March 31, 2002

Various Artists "Buzz-Oven Volume Five"

Someone in Dallas is a genius.

Some wise spark realized that Dallas is a city with many talented, unheard artists--and decided to do something to rectify this situation. That "something" is called Buzz-Oven, and their goal is most simple: find talented artist and then create a buzz about them. The liner notes are pure propaganda about how to do so, but it's utterly brilliant. The method is simple: find cool, hard-working high-school kids with similar musical tastes, and have them spread the word via flyers, giveaways, events. There's a unique little note about their "goal:" to have one "buzzer" in every Dallas area high school.

Anyway, volume five of this series has two tracks from four local bands: Burden Brothers, The Deathray Davies, [DARYL], and Bee. Going from keyboard driven new-wave emo, math rock, indie rock, and balls out, no-frills ROCK music, it's interesting to hear such a diverse range of musical styles on one place.

Bee is the newcomer of this compilation, and is a mathy-indie-rocky band of witty jazz students from the University of North Texas. "Commodore 64" is a slow, Touchy-and-Going style number, with some Beck-like witty lyrics. It sounds good, but I'm a little *eh* about it. The next song, "The End of Everything," continues the trend; not bad, but not knocking me out, either. Being a baby band, it's hard to judge what'll happen after more time's passed, but they could do well with what they're going for.

[DARYL] is a new wave band from Denton, Texas, and it's not the new wave of the Faint that they're making. They're a little darker, and a little more alternative-rock minded; they've been around a while, it seems. They've had a few records out, though the records I've heard, I've either really loved (their two-song 7" on Quality Park Records) or really, really hated (their 5-song CD-EP debut). Suffice to say, I'm still mixed about [DARYL], and these songs don't warm me up, either. They're good musically, but I'm just not digging the lead singer's vocals. I do wonder about their live show; I'm thinking, from my experience, that they may be a band whose live performance releases the constraints that are found in studio recordings. I really wanna like [DARYL], because they are an interesting band musically.

The Deathray Davies are one of those bands I'd always heard about, and their two songs are a nice little introduction to one of those quietly brilliant bands that Dallas has a tendency to produce. They're the veterans of the series, having already released three records and toured the country a number of times. Though they probably get lumped in with (ewwwww) "emo," they are far from it---if anything, they're a new generation of power pop, which, oddly, seems to be a genre that the emo scene refuses to acknowledge. Both songs, "The Aztec God" and "She Can Play Me Like a Drum Machine" are examples of this phenomenon; I've heard the "emo" tag on these boys, but I don't hear it at all. Dum emo kids...

What makes this sampler worth every penny of its value are the two songs by the Burden Brothers, the new band by former Toadies frontman Todd Lewis and ex-Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley. Though the Toadies went out with a bang on their second album, the sadly DOA Hell Below/Stars Above, Burden Brothers is a good indication that the excellent music Lewis had made on that album was not a mere fluke. "Your Fault" is a mid-paced ballad, kind of bluesy, made more powerful by Lewis' gruff singing voice. "Hang Your Head" is the real killer though. Lewis taps into the rock and roll power that he had in the Toadies to deliver this loud, screamin' number of a number, and easily surpasses their best work. "Your Fault" really shows that Lewis has a lot of good music in his soul, and no record label's ever gonna stand in his way again.

Buzz-Oven Volume Five is a diverse little record, full of music that all kinds of kids should love, and though some of the songs aren't necessarily my cup of tea, I wouldn't say that they're bad, either. An interesting little collection of music that's free if you're in Dallas, or free if you wanna download them. Check out the action at for more.

--Joseph Kyle

March 21, 2002

Vue "Babies Are For Petting"

I really, really, really do not understand how someone at a major label could have thought of Vue as the next big thing. I really don't hear it. I mean, they're an OK band, but I just don't hear how they could enter the realm into "next big thing" status. In a way, they remind me of Jackyl--a second wave band, near the end of a hyped-up genre, who one or two okay songs, but not really capable of much more than that. They seem like the kind of band that would be best served by their former label, Sub Pop. Now is not the place to discuss their business choice; let's let the band deal with that, and accept and deal with the ramifications that may arise.

