AS DISC AFTER disc from local musicians has accumulated on my desk over the past several months, I've started to feel guilty. Not so guilty that I feel inclined to plow through them all. But guilty enough to reserve a few column inches to save you the trouble of sifting wheat from chaff yourself. If your favorite bands aren't reviewed hereabouts, it could be that they never passed their work my way. Or it could be that I'm just being, shall we say, polite.
With all their multi-artist compilations, singles, and one-off side projects directed at a core audience that can never get enough boutique product, indie rappers are as bad as indie rockers ever were. That is, they're frustratingly unwilling to stretch out a hand to a broader market that wouldn't necessarily bite it. And so, with two full sides of instrumentals you'll skip more often than not and an extended shout-out track that's just sort of funny the first time, these two 12-inches aren't the full-on classic Slug & Co. have in them. But they'll more than do for now. Whether baring his psychological contradictions or merely rhyming "toy store" with "oyster," Slug is buoyed here by the deepest Rhyme Sayer grooves to date. And the dubwise stuff is kind of fun, too.
My Sweet Demise
For a wordsmith, Paul Dickinson is some kind of minimalist. He repeats titles like "The Story Ain't Over" over a rudimentary two-to-third chord vamp until you get the point and then stretches it out for another stanza just for kicks. Because Dickinson generally sings with more sly menace than tune, your mind will inevitably wander at some point in this 21-song collection. But when your mind returns, as it will eventually, rest assured that this three-piece will be in the midst of yet another a rousing tunelet.
Look, I don't care how much you loved Greazy Meal--this album cover's dandelion-strewn artwork is nothing compared to the sunshiny rock anthems on the disc itself. To be fair, former Meal men Julius Collins and Brian Gallagher are to Seventies arena rock what their former band was to Seventies funk--accomplished, expansive, fussy, and slick. But when you're dealing with a lesser genre, there's less room for error. Especially when it comes to slick.
One Nation Under Ground
Root of All Evil
These horror buffs' records can't possibly be as much fun as their grisly live shows--not only can't you see their makeup, but there's no chance Bill Lindsay will leap out of the audience and splatter you with stage blood and rubber guts. But the stage show is only half their gimmick. Can you go wrong with titles like "Girl of My Screams" or "No Pulse, No Breath"? Not the way Lindsay growls them. Is the secret that they never let their sense of humor trip up their swift, pared-down punk-metal, or vice versa?
One Day I'll Wake Up and it Will All Fit Together
Souls of Life
Having relocated from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to East Side St. Paul, this MC has his own style--gruff but thoughtful, contemplative but worldly wise. Nice beats, too--spare, but not naked. All of this, I hope, he will someday boil down into a coherent disc. For now, he's too intent on filling the 74 minutes he's been allotted by technology. He goes on. And on. And on. Is it the breakadawn yet?
At last it can be told: A fair share (okay, most) of the kid bands launched by the Foxfire were too derivative to make a splash outside their scene. Or maybe I just mean too young to know better. Or maybe I just mean too emocore for my tastes. But not the Constellations. Too impatient (maybe even too clumsy) for math rock, they're hysterical in both senses of the word where emo is merely heartfelt. And as a reward for rarely wearing his heart on his sleeve, singer Aaron Maders has grown into his vocal affectations enough that he can pull off the ballads, which are as barbed by guitar as the rockers.
Having emerged out of northeast Minneapolis not so long ago as some kind of white, two-MC Wu-Tang mutation, Unknown Prophets quickly moved on to a sound that's simultaneously less gimmicky and less artificial. More rewarding, too: "Never" is as nondefensive an underground credo as you could ask for. Says MaD SoN, "Even though the prophets might never get signed/Never drop a video/Or go platinum with a rhyme/It'll be cool knowing that we touched a few/And rocked the mic with some of the dopest MCs too." Adds Big Jess, "I'll never see a million dollars in this lifetime/And you'll never be blessed to have a woman quite like mine."
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