Capitol Records
Upon first listen you may be asking yourself “What the fuck is this?! dance beats on a Megadeth album?” Strings, pop arrangements and a looser style may not seem very Heavy Metal in theory but Megadeth are not your average band. Realizing that to stay with one blueprint is to disappear into the depths of rock history, the group has instead risen to the challenge of remaining vital and fresh and has made their most diverse and satisfying album to date. Risk is in reaction to Lars Ulrich expressing his desire to see Dave Mustaine stretch a little as a musician, which Mustaine certainly took to heart. Marty Friedman’s guitars have never sounded better, combining and playing off Mustaine with dueling solos, acoustic textures and jangly pop stylings vying for attention. Insomnia opens Risk with electronic beats and strings melded to harsh guitars and Mustaine’s growling vocals, the next pleasant surprise is hearing the catchy pop melodies of Breadline showing the softer side of Megadeth. The clanging bells and classical chorus brilliantly offset the thundering epic The Doctor is Calling followed by the romantic metal ballad I’ll Be There. The guitars and singalong chorus on Wanderlust brings to mind Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive, and the tight snare hits and fuzz guitar of Seven will go over well in a live setting. The title of Megadeth’s latest album Risk says it all. At a time when mainstream rock groups don’t dare stray from their record company’s formulas for success, Mustaine and company forge ahead, challenging themselves and their audience and will likely gain greater success by going against everyone’s expectations.

Alex Gopher
V2/Solid Records
Alex Gopher’s name is partly from the character from Love Boat, the one who went on to become a politician in real life. Alex Gopher’s new album You, My Baby and I is a soundtrack to your next party with overt references to George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic with their many vocalists, superfunky sound and drunk-on-life vibe. Slower songs are thrown in to give the revelers a break or to let the couples slink off to some dark corner or room. On the opener Time (as in Morris Day and the Time?) a Barry White-like voice trades lyrics with another singer about the necessities of living life to the fullest, with a deep house beat, horns and jangly guitars inviting you to shake your rump. The Child gets you into a slow groove with a funky guitar & bass and Billie Holliday’s vocals get cut up and treated over languid keyboards. Vocodered vocals and P-Funk breakbeats make up With U and Party People, two more invitations to dance your troubles away. The Quiet Storm brings the party that is You, My Baby and I to an end with everyone retreating to their rooms and some to the hot tub for more fun. Let Alex Gopher be the one to make your next party a blast!

Down By Law
Go-Kart Records

Rock and Roll this fresh is a God-send to my ears and certainly should be heard on the radio. Down By Law could easily replace any song from their new album for the latest Bush song you’re likely to hear 20 times today on KROQ. The band put a little song together about their feelings about pop radio called Nothing Good On The Radio. There are other equally incisive and rocking songs on Fly The Flag. The title cut tells you to stand up for what you believe in, Automatic is a Devo-ish song about how technology makes life faster but not better. Sample lyrics go: “Solitude I forgot/Quiet time/For deeper thought/I'm one with the world/And everything is spinning out of control. Breakout is not only a wish for freedom for the Celtic countries from Britain’s oppression but is a story about one band member’s grandfather and his young days in 1916 Scotland. Throughout the album are songs of protest and discontent but the songs will never bring you down, they are all upbeat and catchy, you’ll be singing along to the lyrics or humming a guitar line before you know it. Down By Law show their age and musical tastes by carrying on in the tradition of The Clash and The Ramones while also recalling the guitar work and melodic arrangements of earlier bands like The Byrds, Neil Young and British bands as heard on Sorry Sometimes. The youthful masses will embrace Fly The Flag as a punk album for the ages but I consider it a damn fine rock album with intelligent lyrics and excellent musicianship.

David Bowie
Virgin Records America, Inc.

If you have only heard a few of David Bowie’s songs, be it Let’s Dance, Changes or Ziggy Stardust, hours… is a perfect introduction to the artist as well as another brilliant effort. Hours… came out of sessions with guitarist and collaborator Reeves Gabrels where Bowie was spurred on to really stretch his art. As if to show that he’s been doing it right all along, the album sounds remarkably like a concise history of Bowies oeuvre. After a period where Bowie didn’t listen to much music outside of his own, the singer has made a collection of songs that look at the present and the past from the eyes of a sometimes cranky, sometimes resigned older man. That said, not all the songs are downbeat or sad, Bowie sings in the opening cut Thursday’s Child “Everything’s falling into place/Seeing my past to let it go/Only for you/I don’t regret/That I was Thursday’s Child.” His vocals are only affected by the emotions conveyed in the songs, gone are the personas the man has lived in, here is a man happy to be himself, born David Jones, now David Bowie. Gabrels’s guitars echo and reinforce the moods in the songs, be they ballads like Seven or aggressive rockers like the biting The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell. The lyrics in The Dreamers are a perfect summation of where Bowie is now: “So it goes/ Just a searcher/Lonely soul/The last of the dreamers.” On hours… David Bowie looks back on his past but not in anger, keeping his eyes on a brighter future.

