Music Reviews

Reglar Wiglar #1 1993

Mercury Rev - Boces

Boces [Columbia]

I am not a fact-checker for several reasons, laziness being the biggest one with apathy running a very close second. What I know of Mercury Rev is that they are five persons who formed a band in Buffalo, New York about three years ago and that they named said band, Mercury Rev for whatever reason inspired them at the time. Since their inception and even before they could put out their first record, guitarist Jonathan "Dingus" Donahue took an 18-month sojourn to God-knows-where to record and tour with the Flaming Lips, whose In a Priest Driven Ambulance album was produced by Rev bassist Dave Fridmann. With Donahue's return to his former band, came the release of Yerself is Steam which is 90% ass kickin'. The Flaming Lips managed to use Donahue for two more albums and Mercury Rev used him for one more, the recently released Boces, which as far as I can tell is Secob spelled backward. Boces is 95% really cool.

The most economical way to describe Boces is: ten songs of varying length. However, being unemployed allows me the luxury of being a little more gracious with my praise; these guys are fab, hip and fairly rad.

Boces starts with "Meth of a Rockette's Kick" which is an epic song reminding me in some strange way of Lou Reed's Street" Hassle", not so much in content but in narrative structure. Whoah! But all analyzation aside, listen to this song after a blunt and you just might lose your mind for ten minutes and 28 seconds.

"Bronx Cheer" is the hook hit of the record and it's a good one, it is, dare I say it: cute. I've seen the video on the, mostly impotent Alternative Nation and it was quite groovy. "Downs are Feminine Balloons" and "Snorry Mouth" are a couple other extra long songs that pop brain cells with no prejudice.

If you like the Flaming Lips you are sure to groove on this, it is very similar. Drug references and psychedelic lyrics and everything else is the very obvious comparison (but let us not endorse such activities in a public forum). The guitar work is a little less crazed than Wayne Coyne's or Donahue's when he's with the Lips but more controlled guitar playing inhibits them not, my friends, it's still cerebellum toaster quality. There are also more backing vocals and crazy flipped out flutes and horns and shit like that with Mercury Rev for which I am a sucker. And if you like women's breasts you will no doubt enjoy the promo poster that accompanies the first album. Boobs seem to e a long-standing theme in a comparatively short career for Mercury Rev. One of the members of Mercury Rev is a woman so don't you be so quick to call them pigs, besides, like Playboy pictorials, the covers are done very tastefully and no compromising positions are assumed.

In essence, I think the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev should not be viewed as simply two bands that sound a lot like each other, but rather, view them as two sister bands seeking to do the same thing with their music which is? I will not be so presumptuous. Buy everything they've done and do in the future and you will have invested wisely in some seriously, beautifully strange stuff.–Muggsy McMurphy

Pressure Cooker compilation

Pressure Cooker [Furball]

A new record label can be likened to a spring seedling, struggling to push up through the unyielding soil. It is a hardship, and at times it may seem like a mission impossible, but the potential is great as is the reward. The potential to break through the surface and grow into something that is strong and beautiful is the inspiration and soon the seedling is seed no more as it bursts through the earth and into the warm sunlight, it is a sapling now, a sapling that can later give life of its own, reproduce, multiply like so many bunny rabbits in a small three by four foot chicken wire cage.

But the competition may be great and the elements not to readily compromising. There may be a large oak tree looming overhead ready to suck up your sunlight, its thick roots fully prepared to slurp up your water supply and gobble up all nutrients from the soil. Only the strong survive and the weak perish under them unless they can somehow cut a deal with the strong and if you aren't a good bullshitter you can get buried by some big ugly oak tree that produces nothing but acorns and who the hell eats acorns except squirrels, and squirrels are really mean. Really nasty reviews don't help either.

Furball Records is one such sapling that has recently put out a 12 song compilation of underground Chicago talent. The CDs got a bunch of band's like Trenchmouth, Mama Tick, Wickerman, God Box, Hog Lady, Loud Lucy, Uptighty, Scissor Girls, Conduscent, Stumbleblock, Flying Luttenbockers, bands like that, in fact, that's all the bands. Cake from Flipside called the compilation "incredible," "great stuff." Option noted that it "didn't contain any embarrassments." Alternative Press dissed it though, but they did so in a clever and witty way by completely missing the point of the liner notes. New City said the cover art is "tremendous", the best we've ever seen on any local compilation."

