Servile or Survivor?

We find out which local CDs can pass our daunting challenge

Cons: The Buggers' band bio boasts that each of these Tampa refugees is "separately and collectively in trouble with the law in three east coast states" and for that reason are forced to perform in disguise. Among their crimes: destroying public property, auto theft, underage drinking, defecating in public, traveling with a minor across state lines, shoplifting, forcing an underage girl to use narcotics and alcohol, manufacturing and pushing narcotics -- and that's just the bass player!

When you hear caveman lyrics like, "It's not your face I want -- It's the body I see," you think these boneheads are unabashed misogynists. But one look at their prodigious rap sheet and you decide it'd be better to just let it slide.

Frankly, the only island these guys belong on is Rikers Island.

De Sade
Perverse Prayers

Pros: Billed as "Arizona's only death rock (gothic/hard rock/punk) band," we like the fact that they try to be evil but only come off as sinister as devil's food cake.

Cons: Singer Sarah Deathriage is a likable enough Siouxsie Sioux clone with an even more abstract grasp of pitch. If you were to press this four-song De Sade demo on vinyl, let it warp in the warm Arizona sun and then slap it on the turntable, her singing would still be flat! But that's not the reason we're sending them packing. Any band that lists the Marquis de Sade in the album's "Thanks" credit really oughta surf the Net to learn more about the guy first.

J.D. Simo
Burnin' Live!

Pros: A homegrown Jonny Lang, Simo is a 15-year-old kid who plays and sings like Stevie Ray Vaughan, with Robin Trower-ish (read: Hendrix) flourishes on the slow numbers.

Cons: We're not sure how impressed we'd be with this record if it had been made by a 25-year-old. Remember how Silverchair wouldn't talk to the press when the baby-faced Aussies were still topping the charts? But as soon as the first serious pubic hair kicked in, no one would return their calls.

We're sure J.D. will be even more sensational in another 10 years, so we'll ship him off to some faraway university in the meantime.

Death Takes a Holiday
Academy 45

Pros: Like Death himself, DTAH has been around for a while and thus is coming from a place of strength. Or maybe unlike the rest in this bunch, they've just gotten all their bad songs out of the way. Most of the cuts here are quite good, especially "The Man Memory," which sounds like Mike Ness singing a lost Who's Next track. Better still are Pete Hinz's nonsensical lyrics ("Sound, sound, sound, God just don't care/He sells his Friday night then wants all of mine to share") which make sense in a Robin Hitchcock, Lee Hazlewood sort of way.

Cons: On the otherwise fine Foo Fighter knockoff "Sad Luck Dead," they tell us to "be warned of those who sell." Yet out of the jewel case pops a three-panel shill sheet for Molusk Records merchandising. Admittedly, it's a duff excuse for booting them off the island, but if you want a real conflict of interest, New Times shutterbug Paolo Vescia took the band photos, and if these guys won, you'd surely scream "fix."

Arms of the Sun
(56 Street)

Pros: Imagine if T-Bone Burnett got angry at the world and, instead of doing what he usually does, he formed an "alternative fusion band" -- whatever that means. Here's a case where diversity isn't a dirty eight-letter word. Singer Michael Comunale also adds trombone and harmonica to the proceedings, which actually deliver on the promised acid jazz, lounge and urban/hard-core mix. Plus, how can you resist an album whose centerpiece is an eight-minute tirade against Phoenix's sorry bus system ("Another Song About the Bus")?

Cons: Our least favorite cut, "Mi Consuela Di Amor," is one the band has earmarked as the "standout" track, with a radio edit of the song also included. If Arms of the Sun is wise, it'll quickly cash in on the fleeting mainstream popularity of Latin music by releasing it to "party radio." If only Enrique Iglesias had the balls to scream "Where have you gone my Spanish oven cake?" and "How could you do this to me and Pepe, eh?"

The tribe has spoken. Final Survivor: Arms of the Sun

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