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It's a local-recording blitzkrieg. Look out below.
Grace is a project built around the songs of longtime Denver scenester Tom Mestnik and his compadre in Moot, bassist Bob Gumbrecht. The band's CD, Music With Knives, feels like an early Genesis album, what with consecutive songs that mention lambs ("Grey" and "The Dog and the Wolf") and subsequent references to hermits, kings and, in the second version of "Dust on the Shelf," the "face of God." Once "Come to Me, My Darkness Sweet" finally gets going (after an interminable intro), it's fairly effective, but all I could think of during "Eat, Drink and Be Merry (The Pirate's Song)" was Jethro Tull--and that's not something I enjoy doing, my friends (Integrated Productions, P.O. Box 84, Winooski, VT 05404). Unravelling Sylvia, by Slow Moving and Black Lines, another Mestnik combo, touches upon many of the same influences, but it's moderately more enjoyable. A lot of the lyrics hammer listeners over the head with their poetical importance (e.g., "Oh, to hacking at the links/With an angel wing" from "Talent, Ejaculation or..."), and when Mestnik is at his flightiest--as he is on "Autumn," a ditty that asks the musical question, "Who's to map my little town of pain?"--the results can make flesh crawl as effectively as a Wes Craven flick. But Mestnik's prominent, energetic guitar playing props up "Her Mistake" and "The Vines (Hey Now)," and Tom Liehe's sax lines and Carrie Beeder's cello make "Ever All Right" worth hearing. Still, anyone with an allergy to pretentiousness will be sneezing by song three (available in area record stores).

Guitarist Mike Serviolo describes the music made by his band, the Perry Weissman 3, as more lounge than jazz--but in truth, the sounds on the act's self-titled disc are too off-kilter to fit neatly into either category. "Snard" is a jaunty strummer that includes elliptical guitar lines and energetic splats courtesy of trombonist Rick Benjamin-Tebelau; "Soft Rock" is postmodern Burt Bacharach; "Ballad of the Lazy Sleepers" slips and slides over a languid seven-plus minutes; and a rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" is just plain screwy--but in a good way. Quirky, clever, infectious (Perry Weissman 3, 4476 Utica Street, Denver, CO 80212). The men of Concentrated Evil informed me that I have twice compared their recordings to Rage Against the Machine--but I'm not going to make that mistake thrice. The most recent Evil release, whose title (spelled out on the cover in Chinese characters) translates roughly to Big Nasty Infected Scar, sports a bit of punk funk, but there's also the Minutemen-like "UR Mine," the moody, deliberate "Scars," the straight metal of "Crayons," a chipper threat called "Pussy" and "The Chair," in which the title object squeaks for a minute or so. A lot of this stuff isn't exactly deathless, and the heavy moments aren't always heavy enough, but the group is more eclectic than I thought. In other words, I didn't once consider describing the disc as "ragin'" (Concentrated Evil, P.O. Box 440034, Aurora, CO 80044).

Kingdom, a two-time winner at the Westword Music Awards Showcase, took the better part of a year to provide me with a copy of his debut CD, I Reign Omnipotent, but I'm glad he finally got around to it, because it's one of the most accomplished hip-hop CDs to come out of these parts. Following "The Coronation," a hilariously pompous intro, Kingdom shows his skills on a range of rap flavors: Wu-Tang nastiness ("Killing Spree"), R&B-inspired hybrids ("Shrimp & Lobster [Smooth Version]"), socially conscious rhyming ("Black Family") and so on. At this point, Kingdom hasn't come up with a style of his own; his songs echo the hits of other artists rather than establish a new blueprint. But Kingdom has a better chance than most of eventually rising to the level of his influences instead of simply being inspired by them (available in area record stores). On Big Red Sun, her latest for the Sugar Hill imprint, Mollie O'Brien is assisted by some mighty fine players, including guitarist Nick Forster and multi-instrumentalist John Magnie; folk favorites Robin and Linda Williams and Peter Rowan contribute vocals as well. But the key to Sun's success is producer Charles Sawtelle, who makes sure that none of the arrangements overwhelm the star of the show. O'Brien rocks the house on "Denver to Dallas" and a nicely singular "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," but she's most bewitching on the Lucinda Wiliams-penned "Big Red Sun Blues" and the gorgeous "No Ash Will Burn," which she caresses ever so tenderly. It's her best album (available in area record stores).

After the end of Zestfinger, participants Ash Kirby and Chris Wright went on to form Curbside, whose disc, Storytown, practically screams "Boulder!" Kirby's voice and guitar playing are robust, and "Storytown," "Lifeboat" and "Dirty Little Secret" will hit home with people who can't understand why the Spin Doctors came and went so quickly. The studio sessioneers (including percussionist Gary Sosias and, of all people, jazz pianist Joe Bonner) also make noteworthy contributions, and the CD's production values are unimpeachable. In fact, listeners with a taste for college rock sans even the merest hint of a surprise are advised to belly up to the bar. Others, though, will probably regard Storytown as a generic entry in an overcrowded field (Plug Management, 1085 14th Street, #1408, Boulder, CO 80302).

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