The Good, The Bad, The Local

Our critics take their periodic look at scene recordings.

Science-Non-Fiction continues to explore all 36 deadly chambers of knowledge with its trademark rough 'n' ready beats and wordy verses, with absolutely no concessions to hip-hop clichés. The Sarasota group has established a justified reputation for anger and intensity, attacking capitalism in verbiage borrowed equally from the mind-numbing daily grind and some apocalyptic postmodern conspiracy theory. Dark Horse saves space for more emotionally affecting material, though, like the closing track, "Cellophane Flowers," which is a brief glimpse at a loving relationship nevertheless fraught with tension, matched with a mournful backing track.

Provost and Pegleg, both members of S-N-F, have also released their own solo works. K'nucklehead is kind of a backward-looking album for Provost: If you've caught one of his sets at Sarasota's Tavern on Main over the past few months, you'll recognize some of the material here. But this doesn't diminish the notion that what is here is flat-out terrific. Provost's rapping style is sing-songy rather than meter-perfect, which suits the buzzing electronica-influenced tracks behind the vocals. I'd be lying if I said I could follow all of his lyrics: The dude drops more polysyllabic gems than a French poststructuralist. The wordplay never fails to intrigue, though.

Pegleg rocks more of a storytelling vibe than Provost, and the beats are more of the boom-bap variety. This is not to say that the music is simple. "Soul Searching Terms" is a tortured account of regret that starts with a plunking xylophone and sampled dialogue, then adds layered vocals. In the Wu-Tang-esque empire of Science-Non-Fiction, we should thank our lucky stars for both K'nucklehead and Saving Face. (www.freepoets.com) Dark Horse No Knight 3.5 stars; K'nucklehead 4 stars; Saving Face 4 stars Cooper Lane Baker

Present Time Has Past

THE SAME

Less angular and dance-punk-informed than its predecessor, Clearwater act The Same's second release is still an intriguing listen. Present Time Has Past isn't afraid to be weird and anthemic; big rhythms and prominent guitars accompany the full, old-school synths fairly often, making for a warmer, more evocative (and occasionally overwrought) post-punk sound, but this disc packs a lot of eclecticism into seven tracks over not quite half an hour. Ryan Metcalf's vocals are still an iffy proposition for the more melodically inclined, but there's a lot of individuality here, and it remains interesting whenever it's not exactly accessible. (www.thesamemusic.net) 3 stars SH

Wears and Tears

E-MERGE

St. Pete nü-metal act E-Merge fulfills all the prerequisites of its chosen genre. The drummer's got great double-bass skills. The guitar player's got a mean, down-tuned sound with absolutely no actual pitch to it. The bass player's sound is inordinately trebly and occasionally showcased in sparse, creepy passages. And the singer's got dreads, and is equally adept at both the boiling-just-under-the-surface moody croon and the coming-apart-at-the-seams shriek. Don't get me wrong — this isn't a bad band; E-merge is more than up to playing this style of music. But there's absolutely no originality at all on display here, and that makes me kind of sad. (www.e-mergeband.com) HH 1/2 —Scott Harrell

Artificial Ignorance

SURREAL IMPROVISION

The one-man studio project Surreal Improvision (a.k.a. Christopher Ellison) fuses ambient and industrial-lite sounds to angst-ridden vocals, acoustic guitars and piano to produce a mechanical yet melodic sound that splits the difference between Old Wave and Nine Inch Nails-esque postmodernism. The opening track, "Red," seems like a throwaway, but everything else here — from the grooves of "Left Out" and "Indian" to the organic instrumentation of "Smith" — scores. Ellison's voice is catchy and expressive, the arrangements simple and logical. It's definitely tailor-made for a certain crowd, but this is national-caliber stuff. (www.surrealimprovision.com) 4 stars SH

In One and Out The Other

KOSMIK EGG

Kosmik Egg plies a poppier, more playful version of the dorm-room reggae/roots/ska sound. Unfortunately, like so many of the bands that are influenced by the bands that were influenced by Sublime, Kosmik Egg plays the rhythms far too straight, and the subject matter far too screwy; there's not an ounce of feel to be felt. The never-syncopated beats sound straight out of a drum machine (I suspect some of them are). What's worse, Dylan Cowles' sophomoric lines about booze, pot and sex aren't funny when they're supposed to be, and Cowles has neither the attitude nor the soul to pull them off when they're not. (www.kosmikegg.com) 1 star SH

The Reason for Hus'len MixTape Vol. 1

S.E.M.I.

