Ben Vaughn
Mono U.S.A.

The man who gave the world "I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)" has done, if not the impossible, then the extremely challenging: Vaughn has taken 18 obscure, thoroughly bitchin' AM-radio tunes from the glory years of the early to mid-Sixties (back when "obscure" and "bitchin'" could describe something on the radio) and made them breathe again. Well, not just breathe, but slither through misty clouds of surf reverb and twang-drenched guitar, into the real world again, exactly where they belong.

But this is not an "oldies" collection or some lifeless re-creation; these are eight-track home demos recorded by Vaughn and Vaughn alone--boss Ben plays everything you hear. And there is simply not a bad cut on this disc. Vaughn can't really sing that well; what he's got going for him is soul, humor and a real love for this music that comes across on each track.

Sure, you've heard of a lot of these artists--the Ventures, Charlie Rich, Nancy Sinatra, Link Wray--but it's doubtful you've heard the songs. Prepare to be enlightened by "Exploration in Fear," "Dark Glasses," "Sundown Sundown," "Magdalena," "Out of Control" and the stunning "Daddy Rollin' in Your Arms," to name but a few. Mono U.S.A., the way it should be.--Peter Gilstrap Green Day


If you've been pining for a 14-song, 39-minute album since the Ramones left home, plant your flag and scream "hallelujah"--Dookie is your salvation. Like those leather and denim-clad demigods of yore, Berkeley power trio Green Day spouts nihilistic lyrics that could seriously depress you if you read them without first hearing the buoyant music they're married to. Not since Hsker D flipped its wig has there been a trio this primed for action. Closer in spirit to Grant Hart than to preachy Bob Mould, Green Day has its own solution to the world's ills: smoking a joint, with jerking off a close second.

It's all spelled out in "Longview," the best song about going blind for self-abuse since Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop."

On midtempo numbers such as "Pulling Teeth" and "When I Come Around," the band proves it's possible to be poppy without rewriting the Big Star songbook. If your idea of alternative music is chirpy, girlie vocalists who sound like Josie and the Pussycats, or if you're looking for something remotely resembling a ballad that could be played "unplugged"--STAY AWAY! STAY VERY, VERY FAR AWAY FROM DOOKIE!--Serene Dominic

The Lurid Transversal of Route 7

You don't go to the Dischord label in search of melodic ditties about love and fluffiness, and Hoover's debut on the label that Fugazi built offers none of the above, thanks.

Lurid Transversal is a dark, lurking thing that wallows in shadowy half-tempos, then blasts out full-throttle with something darn close to good ol' raw punk rage. Even on the more laid-back (if that term is even allowed here) songs--songs such as "Regulator Watts" and the instrumental "Route 7"--such a tension has been created by the previous numbers that you expect something to happen. That it doesn't is a testament to something ominously great about this band, if that means anything--it's a lot easier to hear it than to describe it.

But then, angst is the inherent nature of this album. These guys are upset about something, but what it is ain't exactly clear. Within the pained, caterwauling vocals are lyrics that bitch rather poetically about invasions of privacy, the ultimate doom of the soul of man and pain in general. Dynamic and powerful, Lurid Transversal will have you on the edge of your seat. If that's where you want to be.--Peter Gilstrap

Carole King
In Concert

This concert memento would probably move more units if it was titled Tapestry: LIVE!. Seven of that landmark album's 12 cuts are represented here, and it's to King's credit that she sings them with the same conviction and pitch she utilized in 1971. The arrangements don't insult your memories, and Carole even manages to look like Glenn Close and Sarah Jessica Parker on the insert.

No surprise Goffin-King selections here, but you didn't think she was going to pull "He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss" out of mothballs, did you? Every cut is a time-proven crowd-pleaser. King falters only when she tries to establish herself as something other than a memory merchant.

"Hold Out for Love," the only new cut, is this set's albatross, and not even a guest appearance by Slash (!?) can save this Starship-esque anthem from crashing and burning. For added thrills, hear Carole's bizarre audience-participation instructions. Speaking in New Age, motivational-tape tongues that could make Stuart Smalley wince, she exhorts her disciples to "visualize that love you deserve, feel it in your being," when a simple "wave your arms and sing" would suffice. But at least she doesn't pull that shit during "The Locomotion."--Serene Dominic

Message for the Mess Age

For the last decade, this has been one of your humble critic's favorite bands. Seen em 50-plus times, opened up for em four times back in my band days, got all the albums.

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