Know Qwestion: About to begin work on their sophomore release.
Know Qwestion: About to begin work on their sophomore release.

Suffer Safari

The mailbag brings many things, some good, lots bad, but few things that can generate the weird mix of raging apathy that Dichromatic, the sophomore effort from Tempe's Surf Ballistics, managed to elicit.

The press kit for the self-described "high energy rock" combo -- and, fair warning, there is nary a hint of surf in their sound -- says the group sold "over 3,000 units" of their first disc and "received national attention on college radio," claims that seem incomprehensible after just a single spin of this record.

Lead singer Druix (that is his name, folks, I don't make this stuff up) seems to have patterned his entire style after the most collectively annoying vocal characteristics of Limp Bizkit's flaccid, follicly challenged Fred Durst, grunge moper Eddie Vedder and the patron saint of all marginally talented white-boy-funk shouters, 311's Nick Hexum.

Over the course of the 11-song disc, the band tries its hand at a variety of different musical styles from the Sublime (the group, not the adjective) faux-reggae of "Immune" to the annoying rap-metal bluster of "Don't Sleep" to the "Does anyone have any Advil?" bass noodling of the Primus-inspired instrumental "Juice Gooster."

While we don't wish to completely dismiss the band -- though the thought is tempting -- we should note that the group does feature a core of capable musical talents. Of course, by capable I mean it in the if-only-they-would-use-their-talent-for-good-instead-of-inducing-migraines kind of way. Still, guitarist Danny P. does manage to pull off a few -- stress that, few -- interesting moments, while the rhythm section of Dan Hinze and Josh Pentland is solid throughout.

But with lyrics that redefine the boundaries of the tepid ("Explode benevolent pace/Attention all the mother fuckers of the human race" -- from "Don't Sleep"), banal ("I am a walking shadow without a face/I am waiting/Lost my sense of time and my touch of grace" -- from "I Am Waiting") and senseless ("It's a meaning of two shades/One infection of old/I believe that's all right your left eye is gold" -- from the title track), it's hard to muster up anything more than passive contempt for the disc.

Surprisingly, the Surf Ballistics record comes courtesy -- as does the band's self-titled debut -- of Stu Baker's Hayden's Ferry label. The local imprint has been responsible for an impressive string of local Americana and roots releases since setting up shop in the mid-'90s. After sitting through the excruciatingly turgid 34-minute Dichromatic experience, we have but one question to ask the fine folks over at Hayden's Ferry: "Why?"

Instead of flooding the market with another mindless, sound-alike funk-rap-metal hybrid, how about bumping up the release of the long-awaited follow-up to dream-pop trio Sleepwalkers' Man in the Moon? Or whatever happened to the rumored (and now possibly scrapped) Hayden's Ferry debut of Phoenix alt-country torchbearers the Revenants?

While we sit at home and ponder such mysteries, those more patient than us can choose to attend the Surf Ballistics' CD release party this Friday at Bash on Ash. Hang ten.

The Surf Ballistics are scheduled to perform on Friday, March 3, at Bash on Ash in Tempe, with Yoko Love, Tolerance, and DJ Soulman. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Blaze of Glory: Local rapper Pokafase, a.k.a. Cappuccino, of long-running hip-hop outfit Know Qwestion, has been selected to participate in Blaze magazine's second annual freestyle "Face-Off" battle being held in Los Angeles this week. As of press time, the results from the first round were not in, but going into the competition, the magazine's editors had ranked Pokafase as a top contender, based on the strength of his videotape entry.

After the L.A. round, Blaze's "Face-Off 2000" will move to New Orleans, Orlando and Chicago before culminating with the championships set for November in New York.

Meanwhile, Know Qwestion, which features Pokafase and fellow rapper Mic Wyld, a.k.a. Cash, has been in preproduction, anticipating a return to the studio to begin work on a new record, a follow-up to their 1998 debut Eclipse. This time around, the group is working with Valley native Jay Lean, whose production and mixing credits include everything from Tupac Shakur and Boyz II Men to Chronic Future and the Generiks. The group plans to complete the album and then begin shopping it to interested parties with an eye toward a fall release.

Currently, Know Qwestion has no local dates planned, although the group will make a return appearance at this year's New Times Music Showcase on April 30.

