Local recordings of note--or at least ones that feature notes.
Nowhere in the biography of Shankis, whose disc is called Tales From Lonvernia, is there a mention of the Grateful Dead or any of its offspring; King Crimson, Frank Zappa and Rush are the inspirations cited. But in the interest of accuracy, I must note that the guitar on "Crokus" could hardly be more Jerry, the herky-jerky "Lost Dog" smells like Phish, "Stable Mable" threw me into a Widespread Panic, and so on. Competent, energetic and about as fresh as decade-old bread (Shankis, 2590 Dartmouth Avenue, Boulder, CO 80303). While shuttling from venue to venue at September's Westword Music Awards Showcase, I was handed Zev & Esan by the Future Presidents, a band that moved to the area from Michigan. The tape's sound is heavy on hisssssss that masks but doesn't blot out music that uses many of the influences cited in the Shankis item above. I liked "Virtual Yeti," an oddball concoction that's about as lo-fi as lo-fi gets, and "Donkey Teet Philosophy," with its busy musical progression, wasn't bad, either. But pretty much everything else (including the live material on the cassette's B-side) seemed little different from the work being churned out by approximately 37 million Boulder bands. Welcome to Colorado, guys (eze4prezo@AOL.COM).
CLARK OV SATURN VS. RECONE HELMUT, THE DEBUT BY PH10, PROVIDES YOU AND YOURS WITH FOUR SONGS OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC THAT'S WITTY AND PROPULSIVE. "CORPUSCLE" MATES CONVINCING SLAMS WITH COSMIC BUBBLES, "7TH BOTTOM" IS AN ADVENTURE IN QUASI-AMBIENCE WHOSE CHANGES IN DIRECTION ARE ALWAYS WORTH FOLLOWING, "AMBULANCE DRIVERS" SPEEDS INTO DRUM-AND-BASS TERRITORY, AND "PROVERBIAL KICKS" DRAGS FRANK SINATRA INTO THE TECHNO ERA. SATURN AND HELMUT ARE FULL OF IDEAS BUT NOT FULL OF THEMSELVES (PH10, 2701 WEST 32ND AVENUE, #6, DENVER, CO 80211). SOMETIME DENVERITE KEOKI CHECKS IN WITH ALTERED-EGO-TRIP, WHICH FEATURES REMIXES OF TRACKS FROM HIS EGO TRIP DISC AS OVERSEEN BY SOME OF ELECTRONICA'S BIGGEST NAMES. THE CRYSTAL METHOD MAKES "CATERPILLAR" EVEN MORE IRRESISTIBLY DANCEABLE THAN IT WAS PREVIOUSLY, WHILE RABBIT IN THE MOON TURNS THE SAME TUNE INTO AN OPUS FOR ROBOTS; CIRRUS ACCENTUATES THE BRITTLENESS OF THE ORIGINAL DISC'S TITLE TRACK; AND OMAR SANTANA BRINGS OUT THE ORGIASTIC QUALITIES IN "CRASH." THIS ISN'T ESSENTIAL LISTENING, BUT KEOKI AFICIONADOS WILL BE INTRIGUED BY IT (AVAILABLE IN AREA RECORD STORES).
THE SISSY FUZZ CASSETTE LUFTGITARREN WAS CUT AT THE APPLES' PET SOUNDS STUDIO AND REFLECTS THE SENSIBILITIES OF THE ELEPHANT 6 CREW. "DON'T FEAR (THE REVERB)" (A PUN OF GENIUS) IS SLOPPY BUT WONDERFULLY TUNEFUL, WITH AN ENTHUSIASTIC GUITAR SOLO AND SUPER-SWEET VOCALS; AND "SUMMER SALIVA," "WAFFLE POULTICE" AND THE REST OVERFLOW WITH HOOKS, MELODIES, HARMONIES AND OTHER GOOD THINGS. THE MUSIC'S SIMPLICITY MAY STRIKE SOME AS A LIMITATION; TO ME, IT WAS ITS GREATEST ATTRIBUTE (SISSY FUZZ, 3027 HOOKER STREET, DENVER, CO 80211). I'M CORNUTo The Single is a twisted novelty number courtesy of John Baker and Mark Rasmussen. Jo A. Moore provides the baby-doll voice for Cornut, a character whose chipper attitude and cutesy-poo antics are intended to out-Barney Barney. The satire would be funnier if Teletubbies hadn't already taken kiddie shows to an even more bizarre level. Once again, fact is stranger than fiction (Cornut Publications, 2815 East Sixth Avenue, Denver, CO 80206).