Beyond Records

Thirty years after the release of their debut album Yes return with The Ladder. Produced by the late Bruce Fairbairn, (Aerosmith, Cranberries) this album marks a return to form for the progressive band, containing visions of Roundabout and I’ve Seen All Good People while displaying advances in technology and style. At first listen, what stands out on The Ladder are the electronic beats and The Marguerita Horns on Lightning Strikes and the reggae rhythms of The Messenger, dedicated to Bob Marley. If you are more than just a casual fan of Yes than you will likely thrill to the PC game inspired Homeworld and Chris Squire’s upfront bass and the vocal harmonies of Face To Face. To Be Alive is reminiscent of Owner Of A Lonely Heart and 90125-era Yes with its sitar and powerful dynamics. As founding singer/lyricist Jon Anderson recites, “It doesn’t get much better than this.” Anderson roughs up his usually clean high voice to add vocal muscle to the punchy Finally. Yes kick into their progressive roots with the jamming intro of the epic New Language, replete with new member Igor Khoroshev’s expressive organs and keyboards and Steve Howe and Billy Sherwood’s virtuoso guitar work. Drummer Alan White holds it all together with his tight tempo changes and measured hits. To bring Yes’ new album and history into perspective, the album’s title comes from an exhibit by John Lennon and Yoko Ono where the visitors had to climb up a ladder to enter the exhibition. At the top of the ladder was the word “YES.” The band got their name from contracting the title of the Beatles movie and album Yellow Submarine, recently re-released and remastered for yet another generation. With one foot in the past and one foot in the future, Yes traverse the decades with their timeless new album The Ladder.

Nettwerk Records
On the debut album by Pövi, L.A. producer and remixer Carmen Rizzo and Australian singer Cristina Calero have teamed up to concoct a heady brew of guitars, vocals, ethnic instruments, pop melodies and electronica. Their name comes from the name of a friends dog and means “flower” in a Native American tongue. Rizzo met Calero while recording in Australia where Calero was singing in another room. He felt her voice was perfect for a project he had dreamed of. They got together and the gorgeous Life In Volcanoes is the result. Conveying a spiritual vibe throughout the album, Rizzo, Calero and friends marry guitar textures, ambient beds, tablas and ethereal vocals on tracks like the pop single Dragonflies, and the powerful Volcanoes. The poetic lyrics of the album invite the listener to experience the “primitive heat from a new tribe…” Many aural delights can be found on Pövi’s Life In Volcanoes, a thrilling debut from two unique personalities.

Ultra Records

If you love electronic dance music then you’ve at least heard of Sasha. By himself and with fellow DJ John Digweed Sasha has blown the roof off many a dance club around the world. He is also an excellent producer who, with Charlie May (previously of Spooky), makes deep, uplifting techno-house of the sort heard in his DJ sets. Included on the EP are the long and short versions of the airy repetitions on a theme of Xpander as well as the moody Belfunk which has the long ambient breakdowns and slow builds that are a Sasha trademark. Rabbitweed has an invigorating and aggressive percussive beat and spunky synths that was recorded with Twilo’s audience and soundsystem in mind. Baja was written in Australia in 1997 after a diving trip and captures the experience of being underwater at the barrier reef. On the Xpander EP Sasha gives us a sampler of his won brilliant material whetting our appetites for the Wipeout 3 soundtrack coming in November. Rarely has dance music been such great fun to listen to.

Magna Carta Records
Tiles wanted to make a timeless rock album while continuing to explore progressive arrangements yet do it with an organic, live feel. Presents of Mind contains artwork by Hugh Syme and is mixed by vintage Rush producer Terry Brown. The Rush connection doesn’t end there. Throughout the album you will hear ideas and instrumental passages if not lifted outright then at least reminiscent of the Canadian trio. Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and other progressive get mined for inspiration on Presents of Mind but their live sound almost saves them from their hero worship. Tiles excel at stop-on-a-dime tempo changes and are not afraid to throw in an instrumental jam to break up their songs here and there. You’ll be blown away by the bombastic drums, popping bass and up-front guitars on the opener Static, Facing Failure thrills with Chris Herin’s guitars and banjos, Jeff Whittle’s killer bass work, Paul Rarick’s soaring vocals and Pat DeLeon’s crashing cymbals and percussion. You’ll lose yourself in the instrumental passage and guitar solos. The Learning Curve is an instrumental with many different parts, the drummer and guitarist trying to race ahead of each other, mandolin and acoustic guitar show up and light keyboards add texture to several passages. Taking Control is a powerful rocker with amped up guitars that keeps switching to slower, quieter parts with those banjos, yet the song as a whole will get your head banging. As an added bonus, Presents Of Mind contains two incredible live songs, Patterns and Token Pledge that will give you an indication as to how the rest of the album will sound in a live setting. Fans of Yes and Rush as well as fans of prog-rock and classic rock are sure to eat up Presents Of Mind.

Various Artists
Vagrant Records

Back in the halcyon days of the early 1980’s girls wore neon socks, boys wore pink Izod shirts, everyone wore Vans shoes and no one had beepers or cell phones. Not everyone had weird haircuts, but they were not rare either. John Hughes movies were documents of our angst-ridden high school years and Eddie Murphy was young and the best thing about Saturday Night Live. It was a time when Iron Maiden fought for time with New Order in car stereos. The songs on Before You Were Punk 2 focus on the New Wave favorites of the past as performed by the pop and punk artists of today. NOFX do a double-time cover of Electricity, No Motiv give us a faithful rendition of Space Age Love Song and The Hippos play a wacky version of Our Lips Are Sealed with handclaps and vocodered female backup singing. The Get Up Kids’ version of Close To Me ads tom-filled drumming and keening guitars to the piano-heavy tune and The Gotohells bring a snotty garage band attitude to The Cars’ Just What I Needed. Strung Out play the Police’s “stalking ex” ballad Every Breath You Take as a melodic punk rocker, a double-time thrasher and a heavy metal tune. All finish up the collection with their spirited take on Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Billy Idol was last seen in the 80’s flashback The Wedding Singer and after hearing this particular cover song I’ve decided that what the world needs now is more groups and performers like Idol and the folks on Before You Were Punk 2. If you’re a kid who thinks this is just music for your older brother or sister or you ARE one of those people who dressed like Ducky in Pretty In Pink, Before You Were Punk 2 is for you.

