Inexplicably, La Tarea's nine-song demo finally found its way to this column two seasons after the local shows it was sent in to promote. Pulling back the shroud of mystery deflates the fun somewhat, but know this -- Chris, Cory, Devon and Sam are young. They are gifted (Devon can sing one syllable like a blast furnace before returning to teen android whining the next). And their tunes are decidedly black, somewhere between post-grunge metal and pitch-challenged emo. All this can be easily forgiven -- their palpable eagerness to please, coupled with growth spurts, will naturally correct any melodic inconsistencies here, and these songs, all available as freebie downloads on their Web site, will be replaced with more accomplished ones. An exception would be "Loose Change," a fine brooder of the Vedder-meets-Rossdale variety that sounds a cut above the other selections and offers bleak hope for penny pinchers ("Count your change, it's all you've got left"). (www.latarea.net)
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In other matters of change, the group Hollow has sharpened its attack since its earlier recordings, which seemed more adult alternative than the heavy rock presentation it favors now. Perhaps XTRA Sports 910 AM's adoption of two previous crunchers, "Lockness" and "Hayley," as incidental music helped sway that decision. Citing Sevendust and Linkin Park as influences, Hollow might sound to older ears like White Zombie with melodic bursts that are almost like Boston in scope. Singer Ryan Raths' grungy growls on "Grudge" and "Grounded" are pretty great, but he saves his best vocal trick for the end, when his scream approximates a dial-up modem connecting. He even turns out a pretty acoustic ballad, "Walk," with bittersweet piano of the kind that a salaried Roy Bittan surrenders regularly to the Boss. But after three slabs of molten lava, I'm not about to call it "chick rock" and neither should you. (www.hollowmusic.com)
STRÜB is the über-child of record producer/studio engineer and frontman Michael Strub. Among the impressive talk in STRÜB's bio: "STRÜB has constantly pushed the envelopes of self promotion" and "STRÜB has never let the budget drawbacks of an indie label hinder a relationship with fans." Well, I don't know if I'd call a full line of men's and women's T-shirts and tank tops an envelope pusher. And most bands on indie labels manage to have a grass roots relationship with fans by default -- that's where concepts like DIY and "street teams" developed. STRÜB's music isn't about closeness, at least not at its live show, which is all about distance and smoke. And lights -- the bassist is a lighting director for Cirque du Soleil and the Beach Boys, so you know he's tackled every illumination problem from making a chorus line glow to figuring out how to light Mike Love's hats. Some might argue that this latest CD, Ethos Pathos Logos, lacks a sense of danger. With the commercial momentum of industrial music slowed to a crawl, STRÜB's insistence that "to devour you/deface you/change you" sounds like things you're accustomed to hearing rather than fresh new threats. Danger seems more like an excuse to run the fog machine than actual menace. Or maybe STRÜB's on to something new -- adult contemporary industrial. I only hope STRÜB hasn't beaten me to the patent office. (www.strubmusic.com)