More Local Color

Catching up with local releases, our music writers review local albums to the letter.

This week, Backbeat writers clear out their N-Z files and assess a batch of new releases from area artists. See the August 8 "Local Color" for reviews of acts in the A-M group.

O'er the Ramparts
Waves of Static
The Ramparts should have cleaned a bit of lint out of the 23 tracks on Waves of Static -- uneven in spots, it's effectively raw in others. Still, the album does capture the band at its noise-rocking best (particularly on "Find It, Keep It" and "Kick Outta You"), as the players gamely dispense their fair share of punk fury with rare regard for melody or subtlety. (Contact Simian Press, -- Eric Peterson

The Orangu-Tones
Introducing the Simian Sounds of...
The de facto local soundtrack for a Pabst-drenched toga party, this debut from the 'Tones offers up mostly original frat rock, interspersing the retro-new with underplayed gems by the Isley Brothers and other pre-British Invasion artists. The disc proves that you don't need a wall of noise to rock, and, with no fewer than five monkey-themed tunes, it'll rouse the party primate in even the evolutionary upper crust. (Released by Wormtone Records; contact 3837 King Street, Denver, CO 80211, -- Peterson

Reno Divorce
Naysayers and Yesmen
Sometimes there's not much to say about an album other than that it rocks -- which, sometimes, is the only thing that really matters. Sure, the pop/punk constructions and three-chord progressions are as familiar as the faux-British snarl in lead singer Brent Loveday's voice. The lyrics are basic and sometimes banal. Who cares? Reno Divorce wants its audience to have a good time, not a revelation. Recorded at 8 Houses Down and mixed at the Blasting Room, Naysayers and Yesmen was handled by people who know how to give punk its punch. As a result, these little monsters recall Social Distortion's sass and Bad Religion's ballsier days. (Contact P.O. Box 181236, Denver, CO 80218, -- Laura Bond

Reverend Leon's Revival
Reverend Leon's Revival
Shunning rock and roll in favor of gospel and soul, the Revival's hair-raising hymns and redemptive raveups of sin and salvation are a godsend to a Denver roots scene in need of a shakeup. The fire-in-the-belly inspiration on this six-song EP comes from real-life pulpit-pounder Paul Ramsey -- who founded the band, wrote most of the songs and, recently, split. The remaining members are now sorting through a unique version of a church scandal. -- Patrick Casey

River opens with guitarist/vocalist Joel Van Horne's hippie scatting, a nonsensical journey up and down the scale that pretty much sets the tone for the entire album. This jammy, bass-heavy, ten-song collection is full of quick-time funkatribes designed to get the Heads dancing and shaking their fists at the Man. Led by the confident, competent Van Horne, the four-piece band is well-equipped to do just that; these fine, well-trained players like to strut their stuff. Wailing saxes, stop-start percussion and lively arrangements on songs like "Rina Gina" recall Maceo, Karl and, of course, Jerry's many illegitimate kids. But the influences are overwhelming, and there's little to indicate which way this particular River is flowing. (Write 9180 West 7th Place, Lakewood, CO 80215.) -- Bond

Spanish Kid
Pieces of a Man
Although the music made by Spanish Kid -- a Latino MC from Colorado Springs -- is about the farthest thing imaginable from church fare, the young rapper does share some common ground with his Focus on the Family neighbors. Pieces of a Man is an imaginatively produced, fifteen-song homage to the big homie in the sky. (The opening track, "Adrenaline," features the straightforward refrain "I cannot help it/the Lord makes me happy.") Yet this isn't sugarcoated, feel-good stuff: Spanish Kid's hip-hop leans toward the East, with Philly-style neo-soul vocal refrains and dark, urban grooves that bump throughout. Funky and fierce, Pieces of a Man might boost your faith in regional rap. (Released by Divine Flava Records, 605 Bunting Street, Fountain, CO 80817, -- Bond

Orlando Terrell
Special Edition
Maybe you've seen Orlando Terrell around town, strolling down Colfax with his kids in hand and an enormous Casio on his shoulder. Terrell's grainy, murky, homemade R&B compositions truly defy logic, concurrently calling to mind Prince's synthetic slow jams, Can's cut-and-paste dadaism and the unwitting genius and purity of the Shaggs. This is not novelty. It's a funky and confounding document of a true auto-surrealist auteur. (Available at Wax Trax.) -- Heller

Three Degrees of Freedom
Three Degrees of Freedom
Although Three Degrees of Freedom is often characterized as a jam band, there's a clarity in its songwriting that belies the aimless associations of that tag. This seven-song effort would be more aptly grouped with releases by Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band, which combine a freeform spirit and heavy instrumentation to create the fullest sound possible. Three Degrees pulls off that approach pretty well: There's a wide-open quality to this music that makes some of the melodies soar while others merely wander. Vocalist/guitarist Paul Cox is a strong presence and an emotional guy, even if he's a little too emotional at times and lacks Matthews's effortlessness and originality. And tunes like "Subway Song" and the breezy "Mexican Blanket" suggest that this band will get better, by degrees. (Contact PG Productions, 2685 South University Boulevard, Denver, CO 80210, -- Bond

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