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Of course, Van Halen boosters are different than they used to be, too. I was seated near the front of Fiddler's second reserved section, and I was stunned to discover that most people near me wanted to sit through the concert. In fact, when one man dared to stand up, he was jeered mercilessly by the twenty folks behind him. When he finally sat down, in the midst of an interminable drum solo, his critics responded with the biggest cheer of the night. That, my friends, is rock and roll, old style.

Local reviews: Get 'em while they're hot.
Thanks to co-producer/engineer Bob Ferbrache, Making H Sounds from BlastOff Heads sounds cheap in all the right ways. The guitar tone is edgy but clean, the rhythm section is sloppy but effective, and the generally strong melodies are never lost in the mayhem. As a result, the trio of Hendrick, Morrison and McDermott proves to be good company, tossing out catchy/punky noisemakers like "Waxed," "BlastOff Heads' Theme Song" and the aptly named "Toetapper" with ease. Nonetheless, they've clearly got their hands full: Why else start the disc with "Something to Jerk for Now" and end it with "Something to Jerk for Later"? Pump it up, gentlemen (Greazy Chicken Records, P.O. Box 2525, Evergreen, CO 80437). Abdomen's Weird to See is another first-rate offering from longtime scenester Mike Jourgensen and mates. The group is getting more tuneful and accessible with each passing year, and the production, which on previous discs could be something of an obstacle, serves the songs rather than obscuring them. That's not to say that the musicians have lost their ambition: "Combattement" moves through myriad styles during its eight-minutes-plus span, and "Act New" incorporates what sound like electro-percussion touches to the usual lo-fi alterna-ingredients. It'll take some time for you to discover all the secrets contained in Weird to See, but you won't mind spending it (available in area CD stores).

The Quiet Room makes metal the old-fashioned way: The vocals of Chad Castor sail into the stratosphere, the guitars of Jason Boudreau and George Glasco duel in the expected manner, the rhythms provided by bassist Josh Luebbers and drummer Mike Rice are piston-precise, and the keyboards of Jeff Janeczko sweeten the sound until all traces of spontaneity are gone. Introspect, the act's third CD, combines these elements with lyrics like "Drained of all dignity/The masses soon repress/Relying on the future will mean/Learning from the past" (from "Altered Past") to come up with music you'll swear you heard before--like at a Dokken concert in 1987. There's still an audience for this stuff, as demonstrated by Quiet Room's connections; the disc appears on New Jersey-based Dominion Records, and Florida's U.R.I. Entertainment Group represents the musicians worldwide. But this is one flashback yours truly would like to avoid in the future (The Quiet Room, P.O. Box 100742, Denver, CO 80250). Dave Delacroix's 21st Century is an improvement over its predecessor, the underproduced, overly modest Sirens. Not everything here is a gem ("World on My Side" and "Wicked Kind of Love" are mighty pedestrian), but "Dawn Patrol," "Days of Rock & Roll" and the title song are spritely pop rock distinguished by Delacroix's reliable tenor and good playing from sidemen such as Pete Nalty and Mike Elkerton. A decent listen (available in area CD stores).

The three men behind Fallen From Grace were never able to find a vocalist who met with their approval, so they decided to do without one--and the choice turns out to have been a wise one. Their self-titled CD draws from metal and goth, among other styles, but because there's no screecher to get in the way of the bombast, the music attains a drama that might otherwise escape it. "The Lovers," "The Hanged Witch" and the five other soundscapes collected on the disc are symphonic rock of the sort practiced by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which means that subtlety is not a consideration. But Fallen From Grace is eminently listenable and quite unlike most of the hard rock being made in the area. Who'da thunk it? (Fallen From Grace, P.O. Box 2602, Denver 80201)

It doesn't seem quite right to refer to the sound quality of the demo by Vena Cava; given the amount of audible tape hiss on it, "quality" is something of a misnomer. As near as I can tell, the music is a jazzier variant on the style employed by so many of the group's Boulder-based peers: "Scatman," for instance, pairs gymnastic vocals with a vaguely Latin melody. And the words? "I'm a starchild/You're a moonbeam" (from "Starchild") are pretty typical. Still, Vena Cava is a bit more interesting than the typical practitioner of the style--or at least I think it is (Georgina King, 959 Marine Street, Apt. C, Boulder 80302). Nearly as lousy from an audiophile's standpoint is SOB, a demo from the Sean Owens Band; the four songs on it sound as if they were captured using a condenser microphone on a children's tape player. By listening closely, I was able to discover that "Sometimes," "Cats & Dogs," "Without You" and "Country 22" are competent blues rock decorated by occasional Neil Young-like solos courtesy of guitarist Doug Norman. The result is unlikely to startle anyone who's been in a bar at any time during the past thirty years (Ty-Ko Productions, P.O. 19785, Denver, CO 80219).

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts