TAPES IN THE MAIL

And you thought Ticketmaster was evil! Hey, just because it wants to add a ticket "service charge" that's almost as high as minimum wage--just ask Eddie Vedder, he's plenty mad--the 'master ain't all bad. It's sponsoring the second annual Ticketmaster Music Showcase on Saturday at Minder Binder's in Tempe, featuring locals Feel, Refreshments, Dirt Farmers, Azz Izz and Bloom. A lot of industry types are supposed to be there, too. Call 966-1911. The mailbag of music is swollen like a blood-engorged tick, so let's jump right in to everyone's favorite feature, local reviews.

Kicking things off is a Scottsdale outfit with the rather clever name of Grassy Knoll, and Woody Harrelson's father is not listed on the credits. The band's bio informs us that Knoll plays "something called natural rock," going on to explain that this is a "loose, traditional song structure reminiscent of the early to mid-'70s." Well, loose it is. If it got any looser, we'd be talking freeform jazz in some spots. Knoll is passionate, but droning, flat vocals and third-rate Strawberry Alarm Clock licks do not an interesting listen make. Call 994-1456.

While Man Dingo may not be a breath of wholly fresh air--you might catch whiffs of Green Day, Hsker D or even good ol' Generation X--the band's Ifive CD on the Dr. Strange Records label out of lovely Alta Loma, California, is an absolute pleasure. It's raw, direct and jammed full of anthemic punk rawk. Let's face it, this is a pro package, with fantastic, Charles Burnsesque cover art of a woman being drowned (suitable for framing, if you pick Ifive up on vinyl). Though the label is out of state, the recording was done right here at what used to be the Groove Factory, now the more austerely named Phoenix Recording Company, under the tasteful engineering ear of Steve Naughton. There's at least one great single on this album, a track called "Drop"; it's one of those rarities that has "mosh pit" and "whistleability" written all over it. As if that weren't enough, any band that can pull off a line like "Kill me now before I throw up everything I ate" is okay by me. No phone number.

I swear this is not ego talking, but one way to get instant points off for being either lazy or stupid or both is to send in review tapes to a music editor who hasn't been here for a year. In other words, neither Serene Dominic nor myself is Robert Baird, okay? Hey, guess what--there's someone right here who did just that! And his name is Paul Voudouris. Believe me, if I liked Paul's music, I'd give it an honest, appreciative review. But I don't. This is adult contemporary of the smarmiest order, albeit very professionally done. Here are a few interesting facts from his bio: Voudouris' hometown is Athens, Greece, he has a "hollow body guitar" player in his band named Zirque Boner, and he's sold "more than a quarter-million units throughout the world." Maybe someday he'll sell some albums instead of all those damn units! Call 204-2103.

Tempe's Ant Farm chooses to begin its eight-song cassette with an instrumental jam titled "Slinky" that goes nowhere and is not in any way conducive to continued listening of the tape. Apparently, whichever Ant Farmer writes the lyrics gets to sing the songs, a rule that's way too democratic for most bands, but here it doesn't much matter, as neither singer is too red-hot. The vocals of Rob DeFriese are too reedy for my taste (though Morrissey fans will probably dig 'em, especially on the Smithslike "The Game"), and John Chavez's exaggerated delivery borders on comical. Though even Henry Rollins would have trouble selling trite lines like "We're moving/And we're discovering/We're uncovering/The truth and the lies/The evil you despise . . . we're grooving." Call 229-6691.

Simian alert! This is the part of Screed where I review bands with the word "Monkey" in the title:

If I gave out dimes to people who called me up to pimp their bands, Aaron Casey of Monkeyboy would have about seven bucks. Which may not seem like a lot of dimes, but it sure is a lot of phone calls. Don't get me wrong, persistence is a virtue, and the band's six-song tape ain't too bad, either. 'Boy does a lot of gut-wrenching, in-yer-face vocals over some fairly generic guitar rock that conjures up stuff like Quiet Riot and White Zombie. Live, Serene tells me, is where the band shines. He's seen it. Casey's roaring vocals, a bit heavy-handed on tape, make all the difference onstage while he claws his shirt and perspires. Rock. Call 926-3610.

Oooh, yeah, baby. Wise Monkey Orchestra is back with a wonderfully produced, four-song CD sampler from its upcoming Time Capsule album on the local Primary Records label. It's all about groove with this band, but the thing that keeps me into it is I can't figure out if the feel is black nightclub circa '71 or classic, feel-good Frisco hippie vibe. Tasteful horns, a bass player with talented fingers, and vocalist Alley, who can go from Phoebe Snowisms to sassy, funk-rap sex kitten (check out "Eager to Please"), complete the picture. Get down. Call 1-619-699-3298.

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