The Boston Phoenix December 28, 2000 - January 4, 2001

[Music Reviews]

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Local petal and munk

Local punk and metal -- year in review

by Carly Carioli

The Explosion The Explosion, Flash Flash Flash (Jade Tree). Young out-of-step tarantulas declare current punk scene DOA, dare everyone to disagree, then revive the corpse chord by chord. It kicks and screams like the FU's and Gang Green, all graveyard-hearted like the Dead Boys and the Dolls, with a singer who shakes like Iggy and thinks like Richard Hell. It's a shame there's no Rat for these kids to play -- speaking of which, have you seen the blank space in my chest where Kenmore Square used to be?

Cave In, Jupiter (Hydrahead). The only sane reaction to this album is vertigo: everything rushes away in all directions, snaps back into focus, stomach says, "Jump." Leaps of faith? This one seems a bigger creative and evolutionary hop than mere Kid A stuff, all alien beauty and hidden strength. Psych-damaged space metal? Check. Prog-punk? Yep -- er, yes! Nick Drake haunts early Pink Floyd as interpreted by Converge? Have a cigar. Calling themselves the Sacrifice Poles (note hep Wasp Factory-quoting pseudonym), they just released the instrumental outtakes from this disc on a label called Robodog.

Shadows Fall, Of One Blood (Century Media). Singer Brian Fair laid down the law from the stage at a recent show: "Fuck the new metal. There was nothing wrong with the old metal!" Damn straight, and Of One Blood -- the Holyoke band's first album with BHC vet Fair -- is the kinda thrash record they just don't make enough of anymore: anthemic choruses, blazing two-guitar ballets, and ponderous acoustic interludes, with enough speed and growl to appease the hardcore camp. Think '80s Metallica, done right. They've been criss-crossing the country all year; they'll head out again in January with Hatebreed and Amen.

the year in review

art - classical - cultural explosions - dance - film
film culture - fiction - jazz - internet - law - local rock
local punk and metal - nonfiction - queer - pop
protest - theater - tv

Tunnel of Love (self-released). Leaving nothing to the imagination, TOL put a steaming, lips-spread shotta hair pie on the cover of their debut. In case you thought they were being, y'know, metaphorical. They're also total spazzes who do the Fall better than Elastica and the Zombies worse than Pussy Galore. Other bands have written songs in which the singer asks to be pee'd on, but none sounds quite so much like Chuck Berry raining golden showers over Arab on Radar.

Mr. Lif, Enters the Colossus (Ozone). Radical environmentalist goes on conspiracy-theorizing spree, intellectualizes a renegade MC-shredding superhero avenger. Are those dreadlocks, or did scrolls start snaking straight from his gray matter?

Helms, The Swimmer (Kimchee). From "The Smallest World in the World": "And all the kids will bring their amps outside and point them at the sky and play as loud as they can. Thousands of fingers, the necks of old guitars, amplifiers tilted to the blue. They play at the sky, the empty sky. They play the empty sky." Ain't they sweet? Utopian visions don't come any cuter, and invocations to loudness come no quieter. Joan of Arc's talented, (slightly) less pretentious younger siblings? They're smart/sensitive types sketching soft soliloquies about the courtesies of non-sentient appliances and the gothic emotional resonances of the Pac-Man universe, like advance scouts homesteading a new virtual dustbowl: "We can watch TV like cowboys around a fire, like brave men with tired hearts/We crouch, we smile, while Janet and Chrissy have broken the pipes again. And the laugh track blares and Mr. Roper turns/As the water rushes in."

Tugboat Annie, The Space Around You (Big Top). Was there a shortage of broken hearts this year? Because this was a great melancholy guitar-pop album -- perfect for falling out of love to -- and it slipped through the cracks. Too Promise Ring'd for radio? Too Spin Doctor'd for emo kids? A snippet came crawling out of the blue tube the other night, 4 a.m. at the end of a infomercial. Insomnia and unemployment never sounded so good.

The Upper Crust, Entitled (Reptilian); Lovelight Shine, Makes Out (Big Wheel Recreation). Respectively, the best AC/DC double-live album of recent years, as made by a bunch of guys who think they're 18th-century British nobility; and a really good '70s glam-rock tribute, done by some indie-rock kids (ex-Jejune) who think they're Queen. Dead English fops rock, apparently.

Isis, Celestial (Escape Artist); Old Man Gloom, Meditations in B (Tortuga); Scissorfight, Piscataqua EP (Tortuga); Milligram, Hello Motherfucker EP (Tortuga). The turtle has risen! The first two are ambient post-metal surgery disasters from Hydrahead label honcho Aaron Turner and pals, like Neurosis with flyswatters and sextants. The last two out-canoodle all that stoner gunk with a whole new paradigm of heavitude that's all sasquatch lurch and fatguy BO and gratuitous facial hair. Heavy, as in just plain heavy.

Tie: the Damn Personals, Driver/Driver (Big Wheel); the Hope Conspiracy, Coldblue (Equal Vision); In My Eyes, Nothing To Hide (Revelation); the Medea Connection, The Action Noise (self-released); Piebald, The Rock Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Big Wheel Recreation); Quintaine Americana, The Devil Went Down to Mississippi (Curve of the Earth); the Spurs, Go Boy Go! (Spinout).

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