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January 28, 2009

FIRST PLACE: New Releases

By Lee Stewart

Bloodpussy Cacophony (Stormwatch) — Stomach-punching inferno-metal from the kings of up-your-ass torture-rock, back again with an album guaranteed to get you arrested for singing along at the top of your lungs and frightening the neighbors. This time out, lead singer Torque Mazda and friends turn up the bass and let the scream do the talking. Halfway through the disc’s 25-minute opening track “Satan Reads People Weekly,” you realize that they’ve added two more bassists — Swedish metal idol Bjorn Magnusson (formerly of Ratskinner) as well as Manitoba’s oldest living legend Henry Dowell, the combined weight of whom totals over six hundred tons of death. Outstanding track: “Rip Out My Eyes and Tell Me You Hate Life.” Rating: ****½

The Brand Old NewTwenty Years Ago From Now (Toreador) — Driving through the black hills of northern South Dakota last year, a Mack truck came swerving around a corner, forcing me to veer off the road and into a ditch, nearly missing three cows grazing in a pasture by the highway. As I reached for my cell phone to dial the local chapter of AAA, I gazed into the eyes of a young heifer as she chewed what I assumed to be that morning’s breakfast. Staring into those almond-shaped orbs of empathy, I reflected on what it would be like to be that cattle-chewed cud, forever moving up and down the digestive tract, tragic in an almost Sisyphean milieu. Upon hearing this record by Norman, Oklahoma’s The Brand Old New, I now realize that the effect would be akin to that of listening to this album all the way through in one sitting. Torpid, visually prescient, and aesthetically divisive, lead singer/songwriter Johnathon Krusfeld’s iridescent wordplay delves deeper into the psyche of 21st-Century man than any of the great poets of the last hundred years. This verse should serve as an example of the kind of text every musician should strive for: Follow me on the way to my home / Drag my bones to the loading zone / Ring me up on your telephone / And I’ll come running from the fascism / of my suffering. Driven along by chug-a-chug rhythms reminiscent of everything from late ‘60s psychedelic folkies Semidemiquaver to early-90s pop-punsters The Crusties, this record is a must-have for anybody who wants to look cool at the record store. Rating: ****

DogtrapLive at Fat Slim’s 1988 (Needles & Pins) — As far as white-boy blues bands go, nobody can top the ‘70s boogie gods known as Dogtrap. On this archival release from their ill-fated 1988 reunion tour, the four-piece (Simon Aldridge, vocals and harmonica; Lettuce Romaine, guitar; Charlie Charles, bass; Esther Strauss, drums) plow through one whiskey-drenched 12-bar after another, from the classic “Blue Bottle Blues” to the previously unreleased ballad “One Day In the Life of Dennis Ivanovich,” which compares the life of middle-class youth growing up in the ‘60s to that of prisoners in Stalin’s Cold War-era Soviet labor camps.  A must-have for any fan of the appropriation of another’s culture for purposes of money and prestige. Rating:  ***

Gordon “Hamhock” EvansHamtown (G)rooves [Reissue] (Prebop Limited) — This exhilarating reissue of Evans’s 1956 solo LP has been a long time coming. Recorded on the roof of his three-story house in Bloomington, Ind., the man known as Hamhock reimagines the way people view jazz violin. Equal parts Stephane Grappelli and Charlie Parker, flowing melodic lines cut through the traffic of Midwestern life like a hot knife through so much soft butter. Side two is an extended reading of Stravinsky’s “Agon,” accompanied by foot-stomping and barely-audible humming which provide startling counterpoint to the alternately diabolic shrieking and lilting melodicism of Hamhock’s axe. Note the 19:34 mark, where Evans breaks a string, attempts to continue, but finally gets fed up and kicks the tape recorder off of his roof. Legend has it that before he received any royalties from the sale of this album, he had to rebuild the tape machine by himself. Rating:  *****

Robomotowerks Volume IIII (Erdbereis) — Don’t let the name or the record label fool you — this is a German synth-rock band that hails from none other than New York City, USA. The duo, comprised of Carl Weathers, (no, not Action Jackson) and Brian Juniper, playing synthesizer and drum-machine, respectively, blew onto the hipster scene two years ago like a paper bag off of a wino’s Mad Dog, releasing their semi-terrific debut EP, “Vertical Hold,” on their own label, Rat Records (“Records” pronounced as the first person singular present tense form of the verb, rather than the plural noun.) They were immediately hailed as a Kraftwerk for the new era, regardless of the fact that they are neither German nor talented. This didn’t stop their rapid rise to the top of the lower-reaches of cult-hood, however, and this new release promises to be a blockbuster, unless, of course, it isn’t. Each song clocks in at under four minutes, except for the album’s closer, the enigmatically titled “Bonus Track,” which clocks in at exactly four minutes. Rating: **½

Edgard SlothropSchmetterling:  Chamber Works (Desu International) — Edgard Slothrop, pianist for the Camden Symphony Orchestra, (and one-time sideman of jazz great Freddie Timbers) releases the second in his planned retrospective of the entire works of 19th Century German composer Arnuld Meifert Schmetterling, whom most listeners know through the use of his piece “Die Drei Unterseiten” as the theme song for the 1999 blockbuster from director Rudolf Gemeinsam, Tanzen in das Meer (released in America as Abject Failure.) On this disc, Slothrop exudes a subtle mastery of his instrument, interpreting the pathos-filled works of Schmetterling as only a Slothrop can. One gets a deep sense of foreboding as the pianist storms through “Schicksal von dem Roboter” (“Robotic Destiny”), climaxing in the almost paranoiac final movement, which reminds one of trudging through post-war Germany in the skin of a pig while searching for the key to one’s role in a vast, far-reaching conspiracy that concerns the destiny of the entire fabric of 20th-century consciousness. Rating:  ****

Evelyn Waugh JuniorMighty Oak River (Trunkroots) — For the narcoleptic coffee-house crowd comes Waugh’s seventeenth album since her 1995 debut, “Watercolours,” was released on the now-defunct Holy Roses label. Acoustic guitar and drums and a bass guitar and, hell, why not throw in some pedal-steel for good measure? This sounds like anything else you’d hear on your local NPR station in between segments of “This American Life” or “All Things Considered,” or whatever else liberal Yuppies listen to these days. Rumor has it that the Surgeon General is working on a report linking this album to high murder rates in gated communities all over the nation. Rating: -

Yung Lil Skeeziks Da Game Gone Done (Rapennui) — Tempe, Arizona’s Yung Lil Skeeziks releases his second album of underdone, overhyped hip-hop, with contributions from such “luminaries” as ThunkRob, Runk Throbba, and teenage phenomenon Lil’ Thrunka, dueling with Skeeziks on the album closer “Anutha Generation.” The beats are manufactured from the same James Brown samples that have been collecting dust in every DJ’s crate since 1983, while the lyrics are not worth mentioning. Here’s a sample: Polishin’ my mack ten / going to the club again / gruntin’ on ya girlfriend / work a brother’s skin in. What it means is anybody’s guess. Nas was right: Hip-hop is dead. And Yung Lil Skeeziks is holding the smoking gun. Rating: *