What, then, to make of the music? It's okay, but it's not particularly memorable.In fact, only three songs are new--and were recorded by musical mastermind Don Was. (Good to see that he has work!) "Look Out For Traffic" sounds like a lost Georgia Satellites outtake, and "Hey Hey Not In Here" and "Babies Are For Petting"....well all I can say is that Mudhoney released a great record last year. The other two songs aren't really new; "Find Your Home" is a live version recorded on Austin's hip radio station, KVRX, and "It Won't Last" is a B-Side from the "Pictures of You" single. Though I might see where people will say that it sounds like it's a definite growth from their last full-length, the not bad Find Your Home, in reality, it doesn't sound like much different, except it's a lot more polished.

I hope Vue get what they deserve. I hope their major label experience is a good one. The songs on here seem rather puzzling; Vue are certainly capable of better, and such weak songs as a "debut"--let's just say that I hope that the rest of the world doesn't hear them, because Vue have done better. The one lesson that should have been learned from previous major-label signing sprees was that many bands really don't have much to offer to the world in general---better to stay in the indies and be a big fish, you know, than to drown in an ocean, unmourned, unknown, and forgotten. (Schleprock, anyone?)

--Joseph Kyle

March 17, 2002

Miaow "When It All Comes Down"

We've happily and rightfully extolled the virtues and greatness of Cath Carroll's recent albums, both old and new. Both albums are shining examples of Carroll's singing ability, and both are records that should be sought out. As curiousity often does, it's easy to ask the question, "where did she come from?" A talent such as hers simply doesn't come from nowhere, does it?

Of course not.

Thankfully, her roots have been gathered and packaged together all nice and neat in one compact collection., and it's easy to understand why those lovely folk at LTM would want to save Miaow from a painfully wrong burial in the dustbin of pop obscurity. Despite massive searches on my part, I've only been able to find one of them, FAC 179, "When It All Comes Down." After hearing Unrest's cover of it on A Factory Record, I wanted to hear the original version. Three years later I found it, and immediatly wanted to hear more Miaow, though every search turned up nothing.

Miaow was on-again and off-again band for several years under different names. Starting off in Manchester as Glass Animals, Carrol and company moved to London and regrouped under then name Gay Animals, before changing the name once again to the safer yet still animalistic Miaow. For two years, they were Miaow, and in that time, they managed to release three singles, (one for a one-release only label, two for the esteemed Factory Records), a track on the now-famous C-86 compilation, as well as two Peel Sessions.

Their first release was a three-track EP entitled "Belle Vue," and was a charming debut--"charming" meaning cute in a child learning how to talk; they're precious for trying, but they're not succeeding, and the only thing that can help them is growth and maturity. Perhaps it's the sloppy playing, perhaps it's the terrible organ that sticks out (and is explained in the hilarious liner notes), but these first-step moments are a far cry from what was to come--though I was charmed by "Grocer's Devil Daughter," where all of these slips and trips really work well together. When they appeared on C-86, they'd dropped that organ and were all the better for it. Not too long after, they recorded their first Peel Session, and these songs reveal that Miaow had refined their sound even further; "Did She" and "Following Through" are both rather strong numbers--much better than anything they'd previously done. The other two songs from that session, "Three-Quarters of the Way to Paradise" and "Cookery Casualty" never really gather much momentum; the experiments don't quite work, and the most clever thing about them are the titles.

By the time they reached their Factory debut, "When It All Comes Down," Miaow really were at the top of their game. They had set aside a lot of the more "experimental" moments, and focused directly on their songwriting, and it showed. Compare Peel Sessions and the studio version of "Did She" to witness how tight they had become in such a short amount of time. It's best to ignore the remixed version of "When It All Comes Down," from the 12" version of FAC 179. Thankfully, it's separated from the other two songs, because it's terrible, and it takes away from the original version. (Since I've had the 12", I've listened to that remix version only twice--the second time was when I listened to this collection!)

If ever Miaow were poised for something greater, "When It All Comes Down" should have been that stepping-stone. Should have been, but alas, it didn't happen. It's sad, because their second Peel Session is fantastic, and their final single, "Breaking The Code," was a great record, even if it didn't have quite the magical punch of "When It All Comes Down." I'm not exactly sure, but I'm pretty certain that their demise had to do with age. Carroll's singing was getting better; the other musicians were also growing stronger, and by their final recordings, you can tell that Carroll's voice had outgrown the twee pop of Miaow. The solo experimenting that the rest of the band were doing didn't help, either; Carroll admits that when she heard some of the others' solo stuff, she liked them better than Miaow's! Their two album demos show that Carroll and company sounded bored; Carroll, for one, doesn't sound particularly enthused. Their demise was not unexpected; before you bemoan it, though consider this little fact: Miaow couldn't have made England Made Me.

Miaow's legacy may be barely a footnote of a footnote in the annals of pop history, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that Miaow never once sounded like they weren't having fun, and isn't that more important than a legacy? When It All Comes Down is a fun listen, too, and if you're a fan of Cath Carroll (or Unrest!), then this little record will certainly please you.

--Joseph Kyle

March 14, 2002

Vue "Find Your Home"

Which came first, That 70's Show, or this rediscovery of 70's Rock? I really can't answer. One might argue that this latest trend is simply a hybrid of the last major "back to rock and roll's roots" trend, the unloved, mocked "grunge era." Since Sub Pop are the guilty party behind this release, I might be convinced to believe that they are attempting to relaunch that whole "rock and roll" thing, perhaps in an attempt to sell off all those Love Battery cassettes.

Either way, I have one simple, two-word phrase to say in conjunction with the new Vue album, Find Your Home. Rolling Stones. No if's, and's or but's about it--this is the music of the Rolling Stones, minus the track marks and the pension plans. Hell, maybe Vue have got those, too. No-frills, no-gimmick, pure-dee, 100% Rock and Roll, just the finest music that the good lord and Keith Richards have given us. Blues-based, soulful Rock. That's all Vue are delivering.

Lest you think that such blatant comparison is symptomatic of "lazy music reviewer syndrome", think again. On a recent road trip, I popped this on, and with the strumming guitar and harmonica-based opener "Hitchhiking," my friend immediatly said, "Joseph, I didn't know you liked the Stones!" He wasn't joking. And I am so not joking either when I say that that's all I can get out of Find Your Home. As much as I try to find something to talk about, I can't get past the most obvious fact that this record is nothing more and nothing less than prime Rolling Stones. Damn, and now i'm starting to wonder if these kids' mothers attended the Cocksucker Blues tour.

Find Your Home isn't bad, really. If anything, it reminds you that the young Rolling Stones possesed the magical keys to Rock Music. And, for the life of me, I can't imagine Vue's singer as having anything but big lips, long hair with flippy curls in the back, and three sizes beyond being too small trousers. I bet he prances around the stage, too--and then pulls the birds after the set. If the Rolling Stones have any particular successor to their legacy, it would be Vue.

Oh, wait--I think I've said too much.

--Joseph Kyle

March 09, 2002

All Girl Summer Fun Band "All Girl Summer Fun Band"

This is a very typical K Records record. Now, let's not think for one minute that being "typical" is bad. I mean, if you were to hear a Beatles song, you'd know it was the Beatles. Though, for the purpose of All Girl Summer Fun Band, I guess I should say the Beach Boys, as they indeed have a great deal more in common with Brian Wilson and Mike Love's early vision of fun-in-the-sun, let's have a party and flirt with the opposite sex.

Of course, with a K Band such as this, the band really doesn't stray too terribly much from the label's historically traditional girl-rock formula. While the press release mentions the Shirelles and the Waitresses, I'm really hearing the sounds of such wonderful bands as Heavenly, Go Sailor, Tiger Trap, and the Softies. Did I mention the Softies? It's funny that I did, as this is the project of Jen Sbragia, AKA the non-Rose Melberg Softie. In fact, on first listen, I scanned the credits to make sure that I wasn't actually hearing her in places.