Various Artists
Planet E Communications

Geology is a collection of songs from Carl Craig’s Planet E label that showcases some of the most dynamic and human electronic dance music heard today. Common Factor gives us Horizons, a mid-tempo number with jazzy pianos, horns and popping bass guitar that sound like a live jam. Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra is represented by the Original Mix of Bug In The Bassbin, which sounds like 303’s getting worked over a sped-up Chic song loop. New signing Recloose dishes out Dislocate, a ten-minute plus vibes and drums workout with producer Matt Chicoine playing killer synth lines throughout. Jason Hogan’s Esteem follows with live drums played in double time, warbling horns and eerie atmospherics that together just scream for you to get up and dance. Gemini’s Cross Mars (RMX) gets redone by Free and is a darkly funky bass jam with rough squiggling and bouncy electronic effects. Closing Geology is the Exclusive Remix of Remake by Paperclip People a.k.a. Craig and Manuel Gottsching. A highly sought after mix of this Berlin club favorite E2 E4, this track is a hypnotic and grooving deep house song with a bouncing beat and engrossing synth lines sure to make you seek out Carl Craig’s albums. Geology’s full title is A Subjective History of Planet E; Volume One and I can’t wait to experience volume two. Electronic dance music rarely sounds this lively and fun.

The Church
The House Of Blues
September 15th, 1999

The first and previous time I had the extreme pleasure of seeing The Church perform was last year at the HOB. This time around the Australian band was in L.A. in support of their album of covers Box of Birds. The band started off a little shakily, with Ultravox’s Hiroshima Mon Amour, sounding not quite practiced enough, then led into the hypnotic strains of Ripple. Steve Kilbey’s vocals and bass finally settled into a groove while guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper warmed up to the audience and their emotional response. During Myrrh Marty let it rip on his guitar, giving me the impression that he is to Australia what Eddie Van Halen is to the U.S. While performing the tightly arranged Buffalo Marty and Peter looked like they were having fun, interacting with each other on stage. At the end of Grind Marty attacked his guitar with such energy that he detuned it. They performed the Iggy Pop song The Endless Sea (which, according to Editor Ken, Iggy himself never played this song live) but for me fit right into The Church’s set. Marty and Peter used E-bows and played the same chords tuned slightly different and echoing, creating a hypnotic and heavenly effect. On the uplifting Louisiana Peter took lead guitar while Steve and Marty combined their vocals pleasantly. Two Places at Once (from Sometime Anywhere) followed, again giving Peter’s bluesy guitars a chance to flesh out the tune while Steve and Marty traded verses, giving the audience more of Marty’s unique voice. Tantalized opened with Peter wailing on his guitar, drawing feedback and squeals from it as if he were personally lifting the weight of the years since the song was first played, while Marty and Steve both played with blissful energy leaving the audience breathless with happy exhaustion. For their encore The Church played the moody Day of the Dead, followed by Reptile, which started off with someone out of tune or time and Steve decided to end it saying “I never liked that song anyway.” They then went on to perform the epic Cortez The Killer, with Marty sitting on the floor by his amp playing his guitar and smoking a cigarette leaving Peter to play the stage. Since this is a Neil Young song, the guitars where, of course, excellent. While the show had its awkward moments, it was yet another enjoyable and memorable show for everyone at the House Of Blues. Local band Ester opened the night with their angular rock songs and dark atmospherics, expanding on the often claustrophobic recorded versions found on Default State. Look for their album as well as the last three albums by The Church on Thirsty Ear Records.