But what do they all know? Listen to your pal. Muggsy, he knows. This is a good solid comp. of your local scene, dude, buy it and support these bands and this label. Buy all local releases. Go to shows. I know there's a lot of bands that suck on the scene right now, but shit, look at the pop charts any day of the week. The charts are ruled by the talentless of our society. We need help. We need fresh blood.

Buy this CD, the guy at Furball owes me money.–Muggsy McMurphy

Reglar Wiglar #2 1994

Grifters - One Sock Missing

One Sock Missing [Shangri La]

I talked to a friend of mine the other day on the telephone, and he said if you see this Grifters CD, buy it! It was a pretty firm command. He also advised me to look for the Archers of Loaf as well, but I don't know, something about the name puts me off somehow. I think I would be a little embarrassed walking up to the cute girl at the checkout counter at Reckless Records and asking for the Archers of Loaf record, the same way that I would be more than a little embarrassed asking her if the new Poo Sticks record was in. Just can't do it.

But anyway, I had a big wad of cash laid on me from Santa (or at least I think it was Santa, some red nosed, fat dude with an even fatter wallet was puking in the alley behind the Metro on Xmas Eve so I figured, I'd been a good boy in '93, might as well see what old St. Nick had for the kid this year). Two hundred bucks in cash—I was a good boy, and as a result, among other things not entirely legal, I bought this CD.

So, the review part: One Sock Missing, it's this band called Grifters, it's got fourteen songs on it and it's one second short of being 45 minutes long. Oh yeah, it's pretty cool as well. I think these guys are from Memphis proper or' round thereabouts. I really don't know. What I do kind of know is, this is their second full-length (the first one, by their very own admission wasn't that good) and they've had a handful of 7 inches since their inception as a three piece called, Band Called Bud, circa 1989. Most of these releases, by their own admission, weren't that good either, but what are you gonna do?

Stank, Tripp, Diamond Dave and Slim do manage to pull off a good record this time around and I really don't think they should be that down on themselves, unless of course they're just trying to keep their egos in check, which is cool, but false modesty doesn't always get the bills paid. "She Blows Static" and "Shark" are good tunes, as is the haunting "#1" and "Corolla Hoist" (a remake of an earlier single).

Their tune "Tupelo Moan" sounds like what the Black Crows' Robinson Brothers might have done in high school. Not to say that this is an amateurish attempt to rip off the Black Crows very professional rip off of Muddy Waters and the like, on the contrary, what I meant by that comment was that this whole album was recorded off a four-track in some flower shop and mixed in some really cheap Memphis studio, that's all I meant.

This disc is low-fi, man, but it's cool like an early Replacements record, kind of got a Sebadoh feel to it, you know? This shit ain't slick and it ain't produced but it's for real, baby. Kind of reminds me of my old band...

(What followed was one of the writer's suppressed desires to be a rock'n'roll star surfacing in the form of a comparison/ anecdote/analogy of then he used to be in a band, a band that most likely sucked, but which he thought was way ahead of its time making them unappreciated, overlooked and frustrated, which forced him to break up the group and write records reviews. This whole mess has been deleted for your reading please-ed)

Those were the days. Tank you for letting me share my feelings and my memories–PC Jones

Steve Albini Thinks We Suck #4 1994

Grifters Crappin' You Negative

Crappin' You Negative [Shangri La]

The Grifters, or the Memphis String Quartet as they are rarely if ever referred to as, have earned themselves a small but decidedly dedicated following over the past five years. Releasing several singles and LPs under the name A Band Called Bud as well as under their current moniker, the Grifters following grows, no doubt, as word of their new release, Crappin' You Negative, reaches you the music consumer, via me, the music critic, who with impeccable and unreproachable musical taste dost thereby persuade or dissuade where your music dollar is spent.

Like its predecessors, So Happy Together and One Sock Missing, Crappin' You Negative is an epic lo-fi, lo-budget, underproduced, brilliant rock 'n' roll—the way it was meant to be if you're a purist and I think these guys are just that. They do well to capture the spontaneity that has been showing up absent with increasing frequency in what has been dubbed "alternative" music in these aging 90s.

If I must name a couple songs on this record just to prove to you that I really listened to it, I will: "Skin Man Palace", "Junkie Blood", and "Get Outta That Spaceship and Fight Like a Man" are a few of the more exceptional titles. BUT there's a trick to listening to a Grifters CD and since I'm really smart I figured it out: Yah gotta be patient with it. The hooks and melodies can be buried so far beneath the static and distortion of the preferential recording style that it takes some time for the flabby, out-of-shape Q1010-listening brain to shovel them out and sort through them and say "Hey, I can groove on that."

