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Spot Check

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EVERYTHING 6/26, HOUSE OF BLUES This Virginia sextet's single "Hooch" reportedly has been getting a huge response on FM radio. I'm not the least bit surprised, since it's a glistening bit of 70s hippie pop that most folks probably thought nobody made anymore--a little bit Doobie Brothers, a little bit Stephen Stills, even a little bit of a lite-jazz break in there. I suppose if one takes a Darwinian point of view, it's only natural that these slaphappy jammers should be huge: big outdoor festivals were made for this kind of sound. The rest of the album, Super Natural (Blackbird Recording Company), is more of the same but with a surprising punch to the rhythms--too bad the meat's trapped in a sandwich of moldy Bread.

HOPPER 6/26, MARTYRS' So I'm to understand that the themes of this Chicago trio's debut, Travelall (Never So Few), include, but are not limited to, road hypnosis; ennui and the passage of time; long, straight highways that project you through life as you lean back on inertia, the tendency of an object in motion to stay in motion and the tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest...did I get that right? Conceptually faithful, these former members of Reaction Formation and the Shanes dish out vaguely intense, vaguely off-kilter, and vaguely familiar midwestern indie rock at a high volume and energy level. I prefer my slow decay with a little more entropy, but if it must be inertia, at least they've got the moving kind.

MOUNT SHASTA 6/27, EMPTY BOTTLE Though this local quartet might seem a bit of an anomaly on the Skin Graft label--generally speaking they hew to "standard" structures on their filthy swamp noise-blues more often than the rest of the stable--it only takes a brief absorption in John Forbes's bleats, moans, and howls (and moments of catching lyrics like "And all the men was hung like pimples") to understand that they fit into their label's overall aesthetic of aggressive, exciting sonic dada just fine. This is the CD-release party for their long-awaited--and long-delayed--new record, Watch Out, and later this summer look for their contribution to Skin Graft's AC/DC-tribute singles series, which has so far featured the likes of Zeni Geva and Will Oldham (on the same record, no less): they'll be turning their affections to "Whole Lotta Rosie."

PIRANAH 6/27, SMILER COOGAN'S I've been waiting for this a long time--more Nashvillains playing butt-ugly industrial metal and patching together every creepy, angst-ridden metal cliche since Ozzy gave a whole generation bad trips with his "No, please, God help me!" back in 1969: the lyric sheet to their Peeping Through the Keyhole of a Galactic Superdome (Waxing) reads like a Burroughsian cut-up. And when they pause just long enough for a knowing wink, it's pure Alice Cooper: "No more dishes, no more homework / Give yourself a break / Your mommy she can't hound you / She's burning at the stake." Utterly disposable, but genius.

GOD LIVES UNDERWATER 7/1, RIVIERA For their second full-length, Life in the So-Called Space Age (1500/A&M), the duo of Jeff Turzo and David Reilly took to the home studio, where they could play with their toys for days on end without losing an arm and a leg. The result sounds like they had fun and completely lost track of time; their catchy if light rock tunes are drenched in elaborately layered rhythm tracks, guitar buzz, swirly synth fills, and deadpan you-will-be-assimilated harmonies--everything but the self-cleaning futuristic kitchen sink. But there's a fine line between representing the sensory overload of the modern age and letting things just get too damn busy. This show comes on the heels of the release of the second single, "Rearrange," which has plenty of remixes--the bubble wrap of music.

COmPanion TRIO 7/2, XOINX TEA ROOM The line where jazz ends and something else begins has been debated and redebated for decades now, with musicians daring each other to step a little bit further and then redrawing the line in the ever-shifting sand as soon as they're done. Many musicians in the free-improv fringes where genre cross-fertilization prevails play as much with the idea of a dividing line as they do with the line itself: Baltimore's Companion Trio squats as firmly in the center of this tradition as is possible with a tradition that won't sit still. Reedist Evan Rapport has worked with musicians on opposite ends of the jazz spectrum--the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Steve Lacy--and he and band mates Jerry Lim and Bob Wagner draw from visual art, punk rock, and the collective mind-set of fringe artists everywhere to spit out music that's sometimes crunchy, sometimes wispy, and always open-ended.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Mount Shasta photo uncredited.

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