Let's set the record straight. Okay, this isn't serious music. It's FUN music, and I think that, every so often, the world needs to take off their stuffy, art-rock and indie-rock records and just have a moment of pure musical enjoyment. And oh! what fun the All Girl Summer Fun Band is! Their charm is found in their quasi-amateurism and their ability to make up for their shortcomings with fun melodies. With songs about boys, phone calls, cars, scooters, berets, and all things girly-girl, I'm tempted to dub this as Cutie Pie Rock...and as they have a song entitled "Cutie Pie," I'm sure they'd be more than willing to agree with that sentiment. Light-hearted, terribly innocent, sweet to the core, All Girl Summer Fun Band may not be the most innovative band around, but I really don't think they care--they're having way too much fun.

--Joseph Kyle

March 06, 2002

Blue Orchids "A Darker Bloom"

Ah, nostalga! With the recent explosion of interest in all things Factory Records/Manchester post-punk, man bands are being resurrected from the dustbin. Some of these bands are great, some of them aren't, but all of them have that whole "underground mass media" buzzwords plastered ALL OVER THEM, and shite like Interpol have created a career on resurrecting and regurgitating these sounds. Who is worthy, who isn't? you might ask...well, you need to make your own decisions on that. I'm just here to tell you what I feels.

Blue Orchids were a band that, while not Factory-made, were certainly of that currently-hip era. Martin Bramah (who is among the first of thousands of people to be labeled "ex-Fall") put together Blue Orchids in 1980 with keyboardist Una Baines. Their first single, "Disney Boys" c/w "The Flood" was, is, and evermore shall be A STUNNER. "Disney Boys," with a crushing yet hypnotic synth beat and Bramah's mushy yet hyperactive, amphetamine-driven singing, indeed sounded like nothing going on at the time. Indeed, "Disney Boys" still sounds like nothing else, even if his vocals do have a bit of Rotten tinge. "The Flood" is an odd mix of weird chants, keyboards, proto-samples, and THAT VOICE. By their second single, "Work" (the weirdest-sounding anthem you'll hear) c/w "The House That Faded Out," Blue Orchids had turned into an even more interesting band, with dark atmospheres that mix with all the odd elements previously mentioned, creating a sound that really, truly, is unclassifiable.

Their sole album, The Greatest Hit, was a WONDERFUL mix of sounds that at times sounds both dated and innovative. Twenty-one years later, they STILL do not fit into any easy pigeonholes. Punk, goth, post-punk, new-wave, synth pop, jazz, pop--you could easily make a case that Blue Orchids were that style, but you'd have to quickly rethink that case by the time you come to the next track! Use any one of the album's tracks (most of which are here, by the way) and you'll realize that Blue Orchids had many ideas flowing at once, often overlapping each other, and instead of making a mess, it all works nicely.

It was about this time that Blue Orchids joined forces with the Ice Goddess herself, Nico. Talk about a perfect couple! They served as her touring band, and their EP, Agents of Change, certainly shows her influence. The songs aren't as varied stylistically, but they do have her dark shadow of cold, detatched jazz. The wind-swept "Conscience" is my favorite, though all four of these songs are excellent, and you could easily imagine Nico singing these numbers--take one listen to Agents of Change, and then listen to Camera Obscura. They could have made beautiful music in the studio, were it not for the drugs and, uh, her death!

Bands don't last forever, though, and shortly after Agents of Change, Blue Orchids quietly folded, appearing once again in 1985 with a merely OK single,"Sleepy Town." They attempted a comeback in 1991, which produced two great singles and an unreleased album, but it didn't last. By this time, though, their sound had drifted into a light, pleasant, yet intelligent pop, reminiscent of bands like Frazier Chorus--nice and jazzy, but a far, far cry from those dangerous sounds ten years previous. Perhaps it is this shocking change that held back Blue Orchids; the fanbase, loyal to the "Disney Boys" sound, were probably shocked to hear such an abrupt change in style. "Out Of Sight," the final track on A Darker Bloom sounds so different, you could easily think that this was a mistake that was made at the pressing plant. It doesn't mean, though, that it's a bad song; in fact, Blue Orchids probably could have rejuvinated their career had they carried on.

A Darker Bloom is, for the most part, a singles compilation, though it also contains all but two of the songs from their lone LP, The Greatest Hit. This fits in well with LTM's current reissue program--From Severe to Serene, an odds and sods collection of live track and Peel Sessions, as well as their long-lost 1991 album, The Sleeper. I'll admit that it took me a listen or two to really get into their sound, but after I did, I've enjoyed every minute of it. A Darker Bloom certainly makes a case for a revision of Blue Orchids' past, and with this renewed interest, who knows what the future might bring?

