Summertime Rolls

It's the time of the season to check out some local releases.

In the book Those Magnificent Mountain Women, author Janet Robinson recalls the ways in which, in the mid- and late-1800s, brave ladies would snowshoe or ride horseback across the formidable Colorado terrain, walking or riding for hundreds of miles before settling among the pines to "fetch a bite of cheese stored in one's scarf." Now it's summertime in Colorado, an almost spiritual season, some might say, during which kayaking, biking, hiking and simply staring into fire pits and crackling red coals for prolonged periods of time can take on an almost ritualistic importance. Of course, you've got to get to those mountains somehow -- and unlike the deprived mountain folk who lived before car stereos, your long drive is the perfect way to catch up on some local releases. Just be sure to check the oil...and the cheese.


It might be worth a couple of bones to watch the Gamits engage in a fistfight with Green Day, the band that used to specialize in perfect pop-punk numbers before scoring the soundtrack for Seinfeldand assorted teen-booby films. Thankfully, the Gamits haven't strayed from the art form. Endorsed by You, a twelve-song disc that clocks in at under forty minutes, is a hooky, frantic affair that has as much to do with the Beach Boys as Bad Religion (the first track, "15 Minutes," might well induce epileptic seizures in people who have innate aversions to double-time drums and hurky-jerky chord progressions; speed demons, however, will love it). The fabulously titled "Last of the Mullets" (say it ain't so!) is more catchy than germs on a preschool doorknob, with its chorus of harmonic yelping and up-and-down-the-heartstrings chord progressions, and the narrative "Audrey's Davenport," the story of a kept woman, displays the band's interest in singing about something other than the tired party themes currently plaguing much of punk rock. While many bands of this genre lean toward a scrappy production aesthetic, this disc is really aided by its slick recording (courtesy of Gamits bassist Matt Vanleuven, who operates the 8 Houses studio). Vanleuven's smart placement of little details -- a "woo-woo-woo" bridge on "Mullets," lots of multilayered vocals throughout -- adds depth and a layer of creativity that freshens the familiar territory traversed by the Gamits. (Available at area record stores, or by writing Suburban Home Records, P.O. Box 40757, Denver, CO 80204, or via thegamits.com.)

The Cosmic Soul Surfersalso toil on familiar sonic ground in Second Generation, an eight-song marriage of jazz fusion, funk and world rhythms. Unfortunately, that sound is largely desecrated by this Denver-based four-piece, whose moments of originality (the jazzy keyboard interludes on "Take My Song Away," the instrumental interlude on "Less Is More") are marred by a look-what-we-can-do feel that often eschews melody for exhibitionism. The Surfers' trump card is probably the agility of Chuck Churchman, who mans both bass and guitar on a double-necked contraption known as a Biaxe -- and while it's an impressive feat, Churchman never lets us forget it, filling in nearly every moment with a slap-happiness that feels showy and often out of melodic context. And while the Cosmic fellows clearly know their way around their instruments, their gifts of songwriting are not so well-refined. (The breezy, directed "Light Me Up," written by ex-Surfer Mike Ballard -- now of Michelle and the Book of Runes -- is the disc's exception, evidence that the band might've tried harder to keep Ballard in the Cosmos with them.) This music seems meant to appeal to Jerry's kids, folks who found something redemptive, or at least danceable, in all those extended space jams. The rest might wish the Soul Surfers had heeded their own advice: Less is more. (Write 10626 West Seventh Avenue, Apt. 202, Lakewood, CO 80215, or call 303-237-7981.)

More serotonin might benefit Gary Bragg and Eric Moon, the force behind the Sons of Igor, whose self-titled release is the strangest recording to blow into these parts in some time. But there's good strange and bad strange, and these Sons are most certainly the former. "State vs. Johnson" is a quasi-industrial lament of "the fucked up world" that comes off like an unlikely mixture of Nine Inch Nails and Jethro Tull, complete with lyrics that read like a sinister Dr. Seuss: "Hangin' with Treefrog in a white Chevy van/We got us a Chinese girl, smells like a vegetarian/Gonna go to the playground and fall in love/I don't need no help, what I need is bus fare." And "You Got What It Takes, Roy" leads with a loop of what sounds like a player-piano run through an effects pedal; other samples include someone talking about a Bugs Bunny motel while Bragg commands: "Tie me up/Use those feathers like you mean it, boy." With Sons of Igor, Bragg and Moon -- who are joined by numerous guest vocalists as well as Mark Harris on woodwinds and Ron Miles on trumpet -- attempt, and attain, a sweeping piece of musical theatrics -- shifting from light, Zappa-esque playfulness to the foreboding darkness of tunes like "Danger": "A different kind of circumstance, it could have been a fine romance/This isn't love, it is madness." (Bragg, who most recently wrote and performed music for a live variation on Pink Floyd's The Wall, is no stranger to musical theater: He penned the rock opera Before I Wake.) This is a truly diverse album, and it works -- more like the product of a rock orchestra (that also utilizes samples and jazz) than a "band." This is music for headphones, and the imagination. (Butthusker Music, Inc., P.O. Box 101075, Denver, CO 80250.)

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