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Prison of Small Perceptions
Go Kart Records

If Only We Had Someplace to Go

Attention Deficit Disorder
Analbum Cover
Amp RecordsThese three veteran Bay area punk bands, each evincing their own individual take on the genre (and enthusiastic road-dogs all), have seen their latest efforts released on an indie imprint at least nationally recognized within its scene. So we thought it'd be fun to sneak up on 'em, stuff 'em all in a bag and toss it over a clothesline.

First up is the sophomore disc from Pseudo Heroes, a Brandon-based outfit headed by guitarist/vocalist Sam Williams, whom you might know as Dave Smalley's sideman for semi-legends Down by Law. Prison of Small Perceptions incorporates a novel idea — in addition to a regular full-length's worth of PH tunes, the disc includes seven tracks sung by some of hardcore's most inimitable and influential frontmen.

The resulting whole is more straightforward and uneven than the band's textured, idiosyncratic debut, Betraying Angry Thoughts, but extremely listenable nonetheless. The tunes crafted for such luminaries as John Stabb (Gov't Issue), Blaine Cook (The Accused), Lee Dorian (Napalm Death) and Jerry A. (Poison Idea) are fairly lean and dated hardcore romps. They're good ones, to be sure. But the band really shines when they return to the numbers driven by Williams' unique guitar voicings and vocals, and anchored by an excellent rhythm section (bassist Kevin Coss and drummer Carlos Velez-Collins) that knows when to loosen up their airtight attack for the sake of some interesting near-chaos.

"Hereditary Fault," "I Know What You Need," "Under The Sun," "I Must Confess (More or Less)" and "A Million Miles of Missteps," not to mention a blazing cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' for You," are impeccable. Of the guest appearances, the aforementioned Smalley's turn on "Get Out of My Life" and local Pink Lincolns hero Chris Barrows' moody, snotty performance on "I Don't Care" provide highlights.

The second outing from gravel-toned dirt-rocking Punkhouse heroes Dukes of Hillsborough finds the trio branching out a bit, and adding some interesting dynamics to their propulsive, rough-hewn sound. Loose, utterly cathartic and owing far more to guttural purge than technique, DoH is one of those semi-melodic bands that fans of smoother fare should by all rights hate, but can't; the purity of their expression is surprisingly compelling. While I found their debut, Undefeated at Russian Roulette, more immediately punch-in-the-face satisfying, here the use of clean guitar and slower tempos breaks things up nicely. Granted, If Only We Had Someplace to Go can be droning and slightly anonymous somewhere around the thick of the middle, but "Fencemender," "Two Fists on Concrete" and "Barricade Champion" showcase the band in frighteningly top-notch form.

Lastly, we've got the terminally underrated Flat Stanley. They bring more rock than anybody could seriously be expected to listen to in one sitting, courtesy of a sophomore disc composed of not only eight new tunes and one short, pointless interlude, but also their entire first album, Fucked from th' Gitgo, and some, er, surprises.

This disc is the most immediately accessible of our three, as the band's style comes closest to the average fan's usual presumptions regarding punk 'n' roll. Not nu-punk, mind you — vocalist Buck's alternating country croon and barroom yowl blend with the group's insistence on placing energy before cliche to produce a uniquely raw-edged style. The riffs here, however, are much closer to that vague idea of what makes a rock record "punk" than what's heard on these other two albums. That doesn't make Analbum Cover less worthy. In fact, it makes the whole of the release a much easier listen. You know the hooks and anticipate the riff changes, and there's still enough here to keep you interested. Of the new stuff, "Wet Blanket," "Four by Four," "Deepfist" and "Baby Teeth" connect most readily.

All three of these discs offer more heart, balls and ingenuity than most Drive-Thru Records bands ever will. If I had to pick a winner, I'd go with Pseudo Heroes, but, ironically, it's because of their own performances rather than the guest spots some might regard as a gimmick. In toto, though, all are intriguing and original listens, and will hopefully prompt punk fans sick of national sameness to take a look in their own backyard. Pseudo Heroes (www.gokartrecords.com) Dukes of Hillsborough (www.addwreckedkids.com) 1/2 Flat Stanley (www.amprecords.com) 1/2 —SCOTT HARRELL

Identity Crisis

It's been a heady new decade for Shelby Lynne. After being all but banished from the country music biz in the late '90s, the singer surfaced with one of 2000's sterling efforts, the low-budget I Am Shelby Lynne, which tapped her inner Dusty Springfield with a series of R&B and torch songs. The following year came the bid for pop stardom. For '01's Love, Shelby, she tarted up and did the big production thing. Despite having Big Label Push written all over it, the album tanked. Now Lynne is back, having switched from Island to Capitol, in a much more unassuming frame. Identity Crisis, virtually a one-woman project, finds the vocalist building intimate songs around acoustic guitars and otherwise sparse instrumentation. It's a solid return to form, even if it lacks the revelatory magic of I Am Shelby Lynne. Given free reign, Lynne went eclectic. She dusted off her country bag with a couple of sprite Western swing numbers ("Baby," "10 Rocks") and a string-laden honky-tonk tune called "Lonesome." She also knocked out a couple of blues songs. Most of this material comes off as too stylistically self-conscious. Lynne fares best when she smolders. "If I Were Smart," "I Don't Think So" and "One with the Sun" are the kind of reflective ballads that best showcase the intrinsic emotionality of Lynne's gorgeously bluesy pipes. "I Will Stay," the torchiest of the lot, is absolutely mesmerizing. And sexy. Best of all, nothing here sounds like a single, except perhaps the slinky "Telephone," and that's more the result of happy accident. —ERIC SNIDER

Up All Night

This is one jazz guitar master who won't sit still. Scofield — who has worked in the avant-garde, mainstream, fusion and groove arenas — makes his second CD in two years with a young band that includes a second guitarist, electric bass and drums. Up All Night brings a warmth and flow missing from last year's rather brittle uberjam. The quartet, bolstered on six songs by a horn section, struts through various permutations of funk, a touch of Afro feel ("Thikhatali"), a ballad ("Like the Moon"), and a bouncy version of the Philly soul classic "Whatcha See is Whatcha Get." Scofield's watery tone splits the difference between soft-touch mainstream and wailing fusion. His phrasing comes at odd angles, with plenty of space. On the opening "Philiopiety," he spits out little wah-wah-inflected morsels. Up All Night resonates with new discovery while not disregarding tradition. 1/2 —ERIC SNIDER

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