--Joseph Kyle

March 04, 2002

Memphis "A Good Day Sailing"

I'm often leery of side projects. Though I like the idea of an artist stepping outside of their normal, well-defined roles in order to create new music, more often than not, the side group never quite lives up to expectations. Such exceptions do exist, but I'm too cold to mention them right now.

Memphis is a side project of a band called Stars. "Who?" you might rightly ask. Stars is pop band led by Torquil Campbell that sounds like the Magnetic Fields. A lot. influenced. Now, we're not making judgment calls on Stars, simply stating what we believe to be true and self-evident. You might be cynically tempted to think, then, that if Stars=a Magnetic Fields-ish band, that Memphis must then be a Future Bible Heroes soundalike band. Or maybe the 6ths? Okay, okay, I really shouldn't be so snide. You can't fault Torquil Campbell for wearing his influences on his shoulder, even if he chooses to parade them blatantly. Truth be told, the man's

Memphis, however, throws out everything that Stars has done, for a more mellow, pleasant experience. Like a day on the beach, Memphis' pop is breezy, sunny, and warm, with a little coolness in the air. Though A Good Day Sailing is less than twenty minutes in length, Campbell and Memphis partner Chris Dumont understand the thrifty value that can be found when you place substance over style. On first listen, I didn't really think A Good Day Sailing was all that short. Each of the five songs on here are unhurried treasures that are light, yet very meaty.

"The Phone Call" starts off with a simple, upbeat guitar lick that sounds unabashedly like Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights." If you're like me, you'll have already fallen in love with Memphis by the time Amy Millan starts to sing. When Torquil Campbell joins in mid-song, you'll swear you're listening to a long-lost Ocean Blue outtake. "My Favorite Game" slows the tempo down, and Memphis are clearly creating music inspired by their love of mid-80s pop music. Simply put, "My Favorite Game" is the best tribute to Wham! I have ever heard. "The Language of Birds" is also a slow little number that would give Christopher Cross a little bit of healthy competition. "06/21/00" picks up the tempo, and continues on a journey through contemporary bossanova pop. Concluding with Everything but the Girl-esque "The Ferry Boy," Memphis explore the beauty of simple, acoustic-guitar based pop.

A Good Day Sailing is the aural equivalent of going sailing on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Full of sunny blue skies, light winds, and cool drinks, Memphis understand the beauty of simplicity, and A Good Day Sailing is simply one of the prettiest records I've heard in a while. Mix up a Manhattan, put some balm on your nose, throw on some shades, put this record on your stereo, and instant beach party!

--Joseph Kyle

Various Artists "Dublife: A Continuous Mix By DJ Shawn Francis"

It's a whole lot of fun, this dancing thing. Though Dublife is "dance music," it's not really music for dancing. Not, at least, for this twenty-something, indie-minded, music loving, non-dancing fool that I know. In fact, let's talk to him about his opinions of Dublife.

Hello, twenty-something, indie-minded, music-loving, non-dancing fool, how are you?

Fine, but call me Dave.

Okay. So, Dave, what is it about Dublife that appeals to you?

Well, Mr. Interviewer...


Okay, Mr. Dave...

No, just "Dave."

Just Dave?

Yes. And I'm asking the questions here.

That wasn't in question form.

(Pause) Anyway, what is your reaction to Dublife? Why does it "move" you?

Well it doesn't move me in the dancing sense. When I want to dance, I'll listen to something that makes me dance, that will make me think.

Like what?

Umm, for dancing? Lately I've been grooving to this band called Modest Mouse. You've probably never heard of them....

I have heard of Modest Mouse

Yeah, they're pretty mainstream now, but their earlier stuff was rump-shakingly good. Anyway, I'm really into irony, and Dublife is a pretty ironic record.

How so?

Well, this Shawn Francis fellow is a DJ, and Shadow's a dance label, but Dublife isn't dance music.

Would you care to explain further?