Is It Getting Hooter, er, Hotter in Here?: Britney's coming! Britney's coming!

At least that's the word from Evening Star promotions, which sent us the "official press release" confirming a summertime America West Arena tour stop for the first lady of corporate-sponsored kiddie porn.

The concert and the attendant local media coverage should play as an interesting postscript to the "Is Britney going to ASU?" saga that led seemingly every Valley newscast for a couple of weeks last September.

Last fall's Britney hunt in Tempe was relatively mild compared to the scrutiny Spears and her "rumored" silicone enhancements have received -- a rumor the singer flatly denies, despite fairly convincing evidence like, say, I dunno, photographs.

Since the alarming breakthrough of her multiplatinum (12 million units and counting) debut...Baby One More Time, national magazine exposés have greeted the performer and her handlers with questioning headlines like, "Britney: Too Sexy Too Soon?" The maelstrom has cast serious and legitimate questions about the willingness of Spears' parents and record company -- noted child pornographers Jive Records -- to pimp her out like so much spank fodder, a fact cemented by the choice of adult-film director Gregory Dark to shoot Britney's latest video.

But we're not into moral proselytizing. And as far as we can tell, our teeny-bop buttercup will be making a triumphant July 28 return to Phoenix -- just 10 days after we get our second Ricky Martin concert in less than a year. (Note to whoever is responsible for all this: Next time can we trade two Ricky Martin shows for one Tom Waits concert?)

Being dedicated journalists, our crack music staff has already begun what we like to call intensive "photographic research" on the Internet to get to the bottom (or through the top, as it were) of the Britney boob controversy. New Times scribe and resident trailer-park music critic Bill "Trashman" Blake has informed us that he has already downloaded more than 16,000 Britney pics, which he guarantees us he will personally inspect -- over and over again. Rest assured, we will not stop until the truth is uncovered.

You Can Get With This: Last week's 42nd annual Grammy Awards was, to put it mildly, an eye-opening experience. From Kid Rock's showstopping performance (which reminds me, I really do need to get my own midget) to Jennifer Lopez's dress (which reminds me... well, never mind what that reminds me), there was no shortage of attention-grabbing moments.

The fact that rap's current "great white hype" and Dr. Dre discovery, Eminem, stole most of the big trophies was just another in a long line of high-profile hip-hop news stories that has obscured the efforts of the more deserving exponents of the genre -- among them the long-overlooked Roots. The group, along with eclectic R&B chanteuse Erykah Badu, managed to sneak away the statue for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "You Got Me."

Valley residents will get a chance to be reminded how artistically challenging and socially valid rap can be, as two of the past decade's best acts, Virginia natives Das EFX and Brooklyn's Black Sheep, make a stop at Tempe's Pompeii next Wednesday.

On the recording front, Das EFX has been dormant since releasing 1998's Generation EFX, a return to form after the group's lackluster '95 effort Hold It Down. Meanwhile, Black Sheep -- best known for their 1991 hit "The Choice Is Yours" -- put out a well-received long player, Which Side R/U On, last September. Both outfits are in the midst of a monthlong nationwide tour that ends next week.

Das EFX is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, March 8, at Pompeii in Tempe, with Black Sheep. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Internet Killed the Radio Star: What kind of proud Americans would we be if we didn't engage in a bit of shameless self-promotion? We wouldn't, of course. That's why Bash & Pop is proud to announce that Scene, Heard, the weekly Internet radio show broadcast from our sister paper in Texas, the Dallas Observer, has expanded its format to two hours and moved to Thursdays at 3 p.m. Hosted by former and current music editors (and effervescent on-air personalities) Robert Wilonsky and Zac Crain, Scene, Heard is, dare we say, a music lover's dream. With a regular playlist that includes the best in new, old and unreleased music (including advance CDs and the occasional "import" track -- if ya know what I mean), it's basically the kind of programming you can't and won't hear on commercial airwaves anywhere. The show also includes regular guest spots from other music editors in the New Times chain, playing the cream of their respective city's musical crops. Best of all, the show is completely free from any FCC regulatory control, which means lots and lots of cursing.

Get connected to Scene, Heard Radio:
Live every Tuesday and archived 24 hours a day.
Hosted by Robert Wilonsky, Zac Crain and Christina Ree

Contact Bob Mehr at his online address:


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