"Dan's Reviews"

by Dan MacIntosh
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KMFDM • Boots

"These Boots Are Made For Walkin’" was written by Lee Hazlewood for the purpose of making Nancy Sinatra appear hip while singing it. Back in the Sixties, it was as much a fashion statement about go-go boots as it was an assertion of feminine power. It was also a fun song. But here, these boots sound more like they were made for working a blue-collar job and not being fashionable. KMFDM gives it a swift kick in the pants with these various takes on the song. It’s mostly for those who like the sound of marching noise.

Danielle Howle And The Tantrums • Skorborealis

Daemon Records
Danielle Howle And The Tantrums make sweetly jangle-y guitar pop, and a name like Tantrums appears to be a misnomer, since Howle sings with a self-assured vocal tone, and these songs cover fairly innocent topics, with titles like "Hello Kitty" and "Camaro Power." Danielle doesn’t howl, nor do her bandmates throw any tantrums, but they do make fine alternative-lite music. It’s kind of like flavorful, yet decaffeinated, college rock, with just the slightest touch of folk and a hint of the psychedelic.

Menza • Life After Deth

Menzanation Records
Nick Menza makes high concept hard rock, as is suggested by song titles like "Heaven’s Gate," "One Nation" and "In My Life." He sings with a clear vocal tone and takes some of his rhythmic cadences from rap. This music is muscular hard rock, yet it’s also a little on the Rush progressive side. The album doesn’t include the final answers on exactly what life will be like after death, but it will give you a good chance to rock out a little while you’re still here.

Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture The Scorpion King

Universal Records
Without seeing the movie, it’s hard to know what all these tunes have to do with the film. Nevertheless, these hard rock tracks sting. Godsmack shouts about independence with "I Stand Alone." P.O.D. is given the Tweaker Remix on their "Set It Off." Drowning Pool fills "Break You" with an eerie bass groove. "Streamline" by System Of A Down is a fast-paced punk workout. Creed adds a rare gentle touch to the proceedings with "To Whom It May Concern." Nickelback gets big and beefy with "Yanking Out My Heart." Hoobastank’s "Losing My Grip" is a sensitive admission. Flaw throws together a scratchy rock thang with "Only The Strong." Rob Zombie is joined by MTV TV soap star Ozzy Osbourne for "Iron Head." 12 Stones alternates between electric guitar strums and chunky riffs for "My Life." Mushroomhead adds what sounds like tribal drumming and doomsday bells to its "Along The Way." Lifer’s "Breathless" is a bleeding guitar song, and not the Jerry Lee Lewis rocker of old. "Corrected" by Sevendust has polyrhythm to spare. Injected’s "Burn It Black" is like a more riotous retelling of The Rolling Stones’ "Paint It Black." Breaking Point’s "27" is filled with held-in tension. "Glow" by Coal Chamber has Goth elements that may remind some of Bauhaus. If you don’t come away from hearing this without a little pain, you really weren’t listening.

The Instrumental Memphis Music Sampler

Inside Memphis
Memphis is about more than just Elvis and Stax, as this album reveals. Carl Wolfe’s "Talkin’ Stuff" is jazzy and swinging. "Green Onions" is Charlie Wood’s take on the old Stax instrumental, speaking of Stax. Joseph Patrick Moore gets funky on "Sex In Space." "AM" by Billy Gibson sounds exactly like an early morning, after a very late night. Tim Simmons gets a little ambient on "Eternal Dream." "Palace Of Ra/Eternal Egypt Soundtrack" creates a fitting Middle Eastern mood. Seven Four Slide’s excerpt from "Foothold/Tina’s Theme" is stately, and almost classical. "Tranquility Bass" by Grayson Wells is downright space-y. Peter Pederson’s "Pictures Of A Woman" is clear evidence that the harmonica is not just good for camp sing-alongs. Freewold conjures up memories of The Meters with "Come By The House." Edwin Hubbard gets down and blues-y on "Edwin’s Memphis Blues." William Lee Ellis ends this collection on a quiet acoustic note with "Darkness As The Noonday."

Ultrapull • From All Directions

Gold Circle Records
Ultrapull write about emotional struggles -- much the same way many other modern rock outfits do -- only they do so with a musical brightness, including layered vocal harmonies and chiming guitars. They sound a little depressed, but they don’t let these feelings make the music drag to a crawl, like so many in today’s lo-fi community. Guitars are utilized to create tunes you can hum along with, instead of as tools to pummel the listener into submission, which ought to help them stand out from the pack.

