The Boston Phoenix
December 30, 1999 - January 6, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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Metal and more

Local metal - the year in review

by Carly Carioli

Cave In 1. Cave In, Creative Eclipses EP (Hydrahead); Stephen Brodsky, Expose Your Overdubs (The Magic Bullet Record Company). The former finds the world's finest living prog-thrash band getting all Radioheaded art-poppy and displaying this beautifully authoritative genre-hopping mastery that's supposed to be impossible in the new niche-market underground. And the acoustic-folk protest ballad, "Burning Down the Billboards," should have been the local single of the year, hands down. The latter, an album four-tracked at home by Cave In's 22-year-old frontman, begins with a Eugenius cover and goes on to reference Zeppelin, the Beatles, Pet Sounds, early Guided by Voices, and Syd Barrett. I'm still at a loss for words to describe it, but this Brodsky kid's a genius.

2. Godsmack. In recognition of their continued world domination. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that all that's required for the triumph of evil is for a few cheeseball suburban morons to sell two million records. The album's over a year old, but Godsmack still have the funniest ongoing plot: once laughed out of Allston, Sully Erna, a talented drummer of limited taste, studies Alice in Chains, rings up the Laurie Cabot school of oogum-boogum witchcraft, and has his revenge when his band becomes the biggest indie-metal start-up success story of the decade. Occasionally I try to convince myself this is not a bad thing: y'know, they recorded the CD for a grand in a basement, so it's sort of the closest thing Boston has to Bleach. Then I turn on the radio and hear "Voodoo." Wooga.

3. Mr. Lif, "Farmhand" (Grand Royal); 7L & Esoteric, Speaking Real Words EP (Direct); Edan, "Sing It, Shitface" (Biscuithead). In a nutshell, not a bad year for underground hip-hop in a town that had none -- zero -- three years ago. Hell, even the Globe and the Tab jumped on Lif's bandwagon this year -- must've been the banjos. 7L & Esoteric brought a bit of Wu magic to town, swapping verses with Inspectah Deck on "Speaking." And Edan's single (just out) positions him as something like a homegrown Slim Shady. Oh, and a pox on Vibe magazine for identifying the future of Beantown hip-hop as "Mr. Lift" and "L7 and Esoteric" in the Vibe History of Hip-Hop.

4. Dropkick Murphys, The Gang's All Here (Epitaph). They're Irish, they're from Boston, they play blue-collar punk rock. Next to the Upper Crust, there isn't a better schtick in town. The only thing you could fault the Murphys for is throwing a record-release party on St. Patrick's Day . . . in New York City.

5. Bulb Records. The point of a record label in the first place is brand loyalty -- any label boss worth his shellac is striving for an imprint with a track record such that consumers will buy anything with the logo on it. The genius thing about Bulb Records, run by a guy named Pete on a shoestring budget from various locations in Europe, Japan, and (lately) Somerville, is the way it often seems all label and no bands. Its albums are occasionally by Pete under some alias (Mr. Velocity Hopkins and 25 Suaves, to name two who released discs this year), but even when they aren't, Bulb's aesthetic of cheapness, tackiness, obfuscation, and, above all, novelty, functions as its own surreal running commentary -- think of it as the little anti-label that could. Oh, and Bulb actually put out a couple of real albums this year, by Japanese scum-blues freaks the King Brothers, and Philadelphia's self-proclaimed "Mayor of South Street"/secret punk godfather Mikey Wild.

6. Powerman 5000, Tonight the Stars Revolt (DreamWorks); Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs (Merge). Neither has lived here in quite some time. Throw in a few cuts from the two discs Lou Barlow dished this year and you could have a new compilation: We're Sorry, This Is LA (and New York), Not Boston, After All (Taang!).

7. Waltham. They're from Waltham, they like rock mullets and Rick Springfield, they've got the most bitchin' bachelor pad (in their parents' basement!) in the Greater Metro area, and all their songs are about girls. The Cars and Journey have met their match. For real.

8. Exit Sandman. Bummer of the decade. Even for those of us who didn't know the guy personally, Mr. Mark Sandman's sudden removal from local low-rock hero to that big Middle Eastern restaurant in the sky left a palpable, and permanent, void.

9. Me vs. Jeff Conolly. The judges award a split decision to Conolly -- "No mas!," cried the critic -- but seasoned observers note that Monoman's messages to the Phoenix's voice-mail system qualify as the best Lyres recordings in years.

10. Honorable mentions. Akrobatic, "Sayyessayword," (Detonator); Anal Cunt, It Just Gets Worse (Earache); Barbaro, Barbaro (Polterchrist/Curve of the Earth); Ghetto Thunder, live at the '99 Redneck Fest; the Medea Connection, The Golden Rectangle (self-released); Milligram, "Nervous Breakdown"; Scissorfight, New Hampshire (Tortuga); Six Going on Seven, Heartbreak's Got Backbeat (Some Records) Skitzofreniks, On My Own Shit EP (Brick); Tree, "that song they keep playing on WAAF"; the Upper Crust, "Finished with Finishing School" (unreleased); Wheat, Hope and Adams (Sugar Free); Wicked Farleys, "96 Tears" from Sustained Interest EP (Big Top); and the Racketeers, for a slap-dash roots-rockabilly version of the Stooges' "No Fun," performed at the wedding of yours truly.

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