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Local Yodels

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"I Wish You Were Asian [250K aiff]" is song number two on Fight the DJ, a slickly packaged full-length from So-Cal transplants Sketch. The song, complete with rhythmic hand claps and a stop-start variation on the ol' 4/4, represents the oh-so-zany aesthetic of this three-piece, which includes Dave Allen and Steve Ames on rotating vocal/guitar/bass duty and drummer Sam Parks. These guys have even been known to sport super-silly pajamas during live performances -- how wacky is that? They can play, however, and the band's approach to alterna-pop is professional and tight, if not altogether original, with a heavy emphasis on showmanship. The combination leads one to believe that the members are hoping Fight the DJ might lead to bigger and better things, like heavy MTV rotation next to the Everlasts and Oleanders of the world. Standout tracks include the dense, melodic "Always Changing [245K aiff]," with an interesting reverse-crescendo in the verse; "Computer," in which the narrator does battle with both his difficulty getting online and his techno-obsession; and the peppy, infectious and abbreviated "Forget It." There's also some kind of Peter Himmel thing going on in the herky-jerky "I Feel I've Been Cheated." Catchy and clean, this is a record that record snobs might find themselves liking in spite of themselves. (Stickfigure Records, P.M.B. # 136, 17150 #A1 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora, CO 80013.)

Look Up and Live is Someday I's full-length release on the Fort Collins Owned and Operated label, and like most of the music to come down that pike, it's often loud, usually fast, unusually articulate and damn good. Vocalist/guitarist John Meredith's lyrics are at times impressionistic, even absurdist ("I keep a picture of you in front of a hockey rink/What is the significance of this/Of eating?" on the opener, "Distance"[181K aiff]). Other times, they draw clearer pictures of relationships and identity: "I only showed her what was in this life: the lies/I only showed her what was really in this life: her eyes." Throughout, the music is an aggressive, authoritative take on punk rock with a palpable pop sensibility: The driving "Too Much [171K aiff]," punctuated by Damon Smith's hard drumming, is a crystalline example. "Still Live" has a certain oblique beauty, alternating between syncopated drum-and-bass rhythms (the rock, not hip-hop, kind), relentless guitars and song-in-the-round vocals to illustrate a scene that is both desperate and redemptive: "I know you're dying/I know we all are, all of the time...I'm ungratefully optimistic/I think we should live." Look Up and Live is a good example of a band pulling out the requisite punk-rock toolbox to construct a sound that is truly its own. A clean production (by Meredith and John Livermore at Fort Collins's Blasting Room) helps Someday I deliver. (Owned & Operated Recordings, P.O. Box 36, Fort Collins, CO 80522.)

Denver rapper Down Low, who sometimes refers to himself as Assassin General on Killer Instincts, sets a somewhat misleading tone during the full-length CD's introduction. "Hello, world," he says, friendly, easy-like, inviting listeners to kick back with a lady and chill, baby. But after the first verse of "The Truth [220K aiff]," in which Down Low does his best impression of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, it's clear he's a little pissed, accusing "fraudulent niggas" of not being able to handle his street wisdom. Down Low's somewhat erratic, compulsive rhymes are set against a sonic bed of movie samples and an eerie, synthesizer scratch beat (courtesy of DJ Orion) that resembles the music played in horror flicks right before the killer jumps out of the bushes and lops off someone's head. Down Low and Orion further explore the potential of the Casio on "A Boy's Life [256K aiff]," which finds a sultry female vocalist chiming in on the verses and Down Low relaying tales of street life and desertion. "The Declaration (Black Out Kings Anthem)" relies on gangsta-style lyrics about violence, vengeance and ghetto politics. Unfortunately, the lyrics aren't much fresher than the subject matter. This record is at its most interesting on tracks such as "All That You Need," where smooth grooves and sexiness prevail. Down Low is a good rapper; unfortunately, his skills as an MC are somewhat lost amid music and themes that are a little too easy. (Sporters Ball Entertainment, 2731 East 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80205.)

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond