As Glendale's D.J. Richie Rich's Can't Find the Beat tape begins, Richie offers an original blend of needles-scratching-vinyl mixed with hip-hop. He's smooth, but the D.J. would be better off finding a new M.C. Vocalist M.C. Blackjack's lyrics come close to spoiling the tape; they're simple, unmotivated and dated. On the flip side of the tape, things brighten up a bit. Without M.C. Blackjack hitting you over the head, Rich is left alone to create his own mix of scratched beats and quality bass lines. Write to P.O. Box 2533, Glendale, AZ 85311.--Danielle Hollomon

Most local bands' idea of "dedication" is finding one group to emulate and then copy it up the wazoo. Tempe's Tao Overstreet chooses the less-traveled road by taking on several different styles--metal, rap, tribal punk--all at once. A&R people hate it when groups hop musical genres as often as Tao does on its Misunderstood CD, but the good news is that the band pulls off everything it sets out to do. Exceptionally well.

Each of the band's three singer-songwriters exhibits a healthy balance of wit and humour. The most hilarious moments belong to Page Davis, who makes insightful observations about "Teenage Plastic Surgery" (Her big nose bothers her like a disease/She wants nostrils like a Pekingese") and what it's like to be a "Has Been." Who can resist this tender tale of a washed-up, fortysomething musician who assures his 18-year-old trollop that he's several years younger than Keith, but many, many years younger than Mick?

Guitarist Bee Sanders' dead-on Perry Farrell impersonation is another real hoot, and "Strange" is as hooky as Jane's Addiction's best-loved material. But since the Farrell bit appears again several times more throughout the CD, the mimicry is less an homage than it is a hard habit to curb. That he's good enough to fool most listeners is still high praise, indeed. It might take you some time before you can understand Misunderstood, but it's certainly a fun jigsaw to figure out. Easily the most impressive self-produced CD (ditto for the packaging) that's come across the desk this year. Call 1-800-522-6939.

Another budding talent from Tempe is Potato. Band members Sweet, Au Gratin, Bug, Blight and Baked (what? no Fries?) sound like they've all been served up with an abundance of exotic mushrooms. The late-Sixties jamming, coupled with the most bizarre lyrics this side of Captain Beefheart (Do place a diaper way upon me now--do lose that face, Greenwich Village, creepy mime!"), are sure to throw less-adventurous listeners for a loop. What does it all mean? Who knows? Is it self-indulgent? Most certainly. Be sure and look out for Potato cooking live. Write to Vector Productions, P.O. Box 27184, Tempe, AZ 85282.

Mesa's Mastermind is a hard-rock ensemble that patterns itself after Rush and Journey, but without the distinctive, head-splitting vocals. Keyboardist Mark Lamp's voice is pleasant, but carries the emotional commitment of the 1910 Fruitgum Company rather than the heavy corporate rock the band is leaning toward. In fact, "Even Steven" sounds like heavy-metal bubblegum, a possible clue to a future direction. The track that shows off the band's musicianship in the best light is "Tym Piece," a grandiose yet sophisticated instrumental. Call 780-0283 after 4 p.m.

Speaking of good musicianship, Tempe's Primitive ID sports a crackerjack rhythm section. Against this solid backbone is singer Stephen Jones, whose phrasing often sounds like Natalie Merchant three octaves down. "Round My World," from the band's CD Resolutions, will sound like the uptempo material from Merchant's thankfully defunct group, 10,000 Maniacs. "Popsong Resolution" will remind you of Joe Jackson, but only because the band rips off "Is She Really Going Out With Him?", then has the cheek to include an uncredited verse of that New Wave staple before returning to an infinitely less catchy chorus--I'm not the strength you think you need." Like lonely jocks down at the bar who keep telling their troubles to people who haven't asked, Jones and alternate vocalist/guitarist Al Inteso keep rummaging over their failed relationships, wondering what went wrong. Maybe if they were a little more, well, interesting. If you ignore the lyrics, Resolutions is not half-bad to listen to. Maybe new girlfriends for Al and Steve and several kegs of beer might help the band get "ID" together. Write to P.O. Box 25694, Tempe,

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