Sure, man. See, Dublife is more like stoner jazz than it is "dance" music. The idea of a DJ mixing it into a continuous party-like soundtrack is highly ironic.

I'm not quite sure I follow you here

It's a real tricky concept to grasp, but I'll explain it to you again, to see if you get it.

I understand the concept of irony, thank you very much. Irony would be having an intelligent conversation about music with an indie-rocker fanboy, right?


Anyway, let's get back to the subject at hand. I think, if I understand you correctly, is that the music on here, though packaged like a dance-mix type of record, is really rather deceptive. Correct?

Yeah. It's a lot more mellow, it's got some beats, but it's not going to make you shake your moneymaker.

And, in fact, from what I've gathered from your earlier attempts to describe the record, is that this record is more like jazzy-electronica, ala Tortoise or Mouse on Mars. Correct?

Yeah, but I think the whole Chicago jazz scene is played out. Do you like Tortoise?

Yeah, I think they're all right

Well, if you like that commercial jazz stuff like Tortoise, then I think you'll like Dublife. It's mellow, but not too light. It's got a nice beat to it, but it's not for dancing. I think it's a record that you'll want to have on while drinking rum and cokes or smoking or relaxing.

So, though it's no Modest Mouse, it's still a nice, rhythmic album?


So, tell me, Jacob, do you think that Dublife was a good listen?

Dave, my man, it was an excellent listen. It's not the sort of thing I buy, but the experience was quite nice, the record made me rather mellow, and I'll probably pop it on again the next time I need something chill to listen to. Hey, if we're done, can I go? I'm supposed to chat with this girl I met at MOC. She's sixteen in age, but a full-grown woman at heart, and I can't pass up this opportunity.

--Joseph Kyle

March 03, 2002

KaitO "Montigola Underground"

In preparing for this review, I looked up the word "cacophony."
The first dictionary I used was my handy-dandy AOL dictionary, and I produced the following definition: 1. harsh or discordant sound : 2; specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases. A fair definition, but I feel it doesn't fully explain the word. So I approached my handy-dandy American Heritage Dictionary for further explanation. This time, I found the definition I was looking for: 1. Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance. 2. The use of harsh or discordant sounds in literary composition, as for poetic effect. When it comes to KaitO, I'm much more partial to the American Heritage Dictionary definition.


Because this record is one of the nosiest, most vibrant records I've heard. Ever.

I've avoided KaitO, but I'm wishing I hadn't. Whenever comparisons to such overrated acts as Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Pavement, Kleenex/Lilliput and the Fall appear, I kindly lose all interest, for one of two reasons. I believe that the band will either sound like it's trying to rerecord the best moments of the previously mentioned influence, or I think that the band they're being compared to sucks. In the case of KaitO, I'd say that the latter holds true. However, my ears invariably do perk up when I see comparisons to Au Pairs, The Raincoats, Slits, and even Ruts DC. Thought I would never, ever want to support the growth and influence of Sonic Youth or Pavement, the reviews for their previous album, You've Seen Us, You Must Have Seen Us, made me want to touch the KaitO flame, but fear of hearing crappy music led me to withdraw my interest.

I shouldn't have worried, as Montigola Underground shows. KaitO are a mess--a shoddy, electronic toys-loving, sound-effects making mess. I wouldn't want to be the poor chap to transcribe the words of lead singer Nikki Colk's singing. Or, shall we say, shambiotic crooning. Hers is a little girl, sing-songy voice, innocent--until KaitO break into doing their post-punk cheerleader routine. KaitO's are sing along anthems that you'll never know the words to. Frankly, I wouldn't want to know what she's singing, as that would simply be taking away the magical experience of KaitO.

If you like the harsh, yet highly danceable pop sounds of British post-punk pop, then KaitO are most certainly the band for you. I won't bother describing this record piecemeal, as that would simply be taking the music out of context. I don't think that would serve KaitO well; they are a band to be taken fully in context, in their environment, and all at once. Don't bother listening to what critics (myself included, I'm man enough to admit the irony) say about KaitO--just listen. You'll either be inexplicably moved and utterly entranced by their noisy, alien sounds immediately , or you'll hate it from the very first note of "Sweet Allie" Methinks you'll like it.
I know I do.

--Joseph Kyle