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The Mapes/World War IX split 7” review

The Mapes/World War IX

Split 7”

[Red Black & Blue]

Does the carpet match the Mapes? That's a question that doesn't get answered on these three short blasts of punk rock from Las Vegas, Nevada's Mapes. Snotty and fun with a theme song ("Journey to the Center of the Mapes") is how these gamblers roll. "Rocket in My Pocket" may reference the penis, but The Mapes are not afraid to let their sentimental side show on the heartfelt track, "Tits." Flippin' the split reveals two punk rock tunes from New York City's WWIX. "Empty V" deals with the vacuous wasteland of the formerly music video playing channel, MTV. (I thought Jello Biafra demanded that MTV leave the airwaves back in '85... they must not have been listening). For their second track, WWIX could not resist a song about their favorite past-time which is the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Can a real "Intervention" be far behind? Let's hope not.—Joey Germs

World War IX Brown Baggin It 7" EP

World War IX

Brown Baggin It 7" EP

[Red Black & Blue Records]

Skipping several wars ahead, this old school punk rock band from Brooklyn (yeah that's right, Real World Brooklyn!) gives us a future blast from the past. If I must reference a punk band from back in the dizzily day that I would compare WWIX to (and I must), I would have to say Circle Jerks. The singer reminds me of Keith Morris and that dude's snarly, gnarly pissed off punk rock rage-- sans the SoCal accent of course. The packaging for this seven inch record is highly conceptual being as it is, a brown paper bag, much like you would pack an egg salad sandwich in for lunch, or a forty of malt liquor for dinner.

World War IX revels in fast, straight forward punk rock with songs about drinking, ("Portrait of Sobriety"), drugging ("Treasure Hunt,"), religious freaking ("Jesus Freaks") and employees of the months ("Employee of the Month") which incidentally, was also the title of a fascinating film which combined the comic genius of Dane Cook with the sultry intensity of Jessica Simpson (their on-screen chemistry is explosive!) Any m*therf*cking way, World War IX will make you forget such things exist in our world and shift your attention back to the drink, drugs and freaks which are much easier to take.—Joey Germs

Bachelorette album review

Bachelorette

S/T

[Drag City]

Annabel Alpers is Bachelorette and as such she creates spacy, dreamy soundscapes that seem to transcend her earthly bindings. Alpers, who is from Auckland, New Zealand (down under and over), wrote and recorded the music for this record while on tour across several continents. Whatever geographic location gave inception to the songs, they seem to float untethered to any natural or imaginary borders. Alpers fuses together organic and electronic elements to create her music, which might technically be called techno or synth pop, but the strongest instrument is her own hypnotic voice. Overall, a completely digable album that cleverly sneaks into the brain where it hides and lies dormant until the most unsuspecting moments.

Bad Cop I Can't Slow Down Digital EP review

Bad Cop

I Can't Slow Down Digital EP

[Jeffrey Drag]

Bad Cop are some young dudes from Nashville who do a pretty dang good bang-up job of playing garage rock. They seem to pay as much attention to the fuzz as to the hook and the chorus and the song as a whole—not always the case in the genre. This 3 song, 2 video EP is not just adrenaline pumping (there’s certainly that), but it's got substance too. Lead off track “Animal” exemplifies that previous point, reminding one of Screaming Trees, who also paid homage with tips of the hat. “Maniac" is in the middle and a smidge more manic. "Gloom Bank," is gloomy, sure, but still suitable for buggin’ out. Videos for "Gloom Bank" and "Maniac" comprise the difference. They're low budget, low brow and bloody, just how you like 'em. And it’s free to download, so download it freely here.—Jubson Jones

Birds & Arrows We’re Gonna Run review

Birds and Arrows

We’re Gonna Run

[Knox]

Birds & Arrows are a husband and wife (Andrea & Pete Connolly) duo that's recently expanded into a trio with the addition of cellist, Josh Starmer. B&A play a whimsical brand of folk music which includes, but is not limited to ballads of love and songs of yearning. Based out of Chapel Hill, NC, the group has been gaining press nods recently and with good reason. They create catchy tunes with sweet vocal harmonies that pontificate on universal themes and feelings that are sure to strike a chord in hopeless romantics everywhere. I know it makes me want to get married... again.—Warren Jeffs

Blasted Diplomats self-titled cassette review

Blasted Diplomats

self-titled

[Plus Tapes]

There's something instantly familiar about the Blasted Diplomats, which makes sense—all four members are long-time record store employees. Osmosis alone would mean these guys have absorbed thousands of hours of rock music and peeped plenty of album art. So at their heart, the Blast Mats are a product of that music overload. What comes through most evidently on this self-titled debut cassette is their affinity for the indie guitar rock of the early to mid 1990s and bands like Grifters, Archers of Loaf and Gaunt. The tape is comprised of ten songs—a mix of tracks recorded both live and in the studio. The studio tracks are pretty raw and stripped down while the live tracks show the Blast Mats working their boozy charm on a party crowd thus reinforcing the unpretentious attitude of the studio songs. Given its look to the previous decade for inspiration it's only fitting then that a cassette is the chosen format for this release. Fine by me, time to get blasted.—P.C. Jones

READ: An interview with Blasted Diplomats

The Cynics Spinning Wheel Motel review

The Cynics

Spinning Wheel Motel

[Get Hip]

Were I more fluent in the language and history of garage rock, I would spout off a litany of ancient band names and sacred recordings from which the Cynics undoubtedly draw inspiration. However, I'm not, so I won't. What I can say is that the Cynics have been playing Nuggets-inspired garage rock psychedelia for so long, you can hardly call it revivalism. At this point, it's beyond retro. The result has been a half dozen albums and a whole mess of singles over three decades--it's no wonder then that The Cynics are so good at this stuff. From the jangly rockin' opener of "I Need More" to slower, more reflective tunes like "Bells and Trains" and the title track "Spinning Wheel Motel," The Cynics seemed to have cracked the code for making classic-sounding records no matter what decade they find themselves in.—Jubson Jones

The Eternals Approaching the Energy Field review

The Eternals

Approaching the Energy Field

[Addenda]

