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Flesh Blanket, by Zoon Politikon, is not a punk album in the contemporary, major-label sense--meaning that it sounds nothing like Green Day. Instead, the act, as captured by producer Tim Beckman, gives you an idea of what early Eighties X might have sounded like if it had been fronted by Tom Verlaine instead of John Doe. Songs such as "The Weather" are compact--they don't overstay their welcomes--and regularly reward one's attention with brawny choruses, fine rhymes and sturdy performances by Kyle Carstens, Pat Donovan and Carol Lang Kilgore. Good stuff (Zoon Politikon, 3327 Alcott Street, Denver 80211). And now, a couple of items on local boy John P.'s Spit and a Half label. Virgo Snakes is a CD by a Chicago act called (stay with me, now) Virgo Snakes, and it's pretty darned fuzzy and distorted; Bob Schaeffer screams the words to "Sad" in such an angsty manner that it's all you can do to avoid calling Charter Hospital on his behalf. Nonetheless, these heartfelt chunks of alt ultimately win you over. Like a punky variation on Neil Young's Tonight's the Night, the project succeeds because of, rather than in spite of, its rough spots. The split single shared by Ashtray Boy and Clag, a couple of down-under groups that are part of Spit and a Half's Australian Pop Series, is less clamorous but more charming. "Golden Fingers," the Ashtray Boy submission, is rich and moody; "Bike," the first Clag cut, is a snazzy ditty that demands repeated plays (Spit and a Half Records, P.O. Box 18510, Denver 80218).

More exemplars of the vinyl solution. You can always count on Foreskin 500 for extra value, and the 45s "More Than a Feeling"/ "Less Than a Feeling" and "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Noise?" provide it. The former sports a faintly creepy but somehow affectionate rendition of the familiar Boston hit on the A side, backed with a deconstructed fragment of the same thing on the flip. Better yet, the platter is a picture disc featuring a satirical reproduction of the artwork on Boston's debut. Supernatural. As for "Noise," it includes both the loud, dopey title track and a recording of lead singer Diggie Diamond narrating the tale told in a mini-comic book that accompanies the package. The story, decorated with filmstrip boings, is guaranteed to appeal to the very kind of person who would want to buy a Foreskin 500 single in the first place (available in area record stores). Wrong Again, a vinyl EP from Old Bull's Needle, is kicked off by the act's best tune, "23," which ups the melody quotient without sacrificing any of the combo's power. "Wrong Again" and "Crackhead," meanwhile, are more typical punk pileups but still entertaining in their own destructive way (available in area record stores). Come On and Hear!!, a three-songer by the Minders that Cargo has picked up for distribution, oozes with the distinctive sound associated with its label, Elephant 6. Former INK. man Martyn Leaper, joined by Robert Schneider and Hillarie Sidney of the Apples, assembles wonderfully catchy and deceptively chewy pieces of pop. "Build" and "Almost Arms" retain their own identities, while "Chatty Patty" perfectly captures the style established by the Beatles circa Magical Mystery Tour. So old it's new again (available in area record stores).

The sound of Blues Traveler and its ilk rests heavy on the shoulders of the men in the Vermicious Knids. The harmonica of Mike Studeny is a prominent solo instrument and the numbers lope and skitter in the manner of the other John Popper-influenced acts you know so well. Those previously committed to this genre will no doubt deem "Hollow" and the rest scrumptious. Anyone else should run, not walk, in the opposite direction (759-4831). By contrast, Boulder's Anastasia Vye, whose latest cassette is called Lesbian Hot Wheel Barbies, does not sound the slightest bit like Blues Traveler. The brainchild of Robert St. James, the group divides the tape into a "lesbian side" and a "heterosexual side"--but no matter your sexual preference, you'll be beguiled by the bargain-basement pleasures of "In Front of the Liquor Store," "Johnny Flame" and other shaggy perversities. Even if you don't like this, you can bet it won't bore you (Blonde Girlfriend Records, 85 South 35th Street, Boulder 80303). Those ever-popular lesbian themes also crop up on Dancin' With Danger, by the Sharp Chuckies, an engaging throwaway of an act that features Mike from the Christines. "Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are Lesbian Co-Captains on My Spaceship of Love" is the showiest piece here, but there are laughs aplenty on the other tracks, including "Movin' Guy" ("He forced me to eat ambrosia/Not the band but the food"), "Traveling Song" ("We're sure to find a Furr's Cafeteria/It ain't Ponderosa/ But hey, it ain't half bad") and "Don't Touch My Hair" ("Maybe later I'll send you out for some conditioner if you don't mind"). Sure, it's silly, but everyone needs a little silliness now and then (The Sharp Chuckies, 2531 South Lincoln Street, Denver 80210).

Littleton-based Etherean Music received a bonus earlier in 1996 when the album In the Presence of Angels, by local pianist Dik Darnell, was nominated as new-age record of the year by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers. The disc's title is appropriate: The tracks assembled by Darnell and his accompanists (including flutist Bryan Savage) put me in mind of the music played in shameless tearjerkers when a beloved central character is about to die. Personally, I hope the music playing when I receive my final reward is "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Etherean Music, 9200 West Cross Drive, Suite 510, Littleton 80123). The folks in TurnSol have that ol' Gin Blossoms/Jars of Clay jones again. In the Sun, the act's new CD, is professional-sounding in every way, thanks to the able assistance of producer Bill Thomas, but the earnest VH1 rock churned out by Jerry Fox and cohorts struck me as way too generic. Hootie lovers may well find the concoction attractive, but more demanding listeners are advised to look elsewhere (available in area record stores).

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