“Weird Al” Yankovic
The Greek Theater
September 26th, 1999

Al Yankovic returned to his hometown to present the multimedia experience that is The “Weird Al” Show. Opening with his TV show theme, Al gave the audience costume changes, clips from his movie UHF, real and made up commercials, movie and TV references and cameos, music video parodies, fake interviews with Ozzy Osbourne and George Harrison and some of the craziest original songs and parodies ever heard in the world. Along with killer execution from his incredible and flexible band and a thrilling light show “Weird Al” sang about Forrest Gump, Jerry Springer, being down with the Amish, cartoon cavemen and so much more. He kicked the show into high gear with his tale of the night Santa Claus went psycho, the story all the more real with the red siren lights and fake snow in the air. Al knows that what kids really want are stories of taboo subjects with plenty of gory violence and guns. All in good fun though. Another highlight was his Truth or Dare inspired reinterpretation of Like A Surgeon, complete with surgeons uniform, large red bed, the hairychested keyboardist with conical bra and swirling Middle Eastern strings and slow seductive pace. Al was at his most energetic as “Puff Daddy Al” during It’s All About The Pentiums, creating a hard rock/ hip-hop masterpiece of his own rapping about computer chips and mega-RAM. Dressed up in black and silver, Al and the band out-did themselves with strobe lights and ridiculous posing. Smells Like Nirvana had two sexy young cheerleaders in black backing the band who looked like they had just stepped out of Nirvana’s dressing room, with Al screaming and whispering and gargling water to the heavy rock tune, eventually just falling to the floor with the ennui and angst of it all. The audience was roaring with laughter and approval. The second half of the show contained a medley of sorts with songs from his past including I Lost On Jeopardy, Eat It, I Love Rocky Road, Another One Rides The Bus, going epileptic like Alanis singing about fast food: “Thank you Carls, thank you, thank you Wendys.” But the best food parody was Al holding a pizza box and pounding his chest singing about pizza delivery to that awful Titanic song. Fat began with the video of Al being harassed by his old gang buddies and as he blew up to massive proportions he came on stage with triple chins and his fat outfit. Al shook his girth, thrust his pelvis and snapped his arm out like Michael Jackson complete with sound effects for his movements and the occasional “ooooooooh.” The Observatory may have been up the road but “Weird Al” was the biggest star this night. For the encore we sang along to The Saga Begins while staring at the swirling light designs in the background. We laughed at the band in full Star Wars attire but the audience went crazy when young Anakin himself, Jake Lloyd came on stage (in costume, natch) to sing the song. Yoda followed with the crowd singing along to the song about the little green Jedi teacher to bring the night to a satisfying and laughter-filled conclusion.


Project TRU
TRU Records
Project TRU is the brainchild of Robert Trujillo, he sings and plays bass and leads a 12-piece band complete with horns, back-up singers, guitars and drums. Trujillo has a gruffly pleasant voice and gives a one-two punch to your ears with Robin Nivans’ soulful backing. The horns stab away and the guitars will rock and roll you. You Cry Alone is a harder number with noisy guitars and tight percussion, sure to give you goosebumps. Tell Me Why has a funky groove, great vocal harmonies and hyper Latin percussion that brighten up the song. If you want to have a rocking good time, look for A 12 Piece Band at your favorite indie record store. Turn it up loud and enjoy.

Demo Recording

The trio of Shaun Chillin’, Sir Steve B and Crazy G bring the “Woodies Style” to the hungry ears of So Cal. Along with DJ Kane and a mysterious production duo, The Woodies rap about girls, beer and their expertise both in bed and on the mic. Subjects range from large women (Big Pam) to moving rear ends (Bootie Gun), to the boasting songs (Creepin’) and (Gifted). Shaun Chillin’ has the booming bass voice, taking center stage to pound out rhymes with force and confidence, Sir Steve B plays off the bootie grooves with his trebly rapping full of wild attitude and Crazy G fill in the mix with his own inimitable flow. DJ Kane add deft scratching and samples to the mix of guitars, acid lines, breakbeats, vocal samples and electronic production to make for a unique listening experience. Step up to the Woodies or step off. Call Mike Crowley of MGC Management at (626) 798-0053 for info on this incredible new band.

The Music Cartel

Zenith is Federico Franchi of Italy. He makes his American debut with a CD of Aphex Twin-inspired squelchy techno tempered with lovely romantic melodies and ambient flourishes. Flowers of Intelligence opens with The Lovesong Of Blue Lead. This song contains a hard breakbeat, high-pitched squealing and ambient keyboards, Midnight has an introspective keyboard melody played over a slow, pounding bass drum and clicking, the title track is a speed techno number with a steadily filtered synthesizer line building up to a hard-ass acid rave dance workout. Electric Turtle has a scratchy breakbeat with a roaming synth leading to a moody strings-and-drums dance number. A Tear In Heart ends the album with a very Tangerine Dream/Kraftwerkian ambient synth to thumping trance beats and skittering cymbals track sure to get your blood pumping and your mind soaring.

Brain Surgery Music

George Sarah is a local electronic music producer who is a regular on the club circuit with his T.H.C. project. On Adagio Sarah has teamed up with singer/lyricist Sarah Folkman. Folkman’s sultry vocals sit well with Sarah’s patient arrangements, her voice melting into your eardrums while percussion beats into your bones. Alternating between slow torch songs and soulful Drum and Bass, T.H.C. is a little something for everyone, trip-hop beats mix it up with piano, violins, and tonal hums and skittering drums play over keyboards and plucked strings. Look for George Sarah’s music on Intelligent Music and on F111/Warner Brothers Records. He’s also working on a new project with vocalist Angelique. Ask for Adagio at your local record store and support local talent.

Those Bastard Souls
V2 Records Inc.

Perhaps informed by the passing of Jeff Buckley whom guitarist Michael Tighe played with and violinist (and ex-Dambuilder) Joan Wasser was engaged to, Those Bastard Souls new album is full of melancholy and regret but also displays a will to grow from our past. As led by Grifter David Shouse, Debt & Departure is a full-blown return to the band he began as a solo side-project from the Grifters some years ago. Slower mood pieces like the opener The Last Thing I Ever Wanted Was To Show Up And Blow Your Mind are tempered by faster rockers like Train From Terminal Boredom with its distorted guitars and horn stabs. The softly strummed acoustic guitar, plaintive piano and Wasser’s forlorn violins will pull tears from your eyes on the lonely nights song The Wake Of Your Flood. Remembering Sophie Rhodes starts in a fit with overdriven guitars and violin and Shouse’s friendly voice singing about “When it was cool to be anything you wanted.” Debt & Departure closes with the lovely lullaby Spaced Out “…In such a good place now/Holes in the rug smooth out when we’re spaced out/Don’t ask me what life’s about.” Those Bastard Souls don’t have any answers about life but they sure are a good listen while you’re around to enjoy another day.

Baby Ray
Thirsty Ear Records

It feels great to know that Baby Ray is out there. Out of Boston, the band performs rock songs with acoustic and electric guitars, odd vocal melodies and change-up rhythms. The band (in their hilarious stream-of-consciousness bio) refers to Baby Ray’s sound as “pop-gone-wrong” and what better way to explain such songs as the country-tinged guitar psychedelia of Olive Novel Love or Solid Gray with its captivating vocals and dense layered guitars. Out-and-out rockers Sheep Are My Keeper and Wisdom Of The Boondocks still carry enough paranoid genius in their lyrics to let you know that Baby Ray is not your usual crowd-pleasing band. Playful Robert closes Do I Love America with a circular rhythm strummed on acoustic guitar and Eric Groat’s raspy vocal delivery, ending the album abruptly, leaving you wanting more. After hearing Baby Ray’s second album I can’t wait to see them live and buy their next CD. Seek out Do I Love America for a taste of what rock music can sound like with balls and brains.

Tooth & Nail Records
These guys have been at it since their high school days and must be Tooth & Nail’s biggest band. After five albums and numerous EPs and singles Mike, Tom and Yuri have finally documented MxPx’s live shows in At The Show. Recorded late last summer in D.C. and Philly, the album contains 23 songs of loud, hormonally charged guitar rock with fast tempos and snotty vocals. Barely a song lasts more than three minutes, with the average track coming in at under two minutes. If you are used to watching TV, playing your Playstation, talking on the phone and listening to the radio while eating, all at the same time then you’ll probably have an easier time than me trying to figure out what the songs are about. Loud, fast and full of good (bad) attitude, MxPx put on a great show. Some of the songs on At The Show include Under Lock And Key, Chick Magnet, Party, My House, Be There and their breakthrough single I’m OK, You’re OK. The closing song on At The Show pretty much sums up the MxPx live experience called Punk Rawk Show, with super-fast drumming and riffs, the band tempers their breakneck speed with vocal melodies and good feelings for everyone. MxPx just want to rock your world and put a smile on your soul.

Various Artists
Magna Carta Records
Let me tell you of three giants of musical talent. In the days of yesteryear the trio of Emerson, Lake and Palmer performed to a rabid audience of mortals, hungry for something new in an age of dull pop. Their music shook the foundations of the Earth, causing Atlas himself to shift the world on his shoulders. Keith Emerson ruled all things derived from the piano and, with the aid of electricity, took his “grand organs” to the common folk along with the incredible rhythmic support of Greg Lake on bass and Carl Palmer on percussion. Together they changed people’s opinions of classical and rock and roll music. Now, decades later, come an inspired group of musical greats from the past and present to again re-interpret the sonic masterpieces of ELP. Members of Dream Theater, Jethro Tull, Yes, and Deep Purple, along with artists on the Magna Carta label pay tribute to the masters of bombastic rock. They once again unleash the fury, wonder and intoxication that was and still is ELP. With the addition of guitars, electronics and crystal clear production values songs like Tarkus and The Endless Enigma shine anew for a new generation of rock fans and artists alike. Thrill to new interpretations of ELP on Encores, Legends & Paradox, A Tribute to the Music of ELP. A most inspired and inspiring effort indeed, my children, now go and practice your organ smashing techniques.

The Wiseguys
Ideal Records
Touche’ is the guiding hand behind The Wiseguys’ sound. Rapping, hip-hop, funky grooves and irreverence worthy of a stand-up comedian combine to make one of the funniest and craziest butt-moving albums of the last few years. You may call the next big sound trip-hop or acid jazz or electronic lounge or big beat but The Wiseguys blow the roof off of any limiting labels by kicking out the jams on electric piano, tight, bouncing drum loops, fun vocal samples and record grooves. Touche’ comes across like the Jimmy Walker of new music: He’s Dyn-o-mite! Anyone who makes a hip-hop jam out of Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts (here called The Grabbing Hands) has an ace permanently up his sleeve full of ideas. So “Get up, get up and put your body in motion” and Start the Commotion to The Antidote by The Wiseguys.

Jason Rubenstein
Gearhead Music
Jason Rubenstein’s second album, Cathedral, is a beautiful collection of dark ambient mood pieces. This release reminds me of Joe Satriani’s Not Of This Earth with it’s new-agey vibe and sweeping synthesizers and spatial textures. While Joe’s instrument of choice is the guitar, Rubenstein’s is the piano and keyboards. Cathedral seeps into your psyche minute by minute, drawing you into the space between the echoing keys, the tapping cymbals and drums of David Carol-Libman and the fretless bass of Roman Morykit. At first listen you may not grasp the music but the drums anchor the ambient grooves aiding your ears to hear the electronic flourishes and often delicate instrumentals. The album is so consistent in the quality of the compositions that a favorite track is difficult to pick but this in turn means that Cathedral should probably be listened to from start to finish. The rewards of Jason Rubenstein’s music are great if you possess the patience to receive them. You can purchase Cathedral on the Internet through, CD Now, UBL and direct via

Breakbeat Era
XL/1500 Records/A&M

Breakbeat Era is DJ Die, Roni Size and vocalist Leonie Laws. Listening to Ultra-Obscene you will soon come to realize that this trio is not simply two producers and a singer. This trio is Laws as the vocalist, lyricist and head of the group. The music is nominally drum and bass yet there are so many different elements roaming through the songs that you will soon be nodding your head and trying to catch Laws’ words as she rants and raves in her strong and sassy voice. The drum tracks are more organic, guitar textures appear throughout as do vibes, strings and keyboards bringing a more accessible and dare I say “pop” air to the music. Die and Size are attempting to bring their love of non-traditional production into the mainstream without losing any of the intelligent, soulful and damn sexy grooves from their Reprazent album. With Laws as the main voice in the group, Breakbeat Era proves that done right, this whole dance/D’n’B thing can captivate your mind as well as your feet with its emotional presentation and dense production. Also be sure to look for the singles of Rancid, Bullitproof and Ultra-Obscene for more versions and remixes of this excellent group.

Brain Surgery Music

George Sarah is a local electronic music producer who is a regular on the club circuit with his T.H.C. project. On Adagio Sarah has teamed up with singer/lyricist Sarah Folkman. Folkman’s sultry vocals sit well with Sarah’s patient arrangements, her voice melting into your eardrums while percussion beats into your bones. Alternating between slow torch songs and soulful Drum and Bass, T.H.C. is a little something for everyone, trip-hop beats mix it up with piano, violins, and tonal hums and skittering drums play over keyboards and plucked strings. Look for George Sarah’s music on Intelligent Music and on F111/Warner Brothers Records. He’s also working on a new project with vocalist Angelique. Ask for Adagio at your local record store and support local talent.

“Weird Al” Yankovic
Volcano Entertainment

(Read to the tune of The Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere) "Now here’s a little story I’m about to tell ‘bout one bad brother you know so well, it started way back in history in a college bathroom stall, now he’s singing about Darth Maul." Eat It, Fat, I Lost On Jeopardy, Amish Paradise, Like A Surgeon, ALTV, UHF, The Weird Al Show, these are just some of the many accomplishments of a geeky kid named Al who got it into his head that he could sing and play accordion while making up funny ways to redo songs from famous radio artists. Not that he is the only one who has done this but as far as I’m concerned Al is the best. This time out he attacks the Offspring with a tale of a hip Jew called Pretty Fly For A Rabbi, and Barenaked Ladies’ One Week is the basis for Jerry Springer, “It’s been one week since they had the fight/With the Siamese twins and the transvestite.” One of the highlights of Running With Scissors has to be the rock version of It’s All About The Benjamins, called It’s All About The Pentiums (duh) with Weird Al rapping about computers, harder than hard drives, real big memory chips and the sleekest scanners in the hood “I’m down with Bill Gates, call him Money for short/I phone him up at home for tech support/It’s all about the Pentiums….” There’s more fun to go around on Running With Scissors but the best way to enjoy it is to BUY IT YOU DOPE! Who better to poke fun at our ridiculous music industry? Visit

May/June reviews:

May 1, 1999
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
It was a cool Spring night in Santa Monica, the lines were long and the mood was positive and expectant of the good times to come. Indoors, DJ Jason Bentley provided some pumping techno to get our heart rates higher. Underworld entered the stage to thunderous applause. Tension mounted as Darren Emerson and Rick Smith chatted behind their boards letting a simple synth pattern annoy us for a few minutes. Happy with their preparations, they turned some knobs and the dance party began in earnest. Karl Hyde danced away with his beatific smile adding an occasional vocal effect as the music layered loops upon loops of rhythm and emotion. Colored lights made shapes and suggestions of words and sentences danced on the walls as the information threatened to overload our synapses. At one point in the show I almost felt my spirits lifting out of my body as the intense sound vibrations mixed with my breathing, bloodflow and mental state as well as my gyrating limbs. The air, floor and walls shook to the music coming out of Smith and Emerson's boxes through the speakers and the revelers were covered in their and each other's sweat as we smiled at everyone and everything for just a few brief hours. Underworld don't really perform "songs" so much as mix the tracks form their albums into one long party. Yet there were certain standout moments such as the metallic and angular drum patterns during Bruce Lee which had the audience chanting along with the lyrics "Life, kid. Suck the box," and the two girls holding up signs that said "Tina" during Push Upstairs. Eventually Emerson looked up from his machines and nudged Smith. They both got a lift out of the girls' efforts. Karl Hyde may have actually strummed his guitar a few times during Something Like A Mama. We of course all chanted along to Born Slippy and raised our hands to Underworld who smiled and waved back to us as they took to the stage once more. Worn out and soaked with sweat, Karl Hyde and the trio's appreciative fans took to pounding their feet for one more song, while even past the point of exhaustion.

The Chemical Brothers
Astralwerks/Freestyle Dust
With Artwork that makes a rave look like a love-in, Surrender is in the running (alongside Orbital [see review]) for becoming the soundtrack to the last summer of the 20th Century. Surrender is basically an electronic reworking of late '60's psychedelia, late 70's punk and late '80's acid house and techno. Vocoders and high-pitched bleeps open the album on Music:Response followed by a house beat with cymbals and acidic lines flittering behind a bubbling bass on Influenced. Out Of Control has a hard beat and a keyboard line reminiscent of almost every '80's synth band with Bernard Sumner on vocals. Halfway through this floor filler the trademark guitars and drum machines of New Order kick in while the Chems pay tribute to the landmark electronic crossover band. The Sunshine Underground picks up where The Private Psychedelic Reel left off. The song is full of backwards strings and drones with a thumping beat holding it together until bloops and bleeps threaten to rip it all apart. Hope Sandoval does her whispering singing on Asleep From Day while acoustic guitars and music box tinklings whirl around her. The single Hey Boy Hey Girl takes the Knightrider theme, techno-house beats and hip hop breaks and makes a hands-in-the-air track from such eclectic elements. On Surrender The Chemical Brothers commemorate the end of another decade by adding even more drugged up titles and song references than before while foregoing the usual "Big Beat" retreads. Sit back, turn the computer on to the lava lamp screen saver, light some incense or other such substance and groove on to the Chemical Brothers' new tunes. Peace, with dance beats included. Give in, Surrender.

Virgin Records
Instructions for listening to 13 by Blur: 1. Open CD case, place in try of player and close.
2. Press "Play."
3. Turn the volume way up.
4. a. Enjoy the southern gospel thump of Tender once or twice, then skip straight to song two forever after.
b. Try to figure out what the hell Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and the boys are trying to do.
c. Ah, this is more like it! Coffee & TV gives the ears a tickle with some cool guitars and breezy vocals.
d. Swamp Song makes you move your head around to sick vocals and even sicker guitars, as does the arch- new wave ditty B.L.U.R.E.M.I. Love those ducky lyrics and that keyboard solo!
e. Wonder once again what's up with Blur? Must've been some good drugs there. They even have this brilliant song called Battle that is half ambient electronic and half guitar anger. Albarn sings with a fey voice and there's some sleepy keyboard accompaniment. How cute!
5. This album is either fucked up or awesome! Pick one.
6. Listen to all of 13 by Blur, pick out your own favorites and disregard the rest or, if you're feeling adventurous play it from beginning to end.
7. "Oh you pretty things, don't you know you're driving your father and mother insane?"
8. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Matador Records
As seen amongst cover photos of ads for real male sex lines Can "Khan" Oral has just put out a collection of swanky, sexy tunes for your listening pleasure. 900-GET-KHANnot only a record but it's also a real sex line. The project is designed to get the attention of the city's mayor and to address the government's Disneyfication of Times Square and the shutting down of sex shops. The music is mostly down-tempo and while not very provocative is still stimulating in an ear-nibbling way. Julee Cruise whispers and moans on Nowhere, one of the smokier tracks making me wish she was on the whole album and not just two songs. Khan's music could use some fresh air, contemplation is well and good but if you want to turn people on, navel-gazing techno is not the way. Still, 1-900-GET-KHAN is an album full of luxuriant drones and bleeps sure to at least tickle your erogenous zones. It's a phone number, a manifesto and a quite sexy album. MMMMMM, play it, play it now! OOOOOO, it's so big! Etcetera.

The Brothers Hartnoll return with another brilliant collection of tunes designed to thrill and excite the senses. Way Out opens the album with wordless vocals by Barbara Cohen and Simon Poole on trumpet. The song is basically a sequel/reprise to Insides' The Girl With the Sun In Her Hair yet stands well on its own. Warm synthesizers swerve and undulate on Spare Parts Express continuing in the Orbital tradition of raiding the back catalog and recombining past motifs. Things take a turn towards the serious side on Know Where To Run with it's aggressive keyboards and industrial percussion. I Don't Know You People is a manic number live drumming bass and corrosive guitar getting cut and pasted together along with some keyboards and other crazy effects. Otoño is perhaps the albums most solidly structured song featuring the female duo Pooka on vocals backed by pumping synths and dense strings. On Orbital's latest effort The Middle Of Nowhere the brothers add the dance element back into their introspective instrumentals creating what is an album in transition from their past acid house influenced days through their cinemascopic themes and on to the Orbital sounds of the future.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Warner Brothers
Warning: This is a purely subjective review. My first concert was at the Universal Amphitheater sometime in the early 80's for The Heartbreakers' Damn The Torpedoes tour. That experience has stayed with me since. After Southern Accents though, Petty and I went our separate ways. It seemed to me that he had reached a plateau of creativity and I needed to move on to new wave and "alternative" music and to grow as a person. In the last decade I've been an avid follower of electronic and other more experimental forms of rhythmic sounds but when I heard that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had got back together to make a new album I jumped at the chance to review it. The release of Echo seems serendipitous to me since I've started a new life with a new job and with my girlfriend and partner in life. Petty has divorced his wife and this among many other things in his life has led to one of the most solid rock and roll albums in many a year. Petty and the Heartbreakers have proven that within the realm of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards there is much room for creativity and inspiration. Petty still writes songs for the lonesome and downtrodden, yet stands defiant in the face of opposition. On Echo Petty says that he has a Room At The Top and he isn't coming down. A few years back he wouldn't back down. No one will bring Petty down, he's climbed back out of personal troubles such as a broken hand, a battle for creative control with his label, a burnt-down home and divorce. The band is all too happy to return to the sound of true rock music after years of collaborations with other artists and following Petty's lead on his solo albums. Benmont Tench is electric on his keyboards and organs, Mike Campbell excels on the tasty slides and solos found throughout Echo(which he co-produced with Petty and Rick Rubin) and Howie Epstein has brought with him the lessons he learned while producing albums by John Prine and Carlene Carter. The Heartbreakers began their journey in the late '70's and because of the drive, talent and intelligence of all the band's members they have lived happily in the mainstream for 15 or so years now while outlasting all of their peers. As for my relationship with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, I guess I've just grown into appreciating their music again. I've grown and it sounds like the band has too. Welcome Echo into your heart, Petty's back and better than ever.

