Fairy Warning

Proving that muses are more than mere myth, we expose the unusual inspirations for the latest crop of Valley bands

Honey Bucket
Boombox Heroes
(Safari Records)

Suspected Muse: Edgefestsidestagicuss, goddess of modern rock appreciation

This band is clearly going places. In fact, they've already left. Tempe. Years ago. Yes, onetime local favorites Honey Bucket have resettled in the sunnier climes of San Diego, where they've been openers for the likes of Kid Rock, Sugar Ray and Incubus, and their music has been featured on MTV's Undressed and the USA Network's Core Culture. For better or worse, Honey Bucket has the most credible grasp of what passes for modern rock on radio these days, a delicate balance of white boy rap, metal riffing and Hendrix "Little Wing" licks that figure in every slow Red Hot Chili Peppers song after 1992. To the latter, the group even pays a homage of sorts with "Kalipornia," a sleazy synthesized number which would sound apropos in any Linda Lovelace retrospective. Rather touchingly, the band hasn't forgotten its roots as it also registers in a song called "Ladmo Bag." The nicest element throughout that number is the fat keyboards, provided by a guy nicknamed "$trat," which separates Honey Bucket from the rest of the local funk brigade. What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? These guys aren't local and shouldn't be here in Mail or Muse? Let's just let singer Justin Palicki get the last word in: "I rock in AZ, I rock in Dallas, rubbed it so hard one time I got a callus." Okay, smart guy, you try rhyming something with San Diego besides Lou Bego, Lego, Pago Pago, Winnebago and the Del Fuegos.

Dug Lawelon
The Mug EP
(Self -released)

Suspected Muse: Doug Llewellyn

What can you say about a band that strikes up solidarity with the most loathed man on television, the announcer who used to stick a microphone in the face of the loser on The People's Court and say, "You must be feeling pretty bad about this verdict." Dug Lawelon would have to be a pretty goofy group, and indeed track one lives up to that promise. It's a flippant funk number called "Pickles" that has rather square, Llewellyn-style raps ("I need more time to be the perfect asshole"), as well as some tight harmonies that could pass for Destiny's Child on steroids. But then the muggin' turns serious too soon, and Dug the band sounds like every other Creed wanna-be. What this group needs is Judge Wapner's gavel to sort its identity problem out. Or better yet, Judge Judy's poking finger.

A Muse of Fire!
Selections From Shakespeare Performed by James McKenna
(Memory Lapse)

Suspected Muse: Willy You-Know-Who

Not a band or even music, but some local lover of the great Bard who's got his own new version of the Tempe sound -- no jangle, all jargon. All the hits are here: "Too Too Solid Flesh," "To Thine Own Self Be True" and of course the rollicking "What a Piece of Work Is Man." McKenna writes, "I have always believed I am a better poet for my knowledge of Shakespeare," but we must confess to not being scholarly enough to know if he's ad libbing on "Begging to Sleep" or "A Father's Curse." Of course, if he'd thrown in a verse like "I rock in AZ, I rock in Dallas, rubbed it so hard one time I got a callus," it might've livened things up even more for the kiddies. Unlike most dramatic Shakespearean recordings, this one's got sound effects and crowd noises (on "Once More on to the Breach") that really help turn things up a notch. And it needs that extra umph, since McKenna possesses the kind of lisp that reminds us not of Olde England's Olivier or Gielgud so much as New Englander Spalding Gray. It doesn't get really distracting until he pushes his voice to its brink and makes a classic Shakespearean line like "When the blast of war blows in our ears -- imitate the actions of the tiii-gaah!" sound like Burgess Meredith coaching Rocky Balboa on how to fight Apollo Creed.

Record Heat
4 Song Cassette

Suspected Muse: Budweissah, goddess of 25-cent drafts

Here's a band that's like a three-man preservation society. Not only do they play covers of Clapton, Creedence, Hendrix, the Beatles and the Dead every Thursday at Mustang Sally's, they're also the only people to send in a demo on an actual cassette! Ah, what memories that brings back, the days when we could erase anything we really disliked. But we wouldn't want to tape over Record Heat. Sure, these lazy blues shuffles masquerading as originals are nothing special, but there's something really likable about a band submitting music this unbelievably groggy, this persistently unimpressive, save for the occasionally interesting guitar solo. If we didn't know better, we'd say these guys were sampling their share of cheap drinks in an effort to keep up with the audience. Kind of reminds us of why Neil Young used to like to record late at night, so everyone would play "his speed."

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