1996 New Times Music Awards Showcase

Best Alternative Rock
Beat Angels
They may look and play like it, but the Beat Angels aren't really under the illusion that it's still 1979. They just don't think rock 'n' roll has gotten any better since then.

"The way we look at it, there's this certain spirit that was handed down to us by the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols, the Stones, even early Cheap Trick," says lead singer Brian Smith. "That spirit is missing in today's rock 'n' roll."

Live, the Angels are a flashy cocktail of rock-star pageantry, gin-soaked sentiments and three-minute slices of serrated-edge power pop. Also, the band's recently released debut album, Unhappy Hour, leaves no doubt that Smith is the sharpest lyricist working in the Valley. His noirish literary world is inhabited by a rogues' gallery of elegant losers that would do Raymond Chandler proud.

This band's only weakness is that, if you've seen one Beat Angels show, you've more or less seen them all. But there's a lot to be said for riding the same roller coaster three times in a row, let alone once a month. It just has to be worth your while, as this band unquestionably is.--David Holthouse

Jesus Chrysler Supercar
Jesus Chrysler Supercar is a clever band--clever name, clever songs, clever album art. The cover of JCS' six-song CD Superior (released last January) depicts the famous touching of the fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel masterpiece "The Creation of Adam." The reproduction is exact, except for one thing--God has a ring of car keys dangling from his finger.

Spawned in a grueling four-day, four-night recording session at RedHouse studios in Lawrence, Kansas, Superior was produced by Chainsaw Kittens board runner Ed Rose. It's a six-pack of loud, dual guitar, modern rock songs colored in varying shades of grunge and hard-core. The band is often compared to Soundgarden, and the band doesn't particularly like that.

"We incorporate different sounds and experiment a lot," says vocalist Mitchell Donovan Steele. "We like to reach a bit." Named Best Grunge Band by New Times in last year's Best of Phoenix supplement, Jesus Chrysler also holds the distinction of being the local band that once briefly topped Alanis Morissette on ASU college station KASR's request charts. "We gave Alanis her start," quips Steele.--Marsha Mardock

One
If one good turn deserves another, then it should be One's turn soon.
This Tempe-based band sent a demo to Mercury Records last year and got a call from the label's president, who wanted to see the band live. "We told him we could line something up soon, maybe in a week or so," remembers guitarist Jamal Ruhe. "He told us he was coming out tomorrow."

The band managed to squeeze in a half-hour opening slot for the Refreshments at Gibson's. The label honcho saw the show and offered One a deal on the spot. While he was at it, he decided to stick around and talk to the Refreshments, too.

The Refreshments have since become stars on Mercury. One is still waiting. The band's debut for the label was recorded last fall in Memphis and mixed last month in L.A. It's ready to go, but there's one small problem. Mercury has a new president now. "He's yet to jump on the One bandwagon, so to speak," says Ruhe.

And so One waits for its album-release party by honing its jazzy, funky pop on Tempe audiences. The One sound is led by Ruhe's impish sister Shamsi, who pairs a startling set of pipes with a whirling-dervish stage presence.

"My sister and I were raised in the Bahai faith," Jamal says. "Our songs don't necessarily have a spiritual or moral message. We write songs about the human condition. But we use our background as a frame of reference."--Ted Simons

Seven Storey Mountain
"Triangles mean trouble," the abstract sculptor Louise Bourgeois once said, alluding to the dynamic tension inherent to a shape where each of three opposing sides falls against one another for support. That same something's-gotta-give dynamic applies to the best trio in the Valley--Seven Storey Mountain.

Seven Storey makes the most of its three indispensable members. Guitarist Lance Lammers doesn't really slash the cones of his amplifiers to get that gigantic, buzz-guitar tone--it just sounds that way. And between Lammers' ferocious, white-knuckled playing and bassist Jesse Everhart's power-chording on the bottom end, SSM's guitar-and-bass tag team splits the rhythm-guitar chores quite nicely, thank you. Toss in Thomas Lancier's volatile precision drumming and you've got all the tension of lighting up a smoke in a dynamite factory.--Serene Dominic

Best Blues/R&B
Big Pete Pearson and the Blues Sevilles
Four years ago, Sky Harbor International Airport issued a promo calendar with pictures of a dozen Phoenix landmarks on it. One of them was Big Pete Pearson.

Talk about a mainstay--Big Pete was a veteran of the Valley blues scene before there even was one. During the '60s, he shuttled back and forth between here and his native Texas, keeping the blues high-profile in South Phoenix at a time when the music was out of popular favor here. He also served as the original vocalist for Driving Wheel, back in the days when Warsaw Wally's was the only blues club in town.

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