2000 FOLD Styles Of Beyond Hi-Ho Records
2000 Fold was originally released late last year but has gained a second life on The Dust Brothers' label. Styles Of Beyond came together when Ryu and Takbir met at Pierce College and found their skills were complimentary. They later made their mark on 92.3 The Beat and then pressed some vinyl. The music will give you chills up your spine. The drum programming, samples and vocal deliveries are impeccable and the overall result is one of the most distinctive albums and groups of the year. Joined by DJ Cheapshot, Styles also brought Divine Styler, DJ Rhettmatic and DJ Revolution on board for a few tracks and tricks. SOB rock hard with hip-hop so creative that they probably will fly right over the heads of the mainstream radio listeners. But if you are in the need of creative beats and rhymes, check this out. Part 2 (Endangered) has already become a mainstay on KCRW's Chocolate City with its spaghetti western guitar trills while Gallaxowelcome mixes eerie synths and a complex drum pattern with Ryu and Takbir's vocals. Muuvon is almost techno with a tightly scratched guitar and drum loop and Phil Collins' Take Me Home drum intro. The tag team vocals thrill and the fonky had claps and piano join the tune until you can't help but snap your neck in time. The title track layers a metallic drum loop with record static, a synth stab and various guitar and bass samples to become "not an average everyday rap song/We ain't the average group because our styles are beyond." 2000 Fold is (almost) too many great songs for one album but you'll love it and play it often. SOB promise an alternative to the super slick no-brainer pop that is served up as Hip-Hop these days and they prove their words by bringing you skills you can't deny. Don't miss out.

STAY DOWN Two Lone Swordsmen Matador/Warp
The duo of Keith Tenniswood and JBO/Sabres of Paradise producer Andrew Weatherall have put out another exceptional album of introspective electronic tunes in the package called Stay Down. The Swordsmen are like The Hardkiss Brothers in that their sources of inspiration are eclectic yet danceable. Stay Down opens with Hope We Never Surface which sounds like it was copied off of The Black Dog's Spanners LP. The Big Clapper takes Ultramarine's rollicking analog loops and sets them up against bell-like sounds and flamenco dancer hand claps. Ivy Lead layers a static/scratch loop over a bass riff, a violin sample and tambourine cymbals to rival Autechre's dense style while sounding more human in the process. No Red Stopping contains metal on metal scrapes, a steadily evolving drum thump and a deep bass riff that alters to match the drums. Dark strings will raise the hairs on the back of your neck as you begin to bob your head. The domestic version of Stay Down includes the five song EP A Bag of Blue Sparks, a grooving bunch of atmospheric electro tunes that are diametrically opposed to the dry techno of the full-length. I suggest you put this CD on Random Play mode and get down to the diversely eccentric electronic strains of The Two Lone Swordsmen. Get down and Stay Down.

Giamela's Sports Bar
March 27, 1999

The usual activities in Burbank on a Saturday night consist of the Theater, restaurants and the Media Center. Not much else to do unless you make your own party. This particular night The Woodies did just that: they brought the party to us at Giamela's, a bar practically hiding next to the 70's and 80's rock club stalwart Now Voyager. The Woodies (MCs Sean Chillin', Sir Steve B and Crazy G, plus DJ Kane) bounced around and traded lines about large women (Big Pam), heavy drinking (Heineken Hallucinations) and the trademark boast track (Creepin') and DJ Kane got to show his skills during the electro-funk jam of Booty Gun. The Woodies' sound is produced by The Experts, a Bomb Squad-like mixture of harsh electronics, thick guitar riffage, hard beats and fat bass. Elements of rock, hip-hop and dance styles get together, have a few brews and get down to some serious grooving. The Woodies' rappers got the crowd jumping and slamming into each other, causing a little blood to be spilled from one unlucky fan but the show was all about good times. After the show, Orakle took the mic and spouted some freestyle over DJ Kane's beats bringing the night to a satisfying end. The Woodies have got some crazy energy and a wild sound, be sure to see these guys before they become big so you too can brag "Ya, I saw these dudes back in the day, when they were bringing the noise to some cool little place in Burbank. Now they're blowing up!" Check out the pages of this magazine for more on The Woodies as I'm sure I'll be following their success in the future.


Main Page: Read more of Bret's Ramblings
Archives: Read older concert and CD reviews from the pages of Highwire Daze magazine.
Underworld and Tomato's Site: News, reviews and photos of an exceptional trio as well as info about their graphics and commercial company Tomato.
Loopz, the Orbital 'Zine: Information about the brothers Hartnoll and their upcoming album Middle Of Nowhere
Ultraworld: The Orb: The official website of Dr. Alex Patterson et. al. and their crazy act, The Orb
The Only Official Prodigy Website: News and interviews with Liam Howlett's band.
The Underworld Confusion Center: An interesting Underworld fan's site.
Sun Electric: A minimalist site dedicated to the Berlin duo.
Spacetime Continuum Fanpage: Ambient artist Jonah Sharp's web page
Warp Record's Red Snapper Page: Interviews and reviews of a band that plays instruments yet is still underground "dance" music.
Mu-ziq Central: All you need to know about Mike Paradinas and his various alter egos.
Official Loop Guru Site: News and photos of this culture-crossing dance act.

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