On Tales From Another...Soul Sucking Day at the Office, World Separation covers a lot of college-rock territory. "Dark to Light" resembles Dave Matthews's idea of a serious statement, "Sensationalize Then Advertise" waters down the Rage Against the Machine alterna-rap style, "Party Train" lopes along on a skanky beat accented by horns, and "Cancer" is an overwrought opus that opens with the couplet "Attacking breasts and lungs/Vagina and testicles" and goes downhill from there. The CD is well-produced, and the playing by vocalist/trombonist/ keyboardist David Dinsmore and his associates is just fine, but the material is mighty weak and not nearly as meaningful as these chaps think it is (David Dinsmore, 303-480-0759). Non is an internationally recognized racket project overseen by Denver's Boyd Rice, whose idea of a good time will strike those with faint hearts as a little slice of hell. It's appropriate, then, that radio evangelist Bob Larson's choicest comment about Rice--"Boyd, you are Satan!"--is stickered on the jacket of God & Beast, Non's latest aural assault on the Mute imprint. All nine tracks here bleed directly into each other, taking a listener from the doomy, apocalyptic "Between Venus & Mars" to the ghostly "Millstones" without a breather. Rice plays the old "Is he serious?/Is he not?" game with fascism (in "The Law" he intones, "There are no rules...only the law/Of tooth and claw") and satanism ("Lucifer, the Morning Star" pits an angelic voice against what sounds like a buzz saw), but he also offers up some stimulating musical moments: "Out Out Out" is a clever tape treatment, while "Total War" finds him dabbling in death metal. Fun for the whole family it's not, but if you're interested in exploring the really dark side, you could do a lot worse (available in area record stores).
Here and Somewhere Else, by the Samples, starts off with a bit of a surprise: "We All Move On" is introduced by Lorne Bregitzer's saucy New Orleans-style trumpet and a busy mix of chattering background voices. The arrangements on "Anymore," "Losing End of Distance" and "The Birds of Paradise" are also somewhat more adventurous than usual--a good thing. Nonetheless, the Samples still sound like the Samples: Despite membership shifts, the presence of Sean Kelly and Andy Sheldon ensures that fans won't be shocked by their latest. After listening to a slew of discs by these guys during the Nineties, I can say with complete certitude that their music is not my thing: Hell, the icky nursery rhyme "Little People" and the new-age twaddle of "Going Through Changes" practically made me gag. But overall, I found Here and Somewhere Else to be more tolerable than most Samples fare. Not that true believers will care one way or the other (available in area record stores). Signs of a Summer Wind, by the Lord Franklin Group, is folk music of an especially earnest sort. Lead singer Jack Barkstrom (assisted by such acoustic-scene longtimers as Harry Bruckner, Carla Sciaky, Peter Schwimmer, Ellen Klaver and John McEuen) delicately renders material by the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Nanci Griffith, Tom Russell and Gordon Lightfoot. Since I'm not particularly fond of the don't-strum-too-hard-or-you-might-break-a-string brand of folk, my reaction to the disc as a whole shouldn't surprise you: Truth be told, I was nearly asleep by song five. Gotta start getting to bed at a decent hour (Lord Franklin Productions, 200 Union Boulevard, Suite 425, Lakewood, CO 80228).