I've always imagined The Eternals to be a bit of a spiritual incarnation of the Clash—like they started with side seven of Sandinista and just kept going from there. They are definitely adept at genre blending, experimenting with effects, pushing the boundaries and sometimes they feel like funkin' it up. They're also not necessarily as concerned with pleasing the public as they are with charting their own course. Unlike the Clash, yet very like Wayne and Damon's previous band Trenchmouth, The Eternals may be one of the most underrated and overlooked bands putting out records today (and yes this is a real vinyl record). Kinda hard to figure. Their blend of hip hop, dub and rock produces beats that, while might not play well in the clubs, I would think would have appealed to the hip hop kids, especially those more politically attuned and left of center. Approaching the Energy Field is an album in the true sense and it needs to be listened to as such. There's a continuity to it, it's sequenced to flow and, as far as I can tell, there's some narrative continuity to it lyrically as well. It's a friggin' good record by a band that just keeps getting better because they never stop trying to be better. The Etenals may not be well known in Chicago or even the States, but Brazillians of people appreciate them in South America at least.—Chris Auman

Followed by Static Bacon Bear review

Followed by Static

Bacon Bear

[Fuzz Pop]

Austin, Texas band, Followed by Static, play a brand a lo-fi guitar rock that contains more than a hint of psychedelicness. The four songs on the Bacon Bear EP harkens my brain back to an earlier time of Oklahoma and the young, dosed Flaming Lips circa Here it Is. But the sound actually goes back farther than that. There's a 60s garage rock influence evident on "Bacon Bear" and "Cop Gloves," which also benefit from a bouncy countrified beat. "Trash" jumps a decade forward sounding like a 70s slow churning rock monster and the eerie "Hey Skeleton," like Austin itself, just gets weird.—Chris Auman

The Girls Remote View b/w Lord Auch 7" review

The Girls

Remote View b/w Lord Auch 7"

[HoZac]

"Remote View" opens with a nasty, descending guitar chord progression before blasting into chunks of alienating scuzzed out punk. I like chunks of that shit in my punk rock. "Lord Auch" delivers more of all that but also features a killer chorus in it's rabid attack. It's paranoid, it's skitzoid, it's Seattleoid. —Joey T. Germ

Heidecker & Wood Starting from Nowhere review

Heidecker and Wood

Starting from Nowhere

[Little Record Company]

Let's get this out of the way first: Tim Heidecker is the co-creator of Adult Swim's Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Davin Wood is a composer on that show as well. If you're familiar with the Awesome Show then it's really hard to listen to record as a serious musical effort. Watching the Awesome Show is like watching someone get punked over and over again and that someone is you. So, how do you take a song like "Cross Country Skiing" seriously given the background of these guys? It ain't easy. It's hard to find that thin line if you're looking for it. For example, "Weatherman" was a song that started out as a composition for the show, but was expanded upon by the duo and here it is on this LP.

Keeping the satiric and ironic nature of the two separate in your brain proves difficult and maybe even pointless, especially considering songs like "The Grandest Canyon," "Wedding Song," and "Cross Country Skiing". Just where is that thin line between irony and sincerity? Remember after 9/11 when they told us this single tragic event would be the end of irony as we knew it (and action movies, and really tall buildings, etc.)? Well, Heidecker and Wood may truly single that end. Maybe the jokes on me. Maybe there is no joke. In fact, there probably isn't. This may simply be the duo's chance to unleash their 70s AM radio influences on a built-in audience. The end result is eleven songs and one bonus track of breezy yacht rock. Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, even Elvis Costello get thrown into the slow-jam stew, but I can't help feeling like I just got punked when I listen to this record. You can come out now, Kutcher!—PC Jones

The High Llamas Talahomi Way review

The High Llamas

Talahomi Way

[Drag City]

It’s interesting that we should receive this album the same week as Heidecker & Wood's Starting from Nowhere. They’re very similar in their approach to pop music. The High Llamas have been at it for a lot longer of course and it’s hard to determine exactly where Heidecker & Wood are coming from. The Llamas, led by founder Sean O'Hagan, have been at it since 1992 releasing nine records in that near twenty year span. I have not heard any of the band's preceding eight efforts, nor am I familiar with O'Hagan's previous bands Fatima Mansions or Microdisney. I can only assume that he, like many artists with any sort of career longevity, started at one point and arrived at another. Beach Boy comparisons have been a theme throughout the Llama's career and O'Hagan has professed a love of Burt Bacharach, so the lush and orchestrated music on Talahomi Way is no surprise. And is that a harp I hear? Probably. I can picture this record playing softly at a Yonkers as people shop for shoes. That's not to say that it's cheesy or the work of hacks. Quite contrary, it's very well crafted. Every note seems to have been meticulously plotted and every arrangement painstakingly planned. Lead off track "Berry Adams" is the standout tune for me, although "To the Abbey" is its rival with a catchy, breezy hook. If there's one single thing that The Llamas do especially well is create music that has a timeless quality to it, yet stills seems very specific to a certain time.—Chris Auman

The Mediums Shiny Void Blues review

The Mediums

Shiny Void Blues

[E.V.P./I.T.C]

Chicago garage psych masters, The Mediums, come heavy with the blues-based freakouts. Seems like the Mediums have moved on from the straight-up 60s garage rock sound and into a more blues-based concept. Easily recognizable riffs pop up only to veer left or right at the last minute. Side two is when the sonic fury really comes to bear with frenzied guitar riffage breaking out hither and yon and then back hither.

Read an interview with The Mediums.

Joey T. Germ

Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake Period review

Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake

Period

[SS Records]

Michael Yonkers is the kind of musical figure that music geeks really like to geek out over (no offense to geeks): he’s obscure, he’s got an unfortunate back story, he suffers from an unfortunate back injury and he's got a back catalog that stretches back over five decades.

Yonker’s tale of failure in the mainstream music industry was the shelving of his Microminiature Love record by Sire in the late 60s. Now considered a psychedelic masterpiece by more than a few aficionados of the genre, it has since been released by both De Stilj Records and Sub Pop. Yonkers wrote a series of bleak folk albums after Microminiature Love which have also seen re-release on various small labels, but his work with Blind Shake is his return to form in terms of heavy, challenging pysch rock. Which brings us to their latest collaboration, Period. This eleven song album of heavy, metallic blues and crushing noise guitar is a terminal punctuation point with Yonker's deadpan vocal delivery cutting through the chaos to make us feel just a little more alienated. Not that we need any help driving in that direction. Hopefully, this period doesn't mark the end of Yonker's output but refers rather to a particular section of time. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into that title. Probably.—Jubson Jones

Mike Mountain Hiding in the Rock review

Mike Mountain

Hiding in the Rock

[no label]

Mike Mountain (Mike Mtn. for short) is a four-piece rock band from New Bedford, MA. They play your basic blues-based rock music. Nothing new there. However, what makes this band unique from say, any number of bands jamming and drinking in garages, basements and practice spaces all across the universe right now (and there are millions) is the bizarre quality of the lyrics. Let me give you a taste from the lead-off track “Acid at the Funeral”: Cut my feet on glass/Eighth-grade mustache The natives in my head/have a banquet and some cash

These are either cut & paste, stream of conscious or both. The record continues in this thematic lyrical vein with "Las Vegas Waltz" which sounds like it's about Lyme disease but isn't, nor is it a waltz; "Freebird 33-1/3 " does not sound like Skynyrd on vinyl played at long-player speed; "Two Little Bossmen" is demented Dylan and "Put 'Em on Ice" name checks Slick Rick, of all people. So, if you're getting the impression that Mike Mountain is a little off, then I've done my job.—Jubson Jones

Pterodactyl Spills Out review

Pterodactyl

Spills Out

[Brah/Jagjaguwar]

Pterodactyl take the falsetto vocals of early Who, Beatles and Beach Boys, bring it to a boil in Brooklyn, then bake it in the studio for days on end before serving it to an unsuspecting public. The result is a delicious blend of shimmering pop tunes with plenty of hooks and almost more sounds than a soft squishy brain can absorb in one sitting. That’s understandable, the record is layered with vocals and guitar tracks, organs, megaphones and toy keyboards which has the tendency to send songs into the realm of otherworldliness—they seem to want to scatter and veer off into every different direction at once. Surprisingly, however, they are secured by some sort of invisible fence that keeps it all together... might be the rhythm section doing that anchoring but it's tough to tell. It's something that I'd rather appreciate without thinking too much about.—Jubson Jones

The Sentinels Music of the Pleistocene review

The Sentinels

Music of the Pleistocene

[Imperius Rex]

I prefer the music of the Holocene Epoch myself, but I guess they were really just building on what was already going on in the Pleistocene Epoch, creatively speaking. At any rate, Music of the Pleistocene is a strong debut from the Chicago four piece, The Sentinels. The instrumental core of the band is comprised of a few local rock veterans you may remember as being The Tuffets a few years back. The Sentinels sound nothing like that proto metalling trio. No, this band comes at you from a straight rock angle, employing the requisite riffs and rhythms to allow vocalist Liz Elle to work it out on the mic. Which she does by trafficking in such human emotions as love, loss and lusting after girls (you read that right). The record sounds great, the songs are well-thought out, the choruses are as catchy as they should be, which leads me to the conclusion that The Sentinels are, in fact, Guardians of Rock.—Chris Auman

TORTURED TONGUES  "Let Me Down" b/w "Feed the Flys" + "To Death"

Tortured Tongues

"Let Me Down" b/w "Feed the Flys" + "To Death" (HoZac

If it were possible for Tortured Tongues to reach a level where they cared less about what anybody thought of their music, then I'm sure they would try to get there in a hurry. I'm showing my age here (eighty-five next week) but The Tongues remind me of the ultimate bad time band, Flipper and their brand of bummer rock. There's a similar unsettling effect with whatever is going on here. You've got to turn up the Loud and turn up the Angry if you're going to listen this record, and really bad ditchweed would only enhance the experience.—Muggsy McMurphy

GENTLEMAN JESSE & HIS MEN  " You’ve Got the Wrong Man" b/w "Stuborn Ghost"

Gentleman Jesse and His Men

"You’ve Got the Wrong Man" b/w "Stuborn Ghost" (HoZac)

Georgian and Organ Donor (and Gentleman) Jesse Smith digs poppy, jangly 60s pop music. I know this because of the two songs on this record. The one hundred and fifty-five pound, six foot one, Gentle J. and the additional en rock and roll out two tuneful nuggets here that you can surely get the hand-clap machine going on if you got an inkling that way. Be sure to wish Jesse a happy birthday on May 17th. I believe he'll be thirty-one this year.—P.C. Jones

HEAVY TIMES "No Plans" b/w "Ice Age" review

Heavy Times

"No Plans" b/w "Ice Age"

[HoZac]

"No Plans" is a bouncy little number with a sixties pop guitar lick. "Ice Age" is similarily so and it flies by much quicker than you would expect an Ice Age to. This record is so lo-fi, it sounds like it was recorded in a parking lot in Paw Paw, Michigan. As it turns out, however, it was recorded in a parking lot in Ypsilanti.—Paw Paw Pete

Tom Comerford Archive + Spiral review

Tom Comerford

Archive + Spiral

[Spacesuit Records]

Tom Comerford, he of the long-running Chicago outfit, Kaspar Hauser, has brought forth a solo record unto the world. Using a different cast of musician friends and peers, Tom and Company recorded the eight songs of Archive + Spiral at a place called the Glamour Hole. Despite that studio's name, the resulting record is more ragged glory than razzle dazzle. While the record sounds undoubtedly like a Kaspar Hauser album, with its well-worn Americana sound and Tom's distinctive vocal delivery, Archive + Spiral might just be a little more laid back and a touch more melancholy.

The songs themselves sound more subdued than his previous work. There certainly seems to be a wider variety of instrumentation: mandolin, 12-string and baritone guitars, piano, organ, even handclaps fill out the arrangements. Traces of Tom's long-time influences: early REM and the Velvet Underground become evident at a listen, (there's even a countrified version of "Sunday Morning)" and the song "Dear Stephen Hauser" sounds like an American version of an 80s Robyn Hitchcock song. Archive + Spiral fits nicely into the Comerford/Kaspar Hauser canon of releases that sound both old and new, familiar yet unique.—Chris Auman

Vernon Selavy Apple Seeds 7” review

Vernon Selavy

Apple Seeds 7”

[Shit Music for Shit People]