Moondream • Hung Up On Breathing

Fowl Records
Moody down-in-the-mouth rock is primarily a male-dominated field these days, but Stef Magro of Moondream adds a welcome female voice to this crying choir. Moondream plays propulsive rock, and sing about the many roadblocks to smooth communication within relationships. There’s a feeling at times that Moondream is trying just a little too hard to communicate its ideas, which causes the music to drag a tad. But with a little tightening of the hooks and melodies, they should soon be in ship radio shape.

Punk Chartbusters Vol. 4

Wolverine Records
Punk rockers have never seen a pop song they didn't want to gob on, and if you don't believe me, take a listen to the saliva flying on this two-disc set. Still "Gwyllions actually sing in harmony on "I Can Hear Music." The Billy Rubin sound sinister with "Overload." "Hang on Sloopy" is nicely sloppy under the helm of Die Toten Hosen. "You Might Think" is almost too fast for thought by The Unknown. Human Hamster Hybrids get wild on "Chequered Love." Peace Brothers give Madonna a Mohawk with "Frozen." "Major Tom" is filled with extra urgency by Raubertochter. "Tainted Love" is tainted with guitars, rather than synths, by The Living End. The world really does sound like it's coming to an end when ZSK takes on "Eve of Destruction." Schandfleck rip it up with "Torn." "Suburbia" sounds like actual suburb dwellers when Skin Of Tears sing it. "You Got It" flies by when Tabascos take it on. Terrorgruppe play "Love Machine." "Don't You Want Me" always did sound like a punk rant, and Socks do it justice. At last, Britney gets hers with "Baby, One More Time" by Second Floor Daycare. You may want to hold onto that quarter when Squatweiler is singing "Call Me." "Please Please Me" doesn't sound all that different with Ruth's Hat's singing and playing of it. Poison is played with when The MC Rackins run through "Talk Dirty To Me." "I'll Be There For You" doesn't exactly sound friendly when extended by Stimilion. Backlash mark the calendar in blood red on "I Don't Like Mondays." Nichts Gelernt play "Du Tragst Keine Liebe In Dir." "Nice Girls" is detailed by Payback. The wild life is lived through Dragster on "Livin' La Vida Loca." "Time Of My Life" goes low-fi by In Case Of Emergency. Those old standbys, UK Subs, play "Something in the Air." Funeral Dress sound to be hurrying through the airport with "Leaving on a Jetplane." The Bangles ballad "Eternal Flame" ends disc one with a version of it by Tagtraum. Side two begins with D. Sailors featuring Wick Slick on "We Built This City." Tinnitus breaks through with "Break On Through." Mad Caddies drench "S.O.S." in horns. "Strangers In The Night" sounds especially strange when sung by Square The Circle. The Revolvers kiss up with "Then He Kissed Me." Kafkas get cynical with "Rent." Venerea sound road weary with "On The Road Again." "Sleeping in My Car" is hopped up with horns by SFH. One doubts any lions will catch much sleep if in the presence of Scallwags' "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Face To Face sings "Helpless." "Dear Jesse" is assisted by violin in its version from Celebraten. Niteblind, featuring Bela B., amps up "Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution." "Time After Time" is filled with angst by Sewing With Nancie. The Daybreak Boys have a Holly time with "Oh Boy." "Shalala" is happily sung and played by Taboo. Out Of Frame experiment with "Narcotic." "Don't You Ever Leave Me" is all glam by The Hymans. Kick Indicator gets serious with "Quit Playing Games." "Layla" is transformed by Morgentot. Kleine Jagermeister take on "Alkohol." Apocalypse Hoboken get dirty with "Darling Nikki." "Moonlight Shadow" is blasted by Scorefor. Wallride go old school U2 for "New Years Day." "The Safety Dance" is totally unsafe by Blastcaps. Mensen hyper jump on their version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash." O Eight 5 Teens close disc two with the universal "We Are The World."

