kinfe_attack_phixr.jpgSweet, Action: The Sweet Anthology (Shout Factory   Records)
With one purchase you can become a true 70s-arena-rock know-it-all instead of some underwear-fouling young poseur looking for attention from your hopelessly distracted parents.   Riding a rail between prog and glam at the height of their fame, Sweet (or “The Sweet” if you have nothing better to do than get farty over wonkish debate minutia) were an understated but constant thread in the fabric of 70s radio life n the US (“Little Willy” “Ballroom Blitz,” all included here) and even more so in Britain (“Sweet F.A.” for one, and also “Set Me Free,” which isn’t aboard this collection).   There’s also hockey-rink anthems “Fox on the Run” and “Action” here, the latter of which brings up the sore point that the Give Us a Wink LP isn’t strongly represented, but the carefully reverent remastering job done here makes up for it. Grade: A [street date 4/28/09]

Sharam, Get Wild (Ultra Records)
There’s a reason Deep Dish is one of the hallowed names in electronic music, and there’s no reason to 180 from that perception after this one from half of the team; it’s undoubtedly the best artist (DJ-speak for all-originals) LP I’ve received since Tiesto’s Elements of Life.   Getting the unsavory crap out of the way first — and this is the only downside — we find Sharam kowtowing to Motley Crue dunderhead Tommy Lee’s childish impulse to deejay, being po-faced about giving Lee a Ft. spotlight and making the best hay possible out of the piano line from “Home Sweet Home” (in “Sweat,” which is yet another fine-grain hit of exquisite house once it settles down). But, woah boy, everywhere else, this is just a masterpiece.   Sharam teams Kid Cudi up with a depthlessly haunting Patsy Cline sample in “She Came Along,” evoking an exquisite vibe of romantic burnout and simultaneously turning this into an album-album, not just simple patter for the clubs.   As well, there is, of course, an old-time dusty cowboy side that comes with the Cline (and the album art), and this is expanded upon further by Anousheh Khalili’s breathtaking turn on “Don’t Say a Word,” conjuring the lone-wolf club-babe ridin’ out into the storm to find what she needs. Stupendous.   Grade: A+ [street date 4/7/09]

Mumiy Troll, Comrade Ambassador (Ryko Records)
Russian rock n roll at its Russianest, put forth by the country’s answer to, eh, maybe a Depeche Mode that won’t die, but I offer that only to paint a perspective of timeline, not sound: the band has been doing their punk/postwave thing since 1983, fighting the Pravda-pounding Man and getting tossed in the joint for it on a few occasions.   One other bit of useless information to pass on before we proceed with any art-autopsy involves their moniker, which is a play on the title of an immensely popular Finnish cartoon trademark; if they were American, these guys might call themselves the “Dizney Mice,” something like that. Applying laser to disc, what comes out is an effective-enough toolbox comprising washed-out Chris Isaak spaghetti-50s guitars (“Mothers and Daughters”), 80s Clash (“Hey, Tovarishch”), Franz Ferdinand (“We Overslept”) and here and there the lazy ska run, compatible sounds all, of course.   But the catch is that singer Ilia Lagutenko sticks to his native language while drawling his way through the songs, affecting a chops-licking lasciviousness that’s pure Pepé Le Pew, and, by extension, a refreshing innocence that shows clean through the Mick Jagger posturing for which it aims. [street date 4/7/09]

Boomkat, A Million Trillion Stars (Little Vanilla Records)
A little confusion as to the actual release date of this one — it either already happened, or will in June — but with a record that’s transparently meant as only one component of a shrinkwrapped marketing job, probably no one at the helm is paying that much attention. Lacking the nasal timbre of Beyonce or the personality of a Macy Gray, singer/actress/fashionista Taryn Manning plays a walk-on part for 14 songs, as though her laptop-maestro brother Kellin had texted central casting to send over the first-available white chick capable of pulling off B-movie-grade parrotings of Britney Spears and Rihanna.   The duo has cured itself of most of the throw-everything-against-the-wall direction of their debut album Boomkatalog.One, here settling on positive-attitude snapdance-pop for the most part, but the moments of “What, is this a compliation?” do rear up, at the Vaseline-lens Uh Huh Her-like cubicle-chill of “Lonely Child” for one.   Some nice King Britt-style Euro-house moves in “Not My Fault,” even if the ideas were most likely shoplifted from Madonna (Manning’s sung her into the hairbrush, too, certainly). [street date 3/10/09]

Mitch Marcus Quintet, The Special (self-released)
The ubiquitous, overused “Post-bop” may be the wrong catch-all for this San Fran fivesome, who are already headed for good things after a series of great reviews, most notably from a Wired wag who labeled them “21st century jazz,” nice try.   Would that I had the time to dream up some similar categorization to die on the vine, but what this really is, in the end, is a highly cerebral form of metal/jazz fusion that’s heavy on the improv.   Confused Mingus-like spazzing stops on a dime to sketch out a lofty run that finds every group member on the same progressive-hard-bop page, which has, yes, been done by the few and the brave, but the joker in this deck is the guitar of Mike Abraham, which comes swooping over the proceedings with whatever guitar-god layer is called for — Primus in the case of “Inditrenago,” Eddie van Halen in “Paisano.” Think of it as Minus the Bear squared, or Metallica fighting Sonny Rollins for a groupie-babe, but however you slice it, this is a commonsensical young band that knows it is just that, and that there are, therefore, no rules. [street date: 5/1/07]

