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13 March 2006

Voxtrot, Raised by Wolves (Cult Hero) Rating: 7
It's tough to tell whether it's just a product of the limited production values afforded to a band that's proven nothing thus far, but everything on Voxtrot's debut EP Raised By Wolves sounds very quiet. The band sounds as if its members are playing their instruments very carefully, as if they're in the basement and mum's upstairs trying to catch a couple winks before dinner. Intentional or not, the careful (though not quite tentative) feel actually lends itself well to the danceable, lite-rock sound that the songs convey. Indeed, these sound like nice boys who just decided to up and start a band, particularly vocalist and bandleader Ramesh Srivastava, who might be the most utterly pleasant vocalist in this genre since Travis's Fran Healy. The band sounds most comfortable with the quick, early '80s alternative sound of "The Start of Something", which sounds a bit like the humble, quiet-spoken little brother of The Doors' "Touch Me". Less convincing are the attempts at more straightforward rock 'n roll that feature the typical distorted guitars and slower beats, particularly prevalent in closer "Wrecking Force", which really neither wrecks nor forces. Still, Srivastava saves the day with his irresistible voice singing still-catchy melodies, despite the rather weak racket behind him. This is the type of debut that I could see selling for 50 bucks on eBay two years down the road while the band embarks on its first arena tour -- Voxtrot is destined for big things. — Mike Schiller [Insound]
MySpace: [multiple songs]

Slideshaker, In the Raw (Bad Afro) Rating: 7
Guitar rock trios come a dime-a-dozen nowadays. Chances are one is playing at some closed off space only a mile away from where you're sitting right now. Lucky for you, Slideshaker is one of the good ones. Opening their sophomore LP In the Raw with a catchy riff-rocker like "Bones" is a great idea, making you wonder why '60s garage-revival groups like the Cato Salsa Experience died out as fast as they did. They gladly mix it up, throwing acoustic guitars on songs like "Easy Street" and the intentionally crappy Casio keyboard drum beats on "Heartbeat Baby." While there are no actual bad songs and the album maintains a strong momentum, you soon hear them repeating a bit of the same territory as the album draws to a close. Fortunately, they save one of their best songs, "No Love Lost" for the very end. This album won't blow you to the back of the room, but you just have that strange back-of-your-head itching that their next one just might. [Insound]
      — Evan Sawdey
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Annihilator, Schizo Deluxe (Locomotive) Rating: 4
Annihilator, led by Canadian guitar whiz Jeff Waters, is one of those bands where the often-used Spinal Tap comparisons actually seem especially appropriate. Like the mighty Tap, who went through drummer after fictitious drummer, Waters goes through band members like Kleenex. No fewer than five lead singers have taken the mike in Waters's employ, along with the five rhythms guitarists, four drummers, and two bassists who have appeared on record over the last 20 years, but incredibly, despite the constant turnover of band members, Waters has been able to carve out a decent career for himself, highlighted by two thrash metal classics, 1989's Alice in Hell and 1990's Never, Never Land. His band's eleventh full-length studio release, marks Waters's much-heralded return to classic late-80s thrash, and while it's great to hear the man has not lost a step as far as the nimble staccato riffs (just listen to "Invite It") and blazing solos go, the vocal hooks Dave Padden employs are substandard (again, listen to "Invite It"), and Waters's lyrics are damn near laughable. We do get moments that will bring smiles to those of us who were heavily into thrash 20 years ago, especially on cuts like "Warbird", "Like Father, Like Gun", and the early Metallica feel of "Pride", but Annihilator are so preoccupied with recreating that old-school sound, yet unable to equal the greatness of their early work, that aside from pleasing the oldsters for a few minutes, it all winds up being a rather pointless exercise. — Adrien Begrand [Insound]

Randy and the Bloody Lovelies, Lift (Cheap Lullaby) Rating: 3
If there is a negative world in which every truly great rock band has an evil twin that fits neatly between the margins of the page being scripted by record company marketing gurus, this band is Whiskeytown's middle-of-the-road Doppelganger. Randy Wooten's vocals lack any real emotion and his lyrics are detached and judgmental to match. The music is polished to a fine sheen and strolls listlessly from the speakers (the price to pay for recruiting session players rather than taking the time to record an album with a band). Somewhere in 1972, Elton John is freaking out listening to Honky Chateau being so blatantly aped. Springsteen's ghost-of-Born To Run past is rattling his chains. And hosts of alt.country fans are seething and feeling the old wound left by the Uncle Tupelo split reopen. This is all hypothetical of course. I doubt any of these folks have heard this band. Really, I doubt they would notice if they did. — Dave Brecheisen [Insound]

Castanets / I Heart Lung, split 12" (Sounds Are Active) Rating: 6
A beautiful marbled 12" gives the first side to two Castanets tracks and the flipside to three from I Heart Lung. Castanets work the ambient drone to longer form than on either of their spiritual Americana albums. After the more rock-based release First Night's Freeze, these tracks sound like Ray Raposa turning back toward his more experimental folk leanings. I Heart Lung start their side without an immediate percussion-led freakout. The middle track, "Song of the Boatman of the River Roon" slows down the record not by employing drone, but by turning in a downtempo piece with rolling percussion passing through the background. An effective mood piece, but not that memorable, that piece gives way to closer "If I Were a Young Man Now", a clanking number with more move to it. I Heart Lung might be proving itself to be the rare folk band (experimental or no) whose percussion stands out the most. — Justin Cober-Lake [Insound]

.: posted by Editor 8:26 AM

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