Ska Chartbusters

Wolverine Records
Ska is the sub-genre that simply refuses to die, and this collection of unlikely skanking takes on modern pop and rock tunes is further evidence for its proof of life. On disc one, Furillo replaces heavy metal guitar with horns on "The Final Countdown," The Busters give Queen's "We're The Champions" a tropical feel. Suspects suggest even metal gloom-sters Metallica can be given happy feet with "Seek and Destroy." Schwarz Auf Weiss play "Alles Wird Sich Andern Wenn Wir Gross Sind." "Dancin' in the Street" is given a brand new beat by Benuts. Frank Zappa is the last guy I'd ever expect to see go two-tone, but his "Dirty Love" is ska-d for life by Gangster Fun. Lax Alex Con Trax de-synth Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Moskovskaya de-Swede ABBA's "Mama Mia." Los Placebos rename and add jump to "Skantaloop." "Du Hast Den Farbfilm Vergessen" is performed by Blascore, in all its German glory. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" is headed for Jamaica by Dr. Raju. Thumper is just as crazy as Oz on "Crazy Train." "Soul Rebel" is reverent to Bob Marley when in the hands of The Butlers. "Dirty Old Town" is transported to a sunnier climate with Deal's Gone Bad's version of it. Serial Skansters recognize Blondie's love for Jamaican music with their cover of "Denise." Frau Doktor add a little more German to the mix on "Irgendwie Mag Ich Dich." Skanatra sound like Ol' Brown Eyes with "New York, New York." Side two gives "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" the kick Wham could never truly provide for it. "Mama Mia" is given a second go round, this time by Spitfire. "So Lonely" is out of the custody of The Police, and performed by The Hippos. Mr. Bubble comes clean with "I Look At You." Skin Of Tears perform "Kayleigh." "What's the Color of Money" isn't exactly swooned by Swoons. Blue Meanies get happy with "Happy Together." "The Final Countdown" is counted down again to close out the project, this time by Wisecracker.

Zoo Story • Zoo Story

Universal Records
This Zoo Story is not about any rare and exotic animal menagerie. Instead, it's all about Randy Coleman's urgent poetry, set to insurgent rock and roll music. Such a beast has been done better before -- U2 and Pearl Jam come immediately to mind -- but there's a gentle sincerity in songs like "Star" that raises this a few rungs above mere genre-aping. People laughed at such similar traits in Creed, but how many bands wouldn't kill for their sales figures right now?

Autumn Tears • Sampler

Dark Symphonies
Autumn Tears leans closer to classical music variations on manic depression, rather than the more punk and metal influenced outputs of many current practitioners of the form. Yet if you listen closely to these choral-like vocals, you'll hear ghoulish lyrics about tasting flesh and the sort. This release acts as a 14-song sampler of the group's music, with titles like "This My Melancholic Masquerade" and "Black Heaven," and it should fit nicely into any Gothic hoe-down.

Tenacious D • Tenacious D

Epic Records
Tenacious D is the duo of actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass having fun with dumb hard rock cliches, dumbass attitudes and sex and recreational drug use. Black, who handles lead vocals, is hilarious with his mock serious best rock opera voice on songs like "Tribute," and his lusty vocalizations for "Kielbasa." He also sends up every hard rock power ballad ever performed with "F*ck Her Gently." I'll bet they also even kinda dig the music they make fun of, as well.

David Davidson • Celtic Fantasy

Green Hill
A Celtic fantasy for David Davidson is probably not Britney Spears in a see-through kilt, but I'll bet it would be an intriguing mental picture for many sex-starved American males. Instead, Davidson is an accomplished violinist who composes and plays these Irish-classical compositions in trio, quartet or quintet formats. The album's swelling romanticism leaves it somewhere between traditional Irish folk music and the more adventurous stuff from the likes of Enya. Oh, and it's pretty good, too.

Space Station • There's Nothing Routine About Space Travel

Fusi Pumper
Space Station may be intrigued by what's out there in the great beyond, but this album makes it sound like these guys took along a satchel full of '60s and '70s funk-soul music, like Sly and the Family Stone, for their intergalactic journey. Guitar, bass and drums are augmented by soul sister back-up vocals and plenty of horn-age. It may not be a musical 2001 Space Odyssey, but it still makes for some mighty fine traveling music.

Jim Washburn • Stumbling Still Warm

Wayward Records
Jim Washburn plays folk-rock like they used to do it when it was first invented in the Sixties. With colorings from harmonica, lap steel and Hammond B3, this musical backing helps to prop up Washburn's all-too-plain voice. Sometimes this flat-ish voice spoils his songs, such as with "What (A River Song)" where he sounds like he's doing a really bad Leonard Cohen impression. He's at his best, however, when the tempo speeds up, as it does with "Sometimes Trouble."

