TAPES IN THE MAIL

There are four young men in Phoenix named Jamie, Brew, Mega and Dan; together they are the Swooping Monkeybats. And, as they say in Spanish, es muy bueno. Yes, this five-song slab of 33-and-a-third vinyl is great stuff, absolute power trash from some musical netherworld between the Cramps and Seattle's almost-legendary Mummies. There's not enough straightahead punk to make this release serious (i.e., dull), nor do things ever get completely into the realm of comedy. But these boys do wear their late-show influences on their sleeves with songs like "It Came From the Lake," "Left to Die" and "Tortured Faces," and a vocalist who sounds a lot like a pissed-off Jerry Lewis (astute observers will note the B-side of the label is a portrait of Tor). It doesn't get much shittier than this, and I mean that in the best possible way. Write P.O. Box 16592, Phoenix, AZ 85011-6592.

Wait, maybe it does get shittier! Take a listen to Mondo Guano's single (it goes 45 rpm), featuring the works "Deadwood" and "Theme From Return to the Fatherland." The former is a big, loud, wobbly thing of a song; it's got a rhythm as insistent as a broken washing machine stuck on rinse. Both songs sound like Doo Rag is supplying the back-up. In its own way, this music is kind of neat, or it could just be a test of how much you can take. Write 337 South Sixth Street, Tucson, AZ 85701.--Peter Gilstrap

Ever since grunge made it okay for head bangers to sing about the crud buildup on their toothbrushes, it's hard to say what passes for heavy metal. But here are two authentic gothic horror heavy-metal bands you'll have no trouble distinguishing from the flannel brigade.

Let's start from the bottom up, with Tempe's X Division. The Drab Four--Bruce, Dave, Dusty and Marc (no last names)--arbitrarily switch tempos from ponderous, lumbering dinosaur thuds to galloping warrior beats, but never gain in either direction. On the long and ponderous "Deja Vu," nothing ever seems to happen, over and over again. The closest common denominator to lead vocalist Bruce would be Jim Ignatowski from Taxi if he woke up on a burning bed of coals. "I don't believe in a higher being/I am my own religion," he howls on "To Each His Own." Maybe he ought to take up his own collection plate and invest in a clue. Call 990-9037.

You'll have better luck with Phoenix's Crushed. This four-song CD has an intriguing Max Ernst woodcut on the cover--a half-woman, half-spider creature spreading her six legs for a sleazy sheik. No songs about six-legged, two-timin' women here, just good, ol'-fashioned compositions about serpents' skin, drowning victims, cemeteries and the lighter side of the dark side. It's all professionally performed, with Mark Lauer's vocal delivery walking a fine line between Eddie Vedder and Al Jolson. You even get Grand Funkish block harmonies on most choruses. No phone number.

Scottsdale's Tripping With Grace has a full-length CD teeming with the kind of self-conscious artiness its name implies. Mike Shannon and company seem stylistically stuck in the early '80s, with songs that recall the Fixx ("Clairvoyant Skies"), Limahl ("Edge of You") and Boingo before it lost its Oingo. TWG saves the best song for last. "Twice As Nice" dumps the claustrophobic keyboard sounds for some nice acoustic and mandolin interplay; it's a direction TWG should explore further. Call 482-3815.

A few months back, Glass Heroes sent us a tape that was more than two years old. This new tape, Liars, Cheats n Thieves, brings us up to date, sort of. Like a punk preservation society, Keith Jackson and the boys continue to make music you once could have heard at Max's Kansas City any night of the week. The cassette even has a caricature of Glass Heroes patterned after the Ramones' Road to Ruin LP. The lads from Queens may have stopped screaming about the poor state of radio, but these guys never will. "It's been 16 years and there's still nothing on the radio" goes the chorus of "Turn It Off." The most progressive thing here is the title track, which sounds like the Clash. If you'd like to see a Dead Boys tribute album performed live or just want to hear songs with sewer references, phone in for the show schedule. Call 460-1821.

Phoenix's Tea & Sympathy, on the other hand, appropriates Aerosmith's sound so accurately, you can almost picture the group's lead vocalist getting Steven Tyler's scarves caught in his mouth. Whatever the inspiration, this brisk demo contains two prime slabs of raunch and roll, with "All to Me" the standout. Could be a good live act to spy. Call 274-6763.

"Every damn thing except back-up vocals by Amos Chip," boasts the liner notes of Mr. Chip's CD So Many Ways. It's an impressive showcase for this multi-instrumentalist from Tucson. The emphasis is on mellow instrumentals with a few vocal turns, unlike his Welcome to Club Dread cassette. These instrumentals are a little more up-tempo and a lot more bizarre. One question: If Amos Chip plays live, how many people does it take to haul all this musical equipment around? Call 792-8360.

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