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Armchair Martian, from Fort Collins, managed to land a deal with Cargo Records, and on Armchair Martian, its full-length debut for the company, you can understand why. These twelve songs, built around the voice and guitar of Jon Snodgrass, are propulsive, well-constructed and tighter than Ted Kennedy on New Year's Eve. They also sound astoundingly like mid-Eighties HYsker DY--and while that's a nice group to emulate, the similarities are so strong that they ultimately make it almost impossible to take Armchair Martian on its own terms. From "Back in the Hammock" to "Blue Monkey," these cuts rock convincingly--but next time around, I hope Snodgrass and company manage to come up with a style of their own (available in area record stores). Six of Denver's most notable punk bands can be heard on No Thanks to You, Volume 1, a series of recordings caught live at the Bluebird Theater in December 1996 by engineer/producer Robert Ferbrache. The 8-Bucks Experiment, Random Victim and Pinhead Circus acquit themselves well, but for me, the highlights were the Hectics' "Wasted" and "Ain't Coming Back," a three-song sample from the Hate Fuck Trio and, especially, "Harmone" and "Evo," by Uphollow, an outfit whose members are smart enough to tinker with the punk-rock formula instead of merely duplicating it. A strong area sampler (available in area record stores).

The Griffins, from Boulder, have been around since the early Nineties, and Starstuff, a new CD, includes songs from throughout their history; in fact, the lead track, "Inner Mystery," actually predates the band. Lead singer J.D. Droddy has one of those straining-for-the-notes voices ("Dog" finds him struggling mightily), while the music around him is a not-quite-so opaque variation on the R.E.M. folk-rock thang. And because that's not exactly the freshest style out there now, Starstuff frequently seems a bit tired. "The Griffin Song," a loopy bit that would have sounded just fine on the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas, is a curveball, but "The Longest Day" and "Forgotten" don't spin at all. Competent but unexciting (The Griffins, 4767 Valhalla Drive, Boulder 80301). The two-song self-titled demo by J. Jones and Soul Pursuit is the sort of commercial R&B that most folks don't associate with Denver. "I Don't Wanna Be Lonely" is a mid-tempo smoocher with vocals by Jones that flow smoothly into a Prince-like falsetto, while "I Can See Thru U" has a funkier, smoochier edge. There's not enough material here to really get a feel from the outfit, but based on these two samples, this may turn into an act worth pursuing (494-6927).

For listeners like me who have a difficult time pulling in the signal of KGNU-FM/88.1 in Boulder, help has arrived in the form of (fanfare, please) Advanced Technology. In other words, KGNU is now being broadcast live on the Internet in the Real Audio 3.0 format. Those of you who would like to listen in can do so by sitting down at your computer and visiting the address www.kgnu.org

The term "alternative-Christian music" has a strange ring to it: The category sounds perfect for Marilyn Manson and Slayer. However, Vision '97, Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, is not the place to learn about satanism. All told, 23 acts, including Five Iron Frenzy and eight other local combos, will perform at an event that spokesman Fred Meyer describes as "Lollapalooza for Jesus." Call 727-8009 for more details.

Some unsolicited advice about how the management at KALC-FM/105.9 (Alice) should have disciplined Jamie White and the other morning-show morons who recently had a guffaw at the expense of a man who drowned while having an epileptic seizure: By firing them. Really. By firing them.

Once more with feeling: By firing them. On Thursday, July 24, the Sleeping Brotherhood House Band wakes up Herman's Hideaway. On Friday, July 25, Cargo Records' own Inch joins the aforementioned Armchair Martian and Wretch Like Me at the 15th Street Tavern; the Blue Meanies sail a yellow submarine to the Mercury Cafe along with MU330; the Czars invade City Spirit; and the Alison Brown Quartet ventures to the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Nederland. On Saturday, July 26, Swallow Hill holds its sixth annual Folkathon at Swallow Hill Music Association (call 777-1003 for the complete lineup and additional details); Little Charlie and the Nightcats yowl at Brendan's; Johnson and the Garden Weasels get Sick at Cricket on the Hill; and Michelle and the Book of Runes are filed at Soapy Smith's. On Monday, July 28, Madder Rose blows a gasket at the Lion's Lair. On Tuesday, July 29, the Slewhounds bite at Iliff Park Saloon. And on Wednesday, July 30, Coco Montoya gets hot at the Bluebird Theater.

Oh, yeah--and because next week's column will consist entirely of reviews, here's a few bonus events for you. On Thursday, July 31, singer-songwriter Ken Mattus infests the Bug Theater, and the Skyline Cafe hosts an all-ages show featuring Backspackle, Plop Squad, Son of Sam, Pinhead Circus and Arizona's Generics. And on Saturday, August 2, Teenage Fanclub promotes its new Columbia disc, Songs From Northern Britain, during a free concert at the Ogden Theatre. No, the "free" part was not a misprint.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox 2.0 at www.westword.com

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