Babylon AD • American Blitzkrieg

Apocalypse Records
Peaceniks won't be all that pleased with Babylon AD's apocalyptic album photos -- especially the one of the nuclear mushroom cloud on the back; especially in light of America's current military condition. But then again, hard rock has never been politically correct, so we shouldn't raise our expectations too very high. Singer Derek Davis has more natural soul than most diehard rockers, and he shows off on this album's title cut, which slips into a little of Edwin Starr's "War."

Carole King • Love Makes The World

Rockingale Records
Carole King is one of America's best songwriters, hands down, but in today's fast-moving music market, fickle fans have a way of forgetting its pop pioneers. If marketed correctly, this album should serve as a worthy reminder about King's talent. The album is not at all edgy sounding, as it relies on smooth pop for its mood, but King is also an extremely expressive singer, and that's what makes this disc a testament to King's enduring artistic vitality.

FLAW • Through The Eyes

FLAW features youth culture stereotypes on the cover photo for their Through The Eyes CD (dreadlocks, various body pierces, tattoos, sour looks) and overused musical trend trappings within (bad white rapping, nu-metal guitar wankings, frustrated lyrics). Once upon a time, such devices were ground breaking and unique. Now groups like FLAW are unique, to paraphrase one wise observer, just like everybody else.

Universal Records Rock Sampler

Universal Records
This six song (or shall we say, sick song?) sampler features FLAW's flawed nu-metal offering "Payback," Lifer's heavy metal "Not Like You," Mushroomhead's theatrical (OK, I know you can't exactly hear the theatrical stuff on a disc) "Solitaire Unraveling," the German Rammstein's "Ich Will," Hatebreed's short hardcore and heavy "Conceived Through An Act Of Violence" and "(Live My Life)" by Soungarden-like Speak No Evil, to round out Universal's current crop of edgy rock lineup.

Carnivore: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Dark Star Records

The movie Carnivore is about some unsuspecting teenagers who somehow become the target of a failed government experiment. Its plot revolves around a biogenetic mistake that creates a monster (what else), which goes crazy in a rural region where the teens just happen to be spending the night. It's up to these brave young souls to save themselves and the town. Doug Lofstrom provides the instrumental soundtrack music, but it's mostly a bunch of metal bands that contribute the actual songs for this un-chick film. Holland gives us old school hair metal on "Sacrifice"; Madison Rhoades and Blatant Disregard bring to mind Pat Benetar, back in her heyday; Slave Driver welcomes us to L.A.'s jungle, especially with the apocalyptic "L.A.'s Burning;" Nitro burns up the tracks with "Freight Train;" "It's Over Now" a ballad (?) by L.A. Guns reveals that band's rarely seen gentler side, and Cutless is up in arms over morality issues in "You Stand Accused." "Carnivore" is, without a doubt, no Veggie Tale.

Rage • Unity

This is not Rage Against The Machine, but these rockers are sure striking back against the cold hard night within these metallic grooves. This trio's music is fast, hard and angry. Their songs are as serious as a heart attack, exemplified by tracks like "World Of Pain" and "Seven Deadly Sins." The title track on this release combines dueling guitar and keyboards in a speedy display of skilled musicianship. At least they've achieved unity on a musical level. Next stop, world peace.

Audra • Going To The Theatre

As much as many music fans might like to forget the whole Gothic rock movement from the '80s, bands like Audra just won't let it die. As singer Bret Helm sounds almost exactly like Bauhaus man Peter Murphy, you half expect him to break into "Bela Lugosi's Dead" almost at any moment. This is dark music for dark people, so if your wardrobe is still mostly black, this CD belongs somewhere in your collection.

Evick • Anachronism

Potomac Records
Evick's music is big guitar pop rock -- kind of like Bon Jovi. In fact, Pete Evick's voice even has a Bon Jovi scratchiness to it. These songs rock hard enough for classic rock fans to dig, but you'll still be humming Evick melodies long after the songs are done. Too many bands today are all muscle, and no melody. Not so with Evick, however: They're not too tough to make you sing along.

Butch Walker • Left of Self-Centered

Arista Records
Butch Walker has left Marvelous 3 and struck out on his own with this new solo project. The sound of this release is straightforward guitar rock, but Walker's lyrics are what show off his creative side. The pseudo music business advice column-in-song of "Rock Vocal Power," and the "Diary Of A San Fernando Sexx Star" (which would have worked perfectly in Boogie Nights) are priceless examples of what he does best. Butch Walker makes hard rock is fun again.

