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Comp Runamok

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.

But there are still some weird glorifications of God. Brotha Greg's "Lord, You Are My Everything" goes way over the top in his praise of the Big G. It's one thing to say the Lord is "the rebuker of all my sins," but another to say He's "the hip in my hop," "the potato in my pot" and the "antennae on my tower." Equally comical is the Christside Connection starting off "Living Soldiers" with a street-corner "Yo, let's give it up for Jesus" shout out. Familiar samples here include nice guys like Alice Cooper (the last swirling seconds of "School's Out") and John Paul II's holy humble mumble.Rating: COMP-rome-eyes-duh!

The Effect of Rage 3: Sisters of the Revolution
(Worthless Records)

A more healthy exploration of Christian music can be found on the rock-dominant The Effect of Rage 3, which features a trio of nuns brandishing firearms on the cover and outfits with names like Creepy Jesus. There's a lot of other cool stuff you won't find in the secular scene, like Lo-Fi Attack Styles, a guitar and drum duo that delivers a positive message and sounds like the Cramps.

And you can also thrill to the funk and ska of Glorified Fuzz, which mounts a Rage Against the Atheist Machine-like attack ("Don't be scared of Jesus, punk! Get on the ball and bounce with the funk!"). In fact, if you're wondering what happened to all those trombone players after the ska craze died out, they're playing in Christian bands like Five Iron Frenzy, the Dietrichs and BIIB, whose jumpy, Sublime-ish "Oblivious" has a "God, you are awesome" refrain that's way more fun to sing than anything in a Joan Osborne song.

Aunt Betty's catchy "Rock Stars on H" is modeled on Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" but unfortunately stops short of outing any big names. Instead, it just gives us a generic diatribe about musicians who can't play unless they're all jacked up and puts the blame for their condition on idolaters like you and me.

Granted, the disc does feature a few Jars of Clay clones like Out of Ruin and Heath Bottomly, but they're programmed toward the end and they come after the album's most irreverent surprise, Grand Avenue's sound collage "Inside," which features fallen TV evangelists like Tammy Faye Bakker and the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart -- whose message about "the smell and the stench of the mighty forces of evil" is punctuated with fart blasts. So now you know, you can join a Christian rock aggregation, make fun of the clergy if they've been defrocked and still sing about "Chocolate Milk," "Glue" and "Blood Sucking Tadpoles" -- hey, that's not so bad!Rating: COMP-all-ye-faithful

Welcome to the State of Arizona
(His Boy Elroy)

Taking the vinyl split single concept to album form, this comp showcases six bands with six A and B sides. Given the disc's sponsors -- body piercers, tattoo parlors and skateboard makers -- you ain't likely to find Sugar High here. Naw, it's all groove and growl bands, and, in a major sequencing miscalculation, the thinnest-sounding groups are up first. It's curious how heavy bands always have such a compressed feel and so little bottom. Perhaps it's a budgetary problem, but when Yoko Love finally comes in on track five, it's like having a clogged ear upsided. The Lovesters also pull a shrewd move by including the jazzy ballad "The Feel," which shows they have more than one dimension to them. Meanwhile, Fred Green and SOLEYduncan are content to showcase their musicianship on jam tracks that are more fun in a bar than back at the crib. Despite the signpost on the cover pointing in all directions, this is a comp that mostly goes nowhere.Rating: COMP-ost


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