Local Release Roundup
BLUE MEANIES The Post Wave (MCA) On their major label debut these local veterans put a new-wave shine on their horn-driven pop punk--complete with gratuitous backing vocals by Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's. But their songs remain defiantly forgettable. The nasal, aggressively obnoxious snarl of singer Billy Spunke--more Pee-wee Herman than John Lydon--is distinctive but unpleasant, cutting through the band's prefab guitar riffs, pile-driver rhythms, and perfunctory brass charts like a baby alien through Sigourney Weaver's torso. The Meanies are proud of the political content of their music, but simple messages like "We're all the same on the inside" (from their antiracism ditty "All the Same") have been conveyed with more wit and sophistication on Sesame Street.
CATH CARROLL Cath Carroll (Lilypad/Heart & Soul) A gorgeous collection of smoky, very adult ballads written and performed by low-profile chanteuse Cath Carroll and her husband, Kerry Kelekovich (formerly of the Wildroots and Michael McDermott's band). Carroll remains best known in indie-rock circles as the object of a long-standing fixation of Teenbeat Records honcho Mark Robinson, who covered a tune by her old British band, Miaow, wrote a song about her, and even released her last album. But if you want to know why he's obsessed, check out this record: Carroll's voice is similar to, if huskier and less flexible than, Sally Timms's, but her songs, filled with couples in trouble and loners grappling with their solitude, are much darker and more reflective.
DJ COLETTE In the Sun (Afterhours) DJ Colette, along with DJ Heather, Lady D, and Dayhota, is part of the popular all-female Superjane crew, and on her debut mix CD she acquits herself as a fine straight-up house DJ. What makes this scene fixture stand out, however, is how she blends her voice with the relentless grooves of the records she spins: as a youngster she trained classically, and though her singing here is anything but classical, the solid foundation enables her to stretch her voice in interesting and precise ways across the throbbing pulse. Most of her melodies are on the ethereal side, but on the title track she gets more demonstrative, interpolating bits of the spiritual "This Little Light of Mine" with spare four-on-the-floor beats.
DANIEL GIVENS Age (Aesthetics) Givens, a photographer and a onetime member of the DJ collectives Deadly Dragon Sound System and Atmospheric Audio Chair, has finally made a record of his own, and you can't really dance to it: not content to simply emulate the hip-hop, jazz, and dancehall sounds he was fond of spinning, Givens mixes expansive beat programming, elusive electronic textures, spoken word, cosmic electric piano, and hypnotic kalimba with contributions by a slew of musicians and singers from the local jazz scene, among them bassist Josh Abrams, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, guitarist Jeff Parker, flutist Niki Mitchell, and vocalist Glenda Baker. Givens doesn't write compositions so much as he creates moods, but most of the pieces eventually locate a compelling intersection of the cerebral and the sensual.
EUPHONE Hashin' It Out (Jade Tree) On their latest effort the duo of Ryan Rapsys and Nick Macri--a drummer and bassist who between them also play guitar, piano, and assorted small percussion instruments--conduct a concise survey of Chicago post-rock. The influence of Tortoise is unmistakable on pieces like the dubby "Do You Up"--which features Tortoise percussionist Dan Bitney on congas and Eternals drummer Dan Fliegel on talking drum--and the jazzy, vibes-driven "Shut It," while on several other tracks guest guitarist Jeremy Jacobsen (aka the Lonesome Organist) plays hard, twangy funk in the style of his old Five Style bandmate Billy Dolan, with whom Rapsys and Macri played in Heroic Doses. It's a pleasant enough album, but maybe these guys need to get out a little more.
LOVE KIT The September Heads (Ginger) This foursome tries too hard to disguise its talent for pure pop froth with noisy, quasi-psychedelic gibberish--including the echo that engulfs the strummy "Water & Witches" and the pointless fragmentary exercise "Between the Buses." But the barrage of hooks on Love Kit's slightly overlong third album easily makes up for these indulgences. The band does a nice cover of "A Good Flying Bird," by former Guided by Voices guitarist Tobin Sprout, but guitarists Eddie Jemison and Rich Sparks and bassist Ellen Philips sing with a sweet, breathy flower-power gentility that bears little resemblance to GBV's Who-inspired intensity. With this combo and Swinger on its roster, Ginger Records has quietly become one of the city's most reliable sources for ear candy.
90 DAY MEN (It (Is) It) Critical Band (Southern) From Rob Lowe's big, lumbering Birthday Party bass lines and the studied lower-east-side boredom in guitarist Brian Case's vocals, you can tell this quartet has listened carefully to a lot of 80s postpunk. Thanks in part to the spaced-out electric piano playing of their newest member, Andy Lansangan, the 90 Day Men have been able to recombine such familiar elements in a sound that doesn't seem dated, but they never manage to channel their distinctive chaos into a single memorable song.