Yes, yes, yes we do, we like local bands, how 'bout YOU?

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Every day I get calls from local musicians wanting to know when their CDs are going to be reviewed. It's frustrating, not because I'm sick to death of dealing with the whiny or the pushy (though some of 'em definitely fit those bills), but because I don't really have an answer. I'll throw some capsule reviews into the Music Menu entries where I can, and Snider and I will talk every two months or so about making some room for local stuff on a regular basis. Then a bunch of other shit will come up, and we'll talk about it again two months later.The "regular basis" thing is still in the works, but what we'd like to know is how interested you, the reader, are in reading about the local CDs that come out. And I'm not talking about those of you in bands, either — duh, we know what YOU want. This week's column runs down several of the releases that have hit our mailboxes over the last several months. Get back to me — [email protected] — and let us know what you think about our letting you know. Cheers.

Anna O.

Horses, God and The Perfect Kiss

Lava Core Records

Colleen Beckman's songsmith alter ego, Anna O., turns in some solidly constructed pop on her latest full-length, running the gamut from straightforward adult alternative stuff to more atmospheric fare. While most tracks here hold up in the writing department ("Too Hard to Hide" and "Hollywood" are misses), the real attraction is Anna's voice — a soulful, spot-on, slightly edgy delivery reminiscent of Sheryl Crow's later, more confident work, but also capable of a smoother vibrato as well. The Morrisound production treatment, slick with somewhat thin guitars, works as it should here, since the material could certainly hang with most of the stuff on the FM dial. Standouts include the title track, "Novocaine" and "Blood and Bone." (www.anna-o.com) $$$Suburban Tragedy

...Fun for the Kids

Spongebath Records

Not strictly a local release — singer Nik Sharp is signed to Tennessee-based Spongebath Records — but they're still building a following in their northern Pinellas home turf, so what the hey. I enjoy the hell out of this quartet's tight, no-frills punk-lite on stage. On record, however, the weaknesses are a little more apparent, and the biggest one is predictability. Sharp rails against post-grunge soundalikes ("Dead Elvis") and trendy young slackers ("DC Shoes"), while ST sound quite a bit like any number of Warped Tour casualties counting on said slackers to get them on TRL. Sharp's got a great, snotty set of pipes, and the band bashes familiar riffage with talent and enthusiasm. There are even some songs here (particularly "Never Say I'm Sorry") that easily smoke the bottom half of the Top Nine at Nine, but a little more originality might go a lot further in the long run. (www.suburbantragedy.com) $$ 1/2 Spaceking

Are You Standing

I love this disc, but if pressed about it, I don't think I'd be able to articulate exactly why. A couple of guys with plenty of local industrial/goth/darkwave credentials got together with some friends and put out a full-length CD chock full of rudimentary, guitar-driven Goth-pop. And it rules. It probably doesn't, actually; most people would probably hate it. I don't care. A lot of Are You Standing just has this intangible, earnest quality that transcends its simple execution. The killer vibe is not omnipresent — "ICU," for instance, falls way short. But "Space," "Special," "Read My Mind" and almost everything else strongly evoke a more innocent time, when you could fall in love at Club DNA on Kill The Keg Nite while Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus played in the background. $$$$Mullally/Wegman

The Mayfly Glimmer

Two venerable Tampa Bay songwriting talents, Tim Mullally and Robert Wegman, got together to construct these 11 tracks of sophisticated, flowing eclecti-pop. Mellow, classically influenced guitar, lilting harmonies and world beat inspiration conspire to entrance, but that sense of pop-grounded songcraft persists. Various local musicians (including drummer/ engineer Mark Prator and flutist/songwriter Flash Gordon) lend their talents to this extremely well constructed batch of tunes, fleshing out Mullally and Wegman's expansive, cerebral ideas. The Mayfly Glimmer is definitely "musician-y" — heady and ambitious — but also light enough that somebody into anything from Paul Simon to Tears for Fears' more adventurous stuff might get a kick out of it. Not bad at all, provided you're not looking for anything, you know, visceral. (www.mayfly glimmer.com) $$$ 1/2 Four Star Riot

The Best Things

Vital Records

Energetic Pinellas power-pop quartet Four Star Riot's urgent, hooky material is never worse than good. They're at they're best, however, when injecting attitude and idiosyncratic elements like the surf melody and Police-esque syncopation of "This Can't Be All" into the fray. The Best Things largely splits its time between those kinds of intriguing moments, and the foursquare, stripped-bare pop-rock of the title track, "There it Goes" and "All for One." They handle the basic stuff better than most, thanks in large part to Steve Alex's masterful vocal persona, but the slightly more inventive tuneage of "Save The Day," "It's Been A Long Time" and the aforementioned "This Can't Be All" stands way out. The Stones-y "Something So Right" is a bonus. Damn, this one's almost good enough to make me stop giving them shit about playing the occasional cover stint ... (www.fourstarriot.com) $$$ 1/2 The Johnny Zoom Cheerlead Squad

Honey Baby Sweetie

It's fuzzed-out, yet laid-back. It's way loose, yet aptly so. It sounds like late Morphine frontman Mark Sandman fronting a hotel-lounge band that got so sick of playing the standards "the right way" that they snapped. Amid a bipolar army of rockabilly-ish outfits that either play it clean n' dated or punker than thou, The Johnny Zoom Cheerlead Squad is a welcome iconoclast. New Wave touches ("Another Doomsday"), blurrily chiming ballads ("Number One Fan"), duck voices ("Joanie Loves Chachi"), and the coolest lo-fi sound this side of The Strokes come together to oddly engaging effect. I wouldn't be surprised to find this CD making college-radio dents in, say, Athens or Austin. A whole full-length is maybe too much for one sitting, but overall, it's pretty good, different stuff. (www.johnnyzoomcheerleadsquad.com) $$$Chris Vegas

Burning in the City of Sin

Roulette Records

Look at the artist's name and album title. Check out some of the songs: "Tijuana Rocket Ride," "Electric Cowboys," "Devil Woman," "Talking to my Tiki." You know immediately what you're gonna get, and on that count, Chris Vegas delivers — competently conceived and executed punk-a-billy steeped in pomade, whiskey and bad luck. There's little here to distinguish Vegas from the hordes of outfits around the world waiting for a chance to open for Reverend Horton Heat just once in their hometown. He's probably a lot of fun live, but as a listening experience, most of the material just comes off as generic. (www.chrisvegas.com) $$The Hydrotones

Hydrophonics USA

Longview Records

Surfy tuneage from a new Bay area trio that features guitarist/local-music vet Bill Bechtel. For me, surf music that worships the traditional usually has a shelf life of about three tracks, but The Hydrotones keep things fresh with some frenetic sax and trumpet tracks, courtesy of Miguel Angel and Matt White, respectively. Bechtel also gets plenty of room to show off his chops, particularly in the creepy, swampy standout, "Theme from an Imaginary Cartoon." The horns, however, make all the difference. Decent stuff, though we could've done without the bongo solo ("Escape from Tiki Island"). Interestingly, this one's dedicated to that crew of hardcore kite surfers (including the disc's engineer, Josh Young) you might have seen trying to kill themselves at Treasure Island Beach. (www.longview records.com) $$$Music critic Scott Harrell can be reached at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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