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CD Reviews for July 2002

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Cardshark Devils

Harpoon? Records

CARDSHARK DEVILSFew punk/rockabilly bands in the business today have the drive of the Madison-based Cardshark Devils. After recently taking second place in the battle of the bands at the Lussier Teen Center (The New Loft), the Devils have established themselves as an incredibly talented group here on the local Madison scene. Highschoolers by day, the band is made up of Michael Fettiplace on lead guitar and vocals, Mike & Ben Hobson on guitars and bass respectively, and Alex Gourse on drums. Their influences stem from Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedeys to The Amazing Royal Crowns and the Reverend Horton Heat. Tracks like "James Dean" and "Drunk on a 6 ft. Blonde" personify the raw power this quartet seems to put forth at their live shows. Mike's guitar and Michael's vocals capture a primal energy associated most often with living fast, dying young, and being wise beyond one's years. Their direction is hardcore, precise and pulse-pounding while never sacrificing technique for looks. Overall these guys rock the house and make the local "emo" bands look like sloppy 2-chord jet-trash.  Brett Lemke



Boys Of Cat

Han Soo Voice Records

SISTER FLOYou know, I like the name of this album because it's so strange sounding, but I'm figuring that in the end, any surreality to this band and its lyrics have more to do with a second-hand knowledge of English sentence structure than anything else. The music sounds vaguely like that released by the Elephant 6 collective, kind of retro Beatlesque with lots of horns and keyboards, but more middle of the road, like Remy Zero etc. The lyrics are great, though, with lines like "Listen to trees/ They speak German" and "Find our gecko, he is lost/I could never cope with his loss."  Holly Day



What Did For The Dinosaurs

Rubric Records

BEVIS FRONDBritish cult hero Nick Saloman, who for all intents and purposes is the Bevis Frond, heaves a giant wad of malice at the sheep-led fashions and diversionary fads of the modern world on his new, "What Did For the Dinosaurs." With brash confidence, a bittersweet snarl and an uncanny knack for shape-shifting arrangements, "Dinosaurs," swings from acoustic confessionals to rowdy psychedelia and rock-solid pop. Nick wisely floats the Frond's diatribes on a river of riffs where horns and hooks collide with a Jethro Tull meets Pink Floyd hybrid of impassioned guitar solos and personalized lyrics. "Dinosaurs" straddles the past, rumbling and thundering triumphantly with perceptive thoughts and charismatic choruses for a refreshing and rousing disc of reflective nostalgia that will inspire even those it despises. John Noyd



Smash The Sky

Blackliner Records

THE SKIRTSIt's a given fact that most all-female bands are conceived in record company boardrooms, pre-fabricated and pre-produced.  Then there are the bands that start off honestly (The Go Go's, The Bangles) and get corrupted by record companies, turning them into honey-pies or sluts to sell records.  Well, thanks to The Skirts, that conception has been blow to bits.  The Skirts third CD, "Smashing the Sky" drives like an experimental rocket car on the Bonneville Salt Flats crashing through a twenty-foot stack of Marshall amplifiers on fire  tough guitars, excellent leads, solid rhythm section, smart vocals and clever songs with a positive female viewpoint.  This Cd is to be played loud, really loud.  If The Skirts get a major record deal (which they are close to doing) and some producer sweetens them up or sluts them down, I will personally kick that person's ass. David A. Kulczyk



Signing Einstein

JNI Records

SIGNING EINSTEINPink Floyd and The Moody Blues are two of the groups that immediately spring to mind on the first listen of Chicago's prog-rock-easy-listening-goth band, Signing Einstein. Subdued, harmonized vocals wash over walls of keyboards and reverbed-so-that-it-sounds-like-we're-smoking-hashish-in-s pace guitar licks. Upon closer inspection though, while they have the atmospheric sound of those more traditional mind-music progressive rockers, their attitude belies a darkness deeper inside that betrays a soul more akin to Robert Smith than David Gilmour. First off, lead vocalist Gina Gonzalez's voice is captivating. Simultaneously sexy and spooky, there is a detached quality in the way she sings, partly reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and Debbie Harry. It's peaceful and powerful, a goth Enya who can belt it out when needed, but mostly plays it cool. When she chants "Edward Teach must die" on the first track of the album, her aloofness is particularly effective (and damn near scary.) The guitars were done by talented Chi-Town axeman, Dave Uhrich, and the leads are appropriately mixed in the background, crashing lightning against Vincent Varco's cloudy keyboards and Joe Nuccio's thunderous bass firmament (especially on the dynamic "Hit Me Like a Train".)Signing Einstein works best as a mood setter, it's not the kind of rock that beats you over the head with melodies, but lets them bubble up subtly behind you until they envelop the song. It's creative, intelligent, and understated. Fans of Floyd and Sarah McLachlan will find something to sink their teeth into with this one. Mike Huberty



