By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
The Samples' Transmissions From the Sea of Tranquility, a semi-live double-CD set made for Boulder's W.A.R.? imprint, is the first effort by the group's new lineup, with keyboardist Alex Matson, guitarist Rob Somers and Yber-drummer Kenny James supplementing longtimers Sean Kelly and Andy Sheldon. The focus is on straightahead versions of catalogue favorites, with a few new items thrown in for spice--mostly notably "Watching the Wheels," a cover of the John Lennon ditty that features departed Samples Al Laughlin and Jeep MacNichol. How much you like the disc will depend on how much you liked the band's previous work--which in my case means that I found about 30 percent of this fairly tolerable and the rest a bit tedious. But the package probably won't shake the loyalty of the previously committed (available in area record stores). A more enjoyable W.A.R.? release from where I sit is Glass Cockpit, by Iowa's House of Large Sizes. The trio, made up of vocalist/guitarist Dave Deibler, bassist/guitarist Barb Schilf and drummer/vocalist Mark Munn, cranks out elliptical slabs o' mayhem that put me in mind of the Pixies: "Carpool Lung," in particular, shows off the sort of familiar but cockeyed melody for which Black Francis became known. The words to tunes such as "School Is a Drag" are as witty as the music, and if the resulting blend is extremely reminiscent of the no-longer-chic indie-rock thang, so be it. A new tangent for W.A.R.?, and a welcome one (available in area record stores).
The liner notes of Throw It In Dry, by Blister, contain the statement "This CD was recorded live to DAT in 24 hours, so take it for what it is worth." True to this confession, the disc's sound is muddy and a bit muted, and the high end is largely absent. But the patient among you should still be able to get a sense of the group, whose music is a minor variation on the rap-metal-industrial hybrid. "You Fuck," "I Did Your Mom," "World of Shit" and "Sick Little Mind" are driving and noisy but a bit routine, and "Intolerance," an attempt to deal with social ills (Martin Luther King is sampled), doesn't portend the second coming of Rage Against the Machine. Still, Dry won't bore you, and it might even inspire you to bang your head a time or two. Enjoy yourself (Blister, P.O. Box 101686, Denver, CO 80250-1686). Also on the industrial tip is Society Burning, another onetime guest in these pages ("Burn, Baby, Burn," November 13, 1997). On Tactiq (issued by a branch of San Diego's Cargo Music), synthesists/vocalists Dave Creadeau and Boom Christopher Paige use gruff singing and pounding rhythms a la plenty of their peers, but the sonic backdrops are more propulsive and imaginative than most; I was impressed by "Dead Man," "Less Than Zero" and "Merciful Release." When the tempos dip, as they do on "Awaken" and "Michelle Ascends From Hell," among other tunes, your interest may as well. But when these guys (supplemented by keyboardist Tracey) mash the gas pedal into the floorboards, they make a righteous racket (available in area record stores).
Here's a trio of local recordings being marketed by Denver's USA One Stop firm. Hustla's and the G's is a single by a Westminster rapper who's dubbed himself Fatal Instinct. The title song, which appears in a remixed version, sports music that borrows liberally from (I think) an old Gary Wright track, but it's pretty good anyhow: Fatal's flow is smooth, and he gets nice support from vocalists Hazel Miller and CoCo Brown. "Wild, Wild West" also benefits from strong production values. Unfortunately, the rhymes that dominate both songs are stereotypical street fodder that quickly become monotonous. But if Fatal Instinct can come up with something to say, he could become a player. Drift, by, uh, Drift, comes with a CD jacket peppered with type so ornate that it can hardly be read. As near as I can tell, the lead singer is named Anahma Saito, and her shtick can be likened to the one favored by Natalie Merchant. On occasion, a fresh melody surfaces ("Tomorrow" is catchy), but most of the other ditties have a positively fatal been-there-done-that feel. Either you like a group's influences or you don't. In this case, I don't. The young men of Monkey Train, from Aspen, wear their inspirations on their sleeve, too. "Acapulco," the first track on their latest disc, Harvest Train, draws heavily from the Grateful Dead, the second lifts from early-Seventies Santana, the third is a gentler version of the Allman Brothers, and so on. Jesus Christ, can't anyone steal from a source that hasn't been entirely played out? And if not, why not? What I wouldn't give right now for a good ripoff of, say, Captain Beefheart (USA One Stop, 691-3306).
Showtime. On Thursday, May 28, Medeski, Martin & Wood play for the first of two nights at the Boulder Theater; My Blind Alley leads to the Little Bear; Wailer & Axiom have a reggae party at 'Round Midnight; and Gary Bragg premieres a rock opera called Before I Wake at the Black Box Theater on the Auraria campus (call 469-8754 for details). On Friday, May 29, Alice 106 radio personalities Jamie White, Frank Kramer and Frosty Stillwell return to Denver long enough to host the World's Largest Indoor Beach Party at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center; buzz band And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead takes no prisoners at the 15th Street Tavern, with Hell's Half Acre and Wretch Like Me; A.J. Love spreads some at the Bug; Skull Flux heads to Cricket on the Hill, with decanonizeD; Abdomen rumbles at the Bluebird Theater, with Boss 302; and Mike Watt lights up the Fox Theatre. On Saturday, May 30, Small Room and Universal Class are part of a hip-hop bill at the Bug. On Sunday, May 31, Boa and the Constrictors coil at the Soiled Dove; the Czars and the Sealegs have Worm Trouble at the Acoma Center; and singer-songwriter Lisa St. Ann visits the Borders location in Englewood. On Tuesday, June 2, the Amazing Royal Crowns rule at the Bluebird. And on Wednesday, June 3, the Snake Pit is the place to find Today Is the Day. When else would it be?
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.