Diana King • Respect

Maverick Recording Company
Diana King was discovered after providing a little reggae/dancehall flava to The Notorious B.I.G. on his Ready To Die Album, and this highly sexual reggae soul CD reveals how much affinity King has with that whole gangsta rap world. She sings one hot sun song (called "Summer Breezin'") twice. The first time, it's a solo rendering, but the second time, it's as a duet with Bounty Killer. One gets the distinct feeling that no summer fun for King is complete if it doesn't also lead directly to sex.

John Trudell • Bone Days

Daemon Records
John Trudell is a respected musician/poet who smartly weaves his Native American activism into his music. But the novelty of his half spoken/half sung diatribes wears thin after a while. And some of his analogies are just plain confusing. How, for example, we should draw a parallel between the plight of Native Americans and Jesus on the cross, is not entirely clear. His music is, nevertheless, unique stuff -- especially its mixture of folk-rock and traditional chants and instrumentation.

Magnum • Breath Of Life

Magnum is progressive rock, that also gets its metal ya-ya's out, or it's heavy metal, with a strong progressive Jones. Whatever the case, this is serious stuff. Unlike, say, Motley Crue, there aren't a lot of "Girls, Girls, Girls" in songs such as "Cry," "The Face Of An Enemy" or "That Holy Touch." Magnum aims its lyrical guns at issues of life and death, with deadly aim on its album Breath Of Life.

Bruce & Lisa • Gifts Of Love

Level Ground Records
"Gifts Of Love" is an album of flute music (played by Lisa LaCross), and violin and keyboard sounds (provided by Bruce Wethey). These instrumentals are mainly of the love-y dove-y variety, with titles like "First Kiss." There is an additional spiritual element underpinning this project, and the disc also features one vocal performance by Delaney Amatrudo. It sounds a little like soft jazz, even though Bruce & Lisa don't ever swing at all.

No December • In The Essence Of Innocence

No December appears to be especially focused on the months of the year, as it's named itself after that Christmastime month, and it opens its album with one called "August Second." Ryan Potts writes and sings all these aggressive rock songs in an anguished voice. There isn't anything here that hasn't already flooded alternative rock airwaves, but No December should catch the ears of anybody already tuned into this sort of thing.

Marlo Donato • Marlo

Marlo Donato's voice sure sounds an awful lot like Deborah Harry (of Blondie), on this demo's ethereal opening song, "Wishing." The other two cuts don't shine nearly so brightly, but there's certainly something good going on here, nonetheless. Donato makes keyboard-heavy pop music that hearkens back to the Eighties, but never in a nostalgic sort of way. If she can build an album's worth of songs out of track one's template, she might be someone to watch.

John Maragos • I Belong To You

I-POP Records
John Maragos has his eye trained right on the lighter side of today's pop chart, as this recording contains well-produced slices of music one might easily associate with current boy bands or young girl divas. His lyrics are uncomplicated odes of love and affection, which are sung over toe-tapping un-urban dance music. Although Maragos may never change the face of music with his obviously recycled ideas, he at least knows how to sound completely contemporary.

Greg Grant • After The Crash

Altered State Records
Greg Grant's music is built largely upon acoustic guitar foundations.  He sounds a lot like Dave Matthews -- at least musically -- in places here. On "Serpent Lady," the music takes on an appealing ethnic feel. His love songs would be even more effective if he added a little more spark to his acoustic guitar song arrangements. Acoustic strums all start to sound the same, unless contrasting elements are added to the mix.

The Timbre Project • Ruining Perfectly Good Songs

Ice Cream Headache Records
Jaime D'Almeida is the driving force behind The Timbre Project, and one is left desperately wishing his songs were even half as funny as the CD package notes. Said notes contain a section of "nuggets to listen for," which lists submarine and cricket effects. There's also a note that warns against looking for a booklet, because there isn't one. D'Almeida sings and plays folk-rock music, which is nicely colored by country elements -- such as dobro and pedal steel.

Heather Shayne Blakeslee • Bones

Little Red Records
Heather Shane Blakeslee thanks her dad in the album notes for "playing those Dylan and Croce tunes," and she sounds to have learned these initial music listening lessons well. Bones is a quiet, yet insistent, collection of personalized folk revelations. Songs like "Opiates & Envy" and "Lazarus" exemplify the literate themes of these mainly acoustic songs. Laying down such inward-exposing tracks is kind of like what Jim Croce might call saving time in a bottle.

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