If I owned an enormous, influential, major label, a lot of things would be different. For me, anyway; a bigger bank balance, more yes men, the finest aspirin money can buy, and--for the Beat Angels--there'd be a big, fat recording contract. This is one of the few tapes I've come across that I'd listen to even if I didn't get paid to, and there's one great, big, hulking, wonderful reason: goddamn great songwriting. The man responsible for that is one Brian Smith (who recently penned something for another local act, Alice Cooper). He's got one of those high-tenor, quavering voices made for power pop.
Not to mention: layered background harmonies on anthemic choruses, delicious major-to-minor chord hooks worthy of salutes by Bic, and lyrics like "Do you remember when/Ramones were your best friends?" You'll hear shades of the Who, Rubinoos, Paul Westerberg, the Jam, and the Records; Beat Angels have mastered the trick of copping classic Brit licks and filtering them through good ol' American balls. And presentation-wise, the band knows less is more. There are only three tunes on the tape, that much easier for the thing to bat 1.000. Finally, what's not to like about a group that lists "Midnight Cowboy and Bruce Lee, Myrna Loy and cocktail hour" as influences? Right. Nothing. Call 944-7185.
From the Subterraneans comes a seven-inch vinyl offering of five numbers on Ratfish Records. "Gaia," written and sung--somewhat Grace Slickishly--by bassist Cynthia Fabian, achieves an ethereal, lava-light-ready mood and is the standout track. I have no real idea of what this band is going for, but judging from the dreamy-to-go-go tempos, reverbed, single-note guitar leads and backward faux-psychedelia, it's somewhere to the left of Haight-Ashbury. Or something. No phone number.
Don't put that turntable away yet: Tucson's Luminarios, led by ex-Feedbag Rich Hopkins, have a great slab of wax on San Jacinto Records that should be on the short list of any seven-inch fanatics. And guess what, this one actually plays at 45 rpm, the way these things are supposed to. On the A side, we have "Tripped," a Byrdsy tune that's infectious, harmony-laden and snappy, all good things to be when you're doing a Byrdsy tune. On the flip, you can dig "Hole," a pounding, beer-and-sweat song in the Plimsouls vein, if that reference still means anything to anyone. As with all great singles, there is really no better-than distinction between sides A and B; all this thing needs is a jukebox. Look for a full-length CD to be released soon. Call 1-602-325-9693.
Another trip to the mailbox reveals another pleasure to listen to, the Dead Flowers doing four of their very own songs on The Daisy Chain E.P. Remember when that ancient genre New Wave made the rules easy--short, fast, loud, suitable for dancing or just bobbing your head and blowing cigarette smoke into the air? Well, the Flowers haven't forgotten. One of these guys sounds like Pete Shelley, and the tunes will have echoes of the Cynics and Fleshtones filling yer ears. Stellar cuts are the catchy "Help Me" and perfect, party-sloppy yell-along "So Much Time." Call 553-4352.
The letter accompanying this tape said little more than "We're Chlorine. We're from Glendale." Okay. Nothing much stands out in this batch of eight songs. The band has a formula that includes heavy guitar, head-on pounding to snooze-groove tempos, and vocals with more attitude than tunefulness. Chlorine does, however, sound young, and as long as there are garages and basements, there is always hope. Call 934-9198.
After nine years as a New Mexico band, Metal Rose has brought its act to Phoenix in search of fame and fortune (though some may remember local bassist Matt Gonzales from his years playing here), according to its impressive bio package. But from the sound of the tape, it's too bad Rose didn't land a few hundred miles to the west; these guys sound like they should have heads a-bangin' somewhere on the Sunset Strip. Back to the sound of the tape: A+ for production and execution; while Rose is doing nothing terribly original, the band has its pop/metal act down. Singer Eddie's got a hell of a range, but often sounds forced, choked, and, well, a bit oinky. Call 840-5397.
What can you say about Hodge Podge Lodge? Well, here's what I can say about Hodge Podge Lodge. Well-meaning, mediocre pop band, the kind that I've seen in many a college bar in many a college town. The live tape the Hodge sent in is big on packaging but short on listenability. It's really hard for me to get past the singer's voice, but, to be fair, I've seen this band live, and while it bored the shit out of me, the dance floor was filled with college types boogieing the night away. Make of that what you will. Call 644-1030.--Peter Gilstrap
To briefly pigeonhole Moonshine Blind's music to its closest common denominator, it recalls Boston and Heart's version of hard rock with acoustic guitars strummed over it. "Child" is the best song here, with its part-Bon Jovi, part-Grand Funk harmonies and a snazzy, Brian Mayish guitar solo to boot. Lead singer Jill Blackenbury sounds like a seasoned hippie chick who sips herbal tea between songs and wears a lot of scarves (see what happens when you don't send in glossies?). To best help you determine whether or not Moonshine Blind is up your alley, here is a sample lyric from "Swept Up": "There is a magic kingdom, I know where it's at/Open up your heart let it out, don't need to hide/Once you release the hostility and step into the light of day." Call 832-4038.
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Sound a mite too cosmic for you? Well, consider Collider, whose three-song home demo sounds like it could be a one-man show. Jay Moglia mates cryptic lyrics with quavering, Mick Jones vocals and hits the mark two out of three times. On the last track, pitch becomes a definite problem, but he maintains a steady course elsewhere, on the midtempoed and intriguingly titled "Lynne Is Adrift," as well as the heavily phased acoustic opener "The Ground." Call 495-3984.
Josh Mottley is the songwriting brain behind Tempe's Nowhere Dreamer, which won the Arizona Republic's Best Band in 1993 (a motion not seconded by the readers' poll). In addition, Josh was nominated as Songwriter of the Year by the Arizona Entertainment Awards. Maybe you don't put much stock in those kinds of back-slapping achievements, and if Nowhere Dreamer sounds anything like Mottley's side project, Venus Butterfly, maybe you shouldn't. Titled Tao of Lust, it feels like a good-natured gag, with its cheapo cover (a negative of Josh with the yin-and-yang symbol painted on his bare chest) and this disclaimer on the insert: "What some call love, I call a joke. What I call love, some say is obscene." But, after two tracks, you'll feel like you're being held at an Animotion reunion concert against your will. Josh has tapped into a strange new genre--retro techno, since these oppressive synth sounds stopped being state of the art when Gary Numan was still a serious threat to Bowie's career. I call this album love. Wonder what Josh calls it. Call 569-9390.
You'll find slickness to spare in Glass Bottom's corner. Here we have yet another crack Phoenix funk outfit with a lead singer drawling like a long-lost Ohio Player. Nicknamed "Scat," Matt Conley bleats every syllable, defying you to make out even the slightest word. Unless you look at the tape insert, you'd never know that the first song is a laundry list of facts about Richie Cunningham's messiah, "The Fonz." Probably the catchiest number here is the one with the flimsiest lyrical premise--a musical interpretation of that old children's classic Marvin and the Cookie Jar. Call 866-2297.
Lastly, we have "Lonesome" Steve Chesbro playing accomplished acoustic blues guitar with no other accompaniment. If you think some of the titles on his tape Blues for Jean are misogynistic, chauvinistic (Meat Shaking Woman," "Polly Put Your Kettle On") or less than politically correct (Let's Get Drunk Again"), might I remind you that every song contained herein was written by someone else a long time ago, when depressed bluesmen could work at their craft and be in no danger of being referred to as "emotionally challenged." Call 257-8038.