But if you go with your first impression and unfortunately many of us do just that, you'll probably just pass the whole thing off as some artsy-fartsy, high brow, lo-fi garbage and say things like "The Grifters? They suck" when their name pops up at parties or other social gatherings where your unsolicited opinion means nothing to anyone.—P.C. Jones

Steve Albini Thinks We Suck #6 1995

Trenchmouth vs. The Light of the Sun

Trenchmouth Vs the Light of the Sun [Skene!]

If you believe the prognostications of certain local pundits, the outlook for this veteran Chicago quartet is doubtful at best. In fact, it has been suggested in some quarters that this band will never be taken seriously unless they develop some riffs (Urge Overkill, they got riffs!) and some pop hooks, for god's sake ("Seether," now that's a hook.) Jesus, you guys want to sell records or what, pay attention! But what's doubtful is how much this band or their loyal followers care for such prophecies from wizened minds.

Trenchmouth Vs the Light of the Sun documents yet another phase in the forever evolving music of Trenchmouth. Typical of their tenacious sound, Trenchmouth Vs the Light of the Sun is discordant and percussive, loose when it needs to be but tightly controlled chaos more often than not. A logical progression or a sign of evolution, Trenchmouth delivers once again to those not so easily satisfied or readily fooled.

The band's label Skene! Records of St. Paul was recently picked up by Elektra's East/West, which means better distribution in the KMarts of the world. Not that this band will be taken seriously on a KMart level, mind you. Not commercial enough, not pop-laden enough, certainly not compromising enough to land them happily in the buzz bin.—Joey "The" Germ

Pure Magazine Oct./Nov. 1995

Milkmine - Braille

Braille [Choke Inc.]

Milkmine gots a bad attitude. Don't like guitarists. Don't let 'em in their band. Say they got egos too big for their britches, treat their guitars like they're dicks. That's fine, keep 'em out. See if I care. Milkmine more than make up for their misconception about axemen. They manage to haul more ass with four strings than most blokes do with six. Sound like The Jesus Lizard sans Duane Denison. Heavy as they wanna be. BASS. How low can you go? What does Milkmine know? Bass be about it.—J. Germ

Pure Magazine Issue #1 1994

Love Tara [Sub Pop]

The name of this band was more than likely borrowed from Daydream Nation in some form of tribute to Sonic Youth, or maybe to acid. Despite this reference and the fact that most alternative bands out there today have been influenced by Sonic Youth and acid, it's a subtle influence. They aspire to be nothing more than what they are—pretty good. There's a little more to this CD than the hard-rock guitar sound whcih has been the bread and butter of Sub Pop. It's a mostly mellow record with several acoustic tracks, harmonious backing vocals, pretty little ditties and what not. If you like Th' Faith Healers and Sebadoh, you're gonna like Eric's Trip too.—J. Germ

Mono Cat 7" Catalog [Mono Cat]

So, I get these records in the mail yesterday. They're 7-inch singles and they're from Mono Cat 7 Records in Cincinnati.

The biggest name to grace the label so far is Afghan Whigs, who split a single with fellow local legends, The Ass Ponys. The Whigs cover "Mr. Superlove," and Ass Ponys song. Likewise, then Ponys cover the Whig's "You, My Flower." These two bands do justice to each other's music by capturing the essence of what makes these two bands great—hypnotic guitar, lyrics of despair. It's a genuine tribute.

Bushrocks is a straight-ahead rocker, no-bones-about-it, power-pop-punk trio. Or is it power-punk-pop? You'll dig it if you're a sucker for that kind of thing, most people are, that's why they call it pop.

Ditchweed, whose sound is dirtier than the ditch they crawled out of, play Cincinnati's TAD on their "Tennessee Rider" single, an anthem to muscle cars, booze, and driving really fast. The flip side is something entirely different, so I'm not sure which song best represents their sound.

The Sistern 7-inch is great with its dark, reverby, strong vocals. Kinda similar to the Replacements circa Tim. It's cool.

It's a good start for this new label and a good showcase for the local unsigned talent. It's also comforting for a generation, who has witnessed, first hand, the death of vinyl as the preferred vehicle for musical grooves, to know that thee are still those proud but few who've seen to it that the 7-inch single keeps its 7-inch head above water. And why is this? Because 7-inchers are just the coolest things—cute little shiny discs that spin around and around on your turntable. Can't beat that, besides, look what they've done for Sub Pop.—J. Germ

Illinois Entertainer 1995

(Note: I believe this is my first attempt at a serious record reviews. Reading them a quarter of a century later makes me cringe quite a bit. That said, I feel compelled to post them for some reason.)

