice is for you. Sure, Ami and Yumi (they're known as just Puffy in Japan) sing the occasional tune in English, but there's something distracting about those songs compared to the others, especially on Nice--the first track ("Planet Tokyo") is in English, sounding like a novelty before the real album begins. Produced entirely by Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish) and featuring a cover that pays homage to John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace, the singers' voices are surrounded by hand claps, harmonized ooh-oohs, jangling guitars, keyboards, bells, and other pop mainstays. "Tokyo Nights" includes a lovely piano bridge, "Your Love Is a Drug" could have been sung by the Cars circa Panorama, and there's even a horn-laced ska romp ("K2G") reminiscent of Special Beat Service. If you're already a fan, you'll find much to like in Nice. If not, decide whether you're truly a pop junkie before making your purchase. KATHLEEN WILSON


This Is Meant to Hurt You

(Jade Tree)

Talk about a band that roars through several rock genres at breakneck speed: Over the course of five songs (and in under 20 minutes) Seattle's These Arms Are Snakes careen through math and post-hardcore, make brief but energizing pit stops at Boys Life-esque emo and Cure-esque electro-goth, and culminate in an astounding finish that makes you want to live it all over again (especially "Run It Through the Dog"). Given that the band features former members of Botch and Kill Sadie, the vocals are decidedly less harrowing than might be expected, yet maintain elements of textural surprise. Singer Steve Snere's varied and physically theatrical live style comes through on record loud and clear. Produced by Matt Bayles, This Is Meant to Hurt You is also meant to revive you. KATHLEEN WILSON

These Arms Are Snakes perform at Graceland on Mon Aug 25 with Hot Water Music, Cobra High, and Dead in Hollywood, 7 pm, $10.


Lost Legends of Surf Guitar 1: Big Noise from Waimea! Lost Legends of Surf Guitar 2: Point Panic! Lost Legends of Surf Guitar 3: Cheater Stomp!


I really ain't a fan of surf, HOWEVER... after digging LLOSG, I was reminded why I used to be! Surf was tainted for me in the '90s by the overwhelming redundancy of the then contemporary surf band bull-shtick. It was too campy, super goofy, and it generally relied on cliché. So, NOW, I thank GOD, LLOSG reminded me how, originally, surf wasn't based on predicable progressions and cheek... well, okay, so it KINDA was... but period surf FEELS more innocent and clever, as it's HEAPED with imaginative aural color while still rooted in R&B. It was that freewheeling imaginative feeling that attracted me as a kid and damn well snagged my attention NOW. And it's that cleverness which can make surf, well... most early-'60s teen instrumental music, STILL interesting, relevant even. These collections feature surf/instrumental bands from all over the U.S. and include a few unissued tracks, so stomp, don't wail, okay? MIKE NIPPER

**** meat pie *** stink eye ** red eye * tie dye