Vernon Sélavy is Vincenzo Marando (Movie Star Junkies) and Roberto Grosso Sategna (Ten Dogs) from San Salvario in Turin, Italy. Yes Italy, but listening to this record, you wouldn't necessarily know that these guys didn't live down the street from the Black Lips or The Black Keys. They don't just sing in English, they play in American. This seven inch features three tunes saturated in the sound of the American South: gospel, rhythm and blues, maybe a hint of soul and a touch of folk. These musical influences are still as sacred today as they ever were and apparently that's not a sentiment limited to these shores. Limited edition of 300 copies. Features a pretty cool two-color woodcut print by artist and fellow musician, Mojomatt Bordin.—Shroudy O'Turin

Wooden Shjips Remixes 12" review

Wooden Shjips

Remixes 12"

[Thrill Jockey]

1Fans of the San Fran band, Wooden Shjips, as well as fans of vinyl and 12” remixes, will be happy with this new Thrill Jockey release—as will fans of stuff that's limited edition, as well as fans of droning, spacey stoner music. The Remixes EP features three songs utilizing the mixing and production talents of Andrew Weatherall, Sonic Boom (Pete Kember of Spacemen 3) and Kandodo (aka Simon Price of The Heads). In Weatherall’s hands, the first track “Crossing” (from last year's West LP) slows down the pace of the original, strips out the guitar, ups the bass and adds some synth to the mix, thus creating a more electronic edge than previously present. Pete Kember, who helped master the West album, took it upon his ownself to cook up "Wiking Stew (aka Red Krayola-ing)" as a mashup of tunes from that record. For "Ursus Maritimus (Last Bear’s Lament)" The Shjip’s Ripley Johnson laid down the main structure for Kandodo, who added various instrumentation to create a droning, twelve minute collage that is haunting in its stark chain-gang clang—like breaking rocks, not in the hot sun, but under a black moon. You feel me?—Jubson Jones

Wooden Shjips West review

Wooden Shjips

West

[Thrill Jockey]

Wooden Shjips (pronounced Shjips) are not afraid to sail out into a stoner rock squall. Aye, these four shjipmates are likely to throw up a jib and stretch out leeward or aft for the better part of ten minutes if they get a taste for it. Not in a jam band sorta way, mind you, but with more of a trance-like, hypnotic repetition that harkens back across time and the ocean to Brit band Loop or maybe even Monster Magnet circa Tab...25 back east stateside.

“Black Smoke Rise” kicks off this seven song set with fuzzed out guitar, followed by reverb-soaked keys and vocals. That's the Shjip's template for the most part; those elements winding and wafting their way through a hazy tour of intermittent guitar solos, guitar washes and assorted studio effects. There are some slight zigs and the occasional zag of departure: “Lazy Bones'' ironically enough, steps up the tempo; “Home” flirts coyly with a classic rock riff; “Looking Out” is downright bouncy like a midnight carnival on psychedelics (or quality REM sleep) and “Rising” just flips the script by being all backwards. When taken together, it all combines to make West the perfect destination for when you want to go somewhere but just don't feel like getting out your chair.—Chris Auman

Aqua Nebula Oscillator review

Aqua Nebula Oscillator

"Om Na Mio” b/w “Freak Out" 7”

[Who Can You Trust?]

Underground French psych band, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, are certainly capable of delivering a super sonic freakout. That’s pretty clear with the two archival recordings featured on this limited edition seven inch from the German label, Who Can You Trust? Records. "Om Na Mio” (recorded in 2004) is an edgy, six minute and one second psychic poke at the inner eye. I don’t know what this mantra is supposed to mean but sweetness and light it ain’t. “Freak Out” is pretty much that, but not in a good-vibe, trippy-dippy-hippie kinda of way. More like a “don’t eat the brown acid” kinda vibe.—PC Jones

Jayne Wayne

The Band in Heaven Sleazy Dreams EP 7”

The Band in Heaven

Sleazy Dreams EP 7”

[HoZac]

If this is indeed the band in heaven, they’re missing Jimi Hendrix on guitar, John Entwhistle on bass, Ray Charles on piano and Rick Allen’s left arm on drums. (That was fucked up, I apologize). This band, Band in Heaven, is a Florida duo who create what some pundits are calling "nightmare pop." That tag is apt, although nightmare is a bit harsh—more like rolling dream music for a wired, but tired, washed-out brain that is susceptible to soaking up the distortion and fuzz of the subconscious.

The Band in Heaven's four song Hozac seven inch gallops off into the dreamscape with the driving, noisy "Sleazy Dreams". “If You Only Knew” continues the hypnotic barrage and “Summer Bummer” would make a bummer of any summer. The EP's closer, “Sludgy Dreams,” takes “Sleazy Dreams” and sludges down the tempo considerably. Like another link in The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Band in Heaven keep it simple, distorted and loud.—Chris Auman

Black Moth Super Rainbow Cobra Juicy

Black Moth Super Rainbow

Cobra Juicy

[Rad Cult]

Black Moth Super Rainbow have a history, it’s just that I didn’t know it. So I got my backstory like every other dude on the block: I looked 'em up on the Internet and found out things about them: geography and history and discography and their noms de guerre (if I can get French on you for a second). Now I don't know a whole lot more than I did before and who cares anyway, right? 

I know this Cobra Juicy record is BMSR's fifth LP and that they've had some line-up mixing ups. I also learned that, while I typically shy away from electronic pop, I don’t know what I was smoking, or wasn’t smoking, drinking or licking because this snake is juicy—Cobra Juicy! BMSR make mellow (although sometimes with an underlying sense of menace), gratuitously groovy music with breathy vocals featuring mostly electronically created sounds but also real guitars and other instruments. Possibly. "Windshield Smasher" gives me all that I want, subliminally in my sleep, although I'm not sure why I just said that. "Hairspray Heart" also comes with a promise of hypnotization and had me pantomiming a chicken driving a car. "Like a Sundae" is lovely and swirly and melty and the lush pop of “Psychic Love Damage” transports me back to a time and place, but I can't figure out what time and what place and while I was happy to go back and visit I'm also glad that I don't live there anymore. If any of this makes sense to you, get help (and get Cobra Juicy).—Chris Auman

Cafeteria Dance Fever Danceology

Cafeteria Dance Fever

Danceology

[Hovercraft]

It's the end of third period, kids, so it's time to bolt to the lunch room, grab a molded plastic tray, dab on a big old dollop of powdered mashed potatoes and a scoop of jello (with bits of canned cherries and pineapple in it), and get down with Cafeteria Dance Fever! These punchy Portland punks keep it snotty and out of tune, and like a good schoolyard flu it's catchy. They can rip through dang near 25 songs in two sips from a milk carton. This retrospective danceology titled Danceology has so many nonstop hits ("School Sucks," "I Got Rabbies," "Bile," and "Pig Sty") it would even make The Woodrows jealous. Ain't nuthin’ gonna bring this fever down.—PC Jones

Dark, Dark, Dark Who Needs Who?

Dark, Dark, Dark

Who Needs Who?

[Supply and Demand Music http://sad-music.net]

It’s dark, dark, dark. Sure, sure, sure, but not dark like evil. More dark like really bummed out. Nona Marie Invie writes lyrics from a deep dark place in her tortured soul. She's got a battered psyche which probably has a little something to do with her breakup with band co-founder Marshall LaCount in 2011. After a band time-out, the group subsequently repaired and repatched and moved on. As Fleetwood Mac can attest, this can pay creative dividends and Dark, Dark, Dark produces some well-crafted melancholy pop songs. While sunshine and rainbows do not abound, the jaunty horns and piano of the title track provide a bit of relief from the gloom early on. It’s short lived. “Patsy Cline” and "Last Time I Saw Joe" and the bulk of the album are achy breaky, break-up ballads that most of us can commiserate with, but for me only in small doses. [Dark Dark Dark]—Otis E. Lee

Dinero Sheep

Dinero

Sheep

[no label]

What would you get if you took a half pound of Meat Puppets and a cup of ZZ Top, mixed it together in a stainless steel bowl, threw in a dash of the politics of Boon and Watt, wring into it the blue collar of CCR and add a pinch of lightnin' quick, finger pickin’ blues? Well, you’d have made yourself a big ol' batch of delicious Dinero. This Colorado trio's head honcho, Mike Wing, has an ax to grind, fortunately for us that ax is stringed. "Concealed Weapons and Open Containers," "The Coyote Song," and "Some People Push Back" tap into a lot of the anger that exists in this country regardless of whether your state is red or blue. It's not just the Tea Party who's angry, some of the beer and whisky drinkers are pretty pissed too.—PC Jones

Flesh Panthers Quick and Dirty

Flesh Panthers

Quick and Dirty

[Cold Slice Cassettes]

Flesh Panthers play fast and loose with sobriety and good taste, which is to say, they have little of either. They are also not much concerned with production values as they have none, unless you consider no production a value. That aside, Quick and Dirty, their ten song cassette on Cold Slice, is a piece of pretty blistering punk rock that’s not only over the top but over before you have time to learn the names of the songs. Sounding at times like an amped up King Buzzo fronting the Germs, the Panthers always sound a little dangerous. It's like when that staggering schizo passes you on the street and for that second or two when you’re just inches apart, you’re really not sure what he’s gonna do or how you'll react, that's the vibe the Panthers seem to aspire to and obtain.—P.C. Jones

Forest Fools Daydreamer

Forest Fools

Daydreamer

[no label]

These guys may be fools for wooded areas (copses, thickets, groves, pine barrens, etc,) but they are also quite foolish for lo-fi indie rock. Slow-paced, guitar-based songs with vocals that hang back and pontificate on the situation, that's the Fools stock in trade—I think they call it shoe-gazing music. Daydreamer features four tracks of slow jams and sadness. I think the songs may be a little under served by the quality of the recording, a flaw that is unfortunately compounded in the days of earbuds and shitty computer speakers (like mine!), but it's a promising start and it's good to know that the indie rock is alive and well in Philly. It was, after all, Benjamin Franklin who invented the genre with the creation of the glass armonica in 1761.—Jayne Wayne

Fussbudgets Hogwash!

Fussbudgets

Hogwash!

[Zenith Beast]

Fussbudgets were a late 80s San Francisco band that released low profile, hard-to-find, yet critically acclaimed cassettes—at least in the underground music scene of the time. Influenced by classic pop bands like Big Star and the Go-Betweens, Fussbudgets wrote songs that were surely right at home left of the dial. Hogwash! was the band’s first full-length and features twelve tracks equally split betwixt Larry O. Dean and Chris Lehmann who trade off singer/songwriter duties every other song. Very democratic. While this re-release (recorded in 1988-89) isn’t all college radio gold, Dean's for "For Crying Out Loud" and "Enjoy Your Attic" matches Lehmann's, "Something That We Heard on the Radio" and the dig on Talking Heads fans "Jacqui Digs the Heads”. Having two solid songwriters go toe-to-toe aided by the driving rhythms of bassist, Ned Doherty, is gonna pay dividends even if you have to wait 25 or so years to hear it.—Chris Auman

Hot Lunch

Hot Lunch

[Who Can You Trust?]

Hot Lunch sound at times like an upside down cross between 60s acid rock and 70s heavy metal with short bursts of what I can only describe as something that might have shown up on an SST record in the 1980s. They stick to the hard rock genre for sure, but they cover a lot of the subgenres within (and by subgenres I just mean other hard rock bands—yes, Black Sabbath and Motorhead are subgenres unto themselves. Are too). And who doesn't appreciate a good hot lunch anyway? (The brown baggers, that's who.)

But anyway... what was I sayin'? Oh yeah, lot's of different influences goin' on with The Lunch. They're not afraid to go after a little bit of fantasy metal with "Lady in the Lake." "Handy Denny" get’s all Rob Tyner and MC5 on your ass. "Killer Smile" (released earlier as a 7" inch single on WCYT Records) gives me a Budgie vibe (and maybe a wedgie as well). "Ripped at the Seam" goes for a Sabbath riff but faster, and "She Wants More" channels Lemmy's "gimme-some-throat-nodes" approach to vocal delivery. The whole record is heavy from beginning to middle to end. It's just fuzzy, loud, blown out rock and roll with nasty vocals and equally nasty subject matter. Just like Mom used to make!—Chris Auman

John Cale Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood

John Cale

Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood

[Double Six]

John Cale has made over 30 albums, has collaborated with a whole pile of notable bands and musicians from La Monte Young to Squeeze and was the co-founder of, arguably, the most influential band in rock history. I say arguably but only a douche would argue that VU wasn't, 'cause it was. And dude’s like seventy and still making some pretty ambitious music. Shifty Adventures in Nookiewood showcases a dozen Cale compositions exploring pop rock music and using the more modern tools at his disposal. Cale can’t resist the use of autotuner on “Mothra” and “I Wanna Talk 2 U” uses a fairly modern spelling style on the title. But I jest. The Welshman is capable of creating moving moments using various styles and maintaining a sense of humor. Who wouldn't want to have an adventure in Nookie Wood? Hell, I'd settle for Wookie Wood.—Chris Auman

