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Bassholes, Broke Chamber Music: Early Singles and Unreleased 1992-1994 (Secret Keeper)
Don Howland's prolific rock primitive project Bassholes dips into the well of home-wrecking music in all its different viscous levels; country blues, punk and tweaked-out schizophrenic visionaries all inform his spare songs. This collection rounds up 45s from the genesis-time of the group, and some odds and sods that never saw release. A dark, haunting tone pervades Howland's sound; surface appearance points to a stripped-down aesthetic, but closer examination proves the songs layered with rich textures. Much of this collection was put to four-track cassette at a funeral home. Beyond his Columbus, OH roots, Howland's choice of covers belies his singular idea of heroes or villains, depending on perspective; herein find "Pneumonia" by bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson, West Coast punks the Germs' "Lion's Share", and the twisted Frogs' "Jesus Book". Howland now lives in Asheville, NC, with a new self-titled Bassholes record out, which he confesses may not be so gloomy as the meaty marrow here. His oeuvre remains one of the country's best-kept secrets, mysterious and essential.
Jarvis Humby, Assume the Position It's... Jarvis Humby (Hard Soul) Rating: 2
"My, isn't Jarvis Humby delightful." That should be the response to what sounds like a saucy British tabby cat that solves mysteries behind his curmudgeonly owner's back. As applied to these hackneyed garage rock wannabes, it's just everyday sarcasm. This album does the same rock 'n' soul thing that has been done a thousand times before, but this time there's an exciting twist -- it's impossible to listen to. The lead singer's hollow growling makes Mikey Bolton sound like Wilson Pickett, and the plastic organ doodlery will make you yearn for the sweet melodies of the vacuum cleaner. It's all so forced and derivative that it might be part of a scheme perpetrated to ensure that Jet isn't the lamest bar band making records today. From the album cover to closing track "Man With the X-Ray Eyes", Assume the Position It's... is an overblown assertion of musical jingoism. Go ahead and remove the Union Jack from your cover art Jarvis, we're well aware of the British rock and roll tradition. Hey, that's how we know you guys are bloody awful. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a script to propose to the BBC. [Amazon]
Flunk, "All Day and All of the Night" Remixes EP (Kriztal) Rating: 5
Oslo, Norway's Flunk ably fills the Cheeky Scandinavian Indie Pop Band slot that the Cardigans vacated after their first couple albums, almost 10 years ago. Problem is, no one was particularly clamoring for anyone to fill it. No one except the music supervisors of The O.C., who have effectively taken Flunk under their wing. Looking to make the most of this, ahem, credibility, Flunk here presents its Cheeky Scandinavian Indie Pop cover of The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night", augmented with remixes of the title cut and several tracks from last year's Morning Star album. The original version of "All Day..." is all detached cool and irony, adding wah-wah guitars without sacrificing the hedonistic rush of Ray Davies' songwriting. The rest is not nearly as good, the Bjork/Persson vocals and coldly calculated dance mixes suffering diminishing returns, even over seven tracks. Only the thumping "Tronso & Nils Noa Remix" of "All Day..." and the dreamy "Parliavox Remix" of "Morning Star" leave an impression, however fleeting.
Anagram, Songs From Far Away (0 to 1) Rating: 6
The duo of Jessica Congdon and Eric Holland are both from the school of visuals, so it should come as no surprise that there music tends to suit moods that are universal. However, few in recent memory have developed this style with as much ease and substance, with "Behavior" a glorious blend of The Cure and The Organ. Congdon's voice is pure '90s indie rock as a guitar brims under the surface. Whether it's this milieu or a dance-y kind of minimal mood as on "Qualify", Anagram's synth-tinged efforts bring to mind Wild Strawberries. "Madly" contains a subdued urgency and sense of longing that grows with each moment yet "C-Fav" would be far from anyone's favorite. Infinitely better is the somber, morose "Distance" which is part rock and part ambient before gaining strength. The song on the album to relish and cherish is the mid-tempo ambient pop of "Dazzle" which lives up to its title but the rough around the edges flavor to "Canada" is a close second. "Un" is too polished and busy so is placed as the closer, resembling Trent Reznor if he grew up on Vangelis. This mix of dreamy pop and rock will whet most alt/indie appetites. [Amazon]
Little King, Virus Devine (self-released) Rating: 6
Brace yourself, 'cuz right from the rising feedback of "All I Need", Little King bring it hard and heavy. It's all a bit copycat Rush at times, what with the galloping drum beats and lead singer/guitarist Ryan Rosoff's uncanny Geddy Lee impersonation. Plus, former Rush producer Terry Brown mixed the album. The songwriting follows the concept of a man trying to right the wrongs of the world after the Columbine school massacre. With subject matter like that it should be a major downer, but the upbeat, rich and expansive sound of these prog rock explorations won't let you wallow in depression ("Peacemaker" and "Hopefeathers"). "Antibodies" thrust blame on us, the people, exploding with a wailing guitar bit stuck in mid-song. This El-Paso-based band isn't trying to reinvent the wheel; they just want to sell you the wheel you've already come to love. So, if Rush is what you like, this shan't disappoint.