GAZE
Shake the Pounce
(K)
*

Drippy, anemic, cloying, self-consciously cute pop music from three girls from Vancouver B.C. with no dynamics--or indeed, visible songs. They kinda sound like Lois, if Lois had no personality. Or songs. And no, I didn't like drummer Rose Melborg's previous band Tiger Trap, either. Gaze is the sort of band K's detractors obviously feel the label is populated by: people who should really have learnt to grow (up) years ago. Don't shake your head at me like that--surely I'm allowed to dislike just one K act? EVERETT TRUE


JOHN P. STROHM

Vestavia
(Flat Earth)
*
**

Ex-Blake Babies and Lemonheads guitarist/drummer releases a second solo album that owes as much to '60s AM pop radio and the descending chromatic chord changes of the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" as it does to the guitar-drenched rock of the late '80s Boston indie scene (Pixies, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr.) he grew up in. Oh, and don't forget Gram Parsons' deep-fried visions of Americana. The result? A generic, yet strangely resonant, Southern-tinged classic pop album. Songs like the wistful, guitar-saturated "Drive-Thru" could even be our own Pete Krebs with a little less subtlety. Go figure. ET


THE GROCERIES/DAILY VALUES

Get a Handle on Your Groceries
(Rosasharn)
*
***/***

Pop music, all the more endearing for its humanity. The first band, Seattle's Groceries, are special indeed. The songs the girl sings (the drawn-out, tremulous, frightened "I Screwed Up"; the folkish "Whipped Cream"; the saddened "Purge The Rat Bastards") are exactly the sort of plaintive indie fare I used to love so much in the '80s (think Australia's Cannanes, half of Bristol U.K.'s Sarah label's roster, early Throwing Muses even). The songs the boy sings are just as likable... but I always did prefer female vocals. Daily Values are more mysterious--check their marvelously understated "Song #10" which recalls Boston's sadly forgotten Ed's Redeeming Qualities. Music with charm, imagination and humor. Both contain a Delusion (I think.) Recommended. ET

Write to Rosasharn, PO Box 9561, Seattle WA 98109.


DAMIEN JURADO
Rehearsals for Departure
(Sub Pop)
*

Dreadful. Surely, the point of an "urban folk" CD is not to round off all its corners (thanks, Ken Stringfellow!) until it ends up sounding indistinguishable from a thousand other records. Everything about Rehearsals for Departure--from the tastefully plucked acoustic to the tastefully blown harmonica to the tastefully lovelorn lyrics to the tastefully "country"-style vocals--reeks of insincerity. Again, surely anathema to "urban folk" music? We call it the "Jeremy Enigk syndrome" up here at The Stranger: whereby self-regard is taken as a substitute for talent. It's about time someone blew the whistle on all this pompous "new country" bollocks Sub Pop sees fit to pollute this city's airwaves with. ET


MAQUILADORA
The Lost Works of Eunice Phelps
(Tectonic)
*
*

Three San Diego boys who think it's funny to play country music slowly and out-of-tune. It is... up to a certain point. ET


VARIOUS ARTISTS
In My Living Room
(Kimchee)
*
*

The vomit-inducing self-serving "perfect" "pop" of Richard "Everything I Do Comes In Inverted Commas" Davies begins this dire compilation of... oh god... slowcore. God, how we wish the white indie boys of mid-America had never heard (i) a country guitar, (ii) Codeine, and (iii) any music whatsoever. Irritatingly enough, both Helium's Mary Timony and Buffalo Tom's Chris Colbourn--folk who should know better--contribute their own unique brands of minimal baroque rock (Timony) and full-on angst (Colbourn) right in the middle of this otherwise forgettable 12-song set. ET


DIRTY BIRDS
Dirty Birds
(Falsified)
*
**

Northwest act with the good taste to wear a Dicks Beer T-shirt on the inner sleeve. That's one mean sax, boys! Half the time the Dirty Birds sound like a more wired version of the good Reverend (Heat), half the time they sound like N.Y.C. No Wave jazz-punk fusion from the late '70s, half the time like a scuzzy '60s garage band (the Sonics' "The Witch" is covered here) and half the time they just cut loose and blow! Damn, I can't add up. ET


AONO JIKKEN
A Page Of Madness
(Gold Mountain Supply Company)
***

Erm... Japanese taiko drums; Chinese and East Indian stringed instruments like the erhu and dilruba; Turkish and Moroccan horns, flamesutes and reed instruments from throughout Asia; a variety of percussion from around the world; Western instruments like the timpani, harmonica, accordion, autoharp and flamesute; modified children's sound toys; "found objects" such as cans, pots and pans, scrap metal, glass bottles, saw blades, bamboo logs and 2'x4' wood pieces; specially created instruments such as the bell wheel, the waterphone, a variety of kelp horns and a large plastic bass baliphone (among others); all went towards helping this Seattle "experimental" ensemble create a new score for A Page Of Madness, the classic 1926 Japanese silent film. And it sure as hell sounds like it. Thank you. I was looking for a new definition of the word "pretentious." ET


UNIVERSAL MADNESS
Live in Los Angeles
(Golden Voice)
*
***

Hey! The Nutty Boys are back! Nutty! The reformed original Madness sound horrible... oh, okay then... just fine on CD, and I bet it was a real blast to catch them live, even at this late stage. Are you telling me you have no soft spot for such classic moments of late '70s U.K. pop as the sun-drenched "Embarrassment," full-on dance-fest of "One Step Beyond" and "Baggy Trousers," bittersweet "My Girl" and Kinks-esque "Our House"? Are you telling me you don't understand the appeal of Ray Davies, Reg Presley, Captain Sensible, Chas Smash? Are you telling me you have no soul? Get the fuck out of my sight, you pasty-faced bed-wettin', simperin', mewlin', retchin', jazz-lovin', rock-hatin' momma's boy. Madness rock. All young pretenders to the ska throne should form an orderly line here. ET


POLECAT
40hz
(Finepoint)
*
*

Full-on rock from Washington outfit featuring the cute, garrulous ex-drummer from the Bangs. Kinda similar to the surprisingly rejuvenated Seaweed The Stranger caught down at the Breakroom recently. Kinda. ET


THE PEE CHEES
Life
(Kill Rock Stars)
*
**

Bands That Matter Volume 10: Nation of Ulysses, Fatal Microbes, the Slits, the Pee Chees. Bands who all possess vocalists who are as deliberately snotty and irritating as their guitar sound is abrasive and rampant, bands who all have an attitude that is as cool and sex-laden and uncompromising as their dress sense is sharp and retarded. Imagine if Jonathan Richman had ever liked the Rolling Stones (say it's not so!), or if punk rock had ever been played by teenagers. The Pee Chees are tight, fierce, art-laden fanzine rock from California. They feature a part-owner of punk cheerleaders Lookout! records, and an ex-Bratmobile. Life collects together the band's seven singles, plus a variety of rare tracks--and, as such, lacks the cohesion of their genius snot-nosed Do The Math debut CD. It's still more vital than anything you own, though. ET

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