Comp Runamok

A spate of new various-artist releases forces us to ponder the question 'Who Put the Comp?'

In much the same way package tours prove it's possible to see Paris in a day ("People, we've got a half-hour in the Louvre, but if we blitz through the Impressionists, we can set aside 10 extra minutes for the gift shop"), Mail or Muse is taking you on an all-expense-paid trip through Arizona's music scene. The New Times Music Showcase a few weeks back proved it's possible to see 40 bands in one night if you have a good pair of sneakers and can chug beer like a hazing candidate. We here intend to up the ante by giving you 250 bands in less than 1,500 words.

The run of various-artist compilations we've received recently allows us to plow through the maximum number of bands with a minimum of effort. Time and space are both a consideration and prevent us from commenting on every act, but wherever necessary, we will abbreviate, use incomplete sentences and exercise our rights of omission so that you, ardent M or M speed-readers, will use the extra time to get the gist, buy the compilation (henceforth referred to as "comp") and become a besotted devotee of (insert band names here). Ready? On your bookmark . . . read!!!

Clear the Air: A Compilation of Phoenix Originals
(Teen TV Productions)

Track for track, this anti-tobacco-sponsored CD smokes the comp-etition this month, mainly because it's got a unity of sound and incestuous personnel holding it together. The Pollen connection is particularly prevalent, since the band's drummer Bob Hoag mastered the disc and more than half the CD was recorded at the group's Flying Blanket studios. Pollen, which calls it quits at the end of this month, checks in with its finest song, "Girls Love Robots," while quieter side projects point to the band members' solo futures. Singer Dan Hargest's Sextet features violin and cello while Hoag's The Go! Reflex finds the bespectacled trapsman taking on piano and vocal chores. Pollen's rhythm section of Hoag and Chris Serafini backs up Nicole Eilers in another side project, Stratosphere; Eilers also produced the CD. Her sister, Thalia Williams, heads the Falters, and the fact that her band's pleasant Moog rock doesn't sound traumatic coming after the Loud Americans is an indicator of just how well the disc flows. Speaking of contrasts, both Sugar High and the Scones, great live pop bands, sound surprisingly tougher on record, where usually the opposite is true. While many of the side projects here likely won't be playing out anytime soon, working outfits like Clyde and Propeller 12 do, and they are well worth checking out. All in all, Clear the Air won't clear the room. Rating: COMP-limentary

Coffinz.com Presents Arizona's Heaviest Local Bands
(Coffinz.com)

If you log on to coffins.com, you get a bunch of brassy sarcophaguses, but just throw in a "z" instead of an "s" at the end and you get big-breasted women in a cemetery, with mammaries the size of human skulls and bands with names like Mr. Dead, Gat-Rot, Cast of Shadows and Sloth Frenzy. The latter turns in the most ridiculous, over-the-top mantra in a song titled "Unblessed (The Goat)" ("From the abyss he cries/Unbless the goat, redeem the lamb") while Gat-Rot's lead vocalist manages the best Jekyll and Hyde transformation since Lou Christie sang "Lightning Strikes." Chess masters would describe it as "Gavin Rossdale to Cookie Monster in three moves" on the appropriately named "It Hurts to Smile."

But it's not all gargle with gravel from Hades. Cast of Shadows offers chorused guitars like Rush and a catchy song about addiction. And there's Mr. Dead's opening track complete with sound effects lifted off Chilling Thrilling Sounds From the Haunted House, and this disc's most thoughtful rumination on death ("Death's a bitch") immediately followed by a long, echoey "wooooaaaaah," which indicates a descent to Beelzebub's bachelor pad. And if death wasn't enough of a bitch, you get laughed at like Ozzy by your friendly neighborhood "Undertaker."

Coffinz.com's target audience knows they're eventually headed to the place down below, and this comp caters to them lovingly. And who would want to go to heaven anyway when hell is a place full of double kick drums and women with big hair and even bigger bazoomas?Rating: De-COMP-osing

Sanctified Trends Presents A Point on the Map Arizona Urban Compilation
(Worthless Records)

Whoever heard of a hip-hop album that doesn't utter the word "motherfucker" even once? Or an album where every time you hear "Ho" it's immediately followed by "ly Spirit"!!! Well, it's here, brothers and sisters!

Like most hip-hop records, there's a lot of name dropping, and more mentions of the Almighty than your average Grammy Award acceptance speech. But the problem with A Point on the Map is twofold. The only fun in listening to rap music is because of its sexualized braggadocio or its dangerous glamorization of violence -- neither of which turn up here. Second, with the exception of a few performers like Santo, whose motor mouth on "Catch My Drift" is pretty, er, goddamned exciting, the bulk of these rappers aren't that rhyme 'n' rhythmically exciting. Yes, even brothers can sound as stiff as Reverend Lovejoy when adhering to Christian guidelines.

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