Cyber-Punk Fiction, subtitled Music From the Motion Parody, isn't a local product: It comes from Re-Constriction, a subsidiary of San Diego's Cargo Music imprint. However, six of the twenty songs on this oddball satire of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack are performed by Denver-based Society Burning. Most of the tunes here are industrialized versions of cuts director Quentin Tarantino used in his big-screen hit, including a goofily ambient "Misirlou" by Tinfed and a Gary Numan-esque rendition of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" courtesy of 16 Volt. As for Society Burning, whose members are credited with coordinating the mock dialogue that pops up between tracks, the band checks in with the synthesizer-driven instrumental oddities "Bustin' Surfboards" and "Comanche" before bringing the noise on the propulsive "Surf Rider." If the disc is intended as a satire, it doesn't really come off, but several of the songs are worth hearing more than once. Or even twice (available in area record stores). As titles go, it'd be tough to top Knockin' Up Heaven's Whore, from King Rat. Too bad the rest of the disc isn't more original. The Rats have a keen sense of humor, and they display it to good effect on tracks such as "Burn It" (highlighted by the inspired line, "Burn the bridge to the 21st century") and "Criminal," in which guitarist/vocalist Luke Schmaltz claims, "I need to sing with pornography in front of me." In addition, the production is clean and simple, and the tracks are loud and sloppy in equal measure. But these guys reproduce the old-school punk formula so precisely that most of you will think you've already heard this album. And you have--literally dozens of times since the late Seventies. Recommended to those who think that change is bad (King Rat, 1525 South Holly, #104, Denver, CO 80222).
Guitarist Neil Haverstick's campaign to promote microtonal music--i.e., compositions that feature something other than the twelve-tone scale that most Western tunesmiths use--reaches a new level on tuningoEARTHA.MILLS. EDU. SUBTITLED A MICROTONAL MUSIC EXPERIENCE, THE DISC SPOTLIGHTS FOURTEEN NUMBERS BY TWELVE DIFFERENT ARTISTS, INCLUDING HAVERSTICK, WHO CHECKS IN WITH THE DARK, EXOTIC "SNAKE DANCE." NOT EVERYTHING IS AS ACCESSIBLE AS HAVERSTICK'S PIECE (STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR'S "MOOD OF NEPTUNE/ASHES BEFORE THE SKY" IS AN ULTIMATELY TEDIOUS OPENER), BUT I WAS ATTRACTED TO "CITIFIED NOTIONS," A WEIRD HOEDOWN BY JOHN STARRETT; BILL ALVES'S GENTLE, JAZZY "JUST ON TIME"; AND WARREN BURT'S "12X12o Evening in Landcox Park," which recalls some of the percussive excursions taken by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It's a scattershot affair that sometimes feels more like an assignment than a pleasurable listening experience, but adventurous types will find their patience rewarded (listproc@eartha. mills.edu). Register's self-titled album provides something seldom heard from a Colorado band: heavy, emotional riffing and shifting, complex musical structures of the sort associated with Rodan and June of 44. As is typical in this subgenre, the performers (Dan Owens, Devon Rogers and Josie Fluri) don't so much write songs as assemble gripping sonic elements into patterns that move from deafeningly loud to extremely quiet and back again. For that reason, I didn't come away humming "The Curtain Never Lies," "Submariner" or "Silence Is Superiority," but I thoroughly enjoyed them as they played. A vigorous new voice on the Denver scene (Roja Records, P.O. Box 300355, Denver, CO 80203).
Some of the area's oddest balls are in Cherry Bomb Club, including Dave Moore and Miss Erika Brown (two veterans of Foreskin 500) and former Warlock Pincher/current Wild Canadian Dan Wanush. The act's demo is swell faux soul brightened by "Taste of My Body," in which Brown commands, "Drop to your knees/And worship me"; the ultra-catchy "Lull-A-Bye"; and a pair of dance-floor-ready concoctions--"Pilly Pop Drop" and "Carnal Connection"--that recall Madonna before she got in touch with her spiritual side. All four tracks are great fun and invite a single question: When can we hear more? (Dave Moore, 1570 Grape Street, Denver, CO 80220.) Unspoken Words is a showcase for Jim Cohn, a Boulder poet with three published books of verse to his credit (including his latest, The Dance of Yellow Lightning Over the Ridge, available from Rochester, New York's Writers & Books). Cohn is an unabashed disciple of the Beats: He studied at the Naropa Institute, and his song "Lay Down Yr Mountain" features contributions from Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, among others. As a result, several of these offerings (such as "When Robots Cry" and "Meditation at a Stoplight in the Rain") are less songs than readings with musical accompaniment. Catchier by comparison are mostly acoustic songs such as "Rewrote the Book," "Kootenai Ferry" and "Unspoken Words," during which Cohn doesn't exactly hide his fondness for Bob Dylan under a basket. Unspoken Words is unfailingly literate, but it only occasionally comes to life (MUSEX, 3000 Colorado Avenue, #E219, Boulder, CO 80303).
Sketch's latest, Superhero, contains fourteen good-time rockers aimed at the twenty-something demographic: "Captain Kirk" has obvious baby-boomer appeal, and the first line of "Stupid Love Song" mentions Seinfeld. "La De Da" and "American Pool" don't wear out their welcome, and "Secret Agent Dad" displays a goofy sense of humor that probably works live, but the production and performances are adequate at best and fail to distinguish these guys from the ever-growing pack. Although it's likable, you probably won't remember it in the morning (Sketch, 17897 East Oxford Place, Aurora, CO 80013). Rock doesn't get much more generic than Get Lit, by the Candles. The quartet occasionally tries to roughen things up, as on the ZZ Top-like "Coming Apart at the Seams" and the strikingly lame "Bite Your Tongue," but the players mostly stick with medium-tempo songs ("All Directions" and "Thinking of You" are typical) that could hardly be more anonymous. They're probably nice fellas, though (The Candles, 4653 South Hoyt Street, Littleton, CO 80213).
Communique is a project that features Justin Hardison and Dave Soto, two of the more stimulating electronic-music practitioners in these parts. This judgment is confirmed by Kinetic, a cassette produced by Jim Stout that allows the partners to demonstrate that drum-and-bass needn't be monochromatic. "The Fifth Level of Lofi" is a warm and inviting lead track (an anonymous voice keeps intoning "happy blastoff" throughout it), "Joshua" is mutedly funky, and "The Last Years" skitters along with aplomb. For your listening or dancing pleasure (Careful Productions, 129 West Second Avenue, Denver 80223). Can you say Paula Cole? You'll definitely be able to do so after spinning The World, by Dawn of Humans, a CD that's dedicated in part to "the mothers of all humans." (My own personal mom thanks you for the recognition.) Lead singer Dawn Ritchie emotes with a vengeance on "Shocked" ("When a child is born a grown man/His mother may die at his hands") and "Without You" ("Press my fists into my eyes/Trying to hold in every last ounce of you"). Other tunes, like "Where Are You," don't require a listener to slog through quite so much psychodrama, but the differences aren't large enough to matter much. I'm going to confession immediately after work. Really (Bigg Ritchie Productions, 303-642-0487).
The third annual Bella Ball takes place on Friday, December 18, at Seven South. The production, which includes appearances by Product 626, Bella Coyote, Tequila Mockingbird, Nobodaddy and Comedy Helper, is a benefit for a local charity, Santa's Toy Bag. For further information, call 303-446-9448.
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Tony Mohr, corresponding via e-mail, sent an irate message informing me that I'd erred in claiming that no songs from the album October had been included in U2's The Best of 1980-1990/The B-Sides, a double-album set I recently reviewed ("The Major and the Minor," December 3). As it turns out, Mohr is correct: The title cut from the 1981 effort is an uncredited "hidden" track that appears after approximately one minute's worth of silence at the end of the first disc. According to Mohr, my decision to remove the staggeringly predictable CD from my player after the last listed tune played means that he can no longer respect anything I say. But on the off chance that I can change his mind, I make this solemn pledge: From now on, I'll listen closely for a minimum of thirty minutes after any recording has seemingly ended to make absolutely certain that it's truly over.
Or maybe not. On Thursday, December 17, Why Planes Go Down crashes at the 15th Street Tavern, with Koala. On Friday, December 18, life is a Cabaret Diosa at the Fox Theatre, and "A Christmas Heritage," a holiday presentation with contributions from Darol Anger, Alison Brown, Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips and former Denverite Tim O'Brien, takes place at the Boulder Theater. On Saturday, December 19, Sprung Monkey hops to it at the Bluebird Theater, with Zebrahead. And on Wednesday, December 23, Westword contributor Marty Jones brings his Pork Boilin' Po' Boys and singer-songwriter Micah Ciampa to the Bluebird. He's hoping others will find their own way there.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.