Vee Vee

Vee Vee [Alias]

Lo-fi recording is a style that has been developed out of necessity by basement bands; it's lo-fi because hi-fi just isn't an option. Continuing in this tradition, pioneered most notably by bands-on-the-brink like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices, Chapel Hill's Archers of Loaf have taken on the task of perfecting their own imperfections.

Vee Vee, the Archers' second full-length, shows the band experimenting more with different guitar sounds and staying away from the simpler power pop songs of their debut. Fro the mostly instrumental "Step into the Light," which sets the slow and steady pace for the record, to "Underachievers March and Fight Song, sure to gain them heaps of slacker praise/analogies, Vee Vee flows but at times in too many different directions. The record lacks cohesion, with songs like "Nostalgia" as the slightly out of place punk anthem, and "The Worst Has Yet to Come" being almost too out-of-tune (if that's possible for lo-fi).

Tracks like "Greatest of All Time," where the leader of the world's worst rock 'n' roll band (no names are mentioned) is caught and drowned in a river, and "Fabricoh", a declaration of devotion to rock 'n' roll more than make up for any inconsistencies or seeming lack of focus.

Archers of Loaf seem to have discovered the thin line between what is spontaneous and unpretentious and what is contrived and in trying to stay on the right side of that line they have created a record that is slightly self-conscious and entirely ambitious. Eager to take their music in a new direction but not completely confident of where that direction lies makes Vee Vee and Archers of Loaf unsure yet honest and pure in the lo-fi tradition.—Christopher P. Auman

GBV Alien Lanes

Alien Lanes [Matador]

Dayton, OH's Guided by Voices seems to have evolved in isolation from that of their contemporaries. Alien Lanes, the band's first Matador release and ninth full-length record, is a tightly packed album of 28 tracks, each one a complete pop song equipped with a solid hook, brilliant lyrics, and not one that clocks in at much over two minutes in length. That's musical economy.

Strong melody and vocal harmonies (sung with a touch of an English accent for authenticity) on songs like "As We Go Up, We Go Down," "Motor Away," and "Closer You Are" guarantee instant sing-alongs that seem as familiar as any classic pop song that makes you crank up the radio when it comes on. The GBV difference is their lo-fi recording style (8-track garage studios are Dayton's state-of-the-art recording facilities), and the novel twist is that principle songwriter Robert Pollard puts on his lyrics. When he sings, "My Valuable Hunting Knife," one need not wonder if the knife in question is a metaphor for the love of something greater, a woman perhaps. No. It's a song about a hunting knife.

Guided by Voices are fortunate to have been unspoiled by expectations put upon them by fans and critics; until recently, there have been none, and the band remains unjaded by the industry for no other reason than they have always existed on the outskirts. Maybe that's the best way to come up in the '90s music world. We've seen the effects of the alternative.—Christopher P. Auman

Illinois Entertainer 1996

Items for the Full Outfit [Grass]

"If you like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, , you'll like us, Half Hour to Go bassist and co-singer/songwriter Michael Dutcher told a music journalist in North Carolina. A statement like that seems like it should be followed with "or your money back." Half Hour to Go seem to have stumbled upon the indie rock formula that bands from North Carolina's Chapel Hill concocted three or four years ago and ultimately discarded.

In fact, the opening track "Shave" is such a dead ringer for a Superchunk song it probably should have been titled "This Is Our Superchunk Song," with every following song's title credited to the bands who inspired it.

As a result, it's hard to determine what this New Jersey band would sound like if left to their own devices, without the influence of Chapel Hill. Songs such as "Theater in the Round" and the aptly titled "Fishy," about a fish in a jar, provide a hint of what that might be: solid yet predictable guitar pop-rock

After the Superchunk song, "Ellison Jelly," a fairly accurate reconstruction of a Polvo song, and the two aforementioned tunes, the album loses momentum. "John Glenn," an ode to the astronaut starts off with a roots rock twang that gives way to a too-catchy harmonized chorus. "Eleventeen" is further proof that falsetto vocals should be used sparingly out of courtesy to the listener.

If you do like the Chapel Hill sound, you just might like Half Hour to Go. If, however, you'd rather listen to something a little more innovative and a little less calculated, listen to the bands that drew up the blueprint, not the ones that follow it.—Chris Auman

© 2020 Chris Auman