Landmarks Public House digital 7”

Landmarks

Public House digital 7”

[label]

If I am to believe what I read, the Landmarks band is a part of a larger collective known as Public House Sound Recordings which was formed by recording engineer, Dave Vettraino. This digital seven inch, while not measured in inches, covers a lot of musical space starting with the arcing jam of "Overflow". At its best the song aspires to the near perfection of Deerhunter’s "Nothing Ever Happened." At its worst it's just a damn fine tune with a driving bass line, Rhodes piano and swirling and clashing guitar lines seasoned lightly with minimal vocals. “Cuscutta” is slower and trancier with meandering vocals, another steady bass line and hints of xylophone and a not so subtle guitar with effects pedals at play. Represent.—Jayne O. Wayne

Larry O. Dean Throw the Lions to the Christians

Larry O. Dean

Throw the Lions to the Christians

[Zenith Beast]

Chicago via San Francisco via Michigan poet/writer/musician Larry O’Dean has many accomplishments under his belt. He’s an award-winning poet, he’s a Poet-in-Residence for Chicago Public Schools, he’s worked with fellow Flintian filmmaker Michael Moore, he’s had his work translated into bunches of different languages and such—but enough of that press release stuff.

Throw the Lions to the Christians is a re-release of Dean's 1997 album. Dean writes straight-forward pop tunes that rock in the right places. His songs hearken back to the great singer-songwriter days of the 70s, and I'm not talking about your Fogelbergs and your Chapins or even your Lightfoots, but rather I refer to your Lowes and your Costellos. A little less angry than those fellows perhaps, but just as earnest. In fact, Larry sounds at times like Daniel Johnson in his more excitable moments. And there's always something to be happy about. Dean pens paeans to good days (“Well-Ordered Day”), humorous jibes at plastic surgery (“Nose Job”) and everyday topics that need a new look and a light-hearted spin without being too saccharine.—Joey Germ

Mermaid Bones The End of Days

Mermaid Bones

The End of Days

[no label]

Fall 1989, the first time I saw guitarist Dave Gill: One night a groovy, now defunct, Hyde Park coffee house found room on the schedule for all the usual suspects. The rumor going around being, some radical noise guitarist is killing it, duo style, with an effects cat. Their operating moniker: !Glrnaap. So I glugged a slug from the jug, took a few tokes and made my way to the Fullerton el stop. When I got to the performance I wasn't late, but the show had already started. Some academic music school characters were considering how it would look on paper. Gill proceeded to set up his flea market light show, plug in a 25-watt practice amp, and level the room. The last audible remark I heard was a reference to frog sterilization. A few years later I would hear Gill perform more times than I can remember with the wildly popular and critically acclaimed Hog Lady.

And now this! The End of Days is an absolute masterpiece. Track 4 "December" is worth the price of admission alone. When the vocals kick in the result is nothing less than chilling. After a pause, the hook and riff will leave the most consummate of professional musician blushing with jealousy. Lead vocalist Sophia Anita possesses a huge voice. I don't know if the limited vocal range she tends to hover in is really that limited, or she just prefers to maintain the power there. This is definitely not daddy's little girl cooing lullabies. In any event, her ears produce juicy, hard-to-forget melodic lines. Track 2 is a whopper, clocking in at 20 minutes of brutal prog. Even after multiple listening, I'm still caught, not catching the razor sharp changes. The excellent minimal bass playing, Chase Carter, locks in and propels formidable drummer Brian Davy. This rhythm section provides an exquisite platform for Gill to launch into his signature extraterrestrial solos.

Word on the street is The End of Days marks the end of Mermaid Bones. I don't know what could possibly compel this band of once-in-a-lifetime collaborators to proclaim such a thing. What could possibly prevent them from performing from time to time, at least locally in their West Coast Bay Area region, I don't know... Whatever it is, I hope these kids can find a way to continue to make music of this caliber. Anyone with the slightest affinity for rock music deserves to give this a listen. —Dr. Heironeous B. Naughty (has brain will travel)

Lecherous Gaze Bagagazo

Lecherous Gaze

Bagagazo

[Who Can You Trust?]

Don’t know what a 'bagagazo' is but Lecherous Gaze is demanding that everybody do one. Maybe it’s a dance. I hope it’s not some sort of illegal drug or some sort of firework. At any rate, Lecherous Gaze makes such demands on the listener in the form of old school, hard rockin’ punk and metal music (just like grandpa and grandma used to play—seriously, rock is really old now). It’s dirty, loud, obnoxious and is no doubt delivered with lecherous gazes being cast about in every direction. If you like fast riffs and furious guitar solos, then by all means, do the friggin’ Bagagazo already!—Stan Fogelberg

Nathan Xander self-titled

Nathan Xander

self-titled

[no label]

Nathan Xander is a singer/songwriter from New York (by way of Chicago via Union City, PA). He writes songs that have their elements of country, indie and folk. They're songs about love and loss and those things you just might expect a singer/songwriter to write a song to sing about.

The trick to the singer/songwriter racket though, is to pair up good music with thoughtful lyrics that'll make the listener think that this singer/songwriter is writing and singing songs about the listener's own pathetic life. Xander happens to do just that on this, his self-titled third album. Lead off track, "I’ll Try To Be Good", is a great example of what I was just saying several seconds ago—it's sad, haunting, beautiful, universal and lingers in your brain. "My Forked Tongue", "Last Day of the Month" and all subsequent songs aspire to, and almost reach that pinnacle, but the bar was set too high. Nathan Xander's songs are simple but smart, sparse but with space and definitely get to the heart of matters of the heart.—Jubson Jones

Panda Kid Scary Monster Juice

Panda Kid

Scary Monster Juice

[Already Dead Tapes]

Panda Kid is a one man band from Vicenza, Italy who bashes out batches of home recordings that will play well on blown out speakers. With a guitar (acoustic or electric), a couple drums, harmonica and maybe some keys, Panda Kid works out his lo-fi muse on fuzzy indie rock. The Kid rides alternate waves from track to track, surfing from island pop ("Surfer Girl") to catchy hooks ("Junkie Girl"), lush pop washouts ("Confidences") to short instrumental weirdness ("Panda in Space") all in the span of a ten track cassette tape. And not only that, Scary Monster Juice sports a 3-D cover. Take that James Cameron, you hack!——Trapper John, D.D.S.

