The Good, The Bad, The Local

A bi-monthly (or so) critical look at Bay area recordings.

Better

Adventures in Music

Former Club More owner and Pundits principal "Flash" Gordon's latest project flirts with jamminess. Elements of reggae, blues, jazz and prog-rock enter and leave the picture. More than anything, though, this is a collection of upbeat and socially aware but inescapably dated folk-pop tunes. If you listen hard enough, there's an endearing quirkiness to Flash's conversational lyrical style and everyman voice; often, however, the earnestness turns hokey. The best track here is "Flight Path," a duet featuring an uncredited female vocalist who might or might not be the Planet's own Jo Hammond, who also happens to be Flash's wife. ([email protected]) 2 stars SH

Regurgitron

Regurgitron

Tampa's Regurgitron has created an endurance test of a full-length — 22 tracks and an hour-plus of sound collages that never remotely approach anything resembling music. Creepy, static-laden and heavily industrial, these movements are interesting, but a sense of redundancy quickly sets in; I thought I heard the sound from the end of Missile Command in, like, six different cuts. The whole style is creative and pretty cool in small doses (or as the soundtrack to, say, what's on the videotape in The Ring) but this is a bit much. (www.regurgitron.com) 2.5 stars SH

Pilots & Paper Planes

Burden Of A Day

Released on Blood & Ink Records, this Sarasota band's debut is bloody-fist hardcore, with chugging guitars and those belly screams that are the M.O. of so many area bands. Burden isn't afraid to throw some straightforward melodies in there, though. Track Two, "High Noon," even includes a mid-song a cappella break that cribs from "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Touches like that break up the monotony a bit, but unfortunately there aren't enough of them. Trying to distinguish track from track can often be a tiring exercise. It's not unusual for a debut to be a little monochromatic; let's just hope that Burden keeps on growing. (www.burdenofaday.com) 3 stars CLB

Lost in Know-Where-Land

Knowing Stu

Pinellas County alt-rock favorite Knowing Stu called on one of the best-known producers in its genre, Jeff Tomei (Smashing Pumpkins, Matchbox 20, Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains), to twiddle the knobs for this three-song set, and it shows. Lost in Know-Where-Land is a quick blast of catchy, guitar-fueled, radio-ready modern rock that could easily grab the ears of major labels. The female-fronted foursome's sound isn't terribly original — the sweet-and-sour intro to "There's No Time" is about the most inventive thing here — but all of the pieces are in the right place. (www.knowingstu.com) 3.5 stars SH

The Let Down

Something Between Us

Dushan Katanic

Another building block in the Free Poets/Science-Non-Fiction empire, Dushan differs from his indie hip-hop peers with beats that aren't so one-dimensionally gloomy and industrial. The Let Down in fact features a lot of tinkling pianos. His flow is more laid-back as well, riding the beat rather than forcing the issue with his verbal rhythm. Something Between Us has more of an abstract vibe than its partner, with a greater depth and variety to the production. In all honesty, tracks like "Quiet Time" aren't strictly hip-hop at all. The beat flutters way in the background, never settling down into the standard boom-bap. It's this willingness to venture into the electronic and the ambient that really impresses. (www.freepoets.com) The Let Down 3 stars Something Between Us 3.5 stars CLB

Big Fish — Small Pond

Dr. Dave

Dave Ferguson's been gigging around the area seemingly forever, with an energetic, mainstream Nashville sound that may be popular live, but doesn't thrill on record. Ferguson's band is talented, but it never really distinguishes itself here, with serviceable arrangements that don't surprise. Ferguson isn't particularly gifted word-wise either, dipping into shopworn rock and country clichés a little often. Yep, "She's got it all, for goodness' sakes" rhymes with "Goodbye, heartaches," which rhymes with "This girl's got what it takes." Big Fish is tailor-made for Nashville Star; it's country without the grit and whiskey. (www.drdaveband.com) 2 stars CLB

Street Love Jazz

Lucian & The All Stars (Ranluron Music)

This sextet, made up of veteran Bay area players, stays well clear of the land of the dreaded smooth jazz, instead plying an easygoing, immediately familiar brand of mostly instrumental old-school lounge swing. Older pedestrian listeners may find it acceptable late-night background music; true bop fans will undoubtedly want to puncture their eardrums with rusty icepicks. The playing is competent throughout, but the style is wholly clichéd and often, well, boring. (www.lucianallstars.com) 2 stars SH

The Rise of The Villanz: Episode 1

The Villanz (Substantial Recordz)

I generally don't go in for too much street/thug rap, but while MCs D-Vine and Main spit their fair share of couplets about "hos" and implied violence, they've created a sound and style that transcend the usual clichéd bullshit. Both rappers have developed top-notch flows that split the difference between straightforward, boastful block-party anthems and smarter, more intricate underground fare. This is hip-hop with balls and talent, paired with perhaps the best production I've heard on a local mix CD. It's hard, funny, admirable and clever, and leaves the majority of Bay area crews — from both the ghetto and the backpack scene — in the dust. 4 stars SH

The Everglades Bohemouth

Rubee Jawbotik

The architect of the nascent genre swamp-hop drops his latest, another combination of hip-hop sound and Everglades mythology. Yes, there are the obligatory tracks about battling death out in the swamp ("Night in the Glades") and repping his beloved second home ("Swamp-Hop Supervillain"). But Rubee (aka Nate Martin) also includes a very beautiful track attacking suburban sprawl and philosophizing on what it means for the natural Florida ("When the Trees Speak"). It's this stretching out that really makes Bohemouth superior to Rubee's prior work. At the very least, the dude deserves credit for the 16 instruments he plays on the album. (www.audiocomposersleague.com) 4 stars CLB

Front Row Ticket

North 2 South

This coed C&W duo (and its accompanying stable of musicians) has obviously memorized the rules of the game. But in its rush to craft catchy, widely accessible tunes, North 2 South has neglected some of the most important ingredients in truly memorable Americana — namely, personality and attitude. From beginning to end, Front Row Ticket is pleasant, catchy and utterly forgettable, relying on time-honored lyrical themes that in this case just aren't up to snuff. "Four Alarm Kiss," for instance, uses fire as a metaphor for passion with notably less verve than the previous 5,000 times we've heard it, and "Average Joe Charming" actually references Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The technical elements are all in attendance, but there's no blood here; Front Row Ticket is country done by the cheesy book that discerning fans tired of re-reading years ago. (www.north2southonline.com) 2 stars SH

Have Gun, Will Travel

Have Gun, Will Travel

This may just be a one-man side project by Matt Burke, guitarist and singer in The Chase Theory, but it doesn't sound like it. A mixture of shuffling folk and country, the album finds Burke taking a spin at honky-tonk, and coming home with a better grasp of what animated Hank Williams and the Carter Family than most groups devoted to country full-time. The songs come complete with backwoods images: the bottle, the devil and freightliners. While brief (just under 20 minutes), Have Gun, Will Travel is a marvel from start to finish. (www.myspace.com/hgwt) 4 stars CLB

Insidious EP

GreyMarket

The guitar-and-drums duo GreyMarket balances the artier, effects-laden tendencies of alt-rock's biggies (early Radiohead, Muse, Franz Ferdinand) with an unmistakable knack for pop anthemology, and is smart enough to put bass on its studio work. Here, the results are insanely successful — why the hell isn't "Clandestiny" in regular FM rotation in this market? (Because it's from an indie local band, of course, but it's a question worth asking.) I'd really like to find fault with these seven melodic, dramatic songs, just because they're so damn accessible and their relatively smooth, sophisticated style isn't normally my bag. But beyond a very occasional tendency toward stiff white-boy funk, I can't. GreyMarket's theatrical and sweeping-but-edgy take on postmodern rock is up there with the underrated likes of Palo Alto and Ours. Good tones, good ideas, plenty of ability. This doesn't sound like typical local-band fare at all. (www.greymarketing.net) 4 stars SH

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