This Tampa crew exhibits better than average flows for a local group (as do most of its various guest spitters) and a production value that trumps most Bay area hip-hop releases on a lengthy (and thankfully almost skit-less) 17-track mix CD. Style-wise, The Reason for Hus'len splits the difference between menacing thug-life sounds and lyrics, and a lighter, more clubby vibe. And therein lies its shortcoming: While the deliveries are good (particularly on "Get'um" and "Bars of Flame"), what they're delivering — apart from some surprising humor ("Lie to Kickit") — is the same old done-to-death rap clichés. A little individuality would go a long way for MCs this good. 2.5 stars SH

Pedro Arévalo and Friends

PEDRO ARÉVALO AND FRIENDS

"And Friends" indeed. Arévalo corralled a host of local talent to flesh out this record of mostly original country, folk and blues tunes. His dad, "Acoustic" Pete, sings some backup vocals; Dickey Betts — whose band Arévalo plays bass in — puts down some electric guitar work; Twinkle adds her voice to one song; and the whole thing was mixed over at Telstar by Bud Snyder. The sound throughout is layered and deep, with a smoky, late-night vibe that carries the project despite a repertoire that is not exactly groundbreaking. Sarasota is overdosing on traditionalist singer/songwriters, but Arévalo stands out as a big talent nevertheless. (www.pedroarevalo.com) 3 stars CLB

Chumley's Toy

CHUMLEY'S TOY

The dudes in Chumley's Toy need to get down on their knees every night and thank God for their singer, Shelly — she's not the only thing that sets the band apart from the legions of melodic heavy rock/almost-metal acts, but she's the main one. This is slightly above-average stuff to begin with, but her strong, confident vocals really trademark the sound; of course, the music industry generally hates and fears strong, confident women, so the group is probably doomed. At its best ("Fold," Fingertips," "Disgusted Love"), Chumley's Toy breaks metal's strict no-hooks rule, and allows a bit of Far-esque songwriting sensibility to shine through the riffage. At its worst, it sounds like a savvy radio-metal combo fronted by a female Layne Staley, but come to think of it, there's really nothing wrong with that either. (www.chumleystoy.com) 3.5 stars SH

Note to Self

LIVES' PAGE

The five-song debut EP from this hardworking Bay area post-grunge/modern rock foursome sounds great (hey, engineer Mark Prator's stuff always does), but is a little too uniformly tortured and turgid to really inspire. The first three tracks plod along in an almost identically angst-ridden style; it isn't until the big, long, classic-rock-informed break toward the end of the fourth tune, "Come Home," that the band audibly catches fire. "Come Home" and the acoustic closer "One Step Behind" are the highlights, if only because they step out of the uniformity of the first three tracks. Lives' Page wouldn't sound out of place on the radio between Seether and Nickelback, but a lack of diversity hinders this brief introduction. (www.livespage.net) 2.5 stars SH

It Is What It Is

REBEL PRIDE

This band is most well-known around the area as a cover act, but its first disc of originals showcases an act with Southern-rock songwriting chops to spare. After the slightly punky opener "Stomp Your Foots," Rebel Pride settles into a sound that draws equally from ZZ Top's swagger, early Doobie Brothers/Skynryd boogie, and very early Van Halen's arrogant party blues-rock. And with the exception of the sprawling, 10-minute, Gary Moore-meets-Santana blues-jam "Slippin' Away," and the Stevie Ray Vaughan-influenced "Drop The Ball," the group pretty much stays in that very crowd-pleasing mode. There's nothing really groundbreaking about this disc, but damn it sounds fine, and there are plenty of local references in the lyrics to boot. (www.rebelprideband.com) 3.5 stars SH

Lidan Dan

IDEAL

This full-length is dedicated to the music of the Garifuna peoples, who live primarily along the coasts of Central America. Ideal himself hails from Guatemala and studied the music in Belize, so I'll trust he knows what he's talking about. The vocal sound is reminiscent of South African groups such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with a distinctly Caribbean influence in the rhythms. This certainly makes for interesting listening, but the CD suffers from an oddly tinny sound, lacking the depth and dynamics that could dramatically help bring out the syncopated rhythms. (www.allideal.com) 3 stars CLB

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