Local Release Roundup
APOCALYPSE HOBOKEN Microstars (Kung Fu) The second album in eight years from these Fireside Bowl fixtures is an expansive take on punk rock, ranging from jackhammer aggression ("Pocketful of Lips") to amped-up pop ("When's Steve Coming Home"). The singer's adenoidal quaver puts a glam edge on "Microstars Save the Day," and the twin guitars that chug throughout most of the rest of the record strategically punctuate the more salacious details of a cover of Prince's "Darling Nikki." The album, recorded by Dave Trumfio, concludes with "Take Your Bow," a surprisingly poignant farewell to the band's longtime producer, Phil Bonnet, who died in February.
JEREMY BOYLE Songs From the Guitar Solos (Southern) On his solo debut, Joan of Arc keyboardist Boyle manipulates hard-rock guitar wanking by Kiss, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix--a great idea, but the resulting ambient soundscapes are so amorphous the source material might as easily have been chirping crickets or humming refrigerators. Repeated listening won't turn up any further traces of the original six-string solos, but it will reveal Boyle's impressive attention to detail and texture.
CHILLDRIN OF DA GHETTO Chilldrin of Da Ghetto (Hoo Bangin'/Priority) The differences between this new west-side trio and other local gangsta-rap acts like Twista, Do or Die, and Crucial Conflict seemed negligible to me at first--same hollow boasts about women, drugs, and guns, same tedious pitter-patter programming. Luckily the November issue of the Source set me straight: "I hate to say this, but we real street-gang niggas," says rapper Problem Child. "This ain't no gimmick."
ROY DAVIS JR. Soul Electrica (Peacefrog) A huge presence on the Chicago house scene for most of this decade, Davis never lets his pounding four-on-the-floor rhythms or his penetrating electronic ornamentation overwhelm his beloved 70s funk bass and clarion soul samples. His inevitable euphoric crescendos are hard to resist on this import-only compilation of recent singles--particularly on "House Inferno," a clever appropriation of the roiling bass line from the Trammps classic "Disco Inferno." This stuff is all geared to the dance floor, but it works just as well for boogying around the living room.
EMPEROR PENGUIN Extreme Gaming (My Pal God) If there's anything worse than a guitar-rock band that's run out of ideas, it's an electronic rock band that's run out of ideas. On its second album this year (yet another is due in March) this rinky-dink version of Add N to (X) throws together wheezing analog-synth lines, stale breakbeats, workmanlike live drumming, and often cheesy, sometimes glaringly obvious samples (a flute lick from Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, a vibe riff from Pet Sounds) with the finesse of an orangutan using a paint-by-numbers kit. Tomorrow's landfill.
LUSH BUDGETT Lush Budgett (Lush Budgett Productions) Singer Lisa DeRosia and guitarist Greg Schultz previously worked together in the forgettable mid-90s pop band Eden Deluxe, and despite tasteful, spot-on support from members of Saint Louis roots-rock paragons the Skeletons (whose Lou Whitney coproduced this debut), their take on country isn't much more promising. The performances are extremely competent, but DeRosia's newfound twang is plastic, the song structures are rote, and at least half the tunes contain some reference to drowning one's sorrows in booze.
SWINGER The Walk (Ginger) I hear antecedents galore--from the Beatles to the Byrds, from early Squeeze to Matthew Sweet--in this succinct, handsome batch of classic power pop. But hooks, not radical originality, are the key to this kind of thing, and guitarists Mike McLaughlin (who also runs the local pop label Ginger) and especially Rob Schulz have sharp ones to spare. The unobtrusive production favors the pair's crisp vocal harmonies, sometimes at the expense of the tidy guitar lines.
TELEVISION POWER ELECTRIC Television Power Electric (Gentle Giant) This eight-member ensemble, a sort of orchestral expansion of the experimental trio TV Pow featuring, among others, local ARP whiz Jim Baker and Japanese noise artist Otomo Yoshihide, packs battling computers, synthesizers, turntables, CD players, and other noise generators into 16 bite-size but nourishing electronic vignettes. I'm not sure how big a role editing played--core members Brent Gutzeit, Michael Hartman, and Todd Carter spent three months in the studio with the results of two improvised sessions--but the players seem to carry on stunningly articulate musical conversations in a language of squelchy bleeps, oscillating whooshes, rubbery squiggles, sculptural static, and hydroplaning tones. The pieces don't so much progress as explore the moment; active listening is recommended.
Send gripes, leads, and love letters to Peter Margasak at firstname.lastname@example.org.