The Headless Horseman

Nuclear Blast

PEGAZUSThis fourth release from Australia's very own 'old school' metal merchants, Pegazus, sees the band return to excellent form along with stunning new vocalist Rob Thompson in tow. In case you didn't know, the band was the first Australian metal act to play Germany's biggest and renowned metal/rock festival, Wacken Open Air in 1998. Later that same year, the group returned to Europe for a major tour, notching up rave reviews wherever they played. With stand out tracks such as "The Headless Horseman," "A Call To Arms," and a clever and stunning tribute to the legacy of Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy, (which surprisingly features guitarist Johhny Stoj on vocals) this album in due time will become nothing short of an enduring metal classic. It's bands like Pegazus that will always keep real metal alive and with this CD, that spirit is definitely alive and kicking. Joe Matera



Yankee Hotel Foxtrotl

Nonesuch Records

WILCOWith an offhanded calm and confident cool, Wilco has set forth an American masterpiece chock full of radio static, lopsided lyrics, and dog day rhythms.  Whereas anyone with lesser talent would be branded lackluster rather than laid back, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," comes across as ingenious and authentic, painting the everyday and the ordinary with raw grimy flavors that fit like a well-worn shoe.  Whether it's the cheesy synthesizers, driven rhythm guitars or the homegrown lonesome vocals, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" is surrounded by a causal freedom that remains informal, almost impromptu, but never careless or half-hearted. Ragged rhapsodies of quiet desperation, disheveled lullabies and the occasional lo-fi pop gem makes "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" a tasty treat that improves with repeated listening - soaked in it's own mythology, slow-cooked for ultimate satisfaction. John Noyd



Nocturnal Revelation

Earth Mother Music

SEASONS OF THE WOLFSeasons of The Wolf (SOTW) are a five-piece, Tampa Bay-area metal outfit. Formed in 1988, SOTW has an old school foundation that is currently gaining a new found momentum. Combining several genres with their life experiences as metal vagabonds, they have taken the best of all worlds and created a very intense and haunting metal opera. Part speed metal, part gothic and part prog with very distinctive new age keyboard sounds, SOTW takes the listener on a journey into the mind. Vocalist Wes Edward Waddell is a twisted hybrid of Udo Dirkschneider (Accept) and Rob Halford that bodes well with this type of epic metal. The Doors-like keyboards on the title-track were a nice touch as were the plethora of guitar solos provided by Barry "Skullywolf" Waddell. Nocturnal Revelation is a true classic in every sense of the word. The bravura is mind-boggling without being condescending. Jason Savage




Black Freighter Records

I knew that when strange and eerie vocalist Ksenia Vidyaykina opened the show that night singing a traditional Russian folk song acapella, we were in for markedly different musical experience. And so it was. Ksenia is a very interesting lead singer to be entertained by. Barbez has picked the fruit of many styles and traditions of the musical world and steeped them together to create their own uniquely flavored ethno, lounge-n-folk-n-roll. They call it postcaberet. Whatever the term, it is quite intriguing and unique.  Think along the lines of Tom Waits, Carl Orff, The Residents, and Swans. Barbez consists of former Wisconsinite Dan Kaufman on guitar, Josh Matthews on drums and David Kannestine on bass. Plus, this release also features Meridith Yayanos on theremin, Sarah Bernstein on violin, Dan Coates on palm pilot (really!), Danny Tunick on marimba, vibraphone and miscellaneous percussion. Other guest musicians play accordion, toy piano, and music box. As you can imagine, the sounds possible from this amalgamation of instruments is immense, and so is the potential for this band.  Andrew Frey


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