Great Northern, Remind Me Where the Light Is (Eenie Meenie Records)
Since things move so fast out on the West Coast this is probably the make-or-break album for LA’s Great Northern, whose dominant male figure is ex-30 Seconds to Mars/Earlimart guitarist Solon Bixler.   This sophomore submission is coldly calculated in a sad Los Angeles way, but more than palatable if you’re just looking for a strong rock record and willing to suspend disbelieving that incompatible vibes can coexist.   For instance, singer Rachel Stolte’s impression of Sarah McLachlan’s impression of Madonna is an interesting idea, but it’s throttled by too-tight musicianship and the stale LA by-the-book-ness of the engineering, which seems — like the band — focused almost exclusively on mindlessly gobbling up as many small-potatoes mixed-media cameo appearances as possible (this follows in the tradition of their debut LP, which won soundtrack spots on the movie 21, an NBA playoffs commercial and a handful of other low-hanging hey-look-at-me fruit). With no greatness aspired to, the album fluctuates between mid-tempo garage a la a Garbage-meets-Dandy Warhols (“Story”) and myopic, cover-band-like attempts at Arcade Fire (“Snakes,” “Warning”).   In actual fairness, though, the LP is better than the above nitpicks might suggest, and if these guys can someday smuggle a modicum of humor or enthusiasm into their trip a lot of plebs might get into it. Grade: B- [street date: 4/28/09]

Wumpscut, Fuckit (Metropolis Records)
Over the course of nearly 2 decades, Rudy Ratzinger has grown from too-obvious Skinny Puppy/Leather Strip admirer into possibly the most original noisemaker in electro-goth.   For several albums now he’s been a unique commodity, enveloping fans in swirling, pounding, but singularly listenable nightmares of despair, all in the name of some-or-other quest to drill ever deeper into the hypothetical mind of, say, a serial killer who’s in need of a real-deal Catholic exorcism.   After a couple of missteps, mostly of a phoning-in sort, on his last couple of albums, the Wump has at last re-evaluated the formula that made 2004’s Evoke such a peach and doused a bunch of new material in it.   “Father, I am the Boo,” he rumbles in his demon-in-quicksand rasp in the album opener as an innocent, quirky kraut-electro line gives way to haunting, unforgettable cellos, a playfulness repeated even more transparently in the title track, which could have easily fit on Evoke.   In these spaces Ratzinger condenses the essence of his ostensible message: there’s always a little dancing going on somewhere, even in the 7th circle.   [street date: 4/7/09]

Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Agorapocalypse (Relapse Records)
The western part of Massachusetts, already well on its way to semi-respectable urbanity thanks to bursts of gang violence and a couple of snootily formidable malls here and there, boasts as one of its cultural native sons Agoraphobic Nosebleed, a grindcore whimsy that to date has played only one live show in its 10 year existence, at the 2002 New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Given all the fair-to-middle-level technical precision and entrail-gobbling death metal sounds they fancy, there are really only a couple of things that flag them as grindcore players per se, one being the fact that one of their count-em three singers has a lot of Henry Rollins in him (that’s the “core” part, get it?).   The other thing has to do with their marketing paradigm, which involves tossing a lot of Hustler-inspired cartoons into their count-em 28-page insert.   Atmosphere is moderate-to-severe heavy with nary an original trick:   Quorthon vocals here, a token stoner dirge there, some microphone gargling on “White On White Crime.”   When the vocalizing sticks with Black Flag (there’s a hint of Rage Against the Machine in there too, actually), things do get not-uninteresting. Grade: C- [street date 4/14/09]

Rufus Huff, Rufus Huff (Zoho Records)
Every year I get over a thousand free CDs, zero percent of them capable of winning the attention of the vast unwashed masses living in non-metro areas upon which the tides of bleeding-edge cultural evolution simply don’t, and may never, let’s admit it, have any effect whatsoever.   Oldies best-ofs (and new stuff from dinosaurs) do pop up once in a while, but the 70 or so percent of the public that knows the names of literally only a dozen or so bands — all from the 80s or 70s or 60s — never budges from its contented ignorance.   Toward that, my amazement over the lack of undiluted 70s-sounding new bands making any noise has vanished into a black hole of that’s-just-how-it-is; when people, young and old, ask me “Why don’t any bands try to sound more like [Zep/Sabbath/Foghat/etc],” I have no idea where to point them. (And let’s not look to the obvious pandering pretenders — feeding Wolfmother to old-school-spoiled ears is like trying to douse a volcano with a Dixie cup of water.) But now I can say, well, duh, there’s these guys, a Kentucky foursome led by Grammy-winning guitarist Greg Martin and Chris Cornell-soundalike singer Jarrod England.   Unlike so many new bands that pray their enthusiasm makes up for what they lack in studio experience and basic instrumental skills, this could have been the next Skynyrd album, or Cornell fronting Jeff Beck.   Nothing wildly original in most senses, but certainly a worthy continuation of the species, which is all millions of people are asking for. Grade: A [street date 4/14/09]

Papercuts, You Can Have What You Want (Gnomonsong Records)
Not a lot of Paisley Underground nonsense like this making the rounds these days, but then again the psycho dude from Silence of the Lambs didn’t help matters, listening to this junk and petting his white poddle, yucky. And that’s it in a nutshell, really, for most folks. The 4th album by this Jason Quever bedroom project is said to be an upping of the ante from the sound of the first three, which to me sound cleaner and clearer thanks to restraint at the reverb knob, but the whole trip here seems to be reinventing Big Star for the small screen (“Once We Walked in the Sunlight” has the same google-eyed dream-fugue calorie count as “Lady Sweet”) .   There’s old-fashioned upright organ here, in case listeners weren’t sure that there were Byrds and Zombies influences, thus I should also mention that it’s got a lot in common with Spaceman 3.   “A Dictator’s Lament” makes me think of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” being sung by Napoleon Dynamite at the roller rink, but don’t tell anyone who looks Pitchork-ish I said any such thing. Grade: B+ [street date 4/14/09]

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome.   Email esaeger@cyberontix.com

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