The Pear Traps Elsewhere EP

The Pear Traps

Elsewhere EP

[no label]

Whenever I set out my Pear Traps I usually end up catching apples. Despite being a relatively unreliable fruit snare (at least for pears, as I have explained), The Pear Traps are a reliable indie rock band from Chicago that play a mellow, laid back type of lo-fi music that puts one into a tranquil if slightly melancholy groove. It has been recommended to me that I listen to this four-song EP on a Sunday morning, which I have done. I’ve also listened to it on Friday and Saturday mornings as well, but I agree Sunday is best and my listening pleasure was greatly enhanced by the fact that the weather outside is quite sucky: rain, gloom, dark clouds, etc. A perfect day to be elsewhere.—Muggsy "McMonster" McMurphy

Rambos Rock and Roll Monster

Rambos

Rock and Roll Monster

[Grape Juice]

Rambos reached back a couple of decades for inspiration when they were constructing their Frankenstein monster of rock and roll... and that's as far as I can go with that metaphor. It's a shame too 'cause I really wanted to build up from the Frankenstein bit, but Rambos stick to a straight ahead rock sound—a bit like X, but maybe not as dark or poetic. They’re a little more light-hearted, a lot less serious—like Rambo. (Rambo was a fun guy too in his down time, when he wasn’t doing things that would make a billy goat puke.) Rambos write songs about monsters and vampires, Chuck Taylors and livin’ in the U.S.A. They lay those songs out with reverb, male/female vocals, rousing choruses and pun-based word play like in the tune “Poet Murder” (and I said they weren’t poetical, well shame on me. Shame on Muggsy).—Muggsy McMurphy

Rhyton Self-titled

Rhyton

Self-titled

[Thrill Jockey]

Rhyton is an improvisational musical outfit—a jam band of sorts—a Brooklyn trio of like minds who lay out songs, riffs and free-form progressions with little or no pre-planned structural consideration. Organic and experimental yet never quite aimless and not like listening to your stoner next-door-neighbors wank ‘til dawn, although the five tracks on their self-titled debut certainly owe a debt to late-night bull sessions where this or that might be passed around to facilitate some sort of process. One would think anyway. “Stone Colored” meanders to the twelve minute “Pontian Grave” which may or may not be about a genocide. "Teké" abandons even the minimal outline of a plan, going in for effects over notes. "Dale Odalíski" further devolves into the primordial murk which allows "Shank Raids" to march into the fray with a purpose that might otherwise not seem so valiant.—Jubson Jones

Robyn Hitchcock Chronology

Robyn Hitchcock

Chronology (The Very Best of Robyn Hitchcock)

[Yep Roc]

Robyn Hitchcock is one of those rare musicians that there just aren't enough of—or maybe there are. Maybe there shouldn't be too many like him. Maybe it would get a little too crowded in the pantheon of highly prolific artists with decades-spanning careers and reputations for producing consistently great work, even throwing in a classic album every five years or so. Maybe.

Chronology is Hitchcock’s current offering—no doubt just a placeholder while he continues work on some other musical project or another, with whatever group of musicians he's currently chosen to conspire with. The songs on this digital-only album display some of Hitchcock's best work, at least according to him—Hitchcock selected all sixteen tracks for the record—and I agree. With three songs coming from the Soft Boy's 1980 classic Underwater Moonlight, through his early solo recordings (including my fav "If You Were a Priest" from 1986's Element of Light) and work with the Egyptians and a reunited Soft Boys whose six minute "Mr. Kennedy" from 2002's Nextdoorland features an excellent double guitar solo that ranks right up there with the best of Television's Marquee Moon—proof positive that the boys did not get soft. Three more recent solo songs end the album including the beautiful "Full Moon in My Soul" from 2003's Spooked.

Chronology is as good an intro as any into the world of Robyn Hitchcock but it really barely scratches the surface of a remarkable career that shows no signs of slowing down. [Robyn Hitchcock]

—Manfred Lightbulbhead

Second H. Sam 4-song EP

Second H. Sam

4-song EP

[Shit Music for Shit People]

Samuele Gottardello is Second H. Sam. Does the H stand for Hand as in Second-Hand Sam? I have no first-hand knowledge one way or another. I do know that Gottardello is from Italy. I know that he is also the singer of the Hormonas from Venezia and Buzz Aldrin from Bologna. I know that he sings in a swarthy baritone voice akin to halo-bending, beat happener, Calvin Johnson. I know his music is stripped down to the bare essentials in instrumentation and recording techniques and that it was possibly performed entirely by himself. I know that this vinyl EP showcases four of his three minute plus songs of love, loss and springtime and that the cover for this seven inch was created by Turin-based artist Mattia Lullini. I just don't know what the H stand for.—Chris Auman

Sic Alps EP

Sic Alps

self-titled

[Drag City]

I’m gonna use a cooking analogy to describe Sic Alps—an egg analogy in particular: Sic Alps are like cooking scrambled eggs. Bear with me here. It’s like when you’re making an omelet. You beat your eggs real good and then you pour them into a well-buttered pan and you leave them alone for a bit so they can cook up real nice and fluffy, but then at the last minute you throw a spatula in there and just mix them eggs all up. Now you got scrambled eggs and not an omelet. Still tastes good, but it’s different. Just as delicious, but maybe those eggs don’t look so prim and proper now.

Sic Alps have been cooking scrambled eggs for awhile now and (in case the first paragraph sailed right over your hair net) by "scrambled eggs" I mean slightly disjointed indie pop music. Some of the ingredients the Alps use would be recognizable even to the most entry-level prep cook. The Beatles are thrown in on more than one occasion ("Rock Races" for example) and the Velvet Underground are certainly essential to the recipe ("Thylacine Man"). Also part of a balanced breakfast is the endearing acoustic track, "Lazy Sons" (which sums up the role of sons everywhere); the rockiness of “God Bless Her, I Miss Her”; the jaunty joy of “Moviehead” and see if “See You on the Slopes” won't have you crying into your flapjacks. Serve hot and enjoy! Chris Auman

Silver Jews Early Times 90-91

Silver Jews

Early Times 90-91

[Drag City]

This is for the hardcore Silver Jews fan out there 'cause these fourteen tracks take the term lo-fi and grinds it down a fi or two. The songs on this compilation come courtesy of the band's Dime Map of the Reef 7" and the Arizona Record 12" and even by early 90s (and Silver Jews!) standards this is some pretty rough stuff, but the album ain’t called Early Times ‘cause of the whisky they were drinkin'. Well, maybe it is. Whatever the quality of sound or total lack thereof, Early Times is simply a testament to the early, early stages of a group of hardworking “slackers” who probably drank too much but cared enough about music to not sweat the small stuff. Form a band now and learn to play later is the best model for good music anyway. All that said, music buffs and Silver Jews fans may rejoice at the release of this historic document, but repeated listening? Not so much.

Chris Auman

Southside Stranglers Devilled EP

Southside Stranglers

Devilled EP

[self-released]

Oshkosh rocks kosh b’gosh. Oshkosh's Southside Stranglers have a 90s sound that does remind one of Helmet in its driving, yet totally moshable rhythmic attack. It’s heavy, a little edgy and slightly menacing. The Devilled EP is damn near an LP with seven tunes tightly packed into just over twenty minutes. “The Blood We Bleed,” while perhaps not the best song title ever, is the standout track track for me. The packaging on this CD is simple and pretty cool. Can’t do that on an MP3. Nope.—Muggsy McMurphy

Strange Hands Dead Flowers

Strange Hands

Dead Flowers

[Shit Music for Shit People]

Born in Bordeaux, the French psychedelic trio, Strange Hands, pimp their lo-fi brand of endearing jangly rock on their new twelve track LP, Dead Flowers. The Hands capture the spirit of the garage with tunes that can get poppy, "Bunny Slipper", intense "Love Illusion" and instrumental, "Dead Flowers" and uneasy, "Anxious Pictures"—a bad trip but in a good way. There's something about Strange Hands that remind me of the late great Southwestern American punk rock band Scared of Chaka—probably the low quality of the recording mixed with the high energy of the performances. Stellar cover art by Lucas Donaud.—Chris Auman

The Box “The Door” b/w “The Brain” 7”

The Box

“The Door” b/w “The Brain” 7”

[Plastic Spoon]

Vincent Bergier, former guitarist for French garage rock legends, Crash Normal is packaging his solo efforts into The Box these days. This two song 7” inch from Plastic Spoon records shows what Bergier is up to musically with two dark, brooding tracks. "The Door" opens with some imposing synths, a menacing drum machine beat and crackling tube amp as Vincent pontificates about god-knows-what in a barely audible voice. "The Brain" processes similar musical thoughts substituting a clean guitar sound to do battle with distorted guitar noise. The repetition is competing for the attention of your riff-addled mind. Bergier provides the cool and colorful cover art.—Chris Auman

Two Bit Dezperados/Beat Mark Split 7”

Two Bit Dezperados/Beat Mark

Split 7”

[Shit Music for Shit People]

Portuguese rockers, Two Bit Dezperados, provide the a-side for this split seven inch from the good people at Shit Music. “Blind” is their track and it's all rousing verses giving way to a raving, wordless chorus. It sounds like it was recorded in a damp basement with nothing but old tube amps and reverb. Just the way we like it 'round here. France's Beat Mark get the flip and they come at us with a bouncy, jangly pop tune that's got kind of a Feelies groove to it, if the Feelies had a female singer (or a singer who could sing in tune—no disrespect to the Feelies). Both of these bands feature women taking the lead on the mike and French artist Vanessa Fanuele provides the cover art this time around.—PC Jones

Vermillion Sands 7 inch

Vermillion Sands

"Summer Mellody" b/w "A Sweet Bitter Winter" 7"

[Shit Music for Shit People]

The Italian band Vermillion Sands give us the two seasons on this 7" record. Vivaldi would certainly roll over in his grave and laugh (possibly out loud) at the thought of excluding fall and winter from any musical work concerning the seasons. But then maybe Vivaldi would've had the bread to kick in for a double seven inch. Yeah, that's true, he did die poor, but I was thinking more like when he was at the height of his popularity—like when Charles VI was all up on his jock. Well, that's ridiculous and a completely unnecessary digression at any rate. "Summer Mellody" is provided for the A side and it is bouncy and infectious and has a carnival-like vibe that would make it hard for Vivaldi not to smile and tap a toe along too. "A Sweet Bitter Winter" on the other hand, is also an upbeat number but in a garage/blues kinda way. I must confess, I have not a clue how Antonio V. would feel about it, but I like it.—J.S. Bach

Vernon Selavy Stressed Desserts Blues

Vernon Selavy

Stressed Desserts Blues

[Azbin]

Vernon Sélavy is the brainchild of Turin-based musician, Vincenzo Marando. The Italian singer/ guitarist/songwriter is somewhat of a human ShamWow when it comes to American music—he seems to have soaked up twenty times his weight in old records, then wrung them out into his own songs of lost love and redemption. Channeling blues, 60s R&B and elements of southern gospel, Marando, via Vernon SéLavy, gives us Stressed Desserts Blues, nine tracks of stripped down picking, plucking, strumming and crooning. From the slightly sad swing of “The Way it Goes”, to the rueful “All The Sinners Burn” and the aching “Ballad of the Empty Hands,” Marando lets his influences and love for America's musical past flow like spilt wine into the shag carpet of the soul.—Shroudy O'Turin

White Hills Frying on this Rock

White Hills

Frying on this Rock

[Thrill Jockey]

Don’t know where the White Hills are (the moon?) but apparently they’re on a planet or satellite rock where dudes like to zone out on gnarly jams (Earth?)—a planet where it's customary to grow some hair, keep your head down and riff. White Hills like to lay into it and stay there for extended periods of time. From the opening of “Pads of Light” (an epic space rock jam) they just roll it on out into a “Robot Stomp" in which robots dish out a repetitive mechanical beat-down for nearly twelve minutes (that’s three days in robot time). “I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on the Bone)" one-ups that in reaching for the 14 minute mark and making it. If you're prospecting in the White Hills, you're likely to hit a heavy lode, so grab a pick ax and a bucket, Klondike, and start diggin'.—Sammy Clemmons

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